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   Home      The Augsberg Confession


by Philip Melanchthon


We present the articles only of this confession for research and hopefully to allow you to find nuggets to strengthen your faith. As with any work by human hands we need to be careful not to blindly accept anything as gospel truth unless the Holy Spirit directs you to do so. We need to be students of the word and faith so that we get the right information and discard that which is harmful to us and our eternal home with Jesus.

Being wise and discerning are good things especially when it comes to the material we read and accept. Be aware that these articles are placed here for research purposes also.

Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the

Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and

concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any

doubting; that is to say, there is one Divine Essence which is called and

which is God: eternal, without body, without parts, of infinite power,

wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and

invisible; and yet there are three Persons, of the same essence and power,

who also are co-eternal, the Father the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And the

term “person” they use as the Fathers have used it, to signify, not a part or

quality in another, but that which subsists of itself.

They condemn all heresies which have sprung up against this article, as the

Manichaeans, who assumed two principles, one Good and the other

Evil-also the Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians, Mohammedans, and all

such. They condemn also the Samosatenes, old and new, who, contending

that there is but one Person, sophistically and impiously argue that the

Word and the Holy Ghost are not distinct Persons, but that “Word”

signifies a spoken word, and “Spirit” signifies motion created in things.

ALSO they teach that since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural

way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in

God, and with concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of origin, is

truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not

born again through Baptism and the Holy Ghost.

They Condemn the Pelagians and others who deny that original depravity is

sin, and who, to obscure the glory of Christ’s merit and benefits, argue that

man can be justified before God by his own strength and reason.

ALSO they teach that the Word, that is, the Son of God, did assume the

human nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, so that there are two

natures, the divine and the human, inseparably enjoined in one Person, one

Christ, true God and true man, who was born of the Virgin Mary, truly

suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, that He might reconcile the

Father unto us, and be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all

actual sins of men

He also descended into hell, and truly rose again the third day; afterward He

ascended into heaven that He might sit on the right hand of the Father, and

forever reign and have dominion over all creatures, and sanctify them that

believe in Him, by sending the Holy Ghost into their hearts, to rule,

comfort, and quicken them, and to defend them against the devil and the

power of sin.

The same Christ shall openly come again to judge the quick and the dead,

etc., according to the Apostles’ Creed.

ALSO they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own

strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake,

through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that

their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made

satisfaction for our sins. This faith God imputes for righteousness in His

sight. Romans 3 and 4.

THAT we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and

administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and

Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works

faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit,

that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who

believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.

They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost

comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparations

and works.

ALSO they teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and that it

is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God’s will,

but that we should not rely on those works to merit justification before

God. For remission of sins and justification is apprehended by faith, as also

the voice of Christ attests: When ye shall have done all these things, say:

We are unprofitable servants. <421710>Luke 17:10. The same is also taught by the

Fathers. For Ambrose says: It is ordained of God that he who believes in

Christ is saved, freely receiving remission of sins, without works, by faith


ALSO they teach that one holy Church is to continue forever. The Church is

the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the

Sacraments are rightly administered.

And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the

doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it

necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by

men, should be everywhere alike. As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism,

one God and Father of all, etc. <490405>Ephesians 4:5. 6.

ALTHOUGH the Church properly is the congregation of saints and true

believers, nevertheless, since in this life many hypocrites and evil persons

are mingled therewith, it is lawful to use Sacraments administered by evil

men, according to the saying of Christ: The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in

Moses’ seat, etc. <402302>Matthew 23:2. Both the Sacraments and Word are

effectual by reason of the institution and commandment of Christ,

notwithstanding they be administered by evil men.

They condemn the Donatists, and such like, who denied it to be lawful to

use the ministry of evil men in the Church, and who thought the ministry of

evil men to be unprofitable and of none effect.

Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that through

Baptism is offered the grace of God, and that children are to be baptized

who, being offered to God through Baptism are received into God’s grace.

They condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children, and say

that children are saved without Baptism.

OF the Supper of the Lord they teach that the Body and Blood of Christ are

truly present, and are distributed to those who eat the Supper of the Lord;

and they reject those that teach otherwise.

OF Confession they teach that Private Absolution ought to be retained in the

churches, although in confession an enumeration of all sins is not

necessary. For it is impossible according to the Psalm: Who can understand

his errors? <191912>Psalm 19:12.

OF Repentance they teach that for those who have fallen after Baptism there

is remission of sins whenever they are converted and that the Church ought

to impart absolution to those thus returning to repentance. Now, repentance

consists properly of these two parts: One is contrition, that is, terrors

smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith,

which is born of the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ’s

sake, sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience, and delivers it from

terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of


They condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that those once justified can lose

the Holy Ghost. Also those who contend that some may attain to such

perfection in this life that they cannot sin.

The Novatians also are condemned, who would not absolve such as had

fallen after Baptism, though they returned to repentance.

They also are rejected who do not teach that remission of sins comes

through faith but command us to merit grace through satisfactions of our


OF the Use of the Sacraments they teach that the Sacraments were ordained,

not only to be marks of profession among men, but rather to be signs and

testimonies of the will of God toward us, instituted to awaken and confirm

faith in those who use them. Wherefore we must so use the Sacraments that

faith be added to believe the promises which are offered and set forth

through the Sacraments.

They therefore condemn those who teach that the Sacraments justify by the

outward act, and who do not teach that, in the use of the Sacraments, faith

which believes that sins are forgiven, is required.

OF Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly teach in the

Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called.

OF Usages in the Church they teach that those ought to be observed which

may be observed without sin, and which are profitable unto tranquillity and

good order in the Church, as particular holy-days, festivals, and the like.

Nevertheless, concerning such things men are admonished that consciences

are not to be burdened, as though such observance was necessary to


They are admonished also that human traditions instituted to propitiate God,

to merit grace, and to make satisfaction for sins, are opposed to the Gospel

and the doctrine of faith. Wherefore vows and traditions concerning meats

and days, etc., instituted to merit grace and to make satisfaction for sins, are

useless and contrary to the Gospel.

OF Civil Affairs they teach that lawful civil ordinances are good works of

God, and that it is right for Christians to bear civil office, to sit as judges, to

judge matters by the Imperial and other existing laws, to award just

punishments, to engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers, to make legal

contracts, to hold property, to make oath when required by the magistrates,

to marry a wife, to be given in marriage.

They condemn the Anabaptists who forbid these civil offices to Christians.

They condemn also those who do not place evangelical perfection in the fear

of God and in faith, but in forsaking civil offices, for the Gospel teaches an

eternal righteousness of the heart. Meanwhile, it does not destroy the State

or the family, but very much requires that they be preserved as ordinances

of God, and that charity be practiced in such ordinances. Therefore,


Christians are necessarily bound to obey their own magistrates and laws

save only when commanded to sin; for then they ought to obey God rather

than men. <440529>Acts 5:29.

ALSO they teach that at the Consummation of the World Christ will appear

for judgment and will raise up all the dead; He will give to the godly and

elect eternal life and everlasting joys, but ungodly men and the devils He

will condemn to be tormented without end.

They condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an end to the

punishments of condemned men and devils.

They condemn also others who are now spreading certain Jewish opinions,

that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of

the kingdom of the world, the ungodly being everywhere suppressed.

OF Free Will they teach that man’s will has some liberty to choose civil

righteousness, and to work things subject to reason. But it has no power,

without the Holy Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual

righteousness; since the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of

God, <460214>1 Corinthians 2:14; but this righteousness is wrought in the heart

when the Holy Ghost is received through the Word. These things are said

in as many words by Augustine in his Hypognosticon, Book III: We grant

that all men have a free will, free, inasmuch as it has the judgment of

reason; not that it is thereby capable, without God, either to begin, or, at

least, to complete aught in things pertaining to God, but only in works of

this life, whether good or evil. “Good” I call those works which spring

from the good in nature, such as, willing to labor in the field, to eat and

drink, to have a friend, to clothe oneself, to build a house, to marry a wife,

to raise cattle, to learn divers useful arts, or whatsoever good pertains to

this life. For all of these things are not without dependence on the

providence of God; yea, of Him and through Him they are and have their

being. “Evil” I call such works as willing to worship an idol, to commit

murder, etc.

They condemn the Pelagians and others, who teach that without the Holy

Ghost, by the power of nature alone, we are able to love God above all

things; also to do the commandments of God as touching “the substance of

the act.” For, although nature is able in a manner to do the outward work,

(for it is able to keep the hands from theft and murder,) yet it cannot

produce the inward motions, such as the fear of God, trust in God,

chastity, patience, etc.

OF the Cause of Sin they teach that, although God does create and preserve

nature, yet the cause of sin is the will of the wicked, that is, of the devil and

ungodly men; which will, unaided of God, turns itself from God, as Christ

says <430844>John 8:44: When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own.

OUR teachers are falsely accused of forbidding good Works. For their

published writings on the Ten Commandments, and others of like import,

bear witness that they have taught to good purpose concerning all estates

and duties of life, as to what estates of life and what works in every calling

be pleasing to God. Concerning these things preachers heretofore taught but

little, and urged only childish and needless works, as particular holy-days,

particular fasts, brotherhoods, pilgrimages, services in honor of saints, the

use of rosaries, monasticism, and such like. Since our adversaries have

been admonished of these things, they are now unlearning them, and do not

preach these unprofitable works as heretofore. Besides, they begin to

mention faith, of which there was heretofore marvelous silence. They teach

that we are justified not by works only, but they conjoin faith and works,

and say that we are justified by faith and works. This doctrine is more

tolerable than the former one, and can afford more consolation than their old


Forasmuch, therefore, as the doctrine concerning faith, which ought to be

the chief one in the Church, has lain so long unknown, as all must needs

grant that there was the deepest silence in their sermons concerning the

righteousness of faith, while only the doctrine of works was treated in the

churches, our teachers have instructed the churches concerning faith as

follows: -

First, that our works cannot reconcile God or merit forgiveness of sins,

grace, and justification, but that we obtain this only by faith when we

believe that we are received into favor for Christ’s sake, who alone has

been set forth the Mediator and Propitiation, <540206>1 Timothy 2:6, in order that

the Father may be reconciled through Him. Whoever, therefore, trusts that

by works he merits grace, despises the merit and grace of Christ, and seeks

a way to God without Christ, by human strength, although Christ has said

of Himself: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. <431406>John 14:6.

This doctrine concerning faith is everywhere treated by Paul, <490208>Ephesians

2:8: By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the

gift of God, not of works, etc.

And lest any one should craftily say that a new interpretation of Paul has

been devised by us, this entire matter is supported by the testimonies of the

Fathers. For Augustine, in many volumes, defends grace and the

righteousness of faith, over against the merits of works. And Ambrose, in

his De Vocatione Gentium, and elsewhere, teaches to like effect. For in his

De Vocatione Gentium he says as follows: Redemption by the blood of

Christ would become of little value, neither would the preeminence of

man’s works be superseded by the mercy of God, if justification, which is

wrought through grace, were due to the merits going before, so as to be,

not the free gift of a donor, but the reward due to the laborer.

But, although this doctrine is despised by the inexperienced, nevertheless

God-fearing and anxious consciences find by experience that it brings the

greatest consolation, because consciences cannot be set at rest through any

works, but only by faith, when they take the sure ground that for Christ’s

sake they have a reconciled God. As Paul teaches <450501>Romans 5:1: Being

justified by faith, we have peace with God. This whole doctrine is to be

referred to that conflict of the terrified conscience, neither can it be

understood apart from that conflict. Therefore inexperienced and profane

men judge ill concerning this matter, who dream that Christian

righteousness is nothing but civil and philosophical righteousness.

Heretofore consciences were plagued with the doctrine of works, they did

not hear the consolation from the Gospel. Some persons were driven by

conscience into the desert, into monasteries hoping there to merit grace by a

monastic life. Some also devised other works whereby to merit grace and

make satisfaction for sins. Hence there was very great need to treat of, and

renew, this doctrine of faith in Christ, to the end that anxious consciences

should not be without consolation but that they might know that grace and

forgiveness of sins and justification are apprehended by faith in Christ.

Men are also admonished that here the term “faith” does not signify merely

the knowledge of the history, such as is in the ungodly and in the devil, but

signifies a faith which believes, not merely the history, but also the effect of


the history — namely, this Article: the forgiveness of sins, to wit, that we

have grace, righteousness, and forgiveness of sins through Christ.

Now he that knows that he has a Father gracious to him through Christ,

truly knows God; he knows also that God cares for him, and calls upon

God; in a word, he is not without God, as the heathen. For devils and the

ungodly are not able to believe this Article: the forgiveness of sins. Hence,

they hate God as an enemy, call not upon Him, and expect no good from

Him. Augustine also admonishes his readers concerning the word “faith,”

and teaches that the term “faith” is accepted in the Scriptures not for

knowledge such as is in the ungodly but for confidence which consoles and

encourages the terrified mind.

Furthermore, it is taught on our part that it is necessary to do good works,

not that we should trust to merit grace by them, but because it is the will of

God. It is only by faith that forgiveness of sins is apprehended, and that,

for nothing. And because through faith the Holy Ghost is received, hearts

are renewed and endowed with new affections, so as to be able to bring

forth good works. For Ambrose says: Faith is the mother of a good will

and right doing. For man’s powers without the Holy Ghost are full of

ungodly affections, and are too weak to do works which are good in God’s

sight. Besides, they are in the power of the devil who impels men to divers

sins, to ungodly opinions, to open crimes. This we may see in the

philosophers, who, although they endeavored to live an honest life could

not succeed, but were defiled with many open crimes. Such is the

feebleness of man when he is without faith and without the Holy Ghost,

and governs himself only by human strength.

Hence it may be readily seen that this doctrine is not to be charged with

prohibiting good works, but rather the more to be commended, because it

shows how we are enabled to do good works. For without faith human

nature can in no wise do the works of the First or of the Second

Commandment. Without faith it does not call upon God, nor expect

anything from God, nor bear the cross, but seeks, and trusts in, man’s

help. And thus, when there is no faith and trust in God all manner of lusts

and human devices rule in the heart. Wherefore Christ said, <431606>John 16:6:

Without Me ye can do nothing; and the Church sings: Lacking Thy divine

favor, There is nothing found in man, Naught in him is harmless.

OF the Worship of Saints they teach that the memory of saints may be set

before us, that we may follow their faith and good works, according to our

calling, as the Emperor may follow the example of David in making war to

drive away the Turk from his country; For both are kings. But the Scripture

teaches not the invocation of saints or to ask help of saints, since it sets

before us the one Christ as the Mediator, Propitiation, High Priest, and

Intercessor. He is to be prayed to, and has promised that He will hear our

prayer; and this worship He approves above all, to wit, that in all afflictions

He be called upon, <620201>1 John 2:1: If any man sin, we have an Advocate with

the Father, etc.

This is about the Sum of our Doctrine, in which, as can be seen, there is

nothing that varies from the Scriptures, or from the Church Catholic, or

from the Church of Rome as known from its writers. This being the case,

they judge harshly who insist that our teachers be regarded as heretics.

There is, however, disagreement on certain Abuses, which have crept into

the Church without rightful authority. And even in these, if there were some

difference, there should be proper lenity on the part of bishops to bear with

us by reason of the Confession which we have now reviewed; because even

the Canons are not so severe as to demand the same rites everywhere,

neither, at any time, have the rites of all churches been the same; although,

among us, in large part, the ancient rites are diligently observed. For it is a

false and malicious charge that all the ceremonies, all the things instituted of

old, are abolished in our churches. But it has been a common complaint that

some abuses were connected with the ordinary rites. These, inasmuch as

they could not be approved with a good conscience, have been to some

extent corrected.



INASMUCH, then, as our churches dissent in no article of the faith from the

Church Catholic, but only omit some abuses which are new, and which

have been erroneously accepted by the corruption of the times, contrary to

the intent of the Canons, we pray that Your Imperial Majesty would

graciously hear both what has been changed, and what were the reasons

why the people were not compelled to observe those abuses against their

conscience. Nor should Your Imperial Majesty believe those who, in order

to excite the hatred of men against our part, disseminate strange slanders

among the people. Having thus excited the minds of good men, they have

first given occasion to this controversy, and now endeavor, by the same

arts, to increase the discord. For Your Imperial Majesty will undoubtedly

find that the form of doctrine and of ceremonies with us is not so intolerable

as these ungodly and malicious men represent. Besides, the truth cannot be

gathered from common rumors or the revilings of enemies. But it can

readily be judged that nothing would serve better to maintain the dignity of

ceremonies, and to nourish reverence and pious devotion among the people

than if the ceremonies were observed rightly in the churches.

TO the laity are given Both Kinds in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper,

because this usage has the commandment of the Lord in <402627>Matthew 26:27:

Drink ye all of it, where Christ has manifestly commanded concerning the

cup that all should drink.

And lest any man should craftily say that this refers only to priests, Paul in

<461127>1 Corinthians 11:27 recites an example from which it appears that the

whole congregation did use both kinds. And this usage has long remained

in the Church, nor is it known when, or by whose authority, it was

changed; although Cardinal Cusanus mentions the time when it was

approved. Cyprian in some places testifies that the blood was given to the

people. The same is testified by Jerome, who says: The priests administer

the Eucharist, and distribute the blood of Christ to the people. Indeed, Pope

Gelasius commands that the Sacrament be not divided (dist. II., De

Consecratione, cap. Comperimus). Only custom, not so ancient, has it

otherwise. But it is evident that any custom introduced against the

commandments of God is not to be allowed, as the Canons witness (dist.

III., cap. Veritate, and the following chapters). But this custom has been

received, not only against the Scripture, but also against the old Canons and

the example of the Church. Therefore, if any preferred to use both kinds of

the Sacrament, they ought not to have been compelled with offense to their

consciences to do otherwise. And because the division of the Sacrament

does not agree with the ordinance of Christ, we are accustomed to omit the

procession, which hitherto has been in use.

THERE has been common complaint concerning the examples of priests who

were not chaste. For that reason also Pope Pius is reported to have said that

there were certain causes why marriage was taken away from priests, but

that there were far weightier ones why it ought to be given back; for so

Platina writes. Since, therefore, our priests were desirous to avoid these

open scandals, they married wives, and taught that it was lawful for them to

contract matrimony. First, because Paul says, <460702>1 Corinthians 7:2, 9: To

avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife. Also: It is better to

marry than to burn. Secondly Christ says, <401911>Matthew 19:11: All men

cannot receive this saying, where He teaches that not all men are fit to lead a

single life; for God created man for procreation, <010128>Genesis 1:28. Nor is it

in man’s power, without a singular gift and work of God, to alter this

creation. [For it is manifest, and many have confessed that no good,

honest, chaste life, no Christian, sincere, upright conduct has resulted

(from the attempt), but a horrible, fearful unrest and torment of conscience

has been felt by many until the end.] Therefore, those who are not fit to lead

a single life ought to contract matrimony. For no man’s law, no vow, can

annul the commandment and ordinance of God. For these reasons the

priests teach that it is lawful for them to marry wives.

It is also evident that in the ancient Church priests were married men. For

Paul says, <540302>1 Timothy 3:2, that a bishop should be chosen who is the

husband of one wife. And in Germany, four hundred years ago for the first

time, the priests were violently compelled to lead a single life, who indeed

offered such resistance that the Archbishop of Mayence, when about to

publish the Pope’s decree concerning this matter, was almost killed in the

tumult raised by the enraged priests. And so harsh was the dealing in the

matter that not only were marriages forbidden for the future, but also

existing marriages were torn asunder, contrary to all laws, divine and

human, contrary even to the Canons themselves, made not only by the

Popes, but by most celebrated Synods. [Moreover, many God-fearing and

intelligent people in high station are known frequently to have expressed

misgivings that such enforced celibacy and depriving men of marriage

(which God Himself has instituted and left free to men) has never produced

any good results, but has brought on many great and evil vices and much


Seeing also that, as the world is aging, man’s nature is gradually growing

weaker, it is well to guard that no more vices steal into Germany.

Furthermore, God ordained marriage to be a help against human infirmity.

The Canons themselves say that the old rigor ought now and then, in the

latter times, to be relaxed because of the weakness of men; which it is to be

wished were done also in this matter. And it is to be expected that the

churches shall at some time lack pastors if marriage is any longer forbidden.

But while the commandment of God is in force, while the custom of the

Church is well known, while impure celibacy causes many scandals,

adulteries, and other crimes deserving the punishments of just magistrates,

yet it is a marvelous thing that in nothing is more cruelty exercised than

against the marriage of priests. God has given commandment to honor

marriage. By the laws of all well-ordered commonwealths, even among the

heathen, marriage is most highly honored. But now men, and that, priests,

are cruelly put to death, contrary to the intent of the Canons, for no other

cause than marriage. Paul, in <540403>1 Timothy 4:3, calls that a doctrine of

devils which forbids marriage. This may now be readily understood when

the law against marriage is maintained by such penalties.

But as no law of man can annul the commandment of God, so neither can it

be done by any vow. Accordingly, Cyprian also advises that women who

do not keep the chastity they have promised should marry. His words are

these (Book I, Epistle XI): But if they be unwilling or unable to persevere,

it is better for them to marry than to fall into the fire by their lusts; they

should certainly give no offense to their brethren and sisters.

And even the Canons show some leniency toward those who have taken

vows before the proper age, as heretofore has generally been the ease.

FALSELY are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass; for the Mass is

retained among us, and celebrated with the highest reverence. Nearly all the

usual ceremonies are also preserved, save that the parts sung in Latin are

interspersed here and there with German hymns, which have been added to

teach the people. For ceremonies are needed to this end alone that the

unlearned be taught [what they need to know of Christ]. And not only has

Paul commanded to use in the church a language understood by the people

<461402>1 Corinthians 14:2, 9, but it has also been so ordained by man’s law.

The people are accustomed to partake of the Sacrament together, if any be

fit for it, and this also increases the reverence and devotion of public

worship. For none are admitted except they be first examined. The people

are also advised concerning the dignity and use of the Sacrament, how great

consolation it brings anxious consciences, that they may learn to believe

God, and to expect and ask of Him all that is good. [In this connection they

are also instructed regarding other and false teachings on the Sacrament.]

This worship pleases God; such use of the Sacrament nourishes true

devotion toward God. It does not, therefore, appear that the Mass is more

devoutly celebrated among our adversaries than among us.

But it is evident that for a long time this also has been the public and most

grievous complaint of all good men that Masses have been basely profaned

and applied to purposes of lucre. For it is not unknown how far this abuse

obtains in all the churches by what manner of men Masses are said only for

fees or stipends, and how many celebrate them contrary to the Canons. But

Paul severely threatens those who deal unworthily with the Eucharist when

he says, <461127>1 Corinthians 11:27: Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink

this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of

the Lord. When, therefore our priests were admonished concerning this sin,

Private Masses were discontinued among us, as scarcely any Private

Masses were celebrated except for lucre’s sake.

Neither were the bishops ignorant of these abuses, and if they had corrected

them in time, there would now be less dissension. Heretofore, by their own

connivance, they suffered many corruptions to creep into the Church. Now,

when it is too late, they begin to complain of the troubles of the Church,

while this disturbance has been occasioned simply by those abuses which

were so manifest that they could be borne no longer. There have been great

dissensions concerning the Mass, concerning the Sacrament. Perhaps the

world is being punished for such long-continued profanations of the Mass

as have been tolerated in the churches for so many centuries by the very

men who were both able and in duty bound to correct them. For in the Ten

Commandments it is written, <022007>Exodus 20:7: The Lord will not hold him

guiltless that taketh His name in vain. But since the world began, nothing

that God ever ordained seems to have been so abused for filthy lucre as the


There was also added the opinion which infinitely increased Private

Masses, namely that Christ, by His passion, had made satisfaction for

original sin, and instituted the Mass wherein an offering should be made for

daily sins, venial and mortal. From this has arisen the common opinion that

the Mass takes away the sins of the living and the dead by the outward act.

Then they began to dispute whether one Mass said for many were worth as

much as special Masses for individuals, and this brought forth that infinite

multitude of Masses. [With this work men wished to obtain from God all

that they needed, and in the mean time faith in Christ and the true worship

were forgotten.]

Concerning these opinions our teachers have given warning that they depart

from the Holy Scriptures and diminish the glory of the passion of Christ.

For Christ’s passion was an oblation and satisfaction, not for original guilt

only, but also for all other sins, as it is written to the <581010>Hebrews 10:10: We

are sanctified through the offering of Jesus Christ once for all. Also, 10:14:

By one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. [It is an

unheard-of innovation in the Church to teach that Christ by His death made

satisfaction only for original sin and not likewise for all other sin.

Accordingly it is hoped that everybody will understand that this error has

not been reproved without due reason.]

Scripture also teaches that we are justified before God through faith in

Christ, when we believe that our sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake. Now if

the Mass take away the sins of the living and the dead by the outward act

justification comes of the work of Masses, and not of faith, which Scripture

does not allow.

But Christ commands us, <422219>Luke 22:19: This do in remembrance of Me;

therefore the Mass was instituted that the faith of those who use the

Sacrament should remember what benefits it receives through Christ, and

cheer and comfort the anxious conscience. For to remember Christ is to

remember His benefits, and to realize that they are truly offered unto us.

Nor is it enough only to remember the history; for this also the Jews and the

ungodly can remember. Wherefore the Mass is to be used to this end, that

there the Sacrament [Communion] may be administered to them that have

need of consolation; as Ambrose says: Because I always sin, I am always

bound to take the medicine. [Therefore this Sacrament requires faith, and is

used in vain without faith.]

Now, forasmuch as the Mass is such a giving of the Sacrament, we hold

one communion every holy-day, and, if any desire the Sacrament, also on

other days, when it is given to such as ask for it. And this custom is not

new in the Church; for the Fathers before Gregory make no mention of any

private Mass, but of the common Mass [the Communion] they speak very

much. Chrysostom says that the priest stands daily at he altar, inviting some

to the Communion and keeping back others. And it appears from the ancient

Canons that some one celebrated the Mass from whom all the other

presbyters and deacons received the body of he Lord; for thus the words of

the Nicene Canon say: Let the deacons, according to their order, receive the

Holy Communion after the presbyters, from the bishop or from a presbyter.

And Paul, <461133>1 Corinthians 11:33, commands concerning the Communion:

Tarry one for another, so that there may be a common participation.

Forasmuch, therefore, as the Mass with us has the example of the Church,

taken from the Scripture and the Fathers, we are confident that it cannot be

disapproved, especially since public ceremonies, for the most part like those

hitherto in use, are retained; only the number of Masses differs, which,

because of very great and manifest abuses doubtless might be profitably

reduced. For in olden times, even in churches most frequented, the Mass

was not celebrated every day, as the Tripartite History (Book 9, chap. 33)

testifies: Again in Alexandria, every Wednesday and Friday the Scriptures

are read, and the doctors expound them, and all things are done, except the

solemn rite of Communion.

CONFESSION in the churches is not abolished among us; for it is not usual to

give the body of the Lord, except to them that have been previously

examined and absolved. And the people are most carefully taught

concerning faith in the absolution, about which formerly there was

profound silence. Our people are taught that they should highly prize the

absolution, as being the voice of God, and pronounced by God’s

command. The power of the Keys is set forth in its beauty and they are

reminded what great consolation it brings to anxious consciences, also, that

God requires faith to believe such absolution as a voice sounding from

heaven, and that such faith in Christ truly obtains and receives the

forgiveness of sins. Aforetime satisfactions were immoderately extolled; of

faith and the merit of Christ and the righteousness of faith no mention was

made; wherefore, on this point, our churches are by no means to be

blamed. For this even our adversaries must needs concede to us that the

doctrine concerning repentance has been most diligently treated and laid

open by our teachers.

But of Confession they teach that an enumeration of sins is not necessary,

and that consciences be not burdened with anxiety to enumerate all sins, for

it is impossible to recount all sins, as the Psalm testifies, <191913>19:13: Who can

understand his errors? Also <241709>Jeremiah 17:9: The heart is deceitful; who

can know it; But if no sins were forgiven, except those that are recounted,

consciences could never find peace; for very many sins they neither see nor

can remember. The ancient writers also testify that an enumeration is not

necessary. For in the Decrees, Chrysostom is quoted, who says thus: I say

not to you that you should disclose yourself in public, nor that you accuse

yourself before others, but I would have you obey the prophet who says:

“Disclose thy self before God.” Therefore confess your sins before God,

the true Judge, with prayer. Tell your errors, not with the tongue, but with

the memory of your conscience, etc. And the Gloss (Of Repentance,

Distinct. V, Cap. Consideret) admits that Confession is of human right only

[not commanded by Scripture, but ordained by the Church]. Nevertheless,

on account of the great benefit of absolution, and because it is otherwise

useful to the conscience, Confession is retained among us.

IT has been the general persuasion, not of the people alone, but also of

those teaching in the churches, that making Distinctions of Meats, and like

traditions of men, are works profitable to merit grace, and able to make

satisfactions for sins. And that the world so thought, appears from this, that

new ceremonies, new orders, new holy-days, and new fastings were daily

instituted, and the teachers in the churches did exact these works as a

service necessary to merit grace, and did greatly terrify men’s consciences,

if they should omit any of these things. From this persuasion concerning

traditions much detriment has resulted in the Church.

First, the doctrine of grace and of the righteousness of faith has been

obscured by it, which is the chief part of the Gospel, and ought to stand out

as the most prominent in the Church, in order that the merit of Christ may

be well known, and faith, which believes that sins are forgiven for Christ’s

sake be exalted far above works. Wherefore Paul also lays the greatest

stress on this article, putting aside the Law and human traditions, in order to

show that Christian righteousness is something else than such works, to

wit, the faith which believes that sins are freely forgiven for Christ’s sake.

But this doctrine of Paul has been almost wholly smothered by traditions,

which have produced an opinion that, by making distinctions in meats and

like services, we must merit grace and righteousness. In treating of

repentance, there was no mention made of faith; only those works of

satisfaction were set forth; in these the entire repentance seemed to consist.

Secondly, these traditions have obscured the commandments of God,

because traditions were placed far above the commandments of God.

Christianity was thought to consist wholly in the observance of certain

holy-days, rites, fasts, and vestures. These observances had won for

themselves the exalted title of being the spiritual life and the perfect life.

Meanwhile the commandments of God, according to each one’s calling,

were without honor namely, that the father brought up his offspring, that

the mother bore children, that the prince governed the commonwealth, —

these were accounted works that were worldly and imperfect, and far below

those glittering observances. And this error greatly tormented devout

consciences, which grieved that they were held in an imperfect state of life,

as in marriage, in the office of magistrate; or in other civil ministrations; on

the other hand, they admired the monks and such like, and falsely imagined

that the observances of such men were more acceptable to God.

Thirdly, traditions brought great danger to consciences; for it was

impossible to keep all traditions, and yet men judged these observances to

be necessary acts of worship. Gerson writes that many fell into despair, and

that some even took their own lives, because they felt that they were not

able to satisfy the traditions, and they had all the while not heard any

consolation of the righteousness of faith and grace. We see that the

summists and theologians gather the traditions, and seek mitigations

whereby to ease consciences, and yet they do not sufficiently unfetter, but

sometimes entangle, consciences even more. And with the gathering of

these traditions, the schools and sermons have been so much occupied that

they have had no leisure to touch upon Scripture, and to seek the more

profitable doctrine of faith, of the cross, of hope, of the dignity of civil

affairs of consolation of sorely tried consciences. Hence Gerson and some

other theologians have grievously complained that by these strivings

concerning traditions they were prevented from giving attention to a better

kind of doctrine. Augustine also forbids that men’s consciences should be

burdened with such observances, and prudently advises Januarius that he

must know that they are to be observed as things indifferent; for such are

his words.

Wherefore our teachers must not be looked upon as having taken up this

matter rashly or from hatred of the bishops, as some falsely suspect. There

was great need to warn the churches of these errors, which had arisen from

misunderstanding the traditions. For the Gospel compels us to insist in the

churches upon the doctrine of grace, and of the righteousness of faith;

which, however, cannot be understood, if men think that they merit grace

by observances of their own choice.

Thus, therefore, they have taught that by the observance of human

traditions we cannot merit grace or be justified, and hence we must not

think such observances necessary acts of worship. They add hereunto

testimonies of Scripture. Christ, <401503>Matthew 15:3, defends the Apostles

who had not observed the usual tradition, which, however, evidently

pertains to a matter not unlawful, but indifferent, and to have a certain

affinity with the purifications of the Law, and says, 9: In vain do they

worship Me with the commandments of men. He, therefore, does not exact

an unprofitable service. Shortly after He adds: Not that which goeth into the

mouth defileth a man. So also Paul, <451417>Romans 14:17: The kingdom of God

is not meat and drink. <510216>Colossians 2:16: Let no man, therefore, judge you

in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy-day, or of the Sabbath-day;

also: If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as

though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances: Touch not, taste

not, handle not! And Peter says, <441510>Acts 15:10: Why tempt ye God to put a

yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were

able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ

we shall be saved, even as they. Here Peter forbids to burden the

consciences with many rites, either of Moses or of others. And in <540401>1

Timothy 4:1, 3 Paul calls the prohibition of meats a doctrine of devils; for it

is against the Gospel to institute or to do such works that by them we may

merit grace, or as though Christianity could not exist without such service

of God.

Here our adversaries object that our teachers are opposed to discipline and

mortification of the flesh, as Jovinian. But the contrary may be learned from

the writings of our teachers. For they have always taught concerning the

cross that it behooves Christians to bear afflictions. This is the true, earnest,

and unfeigned mortification, to wit, to be exercised with divers afflictions,

and to be crucified with Christ.

Moreover, they teach that every Christian ought to train and subdue himself

with bodily restraints, or bodily exercises and labors that neither satiety nor

slothfulness tempt him to sin, but not that we may merit grace or make

satisfaction for sins by such exercises. And such external discipline ought

to be urged at all times, not only on a few and set days. So Christ

commands, <422134>Luke 21:34: Take heed lest your hearts be overcharged with

surfeiting; also <401721>Matthew 17:21: This kind goeth not out but by prayer and

fasting. Paul also says, <460927>1 Corinthians 9:27: I keep under my body and

bring it into subjection. Here he clearly shows that he was keeping under

his body, not to merit forgiveness of sins by that discipline, but to have his

body in subjection and fitted for spiritual things, and for the discharge of

duty according to his calling. Therefore, we do not condemn fasting in

itself, but the traditions which prescribe certain days and certain meats, with

peril of conscience, as though such works were a necessary service.

Nevertheless, very many traditions are kept on our part, which conduce to

good order in the Church, as the Order of Lessons in the Mass and the chief

holy-days. But, at the same time, men are warned that such observances do

not justify before God, and that in such things it should not be made sin if

they be omitted without offense. Such liberty in human rites was not

unknown to the Fathers. For in the East they kept Easter at another time

than at Rome, and when, on account of this diversity, the Romans accused

the Eastern Church of schism, they were admonished by others that such

usages need not be alike everywhere. And Irenaeus says: Diversity

concerning fasting does not destroy the harmony of faith; as also Pope

Gregory intimates in Dist. XII, that such diversity does not violate the unity

of the Church. And in the Tripartite History, Book 9, many examples of

dissimilar rites are gathered, and the following statement is made: It was not

the mind of the Apostles to enact rules concerning holy-days, but to preach

godliness and a holy life [, to teach faith and love].

WHAT is taught on our part concerning Monastic Vows, will be better

understood if it be remembered what has been the state of the monasteries,

and how many things were daily done in those very monasteries, contrary

to the Canons. In Augustine’s time they were free associations. Afterward,

when discipline was corrupted, vows were everywhere added for the

purpose of restoring discipline, as in a carefully planned prison.

Gradually, many other observances were added besides vows. And these

fetters were laid upon many before the lawful age, contrary to the Canons.

Many also entered into this kind of life through ignorance, being unable to

judge their own strength, though they were of sufficient age. Being thus

ensnared, they were compelled to remain, even though some could have

been freed by the kind provision of the Canons. And this was more the case

in convents of women than of monks, although more consideration should

have been shown the weaker sex. This rigor displeased many good men

before this time, who saw that young men and maidens were thrown into

convents for a living. They saw what unfortunate results came of this

procedure, and what scandals were created, what snares were cast upon

consciences! They were grieved that the authority of the Canons in so

momentous a matter was utterly set aside and despised. To these evils was

added such a persuasion concerning vows as, it is well known, in former

times displeased even those monks who were more considerate. They

taught that vows were equal to Baptism; they taught that by this kind of life

they merited forgiveness of sins and justification before God. Yea, they

added that the monastic life not only merited righteousness before God but

even greater things, because it kept not only the precepts, but also the

so-called “evangelical counsels.”

Thus they made men believe that the profession of monasticism was far

better than Baptism, and that the monastic life was more meritorious than

that of magistrates, than the life of pastors, and such like, who serve their

calling in accordance with God’s commands, without any man-made

services. None of these things can be denied; for they appear in their own

books. [Moreover, a person who has been thus ensnared and has entered a

monastery learns little of Christ.]

What, then, came to pass in the monasteries? Aforetime they were schools

of theology and other branches, profitable to the Church; and thence pastors

and bishops were obtained. Now it is another thing. It is needless to

rehearse what is known to all. Aforetime they came together to learn; now

they feign that it is a kind of life instituted to merit grace and righteousness;

yea, they preach that it is a state of perfection, and they put it far above all

other kinds of life ordained of God. These things we have rehearsed

without odious exaggeration, to the end that the doctrine of our teachers on

this point might be better understood.

First, concerning such as contract matrimony, they teach on our part that it

is lawful for all men who are not fitted for single life to contract matrimony,

because vows cannot annul the ordinance and commandment of God. But

the commandment of God is <460702>1 Corinthians 7:2: To avoid fornication, let

every man have his own wife. Nor is it the commandment only, but also the

creation and ordinance of God, which forces those to marry who are not

excepted by a singular work of God, according to the text <010218>Genesis 2:18:

It is not good that the man should be alone. Therefore they do not sin who

obey this commandment and ordinance of God.

What objection can be raised to this? Let men extol the obligation of a vow

as much as they list, yet shall they not bring to pass that the vow annuls the

commandment of God. The Canons teach that the right of the superior is

excepted in every vow; [that vows are not binding against the decision of

the Pope;] much less, therefore, are these vows of force which are against

the commandments of God.

Now, if the obligation of vows could not be changed for any cause

whatever, the Roman Pontiffs could never have given dispensation for it is

not lawful for man to annul an obligation which is simply divine. But the

Roman Pontiffs have prudently judged that leniency is to be observed in

this obligation, and therefore we read that many times they have dispensed

from vows. The case of the King of Aragon who was called back from the

monastery is well known, and there are also examples in our own times.

[Now, if dispensations have been granted for the sake of securing temporal

interests, it is much more proper that they be granted on account of the

distress of souls.]

In the second place, why do our adversaries exaggerate the obligation or

effect of a vow when, at the same time, they have not a word to say of the

nature of the vow itself, that it ought to be in a thing possible, that it ought

to be free, and chosen spontaneously and deliberately? But it is not

unknown to what extent perpetual chastity is in the power of man. And how

few are there who have taken the vow spontaneously and deliberately!

Young maidens and men, before they are able to judge, are persuaded, and

sometimes even compelled, to take the vow. Wherefore it is not fair to insist

so rigorously on the obligation, since it is granted by all that it is against the

nature of a vow to take it without spontaneous and deliberate action.

Most canonical laws rescind vows made before the age of fifteen; for before

that age there does not seem sufficient judgment in a person to decide

concerning a perpetual life. Another Canon, granting more to the weakness

of man, adds a few years; for it forbids a vow to be made before the age of

eighteen. But which of these two Canons shall we follow? The most part

have an excuse for leaving the monasteries, because most of them have

taken the vows before they reached these ages.

Finally, even though the violation of a vow might be censured, yet it seems

not forthwith to follow that the marriages of such persons must be

dissolved. For Augustine denies that they ought to be dissolved (XXVII.

Quaest. I, Cap. Nuptiarum), and his authority is not lightly to be esteemed,

although other men afterwards thought otherwise.

But although it appears that God’s command concerning marriage delivers

very many from their vows, yet our teachers introduce also another

argument concerning vows to show that they are void. For every service of

God, ordained and chosen of men without the commandment of God to

merit justification and grace, is wicked, as Christ says <401609>Matthew 16:9: In

vain do they worship Me with the commandments of men. And Paul

teaches everywhere that righteousness is not to be sought from our own

observances and acts of worship, devised by men, but that it comes by faith

to those who believe that they are received by God into grace for Christ’s


But it is evident that monks have taught that services of man’s making

satisfy for sins and merit grace and justification. What else is this than to

detract from the glory of Christ and to obscure and deny the righteousness

of faith? It follows, therefore, that the vows thus commonly taken have

been wicked services, and, consequently, are void. For a wicked vow,

taken against the commandment of God, is not valid; for (as the Canon

says) no vow ought to bind men to wickedness.

Paul says, <480504>Galatians 5:4: Christ is become of no effect unto you,

whosoever of you are justified by the Law, ye are fallen from grace. To

those, therefore, who want to be justified by their vows Christ is made of

no effect, and they fall from grace. For also these who ascribe justification

to vows ascribe to their own works that which properly belongs to the glory

of Christ.

Nor can it be denied, indeed, that the monks have taught that, by their vows

and observances, they were justified, and merited forgiveness of sins, yea,

they invented still greater absurdities, saying that they could give others a

share in their works. If any one should be inclined to enlarge on these

things with evil intent, how many things could he bring together whereof

even the monks are now ashamed! Over and above this, they persuaded

men that services of man’s making were a state of Christian perfection. And

is not this assigning justification to works? It is no light offense in the

Church to set forth to the people a service devised by men, without the

commandment of God, and to teach that such service justifies men. For the

righteousness of faith, which chiefly ought to be taught in the Church, is

obscured when these wonderful angelic forms of worship, with their show

of poverty, humility, and celibacy, are east before the eyes of men.

Furthermore, the precepts of God and the true service of God are obscured

when men hear that only monks are in a state of perfection. For Christian

perfection is to fear God from the heart, and yet to conceive great faith, and

to trust that for Christ’s sake we have a God who has been reconciled, to

ask of God, and assuredly to expect His aid in all things that, according to

our calling, are to be done; and meanwhile, to be diligent in outward good

works, and to serve our calling. In these things consist the true perfection

and the true service of God. It does not consist in celibacy, or in begging,

or in vile apparel. But the people conceive many pernicious opinions from

the false commendations of monastic life. They hear celibacy praised above

measure; therefore they lead their married life with offense to their

consciences. They hear that only beggars are perfect; therefore they keep

their possessions and do business with offense to their consciences. They

hear that it is an evangelical counsel not to seek revenge; therefore some in

private life are not afraid to take revenge, for they hear that it is but a

counsel, and not a commandment. Others judge that the Christian cannot

properly hold a civil office or be a magistrate.

There are on record examples of men who, forsaking marriage and the

administration of the Commonwealth, have hid themselves in monasteries.

This they called fleeing from the world, and seeking a kind of life which

would be more pleasing to God. Neither did they see that God ought to be

served in those commandments which He Himself has given and not in

commandments devised by men. A good and perfect kind of life is that

which has for it the commandment of God. It is necessary to admonish men

of these things.

And before these times, Gerson rebukes this error of the monks concerning

perfection, and testifies that in his day it was a new saying that the monastic

life is a state of perfection.

So many wicked opinions are inherent in the vows, namely, that they

justify, that they constitute Christian perfection, that they keep the counsels

and commandments, that they have works of supererogation. All these

things, since they are false and empty, make vows null and void.

THERE has been great controversy concerning the Power of Bishops, in

which some have awkwardly confounded the power of the Church and the

power of the sword. And from this confusion very great wars and tumults

have resulted, while the Pontiffs, emboldened by the power of the Keys,

not only have instituted new services and burdened consciences with

reservation of cases and ruthless excommunications, but have also

undertaken to transfer the kingdoms of this world, and to take the Empire

from the Emperor. These wrongs have long since been rebuked in the

Church by learned and godly men. Therefore our teachers, for the

comforting of men’s consciences, were constrained to show the difference

between the power of the Church and the power of the sword, and taught

that both of them, because of God’s commandment, are to be held in

reverence and honor, as the chief blessings of God on earth.

But this is their opinion, that the power of the Keys, or the power of the

bishops, according to the Gospel, is a power or commandment of God, to

preach the Gospel, to remit and retain sins, and to administer Sacraments.

For with this commandment Christ sends forth His Apostles, <432021>John 20:21

sqq.: As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. Receive ye the Holy

Ghost. Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and

whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained. <411615>Mark 16:15: Go preach the

Gospel to every creature.

This power is exercised only by teaching or preaching the Gospel and

administering the Sacraments, according to their calling either to many or to

individuals. For thereby are granted, not bodily, but eternal things, as

eternal righteousness, the Holy Ghost, eternal life. These things cannot

come but by the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, as Paul says,

<450116>Romans 1:16: The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every

one that believeth. Therefore, since the power of the Church grants eternal

things, and is exercised only by the ministry of the Word, it does not

interfere with civil government; no more than the art of singing interferes

with civil government. For civil government deals with other things than

does the Gospel. The civil rulers defend not minds, but bodies and bodily

things against manifest injuries, and restrain men with the sword and bodily

punishments in order to preserve civil justice and peace.

Therefore the power of the Church and the civil power must not be

confounded. The power of the Church has its own commission to teach the

Gospel and to administer the Sacraments. Let it not break into the office of

another; Let it not transfer the kingdoms of this world; let it not abrogate the

laws of civil rulers; let it not abolish lawful obedience; let it not interfere

with judgments concerning civil ordinances or contracts; let it not prescribe

laws to civil rulers concerning the form of the Commonwealth. As Christ

says, <431833>John 18:33: My kingdom is not of this world; also <421214>Luke 12:14:

Who made Me a judge or a divider over you? Paul also says, <500320>Philippians

3:20: Our citizenship is in heaven; <471004>2 Corinthians 10:4: The weapons of

our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the casting down of


After this manner our teachers discriminate between the duties of both these

powers, and command that both be honored and acknowledged as gifts and

blessings of God. If bishops have any power of the sword, that power they

have, not as bishops, by the commission of the Gospel, but by human law

having received it of kings and emperors for the civil administration of what

is theirs. This, however, is another office than the ministry of the Gospel.

When, therefore, the question is concerning the jurisdiction of bishops,

civil authority must be distinguished from ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Again,

according to the Gospel or, as they say, by divine right, there belongs to the

bishops as bishops, that is, to those to whom has been committed the

ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, no jurisdiction except to forgive

sins, to judge doctrine, to reject doctrines contrary to the Gospel, and to

exclude from the communion of the Church wicked men, whose

wickedness is known, and this without human force, simply by the Word.

Herein the congregations of necessity and by divine right must obey them,

according to <421016>Luke 10:16: He that heareth you heareth Me. But when they

teach or ordain anything against the Gospel, then the congregations have a

commandment of God prohibiting obedience, <400715>Matthew 7:15: Beware of

false prophets; <480108>Galatians 1:8: Though an angel from heaven preach any

other gospel, let him be accursed; <471308>2 Corinthians 13:8: We can do nothing

against the truth, but for the truth. Also: The power which the Lord hath

given me to edification, and not to destruction. So, also, the Canonical

Laws command (II. Q. VII. Cap., Sacerdotes, and Cap. Oves). And

Augustine (Contra Petiliani Epistolam): Neither must we submit to Catholic

bishops if they chance to err, or hold anything contrary to the Canonical

Scriptures of God.

If they have any other power or jurisdiction, in hearing and judging certain

cases, as of matrimony or of tithes, etc., they have it by human right, in

which matters princes are bound, even against their will, when the

ordinaries fail, to dispense justice to their subjects for the maintenance of


Moreover, it is disputed whether bishops or pastors have the right to

introduce ceremonies in the Church, and to make laws concerning meats,

holy-days and grades, that is, orders of ministers, etc. They that give this

right to the bishops refer to this testimony <431612>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. They also

refer to the example of the Apostles, who commanded to abstain from blood

and from things strangled, <441529>Acts 15:29. They refer to the Sabbath-day as

having been changed into the Lord’s Day, contrary to the Decalog, as it

seems. Neither is there any example whereof they make more than

concerning the changing of the Sabbath-day. Great, say they, is the power

of the Church, since it has dispensed with one of the Ten Commandments!

But concerning this question it is taught on our part (as has been shown

above) that bishops have no power to decree anything against the Gospel.

The Canonical Laws teach the same thing (Dist. IX). Now, it is against

Scripture to establish or require the observance of any traditions, to the end

that by such observance we may make satisfaction for sins, or merit grace

and righteousness. For the glory of Christ’s merit suffers injury when, by

such observances, we undertake to merit justification. But it is manifest

that, by such belief, traditions have almost infinitely multiplied in the

Church, the doctrine concerning faith and the righteousness of faith being

meanwhile suppressed. For gradually more holy-days were made, fasts

appointed, new ceremonies and services in honor of saints instituted,

because the authors of such things thought that by these works they were

meriting grace. Thus in times past the Penitential Canons increased,

whereof we still see some traces in the satisfactions.

Again, the authors of traditions do contrary to the command of God when

they find matters of sin in foods, in days, and like things, and burden the

Church with bondage of the law, as if there ought to be among Christians,

in order to merit justification a service like the Levitical, the arrangement of

which God had committed to the Apostles and bishops. For thus some of

them write; and the Pontiffs in some measure seem to be misled by the

example of the law of Moses. Hence are such burdens, as that they make it

mortal sin, even without offense to others, to do manual labor on

holy-days, a mortal sin to omit the Canonical Hours, that certain foods

defile the conscience that fastings are works which appease God that sin in

a reserved case cannot be forgiven but by the authority of him who reserved

it; whereas the Canons themselves speak only of the reserving of the

ecclesiastical penalty, and not of the reserving of the guilt.

Whence have the bishops the right to lay these traditions upon the Church

for the ensnaring of consciences, when Peter, <441510>Acts 15:10, forbids to put

a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, and Paul says, <471310>2 Corinthians

13:10, that the power given him was to edification not to destruction? Why,

therefore, do they increase sins by these traditions?

But there are clear testimonies which prohibit the making of such traditions,

as though they merited grace or were necessary to salvation. Paul says,

<510216>Colossians 2:16-23: Let no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in

respect of an holy-day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath-days. If ye

be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living

in the world, are ye subject to ordinances (touch not; taste not; handle not,

which all are to perish with the using) after the commandments and

doctrines of men! which things have indeed a show of wisdom. Also in

<560114>Titus 1:14 he openly forbids traditions: Not giving heed to Jewish fables

and commandments of men that turn from the truth.

And Christ, <401514>Matthew 15:14, 13, says of those who require traditions: Let

them alone; they be blind leaders of the blind; and He rejects such services:

Every plant which My heavenly Father hath not planted shall be plucked up.

If bishops have the right to burden churches with infinite traditions, and to

ensnare consciences, why does Scripture so often prohibit to make, and to

listen to, traditions? Why does it call them “doctrines of devils”? <540401>1

Timothy 4:1. Did the Holy Ghost in vain forewarn of these things?

Since, therefore, ordinances instituted as things necessary, or with an

opinion of meriting grace, are contrary to the Gospel, it follows that it is not

lawful for any bishop to institute or exact such services. For it is necessary

that the doctrine of Christian liberty be preserved in the churches, namely,

that the bondage of the Law is not necessary to justification, as it is written

in the Epistle to the <480501>Galatians 5:1: Be not entangled again with the yoke

of bondage. It is necessary that the chief article of the Gospel be preserved,

to wit, that we obtain grace freely by faith in Christ, and not for certain

observances or acts of worship devised by men.

What, then, are we to think of the Sunday and like rites in the house of

God? To this we answer that it is lawful for bishops or pastors to make

ordinances that things be done orderly in the Church, not that thereby we

should merit grace or make satisfaction for sins, or that consciences be

bound to judge them necessary services, and to think that it is a sin to break

them without offense to others. So Paul ordains, <461105>1 Corinthians 11:5, that

women should cover their heads in the congregation, <461430>1 Corinthians

14:30, that interpreters be heard in order in the church, etc.

It is proper that the churches should keep such ordinances for the sake of

love and tranquillity, so far that one do not offend another, that all things be

done in the churches in order, and without confusion, <461440>1 Corinthians

14:40; comp. <504114>Philippians 2:14; but so that consciences be not burdened

to think that they are necessary to salvation, or to judge that they sin when

they break them without offense to others; as no one will say that a woman

sins who goes out in public with her head uncovered provided only that no

offense be given.

Of this kind is the observance of the Lord’s Day, Easter, Pentecost, and like

holy-days and rites. For those who judge that by the authority of the

Church the observance of the Lord’s Day instead of the Sabbath-day was

ordained as a thing necessary, do greatly err. Scripture has abrogated the

Sabbath-day; for it teaches that, since the Gospel has been revealed, all the

ceremonies of Moses can be omitted. And yet, because it was necessary to

appoint a certain day, that the people might know when they ought to come

together, it appears that the Church designated the Lord’s Day for this

purpose; and this day seems to have been chosen all the more for this

additional reason, that men might have an example of Christian liberty, and

might know that the keeping neither of the Sabbath nor of any other day is

necessary. There are monstrous disputations concerning the changing of the

law, the ceremonies of the new law, the changing of the Sabbath-day,

which all have sprung from the false belief that there must needs be in the

Church a service like to the Levitical, and that Christ had given commission

to the Apostles and bishops to devise new ceremonies as necessary to

salvation. These errors crept into the Church when the righteousness of

faith was not taught clearly enough. Some dispute that the keeping of the

Lord’s Day is not indeed of divine right, but in a manner so. They prescribe

concerning holy-days, how far it is lawful to work. What else are such

disputations than snares of consciences? For although they endeavor to

modify the traditions, yet the mitigation can never be perceived as long as

the opinion remains that they are necessary, which must needs remain

where the righteousness of faith and Christian liberty are not known.

The Apostles commanded <441520>Acts 15:20 to abstain from blood. Who does

now observe it? And yet they that do it not sin not; for not even the Apostles

themselves wanted to burden consciences with such bondage; but they

forbade it for a time, to avoid offense. For in this decree we must

perpetually consider what the aim of the Gospel is.

Scarcely any Canons are kept with exactness, and from day to day many go

out of use even among those who are the most zealous advocates of

traditions. Neither can due regard be paid to consciences unless this

mitigation be observed, that we know that the Canons are kept without

holding them to be necessary, and that no harm is done consciences, even

though traditions go out of use.

But the bishops might easily retain the lawful obedience of the people if

they would not insist upon the observance of such traditions as cannot be

kept with a good conscience. Now they command celibacy; they admit none

unless they swear that they will not teach the pure doctrine of the Gospel.

The churches do not ask that the bishops should restore concord at the

expense of their honor; which, nevertheless, it would be proper for good

pastors to do. They ask only that they would release unjust burdens which

are new and have been received contrary to the custom of the Church

Catholic. It may be that in the beginning there were plausible reasons for

some of these ordinances; and yet they are not adapted to later times. It is

also evident that some were adopted through erroneous conceptions.

Therefore it would be befitting the clemency of the Pontiffs to mitigate them

now, because such a modification does not shake the unity of the Church.

For many human traditions have been changed in process of time, as the

Canons themselves show. But if it be impossible to obtain a mitigation of

such observances as cannot be kept without sin, we are bound to follow the

apostolic rule, <440529>Acts 5:29, which commands us to obey God rather than


Peter, <600503>1 Peter 5:3, forbids bishops to be lords, and to rule over the

churches. It is not our design now to wrest the government from the

bishops, but this one thing is asked, namely, that they allow the Gospel to

be purely taught, and that they relax some few observances which cannot be

kept without sin. But if they make no concession, it is for them to see how

they shall give account to God for furnishing, by their obstinacy, a cause

for schism.


These are the chief articles which seem to be in controversy. For although

we might have spoken of more abuses, yet, to avoid undue length, we have

set forth the chief points, from which the rest may be readily judged. There

have been great complaints concerning indulgences, pilgrimages, and the

abuse of excommunications. The parishes have been vexed in many ways

by the dealers in indulgences. There were endless contentions between the

pastors and the monks concerning the parochial right, confessions, burials,

sermons on extraordinary occasions, and innumerable other things. Issues

of this sort we have passed over so that the chief points in this matter,

having been briefly set forth, might be the more readily understood. Nor

has anything been here said or adduced to the reproach of any one. Only

those things have been recounted whereof we thought that it was necessary

to speak, in order that it might be understood that in doctrine and

ceremonies nothing has been received on our part against Scripture or the

Church Catholic. For it is manifest that we have taken most diligent care

that no new and ungodly doctrine should creep into our churches. The

above articles we desire to present in accordance with the edict of Your

Imperial Majesty, in order to exhibit our Confession and let men see a

summary of the doctrine of our teachers. If there is anything that any one

might desire in this Confession, we are ready, God willing, to present

ampler information according to the Scriptures.