Monday, January 25, 2016

Luther: Under the Papacy, men were charitable and gave freely; but now, under the gospel all almsgiving is at an end, everyone fleeces his neighbor, and each seeks to have all for himself. And the longer the gospel is preached, the deeper do men sink in avarice, pride, and ostentation.

Here's a closer look at a recent post from a participant at the Catholic Answers Forums in which the alleged "effects" of Luther's "revolt" against Rome are displayed in a despondent quote. In this fourth entry, I'm going to focus on the third part of this quote in which Luther is quoted as saying,

Under the Papacy, men were charitable and gave freely; but now, under the gospel all almsgiving is at an end, everyone fleeces his neighbor, and each seeks to have all for himself. And the longer the gospel is preached, the deeper do men sink in avarice, pride, and ostentation.

As I explained previously, the quote below from Catholic Answers is actually at least three quotes from three different contexts pasted together. Why would someone paste three different quotes together? My suspicion is dramatic effect at best, or perhaps a propaganda effort at worst:

Unread Yesterday, 6:59 pm
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Default VERY sad and telling quote from Martin Luther... he begin to see the effects of his revolt against the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

“Every thing is reversed, the world grows every day the worse for this teaching; and the misery of it is, that men are nowadays more covetous, more hard-hearted, more corrupt, more licentious, and more wicked, than of old under the Papacy… Our evangels are now sevenfold more wicked than they were before. In proportion as we hear the gospel, we steal, lie, cheat, gorge, swill, and commit every crime. If one devil has been driven out of us, seven worse ones have taken their place, to judge from the conduct of princes, lords, nobles, burgesses, and peasants, their utterly shameless acts, and their disregard of God and of his menaces… Under the Papacy, men were charitable and gave freely; but now, under the gospel all almsgiving is at an end, everyone fleeces his neighbor, and each seeks to have all for himself. And the longer the gospel is preached, the deeper do men sink in avarice, pride, and ostention.” - Martin Luther

Lutherans, we love you. Come home.

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Some of the nuts and bolts of the documentation for this quote can be found in  a previous entry. The quote was translated into English by the Dublin Review (Sept. 1848). The Dublin Review didn't get it directly from Luther, but rather they claim they took it from Döllinger's Die Reformation: Ihre innere Entwicklung und ihre Wirkungen vol. 1 (The Reformation: It's Interior Development and Effects, 3 vols. 1846-1848), p. 327. The quote appears to based on this snippet from Döllinger:

Döllinger cites Walch, Hauspostil. III, 1572. 1584. This edition of Luther's Works dates from 1740-1753, compiled by Johann Georg Walch.  "Hauspostil" refers to a collection of Luther's sermons (the House Postil). The sermon being cited by Döllinger appears to be on Luke 16:19-31 from June 6, 1535. The edition of Walch's House Postil in which I located the quote can be found here (scroll to pages 1572 and 1584). The text on page 1572 has a similar theme to the quote in question, but is not the quote from Döllinger being cited. The text in question being cited appears to be from page 1584:

In a different form, this sermon can also be found in WA 41:293-300, the quote in question found at WA 41:297:

You'll notice that the texts read differently. This is because the text was not written by Luther, but was rather the transcription of sermon notes from the notes of Georg Roerer. The notes had to be filled out and made into flowing texts. The text  Döllinger used was the first one (also found in the St. Louis edition (13b:2138).

To my knowledge, only one complete version of this sermon has been translated into English. The version I'm using can be found in The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther Vol. 6 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000) pp. 223-240 (CSOML6). This version is based on  Roerer's notes found in the St. Louis edition (13b). A partial preview of this English version can be found on Google books in Faith and Freedom: an Invitation to the Writings of Martin Luther.

This sermon treats Luke 16:19-31 (the account of Lazarus and the rich man). Luther says the story was meant to show the Pharisees their sins of covetousness and greed (CSOML6:223-224). But, says Luther, the same story applies "to rich and arrogant people of the world today" (CSOML6:224). Further says Luther, many people actually don't view themselves in such negative terms but see themselves as the opposite.  People redefine themselves and their sin in such a way that they see their vices as virtues. The Pharisees did not admit their sins, neither do people today: "..nowadays our noblemen, peasants, and townsfolks also ask no questions [about their real sin], regardless what one preaches and says" (CSOML6:225). Luke 16:19-31 therefore, is meant to make people pause and look deeply into their hearts:
The Gospels are at one when they speak about the fruits of faith and about the righteous works of a Christian, about what an upright man and Christian should do. Yet at the same time it is evident that the whole world is replete with greed and rushing toward hell, though no one wants to admit he's greedy. We want to consider the words before us very closely and spell them out for you, so that if possible they might strike home and move someone's heart. Listen, says Christ, you greedy Pharisees, you who exonerate yourselves before men, I want to tell you a story (CSOML6:226). 
Luther says that no one ever wants to be known as greedy, but rather as "true Christians" (CSOML6:232). Luther saw the world around him replete in sin:
How many peasants, burghers, or nobles are there who give something to the poor Lazarus, who lies daily at their door? Yes, should they give to him? They rather skin him down to the bone, and what they extort they dissipate, squander, and show off with fancy food and clothing, guzzling drinks down their throats, or hanging ornaments around the neck. For this reason I have often said, such conditions cannot continue much longer, but must come to an end. Either the Turk or Brother Vitus will come and all of a sudden confiscate everything it took so long a time to extort, steal, rob, and amass. Or Judgment Day will come rushing in and bring the game to a halt. For God is no longer able to tolerate the greed, wantonness, pride, sensuality, and stealing. He must step in and take control himself since nothing else will stop it. People attribute all this to other things, rather than to the fact that they ought to aid poor Lazarus. Under the papacy people were charitable and gave willingly; however, now under the gospel no one gives any more, but everyone simply extorts from the next person, and each wants to have it all to himself. And the longer one preaches the gospel, the deeper people are submerged in greed, arrogance, and sensuality, as if the poor beggar's pouch is to survive here forever. So completely has the devil taken hold of people.
Luther goes to preach:
This is what the Lord is saying, and he means it in all seriousness, so that we might beware of greed and not become secure. We need such warning very much nowadays, in order that we do not make a virtue out of that shameful vice, accursed greed. Sad to say, it is now taking hold of so many. God knows our hearts, and judgment is imminent should we allow greed, the same greed which took hold of the rich man, to mislead us. If a person takes account of how much good he does in life, he will find that it is little enough. Why is it, then, that people scratch and scrape, and during the course of a year give very little, for God's sake, to church and school, the poor and needy? There is one coming who will reckon with us and say, You had poor Lazarus before your door and gave him nothing; you thought you were doing the right thing and doing well at that by not   giving anyone a farthing; you allowed yourself to think that this was not greed, that God would not punish you; so now accept the reward which you have earned.
We preachers can no longer really prevent shameful greed. It lives and animates almost as if it were itself God and Lord in all lands, and to boot, adorns itself most beautifully. We sense it in the marketplace and in the kitchen for we hold onto neither penny nor farthing, while we don't so much as see the people who practice greed. We must therefore let him address it who says here that the devil led the rich man away. Accordingly, let everyone be forewarned and be vigilant. We are now witnessing a lot of greed among peasants, burghers, and nobility, displayed especially against poor clergymen. This cannot have a good ending And this now is the picture being painted of the rich man and poor Lazarus, both in life and in death (CSOML6:234-235).

The Catholic Answers participant says the quote demonstrates Luther seeing "the effects of his revolt against" Rome. In context, Luther was merely recorded as exhorting against becoming a pharisee or acting with the presumption of the rich man.  Note as well, Luther doesn't blame his preaching or the proclamation of the Gospel for  "greed, arrogance, and sensuality." He says, "So completely has the devil taken hold of people."

Was Luther really wishing for the good ol' days of being under the papacy? Nowhere in the context does Luther suggest the solution for "greed, arrogance, and sensuality" is to return to Rome's rule. Luther does not expound on the comment- the comment almost appears rhetorical, as if he's using it as a manipulative or persuasive tactic. But there's another way to speculate as to what's meant. In his 1535 commentary on Galatians, Luther actually does expound on this point a bit. First, in one section he does explain that there are people that hear the Gospel and turn freedom into "the license and lust of the flesh." They are those who see no reason to give to the poor:
Of course, it is impossible to teach or persuade unspiritual people of this teaching about the love to be mutually observed among us. Christians comply with it voluntarily. But when the others hear this freedom proclaimed, they immediately draw the inference: “If I am free, then I have the right to do whatever I please. This thing belongs to me; why should I not sell it for as much as I can? Again, if we do not obtain salvation on account of good works, why should we give anything to the poor?” In their great smugness such people shrug off this yoke and obligation of the flesh, and they transform the freedom of the Spirit into the license and lust of the flesh. Although they will not believe us but will make fun of us, we make this sure announcement to these smug despisers: If they use their bodies and their powers for their own lusts—as they are certainly doing when they refuse to help the poor and to share, but defraud their brethren in business and acquire things by fair means or foul—then they are not free, as they loudly claim to be, but have lost both Christ and freedom, and are slaves of the devil, so that now, under the title of “Christian freedom,” their state is seven times as bad as it used to be under the tyranny of the pope (Matt. 12:43–45). For when the devil who has been cast out of them returns to them, he brings with him seven spirits more evil than himself. Therefore their last state becomes worse than the first (LW 27:50).
Second, Luther does explain that there was a great "giving" under papal rule:
I often used to wonder why the apostle was so diligent in commanding the churches to provide for their preachers. For in the papacy I saw everyone contributing with great generosity for the construction of magnificent churches, for the increase in the income and the growth in the revenues of those who dealt with sacred things. Thus the social position and the wealth both of the bishops and of the other clergy increased so much that everywhere they had possession of the best and most fertile lands. And so it seemed to me unnecessary for Paul to command this when the clergy were not only receiving donations of every good thing in abundance but were actually becoming very rich. Therefore I thought that people should be dissuaded from giving more rather than persuaded to give, for I saw that the excessive generosity of people was only increasing the greed of the clergy. But now we know the reason why formerly they had an abundance of every good thing, but now pastors and ministers of the Word suffer want. Formerly, when wicked and false doctrine was taught, the pope became an emperor, and the cardinals and bishops became kings and princes of the world; so abundant was their prosperity, derived from the Patrimony of Peter—who claimed not to have any silver or gold (Acts 3:6)—and from so-called “spiritual goods.” But now that the Gospel has begun to be preached, those who confess it are about as rich as Christ and the apostles once were! We are finding out by experience how conscientiously people observe this commandment about providing for the preachers of the Word, which Paul so persistently urges and inculcates upon hearers both here and in other passages. We do not know of a single city today that provides for its preachers. They are not being provided for from any donations given to Christ, to whom no one gives anything. For when He was born, He used a manger instead of a cradle, because there was no room for Him in the inn (Luke 2:7). While He lived on earth, He had nowhere to lay His head (Matt. 8:20). At the end He was stripped of His clothing; and He died a miserable death on the cross, naked, hanging between two thieves (Matt. 27:28–38). No, our preachers are being provided for from donations given to the pope in exchange for the abominations of suppressing the Gospel, teaching human traditions, and establishing wicked forms of worship (LW 27:121-122).
Once people were freed from Rome's greed, giving diminished. This theme about providing for the needs of ministers is actually found in the Luke 16:19-31 sermon under review as well:
The way things go today the whole world scrapes and scratches, and yet no one wants to be known as greedy, but everybody wants to be evangelical and true Christians. And none is affected by this parsimony quite as much as brother Studium (the zealous student) and the poor clergymen in the cities and villages. For there's nothing to be gotten from burghers and peasants, but only from poor people who have a houseful of children and can barely eke out a living by their hard work. Moreover, peasants, townsfolk, and nobles are able to increase their holdings of corn, barley, work, and business, double or triple their money, and thus all the more easily bear the greed and parsimony of others. But parish pastors and preachers, and those without a craft, who have to live on a pittance or, as the saying goes, on a shoestring, unable to augment or increase their money supply, are compelled to bear the brunt and allow themselves to be skinned and strangulated (CSOML6:234-233).
Now what's interesting to me is that Luther's comments about the financial status of minsters from his sermon on Luke 16:19-31 and from his Galatians Commentary are from roughly from the same time period, the early 1530's. According to Luther, if people were giving more to the papacy in times past, they were giving too much and promoting the greed of Rome's hierarchy. Under the Gospel, they are now giving too little.

1 comment:

PeaceByJesus said...

Luther doesn't blame his preaching or the proclamation of the Gospel for "greed, arrogance, and sensuality." He says, "So completely has the devil taken hold of people."

But which one could still say was a result of "the effects of his revolt against" Rome, but besides this being from a translation of notes, if accurate, it seems to be yet another case of Luther employing hyperbole to make a point, akin to "sin boldly," neither of which is to be taken literally. And if Luther were to be, then in this case we would have to charge Luther with whitewashing Rome, and being inconsistent with himself, as I think you probably have material from him which says much the opposite of Rome, especially in Rome itself. And as said in a previous post,

Cardinal Bellarmine, among others, is recorded as testifying,

"Some years before the rise of the Lutheran and Calvinistic heresy, according to the testimony of those who were then alive, there was almost an entire abandonment of equity in ecclesiastical judgments; in morals, no discipline; in sacred literature, no erudition; in divine things, no reverence; religion was almost extinct." (A History of the Articles of Religion, by Charles Hardwick)