A treatise on Good Works
Dr. Martin Luther

Part 2 out of 2

Majesty; in no wise dare he trust his worthiness, or because of
his unworthiness grow faint; but he must heed God's command and
cast this up to Him, and hold it before the devil, and say:
"Because of my worthiness I do nothing, because of my
unworthiness I cease from nothing. I pray and work only because
God of His pure mercy has promised to hear and to be gracious to
all unworthy men, and not only promised it, but He has also most
sternly, on pain of His everlasting displeasure and wrath,
commanded us to pray, to trust and to receive. If it has not been
too much for that high Majesty so solemnly and highly to obligate
His unworthy worms to pray, to trust, and to receive from Him,
how shall it be too much for me to take such command upon myself
with all joy, however worthy or unworthy I may be?" Thus we must
drive out the devil's suggestion with God's command. Thus will
he cease, and in no other way whatever.

IX. But what are the things which we must bring before Almighty
God in prayer and lamentation, to exercise faith thereby? Answer:
First, every man's own besetting need and trouble, of which David
says, Psalm xxxii: "Thou art my refuge in all trouble which
compasseth me about; Thou art my comfort, to preserve me from all
evil which surrounds me." Likewise, Psalm cxlii: "I cried unto
the Lord with my voice; with my voice unto the Lord did I make
my supplication. I poured out my complaint before Him; I showed
before Him my trouble." In the mass a Christian shall keep in
mind the short-comings or excesses he feels, and pour out all
these freely before God with weeping and groaning, as woefully
as he can, as to his faithful Father, who is ready to help him.
And if you do not know or recognise your need, or have no
trouble, then you shall know that you are in the worst possible
plight. For this is the greatest trouble, that you find yourself
so hardened, hard-hearted and insensible that no trouble moves

There is no better mirror in which to see your need than simply
the Ten Commandments, in which you will find what you lack and
what you should seek. If, therefore, you find in yourself a weak
faith, small hope and little love toward God; and that you do not
praise and honor God, but love your own honor and fame, think
much of the favor of men, do not gladly hear mass and sermon, are
indolent in prayer, in which things every one has faults, then
you shall think more of these faults than of all bodily harm to
goods, honor and life, and believe that they are worse than death
and all mortal sickness. These you shall earnestly lay before
God, lament and ask for help, and with all confidence expect
help, and believe that you are heard and shall obtain help and

Then go forward into the Second Table of the Commandments, and
see how disobedient you have been and still are toward father and
mother and all in authority; how you sin against your neighbor
with anger, hatred and evil words; how you are tempted to
unchastity, covetousness and injustice in word and deed against
your neighbor; and you will doubtless find that you are full of
all need and misery, and have reason enough to weep even drops
of blood, if you could.

X. But I know well that many are so foolish as not to want to ask
for such things, unless they first be conscious that they are
pure, and believe that God hears no one who is a sinner. All this
is the work of those false preachers, who teach men to begin, not
with faith and trust in God's favor, but with their own works.

Look you, wretched man! if you have broken a leg, or the peril
of death overtakes you, you call upon God, this Saint and that,
and do not wait until your leg is healed, or the danger is past:
you are not so foolish as to think that God hears no one whose
leg is broken, or who is in bodily danger. Nay, you believe that
God shall hear most of all when you are in the greatest need and
fear. Why, then, are you so foolish here, where there is
immeasurably greater need and eternal hurt, and do not want to
ask for faith, hope, love, humility, obedience, chastity,
gentleness, peace, righteousness, unless you are already free of
all your unbelief, doubt, pride, disobedience, unchastity, anger,
covetousness and unrighteousness. Although the more you find
yourself lacking in these things, the more and more diligently
you ought to pray or cry.

So blind are we: with our bodily sickness and need we run to God;
with the soul's sickness we run from Him, and are unwilling to
come back before we are well, exactly as if there could be one
God who could help the body, and another God who could help the
soul; or as if we would help ourselves in spiritual need,
although it really is greater than the bodily need. Such plan and
counsel is of the devil.

Not so, my good man! If you wish to be cured of sin, you must not
withdraw from God, but run to Him, and pray with much more
confidence than if a bodily need had overtaken you. God is not
hostile to sinners, but only to unbelievers, that is, to such as
do not recognize and lament their sin, nor seek help against it
from God, but in their own presumption wish first to purify
themselves, are unwilling to be in need of His grace, and will
not suffer Him to be a God Who gives to everyone and takes
nothing in return.

XI. All this has been said of prayer for personal needs, and of
prayer in general. But the prayer which really belongs to this
Commandment and is called a work of the Holy Day, is far better
and greater, and is to be made for all Christendom, for all the
need of all men, of foe and friend, especially for those who
belong to the parish or bishopric.

Thus St. Paul commanded his disciple Timothy: exhort thee, that
thou see to it, that prayers and intercessions be made for all
men, for kings, and for all that are in authority, that we may
lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For
this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour." For
this reason Jeremiah, chapter xxix, commanded the people of
Israel to pray for the city and land of Babylon, because in the
peace thereof they should have peace. And Baruch i: "Pray for the
life of the king of Babylon and for the life of his son, that we
may live in peace under their rule."

This common prayer is precious and the most powerful, and it is
for its sake that we come together. For this reason also the
Church is called a House of Prayer, because in it we are as a
congregation with one accord to consider our need and the needs
of all men, present them before God, and call upon Him for mercy.
But this must be done with heart-felt emotion and sincerity, so
that we feel in our hearts the need of all men, and that we pray
with true sympathy for them, in true faith and confidence. Where
such prayers are not made in the mass, it were better to omit the
mass. For what sense is there in our coming together into a House
of Prayer, which coming together shows that we should make common
prayer and petition for the entire congregation, if we scatter
these prayers, and so distribute them that everyone prays only
for himself, and no one has regard for the other, nor concerns
himself for another's need? How can that prayer be of help, good,
acceptable and a common prayer, or a work of the Holy Day and of
the assembled congregation, which they make who make their own
petty prayers, one for this, the other for that, and have nothing
but self-seeking, selfish prayers, which God hates?

XII. A suggestion of this common prayer has been retained from
ancient practice, when at the end of the sermon the Confession
of Sins is said and prayer is made on the pulpit for all
Christendom. But this should not be the end of the matter, as is
now the custom and fashion; it should be an exhortation to pray
throughout the entire mass for such need as the preacher makes
us feel; and in order that we may pray worthily, he first exhorts
us because of our sin, and thereby makes us humble. This should
be done as briefly as possible, that then the entire congregation
may confess their own sin and pray for every one with earnestness
and faith.

Oh, if God granted that any congregation at all heard mass and
prayed in this way, so that a common earnest heart-cry of the
entire people would rise up to God, what immeasurable virtue and
help would result from such a prayer! What more terrible thing
could happen to all the evil spirits? What greater work could be
done on earth, whereby so many pious souls would be preserved,
so many sinners converted?

For, indeed, the Christian Church on earth has no greater power
or work than such common prayer against everything that may
oppose it. This the evil spirit knows well, and therefore he does
all that he can to prevent such prayer. Gleefully he lets us go
on building churches, endowing many monastic houses, making
music, reading, singing, observing many masses, and multiplying
ceremonies beyond all measure. This does not grieve him, nay, he
helps us do it, that we may consider such things the very best,
and think that thereby we have done our whole duty. But in that
meanwhile this common, effectual and fruitful prayer perishes and
its omission is unnoticed because of such display, in this he has
what he seeks. For when prayer languishes, no one will take
anything from him, and no one will withstand him. But if he
noticed that we wished to practise this prayer, even if it were
under a straw roof or in a pig-sty, he would indeed not endure
it, but would fear such a pig-sty far more than all the high, big
and beautiful churches, towers and bells in existence, if such
prayer be not in them. It is indeed not a question of the places
and buildings in which we assemble, but only of this
unconquerable prayer, that we pray it and bring it before God as
a truly common prayer.

XIII. The power of this prayer we see in the fact that in olden
times Abraham prayed for the five cities, Sodom, Gomorrah, etc.,
Genesis xviii, and accomplished so much, that if there had been
ten righteous people in them, two in each city, God would not
have destroyed them. What then could many men do, if they united
in calling upon God earnestly and with sincere confidence?

St. James also says: "Dear brethren, pray for one another, that
ye may be saved. For the prayer of a righteous man availeth much,
a prayer that perseveres and does not cease" (that is, which does
not cease asking ever more and more, although what it asks is not
immediately granted, as some timid men do). And as an example in
this matter he sets before us Elijah, the Prophet, "who was a
man," he says, "as we are, and prayed, that it might not rain;
and it rained not by the space of three years and six months. And
he prayed again, and it rained, and everything became fruitful."
There are many texts and examples in the Scriptures which urge
us to pray, only that it be done with earnestness and faith. As
David says, "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His
ears are open unto their cry." Again, "The Lord is nigh unto all
them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth." Why
does he add, "call upon Him in truth"? Because that is not prayer
nor calling upon God when the mouth alone mumbles.

What should God do, if you come along with your mouth, book or
Paternoster, and think of nothing except that you may finish the
words and complete the number? So that if some one were to ask
you what it all was about, or what it was that you prayed for,
you yourself would not know; for you had not thought of laying
this or that matter before God or desiring it. Your only reason
for praying is that you are commanded to pray this and so much,
and this you intend to do in full. What wonder that thunder and
lightning frequently set churches on fire, because we thus make
of the House of Prayer a house of mockery, and call that prayer
in which we bring nothing before God and desire nothing from Him.

But we should do as they do who wish to ask a favor of great
princes. These do not plan merely to babble a certain number of
words, for the prince would think they mocked him, or were
insane; but they put their request very plainly, and present
their need earnestly, and then leave it to his mercy, in good
confidence that he will grant it. So we must deal with God of
definite things, namely, mention some present need, commend it
to His mercy and good-will, and not doubt that it is heard; for
He has promised to hear such prayer, which no earthly lord has

XIV. We are masters in this form of prayer when we suffer bodily
need; when we are sick we call here upon St. Christopher, there
upon St. Barbara; we vow a pilgrimage to St. James, to this place
and to that; then we make earnest prayer, have a good confidence
and every good kind of prayer. But when we are in our churches
during mass, we stand like images of saints; know nothing to
speak of or to lament; the beads rattle, the pages rustle and the
mouth babbles; and that is all there is to it.

But if you ask what you shall speak of and lament in your prayer,
you can easily learn from the Ten Commandments and the Lord's
Prayer. Open your eyes and look into your life and the life of
all Christians, especially of the spiritual estate, and you will
find how faith, hope, love, obedience, chastity and every virtue
languish, and all manner of heinous vices reign; what a lack
there is of good preachers and prelates; how only knaves,
children, fools and women rule. Then you will see that there were
need every hour without ceasing to pray everywhere with tears of
blood to God, Who is so terribly angry with men. And it is true
that it has never been more necessary to pray than at this time,
and it will be more so from now on to the end of the world. If
such terrible crimes do not move you to lament and complain, do
not permit yourself to be led astray by your rank, station, good
works or prayer: there is no Christian vein or trait in you,
however righteous you may be. But it has all been foretold, that
when God's anger is greatest and Christendom suffers the greatest
need, then petitioners and supplicants before God shall not be
found, as Isaiah says with tears, chapter lxiv: "Thou art angry
with us, and there is none that calleth upon Thy Name, that
stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee." Likewise, Ezekiel
xxii: "I sought for a man among them, that should make up the
hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should
not destroy it; but I found none. Therefore have I poured out
Mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire
of My wrath." With these words God indicates how He wants us to
withstand Him and turn away His anger from one another, as it is
frequently written of the Prophet Moses, that he restrained God,
lest His anger should overwhelm the people of Israel.

XV. But what will they do, who not only do not regard such
misfortune of Christendom, and do not pray against it, but laugh
at it, take pleasure in it, condemn, malign, sing and talk of
their neighbor's sins, and yet dare, unafraid and unashamed, go
to church, hear mass, say prayers, and regard themselves and are
regarded as pious Christians? These truly are in need that we
pray twice for them, if we pray once for those whom they condemn,
talk about and laugh at. That there would be such is also
prophesied by the thief on Christ's left hand, who blasphemed Him
in His suffering, weakness and need; also by all those who
reviled Christ on the Cross, when they should most of all have
helped Him.

O God, how blind, nay, how insane have we Christians become! When
will there be an end of wrath, O heavenly Father? That we mock
at the misfortune of Christendom, to pray for which we gather
together in Church and at the mass, that we blaspheme and condemn
men, this is the fruit of our mad materialism. If the Turk
destroys cities, country and people, and ruins churches, we think
a great injury has been done Christendom. Then we complain, and
urge kings and princes to war. But when faith perishes, love
grows cold, God's Word is neglected, and all manner of sin
flourishes, then no one thinks of fighting, nay, pope, bishops,
priests and clergy, who ought to be generals, captains and
standard-bearers in this spiritual warfare against these
spiritual and many times worse Turks, these are themselves the
very princes and leaders of such Turks and of the devil host,
just as Judas was the leader of the Jews when they took Christ.
It had to be an apostle, a bishop, a priest, one of the number
of the best, who began the work of slaying Christ. So also must
Christendom be laid waste by no others than those who ought to
protect it, and yet are so insane that they are ready to eat up
the Turks and at home themselves set house and sheep-cote on fire
and let them burn up with the sheep and all other contents, and
none the less worry about the wolf in the woods. Such are our
times, and this is the reward we have earned by our ingratitude
toward the endless grace which Christ has won for us freely with
His precious blood, grievous labor and bitter death.

XVI. Lo! where are the idle ones, who do not know how to do good
works? Where are they who run to Rome, to St. James, hither and
thither? Take up this one single work of the mass, look on your
neighbor's sin and ruin, and have pity on him; let it grieve you,
tell it to God, and pray over it. Do the same for every other
need of Christendom, especially of the rulers, whom God, for the
intolerable punishment and torment of us all, allows to fall and
be misled so terribly. If you do this diligently, be assured you
are one of the best fighters and captains, not only against the
Turks, but also against the devils and the powers of hell. But
if you do it not, what would it help you though you performed all
the miracles of the saints, and murdered all the Turks, and yet
were found guilty of having disregarded your neighbor's need and
of having thereby sinned against love? For Christ at the last day
will not ask how much you have prayed, fasted, pilgrimaged, done
this or that for yourself, but how much good you have done to
others, even the very least.

Now without doubt among the "least" are also those who are in sin
and spiritual poverty, captivity and need, of whom there are at
present far more than of those who suffer bodily need. Therefore
take heed: our own self-assumed good works lead us to and into
ourselves, that we seek only our own benefit and salvation; but
God's commandments drive us to our neighbor, that we may thereby
benefit others to their salvation. Just as Christ on the Cross
prayed not for Himself alone, but rather for us, when He said,
"Father, forgive them, fort they know not what they do," so we
also must pray for one another. From which every man may know
that the slanderers, frivolous judges and despisers of other
people are a perverted, evil race, who do nothing else than heap
abuse on those for whom they ought to pray; in which vice no one
is sunk so deep as those very men who do many good works of their
own, and seem to men to be something extraordinary, and are
honored because of their beautiful, splendid life in manifold
good works.

XVII. Spiritually understood, this Commandment has a yet far
higher work, which embraces the whole nature of man. Here it must
be known that in Hebrew " Sabbath " means " rest," because on the
seventh day God rested and ceased from all His works, which He
had made. Genesis ii. Therefore He commanded also that the
seventh day should be kept holy and that we cease from our works
which we do the other six days. This Sabbath has now for us been
changed into the Sunday, and the other days are called work-days;
the Sunday is called rest-day or holiday or holy day. And would
to God that in Christendom there were no holiday except the
Sunday; that the festivals of Our Lady and of the Saints were all
transferred to Sunday; then would many evil vices be done away
with through the labor of the work-days, and lands would not be
so drained and impoverished. But now we are plagued with many
holidays, to the destruction of souls, bodies and goods; of which
matter much might be said.

This rest or ceasing from labors is of two kinds, bodily and
spiritual. For this reason this Commandment is also to be
understood in two ways.

The bodily rest is that of which we have spoken above, namely,
that we omit our business and work, in order that we may gather
in the church, see mass, hear God's Word and make common prayer.
This rest is indeed bodily and in Christendom no longer commanded
by God, as the Apostle says, Colossians ii, "Let no man obligate
you to any holiday whatever" -- for they were of old a figure,
but now the truth has been fulfilled, so that all days are holy
days, as Isaiah says, chapter lxvi, "One holy day shall follow
the other"; on the other hand, all days are workdays. Yet it is
a necessity and ordained by the Church for the sake of the
imperfect laity and working people, that they also may be able
to come to hear God's Word. For, as we see, the priests and
clergy celebrate mass every day, pray at all hours and train
themselves in God's Word by study, reading and hearing. For this
reason also they are freed from work before others, supported by
tithes and have holy-day every day, and every day do the works
of the holy-day, and have no work-day, but for them one day is
as the other. And if we were all perfect, and knew the Gospel,
we might work every day if we wished, or rest if we could. For
a day of rest is at present not necessary nor commanded except
only for the teaching of God's Word and prayer.

The spiritual rest, which God particularly intends in this
Commandment, is this: that we not only cease from our labor and
trade, but much more, that we let God alone work in us and that
we do nothing of our own with all our powers. But how is this
done? In this way: Man, corrupted by sin, has much wicked love
and inclination toward all sins, as the Scriptures say, Genesis
viii, "Man's heart and senses incline always to the evil," that
is, to pride, disobedience, anger, hatred, covetousness,
unchastity, etc., and summa summarum, in all that he does and
leaves undone, he seeks his own profit, will and honor rather
than God's and his neighbor's. Therefore all his works, all his
words, all his thoughts, all his life are evil and not godly.

Now if God is to work and to live in him, all this vice and
wickedness must be choked and up-rooted, so that there may be
rest and a cessation of all our works, thoughts and life, and
that henceforth (as St. Paul says, Galatians ii.) it may be no
longer we who live, but Christ Who lives, works and speaks in us.
This is not accomplished with comfortable, pleasant days, but
here we must hurt our nature and let it be hurt. Here begins the
strife between the spirit and the flesh; here the spirit resists
anger, lust, pride, while the flesh wants to be in pleasure,
honor and comfort. Of this St. Paul says, Galatians v, "They that
are our Lord Christ's have crucified the flesh with its
affections and lusts." Then follow the good works, -- fasting,
watching, labor, of which some say and write so much, although
they know neither the source nor the purpose of these good works.
Therefore we will now also speak of them.

XVIII. This rest, namely, that our work cease and God alone work
in us, is accomplished in two ways. First, through our own
effort, secondly, through the effort or urging of others.

Our own effort is to be so made and ordered that, in the first
place, when we see our flesh, senses, will and thoughts tempting
us, we resist them and do not heed them, as the Wise Man says:
"Follow not thine own desires." And Moses, Deuteronomy xii: "Thou
shalt not do what is right in thine own eyes."

Here a man must make daily use of those prayers which David
prays: "Lord, lead me in Thy path, and let me not walk in my own
ways," and many like prayers, which are all summed up in the
prayer, "Thy kingdom come." For the desires are so many, so
various, and besides at times so nimble, so subtile and specious,
through the suggestions of the evil one, that it is not possible
for a man to control himself in his own ways. He must let hands
and feet go, commend himself to God's governance, and entrust
nothing to his reason, as Jeremiah says, "O Lord, I know that the
way of man is not in his own power." We see proof of this, when
the children of Israel went out of Egypt through the Wilderness,
where there was no way, no food, no drink, no help. Therefore God
went before them, by day in a bright: cloud, by night in a fiery
pillar, fed them with manna from heaven, and kept their garments
and shoes that they waxed not old, as we read in the Books of
Moses. For this reason we pray: "Thy kingdom come, that Thou rule
us, and not: we ourselves," for there is nothing more perilous
in us than our reason and will. And this is the first and highest
work of God in us and the best training, that we cease from our
works, that we let our reason and will be idle, that we rest and
commend ourselves to God in all things, especially when they seem
to be spiritual and good.

XIX. After this comes the discipline of the flesh, to kill its
gross, evil lust, to give it rest and relief. This we must kill
and quiet with fasting, watching and labor, and from this we
learn how much and why we shall fast, watch and labor.

There are, alas! many blind men, who practise their castigation,
whether it be fasting, watching or labor, only because they think
these are good works, intending by them to gain much merit. Far
blinder still are they who measure their fasting not only by the
quantity or duration, as these do, but also by the nature of the
food, thinking that it is of far greater worth if they do not eat
meat, eggs or butter. Beyond these are those who fast according
to the saints, and according to the days; one fasting on
Wednesday, another on Saturday, another on St. Barbara's day,
another on St. Sebastian's day, and so on. These all seek in
their fasting nothing beyond the work itself: when they have
performed that, they think they have done a good work. I will
here say nothing of the fact that some fast in such a way that
they none the less drink themselves full; some fast by eating
fish and other foods so lavishly that they would come much nearer
to fasting if they ate meat, eggs and butter, and by so doing
would obtain far better results from their fasting. For such
fasting is not fasting, but a mockery of fasting and of God.

Therefore I allow everyone to choose his day, food and quantity
for fasting, as he will, on condition that he do not stop with
that, but have regard to his flesh; let him put upon it fasting,
watching and labor according to its lust and wantonness, and no
more, although pope, Church, bishop, father-confessor or any one
else whosoever have commanded it. For no one should measure and
regulate fasting, watching and labor according to the character
or quantity of the food, or according to the days, but according
to the withdrawal or approach of the lust and wantonness of the
flesh, for the sake of which alone the fasting, watching and
labor is ordained, that is, to kill and to subdue them. If it
were not for this lust, eating were as meritorious as fasting,
sleeping as watching, idleness as labor, and each were as good
as the other without all distinction.

XX. Now, if some one should find that more wantonness arose in
his flesh from eating fish than from eating eggs and meat, let
him eat meat and not fish. Again, if he find that his head
becomes confused and crazed or his body and stomach injured
through fasting, or that it is not needful to kill the wantonness
of his flesh, he shall let fasting alone entirely, and eat,
sleep, be idle as is necessary for his health, regardless whether
it be against the command of the Church, or the rules of monastic
orders: for no commandment of the Church, no law of an order can
make fasting, watching and labor of more value than it has in
serving to repress or to kill the flesh and its lusts. Where men
go beyond this, and the fasting, eating, sleeping, watching are
practised beyond the strength of the body, and more than is
necessary to the killing of the lust, so that through it the
natural strength is ruined and the head is racked; then let no
one imagine that he has done good works, or excuse himself by
citing the commandment of the Church or the law of his order. He
will be regarded as a man who takes no care of himself, and, as
far as in him lies, has become his own murderer.

For the body is not given us that we should kill its natural life
or work, but only that we kill its wantonness; unless its
wantonness were so strong and great that we could not
sufficiently resist it without ruin and harm to the natural life.
For, as has been said, in the practice of fasting, watching and
labor, we are not to look upon the works in themselves, not on
the days, not on the number, not on the food, but only on the
wanton and lustful Adam, that through them he may be cured of his
evil appetite.

XXI. From this we can judge how wisely or foolishly some women
act when they are with child, and how the sick are to be treated.
For the foolish women cling so firmly to their fasting that they
run the risk of great danger to the fruit of their womb and to
themselves, rather than not to fast when the others fast. They
make a matter of conscience where there is none, and where there
is matter of conscience they make none. This is all the fault of
the preachers, because they continually prate of fasting, and
never point out its true use, limit, fruit, cause and purpose.
So also the sick should be allowed to eat and to drink every day
whatever they wish. In brief, where the wantonness of the flesh
ceases, there every reason for fasting, watching, laboring,
eating this or that, has already ceased, and there no longer is
any binding commandment at all.

But then care must be taken, lest out of this freedom there grow
a lazy indifference about killing the wantonness of the flesh;
for the roguish Adam is exceedingly tricky in looking for
permission for himself, and in pleading the ruin of the body or
of the mind; so some men jump right in and say it is neither
necessary nor commanded to fast or to mortify the flesh, and are
ready to eat this and that without fear, just as if they had for
a long time had much experience of fasting, although they have
never tried it.

No less are we to guard against offending those who, not
sufficiently informed, regard it a great sin if we do not fast
or eat as they do. These we must kindly instruct, and not
haughtily despise, nor eat this or that in despite of them, but
we must tell them the reason why it is right to do so, and thus
gradually lead them to a correct understanding. But if they are
stubborn and will not listen, we must let them alone, and do as
we know it is right to do.

XXII. The second form of discipline which we receive at the hands
of others, is when men or devils cause us suffering, as when our
property is taken, our body sick, and our honor taken away; and
everything that may move us to anger, impatience and unrest. For
God's work rules in us according to His wisdom, not according to
our wisdom, according to His purity and chastity, not according
to the wantonness of our flesh; for God's work is wisdom and
purity, our work is foolishness and impurity, and these shall
rest: so in like manner it should rule in us according to His
peace, not our anger, impatience and lack of peace. For peace too
is God's work, impatience is the work of our flesh; this shall
rest and be dead, that we thus in every way keep a spiritual
holiday, let our works stand idle, and let God work in us.

Therefore in order to kill our works and the Adam in us, God
heaps many temptations upon us, which move us to anger, many
sufferings, which rouse us to impatience, and last of all death
and the world's abuse; whereby He seeks nothing else than that
He may drive out anger, impatience and lack of peace, and attain
to His work, that is, to peace, in us. Thus says Isaiah xxviii,
"He does the work of another that He may come to His own work."
What does this mean? He sends us suffering and trouble that He
may teach us to have patience and peace; He bids us die that He
may make us live, until a man, thoroughly trained, becomes so
peaceful and quiet that he is not disturbed, whether it go well
or ill with him, whether he die or live, be honored or
dishonored. There God Himself dwells alone, and there are no
works of men. This is rightly keeping and hallowing the day of
rest; then a man does not guide himself, then he desires nothing
for himself, then nothing troubles him; but God Himself leads
him, there is naught but godly pleasure, joy and peace with all
other works and virtues.

XXIII. These works He considers so great that He commands us not
only to keep the day of rest, but also to hallow it or regard it
as holy, whereby He declares that there are no more precious
things than suffering, dying, and all manner of misfortune. For
they are holy and sanctify a man from his works to God's works,
just as a church is consecrated from natural works to the worship
of God. Therefore a man shall also recognise them as holy things,
be glad and thank God when they come upon him. For when they come
they make him holy, so that he fulfils this Commandment and is
saved, redeemed from all his sinful works. Thus says David:
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints."

In order to strengthen us thereto He has not only commanded us
to keep such a rest (for nature is very unwilling to die and to
suffer, and it is a bitter day of rest for it to cease from its
works and be dead); but He has also comforted us in the
Scriptures with many words and told us, Psalm xci, "I will be
with him in all his trouble, and will deliver him." Likewise
Psalm xxxiv: "The Lord is nigh unto all them that suffer, and
will help them."

As if this were not enough, He has given us a powerful, strong
example of it, His only, dear Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who
on the Sabbath lay in the tomb the entire day of rest, free from
all His works, and was the first to fulfil this Commandment,
although He needed it not for Himself, but only for our comfort,
that we also in all suffering and death should be quiet and have
peace. Since, as Christ was raised up after His rest and
henceforth lives only in God and God in Him, so also shall we by
the death of our Adam, which is perfectly accomplished only
through natural death and burial, be lifted up into God, that God
may live and work in us forever. Lo! these are the three parts
of man: reason, desire, aversion; in which all his works are
done. These, therefore, must be slain by these three exercises,
God's governance, our self-mortification, the hurt done to us by
others; and so they must spiritually rest before God, and give
Him room for His works.

XXIV. But such works are to be done and such sufferings to be
endured in faith and in sure confidence of God's favor, in order
that, as has been said, all works remain in the First Commandment
and in faith, and that faith, for the sake of which all other
commandments and works are ordained, exercise and strengthen
itself in them. See, therefore, what a pretty, golden ring these
three Commandments and their works naturally form, and how from
the First Commandment and faith the Second flows on to the Third,
and the Third in turn drives through the Second up into the
First. For the first work is to believe, to have a good heart and
confidence toward God. From this flows the second good work, to
praise God's Name, to confess His grace, to give all honor to Him
alone. Then follows the third, to worship by praying, hearing
God's Word, thinking of and considering God's benefits, and in
addition chastising one's self, and keeping the body under.

But when the evil spirit perceives such faith, such honoring of
God and such worship, he rages and stirs up persecution, attacks
body, goods, honor and life, brings upon us sickness, poverty,
shame and death, which God so permits and ordains. See, here
begins the second work, or the second rest of the Third
Commandment; by this faith is very greatly tried, even as gold
in the fire. For it is a great thing to retain a sure confidence
in God, although He sends us death, shame, sickness, poverty; and
in this cruel form of wrath to regard Him as our all-gracious
Father, as must be done in this work of the Third Commandment.
Here suffering contains faith, that it must call upon God's Name
and praise it in such suffering, and so it comes through the
Third Commandment into the Second again; and through that very
calling on the Name of God and praise, faith grows, and becomes
conscious of itself, and so strengthens itself, through the two
works of the Third and of the Second Commandment. Thus faith goes
out into the works and through the works comes to itself again;
just as the sun goes forth unto its setting and comes again unto
its rising. For this reason the Scriptures associate the day with
peaceful living in works, the night with passive living in
adversity, and faith lives and works, goes out and comes in, in
both, as Christ says, John ix.

XXV. This order of good works we pray in the Lord's Prayer. The
first is this, that we say: "Our Father, Who art in heaven";
these are the words of the first work of faith, which, according
to the First Commandment, does not doubt that it has a gracious
Father in heaven. The second: "Hallowed be Thy Name," in which
faith asks that God's Name, praise and honor be glorified, and
calls upon it in every need, as the Second Commandment says. The
third: "Thy kingdom come," in which we pray for the true Sabbath
and rest, peaceful cessation of our works, that God's work alone
be done in us, and so God rule in us as in His own kingdom, as
He says, Luke xvii, "Behold, God's kingdom is nowhere else except
within you." The fourth petition is "Thy will be done"; in which
we pray that we may keep and have the Seven Commandments of the
Second Table, in which faith is exercised toward our neighbor;
just as in the first three it is exercised in works toward God
alone. And these are the petitions in which stands the word
"Thou, Thy, Thy, Thy," because they seek only what belongs to
God; all the others say "our, us, our," etc; for in them we pray
for our goods and blessedness.

Let this, then, suffice as a plain, hasty explanation of the
First Table of Moses, pointing out to simple folk what are the
highest of good works.

The Second Table follows.

"Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother."

From this Commandment we learn that after the excellent works of
the first three Commandments there are no better works than to
obey and serve all those who are set over us as superiors. For
this reason also disobedience is a greater sin than murder,
unchastity, theft and dishonesty, and all that these may include.
For we can in no better way learn how to distinguish between
greater and lesser sins than by noting the order of the
Commandments of God, although there are distinctions also within
the works of each Commandment. For who does not know that to
curse is a greater sin than to be angry, to strike than to curse,
to strike father and mother more than to strike any one else?
Thus these seven Commandments teach us how we are to exercise
ourselves in good works toward men, and first of all toward our

The first work is that we honor our own father and mother. And
this honor consists not only in respectful demeanor, but in this:
that we obey them, look up to, esteem and heed their words and
example, accept what they say, keep silent and endure their
treatment of us, so long as it is not contrary to the first three
Commandments; in addition, when they need it, that we provide
them with food, clothing and shelter. For not for nothing has He
said: "Thou shalt honor them"; He does not say: "Thou shalt love
them," although this also must be done. But honor is higher than
mere love and includes a certain fear, which unites with love,
and causes a man to fear offending them more than he fears the
punishment. Just as there is fear in the honor we pay a
sanctuary, and yet we do not flee from it as from a punishment,
but draw near to it all the more. Such a fear mingled with love
is the true honor; the other fear without any love is that which
we have toward things which we despise or flee from, as we fear
the hangman or punishment. There is no honor in that, for it is
a fear without all love, nay, fear that has with it hatred and
enmity. Of this we have a proverb of St. Jerome: What we fear,
that we also hate. With such a fear God does not wish to be
feared or honored, nor to have us honor our parents; but with the
first, which is mingled with love and confidence.

II. This work appears easy, but few regard it aright. For where
the parents are truly pious and love their children not according
to the flesh, but (as they ought) instruct and direct them by
words and works to serve God according to the first three
Commandments, there the child's own will is constantly broken,
and it must do, leave undone, and suffer what its nature would
most gladly do otherwise; and thereby it finds occasion to
despise its parents, to murmur against them, or to do worse
things. There love and fear depart, unless they have God's grace.
In like manner, when they punish and chastise, as they ought (at
times even unjustly, which, however, does not harm the soul's
salvation), our evil nature resents the correction. Beside all
this, there are some so wicked that they are ashamed of their
parents because of poverty, lowly birth, deformity or dishonor,
and allow these things to influence them more than the high
Commandment of God, Who is above all things, and has with
benevolent intent given them such parents, to exercise and try
them in His Commandment. But the matter becomes still worse when
the child has children of its own; then love descends to them,
and detracts very much from the love and honor toward the

But what is said and commanded of parents must also be understood
of those who, when the parents are dead or absent, take their
place, such as relatives, god-parents, sponsors, temporal lords
and spiritual fathers. For every one must be ruled and be subject
to other men. Wherefore we here see again how many good works are
taught in this Commandment, since in it all our life is made
subject to other men. Hence it comes that obedience is so highly
praised and all virtue and good works are included in it.

III. There is another dishonoring of parents, much more dangerous
and subtile than this first, which adorns itself and passes for
a real honor; that is, when a child has its own way, and the
parents through natural love allow it. Here there is indeed
mutual honor, here there is mutual love, and on all sides it is
a precious thing, parents and child take mutual pleasure in one

This plague is so common that instances of the first form of
dishonoring are very seldom seen. This is due to the fact that
the parents are blinded, and neither know nor honor God according
to the first three Commandments; hence also they cannot see what
the children lack, and how they ought to teach and train them.
For this reason they train them for worldly honors, pleasure and
possessions, that they may by all means please men and reach high
positions: this the children like, and they obey very gladly
without gainsaying.

Thus God's Commandment secretly comes to naught while all seems
good, and that is fulfilled which is written in the Prophets
Isaiah and Jeremiah, that the children are destroyed by their own
parents, and they do like the king Manasseh, who sacrificed his
own son to the idol Moloch and burned him, II. Kings xxi. What
else is it but to sacrifice one's own child to the idol and to
burn it, when parents train their children more in the way of the
world than in the way of God? let them go their way, and be
burned up in worldly pleasure, love, enjoyment, possessions and
honor, but let God's love and honor and the desire of eternal
blessings be quenched in them?

O how perilous it is to be a father or a mother, where flesh and
blood are supreme! For, truly, the knowledge and fulfilment of
the first three and the last six Commandments depends altogether
upon this Commandment; since parents are commanded to teach them
to their children, as Psalm lxxviii. says, "How strictly has He
commanded our fathers, that they should make known God's
Commandments to their children, that the generation to come might
know them and declare them to their children's children." This
also is the reason why God bids us honor our parents, that is,
to love them with fear; for that other love is without fear,
therefore it is more dishonor than honor.

Now see whether every one does not have good works enough to do,
whether he be father or child. But we blind men leave this
untouched, and seek all sorts of other works which are not

IV. Now where parents are foolish and train their children after
the fashion of the world, the children are in no way to obey
them; for God, according to the first three Commandments, is to
be more highly regarded than the parents. But training after the
fashion of the world I call it, when they teach them to seek no
more than pleasure, honor and possessions of this world or its

To wear decent clothes and to seek an honest living is a
necessity, and not sin. Yet the heart of a child must be taught
to be sorry that this miserable earthly life cannot well be
lived, or even begun, without the striving after more adornment
and more possessions than are necessary for the protection of the
body against cold and for nourishment. Thus the child must be
taught to grieve that, without its own will, it must do the
world's will and play the fool with the rest of men, and endure
such evil for the sake of something better and to avoid something
worse. So Queen Esther wore her royal crown, and yet said to God,
Esther xiv, "Thou knowest, that the sign of my high estate, which
is upon my head, has never yet delighted me, and I abhor it as
a menstruous rag, and never wear it when I am by myself, but when
I must do it and go before the people." The heart that is so
minded wears adornment without peril; for it wears and does not
wear, dances and does not dance, lives well and does not live
well. And these are the secret souls, hidden brides of Christ,
but they are rare; for it is hard not to delight in great
adornment and parade. Thus St. Cecilia wore golden clothes at the
command of her parents, but within against her body she wore a
garment of hair.

Here some men say: "How then could I bring my children into
society, and marry them honorably? I must make some display."
Tell me, are not these the words of a heart which despairs of
God, and trusts more on its own providing than on God's care?
Whereas St. Peter teaches and says, I. Peter v, "Cast all your
care upon Him, and be certain that He cares for you." It is a
sign that they have never yet thanked God for their children,
have never yet rightly prayed for them, have never yet commended
them to Him; otherwise they would know and have experienced that
they ought to ask God also for the marriage dower of their
children, and await it from Him. Therefore also He permits them
to go their way, with cares and worries, and yet succeed poorly.

V. Thus it is true, as men say, that parents, although they had
nothing else to do, could attain salvation by training their own
children; if they rightly train them to God's service, they will
indeed have both hands full of good works to do. For what else
are here the hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned, sick, strangers,
than the souls of your own children? with whom God makes of your
house a hospital, and sets you over them as chief nurse, to wait
on them, to give them good words and works as meat and drink,
that they may learn to trust, believe and fear God, and to place
their hope on Him, to honor His Name, not to swear nor curse, to
mortify themselves by praying, fasting, watching, working, to
attend worship and to hear God's Word, and to keep the Sabbath,
that they may learn to despise temporal things, to bear
misfortune calmly, and not to fear death nor to love this life.

See, what great lessons are these, how many good works you have
before you in your home, with your child, that needs all these
things like a hungry, thirsty, naked, poor, imprisoned, sick
soul. O what a blessed marriage and home were that where such
parents were to be found! Truly it would be a real Church, a
chosen cloister, yea, a paradise. Of such says Psalm cxxviii:
"Blessed are they that fear God, and walk in His Commandments;
thou shalt eat of the labor of thine hands; therefore thou shalt
be happy, and it shall be well with thee. Thy wife shall be as
a fruitful vine in thine house, and thy children shall be as the
young scions of laden olive trees about thy table. Behold, thus
shall the man be blessed, that feareth the Lord," etc. Where are
such parents? Where are they that ask after good works? Here none
wishes to come. Why? God has commanded it; the devil, flesh and
blood pull away from it; it makes no show, therefore it counts
for nothing. Here this husband runs to St. James, that wife vows
a pilgrimage to Our Lady; no one vows that he will properly
govern and teach himself and his child to the honor of God; he
leaves behind those whom God has commanded him to keep in body
and soul, and would serve God in some other place, which has not
been commanded him. Such perversity no bishop forbids, no
preacher corrects; nay, for covetousness' sake they confirm it
and daily only invent more pilgrimages, elevations of saints,
indulgence-fairs. God have pity on such blindness.

VI. On the other hand, parents cannot earn eternal punishment in
any way more easily than by neglecting their own children in
their own home, and not teaching them the things which have been
spoken of above. Of what help is it, that they kill themselves
with fasting, praying, making pilgrimages, and do all manner of
good works? God will, after all, not ask them about these things
at their death and in the day of judgment, but will require of
them the children whom He entrusted to them. This is shown by
that word of Christ, Luke xxiii, "Ye daughters of Jerusalem, weep
not for me, but for yourselves and for your children. The days
are coming, in which they shall say: Blessed are the wombs that
never bare, and the paps which never gave suck." Why shall they
lament, except because all their condemnation comes from their
own children? If they had not had children, perhaps they might
have been saved. Truly, these words ought to open the eyes of
parents, that they may have regard to the souls of their
children, so that the poor children be not deceived by their
false, fleshly love, as if they had rightly honored their parents
when they are not angry with them, or are obedient in worldly
matters, by which their self-will is strengthened; although the
Commandment places the parents in honor for the very purpose that
the self-will of the children may be broken, and that the
children may become humble and meek.

Just as it has been said of the other Commandments, that they are
to be fulfilled in the chief work, so here too let no one suppose
that the training and teaching of his children is sufficient of
itself, except it be done in confidence of divine favor, so that
a man doubt not that he is wellpleasing to God in his works, and
that he let such works be nothing else than an exhortation and
exercise of his faith, that he trust God and look to Him for
blessings and a gracious will; without which faith no work lives,
or is good and acceptable; for many heathen have trained their
children beautifully, but it is all lost, because of their

VII. The second work of this Commandment is to honor and obey the
spiritual mother, the holy Christian Church, the spiritual power,
so that we conform to what she commands, forbids, appoints,
orders, binds and looses, and honor, fear and love the spiritual
authority as we honor, love and fear our natural parents, and
yield to it in all things which are not contrary to the first
three Commandments.

Now with regard to this work, things are almost worse than with
regard to the first. The spiritual authority should punish sin
with the ban and with laws, and constrain its spiritual children
to be good, in order that they might have reason to do this work
and to exercise themselves in obeying and honoring it. Such zeal
one does not see now; they act toward their subjects like the
mothers who forsake their children and run after their lovers,
as Hosea ii. says; they do not preach, they do not teach, they
do not hinder, they do not punish, and there is no spiritual
government at all left in Christendom.

What can I say of this work? A few fast-days and feast-days are
left, and these had better be done away with. But no one gives
this a thought, and there is nothing left except the ban for
debt, and this should not be. But spiritual authority should look
to it, that adultery, unchastity, usury, gluttony, worldly show,
excessive adornment, and such like open sin and shame might be
most severely punished and corrected; and they should properly
manage the endowments, monastic houses, parishes and schools, and
earnestly maintain worship in them, provide for the young people,
boys and girls, in schools and cloisters, with learned, pious men
as teachers, that they might all be well trained, and so the
older people give a good example and Christendom be filled and
adorned with fine young people. So St. Paul teaches his disciple
Titus, that he should rightly instruct and govern all classes,
young and old, men and women. But now he goes to school who
wishes; he is taught who governs and teaches himself; nay, it
has, alas! come to such a pass that the places where good should
be taught have become schools of knavery, and no one at all takes
thought for the wild youth.

VIII. If the above order prevailed, one could say how honor and
obedience should be given to the spiritual authority. But now the
case is like that of the natural parents who let their children
do as they please; at present the spiritual authority threatens,
dispenses, takes money, and pardons more than it has power to
pardon. I will here refrain from saying more; we see more of it
than is good; greed holds the reins, and just what should be
forbidden is taught; and it is clearly seen that the spiritual
estate is in all things more worldly than the worldly estate
itself. Meanwhile Christendom must be ruined, and this
Commandment perish.

If there were a bishop who would zealously provide for all these
classes, supervise, make visitations and be faithful as he ought,
truly, one city would be too much for him. For in the time of the
Apostles, when Christendom was at its best estate, each city had
a bishop, although the smallest part of the inhabitants were
Christians. How may things go when one bishop wants to have so
much, another so much, this one the whole world, that one the
fourth of it.

It is time that we pray God for mercy. Of spiritual power we have
much; but of spiritual government nothing or little. Meanwhile
may he help who can, that endowments, monastic houses, parishes
and schools be well established and managed; and it would also
be one of the works of the spiritual authority that it lessen the
number of endowments, monastic houses and schools, where they
cannot be cared for. It is much better that there be no monastic
house or endowment than that there be evil government in them,
whereby God is the more provoked to anger.

IX. Since, then, the authorities so entirely neglect their work,
and are perverted, it must assuredly follow that they misuse
their power, and undertake other and evil works, just as parents
do when they give some command contrary to God. Here we must be
wise; for the Apostle has said, that those times shall be
perilous in which such authorities shall rule. For it seems as
if we resisted their power if we do not do and leave undone all
that they prescribe. Therefore we must take hold of the first
three Commandments and the First Table, and be certain that no
man, neither bishop, nor pope, nor angel, may command or
determine anything that is contrary to or hinders these three
Commandments, or does not help them; and if they attempt such
things, it is not valid and amounts to nothing; and we also sin
if we follow and obey, or even tolerate such acts.

From this it is easy to understand that the commands of fasting
do not include the sick, the pregnant women, or those who for
other reasons cannot fast without injury. And, to rise higher,
in our time nothing comes from Rome but a fair of spiritual
wares, which are openly and shamelessly bought and sold,
indulgences, parishes, monastic houses, bishoprics, provostships,
benefices, and every thing that has ever been founded to God's
service far and wide; whereby not only is all money and wealth
of the world drawn and driven to Rome (for this would be the
smallest harm), but the parishes, bishoprics and prelacies are
torn to pieces, deserted, laid waste, and so the people are
neglected, God's Word and God's Name and honor come to naught,
and faith is destroyed, so that at last such institutions and
offices fall into the hands not only of unlearned and unfit men,
but the greater part into the hands of the Romans, the greatest
villains in the world. Thus what has been founded for God's
service, for the instruction, government and improvement of the
people, must now serve the stable-boys, mule-drivers, yea, not
to use plainer language, Roman whores and knaves; yet we have no
more thanks than that they mock us for it as fools.

X. If then such unbearable abuses are all carried on in the Name
of God and St. Peter, just as if God's Name and the spiritual
power were instituted to blaspheme God's honor, to destroy
Christendom, body and soul: we are indeed in duty bound to resist
in a proper way as much as we can. And here we must do like pious
children whose parents have become insane, and first see by what
right that which has been founded for God's service in our lands,
or has been ordained to provide for our children, must be allowed
to do its work in Rome, and to lapse here, where it ought to
serve. How can we be so foolish?

Since then bishops and spiritual prelates stand idle in this
matter, offer no opposition or are afraid, and thus allow
Christendom to perish, it is our duty first of all humbly to call
upon God for help to prevent this thing, then to put our hand to
work to the same end, send the courtesans and those who bear
letters from Rome about their business, in a reasonable, gentle
way inform them that, if they wish to care for their parishes
properly, they shall live in them and improve the people by
preaching or by good example; or if not, and they do live in Rome
or elsewhere, lay waste and debauch the churches, then let the
pope feed them, whom they serve. It is not fitting that we
support the pope's servants, his people, yes, his knaves and
whores, to the destruction and injury of our souls.

Lo! these are the true Turks, whom the kings, princes and the
nobility ought to attack first: not seeking thereby their own
benefit, but only the improvement of Christendom, and the
prevention of the blasphemy and disgracing of the divine Name;
and so to deal with the clergy as with a father who has lost his
sense and wits; who, if one did not restrain him and resist him
(although with all humility and honor), might destroy child, heir
and everybody. Thus we are to honor Roman authority as our
highest father; and yet, since they have gone mad and lost their
senses, not allow them to do what they attempt, lest Christendom
be destroyed thereby.

XI. Some think, this should be referred to a General Council. To
this I say: No! For we have had many councils in which this has
been proposed, namely, at Constance, Basel and the last Roman
Council; but nothing has been accomplished, and things have grown
ever worse, Moreover, such councils are entirely useless, since
Roman wisdom has contrived the device that the kings and princes
must beforehand take an oath to let the Romans remain what they
are and keep what they have, and so has put up a bar to ward off
all reformation, to retain protection and liberty for all their
knavery, although this oath is demanded, forced and taken
contrary to God and the law, and by it the doors are locked
against the Holy Spirit, Who should rule the councils. But this
would be the best, and also the only remedy remaining, if kings,
princes, nobility, cities and communities themselves began and
opened a way for reformation, so that the bishops and clergy, who
now are afraid, would have reason to follow. For here nothing
else shall and must be considered except God's first three
Commandments, against which neither Rome, nor heaven nor earth
can command or forbid anything. And the ban or threatening with
which they think they can prevent this, amounts to nothing; just
as it amounts to nothing if an insane father severely threatens
the son who restrains him or locks him up.

XII. The third work of this Commandment is to obey the temporal
authority, as Paul teaches, Romans xiii, and Titus iii, and St.
Peter, I. Peter ii: "Submit yourselves to the king as supreme,
and to the princes as his ambassadors, and to all the ordinances
of the worldly power." But it is the work of the temporal power
to protect its subjects, and to punish thievery, robbery, and
adultery, as St. Paul says, Romans xiii: "It beareth not the
sword in vain; it serves God with it, to the terror of evil
doers, and to the protection of the good."

Here men sin in two ways. First, if they lie to the government,
deceive it, and are disloyal, neither obey nor do as it has
ordered and commanded, whether with their bodies or their
possessions. For even if the government does injustice, as the
King of Babylon did to the people of Israel, yet God would have
it obeyed, without treachery and deception. Secondly, when men
speak evil of the government and curse it, and when a man cannot
revenge himself and abuses the government with grumbling and evil
words, publicly or secretly.

In all this we are to regard that which St. Peter bids us regard,
namely, that its power, whether it do right or wrong, cannot harm
the soul, but only the body and property; unless indeed it should
try openly to compel us to do wrong against God or men; as in
former days when the magistrates were not yet Christians, and as
the Turk is now said to do. For to suffer wrong destroys no one's
soul, nay, it improves the soul, although it inflicts loss upon
the body and property; but to do wrong, that destroys the soul,
although it should gain all the world's wealth.

XIII. This also is the reason why there is not such great danger
in the temporal power as in the spiritual, when it does wrong.
For the temporal power can do no harm, I since it has nothing to
do with preaching and faith and the first three Commandments. But
the spiritual power does harm not only when it does wrong, but
also when it neglects its duty and busies itself with other
things, even if they were better than the very best works of the
temporal power. Therefore, we must resist it when it does not do
right, and not resist the temporal power although it does wrong.
For the poor people believe and do as they see the spiritual
power believing and doing; if they are not set an example and are
not taught, then they also believe nothing and do nothing; since
this power is instituted for no other reason than to lead the
people in faith to God. All this is not found in the temporal
power; for it may do and leave undone what it will, my faith to
God still goes its way and works its works, because I need not
believe what it believes.

Therefore, also, the temporal power is a very small thing in
God's sight, and far too slightly regarded by Him, that for its
sake, whether it do right or wrong, we should resist, become
disobedient and quarrel. On the other hand, the spiritual power
is an exceeding great blessing, and far too precious in His eyes,
that the very least of Christians should endure and keep silent,
if it departs a hair's breadth from its own duty, not to say when
it does the very opposite of its duty, as we now see it do every

XIV. In this power also there is much abuse. First, when it
follows the flatterers, which is a common and especially harmful
plague of this power, against which no one can sufficiently guard
and protect himself. Here it is led by the nose, and oppresses
the common people, becomes a government of the like of which a
heathen says: "The spider-webs catch the small flies, but the
mill-stones roll through." So the laws, ordinances and government
of one and the same authority hold the small men, and the great
are free; and where the prince is not himself so wise that he
needs nobody's advice, or has such a standing that they fear him,
there will and must be (unless God should do a special wonder)
a childish government.

For this reason God has considered evil, unfit rulers the
greatest of plagues, as He threatens, Isaiah iii, "I will take
away from them every man of valor, and will give children to be
their princes and babes to rule over them." Four plagues God has
named in Scripture, Ezekiel xiv. The first and slightest, which
also David chose, is pestilence, the second is famine, the third
is war, the fourth is all manner of evil beasts, such as lions,
wolves, serpents, dragons; these are the wicked rulers. For where
these are, the land is destroyed, not only in body and property,
as in the others, but also in honor, discipline, virtue and the
soul's salvation. For pestilence and famine make people good and
rich; but war and wicked rulers bring to naught everything that
has to do with temporal and eternal possessions.

XV. A prince must also be very wise and not at all times
undertake to enforce his own will, although he may have the
authority and the very best cause. For it is a far nobler virtue
to endure wrong to one's authority than to risk property and
person, if it is advantageous to the subjects; since worldly
rights attach only to temporal goods.

Hence, it is a very foolish saying: I have a right to it,
therefore I will take it by storm and keep it, although all sorts
of misfortune may come to others thereby. So we read of the
Emperor Octavianus, that he did not wish to make war, however
just his cause might be, unless there were sure indications of
greater benefit than harm, or at least that the harm would not
be intolerable, and said: " War is like fishing with a golden
net; the loss risked is always greater than the catch can be."
For he who guides a wagon must walk far otherwise than if he were
walking alone; when alone he may walk, jump, and do as he will;
but when he drives, he must so guide and adapt himself that the
wagon and horses can follow him, and regard that more than his
own will. So also a prince leads a multitude with him and must
not walk and act as he wills, but as the multitude can,
considering their need and advantage more than his will and
pleasure. For when a prince rules after his own mad will and
follows his own opinion, he is like a mad driver, who rushes
straight ahead with horse and wagon, through bushes, thorns,
ditches, water, up hill and down dale, regardless of roads and
bridges; he will not drive long, all will go to smash.

Therefore it would be most profitable for rulers, that they read,
or have read to them, from youth on, the histories, both in
sacred and in profane books, in which they would find more
examples and skill in ruling than in all the books of law; as we
read that the kings of Persia did, Esther vi. For examples and
histories benefit and teach more than the laws and statutes:
there actual experience teaches, here untried and uncertain

XVI. Three special, distinct works all rulers might do in our
times, particularly in our lands. First, to make an end of the
horrible gluttony and drunkenness, not only because of the
excess, but also because of its expense. For through seasonings
and spices and the like, without which men could well live, no
little loss of temporal wealth has come and daily is coming upon
our lands. To prevent these two great evils would truly give the
temporal power enough to do, for the inroads they have made are
wide and deep. And how could those in power serve God better and
thereby also improve their own land?

Secondly, to forbid the excessive cost of clothing, whereby so
much wealth is wasted, and yet only the world and the flesh are
served; it is fearful to think that such abuse is to be found
among the people who have been pledged, baptised and consecrated
to Christ, the Crucified, and who should bear the Cross after Him
and prepare for the life to come by dying daily. If some men
erred through ignorance, it might be borne; but that it is
practised so freely, without punishment, without shame, without
hindrance, nay, that praise and fame are sought thereby, this is
indeed an unchristian thing. Thirdly, to drive out the usurious
buying of rent-charges, which in the whole world ruins, consumes
and troubles all lands, peoples and cities through its cunning
form, by which it appears not to be usury, while in truth it is
worse than usury, because men are not on their guard against it
as against open usury. See, these are the three Jews, as men say,
who suck the whole world dry. Here princes ought not to sleep,
nor be lazy, if they would give a good account of their office
to God.

XVII. Here too ought to be mentioned the knavery which is
practised by officiales and other episcopal and spiritual
officers, who ban, load, hunt and drive the poor people with
great burdens, as long as a penny remains. This ought to be
prevented by the temporal sword, since there is no other help or

O, would God in heaven, that some time a government might be
established that would do away with the public bawdy-houses, as
was done among the people of Israel! It is indeed an unchristian
sight, that public houses of sin are maintained among Christians,
a thing formerly altogether unheard of. It should be a rule that
boys and girls should be married early and such vice be
prevented. Such a rule and custom ought to be sought for by both
the spiritual and the temporal power. If it was possible among
the Jews, why should it not also be possible among Christians?
Nay, if it is possible in villages, towns and some cities, as we
all see, why should it not be possible everywhere?

But the trouble is, there is no real government in the world. No
one wants to work, therefore the mechanics must give their
workmen holiday: then they are free and no one can tame them. But
if there were a rule that they must do as they are bid, and no
one would give them work in other places, this evil would to a
large extent be mended. God help us! I fear that here the wish
is far greater than the hope; but this does not excuse us.

Now see, here only a few works of magistrates are indicated, but
they are so good and so many, that they have superabundant good
works to do every hour and could constantly serve God. But these
works, like the others, should also be done in faith, yea, be an
exercise of faith, so that no one expect to please God by the
works, but by confident trust in His favor do such works only to
the honor and praise of his gracious God, thereby to serve and
benefit his neighbor.

XVIII. The fourth work of this Commandment is obedience of
servants and workmen toward their lords and ladies, masters and
mistresses. Of this St. Paul says, Titus ii: "Thou shalt exhort
servants that they highly honor their masters, be obedient, do
what pleases them, not cheating them nor opposing them"; for this
reason also: because they thereby bring the doctrine of Christ
and our faith into good repute, that the heathen cannot complain
of us and be offended. St. Peter also says: "Servants, be subject
to your masters, for the fear of God, not only to the good and
gentle, but also to the froward and harsh. For this is acceptable
with God, if a man suffers harshness, being innocent."

Now there is the greatest complaint in the world about servants
and working men, that they are disobedient, unfaithful,
unmannerly, and over-reaching; this is a plague sent of God. And
truly, this is the one work of servants whereby they may be
saved; truly they need not make pilgrimages or do this thing or
the other; they have enough to do if their heart is only set on
this, that they gladly do and leave undone what they know pleases
their masters and mistresses, and all this in a simple faith; not
that they would by their works gain much merit, but that they do
it all in the confidence of divine favor (in which all merits are
to be found), purely for nothing, out of the love and good-will
toward God which grows out of such confidence. And all such works
they should think of as an exercise and exhortation ever to
strengthen their faith and confidence more and more. For, as has
now been frequently said, this faith makes all works good, yea,
it must do them and be the master-workman.

XIX. On the other hand, the masters and mistresses should not
rule their servants, maids and workingmen roughly, not look to
all things too closely, occasionally overlook something, and for
peace' sake make allowances. For it is not possible that
everything be done perfectly at all times among any class of men,
as long as we live on earth in imperfection. Of this St. Paul
says, Colossians iv, "Masters, do unto your servants that which
is just and equal, knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven."
Therefore as the masters do not wish God to deal too sharply with
them, but that many things be overlooked through grace, they also
should be so much the more gentle toward their servants, and
overlook some things, and yet have a care that the servants do
right and learn to fear God.

But see now, what good works a householder and a mistress can do,
how finely God offers us all good works so near at hand, so
manifold, so continuously, that we have no need of asking after
good works, and might well forget the other showy, far-off,
invented works of men, such as making pilgrimages, building
churches, seeking indulgence, and the like.

Here I ought naturally also to say how a wife ought to be
obedient, subject to her husband as to her superior, give way to
him, keep silent and give up to him, where it is a matter not
contrary to God's commands. On the other hand, the husband should
love his wife, overlook a little, and not deal strictly with her,
of which matter St. Peter and St. Paul have said much. But this
has its place in the further explanation of the Ten Commandments,
and is easily inferred from these passages.

XX. But all that has been said of these works is included in
these two, obedience and considerateness. Obedience is the duty
of subjects, considerateness that of masters, that they take care
to rule their subjects well, deal kindly with them, and do
everything whereby they may benefit and help them. That is their
way to heaven, and these are the best works they can do on earth;
with these they are more acceptable to God than if without these
they did nothing but miracles. So says St. Paul, Romans xii: "He
that ruleth, let him do it with diligence"; as who should say:
"Let him not allow himself to be led astray by what other people
or classes of people do; let him not look to this work or to
that, whether it be splendid or obscure; but let him look to his
own position, and think only how he may benefit those who are
subject to him; by this let him stand, nor let himself be torn
from it, although heaven stood open before him, nor be driven
from it, although hell were chasing him. This is the right road
that leads him to heaven."

Oh, if a man were so to regard himself and his position, and
attended to its duties alone, how rich in good works would he be
in a short time, so quietly and secretly that no one would notice
it except God alone! But now we let all this go, and one runs to
the Carthusians, another to this place, a third to that, just as
if good works and God's Commandments had been thrown into corners
and hidden; although it is written in Proverbs i, that divine
wisdom crieth out her commandments publicly in the streets, in
the midst of the people and in the gates of the cities; which
means that they are present in profusion in all places, in all
stations of life and at all times, and we do not see them, but
in our blindness look for them elsewhere. This Christ declared,
Matthew xxiv: "If they shall say unto you: Lo, here is Christ,
or there, believe it not. If they shall say: Behold, He is in the
desert, go not forth; behold, He is in the secret chambers,
believe it not; they are false prophets and false Christs."

XXI. Again, obedience is the duty of subjects, that they direct
all their diligence and effort to do and to leave undone what
their over-lords desire of them, that they do not allow
themselves to be torn or driven from this, whatever another do.
Let no man think that he lives well or does good works, whether
it be prayer or fasting, or by whatever name it may be called,
if he does not earnestly and diligently exercise himself in this.

But if it should happen, as it often does, that the temporal
power and authorities, as they are called, should urge a subject
to do contrary to the Commandments of God, or hinder him from
doing them, there obedience ends, and that duty is annulled. Here
a man must say as St. Peter says to the rulers of the Jews: "We
ought to obey God rather than men." He did not say: "We must not
obey men"; for that would be wrong; but he said: "God rather than
men." Thus, if a prince desired to go to war, and his cause was
manifestly unrighteous, we should not follow nor help him at all;
since God has commanded that we shall not kill our neighbor, nor
do him injustice. Likewise, if he bade us bear false witness,
steal, lie or deceive and the like. Here we ought rather give up
goods, honor, body, and life, that God's Commandments may stand.

The four preceding Commandments have their works in the
understanding, that is, they take a man captive, rule him and
make him subject, so that he rule not himself, approve not
himself, think not highly of himself; but in humility know
himself and allow himself to be led, that pride be prevented. The
following Commandments deal with the passions and lust of men,
that these also be killed.

I. The passions of anger and revenge, of which the Fifth
Commandment says, "Thou shalt not kill." This Commandment has one
work, which however includes many and dispels many vices, and is
called meekness. Now this is of two kinds. The one has a
beautiful splendor, and there is nothing back of it. This we
practice toward our friends and those who do us good and give us
pleasure with goods, honor and favor, or who do not offend us
with words nor with deeds. Such meekness irrational animals have,
lions and snakes, Jews, Turks, knaves, murderers, bad women.
These are all content and gentle when men do what they want, or
let them alone; and yet there are not a few who, deceived by such
worthless meekness, cover over their anger and excuse it, saying:
"I would indeed not be angry, if I were left alone." Certainly,
my good man, so the evil spirit also would be meek if he had his
own way. Dissatisfaction and resentment overwhelm you in order
that they may show you how full of anger and wickedness you are,
that you may be admonished to strive after meekness and to drive
out anger.

The second form of meekness is good through and through, that
which is shown toward opponents and enemies, does them no harm,
does not revenge itself, does not curse nor revile, does not
speak evil of them, does not meditate evil against them, although
they had taken away goods, honor, life, friends and everything.
Nay, where it is possible, it returns good for evil, speaks well
of them, thinks well of them, prays for them. Of this Christ
says, Matthew v: "Do good to them that despitefully use you. Pray
for them that persecute you and revile you." And Paul, Romans
xii: "Bless them which curse you, and by no means curse them, but
do good to them."

II. Behold how this precious, excellent work has been lost among
Christians, so that nothing now everywhere prevails except
strife, war, quarreling, anger, hatred, envy, back-biting,
cursing, slandering, injuring, vengeance, and all manner of angry
works and words; and yet, with all this, we have our many
holidays, hear masses, say our prayers, establish churches, and
more such spiritual finery, which God has not commanded. We shine
resplendently and excessively, as if we were the most holy
Christians there ever were. And so because of these mirrors and
masks we allow God's Commandment to go to complete ruin, and no
one considers or examines himself, how near or how far he be from
meekness and the fulfilment of this Commandment; although God has
said, that not he who does such works, but he who keeps His
Commandments, shall enter into eternal life.

Now, since no one lives on earth upon whom God does not bestow
an enemy and opponent as a proof of his own anger and wickedness,
that is, one who afflicts him in goods, honor, body or friends,
and thereby tries whether anger is still present, whether he can
be well-disposed toward his enemy, speak well of him, do good to
him, and not intend any evil against him; let him come forward
who asks what he shall do that he may do good works, please God
and be saved. Let him set his enemy before him, keep him
constantly before the eyes of his heart, as an exercise whereby
he may curb his spirit and train his heart to think kindly of his
enemy, wish him well, care for him and pray for him; and then,
when opportunity offers, speak well of him and do good to him.
Let him who will, try this and if he find not enough to do all
his life long, he may convict me of lying, and say that my
contention was wrong. But if this is what God desires, and if He
will be paid in no other coin, of what avail is it, that we busy
ourselves with other great works which are not commanded, and
neglect this? Therefore God says, Matthew v, "I say unto you,
that whosoever is angry with his neighbor, is in danger of the
judgment; but whosoever shall say to his brother, Thou fool (that
is, all manner of invective, cursing, reviling, slandering), he
shall be in danger of everlasting fire." What remains then for
the outward act, striking, wounding, killing, injuring, etc., if
the thoughts and words of anger are so severely condemned?

III. But where there is true meekness, there the heart is pained
at every evil which happens to one's enemy. And these are the
true children and heirs of God and brethren of Christ, Whose
heart was so pained for us all when He died on the holy Cross.
Even so we see a pious judge passing sentence upon the criminal
with sorrow, and regretting the death which the law imposes. Here
the act seems to be one of anger and harshness. So thoroughly
good is meekness that even in such works of anger it remains,
nay, it torments the heart most sorely when it must be angry and

But here we must watch, that we be not meek contrary to God's
honor and Commandment. For it is written of Moses that he was the
very meekest man on earth, and yet, when the Jews had worshiped
the golden calf and provoked God to anger, he put many of them
to death, and thereby made atonement before God. Likewise it is
not fitting that the magistrates should be idle and allow sin to
have sway, and that we say nothing. My own possessions, my honor,
my injury, I must not regard, nor grow angry because of them; but
God's honor and Commandment we must protect, and injury or
injustice to our neighbor we must prevent, the magistrates with
the sword, the rest of us with reproof and rebuke, yet always
with pity for those who have merited the punishment.

This high, noble, sweet work can easily be learned, if we perform
it in faith, and as an exercise of faith. For if faith does not
doubt the favor of God nor question that God is gracious, it will
become quite easy for a man to be gracious and favorable to his
neighbor, however much he may have sinned; for we have sinned
much more against God. Behold, a short Commandment this, but it
presents a long, mighty exercise of good works and of faith.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

In this Commandment too a good work is commanded, which includes
much and drives away much vice; it is called purity, or chastity,
of which much is written and preached, and it is well known to
every one, only that it is not as carefully observed and
practised as other works which are not commanded. So ready are
we to do what is not commanded and to leave undone what is
commanded. We see that the world is full of shameful works of
unchastity, indecent words, tales and ditties, temptation to
which is daily increased through gluttony and drunkenness,
idleness and frippery. Yet we go our way as if we were
Christians; when we have been to church, have said our little
prayer, have observed the fasts and feasts, then we think our
whole duty is done.

Now, if no other work were commanded but chastity alone, we would
all have enough to do with this one; so perilous and raging a
vice is unchastity. It rages in all our members: in the thoughts
of our hearts, in the seeing of our eyes, in the hearing of our
ears, in the words of our mouth, in the works of our hands and
feet and all our body. To control all these requires labor and
effort; and thus the Commandments of God teach us how great truly
good works are, nay, that it is impossible for us of our own
strength to conceive a good work, to say nothing of attempting
or doing it. St. Augustine says, that among all the conflicts of
the Christian the conflict of chastity is the hardest, for the
one reason alone, that it continues daily without ceasing, and
chastity seldom prevails. This all the saints have wept over and
lamented, as St. Paul does, Romans vii: "I find in me, that is
in my flesh, no good thing."

II. If this work of chastity is to be permanent, it will drive
to many other good works, to fasting and temperance over against
gluttony and drunkenness, to watching and early rising over
against laziness and excessive sleep, to work and labor over
against idleness. For gluttony, drunkenness, lying late abed,
loafing and being without work are weapons of unchastity, with
which chastity is quickly overcome. On the other hand, the holy
Apostle Paul calls fasting, watching and labor godly weapons,
with which unchastity is mastered; but, as has been said above,
these exercises must do no more than overcome unchastity, and not
pervert nature.

Above all this, the strongest defence is prayer and the Word of
God; namely, that when evil lust stirs, a man flee to prayer,
call upon God's mercy and help, read and meditate on the Gospel,
and in it consider Christ's sufferings. Thus says Psalm cxxxvii:
"Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth the little ones of
Babylon against the rock," that is, if the heart runs to the Lord
Christ with its evil thoughts while they are yet young and just
beginning; for Christ is a Rock, on which they are ground to
powder and come to naught.

See, here each one will find enough to do with himself, and more
than enough, and will be given many good works to do within
himself. But now no one uses prayer, fasting, watching, labor for
this purpose, but men stop in these works as if they were in
themselves the whole purpose, although they should be arranged
so as to fulfil the work of this Commandment and purify us daily
more and more.

Some have also indicated more things which should be avoided,
such as soft beds and clothes, that we should avoid excessive
adornment, and neither associate nor talk with members of the
opposite sex, nor even look upon them, and whatsoever else may
be conducive to chastity. In all these things no one can fix a
definite rule and measure. Each one must watch himself and see
what things are needful to him for chastity, in what quantity and
how long they help him to be chaste, that he may thus choose and
observe them for himself; if he cannot do this, let him for a
time give himself up to be controlled by another, who may hold
him to such observance until he can learn to rule himself. This
was the purpose for which the monastic houses were established
of old, to teach young people discipline and purity.

III. In this work a good strong faith is a great help, more
noticeably so than in almost any other; so that for this reason
also Isaiah xi. says that "faith is a girdle of the reins," that
is, a guard of chastity. For he who so lives that he looks to God
for all grace, takes pleasure in spiritual purity; therefore he
can so much more easily resist fleshly impurity: and in such
faith the Spirit tells him of a certainty how he shall avoid evil
thoughts and everything that is repugnant to chastity. For as the
faith in divine favor lives without ceasing and works in all
works, so it also does not cease its admonitions in all things
that are pleasing to God or displease Him; as St. John says in
his Epistle: "Ye need not that any man teach you: for the divine
anointing, that is, the Spirit of God, teacheth you of all

Yet we must not despair if we are not soon rid of the temptation,
nor by any means imagine that we are free from it as long as we
live, and we must regard it only as an incentive and admonition
to prayer, fasting, watching, laboring, and to other exercises
for the quenching of the flesh, especially to the practice and
exercise of faith in God. For that chastity is not precious which
is at ease, but that which is at war with unchastity, and fights,
and without ceasing drives out all the poison with which the
flesh and the evil spirit attack it. Thus St. Peter says, "I
beseech you, abstain from fleshly desires and lusts, which war
always against the soul." And St. Paul, Romans vi, "Ye shall not
obey the body in its lusts." In these and like passages it is
shown that no one is without evil lust; but that everyone shall
and must daily fight against it. But although this brings
uneasiness and pain, it is none the less a work that gives
pleasure, in which we shall have our comfort and satisfaction.
For they who think they make an end of temptation by yielding to
it, only set themselves on fire the more; and although for a time
it is quiet, it comes again with more strength another time, and
finds the nature weaker than before.

Thou shalt not steal.

This Commandment also has a work, which embraces very many good
works, and is opposed to many vices, and is called in German
Mildigkeit, "benevolence;" which is a work ready to help and
serve every one with one's goods. And it fights not only against
theft and robbery, but against all stinting in temporal goods
which men may practise toward one another: such as greed, usury,
overcharging and plating wares that sell as solid, counterfeit
wares, short measures and weights, and who could tell all the
ready, novel, clever tricks, which multiply daily in every trade,
by which every one seeks his own gain through the other's loss,
and forgets the rule which says: "What ye wish that others do to
you, that do ye also to them." If every one kept this rule before
his eyes in his trade, business, and dealings with his neighbor,
he would readily find how he ought to buy and sell, take and
give, lend and give for nothing, promise and keep his promise,
and the like. And when we consider the world in its doings, how
greed controls all business, we would not only find enough to do,
if we would make an honorable living before God, but also be
overcome with dread and fear for this perilous, miserable life,
which is so exceedingly overburdened, entangled and taken captive
with cares of this temporal life and dishonest seeking of gain.

II. Therefore the Wise Man says not in vain: "Happy is the rich
man, who is found without blemish, who does not run after gold,
and has not set his confidence in the treasures of money. Who is
he? We will praise him, that he has done wondrous things in his
life." As if he would say: "None such is found, or very few
indeed." Yea, they are very few who notice and recognise such
lust for gold in themselves. For greed has here a very beautiful,
fine cover for its shame, which is called provision for the body
and natural need, under cover of which it accumulates wealth
beyond all limits and is never satisfied; so that he who would
in this matter keep himself clean, must truly, as he says, do
miracles or wondrous things in his life.

Now see, if a man wish not only to do good works, but even
miracles, which God may praise and be pleased with, what need has
he to look elsewhere? Let him take heed to himself, and see to
it that he run not after gold, nor set his trust on money, but
let the gold run after him, and money wait on his favor, and let
him love none of these things nor set his heart on them; then he
is the true, generous, wonderworking, happy man, as Job xxxi
says: "I have never yet: relied upon gold, and never yet made
gold my hope and confidence." And Psalm lxii: "If riches
increase, set not your heart upon them." So Christ also teaches,
Matthew vi, that we shall take no thought, what we shall eat and
drink and wherewithal we shall be clothed, since God cares for
this, and knows that we have need of all these things.

But some say: "Yes, rely upon that, take no thought, and see
whether a roasted chicken will fly into your mouth!" I do not say
that a man shall not labor and seek a living; but he shall not
worry, not be greedy, not despair, thinking that he will not have
enough; for in Adam we are all condemned to labor, when God says
to him, Genesis iii, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat
bread." And Job v, "As the birds to flying, so is man born unto
labor." Now the birds fly without worry and greed, and so we also
should labor without worry and greed; but if you do worry and are
greedy, wishing that the roasted chicken fly into your mouth:
worry and be greedy, and see whether you will thereby fulfil
God's Commandment and be saved!

III. This work faith teaches of itself. For if the heart looks
for divine favor and relies upon it, how is it possible that a
man should be greedy and worry? He must be sure beyond a doubt
that God cares for him; therefore he does not cling to money; he
uses it also with cheerful liberality for the benefit of his
neighbor, and knows well that he will have enough, however much
he may give away. For his God, Whom he trusts, will not lie to
him nor forsake him, as it is written, Psalm xxxvii: "I have been
young, and now am old; never have I seen a believing man, who
trusts God, that is a righteous man, forsaken, or his child
begging bread." Therefore the Apostle calls no other sin idolatry
except covetousness, because this sin shows most plainly that it
does not trust God for anything, expects more good from its money
than from God; and, as has been said, it is by such confidence
that God is truly honored or dishonored.

And, indeed, in this Commandment it can be clearly seen how all
good works must be done in faith; for here every one most surely
feels that the cause of covetousness is distrust and the cause
of liberality is faith. For because a man trusts God, he is
generous and does not doubt that he will always have enough; on
the other hand, a man is covetous and worries because he does not
trust God. Now, as in this Commandment faith is the
master-workman and the doer of the good work of liberality, so
it is also in all the other Commandments, and without such faith
liberality is of no worth, but rather a careless squandering of

IV. By this we are also to know that this liberality shall extend
even to enemies and opponents. For what manner of good deed is
that, if we are liberal only to our friends? As Christ teaches,
Luke vi, even a wicked man does that to another who is his
friend. Besides, the brute beasts also do good and are generous
to their kind. Therefore a Christian must rise higher, let his
liberality serve also the undeserving, evil-doers, enemies, and
the ungrateful, even as his heavenly Father makes His sun to rise
on good and evil, and the rain to fall on the grateful and

But here it will be found how hard it is to do good works
according to God's Commandment, how nature squirms, twists and
writhes in its opposition to it, although it does the good works
of its own choice easily and gladly. Therefore take your enemies,
the ungrateful, and do good to them; then you will find how near
you are to this Commandment or how far from it, and how all your
life you will always have to do with the practice of this work.
For if your enemy needs you and you do not help him when you can,
it is just the same as if you had stolen what belonged to him,
for you owed it to him to help him. So says St. Ambrose, "Feed
the hungry; if you do not feed him, you have, as far as you are
concerned, slain him." And in this Commandment are included the
works of mercy, which Christ will require at men's hands at the
last day.

But the magistrates and cities ought to see to it that the
vagabonds, pilgrims and mendicants from foreign lands be
debarred, or at least allowed only under restrictions and rules,
so that knaves be not permitted to run at large under the guise
of mendicants, and their knavery, of which there now is much, be
prohibited. I have spoken at greater length of this Commandment
in the Treatise on Usury.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

This Commandment seems small, and yet is so great, that he who
would rightly keep it must risk and imperil life and limb, goods
and honor, friends and all that he has; and yet it includes no
more than the work of that small member, the tongue, and is
called in German Wahrheit sagen, "telling the truth" and, where
there is need, gainsaying lies; so that it forbids many evil
works of the tongue. First: those which are committed by
speaking, and those which are committed by keeping silent. By
speaking, when a man has an unjust law-suit, and wants to prove
and maintain his case by a false argument, catch his neighbor
with subtilty, produce everything that strengthens and furthers
his own cause, and withhold and discount everything that furthers
his neighbor's good cause; in doing which he does not do to his
neighbor as he would have his neighbor do to him. This some men
do for the sake of gain, some to avoid loss or shame, thereby
seeking their own advantage more than God's Commandment, and
excuse themselves by saying: Vigilanti jura subveniunt, "the law
helps him who watches"; just as if it were not as much their duty
to watch for their neighbor's cause as for their own. Thus they
intentionally allow their neighbor's cause to be lost, although
they know that it is just. This evil is at present so common that
I fear no court is held and no suit tried but that one side sins
against this Commandment. And even when they cannot accomplish
it, they yet have the unrighteous spirit and will, so that they
would wish the neighbor's just cause to be lost and their unjust
cause to prosper. This sin is most frequent when the opponent is
a prominent man or an enemy. For a man wants to revenge himself
on his enemy: but the ill will of a man of prominence he does not
wish to bring upon himself; and then begins the flattering and
fawning, or, on the other hand, the withholding of the truth.
Here no one is willing to run the risk of disfavor and
displeasure, loss and danger for the truth's sake; and so God's
Commandment must perish. And this is almost universally the way
of the world. He who would keep this Commandment, would have both
hands full doing only those good works which concern the tongue.
And then, how many are there who allow themselves to be silenced
and swerved aside from the truth by presents and gifts! so that
in all places it is truly a high, great, rare work, not to be a
false witness against one's neighbor.

II. There is a second bearing of witness to the truth, which is
still greater, with which we must fight against the evil spirits;
and this concerns not temporal matters, but the Gospel and the
truth of faith, which the evil spirit has at no time been able
to endure, and always so manages that the great among men, whom
it is hard to resist, must oppose and persecute it. Of which it
is written in Psalm lxxxii, "Rid the poor out of the hand of the
wicked, and help the forsaken to maintain his just cause."

Such persecution, it is true, has now become infrequent; but that
is the fault of the spiritual prelates, who do not stir up the
Gospel, but let it perish, and so have abandoned the very thing
because of which such witnessing and persecution should arise;
and in its place they teach us their own law and what pleases
them. For this reason the devil also does not stir, since by
vanquishing the Gospel he has also vanquished faith in Christ,
and everything goes as he wishes. But if the Gospel should be
stirred up and be heard again, without doubt the whole world
would be aroused and moved, and the greater portion of the kings,
princes, bishops, doctors and clergy, and all that is great,
would oppose it and rage against it, as has always happened when
the Word of God has come to light; for the world cannot endure
what comes from God. This is proved in Christ, Who was and is the
very greatest and most precious and best of all that God has; yet
the world not only did not receive Him, but persecuted Him more
cruelly than all others who had ever come forth from God.

Therefore, as at that time, so at all times there are few who
stand by the divine truth, and imperil and risk life and limb,
goods and honor, and all that they have, as Christ has foretold:
"Ye shall be hated of all men for My Name's sake." And: "Many of
them shall be offended in Me." Yea, if this truth were attacked
by peasants, herdsmen, stable-boys and men of no standing, who
would not be willing and able to confess it and to bear witness
to it? But when the pope, and the bishops, together with princes
and kings attack it, all men flee, keep silent, dissemble, in
order that they may not lose goods, honor, favor and life.

III. Why do they do this? Because they have no faith in God, and
expect nothing good from Him. For where such faith and confidence
are, there is also a bold, defiant, fearless heart, that ventures
and stands by the truth, though it cost life or cloak, though it
be against pope or kings; as we see that the martyrs did. For
such a heart is satisfied and rests easy because it has a
gracious, loving God. Therefore it despises all the favor, grace,
goods and honor of men, lets them come and go as they please; as
is written in Psalm xv: "He contemneth them that contemn God, and
honoreth them that fear the Lord"; that is, the tyrants, the
mighty, who persecute the truth and despise God, he does not
fear, he does not regard them, he despiseth them; on the other
hand, those who are persecuted for the truth's sake, and fear God
more than men, to these he clings, these he defends, these he
honors, let it vex whom it may; as it is written of Moses,
Hebrews xi, that he stood by his brethren, regardless of the
mighty king of Egypt.

Lo, in this Commandment again you see briefly that faith must be
the master-workman in this work also, so that without it no one
has courage to do this work: so entirely are all works comprised
in faith, as has now been often said. Therefore, apart from faith
all works are dead, however good the form and name they bear. For
as no one does the work of this Commandment except he be firm and
fearless in the confidence of divine favor; so also he does no
work of any other Commandment without the same faith: thus every
one may easily by this Commandment test and weigh himself whether
he be a Christian and truly believe in Christ, and thus whether
he is doing good works or no. Now we see how the Almighty God has
not only set our Lord Jesus Christ before us that we should
believe in Him with such confidence, but also holds before us in
Him an example of this same confidence and of such good works,
to the end that we should believe in Him, follow Him and abide
in Him forever; as He says, John xiv: "I am the Way, the Truth
and the Life," -- the Way, in which we follow Him; the Truth,
that we believe in Him; the Life, that we live in Him forever.

From all this it is now manifest that all other works, which are
not commanded, are perilous and easily known: such as building
churches, beautifying them, making pilgrimages, and all that is
written at so great length in the Canon Law and has misled and
burdened the world and ruined it, made uneasy consciences,
silenced and weakened faith, and has not said how a man, although
he neglect all else, has enough to do with all his powers to keep
the Commandments of God, and can never do all the good works
which he is commanded to do; why then does he seek others, which
are neither necessary nor commanded, and neglect those that are
necessary and commanded?

The last two Commandments, which forbid evil desires of the body
for pleasure and for temporal goods, are clear in themselves;
these evil desires do no harm to our neighbor, and yet they
continue unto the grave, and the strife in us against them
endures unto death; therefore these two Commandments are drawn
together by St. Paul into one, Romans vii, and are set as a goal
unto which we do not attain, and only in our thoughts reach after
until death. For no one has ever been so holy that he felt in
himself no evil inclination, especially when occasion and
temptation were offered. For original sin is born in us by
nature, and may be checked, but not entirely uprooted, except
through the death of the body; which for this reason is
profitable and a thing to be desired. To this may God help us.


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