DR. MARTIN LUTHER’S ANSWER TO THE SUPERCHRISTIAN, SUPERSPIRITUAL, AND SUPERLEARNED BOOK OF GOAT EMSER OF LEIPZIG WITH A GLANCE AT HIS COMRADE MURNER GOAT, BUTT ME NOT f436
Lo and behold, Goat Emser, are you the man with the long spear and the short dagger? God save me from the pitchfork which makes three holes at once. What a strange warrior you are, Goat Emser! In the last chapter of Ephesians St. Paul mentions four things that belong to God’s armor — sword, helmet, breastplate, and shield. ( Ephesians 6:11 ff.) Of these you need but one, the sword, and since St. Paul’s teaching is defective, you improve God’s armor by adding a long spear and a short dagger, and without protection for head or breast you come at me as if I could do nothing but fall on my knees before you and let the unprotected knight thrust at me while I plead: “Gracious Sir Goat, spare my life.”
Then you swear by your priesthood, even as Hannibal swore by his God, that you will not cease writing against me. Goat Emser, if only you had also improved the oath even as you improved the armor, and had sworn by your horns and your beard, as Socrates swore by his dog! f438 That would have been most terrifying to me and a truly philosophical oath, especially since you boast that you recently found Aristotle in the ass-stable with Christ. I can see that it means a battle, for I am attacked with long spears and short daggers, which I hitherto did not guard against, since St.
Paul does not mention them.
In such a conflict I must put my trust in the breastplate and helmet and shield which Emser refuses — not because he despises them, as everybody knows, but because he does not need them, for nature has given him a tough skin, a thick skull, and a callous breast, which enable him to resist not me only, but the Holy Ghost as well. St. Paul explains the armor in this wise: He calls the helmet, a helmet of salvation; the breastplate, a breastplate of righteousness; the shield, a shield of faith. Emser needs none of these, he is satisfied with the most holy father, the pope, just as a creature ought rightly be satisfied with its creator. That is why he quotes the holy carnal law so much more frequently than the Divine Law. He simply grasps the sword, together with the long spear and the short dagger, and armed only with these attacks a well-equipped cuirassier, that is to say, the heretic Martin Luther. What think you? I trow the Goat is a man and a splendid hero who may well take the risk.
In God’s name, then, I will put on my armor. The breastplate of righteousness is St. Paul’s name for a righteous and innocent life, which never does harm to another, or, as we say in German, a good cause and a clear conscience. The teaching of St. Peter is that a Christian should so live that he may not suffer for cause, and endure persecution only without fault of his. ( 1 Peter 4:15,16) As the breastplate guards the breast and makes one fearless against the thrusts of the enemy, so he who is upright and has a good cause and a good conscience is not afraid, but trusts in this armor and meets his enemies with courage. So says St. Paul in Corinthians 1:12 “Our: rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity, etc., we have lived in this world.” Our Goat does not need this armor, it is too heavy for him. He would rather be without the breastplate of a good cause and clear conscience; he is satisfied with the long spears and short daggers of blasphemies and lies.
But now the evil spirit furiously assails innocent and pious people and seeks to pierce their good cause with long spears and short daggers, that is to say, he finds fault with it and brings it into disrepute with cunningly devised lies and misrepresentations, even as Goat Emser does to me. Even apart from that no cause is so good that we can glory in it before God, in whose sight no man is innocent ( Exodus 34:7) Therefore we need the shield of faith, so that we may remain steadfast in our trust in God, and that even though poisonous tongues succeed in turning all men against us, we may not grow discouraged and lose heart, but put our trust not in human help or in our own just claim, but in God alone, Who will maintain our cause. Therefore St. Paul says: “With the shield of faith you are able to quench all the fiery spears and darts (he almost mentions Emser’s short dagger) of the wicked one.” ( Ephesians 6:16) It is not without significance that he uses these words, “fiery darts of the wicked one” and “to quench.” For the lies and false statements of the wicked ones are so malicious and fiery that they would set the whole world afire if they could, and their hearts are well-nigh consumed with their great hatred. Of such we say in German: “What an evil-minded person.” The just man therefore must commend his cause to God and trust in Him, and thus quench the fiery spears with the shield of faith. Paul ofttimes tried it in his experiences with the Jews. I have not had the experience with any of my enemies except Eck and Emser, who have been well-armed, not with ordinary but with dreadful fiery spears, but thus far they have not been able to harm me. If faith were absent, however, such fiery spears would surely burn up one’s heart, as has happened to many. Emser does not need this shield, since he knows that I have never struck at anyone with lies. But I need it, for in all my life I have never read or heard more fiery and wicked lies than those of Goat Emser, as we shall see.
Furthermore, there is need of the helmet of the Saviour. The Saviour or salvation is Jesus Christ, Who becomes our helmet when we follow His example and are comforted by it, and when we keep Him before our eyes, as St. Paul says in Hebrews 12:3 “Consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your faith.” And He made Himself the helmet when He said: “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” ( John 15:20) Now, just as a helmet gives a sense of security and peace to one’s heart, so assurance and peace come to a Christian when he remembers that his Lord Christ fared no better; he lets come what may, and cheerfully says: He is a wretch who craves a better lot than his dear Father and Lord. This helmet, also, Goat Emser does not need, though at the end of his book he has placed a picture of one lying at his feet, while he is devoutly praying, so that anyone not knowing him would think him in earnest about it. But his head remains unprotected and exposed to the powers of the air. f439 He does, however, take the sword, the Word of God, and pretends to fight, not with the scabbard, namely, the letter, but with the blade, namely, the spiritual meaning, which with his extraordinary understanding of the spiritual, and as a true disciple of Aristotle, he can do better than use German or Latin. I would gladly wrest that sword from him with my armor, only I cannot tell where he keeps it, for in his whole book I find nothing but the long spears and short daggers of a bareheaded, unprotected, naked liar and blasphemer. It must have been a shrewd witch who sent him this dream, that the scabbard means the letter and the blade the spirit. But I suspect his holy priesthood learned it and everything else in the ass-stable from Aristotle.
Very well; since the ass has an itching skin and is so frisky, let us come to the point. He gives three proofs of his great wisdom in this pretty, precious little book.
First, he makes his attack not against one of my books in which I discuss Scripture and doctrine, but against that one in which without much discussion of Scripture I offer mere honest advice to the German nobility who are sufficiently intelligent not to need a setting forth of my teaching, but only of my honest opinion and advice. “Here,” said the Goat, “I will catch the monk at his bath and make a name for myself, for his other books are too hard for my teeth.”
Second, not sure of himself even with this advantage, he hit upon the scheme of writing a big book and filling it with quotations, to answer all of which means much labor. He thought, “If I write a little book, Emser can be too easily found out, as happened to me before.” For it is difficult to conceal great foolishness in a few pages. “But now that I use many words and bring many quotations, everyone will say, Why, how learned is the Leipzig Goat; I think he was more than a match for the monk in his bout with the famous warrior.” Once upon a time there was an ape who watched a cobbler cutting leather, and who, when the cobbler left his workshop, ran in and, as apes do, tried his hand too at cutting, and ruined all the leather. Thus my Goat, when he saw how I quoted the Scriptures and the teachers in some of my books, thought he could do it too. He imagined it quite enough to heap together all he could find, just as men of his stamp have so often done in violence to the Scriptures.
Third, since even that was not safe enough, he employs most diligently the real Emserian spiritual interpretation, pulls out my words here and there as he pleases, smears his venom over them, and entirely ignores the context, so that neither my meaning nor his venom should be discovered. He does this all out of superchristian love, and with lofty spirit calls upon the precious blood of Christ and prays that Christ may save me from the error which Emser himself ascribes to me, so that I am made to teach nonsense and everyone should be led to say: “God help us, what poison Luther teaches! Blessings on the Leipzig Goat for showing us what kind of bird he is.” These are the fiery spears and daggers of the wicked one, of which St.
Paul speaks, with which he so ardently desires to inflame the world against me. ( Ephesians 6:16) It is in vain, however, for God has fortified me with great courage and given me a good shield, which I will now call into service.
My statement, that forbidding priests to marry had caused untold misery, he explains to mean that I taught that God punished the world on account of chastity. He proves his superchristian wisdom by quoting many passages of Scripture in which God rebukes unchastity, as if no one had ever read them before. In this way he seeks to show that I condemn chastity and inculcate unchastity. His violent hatred has so blinded him that he cannot see that nobody will believe him, nor will he look at or give heed to my books, which are easily accessible and by which even a child could prove him to be a malicious liar.
Again, my advice to lessen the number of monastic houses rather than increase it, he twists to mean: Luther has taught that monastic vows should not be kept, cowls should be thrown off, monasteries forsaken. If these are not fiery, wicked spears, then I do not know what fire, wickedness, and spears are. Again, my teaching of Christian liberty and my counsel to be of good courage mean, according to his interpretation, that I teach pride and arrogance; and he opens all the sluice-gates of his knowledge to show that the Holy Scriptures teach only humility, so that if Emser had not appeared no one would know that the Scriptures teach humility. According to the superchristian, superspiritual interpretation of Goat Emser, therefore, Luther teaches nothing but unchastity, arrogance, disobedience, and similar vices. Other statements belong here too — his accusation that I said I did not begin in God’s name, and, The devil may care, if the simple folk are offended by my teaching.
His whole book is full of such assertions and spiritual interpretations, so that I cannot but think that what I feared for a long time has come to pass and that his unbearable hatred has made him raving mad, that he has lost all sense and cunning and no longer believes that there are other folk still on earth. It has happened ere this that violent hatred drove a man into delirium and insanity, just as we read in the myth of Hecuba. But if he is not mad, it is not necessary for me to call him a lying knave who wantonly and out of pure malice tells lies which he knows everybody knows to be lies, — he does that himself in his book, in the sight of every one. My own books are here at hand, I appeal to them.
That is the way John Hus and Jerome of Prague were brought to the stake at Constance. They could not be fairly refuted, so a wrong construction was put on their words, as the writings of both men clearly prove. The same fate befell Christ, when He said: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” ( Matthew 22:17) He was reported as saying that tribute should not be given to Caesar. So it was also with St. Stephen, Acts viii, when he preached that the temple at Jerusalem was not the true house of God, but that Christ desired a true house of God through faith, ( Acts 7:48 f.) and said: “God dwelleth not in temples made with hands, as he spake through the prophet Isaiah: ( Isaiah 66:1 f.) The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; where is the house that ye build unto me? My spirit shall come upon the quiet and humble heart, etc.” ( Acts 6:13) They could not contradict this clear passage, so they suborned false witnesses, who testified that he had blasphemed God and the holy temple, and must therefore die.
And my Goat, full of the same Jewish spirit, reasons the same way. He could not deny my statement that the prohibition of marriage to the clergy wrought much misery, for it has even become the subject of the song and chatter of the children on the streets. I had also quoted the clear statement of St. Paul in 1 Timothy 4:3, by which I proved that the pope, in that prohibition, was an apostle of the devil. This silenced every one of them, not merely Emser; they all found it impossible of answer. But now he comes from the rear and smites me with the blade of his spiritual interpretation. He accuses me of teaching that chastity brings God’s punishment upon the world, and bids me stay at home with my Greeks, who do not accept the command of the pope-devil. This I am to consider an answer to my argument.
What a strange world it is! If I had been discovered but once in such lies and deceit and tomfoolery, there would be an end to all my teaching and reputation, to men’s confidence and trust in me, everybody would rightly treat me as a knave and an infamous rogue. But my enemies have better luck. Though they incessantly give out the clumsiest and most bare-faced lies about me and because of them are openly disgraced, yet men do not lose confidence in them; everybody still hopes that some day they will catch me, although one can see by their wanton lies that their opposition to me is not for the honor of God; all that they do would accomplish nothing even if I were full of devils, because they undertake to drive out devil with devil and not with the finger of God. ( Luke 11:15,20) No matter how much they lie and make fools of themselves, they have full forgiveness; if I waver a hair’s breadth, every word I ever uttered must be rank heresy. And when they fail in that, they still cling to my skirts and harp on my sharp, stinging style of writing.
They cannot forget the little mote in my eye, no one wants to see the great beams in their eyes. ( Luke 6:41) Therefore I truly need God’s help. I am a lone man and afflicted with faults as men are, but I am expected to show a complete circle without a single break and without the slightest faltering; besides, I have been dragged into the game against my will. But they, who are many and who have crowded themselves into the game, have the advantage, in spite of many gaps and holes in their ranks. Thus it must be, however, for so is it written, Canticles ii: “As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters”; (Cant. 2:2) and <19B002> Psalm 110:2 “Thou shalt rule in the midst of thine enemies.”
They are ranged about me, many against one, I stand in the midst of them alone, in order that it may be seen how easily truth, the strong and unconquerable, wins fresh honor when facing a lie, and with how much labor and trouble the impotent lie wins the shame it deserves when faced by the truth. My dear Goat might have had shame enough in other ways and enjoyed himself, but in attacking the truth he must earn his shame with much raving and raging.
This would be a sufficient answer for the Goat, since his spirit and intention are clear from his unchristian lies and perjuries. For you cannot fight the devil when you see him; you can only make the sign of the cross and run. But it is high time that the evil spirit, who never ceases to lie and blaspheme the Divine truth through the mouth of Goat Emser, be exposed and brought to light and be sent home with the shame he has won, and that Emser and his crew be taught the meaning of Isaiah’s saying, Concipietis ardorem et parietis stipulam, you shall conceive heat, you shall bring forth stubble. ( Isaiah 33:11) The poets have it, that once upon a time the great mountains were with child, and when every one expected a child large as a mountain, it proved to be a mouse, which made everybody laugh.
This is the origin of the proverb: The mountains labored and brought forth a mouse. f449 So too, my Goat Emser made terrible threats about his butting and whetted his long spears, short daggers and swords, and then the great and bloody war overran much innocent paper, making just so much more paper for use in privies and drug stores — although even such honor is too great for those unchristian lies, blasphemies, and perjuries against the holy Word of God.
I had so clearly proved, with strong and unanswerable passages of Scripture, that all Christians are spiritual and priests, that, much to my surprise, even Emser did not have the courage to invent lies with which to slander my position; he grudgingly admitted it. But he showed his mastermind by distinguishing between two interpretations of Scripture and saying that I strike with the scabbard, but he would strike with the blade. Let us observe carefully, he will show us a particularly fine masterpiece.
He takes as his text the passage from St. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 3:6 “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life,” and teaches us that he who understands the Scripture only according to the letter and not according to the spirit, had better read Virgil or some other heathen tale, for he reads only to his own death. Luther does this very thing; he follows the “letter,” beats the air with the scabbard, and does not teach the spirit.
Dear reader, mark it well, this is the chief article of the Emser theology, and on this field the cause will be won or lost. For it means first of all, and the holy priest of God must draw this conclusion himself, that St. Peter taught the letter and death, when he said 1 Peter 2:9 “Ye are a royal priesthood and a holy nation.” By this text I proved that all Christians are priests, for Peter addresses all Christians, as the words themselves clearly prove and expressly mention the people by name. If I then teach the letter and death and fight with the scabbard when I quote these words of St.
Peter, the shame is not on me but on St. Peter. And I would ask this very spiritual priest of God to show me in these words of St. Peter just what is letter and what is spirit, unless he would like to say that they have neither letter nor spirit — which he will doubtless not say.
He declares: Whoever explains these words to mean that all Christians shall be such priests as are consecrated by bishops, he strikes with the scabbard, takes the letter and follows a death-dealing interpretation, for St. Peter speaks of the inner, spiritual priesthood which all Christians have, and not of the consecrated priesthood. My answer is: It is true that St. Peter speaks of the spiritual priesthood; indeed, I go farther and say that he does not so much as mention the consecrated priesthood, and therefore his words cannot be a scabbard or a death-dealing “letter” as Emser dreams; but he who applies St. Peter’s words to the consecrated priesthood retains not even their letter or “scabbard,” his labor is ill spent and amounts to nothing. St. Peter’s words, according to both letter and spirit, have but one simple meaning. Of course, Emser does not know what the term “letter” means, therefore he makes scabbards and other creations of his fancy out of the Word of God. He also dreams about two kinds of priesthood, the one spiritual, the other churchy, or, as he says, ecclesiasticum. He maintains that the words of Peter can be applied to both kinds and that the only difficulty is that of applying them to the right kind, and he censures me for not applying them properly.
All this is pure error and blindness, and Emser had better stayed at home with his wild guesses. I have never said that St. Peter’s words have anything to do with his fictitious priesthood, which he calls ecclesiasticum and which I will henceforth designate as “churchy.” Nor did I say that all Christians are churchy priests. The holy priest of God ought to have put his spectacles on his nose and read my book with a little more care, then there would have been no need of burdening me with such lies. Even if the foolish dream should be correct and St. Peter’s words refer to a twofold priesthood, the letter and scabbard referring to one, the spirit and blade referring to the other, the whole churchy priesthood would be a harmful and deadly thing, since it would be the one indicated by the death-dealing letter, and Emser himself declares that St. Peter speaks only of the spiritual, living priesthood. For what is not spirit is not living — it is dead.
Again, in ascribing the death-dealing letter to me, but admitting that my priests are the living ones of whom St. Peter speaks, he makes the living to be dead and his own dead to be living; he turns his jugglery against himself, understands not his own prattle, makes his own priesthood a death-dealing thing itself and brings far more reproach upon it than any other man. Such is the fate of blind leaders of the blind who want to use the Divine Scriptures and wield the sword of the Spirit; it is too heavy for them, and they remind one of the saying: Who hath bound this man to that sword?
In order to avoid Emser’s foolish dream we must know that the Holy Scriptures, particularly in the New Testament, where types are at an end, speak only of one, a spiritual priesthood, just as I said when discussing the papacy that the Scriptures speak only of one, a spiritual church. And the priesthood of which Emser has dreamed and the church which the papists have devised agree with the Scriptures just as life and death agree with each other. And I hereby make this challenge: If Emser will bring forward a single letter of Scripture in which his churchy priesthood is called a priesthood, I will give in to him. But he will not take the challenge.
The Scriptures make us all priests alike, as I have said, but the churchy priesthood which is now universally distinguished from the laity and alone called a priesthood, in the Scriptures is called ministerium, servitus, dispensatio, episcopatus, presbyterium, and at no place sacerdotium or spiritualis. I must translate that. The Scriptures, I say, call the spiritual estate and priestly office a ministry, a service, an office, an eldership, a fostering, a guardianship, a preaching office, shepherds. We shall proceed to prove this thoroughly. St. Paul says to Timothy: “The servant of the Lord must not strive.” ( 2 Timothy 2:24) He calls Timothy a servant of God whose special duty it is to preach and be a spiritual leader of the people. Again, 2 Corinthians 11:23 “Are they ministers of Christ? So am I.” And 1 Corinthians 4:1 “Let a man so account of us, as of ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” Christ also, in Matthew 24:45, speaks at length about these stewards.
The word “priest” has come from the Greek, in which presbyteros means what senior means in Latin and elder in our own tongue, because in olden times the spiritual authority was always vested in the elder persons, just as a city’s councilors derive their Latin name Senatus from their age. Young people never made good rulers. So “priest” is a title indicating age and not rank, it does not make a man spiritual or a minister. St. Peter says, <600501> Peter 5:1 “I who am an elder, exhort you, my fellow-elders, to feed the flock of Christ which is among you.” Again, where he says, “Ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder,” ( 1 Peter 5:5) we, on account of our perverted use of words, would be compelled to say, “unto priests or spirituals.”
Bishop is also derived from the Greek, where he is called episcopus, corresponding to the Latin speculator, and our own “watchman on his look-out,” just as we speak of a towerman in the watch-tower, who keeps watch over the city to guard against harm by fire or foe. This means that every minister or spiritual ruler should be a bishop, i.e., an overseer, one who keeps watch and sees to it that in his city and among his people the Gospel and faith in Christ may be established and may be defended against all foes, be they devil or heresy. Thus St. Luke says in Acts 20:17 “Paul called the priests of the church,” ( Acts 20:17) that is, the elders of the Christians in Ephesus, “and said unto them, Take heed unto yourselves and to all the flock, the sheep of Christ, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you bishops, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Here it is clear that the eiders were called bishops, that is to say, overseers of the church of God, that is to say, of the Christians, who are God’s people.
Emser also knows from St. Jerome that “priest” and “bishop” are used interchangeably in the Scriptures, as, for instance, by St. Paul in Titus 1:5 “Thou shouldest appoint priests in every city” (that is, an elder over them), and soon after he speaks of this priest in this wise: “A bishop must be blameless,” and dearly calls the same man priest, bishop, elder, and watchman. ( Titus 1:7 f.) That we now have bishops, rectors, priests, chaplains, canons, monks, and other similar titles signifying a difference in office, should not surprise us; it has all come from our habit of so interpreting Scripture that not a word of it retains its true meaning.
Therefore God and His Scriptures know nothing of bishops as we now have them. These things are all a result of man-made laws and ordinances, and through long usage have taken such hold on us that we imagine the spiritual estate is founded on the Scriptures, although it is twice as worldly as the world itself, because it calls itself and pretends to be spiritual, but there is no truth in its claim.
I called this priesthood churchy because it grew out of the church’s organization and is not founded in the Scriptures. For it was the custom years ago, and ought to be yet, that in every Christian community, since all were spiritual priests, one, the oldest or most learned and most pious, was elected to be their servant, officer, guardian, watchman, in the Gospel and the sacraments, even as the mayor of a city is elected from the whole body of its citizens. If tonsures, consecrations, ointments, vestments made priests and bishops, then Christ and His apostles were never priests or bishops.
Now come forward, Emser, and prove by so much as one text or at least one letter that our priests are called sacerdotes, Ecclesiastici or religiosi spirituales, and I will gladly approve and praise your jugglery with scabbard and blade by which you get two priesthoods. In order to become attorney for the defense you are bound to say what it is that you are defending and whence you derive it. This time your fine, spiritual mind quite disgracefully forgot to do so, and you are defending something of which you know not the what, the how, nor the whence. You are indeed Licentiat sacrorum Canonum and Prohibitat sacrae Scripturae. You have licentiam to prattle to your heart’s content, but you also have prohibition, seeing that you can prove nothing.
You know quite well that I am not at all affected by the quotations which you bring from some of the fathers, garbled to fit your dreams; even if the fathers happened to agree with you, that is not enough. I must have proof from the Holy Scriptures, since I also contend against you with the Scriptures. Then, too, the fathers give you no help against me, unless you first prove that they never erred. But you will not do that until the ass grows horns and the goat becomes a sheep. And after you have done that, even then I will say, No holy father has the power to ordain or establish an article of faith or a sacrament which has not been enjoined and established by the Scriptures, and I shall pay no attention to your long spear of straw, custom, and your short dagger of wax. Christ did not say: “I am Emser’s long spear and short dagger”; nor, “I am custom and usage”; nor, “I am Ambrose, Aristotle, this teacher or that”; but He did say: “I am the truth.” ( John 14:6) Since Emser relies alone upon three weapons in his warfare — spear, dagger, and sword — I shall also give attention to these three. First, then, the spear.
EMSER’S LONG SPEAR Your long spear is the spear of Goliath, and your short dagger, the dagger of Joab. ( 1 Samuel 17:7) If custom were sufficient, the heathen would have the very best excuse, for their custom of worshipping idols is more than four thousand years old. ( 2 Samuel 20:8,10) You ought first to prove that the custom is right and of God, but you think it is enough if it is a custom. (Custom) And that I may give you, a novice in philosophy, a little taste of real philosophy, let me tell you that you ought not to prove prius per posterius, et principium petere. I oppose the priestly estate, which has caused and originated the custom, and not the reverse. And you reply by adducing the custom! This is exactly as if I said, The coat should make the tailor and the shoe should make the cobbler. See, your philosophy is so precious and clever, quite as if it had come from Sir Thomas Rhadinus, the only brother of Emser’s sister; he is that sort of philosopher too.
No one doubts that from the beginning until now the churchy priesthood has had garments, works, and ways that differ from those of ordinary Christians, and by means of which it has built up an external custom that has come clown to our times and will continue; but shall this unvarying custom be sufficient to establish two kinds of priesthood in Christendom?
Why do not the widely different customs and usages of cathedrals and monasteries make many kinds of priests, since none of these agrees with the rest and yet each has an unvarying custom of its own? Learn this, therefore, dear Goat, no custom can change anything that is fixed in the Scriptures and articles of faith. Custom is limited to the external and variable works and postures which characterize neither the Christian nor the priestly estate, but merely offices, ministers, and similar works.
Ordination does not make a priest, but a servant of priests. Tonsure, chasuble, mass, sermon do not mark a man as a priest, but rather as a servant and an officer of the common priesthood.
We and all the people are priests without ordination by a bishop, but by ordination we become the other priests’ workmen, servants, and officers, who can be deposed and transferred, just as in a cathedral one priest is the others’ superior, dean, cantor, sacristan, or other officer. That the canon law is responsible for this perversion of the words of Holy Scripture and the undue importance given to such matters, by concerning itself almost entirely with making such ministers to be priests and spirituales, to which it also owes its name as the “spiritual law,” and that no one today is called a priest or spiritual, except those servants of priests, is no argument against me — it is the very reason why that law ought to be given to the flames f455 and utterly destroyed. The traditiones hominum, the human ordinances, have at all times darkened and hurt the Divine laws, as Christ teaches in Matthew 15:3, and Paul in many places. My Goat, it would have been better to save your leaden dagger until you had occasion to cut butter or soft cheese.
It is true, the holy fathers called the churchy priesthood a priesthood. What else were they to do? The custom had already crept in to separate the laity and the clergy in this way and they had to have a name for each. If I should preach in our day concerning the rulers of the church, who would understand me if I did not use the usual names — priests, clergy, spiritual?
The name sacerdotes began to be applied to our rulers quite early, and was taken from Hebrews 5:1, where we read: “Omnis sacerdos ex hominibus assumtus, etc.” This is spoken of the Old Testament office, and is applied by way of analogy to the New Testament office. If the good fathers had been compelled to write on the subject they would probably have found some other name in accord with the Scriptures rather than wickedly defend the name they used.
In order that you may try your own spear and dagger, whether it will strike you or me the harder, answer this point. All of you say that the priest says mass and blesses the bread not in his own person, but as the representative of the whole church. You are forced to this by the truth, by your own conscience, by necessity and the uniform confession and faith of the whole world, so that even if a priest should not be pious or believing or worthy (and indeed no saint is worthy enough), nevertheless Christendom would still stand and be worthy. Who is, therefore, the real priest? He who performs the work as a servant, or he whom the servant represents? Who is priest? He who is responsible for the work and sends it forth, or the servant who carries and brings it? The priest is a messenger and servant in his work, and therefore another must be the real priest. I think this proves very clearly that we are all priests, and your priests are not a different kind of priests, but servants and officers of the common priesthood, as I said above, and that your dream of two kinds of priesthood in Christendom is not true. Behold the way of drunken swordsmen, they grasp the sword by the blade, the spear by its point, and let out ridiculous grunts!
As I have repeatedly said, the damnable laws and rule of the pope have brought it about that the precious names which were common to all, “church,” “priest,” “spiritual,” and the like, have been taken away from the community and applied to the very small number whom we now call “spiritual” and “priests,” and whose work we call the work of the Church, whereas we are all the Church and spiritual and priests, as many of us as believe in Christ, and they are but workmen, servants, ministers, guardians, shepherds, keepers, and watchmen. It seems to me that Goat Emser’s dream of a twofold priesthood has fallen into the sand and mire.
I am surprised that a wise man and triumphant knight, such as you are, is not ashamed to fight me with “custom” in matters that concern Christian faith and God’s Word. You juggle with your long spears and daggers, although even in temporal affairs custom is the weakest of arguments and universally ridiculed. Every one expects you to attack me with the Scriptures, but you let the Scriptures go, and fall back on custom. But I perceive quite well that the new wine of the holy canon law, which I burned and of which you are an unworthy licentiate, containing as it does a goodly portion of custom, has not been able to stop its fermenting and has blown the bottom out of the cask, lest like Elihu, who ridiculed St. Job, you should choke with your great wisdom. ( Job 32:19) Why need you teach us that this priesthood has come down to us through custom? Any peasant or child sees and knows as much. Take a spoon and taste your own words. If the priesthood arose and has since remained through custom, it can, like any other custom, be abolished or supplanted by some other custom, through human power and choice; the consequence is inevitable, that it is not instituted of God. For divine institutions rest not on uncertain custom, nor can they be altered by men. And indeed, I have said it before and I say it again — this external priesthood has no foundation in the Scriptures, but owes its name and retention to long-continued custom.
See how deftly you pierce me with your spear; you want to argue against me, but you argue against yourself and in my favor. A result of your superfine art of war! You point your spear toward yourself, rush against me with the shaft and the spear runs through you.
But tell me, Emser, for yourself, do you regard this a Christian custom, that you have a name different from that which Scripture gives you? Are you ashamed of your name? Or is the Holy Spirit not competent to give you a name which satisfies you? You despise the names He gives and invent new ones, so that no reader of the Scriptures can recognize you, but must say: From whence is this strange people? St. Paul calls the pastor of every city a bishop, that is a watchman, presbyter, elder, minister, dispensator; not one does he call sacerdos. But you call those “bishops” who are now nothing else but temporal princes, and those sacerdotes who read masses and pray the hours; you change and twist God’s Word as you will. And just as you neglect the real work of the ministry, so you are ashamed also of the name, and to conceal both your neglect and your shame you apply to yourselves glorious and worthy titles, sacerdotes, ecclesiastici, and the like.
Not satisfied that God and we are content to leave you this evil and perverted custom, and that we wink at it, you insist that we should give our consent and approval to it as right and the true work of the Holy Spirit, while it is pure wantonness and a despising of the Holy Spirit on your part.
You want to make a long spear and a short dagger out of it; it is to be right for no other reason except that you invented it; the Holy Spirit must be wrong and give way to you: He must needs serve as your court-jester. You shout your lies against me, saying that I revile and make blasphemous attacks upon the head of the Church, the pope, and on the priesthood, which I never did. For I have taught men to bear with and to honor all, even unjust authority, not excepting the Turks whom you would so gladly devour. But you and your pope blaspheme Christ, God, and His Holy Spirit, twist all Their words and works and play with them as the jugglers play with their artificial heaven, and for this I am supposed to kneel, call you gracious lords and give you humble thanks. I must be actuated by hatred when I refuse to proclaim your new and self-invented ways as founded in the Scriptures; you are not satisfied that I leave them alone and grant them their dignity apart from the Scriptures. But you are actuated by love when you take God’s Scripture to your own property and make a mixture of Scripture for us to suit yourselves. God must follow you and let you make a shameful bugaboo of Him, and all the while I supposed you ought to obey God and let Him make you His children. Nor are we expected only to suffer such dishonor to our Lord at your hands, but we are to join you and the Jews in saying to Him Ave Rabbi Judaeorum, and to consider this horrible mockery as giving God the highest honor. ( Matthew 27:29) Woe to thee, O Antichrist, and unto all thine apostles and priests!
You are yourself obliged to agree that this priesthood is not derived from the Scriptures. The fact that anything is based on custom is an admission that there is no appointment by God or Scripture back of it; likewise the fact that anything is established by reference to the fathers and the teachings of men, is an admission that it has no Scripture warrant, for custom and the teaching of men differ widely from the Scriptures. This is my reply to the long spear of custom, for if it were a Christian custom it ought to have at least some foundation in Scripture and some trace of the sword of the Spirit. But since it is nothing but pure custom, what is it if not carnival buffoonery? However, I will not yet mock you, although you strongly tempt one to do so. Perhaps you could not find the sword in time for the carnival, therefore I will give you grace until we come to the third head. Meanwhile I will extend the time as long as you wish, and not for you alone but the whole papal sect, who call yourselves the Church of God. My dear friends, pray be diligent in your search, and may St. Aristotle and the holy, cremated canon law help you by all means to find the sword; then lift it up for a lusty blow at the heretic Luther, and be sure to strike him with the blade. Beware, however, lest you cut your own cheek. And since I fear you will not find the sword until this carnival has passed, practice with straw-pads in the meanwhile. I pray all men for God’s sake to forgive me for jesting. Who can always be sober and serious with such childish, foolish, blind people, who venture at anything and accomplish nothing? Christ speaks of such when he says in Matthew 11:17 “We have piped unto you and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you and ye have not lamented,” whatever you do, nothing avails, neither seriousness nor jest. This dense goat-head pretends to fight with the sword, but he no sooner mentions it than he declares: Now we will lay down the sword and take up the spear. He did not take up the sword before and he never takes it up thereafter. Who can be patient with such crude fool’s play in these serious matters, for thus they seek to lead the people by the nose and to tickle their palates. I trust I am justified in mocking those who mock my God and His Word and work. Elijah, too, mocked the prophets of Baal. ( 1 Kings 18:27) To end the matter, let me say that no one doubts that the sword of the Spirit, the Divine Word, is a safe weapon in every controversy. But Emser should first have proved that custom, even when good, and the teaching of men, are likewise valid. The sword, however, which he could use, he lets lie and quotes custom and the teaching of men, which are useless. Where is now the great, noble philosopher, Sir Thomas Rhadinus, who found Aristotle in the ass-stable? Did not Aristotle teach that it is wrong probanda per probanda probare, and petere principia? These are the wiseacres who would win our young men for philosophy, and themselves know as little about it as they do about theology. They take their money from them only to send them away knowing less than when they came. It would be a great gain if you lumbering asses really knew your own philosophy which you praise so highly. What a ridiculous craft, where no man rightly understands his own trade. The dagger, too, cuts your own fingers.
THE EMSER-GOAT’S DAGGER OF LEAD In order not only to blunt and beat back his spear and dagger but to break them in pieces, I will show that he is like a man who dreamed he found a spear and dagger and fought against the foe, but when he awoke found it was all a dream. It has been my experience that all who write against me and otherwise oppose me bring to the contest a timid heart and a worried conscience; they are afraid of Scripture, for they realize what unfamiliar ground it is to them. Therefore they labor painfully, with many turns and twists, to make it unnecessary for them to attack me with the Scriptures and to be defeated by the Scriptures. So they invent new lies, find daggers and spears and other fools’ weapons and declare the Scriptures are so obscure that they cannot be understood apart from the interpretation of the holy fathers, and that we must, therefore, not follow the text, but the glosses of the fathers. This is what Emser calls fighting with the blade and not with the scabbard. And when they are able to bring one saying of the fathers against me, they ring all their bells, beat all their drums, and shout aloud that they have won, stop their ears and shut their eyes, and imagine they have closed and sealed all the Scriptures for me.
When I see their cowardice and fear of the light, how can I be afraid of the blind moles who dread the light? They force me to think that they know nothing of the Scriptures. Theirs is the fate of the old frog to whom a young frog complained that a great beast, an ox, had come and trampled all the little frogs to death. The old frog thereupon became angry, puffed herself up and said: “What now, am I not just as big as he?” “Nay, mother dear,” said the young frog, “not if you puffed yourself up until you burst.” In the same manner my goats also puff themselves up with their own breath and wind and spirit, and when I come upon them with the ox-foot “Thus say the Scriptures” I crush them until they croak.
In order that these word-jugglers may be seen in their true light, I ask them, who told them that the fathers are clearer and not more obscure than the Scriptures? How would it be if I said that they understand the fathers as little as I understand the Scriptures? I could just as well stop my ears to the sayings of the fathers as they do to the Scriptures. But in that way we shall never arrive at the truth. If the Spirit has spoken in the fathers, so much the more has He spoken in His own Scriptures. And if one does not understand the Spirit in His own Scriptures, who will trust him to understand the Spirit in the writings of another? That is truly a carrying of the sword in the scabbard, when we do not take the naked sword by itself, but only as it is encased in the words and glosses of men. This dulls its edge and makes it obscurer than it was before, though Emser calls it smiting with the blade.
The naked sword makes him tremble from head to foot. But I cannot help him, he must take his punishment.
Be it known, then, that Scripture, without any gloss, is the sun and the sole light from which all teachers receive their light, and not the contrary. This is proved by the fact that when the fathers teach anything they do not trust their teaching, but fearing it to be too obscure and uncertain, they go to the Scriptures and take a clear passage out of it to shed light on their teaching, just as we place a light in a lantern, and as we read in Psalm 18:28 “Thou wilt light my lamp, O Lord.” And when they expound a passage of Scripture, they do not rely upon their own words and interpretation (for where they do that, which happens often, they usually err), but they bring another passage of Scripture which is clearer, and thus they interpret and explain Scripture by Scripture. My goats would soon find this to be true if they would read their fathers carefully, but since they simply skim over them and study neither the Scriptures nor the fathers, it is no wonder that they do not know what the Scriptures or the fathers teach.
I lose my patience when they thus revile and blaspheme the Scriptures and the fathers. They accuse the Scriptures of being obscure, while all the fathers deem them the light of lights, even as David says, <19B9105> Psalm 119:105 “Thy word is my light”; and they ascribe to the fathers the light with which Scripture must be illumined, whereas all the fathers concede their own obscurity and illumine Scripture by Scripture alone. And that is the true method of interpretation which puts Scripture alongside of Scripture in a right and proper way; the father who can do this best is the best among them. And all the books of the fathers must be read with discrimination, not taking their word for granted, but looking whether they quote clear texts and explain Scripture by other and clearer Scripture. How should they have overcome the heretics, if they had fought with their own glosses? They would have been regarded as fools and madmen. But when they brought forward clear texts which needed no glosses, so that reason was brought into captivity, the evil spirit himself with all his heresies was completely routed.
There is another study of the Scriptures, namely, the interpretation of obscure passages and allegories. This is termed a merry chase, in which certain elusive meanings are the game that is hunted and caught. But the study that makes one fit for warfare is to be at home in Scripture, and, as St. Paul says, able to contend with abundant clear passages, without any glosses and commentaries, as with a bared and drawn sword. ( Titus 1:9) This is the significance of the golden spears in Solomon’s temple.
Then the adversary, convinced by the clear light, must see and confess that the words of God stand alone and need not the explanation of man. For the opponent who will not believe the clear words of Scripture, will surely not believe the glosses of any father.
So our conclusion must be that no teacher ought to be taken on faith, and that Emser’s dagger is a foolish invention; we must examine whether these teachers quote the clear Scripture and stick to it, in order that the bared sword, the Word of God, alone may govern men. St. Paul taught us this when he wrote, “Prove all teaching; hold fast that which is good.” ( Thessalonians 5:21) He did not say that we should hold fast every one’s teaching, but that we should prove every teaching and hold fast that which is good. But Emser and his sophists hold what Eck, too, so foolishly asserted at Leipzig, that the teaching of the fathers must not be proved or tested, but accepted to the last letter, although everybody knows they all have erred many times. But if we are to test, as St. Paul tells us to do, what other touch-stone can we take than the Scriptures themselves? They must then be clearer and more certain than the teaching of the fathers, how could we otherwise judge by them and prove what is right or wrong? But the Goat, much more learned than St. Paul, would turn it about; he tells us we must not follow the bare Scripture, but the interpretation of the fathers, and makes the fathers the judges and testers of God and the words of God.
He thus proves the truth of the saying, Folly grows without watering. The ancient fathers were never guilty of such jugglery; this is a new invention of the pope and his partisans in the universities, that the Scriptures must be taken not as they are, but in the interpretation of the fathers. It is their way of escaping from the sword.
Since the Goat has recently become a philosopher, I must also present his Aristotle to him and show how much his Rhadinus knows. Aristotle wrote what common sense teaches the peasants even without Aristotle, that you cannot prove the obscure and uncertain with that which is itself obscure and uncertain. You cannot prove light with darkness, but what is obscure and uncertain must be made clear by that which is clear and certain. Since all the fathers go to Scripture for their proof, it is inconceivable that they were as senseless and hair-brained as Emser’s philosophy and dagger would make them, and regarded the Scriptures as a dense fog — this is Emser’s blasphemous and scandalous assertion — by which light and clearness was imparted to their teaching. Nay, they surely held the Scripture to be the light of lights and most clear and certain, and they appealed to it and depended upon it as the one teaching above all others which is plain and clear and by which every teaching must be judged and proved.
This was what St. Augustine did when he said that he would believe no teacher, however learned or holy, unless he proved his teaching by Scripture or clear reason. From that we learn again how the fathers are to be read, namely, that we ought not to ask what they say, but whether they use clear texts of Scripture and sound reasoning. But Emser and the pope’s party cannot be blamed if they shrink from doing this themselves or permitting others to do it, and put their own fictions in its place, for if they allowed us to force them to prove their contentions by clear Scripture, — God help them, then their abominations would be revealed and they could not deny that their adherents are the kingdom of antichrist, leading astray the whole world under the cloak of the church and the priesthood, — as I shall some day, please God, demonstrate. It is therefore most necessary for them to revile and blaspheme the Scriptures, to thrust them under the seat and to say that they are a dense fog, and that we must take the interpretation of the fathers and seek light in darkness. The teachings of the fathers are useful only to lead us to the Scriptures, as they were led, and then we must hold to the Scriptures alone. But Emser insists that the fathers must also be retained as something special, alongside of the Scriptures, as if the Scriptures were not sufficient for our learning.
In order to bring out still more of the super-marvelous art of the dear Goat, I ask: If the Scriptures are a dense fog, how can you use them as a weapon against me, and say that you will strike me with the blade? Can you blow hot and cold with the same breath? Are the Scriptures to your mind at once a dense fog and a clear light? And since you arm yourself with three distinct weapons — the sword, the spear, and the dagger — the sword cannot be the spear or the dagger. Therefore when you use the sword, that is, the Word of God, you cannot at the same time use the dagger, that is, the interpretation of the fathers. What a rapid change of mind! First you say: The Word of God is a dense fog, our reason cannot interpret it, and then you interpret it none the less by using the sword. I perceive that you have divested yourself of your reason in this matter and stand in a class by yourself, that is, you are not like other rational men, since you no longer possess reason. You know, of course, what I mean, my noble Goat; I am calling attention to the accuracy with which you write.
Your three weapons also make it evident that you want to make us spiritual through the words and teaching of men. For if the spear and the dagger differ from the sword, and the sword is God’s Word, which alone is the truth, then the spear and the dagger must be man’s word, and a lie. For what is not God’s Word, is a lie; see <19B611> Psalm 116:11, “All men are liars.”
Therefore I have rightly said that your spear is a Goliath-spear and your dagger a Joab-dagger. But if the dagger is to be God’s Word as interpreted by the fathers, and the spear, too, is the interpretation of God’s Word, then there are not three weapons, but one, namely, the sword, which is contained in all three. For with you stranger things are possible than that a sword should be concealed in a dagger. I think you must have gone to Master Blockhead’s school where the ass stood at the head of the class. I wish you would remain quietly at home with your dreams and inventions.
You might try these frivolous tricks in your verses, but leave God’s Word in peace, it cannot abide such frivolous fictions.
We have but the one Word, which is spear, sword, dagger, and every other weapon with which we can give battle to the adversaries, even the holy Word of God. I hope this will make you see your tomfoolery with your three weapons. Next time take up a matter which you can prove by Scripture or by reason, and you will be in less danger of exciting ridicule with your buffoonery. For your spear and dagger are unknown except to your dreams. And this is sufficient answer for all the teachers you can quote, even Aristotle, who comes first in your list, and Gerson and Scotus as well. And if you do not find enough, take your calendar and make the list long, to keep people from noticing how you evade and flee the Scriptures as the devil flees the cross.
They have found an argument by which to strengthen their spear and dagger in order to avoid the necessity of sticking to the Scripture, and show more ignorance in it than laymen. They know there can be no jesting when one comes with the Scriptures, and they with their man-made customs and teachings must needs melt away like butter in the sun. So they say: Not everything that is to be done in the Church is explicitly stated in the Scriptures, but Christ has commanded His apostles and their successors to teach and establish it, as we read in the last chapter of St. John: “Many other signs did Jesus, which are not written in this book; the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” ( John 21:25) See the exquisite interpreters of the holy Scriptures, how beautifully they can weave an apron and excuse for their shame out of the leaves of this sacred fig-tree of the gospel! They act as if they had done everything which is commanded in the Scriptures, but not enough had been written, whereas no one but Christ has perfectly fulfilled even one tittle of the Scriptures. John says Christ’s signs and wonders are not all written, but he does not say that all that we are to do is not written. Nay, in the very next breath he says very plainly what we are to do, namely: “These signs are written that ye might believe.” ( John 20:31) This faith is the work in which we Christians should engage, as Christ himself says in John 6:29 But these interpreters come and say, Not all that we are to do is written.
John speaks of Christ’s signs, they interpret it to refer to man-made laws and works. Christ’s signs and our doing must needs be one and the same thing! I thank you, my friends, you certainly understand how to interpret Scripture, and Emser in particular, who here misses the letter entirely and smites me with the blade of the spirit, just as when he confirmed the canonization of the saints by the psalm-text, Laudate Dominum in sanctis ejus. ( <19F001> Psalm 150:1) May God at length call a halt on you blasphemers of Scripture, you are such miserable deceivers!
And even if that passage did refer to man-made laws and works, which cannot be, ought we strive to write so many books that the world cannot hold them and thus do the very thing which the Apostle says he did not do?
Verily, enough is written in Scripture to make entirely unnecessary any more commandments and laws; nay, there is no longer any authority upon earth to make Christian laws, as I have proved in many places, And if those who assert that there is such authority on earth were moved by the Spirit, they would doubtless not pervert this text in St. John so blasphemously in order to prove their own contention. This perversion is a clear indication of the spirit in which they undertake to make laws.
They have still one other passage, John 14:26, where Christ said at the last Supper: “The Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” Here they assert that Christ did not cause everything to be written in the Gospel. They do not look at the plain words of Christ, when He says, The Holy Ghost will bring to your remembrance, not what you shall ordain and command, but what I have commanded and said unto you. Here again Christ’s command is made to be the same as man’s law. The disciples could not take in and understand all that He said to them at the time, and therefore He says the Spirit should tell them again the things they had forgotten or not understood, and this afterward came to pass. Christ was so careful to prevent anyone from bringing men’s laws into his Church that He desired to speak of all things beforehand, even if it was not all remembered or understood. And in spite of all, the adherents of the pope turn this completely around and want to justify the laws of men by Christ’s utterances against the laws of men; yet they want to be no heretics, but the masters of all Christians.
In this matter the pope’s adherents stick up to their ears in the heresy of the Manicheans, who also taught that the Holy Ghost, Who was promised, should teach what was not recorded in the Scriptures. Augustine refutes this error in a masterly fashion in his treatise Contra Felicem, f472 and proves that what the promised Holy Spirit was to teach had all been fulfilled and written down by the apostles.
Again, when Christ says to the disciples, “He that heareth you, heareth me,” ( Luke 10:16) they explain this also to mean that they are privileged to make laws as they please. Christ here speaks only of the Gospel which the apostles are to preach and we are to hear, but they make use of that saying to lead us into their own laws, yea, into their moneytrap.
So also when He says to Peter, “Whatsoever thou shalt bind, shall be bound,” ( Matthew 16:19) they twist it to mean that the pope may make laws at his pleasure, although Christ speaks only of the binding and loosing of sins. So they establish their position not merely by their own lying inventions, but by a perversion, corruption, and shameful abuse of the holy Word of God, which is intolerable, and yet they want to be the only teachers of all Christians, and brand everyone a heretic who does not bow low to their abomination and blasphemy.
It is therefore abominable and unchristian blasphemy for Emser to insist that the Roman customs and laws must be held as sacred as if they were commanded in the Scriptures, whereas they are neither known nor kept by all Christians. The Greeks and Orientals also are Christians, and have not accepted them, much to the chagrin of Emser and the pope’s adherents.
And even if they were adopted by all Christians everywhere, that would not make the non-observance of them an error of faith. Keeping man’s law does not make a Christian, not keeping it does not make a non-Christian, although it is not right to despise wantonly and without cause what the mass of men believe and keep. On the other hand, it is tyrannous and inhuman, nay devilish, without cause to burden, worry, and oppress even one Christian with man-made laws, not to speak of a larger number or of the whole church.
Therefore I would not interfere with those who desire to keep the pope’s and other man-made laws, and would only prevent, if I could, the suppression thereby of faith and of God’s Word. But I cannot keep silent when they make a terror and a burden out of them and brand as damnable heretics all those who do not keep them, even if they hold to the articles of faith. Emser here admits that I do not attack even one article of faith, and yet he denies that I am a Christian. In baptism we have sworn allegiance to Christ, not to the pope, and if Christ leads us into the laws of the emperor or into the laws, authority, and power of men, into prison, death, and all sufferings, we are in duty bound to follow His leading. The pope, too, has sworn to teach and practice not his own word but the word of Christ. If he does not do this, he is a thief and a murderer, as Christ himself calls the wolves, John 10:1 Let us now listen to some of his lies.
The first lie is, that I want to cut off the head of the church and afterward physic the body. This is an inspiration of his own in which he delights just as he delights in his spear and dagger. For in that book I said nothing concerning the papacy itself, but spoke only of its degeneration and reformation. It is true, under their urging and driving, I did write in other books that the papacy is not of divine origin, and I think I proved it — without Emser’s thanks. In so doing I have not rejected the pope, as this liar Emser maintains. My books give clear evidence of it. If that had been my intention at the time, what reason did I have for advising the nobility to reform the papacy?
That proves that I was willing to retain the pope; otherwise I would have had to speak not of a reform but of the destruction of the papacy.
And if the pope should be reduced to the status of other bishops, which will not happen before judgment day, for Christ Himself must remove so great an enemy of His whom we cannot reform — the Church’s head would not be cut off thereby, as Emser lyingly prates. He thinks he has established the proposition that the pope is the head of the Church. He still has a long way to go. Christ is the head of the Church. The pope has ofttimes been a heretic and a knave, so that it is scandalous of Emser to make a heretic and a knave the head of the Church; that is far worse than to cut off the Church’s head. The pope, too, dies, like any other man, and yet the Church does not live without a head; for even as she lives without ever ceasing to be, so her head, too, must live forever.
Emser lies again when he says that I wish the laity might wash their hands in the blood of the priests. His holy priesthood and Christian love seeks naught but to kindle a fire, and if I were dead he could give out such lies as the solemn truth, as happened in the case of Hus. I wrote against Sylvester per contentionem, as this noble poet and rhetorician well knows; I said, if heretics are to be burned, why not rather attack the pope and his adherents with the sword and wash our hands in their blood, if he teaches what Sylvester writes, namely, that the Holy Scriptures derive their authority from the pope. And since I do not approve of burning the heretics, I likewise do not approve of killing any Christian. I know very well that it is not in accord with the Gospel. I simply showed what they deserved if heretics deserve to be burned. It is not at all necessary to attack you with the sword. The nobility and the temporal power can easily deal with such effeminate and childish people through a letter and command; if they will only treat your tyrannical swagger and worthless bans with contempt and say to you, Thus must it be, you would have to obey, although your tactics with your burnings and bans, your raging and raving against the plain truth, look as if you were eager to stir up another Bohemian episode and bring about the fulfillment of the prophecy which is going the rounds that the priests are to be slain. If such destruction should come upon you, you must not blame me — just keep on, the road you are on leads right to it. Where one cannot advise, one cannot help. You will know very quickly whether you can end the game in that manner, even though it were to rain and snow naught but bishops, Emsers, Ecks, and popes. I hope you realize that no one shall destroy the pope but yourselves, even his own creatures, as the prophet has said.
But tell me, dear Emser, since you dare to put it down on paper that it is right and necessary to burn heretics and think that this does not soil your hands with Christian blood, why should it not also be right to take you, Sylvester, the pope, and all your adherents and put you to a most shameful death? Since you dare to publish a doctrine that is not only heretical but antichristian, which all the devils would not venture to utter — that the Gospel must be confirmed by the pope, that its authority is bound up with the pope’s authority, and that what is done by the pope is done by the church. What heretic has ever thus at one stroke condemned and destroyed God’s Word? Therefore I still declare and maintain that, if heretics deserve the stake, you and the pope ought to be put to death a thousand times. But I would not have it done. Your judge is not far off, He will find you without fail and without delay.
Do not grow weary with waiting. Yet I would rather that you forestalled Him with sorrow and repentance. To this may God help you, Amen. But I would also that the Roman courtiers, if they will not stop in any other way, be stopped by force, like other thieves and robbers.
Your extravagant assertion that I bring shame upon the priesthood; your claim that St. Paul was ordained by the apostles and St. Peter wore a tonsure; your pouring forth of useless words about ordination and the priestly estate; your allegation that “spiritual” has three meanings, namely, spirituale, ecclesiasticum, religiosum, and that not all Christians are spiritual, spirituales — all these I pass by, lest I make myself as ridiculous as you. For you might say that the laying on of hands meant something besides ordination. Who could prevent this, since you are determined to deal only in lies, like the preachers who say that St. Bartholomew prayed the rosary and the psalter of Our Lady? Here I need no logic. Spirituales I call spiritual and godly Christians; ecclesiasticum and religiosum I do not recognize in this discussion. I thought that here at last the bared sword was to strike me with the blade, and lo! there is neither scabbard, nor sword, nor man.
Of the same sort is your lie, that I have made all laymen to be bishops and priests and spiritual in such a way that they may at once without a proper call perform the functions of the office. Pious as you are, you suppress my accompanying words, that no one shall undertake what he has no call to do except in case of extreme need. And what else shall I say? For one lie crowds another in your book. I am afraid you will kill yourself with lying, blaspheming, hating, and raving. Aforetimes it was a pleasure to write against heretics, because even though they erred, they were honest folk who avoided lies and held to the subject. My persecutors drop the subject and, like knaves, give themselves only to lies. In order to avoid the weariness of hearing nothing but your lies, let us turn to something useful, the teaching concerning the letter and the spirit, which is the chief thing in your book.
THE LETTER AND THE SPIRIT St. Paul says, 2 Corinthians 3:6 “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” This my Emser explains to mean that the Scriptures have a two-fold meaning, an external sense and a secret sense, which he calls the literal and the spiritual. The literal sense is supposed to kill and the spiritual to give life. In this he builds on the teaching of Origen, Dionysius, and some others, and thinks he has hit the mark squarely and does not need even to look at the clear Scriptures, since he has the teachings of men. He would like me to imitate him, to abandon the Scriptures and likewise accept the teachings of men. That is something I will not do, although I, too, labored under that error for a time, and I desire to take this opportunity to show clearly how Origen, Jerome, Dionysius, and some others were in the wrong, and how Emser builds his house on the sand, and that it is always necessary to compare the writings of the fathers with the Scripture, and to judge them according to its light.
In the first place, if their opinion were right, that the spiritual sense giveth life and the literal sense killeth, we should be obliged to confess that all sinners are holy and all the saints are sinners; nay, Christ Himself with all the angels must at the same time be both living and dead. This we shall make so clear that even Emser with all his ability to lie shall not be able to contradict it. We will take the passage from St. Paul in Galatians 4:22, where according to the literal sense, the letter, it is stated that Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, by two wives, Sarah and Hagar. This is the sense accepted by Christ, God the Holy Spirit, and all the angels and saints. They hold that what the literal sense conveys here is true. And it is indeed true. Well, Emser, where is your Origen now? If you are really the man who fights not with the scabbard but strikes with the blade, speak up now and say that the letter and the literal sense kill Christ and the Holy Spirit together with all the angels and saints. Can a man say anything more blasphemous than Emser does in his madness, that all the truth in the Scripture kills and destroys?
Again, that Abraham signifies Christ, the two women the two Testaments, the two sons the people of the two Testaments, as St. Paul interprets, this is, as you say, the spiritual meaning. ( Galatians 4:24) But this meaning is held not only by the saints but also by the worst sinners, yea even by the devils in hell. Come right out into the open, my Emser, strike away with the blade and say that all the devils and knaves are holy and have the life which the spirit giveth. Now be honest and confess that when you take this trick away from Origen, Dionysius, Jerome, and many others there is nothing left of them. Are not the Scriptures clearer on this point than all the fathers? Why, I try them, weigh them, judge them, vanquish them all in such manner that no one can gainsay it, by using the very text from St. Paul on which they have taken their stand, namely, “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” ( 2 Corinthians 3:6) Why should I add any glosses to it? Is not the text itself so clearly against them that everyone is caught and must say, “Yea.”
In this way we must interpret all the Scriptures, even the ancient types. For instance, the Jews were forbidden to eat swine or hare because neither swine nor hare cheweth the cud. This is the literal sense. Thus it was understood by David, all the holy prophets and by Christ himself, together with his disciples, and if they had not thus understood and observed it, they would have set themselves against God. Why did the letter not kill them?
Again, that the swine signify the carnal teachings or whatever other spiritual sense one wishes to apply can be understood even by those who live in mortal sin, and by the devils even more easily. Why does not the spirit give life to them? Where are you, 0 knight with the mighty Leipzig sword? My dear man, go and write a little more about me, especially how I have praised the ceremonies, saying that they are sanctae, justae, bonae, a bono Deo datae. Truly, you must now see and yourself admit what I have told you, that you do not have an inkling of the meaning of “spirit” and “letter” in the Scriptures. You had better tend to your business and let the Scriptures alone. See how little it helps to quote many writers and to build on what they say.
Furthermore, St. Paul says, Romans 7:14 “The divine law is spiritual, but I am carnal.” He cites one of the ten commandments, namely, the Non concupisces, Thou shalt not covet, and in an extended and skillful argument shows how that same spiritual law killeth. What will you do here, my Emser? Where are you, O man of the spear and of the dagger and of the edged sword? St. Paul here says that the spiritual law killeth, but you say that the spiritual sense giveth life. Come, pipe up, show your skill: what is the literal, and what the spiritual sense in this commandment, Non concupisces? Surely you cannot deny that no other sense can be taken out of these words than that given by their literal meaning. Paul here speaks of the evil lusts of the flesh and yet he calls this law spiritual and maintains that it killeth. And you say, it were better to read a poet’s tale than the literal sense of the Scriptures. This is St. Paul’s opinion, and he who finds in this commandment any other sense than this literal sense concerning evil lusts finds no meaning in it at all. How well Emser accords with St. Paul: like a donkey singing a duet with a nightingale. All the commandments of God must be treated in the same way, whether they refer to ceremonies or other matters, small or great. It is plain how pitifully Emser has erred in this thing and has shown that he knows less about the Scriptures than a child.
Besides, his mistaken and wrong interpretation is a dishonor to the entire sacred Scriptures and a disgrace to himself. All the labor and diligence of the teachers have no other object than to find the literal sense which alone they regard as valid, so that Augustine declares: Figura nihil probat, f486 that is, Emser’s “spiritual sense” is not valid, but the other sense is the highest, best, strongest; in short, it is the whole substance, essence, and foundation of Scripture, so that if the literal sense were taken away, all the Scriptures would be nothing. The spiritual sense, which Emser magnifies, is not valid in any controversy. It does not hold water, nor would it matter if no one knew anything about it, as I proved in my book On the Papacy. f487 For even if no one knew that Aaron is a type of Christ, it would not matter, neither can it be proven. We must let Aaron be simply Aaron in the ordinary sense, except where the Spirit Himself gives a new interpretation, which is then a new literal sense, as St. Paul, for instance, in the Epistle to the Hebrews makes Aaron to be Christ. (Hebrews 9 and 10) How can you be so bold, Emser, as to make the assertion that this literal sense killeth? You are floundering about in ignorance of the import of your own words, when you prate that it is better to read one of Virgil’s poems than to read the literal sense of the Scriptures. Thereby you condemn the entire Scripture and give preference to the lies and fictions of the devil over the holy Word of God, which has no other valid meaning than the one you call deadly and teach men to shun. But this is smiting with the blade and a correct Emserian spiritual interpretation; thus must the heretic Luther be struck! Turn the tables, Emser, and you will find that the sense which you call spiritual and life-giving, is the very one — if you cling only to it and let the literal sense go — for which it would be better to exchange the poets’ tales, for the spiritual sense is unsafe, and the Scriptures exist without it, but they cannot exist without the literal sense. They were right aforetimes who prohibited the books of Origen, for he paid too much attention to this spiritual sense, which was unnecessary, and he neglected the necessary literal sense. For that means the destruction of Scripture and will never make sound theologians. Such are developed only by the one, true, original, and native sense of the words.
The Holy Spirit is the plainest writer and speaker in heaven and earth, and therefore His words cannot have more than one, and that the very simplest, sense, which we call the literal, ordinary, natural, sense. That the things indicated by the simple sense of His simple words should signify something further and different, and therefore one thing should always signify another, is more than a question of words or of language. For the same is true of all other things outside of the Scriptures, since all of God’s works and creatures are living signs and words of God, as St. Augustine and all the teachers declare. But we are not on that account to say that the Scriptures or the Word of God have more than one meaning.
A painted picture of a living man signifies a person, without need of a word of explanation. But that does not cause you to say that the word “picture” has a twofold sense, a literal sense, meaning the picture, and a spiritual sense, meaning the living person. Now, although the things described in the Scriptures have a further significance, the Scriptures do not on that account have a twofold sense, but only the one which the words give.
Beyond that we can give permission to speculative minds to seek and chase after the various significations of the things mentioned, provided they take care not to go too far or too high, as sometimes happens to the chamois hunters and did happen to Origen. It is much surer and safer to abide by the words in their simple sense; they furnish the real pasture and right dwelling-places for all minds.
Now see the lofty way in which Emser comes along with his double Bible and brings uncertainty upon both parts. When St. Peter says: “We are all priests,” he declares, this is said in the spiritual, not in the literal, sense. ( 1 Peter 2:9) But when I ask, why not in the literal sense? Emser answers: Because the literal sense killeth. He does not understand one iota of what he says, nor does he see how he himself brings shame upon his own priesthood by teaching clearly that it is not the living, spiritual priesthood, but the literal, harmful, deadly priesthood, so that it would indeed be better to be a mythical priest than such a literal priest. If whatever is not spirit has no life and has no spiritual meaning, it must surely be harmful, deadly, and worse than heathenish, and must be understood literally, if indeed the high, super-spiritual Emserian theology is to stand. ‘Twere well if a smith remained a smith and a poetaster stayed a poetaster, and left the wielding of the spiritual sword to such as have strong fists and powerful arms. The Scriptures do not tolerate such a separation of the letter and the spirit as Emser so wantonly teaches; they know but one priesthood and have but one meaning.
Many sensible men have made the mistake of calling the “letter” a figure of speech, Augustine among them. As if I were to say, Emser is a stupid ass, and a simple-minded man hearing these words, would understand that Emser were actually an ass with long ears and four legs. The man would have been deceived by the letter, whereas I wanted to convey, through the figure of speech, what a blockhead Emser is. Figures of speech are a subject of study in the schools and are called in Greek schemata, and in Latin figurae, because they are a decking out of speech, even as you adorn the body with jewels. The Scriptures are full of such figures of speech, particularly the books of the prophets. John and Christ in Luke 3:7 call the Jews genimina viperarum, generation of vipers. St. Paul in Colossians calls them dogs. ( Philippians 3:2) <19B003> Psalm 110:3 says: “The dew of thy children shall come out of the womb of the morning.” Again: “God shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion.” ( <19B002> Psalm 110:2) That means the children of Christ are born, not physically from a mother’s womb, but without the work of man, like the dew from heaven, out of the morning of the Christian church. Further, Christ says, Matthew 5:13 “Ye are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.” But this is not what St. Paul means by the word “letter.” This belongs to the study of grammar in the schools.
If you can humble yourself and not despise me altogether, I will do what out of Christian duty I owe to my enemy, and not withhold from you God’s gift to me. I will give you better instruction in this matter — I say this without boasting — than any you have received heretofore from any teacher except St. Augustine, if perchance you have read his De Spiritu et Litera. None of the others will teach you aright. You will not find a single letter in the whole Bible that agrees with what you, together with Origen and Jerome, call the spiritual sense. St. Paul calls it a mystery, a secret, hidden sense, wherefore the earliest of the fathers called it an anagogical, that is, a more remote sense, a meaning by itself, and sometimes also an allegory, St. Paul himself using the latter term in Galatians 4:24. But that is not yet the “spirit,” although the Spirit has given it as well as the letter and all the gifts, as we see from Corinthians 14:2 “The Spirit speaketh mysteries.” Some, however, because they did not understand this matter, ascribed a fourfold sense to Scripture, the literal, the allegorical, the anagogical, and the tropological, for which there is no foundation whatever.
It is therefore not well named the literal sense, for by letter Paul means something quite different. They do much better who call it the grammatical, historical sense. It would be well to call it the speaking or language sense as St. Paul does in 1 Corinthians 14:2, because it is understood by everybody in the sense of the spoken language. He who hears the words that Abraham had two sons by two wives, receives them in that sense and has no further thoughts than those indicated by the language, until the Spirit goes farther and reveals the hidden sense concerning Christ and the two covenants and peoples. ( Galatians 4:22) Such hidden meanings are then called mysteries, just as St. Paul in Ephesians 5:32 calls the union of Christ and the Church in one body a mystery, although the letter of the Scriptures in Genesis 2:24 speaks of man and wife. Great care is necessary however, that not everyone shall of himself invent mysteries, as some have done and still do. The Spirit must do it Himself or one must prove them by Scripture, as I said in the treatise On the Papacy. f489 Therefore the text of St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:6, “The letter killeth but the spirit giveth life,” squares with this twofold sense, the spiritual and the literal, as perfectly as Emser’s head squares with philosophy and theology. How and why Origen, Jerome, and some other fathers also turned and twisted this text in the same manner I will not discuss now. It is generally known and can easily be proved that they treated other passages in the same way in order to refute the Jews and the heretics. But we ought to excuse them for that and not follow them here like unclean animals who gulp down everything they find and make no distinctions in the work and teaching of the fathers, until at last we follow them only in those things wherein the beloved fathers — as human beings — erred, and depart from them in the things they did well. I could prove this easily from the teachings and the lives of all who now are considered the very worthiest among them.
Let us now consider the text concerning the letter and: the spirit. ( Corinthians 3:6) In that passage St. Paul does not write one iota about these two senses, but declares that there are two kinds of preaching or ministries. One is that of the Old Testament, the other that of the New Testament. The Old Testament preaches the letter, the New Testament the spirit. But in order that I may not, like Goat Emser, tell my own dream, let us hear in the clear words of the apostle himself that he speaks of the ministers or preachers of the New Testament in 2 Corinthians 3:3. They read as follows: “Ye are an epistle of Christ, through our ministry, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. Therefore we needed not epistles of commendation to you. And such trust have we to God through Christ, not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers and preachers of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life,” etc.
Is that not a clear statement concerning preaching? We see clearly that St.
Paul speaks of two tables and two kinds of preaching. The tables of Moses were of stone, on which the law was inscribed by God’s finger, Exodus 20:1 The tables of Christ, or the epistles of Christ, as he calls them here, are the hearts of Christians, in which are written, not letters as on Moses’ tables, but the spirit of God, through the preaching of the Gospel and the ministry of the apostles. Now, just what does this mean? The letter is naught else but the divine law and commandment which is given in the Old Testament, through Moses, and is taught and proclaimed through Aaron’s priesthood. It is called “letter” because it is written with letters on the tables of stone and in books. A letter it must ever remain; it never gives anything except its command. For no man is made better by the law, but only worse, for the law does not give help or grace; it merely commands and demands that a man do what a man never willingly does, and indeed, cannot do. But the spirit, which is divine grace, gives strength and power to the heart, yea, creates a new man, who grows to love God’s commandments and does with joy all that he ought to do.
This spirit cannot be contained in any letter, it cannot be written with ink, on stone, or in books, as the law can be, but is written only in the heart, a living writing of the Holy Spirit who uses no means at all. Therefore St.
Paul calls it Christ’s epistle, not Moses’ tables; it is written not with ink, but with the Spirit of God. By this spirit or grace a man does what the law commands and satisfies it. In this manner he becomes free from the letter that kills him and lives through the grace of the Spirit. Everyone that does not have this grace of the living Spirit is dead, although he make a fine show in the outward keeping of the whole law. For this reason the apostle says of the law that it kills, that it makes no one alive and would keep one eternally in bondage to death unless grace come to set him free and to give him life.
These, then, are the two ministries. The priests, preachers, and ministries of the Old Testament deal with naught else but the law of God; they have as yet no open proclamation of the spirit and of grace. But in the New Testament all the preaching is of grace and the spirit given to us through Christ. For the preaching of the New Testament is naught else but an offering and presentation of Christ to all men out of the pure mercy of God, in such wise that all who believe in Him receive God’s grace and the Holy Spirit, by which all sin is forgiven, all law is fulfilled, they become God’s children, and have eternal salvation. Therefore St. Paul here calls the New Testament proclamation ministerium spiritus, a ministry of the spirit, i.e., a ministry by which the spirit and grace of God are presented and offered to all who by the law have been burdened, killed, and made to long for grace. The law he calls ministerium literae, a ministry of the letter, i.e., a ministry which offers nothing but the letter or the law, that produces no life nor a fulfilment of the law whose demands no man can satisfy.
Therefore it must needs remain a letter, and as a letter it can accomplish nothing more than to kill a man, i.e., it shows him what he ought to do and yet cannot do; this makes him realize that he is in disgrace and dead before God, whose commandments he does not keep and yet must keep.
This makes it clear that the word of the apostle, “The letter killeth, the spirit giveth life,” might be expressed in other words, thus: “The law killeth, but the grace of God giveth life,” or: “Grace gives help and does all that the law demands and of itself cannot do.” ( 2 Corinthians 3:6) For this reason St. Paul calls God’s law a law of death and of sin, and declares, Romans 8:2 “The law of the living spirit in Christ has redeemed me from the law of sin and death. For the law could not help me — it made things worse through the wickedness of the sinful flesh — therefore God sent his own son into our flesh, and let him become like unto our sinful flesh and thus blotted out our sins through Christ’s assumption of sin in his suffering, that thereby the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.”
Here we see how excellently St. Paul teaches us to understand aright, Christ, God’s grace, and the New Testament. It is all comprised in the fact that Christ came unto our sin, bore it in His body on the cross, and blotted it out, so that all who believed on Him were rid of their sin and received grace henceforth to satisfy God’s law and the letter that killeth, and thus were made partakers of eternal life. See, that is what is meant by ministerium spiritus, non literae, the preaching of the spirit, the preaching of grace, the preaching of a right indulgence, the preaching of Christ, i.e., the New Testament, of which much could be said if the evil spirit had not blinded the world through the pope, and by man-teaching had led it into the abyss of outermost darkness.
Now we see that all commandments lead unto death, since even divine commandments mean death, for everything that is not spirit or grace means death. It is, therefore, monstrous ignorance to call allegories, tropologies, and the like, spirit. They can all be encompassed in language and do not give life, but grace has no receptacle save the heart. And just as not all men take up this life of the spirit, nay, most of them let the ministers of the spirit preach and offer them such rich grace in vain, and believe not the Gospel, so likewise not all receive the ministry of the letter or preaching of the law, they do not want to be put under death, i.e., they understand not God’s law, and go along without receiving either letter or spirit. And to pursue Goat Emser’s blind perversion still further: he thinks we should avoid the letter and flee the death of the letter. That is what happens when one reads only the books of the fathers and puts the Scriptures aside, juggles with spears and daggers, and makes a dense fog of the Scriptures, but a bright light of the teachings of the fathers.
The apostle does not want us to avoid the letter nor to flee its death; in the same passage he laments the fact that for the Jews a veil hangs over the law like the veil on Moses’ face, Exodus 34:33, so that they do not see the letter, its death, and its glory. ( 2 Corinthians 3:7;)He wants the letter to be preached and made clear and the veil removed from the face of Moses. And when a man understands rightly the law of God and, with veil removed, looks it squarely in the face, he finds that all the works of man are sinful and nothing is good in them unless the grace of the Spirit enter into them. And this is the real end and purpose of the law, as Paul says, 2 Corinthians 3:13 “They could not stedfastly look to the end of the law”; for it seeks to make sinners of all men and sin of all that is in us, and thereby show us our misery, our death, our merit, and lead us to a true knowledge of ourselves, as St. Paul says, Romans 7: 7 “By the law is the knowledge of sin,” and in Romans 3:20 “The Scripture hath concluded all men under sin,” so that all the world’s tongue might be silenced and it should know that before God no man is righteous without grace, even if he do works of the law. ( Romans 11:32; Galatians 3:22) They, however, who like the Jews and our sophists together with the pope, want to exalt their good works, and boast of their free will, who will not allow all the works of man to be sin and still find something good in our nature, are those who do not let Moses’ face shine in its glory, who hang a veil before the law and do not look it squarely in the face, who do not let their works be sin and death before God, i.e., they do not want to come to a true knowledge of themselves, nor humble themselves, but bolster up their own pride. Such flee the letter and its true meaning as the Jews fled from the face of Moses, and therefore their understanding is blinded and they never come to the life of the Spirit. It is not possible for anyone to hear the Gospel and be made alive through the grace of the Spirit, who is not willing first to hear the law and be put to death by the letter; for grace is not given to anyone except he thirst for it. Life helps only where there is death, grace only where there is sin, the spirit only where there is the letter — no man can have the one without the other. Therefore what Emser calls the letter and death is in reality but the veil, a gross perversion of the letter, a damnable fleeing from this blessed death. Nay, even this is ascribing too much sense to it, so utterly remote from the Scriptures is this poor blind man, who pretends to fight with the edged sword; methinks he is hacking his own face.
My sincere counsel to such unschooled minds is to quit writing books. For since they bring — in fools’ fashion — the words of some fathers, they deceive the poor people, who fall to and hold such errors perhaps all their lives. Such books cannot help doing injury, for which their hair-brained writers are guilty before God. Who will give Emser the grace to counteract the errors and lies of his book, as he ought to do? It would have been better for him, as Christ says, “that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea,” rather than that he should write things that are false, harmful, offensive, and, more than that, most grossly pervert the very precious teaching of Christ with his blasphemy and poison and drive the poor people away from it. ( Matthew 18:6) Woe unto you, Emser! If you had waited until God had called and driven you to it, He would have been with you in your labors and given you His spirit to enable you to write profitable things. But now you do just what Jeremiah speaks of: “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet the prophesied.” Jeremiah 23:21) The spirit of hatred and lying has driven you, therefore your writings are but lies and errors. All I can do is to warn everybody against your poison. If I had not feared for the poor souls, I would not have thought you worthy of an answer, as I did before. Tu enim es ipsa inscitia in his rebus. f491 To come back to our subject. It is indeed true that where only the law is preached and the letter insisted on, as in the Old Testament, and this is not followed by the preaching of the Spirit, there can be only death without life, sin without grace, anguish without comfort. Such preaching produces wretched and captive consciences, and makes men finally despair and die in their sins, and, through this preaching, be eternally damned. This has been done in our day and still is done by the murderous sophists in their summa and confessionalia, in which they drive and torment the people with contrition, confession, penance and satisfaction. Then they teach good works and preach good doctrine as they say, but not once do they hold up the Spirit and Christ to the afflicted consciences; so that now Christ is unknown to all the world, the Gospel lies in a corner, and the whole ministry of the New Testament is suppressed. The best among them are those who explain Moses and the commandments, and of such there are very few. The greater part concern themselves with their mummery and teach the canon law, the pope’s law, the doctrines and statutes of men; caught in these meshes, they never get out of them, ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth, even as St. Paul declares. Timothy 3:7) If God’s law brings ruin and condemnation, as St. Paul here declares, even if it be preached and explained to perfection, how can the sophists and this Goat claim to make people righteous and increase good works by means of the teachings of men and man-made laws? Verily, since the law kills and condemns everything that is not grace and spirit, they accomplish no more with their many laws and works than to give much occasion to the law to kill and condemn. All their trouble and labor is in vain; the more they do, the worse they become, because it is impossible to satisfy the law of God with teachings and works; the Spirit alone can satisfy its demands.
Therefore the Scripture speaks of all their ado as Aven et Amal, labor and trouble, and the company of these lost men is called Bethaven, the church or company of trouble; again, in Amos 7, Bethishac, the church of deception, because they deceive everybody by their false teaching, work, and life. ( Psalm 10:7; Hosea 4:15; Amos 7:16) My counsel therefore was and is, that we do not make a pretense of reforming these man-made teachings and the canon law, as Emser foolishly suggests, for that is impossible, but that we burn them up, cast them out, destroy them, overturn them entirely, or at least as much of them as we can, and then restore simply the two ministries of the letter and the spirit, which cannot be exercised unless the teachings of men are put away. It is surely proper that they give way to God’s letter and spirit, to which they are a hindrance and obstruction. To preach the letter and the spirit gives us more to do than we are equal to, even if we began at the beginning of the world and kept on until doomsday.
Though we now live in the New Testament and should have only the preaching of the spirit, yet we are still clothed in flesh and blood, and therefore the preaching of the letter is needed too, first of all through the law, to bring the people unto death and destroy their self-confidence, that they may know themselves and become hungry for the spirit and thirsty for grace, and so to prepare them for the preaching of the spirit, as it is written of St. John that he prepared the people for Christ by preaching repentance, which was the ministry of the letter, and then led them unto Christ and said: “Behold the lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the whole world,” which was the ministry of the spirit. ( Matthew 3:1 ff.; John 1:29) These are the two works of God commended so often in the Scriptures: He kills and makes alive, He wounds and He heals, He destroys and builds up, He condemns and pardons, He brings low and lifts up, He rebukes and brings to honor, as it is recorded in Deuteronomy 32:39, 1 Samuel 2:6, <19B307> Psalm 113:7, and other places. These works He performs through the two ministries, the one by the letter, the second by the Spirit. By the letter no one can abide in the presence of His wrath, by the spirit no one can perish in the presence of His grace. O what an abundance of riches is here! One could go on speaking about it forever, and yet the pope and the precepts of men have hidden it and fastened an iron curtain before it, that it cries to heaven. Amen.
This makes very plain to everyone what St. Paul means in Romans 7:12, when he says: “The law of God is good, just, holy and spiritual,” and still is a letter that kills, because it shows how good, righteous, holy, spiritual, and equal to all its demands a man should be, and yet he is found to be wicked, unrighteous, sinful, carnal, and unequal to any demand of the law. And this failure of man to keep the law brings upon him eternal death, the wrath and displeasure of God, who rightly insists on the fulfilment of His law to the last dot and letter. By the mirror thus held up to him by the letter, or the law, man comes to know himself, that he is dead and under God’s displeasure. This knowledge alarms him and causes him to seek the spirit, that by him he may be made good, righteous, holy, spiritual, in all things as the law demands, and be brought to God’s grace. Then he loves the law, the letter no longer kills him, but he lives in the spirit, fulfilling the demands of the law. Nay, he no longer needs a law to teach him, for he knows it by heart, since through the spirit every requirement of the law has become his very nature and being.
We conclude this discussion with the fine sentence in St. Augustine’s comment on Psalm 17, where he gives us this happy and striking explanation: “The letter is none other than the law apart from grace.” And so we may also say: The spirit is none other than grace apart from the law.
Where the letter is, or the law without grace, there is no end of making, teaching, performing of laws, and all is fruitless, for no one is made better by it; it all remains dead in the letter. But where the spirit of God is, there is liberty, as St. Paul says. ( 2 Corinthians 3:17) No teacher or law is necessary, and yet a man does everything that ought to be done. A person with good, strong eyes need not be taught how to see, he can see by himself much better than with any assistance teaching could provide. But if the man is diseased, his freedom is gone and enough instruction cannot be found to help guard and protect him; every use of the eyes must be made a matter of special concern and rule to help him see. This is what St. Paul means in 1 Timothy 1:9 “The law is not made for a righteous man,” for through the spirit he has met its every demand. He means the very same thing when he says: “God has made us ministers of the spirit, not of the letter,” namely, that in the New Testament there shall be in fact only the preaching of grace and not of the law, and men shall be made truly righteous through the spirit. ( 2 Corinthians 3:6) Where are you now, O Goliath Emser, with your spear and your sword?
You have girded on this sword only to have your own head cut off with it.
How could you have found, in the whole Bible, a text that would serve me so well against you as this one on which you rest your argument and hope?
That you strike with the blade is your boast, but you have not even touched so much as your scabbard or the knob on the hilt. ‘Do you see how “spiritually” you have tortured this text and wrenched it to make it say that the letter signifies the literal sense and the spirit the spiritual sense, and then you bid us flee the letter and death! What a skilled swordsman you are! What a pleasant little bout you have had with the famous gladiator!
Now that I have unbuckled your sword and cut off the head of your insolence, we will come back to your spear, dagger, and your whole armor.
I hope to drag out a dead Goliath and display his head, that everyone may gaze on your wanton threats and Goliath-like blasphemies. Let us see where your idol, the pope, will be with his laws, and the whole army of these Philistines with their manmade doctrines.
If the pope, with his bishops and priests, is a pious, faithful successor and heir of the apostles, I trust he is bound to exercise their ministry and to preach the spirit, in accordance with this word of St. Paul. But if he is to preach the spirit, he must not preach laws, but freedom even from the laws of God, as I have said. Now I ask, where do the pope and the priesthood come from, who never preach this spirit nor give the letter its glory, but everywhere urge their own law, the canon law, precepts of men, consecrated salt and water, vigils, masses, and any other of their mummery they may drag in. They befog the law of God and bring out again the veil of Moses which the apostles had taken away; they take the world captive in their laws, blot out Christian liberty, destroy the spirit and drive away grace. And in return for giving us these abominations they take away all our money and property, rob us, and steal from us. St. Paul declares that through the preaching of the spirit even the glory of Moses, i.e., the law of God, shall be done away, so that only the glory of the spirit may shine in the Church. But the pope not merely reintroduces Moses — even that would be a blessing — but again hangs the veil before the face of Moses, nay, with his innumerable laws he builds a stone wall before him, so that now neither letter nor spirit is known or preached, but mere inventions of human doctrine, of which Christ says in Matthew 15:8 “In vain do they serve me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men; thereby they draw near unto me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”
Whence comes a pope like that with his priests? He surely is not the successor of the apostles, for with his doctrines he destroys their ministry and teaching. This is a strong word of St. Paul: “We are ministers or preachers of the spirit, not of the letter”; but what says the pope? ( Corinthians 3:6) “We are preachers neither of the spirit nor of the letter, but of our own dream, which is not written anywhere.” From whence cometh he? I will tell you. Christ calls him by name in Matthew 24:15 “When ye shall see the abomination in the holy city (i.e., the pope with his own teachings sitting in the Church on the seat of the apostles), whoso readeth, let him understand. For there shall arise many false teachers and prophets and Christians, who shall say: Lo, here is Christ, or there, and shall deceive many,” i.e., they will proclaim the human doctrines whereby men seek Christ here or there and hope to find Him through works and ceremonies, although He will let Himself be found only in the heart, in the spirit and in faith, in any place, at any time, by any one. St. Paul also says in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 “That man of sin, the son of perdition, is revealed through the working of Satan.” And in Daniel 8:23 we read: “At the end of the Roman empire a king shall arise, whose power shall consist in his demeanor and appearance (i.e., in doctrines of men that teach only external customs and demeanor, for instance, the bishops’, priests’, and monks’ manner of life, which consists in their garb and external works and demeanor). He shall destroy wonderfully and through his policy he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand and have understanding to make and to multiply the commandments of men,” etc. Of this more anon.
But now hear what God says further of your idol and your precepts of men: St. Paul writes in Colossians 2:8 “Beware, lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” And this is again explained farther on: “If ye died with Christ, why do ye subject yourselves to ordinances that teach you: Touch not this, taste not that, wear not this, handle not that, which are all things that perish in the using, which things are after the commandments and doctrines of men, and have a show of wisdom, but are a superstition and a false humility, designed for rigorous discipline of the body, but pampering their sensual, beastly estate and of no value whatever.” ( Colossians 2:20) What becomes now of the blade of the Goat-spirit? Does not St. Paul, in masterly fashion, expose the pope’s, bishops’, priests’, and monks’ doings, which consist only in this, that one does not eat this, another does not drink that, one does not touch money, another does not wear this garment or that color, and so forth. They have based their spirituality on external things that perish in the using and give them merely the semblance and varnish of holiness. Yet by these things they deceive everybody and through their mock-humility succeed in making the world subject to themselves. That is the king whose strength is in external appearance, but not in God’s armor nor sword nor Word, ( Daniel 8:23) Christ speaks of this, too, in Matthew 7:15 “Beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” What is sheep’s clothing if not this external holiness in garments, shoes, tonsures, eating, drinking, days and places — temporal things, all of them. But inwardly, in the sphere of faith that confers eternal holiness and gives possession of eternal things, they are nothing at all, but rather its destroyers and ravening wolves, so that St. Paul also admits in Timothy 2: “They have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof, ever teaching and learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” ( 2 Timothy 3:5,7) If all this, therefore, should be abolished and changed, as it ought to be, what would become of the papacy, which is built solely on these things? Christ Himself must abolish it by coming with the final judgment; nothing else will avail. But this is plain to us, that we must shun the sheep’s clothing, that is to say, the laws and works of men.
Again, St. Paul says in Galatians 1:8 “Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other Gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (And in Colossians 2:7 “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men and not after Christ.” Here St. Paul desires that nothing shall be taught except what is found in the Scriptures. What say you to that, Emser? In reply you will perhaps bring SS. Augustine, Benedict, Francis, Dominic, and other fathers who were all holy, but nevertheless taught and observed the doctrines of men. My answer is, for me they do not outweigh the Scriptures; God’s Word is higher than all the angels, saints, and every creature. Nor can any one say that those saints never erred; who will be our surety then, that they did not err in this, since even Aaron and all the elect must be deceived, and I have the clear Scripture on my side. I will and must be convinced only by Scripture, not by the uncertain life and teachings of men, be they ever so holy.
Then, too, those saints observed their rules as a matter of freedom and left them free for others, so that he who desired could join their mode of life and of his own free will could leave it again. But if they should have erred so greatly as to make a commandment and law of it, which I strongly doubt, I would include them among those of whom Ezekiel said: “If the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet,” and count them among the number of those whom Christ mentions in Matthew 24:24, where he says that the rule of antichrist shall show such signs and wonders that, if it were possible, they should deceive the very elect. ( Ezekiel 14:9) Thus the holy fathers themselves may have marvelously escaped the pitfalls of human teaching by the spirit of their faith, and yet all their followers be lost, who look only to their works and teachings and neglect their spirit and faith. But your pope, who should leave such rules as free as the saints had them, turns them by his official sanction into obligatory, eternal commands and laws, just as he does with his own laws.
I think you know that in the Old Testament the people were under as great obligation to hear their priests as we are today to hear ours. Yet God would not suffer them to teach their own doctrines; He forbade it.
Therefore Moses and all the prophets emphasized so frequently the little word vocem meam, my voice, and in Deuteronomy 4:2 God commands: “Ye shall not add unto my words nor diminish ought from them”; in Zechariah 2 He says: “The people should seek the law and teaching of God at the mouth of the priest, for he is the messenger of God.” ( Malachi 2:7) In Matthew 23:2 Christ says, “Whatsoever the scribes and Pharisees bid you do, that observe and do, for they sit in Moses’ seat,” i.e., because they teach the law of Moses. All those who teach their own law are denounced everywhere in the Scriptures as false prophets, graven images, deceivers, seducers, wolves, raging beasts; of them He says in Jeremiah 23:32 “They caused my people to err, yet I sent them not nor commanded them.” They were all sent, i.e., appointed as priests, and by virtue of their office they were teachers of the law, but they had no command to teach their own law. Again in Jeremiah 23:21 “I have not sent these prophets, yet they preached; I gave them no command, yet they taught. But if they had stood in my counsel and had caused my people to hear my words, then I could have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings.”
Whither, O pope, to escape these words? Where are you, Emser, with your assertion that one must have more than God’s Word, and your newly invented dagger and spear? God here declares that we must teach nothing save His Word, otherwise He can turn no one from evil; this is to teach us that when something over and above God’s Word is put forth, it is surely a seductive, unchristian error, a lie and a cheat, which only hinders God’s work and grace in us. This is the reason why St. Paul calls antichrist the man of sin and the son of perdition, because through his precepts and laws he will turn all the world from God and prevent God and the world from coming together; he shall be a master in sin and all iniquity, and yet he will retain the name and appearance of Christ and call himself Sanctissimus and Vicarius Dei and Caput Ecclesiae, and persecute all who will not obey him. ( 2 Thessalonians 2:3 f.) It is easily recognized that the pope more than fits the description.
What is the greatest concern of all the prophets but to oppose the teachings of men and to preserve God’s Word alone among the people? All idolatry is nothing but the teachings of men, such as the calves of Bethaven, the calf of Aaron, the idol Baal, and others. And who can guard himself sufficiently against such teachings, since even Aaron, who was the high priest, fell away to the golden calf, and Christ says in Matthew 24:24 that the outward show and ostentation may deceive the very elect. If the pope had not his large following and the outward show of sanctity, he could not be the antichrist. He must needs have the outward show, and the large following of all the bishops, priests, monks, universities, princes, all the mighty. One thing, however, God will not have him cover up, and there the donkey’s ears stick out: he neglects God’s Word, does not preach it, and is satisfied when his own teachings are preached; the bird is recognized by his song. Like the beast that John saw in the Apocalypse, which had two horns like a lamb, but a voice like a dragon, so the papal hosts look like Christians, but they preach like Satan. Daniel predicted this in Daniel 11:37 when he said that antichrist shall not regard the God of his fathers, nor his teachings, nor have woman to wife, but in the place of God shall honor his God Maozim, that is to say, he forbids marriage only as an honor for himself and his papists, and erects in place of God and His Gospel the graven image Maozim, his own decretals and laws and makes spirituality a thing of locality, just as Christ says: “They shall say, here is Christ, or there.” ( Matthew 24:23) In Jeremiah 19:5, where the Baal service is described, to whom they even offered their children as burnt offerings in the thought of doing God great service thereby, God says: “I commanded it not, nor spake it, neither came it into my mind.” This clearly shows that nothing shall be preached or shown the people except that which God wants and commands. But we are certain that the pope, with his papists, has no command from God to offer his own teachings to Christendom, but that it is all a device of the devil to obstruct God, God’s law, and the salvation of men. Therefore my Goat should first of all clearly prove that spear and dagger are approved of God.
But he is quite satisfied if only the spear is long and the dagger short; it is enough that the latter represents “custom” and the former “teachings of men,” and he wants me to let Scripture go and accommodate myself to him.
That you may see the super-subtlety of your wisdom., mark this: I knew all about the “teachings of men” and the “custom,” which you bring into the field against me. Why should I not know them, since I am fighting against them myself! What do you accomplish, O mighty philosopher, when you come at me with that which I fight against, whereas you ought to shield it with other weapons? If I besieged a city with an army and the missiles of my cannon crashed into the walls and fortifications, and then you rose up in wrath to sally forth against me, but did no more than point at the self-same walls and forts which I had bombarded, and utter the hostile cry: Look at them! and pretend thereby to have conquered me — what could I think of you? I would summon a cooper to place a hoop or two around your head, to save it from bursting with such blatant folly. Though you know how I always bring the Scriptures and hurl them against the “teachings of men” and “custom,” and will not allow these except when they are founded in Scripture, yet you are so wise as to leave them unprotected by Scripture; you bring them out just as they are and show them to me as if I had never seen them before, and by doing that you think you have won the victory and broken my breastplate; you give ample proof how the dog-days affect you. St. Augustine in his treatise Contra Petilianum Donatistam thought it a great jest when Ticonius hurled the thunders of Scripture against Petilianus, who countered only with the man-teaching of his own forbears. Augustine thought that a most foolish answer. But I, who also hold only to the Scriptures, am to regard Emser’s answer as pure and precious truth, though it is without any foundation in Scripture and mere human figment and fancy, with which he bids me defiance and calls it “dagger” and “custom.” The best advice I can give you is, to leave spear and dagger at home and to fight me with the Scriptures, even as I fight you with them.
Where is your philosophy which teaches you not to beg the question? In my opinion it is a piece of idiocy and your Aristotle the arch-numskull. f496 This is what a poetaster deserves who essays to be a philosopher and theologian. It is like an ass trying to play a bagpipe.
If the Manichean heresy arose again today and men claimed that the Scriptures were not sufficient, but that the Holy Spirit had raised them up to lead us, how could you and all your papists defend yourselves against them? Would you in that case, too, simply point to your teachings? Or would you say: Hey, too late, we have already found out by ourselves that one must believe and keep more than the Scriptures tell us. How firmly you papists would hold your own against your enemies, when you strengthen them by your own example of a. teaching and life not founded on the Scriptures. Is it not ridiculous and shameful that without any urging we confess, nay, we glory in and boast of the fact, that our cause is not founded on the Scriptures? Just as the cuckoo calls his own name, so by these human works outside of Scripture we call ourselves good Christians and all others heretics, even while we admit that they have all the Scripture on their side. If our enemies accused us of such things, and we were not entirely bereft of reason, we would not suffer it for an instant, but would stake life and limb in defense. Are we not justly objects of ridicule, when we frankly acknowledge that the position of our opponents is in the Scriptures and ours is not? What better praise for our enemies and song of shame for ourselves could we chant? Yet such is the egregious folly we spread before the world as wisdom. Truly, ‘twere better the scabbards of such valiant warriors were used for the relief of certain bodily necessities.
What was my purpose in all my books but the very thing which Emser acknowledges here and yet complains of with great hue and cry? Did I not also say that the papacy and all its ways rested on man-teaching and on custom, without any warrant of Scripture — just what Emser in great heat of argument wants to press me to say? What else do I contend for but to bring every one to an understanding of the difference between the divine Scripture and human teaching or custom, so that a Christian may not take the one for the other and exchange gold for straw, silver for stubble, wood for precious stones, as St. Paul teaches, 1 Corinthians 3:12, likewise St.
Augustine in many places, and even the holy carnal law, if the distinguished Licentiate of the Canon Law had only read it with soberness. Why does the Goat call me so many names when we are in perfect agreement in the matter? Perhaps my sin is in my crude speech; I have not called the “teachings of man” a short dagger and “custom” a long spear. But it must be remembered that I am not a poetaster. Then, too, it would not have helped me even if I had hit upon this nomenclature, for he has no other reason for writing his little books than to show his masterly art of giving names to things and calling the teachings of men a short dagger and custom a long spear. In that case he would perhaps have invented other names and taught us that the teachings of men were the goat’s horn and custom the goat’s beard, in order to strike me down and entangle me. Such are the wise and sensible teachers which philosophy and Arstultus turn out by means of the sophists.
If Goat Emser all through his book raises such a hue and cry against me for the sake of his antichristian head in Rome and thereby gains great honor, it is meet that I should turn about and raise a cry against him for the sake of my Head in heaven, Whom he blasphemes and despises. He has the effrontery to say that the Holy Spirit and Christ did not teach us enough, the Scriptures are not sufficient, God’s Word must have additions, and he who has not more than God’s Word, God’s Scripture, and God’s teaching is venomous, a heretic, an apostate, the worst man on earth, and all who live according to such words and teachings of God and do not also accept the teachings of men are damned, cursed, and should be burned at the stake. Then, indeed, Christ and the Holy Spirit must also be guilty of and have part in such condemnation, nay, they deserve it above all others, for their word and teaching have made and daily sustain such blasphemous, damned, and cursed men.
Behold the greatest blasphemer who has ever been known! Who has heard words more blasphemous, venomous, hellish, heretical, monstrous, irrational than Emser here emits toward heaven with great stench, out of his venomous and hellish throat. A miserable creature spews at God his Maker — it is so monstrous and frightful that it is shocking even to mention it. If he could show in what particular the Holy Ghost did not teach enough, and wherein the Scripture needs man-made additions, he would have some plausible excuse for his statements. But now he himself confesses that the Scripture is on our side and acknowledges freely that his man-made teaching knows no Scripture, and is unable to blame us in our use of Scripture, and yet he pours out his blasphemy on us, that is to say, on the Scripture, as he himself confesses. I should not have believed that any devil in hell would have had such effrontery. I say this only to show you, my Goat, that if a great hue and cry and a heaping together of furious words could strengthen your cause, I could strengthen my cause much better by such means. But my cause needs no such aid, it is founded too firmly on Scripture. Your cause needs it, because it is built on men’s dreams and on scrinium pectoris. f500 This, I trust, makes it plain to every one what Emser’s spear and dagger mean and what kind of bout he has had with the famous swordsman. I shall make it more interesting for him if he comes again, though I do not swear it by my priesthood or my holiness; even without that he shall have all he wants. And here I conclude the consideration of his three chief points, the sword, spear, and dagger, for in defeating them his whole book, which is built on them, is overcome. But to explain my own position, since Emser admits that I have not offended against the articles of faith nor the Scriptures, and has become the unwilling and unfavorable, but therefore the stronger witness that I am a true Christian, and that he lies when he calls me a heretic, I will force him to admit another point, which he has not thought of, and which he will not easily surrender.
To wit, he shall admit our liberty in man-made ordinances and our right to choose whether to observe them or not, or, if we must live under them — which was and is still my teaching — to permit us to say that they are neither useful nor needful and we are not bound to obey them.
Furthermore, that the pope is a tyrant who has no right to enjoin them and is wrong when he does, but that we shall observe them, not because of the pope’s right to enforce them nor on account of the obedience we owe him, but of our own free will and in service to him, even as Christ says, Matthew 5:25 “Agree with thine adversary.” And finally that they shall not be branded as heretics who do not observe them. All this they must grant us, as we shall presently prove.
If, as Emser admits, we have the Scriptures and the Scriptures have us, that is doubtless all that God wants and is the best proof that we are good Christians, and our defamers only show thereby that they are liars. What more can you men demand of us? Whom do you brand as heretics when you call us heretics, who according to your own acknowledgment are at one with the Scriptures? Can you condemn those whom God justifies?
Does not the truth out of your own mouth condemn you, as by the mouth of a Caiphas and a Balaam? You are placed in office for no other purpose than to lead us to God and God’s Word, and to feed us with God’s Word, as Christ says, Matthew 4:24 “Man liveth by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Why do you presume to drive us farther than that, nay, to wrest us from God to yourselves and to lead us from His Word to your own teachings and customs? Is that the work of the shepherd or of the wolf? f501 Therefore I say, give us our liberty, Emser, even as your better knowledge urges you, and yield this point: that the pope is a tyrant and has no right to make laws for us, that these laws are neither useful nor needful, that the pope and all you papists are conscious that your laws make you thieves, robbers, wolves, seducers, betrayers like Judas; then we shall gladly bear and keep these laws with all our hearts, as Christ bore His cords and His cross, to which He was brought by Judas, the pope’s ancestor. In this wise they will do us no harm and we shall suffer them, as we should suffer it if any one took from us our cloak, coat, money, property, and life. And if we thus should suffer you to burden our Christian liberty with your crazy, foolish, useless laws, nevertheless conscience would still be free and not oppressed by you. But if you want to claim the right to force them on us, as you do, and expect us to grant you this right and to approve it, just as though a murderer forced me to say he had the right to take my life and property, then, Emser, we shall cry out as long as there is breath in us and say “nay.” For with these things you want to capture our consciences so that we shall be filled with fear, as though it were right, and yet is so unrighteous; with your innumerable cords you would catch and throttle us, as you do with your unrighteous ban, when you force the people to obey your villainous commands.
We are willing to suffer wrong at your hands, but we can never call it right.
Therefore tell your idol, the pope, that he may make laws for me, as many as he pleases, and I will keep them all. Tell him also, however, that he has no right to do so and that I am not bound to obey, but will gladly suffer injustice at his hands, according to Christ’s teaching. ( Matthew 5:39 ff.)
Then I will do nothing more against the pope and the whole affair will be settled. What more can you ask of me? Was this not my teaching in the Commentary on Galatians and in all my books? But by forcing his laws on all the world, as one who has the right to do so, the pope has ensnared innumerable souls and led them into hell. He is called the man of sin and son of perdition because he has taken the consciences captive and forced them to approve of his injustice and thus filled the world with sin and perdition. ( 2 Thessalonians 2:3) For he who believes that the pope has the right and power to make such laws, at once believes that the keeping of them is necessary and salutary and not a suffering of violence and injustice.
Thereupon he keeps them unwillingly and would gladly rid himself of them and cannot, and then he perishes in his sins. For he who does unwillingly what he must, or thinks he must, sins in his heart. And all these laws of the pope, of which there are so many, are snares for the souls, by which he accomplishes naught but the spread of sin and destruction in all the world and the ruin of Christendom, even as Daniel has prophesied and on account of which Christ calls him the abomination. ( Daniel 8:24 f.; 9:27; Matthew 24:15) Forsooth, few, if any, escape him, unless they die in the cradle.
Do you understand me now, Emser? I do not desire to be free from manmade ordinances and teachings. I desire simply to have the conscience free and to cause all Christians to invoke the sign of the cross continually against a faith that believes the pope is right in his government, for such a faith destroys faith in Christ and floods the world with sin and destruction.
From this we must conclude what pious and honorable folk the pope and all you papists are, who do nothing but teach this very superstition, seduce the world, destroy Christians’ faith and lead all the souls to the devil, while you ought to be preaching only faith in Christ and liberty from man-made laws, and truly be ministers of the spirit and not of the letter.
To illustrate: I do not desire to escape from Emser’s calumny, hatred and envy, but I desire to be free in my conscience to believe that Emser is unjust and arbitrary toward me. For if I should hold that he is right and if I should approve it, my conscience would be bound and could not be freed until Emser ceased to hate me. Most likely that would never be, and since I had to approve it and I did not give my approval willingly — which I could not do I should sin unceasingly against my conscience. In such manner the whole world now sins and is perishing, since it believes that the pope is right in his commanding and coercing and tyrannizing, though nobody obeys him willingly, for every one hates the papacy, except those that want to derive advantage from it. It is properly called the abomination. Thus the pope has ensnared all the world in superstition and a false conscience, and men must, against their will, sin without ceasing, and perish. Woe unto thee, thou abominable abomination! Come, Lord Jesus Christ, and deliver us from antichrist; cast his throne into the abyss of hell, as he has deserved, so that sin and destruction may cease. Amen.
THE PAPISTS’ BLUNDERING Let this suffice for the present. Now let us look at the lies and the blundering of Emser and all the papists even in their use of the teaching of the fathers and the customs, on which they build so much.
Emser and all the papists say St. Peter was bishop of Rome for twenty-five years. This crass, palpable lie has been maintained for more than a thousand years, so that it should justly have grown into a long spear by this time, if “custom” were sufficient to establish the truth, as Emser dreams.
Even St. Jerome was caught by this error, so early did the papists bestir themselves with their lies; and they have bequeathed and increased them from generation to generation, until the papacy has become nothing but a tissue of lies. But this lie about Peter’s twenty-five years’ residence in Rome we shall expose so thoroughly that even Emser must see it.
St. Luke writes in Luke 3:1 that John the Baptist began to preach in the fifteenth year of Caesar Tiberius, and although nobody in reality knows the duration of Christ’s ministry, we shall not question the current tradition that he taught for three years and a half, namely, until the nineteenth or twentieth year of Tiberius’ reign, and in that same year was crucified, rose from the dead, and gave the Holy Spirit to the apostles. Now Tiberius reigned altogether twenty-four years, after him Caius four years, Claudius fourteen years, and Nero also fourteen years. Thus there are fully thirty-six years from the twentieth year of Tiberius until the last year of Nero, in which they say St. Peter was killed by Nero.
If then, as they say, St. Peter lived twenty-five years at Rome, beginning in the fourth year of Claudius, he was but eleven years in Jerusalem and Antioch after the ascension of Christ. Again they say that he lived seven years at Antioch, which leaves him in Jerusalem only six years. St. Paul here joins the ranks of the liars without timidity, for he writes in Galatians 1:18 that he saw Peter for the first time in Jerusalem more than three years after his conversion, which could not have been earlier than the fourth year after our Lord’s ascension. Again he writes that more than fourteen years later he found Peter, James and John at Jerusalem. ( Galatians 2:1) This makes eighteen years therefore which St. Paul alone assigns to Peter at Jerusalem; who knows how long he may have remained thereafter?
To these eighteen or possibly twenty years add the seven years at Antioch and the twenty-five years at Rome, and the result is that St. Peter is crucified in the forty-sixth or forty-seventh year after Christ’s ascension by the emperor Nero, who died ten years before, in the thirty-sixth year. I trow that is shooting at random. But it must be thus with those who build on tradition and custom and never look into Scripture, and take without discrimination everything the fathers wrote. What will you do now, Emser?
If one only had a good dagger and spear at hand to light up this dense fog of Scripture, so as to make six years out of the eighteen which St. Paul assigns to Peter at Jerusalem, and enable the seven years at Antioch and the twenty-five at Rome to fit. Truly, here Scripture is a dense fog.
They say, in addition, that St. Peter came to Rome in the fourth year or, according to others, in the second year of Claudius, and thus assign to Peter twenty-seven years in Rome and three in Jerusalem. But here too St.
Luke in Acts 18:2 agrees with Paul in Galatians 1:18, when he says that Claudius had driven all Jews out of Rome, among whom he mentions Aquila and Priscilla; how then could St. Peter have come to Rome under Claudius? In short, I have never read a less dependable and more uncertain history than the account of Peter’s doings at Rome, and there are, indeed, many who say openly that St. Peter never saw Rome. This is what results from the lies and inconsistent writings of your papists. One writes that St.
Peter suffered martyrdom on the same day with St. Paul, another makes it two years later; everything that has been written about it is uncertain.
Though I believe that St. Peter was in Rome, yet I would not like to stake my life upon it as an article of faith. I could not argue about it or prove it; in my opinion nobody can prove it. It is not an article of faith and no one is a heretic even if he does not believe that St. Peter ever was bishop of Rome. But, on the other hand, it is presumptuous to deny it before it has been thoroughly disproved. The best way is to regard it as a supposition which is in doubt. For we are not required to believe except what God has commanded us in the Scriptures to believe, which no one may add to or take away from, as Moses taught and St. Paul says in Galatians 4: “Even a man’s testament no man changeth or addeth thereto”; how much less should any one change or add to God’s testament. ( Deuteronomy 12:32; Galatians 3:10) I am of the opinion, however, that a special providence of God caused St.
Paul’s journey to Rome and not Peter’s to be recorded in Scripture, because He foresaw how the papists would build their papacy on the latter.
Therefore He set them in the sand and mud before they began to build and left them no foundation at all. For if it cannot be clearly proved from Scripture that St. Peter was bishop at Rome, which is not possible, the whole structure of the papacy lies in the mire and is nothing at all. And as it is not necessary to believe that St. Peter was bishop of Rome, since Scripture does not mention it, so it is likewise not necessary to believe that the pope is his successor and really pope. Behold the foundation of the papal chair; and their claims only make us uncover all the more its fallacy and worthlessness, that we may see the riders unhorse themselves by their own violence. Therefore I conclude on this point that it is not necessary to hold the pope to be pope or the heir of St. Peter until they prove by Scripture that St. Peter was bishop of Rome. Hey, my papists, be up and doing, find spears, daggers, and swords and drive away this fog of Scripture.
I imagine that the error of St. Peter’s twenty-five years in Rome arose when someone perhaps said or wrote that St. Peter came to Rome only after the twenty-fifth year, and some understood that to mean he had been in Rome for twenty-five years. For if he was in Jerusalem eighteen years, as St. Paul says in Galatians 1, and seven years in Antioch, as they say, it would make a full twenty-five years and he could then have been in Rome eleven years and have been crucified by Nero in the latter’s last year, namely, the thirty-sixth year after the ascension of the Lord. A similar error may have been made in the statement that he came to Rome in the third or fourth year of Claudius, it being rather the third or fourth year of Nero, allowing him eleven years under Nero until Nero’s fourteenth and last year.
It could not have been otherwise, if indeed he came to Rome at all, which question I shall leave just where it is.
THE MARRIAGE OF PRIESTS I gave the advice that a good priest who, being weak, was burdened with woman and child, and desired to marry the woman, should boldly muster up courage and do so. Now this chaste Goat raises a hue and cry and says, Let the furious devil follow him rather than I, and praises to the skies his own extreme but unproved chastity. To your own nose your goatdom is pure balsam. I answer: O holy, holy virgin St. Emser, how hath thy chastity become like iron, so unfeeling and merciless against poor sinners. I did not advise your own precious chastity to follow me, as you twist my words to mean, thereby to poison the people against me after the usual manner of your Christian love and divine priesthood. My advice was meant for the poor priest, with children on his hands, but in all other respects leading a good and honest life, all of which, your holiness well knows, does not in the least apply to you. I neither gave anything to, nor took away anything from the canons, the vicars, the wicked priests who keep harlots, and the Emsers. But you thought and firmly resolved: Ha, this monk must be treated with lies and abuse, even if I must go out of my way to find an excuse. And then you rage against me only with man-made laws, just as if you had succeeded in making me accept the teachings of men as valid and there were no need to prove them first with Scripture.
Your lily-white chastity should not trouble itself to tell me what your manmade laws provide in this matter; I knew it well and have fought against it and needed not the instruction of any Goat or ass. But you should answer St. Paul when in 1 Timothy 4:3 he speaks not as man but expressly as God and says outright: Forbidding to marry is a doctrine of the devil. Here a fire-eater ought to show his teeth and bite a hole in my armor, but you flee from this passage as if your horns were afire, you have not a word to say, and vanish like a soap-bubble. Strike me just once with a sword like that, I will await the thrust without parrying. How often must I cry at you thick, stupid papists to come with the Scripture. Scripture, Scripture, Scripture, can you not hear it, you deaf Goat and stupid ass? Up, my Goat, in your wrath and butt me, but take not too long a run for it lest you spend yourself before striking. Are you not ashamed, you great teachers of the world, that I must continually pound and press you for Scripture, with which you ought to challenge me at the very start. For you cannot deny that no other teacher has appeared upon earth except the pope, who forbade marriage, meat, eggs, milk, butter and the like and then sold again the right to these things, and did this the world over. There have been heretics who have rejected marriage, but they were few and their teaching never became universal law. And you cannot reprove or refuse St. Paul when he clearly states that such laws of the pope are the devil’s laws; in this matter you must let the pope be the apostle of the devil, and Antichrist.
In spite of yourself you cannot prevent it.
Now tell me, is it just that Christians, especially priests, should obey the devil and his apostle, the pope? And if the priesthood rendered such obedience hitherto, driven by force or misled by deception, does it not have the authority to give the devil and his apostle a ticket of leave? Or must it knowingly remain under the devil’s laws, without necessity, or desire, or willingness? Where are you, Emser? Do you not hear? Are you asleep with Baal? Or are you on a journey? ( 1 Kings 18:27) The question here is not whether your chastity wants to follow me or not, I ask not whether the devil follows me in your stead. No one cares what you and all the devils do or want to do. Want, taunt, follow, fume to your heart’s content. But here is where the hare lies, look at it with both eyes if that is possible for you, and see whether this prohibition of marriage is right or wrong. If you want to let out your fury, overthrow the apostle Paul in this matter.
And that I may be understood by one so highly learned in grammar, logic, philosophy and law, I say, do not make a propositio de inesse to be modalem de necesse, my strict logician; nor jus ex facto, my superlearned licentiate of the holy cremated law; nor out of your own facere a universal debere, my verdant poet and grammarian. Perhaps you would like to run to your archfool and seek secundum quid simpliciter, as you do with the priesthood, where you call sacerdotium simpliciter the scriptural, literal, external, deadly priesthood, yea, the priesthood that is nothing at all, and secundum quid, the one, spiritual, true, living priesthood. So well do you know what secundum quid et simpliciter means; your logic is as good as your theology. If I did not know logic and philosophy myself, you big, stupid asses might undertake to pose as logicians and philosophers, though you know as much about it as an ass about music. You may have learned to repeat the terms like the nuns their psalter and the parrot his words, but you know neither their proper use nor their application, sicut rusticus opibus suis arguitur, non ornatur, f514 But I will give you a little advice in this case. Take your short dagger with which you slay the cuirassiers and say: This passage is a dense fog, we cannot understand it without the explanation of the fathers, and convince us by your superior intellect that we do not know what is meant by prohibere, nubere, doctrinae, daemones, abstinere, cibi, f520 Deus, creare, and explain them, so that prohibere means to command, nubere to remain single, daemones the Church, Deus f521 the pope, and creare to obey, just as you have taken liberties everywhere else to change and subvert things according to your pleasure.
You have a good example of teaching by this method in St. Aristotle himself, who also calls non ens what others call ens, and ens what others call non ens, and has invented, in addition, actum et potentiam, per se and per accidens, just as you have invented spear and dagger, scabbard and blade. Your canon law is also on your side, for it makes sin where there is none and makes that a law which is not a law, as we see in the matter of the ceremonies. It is therefore quite fitting for you to use that kind of philosophy and the canon law to explain the obscure Scripture.
Since, then, the pope is found to be clearly the devil’s apostle in this prohibition of marriage, I beg your humble chastity to observe what must follow. First, all priests are bound, by their soul’s salvation, herein to flee the pope, curse him, oppose him as the very devil himself, and to break the forced vow made in ordination, as a vow made to the devil and not unto God, in accordance with your holy law, which declares: “In ma1is promissis non expedit servare fidem.” This is not my counsel, but St.
Paul himself is most vigorous here and condemns all these things when he says such teaching is the teaching of the devil and not of God. ( <540401> Timothy 4:1 ff.)
Furthermore it must follow, that all bishops and priests who obey this command of the pope are likewise the messengers and helpers of the devil.
Thus it is clearly proved that the papacy and its whole priesthood is the kingdom of the devil and the rule of antichrist, and Emser is the champion of the devil and of antichrist. For to accept and champion the devil’s teaching cannot easily be glossed over. Who will oppose me here? Seek out the swordsman now and smite with the blade, you wretched Emser.
But when you say that St. Paul’s words are directed against the errors of Faustus and Jovinian, who were refuted by Jerome and Augustine you make me think you were taking part in the carnival masquerade at the time.
St. Jerome chides Jovinian because he praised marriage, and you say he prohibited marriage; so careful are you in your reading of history and of Jerome. Again, Faustus was a Manichean whom Augustine did not oppose on the score of marriage at all. You addleheaded ass, why do you not inform yourself better, if you want to write about such matters?
There were some who were called Tatians, but their error cannot be compared with the prohibition of marriage by the pope. And even if it could, it is quite enough for me that the pope is in this matter a heretic like unto them, and makes of himself a catch-basin for every heresy, like the pantheon of the Romans in ancient times. But of that some other time.
You are also very clever in rejecting the letter of St. Ulrich, although I do not lay stress on it at all. I want to checkmate you with the Scriptures, not with any teachings of men. But if that letter had helped your side, it would not have been disputed, since Scotus, Gerson, Beda and whomsoever you wish to quote, must not be disputed. This is your flawless logic: St. Ulrich’s letter is not discovered at Augsburg, hence it is not St.
Ulrich’s. Quintilian’s book is not discovered in Rome or in Italy, hence it is not Quintilian’s. Emser’s book is not discovered at Dresden, is it therefore not Emser’s? Did malvasier or rastrum teach you logic? And who informed you that St. Ulrich’s letter was not discovered at Augsburg, unless it was your logic, which ex individua infert universalem?
I truly believe that when you wrote your book you had no thought but that the whole world is composed of Jerome Emsers and Jerome Walthers f532 and other blockheads of your sort, you lumber along so clumsily without the least reflection and circumspection; as, for instance, when you write that it is necessary in our day to burn the heretics, when printing so easily increases books and errors, which was not the case in olden times. You do not have brains enough in your thick skull to remember that John Hus and Jerome were burned at Constance before printing was invented. f535 It is of the same stripe when you compare me with an apothecary who writes pleasant names on the boxes which contain poison; thus, you say, I write the name of Jesus on my poisonous books. Yet it is not myself but the printers; they print it throughout the book, I write it only on the first page. Where have you ever seen such apothecaries? or must even the apothecaries on my account become murderers and deceivers for you? In the fury of your hatred you cannot even express yourself correctly.
Ecclesiasticus said: “The heart of fools is in their mouth, but the mouth of the wise is in their heart,” doubtless because fools speak out whatever comes to their minds, but wise men think before they speak. How could you write anything of value, when in your blundering, thoughtless fashion you spit out whatever comes to your tongue; you always smite your own cheek.
Therefore my advice is still what it was, intended not for the chaste Emsers and wondrously holy Goats, but for the pitiable flock of fallen priests: If a man cannot restrain himself, let him marry and live without sin; if he cannot live without distress, let him disregard the pope with his devil and devil’s teaching, and be untroubled by the unwilling, forced promise made to the bishop in the devil’s stead — it was not made willingly and with a whole heart. And if the pope had brought about no other calamity than this prohibition of marriage, it would be sufficient to stamp him as antichrist, who is rightly called the man of sin and son of perdition, and the abomination, so much sin and perdition have followed in the wake of this one law. ( 2 Thessalonians 2:3; Daniel 9:27) If you, Goat, would only pull your own nose, you would be forced to admit that it has not brought much holiness to you. If you are chaste, be thankful to God and take care so to continue, you are not yet over the mountain, and despise not your poor, fallen neighbors. A mighty giant like you ought not eat up all tainted, sick little children.
One thing more and I have done. You and Murner and many others reproach me severely for exposing only the vices of the clergy and keeping silent about the reprehensible vices of the nobility and the temporal princes.
If you see so marked a weakness in me, why do you not make good my omission? Why must you call upon me and urge me to something which you are not willing to do yourselves? Yea, why do you not censure the vices of the clergy? Can I accomplish everything in one book? But even if I had done what you ask, you would nevertheless have found fault and said, I had not stuck to my text, for I had essayed to call upon the nobility for help and then had rebuked them instead, just as you say that I taught that the number of mendicant orders ought to be reduced, and for that you call me an unclean bird, fouling my own nest.
What could I write that your furious hatred would not revile, when you revile God’s Word and work, and your one ambition is to revile and lie.
But I will give you an answer. In my opinion I have reproached the nobility and men of the world more than I have you of the clergy, namely, in the books on good works, on the ten commandments, and to the German nobility, and did not once attack the vices of the clergy, such as their unchastity, avarice, hatred, gluttony, pride, indolence, except in this one book to the German nobility, wherein I exposed the avarice, not of the clergy in general, but of the pope and the Roman court and showed but a small portion of its abominable practices. My dear comrades, the truth hurts you, therefore you seek for a cause against me; the sheep has defiled the water for the wolf.
I say further to you that I have not yet come to the point of attacking the public vices, either of the spiritual or of the temporal estate. My work is centered upon the vices which you papists exalt as virtues and by which you have filled the world with hypocrisy and superstition, such as the indulgences, masses, vigils, churches, vestments, in short, all your manmade ordinances which you regard as most sacred. I wrestle with these, for the sake of pure faith, to pull the masks from your faces. I have still much to do before I can give attention to general morality and good works. If only we had true faith again, set free from your devilish laws and sects, we could readily censure vice and teach proper conduct, and if the spiritual estate led all others in purity of faith and faithfulness to God’s Word, we should easily lead the nobility and the temporal estate in the way they should go. But since we are so unprofitable ourselves, how much would it profit to censure and rebuke them? Evil conduct and work is of little moment compared with the false teaching and superstition in which the spiritual estate is steeped. Therefore I did not address the nobility in a learned book, but simply showed them the evil practices for which they could readily find a remedy. But the obligation is upon us of the spiritual estate, as over against the teachings of men and superstition, to teach faith and the Word of God, which are as high above works as the heavens are high above the earth, as we read in Isaiah 55:9. You of the spiritual estate are accustomed to receive only praise, honor and money for your work, and if one ventures just a little criticism, you act as if the heavens were falling on you. In all our books you want nothing but rebuke, without mercy, for the common people; but you we must ever call Gracious Sirs, suffer you to do anything and always put the best construction on it. This is what you call honoring the priesthood, and if this is not done, you call it bringing shame on the priesthood.
Here I will rest the case with Emser for this time. And what I have said is sufficient answer to his word-jugglery with masses, brotherhoods, the canonizing of saints, vows and other things, for his book supports my cause in four points:
First , he flees the Scripture as the devil flees the holy cross. His only thought is, to draw me away from Scripture, which, please God, he never will and never can accomplish.
Second , he lies in such unchristian, impudent, wanton manner and burdens me with so many errors of his own invention, as to give him material enough to keep on writing eternally, by which I understand that it was not his intention to refute my teaching, but to give full play to his enjoyment of lying and reviling.
Third , he acknowledges openly that I do not offend against the articles of faith or the Scripture, for which I most courteously thank him; for I desired naught else from my best friends, even from God Himself, than the praise and commendation, which this my worst, deadly enemy gives me.
Fourth , he acknowledges that his cause rests not on Scripture but on teachings of men and on custom, and desires to drag me into them.
Now in all my writings I have sought no more, even now I seek no more, from the pope and all my enemies, than just such confession that their cause is acknowledged to be without foundation in Scripture. This makes it easy to perceive how wise a man Goat Emser is, who in writing against me acknowledges and gives this praise to everything which he opposes, that it is founded in Scripture, that is to say, in God’s Word. Yet for the sake of God he raves and rages against God’s Word; he is not merely in need of sneezewort, but should rather be led in chains to St. Cyriacus. f540 Of course, if he comes again, I can still pay him what has now been left unpaid. Let this be enough at this time, lest I swamp the reader.
REPLY TO MURNER I reply to you, my dear Murner, so that you may not think that I despise your good intentions, for I want to place faith in you, this first time, notwithstanding the way others have pictured you to me. And although you have a good stock of stinging and malicious words, your courteous admonition gave me pleasure. There is not enough of me, however, to answer each one of you separately; but since you are Emser’s comrade in this, that you base your argument upon the teaching of men and on custom and do not oppose me with Scripture, my answer to Emser must be my answer to you also, though I do not discover lies in you as I do in Emser.
You two are remarkable warriors. You will not come out unto me in the open, waste your ammunition in aimless shooting, and are afraid of your skins when it comes to Scripture. I bring Scripture against your teachings of men and custom, and then you reply as if I had conceded the point that the teaching of men and custom were right, and you argue with me only about the consequences of departing from them, and in that way want to wrest me away from Scripture. God help me, can I never bring you into the Scripture?
You essay to teach me with great show of learning nothing but what the dullest peasant or child, or even a born fool could teach me. No fool is so unreasonable, no devil so wicked, but knows and acknowledges that one ought to do what is right. Listen to me, you pitiable, superficial papists, while I state a syllogism which will make the case very clear. This major premise I concede: Everything that is good must be kept. There is no need to argue with me about that, you ought to know better. But you should meet me when I attack you on this minor premise: All the teaching of men and the custom, which I attack, is good. Here, my comrades, I take issue, this citadel I will assault, here you must be on the alert and defend yourselves. If you can save yourselves and conquer me here, you need not worry about the conclusion, I will accept it with all my heart and say:
Therefore the teaching of men and the custom which I attack must be kept.
And since you do not defend the minor premise, but simply argue the major premise and then put down the conclusion, you are like the builders of Babel, where when one called for a stone, the water was brought. ( Genesis 11:7) I strike you on the head and you bandage your feet. I set fire to the roof and you play the stream on the cellar. What, would you turn this serious engagement into a farce? You ask me to drink and I knock at the tankard, that you may fill it — dear brethren, you may drink out of empty tankards and pay out money from empty purses, I have not yet learned the art.
You threaten, too, to reply with many books and you challenge me with the great storehouse of your learning, in order to frighten me and to place the victory in the number and length of treatises, so that if you cannot win with arguments, you may wear me out with their bulk and number, f543 since I am heavily burdened as it is and a hero of leisure like you has nothing to do but to add to the pressure upon a hardworked and much troubled man. Why do you not take on an idle comrade like yourself, who has nothing to do, or an evil-tongued woman, who, like you, would fain have the last word? My dear Murner, do you take me for a fool, that I should dispute with you or with anybody else, just to see who can talk the most or who can manage to say the last word? It was not necessary for you to earn the honor, for it is quite evident how the scales would tip, if your weight were judged by your tongue. It were easier for the Rhine to run dry than that the flow of your words should cease. But is it true Christian teaching of the people and showing real leadership for you simply to boast of many words and to plan to gain the advantage, marching about on the field but never coming to a battle, wasting the people’s time and letting them gape in vain?
Have you not read “where there are many words, there is frequently a void”? ( Proverbs 14:23) I am of the opinion that if you had to deal with Scripture, you would quickly tire of your triplication and find one sheet of paper more than ample for your needs. You have never made the attempt, therefore you do not know the great amount of research and labor required to bring proof from Scripture, my dear Murner. You never quote Scripture at all, but merely write what fancy dictates, leave my Scripture unanswered, and then promise, I do not know how much more of your cleverness for the future, as if I had nothing else to do than to deal with you alone in one book after another, and if I did not do that, to concede the victory to you.
You have my books and the Scripture they quote; examine them and also bring Scripture. Let Thomas Murner, the garrulous word-hero, stay at home, refute my Scripture with better Scripture and cite the authority for your teaching. Come out and show yourself; why waste time in challenging and defying? Charge right at me and strike so that you may hit; I will stand my ground. You need not hide your ability, and if it is the right kind it will not shun the light. Otherwise your constant writing will appear like a seeking of renown and applause rather than, as you claim, a faithful and true seeking of my welfare. If you can convince me through Scripture, doubt it not, I will submit. You know very well how all the fathers ofttimes erred; therefore it is not certain how much custom and long usage count with God, to Whom we are responsible for the keeping of His Word and not of the teachings of men or custom. For this reason I want Scripture.
Scripture, Murner; Murner, Scripture! Or else seek another combatant; I have other things to do than to attend to your scriptureless chatter.
Nor do I want your own deductions; they are too insipid and worthless. I will prove that to you in the one instance where you thought yourself most brilliant. When I called the Christian Church a spiritual assembly, you mocked me, as if I would build a church like Plato’s city, which could be found nowhere, and the sally took your fancy, so that you thought you had struck home. So you say, would it not be a fine city, where there were spiritual walls, spiritual towers, spiritual guns, spiritual horses, and everything spiritual! And your final word is, that the Christian Church cannot exist without locality, occupying space and having temporalities.
My answer, dear Murner, is: Should I for the sake of your deductions deny Scripture and place you above God? Why do you not answer my texts, such as, “There is no respect of persons with God”; and, “The kingdom of God is within you”; also, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo, here! or lo, there?” ( Romans 2:11; Luke 17:20 f.; John 3:6) And what Christ says in John 1, “What is born of the spirit, is spirit.” I dare say that you would call the Christian Church, or us, in whom God lives and reigns, the kingdom of God. How can I follow your reason and deny Christ, Who clearly says here that there is no locality, place or anything external in the kingdom of God; it is not here or there, but a spirit within us. But you say, it is here and there.
What say you to St. Stephen in Acts 7:48 “The most High dwelleth not in buildings made with hands”? My friend, let your reasoning come into play here, make an “also” out of the “not” and say: God’s dwelling is also in buildings made with hands. And Isaiah, whom Stephen quotes, says: “Where is the place of my rest? Where is the house that ye build unto me?”
My dear Isaiah, do you not know? Murner will tell you: It is at Rome or wherever pope and Christians are. “Nay,” says Isaiah, “but my spirit dwells in a poor and contrite spirit, who honors my word.” ( Isaiah 66:2) What think you, Murner? I think you are making a fine show with this church of yours with its material horses, places and towers. Behold, how perfectly the best thing in your book accords with Scripture. Therefore you had better put reason to bed and show me by one letter of Scripture that temporal space, place or buildings belong to the church, and I will ask nothing more, but quickly submit.
And that you may see that nothing is so closely reasoned which cannot be contradicted by other reasoning, I say that if temporal space or place is churchy because Christians cannot live on earth without occupying space, then wine, bread, yea, the stomach with all its contents would likewise be churchy. Is the spittle, mucus and excrement a part of the body or its nature, because the body cannot be without them? Your cowl is perhaps not without lice; are lice therefore monks’ cowls? The Christian Church cannot be without suffering, persecution and dying, nay, not even without sin; must therefore suffering, death, persecution and sin themselves be church and life? You would build the church partly on temporalities, mix the bodily with the spiritual, unite sin and grace, while St. Paul says, “Our conversation is in heaven” and Christendom lives only to flee and forsake earthly place, space, substance, honor, body and all things here below, passing through them to eternal life in the same way as it passes through sin, martyrdom, suffering and death. ( Philippians 3:20) Are you beginning to see, my Murner, what it means to theologize without Scripture, by mere unaided reason? And if you reply to this, do you think I could not reply again? But where would finally be the truth which we sought?
My conclusion is, therefore, that the Christian Church is not bound to any place, person or time, and although that ignorant multitude, the pope with his cardinals, bishops, priests and monks, do not want to understand it or admit it to be the truth, yet firmly on my side are Sir Omnes, also the little children in the streets, together with the great multitude of Christians in the world, and they stand with me against the painted and pretended church of the pope and his papists. If you ask how that is possible, I answer briefly, all Christians in the world pray: I believe in the Holy Ghost, one holy Christian Church, the Communion of saints. If this article is true, it follows that no one can see or feel the holy Christian Church, and no one can say it is here, or there. For an object of faith cannot be seen or felt, as St. Paul teaches in Hebrews 11:1. Again, what one can see or feel, is not an object of faith. Is this not clear enough for both Murner and Emser?
Come right out, what can you say against this? Are children and peasants not more learned herein than pope, cardinals, bishops, priests and monks?
Where is the gentry that presumes to explain the Scripture and make clear the faith and says so loudly that the common man understands nothing about these things? The case is different here, and the pope with his bishops and their adherents knows far less than the plain peasant and the little child.
Now compare them, the holy Church of Christ and the crazy church of the pope. The holy Church of Christ says: I believe a holy Christian Church.
The crazy church of the pope says: I see a holy Christian church. The former says: The church is neither here nor there. The latter says: The church is here and there. The former says: The church depends not on a person. The latter says: The church depends on the pope. The former says:
The church is not built on anything temporal. The latter says: The church is built on the pope. What think you, Murner? A noble company of Scripture interpreters! St. Peter has described you: “And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you.” ( 2 Peter 2:3) Or is it not true that the pope seeks none other with his papacy than the money and wealth of the world and concerns himself not at all with the Gospel and faith? None the less he and you keep up the fiction, pretend to explain the Scripture and teach faith, and yet there is no more unlearned people on earth than the popes, cardinals, bishops, priests and monks, so that it causes amazement if perchance one among them is found to be a scholar.
This wanton mockery has resulted in more sects, schisms and errors in the papistic church than can be found anywhere else in the world. For the papacy, in building the church on a place and person, has become the head and source of all the sects, who have followed it and localized Christian life, making it a thing of eating and drinking, of clothing and shoes, of tonsures and hair, of room and place, of day and hour. For the spirituality and sanctity of the papistic church consists in these things, as I said above.
This order fasts at one time, the other at some other time, this one eats no meat, the other no eggs, one wears white, the other black, this one is a Carthusian, that one a Benedictine; and thus innumerable sects and customs are created and meanwhile faith and true Christian life go to ruin.
It is a result of that blindness by which men wanted to see the church and not believe it, and seek a pious Christian life not in faith, but in works. St.
Paul writes much about this to the Colossians. But it crept in, and in like blindness the pope was confirmed in his rule.
That you print, in capital letters, the passage from Matthew 16:18, “Thou art Peter” etc., and say that this is the text by which heretofore the papacy has been proved, does not frighten me, my dear Murner. Neither was there need to tell me that until now the papacy has been proved by this text. We do not now ask whether it has been proved by that text, but whether it has been rightly and truly proved by it. Here you should use your capital letters and answer me correctly, and let men see the unconquerable Murner. For I find in all the Scriptures no stronger text against the papacy than the very one which you regard the one strongest support of the papacy. Now if I succeed in taking it away from you and overturning it, so clearly that you must comprehend, I hope you will acknowledge that I have won, and concede that I have overthrown the helpless papacy before your very eyes, and have branded all of you, together with the pope, as false and lying perverters of the Scripture. Take heed to my words, therefore, no papist has yet cracked this little nut for me, and none shall ever crack it!
Christ says, Matthew 16:18 “The gates of hell shall not prevail against the rock, and the church built upon the rock.” That is true, is it not, Murner? Now you cannot deny that the gates of hell prevail daily over the papists, and that the papacy, with the pope, often errs and does what is wrong; can you deny this, too, Murner? For you must see that those who live the worst lives are the most loyal supporters of the pope, and certainly the gates of hell prevail against them. Consequently, the rock and the church of which Christ declares that the gates of hell shall not prevail against them, accord with the pope and his church as light with darkness and Christ with Belial. If you then want to prove the papacy by this text, I have the right to force you to show a pope and a papacy which have no sin, against whom the gates of hell have not prevailed. When will you undertake to do that, Murner? Hey, now build a material church on this and ride out in state; but take care lest you fall on this field, you will have dangerous riding here.
Since this text will not permit a sinful pope and papacy, and no man can know which pope is without sin, and most of them have sinned openly, and not a person or place can be shown against which the gates of hell have not prevailed, it is, in my opinion, clear that the holy Christian church cannot be visibly shown, but must be believed, and shall remain in spite of Murner and all the papists a spiritual city, built on the rock Christ, invisibly and in the spirit. This, I hope, will reduce the papacy to ashes, since the one great text for it is against it. For to use this text as a foundation for the building of the papacy is like a madman’s building a hut of straw on a fire. Yet we want to be blind and we juggle with words, and so we make petra to mean Peter and all the sinful popes against whom the gates of hell prevail, which Christ cannot endure, or else must be made out a liar.
What help is it, for you, Murner and all papists, to quote many fathers in connection with this text? They erred as men, and you want to make their error your foundation and truth. For me the original word of Christ means more than all the teachers and fathers, however holy and learned they may have been. Christ’s words are clear enough and need no commentary. But it behooves you and all the papists to be industrious, make good your word and set the papacy again on this text for me — otherwise I will not answer you in any other matter, for since I have found you to be wrong in the chief point, you cannot expect to be believed until this lie is wiped out.
This must be my answer for this time to your scriptureless twaddle. I do not despise you personally, though what other people think of your book you may see in the rhyme here following, which has been sent me from the Rhine and shows how needless it is to answer you. It surprises me that you prattlers and scribblers venture so boldly into the fray, when you know that so many intelligent and sensible judges are on guard. I myself could not have answered you as nearly as this rhymster.
A RHYME OF DR. MURNER Doctor Murner’s experience I now must recite, How he recently spent a long, sleepless night, To finish two books, to his own great delight, By which he could put Doctor Luther to flight.
He misses the mark, though he labors with might, Blindly beating the air in his sorrowful plight.
He circles the porridge, never leaving its sight, But as to the eating, he fears to alight.
He comes at the fox as if he meant fight, With bark so ferocious, but never a bite.
He rests his whole case upon custom and rite, And many new laws, which he drags into sight, And forces the Scriptures, to make it seem right.
He set out to darken a wonderful light Which cannot be hid, e’en by blackness of night.
Therefore my belief I make bold to indite:
Martin Luther will scorn e’er an answer to write.
What, think you, shall such people think of you, Goat Emser, who come only with lies and the clumsiest tomfoolery, dreams of your own inventing?
For even if Murner agrees with you, he nevertheless refrains from lies, f549 which are the best accomplishment in your books. Mend your ways, dear brethren; the Scriptures are coming to light, man’s eyes are being opened, and you must deck your cause in other garments or the bright light will bring you to shame. I give you kindly warning. May God soon help us all to the real truth. Amen.