The Augsburg Confession
Philip Melanchthon, 1530
Preface to the Emperor Charles V.Most
Invincible Emperor, Caesar Augustus, Most Clement Lord: Inasmuch as Your
Imperial Majesty has summoned a Diet of the Empire here at Augsburg to
deliberate concerning measures against the Turk, that most atrocious,
hereditary, and ancient enemy of the Christian name and religion, in what way,
namely, effectually to withstand his furor and assaults by strong and lasting
military provision; and then also concerning dissensions in the matter of our
holy religion and Christian Faith, that in this matter of religion the opinions
and judgments of the parties might be heard in each other's presence; and
considered and weighed among ourselves in mutual charity, leniency, and
kindness, in order that, after the removal and correction of such things as have
been treated and understood in a different manner in the writings on either
side, these matters may be settled and brought back to one simple truth and
Christian concord, that for the future one pure and true religion may be
embraced and maintained by us, that as we all are under one Christ and do battle
under Him, so we may be able also to live in unity and concord in the one
And inasmuch as we, the undersigned Elector and Princes, with others
joined with us, have been called to the aforesaid Diet the same as the other
Electors, Princes, and Estates, in obedient compliance with the Imperial
mandate, we have promptly come to Augsburg, and -- what we do not mean to say as
boasting -- we were among the first to be here.
Accordingly, since even here at Augsburg at the very beginning of the
Diet, Your Imperial Majesty caused to be proposed to the Electors, Princes, and
other Estates of the Empire, amongst other things, that the several Estates of
the Empire, on the strength of the Imperial edict, should set forth and submit
their opinions and judgments in the German and the Latin language, and since on
the ensuing Wednesday, answer was given to Your Imperial Majesty, after due
deliberation, that we would submit the Articles of our Confession for our side
on next Wednesday, therefore, in obedience to Your Imperial Majesty's wishes, we
offer, in this matter of religion, the Confession of our preachers and of
ourselves, showing what manner of doctrine from the Holy Scriptures and the pure
Word of God has been up to this time set forth in our lands, dukedoms,
dominions, and cities, and taught in our churches.
And if the other Electors, Princes, and Estates. of the Empire will,
according to the said Imperial proposition, present similar writings, to wit, in
Latin and German, giving their opinions in this matter of religion, we, with the
Princes and friends aforesaid, here before Your Imperial Majesty, our most
clement Lord are prepared to confer amicably concerning all possible ways and
means, in order that we may come together, as far as this may be honorably done,
and, the matter between us on both sides being peacefully discussed without
offensive strife, the dissension, by God's help, may be done away and brought
back to one true accordant religion; for as we all are under one Christ and do
battle under Him, we ought to confess the one Christ, after the tenor of Your
Imperial Majesty's edict, and everything ought to be conducted according to the
truth of God; and this it is what, with most fervent prayers, we entreat of God.
However, as regards the rest of the Electors, Princes, and Estates, who
constitute the other part, if no progress should be made, nor some result be
attained by this treatment of the cause of religion after the manner in which
Your Imperial Majesty has wisely held that it should be dealt with and treated
namely, by such mutual presentation of writings and calm conferring together
among ourselves, we at least leave with you a clear testimony, that we here in
no wise are holding back from anything that could bring about Christian concord,
-- such as could be effected with God and a good conscience, -- as also Your
Imperial Majesty and, next, the other Electors and Estates of the Empire, and
all who are moved by sincere love and zeal for religion, and who will give an
impartial hearing to this matter, will graciously deign to take notice and to
understand this from this Confession of ours and of our associates.
Your Imperial Majesty also, not only once but often, graciously
signified to the Electors Princes, and Estates of the Empire, and at the Diet of
Spires held A. D. 1526, according to the form of Your Imperial instruction and
commission given and prescribed, caused it to be stated and publicly proclaimed
that Your Majesty, in dealing with this matter of religion, for certain reasons
which were alleged in Your Majesty's name, was not willing to decide and could
not determine anything, but that Your Majesty would diligently use Your
Majesty's office with the Roman Pontiff for the convening of a General Council.
The same matter was thus publicly set forth at greater length a year ago at the
last Diet which met at Spires. There Your Imperial Majesty, through His Highness
Ferdinand, King of Bohemia and Hungary, our friend and clement Lord, as well as
through the Orator and Imperial Commissioners caused this, among other things,
to be submitted: that Your Imperial Majesty had taken notice of; and pondered,
the resolution of Your Majesty's Representative in the Empire, and of the
President and Imperial Counselors, and the Legates from other Estates convened
at Ratisbon, concerning the calling of a Council, and that your Imperial Majesty
also judged it to be expedient to convene a Council; and that Your Imperial
Majesty did not doubt the Roman Pontiff could be induced to hold a General
Council, because the matters to be adjusted between Your Imperial Majesty and
the Roman Pontiff were nearing agreement and Christian reconciliation; therefore
Your Imperial Majesty himself signified that he would endeavor to secure the
said Chief Pontiff's consent for convening, together with your Imperial Majesty
such General Council, to be published as soon as possible by letters that were
to be sent out.
If the outcome, therefore, should be such that the differences between
us and the other parties in the matter of religion should not be amicably and in
charity settled, then here, before Your Imperial Majesty we make the offer in
all obedience, in addition to what we have already done, that we will all appear
and defend our cause in such a general, free Christian Council, for the
convening of which there has always been accordant action and agreement of votes
in all the Imperial Diets held during Your Majesty's reign, on the part of the
Electors, Princes, and other Estates of the Empire. To the assembly of this
General Council, and at the same time to Your Imperial Majesty, we have, even
before this, in due manner and form of law, addressed ourselves and made appeal
in this matter, by far the greatest and gravest. To this appeal, both to Your
Imperial Majesty and to a Council, we still adhere; neither do we intend nor
would it be possible for us, to relinquish it by this or any other document,
unless the matter between us and the other side, according to the tenor of the
latest Imperial citation should be amicably and charitably settled, allayed, and
brought to Christian concord; and regarding this we even here solemnly and
Article I: Of God.Our Churches, with
common consent, do teach that the decree of the Council of Nicaea concerning the
Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be
believed without any doubting; that is to say, there is one Divine Essence which
is called and which is God: eternal, without body, without parts, of infinite
power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and
invisible; and yet there are three Persons, of the same essence and power, who
also are coeternal, the Father the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And the term
"person" they use as the Fathers have used it, to signify, not a part or quality
in another, but that which subsists of itself.
They condemn all heresies which have sprung up against this article, as
the Manichaeans, who assumed two principles, one Good and the other Evil- also
the Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians, Mohammedans, and all such. They condemn
also the Samosatenes, old and new, who, contending that there is but one Person,
sophistically and impiously argue that the Word and the Holy Ghost are not
distinct Persons, but that "Word" signifies a spoken word, and "Spirit"
signifies motion created in things.
Article II: Of Original Sin.Also they
teach that since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural way are born
with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with
concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin, even now
condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through Baptism
and the Holy Ghost.
They Condemn the Pelagians and others who deny that original depravity
is sin, and who, to obscure the glory of Christ's merit and benefits, argue that
man can be justified before God by his own strength and reason.
Article III: Of the Son of God.Also they
teach that the Word, that is, the Son of God, did assume the human nature in the
womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, so that there are two natures, the divine and
the human, inseparably enjoined in one Person, one Christ, true God and true
man, who was born of the Virgin Mary, truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and
buried, that He might reconcile the Father unto us, and be a sacrifice, not only
for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men
He also descended into hell, and truly rose again the third day;
afterward He ascended into heaven that He might sit on the right hand of the
Father, and forever reign and have dominion over all creatures, and sanctify
them that believe in Him, by sending the Holy Ghost into their hearts, to rule,
comfort, and quicken them, and to defend them against the devil and the power of
The same Christ shall openly come again to judge the quick and the
dead, etc., according to the Apostles' Creed.
Article IV: Of Justification.Also they
teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or
works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake, through faith, when they
believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for
Christ's sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith
God imputes for righteousness in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.
Article V: Of the Ministry.That we may
obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the
Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through
instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases
God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but
for Christ's sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace
for Christ's sake.
They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost
comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparations and
Article VI: Of New Obedience.Also they
teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and that it is
necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God's will, but that we
should not rely on those works to merit justification before God. For remission
of sins and justification is apprehended by faith, as also the voice of Christ
attests: When ye shall have done all these things, say: We are unprofitable
servants. Luke 17, 10. The same is also taught by the Fathers. For Ambrose says:
It is ordained of God that he who believes in Christ is saved, freely receiving
remission of sins, without works, by faith alone.
Article VII: Of the Church.Also they
teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is the
congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments
are rightly administered.
And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning
the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it
necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by
men, should be everywhere alike. As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God
and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4, 5. 6.
Article VIII: What the Church Is.Although
the Church properly is the congregation of saints and true believers,
nevertheless, since in this life many hypocrites and evil persons are mingled
therewith, it is lawful to use Sacraments administered by evil men, according to
the saying of Christ: The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat, etc.
Matt. 23, 2. Both the Sacraments and Word are effectual by reason of the
institution and commandment of Christ, notwithstanding they be administered by
They condemn the Donatists, and such like, who denied it to be lawful
to use the ministry of evil men in the Church, and who thought the ministry of
evil men to be unprofitable and of none effect.
Article IX: Of Baptism.Of Baptism they
teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the
grace of God, and that children are to be baptized who, being offered to God
through Baptism are received into God's grace.
They condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children, and
say that children are saved without Baptism.
Article X: Of the Lord's Supper.Of the
Supper of the Lord they teach that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly
present, and are distributed to those who eat the Supper of the Lord; and they
reject those that teach otherwise.
Article XI: Of Confession.Of Confession
they teach that Private Absolution ought to be retained in the churches,
although in confession an enumeration of all sins is not necessary. For it is
impossible according to the Psalm: Who can understand his errors? Ps. 19, 12.
Article XII: Of Repentance.Of Repentance
they teach that for those who have fallen after Baptism there is remission of
sins whenever they are converted and that the Church ought to impart absolution
to those thus returning to repentance. Now, repentance consists properly of
these two parts: One is contrition, that is, terrors smiting the conscience
through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of the Gospel,
or of absolution, and believes that for Christ's sake, sins are forgiven,
comforts the conscience, and delivers it from terrors. Then good works are bound
to follow, which are the fruits of repentance.
They condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that those once justified can
lose the Holy Ghost. Also those who contend that some may attain to such
perfection in this life that they cannot sin.
The Novatians also are condemned, who would not absolve such as had
fallen after Baptism, though they returned to repentance.
They also are rejected who do not teach that remission of sins comes
through faith but command us to merit grace through satisfactions of our own.
Article XIII: Of the Use of the
Sacraments.Of the Use of the Sacraments they teach that the
Sacraments were ordained, not only to be marks of profession among men, but
rather to be signs and testimonies of the will of God toward us, instituted to
awaken and confirm faith in those who use them. Wherefore we must so use the
Sacraments that faith be added to believe the promises which are offered and set
forth through the Sacraments.
They therefore condemn those who teach that the Sacraments justify by
the outward act, and who do not teach that, in the use of the Sacraments, faith
which believes that sins are forgiven, is required.
Article XIV: Of Ecclesiastical Order.Of
Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church
or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called.
Article XV: Of Ecclesiastical Usages.Of
Usages in the Church they teach that those ought to be observed which may be
observed without sin, and which are profitable unto tranquillity and good order
in the Church, as particular holy-days, festivals, and the like.
Nevertheless, concerning such things men are admonished that
consciences are not to be burdened, as though such observance was necessary to
They are admonished also that human traditions instituted to propitiate
God, to merit grace, and to make satisfaction for sins, are opposed to the
Gospel and the doctrine of faith. Wherefore vows and traditions concerning meats
and days, etc., instituted to merit grace and to make satisfaction for sins, are
useless and contrary to the Gospel.
Article XVI: Of Civil Affairs.Of Civil
Affairs they teach that lawful civil ordinances are good works of God, and that
it is right for Christians to bear civil office, to sit as judges, to judge
matters by the Imperial and other existing laws, to award just punishments, to
engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers, to make legal contracts, to hold
property, to make oath when required by the magistrates, to marry a wife, to be
given in marriage.
They condemn the Anabaptists who forbid these civil offices to
They condemn also those who do not place evangelical perfection in the
fear of God and in faith, but in forsaking civil offices, for the Gospel teaches
an eternal righteousness of the heart. Meanwhile, it does not destroy the State
or the family, but very much requires that they be preserved as ordinances of
God, and that charity be practiced in such ordinances. Therefore, Christians are
necessarily bound to obey their own magistrates and laws save only when
commanded to sin; for then they ought to obey God rather than men. Acts 5, 29.
Article XVII: Of Christ's Return to
Judgment.Also they teach that at the Consummation of the World
Christ will appear for judgment and will raise up all the dead; He will give to
the godly and elect eternal life and everlasting joys, but ungodly men and the
devils He will condemn to be tormented without end.
They condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an end to
the punishments of condemned men and devils.
They condemn also others who are now spreading certain Jewish opinions,
that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of the
kingdom of the world, the ungodly being everywhere suppressed.
Article XVIII: Of Free Will.Of Free Will
they teach that man's will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness, and
to work things subject to reason. But it has no power, without the Holy Ghost,
to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness; since the
natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, 1 Cor. 2,14; but this
righteousness is wrought in the heart when the Holy Ghost is received through
the Word. These things are said in as many words by Augustine in his
Hypognosticon, Book III: We grant that all men have a free will, free, inasmuch
as it has the judgment of reason; not that it is thereby capable, without God,
either to begin, or, at least, to complete aught in things pertaining to God,
but only in works of this life, whether good or evil. "Good" I call those works
which spring from the good in nature, such as, willing to labor in the field, to
eat and drink, to have a friend, to clothe oneself, to build a house, to marry a
wife, to raise cattle, to learn divers useful arts, or whatsoever good pertains
to this life. For all of these things are not without dependence on the
providence of God; yea, of Him and through Him they are and have their being.
"Evil" I call such works as willing to worship an idol, to commit murder, etc.
They condemn the Pelagians and others, who teach that without the Holy
Ghost, by the power of nature alone, we are able to love God above all things;
also to do the commandments of God as touching "the substance of the act." For,
although nature is able in a manner to do the outward work, (for it is able to
keep the hands from theft and murder,) yet it cannot produce the inward motions,
such as the fear of God, trust in God, chastity, patience, etc.
Article XIX: Of the Cause of Sin.Of the
Cause of Sin they teach that, although God does create and preserve nature, yet
the cause of sin is the will of the wicked, that is, of the devil and ungodly
men; which will, unaided of God, turns itself from God, as Christ says John 8,
44: When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own.
Article XX: Of Good Works.Our teachers
are falsely accused of forbidding good Works. For their published writings on
the Ten Commandments, and others of like import, bear witness that they have
taught to good purpose concerning all estates and duties of life, as to what
estates of life and what works in every calling be pleasing to God. Concerning
these things preachers heretofore taught but little, and urged only childish and
needless works, as particular holy-days, particular fasts, brotherhoods,
pilgrimages, services in honor of saints, the use of rosaries, monasticism, and
such like. Since our adversaries have been admonished of these things, they are
now unlearning them, and do not preach these unprofitable works as heretofore.
Besides, they begin to mention faith, of which there was heretofore marvelous
silence. They teach that we are justified not by works only, but they conjoin
faith and works, and say that we are justified by faith and works. This doctrine
is more tolerable than the former one, and can afford more consolation than
their old doctrine.
Forasmuch, therefore, as the doctrine concerning faith, which ought to
be the chief one in the Church, has lain so long unknown, as all must needs
grant that there was the deepest silence in their sermons concerning the
righteousness of faith, while only the doctrine of works was treated in the
churches, our teachers have instructed the churches concerning faith as follows:
First, that our works cannot reconcile God or merit forgiveness of
sins, grace, and justification, but that we obtain this only by faith when we
believe that we are received into favor for Christs sake, who alone has been set
forth the Mediator and Propitiation, 1 Tim. 2, 6, in order that the Father may
be reconciled through Him. Whoever, therefore, trusts that by works he merits
grace, despises the merit and grace of Christ, and seeks a way to God without
Christ, by human strength, although Christ has said of Himself: I am the Way,
the Truth, and the Life. John 14, 6.
This doctrine concerning faith is everywhere treated by Paul, Eph. 2,
8: By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the
gift of God, not of works, etc.
And lest any one should craftily say that a new interpretation of Paul
has been devised by us, this entire matter is supported by the testimonies of
the Fathers. For Augustine, in many volumes, defends grace and the righteousness
of faith, over against the merits of works. And Ambrose, in his De Vocatione
Gentium, and elsewhere, teaches to like effect. For in his De Vocatione Gentium
he says as follows: Redemption by the blood of Christ would become of little
value, neither would the preeminence of man's works be superseded by the mercy
of God, if justification, which is wrought through grace, were due to the merits
going before, so as to be, not the free gift of a donor, but the reward due to
But, although this doctrine is despised by the inexperienced,
nevertheless God- fearing and anxious consciences find by experience that it
brings the greatest consolation, because consciences cannot be set at rest
through any works, but only by faith, when they take the sure ground that for
Christ's sake they have a reconciled God. As Paul teaches Rom. 5, 1: Being
justified by faith, we have peace with God. This whole doctrine is to be
referred to that conflict of the terrified conscience, neither can it be
understood apart from that conflict. Therefore inexperienced and profane men
judge ill concerning this matter, who dream that Christian righteousness is
nothing but civil and philosophical righteousness.
Heretofore consciences were plagued with the doctrine of works, they
did not hear the consolation from the Gospel. Some persons were driven by
conscience into the desert, into monasteries hoping there to merit grace by a
monastic life. Some also devised other works whereby to merit grace and make
satisfaction for sins. Hence there was very great need to treat of, and renew,
this doctrine of faith in Christ, to the end that anxious consciences should not
be without consolation but that they might know that grace and forgiveness of
sins and justification are apprehended by faith in Christ.
Men are also admonished that here the term "faith" does not signify
merely the knowledge of the history, such as is in the ungodly and in the devil,
but signifies a faith which believes, not merely the history, but also the
effect of the history -- namely, this Article: the forgiveness of sins, to wit,
that we have grace, righteousness, and forgiveness of sins through Christ.
Now he that knows that he has a Father gracious to him through Christ,
truly knows God; he knows also that God cares for him, and calls upon God; in a
word, he is not without God, as the heathen. For devils and the ungodly are not
able to believe this Article: the forgiveness of sins. Hence, they hate God as
an enemy, call not upon Him, and expect no good from Him. Augustine also
admonishes his readers concerning the word "faith," and teaches that the term
"faith" is accepted in the Scriptures not for knowledge such as is in the
ungodly but for confidence which consoles and encourages the terrified mind.
Furthermore, it is taught on our part that it is necessary to do good
works, not that we should trust to merit grace by them, but because it is the
will of God. It is only by faith that forgiveness of sins is apprehended, and
that, for nothing. And because through faith the Holy Ghost is received, hearts
are renewed and endowed with new affections, so as to be able to bring forth
good works. For Ambrose says: Faith is the mother of a good will and right
doing. For man's powers without the Holy Ghost are full of ungodly affections,
and are too weak to do works which are good in God's sight. Besides, they are in
the power of the devil who impels men to divers sins, to ungodly opinions, to
open crimes. This we may see in the philosophers, who, although they endeavored
to live an honest life could not succeed, but were defiled with many open
crimes. Such is the feebleness of man when he is without faith and without the
Holy Ghost, and governs himself only by human strength.
Hence it may be readily seen that this doctrine is not to be charged
with prohibiting good works, but rather the more to be commended, because it
shows how we are enabled to do good works. For without faith human nature can in
no wise do the works of the First or of the Second Commandment. Without faith it
does not call upon God, nor expect anything from God, nor bear the cross, but
seeks, and trusts in, man's help. And thus, when there is no faith and trust in
God all manner of lusts and human devices rule in the heart. Wherefore Christ
said, John 16,6: Without Me ye can do nothing; and the Church sings: Lacking Thy
divine favor, There is nothing found in man, Naught in him is harmless.
Article XXI: Of the Worship of the
Saints.Of the Worship of Saints they teach that the memory of
saints may be set before us, that we may follow their faith and good works,
according to our calling, as the Emperor may follow the example of David in
making war to drive away the Turk from his country; For both are kings. But the
Scripture teaches not the invocation of saints or to ask help of saints, since
it sets before us the one Christ as the Mediator, Propitiation, High Priest, and
Intercessor. He is to be prayed to, and has promised that He will hear our
prayer; and this worship He approves above all, to wit, that in all afflictions
He be called upon, 1 John 2, 1: If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the
This is about the Sum of our Doctrine, in which, as can be seen, there
is nothing that varies from the Scriptures, or from the Church Catholic, or from
the Church of Rome as known from its writers. This being the case, they judge
harshly who insist that our teachers be regarded as heretics. There is, however,
disagreement on certain Abuses, which have crept into the Church without
rightful authority. And even in these, if there were some difference, there
should be proper lenity on the part of bishops to bear with us by reason of the
Confession which we have now reviewed; because even the Canons are not so severe
as to demand the same rites everywhere, neither, at any time, have the rites of
all churches been the same; although, among us, in large part, the ancient rites
are diligently observed. For it is a false and malicious charge that all the
ceremonies, all the things instituted of old, are abolished in our churches. But
it has been a common complaint that some abuses were connected with the ordinary
rites. These, inasmuch as they could not be approved with a good conscience,
have been to some extent corrected.
ARTICLES IN WHICH ARE REVIEWED THE ABUSES WHICH HAVE BEEN
CORRECTED.Inasmuch, then, as our churches dissent in no article of
the faith from the Church Catholic, but only omit some abuses which are new, and
which have been erroneously accepted by the corruption of the times, contrary to
the intent of the Canons, we pray that Your Imperial Majesty would graciously
hear both what has been changed, and what were the reasons why the people were
not compelled to observe those abuses against their conscience. Nor should Your
Imperial Majesty believe those who, in order to excite the hatred of men against
our part, disseminate strange slanders among the people. Having thus excited the
minds of good men, they have first given occasion to this controversy, and now
endeavor, by the same arts, to increase the discord. For Your Imperial Majesty
will undoubtedly find that the form of doctrine and of ceremonies with us is not
so intolerable as these ungodly and malicious men represent. Besides, the truth
cannot be gathered from common rumors or the revilings of enemies. But it can
readily be judged that nothing would serve better to maintain the dignity of
ceremonies, and to nourish reverence and pious devotion among the people than if
the ceremonies were observed rightly in the churches.
Article XXII: Of Both Kinds in the
Sacrament.To the laity are given Both Kinds in the Sacrament of
the Lord's Supper, because this usage has the commandment of the Lord in Matt.
26, 27: Drink ye all of it, where Christ has manifestly commanded concerning the
cup that all should drink.
And lest any man should craftily say that this refers only to priests,
Paul in 1 Cor. 11,27 recites an example from which it appears that the whole
congregation did use both kinds. And this usage has long remained in the Church,
nor is it known when, or by whose authority, it was changed; although Cardinal
Cusanus mentions the time when it was approved. Cyprian in some places testifies
that the blood was given to the people. The same is testified by Jerome, who
says: The priests administer the Eucharist, and distribute the blood of Christ
to the people. Indeed, Pope Gelasius commands that the Sacrament be not divided
(dist. II., De Consecratione, cap. Comperimus). Only custom, not so ancient, has
it otherwise. But it is evident that any custom introduced against the
commandments of God is not to be allowed, as the Canons witness (dist. III.,
cap. Veritate, and the following chapters). But this custom has been received,
not only against the Scripture, but also against the old Canons and the example
of the Church. Therefore, if any preferred to use both kinds of the Sacrament,
they ought not to have been compelled with offense to their consciences to do
otherwise. And because the division of the Sacrament does not agree with the
ordinance of Christ, we are accustomed to omit the procession, which hitherto
has been in use.
Article XXIII: Of the Marriage of
Priests.There has been common complaint concerning the examples of
priests who were not chaste. For that reason also Pope Pius is reported to have
said that there were certain causes why marriage was taken away from priests,
but that there were far weightier ones why it ought to be given back; for so
Platina writes. Since, therefore, our priests were desirous to avoid these open
scandals, they married wives, and taught that it was lawful for them to contract
matrimony. First, because Paul says, 1 Cor. 7, 2. 9: To avoid fornication, let
every man have his own wife. Also: It is better to marry than to burn. Secondly
Christ says, Matt. 19,11: All men cannot receive this saying, where He teaches
that not all men are fit to lead a single life; for God created man for
procreation, Gen. 1, 28. Nor is it in man's power, without a singular gift and
work of God, to alter this creation. [For it is manifest, and many have
confessed that no good, honest, chaste life, no Christian, sincere, upright
conduct has resulted (from the attempt), but a horrible, fearful unrest and
torment of conscience has been felt by many until the end.] Therefore, those who
are not fit to lead a single life ought to contract matrimony. For no man's law,
no vow, can annul the commandment and ordinance of God. For these reasons the
priests teach that it is lawful for them to marry wives.
It is also evident that in the ancient Church priests were married men.
For Paul says, 1 Tim. 3, 2, that a bishop should be chosen who is the husband of
one wife. And in Germany, four hundred years ago for the first time, the priests
were violently compelled to lead a single life, who indeed offered such
resistance that the Archbishop of Mayence, when about to publish the Pope's
decree concerning this matter, was almost killed in the tumult raised by the
enraged priests. And so harsh was the dealing in the matter that not only were
marriages forbidden for the future, but also existing marriages were torn
asunder, contrary to all laws, divine and human, contrary even to the Canons
themselves, made not only by the Popes, but by most celebrated Synods.
[Moreover, many God-fearing and intelligent people in high station are known
frequently to have expressed misgivings that such enforced celibacy and
depriving men of marriage (which God Himself has instituted and left free to
men) has never produced any good results, but has brought on many great and evil
vices and much iniquity.]
Seeing also that, as the world is aging, man's nature is gradually
growing weaker, it is well to guard that no more vices steal into Germany.
Furthermore, God ordained marriage to be a help against human
infirmity. The Canons themselves say that the old rigor ought now and then, in
the latter times, to be relaxed because of the weakness of men; which it is to
be wished were done also in this matter. And it is to be expected that the
churches shall at some time lack pastors if marriage is any longer forbidden.
But while the commandment of God is in force, while the custom of the
Church is well known, while impure celibacy causes many scandals, adulteries,
and other crimes deserving the punishments of just magistrates, yet it is a
marvelous thing that in nothing is more cruelty exercised than against the
marriage of priests. God has given commandment to honor marriage. By the laws of
all well-ordered commonwealths, even among the heathen, marriage is most highly
honored. But now men, and that, priests, are cruelly put to death, contrary to
the intent of the Canons, for no other cause than marriage. Paul, in 1 Tim. 4,3,
calls that a doctrine of devils which forbids marriage. This may now be readily
understood when the law against marriage is maintained by such penalties.
But as no law of man can annul the commandment of God, so neither can
it be done by any vow. Accordingly, Cyprian also advises that women who do not
keep the chastity they have promised should marry. His words are these (Book I,
Epistle XI ): But if they be unwilling or unable to persevere, it is better for
them to marry than to fall into the fire by their lusts; they should certainly
give no offense to their brethren and sisters.
And even the Canons show some leniency toward those who have taken vows
before the proper age, as heretofore has generally been the case.
Article XXIV: Of the Mass.Falsely are our
churches accused of abolishing the Mass; for the Mass is retained among us, and
celebrated with the highest reverence. Nearly all the usual ceremonies are also
preserved, save that the parts sung in Latin are interspersed here and there
with German hymns, which have been added to teach the people. For ceremonies are
needed to this end alone that the unlearned be taught [what they need to know of
Christ]. And not only has Paul commanded to use in the church a language
understood by the people 1 Cor. 14,2. 9, but it has also been so ordained by
man's law. The people are accustomed to partake of the Sacrament together, if
any be fit for it, and this also increases the reverence and devotion of public
worship. For none are admitted except they be first examined. The people are
also advised concerning the dignity and use of the Sacrament, how great
consolation it brings anxious consciences, that they may learn to believe God,
and to expect and ask of Him all that is good. [In this connection they are also
instructed regarding other and false teachings on the Sacrament.] This worship
pleases God; such use of the Sacrament nourishes true devotion toward God. It
does not, therefore, appear that the Mass is more devoutly celebrated among our
adversaries than among us.
But it is evident that for a long time this also has been the public
and most grievous complaint of all good men that Masses have been basely
profaned and applied to purposes of lucre. For it is not unknown how far this
abuse obtains in all the churches by what manner of men Masses are said only for
fees or stipends, and how many celebrate them contrary to the Canons. But Paul
severely threatens those who deal unworthily with the Eucharist when he says, 1
Cor.11,27: Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord,
unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. When, therefore
our priests were admonished concerning this sin, Private Masses were
discontinued among us, as scarcely any Private Masses were celebrated except for
Neither were the bishops ignorant of these abuses, and if they had
corrected them in time, there would now be less dissension. Heretofore, by their
own connivance, they suffered many corruptions to creep into the Church. Now,
when it is too late, they begin to complain of the troubles of the Church, while
this disturbance has been occasioned simply by those abuses which were so
manifest that they could be borne no longer. There have been great dissensions
concerning the Mass, concerning the Sacrament. Perhaps the world is being
punished for such long-continued profanations of the Mass as have been tolerated
in the churches for so many centuries by the very men who were both able and in
duty bound to correct them. For in the Ten Commandments it is written, Ex. 20,
7: The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain. But since
the world began, nothing that God ever ordained seems to have been so abused for
filthy lucre as the Mass.
There was also added the opinion which infinitely increased Private
Masses, namely that Christ, by His passion, had made satisfaction for original
sin, and instituted the Mass wherein an offering should be made for daily sins,
venial and mortal. From this has arisen the common opinion that the Mass takes
away the sins of the living and the dead by the outward act. Then they began to
dispute whether one Mass said for many were worth as much as special Masses for
individuals, and this brought forth that infinite multitude of Masses. [With
this work men wished to obtain from God all that they needed, and in the mean
time faith in Christ and the true worship were forgotten.]
Concerning these opinions our teachers have given warning that they
depart from the Holy Scriptures and diminish the glory of the passion of Christ.
For Christ's passion was an oblation and satisfaction, not for original guilt
only, but also for all other sins, as it is written to the Hebrews, 10, 10: We
are sanctified through the offering of Jesus Christ once for all. Also, 10, 14:
By one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. [It is an
unheard-of innovation in the Church to teach that Christ by His death made
satisfaction only for original sin and not likewise for all other sin.
Accordingly it is hoped that everybody will understand that this error has not
been reproved without due reason.]
Scripture also teaches that we are justified before God through faith
in Christ, when we believe that our sins are forgiven for Christ's sake. Now if
the Mass take away the sins of the living and the dead by the outward act
justification comes of the work of Masses, and not of faith, which Scripture
does not allow.
But Christ commands us, Luke 22, 19: This do in remembrance of Me;
therefore the Mass was instituted that the faith of those who use the Sacrament
should remember what benefits it receives through Christ, and cheer and comfort
the anxious conscience. For to remember Christ is to remember His benefits, and
to realize that they are truly offered unto us. Nor is it enough only to
remember the history; for this also the Jews and the ungodly can remember.
Wherefore the Mass is to be used to this end, that there the Sacrament
[Communion] may be administered to them that have need of consolation; as
Ambrose says: Because I always sin, I am always bound to take the medicine.
[Therefore this Sacrament requires faith, and is used in vain without faith.]
Now, forasmuch as the Mass is such a giving of the Sacrament, we hold
one communion every holy-day, and, if any desire the Sacrament, also on other
days, when it is given to such as ask for it. And this custom is not new in the
Church; for the Fathers before Gregory make no mention of any private Mass, but
of the common Mass [the Communion] they speak very much. Chrysostom says that
the priest stands daily at he altar, inviting some to the Communion and keeping
back others. And it appears from the ancient Canons that some one celebrated the
Mass from whom all the other presbyters and deacons received the body of he
Lord; for thus the words of the Nicene Canon say: Let the deacons, according to
their order, receive the Holy Communion after the presbyters, from the bishop or
from a presbyter. And Paul, 1 Cor. 11, 33, commands concerning the Communion:
Tarry one for another, so that there may be a common participation.
Forasmuch, therefore, as the Mass with us has the example of the
Church, taken from the Scripture and the Fathers, we are confident that it
cannot be disapproved, especially since public ceremonies, for the most part
like those hitherto in use, are retained; only the number of Masses differs,
which, because of very great and manifest abuses doubtless might be profitably
reduced. For in olden times, even in churches most frequented, the Mass was not
celebrated every day, as the Tripartite History (Book 9, chap. 33) testifies:
Again in Alexandria, every Wednesday and Friday the Scriptures are read, and the
doctors expound them, and all things are done, except the solemn rite of
Article XXV: Of Confession.Confession in
the churches is not abolished among us; for it is not usual to give the body of
the Lord, except to them that have been previously examined and absolved. And
the people are most carefully taught concerning faith in the absolution, about
which formerly there was profound silence. Our people are taught that they
should highly prize the absolution, as being the voice of God, and pronounced by
God's command. The power of the Keys is set forth in its beauty and they are
reminded what great consolation it brings to anxious consciences, also, that God
requires faith to believe such absolution as a voice sounding from heaven, and
that such faith in Christ truly obtains and receives the forgiveness of sins.
Aforetime satisfactions were immoderately extolled; of faith and the merit of
Christ and the righteousness of faith no mention was made; wherefore, on this
point, our churches are by no means to be blamed. For this even our adversaries
must needs concede to us that the doctrine concerning repentance has been most
diligently treated and laid open by our teachers.
But of Confession they teach that an enumeration of sins is not
necessary, and that consciences be not burdened with anxiety to enumerate all
sins, for it is impossible to recount all sins, as the Psalm testifies, 19,13:
Who can understand his errors? Also Jeremiah, 17 9: The heart is deceitful; who
can know it; But if no sins were forgiven, except those that are recounted,
consciences could never find peace; for very many sins they neither see nor can
remember. The ancient writers also testify that an enumeration is not necessary.
For in the Decrees, Chrysostom is quoted, who says thus: I say not to you that
you should disclose yourself in public, nor that you accuse yourself before
others, but I would have you obey the prophet who says: "Disclose thy self
before God." Therefore confess your sins before God, the true Judge, with
prayer. Tell your errors, not with the tongue, but with the memory of your
conscience, etc. And the Gloss (Of Repentance, Distinct. V, Cap. Consideret)
admits that Confession is of human right only [not commanded by Scripture, but
ordained by the Church]. Nevertheless, on account of the great benefit of
absolution, and because it is otherwise useful to the conscience, Confession is
retained among us.
Article XXVI: Of the Distinction of
Meats.It has been the general persuasion, not of the people alone,
but also of those teaching in the churches, that making Distinctions of Meats,
and like traditions of men, are works profitable to merit grace, and able to
make satisfactions for sins. And that the world so thought, appears from this,
that new ceremonies, new orders, new holy-days, and new fastings were daily
instituted, and the teachers in the churches did exact these works as a service
necessary to merit grace, and did greatly terrify men's consciences, if they
should omit any of these things. From this persuasion concerning traditions much
detriment has resulted in the Church.
First, the doctrine of grace and of the righteousness of faith has been
obscured by it, which is the chief part of the Gospel, and ought to stand out as
the most prominent in the Church, in order that the merit of Christ may be well
known, and faith, which believes that sins are forgiven for Christ's sake be
exalted far above works. Wherefore Paul also lays the greatest stress on this
article, putting aside the Law and human traditions, in order to show that
Christian righteousness is something else than such works, to wit, the faith
which believes that sins are freely forgiven for Christ's sake. But this
doctrine of Paul has been almost wholly smothered by traditions, which have
produced an opinion that, by making distinctions in meats and like services, we
must merit grace and righteousness. In treating of repentance, there was no
mention made of faith; only those works of satisfaction were set forth; in these
the entire repentance seemed to consist.
Secondly, these traditions have obscured the commandments of God,
because traditions were placed far above the commandments of God. Christianity
was thought to consist wholly in the observance of certain holy-days, rites,
fasts, and vestures. These observances had won for themselves the exalted title
of being the spiritual life and the perfect life. Meanwhile the commandments of
God, according to each one's calling, were without honor namely, that the father
brought up his offspring, that the mother bore children, that the prince
governed the commonwealth, -- these were accounted works that were worldly and
imperfect, and far below those glittering observances. And this error greatly
tormented devout consciences, which grieved that they were held in an imperfect
state of life, as in marriage, in the office of magistrate; or in other civil
ministrations; on the other hand, they admired the monks and such like, and
falsely imagined that the observances of such men were more acceptable to God.
Thirdly, traditions brought great danger to consciences; for it was
impossible to keep all traditions, and yet men judged these observances to be
necessary acts of worship. Gerson writes that many fell into despair, and that
some even took their own lives, because they felt that they were not able to
satisfy the traditions, and they had all the while not heard any consolation of
the righteousness of faith and grace. We see that the summists and theologians
gather the traditions, and seek mitigations whereby to ease consciences, and yet
they do not sufficiently unfetter, but sometimes entangle, consciences even
more. And with the gathering of these traditions, the schools and sermons have
been so much occupied that they have had no leisure to touch upon Scripture, and
to seek the more profitable doctrine of faith, of the cross, of hope, of the
dignity of civil affairs of consolation of sorely tried consciences. Hence
Gerson and some other theologians have grievously complained that by these
strivings concerning traditions they were prevented from giving attention to a
better kind of doctrine. Augustine also forbids that men's consciences should be
burdened with such observances, and prudently advises Januarius that he must
know that they are to be observed as things indifferent; for such are his words.
Wherefore our teachers must not be looked upon as having taken up this
matter rashly or from hatred of the bishops, as some falsely suspect. There was
great need to warn the churches of these errors, which had arisen from
misunderstanding the traditions. For the Gospel compels us to insist in the
churches upon the doctrine of grace, and of the righteousness of faith; which,
however, cannot be understood, if men think that they merit grace by observances
of their own choice.
Thus, therefore, they have taught that by the observance of human
traditions we cannot merit grace or be justified, and hence we must not think
such observances necessary acts of worship. They add hereunto testimonies of
Scripture. Christ, Matt. 15, 3, defends the Apostles who had not observed the
usual tradition, which, however, evidently pertains to a matter not unlawful,
but indifferent, and to have a certain affinity with the purifications of the
Law, and says, 9: In vain do they worship Me with the commandments of men. He,
therefore, does not exact an unprofitable service. Shortly after He adds: Not
that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man. So also Paul, Rom. 14, 17: The
kingdom of God is not meat and drink. Col. 2, 16: Let no man, therefore, judge
you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy-day, or of the Sabbath-day;
also: If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though
living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances: Touch not, taste not, handle
not! And Peter says, Acts 15, 10: Why tempt ye God to put a yoke upon the neck
of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we
believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even
as they. Here Peter forbids to burden the consciences with many rites, either of
Moses or of others. And in 1 Tim. 4,1.3 Paul calls the prohibition of meats a
doctrine of devils; for it is against the Gospel to institute or to do such
works that by them we may merit grace, or as though Christianity could not exist
without such service of God.
Here our adversaries object that our teachers are opposed to discipline
and mortification of the flesh, as Jovinian. But the contrary may be learned
from the writings of our teachers. For they have always taught concerning the
cross that it behooves Christians to bear afflictions. This is the true,
earnest, and unfeigned mortification, to wit, to be exercised with divers
afflictions, and to be crucified with Christ.
Moreover, they teach that every Christian ought to train and subdue
himself with bodily restraints, or bodily exercises and labors that neither
satiety nor slothfulness tempt him to sin, but not that we may merit grace or
make satisfaction for sins by such exercises. And such external discipline ought
to be urged at all times, not only on a few and set days. So Christ commands,
Luke 21, 34: Take heed lest your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting; also
Matt. 17, 21: This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. Paul also says,
1 Cor. 9, 27: I keep under my body and bring it into subjection. Here he clearly
shows that he was keeping under his body, not to merit forgiveness of sins by
that discipline, but to have his body in subjection and fitted for spiritual
things, and for the discharge of duty according to his calling. Therefore, we do
not condemn fasting in itself, but the traditions which prescribe certain days
and certain meats, with peril of conscience, as though such works were a
Nevertheless, very many traditions are kept on our part, which conduce
to good order in the Church, as the Order of Lessons in the Mass and the chief
holy-days. But, at the same time, men are warned that such observances do not
justify before God, and that in such things it should not be made sin if they be
omitted without offense. Such liberty in human rites was not unknown to the
Fathers. For in the East they kept Easter at another time than at Rome, and
when, on account of this diversity, the Romans accused the Eastern Church of
schism, they were admonished by others that such usages need not be alike
everywhere. And Irenaeus says: Diversity concerning fasting does not destroy the
harmony of faith; as also Pope Gregory intimates in Dist. XII, that such
diversity does not violate the unity of the Church. And in the Tripartite
History, Book 9, many examples of dissimilar rites are gathered, and the
following statement is made: It was not the mind of the Apostles to enact rules
concerning holy-days, but to preach godliness and a holy life [, to teach faith
Article XXVII: Of Monastic Vows.What is
taught on our part concerning Monastic Vows, will be better understood if it be
remembered what has been the state of the monasteries, and how many things were
daily done in those very monasteries, contrary to the Canons. In Augustine's
time they were free associations. Afterward, when discipline was corrupted, vows
were everywhere added for the purpose of restoring discipline, as in a carefully
Gradually, many other observances were added besides vows. And these
fetters were laid upon many before the lawful age, contrary to the Canons.
Many also entered into this kind of life through ignorance, being
unable to judge their own strength, though they were of sufficient age. Being
thus ensnared, they were compelled to remain, even though some could have been
freed by the kind provision of the Canons. And this was more the case in
convents of women than of monks, although more consideration should have been
shown the weaker sex. This rigor displeased many good men before this time, who
saw that young men and maidens were thrown into convents for a living. They saw
what unfortunate results came of this procedure, and what scandals were created,
what snares were cast upon consciences! They were grieved that the authority of
the Canons in so momentous a matter was utterly set aside and despised. To these
evils was added such a persuasion concerning vows as, it is well known, in
former times displeased even those monks who were more considerate. They taught
that vows were equal to Baptism; they taught that by this kind of life they
merited forgiveness of sins and justification before God. Yea, they added that
the monastic life not only merited righteousness before God but even greater
things, because it kept not only the precepts, but also the so-called
Thus they made men believe that the profession of monasticism was far
better than Baptism, and that the monastic life was more meritorious than that
of magistrates, than the life of pastors, and such like, who serve their calling
in accordance with God's commands, without any man-made services. None of these
things can be denied; for they appear in their own books. [Moreover, a person
who has been thus ensnared and has entered a monastery learns little of Christ.]
What, then, came to pass in the monasteries? Aforetime they were
schools of theology and other branches, profitable to the Church; and thence
pastors and bishops were obtained. Now it is another thing. It is needless to
rehearse what is known to all. Aforetime they came together to learn; now they
feign that it is a kind of life instituted to merit grace and righteousness;
yea, they preach that it is a state of perfection, and they put it far above all
other kinds of life ordained of God. These things we have rehearsed without
odious exaggeration, to the end that the doctrine of our teachers on this point
might be better understood.
First, concerning such as contract matrimony, they teach on our part
that it is lawful for all men who are not fitted for single life to contract
matrimony, because vows cannot annul the ordinance and commandment of God. But
the commandment of God is 1 Cor. 7, 2: To avoid fornication, let every man have
his own wife. Nor is it the commandment only, but also the creation and
ordinance of God, which forces those to marry who are not excepted by a singular
work of God, according to the text Gen. 2, 18: It is not good that the man
should be alone. Therefore they do not sin who obey this commandment and
ordinance of God.
What objection can be raised to this? Let men extol the obligation of a
vow as much as they list, yet shall they not bring to pass that the vow annuls
the commandment of God. The Canons teach that the right of the superior is
excepted in every vow; [that vows are not binding against the decision of the
Pope;] much less, therefore, are these vows of force which are against the
commandments of God.
Now, if the obligation of vows could not be changed for any cause
whatever, the Roman Pontiffs could never have given dispensation for it is not
lawful for man to annul an obligation which is simply divine. But the Roman
Pontiffs have prudently judged that leniency is to be observed in this
obligation, and therefore we read that many times they have dispensed from vows.
The case of the King of Aragon who was called back from the monastery is well
known, and there are also examples in our own times. [Now, if dispensations have
been granted for the sake of securing temporal interests, it is much more proper
that they be granted on account of the distress of souls.]
In the second place, why do our adversaries exaggerate the obligation
or effect of a vow when, at the same time, they have not a word to say of the
nature of the vow itself, that it ought to be in a thing possible, that it ought
to be free, and chosen spontaneously and deliberately? But it is not unknown to
what extent perpetual chastity is in the power of man. And how few are there who
have taken the vow spontaneously and deliberately! Young maidens and men, before
they are able to judge, are persuaded, and sometimes even compelled, to take the
vow. Wherefore it is not fair to insist so rigorously on the obligation, since
it is granted by all that it is against the nature of a vow to take it without
spontaneous and deliberate action.
Most canonical laws rescind vows made before the age of fifteen; for
before that age there does not seem sufficient judgment in a person to decide
concerning a perpetual life. Another Canon, granting more to the weakness of
man, adds a few years; for it forbids a vow to be made before the age of
eighteen. But which of these two Canons shall we follow? The most part have an
excuse for leaving the monasteries, because most of them have taken the vows
before they reached these ages.
Finally, even though the violation of a vow might be censured, yet it
seems not forthwith to follow that the marriages of such persons must be
dissolved. For Augustine denies that they ought to be dissolved (XXVII. Quaest.
I, Cap. Nuptiarum), and his authority is not lightly to be esteemed, although
other men afterwards thought otherwise.
But although it appears that God's command concerning marriage delivers
very many from their vows, yet our teachers introduce also another argument
concerning vows to show that they are void. For every service of God, ordained
and chosen of men without the commandment of God to merit justification and
grace, is wicked, as Christ says Matt. 16, 9: In vain do they worship Me with
the commandments of men. And Paul teaches everywhere that righteousness is not
to be sought from our own observances and acts of worship, devised by men, but
that it comes by faith to those who believe that they are received by God into
grace for Christ's sake.
But it is evident that monks have taught that services of man's making
satisfy for sins and merit grace and justification. What else is this than to
detract from the glory of Christ and to obscure and deny the righteousness of
faith? It follows, therefore, that the vows thus commonly taken have been wicked
services, and, consequently, are void. For a wicked vow, taken against the
commandment of God, is not valid; for (as the Canon says) no vow ought to bind
men to wickedness.
Paul says, Gal. 5, 4: Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever
of you are justified by the Law, ye are fallen from grace. To those, therefore,
who want to be justified by their vows Christ is made of no effect, and they
fall from grace. For also these who ascribe justification to vows ascribe to
their own works that which properly belongs to the glory of Christ.
Nor can it be denied, indeed, that the monks have taught that, by their
vows and observances, they were justified, and merited forgiveness of sins, yea,
they invented still greater absurdities, saying that they could give others a
share in their works. If any one should be inclined to enlarge on these things
with evil intent, how many things could he bring together whereof even the monks
are now ashamed! Over and above this, they persuaded men that services of man's
making were a state of Christian perfection. And is not this assigning
justification to works? It is no light offense in the Church to set forth to the
people a service devised by men, without the commandment of God, and to teach
that such service justifies men. For the righteousness of faith, which chiefly
ought to be taught in the Church, is obscured when these wonderful angelic forms
of worship, with their show of poverty, humility, and celibacy, are cast before
the eyes of men.
Furthermore, the precepts of God and the true service of God are
obscured when men hear that only monks are in a state of perfection. For
Christian perfection is to fear God from the heart, and yet to conceive great
faith, and to trust that for Christ's sake we have a God who has been
reconciled, to ask of God, and assuredly to expect His aid in all things that,
according to our calling, are to be done; and meanwhile, to be diligent in
outward good works, and to serve our calling. In these things consist the true
perfection and the true service of God. It does not consist in celibacy, or in
begging, or in vile apparel. But the people conceive many pernicious opinions
from the false commendations of monastic life. They hear celibacy praised above
measure; therefore they lead their married life with offense to their
consciences. They hear that only beggars are perfect; therefore they keep their
possessions and do business with offense to their consciences. They hear that it
is an evangelical counsel not to seek revenge; therefore some in private life
are not afraid to take revenge, for they hear that it is but a counsel, and not
a commandment. Others judge that the Christian cannot properly hold a civil
office or be a magistrate.
There are on record examples of men who, forsaking marriage and the
administration of the Commonwealth, have hid themselves in monasteries. This
they called fleeing from the world, and seeking a kind of life which would be
more pleasing to God. Neither did they see that God ought to be served in those
commandments which He Himself has given and not in commandments devised by men.
A good and perfect kind of life is that which has for it the commandment of God.
It is necessary to admonish men of these things.
And before these times, Gerson rebukes this error of the monks
concerning perfection, and testifies that in his day it was a new saying that
the monastic life is a state of perfection.
So many wicked opinions are inherent in the vows, namely, that they
justify, that they constitute Christian perfection, that they keep the counsels
and commandments, that they have works of supererogation. All these things,
since they are false and empty, make vows null and void.
Article XXVIII: Of Ecclesiastical
Power.There has been great controversy concerning the Power of
Bishops, in which some have awkwardly confounded the power of the Church and the
power of the sword. And from this confusion very great wars and tumults have
resulted, while the Pontiffs, emboldened by the power of the Keys, not only have
instituted new services and burdened consciences with reservation of cases and
ruthless excommunications, but have also undertaken to transfer the kingdoms of
this world, and to take the Empire from the Emperor. These wrongs have long
since been rebuked in the Church by learned and godly men. Therefore our
teachers, for the comforting of men's consciences, were constrained to show the
difference between the power of the Church and the power of the sword, and
taught that both of them, because of God's commandment, are to be held in
reverence and honor, as the chief blessings of God on earth.
But this is their opinion, that the power of the Keys, or the power of
the bishops, according to the Gospel, is a power or commandment of God, to
preach the Gospel, to remit and retain sins, and to administer Sacraments. For
with this commandment Christ sends forth His Apostles, John 20, 21 sqq.: As My
Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whosesoever
sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they
are retained. Mark 16, 15: Go preach the Gospel to every creature.
This power is exercised only by teaching or preaching the Gospel and
administering the Sacraments, according to their calling either to many or to
individuals. For thereby are granted, not bodily, but eternal things, as eternal
righteousness, the Holy Ghost, eternal life. These things cannot come but by the
ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, as Paul says, Rom. 1, 16: The Gospel is
the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Therefore, since
the power of the Church grants eternal things, and is exercised only by the
ministry of the Word, it does not interfere with civil government; no more than
the art of singing interferes with civil government. For civil government deals
with other things than does the Gospel. The civil rulers defend not minds, but
bodies and bodily things against manifest injuries, and restrain men with the
sword and bodily punishments in order to preserve civil justice and peace.
Therefore the power of the Church and the civil power must not be
confounded. The power of the Church has its own commission to teach the Gospel
and to administer the Sacraments. Let it not break into the office of another;
Let it not transfer the kingdoms of this world; let it not abrogate the laws of
civil rulers; let it not abolish lawful obedience; let it not interfere with
judgments concerning civil ordinances or contracts; let it not prescribe laws to
civil rulers concerning the form of the Commonwealth. As Christ says, John 18,
33: My kingdom is not of this world; also Luke 12, 14: Who made Me a judge or a
divider over you? Paul also says, Phil. 3, 20: Our citizenship is in heaven; 2
Cor. 10, 4: The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to
the casting down of imaginations.
After this manner our teachers discriminate between the duties of both
these powers, and command that both be honored and acknowledged as gifts and
blessings of God.
If bishops have any power of the sword, that power they have, not as
bishops, by the commission of the Gospel, but by human law having received it of
kings and emperors for the civil administration of what is theirs. This,
however, is another office than the ministry of the Gospel.
When, therefore, the question is concerning the jurisdiction of
bishops, civil authority must be distinguished from ecclesiastical jurisdiction.
Again, according to the Gospel or, as they say, by divine right, there belongs
to the bishops as bishops, that is, to those to whom has been committed the
ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, no jurisdiction except to forgive sins,
to judge doctrine, to reject doctrines contrary to the Gospel, and to exclude
from the communion of the Church wicked men, whose wickedness is known, and this
without human force, simply by the Word. Herein the congregations of necessity
and by divine right must obey them, according to Luke 10, 16: He that heareth
you heareth Me. But when they teach or ordain anything against the Gospel, then
the congregations have a commandment of God prohibiting obedience, Matt. 7, 15:
Beware of false prophets; Gal. 1, 8: Though an angel from heaven preach any
other gospel, let him be accursed; 2 Cor. 13, 8: We can do nothing against the
truth, but for the truth. Also: The power which the Lord hath given me to
edification, and not to destruction. So, also, the Canonical Laws command (II.
Q. VII. Cap., Sacerdotes, and Cap. Oves). And Augustine (Contra Petiliani
Epistolam): Neither must we submit to Catholic bishops if they chance to err, or
hold anything contrary to the Canonical Scriptures of God.
If they have any other power or jurisdiction, in hearing and judging
certain cases, as of matrimony or of tithes, etc., they have it by human right,
in which matters princes are bound, even against their will, when the ordinaries
fail, to dispense justice to their subjects for the maintenance of peace.
Moreover, it is disputed whether bishops or pastors have the right to
introduce ceremonies in the Church, and to make laws concerning meats, holy-days
and grades, that is, orders of ministers, etc. They that give this right to the
bishops refer to this testimony John 16, 12. 13: I have yet many things to say
unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of Truth, is
come, He will guide you into all truth. They also refer to the example of the
Apostles, who commanded to abstain from blood and from things strangled, Acts
15, 29. They refer to the Sabbath-day as having been changed into the Lord's
Day, contrary to the Decalog, as it seems. Neither is there any example whereof
they make more than concerning the changing of the Sabbath-day. Great, say they,
is the power of the Church, since it has dispensed with one of the Ten
But concerning this question it is taught on our part (as has been
shown above) that bishops have no power to decree anything against the Gospel.
The Canonical Laws teach the same thing (Dist. IX) . Now, it is against
Scripture to establish or require the observance of any traditions, to the end
that by such observance we may make satisfaction for sins, or merit grace and
righteousness. For the glory of Christ's merit suffers injury when, by such
observances, we undertake to merit justification. But it is manifest that, by
such belief, traditions have almost infinitely multiplied in the Church, the
doctrine concerning faith and the righteousness of faith being meanwhile
suppressed. For gradually more holy- days were made, fasts appointed, new
ceremonies and services in honor of saints instituted, because the authors of
such things thought that by these works they were meriting grace. Thus in times
past the Penitential Canons increased, whereof we still see some traces in the
Again, the authors of traditions do contrary to the command of God when
they find matters of sin in foods, in days, and like things, and burden the
Church with bondage of the law, as if there ought to be among Christians, in
order to merit justification a service like the Levitical, the arrangement of
which God had committed to the Apostles and bishops. For thus some of them
write; and the Pontiffs in some measure seem to be misled by the example of the
law of Moses. Hence are such burdens, as that they make it mortal sin, even
without offense to others, to do manual labor on holy-days, a mortal sin to omit
the Canonical Hours, that certain foods defile the conscience that fastings are
works which appease God that sin in a reserved case cannot be forgiven but by
the authority of him who reserved it; whereas the Canons themselves speak only
of the reserving of the ecclesiastical penalty, and not of the reserving of the
Whence have the bishops the right to lay these traditions upon the
Church for the ensnaring of consciences, when Peter, Acts 15, 10, forbids to put
a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, and Paul says, 2 Cor. 13, 10, that the
power given him was to edification not to destruction? Why, therefore, do they
increase sins by these traditions?
But there are clear testimonies which prohibit the making of such
traditions, as though they merited grace or were necessary to salvation. Paul
says, Col. 2, 16- 23: Let no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect
of an holy-day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath-days. If ye be dead with
Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are
ye subject to ordinances (touch not; taste not; handle not, which all are to
perish with the using) after the commandments and doctrines of men! which things
have indeed a show of wisdom. Also in Titus 1, 14 he openly forbids traditions:
Not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men that turn from the
And Christ, Matt. 15, 14. 13, says of those who require traditions: Let
them alone; they be blind leaders of the blind; and He rejects such services:
Every plant which My heavenly Father hath not planted shall be plucked up.
If bishops have the right to burden churches with infinite traditions,
and to ensnare consciences, why does Scripture so often prohibit to make, and to
listen to, traditions? Why does it call them "doctrines of devils"? 1 Tim. 4, 1.
Did the Holy Ghost in vain forewarn of these things?
Since, therefore, ordinances instituted as things necessary, or with an
opinion of meriting grace, are contrary to the Gospel, it follows that it is not
lawful for any bishop to institute or exact such services. For it is necessary
that the doctrine of Christian liberty be preserved in the churches, namely,
that the bondage of the Law is not necessary to justification, as it is written
in the Epistle to the Galatians, 5, 1: Be not entangled again with the yoke of
bondage. It is necessary that the chief article of the Gospel be preserved, to
wit, that we obtain grace freely by faith in Christ, and not for certain
observances or acts of worship devised by men.
What, then, are we to think of the Sunday and like rites in the house
of God? To this we answer that it is lawful for bishops or pastors to make
ordinances that things be done orderly in the Church, not that thereby we should
merit grace or make satisfaction for sins, or that consciences be bound to judge
them necessary services, and to think that it is a sin to break them without
offense to others. So Paul ordains, 1 Cor. 11, 5, that women should cover their
heads in the congregation, 1 Cor. 14, 30, that interpreters be heard in order in
the church, etc.
It is proper that the churches should keep such ordinances for the sake
of love and tranquillity, so far that one do not offend another, that all things
be done in the churches in order, and without confusion, 1 Cor. 14, 40; comp.
Phil. 2, 14; but so that consciences be not burdened to think that they are
necessary to salvation, or to judge that they sin when they break them without
offense to others; as no one will say that a woman sins who goes out in public
with her head uncovered provided only that no offense be given.
Of this kind is the observance of the Lord's Day, Easter, Pentecost,
and like holy- days and rites. For those who judge that by the authority of the
Church the observance of the Lord's Day instead of the Sabbath-day was ordained
as a thing necessary, do greatly err. Scripture has abrogated the Sabbath-day;
for it teaches that, since the Gospel has been revealed, all the ceremonies of
Moses can be omitted. And yet, because it was necessary to appoint a certain
day, that the people might know when they ought to come together, it appears
that the Church designated the Lord's Day for this purpose; and this day seems
to have been chosen all the more for this additional reason, that men might have
an example of Christian liberty, and might know that the keeping neither of the
Sabbath nor of any other day is necessary.
There are monstrous disputations concerning the changing of the law,
the ceremonies of the new law, the changing of the Sabbath-day, which all have
sprung from the false belief that there must needs be in the Church a service
like to the Levitical, and that Christ had given commission to the Apostles and
bishops to devise new ceremonies as necessary to salvation. These errors crept
into the Church when the righteousness of faith was not taught clearly enough.
Some dispute that the keeping of the Lord's Day is not indeed of divine right,
but in a manner so. They prescribe concerning holy-days, how far it is lawful to
work. What else are such disputations than snares of consciences? For although
they endeavor to modify the traditions, yet the mitigation can never be
perceived as long as the opinion remains that they are necessary, which must
needs remain where the righteousness of faith and Christian liberty are not
The Apostles commanded Acts 15, 20 to abstain from blood. Who does now
observe it? And yet they that do it not sin not; for not even the Apostles
themselves wanted to burden consciences with such bondage; but they forbade it
for a time, to avoid offense. For in this decree we must perpetually consider
what the aim of the Gospel is.
Scarcely any Canons are kept with exactness, and from day to day many
go out of use even among those who are the most zealous advocates of traditions.
Neither can due regard be paid to consciences unless this mitigation be
observed, that we know that the Canons are kept without holding them to be
necessary, and that no harm is done consciences, even though traditions go out
But the bishops might easily retain the lawful obedience of the people
if they would not insist upon the observance of such traditions as cannot be
kept with a good conscience. Now they command celibacy; they admit none unless
they swear that they will not teach the pure doctrine of the Gospel. The
churches do not ask that the bishops should restore concord at the expense of
their honor; which, nevertheless, it would be proper for good pastors to do.
They ask only that they would release unjust burdens which are new and have been
received contrary to the custom of the Church Catholic. It may be that in the
beginning there were plausible reasons for some of these ordinances; and yet
they are not adapted to later times. It is also evident that some were adopted
through erroneous conceptions. Therefore it would be befitting the clemency of
the Pontiffs to mitigate them now, because such a modification does not shake
the unity of the Church. For many human traditions have been changed in process
of time, as the Canons themselves show. But if it be impossible to obtain a
mitigation of such observances as cannot be kept without sin, we are bound to
follow the apostolic rule, Acts 5, 29, which commands us to obey God rather than
Peter, 1 Pet. 5, 3, forbids bishops to be lords, and to rule over the
churches. It is not our design now to wrest the government from the bishops, but
this one thing is asked, namely, that they allow the Gospel to be purely taught,
and that they relax some few observances which cannot be kept without sin. But
if they make no concession, it is for them to see how they shall give account to
God for furnishing, by their obstinacy, a cause for schism.
Conclusion.These are the chief articles
which seem to be in controversy. For although we might have spoken of more
abuses, yet, to avoid undue length, we have set forth the chief points, from
which the rest may be readily judged. There have been great complaints
concerning indulgences, pilgrimages, and the abuse of excommunications. The
parishes have been vexed in many ways by the dealers in indulgences. There were
endless contentions between the pastors and the monks concerning the parochial
right, confessions, burials, sermons on extraordinary occasions, and innumerable
other things. Issues of this sort we have passed over so that the chief points
in this matter, having been briefly set forth, might be the more readily
understood. Nor has anything been here said or adduced to the reproach of any
one. Only those things have been recounted whereof we thought that it was
necessary to speak, in order that it might be understood that in doctrine and
ceremonies nothing has been received on our part against Scripture or the Church
Catholic. For it is manifest that we have taken most diligent care that no new
and ungodly doctrine should creep into our churches.
The above articles we desire to present in accordance with the edict of
Your Imperial Majesty, in order to exhibit our Confession and let men see a
summary of the doctrine of our teachers. If there is anything that any one might
desire in this Confession, we are ready, God willing, to present ampler
information according to the Scriptures.
Your Imperial Majesty's faithful subjects:
John, Duke of Saxony, Elector.
George, Margrave of Brandenburg.
Ernest, Duke of Lueneberg.
Philip, Landgrave of Hesse.
Frederick, Duke of Saxony.
Francis, Duke of Lueneburg.
Senate and Magistracy of Nuremburg.
Senate of Reutlingen.
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