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ON THE UNMARRIED STATE
Coelibatus, that is the unmarried state, or prohibited marriage, is another of your papal innovations contrary to the eternal Word of God and to the ancient blessed usage of the Church; contrary also to God's creation. But in it is fulfilled the prophecy of Daniel 11:37, where he says of your king, "Neither shall he regard any god, nor the desire of women." It must be a great sin not to love women, for the prophet indicates here that it is a peculiar abomination of Antichrist, and puts it next after the denial of God. The old translation has, Erit in concupiscentiis foeminarum, "He shall be in desire of women"; but that would not be an antichristian "virtue"; it would have to be Erit in concupiscentiis masculorum, though that is what he means when he says Affectum erga mulieres non curabit, which is the correct text.
Now, dear sirs, if you would be pious and do a good deed, compel yourselves to repentance for all the miserable and unspeakable wretchedness of all kinds of vice throughout the world which has grown out of this accursed papal innovation. It hangs about the necks of all of you, and it will stay there, unless you do something about it, and remove it.
You have heard that to despise the love of women, that is, to forbid marriage, is an abomination and plague of Antichrist, for God made woman to be held in honor, and to be the helper of man. Therefore He would have this love unforbidden and undespised. It is the flesh and the devil that teach us to use women only for dishonor by putting one after another of them to shame, as your new, highly praised, unmarried (I had almost said dishonorable) state has done and still does. That is not loving women, but loving unchastity, and loving shame done to women, and holding them not as women, but as harlots, whom no one can thenceforth love or honor. But it is God's will that they be regarded as women, and that this be done gladly and with love; that is to say, we are to have them in marriage, and dwell with them in marital love. That pleases God, but it takes knowledge and grace.
Or do you know that the sixth commandment says, "Thou shalt not break the marriage vow?" This commandment, like all the rest, makes no distinction of persons, spiritual or temporal, priests or laymen. They are not to break the marriage vow, that is, not to touch another's wife. But it is certain that the commandment, in forbidding everyone another's wife, permits everyone a wife of his own; nay, in order that no one may touch another's wife, it compels him to have his own wife. If it were true, as the dear canons wickedly declare, that a pastor cannot serve God if he has a wife of his own, then this sixth commandment would have to be entirely abolished and would not apply generally to persons of all kinds, and permit them to have their own wives.
Right here I would like to speak of other commandments also. For example, "Thou shalt have no money or property of thine own, otherwise thou canst not serve God." And yet the seventh commandment, "Thou shalt not steal," allows one to have one's own money and property, and only forbids one to have another's property; nay, in order that one may not steal, it commands that one have one's own property. Therefore I do not yet know whether there is more danger of sin from one's own money or one's own wife. Avarice, Mammon, and Company are indeed mighty! It is a great knavery of the canon law that it declares that God cannot be served if one has one's own wife, and that He can be well served if one has one's own Mammon, money, property, castles, and cities. The opposite is true! It is better to serve God having a wife, than having property, though neither is a hindrance to a Christian. For a wife one already has, and the worry of how to get her is over, and she can take care of herself; but of money one can never get enough, and one worries incessantly how to increase it and keep it. It is this worry and love that are the real hindrances to the service of God, and such worry a wife can well take from a pastor by doing the worrying herself and letting him serve God entirely.
Again, one might easily play the fool with the fifth commandment and say, "Thou canst not have weapons, guns, and other arms and serve God at the same time, for thou mightest kill, do injury, or be hindered thereby." And yet the fifth commandment only forbids killing, but permits weapons and arms; nay, in order that murder may be prevented, it commands to have weapons and arms. Why have our marriageless saints both their own money and their own arms, and do their farming and their fighting with a clear conscience? Does not that hinder them in the service of God? No, but a little wife must hinder them! It was a dolt that made this canon and a dolt that made the other. Nevertheless he has blinded the whole world, even the great scholars!
The devil, however, wanted so to fix things, by means of this canon, that his celibates should have no wives of their own, but should have instead the wives, daughters, and maids of everybody else, and Sodom into the bargain. This would not have been the case had they been married. It was also his will that instead of having their own property, which is hard to acquire, they should swallow up the property of all the world and consume it in idleness, which would not happen if they had to seek and acquire property for themselves. In like manner they have forbidden weapons, so that they might lay hands on the swords of all the kings and do with them what they would; this too would not be the case, if they had their own swords. It is a wonder of wonders that these three things, - all sorts of free unchastity, all sorts of avarice and splendor, all sorts of weapons and war, - do not prevent these unmarried saints from serving God, and yet one pious wife prevents them!
If everything were to fail, and pope, bishops, canons, and even the people were to remain in their unmarried knavish state, - since even the heathen poet admits that pimps and procurers take wives unwillingly, - I hope, nevertheless, that you will have pity on the the poor parish priests and pastors, and allow them to marry; and that you will not be such shameful, murderous, crazy canonists and jurists as you have been in the past. For your canons decree that a married priest is to be suspended, that is, put out of office; and you, with your dull asses and Bacchantes, have interpreted that to mean that they are to be hanged, drowned, run through, murdered, and hunted. So utterly bloodthirsty and murderous are you bloodhounds that you are not ashamed to rage as you will even against and beyond your own law. If you will not have pity, - and I fear that so much innocent blood, so many horrible sins and such enormous wickedness hang on your necks and press so hard upon you that God will hardly give you grace to do otherwise than you are doing, except to bring your own destruction upon you, as St. Peter says in his second Epistle, - well, God's will shall be done, nevertheless, and not your pleasure.
For the monks I know not what to ask. It is well known that you wish them all to the devil, whether they take wives or not. And not without reason, for two roosters on the same dunghill cannot endure one another.
They want to have the life that you have and that you would like to have all to yourselves; and that you cannot suffer. Therefore let them go, the rascals! They must not lead the lives of bishops or canons; that befits only the Church and the servants of God; and that means you. God Almighty will do more and better than you intend, and than we expect of you, Amen!
Else, I fear, the devil will be abbot and his dam will be abbess. And yet, I have one hope and comfort; you cannot live here forever, and we must always be training up new parish priests and pastors, and, God willing! the young fellows, who are coming on, will not allow themselves to be tied up with your crazy, wicked vows and obligations to the unhonored state and other abominations. But if the parish clergy become corrupt and the people are without the Word, and if the monks go down, you will see how long bishops and canons, foundations and monasteries will remain. There must be pastors, even if there are no bishops, canons, or monks.
Christendom was maintained for many hundred years without these endowment-bishops and canons, and it can henceforth be maintained without them. At the Last Judgment no Christian soul will be able to boast or testify that in all these centuries a single one of them had ever heard or learned from his endowment-bishop the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, or one of the Gospels, or ever had or enjoyed from him a single episcopal duty or work. "We ourselves lived, before Luther, as though we had no bishops, and so we must continue to live." I know for sure that the whole world must say that, before Luther's doctrine, they received no more from their bishops than they do now, and receive no less now than they received before, except that they suffer from extortion and assessment. They cannot feel or notice whether they used to have bishops, or have none now; so little experience have they had of episcopal offices and duties! This is called watching diligently over souls; and this is the way they want to watch over them again! "Nay," say they, "we consecrate and ordain others to do these things in our stead." Even this they do not do; it is the suffragan who does it, and he has nothing of the bishop about him, for he only ordains to the sacrificing of the mass, makes no inquiry at all about how and what is to be preached and what the people need to learn; therefore he is satisfied when the priests can hardly read a requiem, smears them quickly with his chrism and lets them pass on. When these men are preachers, it is God who makes them so, and by them He maintains His Church; it would long since have perished a hundred thousand times if it had depended on the bishops and suffragans.
As for the evil state in which it has been and still is, - whose fault is it, except that of the bishops, who sit in the apostles' seat and in the episcopal office, and do none of the things they ought to do, and let everything go to ruin? And yet they cry out that they should be allowed to have the ruling place they used to have, because they seek the salvation of souls. It was a fine government and they seek the salvation of souls! Yes, it was the devil on their heads (for he rides them) and the misfortune of all of us around our necks, as we found out before! It is a question of princely meum and tuum; the bishop's office will still rest with the pastors and preachers.
They allege further, - "We let people study in the universities; they learn to preach ably, and then we have them ordained by the suffragan." That is true - and unfortunate! You let them study; so do the Turks and the Jews! But what help do they give them, and what help do you give them out of your mammon of endowments? And yet this is your serious duty!
Nay, it grieves you that there are universities; you smell a poisonous breath in them. You are rid of the monks or have them in hand; that fruit of the Gospel you have accepted gladly. You would like to be rid of the theologians and scholars too; they are still in your way! If they were out of the way you would be completely the masters of the parish clergy. Then you could mount again above kings and princes; nay you could command the pope himself, who cannot do without you, and you bishops would be the only gods and lords on earth. That is what you are after, dear sirs! Is it not true that the secret conference of Mainz, where I could not be present, took a step in this direction? Then we would have a world full of jackasses, and the Church would have no Word and no pastoral office.
Yes, you would them study; but the livings of the chapters, which have been incorporated with the universities, no one gets unless he has first studied by other people's help; and if he is to get them, he must first buy them, and pay for them with a sum of money; and when he has paid for them, is bound to howl and blatt in the chapter, so that his studies and his knowledge bring no benefit to the office of preacher or teacher. That is the way you help the Church!
Granting, however, that you ordain others in your place (which you do not do), who are to preach and be bishops in your stead, you must remember that I am now speaking of bishops and not of men who make appointments. A peasant, or village judge, a town, a prince, can also appoint a preacher, but that does not make any of them a bishop. A bishop is one who is himself to feed God's people. For there is Paul's instruction to bishops in the Book of Acts, - "Take heed to yourselves and to the whole flock, among whom the Holy Ghost has made you bishops, to feed the community of God, which He has won with His own blood." If you were bishops, as your name and place require you to be, your hair would stand on end at this saying, and you would be as sorry to be bishops as I am to be a preacher and doctor; for you would be little better off than I and men like me. St. Paul also says, "A bishop shall be didacticus," that is, "apt to teach," "persistent in teaching." He does not mean prince-bishops or castle-bishops, but bishops of the Church, who do the work that, praise God! many of His pastors do, even though they do not wear miters, which blockheads and "Nicholas-bishops" can also wear. For that you, as bishops, should supervise what is rightly taught, and do not know yourselves what it is, - that is laughable! No, sad to say, it is not laughable! We have had experience of the good that your oversight does, as the subjects above treated show!
Of all this, dear sirs, I have had to remind you and exhort you, because I see that you do not fear God, and seek neither contrition nor repentance for your horribly perverted life, and have not even qualms of conscience over it; for by this God is angered to the uttermost. For since we poor Lutherans have taken wives, you venture to think that you have at last one thing about us to take hold of, because you could find nothing else. You have thought that you would use it, and scourge us with it and press us with it, so that all your shameful, unchaste harlotry, all your robbing of monasteries and stealing of endowments, the whole unsavory mess of your abominations and perverted, unbishoplike abuses, shame, vice, injury and corruption of the Church, - all this would be concealed, covered up, lost in silence, and come to be praised as fair and fine. Thenceforth you might claim for yourselves all authority, even over the apostles themselves, because you were pure and innocent people, who never muddied the water.
A good trip to you, dear sirs! But see that you make no mistakes. Do not say, "Hurrah!" You are not yet over the hill! You have seen how you can dress yourselves up, but you have not yet seen how we can strip the pretty bag off from you, and paint you in such colors that you must spit at your very selves. Do not boast and strut; your case is not as good as you think!
Even though you can load us with wives, whom we yet acknowledge before God with a good conscience, and also before the world, as our married wives, and not as our harlots, you will never believe in how masterly a fashion we will polish up your mistresses and stolen wives, whom you and we both know that you have with no good conscience, and whom you do not acknowledge before the world except as your harlots.
Thus you must call yourselves and be judged as whore-master, before both God and the world. Besides we will paint you Roman Sodom, Italian marriage, Venetian and Turkish brides, and Florentine bridegroom in such wise that you shall see and grasp that our marriage has had sweet revenge on your honorless chastity. And though some of you, perhaps, may not be guilty of all these things, we shall not ask about this. The protector, defender, fellow, and comrade will be on the same footing with those who are themselves guilty, for the reason that they do not rebuke, ban, and avoid these sins (as the Gospel and your own law teach), but help these evildoers, aid them, and join them in raging against us, and by this help, make themselves partakers of all these abominations, and are therefore no better than the guilty.
Never a heathen, never a Turk, never a pope, never an emperor, never a man on earth, has made or enforced a law that anyone should be put to death for marrying. Thus it is a new and unheard-of thing begun by you bishops, who, in your chapters, are the greatest endowment-robbers, whore-masters, and hunters of harlots on earth. And you do it not in order to maintain chastity, but because others will not practice harlotry and unchastity as you do; for you allow it to go unrebuked. And no one can believe that you mean well by chastity with this penalty, since there are no greater enemies of chastity anywhere than you are, for you persecute it most shamelessly and incessantly in your own persons with all unchastity.
To be sure, this is a very small thing compared with the great common abomination, viz., that you are the kind of bishops described above, and in time, if you do not improve shall be painted in other colors. For if we are to have godless harlot-masters and enemies of God for bishops, we shall honestly show them in what church they belong; this you will certainly discover. For as long as you are unwilling to let our marriage alone, you shall have little honor or joy from your harlotry and antichristian bishopry.
If I die because of it, there are others who can do it better! In a word, you and we know that you live without God's Word, but we have God's Word.
Therefore our supreme request and humble petition is that you will give God the honor, confess your sin, repent, and reform. If not, take this from me, - if I live, I shall be your plague; if I die, I shall be your death. For God has set me on you; I must be, as Hosea says, a bear and a lion in the road of Assur; you shall have no rest from my name, until you amend your ways or are destroyed!
Therefore we give you your choice. First, since you cannot and will not perform your episcopal duties, since you and all your scholars verily, verily, are unable to preach and be the comforters and judges of consciences; then leave us your office, which it is your duty to exercise; let us be free to teach the Gospel, and let us serve the poor people, who wish to be godly.
Do not persecute and prevent those who do what you cannot do (though it is your duty), and which others are willing to do for you.
In the second place, We shall make no other request of you, nor will we take any pay from you; but if God supports us otherwise, we will do the work, so that you may be spared both work and pay, trouble and expense. Not that we are so anxious to preach! Speaking for myself, indeed, I can say that there is no message I would hear more gladly than that of my own deposition from the preaching-office. I am so tired of it; partly because of the ingratitude of the people, but much more because of the intolerable hardships which the devil and the world lay upon me! But though the poor souls do not want my preaching, there is a man who says "No" to my withdrawal. His name is Jesus Christ, and it is right for me to follow Him, for He has earned my service. All of you know (praise God!) that the Lutheran preachers are godly men and do you no harm, but are more useful to you than all your and the pope's scholars. You have never had more pious heretics, nor will you ever get them; pray God that they may be spared to you!
In the third place, We will let you remain what you are, and teach, - as you have done in the past, - that you are to be allowed to be princes and lords, for the sake of peace, and are to be permitted to keep your property.
The Hussites and Wiclifites did not do this, and none of the fanatics or revolutionaries are willing to do it now. Thus you see that in us you have not enemies, but friends, nay, even protectors. For how does it hurt us if you are lords and princes? If you are not willing to do what is right for your class and position, well and good! It is not we, but you who must give account. Only keep the peace, and do not persecute us! We ask nothing more, and never have asked anything more, than that the Gospel shall be free. You could help us and we could help you to peace. If you do it not, then we carry off the honor, and you lose both, peace and honor.
In the fourth place, You could set up again the episcopal power, in so far as you left us free to preach the Gospel. For my own part, I shall be ready with help and counsel, so that you may have something of episcopal rank.
You would have two parts of the episcopal office; - the one, that in your stead we and the preachers would teach the Gospel; the other, that with your episcopal power, you would help in the administration of it. Your persons, your life, and your princely ways we would leave to your own conscience and to God's judgment. Heretofore we never have taken your episcopal authority from you; you yourselves have let it fall. For when you could not maintain with it the indulgences and other intolerable abuses, you let it go altogether, and were not willing to protect our Gospel, or even to tolerate it, but turned this authority against us and against the Gospel. Then it had to strike itself a blow that dulled its edge; for God did not ordain it against His Word, but for His Word.
More than this we cannot offer you, except the daily prayer, the good will, and the service which it is our duty to offer all our enemies. Our offer is this, - we will perform the duties of your office; we will support ourselves, without cost to you; we will help you to remain what you are and advise that you have authority to see that things go right. What more should we do? We are carrying a heavy load; we have burdened ourselves with you and the revolutionists and all the world, yes, and all the devils; and nobody helps us. If you, too, will not help, but keep on pressing us down, beware lest you break our backs in two, and try our patience too far. If you are going to suppress the pious heretics who are carrying you along, see what becomes of you. The game is no longer in our hands, as it was before, but the devil has got it away from us; we can help you no more, if you do not help yourselves also, and have regard not to yourselves, but to the multitude of common people and to peace. It is high time that you do this, and we too will do our best. If there be among you one pious heart, it can well gather from this whole tract that I am telling the truth, and must tell it, and sincerely mean it well for you and for everyone. More than this I cannot do; your cause is too utterly bad.
But someone may think it a laughable proposal that the bishops shall rule the Church, because it is well known that they cannot and will not learn, and St. Paul says that one who rules his own house badly will never rule the Church well, and it is plain to be seen how the bishops preside over their chapters and maintain discipline by allowing them to be impunita lupinaria et latrocinia. My answer is this. I know only to well that it is true; but in order that these wicked people may see that we seek peace and that there is no fault in us, I can suffer it that they provide the parishes and preaching-position with spiritual persons, and thus help to administer the Gospel. I would rather that the fault should be theirs than ours, and before now God has ruled and done good by means of rascals, and He must think that it is now the time when Herod is selling the priestly office in Jerusalem, and the Romans are doing likewise; nevertheless worship remains, and the Word. But if they wish to quench the Gospel or even to remain unrepentant, let them do it at their own risk; we shall preach what we will. If they are eager for misfortune, God will soon raise up another Muenzer, who will overthrow them entirely. If they will not be bishops in God's name, let them be bath-house keepers in the devil's name; we are not to blame, nor are we the cause of it. The Lutherans remain masters, because Christ is with them and they remain with Christ, though hell, world, devil, princes, and all should go crazy.
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