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Martin Luther

"In the true nature of things every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver."


1517 Martin Luther nails ninety-five theses to the Cathedral door condemning the Thirty Years' War giving rise the the Refomation and the Protestant Church.

"The Roman Catholic have, with great adroitness, drawn three walls round themselves.

Firstly, if pressed by the temporal power, they have affirmed and maintained that the temporal power has no jurisdiction over them, but, on the contrary, that the spiritual power is above the temporal.

Secondly, if it were proposed to admonish them with the Scriptures, they objected that no one may interpret the Scriptures but the Pope.

Thirdly, if they are threatened with a council, they pretend that no one may call a council but the Pope.

Thus they have stolen our three rods and intrenched themselves behind these three walls, to act with all the wickedness and malice, which we now witness.

If a little company of pious Christian laymen were taken prisoners and carried away to a desert, and had not among them a priest consecrated by a bishop, and were there to agree to elect one of them, born in wedlock or not, and were to order him to baptize, to celebrate the mass, to absolve, and to preach, this man would as truly be a priest, as if all the bishops and all the popes had consecrated him.

That is why in cases of necessity every man can baptize and absolve, which would not be possible if we were not all priests.

This great grace and virtue of baptism and of the Christian estate they have quite destroyed and made us forget by their ecclesiastical law.

It is, indeed, past bearing that the spiritual law should esteem so highly the liberty, life, and property of the clergy, as if laymen were not as good spiritual Christians, or not equally members of the Church.

Whence comes this great difference among equal Christians?

Simply from human laws and inventions.

It is a wickedly devised fable, they cannot quote a single letter to confirm it, that it is for the Pope alone to interpret the Scriptures or to confirm the interpretation of them.

Though they say that this authority was given to St. Peter when the keys were given to him, it is plain enough that the keys were not given to St. Peter alone, but to the whole community.

They must needs acknowledge that there are pious Christians among us that have the true faith, spirit, understanding, word, and mind of Christ.

As for their boasts of their authority, that no one must oppose it, this is idle talk.

No one in the Christian Church has any authority to do harm, or to forbid others to prevent harm being done.

There is no authority in the Church but for reformation.

Therefore if the Pope wished to use his power to prevent the calling of a free council, so as to prevent the reformation of the Church, we must not respect him or his power; and if he should begin to excommunicate and fulminate, we must despise this as the doings of a madman, and, trusting in God, excommunicate and repel him as best we may.

For his usurped power is nothing; he does not possess it, and he is at once overthrown by text from the Scriptures.

Let us now consider the matters which should be treated in the councils, and with which popes, cardinals, bishops, and all learned men should engage themselves day and night, if they follow Christ.

Let us rouse ourselves, fellow Germans, and stand in awe of God more than man, that we be not answerable for all the poor souls that are so miserably lost through the wicked, devilish government of the Roman Catholic, and that the dominion of the devil should not grow day by day, if indeed this hellish government can grow any worse, which, for my part, I can neither conceive nor believe.If this resembles the poverty of Jesus and St. Peter, it is a new sort of resemblance.

The see of avarice and robbery at Rome is unwilling to wait for the benefices to fall in one after another by means of the Pope's month; and in order to get them into its insatiable maw as speedily as possible, they have devised the plan of taking living and benefices in three other ways:

First, if the incumbent of a free living dies at Rome or on his way thither, his living remains for ever the property of the see of Rome, or I rather should say, the see of robbers, though they will not let us call them robbers, as though no one has ever heard or read of such robbery.

Secondly, if a "servant" of the Pope or of one of the cardinals takes a living, or if, having a living, he becomes a "servant" of the Pope or of a cardinal, the living remains with Rome.

Who can count the "servants" of the Pope and his cardinals, seeing that if he goes out riding, he is attended by three or four thousand mule riders, more than any king or emperor?

For Jesus and Saint Peter went on foot, in order that their vice regents might indulge the better in all manner of pomp.

Thirdly, whenever there is any dispute about a benefice; and this is, I think, well nigh the broadest and commonest road by which benefices are brought to Rome. For where there is no dispute numberless knaves can be found in Rome who are ready to scrape up disputes, and attack the living wherever they like. In this way many a good priest loses his living, or has to buy off the dispute for a time with a sum of money.

These benefices, confiscated by right or wrong of dispute, are to be forever the property of the see of Rome. It would be no wonder, if God were to rain sulphur and fire from heaven and cast Rome down into the pit, as God did formerly to Sodom and Gomorrah.

What is the use of a Pope in the Kingdom of Christ, if the only use made of his power is to commit these supreme villainies under his protection and assistance?

Oh noble princes and sirs, how long will you suffer your lands and your people to be the prey of these ravening wolves?

Finally, the Pope has built a special house for this fine traffic the house of the Datarius at Rome.

Thither all must come that bargain in this way, for prebends and benefices; from him they must buy the glosses and obtain the right to practice such prime villainy.

In former days it was fairly well at Rome, when justice had to be bought, or could only be put down by money; but now she has become so fastidious that she does not allow anyone to commit villainies unless he has first bought the right to do it with great sums.

If this is not a house of prostitution, worse than all houses of prostitution that can be conceived, I do not know what houses of prostitution really are.

- excerpt from Martin Luther's Address to the Christian Nobility of the German nation
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