|Book of Concord (Triglot Concordia): The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church | Calvin's Institutes | Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ | Heretics by Gilbert K. Chesterton (1874-1936) | Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis | Josephus: The Complete Works | Orthodoxy by Gilbert K. Chesterton (1874-1936) | Sermons on Gospel Themes by Charles G. Finney (1792-1875) | The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan (1628-1688) | The Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life by Brother Lawrence (Nicholas Herman, 1605-1691) | Walther's Law and Gospel | Westminster Confession & Catechisms ||
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ON THE BAN
You know, to begin with, that it is a great robbery and outrage that you have snatched for yourselves the great ban, called Excommunicatio major, which properly belongs to the secular authorities. It has gone so far that popes have undertaken to depose emperors, kings, and princes, and make themselves temporal emperors. Let me tell you, dear sirs, that this is not right! Your ban should be called the small ban, which shuts the doors, not of earth, but of heaven, and separates from the Church and from the Sacrament, as Christ says in Matthew 18:17, "Hold him as a heathen, etc.," and St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 5:, "What have I to do with them that are without?" If other matters are to be amended, this too must be amended, for God is not pleased with any sacrifice or service that comes from robbery, as Isaiah says.
The use of the ban is another thing. It should be for the punishment of public offenses, such as robbery, adultery, fornication, murder, hate, usury, drunkenness, also heresy, blasphemy and the like, for our Lord Christ teaches in Matthew 18:17, that the ban shall be put upon those who will not hear the Church, or congregation. Thus the Church teaches in harmony with God's Word.
Now tell me, what is good and ancient about the ban that has remained among you? What new and mischievous abuses have not arisen around it? I shall not bring in the fact that you have banned, cursed, damned, and slain innocent and pious people as heretics. The ban is used for nothing else than to collect taxes and debts and cause great misery to poor people. For the arbitrary power that the knaves, officials, and commissaries have exercised in this matter is already known to you in part; and if you do nothing about it at this diet we shall hereafter put out a calendar of these virtues which will convince you that we have understood your abuse of the ban and will make it plain to the whole world.
But in the place where the ban should rightly have its power and use, it has been a mere indulgence and a very benediction, and has lost its cuttingedge.
The place I mean is among the bishops and canons, nay, among the popes and the cardinals themselves. On this point, I would like to hear a doctor of canon law who would show me how often, according to the canons and the spiritual law, the pope, cardinals, bishops, priests, endowed livings and monasteries have been put under the ban and cursed because of simony and other vices. Who holds them excommunicate? The declaration is in their hand and runs as follows, - "He is under the ban whom we will to be under the ban; whom we will not have under the ban, he is not under the ban." Go on, dear sirs; if your will is to be law, the Church can get rid of such bishops and popes!
I wish I knew what we are to take you for anyhow. You do not want to be Christians, for you will not endure Christ's word and ordinance; and you do not want to be papists, for you keep the canons and the spiritual law even less; though, to be sure, they are much harder to keep than the Gospel. But is it not a strange piece of news that papists will not be papists, and yet will give themselves out to be papists; will hold the goods of the Church and the rule over it, but only for their own sweet will, not for the good of the churches? These things do not fit together. Well, then, keep on being Epicurean and Turkish, for that is certainly what you are!
But just because the goods of the monasteries and the endowments are being seized, I must have a private and friendly talk with you.
It is a fact, - and it does not please me either, - that these goods are seized and scattered. The Unlutherans are doing most of it, and get more of the profits than those who are accused of being Lutherans, as can easily be proved. I am especially ill-pleased when knaves get hold of them, of whom I know that they have not earned it; for my conscience does not trouble me when those who work and render honest service get some of them. But there is one question that I would like to have answered, because there are plainly two kinds of endowment - thieves and monastery-robbers, those, namely, who are outside and those who are inside, and I would like to be told who are the worse of the two. Those on the outside are the wicked and unworthy of whom I spoke; those on the inside are the bishops, the canons, and the monks themselves, who sit in the houses. They misuse the property for all kinds of vice and unchastity, and shamelessly overstep the bounds of their order, and send great sums to Rome to knaves that are still greater. Thus they plunder the endowed places shamefully!
Think you not that if the emperors, kings, and princes, who have endowed these monasteries and bishoprics, had wanted to found brothels, or churches for the Romans to rob, they would have had sense enough to act differently and not hand over their money and property to harlots and knaves, or to Roman thieves and robbers? Because, then, such fellows sit in the endowed houses and monasteries, and their property is used by people whom the founders neither intended nor willed, and these fellows, therefore, hold it contrary to the will of the founders, consume it in vicious ways, and employ it shamefully, and are, on this account, under the ban and accursed as irregulares, - since all these things are true, tell me, who are the greatest endowment-robbers and church-thieves? You will see the pope sitting in the highest place among them, with cardinals, bishops, canons, abbots, and monks; for they do none of that for which their positions were founded, but exactly the opposite, as though they were crazy; nevertheless, they take the property and use it as they please. Ah, good friend, if you can see the splinter in another's eye and cry out about the theft of spiritual goods, you must be shown the beam in your own eye, which you do not want to see. If you can say the one, you must also hear the other, so that you may know that other people, too, have eyes, and feel and smell and hear.
You allege that what is yours should not be taken from you. Of course, what is yours should not be taken. Nevertheless, I would play your canon law with you. The canon law condemns, bans, curses, and deposes you, and says, "It is not yours." It is called Deponatur. For you do not keep the rule and law of the foundation, and you have deposed yourself thereby.
Thus according to your own law, you lost your property long ago, and have so far held it unlawfully like damned robbers. If one were to decline and conjugate the word deponatur through all its persons, where would pope, cardinals, bishops, and canons be? It would surely become an impersonal verb; no person would be left. But if you think it proper that people have patience with you for not keeping your own law, then you should also think it proper to have patience with those who take property from you, as unrepentant simonists and outlawed robbers, or forbid you to succeed to it, because you do not keep your own law; that is Deponatur.
May your request be granted, then, that what is yours be left to you, that is, your harlotry and knavery; but that what is not yours, that is, the taxes and the goods, be not left to you, but be taken from you, as from robbers and thieves!
I do not wish this to be a defense for anyone. Let everyone see to it for himself for what service or purpose he needs the property. But against the complainants I make a distinction in the use of spiritual goods. I say that if the goods of the foundations and monasteries are to be knavishly stolen and sent to Rome and shamefully consumed out there with harlots and knaves, and the intention of the founders is to be defeated, I would far rather that the emperors, kings, princes and lords kept them and put them to better use. For it is sure that the founders entrusted them to pious, chaste, Christian persons, not men who stood and bellowed, or who went a-falconing, but to men who studied and read and prayed, so that learned men could be chosen from among them to be bishops, pastors, preachers, schoolteachers, chancellors, secretaries, etc.; and this was the case long ago, at the beginning. Now, however, they neglect and despise these works and duties; nay, they mock at them and persecute them, and are under the ban many times over; therefore I should not weep if they were to lose the profit and the income. There is a saying, Beneficium propter officium, but not beneficium propter maleficium. Your own canon law teaches that, and punishes it most cruelly with the ban, and calls it simony.
Tell me, now, what pope, bishop, foundation or monastery has ever known sorrow or repentance because it has allowed the officia to go down, or has ever seriously considered how they might be restored again? Nevertheless they have used the beneficia and lived on them. Thus they are two-fold church-thieves and double monastery-robbers; for they have not only possessed the goods that were given for a different kind of people from themselves, but they have also stolen and robbed from the whole Church and prevented it from having pious, learned, Christian bishops, pastors, preachers and like necessary persons, whom the Church cannot do without, and whom it was their duty to give it, according to the intention of the founders. Dear friend, the founders did not intend the officia to be the weaving of a long cloak, an alb, and a tonsure, or the putting on of chasubles and consecrated clothes. Sticks and stones can wear these things! Their will was to train people for the comfort and welfare of the Church.
If, then, you would make such a great disturbance about the restoration of the endowments and the monasteries, the proper answer to you is: Dear sirs, first make good your double robbery of persons and of property. You have robbed the Church of the persons; you have stolen the property from the foundations. Give these back, so that the officia may go on again, and then you may rightly acquire the beneficia. Such persons are more important to the Church than all the property and all the glory of all the clergy. If not, it will be bad accounting for you to give account of the expenditures only, and merely estimate the income. You must be told to keep your books differently and look better to your work. You have received the property of the lords in order to support and train persons.
Where are these persons? Give an account of them! Nay, it is you who have let the boys' schools go down, so that the whole Church everywhere is, through you, corrupted to the very bottom, for no other purpose than that your Epicurean belly may be well off.
I have said this so that it may be seen what the condemners of motes gain by stirring up filth. Therefore remember God, and ask Him to help you accomplish some good at this diet. These matters are great and weighty, and unfortunately they are so deep rooted that human power and wit can do nothing with them. The ban is necessary, but Lord God! it must not strain out gnats and swallow camels, or nothing will come of it.
The subjects of penance, mass, baptism, faith, and works are, I fear, too high for you. Therefore I have small hope that you will reach pure decisions about them, for even your scholars have no understanding of them, and these things must be maintained and practiced only through Christ Himself and His Holy Spirit, without human aid. Then, too, except for the first of them, only one or two of the Councils have dealt with them.
Therefore I shall confine my further petitions, supplications, and exhortations to the subjects about which we do not need the special illumination of the Holy Spirit, but which all Christians can comprehend and be sure of, and which can almost be known by the reason. And first:
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