[Introductory note: In 1530, Charles V, Emperor of the Holy
Empire, called together the princes and cities of his german
in a Diet at Augsburg. He sought unity among them to fend off the
of Turkish armies in Eastern Austria. He called upon the Lutheran
to explain their religious convictions, with the hope that the
swirling around the challenge of the Reformation might be resolved. To
this end, Philip Melanchthon, a close friend of Martin Luther and a
of New Testament at Wittenberg University, was called upon to draft a
confession for the Lutheran Lords and Free Territories. The resulting
the Augsburg Confession, was presented to the emperor on June 25, 1530.
The Augsburg Confession
proved to be a fundamental
document in the transformation of religious controversy in
Germany and Europe. In the first place, it provided a point of
so to speak, for the many and often fractious regional brands of
teaching, a standard against which particular localities might measure
their actions. Just as important, the Augsburg Confession marked a
of no return down the path toward confessionalization--the
break up of Western Christianity into separate churches, their
to secular power (especially in the Protestants' case), and the
of political differences and, to some extent, social tensions around
divisions. Twenty-five years later, this confession provided the
basis for the recognition of Protestantism as a separate and tolerated
religious church and creed in the Peace
presentation of the Augsburg Confession to Emperor Charles V; probably
by Johann Matthäus Bauhoff (1716–1788), ca. 1780. 62,5 x 57.
Stadtmuseum. Image source: Das Haus der Bayerischen
Preface to the Emperor Charles V.
Most Invincible Emperor, Caesar Augustus, Most Clement Lord: Inasmuch
as Your Imperial Majesty has summoned a Diet of the Empire here at
to deliberate concerning measures against the Turk, that most
hereditary, and ancient enemy of the Christian name and religion, in
way, namely, effectually to withstand his furor and assaults by strong
and lasting military provision; and then also concerning dissensions in
the matter of our holy religion and Christian Faith, that in this
matter of religion the opinions and judgments of the parties might be
in each other's presence; and considered and weighed among ourselves in
mutual charity, leniency, and kindness, in order that, after the
and correction of such things as have been treated and understood in a
different manner in the writings on either side, these matters may be
and brought back to one simple truth and Christian concord, that for
future one pure and true religion may be embraced and maintained by us,
that as we all are under one Christ and do battle under Him, so we may
be able also to live in unity and concord in the one Christian Church.
And inasmuch as we, the undersigned Elector and
Princes, with others joined with us, have been called to the aforesaid
Diet the same as the other Electors, Princes, and Estates, in obedient
compliance with the Imperial mandate, we have promptly come to
and -- what we do not mean to say as boasting -- we were among the
to be here.
Accordingly, since even here at Augsburg at the
very beginning of the Diet, Your Imperial Majesty caused to be proposed
to the Electors, Princes, and other Estates of the Empire,
other things, that the several Estates of the Empire, on the strength
the Imperial edict, should set forth and submit their opinions and
in the German and the Latin language, and since on the ensuing
answer was given to Your Imperial Majesty, after due deliberation, that
we would submit the Articles of our Confession for our side on next
therefore, in obedience to Your Imperial Majesty's wishes, we offer, in
this matter of religion, the Confession of our preachers and of
showing what manner of doctrine from the Holy Scriptures and the pure
of God has been up to this time set forth in our lands, dukedoms,
and cities, and taught in our churches.
And if the other Electors, Princes, and Estates.
of the Empire will, according to the said Imperial proposition, present
similar writings, to wit, in Latin and German, giving their opinions in
this matter of religion, we, with the Princes and friends aforesaid,
before Your Imperial Majesty, our most clement Lord are prepared to
amicably concerning all possible ways and means, in order that we may
together, as far as this may be honorably done, and, the matter between
us on both sides being peacefully discussed without offensive strife,
dissension, by God's help, may be done away and brought back to one
accordant religion; for as we all are under one Christ and do battle
Him, we ought to confess the one Christ, after the tenor of Your
Majesty's edict, and everything ought to be conducted according to the
truth of God; and this it is what, with most fervent prayers, we
However, as regards the rest of the Electors,
and Estates, who constitute the other part, if no progress should be
nor some result be attained by this treatment of the cause of religion
after the manner in which Your Imperial Majesty has wisely held that it
should be dealt with and treated namely, by such mutual presentation of
writings and calm conferring together among ourselves, we at least
with you a clear testimony, that we here in no wise are holding back
anything that could bring about Christian concord, -- such as could be
effected with God and a good conscience, -- as also Your Imperial
and, next, the other Electors and Estates of the Empire, and all who
moved by sincere love and zeal for religion, and who will give an
hearing to this matter, will graciously deign to take notice and to
this from this Confession of ours and of our associates.
Your Imperial Majesty also, not only once but often,
graciously signified to the Electors Princes, and Estates of the
and at the Diet of Speyer held in 1526, according to the form of Your
instruction and commission given and prescribed, caused it to be stated
and publicly proclaimed that Your Majesty, in dealing with this matter
of religion, for certain reasons which were alleged in Your Majesty's
was not willing to decide and could not determine anything, but that
Majesty would diligently use Your Majesty's office with the Roman
for the convening of a General Council. The same matter was thus
set forth at greater length a year ago at the last Diet which met at
There Your Imperial Majesty, through His Highness Ferdinand, King of
and Hungary, our friend and clement Lord, as well as through the Orator
and Imperial Commissioners caused this, among other things, to be
that Your Imperial Majesty had taken notice of; and pondered, the
of Your Majesty's Representative in the Empire, and of the President
Imperial Counselors, and the Legates from other Estates convened at
concerning the calling of a Council, and that your Imperial Majesty
judged it to be expedient to convene a Council; and that Your Imperial
Majesty did not doubt the Roman Pontiff could be induced to hold a
Council, because the matters to be adjusted between Your Imperial
and the Roman Pontiff were nearing agreement and Christian
therefore Your Imperial Majesty himself signified that he would
to secure the said Chief Pontiff's consent for convening, together with
your Imperial Majesty such General Council, to be published as soon as
possible by letters that were to be sent out.
If the outcome, therefore, should be such that the
differences between us and the other parties in the matter of religion
should not be amicably and in charity settled, then here, before Your
Majesty we make the offer in all obedience, in addition to what we have
already done, that we will all appear and defend our cause in such a
free Christian Council, for the convening of which there has always
accordant action and agreement of votes in all the Imperial Diets held
during Your Majesty's reign, on the part of the Electors, Princes, and
other Estates of the Empire. To the assembly of this General Council,
at the same time to Your Imperial Majesty, we have, even before this,
due manner and form of law, addressed ourselves and made appeal in this
matter, by far the greatest and gravest. To this appeal, both to Your
Majesty and to a Council, we still adhere; neither do we intend nor
it be possible for us, to relinquish it by this or any other document,
unless the matter between us and the other side, according to the tenor
of the latest Imperial citation should be amicably and charitably
allayed, and brought to Christian concord; and regarding this we even
solemnly and publicly testify.
Article I: Of God.
Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the
Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and
the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting;
is to say, there is one Divine Essence which is called and which is
eternal, without body, without parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and
the Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible; and yet
are three Persons, of the same essence and power, who also are
the Father the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And the term "person" they use
as the Fathers have used it, to signify, not a part or quality in
but that which subsists of itself.
They condemn all heresies which have sprung up
this article, as the Manichaeans, who assumed two principles, one Good
and the other Evil -- also the Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians,
and all such. They condemn also the Samosatenes, old and new, who,
that there is but one Person, sophistically and impiously argue that
Word and the Holy Ghost are not distinct Persons, but that "Word"
a spoken word, and "Spirit" signifies motion created in things.
Article II: Of Original Sin.
Also they teach that since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the
natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God,
trust in God, and with concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of
origin, is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death
those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Ghost.
They Condemn the Pelagians and others who deny that
original depravity is sin, and who, to obscure the glory of Christ's
and benefits, argue that man can be justified before God by his own
Article III: Of the Son of God.
Also they teach that the Word, that is, the Son of God, did assume
the human nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, so that there
are two natures, the divine and the human, inseparably enjoined in one
Person, one Christ, true God and true man, who was born of the Virgin
truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, that He might
the Father unto us, and be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt,
also for all actual sins of men.
He also descended into hell, and truly rose again
the third day; afterward He ascended into heaven that He might sit on
right hand of the Father, and forever reign and have dominion over all
creatures, and sanctify them that believe in Him, by sending the Holy
into their hearts, to rule, comfort, and quicken them, and to defend
against the devil and the power of sin.
The same Christ shall openly come again to judge
the quick and the dead, etc., according to the Apostles' Creed.
Article IV: Of Justification.
Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own
strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ's sake,
through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and
that their sins are forgiven for Christ's sake, who, by His death, has
made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for
in His sight. Rom. 3 and 4.
Article V: Of the Ministry.
That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel
and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word
Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works
faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to
wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ's sake, justifies
those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ's sake.
They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think
that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through
own preparations and works.
Article VI: Of New Obedience.
Also they teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruits,
and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of
God's will, but that we should not rely on those works to merit
before God. For remission of sins and justification is apprehended by
as also the voice of Christ attests: When ye shall have done all these
things, say: We are unprofitable servants. Luke 17, 10. The same is
taught by the Fathers. For Ambrose says: It is ordained of God that he
who believes in Christ is saved, freely receiving remission of sins,
works, by faith alone.
Article VII: Of the Church.
Also they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church
is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught
the Sacraments are rightly administered.
And to the true unity of the Church it is enough
to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration
the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is,
or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. As Paul
One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4, 5. 6.
Article VIII: What the Church Is.
Although the Church properly is the congregation of saints and true
believers, nevertheless, since in this life many hypocrites and evil
are mingled therewith, it is lawful to use Sacraments administered by
men, according to the saying of Christ: The Scribes and the Pharisees
in Moses' seat, etc. Matt. 23, 2. Both the Sacraments and Word are
by reason of the institution and commandment of Christ, notwithstanding
they be administered by evil men.
They condemn the Donatists, and such like, who
it to be lawful to use the ministry of evil men in the Church, and who
thought the ministry of evil men to be unprofitable and of none effect.
Article IX: Of Baptism.
Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that
Baptism is offered the grace of God, and that children are to be
who, being offered to God through Baptism are received into God's
They condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism
of children, and say that children are saved without Baptism.
Article X: Of the Lord's Supper.
Of the Supper of the Lord they teach that the Body and Blood of Christ
are truly present, and are distributed to those who eat the Supper of
Lord; and they reject those that teach otherwise.
Article XI: Of Confession.
Of Confession they teach that Private Absolution ought to be retained
in the churches, although in confession an enumeration of all sins is
necessary. For it is impossible according to the Psalm: Who can
his errors? Ps. 19, 12.
Article XII: Of Repentance.
Of Repentance they teach that for those who have fallen after Baptism
there is remission of sins whenever they are converted and that the
ought to impart absolution to those thus returning to repentance. Now,
repentance consists properly of these two parts: One is contrition,
is, terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the
is faith, which is born of the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes
for Christ's sake, sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience, and
it from terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the
They condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that those
once justified can lose the Holy Ghost. Also those who contend that
may attain to such perfection in this life that they cannot sin.
The Novatians also are condemned, who would not
absolve such as had fallen after Baptism, though they returned to
They also are rejected who do not teach that
of sins comes through faith but command us to merit grace through
of our own.
Article XIII: Of the Use of the Sacraments.
Of the Use of the Sacraments they teach that the Sacraments were
not only to be marks of profession among men, but rather to be signs
testimonies of the will of God toward us, instituted to awaken and
faith in those who use them. Wherefore we must so use the Sacraments
faith be added to believe the promises which are offered and set forth
through the Sacraments.
They therefore condemn those who teach that the
Sacraments justify by the outward act, and who do not teach that, in
use of the Sacraments, faith which believes that sins are forgiven, is
Article XIV: Of Ecclesiastical Order.
Of Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly teach
in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly
Article XV: Of Ecclesiastical Usages.
Of Usages in the Church they teach that those ought to be observed
which may be observed without sin, and which are profitable unto
and good order in the Church, as particular holy-days, festivals, and
Nevertheless, concerning such things men are
that consciences are not to be burdened, as though such observance was
necessary to salvation.
They are admonished also that human traditions
to propitiate God, to merit grace, and to make satisfaction for sins,
opposed to the Gospel and the doctrine of faith. Wherefore vows and
concerning meats and days, etc., instituted to merit grace and to make
satisfaction for sins, are useless and contrary to the Gospel.
Article XVI: Of Civil Affairs.
Of Civil Affairs they teach that lawful civil ordinances are good works
of God, and that it is right for Christians to bear civil office, to
as judges, to judge matters by the Imperial and other existing laws, to
award just punishments, to engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers,
make legal contracts, to hold property, to make oath when required by
magistrates, to marry a wife, to be given in marriage.
They condemn the Anabaptists who forbid these civil
offices to Christians.
They condemn also those who do not place evangelical
perfection in the fear of God and in faith, but in forsaking civil
for the Gospel teaches an eternal righteousness of the heart.
it does not destroy the State or the family, but very much requires
they be preserved as ordinances of God, and that charity be practiced
such ordinances. Therefore, Christians are necessarily bound to obey
own magistrates and laws save only when commanded to sin; for then they
ought to obey God rather than men. Acts 5, 29.
Article XVII: Of Christ's Return to Judgment.
Also they teach that at the Consummation of the World Christ will
for judgment and will raise up all the dead; He will give to the godly
and elect eternal life and everlasting joys, but ungodly men and the
He will condemn to be tormented without end.
They condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there
will be an end to the punishments of condemned men and devils.
They condemn also others who are now spreading
Jewish opinions, that before the resurrection of the dead the godly
take possession of the kingdom of the world, the ungodly being
Article XVIII: Of Free Will.
Of Free Will they teach that man's will has some liberty to choose
civil righteousness, and to work things subject to reason. But it has
power, without the Holy Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that
spiritual righteousness; since the natural man receiveth not the things
of the Spirit of God, 1 Cor. 2,14; but this righteousness is wrought in
the heart when the Holy Ghost is received through the Word. These
are said in as many words by Augustine in his Hypognosticon,
We grant that all men have a free will, free, inasmuch as it
has the judgment of reason; not that it is thereby capable, without
either to begin, or, at least, to complete aught in things pertaining
God, but only in works of this life, whether good or evil. "Good" I
those works which spring from the good in nature, such as, willing to
in the field, to eat and drink, to have a friend, to clothe oneself, to
build a house, to marry a wife, to raise cattle, to learn divers useful
arts, or whatsoever good pertains to this life. For all of these things
are not without dependence on the providence of God; yea, of Him and
Him they are and have their being. "Evil" I call such works as willing
to worship an idol, to commit murder, etc.
They condemn the Pelagians and others, who teach
that without the Holy Ghost, by the power of nature alone, we are able
to love God above all things; also to do the commandments of God as
"the substance of the act." For, although nature is able in a manner to
do the outward work, (for it is able to keep the hands from theft and
yet it cannot produce the inward motions, such as the fear of God,
in God, chastity, patience, etc.
Article XIX: Of the Cause of Sin.
Of the Cause of Sin they teach that, although God does create and
nature, yet the cause of sin is the will of the wicked, that is, of the
devil and ungodly men; which will, unaided of God, turns itself from
as Christ says John 8, 44: When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his
Article XX: Of Good Works.
Our teachers are falsely accused of forbidding good Works. For their
published writings on the Ten Commandments, and others of like import,
bear witness that they have taught to good purpose concerning all
and duties of life, as to what estates of life and what works in every
calling be pleasing to God. Concerning these things preachers
taught but little, and urged only childish and needless works, as
holy-days, particular fasts, brotherhoods, pilgrimages, services in
of saints, the use of rosaries, monasticism, and such like. Since our
have been admonished of these things, they are now unlearning them, and
do not preach these unprofitable works as heretofore. Besides, they
to mention faith, of which there was heretofore marvelous silence. They
teach that we are justified not by works only, but they conjoin faith
works, and say that we are justified by faith and works. This doctrine
is more tolerable than the former one, and can afford more consolation
than their old doctrine.
Forasmuch, therefore, as the doctrine concerning
faith, which ought to be the chief one in the Church, has lain so long
unknown, as all must needs grant that there was the deepest silence in
their sermons concerning the righteousness of faith, while only the
of works was treated in the churches, our teachers have instructed the
churches concerning faith as follows: --
First, that our works cannot reconcile God or merit
forgiveness of sins, grace, and justification, but that we obtain this
only by faith when we believe that we are received into favor for
sake, who alone has been set forth the Mediator and Propitiation, 1
2, 6, in order that the Father may be reconciled through Him. Whoever,
therefore, trusts that by works he merits grace, despises the merit and
grace of Christ, and seeks a way to God without Christ, by human
although Christ has said of Himself: I am the Way, the Truth, and the
John 14, 6.
This doctrine concerning faith is everywhere treated
by Paul, Eph. 2, 8: By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not
yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, etc.
And lest any one should craftily say that a new
interpretation of Paul has been devised by us, this entire matter is
by the testimonies of the Fathers. For Augustine, in many volumes,
grace and the righteousness of faith, over against the merits of works.
And Ambrose, in his De Vocatione Gentium, and elsewhere,
to like effect. For in his De Vocatione Gentium he says as
Redemption by the blood of Christ would become of little value, neither
would the preeminence of man's works be superseded by the mercy of God,
if justification, which is wrought through grace, were due to the
going before, so as to be, not the free gift of a donor, but the reward
due to the laborer.
But, although this doctrine is despised by the
nevertheless God- fearing and anxious consciences find by experience
it brings the greatest consolation, because consciences cannot be set
rest through any works, but only by faith, when they take the sure
that for Christ's sake they have a reconciled God. As Paul teaches Rom.
5, 1: Being justified by faith, we have peace with God. This whole
is to be referred to that conflict of the terrified conscience, neither
can it be understood apart from that conflict. Therefore inexperienced
and profane men judge ill concerning this matter, who dream that
righteousness is nothing but civil and philosophical righteousness.
Heretofore consciences were plagued with the
of works, they did not hear the consolation from the Gospel. Some
were driven by conscience into the desert, into monasteries hoping
to merit grace by a monastic life. Some also devised other works
to merit grace and make satisfaction for sins. Hence there was very
need to treat of, and renew, this doctrine of faith in Christ, to the
that anxious consciences should not be without consolation but that
might know that grace and forgiveness of sins and justification are
by faith in Christ.
Men are also admonished that here the term "faith"
does not signify merely the knowledge of the history, such as is in the
ungodly and in the devil, but signifies a faith which believes, not
the history, but also the effect of the history -- namely, this
the forgiveness of sins, to wit, that we have grace, righteousness, and
forgiveness of sins through Christ.
Now he that knows that he has a Father gracious
to him through Christ, truly knows God; he knows also that God cares
him, and calls upon God; in a word, he is not without God, as the
For devils and the ungodly are not able to believe this Article: the
of sins. Hence, they hate God as an enemy, call not upon Him, and
no good from Him. Augustine also admonishes his readers concerning the
word "faith," and teaches that the term "faith" is accepted in the
not for knowledge such as is in the ungodly but for confidence which
and encourages the terrified mind.
Furthermore, it is taught on our part that it is
necessary to do good works, not that we should trust to merit grace by
them, but because it is the will of God. It is only by faith that
of sins is apprehended, and that, for nothing. And because through
the Holy Ghost is received, hearts are renewed and endowed with new
so as to be able to bring forth good works. For Ambrose says: Faith is
the mother of a good will and right doing. For man's powers without the
Holy Ghost are full of ungodly affections, and are too weak to do works
which are good in God's sight. Besides, they are in the power of the
who impels men to divers sins, to ungodly opinions, to open crimes.
we may see in the philosophers, who, although they endeavored to live
honest life could not succeed, but were defiled with many open crimes.
Such is the feebleness of man when he is without faith and without the
Holy Ghost, and governs himself only by human strength.
Hence it may be readily seen that this doctrine
is not to be charged with prohibiting good works, but rather the more
be commended, because it
shows how we are enabled to do good works. For without faith human
nature can in no wise do the works of the First or of the Second
Commandment. Without faith it does not call upon God, nor expect
from God, nor bear the cross, but seeks, and trusts in, man's help. And
thus, when there is no faith and trust in God all manner of lusts and
devices rule in the heart. Wherefore Christ said, John 16,6: Without Me
ye can do nothing; and the Church sings: Lacking Thy divine favor,
is nothing found in man, Naught in him is harmless.
Article XXI: Of the Worship of the Saints.
Of the Worship of Saints they teach that the memory of saints may be
set before us, that we may follow their faith and good works, according
to our calling, as the Emperor may follow the example of David in
war to drive away the Turk from his country; For both are kings. But
Scripture teaches not the invocation of saints or to ask help of
since it sets before us the one Christ as the Mediator, Propitiation,
Priest, and Intercessor. He is to be prayed to, and has promised that
will hear our prayer; and this worship He approves above all, to wit,
in all afflictions He be called upon, 1 John 2, 1: If any man sin, we
an Advocate with the Father, etc.
This is about the Sum
of our Doctrine, in which, as can be seen,
is nothing that varies from the Scriptures, or from the Church
or from the Church of Rome as known from its writers. This being the
they judge harshly who insist that our teachers be regarded as
There is, however, disagreement on certain Abuses, which have crept
the Church without rightful authority. And even in these, if there were
some difference, there should be proper lenity on the part of bishops
bear with us by reason of the Confession which we have now reviewed;
even the Canons are not so severe as to demand the same rites
neither, at any time, have the rites of all churches been the same;
among us, in large part, the ancient rites are diligently observed. For
it is a false and malicious charge that all the ceremonies, all the
instituted of old, are abolished in our churches. But it has been a
complaint that some abuses were connected with the ordinary rites.
inasmuch as they could not be approved with a good conscience, have
to some extent corrected.
ARTICLES IN WHICH ARE
REVIEWED THE ABUSES WHICH HAVE BEEN CORRECTED.
Inasmuch, then, as our
churches dissent in no article of the faith
the Church Catholic, but only omit some abuses which are new, and which
have been erroneously accepted by the corruption of the times, contrary
to the intent of the Canons, we pray that Your Imperial Majesty would
hear both what has been changed, and what were the reasons why the
were not compelled to observe those abuses against their conscience.
should Your Imperial Majesty believe those who, in order to excite the
hatred of men against our part, disseminate strange slanders among the
people. Having thus excited the minds of good men, they have first
occasion to this controversy, and now endeavor, by the same arts, to
the discord. For Your Imperial Majesty will undoubtedly find that the
of doctrine and of ceremonies with us is not so intolerable as these
and malicious men represent. Besides, the truth cannot be gathered from
common rumors or the revilings of enemies. But it can readily be judged
that nothing would serve better to maintain the dignity of ceremonies,
and to nourish reverence and pious devotion among the people than if
ceremonies were observed rightly in the churches.
Article XXII: Of Both Kinds in the Sacrament.
To the laity are given Both Kinds in the Sacrament of the Lord's
because this usage has the commandment of the Lord in Matt. 26, 27:
ye all of it, where Christ has manifestly commanded concerning the cup
that all should drink.
And lest any man should craftily say that this
only to priests, Paul in 1 Cor. 11,27 recites an example from which it
appears that the whole congregation did use both kinds. And this usage
has long remained in the Church, nor is it known when, or by whose
it was changed; although Cardinal Cusanus mentions the time when it was
approved. Cyprian in some places testifies that the blood was given to
the people. The same is testified by Jerome, who says: The priests
the Eucharist, and distribute the blood of Christ to the people.
Pope Gelasius commands that the Sacrament be not divided (dist. II., De
Consecratione, cap. Comperimus). Only custom, not so
has it otherwise. But it is evident that any custom introduced against
the commandments of God is not to be allowed, as the Canons witness
III., cap. Veritate, and the following chapters). But this
has been received, not only against the Scripture, but also against the
old Canons and the example of the Church.
Therefore, if any preferred to use both kinds of
the Sacrament, they ought not to have been compelled with offense to
consciences to do
otherwise. And because the division of the Sacrament does not agree
with the ordinance of Christ, we are accustomed to omit the procession,
which hitherto has been in use.
Article XXIII: Of the Marriage of Priests.
There has been common complaint concerning the examples of priests
who were not chaste. For that reason also Pope Pius is reported to have
said that there were certain causes why marriage was taken away from
but that there were far weightier ones why it ought to be given back;
so Platina writes. Since, therefore, our priests were desirous to avoid
these open scandals, they married wives, and taught that it was lawful
for them to contract matrimony. First, because Paul says, 1 Cor. 7, 2.
9: To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife. Also: It is
to marry than to burn. Secondly Christ says, Matt. 19,11: All men
receive this saying, where He teaches that not all men are fit to lead
a single life; for God created man for procreation, Gen. 1, 28. Nor is
it in man's power, without a singular gift and work of God, to alter
creation. [For it is manifest, and many have confessed that no good,
chaste life, no Christian, sincere, upright conduct has resulted (from
the attempt), but a horrible, fearful unrest and torment of conscience
has been felt by many until the end.] Therefore, those who are not fit
to lead a single life ought to contract matrimony. For no man's law, no
vow, can annul the commandment and ordinance of God. For these reasons
the priests teach that it is lawful for them to marry wives.
It is also evident that in the ancient Church
were married men. For Paul says, 1 Tim. 3, 2, that a bishop should be
who is the husband of one wife. And in Germany, four hundred years ago
for the first time, the priests were violently compelled to lead a
life, who indeed offered such resistance that the Archbishop of
when about to publish the Pope's decree concerning this matter, was
killed in the tumult raised by the enraged priests. And so harsh was
dealing in the matter that not only were marriages forbidden for the
but also existing marriages were torn asunder, contrary to all laws,
and human, contrary even to the Canons themselves, made not only by the
Popes, but by most celebrated Synods. [Moreover, many God-fearing and
people in high station are known frequently to have expressed
that such enforced celibacy and depriving men of marriage (which God
has instituted and left free to men) has never produced any good
but has brought on many great and evil vices and much iniquity.]
Seeing also that, as the world is aging, man's
is gradually growing weaker, it is well to guard that no more vices
Furthermore, God ordained marriage to be a help
against human infirmity. The Canons themselves say that the old rigor
now and then, in the latter times, to be relaxed because of the
of men; which it is to be wished were done also in this matter. And it
is to be expected that the churches shall at some time lack pastors if
marriage is any longer forbidden.
But while the commandment of God is in force, while
the custom of the Church is well known, while impure celibacy causes
scandals, adulteries, and other crimes deserving the punishments of
magistrates, yet it is a marvelous thing that in nothing is more
exercised than against the marriage of priests. God has given
to honor marriage. By the laws of all well-ordered commonwealths, even
among the heathen, marriage is most highly honored. But now men, and
priests, are cruelly put to death, contrary to the intent of the
for no other cause than marriage. Paul, in 1 Tim. 4,3, calls that a
of devils which forbids marriage. This may now be readily understood
the law against marriage is maintained by such penalties.
But as no law of man can annul the commandment of
God, so neither can it be done by any vow. Accordingly, Cyprian also
that women who do not keep the chastity they have promised should
His words are these (Book I, Epistle XI ): But if they be unwilling or
unable to persevere, it is better for them to marry than to fall into
fire by their lusts; they should certainly give no offense to their
And even the Canons show some leniency toward those
who have taken vows before the proper age, as heretofore has generally
been the case.
Article XXIV: Of the Mass.
Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass; for the Mass
is retained among us, and celebrated with the highest reverence. Nearly
all the usual ceremonies are also preserved, save that the parts sung
Latin are interspersed here and there with German hymns, which have
added to teach the people. For ceremonies are needed to this end alone
that the unlearned be taught [what they need to know of Christ]. And
only has Paul commanded to use in the church a language understood by
people 1 Cor. 14,2. 9, but it has also been so ordained by man's law.
people are accustomed to partake of the Sacrament together, if any be
for it, and this also increases the reverence and devotion of public
For none are admitted except they be first examined. The people are
advised concerning the dignity and use of the Sacrament, how great
it brings anxious consciences, that they may learn to believe God, and
to expect and ask of Him all that is good. [In this connection they are
also instructed regarding other and false teachings on the Sacrament.]
This worship pleases God; such use of the Sacrament nourishes true
toward God. It does not, therefore, appear that the Mass is more
celebrated among our adversaries than among us.
But it is evident that for a long time this also
has been the public and most grievous complaint of all good men that
have been basely profaned and applied to purposes of lucre. For it is
unknown how far this abuse obtains in all the churches by what manner
men Masses are said only for fees or stipends, and how many celebrate
contrary to the Canons. But Paul severely threatens those who deal
with the Eucharist when he says, 1 Cor.11,27: Whosoever shall eat this
bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of
body and blood of the Lord. When, therefore our priests were admonished
concerning this sin, Private Masses were discontinued among us, as
any Private Masses were celebrated except for lucre's sake.
Neither were the bishops ignorant of these abuses,
and if they had corrected them in time, there would now be less
Heretofore, by their own connivance, they suffered many corruptions to
creep into the Church. Now, when it is too late, they begin to complain
of the troubles of the Church, while this disturbance has been
simply by those abuses which were so manifest that they could be borne
no longer. There have been great dissensions concerning the Mass,
the Sacrament. Perhaps the world is being punished for such
profanations of the Mass as have been tolerated in the churches for so
many centuries by the very men who were both able and in duty bound to
correct them. For in the Ten Commandments it is written, Ex. 20, 7: The
Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain. But
the world began, nothing that God ever ordained seems to have been so
for filthy lucre as the Mass.
There was also added the opinion which infinitely
increased Private Masses, namely that Christ, by His passion, had made
satisfaction for original sin, and instituted the Mass wherein an
should be made for daily sins, venial and mortal. From this has arisen
the common opinion that the Mass takes away the sins of the living and
the dead by the outward act. Then they began to dispute whether one
said for many were worth as much as special Masses for individuals, and
this brought forth that infinite multitude of Masses. [With this work
wished to obtain from God all that they needed, and in the mean time
in Christ and the true worship were forgotten.]
Concerning these opinions our teachers have given
warning that they depart from the Holy Scriptures and diminish the
of the passion of Christ. For Christ's passion was an oblation and
not for original guilt only, but also for all other sins, as it is
to the Hebrews, 10, 10: We are sanctified through the offering of Jesus
Christ once for all. Also, 10, 14: By one offering He hath perfected
them that are sanctified. [It is an unheard-of innovation in the Church
to teach that Christ by His death made satisfaction only for original
and not likewise for all other sin. Accordingly it is hoped that
will understand that this error has not been reproved without due
Scripture also teaches that we are justified before
God through faith in Christ, when we believe that our sins are forgiven
for Christ's sake. Now if the Mass take away the sins of the living and
the dead by the outward act justification comes of the work of Masses,
and not of faith, which Scripture does not allow.
But Christ commands us, Luke 22, 19: This do in
remembrance of Me; therefore the Mass was instituted that the faith of
those who use the Sacrament should remember what benefits it receives
Christ, and cheer and comfort the anxious conscience. For to remember
is to remember His benefits, and to realize that they are truly offered
unto us. Nor is it enough only to remember the history; for this also
Jews and the ungodly can remember. Wherefore the Mass is to be used to
this end, that there the Sacrament [Communion] may be administered to
that have need of consolation; as Ambrose says: Because I always sin, I
am always bound to take the medicine. [Therefore this Sacrament
faith, and is used in vain without faith.]
Now, forasmuch as the Mass is such a giving of the
Sacrament, we hold one communion every holy-day, and, if any desire the
Sacrament, also on other days, when it is given to such as ask for it.
And this custom is not new in the Church; for the Fathers before
make no mention of any private Mass, but of the common Mass [the
they speak very much. Chrysostom says that the priest stands daily at
altar, inviting some to the Communion and keeping back others. And it
from the ancient Canons that some one celebrated the Mass from whom all
the other presbyters and deacons received the body of he Lord; for thus
the words of the Nicene Canon say: Let the deacons, according to their
order, receive the Holy Communion after the presbyters, from the bishop
or from a presbyter. And Paul, 1 Cor. 11, 33, commands concerning the
Tarry one for another, so that there may be a common participation.
Forasmuch, therefore, as the Mass with us has the
example of the Church, taken from the Scripture and the Fathers, we are
confident that it cannot be disapproved, especially since public
for the most part like those hitherto in use, are retained; only the
of Masses differs, which, because of very great and manifest abuses
might be profitably reduced. For in olden times, even in churches most
frequented, the Mass was not celebrated every day, as the Tripartite
(Book 9, chap. 33) testifies: Again in Alexandria, every Wednesday
and Friday the Scriptures are read, and the doctors expound them, and
things are done, except the solemn rite of Communion.
Article XXV: Of Confession.
Confession in the churches is not abolished among us; for it is not
usual to give the body of the Lord, except to them that have been
examined and absolved. And the people are most carefully taught
faith in the absolution, about which formerly there was profound
Our people are taught that they should highly prize the absolution, as
being the voice of God, and pronounced by God's command. The power of
Keys is set forth in its beauty and they are reminded what great
it brings to anxious consciences, also, that God requires faith to
such absolution as a voice sounding from heaven, and that such faith in
Christ truly obtains and receives the forgiveness of sins. Aforetime
were immoderately extolled; of faith and the merit of Christ and the
of faith no mention was made; wherefore, on this point, our churches
by no means to be blamed. For this even our adversaries must needs
to us that the doctrine concerning repentance has been most diligently
treated and laid open by our teachers.
But of Confession they teach that an enumeration
of sins is not necessary, and that consciences be not burdened with
to enumerate all sins, for it is impossible to recount all sins, as the
Psalm testifies, 19,13: Who can understand his errors? Also Jeremiah,
9: The heart is deceitful; who can know it; But if no sins were
except those that are recounted, consciences could never find peace;
very many sins they neither see nor can remember. The ancient writers
testify that an enumeration is not necessary. For in the Decrees,
is quoted, who says thus: I say not to you that you should disclose
in public, nor that you accuse yourself before others, but I would have
you obey the prophet who says: "Disclose thy self before God."
confess your sins before God, the true Judge, with prayer. Tell your
not with the tongue, but with the memory of your conscience, etc. And
Gloss (Of Repentance, Distinct. V, Cap. Consideret) admits that
Confession is of human right only [not commanded by Scripture, but
by the Church]. Nevertheless, on account of the great benefit of
and because it is otherwise useful to the conscience, Confession is
Article XXVI: Of the Distinction of Meats.
It has been the general persuasion, not of the people alone, but also
of those teaching in the churches, that making Distinctions of Meats,
like traditions of men, are works profitable to merit grace, and able
make satisfactions for sins. And that the world so thought, appears
this, that new ceremonies, new orders, new holy-days, and new fastings
were daily instituted, and the teachers in the churches did exact these
works as a service necessary to merit grace, and did greatly terrify
consciences, if they should omit any of these things. From this
concerning traditions much detriment has resulted in the Church.
First, the doctrine of grace and of the
of faith has been obscured by it, which is the chief part of the
and ought to stand out as the most prominent in the Church, in order
the merit of Christ may be well known, and faith, which believes that
are forgiven for Christ's sake be exalted far above works. Wherefore
also lays the greatest stress on this article, putting aside the Law
human traditions, in order to show that Christian righteousness is
else than such works, to wit, the faith which believes that sins are
forgiven for Christ's sake. But this doctrine of Paul has been almost
smothered by traditions, which have produced an opinion that, by making
distinctions in meats and like services, we must merit grace and
In treating of repentance, there was no mention made of faith; only
works of satisfaction were set forth; in these the entire repentance
Secondly, these traditions have obscured the
of God, because traditions were placed far above the commandments of
Christianity was thought to consist wholly in the observance of certain
holy-days, rites, fasts, and vestures. These observances had won for
the exalted title of being the spiritual life and the perfect life.
the commandments of God, according to each one's calling, were without
honor namely, that the father brought up his offspring, that the mother
bore children, that the prince governed the commonwealth, -- these were
accounted works that were worldly and imperfect, and far below those
observances. And this error greatly tormented devout consciences, which
grieved that they were held in an imperfect state of life, as in
in the office of magistrate; or in other civil ministrations; on the
hand, they admired the monks and such like, and falsely imagined that
observances of such men were more acceptable to God.
Thirdly, traditions brought great danger to
for it was impossible to keep all traditions, and yet men judged these
observances to be necessary acts of worship. Gerson writes that many
into despair, and that some even took their own lives, because they
that they were not able to satisfy the traditions, and they had all the
while not heard any consolation of the righteousness of faith and
We see that the summists and theologians gather the traditions, and
mitigations whereby to ease consciences, and yet they do not
unfetter, but sometimes entangle, consciences even more. And with the
of these traditions, the schools and sermons have been so much occupied
that they have had no leisure to touch upon Scripture, and to seek the
more profitable doctrine of faith, of the cross, of hope, of the
of civil affairs of consolation of sorely tried consciences. Hence
and some other theologians have grievously complained that by these
concerning traditions they were prevented from giving attention to a
kind of doctrine. Augustine also forbids that men's consciences should
be burdened with such observances, and prudently advises Januarius that
he must know that they are to be observed as things indifferent; for
are his words.
Wherefore our teachers must not be looked upon as
having taken up this matter rashly or from hatred of the bishops, as
falsely suspect. There was great need to warn the churches of these
which had arisen from misunderstanding the traditions. For the Gospel
us to insist in the churches upon the doctrine of grace, and of the
of faith; which, however, cannot be understood, if men think that they
merit grace by observances of their own choice.
Thus, therefore, they have taught that by the
of human traditions we cannot merit grace or be justified, and hence we
must not think such observances necessary acts of worship. They add
testimonies of Scripture. Christ, Matt. 15, 3, defends the Apostles who
had not observed the usual tradition, which, however, evidently
to a matter not unlawful, but indifferent, and to have a certain
with the purifications of the Law, and says, 9: In vain do they worship
Me with the commandments of men. He, therefore, does not exact an
service. Shortly after He adds: Not that which goeth into the mouth
a man. So also Paul, Rom. 14, 17: The kingdom of God is not meat and
Col. 2, 16: Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat, or in drink, or
respect of an holy-day, or of the Sabbath-day; also: If ye be dead with
Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the
are ye subject to ordinances: Touch not, taste not, handle not! And
says, Acts 15, 10: Why tempt ye God to put a yoke upon the neck of the
disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we
that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even
as they. Here Peter forbids to burden the consciences with many rites,
either of Moses or of others. And in 1 Tim. 4,1.3 Paul calls the
of meats a doctrine of devils; for it is against the Gospel to
or to do such works that by them we may merit grace, or as though
could not exist without such service of God.
Here our adversaries object that our teachers are
opposed to discipline and mortification of the flesh, as Jovinian. But
the contrary may be learned from the writings of our teachers. For they
have always taught concerning the cross that it behooves Christians to
bear afflictions. This is the true, earnest, and unfeigned
to wit, to be exercised with divers afflictions, and to be crucified
Moreover, they teach that every Christian ought
to train and subdue himself with bodily restraints, or bodily exercises
and labors that neither satiety nor slothfulness tempt him to sin, but
not that we may merit grace or make satisfaction for sins by such
And such external discipline ought to be urged at all times, not only
a few and set days. So Christ commands, Luke 21, 34: Take heed lest
hearts be overcharged with surfeiting; also Matt. 17, 21: This kind
not out but by prayer and fasting. Paul also says, 1 Cor. 9, 27: I keep
under my body and bring it into subjection. Here he clearly shows that
he was keeping under his body, not to merit forgiveness of sins by that
discipline, but to have his body in subjection and fitted for spiritual
things, and for the discharge of duty according to his calling.
we do not condemn fasting in itself, but the traditions which prescribe
certain days and certain meats, with peril of conscience, as though
works were a necessary service.
Nevertheless, very many traditions are kept on our
part, which conduce to good order in the Church, as the Order of
in the Mass and the chief holy-days. But, at the same time, men are
that such observances do not justify before God, and that in such
it should not be made sin if they be omitted without offense. Such
in human rites was not unknown to the Fathers. For in the East they
Easter at another time than at Rome, and when, on account of this
the Romans accused the Eastern Church of schism, they were admonished
others that such usages need not be alike everywhere. And Irenaeus
Diversity concerning fasting does not destroy the harmony of faith; as
also Pope Gregory intimates in Dist. XII, that such diversity
not violate the unity of the Church. And in the Tripartite History,
many examples of dissimilar rites are gathered, and the following
statement is made: It was not the mind of the Apostles to enact rules
holy-days, but to preach godliness and a holy life [to teach faith and
Article XXVII: Of Monastic Vows.
What is taught on our part concerning Monastic Vows, will be better
understood if it be remembered what has been the state of the
and how many things were daily done in those very monasteries, contrary
to the Canons. In Augustine's time they were free associations.
when discipline was corrupted, vows were everywhere added for the
of restoring discipline, as in a carefully planned prison.
Gradually, many other observances were added besides
vows. And these fetters were laid upon many before the lawful age,
to the Canons.
Many also entered into this kind of life through
being unable to judge their own strength, though they were of
age. Being thus ensnared, they were compelled to remain, even though
could have been freed by the kind provision of the Canons. And this was
more the case in convents of women than of monks, although more
should have been shown the weaker sex. This rigor displeased many good
men before this time, who saw that young men and maidens were thrown
convents for a living. They saw what unfortunate results came of this
and what scandals were created, what snares were cast upon consciences!
They were grieved that the authority of the Canons in so momentous a
was utterly set aside and despised. To these evils was added such a
concerning vows as, it is well known, in former times displeased even
monks who were more considerate. They taught that vows were equal to
they taught that by this kind of life they merited forgiveness of sins
and justification before God. Yea, they added that the monastic life
only merited righteousness before God but even greater things, because
it kept not only the precepts, but also the so-called "evangelical
Thus they made men believe that the profession of
monasticism was far better than Baptism, and that the monastic life was
more meritorious than that of magistrates, than the life of pastors,
such like, who serve their calling in accordance with God's commands,
any man-made services. None of these things can be denied; for they
in their own books. [Moreover, a person who has been thus ensnared and
has entered a monastery learns little of Christ.]
What, then, came to pass in the monasteries?
they were schools of theology and other branches, profitable to the
and thence pastors and bishops were obtained. Now it is another thing.
It is needless to rehearse what is known to all. Aforetime they came
to learn; now they feign that it is a kind of life instituted to merit
grace and righteousness; yea, they preach that it is a state of
and they put it far above all other kinds of life ordained of God.
things we have rehearsed without odious exaggeration, to the end that
doctrine of our teachers on this point might be better understood.
First, concerning such as contract matrimony, they
teach on our part that it is lawful for all men who are not fitted for
single life to contract matrimony, because vows cannot annul the
and commandment of God. But the commandment of God is 1 Cor. 7, 2: To
fornication, let every man have his own wife. Nor is it the commandment
only, but also the creation and ordinance of God, which forces those to
marry who are not excepted by a singular work of God, according to the
text Gen. 2, 18: It is not good that the man should be alone. Therefore
they do not sin who obey this commandment and ordinance of God.
What objection can be raised to this? Let men extol
the obligation of a vow as much as they list, yet shall they not bring
to pass that the vow annuls the commandment of God. The Canons teach
the right of the superior is excepted in every vow; [that vows are not
binding against the decision of the Pope]; much less, therefore, are
vows of force which are against the commandments of God.
Now, if the obligation of vows could not be changed
for any cause whatever, the Roman Pontiffs could never have given
for it is not lawful for man to annul an obligation which is simply
But the Roman Pontiffs have prudently judged that leniency is to be
in this obligation, and therefore we read that many times they have
from vows. The case of the King of Aragon who was called back from the
monastery is well known, and there are also examples in our own times.
[Now, if dispensations have been granted for the sake of securing
interests, it is much more proper that they be granted on account of
distress of souls.]
In the second place, why do our adversaries
the obligation or effect of a vow when, at the same time, they have not
a word to say of the nature of the vow itself, that it ought to be in a
thing possible, that it ought to be free, and chosen spontaneously and
deliberately? But it is not unknown to what extent perpetual chastity
in the power of man. And how few are there who have taken the vow
and deliberately! Young maidens and men, before they are able to judge,
are persuaded, and sometimes even compelled, to take the vow. Wherefore
it is not fair to insist so rigorously on the obligation, since it is
by all that it is against the nature of a vow to take it without
and deliberate action.
Most canonical laws rescind vows made before the
age of fifteen; for before that age there does not seem sufficient
in a person to decide concerning a perpetual life. Another Canon,
more to the weakness of man, adds a few years; for it forbids a vow to
be made before the age of eighteen. But which of these two Canons shall
we follow? The most part have an excuse for leaving the monasteries,
most of them have taken the vows before they reached these ages.
Finally, even though the violation of a vow might
be censured, yet it seems not forthwith to follow that the marriages of
such persons must be dissolved. For Augustine denies that they ought to
be dissolved (XXVII. Quaest. I, Cap. Nuptiarum), and his
is not lightly to be esteemed, although other men afterwards thought
But although it appears that God's command
marriage delivers very many from their vows, yet our teachers introduce
argument concerning vows to show that they are void. For every service
of God, ordained and chosen of men without the commandment of God to
justification and grace, is wicked, as Christ says Matt. 16, 9: In vain
do they worship Me with the commandments of men. And Paul teaches
that righteousness is not to be sought from our own observances and
of worship, devised by men, but that it comes by faith to those who
that they are received by God into grace for Christ's sake.
But it is evident that monks have taught that
of man's making satisfy for sins and merit grace and justification.
else is this than to detract from the glory of Christ and to obscure
deny the righteousness of faith? It follows, therefore, that the vows
commonly taken have been wicked services, and, consequently, are void.
For a wicked vow, taken against the commandment of God, is not valid;
(as the Canon says) no vow ought to bind men to wickedness.
Paul says, Gal. 5, 4: Christ is become of no effect
unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the Law, ye are fallen from
grace. To those, therefore, who want to be justified by their vows
is made of no effect, and they fall from grace. For also these who
justification to vows ascribe to their own works that which properly
to the glory of Christ.
Nor can it be denied, indeed, that the monks have
taught that, by their vows and observances, they were justified, and
forgiveness of sins, yea, they invented still greater absurdities,
that they could give others a share in their works. If any one should
inclined to enlarge on these things with evil intent, how many things
he bring together whereof even the monks are now ashamed! Over and
this, they persuaded men that services of man's making were a state of
Christian perfection. And is not this assigning justification to works?
It is no light offense in the Church to set forth to the people a
devised by men, without the commandment of God, and to teach that such
service justifies men. For the righteousness of faith, which chiefly
to be taught in the Church, is obscured when these wonderful angelic
of worship, with their show of poverty, humility, and celibacy, are
before the eyes of men.
Furthermore, the precepts of God and the true
of God are obscured when men hear that only monks are in a state of
For Christian perfection is to fear God from the heart, and yet to
great faith, and to trust that for Christ's sake we have a God who has
been reconciled, to ask of God, and assuredly to expect His aid in all
things that, according to our calling, are to be done; and meanwhile,
be diligent in outward good works, and to serve our calling. In these
consist the true perfection and the true service of God. It does not
in celibacy, or in begging, or in vile apparel. But the people conceive
many pernicious opinions from the false commendations of monastic life.
They hear celibacy praised above measure; therefore they lead their
life with offense to their consciences. They hear that only beggars are
perfect; therefore they keep their possessions and do business with
to their consciences. They hear that it is an evangelical counsel not
seek revenge; therefore some in private life are not afraid to take
for they hear that it is but a counsel, and not a commandment. Others
that the Christian cannot properly hold a civil office or be a
There are on record examples of men who, forsaking
marriage and the administration of the Commonwealth, have hid
in monasteries. This they called fleeing from the world, and seeking a
kind of life which would be more pleasing to God. Neither did they see
that God ought to be served in those commandments which He Himself has
given and not in commandments devised by men. A good and perfect kind
life is that which has for it the commandment of God. It is necessary
admonish men of these things.
And before these times, Gerson rebukes this error
of the monks concerning perfection, and testifies that in his day it
a new saying that the monastic life is a state of perfection.
So many wicked opinions are inherent in the vows,
namely, that they justify, that they constitute Christian perfection,
they keep the counsels and commandments, that they have works of
All these things, since they are false and empty, make vows null and
Article XXVIII: Of Ecclesiastical Power.
There has been great controversy concerning the Power of Bishops, in
which some have awkwardly confounded the power of the Church and the
of the sword. And from this confusion very great wars and tumults have
resulted, while the Pontiffs, emboldened by the power of the Keys, not
only have instituted new services and burdened consciences with
of cases and ruthless excommunications, but have also undertaken to
the kingdoms of this world, and to take the Empire from the Emperor.
wrongs have long since been rebuked in the Church by learned and godly
men. Therefore our teachers, for the comforting of men's consciences,
constrained to show the difference between the power of the Church and
the power of the sword, and taught that both of them, because of God's
commandment, are to be held in reverence and honor, as the chief
of God on earth.
But this is their opinion, that the power of the
Keys, or the power of the bishops, according to the Gospel, is a power
or commandment of God, to preach the Gospel, to remit and retain sins,
and to administer Sacraments. For with this commandment Christ sends
His Apostles, John 20, 21 sqq.: As My Father hath sent Me, even so send
I you. Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are
unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained. Mark 16,
15: Go preach the Gospel to every creature.
This power is exercised only by teaching or
the Gospel and administering the Sacraments, according to their calling
either to many or to individuals. For thereby are granted, not bodily,
but eternal things, as eternal righteousness, the Holy Ghost, eternal
These things cannot come but by the ministry of the Word and the
as Paul says, Rom. 1, 16: The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation
to every one that believeth. Therefore, since the power of the Church
eternal things, and is exercised only by the ministry of the Word, it
not interfere with civil government; no more than the art of singing
with civil government. For civil government deals with other things
does the Gospel. The civil rulers defend not minds, but bodies and
things against manifest injuries, and restrain men with the sword and
punishments in order to preserve civil justice and peace.
Therefore the power of the Church and the civil
power must not be confounded. The power of the Church has its own
to teach the Gospel and to administer the Sacraments. Let it not break
into the office of another; Let it not transfer the kingdoms of this
let it not abrogate the laws of civil rulers; let it not abolish lawful
obedience; let it not interfere with judgments concerning civil
or contracts; let it not prescribe laws to civil rulers concerning the
form of the Commonwealth. As Christ says, John 18, 33: My kingdom is
of this world; also Luke 12, 14: Who made Me a judge or a divider over
you? Paul also says, Phil. 3, 20: Our citizenship is in heaven; 2 Cor.
10, 4: The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through
to the casting down of imaginations.
After this manner our teachers discriminate between
the duties of both these powers, and command that both be honored and
as gifts and blessings of God.
If bishops have any power of the sword, that power
they have, not as bishops, by the commission of the Gospel, but by
law having received it of kings and emperors for the civil
of what is theirs. This, however, is another office than the ministry
When, therefore, the question is concerning the
jurisdiction of bishops, civil authority must be distinguished from
jurisdiction. Again, according to the Gospel or, as they say, by divine
right, there belongs to the bishops as bishops, that is, to those to
has been committed the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, no
except to forgive sins, to judge doctrine, to reject doctrines contrary
to the Gospel, and to exclude from the communion of the Church wicked
whose wickedness is known, and this without human force, simply by the
Word. Herein the congregations of necessity and by divine right must
them, according to Luke 10, 16: He that heareth you heareth Me. But
they teach or ordain anything against the Gospel, then the
have a commandment of God prohibiting obedience, Matt. 7, 15: Beware of
false prophets; Gal. 1, 8: Though an angel from heaven preach any other
gospel, let him be accursed; 2 Cor. 13, 8: We can do nothing against
truth, but for the truth. Also: The power which the Lord hath given me
to edification, and not to destruction. So, also, the Canonical Laws
(II. Q. VII. Cap., Sacerdotes, and Cap. Oves). And Augustine (Contra
Epistolam): Neither must we submit to Catholic bishops if
they chance to err, or hold anything contrary to the Canonical
If they have any other power or jurisdiction, in
hearing and judging certain cases, as of matrimony or of tithes, etc.,
they have it by human right, in which matters princes are bound, even
their will, when the ordinaries fail, to dispense justice to their
for the maintenance of peace.
Moreover, it is disputed whether bishops or pastors
have the right to introduce ceremonies in the Church, and to make laws
concerning meats, holy-days and grades, that is, orders of ministers,
They that give this right to the bishops refer to this testimony John
12. 13: I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them
now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you
all truth. They also refer to the example of the Apostles, who
to abstain from blood and from things strangled, Acts 15, 29. They
to the Sabbath-day as having been changed into the Lord's Day, contrary
to the Decalog, as it seems. Neither is there any example whereof they
make more than concerning the changing of the Sabbath-day. Great, say
is the power of the Church, since it has dispensed with one of the Ten
But concerning this question it is taught on our
part (as has been shown above) that bishops have no power to decree
against the Gospel. The Canonical Laws teach the same thing (Dist. IX)
. Now, it is against Scripture to establish or require the observance
any traditions, to the end that by such observance we may make
for sins, or merit grace and righteousness. For the glory of Christ's
suffers injury when, by such observances, we undertake to merit
But it is manifest that, by such belief, traditions have almost
multiplied in the Church, the doctrine concerning faith and the
of faith being meanwhile suppressed. For gradually more holy- days were
made, fasts appointed, new ceremonies and services in honor of saints
because the authors of such things thought that by these works they
meriting grace. Thus in times past the Penitential Canons increased,
we still see some traces in the satisfactions.
Again, the authors of traditions do contrary to
the command of God when they find matters of sin in foods, in days, and
like things, and burden the Church with bondage of the law, as if there
ought to be among Christians, in order to merit justification a service
like the Levitical, the arrangement of which God had committed to the
and bishops. For thus some of them write; and the Pontiffs in some
seem to be misled by the example of the law of Moses. Hence are such
as that they make it mortal sin, even without offense to others, to do
manual labor on holy-days, a mortal sin to omit the Canonical Hours,
certain foods defile the conscience that fastings are works which
God that sin in a reserved case cannot be forgiven but by the authority
of him who reserved it; whereas the Canons themselves speak only of the
reserving of the ecclesiastical penalty, and not of the reserving of
Whence have the bishops the right to lay these
upon the Church for the ensnaring of consciences, when Peter, Acts 15,
10, forbids to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, and Paul
2 Cor. 13, 10, that the power given him was to edification not to
Why, therefore, do they increase sins by these traditions?
But there are clear testimonies which prohibit the
making of such traditions, as though they merited grace or were
to salvation. Paul says, Col. 2, 16- 23: Let no man judge you in meat,
or in drink, or in respect of an holy-day, or of the new moon, or of
Sabbath-days. If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the
why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances (touch
not; taste not; handle not, which all are to perish with the using)
the commandments and doctrines of men! which things have indeed a show
of wisdom. Also in Titus 1, 14 he openly forbids traditions: Not giving
heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men that turn from the truth.
And Christ, Matt. 15, 14. 13, says of those who
require traditions: Let them alone; they be blind leaders of the blind;
and He rejects such services: Every plant which My heavenly Father hath
not planted shall be plucked up.
If bishops have the right to burden churches with
infinite traditions, and to ensnare consciences, why does Scripture so
often prohibit to make, and to listen to, traditions? Why does it call
them "doctrines of devils"? 1 Tim. 4, 1. Did the Holy Ghost in vain
of these things?
Since, therefore, ordinances instituted as things
necessary, or with an opinion of meriting grace, are contrary to the
it follows that it is not lawful for any bishop to institute or exact
services. For it is necessary that the doctrine of Christian liberty be
preserved in the churches, namely, that the bondage of the Law is not
to justification, as it is written in the Epistle to the Galatians, 5,
1: Be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. It is necessary
the chief article of the Gospel be preserved, to wit, that we obtain
freely by faith in Christ, and not for certain observances or acts of
devised by men.
What, then, are we to think of the Sunday and like
rites in the house of God? To this we answer that it is lawful for
or pastors to make
ordinances that things be done orderly in the Church, not that thereby
we should merit grace or make satisfaction for sins, or that
be bound to judge them necessary services, and to think that it is a
to break them without offense to others. So Paul ordains, 1 Cor. 11, 5,
that women should cover their heads in the congregation, 1 Cor. 14, 30,
that interpreters be heard in order in the church, etc.
It is proper that the churches should keep such
ordinances for the sake of love and tranquillity, so far that one do
offend another, that all things be done in the churches in order, and
confusion, 1 Cor. 14, 40; comp. Phil. 2, 14; but so that consciences be
not burdened to think that they are necessary to salvation, or to judge
that they sin when they break them without offense to others; as no one
will say that a woman sins who goes out in public with her head
provided only that no offense be given.
Of this kind is the observance of the Lord's Day,
Easter, Pentecost, and like holy- days and rites. For those who judge
by the authority of the Church the observance of the Lord's Day instead
of the Sabbath-day was ordained as a thing necessary, do greatly err.
has abrogated the Sabbath-day; for it teaches that, since the Gospel
been revealed, all the ceremonies of Moses can be omitted. And yet,
it was necessary to appoint a certain day, that the people might know
they ought to come together, it appears that the Church designated the
Lord's Day for this purpose; and this day seems to have been chosen all
the more for this additional reason, that men might have an example of
Christian liberty, and might know that the keeping neither of the
nor of any other day is necessary.
There are monstrous disputations concerning the
changing of the law, the ceremonies of the new law, the changing of the
Sabbath-day, which all have sprung from the false belief that there
needs be in the Church a service like to the Levitical, and that Christ
had given commission to the Apostles and bishops to devise new
as necessary to salvation. These errors crept into the Church when the
righteousness of faith was not taught clearly enough. Some dispute that
the keeping of the Lord's Day is not indeed of divine right, but in a
so. They prescribe concerning holy-days, how far it is lawful to work.
What else are such disputations than snares of consciences? For
they endeavor to modify the traditions, yet the mitigation can never be
perceived as long as the opinion remains that they are necessary, which
must needs remain where the righteousness of faith and Christian
are not known.
The Apostles commanded Acts 15, 20 to abstain from
blood. Who does now observe it? And yet they that do it not sin not;
not even the Apostles themselves wanted to burden consciences with such
bondage; but they forbade it for a time, to avoid offense. For in this
decree we must perpetually consider what the aim of the Gospel is.
Scarcely any Canons are kept with exactness, and
from day to day many go out of use even among those who are the most
advocates of traditions. Neither can due regard be paid to consciences
unless this mitigation be observed, that we know that the Canons are
without holding them to be necessary, and that no harm is done
even though traditions go out of use.
But the bishops might easily retain the lawful
of the people if they would not insist upon the observance of such
as cannot be kept with a good conscience. Now they command celibacy;
admit none unless they swear that they will not teach the pure doctrine
of the Gospel. The churches do not ask that the bishops should restore
concord at the expense of their honor; which, nevertheless, it would be
proper for good pastors to do. They ask only that they would release
burdens which are new and have been received contrary to the custom of
the Church Catholic. It may be that in the beginning there were
reasons for some of these ordinances; and yet they are not adapted to
times. It is also evident that some were adopted through erroneous
Therefore it would be befitting the clemency of the Pontiffs to
them now, because such a modification does not shake the unity of the
For many human traditions have been changed in process of time, as the
Canons themselves show. But if it be impossible to obtain a mitigation
of such observances as cannot be kept without sin, we are bound to
the apostolic rule, Acts 5, 29, which commands us to obey God rather
Peter, 1 Pet. 5, 3, forbids bishops to be lords,
and to rule over the churches. It is not our design now to wrest the
from the bishops, but this one thing is asked, namely, that they allow
the Gospel to be purely taught, and that they relax some few
which cannot be kept without sin. But if they make no concession, it is
for them to see how they shall give account to God for furnishing, by
obstinacy, a cause for schism.
These are the chief articles which seem to be in controversy. For
we might have spoken of more abuses, yet, to avoid undue length, we
set forth the chief points, from which the rest may be readily judged.
There have been great complaints concerning indulgences, pilgrimages,
the abuse of excommunications. The parishes have been vexed in many
by the dealers in indulgences. There were endless contentions between
pastors and the monks concerning the parochial right, confessions,
sermons on extraordinary occasions, and innumerable other things.
of this sort we have passed over so that the chief points in this
having been briefly set forth, might be the more readily understood.
has anything been here said or adduced to the reproach of any one. Only
those things have been recounted whereof we thought that it was
to speak, in order that it might be understood that in doctrine and
nothing has been received on our part against Scripture or the Church
For it is manifest that we have taken most diligent care that no new
ungodly doctrine should creep into our churches.
The above articles we desire to present in
with the edict of Your Imperial Majesty, in order to exhibit our
and let men see a summary of the doctrine of our teachers. If there is
anything that any one might desire in this Confession, we are ready,
willing, to present ampler information according to the Scriptures.
Your Imperial Majesty's
John, Duke of Saxony,
George, Margrave of Brandenburg.
Ernest, Duke of Lüneberg.
Philip, Landgrave of Hesse.
John Frederick, Duke of Saxony.
Francis, Duke of Lüneburg.
Wolfgang, Prince of Anhalt.
Senate and Magistracy of Nürnberg.
Senate of Reutlingen.