Of the Power and Primacy of the Pope
Written in Latin by Philip Melanchthon (1537)
Translated from the Latin into German by Veit Dietrich (1541)
English Translation by Ambrose and Socrates Henkel (1851), Revised by William M. Reynolds (1854)
Link to Bente/Dau Translation from Latin (1921)
By the Theologians Assembled at Smalcald, A.D. 1537
 First, the Pope arrogates to himself, that he is, according to divine right, supreme over all other bishops and pastors in the whole Christian world.
 Secondly, he adds that, according to divine right, he has both swords, that is, he has authority to enthrone and dethrone kings, to regulate civil kingdoms, etc.
 Thirdly, he says that we are under obligation to believe this, at the hazard of everlasting salvation. And these are the reasons for which the Pope calls and presumes himself to be the vicar of Christ on earth.
 These three articles, we hold and know to be false, impious, tyrannical, and pernicious in the extreme, to the Christian church.  In order, then, that our position and views may be more clearly understood, we shall first show what his assumption is, in which he boasts that he is supreme according to divine right. For they thus understand that the Pope is the common bishop of the universal Christian church, and that he is Oecumenicus Episcopus, as they call it, that is, the one by whom all bishops throughout the world should be ordained and confirmed, and that he alone has authority to choose, to ordain, to confirm, and to depose all bishops and pastors.
 He moreover assumes to himself authority to enact various laws concerning divine services, the alteration of Sacraments and doctrine, desiring us to regard his statutes and ordinances as equal to articles of Christian faith and to the holy Scripture, and as not to be neglected without sin. For he wishes to base this power on divine right and the holy Scripture; yea, he wishes us to prefer it to the holy Scriptures and commandments of God; and what is still more atrocious, he adds further, that all this shall and must be believed at the hazard of everlasting salvation.
 We shall therefore, in the first place, show from the holy Gospel, that the Pope can assume no authority at all over other bishops and pastors, according to divine right.
 I.--Luke 22:24-26, Christ forbids, in clear and express terms, one Apostle to have any authority over the others; for even this was the inquiry among the disciples, when Christ had spoken relative to his sufferings: they disputed among themselves who should be lord among them, and future vicar of Christ, after his death. But Christ rebuked this error of the Apostles, and taught them that there should be no authority and superiority among them, but that they should be apostles alike, and preach the Gospel as equal in office. For this reason he also says: "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve." Hence it appears, on examination, that he desired no lordship among the Apostles.
II.--This also clearly appears from the similitude, Matt. 18:2, in which Christ, on a similar disputation concerning dominion, set a little child in the midst of the Apostles, for the purpose of showing, that, as a child neither desires nor assumes any dominion, so also the Apostles and all who should preach the Word, should neither seek nor use authority.
 III.--John 20:21, Christ sent his disciples alike to the office of the ministry, without any distinction, that one should have either more or less power than another. For thus he says: "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." These words are clear and explicit, that he so sent each one, as he was sent. Here, indeed, no one can assume a special prerogative or power in preference to and above the others.
 IV.--Gal. 2:7-8, the holy apostle Paul testifies clearly, that he was neither ordained, nor confirmed, nor established by Peter; nor does he in any way acknowledge Peter as necessary to confirm him; and especially does he strive against the idea that his call is dependent, or based on the power of St. Peter, in any respect. Now he should indeed have acknowledged Peter as a superior, if Peter had ever received such primacy from Christ, as the Pope without any grounds presumes. For this reason Paul also says, that he freely preached the Gospel a long time before he consulted with Peter and the other Apostles about it. Again, he says: "But of those who seemed to be somewhat, whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me; God accepteth no man's person: for they who seemed to be somewhat, in conference added nothing to me," Gal. 2:6. Since, then, Paul clearly testifies that he did not solicit Peter to license him to preach, even when he at last came to him, we are clearly taught that the office of the ministry originates from the common call of the Apostles, and that it is not necessary for all to have a call and confirmation from this one person, Peter.
 V.--1 Cor. 3:5-7, Paul equalizes all the ministers of the church, and teaches that the church is greater than its servants. For this reason no one can assert with truth, that Peter had any primacy or power superior to the other apostles, or over the church and all other ministers. For thus he says: "All things are yours: whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas," 1 Cor. 3:21-22; that is, neither Peter, nor other ministers of the Word, have a right to assume to themselves power or superiority over the church. No one shall encumber the church with his own ordinances, and no one's power or reputation shall avail more than the Word of God. We dare not extol the power of Cephas higher than that of the other Apostles, as though they were accustomed to argue at that time, saying, Cephas observes it, who is the chief Apostle, therefore Paul and others must thus observe it also. No, says Paul, and refutes the pretense, that Peter's reputation and authority should be superior to that of the other Apostles, or of the church.
 VI.--The Council of Nicaea resolved, that the bishop at Alexandria should provide for the churches in the East, and the bishop at Rome, for those which belonged to the provinces of Rome in the West. Here the Roman bishop's power first increased, not by divine, but by human law, by this resolution of the Council of Nicaea. Now, if the Roman bishop was the highest, according to divine right, the Council of Nicaea had no right to divest him of this power, and to confer it upon the bishop of Alexandria. Yea, all the bishops in the East should have perpetually desired the bishop of Rome to ordain and confirm them.
 VII.--Again, it was resolved by the Council of Nicaea, that each church should choose for itself a bishop in the presence of one or more bishops, living in the vicinity.  This practice was observed for a long time, not only in the East, but also in the West, and in the Latin churches, as is clearly expressed in the writings of Cyprian and Augustine. For thus says Cyprian in Epist. 4, ad Cornelium: "For this reason, we should diligently hold, according to the command of God and the usage of the Apostles, as is also observed among us, and in nearly all countries, that, in order to the proper performance of ordinations, the bishops living in the nearest province, should assemble in the congregation for which a bishop is to be chosen, and in the presence of the whole congregation, who know the walk and conduct of each one, the bishop shall be chosen; as we see was done in the election of Sabinius, our colleague, who according to the vote of the whole congregation and the counsel of the bishops present, was elected to the office of bishop, and hands laid on him," etc.
 This mode Cyprian calls a divine mode and an Apostolic usage, and he affirms that it was thus observed in nearly all countries at that time.
Inasmuch, then, as neither ordination nor confirmation was at that time sought from the bishop at Rome, in a great portion of the world, in all the churches of the Greeks and Latins, it is clear that the church did not at that time attribute such superiority and dominion to the bishop at Rome.
 Such superiority and dominion are wholly and utterly impossible. For how could it be possible that one bishop should provide for all churches in the whole circle of Christianity, or that the churches, situated far from Rome, could have all their ministers ordained by one alone?
For, it is indeed evident that the kingdom of Christ is dispersed throughout the world; and there are also still at the present day many Christian churches in the East, who are in possession of ministers neither ordained nor confirmed by the Pope or his adherents. Now, since such superiority, as the Pope has arrogated to himself contrary to all Scripture, is wholly and utterly impossible, and since the churches in a great part of the world, have neither acknowledged nor employed the Pope as their lord, it is clearly perceived that this superiority was not instituted by Christ, and that it does not proceed from divine right.
 VIII.--In former times there were many councils summoned and held, in which the bishop of Rome did not preside as the highest; as for instance, that of Nicaea, and those of other places besides. This is also an evidence that the churches at that time did not acknowledge the Pope as supreme lord over all churches and bishops.
 IX.--St. Jerome says: "If anyone wishes to speak of power and dominion, orbis is more than urbs, that is, the world is more than the city Rome. Therefore, be it the bishop of Rome, or of Eugubium, of Constantinople, or Rhegium, or Alexandria, the dignity and office are equal," etc.
 X.—Again, Gregory writes to the Patriarch of Alexandria, and forbids himself to be called the highest bishop. And in the Registers he says: "In the Council of Chalcedon it was offered to the bishop at Rome, that he should be the highest bishop, but he did not accept it"
 XI.—Finally, how can the Pope have authority over the whole church according to divine right, since the church still possesses the right of election, and since it gradually became the custom for the Roman bishops to be confirmed by the emperors?
 Here certain passages are produced in opposition to us; as, Matt. 16:18-19: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church;" again, "I will give unto thee the keys;" again, "Feed my sheep," John 21:15-17. But inasmuch as an account of this whole controversy has already been given by our friends, both copious and accurate, we wish those writings to be consulted, and we shall at present mention briefly how these passages just mentioned are properly to be understood.
 In all these passages Peter represents not only himself, but all the Apostles, and speaks not merely for himself. This fact the texts clearly prove. For Christ asks not Peter alone, but says: "Whom say ye that I am?" Matt. 16:15. And that which Christ here says to Peter alone,--namely, "I will give unto thee the keys," verse 19; again, "Whatsoever thou shalt bind," etc.,--in other places he says to all of them together: "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth," etc., Matt. 18:18; again, John 20:23: "Whosesoever sins ye remit," etc. These words prove that the keys were given to all in common, and that they were all alike sent to preach.
 And this, moreover, must be confessed, that the keys belong and were given not to one person only, but to the whole church, as it can be sufficiently proved by clear and incontestable reasons. For precisely as the promise of the Gospel pertains, without limitation, to the whole church, so the keys pertain to the whole church, without limitation, since the keys are nothing else but the office through which this promise is imparted to everyone that desires it; it is evident, then, that the church, in effect, has power to ordain ministers. And Christ, Matt. 18:18 with these words--"Whatsoever ye shall bind" etc.--declares and specifies to whom he gave the keys; namely, to the church: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name," etc., verse 20. Again, verse 17, Christ refers the highest and last judgment to the church, where he says: "Tell it unto the church."
From this, then, it follows, that in these passages not only Peter, but all the Apostles together, are meant. Therefore, no one from these passages can by any means derive a special power of supremacy, which Peter held in preference to the other Apostles, or which he should have held.  But it is written: "And upon this rock I will build my church." Here it must be confessed, that the church is not built upon the power of any man, but it is built upon that office which bears the confession made by Peter, namely, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Matt. 16:16; for this reason Christ also speaks unto him as a minister of this office, in which this confession and doctrine should exist; and he says: Upon this rock, that is, upon this doctrine and ministerial office.
 Now, truly this office of the ministry is not confined to any particular place or person, as the Levitical office under the law was; but it is dispersed throughout the world, and it is wherever God has bestowed his gifts, and sent his apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, etc. Nor does the authority of any person add anything to this word and office, ordained by Christ, preach and teach it who will; where there are hearts who believe it and adhere to it, to these it comes as they hear and believe it.  In this manner many ancient teachers explain these passages, not concerning the person of Peter, but concerning Peter's office and confession; as for instance, Origen, Ambrose, Cyprian, Hilary, and Bede.
 Nor does it follow from these declarations in other places--"Feed my sheep;" again, "Peter, lovest thou me more than these?" John 21:15,--that Peter should have more power than other apostles, but he bids him, feed, that is, preach the Gospel, or rule the church through the Gospel--this pertains even as well to other apostles as to Peter.
 The second article is more perspicuous still than the first. For Christ gave his disciples only spiritual power; that is, he commanded them to preach the Gospel, to announce the remission of sins, to administer the Sacraments, and to excommunicate the ungodly without temporal power, through the Word; and he did by no means command them to bear the sword, or to constitute a political government, to capture, to enthrone kings, or to dethrone them. For thus says Christ: "Go ye and teach all nations, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you," Matt. 28:19-20; again, John 20:21: "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you."
Now, it is evident that Christ was not sent to bear the sword, or to rule in a civil capacity, as he says himself: "My kingdom is not of this world," John 18:36. And Paul says: "Not for that we have dominion over your faith," 2 Cor. 1:24. Again, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal," etc., 2 Cor. 10:4.  Christ's being crowned with thorns, in his passion, presented in a purple robe, and his being thus mocked, were all a signification that in the course of time, the true spiritual kingdom of Christ should be scorned, and his Gospel suppressed, and another external kingdom, instituted instead of it, under the appearance of spiritual power.  Therefore the Constitution of Boniface VIII., Chap. Omnes, Distinct. 22, and the like passages, are wholly and entirely false and impious, in which they wish to maintain, that the Pope by virtue of divine right is lord over all the kingdoms of the earth.  From which persuasion deplorable darkness was first brought into the church, and afterwards distressing tumults and commotions arose in Europe. For thus the office of the ministry was neglected, and the doctrine concerning faith and the spiritual kingdom of Christ, was entirely suppressed, and the external polity and ordinances of the Pope, were regarded as Christian righteousness.
 Finally the Popes proceeded to seize upon principalities and kingdoms, enthroned and dethroned kings, and with unjust excommunication and wars they tormented nearly all the kings in Europe, but especially the German emperors; sometimes by taking into their possession the cities of Italy, sometimes by bringing into subjection to themselves the bishops in Germany, and assuming the bestowal of bishoprics which belonged to the emperor alone. Yea, it is even asserted in the writings of Clement V: "When an empire becomes vacant, the Pope is the legitimate successor."
 Thus the Pope has not only unjustly taken civil dominion to himself, contrary to the clear commands of God, but, like a tyrant, desired to be superior to all kings. Although these acts of the Popes are wholly and entirely culpable in themselves, this is more atrocious still, that they cover this wantonness and violence, with the command of Christ, and construe the keys to mean political dominion, and base the salvation of souls upon this impious and infamous opinion which they maintain: "The people shall, at the hazard of the salvation of their souls, believe that the Pope has such authority by divine right."
 Now, since these abominable errors have entirely obscured the doctrine concerning faith and the kingdom of Christ, there is no ground upon which we dare remain silent in reference to them; for we see with our own eyes what great injuries have resulted to the church from them.
 In the third place, it is likewise necessary to know, that even if the Pope had this power and primacy from divine right, we are under no obligation to be obedient to those Popes who defend a false worship, idolatry, and erroneous doctrines, repugnant to the Gospel.
Yea, still further, we should hold these Popes and this kingdom as an anathema, as Paul distinctly says: "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," Gal. 1:8. And in Acts 5:29, it is said: "We ought to obey God rather than men." For the ecclesiastical laws themselves say: "No one shall be obedient to a Pope who is a heretic."
In the Law of Moses the high-priests had their office from divine right; no one, however, was bound to yield obedience to them, if they acted contrary to the Word of God; for we see that Jeremiah and other prophets separated themselves from the priests. So the Apostles separated themselves from Caiaphas; and they were under no obligation to render obedience to him.  Now, it is evident that the Popes with their accomplices defend and sustain impious doctrines and erroneous worship. So also do all impious acts, which are foretold in the holy Scriptures concerning Antichrist, accord with the kingdom of the Pope and his members. For Paul, where he describes Antichrist, 2 Thess. 2:4, denominates him an adversary of Christ, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he, as God, sits in the temple of God, showing that he is God. In this passage Paul speaks concerning one who reigns in the church, and not concerning heathen kings; calling him an adversary of Christ, because he devises a different doctrine, and because he assumes all this, as if he did it by divine right.
 First, it is plain that the Pope rules in the church, and has appropriated this dominion to himself, under the pretext of spiritual power; for he bases himself upon these words: "I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven," Matt. 16:19.
Secondly, the doctrine of the Pope is indeed in every way repugnant to the Gospel. Thirdly, there are three ways in which he claims to be God:
First, because he assumes to himself the authority to alter the doctrines of Christ and the true worship, instituted of God himself, and desires to have his own doctrine and self-devised services to God observed, as if God had commanded them himself.
Secondly, because he assumes the power to bind and to loose, not only in this present life, but also in the life to come.
Thirdly, because the Pope will not permit the church, or anyone else, to judge him, but desires that his authority shall be preferred to all councils and to the whole church; but this is making himself God, if he will not allow the judgment either of the church or of anyone else.
Finally, the Pope has defended these errors and this impious system, by the exercise of unjust power and by murder, causing all those who did not hold with him in every respect, to be put to death.
 Inasmuch, then, as these things are so, all Christians should be fully on their guard, lest they make themselves partakers of this impious doctrine, blasphemy, and unjust cruelty; and should withdraw from the Pope and his members or accomplices, as from the kingdom of Antichrist, and execrate it, as Christ has commanded: "Beware of false prophets," Matt. 7:15. And Paul, Tit. 3:10, commands: "A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject." And 2 Cor. 6:14, he says: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?" etc.  It is grievous, indeed, for a person to separate himself from so many countries and people, and to maintain this doctrine: but here stands the command of God, that each one should be on his guard, and not be an accomplice with those who promulgate false doctrines, or defend them with cruelty.
Our consciences are, therefore, sufficiently exculpated and secured; for we truly see before our eyes, the enormous errors which prevail in the kingdom of the Pope. And the Scripture proclaims, in the most forcible manner, that these errors are the doctrines of the devil and of Antichrist.  The idolatry in the abuse of the mass, is evident, which mass, besides its other evil tendencies, is misused for unjust profit and mercenary purposes.  The doctrine of repentance has been utterly falsified and destroyed by the Pope and his adherents. For thus they teach: "Sins are forgiven for the sake of our own works;" and they add, that it should be doubted however whether sins are forgiven. And they nowhere teach that sins are forgiven for the sake of Christ, without our merit, and that this forgiveness of sins is obtained through faith in Christ.
By this doctrine they deprive Christ of his honor, rob the conscience of its true and sure consolation, and abolish the truly divine services, namely, the exercise of faith, which struggles with unbelief and with loss of confidence in the promises of the Gospel.
 They have in like manner obscured the doctrine concerning sin, and devised their own ordinances concerning the obligation to enumerate and confess all sins; from which have resulted diverse errors, and at last utter despondency.
Afterwards they invented self-devised expiations, by which the benefits and merits of Christ would be superseded.
 Hence have resulted indulgences, which are nothing but falsehoods devised for the sake of money alone.
 What innumerable abuses and abominable idolatry afterwards followed from the invocation of saints!  What infamy and vice have originated from the prohibition of marriage!
How was the Gospel beclouded by the doctrine concerning vows! Here it was taught, that such vows constitute righteousness before God, and merit remission of sins; so that the merit of Christ is transferred to the ordinances of men, and the doctrine concerning faith is wholly obliterated.
And they have extolled their foolish and frivolous ordinances as true services to God and as perfection, and preferred them to the works which God has ordered and which he requires from each one in his vocation. We dare not, then, regard these as trivial errors; for they deprive Christ of his honor, and destroy souls: we should, therefore, not permit them to pass uncensured.
 To these errors are added two enormous and abominable sins. The one is, that the Pope desires to defend and maintain these errors with unjust fury, with cruel tyranny and violence; and the other is, that he divests the church of her judgment, and will not allow these religious affairs to be judged in an orderly manner. Yea, he wishes to be above all councils, and to have power to dissolve and rescind all that is resolved in councils, as the canons sometimes impudently pretend; and the Popes have done these things still more impudently, as many examples show.
 9. Quaestione 3, the canon says: "No one shall judge the primacy; for neither emperors nor priests, neither kings nor people, judge the judge."
 Thus the Pope acts as a tyrant in both positions, by defending these errors with violence and outrage, and by not allowing any judge. And this latter point is the source of more injury than all his other outrages. For as soon as the churches are deprived of the power to judge and to make a decision, there can be no possible means by which false doctrines or unjust methods of worship can be checked, in consequence of which many souls must be lost.
 Pious persons should, for this reason, seriously reflect upon these abominable errors of the Pope and his tyranny; and they should know in the first place, that these errors must be avoided, and the true doctrine embraced, for the sake of God's honor and the salvation of souls.  Finally, they should consider how great and abominable a sin it is to assist in promoting this unjust cruelty of the Pope, by which so many pious Christians are so miserably slaughtered, whose blood, undoubtedly, God will not leave unavenged.
 But especially should kings and princes, as the principal members of the church, employ their influence in abolishing all errors, and in having the conscience correctly instructed; as God has admonished kings and princes to this duty particularly in the second Psalm and tenth verse: "Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings; be instructed ye judges of the earth." For this should be the chief concern among kings and illustrious rulers, diligently to advance the glory of God
For this reason it would be unjust indeed, if they would apply their power and authority to the confirmation of this abominable idolatry and other incalculable vices, and to the cruel murder of pious Christians.
 And if the Pope should even hold a council, how can the condition of the church be improved, if the Pope will not allow anything to be resolved against him; or if he will permit no one else, but those who are bound to him previously by the obligation of a terrible oath,--not even excepting the Word of God,--to judge in church affairs?
 But inasmuch as the judgments in councils, are the judgments of the church, and not of the Pope, it will be incumbent on kings and princes not to grant the Pope this privilege, but to use their endeavors to prevent the church from being deprived of the power to judge, and to cause all things to be decided according to the holy Scripture and Word of God. And just as Christians are under obligation to censure all the errors of the Pope, so they are also under obligation to reprehend the Pope himself, if he wishes to evade or resist the right judgment and true decision of the church.
 Wherefore, even if the Pope derived his primacy or supremacy from divine right, we still ought not to render obedience to him, while he wishes to defend false methods of worship, and a doctrine contrary to the Gospel: yea, necessity requires us to oppose him as the real Antichrist. We see clearly what the errors of the Pope are, and how great they are.
 The cruelty which he exercises against pious Christians, is also well known. And here stand the Word and command of God, that we should avoid idolatry, false doctrine, and cruelty. Therefore, every pious Christian has weighty, necessary, and clear reasons enough not to render obedience to the Pope. And these weighty reasons afford great consolation to all Christians, against all the reproach and scandal which our adversaries heap upon us, asserting that we give offence and excite schisms and disunion.
 But those who hold with the Pope, and defend his doctrine and false worship, stain themselves with idolatry and blasphemous doctrine, and load themselves with all the blood of pious Christians, whom the Pope and his adherents persecute; and they also impair the honor of God and the salvation of the church, because they confirm these errors and vices before all the world, to injury of all posterity.
Of the Power and Jurisdiction of the Bishops
 In our Confession and Apology, we have stated in a general way what is necessary to be said in reference to ecclesiastical power. For the Gospel commands those who should regulate the church, to preach the Gospel, to remit sins, and to administer the sacraments; and it, moreover, gives them the authority to excommunicate those who live in the open commission of sin, and to absolve those who desire to amend their lives.
 Now, everyone, even our adversaries, must confess that all who preside over the church, have this command alike, whether they be called pastors, or presbyters, or bishops.  Therefore Jerome declares in distinct terms, that bishops and presbyters are not different, but that all clergymen are alike bishops and priests; and he produces the declaration of Paul to Titus, 1:5,6, in which he says: "For this cause left I thee at Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city;" and afterwards he calls these bishops: "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife," 1 Tim. 3:2. So Peter and John call themselves presbyters or priests.
Afterwards Jerome further declares: "The practice of choosing one who should be placed over the others, was introduced that schisms might be prevented, that one might not draw a church to himself here, and another there, and thus separate the church. For at Alexandria," says he, "from Mark the Evangelist, to Heracles and Dionysius, the presbyters have always elected one from among themselves, esteemed him more highly, and called him Episcopus (bishop), precisely as the military elect a captain; and as the deacons elected one from among themselves, who was qualified for the duties, whom they called Archdeacon. For, tell me, what more does a bishop perform, than a presbyter, except to ordain others to ecclesiastical office," etc.
 Jerome here teaches, that this difference between bishops and pastors originated from human regulations alone, as we actually observe in practice. For the office and the authority are entirely the same;  but in subsequent time, the mode of ordination alone made the distinction between bishops and pastors. For it was afterwards thus determined, that a bishop should ordain persons to the duties of the ministry in other churches also.
 But as, according to divine authority, there is no difference between bishops and pastors, or ministers, there is no doubt that, if a pastor ordain qualified persons in his church to church-offices, such ordination is valid and right, according to divine authority.
 For this reason, while the bishops generally still violate the Gospel, and refuse to ordain qualified persons, every church has in this case legal authority to ordain ministers for itself.
 For wherever the church is, there indeed is the command to preach the Gospel. Therefore, the churches undoubtedly retain the authority to call, elect, and ordain ministers. And this authority is a privilege which God has given especially to the church, and it cannot be taken away from the church, by any human power, as Paul testifies, Eph. 4:8,11,12, where he says: "When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." And among these gifts, which belong to the church, he enumerates pastors and teachers, and adds that these were given for the edifying of the body of Christ. Wherefore, it follows that wherever there is a true church, there is also the power to elect and ordain ministers. In case of necessity a mere layman may absolve another, and become his pastor; as St. Augustine relates that two Christians were in a ship together, the one baptized the other, and afterwards was absolved by him.
 To this point the declarations of Christ pertain, which show that the keys are given to the whole church, and not merely to some particular persons; as the text says: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them," Matt. 18:20.
 Finally, this is also confirmed by the declaration of Peter, where he says: "Ye are a royal priesthood," 1 Pet. 2:9. These words relate specifically to the true church, which, because it alone possesses a priesthood, must also have power to choose and ordain ministers.
 The common usages of the church likewise prove this: for in former times the people elected clergymen and bishops; then the bishop, living in or near the same place, came and confirmed those elected, by the laying on of hands; and, at that time, ordination was nothing else than this approbation.
 Afterwards other ceremonies were added. Dionysius relates some of them; but this book of Dionysius is a modern fiction under a false title, like the book of Clement, which also has a false title, and was written long after the time of Clement by a wicked impostor.
And finally it was also added, that the bishop said to those whom he consecrated: "I give you power to sacrifice for the living and the dead;" but this also does not occur in Dionysius.
 Hence we see that the church has power to choose and ordain ministers. Therefore, if the bishops are either heretics, or will not ordain qualified persons, the churches are under obligation in the sight of God, according to the divine law, to ordain for themselves pastors and other church-officers.
And if anyone calls this disorder or separation, he should know that the impious doctrine and tyranny of the bishops, are in fault of it; for Paul commands that all bishops, who either teach incorrectly themselves, or defend incorrect doctrines and false worship, should be deemed offenders.
 Hitherto we have been speaking concerning ordination, which alone has made a difference between bishops and priests, as Jerome says. It is, therefore, unnecessary to dispute much about the other episcopal offices, unless we should wish to speak concerning unction, the baptizing of bells, and other similar impositions, which are almost the only things that the bishops exclusively practice; but it is necessary to treat of jurisdiction.
 This is certain, that clergymen generally should have the right to excommunicate those who live in open immorality, and that the bishops as tyrants have arrogated it to themselves, and exercised it for their own profit. For these men have carried on intolerable abuses with it, and either through avarice or wantonness, persecuted and excommunicated people without any legal investigation. What a tyranny is this! A bishop to have power, according to his own caprice, without the forms of justice, thus to agitate and afflict the people with excommunications, etc.!
 But they have employed this penalty in diverse offences, and have not only protected the real offender from it, against whom excommunication should have been pronounced, but have inflicted punishment on other small offences,--such as not fasting and observing holidays correctly. They have, indeed, sometimes punished adultery, but they have also frequently disgraced and defamed innocent persons. For as such an accusation is very serious, no one should be condemned without trial in legal and due form.
 Now, since the bishops have arrogated this jurisdiction to themselves, and most shamefully abused it, these are good reasons why we should refuse them obedience. And it is right to take away from them this usurped jurisdiction, and restore it to the pastors to whom it belongs according to the command of Christ, and to have it exercised legitimately for the improvement of morals, the amendment of life, and the increase of God's glory.
 There is, moreover, a jurisdiction in such matters as, according to Papal institutions, pertain to the ecclesiastical court; especially affairs concerning matrimony. This jurisdiction the bishops have also arrogated to themselves by human authority alone, which however is not very ancient, as may be perceived from the Code and Novels of Justinian, that matters relating to marriage were at that time transacted entirely by civil government; and civil government is under obligation to determine these matters, especially if the bishops decide unjustly, or become negligent, as the canons also show.
Wherefore, we are under no obligation to render obedience to the bishops in reference to this jurisdiction.  And since they have instituted several unjust ordinances concerning matrimonial affairs, and enforce them in the courts over which they preside, the civil magistrate is, for this reason also, bound to reform these courts.
For, the prohibition of marriage between sponsors is unjust; and it is also unjust, when, if two persons are divorced, the innocent party is not allowed to marry again. Moreover, it is an unjust law, which in general approves all marriages that take place secretly and deceitfully, without the previous knowledge and consent of the parents. And the prohibition of the marriage of priests, is also unjust.
Besides these, there are other points in their ordinances, by which men's consciences have been confused and burthened, and which it is unnecessary to relate here; it is sufficient to say, that many unjust and improper things have been commanded by the Pope, on account of which the civil authority has sufficient cause to constitute a different jurisdiction in these matters.
 Now, since the bishops, who are devoted to the Pope, violently defend impious doctrines and a false worship, and will not ordain pious preachers, but assist the Pope in murdering them, and have, moreover, divested the pastors of their jurisdiction, and have exercised it as tyrants, for their own emolument alone; and finally, since they have also treated affairs relative to matrimony so unjustly, the churches have great and sufficient reasons for not acknowledging them as bishops.  But bishops should consider that their property and income are furnished as alms, that they might serve the churches, and the better execute their office, as the rule says: "The benefice is bestowed for the rendering of service." Therefore, they cannot with clear conscience use such alms otherwise, and thus rob the churches which need such goods for the support of their ministers, for rearing learned persons, for the maintenance of the poor, and especially for the constitution of a matrimonial judiciary;  for cases peculiar frequently occur, for which it is necessary to have a peculiar judiciary. But this cannot be sustained without the help of these goods.  St. Peter predicted that false bishops would use the possessions and alms of the church to gratify their own sensuality, and forsake the proper duties of their office, 2 Pet. 2:13. And since the Holy Ghost threatens them thus severely, the bishops should know that they must render an account unto God for such robbery.
The Doctors and Ministers Who Subscribed to the Augsburg Confession and the Apology, A. D. 1537.
In conformity with the Mandate of the illustrious princes, orders, and estates, professing the doctrine of the Gospel, we have read the articles of the Confession, exhibited to the Emperor in the assembly at Augsburg, and by the kindness of God, all the ministers who were present in the assembly at Smalcald, unanimously profess that they believe, and teach in their several churches, agreeably to the articles of the Confession and the Apology. They acknowledge also that they approve the Article concerning the Power and Primacy of the Pope, and concerning the Power and Jurisdiction of the Bishops, which article was exhibited to the princes in the assembly here at Smalcald. Accordingly they have subscribed their names.
I, Dr. John Bugenhagen, subscribe to the Articles of the Augsburg Confession, to the Apology, and to the Article concerning the Papacy, submitted to the princes at Smalcald.
And I, Dr. Urban Regius, superintendent of the churches in the Dukedom of Lueneburg, subscribe.
Nicholas Amsdorf of Magdeburg, subscribed.
George Spalatin of Altenburg, subscribed.
I, Andrew Osiander, subscribe.
M. Veit Dietrich of Nuremberg, subscribed.
Stephen Agricola, minister at Chur, subscribed with his own hand.
John Draconites of Marburg, subscribed.
Conrad Feigenbotz subscribed unreservedly.
I, Edward Schnepf, subscribe.
Paul Rhodius, minister in Stettin.
Gerard Oeniken, minister of the church in Minden.
Simon Schneweis, steward of Crailsheim.
Briccius of Northan, minister at Soest.
I, Pomeranus, again subscribe in the name of Mr. John Brentius, as he has instructed me.
Philip Melanchthon subscribed with his own hand.
Anthony Corvinus subscribed with his own hand, for himself and for Adam of Fulda.
John Schlaginhauffen subscribed with his own hand.
Mr. George Heltus of Forcheim.
Michael Coelius, minister at Mansfeld.
Peter Geltner, minister of the church at Frankfurt.
Dionysius Melander subscribed.
Paul Fagius of Argau.
Wendal Faber, steward of Seburg in Mansfeld.
Conrad Otinger of Pfortzheim, chaplain of Ulrich, Duke of Wuerttemberg.
Boniface Wolfart, minister of the church at Augsburg.
John Aepin, superintendent of Hamburg, subscribed with his own hand.
The same did John Amsterdam of Bremen.
John Fontan, superintendent of lower Hesse, subscribed.
Frederic Myconius subscribed for himself and Justus Menius.
Again and again have I read the Confession and the Apology, submitted by the illustrious prince, Elector of Saxony, and by other princes and estates of the Roman empire, to his Imperial Majesty at Augsburg. I have read also the Agreement on the Sacrament, composed at Wuerttemberg, with Dr. Bucer and others. I have read the articles by Dr. Martin Luther, our most venerable preceptor, written in the German language in the assembly at Smalcald, and a tract concerning the Papacy and the Power and Jurisdiction of Bishops. In my humble opinion, all these treatises accord with the sacred Scriptures and with the principles of the true and genuine catholic church. And though, amidst the great number of learned men now assembled at Smalcald, I acknowledge myself the least of all, yet because I am not allowed to await the adjournment of this assembly, I entreat you, most excellent Sir, Dr. John Bugenhagen, reverend father in Christ, to subscribe my name, should it be necessary, to all the works which I have mentioned above. For I testify by this my own handwriting, that I thus believe, profess, and shall ever teach through Jesus Christ our Lord. Done at Smalcald, Feb. 23, 1537.
JOHN BRENTIUS, Minister of Halle.
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