My previous post was prompted by a recent discussion between a Reformed person and a Roman apologist. What fascinated me about this interaction was the discussion involving whether or not the Reformed person should consider a Roman apologist as a fellow Christian. The Reformed advocate held that Protestantism in general did not historically think consistent members of the Roman sect were considered to be Christian. It was countered that Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli (arguably the most important early Protestants) thought the Roman church was "Christian" in a basic sense. So, the Reformed person was portrayed as not on the same page with the early Reformers if he held that consistent members of the Roman church were not Christians. Quotes were marshaled up from Luther in which he refers to Rome as being a true church and having the correct fundamentals of the Christian faith (the Scriptures, the sacraments, etc.). At this point, the Reformed participant seemed to be expected to repent of taking an intellectually suicidal route of denying that the entity that he came from (and must have come from, historically speaking) is Christian.
There's something fundamentally flawed though about this Roman argument. When Luther spoke of the Roman Church, he had something much different in mind than most people do today. Luther made a sharp distinction between the Roman Church and the papacy. For Luther, the papacy was something from which one should flee. Luther's opinion appears to be in part that since the Roman Church was given the scriptures, sacraments, etc., in that sense she is a Christian church. However, these elements functions quite independently from the Roman magisterium. No analogy is perfect, but if I had to describe Luther's position, I would do so like this: The Roman church is like a pristine ship that's been commandeered by pirates. The ship still functions, but it's crew is in bondage to her captors. Some of the crew mutinies and joins the pirates. Others though, maintain allegiance to her rightful captain.
The question is not about the pedigree of the ship, but rather the allegiance of the pirates. The issue then between this particular Reformed person and this particular Roman apologist is not whether or not Luther considered Rome a "true church" in some sense, so therefore all of those in communion with Rome should be considered Christians by Protestants. The issue is whether or not Luther would consider zealous defenders of Rome to be fellow Christians.
The evidence overwhelmingly shows that Luther did not consider those who defended the papacy to be Christians. By extension, it's clearly wrong for today's Roman defenders to argue they are "fellow" Christians by using Luther to support such sentiment. These current apologists have many of the same goals their 16th Century forefathers did. For instance, the typical pop-Roman apologist still thinks Luther was wrong about sola fide and sola scriptura (along with a myriad of other subjects), and they vehemently argue against both and put an infallible church in their place, often citing and condemning Luther by name. Is that any different than what Rome's defenders in the 16th century were doing in part? If Luther would have condemned those arguing against sola fide and sola scriptura and hoisting up an infallible papacy in the 16th Century, why assume he would not feel the same way about Rome's current defenders? If Rome's current defenders argue for the legitimacy of the papacy, I highly doubt Luther would have thought of them any differently than he did of Johann Eck, Cochaelus, Prierias, Jerome Emser, Alveld, Wimpina, and a host of other 16th Century Roman defenders. One would find it hard to fathom as well that Luther would have considered his most famous post-16th Century detractors to be fellow Christians: Hartmann Grisar, Heinrich Denifle, Patrick O'Hare, Ignaz Dollinger, Johannes Janssen, Hilaire Belloc, Jaques Maritain, etc. to name but a few. These men wrote severely negative critiques of Luther, some of them willing to doubt Luther's pedigree of "Christian" as well. The ecumenical Roman apologist today often appears to not be on the same page as earlier generations of Roman apologists.
Offering proof that Luther did not consider Rome's defenders to be fellow Christians is similar to shooting fish in a barrel, so to speak. One can find traces of Luther's negative sentiment towards Rome's defenders very early on, even if he doesn't come right out a blatantly say Rome's defenders belong to Satan. Certainly Luther's position did develop as his reformation career progressed, and at times it may appear like he's saying Rome is a true church and other times it isn't. But it isn't all that difficult to clear up alleged contradictions between some of his statements as one would think. Simply saying Luther contradicted himself without even looking to see the development, or see how consistent his views were as they developed really does him a disservice.
There is one important point of clarification: when Luther spoke of "Romanists" or "Papists," it was a very large category in range. It wasn't simply limited to those who wrote against Luther, but it certainly included them. For Luther, they all pointed back to the devil. Some have argued that the better term to refer to those who wrote against Luther to be best classified as controversialists. As an aside, it has been argued that the defenders of Rome actually outpublished Protestants if Luther's writings aren't factored into the equation. In other words, the written attacks from Rome's defenders against Luther were no small matter. Luther made many references to these writers, sometimes naming them outright, other times referring to them with insults (He called Dobneck "Snotspoon" or "Snot-nose" for instance). More often than not, these writers are consider by Luther to be the mouthpiece of Satan.
Whether younger, older, healthy, or sick, Luther was fairly consistent that the defenders of the papacy were not his Christian brothers. Certainly when he was first engaged in his battle against the papacy and the papist defenders he more often attempted to persuade rather than denounce. There is certainly development here. The editors of LW 39 state:
Luther’s dialectic between the hidden and visible church soon drove him to the question of whether or not the Roman church was a true or a false church. His studies in the history of the church, especially the problem of the origin of papal authority—so vehemently debated at the Leipzig Debate in 1519—provided him with convincing evidence that the Roman church could no longer claim to be the true church. On the contrary, Luther argued, those who are evangelical (evangelisch) are “the true, ancient church, one body and one communion of saints with the holy, universal, Christian church.A few years ago Concordia released a volume of Luther's Works that consisted of sermons from 1539-1546 (LW 58). These sermons are coherent, fairly consistent (sometimes his reminiscences are not exact), and reflective of a pastoral heart. It becomes fairly obvious when reading through this volume that despite failing health, Luther was a workhorse with a sharp mind. One of the main differences I see in the later Luther's writings is that there is less of an emphasis on persuading an opponent and more of an emphasis on denouncing an opponent. when one factors in Luther's eschatological expectations, it becomes obvious why this is. LW 58 states:
In the following years Luther wrote with vigor against the various opponents of the Gospel as he himself confessed it, seeking less to persuade his opponents than to denounce them and to separate himself definitively, before both God and men, from their errors. Luther wrote repeatedly against the papacy and its theologians, against contemporary Jews, as well as against “false brethren” within the broader Evangelical movement: the Sacramentarians who denied the presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper and the Antinomians who rejected the preaching of the Law to Christians."How dangerous was the papacy and her zealous defenders according to the "old" Luther? LW 58 provides the following:
See On the Councils and the Church (1539), LW 41:3–178; Against the Roman Papacy (1545), LW 41:257–376; Depiction of the Papacy (1545), WA 54:361–73 (LW 72); Against the Thirty-Two Articles (1545), LW 34:339–60; and the treatise Against the Asses of Paris and Louvain, left unfinished at Luther’s death, WA 54:447–58 (LW 72); Edwards, Luther’s Last Battles, pp. 163–202. See below, the sermons of February 23, 1539, pp. 3–15; March 2, 1539, pp. 16–29; January 6, 1544, pp. 53–70; January 13, 1544, pp. 71–79; January 20, 1544, pp. 80–87; January 18, 1545, pp. 215–23; May 10, 1545, p. 137; November 1, 1545, pp. 313–21; November 8, 1545, pp. 322–30; November 15, 1545, pp. 331–39; and December 13, 1545, pp. 340–47.
Below are a number of quotes from Luther demonstrating his position on the defenders of Rome. I certainly realize that marshaling quotes from Luther is often the typical way those arguing against Luther put forth their caricatures. Some of the dates are estimates due to the fact that in certain instances, the exact year isn't certain (for instance, in Luther's lectures on Genesis). I'll gladly revise or remove any of the quotes if they can be demonstrated to say the opposite of my basic premise: that Luther did not consider the Papacy and the defenders of Rome to be Christians. These quotes are only a brief sampling of a much wider pool.
They may, however, make accusations as much as they wish and may consecrate the Apostolic See with their flattery, and consecrate the throne and the footstool, and consecrate even the Apostolic money box, which, of course, is concerned most of all with the indulgence affair and papal power; they may dance around the altar of their Baal and shout with an ever louder voice so that he awakens, for Baal is a god. Probably he will speak, or probably he is on a journey or in an inn or asleep somewhere [I Kings 18:25–29]. I am convinced that the Apostolic See neither wills nor can do anything against Christ. Furthermore, in this matter I fear neither the pope nor the name of the pope, much less those little popes and puppets. One thing only am I concerned about, namely, that the despoiling of my Christian name does not bring with it the loss of the most holy doctrine of Christ. In this matter I do not want anyone to expect patience of me. I do not want Eck to look for modesty either under the black or under the white hood. May the praise of that impious forbearance be damned which was shown by Ahab when he set free Benhadad, the enemy of Israel [I Kings 20]. For in this case I not only want to bite vehemently, to the discomfiture of Eck, but I want to prove myself invincible in devouring so that, to use Isaiah’s phrase [Isa. 9:12], I could swallow in one gulp all Sylvesters and Civesters, Cajetans and Ecks and the other brothers who are adversaries of Christian grace. Let them terrify someone else with their flattery and consecrations; Martin despises the priests and consecrators of the Apostolic See. The other matters [which Eck brings up] I shall consider during and after the disputation. Dr. Andreas Karlstadt, already victor over Eck’s errors, will also appear, and not as a fugitive soldier. He will challenge in confidence this dead lion whom he has already cast down. Until that time we shall permit this miserable conscience to bask in its imagined hope of victory and the hollow display of threats. For this reason I shall add to my theses a thirteenth against Eck’s passionate anger. May it be from God that some good comes from this disputation, which Eck pollutes with his evil hatred and slander. (LW 31:315-317)
I have, to be sure, sharply attacked ungodly doctrines in general, and I have snapped at my opponents, not because of their bad morals, but because of their ungodliness. Rather than repent this in the least, I have determined to persist in that fervent zeal and to despise the judgment of men, following the example of Christ who in his zeal called his opponents “a brood of vipers,” “blind fools,” “hypocrites,” “children of the devil” [Matt. 23:13, 17, 33; John 8:44]. Paul branded Magus [Elymas, the magician] as the “son of the devil, … full of all deceit and villainy” [Acts 13:10], and he calls others “dogs,” “deceivers,” and “adulterers” [Phil 3:2; II Cor. 11:13; 2:17]. If you will allow people with sensitive feelings to judge, they would consider no person more stinging and unrestrained in his denunciations than Paul. Who is more stinging than the prophets? (LW 31:335) [In the same writing from 1520, Luther refers to a Roman apologist in this way: that when Satan became aware of Luther, "Satan opened his eyes and then filled his servant Johann Eck, a notable enemy of Christ, with an insatiable lust for glory" (LW 31:338].
That you may understand what I mean, observe: Sylvester, Cajetan, Eck, Emser,and now Cologne and Louvaine have shown their knightly prowess against me in most strenuous endeavor, and received the honor and glory they deserved; they have defended the cause of the pope and of indulgences against me in such a manner that they might well wish to have had better luck, finally, some of them thought the best thing to do was to attack me in the same manner as the pharisees attacked Christ [Matt.22:35]. They put forward a champion, and thought: If he wins, we all win with him; if he is defeated, he suffers defeat alone. And the super-learned, circumspect Malvolio thinks I will not notice it. Very well, in order that all their plans may not miscarry, I will pretend not to understand their game. And I beg them in return, not to take notice, that when I strike the pack, I am aiming at the mule. And if they will not grant this request,I stipulate that, whenever I say anything against the newest Roman heretics and blasphemers of the Scriptures, not merely the poor, immature scribe of the bare-foot friars at Leipzig shall take it to himself, but rather the great-hearted flag-bearers, who remain in hiding, and yet would win a notable victory in another's name. (PE 1:338-339)
I notice that these poor people are seeking naught else than to gain renown at my expense. They cling to me like mud to a wheel. They would rather have questionable honor shamefully acquired than remain quiet, and the evil spirit uses the designs of such people only to hinder me from doing more useful things. But I welcome the opportunity to give the laity some explanation of the nature of the Church, and to contradict the words of these seductive masters. Therefore I intend to treat of the subject-matter directly, rather than to answer their senseless prattle. I will not mention their names, lest they achieve their true purpose and boastfully regard themselves capable of arguing with me in the Scriptures. (PE 339-340)
I say, first of all: No one should be so foolish as to believe that it is the serious opinion of the pope and of all his Romanists and flatterers, that his great power is of divine right. Pray observe, of all that is by divine right not the smallest jot or tittle is observed in Rome, nay, if they think of it at all, it is scorned as foolishness; all of which is as clear as day. They even suffer the Gospel and Christian faith everywhere to go to rack and ruin, and do not intend to lose a hair for it. Yea, all the evil examples of spiritual and temporal infamy flow from Rome, as out of a great sea of universal wickedness, into all the world. All these things cause laughter in Rome, and if any one grieves over them, he is called a Bon Christian, i. e., a fool. If they really took the commands of God seriously, they would find many thousand things more necessary to be done, especially those at which they now laugh and mock. For St. James says, "He that keepeth not one commandment of God, breaketh all." [Jas. 2:10] Who would be so stupid as to believe that they seek God's command in one thing, and yet make a mockery of all the others? It is impossible that any one should take one command of God to heart, and not at least be moved by all the others. Now there are ever so many who zealously guard the power of the pope, yet none of them ever ventures a word in favor of even one of the other much greater and more necessary commandments, which are so blasphemously mocked and scornfully rejected at Rome. (PE 1:341-342)
Now it is clear as day that no one is edified in the Church, nor withstands the gates of hell by the mere fact that he is under the external authority of the pope. For the majority of those who hold so strongly to the authority of the pope, and lean upon it, are themselves possessed by the powers of hell and are full of sins and rascality. Then, too, some of the popes were heretics themselves, and gave heretical laws; yet they remained in authority. Therefore, the rock does not signify authority, which can never withstand the gates of hell; but it signifies only Christ and the faith in Him, against which no power can ever prevail. (PE 1:380)
Now the greater part of the Roman communion, and even some of the popes themselves, have forsaken the faith wantonly and without struggle, and live under the power of Satan, as is plainly to be seen, and thus the papacy often has been under the dominion of the gates of hell. And should I speak quite openly, this same Roman authority, ever since the time it has presumed to soar over all Christendom, not only has never attained its purpose, but has become the cause of nearly all the apostasy,heresy, discord, sects, unbelief and misery in Christendom, and has never freed itself from the gates of hell. And if there were no other passage to prove that Roman authority was of human and not of divine right, this passage alone would be sufficient, where Christ says, the gates of hell shall not prevail against His building on the rock. Now the gates of hell ofttimes had the papacy in their power, at times the pope was not a pious man, and the office was occupied by a man without faith, without grace, without good works; which God would never have permitted if the papacy were meant in Christ's word concerning the rock. For then He would not be true to His promise, nor fulfil His own word; therefore the rock, and the building of Christ founded upon it, must be something entirely different from the papacy and its external Church. (PE 1:381-382)
Nevertheless, since but few know this glory of baptism and the blessedness of Christian liberty, and cannot know them because of the tyranny of the pope, I for one will disengage myself, and keep my conscience free by bringing this charge against the pope and all his papists: Unless they will abolish their laws and ordinances, and restore to Christ’s churches their liberty and have it taught among them, they are guilty of all the souls that perish under this miserable captivity, and the papacy is truly the kingdom of Babylon and of the very Antichrist. For who is “the man of sin” and “the son of perdition” [II Thess. 2:3] but he who with his doctrines and his laws increases the sins and perdition of souls in the church, while sitting in the church as if he were God? [II Thess. 2:4]. All this the papal tyranny has fulfilled, and more than fulfilled, these many centuries. It has extinguished faith, obscured the sacraments and oppressed the gospel; but its own laws, which are not only impious and sacrilegious, but even barbarous and foolish, it has decreed and multiplied without end. (LW 36:72-73)
Philip wrote that you intend to answer Emser if it seems wise to me. But I am afraid that he is not worthy of having you as a respondent. On the other hand he may laugh and mock if one of the young people should answer him, since he is full of Satan. The spirit that rages in him seizes on words only to make a mockery of them; but he neglects the issue at stake. Whatever happens, if you people answer him then know that you are dealing with a most wicked spirit and be well aware that you don’t talk to a man. For [Emser] himself does not understand what he is saying; the spirit which pushes him through a creeping illness of envy toward fury says everything for only one purpose: to exasperate and mock. (LW 48:265)
Do not doubt that an evil spirit speaks in Emser as from his very own shell. He pursues only one course: to depart from the subject and multiply his blasphemies in many books. It is certainly an evil spirit. But his wickedness lacks one thing: he possesses and occupies a dumb, stupid, and unlearned shell. Yet he himself, no matter how wicked he may be, declares sufficiently by his furious attacks just how hemmed in he is by Scripture, and how he can’t produce anything worthwhile in support of his kingdom among the papists. And that hurts this Satan. (LW 48:266)
"Concerning “both kinds” in the Eucharist, I am not arguing on the basis of the example for the early church] but of the word of Christ. He did not show that those who receive only the “one kind” either have or have not sinned. But it is important that Christ did not require either kind, just as he does not absolutely require baptism, when a tyrant or the world prevent the use of water. The violence of persecution puts asunder a husband and wife (whom God has forbidden being put asunder), but they do not consent to the separation. In the same way pious hearts do not consent to being deprived of the “other kind.” Who will deny, however, that they who do consent to it and approve of it—I mean the papists—are not Christians and are guilty of sin?" (LW 48:279-280)
Therefore, I, Dr. Martin Luther by name, have with a joyful heart undertaken to demonstrate from Scripture the truth of all the articles [condemned by the pope’s bull], for your further instruction, and to expose the pretense of this false church, so that everyone may be able to defend himself against the blind feints these swindlers like to use. Someday, perhaps, even they will sober up and consent to exchange their hypocrisy for truth, their trickery for sincerity, and their pretensions for proofs. First, however, I must defend myself against some of the charges they bring against me. (LW 32:8)
The grace of God and peace in Christ be with you! We read, worshipful sir, in Joshua, how God led the children of Israel into the promised land of Canaan, overthrowing thirty-one kings with their towns, and no town save Gibeon was humble enough to sue for peace. In Joshua, 11th chapter, it is written — “There was not a city that made peace with Israel, save Gibeon: all other they took in battle. For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly,” etc. The historian seemed to wish to set them up as an example to our Papist-Bishops, and other spiritual tyrants, who now see that the people are tired of their ways, the light of the gospel having exposed their doings. And yet they will not humble themselves to seek peace, and thus at last they perish. They blame me, and yet they must know how I have often begged for peace, and offered to answer any questions, and even went to a second Imperial Diet, but all has been of no avail. (Currie, The Letters of Martin Luther, p. 77)
We are not worthy (I especially, alas) to suffer anything for the truth, let alone having hatred, shame, reproach, envy, and all manner of ignominy heaped upon us by the Papists. Had God not withstood them, those bloodthirsty murderers of souls would have swallowed us up quick, and torn us with their teeth. Till now they have merely called us Wycliffites, Hussites, heretics, venting their wrath upon us by calling us evil names, and attacking our Christian profession. But let them do it, dear friends. He is above — the Judge of all! We may rejoice that so far we have never dreaded the light, as they do — even as an evil conscience trembles before a law court. (Currie, The Letters of Martin Luther, p. 83)
Had it been otherwise, I should have been ashamed of my German land, allowing the Papal tyrants thus to befool us. But we all know that the devil was at the bottom of it. Now, I do not boast of these three appearances, as if the glory were ours; but to acknowledge the grace of God in order to trust Him at all times. (Currie, The Letters of Martin Luther, p. 84)
Fourth, in this particular case insurrection is most certainly a suggestion of the devil. He sees the bright light of the the truth exposing his idols, the pope and the papists, before all the world; and he simply cannot cope with it. Its brilliant rays have so dazzled his eyes and blinded him that he can do nothing more than lie, blaspheme, and suggest errant nonsense. He even forgets to assume the hypocritical appearance of respectability he has usually shown hitherto, as exemplified in the bulls and pamphlets of those shameless liars, the pope, Eck, Emser, and the rest of them. Now he is at work trying to stir up an insurrection through those who glory in the gospel, hoping thereby to revile our teaching as if it came from the devil and not from God. Already some are boastfully making a point of this in their preaching as a result of the attack on the priests which he inspired at Erfurt. (LW 45:64)
Those who read and rightly understand my teaching will not start an insurrection; they have not learned that from me. If some incite to insurrection, however, and make use of our name, what can we do about it? How much are the papists doing in the name of Christ that Christ has not only forbidden, but that tends to destroy Christ? Must we keep our company so pure that among us there may not even be a stumbling St. Peter? Why, among the papists there are none but Judases and Judas-like deceit—still they are not willing to have their teaching ascribed to the devil. But, as I say, the devil thus tries in every way to find an occasion for slandering our teaching. If there were anything worse he could do, he would do it. But he is checkmated, and, God willing, must take his punishment now that he has been reduced to such lame, futile, and rotten schemes. He will not and shall not succeed in stirring up the insurrection he so much desires. (LW 45:65)
28. Accordingly, we concede to the papacy that they sit in the true Church, possessing the office instituted by Christ and inherited from the apostles, to teach, baptize, administer the sacrament, absolve, ordain, etc., just as the Jews sat in their synagogues or assemblies and were the regularly established priesthood and authority of the Church. We admit all this and do not attack the office, although they are not willing to admit as much for us; yea, we confess that we have received these things from them, even as Christ by birth descended from the Jews and the apostles obtained the Scriptures from them.
30. It is necessary to a thorough understanding of the matter that we understand what Christ here says concerning the two Churches: One is the Church which is not recognized by the world, but is robbed of its name and exiled; the other, the Church that has the name and honor but persecutes the small flock of believers. Thus we have the opposing situations: The Church which is denied the name is the true Church, whilst the other is not the reality, though it may occupy the seat of authority and power, and possess and perform all the offices conceded to be offices and marks of the holy Church and yet we are obliged to suffer its ban and judgment.
39. From these two convictions--that they do not know him and that they persecute and slay his advocates--Christ now passes the judgment that the so-called Church is not the Church. He then concludes that with their false doctrines and persecutions they are both liars and murderers of God and of Christ and of all his saints.
40. From the analysis given, you may decide for yourself in which group you are to be found; for you must be on one side or the other, and it is useless to wait for human council in this matter. It has already been unalterably determined that the two divisions can never agree. The larger body, which has the recognized authority, will always persecute the minority, even to the extent of excommunication and murder, as practiced from the beginning. Those who know Christ--the true Christians--will accept Christ's classification and be numbered with the minority, who have the Word and the knowledge of Christ, and they will suffer persecution for the faith rather than, for the sake of the friendship and honor of this world, to belong to those who, condemned by Christ, are the bitterest foes of God and of the Church, and who cannot see the kingdom of God, nor be saved.
41. In this article of faith, distinction must be made between the true Church and the false; for it is the command of God and of Christ that one shall not be confused with the other. Therefore, we must separate ourselves from the papal Church, regardless of the fact that they trust in their Church authority and condemn us as apostates.
42. If they excommunicate and persecute us because of our evangelical preaching and our knowledge of Christ, we already have the decision of Christ that they are not the true Church, and their office and all the authority of which they boast cannot avail against us; that rather our teaching and judgments against them shall avail before God in heaven. We are certain, by reason of the test which Christ here applies, that the true Church is with the few who know Christ and are united in doctrine, faith and confession of him. And where the true Church is and abides, there remain, also, the offices of the Church, the sacraments, the keys and all things to it by Christ; it needs neither to ask nor to receive them from pope or council. In the true Church, not only is the office pure in itself, but those who exercise it use it lawfully.
43. We admit that the papists also exercise the appointed offices of the Church, baptize, administer the sacrament etc., when they observe these things as the institution of Christ, in the name of Christ and by virtue of his command (just as in the Church we must regard as right and efficacious the offices of the Church and baptism administered by heretics), yet if they attempt to pervert the right use of these offices by exercising them against us, we may, by virtue of the judgment of Christ, declare their action void and regard themselves as apostates of the Church of Christ. [Sermon for the Sunday after Christ’s Ascension; John 15:26-16:4 (2nd sermon)]
But observe the holiness of the Papists. The foundation of every soul is disturbed by their error, and the real Church of God is overthrown. This fact does not deter the Papists; indeed, they willingly contribute to the overthrow of the Church. By their doctrine of works they effect nothing else but the destruction everywhere of the true Church. (The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther 3.2, p.198, Christmas Postil, 1522).
The false doctrines and works of the Papists are destructive not only of faith, but also of Christian love. (The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther 3.2, p.200, Christmas Postil, 1522).
Similarly do the Pope, the bishops and all the Papists deserve public censure as stiff necked and uncircumcised hypocrites, resisting the Holy Spirit and dishonoring all God’s commandments, betraying and murdering Christian souls; thereby being betrayers and murderers of the Christ who bought them with his own blood.(The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther 3.2, p.205, Christmas Postil, 1522).
"But praise and thanks be to God! The foolishness and ignorance of the pope and Papists is coming forth into the light of day. They are being mocked and put to shame, and are making themselves contemptible to everyone, so that Daniel [8:25] might be fulfilled, where he says of the Antichrist: “He shall be destroyed without a hand”; and Paul in 2 Timothy 3 [:9] says: “But they will not get very far. Instead, their folly will be plain to all, as it happened to Jannes and Jambres” [cf. 2 Tim. 3:8; Exod. 7:11]." (LW 59:40)
"I do not marvel that Fabri or any other papistic warrior acts so foolishly. I marvel at Satan who rules among them; [I marvel at] what that mighty, wise, exceedingly crafty, and malicious spirit might be thinking in attempting nothing more through his instruments than these stupid and laughable things." (LW 59:75)
To begin, I am saying nothing about the fact that you have behaved quite peculiarly toward us, so that your relationship with my enemies, the papists, would be unimpaired and safe. (LW 49:77)
Let us first consider the papists and the religious. These are laboring under the delusion that God is a being who is moved and satisfied by good works. That explains their many vocations, sects, and modes of life, in all of which they presume to serve and please God. Now tell me, what are these people worshiping as God if there is no God whose mind and will conforms to theirs? Is it not true that they are honoring their own delusion and their own fancy as God? For in truth there is no God who is of one mind with them. Therefore they go awry with their illusion. They miss the true God, and nothing remains but their own false notion. That is their god. To him they assign the name and honor of God. Of course, no one but the devil can be behind this delusion, for he inspires and governs these thoughts. Thus their delusion is their idol; it is the image of the devil they hold in their hearts. For the real and the true God is He who is properly served not with works but with the true faith and with sincerity of heart, who gives and bestows mercy and benefactions entirely gratis and without our works and merits. That they do not believe, and therefore they do not know God but are bound to blunder and to miss the mark. (LW 19:55-56)
In setting up their idol the ungodly do not stop attacking the true God. So we see it today in Faber, Cochlaeus, and others, who are goldsmiths comparing the writing of their idol with Scripture. Their idol has been constructed, the pope. His wisdom is on the verge of falling to ruin. All the philosophers and papists gather together in order to nail down the idol of the pope. They have their hammers with which they attempt to set it up and erect it. So we see it today in all the opponents of the Gospel. They first set up wooden statues and then add gold and silver and strike with their hammers. There they hammer and plate, that is, they pervert the Holy Scriptures. (LW 17:38)
Rather, they taught the opposite by turning even the commands of Christ in Matthew 5 and 6 into counsels; and, in sum, they have taught nothing but human estates and works, suppressed faith, reduced worldly authority and the estate of marriage to nothing, and many other such abominations.(LW 59:228)
As a veritable Antichrist must conduct himself against Christendom, so the pope acts toward us: he persecutes us, curses us, bans us, pursues us, burns us, puts us to death. Christians need indeed to be truly baptized and right members of Christ if they are to win the victory in death over against the Antichrist. We do not rave as do the rebellious spirits, so as to reject everything that is found in the papal church. For then we would east out even Christendom from the temple of God, and all that it contained of Christ. But when we oppose and reject the pope it is because he does not keep to these treasures of Christendom which he has inherited from the apostles. Instead he makes additions of the devil and does not use these treasures for the improvement of the temple. Rather he works toward its destruction, in setting his commandments and ordinances above the ordinance of Christ. But Christ preserves his Christendom even in the midst of such destruction, just as he rescued Lot at Sodom, as St. Peter recounts (I Pet. 2 [II Pet. 2:6]). In fact both remain, the Antichrist sits in the temple of God through the action of the devil, while the temple still is and remains the temple of God through the power of Christ. If the pope will suffer and accept this dissembling of mine, then I am and will be, to be sure, an obedient son and devoted papist, with a truly joyful heart, and take back everything that I have done to harm him. (LW 40:232-233)
Thirdly, [the papacy] is not a work of God. For he exercises no office to the welfare of his subjects. Indeed, he persecutes the gospel and Christians, let alone that he ought to be a teacher and guardian. He only teaches his filth and poison as human notions, discards the gospel, even persecutes it, though without avail. He makes a sacrifice out of the sacrament, faith out of works, work out of faith. He forbids marriage, [and issues prohibitions concerning] food, seasons, clothes, and places, tie perverts and abuses all Christian treasures to the injury of souls, as we have sufficiently proved elsewhere. Since on all three counts the papacy is deficient, we must judge it as a pure human invention, which is not worthy of belief and is in no way comparable to the institutions of parenthood and government (LW 40:238-239).
For where we see the work of God we should yield and believe in the same way as when we hear his Word, unless the plain Scripture tells us otherwise. I indeed am ready to let the papacy be considered as a work of God. But since Scripture is against it, I consider it as a work of God but not as a work of grace. It is a work of wrath from which to flee, as other plagues also are works of God, but works of wrath and displeasure (LW 40:266).
But here God's ordinance concerns the two kinds of the sacrament, bread and wine, body and blood. Whoever changes this is not of the Christian church, but of the synagogue of the devil. (The 1529 Holy Week and Easter Sermons of Dr. Martin Luther (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 41)
The second woe is the sixth [evil] angel, the shameful Mohammed with his companions, the Saracens, who inflicted great plagues on Christendom, with his doctrines and with the sword. Along with this angel, in order that this woe may be all the greater, comes the mighty angel with the rainbow [10:1] and the bitter scroll [10:9–10], that is the holy papacy, with its appearance of great spirituality. They measure and enclose the temple with their laws, leave out the inner sanctuary,and start a counterfeit church of external holiness. (LW 35:404-405)
Then follows further that the harvest shall come, and those who cling to the papacy against the gospel shall be cast outside the city of Christ, into the wine press of God’s wrath. That is, by the gospel they are separated from Christendom and condemned to the wrath of God.
After this, in chapters 15 and 16, come the seven angels with the seven bowls. The gospel thereupon increases and attacks the papacy on all sides by means of many learned and devout preachers; and the throne of the beast—the pope’s power—becomes dark and wretched and despised. But they grow angry and confidently defend themselves. For three frogs, three foul spirits, issue from the mouth of the beast and stir up kings and princes against the gospel. But this does not help; their battle takes place nonetheless at Armageddon. The frogs are the sophists, such as Faber, Eck, Emser, etc. They croak much against the gospel, but accomplish nothing and remain frogs.(LW 35:407)
Here is where the first real trouble of the diet will show up, and here is where the hand of God is to be expected and implored. For it is absolutely certain that the papists, who have been handed over to the devils, can do nothing else but rage. Abel’s blood lies heavily on them, and their abominations harden them, so that they cannot live unless they have drunk blood. (LW 40:340)
Henceforth I shall simply hold them in contempt, and have them held in contempt, so long as they are the kind of people—I should say, asses—that they are. There are shameless nincompoops among them who have never learned their own art of sophistry—like Dr. Schmidt and Doctor Snotty-Nose, and their likes—and who set themselves against me in this matter, which transcends not only sophistry, but (as St. Paul says [I Cor. 1:19–25]), all the world’s wisdom and understanding as well. Truly an ass need not sing much; he is already well known anyway by his ears. (LW 35:187)
Scribblers and papal asses may blaspheme me, but real Christians—and Christ, their Lord—bless me! And I am more than plentifully repaid, if even a single Christian acknowledges me as an honest workman. I care nothing for the papal asses; they are not worthy of acknowledging my work, and it would grieve me to the bottom of my heart if they blessed me. Their blasphemy is my highest praise and honor. I shall be a doctor anyway, yes even a distinguished doctor; and that name they shall not take from me till the Last Day, this I know for certain.(LW 35:193-194)
We read that in the days of Elijah the Prophet there was apparently no word of God and no worship of God in all Israel. For he says, “Lord, they have slain thy prophets and thrown down thy altars, and I am left completely alone” [I Kings 19:10, 14]. Here King Ahab and others might have said, “Elijah, with talk like that you condemn the whole people of God.” However God had at the same time kept seven thousand [I Kings 19:18]. How? Do you not think that God could now also, under the papacy, have preserved his own, even though the priests and monks within Christendom have been mere teachers of the devil and gone to hell? Many children and young people have died in Christ. For even under Antichrist, Christ has forcibly preserved baptism, the simple text of the gospel in the pulpit, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Creed; whereby he preserved many of his Christians, and hence also his Christendom, and said nothing about it to these devil’s teachers. (LW 35:200)
So come right out with it you papal asses and say that this is the teaching of Christendom: these stinking lies which you villains and traitors have imposed by force upon Christendom, and for the sake of which you arch-murderers have slain many Christians. Why every letter of every papal law bears witness to the fact that nothing has ever been taught by the counsel and consent of Christendom. There is nothing there but districte precipiendo mandamus. That has been their Holy Spirit. This tyranny Christendom has had to endure; by it, it has been robbed of the sacrament, and, through no fault of its own, been held in captivity. And the asses would palm off on us this intolerable tyranny of their own wickedness, as a willing act and example of Christendom—and so clear themselves! (LW 35:201-2-2)
Grace and peace! Cordatus will have told you that we are still in Coburg, and do not know when we may go further. For we heard yesterday that the Emperor keeps Easter at Mantua, and that the Papists are trying to prevent the Reichstag, fearing what might be decreed against them there. And the Pope is angry at the Emperor, who wishes to hear both sides, interfering in spiritual matters. His Holiness intended him only to be his executioner against the heretics, and restore his authority. For the Papists’ sole wish is that we should be condemned and they reinstalled in their former position; and thus they shall perish!(Currie, Letters of Martin Luther,p.207)
We are ready to concede that they are in the Christian Church, but not that they are the true members of the church. To be sure, they have the pulpit, Baptism, the ministry, the Sacrament, and they are in the church; but they are not genuine members. Similarly, among us there are many who are baptized and partake of the Lord’s Supper, who pose as Christians, but who are still knaves through and through. They are not sincere. Therefore we say that they are numbered among the Christians, and that they bear the name and have the outward appearance and semblance of the church and of Christians. But for all that they are not the church and are not Christians.
You must distinguish between the genuine Christian Church, the true church, and the church which presumes to be the church but is not. The false church has only the appearance, although it also possesses the Christian offices. Even a knave is able to baptize, read the Gospel, go to the Sacrament, and recite the Ten Commandments. All this is and remains proper, but he remains a vile knave and is not to be called a Christian or the Christian Church. No, we say that he is found in the Christian Church just as mouse droppings are found among the pepper or cockleburs among the grain. They merely help to fill the bushel. A body may possess fine, sound, and useful members which man can employ for his various needs; but that same body may also contain perspiration, secretion from the eyes, nasal mucus, scabs, abscesses, and other filth. (LW 23:286-287)
Therefore since this argument is waxing warm in our day, you must be prepared to give this account and reply: the term “Christian Church” has a double meaning, as other words do too. For there is a true and there is a false church. Now show me the true church. The pope claims to be the true church, but how is he going to prove it? He has the Gospel and Baptism; so do we. The issue is: Who has the true Gospel and Baptism, and who the false? The one Christ is the true one, but all heretics fashion a new Christ. Words have double meanings. Every heretic assigns a special meaning to a word, and he also employs the terms used in the divine Word. The term “god,” for example, is given the most manifold meanings. I suppose there are a thousand different gods. Mammon is a god. So are the Order of St. Francis and the Carthusian Order. Everybody has his own peculiar god. Therefore you must be wary. Just as the word “god” really pertains only to the one God but is perverted and applied so variously, thus “Christian Church” is also misused and loosely used. You must pay no attention to them when they say: “Here is the church.” Your answer must be: “I am well aware that there is one Christian Church, and I know the term ‘Christian Church’ very well. But it is news to me that you are that church. You may indeed vaunt that you are the Christian Church, but that beautiful name by itself will not mislead me. I know that the heretics are to deck themselves with the fine name of God, of Christ, and of the Christian Church, and thus deceive the world.” Therefore it is dangerous and suspicious for them boastfully to appropriate the name of the Christian Church, as if this required great skill and everyone before them were ignorant. You must tell them: “If you want to be the church and bear its name, you must prove your title. You must teach correctly, as the holy Christian Church teaches. You must have your life conform to its life. You must manifest your faith and the fruits of faith. Give evidence that you are the Christian Church.” But since they do not administer the episcopal office as it should be administered but persecute whom they will and yet insist on being regarded as pious princes and the Christian Church, we are obliged to say that they are the devil’s church; for the Christian Church does not treat doctrine so wantonly. The heretics frighten and delude many people with their claim to the name “church.” That is what the people in the Gospel did when they said that Christ must come from Bethlehem and when they spurned Him because He had come from Galilee. Our adversaries talk similarly of us today. They deny our claim to be the Christian Church because we come from Galilee or from Wittenberg, and because we will not await their decision. We will tell them: “Lo, there axe Christians also from Galilee and from Nazareth. Just because they believe and proclaim what is displeasing to you, you do not consider them Christians.” We will not wait for their decision, nor will we preach to their liking. Let us preach about the Man who will give us abundance also after this life. If we had preached to suit their taste, we would have become great lords long ago. But—so it is said—there is no gain in that. (LW 23:288-289)
"I know that my writing is now lost on the Papists and is utterly in vain. For after this last diet they have given themselves over to the devil, or else, just as Satan entered Judas after the holy bite of bread and possessed him entirely [John 13:27], so also now, after all of our emphatic and well-meaning exhortation, pleading, and intercession, Satan has entered the Papists and completely possessed them so that they, having been hardened, are no longer able to hear or to endure God’s Word or work." (LW 59:325)
"It serves also to overwhelm the Papists with an abundance of divine testimony, to accuse them ceaselessly before God, and finally to put them to shame before the world. Thus they are the more unable to avail themselves of any excuse, and shall be damned all the deeper in the pit of hell, and shall perish all the sooner. For since they with their raging compel us to cry out, it will not delay long for them, for God cannot endure such crying for long. I know this for certain, as Christ says in Luke 18 [:7–8]: “Shall not God save His elect, who cry to Him day and night? Indeed, I say to you, He will save them speedily.” (LW 59:326)
"In a time like this it is truly difficult to preach, and one might become impatient enough to abandon his office and say, “If you want to go to the devil, then go!” For it is truly intolerable to have on one side the Papists raging against [our preaching] with fire, sword, water, and all the power of the devil, and on the other side, the satiated sectarian spirits and willful, frivolous hearts making up clever arguments against it with all the craftiness of the devil." (LW 59:333)
For I am often frightened at this when I think about how I and others at that time celebrated the private mass so very reverently; but we did it out of ignorance. That is why the dear man Jesus Christ overlooked it and forgave us; for we never want to do it again. However, now the papists know it, but do not want to know it, persist petulantly in their sacrilege, proceed insolently and in a self-willed way, and pervert Christ’s ordinance; they create a new, different ordinance, celebrate mass not only in disobedience to God but also by blaspheming his ordinance and command, do not administer the sacrament to anybody, retain it for themselves alone and, besides, cannot be certain whether they are taking mere bread and wine or the body and blood of Christ, because they do not enact it according to Christ’s ordinance but according to their own ordinance contrary to Christ’s ordinance. Also, no one can be sure whether they speak the words [of institution] or not. Therefore no one can be obliged to believe their secret whispering. Consequently, they also do not preach anything to anyone, as Christ nevertheless commanded. It is also impossible that they should believe rightly; for to believe rightly, and knowingly to rage against God’s word cannot exist side by side in a heart. Consequently, they also cannot pray or give thanks so as to please God. And finally, beyond such abominations and desecrations, it is their sublimest worship that they sacrifice this sacrament to God (if indeed it is a sacrament), desecrated and blasphemed by so many abominations, and give and sell it to other Christians for money. There is neither steel nor iron, neither rock nor stone, that can compare with the hardness of such hearts that knowingly continue in such an abomination. (LW 38:209-210)
This book, however, in the course of my writing it, has become longer than I had planned, and I must condense it a little until I or someone on our side writes more about the subject some other time. Because the papists, desperate and obdurate in their abominations, do not want to cease both lying against the acknowledged truth and murdering the innocent, devout Christians, we must henceforth deal with this subject often and diligently in order that our own people might see a clear and certain distinction between the true, holy church and the papacy, between the temple of God and the Antichrist who dwells in it (II Thessalonians 2 [:4] ), between the holy place and the sacrilege in it. For, according to Matthew 24 [:15], Christ himself bids us to distinguish between the two: “So when you see the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand).” We do not permit the papacy to be the holy church, nor a part of it, and we also cannot do so; rather, it is the desolating sacrilege and Antichrist, the enemy and opponent who destroys the church, God’s word and ordinance, and places himself against and above them as a god above all gods, as Daniel and St. Paul have prophesied. However, it is not possible for us or for the holy church to divorce or separate ourselves bodily from the sacrilege, the papacy, or the Antichrist until the day of judgment. (For as Christ teaches, the sacrilege should and must not be outside of but in the holy place, the Antichrist must dwell not outside of but in the temple, and the papacy must be not outside of but in the church.) Nevertheless, we must know how to separate ourselves from him spiritually and with true understanding, and to beware of and to protect ourselves against his destruction in order that we might remain pure in the true faith of Christ and resist and defend ourselves against his dirt and vermin. (LW 38:210-211)
Here (I hope you will forgive me) I must again point out to you this distinction: If it is papists who are requiring this of you and are thus tempting you, then you should tell them that as far as I am concerned I am not going to write a single letter [of the alphabet] on account of them, but I am going to let them read this same book. If it causes offense, I shall praise God. “Let the filthy still be filthy” [Rev. 22:11]. Even if every word in it would become pure ammonia or the poison of vipers in their ears and hearts, I would just as soon laugh as cry; for that is the way they want it. The Jews have made their Messiah into nothing but an infernal and eternal poison for themselves. Should Christ therefore be eternally troubled about it? The papists have arbitrarily made my gospel, which they know and which they must acknowledge to be the precious truth, into sheer heresy of the devil in their hearts and ears, and there are no bounds, nor is there an end to it. And should I be eternally concerned about them so that they might not take offense at my writing? This would be according to their liking. In that case would I not also have to be concerned about the loathsome devil himself so that he might indeed not take offense at the word of God? Let them alone, says God and my Lord Christ, and just let them be offended that a blind man “falls into a pit” [Matt. 15:14] with a blind man. They ought to be annoyed and take offense at me. That is what I want and that is why I have also written with the intention that I might indeed irritate and embitter the snakes and evil worms (although that was not my primary intention in this book); but the main purpose was to instruct our people and to confess the truth. (LW 38:222-223)
Let us, therefore, endure the cruelty of our adversaries and joyfully give thanks to God that we are not among the number of those who kill and, under the pretense of being the church, fall upon and seize the possessions of others and give vent to their cruel fury also on their bodies. For the history of every age bears witness to this: that the true church always endured hardships; but that it was the false church which carried on persecutions, while the true church was always condemned by that other hypocritical one. Therefore there is no doubt among us today that the church of the pope is the church of Cain. We, however, are the true church. Just as Abel did no harm to Cain, so we, too, not only do no harm to them but allow ourselves to be harassed, condemned, and slain by the pope’s church. (LW 1:254)
This wrath of Cain we also observe in the Cainite church of the pope. What irritates the pope, the cardinals, kings, and princes more than that I, a beggar, give preference over their authority to the authority of God and in the name of the Lord reprove what deserves reproof? Even they themselves acknowledge that there are many things which are in need of a thoroughgoing reformation. But that an inconspicuous human being, and one who stepped out of an inconspicuous nook into public life, should carry this out—this is something utterly unbearable for them. Therefore they oppose us with their authority and attempt to overwhelm us by means of it. Indeed, no wrath in the entire world is more cruel than that of this bloodthirsty and hypocritical church. Where the government shows its wrath, there is still something left of human emotion. No bandit, be he ever so brutal, is led to execution without people being touched by some compassion. But when that false and bloodthirsty church falls upon a son of the true church, it is not enough for it to have shed his blood; it also slanders him, curses him, declares him damned, and rages against his poor corpse. The Jews were not satisfied either when they had nailed Christ to the cross, from which they were not going to release Him until He was dead; but when He was thirsty, they gave Him vinegar and gall to drink and uttered blasphemies against Him when He was already at the point of death. Such violent passion is not encountered in the wrath of the government. Accordingly, the wrath and pharisaical fury of the false church is clearly a devilish fury. It had its beginning in Cain and continues in all the children of Cain. We can truly glory in enduring such wrath in company with the godly Abel. If the bishops and some rabid princes could kill all of us in a single moment and if, as that notorious Roman wished, all of us had one neck, who has any doubt that they would wield the sword against us with the greatest pleasure? Consider the plots hatched in recent years, and you will conclude that I am speaking the truth.(LW 1:260-261)
The church in our age has no deadlier enemies than the Turk and the pope. But both make a display of the name of God, and they suppose that there is nothing they cannot get by means of this title. Meanwhile we hear ourselves called heretics, the seed of Satan, apostates, and rebels. This is the way things have always gone, even in those earliest times before and after the Flood. In this passage the descendants of Ham are portrayed as people who despised the lowliness and godliness of the church and built Babylon, not only for political purposes but also for the sake of a religious impression, namely, that the place might be regarded as very close to heaven and as a habitation most pleasing to God. Therefore the saying is true that every apostate is the persecutor of his own kind. Because Ham and his descendants separated from the church, he made it his business later on to oppress the church and to elevate himself and his own people. Satan likewise persecutes God and the church with a fierce hatred now that he has separated from God and the angels, who are the heavenly church. In order to be able to do this with some success, he transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14) and arrogates divinity to himself. Thus here in the midst of Babylon he makes himself a kind of god and sets up a church for himself in order to suppress the true church. Now it is up to the godly to act in like manner. After they have separated from the church of Satan and have deserted it, they should also begin to hate it. Thus, by the grace of God, we are holy apostates; for we have defected from the Antichrist and the church of Satan and have allied ourselves with the Son and the true church. It befits us to stand with this and to assail the false church. (LW 2:213-214)
I ask and entreat all those who are favorably disposed to the Gospel that with united heart and voice they join us in praising and giving thanks to God the Father through Jesus Christ and that, at the same time, they give aid to this cause of God and of His Church against that impure, blasphemous, accursed whore, the mother of the abominations and fornications of the whole world, and, in accord with that passage from Revelation [18:6], “mix her a double portion.” Thanks be to God, the facts are exposed and the morning light plainly exposes her disgraces, even though there are some wretched and frigid scribblers who try in vain to cover and adorn her private parts, who, even against their own seared consciences [1 Tim. 4:2], praise that which they condemn and condemn that which they approve. How could lions of Judah [Gen. 49:9] fear these rabbits? May the Lord Jesus complete what He has begun [Phil. 1:6] and strengthen what He has worked in us, to the glory of His name and for our salvation. (LW 60:137)
Therefore, be grateful, and see to it that you make use of the light while you have it. It is as if the apostle were saying, “If you despise it, then it will be taken away [from you], as it has been from the Jewish church, the Papists, and the Turks.” (LW 58:8)
For the devil never sleeps, and the Turk never fails to use an opportunity, and the Papists never rest, so their bloodthirstiness will never be quenched. As no human power can restrain these bloodhounds, God Himself must do so, as He has hitherto done; so be pious and pray that God may not withdraw His protecting hand, and let us receive the penalty both parties merit for their heavy sins. The Papists do not pray, so let us do so, and have the assurance our prayers are heard, even as we have hitherto experienced what great things our prayers have achieved. (Currie, The Letters of Martin Luther, p. 366)
In God’s name, if you lords—emperor, kings, princes—like the way in which these accursed, damned people trample on your muzzles and rap your snouts, we have to let it happen and remember that they acted much worse in the past: they deposed kings and emperors, anathematized them, drove them out, betrayed them, murdered them, and vented their devilish malice on them, as history testifies; and they intend to go on doing that. Despite this, Christ will know how to find and preserve his Christendom, even against the gates of hell [Matt. 16:18], though emperors and kings neither would nor could help in any way. He can dispense with their help much better than they can do without his. How did he get along before kings and emperors were born? And how would he get along now if no emperor or king existed, even though a whole world of devils raged against him? He is not unused to bitter fare, and he, in turn, can cook up even bitterer fare. Woe to them who must eat it!
But we poor, weak Christians, who must endure being dubbed heretics by such saints, ought to be happy and of good cheer. We ought to praise and thank God the Father of all mercy with great joy for taking such good care of us and for smiting our murderers and bloodhounds with such Egyptian blindness and such Jewish madness that they are determined to yield on no point and to let Christendom perish rather than to allow the most trifling idolatry (with which they are stuffed full and overfull) to be reformed. Of this they boast, and this they do. Cheerful (I say) we ought to be; for thus they make our case better than we could ever have desired, and make theirs worse than they now might think. They know and admit that they are wrong on many points and on top of it have Scripture and God against them, and yet they want to butt their heads against God, and knowingly defend wrong as right. Thus consoled, a poor Christian should indeed be able to take the sacrament even without going to confession, and risk a hundred necks if he had them, when he sees, indeed, when he feels so palpably, that God rules on our side and the devil on theirs. (LW 41:10-11)
Herewith they testify and cry, to their own perdition, that they are the true Antichrists and “autocatacrites” who condemn themselves and obstinately insist on their own damnation. They thereby exclude themselves from the church and boast publicly that they want to be and to remain the church’s most bitter foes. For he who says that he would rather let the church perish than mend his ways or yield on any point confesses clearly and publicly that he is not only no Christian desirous of being in the church (which he would rather allow to founder so that he might survive and not sink with the church), but that he is also willing to contribute to the church’s destruction—as they prove so horribly with their deeds over and above their words, permitting hundreds of parishes to lie waste and churches to die without shepherd, sermon, and sacrament. (LW 41:12)
Thus they scream (I say) about themselves that they neither want to be the church nor be in the church, but that they want to be the church’s worst enemies and help it go to ruin. Yet until now they have pestered and harassed us with the word, “Church! Church!” There has been no limit or end to their shouting and spitting that they should be regarded as the church; and they charged us miserably with heresy, they cursed us and murdered us because we refused to hear them as the church. Now, I am sure, we are honestly and mightily absolved so that they will not and cannot call us heretics any longer, for they no longer wish to be glorified as the church, but as enemies of the church want to let it be destroyed, even lending a hand in its suppression. It is incongruous for them to be the church and, simultaneously, to let the church perish rather than perish themselves, indeed, to have a hairsbreadth of themselves perish. This is what the passage means, “I will condemn you out of your own mouth, you wicked servant [Luke 19:22]. (LW 41:12-13)
You must have the same opinion about the church. It is saddening to hear the papists lie and say that we are reprobate and dead members of the church; but let us distinguish between the true use of the name “church” and its misuse. Ishmael also calls Abraham father, but the situation is far different from what it is in the case of Isaac. Thus the papists call themselves the church; but if it is true—as cannot be denied, not even by Satan—that the church is made up of those who have the promise and believe it, it follows that the pope with his followers is not the church, but that he misuses the name “church,” because he is an enemy of the promise and persecutes those who believe the promise. (LW 4:31)
You must have the same opinion about the church. It is saddening to hear the papists lie and say that we are reprobate and dead members of the church; but let us distinguish between the true use of the name “church” and its misuse. Ishmael also calls Abraham father, but the situation is far different from what it is in the case of Isaac. Thus the papists call themselves the church; but if it is true—as cannot be denied, not even by Satan—that the church is made up of those who have the promise and believe it, it follows that the pope with his followers is not the church, but that he misuses the name “church,” because he is an enemy of the promise and persecutes those who believe the promise. (LW 4:31)
Thus the papists, too, studiously distort our statements in order to enhance their own cause. When we declare that a man is not justified by works, they assert that we are forbidding and condemning good works. Such vipers are Cochlaeus, Witzel, and others. These are satanic lies of venomous and very evil men who do not listen to our statements and do not want to listen. Yet they force them into having a different meaning—a meaning which they themselves want them to have. (LW 3:193, this quote is possibly 1538)
It is the perpetual custom of all heretics to transfer to themselves the glory of the church and the people of God, for everybody wants to be nearest to God. And this temptation has existed among men from the beginning of the world. Thus today the heretics and the pope want to be the church. The Turk wants to be the people of God. Christians, however, are deprived of their rightful title and honor. This is the course of the world from the beginning to the end. Gain is its originator, and it will persist through all ages. The false church arrogates to itself the title of church of God. Idols seize the name and the honor of God. Therefore almost more sins are committed against the First Table than against the Second. For this reason Isaac, too, is declared to be disobedient and a runaway. (LW 4:108-109)
But this serves to comfort us, for the name of God is awesome and should be feared. Because the false church uses it against the members of the true church, it must inevitably terrify them. When the pope excommunicates us, he does so by making use of the name of God. Therefore one should know from the Second Commandment that these very people who claim to be the only ones who are the church are misusing the name of God. Accordingly, one must make a distinction in dealing with the church and with the name of God. God’s name is worthy of reverence and is holy, but it is very frequently misused. Then we should not be afraid; but we should be despisers, not indeed of the name of God but of those who misuse it and want to frighten us. You must have the same opinion about the church. It is saddening to hear the papists lie and say that we are reprobate and dead members of the church; but let us distinguish between the true use of the name “church” and its misuse. Ishmael also calls Abraham father, but the situation is far different from what it is in the case of Isaac. Thus the papists call themselves the church; but if it is true—as cannot be denied, not even by Satan—that the church is made up of those who have the promise and believe it, it follows that the pope with his followers is not the church, but that he misuses the name “church,” because he is an enemy of the promise and persecutes those who believe the promise. Therefore it is certain that the name “church” is very often grossly misused, for not only heretics but even Turks and Jews call themselves the church. Therefore he who simply says that he is the church says nothing at all. He must prove this. Otherwise we shall have every right to hold the name “church” in contempt, because it is being misused. But the Second Commandment compels us to make a distinction; for just as the name of God is being misused, so the name “church” is also being misused. For the church exists only where the Word is and where there are people who believe the Word, in accordance with this text: “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.” But the pope persecutes the Word and takes the name of the Lord in vain. Therefore he is the Antichrist and that loathsome beast (Rev. 13:1) which has blasphemous names on its forehead, that is, which teaches nothing but real blasphemies and profanes the name of God through constant misuse. In the Gospel of John (14:23) Christ says: “If a man loves Me, he will keep My Word.” Therefore those who want to be the people of God or the church must have the Word of Christ, that is, the promises of God; and they must keep them, that is, believe them. These are the people whom the Father loves and to whom He comes to make His home in them (John 14:23). But so far are the pope and his followers from keeping the Word of Christ that they alone most tenaciously hate and persecute it. Because they frighten us with the name “church” and the name “God,” let us make the distinction which the Holy Spirit makes in the Second Commandment, namely, that some use the name of God properly, but that others misuse the name of God. The proper use of the name of God is where the Word and the promise are. On the other hand, where the Word is blasphemed, there the name of God is being misused. Therefore we should not be frightened; for we know that among such people the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit do not make their home, but that the devil himself lives there, as is recognized from their forehead, on which there are blasphemous names. (LW 4:30-32)
We have an altogether similar example in the pope’s church and in ours; for we have the same Baptism, the same Sacrament of the Altar, the same Keys, and the same Scripture and Word. Finally we have our origin from the same apostles and the same church, as though from one mother Rebecca. Why, then, do we disagree? We apprehend the Word in the Sacrament, follow the call, and discuss the Word in accordance with faith; but they do so in accordance with what is seen on the outside. We declare that when making use of the sacraments one must pay attention to the Word and accept it in faith; they make it a mere work that is performed. Therefore the true church is the one that holds fast to the Word and faith and does not rely on works but hears and follows God when He calls. But the call is the Word through which our nature, which has been corrupted by the devil and sin, is regenerated. This is not an unimportant disagreement and struggle. And it is not without cause that our adversaries are angry with us in such a hostile manner, for we are debating about the most important matters in the entire world—not about the empire and not about wealth, prestige, or power but about eternal damnation and eternal life. This is the reason why the hatreds are so bitter. And nowhere are they bitterer than in disagreements in the matter of religion, for it is a most important and most serious cause. Are we children of God or children of the devil? They do not want to be children of the devil, but they usurp the glory and the name of true church and therefore condemn and kill us. On the other hand, we condemn them on the basis of the Word, and because of true evidences we are sure of our own salvation. We keep a firm hold on the difference which God established between Abraham and the Babylonians, between Ishmael and Isaac, and between Jacob and Esau, namely, the call by which Abraham was told (Gen. 12:1): “Go from, etc.”; “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named” (Gen. 21:12); and (Gen. 25:23): “The elder shall serve the younger.” (LW 4:349-350)
Grace and peace in Christ, and my poor paternoster! We herewith send your Electoral Grace our opinions, by which we shall abide. For things have come to a desperate pass with the Papists, even as with their god, the devil. They sin knowingly against the truth, viz. the Holy Ghost, so one can neither hope nor pray for them. (Currie, The Letters of Martin Luther,p. 382)
It is truly a marvelous miracle that God has restrained the Emperor’s hand for so long, although the bishops and cardinals have been embittering and stirring him up against us, and for this we ought to thank God. But whatever aspect matters may assume, we can achieve all through prayer. This alone is the almighty queen of human destiny. Therewith we can accomplish everything, and thus maintain what already exists, amend what is defective, patiently put up with the inevitable, overcome what is evil, and preserve all that is good. But the Papists, those despicable creatures, know not what prayer can achieve. For they cannot repent, having stained their hands with Christ’s blood. For although we poor sinners are still living in the sinful flesh, still we are pure from blood, and hate those bloody men and the god of blood who has them in bondage. I have received your letters, and hope you will receive some. Greet all our people, and say their households are well. We pray for you, and believe we shall be heard. (Currie, The letters of Martin Luther, p. 385).
Generally, in addition to what we have just said, we answer all devils, papists, and all their crew that they, as befits devils and the devil’s lot, lie shamelessly in such books and speeches. We give them the answer the Holy Spirit gave us all long ago in Proverbs 26 [:2], “Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, a curse that is causeless does not alight.” Here Solomon teaches us that we ought not to heed vilifications or curses that come to us undeserved, without cause or reason, since they pass by and do not alight. This is proved by all of history and its examples. Where are the vilifications that Arius and all the heretics made against the church? Where are the slanderers of our own time—Eraser, Eck, the snot-nose, and Wetzel? Their books have vanished and come to nothing, but the word of God remains forever [Isa. 40:8]. (LW 41:189)
The Bible and the word of God and their own testimony are on our side. But on their side is something other than the word of God, namely, the words of men, which we do not want to have and which are indeed strictly forbidden by Christ himself and the apostles: Matthew 15 [:9], “They worship me in vain with human doctrine,” and Galatians 1 [:8], “But whoever preaches to you another gospel, even if it be an angel from heaven, let him be accursed.” These are not (I say) simply our own empty, naked words of slander, as are those of the devil, of Wolfenbüttel, of Schmid, of Snot-nose, and the like. You can see in this one of the true signs of who and where the true holy church is, namely, that it is and must be basely perjured, reviled without reason, and derided by the devil’s donkeys and his senseless Harrys. This is called “bearing abuse for Christ,” since there is no other way if we wish to be true Christians." (LW 41:190)
They are shameless and damned liars, who make our faith stronger and our salvation more certain, while at the same time cursing and damning themselves. Therefore I have said above that it is not only easy to answer their books of slander, but also comforting to hear that they slander us. And the more bitterly and violently they vilify us, the better they make it, not for themselves, but for us. They cannot make it worse for themselves; they drive themselves into God’s judgment, and they want to be damned by him as thieves and murderers of his fold [John 10:1], that is, his church (as I have just said)—something I neither wish for them nor for myself, for they help me so much with their slanders. (LW 41:192)
...[S]ince they themselves boast that they are the church, it is for them to prove that they are. If they can prove it with a single reason (I don’t ask for more), then we shall give ourselves up as prisoners, willingly saying, “We have sinned, have mercy upon us.” But if they cannot prove it, they must confess (whether they like it or not) that they are not the church and that we cannot be heretics since we have fallen away from what is not the true church. Indeed, since there is nothing in-between, we must be the church of Christ and they the devil’s church, or vice versa. Therefore it all turns on proving which is the true church. (LW 41:193-194)
Thus we have proved that we are the true, ancient church, one body and one communion of saints with the holy, universal, Christian church. Now you too, papists, prove that you are the true church or are like it. You cannot do it. But I will prove that you are the new false church, which is in everything apostate, separated from the true, ancient church, thus becoming Satan’s whore and synagogue [Rev. 2:9]. (LW 41:199)
Here they might say and probably will say, “Why do you depict us shamefully as a new, apostate church, when we have baptism, the sacrament, the keys, the creed, and the gospels, just like the ancient church from which we derive? Haven’t you already admitted above that we, as well as you, derive from the ancient church?” I answer, “It is true, I admit, that the church in which you sit derives from the ancient church as well as we, and that you have the same baptism, the sacraments, the keys, and the text of the Bible and gospels. I will praise you even further and admit that we have received everything from the church before you (not from you). What more do you want? Are we not devout enough? Will you not call us henceforth unheretical? We do not regard you as Turks and Jews (as was said above) who are outside the church. But we say you do not remain in it but become the erring, apostate, whorelike church (as the prophets used to call it), which does not remain in the church, where it was born and brought up. You run away from this church and from your true husband and bridegroom (as Hosea says of the people of Israel [Hos. 1:2]) to the devil Baal, to Molech and Astaroth. Do you understand that?” I will explain. You were indeed all baptized in the true baptism of the ancient church, just as we were, especially as children. Now if a baptized child lives and then dies in his seventh or eighth year, before he understands the whorelike church of the pope, he has in truth been saved and will be saved—of that we have no doubt. But when he grows up, and hears, believes, and obeys your preaching with its lies and devilish innovations, then he becomes a whore of the devil like you and falls away from his baptism and bridegroom—as happened to me and others—building and relying on his own works, which is what you whoremongers preach in your brothels and devil’s churches; whereas, by contrast, the child is baptized to rely and build on his one dear bridegroom and Lord, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us. It is as if a devout man were to bring up a poor, young, servant beggar girl as his future bride and become betrothed to her, and she were to keep herself pure until she came to womanhood, and then turn her attentions elsewhere and look at other men who pleased her better, and let herself be persuaded by them and become passionately desirous of them, thus abandoning her true, devoted bridegroom, who had rescued, nourished, educated, clothed, adorned, and treated her well, and let herself be made a whore by everyone. This whore, who before was a pure virgin and dear bride, is now an apostate, erring, married whore, a house-whore, a bed-whore, a key-whore, being the mistress of the house, having the key, the bed, the kitchen, the cellar, and everything at her command. Yet she is so evil that beside her the common unattached whores, the pimp-whores, the whores of the field, the country, and the army are almost holy. For she is the true arch-whore and the true whore of the devil.
If such a whore Hosea speaks, and Ezekiel indeed does so much more coarsely, in fact almost too coarsely, in chapter 23. You should read that if you want to know what kind of a whore your church is. For this is what I mean when I call you an apostate, erring whore—you who were baptized as children in the dear Lord and even lived some years like the ancient church. But when you grew up and reached the age of reason (as I and everyone else have done), you saw and heard the lovely ceremonies of the papal church, and also its glittering profit, honor, and power, yes, its magnificent holiness, the mighty worship, and all the yarns about the kingdom of heaven. Then you forgot your Christian faith, baptism, and sacrament, becoming the diligent pupils and young little whores (as the comedies say) the procuresses, the arch-whores, until you old whores once more make young whores. Thus the church of the pope, indeed, the church of the devil, grew, transforming many of Christ’s young virgins, who were born in baptism, into arch-whores. This, I hold, should be said in German, so that you and everyone can understand what we mean. For if you hold these innovations of yours to be a joke—you who neither have a God nor honor him—then it is something terrible and abominable before God. It is idolatry, murder, hell, and every calamity, which God cannot bear, so that he will damn the arch-whore for eternity. St. Peter prophesies about that when he speaks of you, that is, of such new prophets and churches in II Peter 2 [:18–19], “For, uttering loud boasts of folly, they entice with licentious passions of the flesh men who have barely escaped, and who must now walk in error. They promise them freedom, forgiveness, and indulgences, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.” And again, “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, the dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire” [II Pet. 2:19–22]. That is what you are, and that is what I was. There you have your new apostate erring church sufficiently described in German and portrayed clearly enough for you to see. We acknowledge not only that you have, with us, come from the true church and been washed and made clean in baptism through the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as St. Peter says here, but also that you are in the church and remain in it. Indeed, we say that you sit and rule in it as St. Paul prophesied in II Thessalonians 2 [:3–4], that the accursed Antichrist would sit (not in the cowshed), but in the temple of God. But you are no longer of the church, or members of the church, for in this holy church of God you are building your own new apostate church, the devil’s brothel with limitless whoredom, idolatry, and innovation, by which you corrupt those who have been baptized and redeemed along with yourselves. And you swallow them down through the jaws of hell into the abyss of hell itself, with a countless multitude, along with the terrible wailing and deep sorrow of those who see this with spiritual eyes and recognize it. (LW 41:207-210)
But you know what hostility my name provokes in the devil and his Papists, especially when people praise me, so that the reading—or at least the fruit of the reading—is negated, because my name stinks even among many people who claim to be on our side. But you will do a good job of this, so that I need not be concerned. (LW 60:247-248)
And so to the end of the world the false church will be joined to the true church, and false brethren to godly and sincere brethren. We today teach the Gospel purely and faithfully, but we have an admixture of usurers, papists, heretics, and sectarians, for the tares always remain mixed with the wheat (cf. Matt. 13:25); it cannot be otherwise in the world. (LW 6:32)
Christ Himself complains of these matters in Ps. 109:2 ff.: “Wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against Me, speaking against Me with lying tongues. They beset Me with words of hate and attack Me without cause. In return for My love they accuse Me.” For thus the enemies of the truth are accustomed to obscure, traduce, and corrupt the fruits and gains of the Gospel and of salvation among simple and godly hearers. Eck, Cochlaeus, Pighius, and many others are the best contrivers of such calumnies. They adorn themselves with false and counterfeit praises; but they defame us, in order to make us more obnoxious to those who are strangers to our doctrine. Accordingly, they secretly take away what is most beautiful and best for winning over the hearts of simple men, namely, the favor and goodwill of men, by which we could gain and educate many through the Word. We have to be befouled in order that they may be beautiful. “But God will finally cut off all deceitful lips, the tongue that makes great boasts” (Ps. 12:3). Thus Eck recently found an end worthy of his deeds and words when, after losing his reason, he died miserably without acknowledging God and without calling upon Him. The same end also awaits the others. (LW 7:92)
After all those things, once they have lived, acted, killed, and served Satan according to their every desire, they add this glorious dénouement to their virtues: that they fill the world with their blasphemous and slanderous books. It is not that they think they are defending a good cause, but rather, burdened with an absolutely sure conscience, they know that they are attacking the acknowledged truth and the Holy Spirit and are voluntarily worshiping the devil. That is the sort of man that N.,31 the author of this book from Cologne, is, and those of his ilk. In this matter they provide us Christians with not unpleasant materials for jest. (You see, they are not human beings whom you can pity but devils incarnate, whom He that dwells in the heavens laughs to scorn, Psalm 2 [:4].) While they are torturing or troubling themselves like this—or, as Isaiah says, “grief and misfortune are in their ways” [cf. Isa. 59:7; Rom. 3:16]—in their efforts to make firm their idols which they see cannot be made firm, meanwhile the dawn comes against their will, and the daylight they hate shines bright. Thus it happens as the Psalm [112:10] says: “The sinner will see it and become angry; he gnashes his teeth and melts away; and the desire of the wicked shall perish.” “You are righteous, O Lord, and Your judgment is right.”
Encouraged by this consolation, we dread the dreadful stings of those flies and those turgid [papal] bulls only so much that (inasmuch as they are willing) we desire nothing more than that such people as these should be writers, that such people write books, that such people defend their causes, that such people live their lives and such people die their deaths. So let them go! Let them act! Let them suffer always and forever such things as their most sanctimonious sanctity deserves, such things as befit their most wise wisdom and which suit their most dignified dignity, which is greater than apostolic or angelic. Let their blood be upon their own heads now and always and forever and ever. Amen. We are clear of their blood. We have spoken, we have testified, we have cried out, we have done and suffered all things that we might heal that Babylon, but she neither wants nor is able to be healed [Jer. 51:9]. Let us abandon her, that she may be a habitation for the pelicans, the hairy beasts, the satyrs [Isa. 34:11, 14], the Witzels, the Ecks,33 the Snotspoons, the Fabris,35 who are guests worthy of such a home as the lid is worthy of the pot. “You are righteous, O Lord, and Your judgment is right.” (LW 60:309-311)
This is not our own war and battle, but rather Michael’s. To Him and to His entire kingdom, Satan, the old serpent, is a mortal enemy, and he strives to destroy them. Thus Christ must take the field against Satan at all times with His small flock—sometimes more vigorously, sometimes less so. Today there is sore conflict over the faith, Baptism, Sacrament, and Gospel of Christ. Especially in these last days, the devil is astonishingly [active in] setting up new heresies and sects. He wants at all times to take possession of heaven and to be lord in Christendom. He does not concern himself much with the Turks and Papists, because they are already his own; he merely uses them to fight the Church. Instead, he wants to sit and rule in the pure, holy temple of God [2 Thess. 2:4]. (LW 58:179-180)
[Jurists] want to sneak back in with the pope and oblige the [arch]bishop of Mainz. Because they do not recognize us as bishop and pastor, we must not be ashamed to deem and proclaim them to be Papists and children of the devil. (LW 58:68)
Not of its own will [Rom. 8:20]: [that is,] it was unwilling on its own part, just as we are not pleased when ungodly Papists [and] Turks torment us; we do not choose for those evils to oppress us.(LW 58:166)
It is written in Is. 57:2: “He who walks in his uprightness may rest in his bed,” and in Rev. 14:13 we read: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth. Blessed indeed, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors.” They themselves also frequently adduce this statement, yet they have distorted it to refer to the redemption of souls from purgatory. Accordingly, the pope and his apostles revealed the great wickedness of Satan, and the foolish people who were all too ready to believe and to pay out money for such disgraceful and incredible abuses were afflicted with deplorable blindness and were devoid of all understanding.(LW 7:297-298)
You may be assured that the factions of the Pope and other sects are not, as they boast, the Church of Christ, but accursed schisms of the devil." (The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther 4.2. p. 208) (Tenth Sunday After Trinity).
22. Here Paul teaches what the true Christian Church is and how it may be identified. There is not more than one Church, or people of God, one earth. This one Church has one faith, one baptism, one confession of God the Father and of Jesus Christ. Its members faithfully hold, and abide by, these common truths. Every one desiring to be saved and to come to God must be incorporated into this Church, outside of which no one will be saved.
23. Unity of the Church does not consist in similarity of outward form of government, likeness of Law, tradition and ecclesiastical customs, as the Pope and his followers claim. They would exclude from the Church all not obedient to them in these outward things, though members of the one faith, one baptism, and so on. The Church is termed “one holy, catholic or Christian Church,” because it represents one plain, pure Gospel doctrine, and an outward confession thereof, always and everywhere, regardless of dissimilarity of physical life, or of outward ordinances, customs and ceremonies.
24. But they are not members of the true Church of Christ who, instead of preserving unity of doctrine and oneness of Christian faith, cause divisions and offenses — as Paul says (Romans 16:17) — by the human doctrines and self-appointed works for which they contend, imposing them upon all Christians as necessary. They are perverters and destroyers of the Church, as we have elsewhere frequently shown. The consolation of the true doctrine is ours, and we hold it in opposition to Popedom, which accuses us of having withdrawn from them, and so condemns us as apostates from the Church. They are, however, themselves the real apostates, persecuting the truth and destroying the unity of the Spirit under the name and title of the Church and of Christ. Therefore, according to the command of God, all men are under obligation to shun them and withdraw from them. The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther 4.2. p. 290-291) (Seventeenth Sunday After Trinity).
In contrast, unbelievers cannot sanctify God; they cannot render him due honor, although they may talk much of him and display much divine worship. They do not accept God’s Word as the truth, but always remain in doubt. In the hour of suffering they deem themselves utterly forgotten and forsaken by the Lord. Therefore they murmur and fret, being very impatient and disobedient toward God. They rashly seek to protect and revenge themselves by their own power. That very conduct betrays them as beings without a God, as blind, miserable, condemned heathen. Such are the great multitude of Turks, Jews, Papists and unbelieving saints today throughout the world. (1544 Church Postil).
The Pope, throughout his whole administration, has been guilty of such insult to Christ, notwithstanding his boast that his kingdom represents the Christian Church, that he truly possesses the Holy Spirit and that his decrees and ordinances must be respected. Nothing can dissuade the Papists from their practice. They ever boast of being led by the Spirit, yet their vaunting is mere malediction, not only of Christ in person, but of his Word and his sacraments. For they openly condemn, and denounce as heresy, the doctrine of the Gospel, which Gospel assures us that to Christ alone we owe the unmerited forgiveness of our sins; they condemn also the use of the sacraments according to Christ’s command and institution. And they destroy the people who thus offend them. (1544 Church Postil).
The shrewd Papists today pretend, as they think, very acutely to confirm and support all their anti Christian abominations by the name of the Church, making the idiotic claim that one must not effect nor suffer any change in the religious teaching commonly accepted by Christendom. They say we must believe the Christian Church is always guided by the Holy Spirit and therefore demands our obedience. Notice here the name of the Church, concerning which your spiritual wisdom teaches according to the article: “I believe in a holy Christian Church. But that name is distorted to confirm the lies and idolatry of the Papacy, just as is true of the name of God. So there is need of under standing, of careful, keen discernment, that wisdom be not perverted and falsified, and man be deceived with its counterfeit. (1544 Church Postil).
The papists show plainly, in all their doctrine and life, that they do not from their hearts believe and hold fast to this article of faith, because they seek the power and effect which ought to come from the resurrection of Christ in themselves and outside of Christ, teaching that it must be sought and obtained through their own works and merits, while they condemn, blaspheme, and persecute the saving doctrine that tells us to turn from these foolish lies to Christ and to the power of his resurrection. (1544 Church Postil)
At the Diet of Speyer, a certain person said: “I find nothing in my Creed [that says,] ‘I believe the Roman [Church],’ ” etc. If lawyers [took] the phrase “Roman Church” out of their decretals, their books would be very thin. “Church” does not mean what the Roman see says “Church” means. That is of no concern to me. Paul [says that] doctrine and prophecy [must be] in accord with the analogy of faith. It should agree with the Christian faith, or else it is death. I have not been ‹baptized› or called by God to ‹believe and› teach what the Roman see [says]. Rather, I say, “I believe the holy universal Church,” not “the Roman [Church].” Therefore, begone, devil, Rome, pope. So also [they say], “You must perform the Mass and redeem souls from purgatory.” Where is that written? “The Roman see has taught it,” [they say,] “and the Roman Church is the Christian Church.”15 Tell me, what is the Christian Church? Not what the pope teaches ‹through his decretals›: that the Roman Church is both mother ‹of the churches› and a schoolmistress, a teacher of the faith. Yes, she is the devil’s mother! Does [the pope] call himself a doctor of the faith? Where is that written? Moreover, he commits a fallacy ‹in interpreting› [the expressions] “teacher of the faith” and “the mother of the faith.” See what a fallacy is there! The early church [studied] under the martyrs. [Now,] would that someone would take this ass to school and teach him the rudiments! ‹They interpret› “teacher of the faith” actively, that is, [to mean that] one must believe whatever [the church] teaches. Rather, every church is a teacher of the faith passively. ‹You coarse ass, learn [the difference between] active and passive words!›" (LW 58:218-219)
Thus the Christian life is faith, love, and hope [1 Cor. 13:13]—the three theological virtues or, better, the three Christian virtues, which belong to believers alone. The heathen also possess virtues—patience or love—and, indeed, also write about them. But they do not have faith in Christ and the hope of eternal life, nor do they love the righteous, [but] persecute them. These, therefore, are the highest virtues among the heathen and the Papists. (LW 58:335)
And so though we cannot convert the pope, Papists, and other godless people and sects, we want to prevent them from ruling among us in the Church. This is what the Lord Himself wanted to show when He said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” [Matt. 13:9; Luke 8:8]. So that we may be wise here and remain in God’s Word, we should gladly hear it and not allow it to be falsified, and should shun and flee whatever is not in accordance with it. For there are many such thistles that want to be totally pure, but even if they hide the old scoundrel in a cowl for a hundred years, he will still remain as he was before and will become worse and worse. What, then, should I do about it? Should I let it go? No, neither to one side nor to the other. Resist him. Do not strike him dead, but fight with him, just as St. Paul says to the Romans [6:12f.]: “Do not let sin reign in your body.” You should be the lord, and not your sin, for your sins are forgiven in order that you might fight against them and hold the field and not do what the flesh desires. For example, if I see another man’s wife, money, or property and they please me well, then I should immediately say: “I hear you well enough, you shameful flesh. You are knocking once again, but you must not do what you would, for it is written: I should love God with my whole heart, so that His name might be hallowed and honored.”
I do the same against those who set up sects or schisms or proclaim something not in accordance with the true doctrine. Here also the Spirit shall fight by means of pure doctrine and the confession of the same, so that we do not accept [their false doctrine], and also keep others steadfast in [the truth]. Thus we are and remain genuine, pure saints and the true, good wheat, though we must endure and tolerate among us those who are nothing but noxious weeds, cockles, and thistles condemned to be burned, who will neither hear nor understand nor live according to God’s Word—just as the papacy is now with its Papists and sophists, Cologne and Louvain, and the devil’s other thistle-heads. (LW 58:456)