AN APPEAL TO THE RULING CLASS OF
AS TO THE AMELIORATION OF THE
STATE OF CHRISTENDOM
Martin Luther: Selections from His Writings, John Dillenberger, pp. 403-485 [edited by Gregory L. Robertson].
"In this work of 1520, which preceded The Pagan Servitude of the Church and The Freedom of a Christian, Luther calls upon the ruling class to reform the Church, since the Church will not reform itself. The abuses mentioned in this work were attacked by humanists and reformers alike and indeed many of them were later rejected by the Roman Church also. It should be noted that this document antedates the establishment of Reformation churches and is essentially a call to reform.
"Dedicated by Dr. Martin Luther to his dear friend, the honorable and worthy gentleman, Nicholas von Amsdorf, Licentiate in Holy Scripture, and Canon in Wittenberg.
"May the grace and peace of God be yours, my honourable, worthy, and dear friend.
"The time for silence is over, and the time for speech has come . . . ."
[This entire summary of Luther's treatise is either paraphrased or directly quoted. Therefore, quotation marks will no longer be used to set off quotes.]
Written for the consideration of Christians belonging to the ruling classes in Germany.
I hope that God will grant help to His church through the laity, since the clergy, who should be the more appropriate persons, have grown quite indifferent. . . . I, an unimportant and inferior person, dare to address such a high and responsible class of society on very special and important subjects. I am acting, I confess, as if there were no other in the world than Doctor Luther to play the part of a Christian, and give advice to people of culture and education. But I shall not apologize, no matter who demands it. Perhaps I owe God and the world another act of folly. For what it is worth, this pamphlet is an attempt to pay that debt as well as I can, even if I become for once a Court-fool. No one needs to buy me a fool's cap nor shave me my poll.(1) The question is, Which of us is to put the bells on the other? I must act according to the proverb, [Quotation marks shall henceforward mean Luther is quoting someone else.] "A Monk must be in it whatever the world is doing, even if he has to be painted in"(2) [p. 404].
I make no pretense of attempting to win the favor and goodwill of the super-intelligent. I have often tried hard to do it, but never again will I attempt it, nor worry about it. God help us not to seek our own glory but His alone. Amen.
Wittenberg, The Augustinian Monastery, on the eve of John the Baptist's day, A. D. 1520.
Doctor Martin Luther to His Most Illustrious, Most Mighty and Imperial Majesty, and to the Christians of the German Ruling Class.
It is not due to sheer impertinence or wantonness that I, a lone and simple man, have taken it upon myself to address your worships. All classes in Christendom, particularly in Germany, are now oppressed by distress and affliction, and this has stirred not only me but everyman to cry out anxiously for help. It has compelled me to beg and pray that God will endow someone with His Spirit to bring aid to this unhappy nation.
The first and most urgent thing just now is that we should each prepare our own selves in all seriousness.
Lest we have the same experience under our noble emperor, Charles, we must be clear that we are not dealing permanently with men in this matter, but with the princes of hell who would fill the world with war and bloodshed, and yet avoid letting themselves be caught by the flood. We must go to work now, not depending on physical power, but in humble trust in God, seeking help from Him in earnest prayer, with nothing else in mind than the misery and distress of all Christendom suffering over and above what sinful men have deserved.
If hitherto the popes and Romanists have been able, with the devil's help, to bring kings into conflict with each other, they will be able to do it again now, if we set forth without God's help, and armed only with our own strength and shrewdness.
I. THE THREE WALLS
The Romanists have very cleverly surrounded themselves with three walls, which have protected them till now in such a way that no one could reform them. As a result, the whole of Christendom has suffered woeful corruption. In the first place, when under the threat of secular force, they have stood firm and declared that secular force had no jurisdiction over them; rather the opposite was the case, and the spiritual was superior to the secular. In the second place, when the Holy Scriptures have been used to reprove them, they have responded that no one except the pope was competent to expound Scripture. In the third place, when threatened with a council, they have pretended that no one but the pope could summon a council. In this way, they have adroitly nullified these three means of correction, and avoided punishment. Thus they still remain in secure possession of these three walls, and practice all the villainy and wickedness we see today [p. 407].
May God now help us, and give us one of those trumpets with which the walls of Jericho were overthrown; that we may blow away these walls of paper and straw, and set free the Christian, corrective measures to punish sin, and to bring the devil's deceits and wiles to the light of day. In this way, may we be reformed through suffering and again receive God's blessing.
1. Let us begin by attacking the first wall.
To call popes, bishops, priests, monks, and nuns, the religious class, but princes, lords, artisans, and farm-workers the secular class, is a specious device invented by certain timeservers; but no one ought to be frightened by it, and for good reason. For all Christians whatsoever really and truly belong to the religious class, and there is no difference among them except in so far as they do different work.
We all have one baptism, one gospel, one faith, and are all equally Christian. For baptism, gospel, and faith alone make men religious, and create a Christian people. When a pope or bishop anoints, grants tonsures, ordains, consecrates, dresses differently from laymen, he may make a hypocrite of a man, or an anointed image, but never a Christian or a spiritually-minded man. The fact is that our baptism consecrates us all without exception, and makes us all priests.
When a bishop consecrates, he simply acts on behalf of the entire congregation, all of whom have the same authority.
Every one who has been baptized may claim that he has already been consecrated priest, bishop, or pope, even though it is not seemly for any particular person arbitrarily to exercise an office. Just because we are all priests of equal standing, no one must push himself forward and, without the consent and choice of the rest, presume to do that for which we all have equal authority.
. . . The Romanists have devised the claim to characteres indelebiles, and assert that a priest, even if deposed, is different from a mere layman. All these are human inventions and regulations.
Christ has not two bodies, nor two kinds of body, one secular and the other religious. He has one head and one body.
. . . Priests, bishops, and popes, possess no further or greater dignity than other Christians, except that their duty is to expound the word of God and administer the sacraments--that being their office.
Surely, it must be the archdevil himself who propounded that canon law which declares, "Even if the pope were so wicked that he led men in multitudes to the devil, nevertheless he could not be deposed." This is the accursed and impious foundation on which they build at Rome, maintaining that we should sooner let all the world go to the devil than oppose villainy.
St. Gregory himself wrote that, while we are all equal, guilt makes one man subject to others.
The second wall [p. 412] is more loosely built and less indefensible. The Romanists profess to be the only interpreters of Scripture, even though they never learn anything contained in it their lives long. They claim authority for themselves alone, juggle with words shamelessly before our eyes, saying that the pope cannot err as to the faith, whether he be bad or good; although they cannot quote a single letter of Scripture to support their claim.
. . . It is plain enough that the keys were not given to St. Peter only, but to the whole Christian community. Moreover the keys have no reference to doctrine or policy, but only to refusing or being willing to forgive sin.
Hence it is the duty of every Christian to accept the implications of the faith, understand and defend it, and denounce everything false.
The third wall falls without more ado when the first two are demolished; for, even if the pope acts contrary to Scripture, we ourselves are bound to abide by Scripture. We must punish him and constrain him, according to the passage . . . (Matthew 18:15-17).
Romanists have no Scriptural basis for their contention that the pope alone has the right to summon or sanction a council. This is their own ruling, and only valid as long as it is not harmful to Christian well-being or contrary to God's laws.
All the apostles and elders called the apostolic council. The council of Nicea was not called or sanctioned by the bishop of Rome.
It is empty talk when the Romanists boast of possessing an authority such as cannot properly be contested. No one in Christendom has authority to do evil, or to forbid evil from being resisted.
They are not empowered to prohibit a council or, according to their pleasure, to determine its decisions in advance, to bind it and to rob it of freedom. But if they do so, I hope I have shown that of a truth they belong to the community of Antichrist and the devil, and have nothing in common with Christ except the name.
II. SUBJECTS TO BE DISCUSSED BY THE COUNCILS
1. In the first place, it is painful and shocking to see that the head of Christendom, proclaiming himself the Vicar of Christ and the successor of St. Peter, lives in such a worldly and ostentatious style that no king or emperor can reach and rival him. He claims the titles of "Most Holy" and "Most Spiritual," but there is more worldliness in him than in the world itself. He wears a triple crown, whereas the mightiest kings wear only one. Such pomp is evil.
2. What Christian purpose is served by the ecclesiastics called cardinals? I will tell you. In Italy and Germany there are many wealthy monasteries, institutions, benefices, and parishes. No better way has been devised of bringing them into Rome's possession than by creating cardinals and giving them bishoprics, monasteries, and prelacies as their property, thus destroying the service of God.
The Turk himself could not have ruined Italy in like manner nor put an end to divine worship to such an extent.
Already we have a few cardinals. They think the drunken Germans will not understand what the game is, till there is not a single bishopric, monastery, parish or benefice, not a cent or farthing, left for them. The Antichrist must take the treasures of the world, as it is written (I John 2:15-18).
As things are, they do nothing to serve Christendom; they only bargain and quarrel about bishoprics and prelacies just as any thief might do.
3. If ninety-nine percent of the papal court were abolished and only one percent were left, it would still be large enough to deal with questions of Christian faith. At present there is a crawling mass of reptiles, all claiming to pay allegiance to the pope, but Babylon never saw the like of these miscreants. The pope has more than 3,000 secretaries alone, and no one can count the others he employs, as the posts are so numerous.
Some have estimated that more than 300,000 guilders go annually from Germany to Rome, quite uselessly and to no purpose, while we get nothing in return except contempt and scorn.
My complaint is that the Romanists do not observe the very canon law which they themselves have devised, though this in itself is simply a piece of tyranny, avarice, and worldly pomp rather than law--as I shall proceed to show [p. 421].
. . . The benefices and livings should fall to Rome in three ways: i. If anyone possessing a "free" living should die in Rome or on the way there, that living becomes the property in perpetuity of the Romish--I might say thievish--papacy, and yet he is not to be called a thief, although no one has ever heard or read of more barefaced robbery. ii. Similarly, if anyone on the staff of the pope or the cardinals possesses or takes over a benefice, or if anyone has previously possessed a benefice and later enters the service of the pope and the cardinals, that benefice falls to the pope. But who can count the staff of the pope and the cardinals, even when the pope only goes out riding for pleasure? He is accompanied by three or four thousand on mules, as much as any emperor or king. . . . Soon all German bishops will be made cardinals so as to make a clean job of it. iii. The third device is to initiate a dispute at Rome about some benefice; this seems the commonest way of getting livings into Rome's hands. If no dispute has already arisen, there are innumerable sycophants who will raise a dispute about nothing of moment, and make a grab at livings anywhere. The consequence is that many a faithful priest has either to lose his living or buy appeasement for a time.
I do not expect even the Antichrist to exhibit contempt of God like that. But that is the pope for you!
Rome uses several artifices to make a benefice vacant: A. My Lord Greed lies in wait where fat prebends or bishoprics are held by an aged, ailing incumbent, or by one accursed of some trumped-up disqualification. The Holy See presents such a man with a "coadjutor," i.e., an "assistant," whether wanted or not.
That ends the free choice of the local chapter or the patron of the living; all goes to Rome. B. Then comes the little word "Commend." This means that the pope gives a cardinal, or another of his supporters, a rich abbey or church in charge, just as if I were to put you in charge of a hundred guilders.
. . . C. There are certain benefices called "incompatibilia," which according to the regulations of canon law cannot both be in one man's charge. The pope wiggles out of these by making glosses, commentary, which changes the meaning of canon law.
Accordingly, there is at present a court follower in Rome who is in sole possession of 22 parishes and 7 priories together with 44 canonries.
Such people rightly fear a reformation, or an unfettered council.
For to describe what they have stolen in all countries, and are still stealing, and extorting, by indulgences, bulls, letters of confession (allowing choice of confessor and of items to confess), butter letters (allowing certain foods on fast days), and other "confessionalia" (Letters given, for a fee, to excuse a person from various burdensome duties, etc.)--to describe all this is work for the odd-job man, and is like playing pitch and toss with a devil in hell.
The wicked regime is not only barefaced robbery, trickery, and tyranny appropriate to the nether regions, but also a destruction of the body and soul of Christendom.
If we are right in hanging thieves and beheading robbers, why should we leave Avarice of Rome unpunished? Here is the greatest thief and robber that has ever come or is likely to come on earth, and the scandal is perpetrated in the holy names of Christ and St. Peter.
III. TWENTY-SEVEN PROPOSALS FOR IMPROVING THE STATE OF CHRISTENDOM
1. Firstly, I suggest that every prince, peer, and city should strictly forbid their subjects to pay the annates to Rome, and should do away with them entirely. The secular arm is now under obligation to protect the innocent and prevent injustice, as St. Paul teaches, and St. Peter, and, also, the canon law in Case 16, Question 7, "de filiis."
2. With the Romish practices, viz., commends, coadjutors, reservations, "gratiae expectativae," "papal months," incorporations, unions, pensions, palliums, rules in chancery, and similar villainies, the pope is engulfing all foundations of German origin, without authority or justice, and bestowing and selling them in Rome to strangers who do nothing for Germany in return [p. 432].
If a legate should arrive from Rome, he should be given stern orders to keep off, or jump into the Rhine or the nearest stretch of water, and give the Romish ban, complete with seals and epistles, a cold douche. They would then take note in Rome that Germans are not silly and besotted all the time, but that they are really converted Christians, and such that they will no longer tolerate the holy name of Christ to be scoffed at and scorned, thus permitting rogues to live and souls to perish. Rather they reverence God's honor more than man's power.
3. An imperial law should be decreed, whereby no bishop should go to Rome for his pallium, or for the confirmation of any other dignity, from now onwards. Instead of this, the ordinance of Nicea, the holiest and most celebrated of all the councils, should be re-established. This regulation declares that a bishop shall be confirmed by the two nearest bishops, or by the archbishop.
4. It should be decreed that no secular matter is to be referred to Rome. All such issues should be left to the secular arm, as the Romanists themselves affirm in their canon laws, which, however, they do not observe.
5. Not another reservation should hold good, and not another living should be taken possession of by Rome, even if the incumbent die, or a dispute arise about it, or the incumbent is a cardinal, or one of the pope's staff.
If Rome pronounces excommunication or exercises spiritual pressure, it should be ignored just as it would be if a thief excommunicated someone who would not let him steal.
6. The reserved cases, which the pope alone can absolve, should be abolished. Particularly is this true of the ridiculous and childish cases which the bull, "coena domini" (issued at Rome each Maundy Thursday against heretics and those offenses which only the pope can absolve), blows up like bladders. They do not deserve to be called "common sins," still less are they sins so great that even the pope cannot absolve them. Examples from the list are: preventing a pilgrim from going to Rome; or providing the Turks with arms; or counterfeiting papal briefs.
7. The Holy See of Rome should abolish the "officia" (posts and positions on sale) and lessen the creeping and crawling swarms of hirelings in the city.
8. The far-reaching and fearful oaths, which bishops are wrongfully compelled to swear to the pope, should be abolished. They keep the bishops bound like domestic servants. The decree stands with its arbitrary authority and its great stupidity in the worthless and unscholarly chapter entitled "Significasti" (Decret. Greg., lib. I, tit. 6, cap. 4. It deals with the oath of obedience sworn by bishops).
9. The pope should exercise no authority over the emperor, except the right to anoint and crown him at the altar as a bishop crowns a king. Never again should his iniquitous Arrogance be permitted to make the emperor kiss the pope's feet, or sit at them, or, as it is said, hold the stirrup and bridle of his mule when he mounts to go riding.
10. The pope should withdraw from temporal affairs, take his finger out of the pie, and lay no claim to the throne of the kingdom of Naples and Sicily.
11. No one should ever again kiss the pope's feet. It is unchristian, indeed antichristian, that a pitiable and sinful man should let his feet be kissed by another who may be a hundred times better than himself.
12. Pilgrimages to Rome should be disallowed. No person actuated merely by curiosity or his own religious feelings should be permitted to make a pilgrimage. The Romanists themselves have coined the saying, "The nearer Rome, the worse the Christians," or, "It would be better not to have seen or known Rome." Also, God never gave such a commandment.
13. No more mendicant houses should be built. Ten, or as many as may be necessary, should be combined into one. It is better to do without a cloister unless, at its head, is a spiritually-minded prelate versed in the Christian faith.
14. We know also how the priesthood has declined. What I say is that, according to what Christ and the Apostles instituted, each single town should have a pastor or bishop. The Apostle teaches us plainly that the method to be followed among Christians is that each separate town should choose from its church a scholarly and devout citizen, and lay upon him the duties of a pastor; his maintenance being cared for by the church. He should be quite free to marry or not. At his side, he should have several priests or deacons, either married or not, as he prefers, to help him in ministering to the church and the people at large with sermons and the sacraments [p. 448].
15. Now would I forget the sad condition of the monasteries. Let your statutes be statutes, but do not exalt them into heavenly decrees, nor give them the force of divine justice.
16. Further, masses on anniversaries, or at celebrations, and for the dead, ought to be either entirely abolished, or at least reduced in number. They are celebrated only for money, and as an excuse for eating and drinking to excess.
17. Certain of the penances or penalties of canon law ought to be abolished, especially the "interdict" which is undoubtedly a device of the Evil One. Excommunication should never be used for temporal advantage.
18. All festival days should be abolished, and Sunday alone retained. But, if it is preferred to keep the festivals of Our Lady and of the greater saints, they should all be transferred to Sundays, or observed only at morning Mass, after which the whole day should be a working day. The reason for the proposed change is the present misuse of festival days in drinking, gaming, idleness, and all sorts of sins. In this way,we incur the wrath of God more on holy days than on the rest. Thus all is turned upside down till "holy days" are not holy, whereas "working days" are "holy."
19. The grades or degrees within which marriage is forbidden should be altered, such as those affecting godparents, or third and fourth degrees of kinship. Here the pope, in his scandalous traffic, grants a dispensation for a fee, where every individual pastor should be able to grant dispensations without a fee. Would God that every pastor might do or permit gratis everything that Rome must be paid for.
Fasting ought to be by free choice.
They think that eating butter is a greater sin than lying, swearing, or committing fornication. All the same, what men have decreed is man-made, no matter where it is said to originate; and no good ever comes out of it.
20. The extra-parochial chapels and churches, away from inhabited parts, should be pulled down. I mean those which have recently become the goal of pilgrimages, e.g., Wilsnack, Sternberg, Treves, the Grimmenthal, and now Regensburg and many others.
It is useless to argue that miracles are seen in these places, for the Evil Spirit can also work miracles, as Christ declared (Matt. 24).
Here, at home, you will find baptism, sacrament, preaching, and your neighbor; these are more important to you than all the saints in heaven, for all of them have been sanctified by God's Word and by the sacraments.
Even if the canonization of a saint were proper in the early days, it is never so today.
21. Probably one of our greatest needs is to abolish all mendicancy everywhere in Christendom. No one living among Christians ought to go begging. Every town should support its own poor. No outside beggars should be allowed in, whatever they called themselves, whether pilgrims, friars, or mendicant orders. God has commanded no one to live at another man's expense, except preachers and administrating priests for the sake of their spiritual labors.
22. I am also concerned to think that the numerous masses, which have been endowed in benefices and cloisters, are both of very little use, and greatly incur the wrath of God. For that reason, it would be wise to endow no more of them, but to abolish many of those that are already endowed.
But my present subject is the recent monasteries, founded only for repeating the liturgy and saying mass.
They always let it proceed if it brings in money.
23. The "fraternities" (associations of laymen for purposes of prayer and organizing good works), indulgences, letters of indulgence, butter-briefs, mass briefs, dispensations and the like, ought all to be drowned and destroyed as containing nothing good. If the pope can grant you a dispensation to eat butter, or from hearing mass, he should allow a pastor the power to grant it; indeed he had no right to deprive him of the power.
My dear friend, when you were baptized, you entered into fellowship with Christ, with all the angels and saints, and with all Christians on earth. Hold fast to it and do what it demands, and you have all the necessary fraternities [see page 464 for Luther's strong denunciation of Roman tyranny in this matter].
24. It is high time that we took up the Hussite question and dealt with it seriously. We ought to make an ernest effort to get the Hussites to join us, and for us to unite ourselves with them. a) In the first place we must confess the truth faithfully, and stop our self-justification. We must grant the point to the Hussites, that John Huss and Jerome of Prague were burnt at Constance, despite the Christian safe-conduct vouched to them by the pope and the emperor.
I have no desire to justify at this stage John Huss's propositions or defend his error, although to my way of thinking he wrote nothing erroneous.
My point is: John Huss may have been a heretic as bad as could be found; nevertheless he was unjustly banned, and burned contrary to God's will.
b) In the second place, the emperor and princes ought to send the Bohemians an embassy of religious-minded and perspicacious bishops and scholars, but never a cardinal, or papal legate, or inquisitor. These officials are much too unschooled in Christian affairs: Nor do they seek the soul's good, but, like all papal play-actors, only their own power, or advantage, or glory.
The pope ought to be willing to surrender his papacy, all his property and glory, if in so doing he could effect the salvation of one soul. But today, he would rather see the world perish than abandon a jot or tittle of his authority; nevertheless he retains the title of "His Holiness."
25. The universities need a sound and thorough reformation. I must say so no matter who takes offence. Everything that the papacy has instituted or ordered is directed solely towards the multiplication of sin and error.
Loose living is practiced there; little is taught of the Holy Scriptures or the Christian faith; the blind pagan teacher, Aristotle, is of more consequence than Christ.
Yet this defunct pagan has attained supremacy; impeded, and almost suppressed, the Scriptures of the living God. When I think of this lamentable state of affairs, I cannot avoid believing that the Evil One introduced the study of Aristotle.
. . . His book on Ethics is worse than any other book, being the direct opposite of God's grace, and the Christian virtues; yet it is accounted among the best of his works.
I have read him and studied him with more understanding than did St. Thomas Aquinas or Duns Scotus.
I would gladly grant the retention of Aristotle's books on "Logic," Rhetoric," and "Poetics"; or that they should be abridged and read in a useful form to train young men to speak and preach well. But the comments and notes should be set aside. . . [p. 471].
. . . I aver that it would be well if the canon law, in particular the Decretals, were completely blotted out, from the first letter to the last. There is a superabundance of material at our disposal in the Biblical writings, telling what our conduct should be in all circumstances.
The number of books on theology must also be reduced, only the best being retained. For neither many books nor much reading make a man learned; but a good book, often read, no matter how short, will give Scriptural scholarship plus religious-mindedness. Even the writings of any one of the holy Fathers or, indeed, all of them, should only be read for a while, and in order that they might lead us to the Bible. Today, however, we read them alone, and get no further; we never enter on the Bible. Thus we are like those who look at the sign-posts, but never set out on the journey. The intention of the early Fathers in their writing was to introduce us to the Bible; but we use them only to find a way of avoiding it. Nevertheless, the Bible is our vineyard, and there we should all labour and toil [pp. 474-475].
Above all, the most important and most usual teaching, in both the universities and the lower schools, ought to be concerned with the Holy Scriptures; beginning with the gospels for the young boys.
Would it not be reasonable for every Christian person on reaching his ninth or tenth year to know the holy gospel in its entirety, since his name and standing as a Christian are based on it?
26. I am well aware that the crew in Rome will object and cry aloud that the pope took the Holy Roman empire from the Greek emperor, and transferred it to the German people.
It is unquestionable that the real Roman empire perished and ended long ago. This empire and its destruction were predicted in the writings of Moses in Numbers 24, and of Daniel [p. 476-477].
We have the title of empire, but the pope has our goods, our honor, our bodies, lives, souls, and all we possess.
So the pope eats the nut while we play with the empty shell.
Nowhere else in all the world, except in the case of the pope, does he who crowns and consecrates a king become his superior.
Even in his own case, the crowning is done by three cardinals, lower in rank than he; nevertheless he remains above them.
27. And now I have spoken at sufficient length about the transgressions of the clergy, though you may and will find more of them if you look in the right place. We shall now devote a section to the consideration of temporal failings. In the first place, there is urgent need of a general order and decree on behalf of the German people against the overflowing abundance and the great expensiveness of the clothing worn by so many nobles and rich folk. To us, as to other people, God has given enough wool, fur, flax, and everything that would provide proper, suitable, and worthy garments for each class. We do not need to waste huge sums for silk, and velvet, and articles of gold, and other imports from abroad.
In the same way, the spice traffic ought to be reduced, for it is another of the great channels by which money is conveyed out of Germany.
But the greatest misfortune suffered by the German people is certainly the traffic in annuities.
It is better to have one benefice in a town founded on proper freeholds or taxes, than a hundred on the annuity system; indeed, one benefice founded on the annuity system is worse and more oppressive than twenty on freeholds.
On this point, I would say that we must surely bridle the Fuggers and similar trading companies.
Finally, is it not a lamentable thing that we Christians should openly tolerate in our midst common houses of ill-fame, though we all took the oath of chastity at our baptism?
. . . The care of the young ought to be the prime concern of the pope, the bishops, the ruling classes, and the councils.
I would rather that the world were wroth with me than that God were. No man can do more than take away my life. Many times heretofore I have proposed peace with my enemies. But as it seems to me, God has used them to compel me to raise my voice even more insistently; and because they are not satisfied, I must speak, shout, shriek, and write till they have had enough. Oh well! I have still a little song about Rome and about them.
God grant to us a Christian mind, and, in particular, God grant a truly religious courage to the ruling class of the German people, to do the best they can for the church that is so much to be pitied.
1. I.e., a monk's tonsure was the equivalent of a jester's cap and bells [footnote from Dillenberger].
2. As a figure or the back-cloth at a play [footnote from Dillenberger].