MARTIN LUTHER TO NICOLAS ARMSDOFF
ERASMUS OF ROTTERDAM.
Grace and peace in Christ.
I THANK you, my excellent friend, that you give me so candidly your opinion on my book. I care not at all that the Papists are offended: I did not write on their account, for they are not worth my writing or speaking in Consideration of them any more. God has given them up to a reprobate mind; so that they even fight against that, which they know to be the truth.
My cause was heard at Augsberg, before the emperor Charles, and the whole world, and found to be irreprehensible, and to contain sound doctrine. Moreover, my Confession and Apology are made public, and set in the open light throughout the world. By these, I have answered an infinity of my adversaries' books, and all the lies of the Papists past, present and to come!
I have confessed Christ before this wicked and adulterous generation, and I doubt not but that He will also confess me before His Father, and the holy angels. My light is set on a candlestick! - Let him that seeth it, see it more clearly still; let him that is blind, be blinder still; let him that is just, be juster still; let him that is filthy, be filthier still; - their blood be upon themselves; - I am clean from their blood! I have declared to the unrighteous his unrighteousness, and he will not be converted; - let him therefore die in his sins; - I have saved my own soul! There is no need, therefore, that I should write, or care to write on their account, any farther.
And as to your advice, that that grammarian or vocabularian whom you call the Erasmian plagiary should be held in contempt, and that Erasmus himself should rather be answered: know, that I have held him in sufficient contempt already: for I have not read one page of his writings. Jonas answered him once, although I was much against his doing it; and advised him, according to your opinion, to hold him in contempt. For I know the man well, from his skin to his heart, that he is not worthy of being spoken to, or dealt with, by any good man; such a hypocrite is he, and so full of reprobate envy and malevolence.
Moreover, you know my usual way of over throwing writers of this stamp - by holding them in silent contempt. For how many books of Eccius, Faber, Emser, Cochles, and many others, who seemed to be as mountains in labour, and about to bring forth I know not what wonders, have I myself, by my silence only, so utterly brought to nothing that no memory of them is left. Cato calls such pettifoggers, and allows all their pratings to pass by unnoticed: whereas, if he had at all considered them worthy of being noticed and answered, they might have procured to themselves a lasting fame. And there is a trite, but true proverb, -Full well I know, that if with dung embroiled,But here is my glorying. - Whatever could be brought against me from the Scriptures and from the fathers, has been produced and published: and now, all the glorying they have left, is in slanders, lies, and calumnies. And why should I envy them that, when they have no power or desire whatever to be renowned for any other virtues!
Conqu'or or conquer'd, still I am besoiled.
Your judgment of Erasmus I much admire: wherein you say plainly, that he has no other basis wherein to build his doctrine but the favour of men; and attribute to him, moreover, ignorance and malice. And if you could but convey this judgment of yours with conviction to the minds of men in general, you would in truth, like another stripling David, by this one blow, lay our boasting Goliath prostrate, and at the same time, eradicate the whole of his sect. For what is more vain, more fallacious, in all things, than the applause of men, especially in things spiritual! For, as the Psalms testify, "There is no help in them:" again, "All men are liars." If therefore Erasmus be nothing but vanity, and rest alone on vanity and a lie, what need is there to reply to him at all? He himself, together with all his vanity, will at length vanish like smoke, if we but treat him as I have treated those former scare-crows and pettifoggers, whom, by my silence only, I have committed to utter oblivion.
I at one time attributed to him a singular kind of inconsistency and vain-talking, for he seemed to treat on sacred and serious things with the greatest unconcern; and on the contrary, to pursue baubles, vanities, and things laughable and ridiculous with the utmost avidity; though an old man, and a theologian; and that, in an age, the most industrious and laborious. So that I really thought, that what I had heard many men of wisdom and gravity say, was true - that Erasmus was actually mad.
When I first wrote against his Diatribe, and was compelled to weigh his words, (as John says "try the Spirits,") being disgusted at his inconsiderateness in a subject of so much importance; in order that I might rouse up the cold and doltish disputer, I goaded him as if in a snoring sleep; calling him a disciple, at one time, of Epicurus, at another, of Lucian, and then again, declaring him to be of the opinion of the sceptics; supposing, that by these means he might, perhaps, be roused up to enter upon the subject with more feeling. But all was in vain. I only irritated the viper, so as to cause him at last to give birth to hisVIPERASPIS, an offspring worthy of, and exactly like, its parent. But however, he proudly omitted to say one single word to the subject point. So that, from that time, I have despaired of his theology altogether.
Now, however, I am quite of your opinion, that it was not inconsiderateness in him, but as you say, real ignorance and malice. For he was unacquainted with our doctrines, or the doctrines of Christianity; he knew them, but from policy would not know them. And though he may not understand, nor indeed can understand, those doctrines which are peculiar to our fraternity, and which we maintain against the synagogue of the Pope, yet he cannot be ignorant of those which are held in common by us and the church under the Pope; because, he writes on these very largely, or rather, laughs at them. - Such as, the Trinity of the Divine Persons, the Divinity and humanity of Christ, sin, the redemption of the human race, the resurrection of the dead, eternal life, and the like: he knows, I say, that these things are taught and believed even by many ungodly and false Christians. But the truth is, he hates all the doctrines together. Nay, there can be no doubt in the mind of a true believer, who has the Spirit in his nostrils, that his mind is alienated from, and utterly hates all religion together; and especially, the religion of Christ. Many proofs of this are scattered here and there. And it will come to pass by and by, that alike the mole, he will throw up some dirt, that will shew where and what he is, and prove his own destruction.
He published lately, among his other works, hisCATECHISM, a production evidently of Satanic subtlety. For, with a purpose full of craft, he designs to take children and youths at the outset, and to infect them with his poisons, that they might not afterwards be eradicated from them; just as he himself, in Italy and at Rome, so sucked in his doctrines of sorcerers and of devils that now all remedy is too late. But who would bear with this method of bringing up children, or the weak in faith, which Erasmus proposes to us? The tender and unexperienced mind is to be formed at first by certain, plain, and necessary principles, which it may firmly believe. Because, it is necessary that every one who would learn, should believe: for what will he ever learn, who either doubts himself, or is taught to doubt?
But this new chatechist of ours, aims only at rendering his catechumens, and the doctrines of faith, suspicious. For at the very outset, laying aside all solid foundation, he does nothing but set before them those heresies and offences of opinions, by which the Church has been troubled from the beginning. So that in fact, he would make it appear, that there has been nothing certain in the Christian religion. And if an unexperienced mind be from the very beginning poisoned by principles and questions of this kind, what else can it be expected to think of or do, but, either to withdraw itself secretly from, or, if it dare, to hold the Christian religion in utter detestation, as a pest to mankind?
He imagines however, all the while, that no one will discover the craft of this design. As though we had not in the Scriptures numberless examples of these bug-bears of the devil. It was thus the serpent dealt with Eve. He first entangled her in doubts, and brought her to suspect the reality of the precept of God concerning the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and when he had brought her to a stand-still of doubt, overthrew and destroyed her. - Unless Erasmus considers this to be a mere fable also!
It is with the same serpent-like attack that he creeps upon, and deceives, simple souls; saying - 'How is it, that there have been so many sects and errors in this one true religion, (as it is believed to be?) How is it, that there have been so many creeds? Why, in the Apostles' Creed, is the Father called God, the Son not God, but Lord, and the Spirit neither God nor Lord, but Holy?' And so on. - Who I would ask troubles unexperienced souls, whom he undertakes to instruct, with questions like these, but the devil himself? Who would dare to speak thus upon a creed of faith, but the very mouth and instrument of the devil? - Here you have the Plot, the Execution, and the catastrophic End, of a soul-murdering tragedy!
But behold, I am here almost carried into a refutation of his catechism; whereas, I merely intended to shew you, why I thought it better not to answer this viper at all:- because, he will most effectually refute himself in the minds of all godly and good men.
The like game also he played on the apostle Paul, in his preface to the Romans; (to say nothing about his paraphrases, or his mad vagaries [paraphroneses,] to use his own term;) where he speaks of the praises of Paul in that way, that no simple reader whatever who is unacquainted with rhetoric, could be more effectually drawn away, and beaten off, from reading and studying Paul: so confused, intricate, self-contradictory, diverse, and disgusting, does he represent him to be: so that, the reader must of necessity believe the epistle to be the production of some mad man: so far is it from possibility, that he should consider it to be profitable.
And among the rest of his sharp-razor cuts, he could not receive, without venting his spleen, even this:- 'that Peter should call Christ Man, and say nothing of His Godhead.' - A notable annotation truly! And most appropriately applicable to the passage!
And then as to his METHOD,with all its twistings and windings, what is it but a holding up Christ, and every thing done by Him, to derision? Who could gather any thing from this Method but a disgust at, nay a hatred of, attending to a religion so confused and perplexed, and perhaps after all, merely fabulous?
Who, moreover, ever spoke in so much disdain and contempt (not to say enmity) of the apostle and evangelist John, who, among Christians is held to be of the highest authority after Christ? - 'He merely scolds little children except it be when he considers a man to be a dolt or a logger-head.' - Christians ever speak of the Apostles with reverence and fear: whereas, this fellow would teach us to speak of them with profane pride and contempt. And this is the first step towards speaking profanely of God Himself, whose the Apostles are. Nay, it is the same as saying in contempt of the Holy Spirit, (whose the words of the Apostles are,) that He merely scolds little children!
Numberless things of this kind are to be found in Erasmus; or rather, this is his whole character in theology. And this many others have observed before me, and still do observe daily more and more:
nor does he cease to go on and to publish daily his annotations more and more grossly, for his "judgment now for a long time lingereth not," and his "damnation slumbereth not."
This is also a notable instance of the piety of Erasmus! - In his letter upon 'Christian philosophy,' which is published with his New Testament, and used in common throughout all the churches, when he had propounded the question, - 'Why Christ, so great a teacher, descended from heaven, when there are many things taught even among the heathens which are precisely the same, if not more perfect;' - he answers, 'Christ came (which I doubt not but he believed most Erasmianly) from heaven, that He might exemplify those things more perfectly and more fully than any of the saints before Him!'
Thus, this miserable renewer of all things, Christ , (for so He reproaches the Lord of glory) has lost the glory of a Redeemer, and becomes only one more holy than others. - This sentiment could not be expressed in ignorance, but must have been designed and willful; because, even those who do not truly believe, know, and every where confess, that Christ descended from heaven to redeem us men from sin and death.
This was the sentiment that first alienated my mind from Erasmus. From that moment, I began to suspect him of being a plain Democritus or Epicurus, and a crafty derider of Christ: for he every where intimates to his fellow Epicureans, his hatred against Christ: though he does it in words so figurative and insidious, that he leaves himself a clue for raging most furiously against those Christians, who, from being offended at his suspicious and double meaning words, will not interpret them as standing in favour of their Christ. - As though Erasmus himself had an all-free prerogative throughout the world, of speaking on divine things with obliquity and craft, and had all men so under his thumb, that they must interpret all his obliquities and crafty manoeuvres, as having an upright and honest intent!
Why does he not rather speak openly and plainly? Why does he always deal in these crafty and ensnaring figures of speech? So great a rhetorician and theologian ought not only to know, but to act according to, that which Fabius says, 'An ambiguous word should be avoided as a rock.' Where it happens now and then inadvertently, it may be pardoned: but where it is sought for designedly and purposely, it deserves no pardon whatever, but justly merits the abhorrence of every one. For to what does this hateful double-tongued way of speaking tend? It only furnishes an opportunityof disseminating and fostering in safety the seeds of every heresy, under the cover of words and letters that have a shew of Christian faith. And thus, while religion is believed to be taught and defended, it is, in reality, utterly destroyed, and subverted from its foundation before it is understood.
Wherefore, all are perfectly in the right who interpret his suspicions and insidious words against himself. Nor is any notice to be taken of him when he cries out calumny! calumny! because his words are not fairly and candidly interpreted. Why does he himself ever avoid fair words, and designedly express himself in those which are unfair? For it is an unheard-of kind of tyranny to wish to have the whole human race so under his thumb, that they should be compelled to understand fairly what he says insidiously and dangerously, and thus cede to him the prerogative of expressing himself insidiously. No! Let him rather be reduced to order, and commanded to bow to the whole human race; that is, by abstaining from that profane and double-tongued vertibility of speech and vain-talking, and by avoiding, as Paul saith, "profane and vain babblings."
For this it was, that even the public laws of the Roman empire condemned this manner of speaking, and punished it thus. - They commanded, 'that the words of him who should speak obscurely, when he could speak more plainly, should be interpreted against himself.' And Christ also, condemned that wicked servant who excused himself by an evasion; and interpreting his own words against himself, said, "Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant." For if in religion, in laws, and in all weighty matters, we should be allowed to express ourselves ambiguously and insidiously, what could follow but that utter confusion of Babel, where no one could understand another! This would be, to learn the language of eloquence, and in so doing, to lose the language of nature!
Moreover, if this licence should prevail, I might 'conveniently' interpret all that the whole herd of heretics ever said, nay all that the devil himself ever did or said, or could say or do, to all eternity:Where then would be the power of refuting the heretics and the devil? Where would be that wisdom of the Lord Christ, which all the adversaries shall not be able to resist? What would become of logic, the instructor of teaching rightly? What would become of rhetoric, the faculty of persuading? Nothing would be taught, nothing would be learned, no persuasion could be carried home, no consolation would be given, no fear would be wrought: because, nothing would be spoken or heard that was certain.
When, therefore, Erasmus lightly and ridiculously says of John the Evangelist, 'that he merely scolds babes,' he is to be adjudged immediately a disciple of Epicurus or Democritus, and to be addressed thus - Learn to speak of Majesty with more reverence. Some noted jesters have, indeed, sometimes spoken of princes thus irreverently, and fool-like, but not always with impunity. But if any one else of a sound mind and judgment had done the same, he might, perhaps, have lost his head, for the crime of insulted majesty.
Thus, when Erasmus says, 'Peter addresses Christ as Man, and says nothing of His Divinity,' he is to be condemned of Arianism and heresy: because, he could have omitted this insidious observation altogether, in a matter where the divine Majesty is eminently concerned, or have spoken more reverently: for the words plainly imply, that the Arians do not like that Christ should be called God, but consider it better that He should be called man only. And how conveniently soever they may be interpreted in favour of the Divinity of Christ; yet, as they stand and are read according to their plain meaning, especially since their author is suspicious, they offend Christian minds: because, they have not one plain meaning, and may be more easily understood to favour the Arians, than the orthodox.
Hence Jerome, writing of the Arians of his time who taught in the same artful way, says, 'Their priests say one thing, and their people understand another.' In like manner, there was no necessity for observing to Christians on that passage, that Peter did not call Christ, God; though in truth he did not omit to call Christ, God. Nor is it enough to pretend, 'that he called Him man only, on account of the common multitude:' for though he did call Him Man, yet, he did not therefore omit to call Him God, except that he did not pronounce these three letters, GOD:but this Erasmus rigidly deems was necessary: by so doing, however, he does nothing here, as well as in every other place, but lay snares, without any cause whatever, to entrap the inexperienced, and to render our religion suspicious.
That Carpisian, whoever he was, justly condemns him as a favourer of the Arians in his preface to Hilary, where he has said, 'We dare to call the Holy Spirit, God, which the ancients did not dare to do.' And when, having been faithfully admonished, he ought to have acknowledged his high-flown figures of speech, and his Arianisms, and to have corrected them, he not only did not do that, but even inveighed against the admonition, as a calumny proceeding from Satan, and laughed at the Divinity twofold more than ever - such a confidence has he in his pliability of speech, and his circumlocutive evasions. Nevertheless, he very seriously confesses the Trinity, and would not by any means whatever be thought to deny the Trinity of the God-head, but only wishes to say, that the curiosity (which he afterwards requests will be 'conveniently interpreted' diligence) of the moderns, has received and dared many things from the Scriptures which the ancients dared not. - As though the Christian religion rested on the authority of men: (for this is what he would persuade us to.) And what is this, but considering all religion together to be a mere fable!
Here, although the Carpisian be in many things of no weight whatever, and ever an enemy to Luther, yet Erasmus, from an unheard-of pride, thinks all men together to be mere stocks and stones; who neither understand any subject, nor see through the meaning of any words. Read that observation of his, and say, if you do not discover the incarnate devil! This observation fixes in me a determination (let others do as they please) not to believe Erasmus, even if he should openly confess in plain words, - that Christ is God. But I would address to him that sophistical saying of Chrysippus, 'If you lie, you lie even when you speak the truth.' For what need was there, if he in verity believed that the Holy Spirit is God, to say, 'We dare to call the Holy Spirit, God, which the ancients did not dare to do?' What need was there to use this vertible word 'dare,' that it might apply both to the praise and dispraise of these same moderns, when we received this doctrine from the ancients, and did not 'dare' to receive it first?
But however, it is a stark lie, to say, that the ancients did not first 'dare' to call the Holy Spirit, God:- unless by ancients, according to one of his very beautiful figures of speech, he means Democritus and Epicurus: or unless, he means God, materially, that is, these three letters, GOD! But to what purpose is all this hateful manoeuvering, but to make of a gnat an elephant, as a stumbling-block to the unexperienced, and to intimate, that the Christian religion is a nothing it all! and that, for no other reason, than because these three Letters, GOD, are not written in every place, where he considers they ought to have been written!
In the same manner his fathers, the Arians, made numberless quibbles, because these letters HOMOUSIOS, and INNASCIBILIS, were not found in the Sacred Writings: considering it nothing to the purpose, that the same thing could be solidly proved in substance. And where the name God was written, they were ready with their gloss to elude the truth, by contending, that it did not mean God in reality, but God by appellation. So that, you can do nothing with these vipers, whether you speak to them by the Scriptures, or without the Scriptures.
This is the way of the malice of Satan. When he cannot deny the fact, he turns to demanding certain particular terms, which he himself prescribes. And thus the devil himself may say, even to Christ - Although Thou speakest the truth, yet since Thou dost not speak it in the terms which I think requisite, Thou sayest nothing at all: and I wish the truth to be spoken in no words whatever. - This is like Marcolfus, who wished to be hung upon a tree chosen by himself, and yet wished to choose no tree at all. But of this elsewhere, if the Lord shall give me leisure, and length of life. For it is my determination to leave behind me my true and faithful testimony concerning Erasmus: and thus, to expose Luther to be bitten and stung by these vipers, but not to be utterly torn in pieces and destroyed! -
I now return to my observation upon my libertywhich I have asserted; giving it as my sentiments, that the tyranny of Erasmus which he would exercise by means of circumlocutive evasions, is not to be borne, but that he is to be judged openly, out of his own mouth. Where he speaks as an Arian, let him be judged an Arian; where he speaks as a Lucian, let him be judged a Lucian; where he speaks as a Gentile, let him be judged a Gentile; unless he repent and cease to defend such ways of expressing himself.
For instance. In one of his epistles on the Incarnation of the Son of God, he uses a most abominable term, calling it 'the intercourse of God with the Virgin' - here he is to be judged, a horrible blasphemer of God and the Virgin! Nor does it make him at all better, his afterwards expounding 'intercourse' as applying to the form of the Christian doctrine. Why did he not speak of the form of Christian doctrine? For he well knew, that by this word, 'intercourse,' Christians could not but be greatly offended - and let him be judged ungodly who would not be offended at a term so abominably obscene in a matter so sacred: knowing that, an ambiguous expression of such a nature, is always taken in its worst sense, even though we benot ignorant, that the term may have another meaning. If it take place from inadvertency, it may be pardoned: if from design and willfulness, it is to be condemned, as I said, without mercy. For to hold a doctrine of faith is arduous, and a divine work, even when delivered in proper, evident, and certain words. How then shall it be held, if it be delivered in ambiguous, doubtful, and oblique words!
St. Augustine says, 'philosophers ought to speak freely on difficult points, fearing no offence: but we (says he) must speak to a certain rule.' And therefore, he blames the use of the term fortune, or fate, both in himself and others. For even though the person may by fortune mean the divine mind, the agent of all things, from which nature is known to be distinctly different, and thus may not think impiously, yet, says he, 'Let him hold his sentiment, but correct his expression.
And even to suppose that Augustine did not say this, and never had any certain rule according to which he expressed himself, yet nature will tell us, that every profession, sacred as well as profane, uses certain terms of its own, and avoids all ambiguities. For even common tradesmen, either reprove or condemn, or hold up to ridicule, the man who speaks of his own trade in the technical terms (as they are called) peculiar to the trade of another. With how much greater force will this apply to things sacred, where certain salvation, or eternal perdition is the consequence, and where all must be taught in certain and proper terms! Let us, if we must do it, trifle with ambiguities in other things that are of no moment, as nuts, apples, pence, and other things which are the toys of children and of fools: but in religion, and weighty matters of state, let us shun, with all possible care, an ambiguity, as we would shun death or the devil!
Our king of ambiguity, however, sits upon his ambiguous throne in security, and destroys us stupid Christians with a double destruction. First, it is his will, and it is a great pleasure to him, to offend us by his ambiguous words: and indeed he would not like it, if we stupid blocks were not offended. And next, when he sees that we are offended, and have run against his insidious figures of speech, and begin to exclaim against him, he then begins to triumph and rejoice that the desired prey has been caught in his snares. For now, having found an opportunity of displaying his rhetoric, he rushes upon us with all his powers and all his noise, tearing us, flogging us, crucifying us, and sending us farther than hell itself; saying, that we have understood his words calumniously, virulently, satanically; (using the worst terms he can find;) whereas, he never meant them to be so understood.
In the exercise of this wonderful tyranny, (and who would think that this Madam ambiguity could make so much ado, or who could suppose that any one would be so great a madman as to have so much confidence in a vain figure of speech?) he not only compels us to put up with his all-free prerogative of using ambiguities, but binds us down to the necessity of keeping silence. He plainly designs all the while, and wishes us to be offended, that he, and his herd of Epicureans with him, may have a laugh at us as fools: but on the other hand, he does not like to hear that we are offended, lest it should appear that we are true Christians. Thus must we suffer wounds without number, and yet, not utter a groan or a sigh!
We Christians, however, who are to judge, not meats and drinks only, but angels and the whole world, and who actually judge, even now, not only do not bear with this tyranny of ambiguities, but on the contrary, oppose to it our liberty of pronouncing a two-fold condemnation. The first is, as I have already observed, we condemn all the ambiguous expressions of Erasmus, and interpret them against himself: as Christ saith, "Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant." Again, "By thine own words shalt thou be condemned: for wherefore hast thou spoken against thine own soul?" "Thy blood be upon thine own head." The second condemnation is, we condemn and curse again and again his glosses and 'convenient interpretations,' by which, he not only does not correct his ungodly expressions, but even defends them: that is, he laughs at us twice as much in his after interpretations, as he does in his first expressions.
For example: He says, that by 'the intercourse of God with the Virgin' he does not mean a common intercourse, but another kind of marriage between God and the Virgin, where the angel Gabriel is the bridegroom, and the Holy Spirit performs the act of consummation. Only observe what this fellow, by his interpretation, would have us to hear and understand Christ to be. And he says these things, that he might defend the filthiness and obscenity of his expression in the face of offended Christians, and laugh at them all the while; and thus, he forces upon us this offensive term, when he knows very well, that this mystery of the most holy Incarnation, cannot be explained to the mind of man by all the obscene and ambiguous words of the whole world: but how it is understood by the Epicureans, I dare not, for horror, imagine. Why do we not call the conversation of God with Moses and the other prophets, 'intercourse' also, and make the angels bridegrooms, and the Holy Spirit the consummator of the act, or make of it something still more obscene? Moreover, here is the impious idea of sex introduced, to perfect this monstrous derision of saying, that God had 'intercourse with the Virgin;' - in order that, the whole might be made a fable, like that wherein Mars is said to have had intercourse with Rhea, and Jupiter with Semele; and that Christianity might be reduced to a level with one of the fabulous stories of old, and men represented as fools and pitiable madmen for believing such a story to be serious and true, not considering what turpitudes and obscenities were the objects of their faith and worship! And therefore, Christians, that stupid set of creatures, were to be admonished by means of figures like these, to begin to doubt, and then, from doubting to depart from the faith; that thus, religion might be utterly destroyed before any one could be aware of it.
This is the verification of that parable, Matt. xiii. where the enemy is represented as sowing tares in the night, and going his way. Thus, we Christians are sleeping in security: and even if we were not sleeping, those bewitching Syrens, by their honey of speech, would soon lull us to sleep, and bring a cloud of night over our eyes. In the meantime, are sown those tares of figurative and insidious words: and yet when Sacramentarians, Donatists, Arians, Anabaptists, Epicureans, &c. are sprung up, we ask - How is it that our Lord's field hath tares? They, however, who have sown them, are gone away; that is, they so paint and set themselves off by their 'convenient interpretations,' and withdraw themselves from sight, that they seem as if they had sown nothing but wheat. Thus the enemy slides away, and is off in safety, and crowned with honour and applause, and appears to be a friend, when he is in truth the greatest of enemies. This is the way with the strange woman, Prov. xxx. who, "when she has eaten, wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness!"
Thus have I replied to your letter, my friend Armsdorff, though perhaps I have been too long and tedious. But I wished to shew you, why I judged it best not to answer Erasmus any farther. I am moreover abundantly engaged in teaching, confirming, correcting, and governing my flock. And my work of translating the Bible, alone requires the devotion of my whole time: from which work, Satan with all his might endeavours to withdraw me, as he has done upon former occasions; that be might get me to leave the best things, to follow after those which are nothing but vain and empty vapours. For my Bondage of the Will proves to you how difficult a task it is to cope with that proteus Erasmus, on account of his vertibility and slipperiness of speech; in which alone is all his confidence. He never remains in one position, but, with the deepest craft, evades every blow, and is like an irritated hornet.
Whereas, miserable I, am compelled to stand my ground in one position, and that upon unequal ground, as "a sign to be spoken against." For whatever Luther writes, is condemned before ten years are at an end. Luther is the only one who writes from envy, from pride, from bitterness, and in a word, at the instigation of Satan himself; but all who write against him, write under the influence of the Holy Spirit!
Before my time, it required a great to-do, and an enormous expense, to canonize a dead monk. But now, there is no easier way for canonizing even living Neroes and Caligulas, than the declaration of hatred against Luther. Only let a man hate and bravely curse Luther, and that, immediately, makes him a saint, equal almost to our holy Lord, the servant of the servants of God. But who could ever believe that hatred against Luther would be attended with so much power and advantage? It fills the coffers of very beggars; nay, it introduces obscure moles and bats to the favour of princes and of kings; it procures prebendaries and dignities; it procures bishoprics; it procures the reputation of wisdom and of learning to the most consummate asses; it procures to petty teachers of grammar, the authority of writing books; nay, it procures the crown of victory and of glory, eternal in the heavens! Nay, happy are all who hate Luther, for they obtain, by that one vile and easy service, those great and mighty things, which none of the most excellent of men could ever obtain with all their wisdom and their virtues; no, not even Christ himself, with all His own miracles, and the miracles of His apostles and all His saints!
Thus are the Scriptures fulfilled. - Blessed are ye who persecute Luther, for yours is the kingdom of heaven! Blessed are ye who curse and say all manner of evil against Luther; rejoice and be exceeding glad in that day, for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the apostles, the holy bishops, John Huss, and others who were before Luther! - Wherefore, I feel more and more persuaded, that I shall act rightly by answering Erasmus no farther: but I will leave my testimony concerning him, even for his own sake, that he might hereafter be unburdened from that concern which, as he complains, is completely death to him: viz., that he is commonly called a Lutheran. But, as Christ liveth, they do him a great injury who call him a Lutheran, and I will defend him against his enemies for I can bear a true and faithful testimony, that he is no Lutheran, but Erasmus himself!
And if I could have my will, Erasmus should be exploded from our schools altogether: for if he be not pernicious, he is certainly useless: because he, in truth, discusses and teaches nothing. Nor is it at all advisable to accustom Christian youth to the diction of Erasmus: for they will learn to speak and think of nothing with gravity and seriousness, but only to laugh at all men as babblers and vain-talkers. In a word, they will learn nothing, but to play the fool! And from this levity and vanity they will, by, degrees, grow tired of religion, till at last they will abhor and profane it! Let him be left to the Papists only, who are worthy of such an apostle, and whose lips relish his dainties!
May our Lord Jesus Christ, whom, according to my faith, Peter did not omit to call GOD; by whose power I know, and am persuaded, that I have often been delivered from death, and by faith in whom I have undertaken and hitherto accomplished all these things which excite the wonder even of my enemies; may this same Jesus guard and deliver us unto the end - for He is the Lord our God! - To whom alone, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be glory for ever and ever! Amen!
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