Martin Luther (1483-1546) was the son of a successful Saxon peasant-entrepreneur. He joined the
order of Augustine friars to seek peace of mind and assurance of salvation-some kind of bridge between the
wickedness of man and the goodness of God. Unable to visualize this bridge in the corrupt Church of his time,
he found it at last in the faith that had also effected Augustine's salvation. If man had faith, he could be saved;
in comparison to this supreme truth, "works" were of no avail a priest's action or no importance. Every
baptized Christian was a priest.
. These conclusions appear in the pamphlets he published (1520), all urging the
laity to take a hand in the reformation of the Church. An excerpt of one is given below. But the success of such
fighting works must be attributed in the first place to the original attack of 1517 upon those practical abuses of
the Roman Church which most right-minded Germans regarded as shacking.
Luther, The Ninety-Five Theses
The theses were posted on the side door of the Castle church in Wittenberg on Halloween, 1517.
Posting theses in a public place was the usual way of giving notice of the disputations which were a regular
feature of academic life. So, there was nothing peculiar or revolutionary in the action. As a matter of fact,
Luther thought the Pope would support his exposure of the evils of the indulgence trade.
In the desire and with the purpose of elucidating the truth, a disputation will be held on the
underwritten propositions at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Monk of
the Order of St. Augustine, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and ordinary Reader of the same in that
place. He therefore asks those who cannot be present and discuss the subject with us orally, to do so by letter
in their absence. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ in saying "Repent ye" etc., intended that the whole life of
believers should be penitence.
2. This word cannot be understood as sacramental penance, that is, of the confession and satisfaction
which are performed under the ministry of priests.
3. It does not, however, refer solely to inward penitence; nay, such inward penitence is naught, unless
it outwardly produces various mortifications of the flesh.
4. The penalty thus continues as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inward penitence); namely, till
our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
5. The pone has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties except those which he has
imposed by his own authority, or by that of the canons.
6: The Pope has no power to remit any guilt, except by declaring and warranting it to have been
remitted by God; or at most by remitting cases reserved for himself; in which cases, if his power were despised,
guilt would certainly remain.
7. Certainly God remits no man's guilt without at the same time subjecting him, humbled in all things,