Articles Concerning Which There Is Dissension (XXII-XXVIII)

Written in German by Philip Melanchthon (1530)

English Translation by Ambrose and Socrates Henkel (1851), Revised by C. P. Krauth (1854)

Link to Bente/Dau Translation from Latin (1921)

Articles Concerning Which There Is Dissension, and in Which Are Related the Abuses Which Have Been Corrected

[1] Since, then, with respect to these Articles of faith, there is nothing taught in our churches contrary to the holy Scripture, or the universal church, but merely some abuses have been corrected,--a part of which in the course of time, have crept in of themselves,--and others have been established by force,-- necessity requires us to state these, and to allege reasons why alterations in them were permitted, in order that your Imperial Majesty may know, that in this matter we have not acted in a manner unchristian or presumptuous, but that we have been urged to make alterations by the command of God, whose commands should justly be esteemed higher than all customs.

Article XXII: Of Both Elements in the Eucharist

[1] Among us, both elements in the Eucharist are administered to the laity, because this is a clear command and precept of Christ, Matt. 26:27: "Drink ye all of it." [2] Here Christ commands in express words concerning the cup, that they all should drink of it.

[3] And in order that no one shall be able to cavil at these words, and explain them as pertaining to the priests alone, Paul informs us, 1 Cor. 11:20-29, that the whole congregation of the Corinthian church used both elements. [4] And this custom continued in the church for a long time, as can be shown from history and the writings of the Fathers. [5] Cyprian mentions in many places, that in his time the cup was administered to the laity. [6] Thus says St. Jerome: "The priests who administer the Sacrament, distribute the blood of Christ to the people." [7] And pope Gelasius himself commands, that the Sacrament should not be divided, Distinct. 2, de Consecrat. cap. Comperimus. [8] Nor can any canon be found, which commands that one element alone should be received. And no one can ascertain, when or by whom the custom of receiving one element was introduced, although Cardinal Cusanus mentions the time when this method was approved. [9] Now it is evident that a custom, introduced contrary to the command of God, [10] and in opposition to the ancient canons, is wrong. [11] Wherefore, it was improper to oppress the consciences of those who wished to use the holy Sacrament according to the institution of Christ, by compelling them to act contrary to the order of Christ our Lord.

[12] And since this practice of dividing the Sacrament is contrary to the institution of Christ, the usual procession [on the festival of the Holy Body] with the Sacrament is discontinued among us.

Article XXIII: Of the Marriage of Priests

[1] There have been very great complaints in the world, among individuals both of high and low rank, concerning the excessive lasciviousness, the dissolute life and conduct of the priests, who were unable to observe continence, and who had proceeded to the greatest excess in vice. [3] For the purpose of avoiding such gross and detestable offenses,--adultery, and other acts of sensuality,--some priests among us have entered a state of matrimony. These allege, that in taking this step, they have been urged and actuated by the dictates of conscience, since the Scripture expressly declares that marriage was instituted of the Lord God to prevent fornication, [4] as Paul says, 1 Cor. 7:2: "To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife." Again, "It is better to marry than to burn," 1 Cor. 7:9. [5] Christ declares: "All men cannot receive this saying," Matt. 19:11. In this passage Christ himself, who well knew the constitution of man, declares that few persons have the gift to live continent; "for God created them male and female," Gen. 1:27. [6] Now experience has abundantly shown, whether it is within human power or ability, without a special gift or grace of God, to improve or change the creatures of God the Most High, by human purposes or vows. For it is evident, what good, what decent, chaste lives, what Christian, honest, or blameless conduct, have followed from this in many individuals! Ah! What abominable, hideous disquietudes and torments of their consciences, many have experienced in the close of their lives! Many of them have confessed it themselves. [8] Since, then, the Word and law of God cannot be altered by any human vows or enactments, [9] the priest and other ecclesiastics, for these and other reasons and authorities, have entered into a state of matrimony.

[10] So it may be shown likewise from history and the writings of the Fathers, that formerly in the Christian churches, it was customary for priests and deacons to have wives; [11] wherefore Paul says, 1 Tim. 3:2, "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife." [12] It is but four hundred years since the priests in Germany were driven by force from a state of matrimony to vows of continence, and they opposed that measure so generally, with so much earnestness and rigor, that the Archbishop of Mainz, who published this new Papal Edict, was well nigh being murdered in a mob excited by the priests. [13] And directly in the beginning, in a manner so precipitate and arbitrary was that decree enforced, that the Pope at that time did not only forbid priests to marry in the future, but he also dissolved the marriages of those who had already been in that state for a long time,--an action which was not only contrary to all divine, natural, and civil rights, but in opposition also to the canons of the popes themselves, and to the most celebrated councils.

In like manner, among individuals of high standing, piety, and intelligence, have similar opinions and sentiments been heard frequently,--that this compulsory celibacy, this prohibition of matrimony, which God himself instituted and left optional, has never been productive of any good, but the source of many great and pernicious vices and excesses. And even one of the popes, Pius II, himself, as his history shows, often used these words, and permitted them to be written: "There may be some reasons, indeed, why marriage should be forbidden to the ecclesiastics; but there are much higher, greater, and weightier reasons why marriage should be left optional with them." And doubtless, Pope Pius, as an intelligent and wise man, spoke these words from mature consideration.

[14] Wherefore we would in submission to your Imperial Majesty, comfort ourselves with the hope that your Majesty, as a Christian and highly esteemed Emperor, will reflect that now in these latter days, of which the Scripture makes mention, the world becomes still more degenerate, and mankind more sinful and weak.

For these reasons it is a highly necessary and Christian consideration, that we should be mindful, lest, by the prohibition of marriage, lasciviousness and other crimes more wicked and shameful, be promoted in the German states. [15] For no one is able to encourage or regulate these matters better or more wisely than God himself, who has instituted marriage for the purpose of assisting human weakness, and of restraining licentiousness. [16] Thus say the ancient canons too, that severity and rigor must on some occasions be mitigated and relaxed, on account of human weakness, and for the purpose of guarding against, and of avoiding greater evils.

Now such a course would in this case be Christian and very necessary. For what injury could result to the Christian church in general,--especially to the ministers and others, who are to serve in the church,--from the marriage of priests and ecclesiastics? [17] There will indeed be a want of priests and ministers hereafter, should this rigorous prohibition of marriage be continued longer.

[18] Now, since the authority is founded upon the divine Word and commandment, for priests and ecclesiastics to enter into a state of matrimony; besides, since history shows that the priests did live in a state of matrimony; since also, the vows of continence have produced a very great number of offenses so detestable and unchristian, adultery so excessive, licentiousness so terrible and unheard of, and vices so abominable, that even some of the courtiers among the dignitaries at Rome, have often confessed these things, and admitted with sorrow that, as these vices in the clergy were so abominable and predominant, the wrath of God would be excited,--it is indeed lamentable that the Christian state of matrimony has not only been forbidden, but even subjected, in some places, to the most severe punishment, as if it were a heinous crime.

[20] Matrimony is moreover commended highly in imperial governments, and in every monarchy in which justice and law prevail. [21] But in the present time innocent people are beginning to be tortured on account of their marriages, priests likewise who should be spared in preference to others,--a thing which is not only contrary to divine laws, but also to the canons. [22] That doctrine which forbids marriage, the apostle Paul denominates a doctrine of devils, 1 Tim. 4:1,3. And Christ himself says, John 8:44: "The devil is a murderer from the beginning." [23] All these things concur well to prove that to be a doctrine of devils, which forbids marriage, and attempts to enforce the prohibition by the shedding of blood.

[24] But as no human law can abrogate or change a command of God, so a vow is not able to change his command. [25] Wherefore Cyprian advises those women to marry who do not keep their chastity according to their vow, and he says, lib. I. epist. XI.: "But if they will not preserve their chastity, or if they are unable, it is better to marry, than to fall into the fire through their lust: and they should be very careful not to occasion offense to the brethren and sisters."

[26] In addition to these considerations, all the canons extend more lenience and justice to those who have taken vows in youth, the priests and monks for the most part having through ignorance entered into this state in their youth.

Article XXIV: Of the Mass

[1] It is alleged unjustly against us, that we have abolished the Mass. [9] For it is well known that the Mass is, without boasting, celebrated with greater devotion and sincerity among us, than among our adversaries. [7] So the people also are repeatedly instructed with diligence concerning the holy Eucharist, with regard to the purpose for which it was instituted, and the manner in which it is to be used, namely, to comfort alarmed consciences, by means of which the people are drawn to Communion and Mass. [8] Besides, instruction is also given against wrong doctrines concerning the Sacrament. [2] Nor has any perceptible change taken place in the public ceremonies of the Mass, except that at several places German hymns, for the instruction and exercise of the people, are sung with the Latin hymns; [3] especially as all ceremonies should serve the purpose of teaching the people what is necessary for them to know concerning Christ.

[10] But as the Mass, prior to this time, was abused in various ways; as it is clear, that an annual traffic was made out of it, that it was bought and sold, [11] and that it was celebrated for the most part in all churches for the sake of money, such abuse had been repeatedly censured, even before this time, by individuals of learning and piety. [12] Now, as the ministers among us have preached concerning this thing, and the priests have been reminded of the terrible menaces which should justly move every Christian, that whoever partakes of the Sacrament unworthily, is guilty of the body and blood of Christ, 1 Cor. 11:27, [13] in consequence of this, these sordid and solitary Masses, which hitherto have been celebrated out of compulsion, for the sake of money and preferments, have ceased in our churches.

[21] Besides, the abominable error that Christ our Lord by his death has atoned for original sin only, and that he has instituted the Mass as a propitiation for other sins, is also censured. [22] And thus the Mass was converted into an oblation for the living and the dead, in order to take away sins, and to reconcile God. [23] From this it followed as a further consequence, that it was made a question whether a Mass held for many, merits as much as if a particular one is held for each individual. Thence originated a great diversity of Masses, as men wished by that work to obtain from God all that they needed, and consequently faith in Christ and the true divine service were neglected.

[24] Wherefore instruction is given on this subject, as necessity undoubtedly requires, in order that it may be known how the Sacrament should be rightly used. [25] And first, the Scripture testifies in many places, that there is no sacrifice for original sin or for other sins, but the death of Christ. [26] For thus it is written, Heb. 10:10-14: [27] "For by one offering Christ hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." It is an unparalleled innovation, to teach in the church that the death of Christ atoned only for original sin, and not for other sins also; hope is therefore entertained, that it will be generally perceived that such error was not unjustly censured.

[28] Secondly, St. Paul teaches, Rom. 3:25, that we obtain grace before God, through faith, and not by works. [29] Such abuse of the Mass is evidently opposed to this doctrine, if by that means we expect to obtain grace; as it is well known that the Mass has been used for the purpose of removing sins, and of obtaining grace and favor before God, not only in behalf of the priest for himself, but also for the whole world, for the living and the dead.

[30] Thirdly, this holy Sacrament was instituted, not for the purpose of making a sacrifice for sins, (for the sacrifice has already been made,) but for the purpose of exciting our faith, and of consoling the consciences, which are admonished through the Sacrament that grace and the forgiveness of sins are promised to them by Christ. Wherefore this Sacrament requires faith, and without faith it is used in vain.

[34] Since, then, the Mass is not a sacrifice for others, living or dead, to take away their sins, and since it should be a communion, in which the priest and others receive the Sacrament for themselves, the following custom is observed among us, that on holidays and also at other seasons when communicants are present, Mass is celebrated, and unto those who desire it the Sacrament is administered. [35] Thus the Mass continues among us in its proper application, as it was observed originally in the church, as may be shown from St. Paul, 1 Cor. 11:33, and likewise from many writings of the Fathers. [36] For Chrysostom mentions how the priest stands daily, requesting some to come to Communion, and forbidding others to approach. [37] The ancient canons also show that one officiated, and the other priests and deacons communed. [38] For thus read the words of the canon of Nicaea: "The deacons in order after the priests, should receive the Sacrament from the bishop or the priest."

[40] Now, since no innovation has been introduced, inconsistent with the custom of the primitive church, and no perceptible change has taken place in the public ceremonies of the Mass, except that the unnecessary Masses, celebrated perhaps through abuse, together with the private or priest's Masses, have discontinued, it would therefore be unjust to condemn this manner of holding Mass as unchristian and heretical. [41] For in times past, even when great numbers of people had assembled in large churches, the Mass was not celebrated every day, as the Historia Tripartita, lib. 9, testifies. Again, in Alexandria the Scriptures were read and explained, on Wednesdays and Fridays, and all other divine services were held without the Mass.

Article XXV: Of Confession

[1] Confession is not abolished by our ministers. For the custom is retained among us, not to administer the Sacrament unto those who have not been previously examined and absolved. [2] The people, moreover, are diligently instructed with regard to the comfort afforded by the words of absolution, [3] and the high and great estimation in which it is to be held, for it is not the voice or word of the individual present, but it is the Word of God, who here forgives sins; [4] for it is spoken in God's stead, and by his command. Concerning this command and the power of the keys, it is taught with the greatest assiduity how comfortable, how useful they are to alarmed consciences, and besides how God requires confidence in this absolution, no less than if the voice of God was heard from heaven; and by this we comfort ourselves, and know that through such faith we obtain the remission of sins. [5] Concerning these useful points, the priests, who taught respecting confession, formerly did not utter a single word, but merely tormented our consciences with long enumerations of sins, with expiations, with indulgences, with pilgrimages, and the like. [6] And many of our adversaries themselves have acknowledged, that we write and treat of true Christian repentance with greater propriety than has done before for many years.

[7] And thus it is taught respecting confession, that no one should be forced to specify sins; for this would be impossible, as the Psalmist says: "Who can understand his errors?" Psalm 19:13. [8] And Jeremiah says: "The heart is deceitful above all things: who can know it?" Jer. 17:9. [9] Poor, frail human nature is plunged so deeply in sin, that it is unable to perceive or to acknowledge every sin; and should those sins alone be pardoned, which we are able to enumerate, it would avail us but little. It is, therefore, unnecessary to urge people to specify their sins. [10] Thus the Fathers also maintained, as may be shown from Distinct. 1, de Paenitentia, in which the words of Chrysostom are quoted: [11] "I say not that thou shouldest betray thyself publicly, or accuse thyself before another one, or present thyself as culpable, but obey the Prophet, who says, 'Commit thy way unto the Lord,' Ps. 37:5. Therefore confess unto God the Lord, the righteous judge, in thy prayer, do not relate thy sins with the tongue, but in thy conscience." Here it may be seen clearly, that Chrysostom does not insist upon our sins being enumerated by name. [12] The Glossa in Decretis de Paenitentia, Distinct. 5, cap. Consideret, also teaches that confession is not commanded in the Scriptures, but that it was instituted by the church. [13] Yet by our ministers it is taught with diligence, that confession, because of absolution, which is the chief part in it, should be retained for the purpose of consoling alarmed consciences, and for some other reasons.

Article XXVI: Of Diversity of Meats

[1] Formerly it was held, preached, and written, that the diversity of meats and the like ceremonies instituted by men, were useful, in order to merit grace, and to make satisfaction for sin. [2] Hence new fasts, new ceremonies, new orders, and the like, were daily devised, strenuously insisted upon, as if they were necessary services to God, and that grace might be merited if they were observed, while to neglect them would be considered a great sin. [3] From this many scandalous errors originated in the church.

[4] In the first place, the grace of Christ and the doctrine concerning faith were by this means obscured, which doctrine with great solemnity the Gospel inculcates, and it insists with earnestness that the merits of Christ should be highly and dearly esteemed, and that it should be known that faith in Christ is to be placed far above all works. [5] St. Paul, for this reason, inveighs bitterly against the Mosaic Law and human traditions, in order to teach us, that we are not justified before God by our works, but alone through faith in Christ, and that we obtain grace for Christ's sake. [6] This doctrine was almost entirely suppressed, by teaching that grace must be merited by the observance of laws, by fasts, and by diversities of meats and dress.

[8] Secondly, such traditions even obscured the command of God. For men elevated these traditions far above his command. [9] Those alone were believed to live as Christians, who observed these holidays, and prayed, and fasted, and dressed in a peculiar manner, which was styled a spiritual, Christian life.

[10] Moreover, other good works were regarded as worldly and sensuous, namely, those which each one according to his vocation, is under obligation to do: as, a father laboring to support his wife and children, and bringing them up in the fear of God; a mother bearing children and attending to them; a prince and other authorities ruling the country and the people, etc. [11] Such works commanded of God, were considered a mere worldly and imperfect matter; but these traditions were honored with the unmerited title of holy and perfect works. For these reasons there was neither limit nor end of such traditions.

[12] Thirdly, these traditions became exceedingly oppressive to the consciences of men. For it is not possible to observe all traditions, and yet the people were of the opinion that they are necessary services to God. [13] And Gerson asserts in his writings that by this many were driven to despair, and some put an end to their own existence, because they did not hear the consolation of the grace of Christ. [14] For, how the consciences of men were entangled is seen from the Summists and the theologians, who attempted to sum up the traditions, and sought epieikeia [equity, moderation, forbearance, reasonable condescension; this word was employed by the monks, to express the mitigation of the rigor of the precepts or traditions] in order to assist those consciences. [15] So entirely were they engrossed in this, that in the meantime the salutary Christian doctrines of subjects more important, of faith, of consolation in affliction, and the like, were totally neglected. [16] Accordingly many excellent men of those times complained that these traditions excited much contention in the church, and by that means prevented pious men from attaining the true knowledge of Christ. Gerson and several others have uttered bitter complaints on this subject. [17] And it also met the displeasure of Augustine, that men encumbered their consciences with so many traditions; on this subject therefore he advises that they should not be regarded as necessary things.

[18] Wherefore, we did not treat on these matters, through malice or in contempt of ecclesiastical power, [19] but necessity required instruction concerning the errors aforementioned, which had grown out of the misapprehension of these traditions. [20] For the Gospel insists, that the doctrine concerning faith should and must be inculcated in churches; which cannot, however, be understood where the opinion prevails that men merit grace by works of their own contrivance. [21] And with respect to this subject, it is taught that no one is able, by the observance of such human traditions, to merit grace or to reconcile God, or to atone for sins; and for this reason no necessary service of God should be made out of them. [22] Reasons in addition are produced from Scripture. Christ excuses the Apostles for not observing the usual traditions, saying, Matt. 15:3-9: "In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." [23] Now as he calls this a vain service, it cannot be necessary. And immediately afterwards he says, verse 11: "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man." [24] Again, Paul says, Rom. 14:17: "The kingdom of God is not meat and drink." [25] Col. 2:16-20, "Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy-day," etc. [27] Peter says, Acts 15:10-11: "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 believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved." [28] Here Peter forbids that the consciences of men should be burdened any further with external ceremonies, either with those of Moses or of others. [29] And 1 Tim. 4:1-3, those prohibitions which forbid meats and matrimony are called "doctrines of devils." For it is diametrically opposed to the Gospel, either to institute or perform such works for the purpose of meriting the remission of sins, or to do so under the impression that no one can be a Christian without these services.

[30] The charge, however, alleged against us, that we forbid discipline and mortification of the flesh, as Jovinian did, is disproved by our writings. [31] For we have ever given instruction concerning the holy cross, which Christians are under obligation to bear; [32] and this is a true, sincere, not a fictitious mortification. [33] Moreover it is taught in like manner, that every Christian is under obligation to restrain himself by bodily exercise, as fasting and other exercises, so that he give no occasion to sin,--not meriting grace however by these works. [34] This bodily exercise should be urged not only on certain fixed days, but continually. [35] On this subject Christ says, Luke 21:34, "Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting." [36] Again, Matt. 17:21, "The devils are not cast out but by fasting and prayer." [37] And Paul says, 1 Cor. 9:27, "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection." [38] By this he shows, that mortification is designed, not for the purpose of meriting grace, but for the purpose of keeping the body in a suitable condition, that it may not impede what each one according to his calling is commanded to perform; [39] and thus fasting is not rejected, but the making of a necessary service out of it, upon fixed days, and with particular meats, to the confusion of the consciences of men.

[40] Many ceremonies and traditions are likewise observed by us; such as Mass, singing of hymns, festivals, etc., which are calculated to promote order in the church. [41] But relative to this subject the people are instructed, that such external service does not make them pious before God, and that it should be observed without encumbering their consciences, so that if any one omit it without giving offense, he does not sin in that case. [42] This freedom in external ceremonies the ancient Fathers likewise retained. [43] For in the East, the festival of Easter was held at a different time from that at Rome; and when some were disposed to consider this want of uniformity as a division in the church, they were reminded by others, that it was not necessary to observe uniformity in such things. [44] And thus says Irenaeus: "A difference of fasts does not destroy the agreement in matters of faith." So also in Distinct. 12, it is written concerning the want of uniformity in human ordinances, that it is not contrary to the unity of Christendom. [45] And Tripartita Historia, lib. 9, sums up many dissimilar church customs, and forms a useful Christian maxim: "It was not the intention of the Apostles to institute holidays, but to teach faith and charity."

Article XXVII: Of Monastic Vows

[1] When speaking of monastic vows, it is necessary, in the first place, to consider how they have been viewed hitherto; what regulation they had in monasteries, and that very many things were daily done in them, not only contrary to the Word of God, but also in opposition to Papal laws. [2] In the time of St. Augustine monastic life was optional; subsequently, when the right discipline and doctrine were corrupted, monastic vows were devised, and by these, as a species of imprisonment, they wished to re- establish discipline.

[3] In addition to these monastic vows, many other things were introduced, [4] and with these burdens and fetters, many persons were oppressed, even before they had arrived at years of maturity.

[5] Many persons likewise entered into such monastic life through ignorance, who, although they were not of years too immature, did not sufficiently consider and weigh their abilities. [6] All these, thus involved and ensnared, are urged and forced to remain in such bonds, although even the Papal regulations would liberate many of them. [7] And it was more oppressive in nunneries than in monasteries; yet it would seem fit that females, as being weaker, should have been spared. [8] This severity likewise met the displeasure of many pious persons in former times; for they well knew that both boys and girls were often thrust into these monasteries merely for the purpose of being supported. They saw also how evil this course of procedure proved, what offenses, what burdens of conscience it produced, [9] and many people complained, that in a matter so perilous the canons were not regarded at all. [10] Besides this, an extravagant opinion obtained concerning monastic vows, which was very prevalent, and which was displeasing even to many monks, who possessed some little reason.

[11] For they allege, that monastic vows are equal to Baptism, and that by monastic life remission of sins and justification may be merited before God; [12] yea, they add still farther, that by monastic life, not only righteousness and holiness are merited, but also that by it the commands and counsels comprehended in the Gospel, are kept: [13] and thus monastic vows were commended more highly than Baptism. Again, that men merit more by monastic life than by all other conditions which God has established; as that of pastor and minister, prince, ruler, and lord, and the like, all of whom according to the command, word, and precept of God, serve in their vocations without pretentions of superior holiness. [14] None of these things can be denied, for they are extant in their own books. Moreover, he that is thus ensnared and enters into a monastery, learns but little concerning Christ.

[15] Formerly, schools were kept in monasteries, for the purpose of teaching the holy Scriptures and other things which are useful to the Christian church, so that ministers and bishops could be selected from them. But now there is a different custom. [16] For formerly they assembled in monasteries with a view to learn the Scripture, but now they falsely pretend that monastic life is of such a nature, that men merit the grace of God and holiness before God by it; yea, that it is a state of perfection, and they exalt it far above other states which God has instituted. [17] We cite all these things, without detraction, in order that it may be the better understood and comprehended how, and what we preach and teach.

[18] First, among us we teach concerning those who propose marriage, that all those who are not qualified for a single state, have a perfect right to marry. For vows cannot annul the order and command of God. [19] Thus reads the command of God, 1 Cor. 7:2: "To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband." [20] And not only the command of God, but also his creation and ordination, urge and enforce all those to a state of matrimony, who are not endowed with the gift of continence, by a special gift, agreeably to this declaration of God himself, Gen. 2:18: "It is not good for man to be alone, I will make him an help meet for him."

[22] Now, what can be alleged against this? They may applaud vows and duty as highly as they please, and adorn them as much as possible, yet it cannot be maintained that God's command can thus be annulled. [23] The doctors say, that vows, even in opposition to the authority of the Pope, are not binding; how much less, then, should they bind, and have power and effect against the commands of God?

[24] If the obligation of vows had no reason for their being annulled, the popes would not have granted dispensations against them; for it is not proper for any man to annul obligations which grow out of divine rights. [25] Wherefore the popes have considered well, that in these obligations equity should be employed, [26] and they have often granted dispensations, as with the king of Aragon, and many others. Now, if for the preservation of temporal things, dispensations have been granted, more justly should they be granted on account of the necessity of souls.

[27] Secondly, why does the opposite party so strenuously insist that vows must be kept, and not first consider whether the vow is of a proper nature? For such vows as can be kept, should be made voluntarily, and without constraint. [28] But it is well known how far human power and ability can maintain perpetual chastity. [29] Nor are there many, either of males or of females, that have taken monastic vows of themselves, freely and with due consideration. Before they arrive at a proper understanding, they are persuaded to assume monastic vows. Sometimes they are also urged and forced to them. [30] For this reason it is not just, to insist so obstinately and strenuously upon the obligation of vows, seeing that all must confess, that it is contrary to the nature and essential character of a vow, to make it unwillingly and without due counsel and consideration.

[31] Some canons and Papal regulations rescind the vows which were made previous to the fifteenth year. For they maintain, that before that period no one has knowledge sufficient to enable him to determine upon the order and regulation of a whole life. [32] Another canon allows a still greater number of years on account of human weakness. It forbids the taking of monastic vows under the eighteenth year. [33] From this prohibition the greater part would have excuse and reason to withdraw from monasteries; for the greater part entered them before that age. [34] Finally, if even the breaking of monastic vows might be censured, yet it could, however, not follow from this, that their marriages should be dissolved. [35] For St. Augustine says, 27 Quaest., 1 Cap., Nuptiarum, that "such marriages should not be dissolved." Now, St. Augustine stands in high repute in the Christian church, although some have since maintained otherwise.

[36] Although the command of God concerning marriage, absolves very many from their monastic vows, yet our writers allege many other reasons, why monastic vows are void and ineffectual. For every species of worship, chosen and instituted by men without the precept and command of God, in order to obtain righteousness and divine grace, is repugnant to him, and in opposition to his command and to the Gospel. [37] As Christ himself says, Matt. 15:9: "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." So St. Paul also teaches everywhere, that men should not seek righteousness from religious services devised by men, but that righteousness and holiness in the sight of God, come from the faith and confidence that God accepts us graciously for the sake of Christ his own Son. [38] Now, it is clear, that the monks have taught and preached that their assumed piety atones for sin, and obtains righteousness and the grace of God. What else is this, but diminishing the glory and honor of the grace of Christ, and denying the righteousness of faith? [39] Wherefore it follows that the customary vows are a false and an absurd worship of God. For that reason they are also not binding. [40] For an ungodly vow, and one contrary to the command of God, is void, and the canons teach also that an oath shall not be an obligation to sin.

[41] St. 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." [42] Therefore those also who wish to be justified by vows, are separated from Christ, and fail to obtain the grace of God. [43] For these rob Christ of his honor, who alone justifies, and thus they bestow such honor on their vows and monastic life.

[44] Nor can it be denied, that the monks have taught and preached that by their vows and monastic habits and conduct they are justified, and merit the forgiveness of sins; and, indeed, they have invented things still more absurd, and have asserted, that they impart their good works to others. [45] Now, if someone would press the matter and bring all these charges in array against them, how many things could be collected, of which the monks themselves are now ashamed, and which they would disown! [46] Besides these things they have also persuaded the people, that their self-devised religious orders constitute Christian perfection. [47] This is, indeed, commending works as a source of justification. [48] It is not a small offense in the Christian church, to appoint for the people a species of worship, which men have devised without the command of God, and to teach that such worship makes men pious and just before God. For the righteousness of faith, which should be chiefly inculcated in the church, becomes obscured, when the eyes of the people are blinded with this strange, angelic spirituality and false pretense of poverty, meekness, and chastity.

[49] Moreover, by this means the commandments of God, and the proper and true service of God, are obscured, when the people hear that the monks alone are in a state of perfection. For Christian perfection consists in fearing God from the heart and with earnestness, and also in cherishing sincere reliance, faith, and trust, that for the sake of Christ we have a gracious and merciful God, that we may and should ask and desire of him what is necessary for us, and confidently expect help from him in every tribulation, according to our calling or station in life; that we also should in the meantime perform good works towards others with diligence, and attend to our occupations. [50] In this consist true perfection and the proper service of God,--not in mendicancy, or in a black or gray hood, etc. [51] But the common people are led into many pernicious views by the false commendation of monastic life. [52] If they hear a state of celibacy applauded beyond measure, it follows that they are pained with the sting of conscience in their matrimonial relations. [53] For from this, if the common man hears that the mendicants alone are perfect, he is not able to perceive that he may possess property, and carry on an occupation, without sinning. [54] If the populace hear that it is merely a recommendation not to exercise revenge, it follows that some will think it no sin to exercise private revenge. [55] Others are of the opinion that revenge does not at all become a Christian, not even the government. [56] Many examples are on record, of persons who abandoned their wives and children and business, and shut themselves up in monasteries. [57] This they said, was fleeing out of the world, and seeking a life more pleasing to God than their previous one. Nor were they able to understand, that men should serve God in those commandments which He has given, and not in the commandments devised by men. [58] Now this is a good and perfect state of life, which is founded on the command of God, but that is a dangerous state of life, which is not founded on his command.

[59] Concerning these things it was necessary to instruct the people properly. [60] Gerson, in former times, has also censured the error of the monks, concerning perfection, and he intimates that in his day it was a new doctrine that monastic life should be a state of perfection. [61] Many ungodly views and errors attach to monastic vows; as, that they justify and make holy in the sight of God; that they constitute Christian perfection; that by them both the counsels and commands of the Gospel are fulfilled; that they have a superabundance of works which men do not owe to God.

[62] Since, then, all these things are false, vain, and fictitious, monastic vows are void and ineffectual.

Article XXVIII: Of the Power of the Bishops

[1] Concerning the power of bishops much has been written in former times, and some have improperly mingled together civil and ecclesiastical power. [2] From this heterogeneous mixture extensive wars, rebellions, and insurrections have been produced, by the pontiffs having, under pretense of their power, given unto them by Christ, not only established new modes of worship, and oppressed the consciences of men with reservations of certain cases and with violent excommunications, but also presumed to dethrone kings and emperors at pleasure, and to place others in their stead. [3] This presumption has long since been censured by learned and pious men. [4] Hence, those who think with us, for the purpose of consoling the consciences of men, have been compelled to point out the lines of distinction between civil and ecclesiastical power. And they have taught, that both civil and ecclesiastical power, on account of God's commandment, ought to be honored and sustained with all sincerity, as the two greatest blessings of God on earth.

[5] Accordingly they teach, that the power of the keys or of the bishops, according to the Gospel, is a power and commission from God to preach the Gospel, to remit and to retain sins, and to attend to and administer the Sacraments. [6] For Christ sent forth the Apostles with the command: "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained," John 20:21-23. [8] This power of the keys or of the bishops is to be exercised and carried into effect alone by the doctrine and preaching of the Word of God, and by the administration of the Sacraments to many or to a few persons, according to the call. For by this means are conferred, not temporal, but eternal blessings and treasures; as, eternal righteousness, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life. [9] These blessings cannot be obtained otherwise than by the office of the ministry, and by the administration of the holy Sacraments. As St. Paul says, Rom. 1:16: "The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth." [10] Inasmuch then as the power of the church or of the bishops confers eternal gifts, and is exercised and exerted only by the ministry, it cannot by any means interfere with civil polity and government. [11] For the latter relates to matters entirely different from the Gospel, and protects with its power not the souls of men, but their bodies and possessions against external violence, by the sword and bodily penalties.

[12] Therefore these two governments, the civil and ecclesiastical, ought not to be mingled and confounded. For the ecclesiastical power has its command to preach the Gospel and to administer the Sacraments, [13] and it ought not to interfere with a foreign office, it ought not to dethrone or make kings, it ought not to abolish or disturb civil laws and obedience to government, it ought not to make and appoint laws for civil power concerning political matters. [14] As Christ himself also has said, John 18:36: "My kingdom is not of this world." [15] Again, Luke 12:14: "Who made me a judge, or a divider over you?" [16] And St. Paul says to the Philippians, 3:20: "Our conversation is in heaven." [17] And in 2 Cor. 10:4: "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God."

[18] In this manner we distinguish between the two powers, the civil and ecclesiastical, and recommend both of them to be held in honor as the highest gifts of God on earth. [19] But if bishops have any civil power, they possess it not as bishops from divine right, but from human imperial right, conferred by emperors and kings, for the civil management of their own possessions, and it has nothing at all to do with the office of the Gospel. [21] Wherefore the episcopal office, according to divine appointment, is to preach the Gospel, to remit sins, to judge of doctrine, to reject the doctrine which is contrary to the Gospel, and to exclude from the Christian community the wicked, whose impious conduct is manifest, without human power, but by the Word of God alone, [22] and in that case the parishioners and churches are under obligation to be obedient to the bishops, agreeably to the declaration of Christ, Luke 10:16: "He that heareth you, heareth me." [23] But if they teach, appoint, or establish anything contrary to the Gospel, we have the command of God in such case, not to be obedient, Matt. 7:15: " Beware of false prophets." [24] And St. Paul to the Gal. 1:8: "Though we or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." [25] And in 2 Cor. 13:8: "For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth." [26] Again, verse 10: "According to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction." [27] Thus the ecclesiastical law commands in like manner, 2 Quest., 7 Cap. Sacerdotes, and in Cap. Oves. [28] And St. Augustine writes in the epistle against Petilian, that, "We should not obey those bishops who have been duly elected, if they commit errors, or teach or ordain anything contrary to the divine Scripture."

[29] But, since the bishops have other power and jurisdiction in certain matters, as those relating to marriage or tithes, they derive it from the power of human laws. But if the ordinaries are negligent in such office, the princes, whether they do it willingly or reluctantly, are under obligation in that case, for the sake of peace, to put into execution the law against their subjects, for the prevention of discord and confusion in the community.

[30] Further, it is questionable, whether bishops have power also to establish in the church, ceremonies, such as ordinances concerning meats, holidays, and concerning different orders of ministers. [31] Those who attribute this power to bishops, cite the declaration of Christ, John 16:12-13: "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 into all truth." [32] In addition they introduce the example, Acts 15:20,29, where they have forbidden "things strangled and blood." [33] So it is alleged also, that the Sabbath was changed into Sunday, contrary to the Ten Commandments, as they regard it, and no example is urged and alleged more strenuously, than the change of the Sabbath; and they wish to maintain by that, that the power of the church is great, since it has dispensed with a precept of the Ten Commandments, and has effected some change in them.

[34] But relative to this question we teach, that the bishops have no power to appoint and establish anything contrary to the Gospel, as has already been stated, and as the canons teach, Dist. 9. [35] Now it is evidently contrary to the command and Word of God, to enact or enforce laws with a view to atone for sins and to merit grace by them; [36] for if we presume to earn grace by such ordinances, it detracts from the merit and honor of Christ. [37] It is also clear, that on account of this opinion human traditions innumerable have prevailed in Christendom, and by this means the doctrine of faith, and the righteousness of faith, were entirely suppressed--new holidays, new fasts were daily commanded, new ceremonies, and new honors to the saints were instituted, in order to merit grace and all blessings from God, by such works. [39] Again, they who institute human traditions, act contrary to the command of God, by ascribing sins to meats, to days, and the like things, and by thus encumbering Christendom with the servitude of the law, as though there had to be among Christians, to merit the grace of God, such a divine service as the Levitical, and as if he had commanded the Apostles and bishops to establish it, [40] as some writers testify. And there is no doubt, that some of the bishops have been deceived by the example of the Law of Moses; [41] hence originated those innumerable traditions: that it is a mortal sin to do any manner of work on holidays, even without offense to others; that it is a mortal sin to neglect the canonical hours; that certain meats pollute the conscience; that fasting is a work by which God may be reconciled; that sin is a case reserved, will not be forgiven, except the reserver of the case be first entreated; notwithstanding, the ecclesiastical laws do not speak of the reservation of sin, but of the reservation of church-penalty.

[42] Whence, then, have the bishops power and authority to impose such traditions upon the Christian community to ensnare men's consciences? For St. Peter in the Acts of the Apostles, forbids the "yoke to be put upon the neck of the disciples," Acts 15:10. And St. Paul says to the Corinthians: "That power was given to him to edification, and not to destruction," 2 Cor. 13:10. Why then do they multiply sins by such traditions? [43] We have clear declarations from the divine writings, which forbid the establishment of such traditions, in order to merit the grace of God, or as if they were necessary to salvation. [44] Thus says St. Paul, Col. 2:16: "Let no man, therefore, judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holy-day, or of the new-moon, or of the Sabbath-days; which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ." [45] Again, verse 20: "Wherefore, if ye be dead with Christ, from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, which say, (touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a show of wisdom." [46] Again, St. Paul to Titus, 1:14, forbids publicly the "giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men that turn from the truth."

[47] So also Christ himself speaks of those who urge the people to observe human commandments, Matt. 15:14: "Let them alone, they be blind leaders of the blind;" [48] and rejecting such service, he says: "Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up," verse 13. [49] Now, if the bishops have power to encumber the churches with innumerable traditions, and to ensnare men's consciences, why then does the holy Scripture so often forbid the making and observing of human traditions? Why does it style them the doctrines of devils? Shall the Holy Ghost have warned us against all these things in vain?

[50] Wherefore, since such ordinances, instituted as necessary in order to reconcile God and to merit grace, are in opposition to the Gospel, it is by no means suitable for the bishops to enforce such services. [51] For the doctrine of Christian liberty must be retained in the church, namely, that the servitude of the law is not necessary to justification, as St. Paul writes to the Galatians: "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage," Gal. 5:1. [52] For the chief article of the Gospel, that without our merit we obtain the grace of God through faith in Christ, must be maintained, and that we do not merit it in consequence of rites instituted by men.

[53] What, then, should be held concerning Sunday and other similar church ordinances and ceremonies? To this we make the following reply:--That the bishops or pastors may make regulations, so that things may be carried on orderly in the church,--not to obtain the grace of God, nor yet to atone for sins, or to bind the consciences of men to hold these regulations as necessary services of God, and to regard them, as if those commit sin, who break them without offense to others. [54] Thus St. Paul to the Corinthians ordains, that the women in the congregation should cover their heads, 1 Cor. 11:5. Again, that the preachers should speak in the congregation, not all at the same time, but in order, one after another.

[55] It is proper for a Christian congregation to observe such regulations for the sake of peace and love, and in such cases to be obedient to the bishops and pastors, and to observe these regulations so far as that one offend not another, that there may be no disorder or unseemly conduct in the church; [56] yet that the consciences of men be not encumbered with the idea that these observances are held as necessary to salvation, and that those commit sin, who violate them even without offense to others: as, no one says that a woman commits sin in going abroad bareheaded, unless thereby she offend the people. [57] In like manner such is the case with the institution of Sunday, of Easter, of Pentecost, and the like holidays and rites. [58] Those, then, who are of the opinion, that such institution of Sunday instead of the Sabbath, was established as a thing necessary, err very much. [59] For the holy Scripture has abolished the Sabbath, and it teaches that all ceremonies of the old law, since the revelation of the Gospel, may be discontinued. [60] And yet as it was necessary to appoint a certain day, so that the people might know when they should assemble, the Christian church ordained Sunday for the purpose, and possessed rather more inclination and willingness for this alteration, in order that the people might have an example of Christian liberty, that they might know that neither the observance of the Sabbath, nor of any other day, is indispensable.

[61] There are many unwarrantable disputations relative to the change of the law, to the ceremonies of the New Testament, to the alteration of the Sabbath; all of which have sprung from the false and erroneous opinion, that there must be in the Christian church a divine service corresponding with the Levitical or Jewish service of God, and that Christ had commanded the Apostles and bishops to devise new ceremonies, which should be necessary to salvation. [62] These errors obtained in Christendom when the righteousness of faith was not clearly and purely taught and preached. [63] Some also argue, that Sunday must be kept, although not from divine authority, prescribing in what form and to what degree labor may be performed on that day. [64] But what else are such disputations, but snares of conscience? For although they presume to modify and mitigate human traditions, yet no epieikeia or mitigation can be attained, so long as the opinion exists and continues, that they are necessary. Now this opinion must continue, if men know nothing of the righteousness of faith, and of Christian liberty. [65] The Apostles have given the command, to abstain from blood and things strangled. But who observes this now? Yet those do not sin who do not observe it, because even the Apostles themselves did not wish to burden the conscience with such servitude, but they prohibited it for a time to avoid offense. [66] For we must have regard, in view of this ordinance, to the chief article of the Christian doctrine, which is not abrogated by this decree.

[67] Scarcely any of the ancient canons are observed agreeably to their purport, and many of these ordinances are going out of use daily, even among those who maintain such traditions with the greatest zeal. [68] It would afford no counsel or relief to the conscience, were this modification not observed,-- namely, to know, in preserving these traditions, that they are not preserved as being necessary, and that it would not be injurious to the conscience, even if these traditions should cease. [69] But the bishops might easily preserve obedience, if they would not urge the keeping of those traditions which cannot be observed without sin. [70] Now, they forbid the administration of both elements in the Eucharist; they forbid the priests to marry; and receive no one, unless he has first taken an oath not to preach this doctrine, though it is without doubt in accordance with the holy Gospel.

[71] Our churches do not desire the bishops to make peace and union at the expense of their honor and dignity, (though this would be proper for the bishops to do in case of necessity,) [72] but they entreat only, that the bishops discontinue certain unjust burdens which did not exist in the church formerly, and which are contrary to the custom of the universal Christian church. [73] There might, perhaps, have been some reasons for these, when they were first established, but they are not suitable for our times. [74] It is likewise undeniable, that some ordinances were received through ignorance. Wherefore the bishops ought to have the kindness to mitigate these ordinances, since such change would not be injurious to the preservation of the unity of the Christian church; for many ordinances instituted by men, have ceased of themselves in the course of time, and were unnecessary to be observed, as the Papal laws themselves testify. [75] But if it cannot be granted by them, or obtained from them, that these human ordinances may be moderated and abolished, which cannot be observed without sin, we must follow the rule of the Apostles, which commands that "we ought to obey God rather than men," Acts 5:29.

[76] St. Peter, 1 Pet. 5:3, forbids the bishops to rule as if they had power to force the churches into whatever measure they please. [77] Now, it is not our design to deprive the bishops of their power, but we desire and entreat, that they would not force the consciences of men to sin. [78] If however they will not desist, but contemn this entreaty, they may consider that they will, therefore, be under obligation to render an account unto God, since by this obstinacy of theirs, they give occasion for disunion and schisms which they ought properly to assist in preventing.


[1] These are the principal Articles which are regarded as controverted. It were easy indeed to enumerate many more abuses and errors, but in order to be brief, and to prevent prolixity, we have mentioned only the principal ones, from which the others may easily be perceived. [2] For in former times much complaint existed concerning indulgences, pilgrimages, and the abuse of excommunication. The clergy have also had endless disputes with the monks about hearing confessions, about burials, funeral sermons, and numberless other subjects. [3] All such we have thought proper to pass over gently, so that the more important subjects in this matter, might be the better understood. [4] Nor should it be imagined, that anything has been said or intimated here against any one out of hatred or disrespect; [5] but we have stated these subjects only, which we have considered as necessary to refer to and to mention, in order that it might be the more clearly perceived, that by us nothing is received either in doctrine or ceremonies, which might be contrary to the holy Scripture, or opposed to the universal Christian church. For it is clear, indeed, and evident, that with the greatest vigilance, by the help of God, (without boasting) we have been careful that no new and ungodly doctrine insinuate itself, spread, and prevail in our churches.

[6] The foregoing Articles we have, in conformity with the Edict, desired to submit, as an evidence of our Confession and of our doctrine. [7] And if anyone should be found who has any objection to them, we are ready to give him further information with reasons from Holy Writ.

[8] Your Imperial Majesty's most humble subjects:

[9] JOHN, Elector of Saxony.

[10] GEORGE, Margrave of Brandenburg.

[11] ERNEST, Duke of Lueneburg.

[12] PHILIP, Landgrave of Hesse.

[13] JOHN FREDERICK, Duke of Saxony.

[14] FRANCIS, Duke of Lueneburg.

[15] WOLFGANG, Prince of Anhalt.

[16] THE IMPERIAL CITY of Nuremberg.

[17] THE IMPERIAL CITY of Reutlingen.

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