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
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
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
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 sin.
The same Christ
shall openly come again to judge the quick and the dead, etc., according to the
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.
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 works.
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
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.
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.
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.
Both the Sacraments and Word are effectual by reason of the institution and
commandment of Christ, notwithstanding they be administered by evil men.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
concerning such things men are admonished that consciences are not to be
burdened, as though such observance was necessary to salvation.
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.
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 Christians.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own.
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.
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
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
concerning faith is everywhere treated by Paul, Eph.
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 the
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, etc.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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,
To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife. Also: It is better to
marry than to burn. Secondly Christ says, Matt.
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.
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,
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.]
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.
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
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 ease.
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
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,
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 lucre's sake.
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.
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.]
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,
We are sanctified through the offering of Jesus Christ once for all. Also,
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.]
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.
commands us, Luke
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
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.]
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
commands concerning the Communion: Tarry one for another, so that there may be a
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
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 Communion.
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.
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,
Who can understand his errors? Also Jeremiah,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
The kingdom of God is not meat and drink. Col.
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
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
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.
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.
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
Take heed lest your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting; also Matt.
This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. Paul also says,
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 necessary service.
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
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 and love].
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 planned prison.
other observances were added besides vows. And these fetters were laid upon many
before the lawful age, contrary to the Canons.
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 "evangelical
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.
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
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.
It is not good that the man should be alone. Therefore they do not sin who obey
this commandment and ordinance of God.
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
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
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
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
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.
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 east before the eyes of men.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
My kingdom is not of this world; also Luke
Who made Me a judge or a divider over you? Paul also says, Phil.
Our citizenship is in heaven;
The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the casting
down of imaginations.
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.
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
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
Beware of false prophets; Gal.
Though an angel from heaven preach any other gospel, let him be accursed;
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
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
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
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 satisfactions.
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 guilt.
Whence have the
bishops the right to lay these traditions upon the Church for the ensnaring of
consciences, when Peter, Acts
forbids to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, and Paul says,
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.
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
he openly forbids traditions: Not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments
of men that turn from the truth.
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"?
Did the Holy Ghost in vain forewarn of these things?
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,
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,
that women should cover their heads in the congregation,
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,
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
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 known.
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.
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 of use.
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
which commands us to obey God rather than men.
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.
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.
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.