[Article XXIII(XI):] Of the Marriage of Priests

Written in Latin by Philip Melanchthon (1531)

Translated from the Latin into German by Justus Jonas (1531)

English Translation by Ambrose and Socrates Henkel (1851), Revised by W. F. Lehmann (1854)

Link to Bente/Dau Translation from Latin (1921)

[1] Although the great and unheard-of debauchery in fornication and adultery among priests, monks, etc., in high institutions, in churches, and monasteries, is so well known throughout the world, as to be publicly sung and talked about; yet our adversaries, who framed the Confutation, are so utterly blind and shameless, as to defend the Papal law forbidding marriage, and that too under the specious pretense of spirituality. Moreover, although they should feel heartily ashamed of this most infamous, lewd, unbridled, and dissolute life in their institutions and monasteries, and this alone should prevent them from looking upward fearlessly, and although their evil, restless consciences should fill them with dread, and cause them to shrink in the honorable and august presence of your Majesty; yet they have the audacity of the hangman; they act like Satan himself, and like all desperate and wicked men they persevere in their blind obduracy, forgetful of all honor, and dead to all sense of shame. These immaculate men have the presumption to admonish your Imperial Majesty, the Electors, and Princes, "not to tolerate the marriage of priests, to the disgrace of the Roman empire!" Such is the language they use; as if their shameful life were a great honor to the church.

[2] How could our adversaries have acted with greater impropriety and impudence, or more effectually disgraced and injured themselves before the public? Such impudent propositions as they make to a Roman emperor, cannot be found in the records of history. Were they not known to the world; had not many pious and upright men, even their own canonists, complained long since among themselves of this shameful, dissolute, and dishonorable conduct; if their shameful, infamous, unholy, dissolute, heathenish, and epicurean life, and the very dregs of all licentiousness at Rome, were not so apparent as to admit of no cloaking, coloring, or palliation—their great purity, their uncontaminated chastity, might be considered the reason why they will hear nothing about a wife or matrimony, and stigmatize this holy estate, which the Pope himself calls the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, as, Infamiam Imperii--the disgrace of the empire.

We shall hereafter state their arguments. In the meantime let each Christian reader, all honorable and pious men, carefully and seriously consider, how totally destitute of reverence, honor, and modesty these men must be, who dare to call holy matrimony, which the sacred Scriptures extol in the highest terms, a disgrace and an infamy to the Roman empire; as if the well-known, scandalous, abominable licentiousness of the Romanists and priests were so great an honor to the church and the empire.

[3] Now, these men have the boldness to ask your Imperial Majesty, whom the ancient writings call a chaste ruler--for surely the passage refers to your Imperial Majesty: Pudicus facie regnabit ubique;--yea, they impudently ask your Imperial Majesty and the honorable estates (representatives) of the empire, to countenance (God forbid it) such abominable licentiousness. They ask you to employ your Imperial power--which the Almighty has thus far graciously permitted your Imperial Majesty to enjoy victoriously and happily--in the protection and defense of infamous sensuality and unheard-of vice, which even heathens abominate. And in their blood-thirsty, deluded hearts, they desire, in spite of all divine and natural laws, of the councils and their own canons, violently to sever the matrimonial bonds of priests; cruelly to put to death many poor, innocent men, for no other offence but their matrimonial ties; to slay the priests themselves, as great evil-doers, on account of their marriage, while even heathens spared them in much more serious cases; to drive many pious, innocent wives and children into miserable exile, to make them poor forsaken widows and orphans, and to satiate their diabolical hatred with innocent blood: this is what they boldly urge upon your Imperial Majesty.

[4] But inasmuch as Almighty God has blessed your Highness with a great degree of native goodness and chastity, and disposed your Majesty's exalted, noble, Christian mind against countenancing this great licentiousness, or exercising such unheard-of tyranny; and as we have no doubt that you will consider this matter in a nobler and more Christian spirit, than do these wicked men, we hope that your Majesty will make a noble and gracious disposition of this matter, and consider that we have good grounds for our position in the holy Scriptures, against which our adversaries adduce nothing but falsehoods and error.

[5] Nor are they really sincere in defending this state of celibacy or single life. For they know full well how chaste they are, and how few among them are continent. But they console themselves with the phrase in their writings: Si non caste, tamen caute (though not chaste, yet cautious); and they know, that to call themselves chaste and to boast of it, while they are not so, seems like chastity before the world, and makes their Papacy and priesthood appear the holier before men. For the apostle Peter has earnestly warned us, that false prophets will deceive the people with feigned words, 2 Peter 2:3.

Our adversaries take no serious interest in the cause of religion, which is the principal thing. Whatever they write, speak or treat of, they always appeal ad hominem (to the passions of men); they show no earnestness, no fidelity, they have no heart for the common good, to afford relief to the poor consciences, or to oppressed churches; in fact, they are aiming at power, and are zealously propping it up altogether with ungodly hypocritical falsehoods; consequently, it must dissolve like butter exposed to the sun. [6] We cannot, therefore, accept the law of celibacy; for it is contrary to the laws of God and nature, to all the sacred writings, and to the councils and canons themselves. It is, moreover, nothing but hypocrisy; dangerous to the conscience, and altogether pernicious; innumerable offences, detestable, frightful sins and infamy, result from it, and, as we see in the priest-cities and residences (capitals) as they call them, the ruin of all public decency and morals.

The other articles of our Confession, although certainly well-founded, still are not so clear but that they may be plausibly assailed. But this article is so evident, that it is hardly necessary to say anything on either side; whosoever is but honest and fears God, can easily decide for himself; and, although we evidently have the truth on our side, still our adversaries seek in some way or other to assail our position by artifice.

[7] In the first place, it is written in Gen. 1:28, that man and woman were so created of God, that they should be fruitful, beget children, etc.; and that they should exercise mutual affection. We are not now speaking of the inordinate desire which succeeded the fall of Adam, but of the natural affection between man and woman, which would have been in our nature, even if it had remained pure. And it is the work and order of God, that mutual attachment exists between man and woman. Now, as no one, except God himself, can or should alter the divine order and the inborn nature of God's creatures, matrimony cannot be abolished by any human statute or vow.

[8] Our adversaries assail this strong argument with mere sophistry, asserting, that immediately after the creation, the command: "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth," was in force; but now, since the earth is replenished, marriage is not enjoined.

Behold, how wonderfully wise our adversaries are! By this divine command, "Be fruitful, and multiply," which still continues and has never ceased to be in force, man and woman were so constituted as to be fruitful, not only in the beginning, but as long as their nature endures. For even as by the command, Gen. 1:11: "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed," etc., the earth was so constituted as to bring forth fruit, not only in the beginning, but to produce grass, herbs, and other plants every year, while its nature endures; so man and woman were also created to be fruitful, as long as nature continues. Now, as human commands and laws cannot prevent the earth from producing plants, so no monastic vow, or human law can divest human nature of the sexual affections, without a special operation of God.

[9] In the second place, since this divine work and order is a natural right, a natural law, the jurists have properly called the association of man and wife a natural law. Now, as this natural law is immutable, everyone has the right to contract marriage. For when God does not alter the nature, the properties must remain which he implanted in it, and which cannot be changed by human laws. [10] Hence it is altogether puerile for our adversaries to say, that in the beginning, when man was created, matrimony was commanded, but that it is not so now. It is like saying that men and women, born at the time of Adam and the Patriarchs, had the nature of men and women, but now it is otherwise; in former times a child was born with its natural propensities, but it is not so now. [11] We are therefore right in adhering to the declaration which the jurists have wisely and rightfully made, that matrimony is a natural law. [12] Now, if it be a natural law, it is the order of God thus implanted in nature, and therefore also a divine law. And, inasmuch as no one has a right to change either a divine or a natural law, except God himself, everyone must be at liberty to marry. For the native affection existing between a man and woman, is the creation and order of God. It is therefore right, and neither angel nor man has power to alter it. The Lord God created not only Adam, but Eve also, not only a man, but also a woman, and blessed them, that they might be fruitful. [13] And, as we have said, we are not speaking of the inordinate desire which is sinful, but of the natural affection which would have existed between man and woman, even if their nature had remained pure. The evil lust, since the fall, has increased this inclination, so that we have much greater need now of matrimony, not only to propagate the human race, but also to prevent sin. This clear argument is irrefutable; the devil and all the world cannot shake it.

[14] In the third place, Paul says: "To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband," 1 Cor. 7:2. This is a general command, and it pertains to all who are not naturally fitted for celibacy. [15] Our adversaries require us to show a divine command enjoining marriage upon priests; as if they were not men. Whatever the Scripture says concerning the whole human race generally, is certainly applicable to the priests also. [16] Paul here commands those who have not the gift of continence to marry; for, soon afterwards he explains himself, saying: "It is better to marry than to burn;" 1 Cor. 7:9. And Matt. 19:11, Christ clearly says: "All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given."

As then, since the fall of Adam, both the natural affection and the inborn evil lust exist in all of us, and this lust foments the natural desires, so that matrimony is even more necessary than before the corruption of human nature, Paul thus speaks of matrimony, in order to assist our weakness; and to prevent burning passion, he commands those to marry, to whom marriage is necessary. And the declaration: "It is better to marry than to burn," cannot be abolished by any human law or monastic vow; for no law can change the inborn constitution of our nature. All, therefore, who are subject to sexual passion, have the right to marry; [17] and all those who are unable to continue truly pure and chaste, are bound to follow the command of Paul: To avoid fornication let each one have his own wife. In this matter each one must examine his own conscience.

[18] Now as our adversaries assert that we should pray to God for chastity, and mortify our bodies by fasting and labor, they should of right practice such mortification. But, as we have already said, our opponents are not in earnest in this matter--they trifle and prevaricate at pleasure. [19] If it were possible for everyone to be continent, there would be no need of a special divine gift, but Christ, the Lord, says, that this is a special gift of God, and that all men cannot receive this saying. God therefore wishes all others to enter into the state of matrimony which he has instituted; for he does not desire his creation and ordinance to be treated with contempt; but would have men to be chaste, namely, to enter into the state of matrimony which he instituted to preserve conjugal purity and chastity, in like manner as he wishes us to use the meat and drink which he created for our subsistence. [20] Gerson tells us, that many pious and eminent men attempted to establish themselves in chastity by mortifying the body, and yet failed. St. Ambrose is therefore right in saying, "that continence may be recommended, but not commanded." [21] If any man should say, that Christ the Lord commends those that made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, he should consider that Christ speaks of those who have the gift of continence; for this reason he adds: "He that is able to receive it, let him receive it," Matt. 19:12. [22] The false chastity in the monasteries and cloisters is not pleasing to the Lord. We admit, that true chastity is a noble, divine gift; but we are speaking of the injustice of laws prohibiting marriage, and of those who have not received this gift. Marriage must therefore be left free, and the consciences of men unfettered.

[23] In the fourth place, this Papal law is contrary also to the canons and to the ancient councils. For the ancient canons do not forbid marriage, nor do they dissolve the state of matrimony; although they remove those from their ecclesiastical offices, who contract marriage. At that time, under certain circumstances, this was rather a favor than a punishment. But the new canons, which were not made in the councils, but by the Popes, forbid marriage, and dissolve it when contracted. It is evident, then, that this is contrary to the Scripture, and to the commandment of Christ, who says: "What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder," Matt. 19:6.

[24] Our adversaries vociferously maintain that celibacy or chastity is enjoined upon the priests by the councils. We do not oppose the councils in this matter, (for they do not forbid marriage,) but the new law which the Popes made contrary to the councils. The Pontiffs themselves, therefore, reject the decision of the councils, while they undertake to command others to submit to these decisions, at the hazard of incurring the divine wrath and eternal condemnation. [25] Hence the law, forbidding the marriage of priests, is really a Popish law of Roman tyranny. For thus the prophet Daniel describes the kingdom of Antichrist: "Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women," Dan. 11:37.

[26] In the fifth place, while they do not maintain this ungodly law for the sake of holiness, or from ignorance, (for they certainly know that they do not observe chastity,) they give occasion for the grossest hypocrisy, by making a false display of holiness. They say that chastity is required of the priests because they must be holy and pure, as if matrimony were impurity, or as if we could more readily become holy and just, in the sight of God, in celibacy than in matrimony. [27] To prove this they refer to the priests under the Law of Moses; for, say they, while the priests ministered in the Temple, they were required to withdraw from their wives; therefore, as the priests, under the New Testament dispensation, are to pray without ceasing, they should observe perpetual continence. This inappropriate, foolish comparison is introduced by them as a clear and positive argument, fully establishing the obligation of the priests to perpetual chastity. But, even if this simile were applicable or appropriate, it would simply show, that the priests should withdraw from their wives only when they are to engage in church services. Besides, it is one thing to pray, and another to perform the functions of a priest in the church; for many saints have prayed without having ministered in the Temple, nor were they prevented from so doing by living with their wives. [28] But we shall now reply to these fictions in regular order. First, our adversaries cannot deny, but must acknowledge, that among believing Christians matrimony is a pure and holy state, being sanctified by the Word of God. For it was instituted of God, and it is established by his Word, as the Scripture abundantly testifies. [29] Christ says: "What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder," Matt. 19:6. Here we are told, that God unites man and wife in matrimony; hence it is a pure and holy, noble and commendable work of God.

[30] And concerning marriage, meats, and the like, Paul says, 1 Tim. 4:5: "For it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer"--First, by the divine Word, through which the heart is assured that matrimony is pleasing to the Lord God: secondly, by prayer, that is, by returning thanks, which is done in faith, when we enter into the state of matrimony, and receive our meat and drink with thankfulness.

[31] 1 Cor. 7:14, we find: "The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife"—that is, matrimony is pure and good, a Christian and holy state, on account of faith in Christ, and we may enjoy it with thanksgiving, as we do meats and drinks.

[32] Again, 1 Tim. 2:15: "Notwithstanding, she shall be saved in child-bearing, if they continue in faith," etc. How our adversaries would triumph, if they were able to adduce passages like these, in favor of their priestly chastity. Paul says that the wife shall be saved in child-bearing. How could the holy Apostle have spoken more emphatically against the shameful hypocrisy of their abominable and false continence, than by saying, that they shall be saved in their conjugal works, in child-bearing, in their domestic offices, etc. But what does Paul mean? He expressly adds: If they continue in faith, etc.; for the duties and labors of matrimony in themselves, without faith, are not commended by him. Thus he desires above all, that they should have God's Word, and faith, through which (as he invariably says) they receive the remission of their sins, and are reconciled to God. Then he mentions the duties of woman's office and vocation, as good works should follow faith in the case of every Christian, and as all are bound to be useful to others in their calling. Now, as these good works are pleasing to God, so also do the works, which a believing woman performs in her vocation, please God; and the woman that attends to the duties of her calling in the matrimonial estate, shall be saved.

[33] These passages show that matrimony is a holy and Christian state. Now if that may be called purity, which is holy and acceptable in the sight of God, then marriage is such, because it is established by the Word of God. [34] Paul says, Tit. 1:15: "Unto the pure all things are pure"--that is, unto those who believe in Christ. Wherefore, as the chastity of the ungodly is impure, so matrimony, on the part of believers, is holy on account of the divine Word and faith.

[35] But if our adversaries mean by purity, the absence of concupiscence, the heart is pure when its evil desires are mortified. For the law of God does not forbid marriage, but concupiscence, adultery, and fornication; therefore outward celibacy is not true purity; yea, there may be greater purity in the heart of a husband, as in the case of Abraham and Jacob, than in many who really preserve their bodily chastity.

[36] Finally, if they call continence purity, on the ground that it justifies us before God, rather than matrimony, they are in error. For we obtain the remission of sin without merit, for the sake of Christ alone, when we believe that we receive the grace of God, through the blood and death of Christ. [37] But our adversaries will exclaim, that we, like Jovian, place marriage upon an equality with celibacy. We shall not, however, for the sake of their declamation, deny divine truth and the doctrine of Christ, and of righteousness by faith, as exhibited above. [38] Nevertheless, we are not disposed to withhold the praise and commendation due to celibacy, nay, we admit that it is a superior gift. For, even as wisdom in a ruler is a gift superior to others; so continence is a higher gift than the state of matrimony. [39] And yet, as no sovereign is more just before God on account of his ability and prudence, than is any other man on account of his skill, so continence has no more justifying power before God, although a superior gift, than the state of matrimony as such. Let each one faithfully employ his talent, and remember that the remission of sins is obtained for Christ's sake, through faith, and that this is the ground on which we are accounted just before God.

[40] Christ the Lord and Paul commend celibacy, not because it has any justifying power before God, but because those who remain unmarried, being unembarrassed by domestic cares, the management of a family, etc., have a better opportunity to read, to pray, write, and make themselves useful. Hence Paul says to the Corinthians, that celibacy is commended, because this state affords a better opportunity to read God's Word and to instruct others. Nor does Christ unqualifiedly commend those who made themselves eunuchs, but adds: for the sake of the kingdom of heaven; that is, that they may more easily learn and teach the Gospel. He does not say, that celibacy merits the forgiveness of sins.

[41] As to the case of the Levitical priests, we have already replied that this does not prove that celibacy is required of the priests. Nor does the Law of Moses, with its ceremonies respecting purity or impurity, at all concern us as Christians. According to that law, if a man "touched" his wife, he was impure for a time, but now the Christian husband does not become unclean on that account; for the New Testament says: "Unto the pure all things are pure." By the Gospel we are liberated, not only from the laws pertaining to impurity, but from all the ceremonies of Moses. [42] Now, if any one should undertake to defend celibacy, for the purpose of imposing upon the conscience these Levitical observances, we must oppose him even as zealously as the Apostles opposed the Jews, Acts 15:7-10, because they wished to bind the Christians to the Law of Moses and to circumcision.

[43] But pious Christians, in the state of matrimony, will know how to observe moderation in the conjugal relation. For those who are engaged in the affairs of government, or occupy ecclesiastical offices, and have to labor, must indeed be chaste even in wedlock. The burdens of important affairs, in which countries and nations, governments and churches are interested, are a good remedy against the lusts of the old Adamic nature. The pious are aware also, that Paul says, 1 Thess. 4:4–5: "That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor; not in the lust of concupiscence." [44] But what can the chastity of so many thousands of monks and priests be, who, without any concern, live in all manner of indulgence, in idleness and extravagance, without the Word of God, which they neither learn nor regard? Every species of licentiousness must follow such a life. Such men can practice neither Levitical nor constant chastity.

[45] Many heretics, who understood neither the Law of Moses nor its application, spoke contemptuously of marriage; yet on account of this hypocritical display they were regarded as holy. Epiphanius violently complained that the Encratites gained a high reputation among the ignorant, by their hypocritical display, especially of chastity. They drank no wine, not even in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper; they abstained altogether from fish and meat; they were even holier than the monks, who eat fish; they also abstained from marriage. This at first made a great show, and they believed that these works and this fictitious holiness reconciled God, as our adversaries teach.

[46] Paul, in writing to the Colossians, vehemently opposes this hypocrisy and pretended angelic holiness. For, when men fall into such error, as to hope to be made pure and holy in the sight of God through such hypocrisy, the doctrine of Christ is altogether suppressed; and these hypocrites do not understand the gift of God, or his command; for he would have us use his gifts with thanksgiving.

[47] We might easily refer to examples showing that many pious and conscientious souls have been grieved and endangered, because they were not properly informed that matrimony, with its obligations and relations, is of a holy and Christian character. This great evil resulted from the inappropriate preaching of the monks, who commended celibacy and continence beyond measure, and decried the matrimonial estate as an impure life, full of sin, and a great impediment to salvation.

[50] But our adversaries do not contend so strenuously for celibacy because they have any real confidence in this show of holiness; for they know that at Rome, as well as in all their institutions, the grossest lasciviousness prevails, without disguise or concealment. Nor do they seriously desire to live chaste, but knowingly practice this hypocrisy before the people; they are therefore worse, and more detestable than the heretical Encratites, among whom there was at least more earnestness; but these Epicureans are not sincere; on the contrary, they scorn God and men, and make these pretenses for the sole purpose of enabling them to continue their unbridled indulgence.

[51] In the sixth place, though we have so many reasons for rejecting the Papal law of celibacy, it is, besides, productive of incalculable danger to the conscience, and of numberless offences. Now, even if this Papal law were not unjust, still this oppression of conscience, destroying an untold number of souls, should certainly deter all honest men from embracing it.

[52] Many honorable men, and among them even their own bishops, canonists, etc., have made complaint of the severe burden of celibacy; and they discovered that they themselves as well as others, fell into great danger of conscience on account of it. But no one paid any attention to this grievance. Moreover, it is manifest that it corrupts the public morals, wherever there are priestly institutions, and produces the most abominable immorality, sin, infamy, and monstrous vices. Rome can see herself faithfully portrayed in the satyrae and other writings of the poets.

[53] Thus, almighty God avenges the rejection of his gift and of his commandment on those who forbid marriage. Now, as useful laws have frequently been altered when the general good required it, why should not this law be altered, when so many cogent reasons and oppressive bonds upon the conscience call for its alteration?

We see that these are the latter days. As the aged are weaker than the young, so the whole world and all nature are in their last days and decline. Sin and vice are not decreasing, but waxing greater every day. We should, therefore, so much the more freely employ the remedy which God has given, namely, the state of matrimony, to put down this licentiousness. [54] We learn from the book of Genesis, that the vice of fornication prevailed before the deluge; and in Sodom, Sibaris, Rome, and other cities, abominable debauchery prevailed, before they were destroyed. These examples portray what will come to pass in the latter days, immediately before the end of the world. [55] Inasmuch, then, as experience also shows that licentiousness prevails more extensively now than it ever did before, faithful bishops and governments should much rather make laws to encourage than to forbid marriage, and commend it by word, work, and example. Such is the duty of government, which is bound to use all diligence in preserving decency and order.

Now, God has given the world over to such blindness, that adultery and fornication are tolerated almost with impunity, but on the other hand, punishment is imposed upon matrimony. This is truly astonishing. The preacher should admonish those who have the gift of continence, not to despise, but to use it to the honor of God, and exhort others, to whom marriage is needful, to embrace that state.

[56] In many instances, the Pope daily dispenses with useful laws, highly important to the general good, and which he should never suspend. But in the law of celibacy, he is inflexible, notwithstanding that it is known to be a mere human law. [57] They have cruelly slain many good men, who never injured any one, merely because they married for conscience' sake. It is, therefore, to be feared that like the blood of Abel, this sin will so loudly cry to heaven, that they will never be able to get over it, but will have to tremble as Cain did. [58] And this Cain-like shedding of innocent blood, shows that this doctrine of celibacy is diabolical; for Christ the Lord calls the devil a murderer, who would with the greatest delight maintain this tyrannical law with nothing but bloodshed and murder.

[59] We are well aware that some loudly denounce us as schismatics. But having sought peace and union, with all due diligence, our consciences are altogether at rest, since our adversaries will not be satisfied, unless (God forbid) we deny the clear, divine truth, and consent with them to receive this detestable Papal law, to tear from each other, pious, innocent husbands and wives, to murder the married priests, to drive off innocent wives and children into misery, and to shed innocent blood without any cause. But inasmuch as it is certain that such acts are not pleasing to God, we should rejoice that we have no union or communion, nor any part with our adversaries, in the shedding of so much innocent blood.

[60] We have pointed out the reasons, why we cannot conscientiously agree with our adversaries to defend celibacy; for it is contrary to all divine and natural laws, and contrary to the canons themselves. Besides, it is altogether dangerous and hypocritical; because they do not so strenuously maintain this feigned continence on account of holiness, or from ignorance on the subject. They know full well that everyone is acquainted with the state of things in their high institutions, which we could name; but they defend celibacy only for the purpose of maintaining their tyranny and dominion. No honest man can gainsay the clear and strong arguments adduced above. [61] The Gospel leaves the state of matrimony free to all those who feel its necessity; but yet it does not compel those to marry, who have the gift of continence, if it only be true, and not hypocritical. This right, we maintain, must be conceded to the priests also; and we will not force any one into celibacy, nor separate pious consorts or dissolve the ties of matrimony.

[62] We have now briefly presented some of our grounds for the present, and also stated what shallow artifices and dreams they attempt to refute them with. We shall now show how forcibly they defend their Papal law. [63] First, they say, that God revealed this law. Here may be seen the utter shamelessness of these ungodly men. They are bold enough to assert that their prohibition of marriage is revealed of God, whereas it is palpably opposed to the Scriptures, and to Paul, when he says: "To avoid fornication, let each one have his own wife," 1 Cor. 7:2. Again, if the Scriptures and the canons expressly forbid any dissolution of existing marriages, how dare these knaves object to it, and abuse the high and holy name of the divine Majesty, so boldly and impudently? Paul the Apostle plainly states what god first introduced that law, namely, Satan himself; for he calls it the doctrine of devils, 1 Tim. 4:1-3. And, indeed, the fruits show us the character of the tree, when we see what terrible, abominable vices have sprung from it,--as in Rome for instance,--and see that the devil is constantly producing murder and bloodshed from this law.

[64] The second argument of our adversaries is, that the priests must be pure, as the Scripture says: "Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord," Isaiah 52:11. We have already refuted this argument; for we have clearly shown that chastity without faith, is not purity before God, and that matrimony is holiness and purity on account of faith, as Paul says: "Unto the pure all things are pure," Tit. 1:15. Thus we have abundantly shown that the ceremonies of Moses respecting cleanness and uncleanness, cannot properly be applied to this subject; for the Gospel requires purity of heart. And there is no doubt that the hearts of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the Patriarchs, who had many wives, were purer than the hearts of many virgins who were really pure, so far as bodily chastity is concerned. But when Isaiah says: "Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord," this is to be understood as applying to Christian holiness in general, and not merely to celibacy. [66] But even this passage commands the impure unmarried priests to marry and become pure; for, as we said heretofore, marriage is purity unto Christians.

[67] Their third argument is the most monstrous of all, namely, that the marriage of priests is heresy. Have mercy on our poor souls, dear sirs, and spare us! This is quite a new thing, that the holy state of matrimony, which God created in Paradise, has become heresy; then, indeed, the whole world would be full of heretics. It is a barefaced falsehood that the marriage of priests is Jovinian heresy, or that it was condemned as such by the church. For, at the time of Jovinian, the church knew nothing of this Papal law, by which marriage is wholly forbidden to the priests; [68] and our adversaries are well aware of this; but they frequently quote ancient heresies, with which they compare our doctrine, contrary to their own convictions, for the sole purpose of making the impression upon the illiterate, that our doctrine was formerly condemned by the church, and thus exciting everybody against us. Such are the artifices they practice, and this is the reason why they were unwilling to favor us with a copy of the Confutation. They were fearful that their palpable falsehoods might be answered, and that they would then incur eternal infamy among all posterity. [69] But touching the doctrine of Jovinian, we have already stated our views on the subjects of chastity and matrimony. And, while we do not say that matrimony is equal to virgin purity, we hold that neither celibacy nor marriage justifies men before God.

[70] With these vain, loose arguments they endeavor to defend the Papal law of celibacy, which has occasioned so much vice and immorality. The princes and bishops, who believe these teachers, will plainly perceive whether these arguments will hold good, when the hour of death shall come, and they must render an account unto God for having dissolved the marriage of pious consorts; for abusing and torturing them; for putting so many priests to death, and shedding innocent blood, regardless of all the lamentations, the cries, and tears of so many widows and orphans. These are things they dare not think of doing. The tears of poor widows, and the blood of the innocent, are not forgotten in heaven; they will, in due time, cry out before high heaven against such tyrants, unto God the righteous judge, as forcibly as did the holy, innocent blood of Abel. Now, when God shall judge this cruelty, our adversaries will see that their arguments are mere straw and stubble, and that God is a consuming fire before which nothing can stand that is contrary to the divine Word, 1 Pet 1:26.

[71] But, at all events, our princes and rulers would have the consolation of knowing that they acted with a clear conscience. For, though the marriage of priests were objectionable, which we do not admit, still it is directly contrary to the Word and will of God, that our adversaries thus dissolve existing marriage contracts, throw poor innocent persons into misery, and slay them. True, our rulers take no pleasure in innovations and schisms, yet in so just and clear a case, they are bound to let the Word and truth of God overrule everything else. May God grant this, through his grace. Amen!

Previous: [Article XXII(X):] Of Both Elements in the Lord's Supper

Next: [Article XXIV(XII):] Of the Mass