Martin Luther - On the Freedom of a Christian

I do this not from any desire to teach but as a duty

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Unformatted text preview: so known as Frederick the Wise (1463 ­1525; elector from 1486 ­death); founded Wittenberg University in 1502 4 167 168 169 170 171 172 173 he prefers to involve the case in still greater confusion. Moreover, I cannot bear with laws for the interpretation of the Word of God, since the Word of God, which teaches liberty in all other things, ought not to be [102] bound. Saying these two things, there is nothing which I am not able, and most heartily willing, to do or to suffer. I hate contention; I will challenge no one; in return I wish not to be challenged; but, being challenged, I will not be dumb in the cause of Christ my Master. For your Blessedness will be able by one short and easy word to call these controversies before you and suppress them; and to impose silence and peace on both sides; a word which I have ever longed to hear. 174 175 176 177 178 179 180 181 182 183 Therefore, Leo my Father, beware of listening to those Sirens, who make you out to be not simply a man, but partly a God, so that you can command and require whatever you will. It will not happen so, nor will you prevail. You are the servant of servants, and, more than any other man, in a most pitiable and perilous position. Let not those men deceive you, who pretend that you are Lord of the world; who will not allow any one to be a Christian without your authority; who babble of your having power over heaven, hell, and purgatory. These men are your enemies and are seeking your soul to destroy it, as Isaiah says: "My people, they that call thee blessed are themselves deceiving thee." They are in error, who raise you above councils and the universal Church. They are in error, who attribute to you alone the right of interpreting Scripture. All these men are seeking to set up their own impieties in the Church under your name, and alas! Satan has gained much through them in the time of your predecessors. 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 In brief, trust not in any who exalt you, but in those who humiliate you. For this is the judgment of God: "He hath cast down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble." See how unlike Christ was to His successors, though all will have it that they are His vicars. I fear that in truth very many of them have been in too serious a sense His vicars, for a vicar represents a prince who is absent. Now if a Pontiff rules while Christ is absent and does not dwell in his heart, what else is he but a vicar of Christ? And then what is that Church but a multitude without Christ? What indeed is such a vicar but Antichrist and an idol? How much more rightly did the Apostles speak, who call themselves the servants of a present Christ, not the vicars of an absent one. 192 193 194 195 196 197 198 199 200 201 202 203 Perhaps I am shamelessly bold in seeming to teach so great a head, by whom all men ought to be taught, and from whom, [103] as those plagues of yours boast, the thrones of judges receive their sentence; but I imitate Saint Bernard in his book concerning "Considerations" addressed to Eugenius, a book which ought to be known by heart by every Pontiff. I do this, not from any desire to teach, but as a duty, from that simple and faithful solicitude, which teaches us to be anxious for all that is safe for our neighbors, and does not allow considerations of worthiness or unworthiness to be entertained, being intent only on the dangers or advantage of others. For since I know that your Blessedness is driven and tossed by the waves at Rome, while the depths of the sea press on you with infinite perils, and that you are laboring under such a condition of misery that you need even the least help from any the least brother, I do not seem to myself to be acting unsuitably, if I forget your majesty till I shall have fulfilled the office of charity. I will not flatter in so serious and perilous a matter; and if in this you do not see that I am your friend and most thoroughly your subject, there is One to see and judge. 204 205 206 207 208 209 210 211 In fine, that I may not approach you empty handed, Blessed Father, I bring with me this little treatise, published under your name, as a good omen of the establishment of peace, and of good hope. By this you may perceive in what pursuits I should prefer and be able to occupy myself to more profit, if I were allowed, or had been...
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This document was uploaded on 02/07/2014.

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