NAME _____________________________ Mod ____ Ms. Pojer EHAP Horace Greeley H. S.
The Reformation – Document Packet #1
Venerable Sir, I pray you that in your utterances you may be pleased to make use of such words as shall
serve to open the eyes of the mind and cause your hearers to consider how great a grace and gift they have
had and now have at their very doors. Blessed eyes indeed, which see what they see, because already they
possess letters of safe conduct by which they are able to lead their souls through that valley of tears,
through that sea of the mad world, where storms and tempests and dangers lie in wait, to the blessed land of
Paradise. Know that the life of man upon earth is a constant struggle. We have to fight against the flesh, the
world and the devil, who are always seeking to destroy the soul. In sin we are conceived,-alas! what bonds
of sin encompass us, and how difficult and almost impossible it is to attain to the gate of salvation without
divine aid; since He causes us to be saved, not by virtue of the good works which we accomplish, but
through His divine mercy, it is necessary then to put on the armor of God.
You may obtain letters of safe conduct from the vicar of our Lord Jesus Christ, by means of which you
are able to liberate your soul from the hands of the enemy, and convey it by means of contrition and
confession, safe and secure from all pains of Purgatory, into the happy kingdom. For know that in these
letters are stamped and engraven all the merits of Christ's passion there laid bare. Consider, that for each
and every mortal sin it is necessary to undergo seven years of penitence after confession and contrition,
either in this life or in Purgatory.
How many mortal sins are committed in a day, how many in a week, how many in a month, how many
in a year, how many in the whole course of life! They are well-nigh numberless, and those that commit them
must needs suffer endless punishment in the burning pains of Purgatory.
But with these confessional letters you will be able at any time in life to obtain full indulgence for all
penalties imposed upon you, in all cases except the four reserved to the Apostolic See. Therefore
throughout your whole life, whenever you wish to make confession, you may receive the same remission,
except in cases reserved to the Pope, and afterwards, at the hour of death, a full indulgence as to all
penalties and sins, and your share of all spiritual blessings that exist in the church militant and all its
Do you not know that when it is necessary for anyone to go to Rome, or undertake any other
dangerous journey, he takes his money to a broker and gives a certain percent-five or six or ten-in order that
at Rome or elsewhere he may receive again his funds intact, by means of the letter of this same broker? Are
you not willing, then, for the fourth part of a florin, to obtain these letters, by virtue of which you may bring,
not your money but your divine and immortal soul safe and sound into the land of Paradise?
SOURCE: Johann Tetzel, 1517.
In the desire and with the purpose of elucidating the truth, a disputation will be held on the underwritten
propositions at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Monk of the Order of
St. Augustine, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and ordinary Reader of the same in that place. He
therefore asks those who cannot be present and discuss the subject with us orally, to do so by letter in their
absence. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen. . . .
5. The Pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties except those which he has
imposed by his own authority, or by that of the canons.
6. The Pope has no power to remit any guilt, except by declaring and warranting it to have been
remitted by God; or at most by remitting cases reserved for himself; in which cases, if his power were
[disregarded], guilt would certainly remain. . . .
20. Therefore the Pope, when he speaks of the plenary remission of all penalties, does not really mean
of all, but only of those imposed by himself.
21. Thus those preachers of indulgences are in error who say that by the indulgences of the Pope a
man is freed and saved from all punishment.
22. For in fact he remits to souls in Purgatory no penalty which they would have had to pay in this life
according to the canons.
23. If any entire remission of all penalties can be granted to anyone it is certain that it is granted to
none but the most perfect, that is to very few.
24. Hence, the greater part of the people must needs be deceived by his indiscriminate and
high-sounding promise of release from penalties.
25. Such power over Purgatory as the Pope has in general, such has every bishop in his own diocese,
and every parish priest in his own parish. . . .
27. They are wrong who say that the soul flies out of Purgatory as soon as the money thrown into the
28. It is certain that, when money rattles in the chest, avarice and gain may be increased, but the
effect of the intercession of the Church depends on the will of God alone. . . .
32. Those who believe that, through letters of pardon, they are made sure of their own salvation will
be eternally damned along with their teachers.
33. We must especially beware of those who say that these pardons from the Pope are that
inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to God. . . .
35. They preach no Christian doctrine who teach that contrition is not necessary for those who buy
souls (out of Purgatory) or buy confessional licenses.
37. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has a share in all the benefits of Christ and of the
Church, given by God, even without letters of pardon. . . .
42. Christians should be taught that it is not the wish of the Pope that buying of pardons should be in
any way compared to works of mercy.
43. Christians should be taught that he who gives to a poor man, or lends to a needy man, does better
than if he bought pardons. . . .
45. Christians should be taught that he who sees anyone in need, and, passing him by, gives money
for pardons, is not purchasing for himself the indulgences of the Pope but the anger of God....
50. Christians should be taught that, if the Pope were acquainted with the exactions of the Preachers
of pardons, he would prefer that the Basilica of St. Peter should be burnt to ashes rather than that it should
be built up with the skin, flesh, and bones of his sheep. . . .
62. The true treasure of the Church is the Holy Gospel of the glory and grace of God. . . .
66. The treasures of indulgences are nets, wherewith they now fish for the riches of men. . . .
86. Again; why does not the Pope, whose riches are at this day more ample than those of the
wealthiest of the wealthy, build the Basilica of St. Peter with his own money rather than with that of poor
believers. . . .
94. Christians should be exhorted to strive to follow Christ their head through pains, deaths, and hells.
95. And thus not trust to enter heaven through many tribulations, rather than in the security of peace.
SOURCE: Excerpts from Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses, 1517.
ON PAPAL POWER
The Romanists [traditional Catholics loyal to the papacy] have very cleverly built three walls around
themselves. Hitherto they have protected themselves by these walls in such a way that no one has been
able to reform them. As a result, the whole of Christendom has fallen abominably.
In the first place, when pressed by the temporal power they have made decrees and declared that the
temporal power had no jurisdiction over them, but that, on the contrary, the spiritual power is above the
temporal. In the second place, when the attempt is made to reprove them with the Scriptures, they raise the
objection that only the pope may interpret the Scriptures. In the third place, if threatened with a council, their
story is that no one may summon a council but the pope.
In this way they have cunningly stolen our three rods from us, that they may go unpunished. They
have [settled] themselves within the safe stronghold of these three walls so that they can practice all the
knavery and wickedness which we see today. Even when they have been compelled to hold a council they
have weakened its power in advance by putting the princes under oath to let them remain as they were. In
addition, they have given the pope full authority over all decisions of a council, so that it is all the same
whether there are many councils or no councils. They only deceive us with puppet shows and sham fights.
They fear terribly for their skin in a really free council! They have so intimidated kings and princes with this
technique that they believe it would be an offense against God not to be obedient to the Romanists in all
their knavish and ghoulish deceits. . . .
The Romanists have no basis in Scripture for their claim that the pope alone has the right to call or
confirm a council. This is just their own ruling, and it is only valid as long as it is not harmful to Christendom
or contrary to the laws of God. Now when the pope deserves punishment, this ruling no longer obtains, for
not to punish him by authority of a council is harmful to Christendom. . . .
Therefore, when necessity demands it, and the pope is an offense to Christendom, the first man who
is able should, as a true member of the whole body, do what he can to bring about a truly free council. No
one can do this so well as the temporal authorities, especially since they are also fellow-Christians, fellow-
priests, fellow-members of the spiritual estate, fellow-lords over all things. Whenever it is necessary or
profitable they ought to exercise the office and work which they have received from God over everyone.
JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH
You may ask, "What then is the Word of God, and how shall it be used, since there are so many words of
God?" I answer: The Apostle explains this in Romans 1. The Word is the gospel of God concerning his Son,
who was made flesh, suffered, rose from the dead, and was glorified through the Spirit who sanctifies. To
preach Christ means to feed the soul, make it righteous, set it free, and save it, provided it believes the
preaching. Faith alone is the saving and efficacious use of the Word of God, according to Rom. 10 (:9): "If
you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved." Furthermore, "Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified"
(Rom. 10:4). Again, in Rom. 1 (:17), "He who through faith is righteous shall live." The Word of God cannot
be received and cherished by any works whatever but only by faith. Therefore it is clear that, as the soul
needs only the Word of God for its life and righteousness, so it is justified by faith alone and not any works;
for if it could be justified by anything else, it would not need the Word, and consequently it would not need
This faith cannot exist in connection with works--that is to say, if you at the same time claim to be
justified by works, whatever their character--for that would be the same as "limping with two different
opinions" (I Kings 18:21), as worshipping Baal and kissing one's own hand (Job 31:27-28), which, as Job
says, is a very great iniquity. Therefore the moment you begin to have faith you learn that all things in you
are altogether blameworthy, sinful, and damnable, as the Apostle says in Rom. 3 (:23), "Since all have
sinned and fall short of the glory of God," and, "None is righteous, no, not one; . . . all have turned aside,
together they have gone wrong" (Rom. 3:10-12). When you have learned this you will know that you need
Christ, who suffered and rose again for you so that, if you believe in him, you may through this faith become
a new man 'in so far as your sins are forgiven and you are justified by the merits of another, namely, of
Since, therefore, this faith can rule only in the inner man, as Rom. 10 (:10) says, "For man believes
with his heart and so is justified," and since faith alone justifies, it is clear that the inner man cannot be
justified, freed, or saved by any outer work or action at all, and that these works, whatever their character,
have nothing to do with this inner man. On the other hand, only ungodliness and unbelief of heart, and no
outer work, make him guilty and a damnable servant of sin. Wherefore it ought to be the first concern of
every Christian to lay aside all confidence in works and increasingly to strengthen faith alone and through
faith to grow in the knowledge, not of works, but of Christ Jesus, who suffered and rose for him, as Peter
teaches in the last chapter of his first Epistle (I Pet. 5:10). No other work makes a Christian. . . .
Our faith in Christ does not free us from works but from false opinions concerning works, that is, from
the foolish presumption that justification is acquired by works. Faith redeems, corrects, and preserves our
con- sciences so that we know that righteousness does not consist in works, although works neither can nor
ought to be wanting; just as we cannot be without food and drink and all the works of this mortal body, yet
our righteousness is not in them, but in faith; and yet those works of the body are not to be despised or
neglected on that account. In this world we are bound by the needs of our bodily life, but we are not
righteous because of them. "My kingship is not of this world" (John 18:36), says Christ. He does not,
however, say, "My kingship is not here, that is, in this world." And Paul says, "Though we live in the world we
are not carrying on a worldly war" (II Cor. 10:3), and in Gal. 2 (:20), "The life I now live in the flesh I live by
faith in the Son of God." Thus what we do, live, and are in works and ceremonies, we do because of the
necessities of this life and of the effort to rule our body. Nevertheless we are righteous, not in these, but in
the faith of the Son of God.
THE INTERPRETATION OF THE BIBLE AND THE NATURE OF THE CLERGY
They (the Roman Catholic Popes) want to be the only masters of Scriptures. . . . They assume sole authority
for themselves and would persuade us with insolent juggling of words that the Pope, whether he be bad or
good, cannot err in matters of faith. . . .
. . . They cannot produce a letter to prove that the interpretation of Scripture . . . belongs to the Pope
alone. They themselves have usurped this power. . . and though they allege that this power was conferred
on Peter when the keys were given to him, it is plain enough that the keys were not given to Peter alone but
to the entire body of Christians (Matt. 16:19; 18:18). . . .
. . . Every baptized Christian is a priest already, not by appointment or ordination from the Pope or any
other man, but because Christ Himself has begotten him as a priest. . . in baptism. . . .
The Pope has usurped the term "priest" for his anointed and tonsured hordes [clergy and monks}. By this
means they have separated themselves from the ordinary Christians and have called themselves uniquely
the "clergy of God," God's heritage and chosen people who must help other Christians by their sacrifice and
worship. . . . Therefore the Pope argues that he alone has the right and power to ordain and do what he will.
. . . [But] the preaching office is no more than a public service which happens to be conferred on
someone by the entire congregation all the members of which are priests. . . .
. . . The fact that a pope or bishop anoints, makes tonsures, ordains, consecrates [makes holy], and
prescribes garb different from those of the laity. . . nevermore makes a Christian and a spiritual man.
Accordingly, through baptism all of us are consecrated to the priesthood, as St. Peter says. . . . (I Peter 2:9).
To make it still clearer, if a small group of pious Christian laymen were taken captive and settled in a
wilderness and had among them no priest consecrated by a bishop, if they were to agree to choose one
from their midst, married or unmarried, and were to charge him with the office of baptizing, saying Mass, ;
absolving [forgiving of sins}, and preaching, such a man would be as truly a priest as he would if all bishops
and popes had consecrated him.
SOURCE: Martin Luther, Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Concerning the Reform of the
Christian Estate, 1520.
In my preceding pamphlet [on the “Twelve articles”] I had no occasion to condemn the peasants, because
they promised to yield to law and better instruction, as Christ also demands (Matt. 7:1). But before I turn
around, they go out and appeal to force, in spite of their promises and rob and pillage and act like mad dogs.
From this it is quite apparent what they had in their false minds, and that what they put forth under the name
of the gospel in the "Twelve Articles" was all vain pretense. In short, they practice mere devil's work, and it is
the arch-devil himself who reigns at Muhlhausen, indulging in nothing but robbery, murder, and bloodshed;
as Christ says of the devil in john 8.44, "he was a murderer from the beginning." Since, therefore, those
peasants and miserable wretches allow themselves to be led astray and act differently from what they
declared, I likewise must write differently concerning them; and first bring their sins before their eyes, as God
commands (Isa. 58.1; Ezek. 2.7), whether perchance some of them may come to their senses; and, further, I
would instruct those in authority how to conduct themselves in this matter.
With threefold horrible sins against God and men have these peasants loaded themselves, for which
they have deserved a manifold death of body and soul.
First, they have sworn to their true and gracious rulers to be submissive and obedient, in accord with
God's command (Matt. 22.21), "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's," and (Rom.
13.1), "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers." But since they have deliberately and sacrilegiously
abandoned their obedience, and in addition have dared to oppose their lords, they have thereby forfeited
body and soul, as perfidious, perjured, lying, disobedient wretches and scoundrels are wont to do.
Wherefore St. Paul judges them saying (Rom. 13.2), "And they that resist shall receive to themselves
damnation." The peasants will incur this sentence, sooner or later; for God wills that fidelity and allegiance
shall be sacredly kept.
Second, they cause uproar and sacrilegiously rob and pillage monasteries and castles that do not
belong to them, for which, like public highwaymen and murderers, they deserve the twofold death of body
and soul. It is right and lawful to slay at the first opportunity, a rebellious person, who is known as such, for
he is already under God's and the emperor's ban. Every man is at once judge and executioner of a public
rebel; just as, when a fire starts, he who can extinguish it first is the best fellow. Rebellion is not simply vile
murder, but is like a great fire that kindles and devastates a country; it fills the land with murder and
bloodshed, makes widows and orphans, and destroys everything, like the greatest calamity. Therefore,
whosoever can, should smite, strangle, and stab, secretly or publicly, and should remember that there is
nothing more poisonous, pernicious, and devilish than a rebellious man. Just as one must slay a mad dog,
so, if you do not fight the rebels, they will fight you, and the whole country with you.
Third, they cloak their frightful and revolting sins with the gospel, call themselves Christian brethren,
swear allegiance, and compel people to join them in such abominations. Thereby they become the greatest
blasphemers and violators of God's holy name, and serve and honor the devil under the semblance of the
gospel, so that they have ten times deserved death of body and soul, for never have I heard of uglier sins.
And I believe also that the devil foresees the judgment day, that he undertakes such an unheard of measure;
as if he said, "It is the last and therefore it shall be the worst; I'll stir up the dregs and knock the very bottom
out." May the Lord restrain him! Lo, how mighty a prince is the devil, how he holds the world in his hands
and can put it to confusion; who else could so soon capture so many thousands of peasants, lead them
astray, blind and deceive them, stir them to revolt, and make them the willing executioners of his malice. . . .
And should the peasants prevail (which God forbid!), for all things are possible to God, and we know
not but that he is preparing for the judgment day, which cannot be far distant, and may purpose to destroy,
by means of the devil, all order and authority and throw the world into wild chaos, yet surely they who are
found, sword in hand, shall perish in the wreck with clear consciences, leaving to the devil the kingdom of
this world and receiving instead the eternal kingdom. For we are come upon such strange times that a prince
may more easily win heaven by the shedding of blood than others by prayers.
SOURCE: Martin Luther, Condemnation of the Peasant Revolt, 1524.