02 Nov 2001 Augsburg Confession- 1530
The Augsburg Confession
The Augsburg Confession is the founding manifesto of Protestantism. It came to be issued in 1530 after Martin Luther on October 31, 1517 nailed the 95 Theses, or arguments, against the practice of indulgences on the door of the Catholic Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther was subsequently excommunicated by the Church, and his excommunication led to a split in Germany over the merits of his excomunication. In 1521 Luther was called by Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, to appear before the Imperial Diet at Worms to defend his position. Here he uttered the famous lines “Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders. [Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise.]” The protest against certain practices of the Catholic Church expanded and took on political overtones. In 1530, hoping to unify the princes and cities of his German territories in the face of a threat from Turkish armies in eastern Austria, Emperor Charles V called a meeting, or Diet, in Augsburg [Germany]. He hoped that these leaders of the Lutheran revolt would issue a statement clarifying their beliefs, and that this might lead to a resolution of the controversy. At Augsburg, Philip Melanchthon, a close friend of Martin Luther and a Professor of New Testament at Wittenberg University, drafted the Augsburg Confession. It was presented in both German and Latin (with minor differences between the two versions) to the Emperor on June 25, 1530. Charles V gave these leaders until 1531 to repudiate it. Instead, they formed the armed League of Schmalkalden and retained their views.
The spilt in Christendom between the Catholic and Protestant churches remains to this day.
The Augsburg Confession
Preface to the Emperor Charles V.
Most Invincible Emperor, Caesar Augustus, Most Clement Lord:
Inasmuch as Your Imperial Majesty has summoned a Diet of the
Empire here at Augsburg to deliberate concerning measures against
the Turk, that most atrocious, hereditary, and ancient enemy of
the Christian name and religion, in what way, namely, effectually
to withstand his furor and assaults by strong and lasting
military provision; and then also concerning dissensions in the
matter of our holy religion and Christian Faith, that in this
matter of religion the opinions and judgments of the parties
might be heard in each other’s presence; and considered and
weighed among ourselves in mutual charity, leniency, and
kindness, in order that, after the removal and correction of such
things as have been treated and understood in a different manner
in the writings on either side, these matters may be settled and
brought back to one simple truth and Christian concord, that for
the future one pure and true religion may be embraced and
maintained by us, that as we all are under one Christ and do
battle under Him, so we may be able also to live in unity and
concord in the one Christian Church.
And inasmuch as we, the undersigned Elector and Princes, with
others joined with us, have been called to the aforesaid Diet the
same as the other Electors, Princes, and Estates, in obedient
compliance with the Imperial mandate, we have promptly come to
Augsburg, and — what we do not mean to say as boasting — we
were among the first to be here.
Accordingly, since even here at Augsburg at the very beginning
of the Diet, Your Imperial Majesty caused to be proposed to the
Electors, Princes, and other Estates of the Empire, amongst other
things, that the several Estates of the Empire, on the strength
of the Imperial edict, should set forth and submit their opinions
and judgments in the German and the Latin language, and since on
the ensuing Wednesday, answer was given to Your Imperial Majesty,
after due deliberation, that we would submit the Articles of our
Confession for our side on next Wednesday, therefore, in
obedience to Your Imperial Majesty’s wishes, we offer, in this
matter of religion, the Confession of our preachers and of
ourselves, showing what manner of doctrine from the Holy
Scriptures and the pure Word of God has been up to this time set
forth in our lands, dukedoms, dominions, and cities, and taught
in our churches.
And if the other Electors, Princes, and Estates. of the Empire
will, according to the said Imperial proposition, present similar
writings, to wit, in Latin and German, giving their opinions in
this matter of religion, we, with the Princes and friends
aforesaid, here before Your Imperial Majesty, our most clement
Lord are prepared to confer amicably concerning all possible ways
and means, in order that we may come together, as far as this may
be honorably done, and, the matter between us on both sides being
peacefully discussed without offensive strife, the dissension,
by God’s help, may be done away and brought back to one true
accordant religion; for as we all are under one Christ and do
battle under Him, we ought to confess the one Christ, after the
tenor of Your Imperial Majesty’s edict, and everything ought to
be conducted according to the truth of God; and this it is what,
with most fervent prayers, we entreat of God.
However, as regards the rest of the Electors, Princes, and
Estates, who constitute the other part, if no progress should be
made, nor some result be attained by this treatment of the cause
of religion after the manner in which Your Imperial Majesty has
wisely held that it should be dealt with and treated namely, by
such mutual presentation of writings and calm conferring together
among ourselves, we at least leave with you a clear testimony,
that we here in no wise are holding back from anything that could
bring about Christian concord, — such as could be effected with
God and a good conscience, — as also Your Imperial Majesty and,
next, the other Electors and Estates of the Empire, and all who
are moved by sincere love and zeal for religion, and who will
give an impartial hearing to this matter, will graciously deign
to take notice and to understand this from this Confession of
ours and of our associates.
Your Imperial Majesty also, not only once but often, graciously
signified to the Electors Princes, and Estates of the Empire, and
at the Diet of Spires held A. D. 1526, according to the form of
Your Imperial instruction and commission given and prescribed,
caused it to be stated and publicly proclaimed that Your Majesty,
in dealing with this matter of religion, for certain reasons
which were alleged in Your Majesty’s name, was not willing to
decide and could not determine anything, but that Your Majesty
would diligently use Your Majesty’s office with the Roman Pontiff
for the convening of a General Council. The same matter was thus
publicly set forth at greater length a year ago at the last Diet
which met at Spires. There Your Imperial Majesty, through His
Highness Ferdinand, King of Bohemia and Hungary, our friend and
clement Lord, as well as through the Orator and Imperial
Commissioners caused this, among other things, to be submitted:
that Your Imperial Majesty had taken notice of; and pondered, the
resolution of Your Majesty’s Representative in the Empire, and
of the President and Imperial Counselors, and the Legates from
other Estates convened at Ratisbon, concerning the calling of a
Council, and that your Imperial Majesty also judged it to be
expedient to convene a Council; and that Your Imperial Majesty
did not doubt the Roman Pontiff could be induced to hold a
General Council, because the matters to be adjusted between Your
Imperial Majesty and the Roman Pontiff were nearing agreement and
Christian reconciliation; therefore Your Imperial Majesty himself
signified that he would endeavor to secure the said Chief
Pontiff’s consent for convening, together with your Imperial
Majesty such General Council, to be published as soon as possible
by letters that were to be sent out.
If the outcome, therefore, should be such that the differences
between us and the other parties in the matter of religion should
not be amicably and in charity settled, then here, before Your
Imperial Majesty we make the offer in all obedience, in addition
to what we have already done, that we will all appear and defend
our cause in such a general, free Christian Council, for the
convening of which there has always been accordant action and
agreement of votes in all the Imperial Diets held during Your
Majesty’s reign, on the part of the Electors, Princes, and other
Estates of the Empire. To the assembly of this General Council,
and at the same time to Your Imperial Majesty, we have, even
before this, in due manner and form of law, addressed ourselves
and made appeal in this matter, by far the greatest and gravest.
To this appeal, both to Your Imperial Majesty and to a Council,
we still adhere; neither do we intend nor would it be possible
for us, to relinquish it by this or any other document, unless
the matter between us and the other side, according to the tenor
of the latest Imperial citation should be amicably and charitably
settled, allayed, and brought to Christian concord; and regarding
this we even here solemnly and publicly testify.
Article I: Of God.
Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of
the Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence
and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed
without any doubting; that is to say, there is one Divine Essence
which is called and which is God: eternal, without body, without
parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and
Preserver of all things, visible and invisible; and yet there are
three Persons, of the same essence and power, who also are
coeternal, the Father the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And the term
“person” they use as the Fathers have used it, to signify, not
a part or quality in another, but that which subsists of itself.
They condemn all heresies which have sprung up against this
article, as the Manichaeans, who assumed two principles, one Good
and the other Evil- also the Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians,
Mohammedans, and all such. They condemn also the Samosatenes, old
and new, who, contending that there is but one Person,
sophistically and impiously argue that the Word and the Holy
Ghost are not distinct Persons, but that “Word” signifies a
spoken word, and “Spirit” signifies motion created in things.
Article II: Of Original Sin.
Also they teach that since the fall of Adam all men begotten in
the natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of
God, without trust in God, and with concupiscence; and that this
disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin, even now condemning and
bringing eternal death upon those not born again through Baptism
and the Holy Ghost.
They Condemn the Pelagians and others who deny that original
depravity is sin, and who, to obscure the glory of Christ’s merit
and benefits, argue that man can be justified before God by his
own strength and reason.
Article III: Of the Son of God.
Also they teach that the Word, that is, the Son of God, did
assume the human nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin
Mary, so that there are two natures, the divine and the human,
inseparably enjoined in one Person, one Christ, true God and
true man, who was born of the Virgin Mary, truly suffered, was
crucified, dead, and buried, that He might reconcile the
Father unto us, and be a sacrifice, not only for original
guilt, but also for all actual sins of men
He also descended into hell, and truly rose again the third
day; afterward He ascended into heaven that He might sit on
the right hand of the Father, and forever reign and have
dominion over all creatures, and sanctify them that believe in
Him, by sending the Holy Ghost into their hearts, to rule,
comfort, and quicken them, and to defend them against the
devil and the power of sin.
The same Christ shall openly come again to judge the quick and
the dead, etc., according to the Apostles’ Creed.
Article IV: Of Justification.
Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by
their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified
for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they
are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for
Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for
our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His
sight. Rom. 3 and 4.
Article V: Of the Ministry.
That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the
Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For
through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the
Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it
pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God,
not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those
who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s
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.
Article VI: Of New Obedience.
Also they teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good
fruits, and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by
God, because of God’s will, but that we should not rely on
those works to merit justification before God. For remission
of sins and justification is apprehended by faith, as also the
voice of Christ attests: When ye shall have done all these
things, say: We are unprofitable servants. Luke 17, 10. The
same is also taught by the Fathers. For Ambrose says: It is
ordained of God that he who believes in Christ is saved,
freely receiving remission of sins, without works, by faith
Article VII: Of the Church.
Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever.
The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel
is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.
And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree
concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration
of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions,
that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be
everywhere alike. As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one
God and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4, 5. 6.
Article VIII: What the Church Is.
Although the Church properly is the congregation of saints and
true believers, nevertheless, since in this life many
hypocrites and evil persons are mingled therewith, it is
lawful to use Sacraments administered by evil men, according
to the saying of Christ: The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in
Moses’ seat, etc. Matt. 23, 2. Both the Sacraments and Word
are effectual by reason of the institution and commandment of
Christ, notwithstanding they be administered by 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
Article IX: Of Baptism.
Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and
that through Baptism is offered the grace of God, and that
children are to be baptized who, being offered to God through
Baptism are received into God’s grace.
They condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of
children, and say that children are saved without Baptism.
Article X: Of the Lord’s Supper.
Of the Supper of the Lord they teach that the Body and Blood
of Christ are truly present, and are distributed to those who
eat the Supper of the Lord; and they reject those that teach
Article XI: Of Confession.
Of Confession they teach that Private Absolution ought to be
retained in the churches, although in confession an
enumeration of all sins is not necessary. For it is impossible
according to the Psalm: Who can understand his errors? Ps. 19,
Article XII: Of Repentance.
Of Repentance they teach that for those who have fallen after Baptism there is remission of sins whenever they are converted and that the Church ought to impart absolution to those thus returning to repentance. Now, repentance consists properly of these two parts: One is contrition, that is, terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ’s sake,
sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience, and delivers it from
terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits
They condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that those once justified
can lose the Holy Ghost. Also those who contend that some may
attain to such perfection in this life that they cannot sin.
The Novatians also are condemned, who would not absolve such as had fallen after Baptism, though they returned to repentance.
They also are rejected who do not teach that remission of sins comes through faith but command us to merit grace through satisfactions of our own.
Article XIII: Of the Use of the Sacraments.
Of the Use of the Sacraments they teach that the Sacraments
were ordained, not only to be marks of profession among men,
but rather to be signs and testimonies of the will of God
toward us, instituted to awaken and confirm faith in those who
use them. Wherefore we must so use the Sacraments that faith
be added to believe the promises which are offered and set
forth through the Sacraments.
They therefore condemn those who teach that the Sacraments
justify by the outward act, and who do not teach that, in the
use of the Sacraments, faith which believes that sins are
forgiven, is required.
Article XIV: Of Ecclesiastical Order.
Of Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly
teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be
Article XV: Of Ecclesiastical Usages.
Of Usages in the Church they teach that those ought to be
observed which may be observed without sin, and which are
profitable unto tranquillity and good order in the Church, as
particular holy-days, festivals, and the like.
Nevertheless, concerning such things men are admonished that
consciences are not to be burdened, as though such observance
was necessary to salvation.
They are admonished also that human traditions instituted to
propitiate God, to merit grace, and to make satisfaction for
sins, are opposed to the Gospel and the doctrine of faith.
Wherefore vows and traditions concerning meats and days, etc.,
instituted to merit grace and to make satisfaction for sins,
are useless and contrary to the Gospel.
Article XVI: Of Civil Affairs.
Of Civil Affairs they teach that lawful civil ordinances are
good works of God, and that it is right for Christians to bear
civil office, to sit as judges, to judge matters by the
Imperial and other existing laws, to award just punishments,
to engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers, to make legal
contracts, to hold property, to make oath when required by the
magistrates, to marry a wife, to be given in marriage.
They condemn the Anabaptists who forbid these civil offices to
They condemn also those who do not place evangelical
perfection in the fear of God and in faith, but in forsaking
civil offices, for the Gospel teaches an eternal righteousness
of the heart. Meanwhile, it does not destroy the State or the
family, but very much requires that they be preserved as
ordinances of God, and that charity be practiced in such
ordinances. Therefore, Christians are necessarily bound to
obey their own magistrates and laws save only when commanded
to sin; for then they ought to obey God rather than men. Acts
Article XVII: Of Christ’s Return to Judgment.
Also they teach that at the Consummation of the World Christ
will appear for judgment and will raise up all the dead; He
will give to the godly and elect eternal life and everlasting
joys, but ungodly men and the devils He will condemn to be
tormented without end.
They condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an
end to the punishments of condemned men and devils.
They condemn also others who are now spreading certain Jewish
opinions, that before the resurrection of the dead the godly
shall take possession of the kingdom of the world, the ungodly
being everywhere suppressed.
Article XVIII: Of Free Will.
Of Free Will they teach that man’s will has some liberty to
choose civil righteousness, and to work things subject to
reason. But it has no power, without the Holy Ghost, to work
the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness;
since the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit
of God, 1 Cor. 2,14; but this righteousness is wrought in the
heart when the Holy Ghost is received through the Word. These
things are said in as many words by Augustine in his
Hypognosticon, Book III: We grant that all men have a free
will, free, inasmuch as it has the judgment of reason; not
that it is thereby capable, without God, either to begin, or,
at least, to complete aught in things pertaining to God, but
only in works of this life, whether good or evil. “Good” I
call those works which spring from the good in nature, such
as, willing to labor in the field, to eat and drink, to have a
friend, to clothe oneself, to build a house, to marry a wife,
to raise cattle, to learn divers useful arts, or whatsoever
good pertains to this life. For all of these things are not
without dependence on the providence of God; yea, of Him and
through Him they are and have their being. “Evil” I call such
works as willing to worship an idol, to commit murder, etc.
They condemn the Pelagians and others, who teach that without
the Holy Ghost, by the power of nature alone, we are able to
love God above all things; also to do the commandments of God
as touching “the substance of the act.” For, although nature
is able in a manner to do the outward work, (for it is able to
keep the hands from theft and murder,) yet it cannot produce
the inward motions, such as the fear of God, trust in God,
chastity, patience, etc.
Article XIX: Of the Cause of Sin.
Of the Cause of Sin they teach that, although God does create
and preserve nature, yet the cause of sin is the will of the
wicked, that is, of the devil and ungodly men; which will,
unaided of God, turns itself from God, as Christ says John 8,
44: When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own.
Article XX: Of Good Works.
Our teachers are falsely accused of forbidding good Works. For
their published writings on the Ten Commandments, and others
of like import, bear witness that they have taught to good
purpose concerning all estates and duties of life, as to what
estates of life and what works in every calling be pleasing to
God. Concerning these things preachers heretofore taught but
little, and urged only childish and needless works, as
particular holy-days, particular fasts, brotherhoods,
pilgrimages, services in honor of saints, the use of rosaries,
monasticism, and such like. Since our adversaries have been
admonished of these things, they are now unlearning them, and
do not preach these unprofitable works as heretofore. Besides,
they begin to mention faith, of which there was heretofore
marvelous silence. They teach that we are justified not by
works only, but they conjoin faith and works, and say that we
are justified by faith and works. This doctrine is more
tolerable than the former one, and can afford more consolation
than their old doctrine.
Forasmuch, therefore, as the doctrine concerning faith, which
ought to be the chief one in the Church, has lain so long
unknown, as all must needs grant that there was the deepest
silence in their sermons concerning the righteousness of
faith, while only the doctrine of works was treated in the
churches, our teachers have instructed the churches concerning
faith as follows: —
First, that our works cannot reconcile God or merit
forgiveness of sins, grace, and justification, but that we
obtain this only by faith when we believe that we are received
into favor for Christs sake, who alone has been set forth the
Mediator and Propitiation, 1 Tim. 2, 6, in order that the
Father may be reconciled through Him. Whoever, therefore,
trusts that by works he merits grace, despises the merit and
grace of Christ, and seeks a way to God without Christ, by
human strength, although Christ has said of Himself: I am the
Way, the Truth, and the Life. John 14, 6.
This doctrine concerning faith is everywhere treated by Paul,
Eph. 2, 8: By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not
of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, etc.
And lest any one should craftily say that a new interpretation
of Paul has been devised by us, this entire matter is
supported by the testimonies of the Fathers. For Augustine, in
many volumes, defends grace and the righteousness of faith,
over against the merits of works. And Ambrose, in his De
Vocatione Gentium, and elsewhere, teaches to like effect. For
in his De Vocatione Gentium he says as follows: Redemption by
the blood of Christ would become of little value, neither
would the preeminence of man’s works be superseded by the
mercy of God, if justification, which is wrought through
grace, were due to the merits going before, so as to be, not
the free gift of a donor, but the reward due to the laborer.
But, although this doctrine is despised by the inexperienced,
nevertheless God-fearing and anxious consciences find by
experience that it brings the greatest consolation, because
consciences cannot be set at rest through any works, but only
by faith, when they take the sure ground that for Christ’s
sake they have a reconciled God. As Paul teaches Rom. 5, 1:
Being justified by faith, we have peace with God. This whole
doctrine is to be referred to that conflict of the terrified
conscience, neither can it be understood apart from that
conflict. Therefore inexperienced and profane men judge ill
concerning this matter, who dream that Christian righteousness
is nothing but civil and philosophical righteousness.
Heretofore consciences were plagued with the doctrine of
works, they did not hear the consolation from the Gospel. Some
persons were driven by conscience into the desert, into
monasteries hoping there to merit grace by a monastic life.
Some also devised other works whereby to merit grace and make
satisfaction for sins. Hence there was very great need to
treat of, and renew, this doctrine of faith in Christ, to the
end that anxious consciences should not be without consolation
but that they might know that grace and forgiveness of sins
and justification are apprehended by faith in Christ.
Men are also admonished that here the term “faith” does not
signify merely the knowledge of the history, such as is in the
ungodly and in the devil, but signifies a faith which
believes, not merely the history, but also the effect of the
history — namely, this Article: the forgiveness of sins, to
wit, that we have grace, righteousness, and forgiveness of
sins through Christ.
Now he that knows that he has a Father gracious to him through
Christ, truly knows God; he knows also that God cares for him,
and calls upon God; in a word, he is not without God, as the
heathen. For devils and the ungodly are not able to believe
this Article: the forgiveness of sins. Hence, they hate God as
an enemy, call not upon Him, and expect no good from Him.
Augustine also admonishes his readers concerning the word
“faith,” and teaches that the term “faith” is accepted in the
Scriptures not for knowledge such as is in the ungodly but for
confidence which consoles and encourages the terrified mind.
Furthermore, it is taught on our part that it is necessary to
do good works, not that we should trust to merit grace by
them, but because it is the will of God. It is only by faith
that forgiveness of sins is apprehended, and that, for
nothing. And because through faith the Holy Ghost is received,
hearts are renewed and endowed with new affections, so as to
be able to bring forth good works. For Ambrose says: Faith is
the mother of a good will and right doing. For man’s powers
without the Holy Ghost are full of ungodly affections, and are
too weak to do works which are good in God’s sight. Besides,
they are in the power of the devil who impels men to divers
sins, to ungodly opinions, to open crimes. This we may see in
the philosophers, who, although they endeavored to live an
honest life could not succeed, but were defiled with many open
crimes. Such is the feebleness of man when he is without faith
and without the Holy Ghost, and governs himself only by human
Hence it may be readily seen that this doctrine is not to be
charged with prohibiting good works, but rather the more to be
commended, because it shows how we are enabled to do good
works. For without faith human nature can in no wise do the
works of the First or of the Second Commandment. Without faith
it does not call upon God, nor expect anything from God, nor
bear the cross, but seeks, and trusts in, man’s help. And
thus, when there is no faith and trust in God all manner of
lusts and human devices rule in the heart. Wherefore Christ
said, John 16,6: Without Me ye can do nothing; and the Church
Lacking Thy divine favor,
There is nothing found in man,
Naught in him is harmless.
Article XXI: Of the Worship of the Saints.
Of the Worship of Saints they teach that the memory of saints
may be set before us, that we may follow their faith and good
works, according to our calling, as the Emperor may follow the
example of David in making war to drive away the Turk from his
country; For both are kings. But the Scripture teaches not the
invocation of saints or to ask help of saints, since it sets
before us the one Christ as the Mediator, Propitiation, High
Priest, and Intercessor. He is to be prayed to, and has
promised that He will hear our prayer; and this worship He
approves above all, to wit, that in all afflictions He be
called upon, 1 John 2, 1: If any man sin, we have an Advocate
with the 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 extent corrected.
ARTICLES IN WHICH ARE REVIEWED THE ABUSES WHICH HAVE BEEN CORRECTED.
Inasmuch, then, as our churches dissent in no article of the
faith from the Church Catholic, but only omit some abuses
which are new, and which have been erroneously accepted by the
corruption of the times, contrary to the intent of the Canons,
we pray that Your Imperial Majesty would graciously hear both
what has been changed, and what were the reasons why the
people were not compelled to observe those abuses against
their conscience. Nor should Your Imperial Majesty believe
those who, in order to excite the hatred of men against our
part, disseminate strange slanders among the people. Having
thus excited the minds of good men, they have first given
occasion to this controversy, and now endeavor, by the same
arts, to increase the discord. For Your Imperial Majesty will
undoubtedly find that the form of doctrine and of ceremonies
with us is not so intolerable as these ungodly and malicious
men represent. Besides, the truth cannot be gathered from
common rumors or the revilings of enemies. But it can readily
be judged that nothing would serve better to maintain the
dignity of ceremonies, and to nourish reverence and pious
devotion among the people than if the ceremonies were observed
rightly in the churches.
Article XXII: Of Both Kinds in the Sacrament.
To the laity are given Both Kinds in the Sacrament of the
Lord’s Supper, because this usage has the commandment of the
Lord in Matt. 26, 27: Drink ye all of it, where Christ has
manifestly commanded concerning the cup that all should drink.
And lest any man should craftily say that this refers only to
priests, Paul in 1 Cor. 11,27 recites an example from which it
appears that the whole congregation did use both kinds. And
this usage has long remained in the Church, nor is it known
when, or by whose authority, it was changed; although Cardinal
Cusanus mentions the time when it was approved. Cyprian in
some places testifies that the blood was given to the people.
The same is testified by Jerome, who says: The priests
administer the Eucharist, and distribute the blood of Christ
to the people. Indeed, Pope Gelasius commands that the
Sacrament be not divided (dist. II., De Consecratione, cap.
Comperimus). Only custom, not so ancient, has it otherwise.
But it is evident that any custom introduced against the
commandments of God is not to be allowed, as the Canons
witness (dist. III., cap. Veritate, and the following
chapters). But this custom has been received, not only against
the Scripture, but also against the old Canons and the example
of the Church. Therefore, if any preferred to use both kinds
of the Sacrament, they ought not to have been compelled with
offense to their consciences to do otherwise. And because the
division of the Sacrament does not agree with the ordinance of
Christ, we are accustomed to omit the procession, which
hitherto has been in use.
Article XXIII: Of the Marriage of Priests.
There has been common complaint concerning the examples of
priests who were not chaste. For that reason also Pope Pius is
reported to have said that there were certain causes why
marriage was taken away from priests, but that there were far
weightier ones why it ought to be given back; for so Platina
writes. Since, therefore, our priests were desirous to avoid
these open scandals, they married wives, and taught that it
was lawful for them to contract matrimony. First, because Paul
says, 1 Cor. 7, 2. 9: To avoid fornication, let every man have
his own wife. Also: It is better to marry than to burn.
Secondly Christ says, Matt. 19,11: All men cannot receive this
saying, where He teaches that not all men are fit to lead a
single life; for God created man for procreation, Gen. 1, 28.
Nor is it in man’s power, without a singular gift and work of
God, to alter this creation. [For it is manifest, and many
have confessed that no good, honest, chaste life, no
Christian, sincere, upright conduct has resulted (from the
attempt), but a horrible, fearful unrest and torment of
conscience has been felt by many until the end.] Therefore,
those who are not fit to lead a single life ought to contract
matrimony. For no man’s law, no vow, can annul the commandment
and ordinance of God. For these reasons the priests teach that
it is lawful for them to marry wives.
It is also evident that in the ancient Church priests were
married men. For Paul says, 1 Tim. 3, 2, that a bishop should
be chosen who is the husband of one wife. And in Germany, four
hundred years ago for the first time, the priests were
violently compelled to lead a single life, who indeed offered
such resistance that the Archbishop of Mayence, when about to
publish the Pope’s decree concerning this matter, was almost
killed in the tumult raised by the enraged priests. And so
harsh was the dealing in the matter that not only were
marriages forbidden for the future, but also existing
marriages were torn asunder, contrary to all laws, divine and
human, contrary even to the Canons themselves, made not only
by the Popes, but by most celebrated Synods. [Moreover, many
God-fearing and intelligent people in high station are known
frequently to have expressed misgivings that such enforced
celibacy and depriving men of marriage (which God Himself has
instituted and left free to men) has never produced any good
results, but has brought on many great and evil vices and much
Seeing also that, as the world is aging, man’s nature is
gradually growing weaker, it is well to guard that no more
vices steal into Germany.
Furthermore, God ordained marriage to be a help against human
infirmity. The Canons themselves say that the old rigor ought
now and then, in the latter times, to be relaxed because of
the weakness of men; which it is to be wished were done also
in this matter. And it is to be expected that the churches
shall at some time lack pastors if marriage is any longer
But while the commandment of God is in force, while the custom
of the Church is well known, while impure celibacy causes many
scandals, adulteries, and other crimes deserving the
punishments of just magistrates, yet it is a marvelous thing
that in nothing is more cruelty exercised than against the
marriage of priests. God has given commandment to honor
marriage. By the laws of all well-ordered commonwealths, even
among the heathen, marriage is most highly honored. But now
men, and that, priests, are cruelly put to death, contrary to
the intent of the Canons, for no other cause than marriage.
Paul, in 1 Tim. 4,3, calls that a doctrine of devils which
forbids marriage. This may now be readily understood when the
law against marriage is maintained by such penalties.
But as no law of man can annul the commandment of God, so
neither can it be done by any vow. Accordingly, Cyprian also
advises that women who do not keep the chastity they have
promised should marry. His words are these (Book I, Epistle XI
): But if they be unwilling or unable to persevere, it is
better for them to marry than to fall into the fire by their
lusts; they should certainly give no offense to their brethren
And even the Canons show some leniency toward those who have
taken vows before the proper age, as heretofore has generally
been the ease.
Article XXIV: Of the Mass.
Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass; for
the Mass is retained among us, and celebrated with the highest
reverence. Nearly all the usual ceremonies are also preserved,
save that the parts sung in Latin are interspersed here and
there with German hymns, which have been added to teach the
people. For ceremonies are needed to this end alone that the
unlearned be taught [what they need to know of Christ]. And
not only has Paul commanded to use in the church a language
understood by the people 1 Cor. 14,2. 9, but it has also been
so ordained by man’s law. The people are accustomed to partake
of the Sacrament together, if any be fit for it, and this also
increases the reverence and devotion of public worship. For
none are admitted except they be first examined. The people
are also advised concerning the dignity and use of the
Sacrament, how great consolation it brings anxious
consciences, that they may learn to believe God, and to expect
and ask of Him all that is good. [In this connection they are
also instructed regarding other and false teachings on the
Sacrament.] This worship pleases God; such use of the
Sacrament nourishes true devotion toward God. It does not,
therefore, appear that the Mass is more devoutly celebrated
among our adversaries than among us.
But it is evident that for a long time this also has been the
public and most grievous complaint of all good men that Masses
have been basely profaned and applied to purposes of lucre.
For it is not unknown how far this abuse obtains in all the
churches by what manner of men Masses are said only for fees
or stipends, and how many celebrate them contrary to the
Canons. But Paul severely threatens those who deal unworthily
with the Eucharist when he says, 1 Cor.11,27: Whosoever shall
eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily,
shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. When,
therefore our priests were admonished concerning this sin,
Private Masses were discontinued among us, as scarcely any
Private Masses were celebrated except for 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. 20, 7: The Lord
will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain. But
since the world began, nothing that God ever ordained seems to
have been so abused for filthy lucre as the Mass.
There was also added the opinion which infinitely increased
Private Masses, namely that Christ, by His passion, had made
satisfaction for original sin, and instituted the Mass wherein
an offering should be made for daily sins, venial and mortal.
From this has arisen the common opinion that the Mass takes
away the sins of the living and the dead by the outward act.
Then they began to dispute whether one Mass said for many were
worth as much as special Masses for individuals, and this
brought forth that infinite multitude of Masses. [With this
work men wished to obtain from God all that they needed, and
in the mean time faith in Christ and the true worship were
Concerning these opinions our teachers have given warning that
they depart from the Holy Scriptures and diminish the glory of
the passion of Christ. For Christ’s passion was an oblation
and satisfaction, not for original guilt only, but also for
all other sins, as it is written to the Hebrews, 10, 10: We
are sanctified through the offering of Jesus Christ once for
all. Also, 10, 14: By one offering He hath perfected forever
them that are sanctified. [It is an unheard-of innovation in
the Church to teach that Christ by His death made satisfaction
only for original sin and not likewise for all other sin.
Accordingly it is hoped that everybody will understand that
this error has not been reproved without due reason.]
Scripture also teaches that we are justified before God
through faith in Christ, when we believe that our sins are
forgiven for Christ’s sake. Now if the Mass take away the sins
of the living and the dead by the outward act justification
comes of the work of Masses, and not of faith, which Scripture
does not allow.
But Christ commands us, Luke 22, 19: This do in remembrance of
Me; therefore the Mass was instituted that the faith of those
who use the Sacrament should remember what benefits it
receives through Christ, and cheer and comfort the anxious
conscience. For to remember Christ is to remember His
benefits, and to realize that they are truly offered unto us.
Nor is it enough only to remember the history; for this also
the Jews and the ungodly can remember. Wherefore the Mass is
to be used to this end, that there the Sacrament
[Communion] may be administered to them that have need of
consolation; as Ambrose says: Because I always sin, I am
always bound to take the medicine. [Therefore this Sacrament
requires faith, and is used in vain without faith.]
Now, forasmuch as the Mass is such a giving of the Sacrament,
we hold one communion every holy-day, and, if any desire the
Sacrament, also on other days, when it is given to such as ask
for it. And this custom is not new in the Church; for the
Fathers before Gregory make no mention of any private Mass,
but of the common Mass [the Communion] they speak very much.
Chrysostom says that the priest stands daily at he altar,
inviting some to the Communion and keeping back others. And it
appears from the ancient Canons that some one celebrated the
Mass from whom all the other presbyters and deacons received
the body of he Lord; for thus the words of the Nicene Canon
say: Let the deacons, according to their order, receive the
Holy Communion after the presbyters, from the bishop or from a
presbyter. And Paul, 1 Cor. 11, 33, commands concerning the
Communion: Tarry one for another, so that there may be a
Forasmuch, therefore, as the Mass with us has the example of
the Church, taken from the Scripture and the Fathers, we are
confident that it cannot be disapproved, especially since
public ceremonies, for the most part like those hitherto in
use, are retained; only the number of Masses differs, which,
because of very great and manifest abuses doubtless might be
profitably reduced. For in olden times, even in churches most
frequented, the Mass was not celebrated every day, as the
Tripartite History (Book 9, chap. 33) testifies: Again in
Alexandria, every Wednesday and Friday the Scriptures are
read, and the doctors expound them, and all things are done,
except the solemn rite of Communion.
Article XXV: Of Confession.
Confession in the churches is not abolished among us; for it
is not usual to give the body of the Lord, except to them that
have been previously examined and absolved. And the people are
most carefully taught concerning faith in the absolution,
about which formerly there was profound silence. Our people
are taught that they should highly prize the absolution, as
being the voice of God, and pronounced by God’s command. The
power of the Keys is set forth in its beauty and they are
reminded what great consolation it brings to anxious
consciences, also, that God requires faith to believe such
absolution as a voice sounding from heaven, and that such
faith in Christ truly obtains and receives the forgiveness of
sins. Aforetime satisfactions were immoderately extolled; of
faith and the merit of Christ and the righteousness of faith
no mention was made; wherefore, on this point, our churches
are by no means to be blamed. For this even our adversaries
must needs concede to us that the doctrine concerning
repentance has been most diligently treated and laid open by
But of Confession they teach that an enumeration of sins is
not necessary, and that consciences be not burdened with
anxiety to enumerate all sins, for it is impossible to recount
all sins, as the Psalm testifies, 19,13: Who can understand
his errors? Also Jeremiah, 17 9: The heart is deceitful; who
can know it; But if no sins were forgiven, except those that
are recounted, consciences could never find peace; for very
many sins they neither see nor can remember. The ancient
writers also testify that an enumeration is not necessary. For
in the Decrees, Chrysostom is quoted, who says thus: I say not
to you that you should disclose yourself in public, nor that
you accuse yourself before others, but I would have you obey
the prophet who says: “Disclose thy self before God.”
Therefore confess your sins before God, the true Judge, with
prayer. Tell your errors, not with the tongue, but with the
memory of your conscience, etc. And the Gloss (Of Repentance,
Distinct. V, Cap. Consideret) admits that Confession is of
human right only [not commanded by Scripture, but ordained by
the Church]. Nevertheless, on account of the great benefit of
absolution, and because it is otherwise useful to the
conscience, Confession is retained among us.
Article XXVI: Of the Distinction of Meats.
It has been the general persuasion, not of the people alone,
but also of those teaching in the churches, that making
Distinctions of Meats, and like traditions of men, are works
profitable to merit grace, and able to make satisfactions for
sins. And that the world so thought, appears from this, that
new ceremonies, new orders, new holy-days, and new fastings
were daily instituted, and the teachers in the churches did
exact these works as a service necessary to merit grace, and
did greatly terrify men’s consciences, if they should omit any
of these things. From this persuasion concerning traditions
much detriment has resulted in the Church.
First, the doctrine of grace and of the righteousness of faith
has been obscured by it, which is the chief part of the
Gospel, and ought to stand out as the most prominent in the
Church, in order that the merit of Christ may be well known,
and faith, which believes that sins are forgiven for Christ’s
sake be exalted far above works. Wherefore Paul also lays the
greatest stress on this article, putting aside the Law and
human traditions, in order to show that Christian
righteousness is something else than such works, to wit, the
faith which believes that sins are freely forgiven for
Christ’s sake. But this doctrine of Paul has been almost
wholly smothered by traditions, which have produced an opinion
that, by making distinctions in meats and like services, we
must merit grace and righteousness. In treating of repentance,
there was no mention made of faith; only those works of
satisfaction were set forth; in these the entire repentance
seemed to consist.
Secondly, these traditions have obscured the commandments of
God, because traditions were placed far above the commandments
of God. Christianity was thought to consist wholly in the
observance of certain holy-days, rites, fasts, and vestures.
These observances had won for themselves the exalted title of
being the spiritual life and the perfect life. Meanwhile the
commandments of God, according to each one’s calling, were
without honor namely, that the father brought up his
offspring, that the mother bore children, that the prince
governed the commonwealth, — these were accounted works that
were worldly and imperfect, and far below those glittering
observances. And this error greatly tormented devout
consciences, which grieved that they were held in an imperfect
state of life, as in marriage, in the office of magistrate; or
in other civil ministrations; on the other hand, they admired
the monks and such like, and falsely imagined that the
observances of such men were more acceptable to God.
Thirdly, traditions brought great danger to consciences; for
it was impossible to keep all traditions, and yet men judged
these observances to be necessary acts of worship. Gerson
writes that many fell into despair, and that some even took
their own lives, because they felt that they were not able to
satisfy the traditions, and they had all the while not heard
any consolation of the righteousness of faith and grace. We
see that the summists and theologians gather the traditions,
and seek mitigations whereby to ease consciences, and yet they
do not sufficiently unfetter, but sometimes entangle,
consciences even more. And with the gathering of these
traditions, the schools and sermons have been so much occupied
that they have had no leisure to touch upon Scripture, and to
seek the more profitable doctrine of faith, of the cross, of
hope, of the dignity of civil affairs of consolation of sorely
tried consciences. Hence Gerson and some other theologians
have grievously complained that by these strivings concerning
traditions they were prevented from giving attention to a
better kind of doctrine. Augustine also forbids that men’s
consciences should be burdened with such observances, and
prudently advises Januarius that he must know that they are to
be observed as things indifferent; for such are his words.
Wherefore our teachers must not be looked upon as having taken
up this matter rashly or from hatred of the bishops, as some
falsely suspect. There was great need to warn the churches of
these errors, which had arisen from misunderstanding the
traditions. For the Gospel compels us to insist in the
churches upon the doctrine of grace, and of the righteousness
of faith; which, however, cannot be understood, if men think
that they merit grace by observances of their own choice.
Thus, therefore, they have taught that by the observance of
human traditions we cannot merit grace or be justified, and
hence we must not think such observances necessary acts of
worship. They add hereunto testimonies of Scripture. Christ,
Matt. 15, 3, defends the Apostles who had not observed the
usual tradition, which, however, evidently pertains to a
matter not unlawful, but indifferent, and to have a certain
affinity with the purifications of the Law, and says, 9: In
vain do they worship Me with the commandments of men. He,
therefore, does not exact an unprofitable service. Shortly
after He adds: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a
man. So also Paul, Rom. 14, 17: The kingdom of God is not meat
and drink. Col. 2, 16: Let no man, therefore, judge you in
meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy-day, or of the
Sabbath-day; also: If ye be dead with Christ from the
rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world,
are ye subject to ordinances: Touch not, taste not, handle
not! And Peter says, Acts 15, 10: Why tempt ye God to put a
yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers
nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the
grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as
they. Here Peter forbids to burden the consciences with many
rites, either of Moses or of others. And in 1 Tim. 4,1.3 Paul
calls the prohibition of meats a doctrine of devils; for it is
against the Gospel to institute or to do such works that by
them we may merit grace, or as though Christianity could not
exist without such service of God.
Here our adversaries object that our teachers are opposed to
discipline and mortification of the flesh, as Jovinian. But
the contrary may be learned from the writings of our teachers.
For they have always taught concerning the cross that it
behooves Christians to bear afflictions. This is the true,
earnest, and unfeigned mortification, to wit, to be exercised
with divers afflictions, and to be crucified with Christ.
Moreover, they teach that every Christian ought to train and
subdue himself with bodily restraints, or bodily exercises and
labors that neither satiety nor slothfulness tempt him to sin,
but not that we may merit grace or make satisfaction for sins
by such exercises. And such external discipline ought to be
urged at all times, not only on a few and set days. So Christ
commands, Luke 21, 34: Take heed lest your hearts be
overcharged with surfeiting; also Matt. 17, 21: This kind
goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. Paul also says, 1
Cor. 9, 27: I keep under my body and bring it into subjection.
Here he clearly shows that he was keeping under his body, not
to merit forgiveness of sins by that discipline, but to have
his body in subjection and fitted for spiritual things, and
for the discharge of duty according to his calling. Therefore,
we do not condemn fasting in itself, but the traditions which
prescribe certain days and certain meats, with peril of
conscience, as though such works were a necessary service.
Nevertheless, very many traditions are kept on our part, which
conduce to good order in the Church, as the Order of Lessons
in the Mass and the chief holy-days. But, at the same time,
men are warned that such observances do not justify before
God, and that in such things it should not be made sin if they
be omitted without offense. Such liberty in human rites was
not unknown to the Fathers. For in the East they kept Easter
at another time than at Rome, and when, on account of this
diversity, the Romans accused the Eastern Church of schism,
they were admonished by others that such usages need not be
alike everywhere. And Irenaeus says: Diversity concerning
fasting does not destroy the harmony of faith; as also Pope
Gregory intimates in Dist. XII, that such diversity does not
violate the unity of the Church. And in the Tripartite
History, Book 9, many examples of dissimilar rites are
gathered, and the following statement is made: It was not the
mind of the Apostles to enact rules concerning holy-days, but
to preach godliness and a holy life [, to teach faith and
Article XXVII: Of Monastic Vows.
What is taught on our part concerning Monastic Vows, will be
better understood if it be remembered what has been the state
of the monasteries, and how many things were daily done in
those very monasteries, contrary to the Canons. In Augustine’s
time they were free associations. Afterward, when discipline
was corrupted, vows were everywhere added for the purpose of
restoring discipline, as in a carefully planned prison.
Gradually, many other observances were added besides vows. And
these fetters were laid upon many before the lawful age,
contrary to the Canons.
Many also entered into this kind of life through ignorance,
being unable to judge their own strength, though they were of
sufficient age. Being thus ensnared, they were compelled to
remain, even though some could have been freed by the kind
provision of the Canons. And this was more the case in
convents of women than of monks, although more consideration
should have been shown the weaker sex. This rigor displeased
many good men before this time, who saw that young men and
maidens were thrown into convents for a living. They saw what
unfortunate results came of this procedure, and what scandals
were created, what snares were cast upon consciences! They
were grieved that the authority of the Canons in so momentous
a matter was utterly set aside and despised. To these evils
was added such a persuasion concerning vows as, it is well
known, in former times displeased even those monks who were
more considerate. They taught that vows were equal to Baptism;
they taught that by this kind of life they merited forgiveness
of sins and justification before God. Yea, they added that the
monastic life not only merited righteousness before God but
even greater things, because it kept not only the precepts,
but also the so-called “evangelical counsels.”
Thus they made men believe that the profession of monasticism
was far better than Baptism, and that the monastic life was
more meritorious than that of magistrates, than the life of
pastors, and such like, who serve their calling in accordance
with God’s commands, without any man-made services. None of
these things can be denied; for they appear in their own
books. [Moreover, a person who has been thus ensnared and has
entered a monastery learns little of Christ.]
What, then, came to pass in the monasteries? Aforetime they
were schools of theology and other branches, profitable to the
Church; and thence pastors and bishops were obtained. Now it
is another thing. It is needless to rehearse what is known to
all. Aforetime they came together to learn; now they feign
that it is a kind of life instituted to merit grace and
righteousness; yea, they preach that it is a state of
perfection, and they put it far above all other kinds of life
ordained of God. These things we have rehearsed without odious
exaggeration, to the end that the doctrine of our teachers on
this point might be better understood.
First, concerning such as contract matrimony, they teach on
our part that it is lawful for all men who are not fitted for
single life to contract matrimony, because vows cannot annul
the ordinance and commandment of God. But the commandment of
God is 1 Cor. 7, 2: To avoid fornication, let every man have
his own wife. Nor is it the commandment only, but also the
creation and ordinance of God, which forces those to marry who
are not excepted by a singular work of God, according to the
text Gen. 2, 18: It is not good that the man should be alone.
Therefore they do not sin who obey this commandment and
ordinance of God.
What objection can be raised to this? Let men extol the
obligation of a vow as much as they list, yet shall they not
bring to pass that the vow annuls the commandment of God. The
Canons teach that the right of the superior is excepted in
every vow; [that vows are not binding against the decision of
the Pope;] much less, therefore, are these vows of force which
are against the commandments of God.
Now, if the obligation of vows could not be changed for any
cause whatever, the Roman Pontiffs could never have given
dispensation for it is not lawful for man to annul an
obligation which is simply divine. But the Roman Pontiffs have
prudently judged that leniency is to be observed in this
obligation, and therefore we read that many times they have
dispensed from vows. The case of the King of Aragon who was
called back from the monastery is well known, and there are
also examples in our own times. [Now, if dispensations have
been granted for the sake of securing temporal interests, it
is much more proper that they be granted on account of the
distress of souls.]
In the second place, why do our adversaries exaggerate the
obligation or effect of a vow when, at the same time, they
have not a word to say of the nature of the vow itself, that
it ought to be in a thing possible, that it ought to be free,
and chosen spontaneously and deliberately? But it is not
unknown to what extent perpetual chastity is in the power of
man. And how few are there who have taken the vow
spontaneously and deliberately! Young maidens and men, before
they are able to judge, are persuaded, and sometimes even
compelled, to take the vow. Wherefore it is not fair to insist
so rigorously on the obligation, since it is granted by all
that it is against the nature of a vow to take it without
spontaneous and deliberate action.
Most canonical laws rescind vows made before the age of
fifteen; for before that age there does not seem sufficient
judgment in a person to decide concerning a perpetual life.
Another Canon, granting more to the weakness of man, adds a
few years; for it forbids a vow to be made before the age of
eighteen. But which of these two Canons shall we follow? The
most part have an excuse for leaving the monasteries, because
most of them have taken the vows before they reached these
Finally, even though the violation of a vow might be censured,
yet it seems not forthwith to follow that the marriages of
such persons must be dissolved. For Augustine denies that they
ought to be dissolved (XXVII. Quaest. I, Cap. Nuptiarum), and
his authority is not lightly to be esteemed, although other
men afterwards thought otherwise.
But although it appears that God’s command concerning marriage
delivers very many from their vows, yet our teachers introduce
also another argument concerning vows to show that they are
void. For every service of God, ordained and chosen of men
without the commandment of God to merit justification and
grace, is wicked, as Christ says Matt. 16, 9: In vain do they
worship Me with the commandments of men. And Paul teaches
everywhere that righteousness is not to be sought from our own
observances and acts of worship, devised by men, but that it
comes by faith to those who believe that they are received by
God into grace for Christ’s sake.
But it is evident that monks have taught that services of
man’s making satisfy for sins and merit grace and
justification. What else is this than to detract from the
glory of Christ and to obscure and deny the righteousness of
faith? It follows, therefore, that the vows thus commonly
taken have been wicked services, and, consequently, are void.
For a wicked vow, taken against the commandment of God, is not
valid; for (as the Canon says) no vow ought to bind men to
Paul says, Gal. 5, 4: Christ is become of no effect unto you,
whosoever of you are justified by the Law, ye are fallen from
grace. To those, therefore, who want to be justified by their
vows Christ is made of no effect, and they fall from grace.
For also these who ascribe justification to vows ascribe to
their own works that which properly belongs to the glory of
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
Furthermore, the precepts of God and the true service of God
are obscured when men hear that only monks are in a state of
perfection. For Christian perfection is to fear God from the
heart, and yet to conceive great faith, and to trust that for
Christ’s sake we have a God who has been reconciled, to ask of
God, and assuredly to expect His aid in all things that,
according to our calling, are to be done; and meanwhile, to be
diligent in outward good works, and to serve our calling. In
these things consist the true perfection and the true service
of God. It does not consist in celibacy, or in begging, or in
vile apparel. But the people conceive many pernicious opinions
from the false commendations of monastic life. They hear
celibacy praised above measure; therefore they lead their
married life with offense to their consciences. They hear that
only beggars are perfect; therefore they keep their
possessions and do business with offense to their consciences.
They hear that it is an evangelical counsel not to seek
revenge; therefore some in private life are not afraid to take
revenge, for they hear that it is but a counsel, and not a
commandment. Others judge that the Christian cannot properly
hold a civil office or be a magistrate.
There are on record examples of men who, forsaking marriage
and the administration of the Commonwealth, have hid
themselves in monasteries. This they called fleeing from the
world, and seeking a kind of life which would be more pleasing
to God. Neither did they see that God ought to be served in
those commandments which He Himself has given and not in
commandments devised by men. A good and perfect kind of life
is that which has for it the commandment of God. It is
necessary to admonish men of these things.
And before these times, Gerson rebukes this error of the monks
concerning perfection, and testifies that in his day it was a
new saying that the monastic life is a state of perfection.
So many wicked opinions are inherent in the vows, namely, that
they justify, that they constitute Christian perfection, that
they keep the counsels and commandments, that they have works
of supererogation. All these things, since they are false and
empty, make vows null and void.
Article XXVIII: Of Ecclesiastical Power.
There has been great controversy concerning the Power of
Bishops, in which some have awkwardly confounded the power of
the Church and the power of the sword. And from this confusion
very great wars and tumults have resulted, while the Pontiffs,
emboldened by the power of the Keys, not only have instituted
new services and burdened consciences with reservation of
cases and ruthless excommunications, but have also undertaken
to transfer the kingdoms of this world, and to take the Empire
from the Emperor. These wrongs have long since been rebuked in
the Church by learned and godly men. Therefore our teachers,
for the comforting of men’s consciences, were constrained to
show the difference between the power of the Church and the
power of the sword, and taught that both of them, because of
God’s commandment, are to be held in reverence and honor, as
the chief blessings of God on earth.
But this is their opinion, that the power of the Keys, or the
power of the bishops, according to the Gospel, is a power or
commandment of God, to preach the Gospel, to remit and retain
sins, and to administer Sacraments. For with this commandment
Christ sends forth His Apostles, John 20, 21 sqq.: As My
Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. Receive ye the Holy
Ghost. Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them;
and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained. Mark 16,
15: Go preach the Gospel to every creature.
This power is exercised only by teaching or preaching the
Gospel and administering the Sacraments, according to their
calling either to many or to individuals. For thereby are
granted, not bodily, but eternal things, as eternal
righteousness, the Holy Ghost, eternal life. These things
cannot come but by the ministry of the Word and the
Sacraments, as Paul says, Rom. 1, 16: The Gospel is the power
of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Therefore,
since the power of the Church grants eternal things, and is
exercised only by the ministry of the Word, it does not
interfere with civil government; no more than the art of
singing interferes with civil government. For civil government
deals with other things than does the Gospel. The civil rulers
defend not minds, but bodies and bodily things against
manifest injuries, and restrain men with the sword and bodily
punishments in order to preserve civil justice and peace.
Therefore the power of the Church and the civil power must not
be confounded. The power of the Church has its own commission
to teach the Gospel and to administer the Sacraments. Let it
not break into the office of another; Let it not transfer the
kingdoms of this world; let it not abrogate the laws of civil
rulers; let it not abolish lawful obedience; let it not
interfere with judgments concerning civil ordinances or
contracts; let it not prescribe laws to civil rulers
concerning the form of the Commonwealth. As Christ says, John
18, 33: My kingdom is not of this world; also Luke 12, 14: Who
made Me a judge or a divider over you? Paul also says, Phil.
3, 20: Our citizenship is in heaven; 2 Cor. 10, 4: The weapons
of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the
casting down of imaginations.
After this manner our teachers discriminate between the duties
of both these powers, and command that both be honored and
acknowledged as gifts and blessings of God.
If bishops have any power of the sword, that power they have,
not as bishops, by the commission of the Gospel, but by human
law having received it of kings and emperors for the civil
administration of what is theirs. This, however, is another
office than the ministry of the Gospel.
When, therefore, the question is concerning the jurisdiction
of bishops, civil authority must be distinguished from
ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Again, according to the Gospel
or, as they say, by divine right, there belongs to the bishops
as bishops, that is, to those to whom has been committed the
ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, no jurisdiction
except to forgive sins, to judge doctrine, to reject doctrines
contrary to the Gospel, and to exclude from the communion of
the Church wicked men, whose wickedness is known, and this
without human force, simply by the Word. Herein the
congregations of necessity and by divine right must obey them,
according to Luke 10, 16: He that heareth you heareth Me. But
when they teach or ordain anything against the Gospel, then
the congregations have a commandment of God prohibiting
obedience, Matt. 7, 15: Beware of false prophets; Gal. 1, 8:
Though an angel from heaven preach any other gospel, let him
be accursed; 2 Cor. 13, 8: We can do nothing against the
truth, but for the truth. Also: The power which the Lord hath
given me to edification, and not to destruction. So, also, the
Canonical Laws command (II. Q. VII. Cap., Sacerdotes, and Cap.
Oves). And Augustine (Contra Petiliani Epistolam): Neither
must we submit to Catholic bishops if they chance to err, or
hold anything contrary to the Canonical Scriptures of God.
If they have any other power or jurisdiction, in hearing and
judging certain cases, as of matrimony or of tithes, etc.,
they have it by human right, in which matters princes are
bound, even against their will, when the ordinaries fail, to
dispense justice to their subjects for the maintenance of
Moreover, it is disputed whether bishops or pastors have the
right to introduce ceremonies in the Church, and to make laws
concerning meats, holy-days and grades, that is, orders of
ministers, etc. They that give this right to the bishops refer
to this testimony John 16, 12. 13: I have yet many things to
say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He,
the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all
truth. They also refer to the example of the Apostles, who
commanded to abstain from blood and from things strangled,
Acts 15, 29. They refer to the Sabbath-day as having been
changed into the Lord’s Day, contrary to the Decalog, as it
seems. Neither is there any example whereof they make more
than concerning the changing of the Sabbath-day. Great, say
they, is the power of the Church, since it has dispensed with
one of the Ten Commandments!
But concerning this question it is taught on our part (as has
been shown above) that bishops have no power to decree
anything against the Gospel. The Canonical Laws teach the same
thing (Dist. IX) . Now, it is against Scripture to establish
or require the observance of any traditions, to the end that
by such observance we may make satisfaction for sins, or merit
grace and righteousness. For the glory of Christ’s merit
suffers injury when, by such observances, we undertake to
merit justification. But it is manifest that, by such belief,
traditions have almost infinitely multiplied in the Church,
the doctrine concerning faith and the righteousness of faith
being meanwhile suppressed. For gradually more holy-days were
made, fasts appointed, new ceremonies and services in honor of
saints instituted, because the authors of such things thought
that by these works they were meriting grace. Thus in times
past the Penitential Canons increased, whereof we still see
some traces in the satisfactions.
Again, the authors of traditions do contrary to the command of
God when they find matters of sin in foods, in days, and like
things, and burden the Church with bondage of the law, as if
there ought to be among Christians, in order to merit
justification a service like the Levitical, the arrangement of
which God had committed to the Apostles and bishops. For thus
some of them write; and the Pontiffs in some measure seem to
be misled by the example of the law of Moses. Hence are such
burdens, as that they make it mortal sin, even without offense
to others, to do manual labor on holy-days, a mortal sin to
omit the Canonical Hours, that certain foods defile the
conscience that fastings are works which appease God that sin
in a reserved case cannot be forgiven but by the authority of
him who reserved it; whereas the Canons themselves speak only
of the reserving of the ecclesiastical penalty, and not of the
reserving of the guilt.
Whence have the bishops the right to lay these traditions upon
the Church for the ensnaring of consciences, when Peter, Acts
15, 10, forbids to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples,
and Paul says, 2 Cor. 13, 10, that the power given him was to
edification not to destruction? Why, therefore, do they
increase sins by these traditions?
But there are clear testimonies which prohibit the making of
such traditions, as though they merited grace or were
necessary to salvation. Paul says, Col. 2, 16-23: Let no man
judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy-day,
or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath-days. If ye be dead with
Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living
in the world, are ye subject to ordinances (touch not; taste
not; handle not, which all are to perish with the using) after
the commandments and doctrines of men! which things have
indeed a show of wisdom. Also in Titus 1, 14 he openly forbids
traditions: Not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments
of men that turn from the truth.
And Christ, Matt. 15, 14. 13, says of those who require
traditions: Let them alone; they be blind leaders of the
blind; and He rejects such services: Every plant which My
heavenly Father hath not planted shall be plucked up.
If bishops have the right to burden churches with infinite
traditions, and to ensnare consciences, why does Scripture so
often prohibit to make, and to listen to, traditions? Why does
it call them “doctrines of devils”? 1 Tim. 4, 1. Did the Holy
Ghost in vain forewarn of these things?
Since, therefore, ordinances instituted as things necessary,
or with an opinion of meriting grace, are contrary to the
Gospel, it follows that it is not lawful for any bishop to
institute or exact such services. For it is necessary that the
doctrine of Christian liberty be preserved in the churches,
namely, that the bondage of the Law is not necessary to
justification, as it is written in the Epistle to the
Galatians, 5, 1: Be not entangled again with the yoke of
bondage. It is necessary that the chief article of the Gospel
be preserved, to wit, that we obtain grace freely by faith in
Christ, and not for certain observances or acts of worship
devised by men.
What, then, are we to think of the Sunday and like rites in
the house of God? To this we answer that it is lawful for
bishops or pastors to make ordinances that things be done
orderly in the Church, not that thereby we should merit grace
or make satisfaction for sins, or that consciences be bound to
judge them necessary services, and to think that it is a sin
to break them without offense to others. So Paul ordains, 1
Cor. 11, 5, that women should cover their heads in the
congregation, 1 Cor. 14, 30, that interpreters be heard in
order in the church, etc.
It is proper that the churches should keep such ordinances for
the sake of love and tranquillity, so far that one do not
offend another, that all things be done in the churches in
order, and without confusion, 1 Cor. 14, 40; comp. Phil. 2,
14; but so that consciences be not burdened to think that they
are necessary to salvation, or to judge that they sin when
they break them without offense to others; as no one will say
that a woman sins who goes out in public with her head
uncovered provided only that no offense be given.
Of this kind is the observance of the Lord’s Day, Easter,
Pentecost, and like holy-days and rites. For those who judge
that by the authority of the Church the observance of the
Lord’s Day instead of the Sabbath-day was ordained as a thing
necessary, do greatly err. Scripture has abrogated the
Sabbath-day; for it teaches that, since the Gospel has been
revealed, all the ceremonies of Moses can be omitted. And yet,
because it was necessary to appoint a certain day, that the
people might know when they ought to come together, it appears
that the Church designated the Lord’s Day for this purpose;
and this day seems to have been chosen all the more for this
additional reason, that men might have an example of Christian
liberty, and might know that the keeping neither of the
Sabbath nor of any other day is necessary.
There are monstrous disputations concerning the changing of
the law, the ceremonies of the new law, the changing of the
Sabbath-day, which all have sprung from the false belief that
there must needs be in the Church a service like to the
Levitical, and that Christ had given commission to the
Apostles and bishops to devise new ceremonies as necessary to
salvation. These errors crept into the Church when the
righteousness of faith was not taught clearly enough. Some
dispute that the keeping of the Lord’s Day is not indeed of
divine right, but in a manner so. They prescribe concerning
holy-days, how far it is lawful to work. What else are such
disputations than snares of consciences? For although they
endeavor to modify the traditions, yet the mitigation can
never be perceived as long as the opinion remains that they
are necessary, which must needs remain where the righteousness
of faith and Christian liberty are not known.
The Apostles commanded Acts 15, 20 to abstain from blood. Who
does now observe it? And yet they that do it not sin not; for
not even the Apostles themselves wanted to burden consciences
with such bondage; but they forbade it for a time, to avoid
offense. For in this decree we must perpetually consider what
the aim of the Gospel is.
Scarcely any Canons are kept with exactness, and from day to
day many go out of use even among those who are the most
zealous advocates of traditions. Neither can due regard be
paid to consciences unless this mitigation be observed, that
we know that the Canons are kept without holding them to be
necessary, and that no harm is done consciences, even though
traditions go out 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 rule, Acts 5, 29, which
commands us to obey God rather than men.
Peter, 1 Pet. 5, 3, forbids bishops to be lords, and to rule
over the churches. It is not our design now to wrest the
government from the bishops, but this one thing is asked,
namely, that they allow the Gospel to be purely taught, and
that they relax some few observances which cannot be kept
without sin. But if they make no concession, it is for them to
see how they shall give account to God for furnishing, by
their obstinacy, a cause for schism.
These are the chief articles which seem to be in controversy.
For although we might have spoken of more abuses, yet, to
avoid undue length, we have set forth the chief points, from
which the rest may be readily judged. There have been great
complaints concerning indulgences, pilgrimages, and the abuse
of excommunications. The parishes have been vexed in many ways
by the dealers in indulgences. There were endless contentions
between the pastors and the monks concerning the parochial
right, confessions, burials, sermons on extraordinary
occasions, and innumerable other things. Issues of this sort
we have passed over so that the chief points in this matter,
having been briefly set forth, might be the more readily
understood. Nor has anything been here said or adduced to the
reproach of any one. Only those things have been recounted
whereof we thought that it was necessary to speak, in order
that it might be understood that in doctrine and ceremonies
nothing has been received on our part against Scripture or the
Church Catholic. For it is manifest that we have taken most
diligent care that no new and ungodly doctrine should creep
into our churches.
The above articles we desire to present in accordance with the
edict of Your Imperial Majesty, in order to exhibit our
Confession and let men see a summary of the doctrine of our
teachers. If there is anything that any one might desire in
this Confession, we are ready, God willing, to present ampler
information according to the Scriptures.
Your Imperial Majesty’s faithful subjects:
John, Duke of Saxony, Elector.
George, Margrave of Brandenburg.
Ernest, Duke of Lueneberg.
Philip, Landgrave of Hesse.
John Frederick, Duke of Saxony.
Francis, Duke of Lueneburg.
Wolfgang, Prince of Anhalt.
Senate and Magistracy of Nuremburg.
Senate of Reutlingen.