Though that most faithful herald of the Gospel and most steadfast champion of Christian liberty, H. Zwingli, was clear, careful, and transparently plain in all he said, yet in this pamphlet he surpassed himself, as it were, and sang a sort of swan-song upon the true faith when near his death. He sets forth lucidly and briefly what true faith and pious religion are. He also makes answer to slanderers who defame the evangelical faith and preaching, and furnishes unto all Christian kings and princes a kind of complete defense of the true faith and religion. I was not willing to deprive you of so rich a treasure; do you receive in candid spirit what is offered with sincerely good purpose. The whole work has been copied from the autograph manuscript of the author himself. This I state, because the pamphlet comes out five years after the author’s death.
Of all the things that are rising up in this tumultuous age, nothing comes forward more auspiciously than inauspicious falsehood, most pious King, either because the evil spirit is always trying to crush out the life of every good seed at the start, or because the heavenly husbandman of souls as it were sharpens and promotes virtue and faith by means of vice and faithlessness, just as the Spartans, having taken some town by storm with much expenditure of toil and blood, ordered it not to be utterly destroyed, that they might not lack a grindstone and stake, as it were, by which to train their soldiers. So also the Lord suffers us to be tried and troubled in manifold ways that we may prove our mettle to Him. For how can one become brave and temperate save in the midst of perils and an abundance of luxury? In the same way the truth that has begun to raise her head becomes brighter and rises higher under the attacks of falsehood. For as this thrusts at her from all sides and pours out all its poison upon her, she is forced to shake herself free, wipe off the stains and defend her limbs, and thus it comes to pass that the mask of falsehood and the charming face of truth herself are more and more displayed and show themselves as they are. But enough of preface. The fear has befallen me that, by the more than empty and lying insinuations of certain faithless persons, your clemency may be sorely tried, for I know it cannot be really provoked. The more faithless they are, the more they do not report but mangle the Truth to many. And they report us in countless ways as treading religion under foot and treating with scorn the holy office and dignity of kings and magistrates. How true all that is I beg your fairness to pronounce when you have heard me set forth to the best of my ability the sources of our faith, the laws and customs of our churches, and our reverence for our rulers. And there is nothing so well within a man’s power as the task to set forth his faith. For since faith is, as the apostle defines it, that power of the soul, that assurance and certainty, with which one trusts unwaveringly in the unseen God, who can be so dull and slow as not to know how to set forth whether he has trust in a thing or not, especially as faith is the daughter of truth? Every man trusts in that which he knows to be absolutely true. And since God alone is true, if any one feels and experiences that he recognizes this, how shall he not be able to set forth this trust in a few words? This, then, is my thought in regard to God and divine things:
All the things that are are either created or uncreated. The one and only uncreated thing is God, for there can be but one uncreated thing. If there were several uncreated things, there would be several eternals, for the uncreated and the eternal are so closely allied that as one is so is also the other. For if there were several eternals, there would be several infinites, for these are so like unto and allied with each other that whatever is eternal is also infinite and whatever is infinite is also eternal. Now, since there can be only one infinite (for as soon as we admit two infinite substances each becomes finite), it is certain that the one and only uncreated thing is God. On this depends also the origin, source and foundation of the first article of our faith, that is, when we say, “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,” we confess and declare that we have an infallible faith, since it is one resting securely upon one only Creator. The heathen and the unbelievers who trust in created things are forced to confess that they may be deceived in their faith or belief, seeing that they trust in created things. But they that trust in the Creator and Source of all things, who never began to be, but called all other things into existence, these cannot be convicted of error. This also is certain, that nothing which is a created thing can be the object and basis of that unwavering and indubitable power which is faith. For whatever has begun to be at some time was not. When, therefore, it was not, how could anyone have trusted in what did not yet exist? Things, then, that have had a beginning cannot be the natural object or basis of faith. Only the eternal, infinite, and uncreated Good, therefore, is the true basis of faith.
Hence, all that confidence falls to the ground by which certain people lean thoughtlessly upon even the most sacred of created things or the most holy of sacraments. For that in which one should trust with absolute assurance must be God. But if one should trust in a created thing, then the created thing would have to be the Creator, and if in sacraments, then the sacraments would have to be God, so that not only the sacrament of the Eucharist, but baptism and the laying on of hands also would be God. How absurd that is to learned, to say nothing of pious men, not only the learned but any one endowed with intelligence can judge. In order, therefore, to help the theologians reach the truth, I shall gladly hold this torch before them. When they say, created things are to be employed but only God enjoyed, they say nothing else than what I also say, if they did not unthinkingly put a foreign meaning into their own words. For if God alone is to be enjoyed, He alone also is to be trusted, for that is to be trusted which is to be enjoyed, not that which is to be employed.
II. From this, most gracious King, you see clearly that we do not dismiss the saints nor the sacraments, nor move them from their place, as some men say that we do, but that we keep and guard them in their proper place and dignity, that no man may use them wrongly. We do not insult Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, when we forbid that she be adored with divine honors; but when we would attribute to her the majesty and power of the Creator, she herself would not permit such adoration. For true piety has one and the same character among all men and is the same in all, because it originates by one and the same Spirit. It cannot even be imagined, therefore, that any created being should at the same time be pious and suffer the worship due the Deity to be offered to himself. So also the Virgin Mother of God will as much the less accept the worship due the Deity as she is high above all created beings and reverently devoted to God, her Son. It is a mark of insanity in godless men and demons when they allow divine honors to be paid to them. This is proved by the images of demons and the arrogance of Gerod, of whom the first, by teaching worship of themselves, deceived the world to its destruction, and the second, not refusing the divine honors offered him, was struck with phthiriasis, that he might learn to recognize the feebleness of man.
But we venerate and cherish the sacraments as signs and symbols of sacred things, not as if they were themselves the things of which they are signs. For who can be so ignorant as to say that a sign is the thing it signifies? In that case the word “ape,” which I write here would place before the eyes of Your Majesty a real live ape. But because the sacraments signify real things, which really and naturally happened at some time, I say, they represent those things, call them to mind and, as it were, set them before our eyes. Understand me correctly, I beg, O King! Christ by His death atoned for our sins. The Eucharist is a commemoration of this thing, as He Himself said-“This do in remembrance of me.” By this commemoration all the benefits are presented which God has vouchsafed unto us through His Son. Furthermore, by the symbols themselves, namely the bread and wine, Christ Himself is, as it were, presented to our eyes, so that not only the cars but the eyes and the mouth see and perceive the Christ whom the soul has Present within and rejoices in. This, therefore, we say and teach is the legitimate worship of the saints and the sacraments, which Christ Himself transmitted and taught us. “If ye are the children of Abraham,” He said [John 8: 37], “do the works of Abraham.” This is, therefore, the example that we ought to follow in the case of all saints and holy men. Thus, if any of the prophets or holy men gave us divine warnings to drink, as it were, we should receive what has been given and set forth to us by the divine Spirit with the same religious devotion with which they received and imparted it. If they adorned religious devotion by sanctity of life, we should follow in their foot-steps and be pious, holy, and innocent as they were.
In regard to baptism He says, “Baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost” [Matth. 28:19]; in regard to the Eucharist,
“This do in remembrance of me” [Luke 22: 17] ; and by the mouth of Paul, “We are all one bread and one body of the faithful” [I Cor. 10: 17]. It is not hinted here, either in regard to the worship of the saints or in regard to the institution of the sacraments, that they have the power and grace which belongs to God alone. Since, then, the Deity has never conferred on created things the power which we attribute to them, it is clearly frivolous for us to teach that either the saints or the sacraments remove sins and bestow grace upon us. For who remitteth sins save God alone? Or from whom is every perfect gift, as St. James puts it [James 1: 17], save from the Father of lights and of all good? We teach, therefore, that the sacraments should be cherished as sacred things signifying the most holy things, both such as have been done and such as we ought to do and show forth. Thus baptism signifies both that Christ has washed us by His blood, and that we ought to put Him on, as Paul teaches [Gal. 3: 27], that is, live according to His example. In like manner the Eucharist signifies both all that has been given to us by divine bounty through Christ, and that we ought in gratitude to embrace our brethren with that Christian love with which Christ has taken us to himself, cared for us, and securcd salvation for us. But whether the natural body of Christ is eaten in the Eucharist will be discussed at length later.
To sum up: –This is the fountainhead of my religion, to recognize God as the uncreated Creator of all things, who solely and alone has all things in His power and freely giveth us all things. They, therefore, overthrow this first foundation of faith, who attribute to the creature what is the Creator’s alone. For we confess in the creed that it is the Creator in whom we believe. It cannot, therefore, be the creature in whom we should put our trust.
III. I hold further in regard to this view:– Since we know that God is the Source and Creator of all things, it cannot be that we should understand that there is anything either before Him or along with Him that is not from Him. For if there could be anything which was not from Him, He would not be infinite, for He would not extend to where that other was that was outside of Him. Hence, though we see that in the scriptures God is called Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, these are no different creatures or gods, but these three are one, one essence, one existence, one force and power, one knowledge and providence, one goodness and kingness,– the names or persons are three, but they are all and each one and the same God. This God we know is by nature good, for whatever He is, He is by nature. Moreover that is good, which is gentle and righteous. Gentleness without righteousness would be no longer gentleness, but carelessness or fear. On the other hand, if you do not temper righteousness with goodness or equity, it becomes the utmost injustice and violence. Since, therefore, we recognize that God is by nature good, we confess at the same time that He is mild, gentle and bountiful, as well as holy, righteous, and inviolable. Since, then, He is righteous, He must abhor contact with evil. Hence we may argue that inasmuch as we poor mortals are not only defiled with sin but saturated with evil, we can have no hope of fellowship and friendship with Him.
Again, since He is good, He must just as much temper all His thoughts and acts with equity and goodness. This was the cause of His clothing his only begotten Son with flesh, that He might not only show to, but bestow upon, the whole world these two things, redemption and renewal. For, since His goodness, that is, justice and mercy, is inviolable, that is, firm and immutable, His justice required atonement, His mercy pardon, and pardon a new life. Therefore the Son of the most high King put on the cloak of the flesh and came forth to be made a victim (for in His divine nature He could not die) to placate unchangeable justice and reconcile it with those who even in their own innocence did not dare to come into the presence of God, because of their consciousness of guilt. And this He did because He is gentle and merciful, and these virtues could just as little suffer rejection of His creation as justice could permit freedom from punishment. Righteousness and mercy were mingled together, therefore, that the one should furnish the victim and the other accept it for the atonement of all sins. From what class of beings, then, was this victim to be chosen? From the angels? But what did the transgression of man concern them? From men? But they were all guilty before God, so that whichever one of them had been marked out for the sacrifice would have been unable to accomplish it on account of his defilement. For the lamb, which typically represented this victim, had to be altogether sound, pure and clean. The divine goodness, therefore, took from itself that which it would give to us. It clothed its own Son with the weakness of our flesh, that we might see that its bounty and mercy were equally supreme with its holiness or righteousness. For what has He left ungiven who giveth us Himself, as the divine Paul has said
[Rom. 8: 32]? If He had made an angel or a man the victim, what he gave would have been outside of Himself. There would, therefore, have been something greater left, which He might have given, namely, Himself, but which He had not given.
When, therefore, supreme goodness intended to bestow the supreme gift, it gave the most precious thing it could bring out of its treasure chest, namely, itself, that the heart of man, ever eager for something greater, should not even have a way left to wonder how this angelic or human victim could be so great as to be sufficient for all, or how one could put unshaken trust in a creature. The Son of God has, therefore, been given to us as a confirmation of His mercy, as a pledge of pardon, as the price of righteousness, and as a rule of life, to make us sure of the gracc of God, and to teach us the law of living. Who could worthily extol the greatness of this divine goodness and generosity?We had deserved to be disowned, and He honors us with being chosen. We had destroyed the way of life, and He has restored it. Thus, then, we have been redeemed and renewed by divine goodness so completely as to be acceptable through his mercy, and to be justified and blameless through his atoning sacrifice.
IV. I believe and teach that this Son of God himself took on human nature in such manner that His divine nature was not lost or changed into human nature, but each nature is in Him so truly, properly and naturally, that nothing has been diminished of His divine nature, so that He should not be truly, properly and naturally God. Moreover, His human nature has not passed over into divine nature so that He should not be truly, properly and naturally man, save only as far as inclination to sin is concerned. Thus, in general, insofar as He is God, He is God with the Father and the Holy Spirit in such manner that none of His divine attributes has suffered because of the assumption of human feebleness, and, in so far as He is man, He is thus man that He has whatever belongs to true and literal human nature, so that nothing has been taken from it on account of the union with the divine nature, save the disposition to sin. Hence it is that both natures so reflect their own character in all their words and deeds that the religious mind sees without trouble what is to be credited to either nature, however rightly the whole is said to belong to the one Christ. “Christ hungered,” is said rightly [Matth. 4: 1], since He is God and man; yet He did not suffer hunger according to His divine nature. “Christ cured diseases and ailments” [Matth. 4: 23], is said rightly; yet these things belong to divine power, not to human, if you weigh them properly. And yet no division of person follows on account of the difference of natures, any more than when we say a man thinks and sleeps. Here, though the power to think belongs to the mind only, and the necessity of sleeping to the body, yet the man is not on that account two persons, but one. For unity of person is brought about even from very different natures. In general, I confess that God and man are one Christ, just as one man consists of a soul endowed with reason and a dual body, as Saint Athanasius has taught.
He took up human nature into the unity of the hypostasis orperson of the Son of God, not as if the humanity taken on were a separate person, and the eternal divinity were also a separate person. The person of the eternal Son of God assumed humanity into and by virtue of its own power, as holy men of God have truly and clearly shown.
V. And I believe that this humanity was conceived of the virgin, made pregnant by the Holy Spirit, and was brought forth by preserving her perpetual virginity, that He, who from eternity was born Lord and God from a father without mother, might be born into the world as deliverer and healer of souls from a virgin mother, in order that a holy and spotless offering might be made to Him unto whom all altars, loadcd with animals, smoked to no purpose, and men might repent of sacrificing beasts and turn to the offering of their hearts, when they would see that God had prepared and offered to Himself a victim in the form of His own Son.
VI. I believe that Christ suffered, being nailed to the cross under Pilate, the governor, but that the man only felt the pangs of the suffering, not the God, who, as He is invisible, so is also subject to no sufferings or sensation. “My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
[Matth. 27: 46], is the cry of pain, but “forgive them; for they know not what they do” [Luke 23: 34], is the voice of the unimpaired divinity. And He suffered for the expiation of our sins by the most ignoble sort of punishment, that He might leave no depth of humiliation untried and unsounded.
VII. If He had not “died and been buried,” who would believe that He was a real man? Therefore the apostolic fathers added in the creed, “descendit ad inferos,” i. e., He descended to those below, using the expression as a circumlocution to signify real death. For to be reckoned with those below is to have gone from the land of the living, and shows that the efficacy of His redemption extended even to those below. And this St. Peter hints at when he says [I Pet. 3: 19 f.] that the Gospel was preached also to them that are dead, that is, to those below who following the example of Noah from the foundation of the world, believed the warnings of God, when the wicked were scornful.
VIII. On the other hand, if He had not risen again from death to life, who would believe that one who had been put to death, so that there was no life or force left in Him, was a real God? I believe, therefore, that the real Son of God really died as far as His human nature was concerned, that we might be made sure of the expiation of our sins. I believe, that He also really rose again from the dead, that we might be sure of everlasting life. For in all that Christ is, he is ours: all that he accomplished is ours. For God so loved that he gave His only begotten Son to quicken us into life [John 3: 16]. When, therefore, He rose again, He rose again for us, beginning by it our own resurrection. Hence also Paul calls Him “the first fruits of them that sleep” [I Cor. 15: 20], that is, of the dead, for when He lives, being dead, He shows that we also live when we die, for this is the signification of the word “to rise again” in Hebrew-to remain, persist, endure. Hence Paul reasons as to both alternatives thus: If Christ rose again, that is, lived when He was believed to be dead, and took up His body again, there is for us a resurrection of the dead. Behold, most learned King, the strength of the reasoning lies in this, that Christ is ours, and that every activity of his is ours. Otherwise, “Christ rose again; therefore we also rise again,” would not follow any more than if one argued, “The king has power to free from punishment him whom the judge has sentenced; therefore every one has this power.” Hence this would not follow either, “Since Christ did not rise again, neither shall we rise again,” for Christ can live and rise again by His own power, which we cannot do by ours. But, [since Paul argues] if Christ had not risen again, there would be no resurrection for us, it is clear that He made the power of His resurrection ours and all men’s. This is what holy men had in view when they said that Christ’s body nourishes us unto the resurrection, by which they simply wished to show that when Christ, who is wholly ours, rose again, we were thereby made sure that we also live in the spirit when dead in the body, and shall some day live again with the same body.
IX. Furthermore, in that this same Christ of ours has ascended into heaven and taken His seat at the right hand of the Father, as I believe unhesitatingly, He promises that we also who hasten thither as soon as we die, shall one day enjoy everlasting bliss there also in the body. And as He sitteth there until He shall come for the general judgment of the whole world, so our souls and those of all the blessed are with him without bodies until the aforesaid judgment, at the beginning of which we shall all put on again the garment of the body that we have laid aside, and with it depart either to the everlasting marriage of our bridegroom or to the everlasting torments of the enemy, the Devil. Here I will set forth two things to you, as I think about them, most gentle King.
The one is, that, since Christ did not experience the torments of the regions below, as St. Peter teaches, Acts 2:27, but having gone through death ascended to heaven, we also, when freed from the bonds of the body, shall go thither without delay, hindrance, or new torment, if only we have had sincere faith; and that those who hold the threat of the torments of the fire of purgatory over mankind, already miserable enough without that, have dared to feed their own greed rather than the souls of the faithful. For, in the first place, they utterly make void and destroy Christ’s mission. For if Christ died for our sins, as he himself and the apostles imbued with his spirit taught, and as the nature of our religion compels us to confess, according to which mankind is saved by the grace and goodness of God, how could it be admitted that we should be compelled to make atonement ourselves? For if those are at variance with Christ who put their trust in works, as St. Paul tells us, how much more do those cast off and bring to naught Christ who teach that men’s sins are to be atoned for by their own torment? For if good deeds cannot win blessedness, but torment wins it, the goodness of the Deity is called in question as if He delighted in afflictions and tribulations, and were a verse to gentleness and kindness. Secondly, if Christ does not take away the penalty and punishment due to sin, why was he made man? Why did he suffer? The distinction some theologians make, that we have been redeemed from guilt but not also from punishment, is a frivolous invention, indeed, one insulting to God. For not even a human judge inflicts punishment where there is no guilt. As soon, therefore, as guilt is remitted by God, punishment is done away with. Third, since Christ himself taught that those who believe have eternal life and those that trust in Him who sent Christ to us come not into judgment but have already passed from death into life, it becomes evident that this delay in torment, which Papists put on to souls departing hence, is a baseless invention.
The other thing which I have undertaken to set forth here is this,-that that natural, material body of Christ’s, in which He suffered here and now sitteth in heaven at the right hand of the Father, is not eaten literally and in its essence, but only spiritually, in the Lord’s Supper, and that the teaching of the Papists, that Christ’s body is eaten by us having the size and the exact qualities and nature it had when He was born, suffered, and died, is not only frivolous and stupid but impious and blasphemous. For, in the first place, it is certain that Christ took on, excepting always the inclination to sin, a real humanity consisting of body and soul, just as we do. From this it follows that all the characteristics and endowments that belong to the nature of the human body were most truly present in his body. For what He took on for our sake was derived from us, so that He is wholly ours, as I have said before. From this two incontrovertible corollaries follow, one, that the characteristics which are present in our body are also present in Christ’s body, the other, that whatever there is in Christ’s body, that was corporeal, belongs also to our bodies. For if anything which has to do with the nature and character of the body were in His body but lacking to ours, He would seem to have assumed that not for our sake. For what reason? Because there is nothing in the realm of body except man that is capable of everlasting blessedness. Hence that point which I touched upon before, that Paul proves our resurrection from Christ’s and Christ’s from ours. For when he says, “If the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised” [I Cor. 15: 16], how can this reasoning be sound? For, since Christ is God and man who would not at once make answer to Paul, “Your reasoning is crooked, theologian? For Christ’s body can and should rise again, being united with divinity, but ours, being without divinity, have not the same power.” But Paul’s reasoning has its strength in this that whatever Christ’s body has, as far as nature, endowment and characteristics of body are concerned, it has for us, as our archetype as it were, and it is ours. Hence, “Christ’s body rose again; therefore our bodies will also rise again,” and “We rise again; therefore Christ also rose,” follow logically. From these sources drew Augustine, that pillar of theologians, when he said that Christ’s body must be in some particular place in heaven in virtue of its character as real body. And again, “Christ’s body which rose from the dead must be in one place.” Christ’s body, therefore, is not in several places any more than our bodies are. And this view is not mine, but the apostle’s and Augustine’s and that of faith in general, which, though we had not witnesses to the fact, would suggest that Christ became in all things like ourselves. For He took on human weakness for our sake, and was found as man in character, that is, in endowments, characteristics and qualities. By all this, most glorious King, it is made clear to you incidentally, I think, how unfairly they brand me as a heretic in respect to the sacrament of the Eucharist, when I have never taught a single word that I have not drawn from the divine Scriptures or the holy theologians.
But I return to the subject, since from that reasoning which rests upon the holy Scriptures it is established that Christ’s body must in a natural, literal and true sense be in one place, unless we venture foolishly and impiously to assert that our bodies also are in many places, we have wrung from our opponents the admission that Christ’s body, according to its essence, in itself, naturally and truly sits at the right hand of the Father, and it is not in this way in the Supper, so that those who teach the contrary drag Christ down from heaven and the Father’s throne. For all the learned have condemned as exploded and impious the opinion which some have ventured to maintain, that Christ’s body is just as much everywhere as His divinity. For it cannot be everywhere unless in virtue of being infinite in nature, and what is infinite is also eternal. Christ’s humanity is not eternal; therefore, it is not infinite. If it is not infinite, it must be finite. If it is finite, it is not everywhere. But putting aside these things, which I have introduced in order not to fail to meet the demands of philosophical argumentation, if you should happen to come upon such, O King, let me come to the impregnable testimonies of Scripture.
I have made it plain enough before that whatever is said in the sacred Scriptures of Christ is said in such way of the whole and entire Christ that even if it may be easily detected to which of His natures the thing said applies, yet Christ is not divided into two persons, however much each nature possesses its own peculiarity. For having two natures does not sever unity of person, as is clear in the case of man. And again, even if the things that belong to Christ’s divinity are attributed to His humanity, and, on the other hand, the things that belong to His humanity to His divinity, yet the natures are not confused, as if the divinity had degenerated and been weakened to humanity, or the humanity changed into divinity. This will be made more transparently clear by the testimonies of Scripture: “And she brought forth her first born son . . . and laid him in a manger” [Luke 2: 7]. That Christ who is God and man was born of a virgin, no one denies on account of the unity of person. And therefore I hold that she is properly called , i. e., the mother of God. Yet His divine nature none but the Father begot, as in the case of man, also, the mother brings forth the body, God alone the soul. Nevertheless, the man is said to be generated by his parents. Furthermore, that he who occupies and fills the heavens and the realms below was laid in a manger applies to the human nature in like manner. But when these things are attributed to the whole Christ,–His being born and laid in a manger– no difficulty arises, and that because of the conjunction and union of the two natures in one person.
“He ascended into heaven” [Mark 16: 19]. This equally applies to the humanity, in the main, though the humanity here was not carried without the divinity; indeed the latter carried and the former was carried. This humanity, as has been said, remains circumscribed forever; otherwise it would cease to be true humanity. But the divinity is unlimited and uncircumscribed forever; hence it does not move from place to place, but is everywhere and remains the same forever. “Behold, I am with you even unto the end of time” [Matth. 28:20], applies in the main to His divinity, for His humanity has been borne to heaven.
“Again, I leave the world, and go to the Father” [John 16:28]. Truth itself compels us to take this of Christ’s humanity, in the main, and indeed literally. For it is God who is speaking, and what He says must be true. Which nature in Him, then, leaves the world? Not the divine, for that moveth not from its place, not being contained in a p lace. Therefore, the human leaves it,and since it has left the world, you will understand, O King, as regards natural, substantial, local presence, it is not here. The body of Christ is, therefore, not eaten by us, literally or in substance, and all the more not quantitatively, but only sacramentally and spiritually.
“I shall not be in the world hereafter,” for that is the equivalent of: “and now I am no more in the world”
[John 17:11], an expression which absolutely dispels any cloud of uncertainty, so that He is not to be looked for in the world according to His humanity in literal, substantial, bodily presence, but only in a spiritual and sacramental sense.
“Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” [Acts 1: 11]. In this passage we have Him plainly taken up from the disciples into heaven. He has gone away, therefore, and is not here. But how has He gone away? In a bodily and literal sense, and as He really is by the essence of His humanity. When, therefore, they say, “shall so come,” He means in bodily and literal sense and substance. But when shall He so come?
Not when the Church celebrates the Supper, but when she is to be judged by Him at the end of the world. Therefore the view is irreligious that maintains that Christ’s body is eaten in the Supper in a bodily, literal, substantial and even quantitative sense, because such view is opposed to the truth, and what is opposed to the truth is impious and irreligious. These few brief remarks will be enough, I think, to enable your wisdom, which in its ready skill can estimate the whole from one of its parts, to see that out of the mouth of the Lord we are forced to consider how Christ’s body is present in the Supper. Oecolampadius and I have treated the matter at length elsewhere and in many writings to various people, indeed, have waged long war, but it would be distasteful to repeat all this. But truth is carrying off the victory and breaking through daily more and more. Now that I may set forth what it is to cat spiritually and sacramentally, I shall make a digression.
To eat the body of Christ spiritually is nothing else than to trust in spirit and heart upon the mercy and goodness of God through Christ, that is, to be sure with unshaken faith that God is going to give us pardon for our sins and the joy of everlasting blessedness on account of His Son, who was made wholly ours, was offered for us, and reconciled the divine righteousness to us. For what can He refuse who gave His only begotten Son?
To eat the body of Christ sacramentally, if we wish to speak accurately, is to eat the body of Christ in heart and spirit with the accompaniment of the sacrament. I wish to set the whole matter before the eyes of Your Highness, O King. You cat the body of Christ spiritually, though not sacramentally, every time you comfort your heart in its anxious query:—“How will you be saved? You sin daily, and yet are daily hastening towards death. After this life there is another, for how could this soul be destroyed with which we are endowed here and which is so solicitous about the hereafter? How could all this light and knowledge be turned into darkness and forgetfulness?Since, then, the life of the soul is everlasting, what sort of life is coming to my dear soul? A happy or a miserable life? I will examine my life and search out what it deserves, to be happy or miserable.” Then when you see such a host of things that we men are in the habit of doing from passion and desire, you shudder and as far as your own righteousness and integrity are concerned declare yourself in your own opinion unworthy of everlasting happiness, and straightway despair of it. When, I say, you comfort your troubled heart thus:-“God is good; he that is good must be righteous and merciful and equitable, for righteousness without equity or mercy is the height of injustice mercy without righteousness is indifference, wantonness and the destruction of all discipline. Since, therefore, God is righteous, His righteousness must receive satisfaction for my sins. Since He is merciful, I must not despair of forgiveness. I have an infallible pledge of both of these in His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, whom He has given to us out of His mercy to be ours. And He has sacrificed himself to the Father for us, to appease His eternal righteousness. Thus we are sure of His mercy and of the atonement for our sins made to His righteousness by none other than His own Son whom He has given to us out of love.” When with this confidence you cheer up your soul, tossed on the floods of fear and despair, saying, “Why art thou sad, my soul? God, who alone bestows blessedness, is thine, and thou art his. For when thou wast His work and creation, and yet hadst perished by thy sin, Hc sent His Son to thcc, and made Him like thee, sin excepted, that, relying upon the rights and privileges of this great brother and companion, thou mightest dare even to demand everlasting salvation as thy right. What devil can frighten me so that I shall fear him, when He is at hand to help me? Who shall take from me what God Himself has bestowed, in giving His Son as pledge and surety?”–When you comfort yourself thus, I say, you cat His body spiritually, that is, you stand unterrified in God against all the attacks of despair, through confidence in the humanity He took upon Himself for you.
But when you come to the Lord’s Supper with this spiritual participation and give thanks unto the Lord for His great kindness, for the deliverance of your soul, through which you have been delivered from the destruction of despair, and for the pledge by which you have been made surc of everlasting blessedness, and along with the brethren partake of the bread and wine which are the symbols of the body of Christ, then you cat Him sacramentally, in the proper sense of the term, when you do internally what you represent externally, when your heart is refreshed by this faith to which you bear witness by those symbols.
But those are improperly said to eat sacramentally who eat the visible sacrament or symbol in public assembly to be sure, but have not faith in their hearts. These, therefore, call down judgment, that is, the vengeance of God, upon themselves by eating, because they hold not in the same high esteem, in which it is rightly held by the pious, the body of Christ, that is, the whole mystery of the incarnation and passion, and even the Church itself of Christ. For a man ought to test himself before he partakes of the Supper, that is, examine himself and ask both whether he so recognizes and has received Christ as the Son of God and his own Deliverer and Saviour that he trusts Him as the infallible author and giver of salvation, and whether he rejoices that he is a member of the Church of which Christ is the head. If as an unbeliever he unites with the Church in the Supper, as if he had faith in these things, is he not guilty of the body and blood of the Lord? Not because he has eaten them in the literal, material sense, but because he has borne false witness to the Church that he has eaten them spiritually when he has never tasted them spiritually. Those, therefore, are said to eat merely sacramentally, who use the symbols of thanksgiving, to be sure, in the Supper, but have not faith. For this they are in more terrible condemnation than the rest of the unbelievers, because those simply do not acknowledge Christ’s Supper, while these pretend to acknowledge it. He sins doubly who without faith celebrates the Supper. He is faithless and presumptuous, while the mere unbeliever is destroyed through his unbelief like the fool through his folly.
Furthermore, there has for some time been a sharp controversy among us as to what the sacraments or symbols do or can do in the Supper; our opponents contending that the sacraments give faith, and bring to us the natural body of Christ, causing it to be eaten in real presence. We hold a different view not without authoritative support. First, because none but the Holy Spirit giveth faith, which is confidence in God, and no external thing giveth it. Yet the sacraments do work faith, historical faith; for all festivals, trophies, nay, monuments and statues, work historical faith: that is, call to mind that a certain thing once took place, the memory of which is thus refreshed, as was the case with the festival of the Passover, among the Hebrews and of the seisachtheia, i.e., removal of debts, among the Athenians, or that a victory was won at a given place, as was the case at Ebenezer [I Sam. 7: 12]. In this way, then, the Lord’s Supper worketh faith, that is, signifies as certain that Christ was born and suffered. But to whom does it signify this? To the believer and the unbeliever alike. For it signifies to all that which belongs to the meaning of the sacrament, namely, that Christ suffered, whether they receive it or not, but that He suffered for us, it signifies to the pious believer only. For no one knows or believes that Christ suffered for us, save those whom the Spirit within has taught to recognize the mystery of divine goodness. For such alone receive Christ. Hence nothing gives confidence in God except the Spirit. No one cometh to Christ except the Father draweth him. Furthermore, Paul also decides this whole quarrel by one sentence when he says, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup” [I Cor. 11: 28]. Since, then, a man ought to examine his faith before he approaches the table, it cannot be that faith is given in the Supper, for it must be there before you draw near.
I have opposed a second error on the part of our adversaries. They say that by the symbols of bread and wine the natural body of Christ is brought before us because this is the force and meaning of the words, “This is my body.” But what I have said above about the words of Christ that showed that His body was to be no longer in the world, contradicts this view. Moreover, if the words could do that, they would bring before us Christ’s body that was capable of suffering. For when He spoke these words, He still had a mortal body. Therefore, the apostles would have eaten His mortal body, for He did not have two bodies of which one was immortal and exempt from physical sensation, the other mortal. If, then, the apostles had eaten his mortal body, what would we be eating now? Of course, His mortal body. But that body is now immortal and incorruptible which before was mortal. If, then, we would now be eating His mortal body, He would, again, have a mortal and at the same time immortal body, and since this is impossible (for it cannot be mortal and immortal at the same time), it would follow that He had two bodies, one mortal, which we would cat as well as the apostles, the other immortal, which would sit on the right hand of God, and not to move thence. Otherwise we would have to say that the apostles, indeed, ate His mortal but we cat his immortal body. Anyone can see how absurd that is.
Finally, I opposed our adversaries in their assertion that the natural, substantial body of Christ is eaten in real presence, because piety denies that also. When Peter perceived that there was divine power in Christ in the marvelous catch of fishes, he said, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was amazed” [Luke 5: 8]. Now, do we long to cat Him physically, like cannibals? As if anyone’s love for his children were such that he wished to devour and cat them! Or, as if among all men those were not adjudged the most savage who feed upon human flesh! The centurion said, “I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof” [Matth. 8: 8]. But Christ Himself bore witness of Him that He had not found such faith in all Israel. Therefore, the greater and holier faith is, the more is it content with spiritual participation, and the more thoroughly that satisfies it, the more does a religious heart shrink from bodily manducation. Ministering women were wont to show their adoration by bathing and anointing Christ’s body, not by eating it. The noble counsellor Joseph and the pious, secret disciple, Nicodemus, wrapped it in linen and spices and laid it in a sepulchre, but did not eat it physically.
These difficulties, O King, plainly show that we ought not, under the guise of piety, to assign to the Eucharist or to Baptism qualities that bring faith and truth into danger. What then? Have the sacraments no virtue?
In Baptism, sight, hearing, and touch, are summoned to the aid of faith. For faith, whether that of the Church or that of him who is baptized, recognizes that Christ endured death for His Church, rose again, and triumphed. The same thing is heard, seen, and touched in Baptism. The sacraments, then, are a sort of bridles by which the senses, when on the point of dashing away to their own desires, are checked and brought back to the service of the heart and of faith.
The seventh power of the sacraments is that they fill the office of an oath of allegiance. For “sacramentum” is used by the Latin writers instead of “ius iurandum,” i. e., “oath.” For those who use one and the same Oath, become one and the same race and sacred alliance, unite into one body and one people, and he who betrays it is false to his oath. When, therefore, the people of Christ by eating His body sacramentally become united into one body, he who without faith ventures to obtrude himself upon this company betrays the body of Christ, as well in its head as in its members, because he does not “discern,” that is, does not properly value the body of the Lord, either as having been delivered up by Him for us, or as having been made free by His death. For we are one body with Him.
We are forced, then, whether we will or no, to acknowledge that the words, “This is my body,” etc., are not to be understood literally and according to the primary meaning of the words, but symbolically, sacramentally, metaphorically, or, as a metonymy, thus:– “This is my body,” that is, “this is the sacrament of my body,” or, “this is my sacramental or mystical body, that is, the sacramental and vicarious symbol of that body which I really took and exposed to death.”
But it is now time to pass to other things, lest I offend Your Majesty forgetting to be brief. What I have said, however, is so certain, most brave King, that no one, however many have tried to rebut it, has thus far been able to affect it one jot. Therefore, be not troubled if they that are more ready with their tongues than with substantial Scripture, cry out that the view is irreligious. This they boast, indeed, in bold but empty words, though when they come to facts they are more empty than a cast-off serpent’s skin.
I believe also that there is one holy Catholic, that is, universal Church, and that this is either visible or invisible. The invisible, as Paul teaches, is that which comes down from heaven, that is, which recognizes and embraces God through the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. To this Church belong all those that believe throughout the whole world. And it is called invisible not as if they that believe were invisible, but because it is not evident to human eyes who do believe. The faithful are known to God and themselves alone. And the visible Church is not the Roman pontiff and the rest of them that wear the tiara, but all throughout the whole world who have enrolled themselves under Christ [through baptism]. Among these are all who are called Christians, even though falsely, seeing that they have no faith within. There are, therefore, in the visible Church some who are not members of the elect and invisible Church. For some men eat and drink judgment unto themselves in the Supper, yet all the brethren know them not. Since, therefore, this Church which is visible contains many rebellious and traitorous members who having no faith care nothing if they be a hundred times cast out of the Church, there is need of a government, whether of princes or of nobles, to restrain shameless sinners. For the magistrate carries the sword not in vain [Rom. 13: 4]. Since, then, there are shepherds in the Church, who, as may be seen in Jeremiah [23: 4ff.], have also the rank of princes it is clear that without a temporal government the Church is crippled and incomplete. So far arc we, most pious King, from rejecting government and thinking it should be done away with, as some men charge us with doing, that we even teach that it is necessary to the completeness of the clesiastical body. But hear our teaching about this briefly.
The Greeks recognize these three kinds of governments with their three degenerate forms: Monarchy, which the Latins call “regnum, kingdom,” where one man stands alone as the head of the state under the guidance of piety and justice. The opposite and degenerate form is a tyranny, which the Latins less fittingly call “vis” or “violentia,” “force” or “violence,” or rather, not having quite the proper word themselves, they generally use “tyrannis,” borrowing the word from the Greeks. This exists when piety is scorned, justice is trodden under foot, and all things are done by force, while the ruler holds that anything he pleases is lawful for him. Secondly, they recognize an aristocracy, which the Latins call “optimatium potentia, the power of the best people,” where the best men are at the head of things, observing justice and piety towards the people. When this form degenerates it passes into an oligarchy, which the Latins call literally “paucorum potentia, the power of the few.” Here a few of the nobles rise up and gain influence who, caring not for the general good but for private advantage, trample upon the public weal and serve their own ends. Finally they recognize a democracy, which the Latins render by “res publica, republic,” a word of broader meaning than democracy, where affairs, that is, the supreme power, are in the hands of the people in general, the entire people; and all the civil offices, honors, and public functions are in the hands of the whole people. When this form degenerates, the Greeks call it that is, a state of sedition, conspiracy, and disturbance, where no man suffers himself to be held in check, and instead each one, asserting that he is a part and a member of the people, claims the power of the state as his own, and each one follows his own reckless desires. Hence there arise unrestrained conspiracies and factions, followed by bloodshed, plundering, injustice and all the other evils of treason and sedition.
These distinct forms of government of the Greeks I recognize with the following corrections: If a king or prince rules, I teach that he is to be honored and obeyed, according to Christ’s command, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that arc God’s” [Luke 20: 25]. For by “Caesar” I understand every ruler upon whom power has been conferred or bestowed, either by hereditary right and custom or by election. But if the king or prince becomes a tyrant, I correct his recklessness and inveigh against it in season and out of season. For thus saith the Lord to Jeremiah, “See, I have set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms,” etc. [Jer. 1: 10]. If he listens to the warning, I have gained a father for the whole kingdom and fatherland, but if he becomes more rebelliously violent, I teach that even a wicked ruler is to be obeyed until the Lord shall remove him from his office and power or a means be found to enable those whose duty it is to deprive him of his functions and restore order. In the same way we are watchful and on the alert, if an aristocracy begins to degenerate into an oligarchy or a democracy into mob. We have examples in Scripture, from which we learn what we teach and demand, — Samuel endured Saul until the Lord deprived him of his kingdom along with his life. David returned to his senses at the rebuke of Nathan, and remained on the throne under much trial and temptation. Ahab lost his life because he would not turn from wickedness when Elijah reproved him. John dauntlessly unbraided Herod when he felt no shame at his incestuous conduct. But it would be a long task to bring forward all the examples in Scripture. The learned and pious know from what source we draw what we say.
To sum up, in the Church of Christ government is just as necessary as preaching, although this latter occupies the first place. For as a man cannot exist except as composed of both part, so the Church cannot exist without the civil government, though the government attends to and looks after the more material things that have not to do with the spirit. Since, then two particularly bright lights of our faith, Jeremiah and Paul, bid us pray to the Lord for our rulers that they may permit us to lead a life worthy of God, how much more ought all in whatever kingdom or people to bear and to do all things to guard the Christian peace!Hence we teach that tribute, taxes, dues, tithes, debts, loans, and all promises to pay of every king should be paid and the laws of the state in general be obeyed in these things.
XI. I believe that remission of sins is surely granted to man through faith every time he prays for it to God through Christ. For since Christ sais unto Peter that forgiveness was to be given seventy times seven times [Matth. 18:22], that is, an indefinite number of times, it cannot but be that He Himself always pardons our faults. And I have said that sins are remitted through faith, by which I simply mean to say that faith alone makes a man sure of the remission of his wrongdoings.
For though the Roman pontiff even should say hundreds of times, “Thy sins are forgiven thee,” yet the heart will never be at rest and sure of its reconciliation with God unless it sees and believes beyond all doubt, nay feels, that it has been absolved and redeemed. For as none but the Holy Spirit can give faith, so also none other can give remission of sins.
The restoration, satisfaction, and expiation necessary to our guilt has been obtained in God’s sight through Christ alone having suffered for us. For “he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world,” as the apostle and evangelist related to him says [I John 2: 2; John 3: 36]. Since, then, He has given satisfaction for sin, who, pray, become partakers of that satisfaction and redemption? Let us hear His own words: “He that believeth on me,” that is, “that trusteth in me, that leaneth on me, hath everlasting life” [John 6:47]. But no one obtains everlasting life, unless his sins be taken away. He, therefore, that trusteth in Christ, hath his sins remitted. As, therefore, no one knows about anybody whether he believes, so no one knows whether any one’s sins have been remitted save only the one who through the light and confidence of faith is sure of pardon, because he knows that God has forgiven him through Christ and is sure of this remission so that he has not the slightest doubt about the pardoning of his sins, because he knows that God cannot deceive or lie. Since, therefore, He has said from on high, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” [Matth. 3: 17], or “through whom I am reconciled,” it cannot but be that all who trust in God through Christ, His Son and our Lord and brother, know that pardon for their wrong doings has been given them. Hence all such words as the following are frivolous:–“I absolve you,” and, “I assure you of the pardoning of your sins.” For though the apostles preach the remission of sins, yet none obtains this remission except the believer and the elect. Since, therefore, the election and the faith of other men are hidden from us, however much the spirit of the Lord makes us sure of our own faith and election, it is also hidden from us whether another’s sins have been remitted. How, therefore, can a man assure another man of the remission of his sons? All that the Roman Pontiffs have invented in this matter is fraud and fables.
But since I have come to touch upon the subject of faith, I should like to explain briefly to Your Majesty what my teaching is about faith and works. For there are people who slander me rather unjustly as forbidding good works, though I really teach upon this subject as upon all others nothing but what the divine Scriptures indicate and what common intelligence suggests. For who is so inexperienced as not to say that works should proceed from intention, or that works without intention are not works but accidents? Faith is in the human heart what intention is in action. Unless intention precedes the deed, whatever results is thoughtless and aimless. Unless faith occupies the stronghold and commands the whole action, whatever we do is without merit and vain. For even we human beings look more at the faithful purpose in any work than at the work itself. If faithful purpose is not there, the value of the work is naught. If anyone perform some great work for Your Majesty, but not from faithful purpose, do you not straightway say that you owe no thanks to the doer because he did not act from his heart? Or rather you straightway feel that in whatever anyone does for you without faithful purpose some perfidy lies hidden, so that he who does a service without faithful purpose is always suspected of some perfidy and seems to you to have acted for his own interests and not for yours. So also in regard to our works this is the rule and order. Faith must be the fountain head of works. If faith is there, the work itself is acceptable to God, if it is not there, the whole result is unbelief and in consequence, not only unacceptable but an abomination to God. Hence St. Paul says, Rom. 14:23, “Whatever is not of faith is sin,” and some of our own people have declared, in paradoxical fashion, that all our works are an abomination. By this they have meant to say nothing else than what I have already said, “If the work is ours and not faith’s, it is unbelief, which God abominates.” Now faith, as I have indicated above, is from the Spirit of God alone. They, therefore, that have faith, look in all their works to the will of God as to a model to follow. Hence, not only are those works rejected which are done contrary to the law of God, but also those which are done without the law of God. For the law is the permanent will of God. What is done, then, without the law, that is, without the word and will of God, is not of faith. What is not of faith is sin. If it is sin, God abhors it. Hence it appears that if anyone does without faith a work that God has commanded c. g., alms, that work is not acceptable to God. For when we inquire as to the source of alms which do not result from faith, we find that they are begotten of vain glory or the desire to receive more in return or some other evil passion. And who would not believe that such a work is displeasing to God?
It is plain, therefore, that those works which are done without the will of God are also done without faith, and since they are done apart from faith, are sins in Paul’s judgment, and since they are sin, God abominates them. Whatever, therefore, has been given out by the Romanists, without the authority and testimony of the divine Word, as pious, holy, and acceptable to God, like fictitious indulgences, the extinguishing of the fires of purgatory, forced chastity, a variety of orders and superstitious customs, which it would be tiresome to enumerate: all this is sin and an abomination in the sight of God.
Furthermore, as to those works which arc done according to the law of God, as when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the captive, it is a difficult question to decide whether they have merit. Our opponents quote Scripture to prove that they have merit:-“If any one shall give another a cup of cold water in my name, he shall not lose his reward” [Mark 9:41]. But the word of the Lord bears witness just as much that there is no merit: — “When ye have done all these things say, ‘We are unprofitable servants’”[Lk. 17:10]. For if our works merited blessedness, there would have been no need of the death of Christ to satisfy the divine righteousness. It would not be grace when sins are pardoned, for every one could win merit. Paul discourses upon this irrefutably in Romans and Galatians. For it must be true that “no man cometh unto the Father but through Christ” [John 14:6]. Therefore, only by the grace and bounty of God, which He pours out upon us abundantly through Christ, does everlasting happiness come.
What, then, shall we say to the above passage of Scripture about the reward promised for a draught of cold water and to like passages? The following: The election of God is free and by grace. For He elected us before the creation of the world, before we were born. Therefore God does not elect us because of works, but elected us before the foundation of the world. Hence works have no merit, and when He promises a reward to works He is speaking after the manner of men. “For what dost Thou reward, I good God,” says Augustine, “save thine own work? For inasmuch as Thou makest us to will and to do, what is there left for us to claim for ourselves?” But since men are, on the one hand, incited to good works by promises, and, on the other, are so kind and noble that they say to those to whom they have done a kindness, “I owed you that; you have deserved well,” or some other like phrase, so that the man who receives the kindness may not be relegated in his own eyes to the ranks of beggars (for one who loves another desires to guard against his feelings being humiliated), so God also raises up all the more by His bounty those whom He loves that they may not despise Him, but cherish and honor Him, and He attributes to us what He Himself does through us, rewarding it as ours, though not only all our works but all our life and being are of Him. From this it follows that God is in the habit of speaking to man in the language and fashion of men. As men give something to those who have deserved well and call their gift a reward, so God also calls his gifts a reward and recompense. it is manifest, then, that the terms “merit” and “reward” are found in the divine Scriptures, but in the sense of “bountiful gift.” For what can he merit as a reward who by grace exists and by grace receives all that he has?
At the same time this must be noted, that works are by no means omitted by pious men because, properly speaking, we do not gain merit by works. On the contrary, the greater our faith, the more and greater are the works that we do, as Christ himself testifies, John 14:12, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do,” and “If ye have faith like a grain of mustard seed, and shall say to this mountain, Move hence, and take up thy abode in the sea, it will obey” [Matth. 17:20; Mk. 11:23]. Hence they are unfair to me who, because I take great pains to preach faith, say that I teach that no good works are to be done. Indeed, making truth a laughing stock, they slander me thus:-“This is the teaching for us, my friends. We are saved by faith alone. Hence we shall not fast, nor pray, nor help the needy.” By such slanders they simply betray their own unbelief. For if they know what a gift of God faith is, how effective its power and unwearied its activity, they would not scorn that which they have not. For that trust with which a man depends on God with all the powers of his soul, can think and do naught but what is divine, or rather, cannot help doing what is pleasing to God. For since faith is an inspiration of the divine Spirit, how can it rest idle or sit down in slothful ease when that Spirit is perennial activity and work? Wherever, then, there is true faith, there are works also, just as where there is fire there is also heat. But where there is no faith, works are not works but an empty imitation of works.
Hence we may infer that those who so persistently demand a reward for our works, and say that they will cease working the works of God if no reward awaits the works, have the souls of slaves. For slaves work for reward only, and lazy persons likewise. But they that have faith are untiring in the work of God, like the son of the house. He has not merited by works his being the heir of the estate, nor does he toil and labor for this, that he shall become the heir, but when he was born, he was the heir of his father’s possessions through birth, not through merit. And when he is untiring in work, he does not demand a reward, for he knows that all things are his. So the sons of God who have faith know that by divine birth, that is, the birth of the Spirit, and by free election they are sons of God, not slaves. Since, then, they are sons of the house, they ask not what reward awaits them, for all things are ours, who are the heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. Freely, therefore, gladly, and without weariness they labor, indeed there is no work so great that they do not believe it is accomplished by His power in whom we trust, not by our own.
And, since there are in the Church these two diseases, unbelief and weakness of faith (for these are some who absolutely do not believe, those, namely, who in the Supper eat and drink judgement unto themselves, like Judas and Simon Magus; and there are those who have a languid faith, those, namely, who thoughtlessly waver when any danger threatens, whose faith is choked by the thorns, that is, the cares and interests of this world, and put forth no fruit or holy work), I urge the believers, as Christ, Paul and James, did, if they are really believers, to show by their works that they are such, for we say that faith without works is dead, a good tree bringeth forth good fruit, the children of Abraham do the works of Abraham, nothing avails with Christ save the faith which worketh by love[Gal. 5:6].
Thus I preach the laws well as grace. For in the law the elect and the believers learn the will of God, the wicked are terrified by it, that either through fear they do something for the good of their neighbor, or betray their own hopelessness and faithlessness. But at the same time I admonish men that those works count for nothing which we perform with human skill under the idea of serving God, for they certainly are no more pleasing to Him than it would be to you if anyone wished to serve you, O King, in some way that you did not like. If, then, you must be served according to your own will, how much are we not to bring before the face of God works which He has not commanded and does not like! We open up the source, therefore, from which good works flow when we teach faith. On the other hand, when we urge works, we are as it were demanding the payment of a debt which would not be paid without compulsion.
XII. Finally I believe that after this life, which is rather captivity and death that life, a glad and happy life will come to the saints or believers, and a gloomy and wretched one to the wicked or unbelievers, and that both will be unending. And in regard to this matter I maintain against the Catabaptists, who contend that the soul sleeps with the body until the day of judgment, that the soul whether of angel or of man cannot sleep or be at rest. For such an idea contradicts all reason. The soul is a substance so instinct with life that it not only lives itself, but also quickens whatever habitation it dwells in. When an angel takes on a body, either one of air or one specially created, he presently gives it life so that it moves, works, acts and is acted upon. As soon as the human soul enters a body, this straightway lives, grows, moves, and performs all the other functions of life. How could it be, therefore, that the soul when released from the body should lie torpid or sleep? Philosophers give the name “activity” or “action” to the soul, from the live and wide-awake, that is, unceasing character of its power of action. This force the Greeks express by a more significant word, calling it that is, perennial power, operation, effective and prolonged action. The visible things in the world are constituted by Divine Providence in such order that the human mind can rise from them to the knowledge of the invisible. Fire and air occupy the place among the elements that the soul occupies among bodies. As air is everywhere present throughout the body of the universe, so the soul permeates the whole human body. As fire is nowhere present without actual operation, so the soul is everywhere in operation.
This is also seen in sleep, for we dream and remember our dreams. Sleep, therefore, is a function of the body, not of the soul. For the soul meanwhile invigorates the body, renews it, and restores the waste, so that it never ceases working, acting, and moving, as long as it is in the body. As, therefore, the fire is never without light, so the soul never grows old nor becomes inactive, nor dies, nor sleeps. It is ever alive, awake, and active.
So far we have been philosophizing about the soul. Now we must come to the testimony of Scripture by which we prove that the soul never sleeps. “He that believeth on me cometh not into judgment but passeth from death into life” [John 5: 24]. He, therefore, that believes in this life, already perceives how sweet is the Lord, and obtains a beginning of the heavenly life and a certain taste thereof. If, then, that soul which lives in God bore presently slept when it had gone out of the body, the life of a Christian man would be more desirable in this world than when he bad left this world; for he would be asleep then, while here he is awake and in conscious enjoyment of God.
“He that believeth in me hath everlasting life” [John 3: 36]. But life would not be unceasing (“everlasting” is used here for “unceasing”) if this life of the soul which it leads here be interrupted by sleep hereafter.
“Father, I will that where I am there also shall be they that attend upon me” [John 17: 24]. If then the Holy Virgin, Abraham, and Paul are with God, what kind of a life is it in heaven or what is the nature of the Deity if there be sleep there? Does the Deity also sleep? If He sleeps He is no Deity, for whatever sleeps is exposd to change, and sleeps in order to refresh its weariness. If the Deity becomes weary, He is no Deity, for the Deity is unconquerable by any toil or labor. If the Deity does not sleep, it is just as inevitable that the soul also should not sleep as it is that the air should be clear and transparent when the sun shines on the earth. Foolish, therefore, and vain is this notion of the Catabaptists, who are not satisfied to have deluded men, but must defile the sure and infallible utterances of the living God. I could add many more proofs: -“This is life everlasting, to know thee,” etc. [John 17: 3], and “I will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” [John 14: 3], and similar passages, but brevity forbids.
I believe, then, that the souls of the faithful fly to heaven as soon as they leave the body, come into the presence of God, and rejoice forever. Here, most pious King, if you govern the state entrusted to you by God as David, Hezekiah, and Josiah did, you may hope to see first God Himself in His very substance, in His nature and with all His endowments and powers, and to enjoy all these, not sparingly but in full measure, not with the cloying effect that generally accompanies satiety, but with that agreeable completeness which involves no surfeiting, just as the rivers, that flow unceasingly into the sea and flow back through the depths of the earth, bring no loathing to mankind, but rather gain and joy, ever watering, gladdening and fostering new germs of life. The good which we shall enjoy is infinite and the infinite cannot be exhausted; therefore no one can become surfeited with it, for it is ever now and yet the same. Then you may hope to see the whole company and assemblage of all the saints, the wise, the faithful, brave, and good who have lived since the world began. Here you will see the two Adams, the redeemed and the redeemer, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, Phineas, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, and the Virgin Mother of God of whom he prophesied, David, Hezekiah, Josiah, the Baptist, Peter, Paul; here too, Hercules, Theseus, Socrates, Aristides, Antigonus, Numa, Camillus, the Catos and Scipios; here Louis the Pious, and your predecessors, the Louis, Philips, Pepins, and all your ancestors who have gone hence in faith. In short there has not been a good man and will not be a holy heart or faithful soul from the beginning of the world to the end thereof that you will not see in heaven with God. And what can be imagined more glad, what more delightful, what, finally, more honorable than such a sight? To what can all our souls more justly bend all their strength than to the attainment of such a life? And may meantime the dreaming Catabaptists deservedly sleep in the regions below a sleep from which they will never wake. Their error comes from the fact that they do not know that with the Hebrews the word for sleeping is used for the word for dying, as is more.frequently the case with Paul than there is any need of demonstrating at present.
And since I have come to speak of the Catabaptists, I should like, O King, to sketch for you in a few words the doctrines of that sect. They are mostly a class of rabble, homeless from the want of means, who make it their business to win old women by pompous discourses upon divine things to extract from them the wherewithal to support themselves, or to gather in considerable alms. In general, they make pretense of the same holiness of which Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons writes in connection with the Valentinians and Nazianzenus [Gregory of Nazianzus] in connection with the Eunomians. Then, in reliance upon this, they teach a Christian cannot be a magistrate; that it is not lawful for a Christian to put even a guilty man to death even by process of law; that we must not go to war even if tyrants or godless persons and robbers resort to force and plunder, slay, and destroy every day; that an oath must not be taken; that a Christian should not exact duties or taxes; that all things should be held in common; that the souls sleep with the bodies; that a man can have several wives “in spirit” (having, however, carnal intercourse with them); that tithes and revenues should not be paid, and hundreds of other things. Nay, they daily scatter new errors like tares amid the righteous seed of God.
Although they have left us, because they were not of us, there are yet people who impute all their errors to us, though we fight against them more fiercely than any one, and teach the opposite of their teaching in all the above named matters. Therefore, most excellent King, if I am reported to Your Majesty from any quarter as wishing to abolish magistrates, saying that an oath ought not to be taken, and teaching the rest that the Catabaptist scum spits out upon the world, I beg and pray, by the truth to which men say you are so devoted, that you will believe nothing of the sort of us, that is, of those who are proclaiming the Gospel in the cities of the Christian alliance. For we do not rouse tumult nor weaken the authority of magistrates or laws, nor do we advocate any man’s not keeping his faith and paying his debts, however much certain people accuse us of these things not merely by secret denunciation but in public writings. We do not reply to them for this reason particularly, that the world is already full of fiercely controversial books, and facts themselves are every day making plain what lies those people write who are every day making reports about us among the people, not caring for the glory of Christ but for their own glory and for their bellies.
Now this Catabaptist pest has crept in principally at those places where the true teachings of Christ have begun to take root, so that you can more easily see, O King, that it has been brought in by the evil spirit, in order to choke the wholesome seed at the start. We see cities and towns that had made a fine beginning in receiving the Gospel, after being infected and hindered by this pest, come as it were to a standstill, so that, because of their confusion, they were unable to attend to sacred or civil affairs. Therefore, I warn Your Majesty (begging your pardon, for I know how you are surrounded by excellent counsels, but counsel does not provide against what is not foreseen. If this evil occurred to the minds of your advisers, they would easily make provision against it, I know, but since they are doubtless unaware of the danger, I think you will not take my warning amiss),—-since it cannot but be that also in your kingdom some sparks of the reviving Gospel are flashing forth, I warn you not to suffer the good seed to be choked by the Papists whose influence has grown unduly, for then instead of this good seed you would find the Catabaptists’ tares growing up where you least suspected it, and such disorder in all things appearing throughout your kingdom that it would be very hard to discover a remedy.
This is a summary of my faith and preaching which I hold by the grace of God, and I stand ready to give an account of it to any man, for there is not one jot of my teaching that I have not learned from the divine Scriptures, and I advance no doctrine for which I have not the authority of the leading doctors of the Church, the prophets, apostles, bishops, evangelists, and translators-those of old, who drank from the fountain-head in its purity. This will be admitted by those who have seen and examined my writings.
Accordingly, most holy King (for what hinders me to call ” most holy” him who is the most Christian King?), gird yourself to receive with due honor the Christ who is to be born anew for us and brought back to us. For I see that by the providence of God it has come to pass that the kings of France are called “most Christian,” since the restoration of the Gospel of the Son of God was to take place in your reign–a king whom friends and enemies alike all proclaim to be gracious by nature. For a Christian prince must be of gracious and affable nature, of just and intelligent judgment, of most wise and brave mind. God has made you very rich in these endowments, that you might shine upon this age, and yourself rekindle the torch of the knowledge of God. Go on, then, with those heroic virtues, seize shield and spear, and attack unbelief with dauntless and intrepid courage and with that body of yours conspicuous for all grace. Thus when the other kings shall see you, the most Christian king, championing the glory of Christ, they will follow you and turn out Antichrist. Permit the doctrine of salvation to be preached in purity in your realm. You are strong in men of wisdom and learning, in resources, and in a people inclined to religion; you will not, therefore, suffer their hearts which are so devoted to God and yourself to be led astray into superstition. There is no reason to fear here that the slanderers will cry out their falsehoods to oppose truth. Not only your subjects but the outside allied nations will wage holy and righteous wars. Not only the people but preachers also will take the oath of allegiance without hesitation though the Papists have thus far refused to do so. Even the preachers will pay their dues and taxes, so far are they from being inclined to teach that they should not be paid. They will leave every man his own rights and privileges. If mistakes are made, they will censure them, but they will not create any disturbance because of temporal things, for they recognize the ordinary judge in these things, however much they may criticise and censure him when he does wrong.
Believe me, indeed, believe me, magnanimous Hero, none of those evils will come to pass which the Papists threaten. For the Lord protects His Church. Oh that you might see with your own eyes the States of certain princes who have received the Gospel in Germany, and the security, happiness, and faithfulness of their cities. Then you would say because ot the results: “I doubt not that what has come to pass is from God.” Examine the whole matter in the light of your faith and wisdom, and pardon the daring with which I have disturbed Your Majesty in boorish fashion. The situation demanded it
Zurich. Your Majesty’s most devoted, H. ZWINGLI
There are some things which in the above exposition I touched upon lightly; these I will now treat of in a fuller exposition. And I shall especially prove that the Papists depart from truth when they proclaim that they offer Christ for sin in the Mass. For as He offered Himself once on the cross and again to the Father in heaven, so He won and obtained remission of sins and the joy of everlasting happiness, and he who boasts that he offers Him to the Father can in no way more completely reject or deny Christ. This I shall try to make clear as follows:
First, I ask the opponent, who among men offered up Christ when He was hung upon the cross? They can only answer that no man offered Him up; He was offered up by Himself. To this the prophets, Christ Himself, and His apostles bare witness. He was offered up, because He Himself willed it. “No man taketh my life from me,” and “I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” [John 10: 18]. “I lay down my life for my sheep” [John 10: 15], and “The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” [John 6: 61]. Through the eternal Spirit He offered Himself up unspotted unto God.
If, therefore, Christ was then offered up by none other than Himself, I ask secondly, whether there is any difference between that real offering of Himself to death and the offering by which the Papists offer Him up. If they say there is no difference, it will follow that Christ must endure suffering and pain, nay, must die today also when He is offered up. For so it is written in Hebr. 2: 14, “that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;” in Rom. 5: 10, “we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son.” “Where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator” [Hebr. 9: 16], that is, if one is to hand over a legacy by testament to anyone, the testator must die. And our testament or legacy is the free remission of sins, as we see in Jer. 31: 35, and Hebr. 8: 12. When the divine goodness bequeathed this to us, it was necessary that He should die through whom the pardon of our sins had been bequeathed to us. It follows, therefore, that if the Papists now offer Him up, Christ dies even now. For if they offer Him up, sins are taken away by the offering; if sins are taken away, death must intervene, for “without shedding of blood is no remission,” Hebr. 9: 22, and Rom. 6: 10, “for in that he died, he died unto sin.” It is, therefore, altogether apparent that if the Papists offer up Christ for the remission of sins, as He offered Himself up, they also slay Him, for without death sins are not abolished.
But if between their offering and that by which Christ offered Himself up there is some difference, I ask what it can be? They will answer, no doubt, in the old way, that there is this difference, that He actually offered Himself up, while they now offer Him up spiritually. Therefore it was necessary then for Him to die, but now, since their offering is a spiritual one, death is not required. I reply that in so difficult a matter no ambiguous nor obscure form of expression must be allowed to pass unchallenged, lest forsooth we be led away from the truth through not understanding the force of the expression. I ask therefore, when they say that they offer Him spiritually, what they understand by this word “spiritually,”–whether they mean their own spirit, so that the meaning is, “We offer up Christ spiritually, that is, we consider in our hearts and recall the memory of Christ’s having offered Himself up for us, and we give thanks for it.” If this is the way they understand “to offer up spiritually,” meaning to offer up Christ in their hearts, they do not differ at all from us, but they differ from themselves by more than, i. c., “three times the octave” So far are they from offering up Christ in this way that it is they themselves who, already offered up to Him in faith, now offer Him up visibly in the Supper also.
If by “spiritually” they understand the spirit of Christ, in the meaning, “We offer up Christ spiritually, that is, we offer up the spirit of Christ ” this is contradicted by the words of Christ that I quoted above, “No man taketh my life,” etc., for no man has power over Him. For He offered Himself up through the everlasting Spirit, that is, He delivered His life and body over to death, by the will and order of the eternal Spirit or counsel. No one but Himself, therefore, can offer up Christ in this way.
But if they understand “spiritually” as follows: “We offer up the real body of Christ spiritually, that is, in some inexplicable manner, so that while it is real body it is not the actual, natural body, but according to a fashion of its own a spiritual one, which fashion is unknown to us” (for that is about the way they speak), I will show that they simply string together words which cannot be consistent. For since it is evident that Christ’s body is a real body, so that it remains one and the same body in fact and in number before it died and after it rose again, although from being mortal it became immortal and from being animal it became spiritual, that is, divine, pure, incapable of suffering, and in all things obedient to the Spirit, it yet never so changes and passes over into spirit as not to be really natural and actual body, corruptible and frail to be sure before death, but after the resurrection incorruptible, strong and everlasting, yet always one and the same body. I am speaking of real body, then, and ask whether they say that real body is offered up, but in an inexplicable way. They answer, “Yes, certainly.” I ask further why they venture to say that the manner is inexplicable when the first line of division between all things and all substances is that they are either body or spirit. This division is so far reaching that it even includes God, and the angels and all spirits. For “God is spirit,” John 4: 24. Though, therefore, my question is about what is, not about how it is, as they themselves say with the philosophers, that is, though I first ask what is offered up, and only afterwards ask how it is offered up, not with the desire as it were to demand the reason of the doings of God, but because they do not make proper answer as to the thing or substance, I will now show that they do not any more make proper answer as to how it is. But that the cloudy mists of sophistry may not be displeasing to Your Majesty, I will explain very clearly and plainly what I have said because of contentious persons. I ask of the Papists first in regard to the thing, “What do you offer up for sin in the Mass?” They answer, “The body of Christ.” I say, “Is it the true and real body?” They answer, “Yes.” I say, “If you offer up the true and real body, two utter absurdities follow. First, you take upon yourselves a work which belongs to the Son of God alone. For He offered Himself up, as has been said before. For no one can offer up anything greater than himself. The priests of the Old Testament used to offer up animal sacrifices, and these were as much below the priests themselves as a brute is lower than a man. But each one offered up the highest sacrifice he could when he dedicated and bound himself over to the Lord, that is, when he devoted his whole heart to God, and surrendered his whole life and all his actions to His service. Hence also the apostles nowhere teach us to offer up anything else than ourselves. Christ, therefore, is offered up by Himself alone. For on this account did the chief high priest alone enter the holy of holies and once only in the year, as a figurative representation, that Christ alone was to make expiation for sin.
The other absurdity is that if you offer up Christ for sin, you slay Christ, for sin is not abolished save by death. For seed of corn, unless it die, bringeth forth no fruit [John 12: 24]. If, therefore, you slay not, you produce no fruit; if you slay, you crucify Christ again, when He died once for all and cannot die any more, as the apostle teaches truly and undeniably in the epistles to the Romans and the Hebrews. See, most wise King, into what straits, into what difficulties and quicksands the Papists suffer themselves to be drawn through their greed. Christ alone can offer Himself up. The offering takes place only at the time the victim is slain. Sin is abolished only at the time the expiation is made, that is, at the time the victim that has been sacrificed is accepted by God with smiling approval. It follows, therefore, that no man can offer up Christ, much less can the Papists. This also follows, that if they offered up Christ they would be slaying Him. But since Christ cannot die any more, it follows that even if the Papists would like to slay Christ, in order that they might receive money for His blood, yet they cannot slay Him. For death can have no more dominion over Him. But all this will become clearer to Your Majesty when I have adduced the testimony of the apostle.
Hebr. 1: 3, “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by Himself purged our sins,” etc. Behold, most excellent King, who He had to be who purged our sins. The brightness of the everlasting sun, that is, the supreme light, the image, that is, the likeness and antitype of the everlasting Deity, that is, of His substance, which has its being through itself and gives being unto all things. He is almighty, as one whose commands all things obey. What impudence is it, then, for us to maintain that men offer Him up for sin, when He has purged away sin by offering up Himself!
In the same epistle, Hebr. 5: 5, “So Christ also glorified not himself to be made a high priest, but he that spake unto him, Thou art My Son, this day have I begotten Thee.” What an irreverence, then, and insult to God is this that a man should make himself high priest, when not even the Son of God took this honor upon Himself but received it from His Father!
In the same epistle, Hebr. 7: 26, “For such a high priest became us, holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens,” etc. What created being now will dare to take upon himself to boast that he is high priest, when that high priest who is to abolish sin must be holy and free from all blemish?
In the same chapter [v.24], “But he, because he abideth for ever, hath his priesthood unchangeable.” Hence He can always save and deliver them that come through Him to make supplication to God, living ever as He does to intercede for them. What folly is it to choose substitute priests for Him who gives up neither His office nor His life! Christ is the everlasting priest, our everlasting advocate before God. Why, then, do we make other advocates for ourselves? Is Christ dead?Has He abandoned our cause? Behold, most brave King, how they deny Christ and insult God who thus make themselves priests.
In the same chapter [v. 27], “Who needeth not daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people; for this” (sacrificing for the people), “he did once for all, when he offered up himself.” We see here that Christ was offered up once for all. What vileness, then, to do what has already been done and finished! Since He, in that He was offered up once for all, perfected the atonement for sin, and this endureth for ever through Him, he who boasts that he offers Him up does the same thing as if he boasted that he created the world. For that, when once created endureth forever; so also redemption, once obtained through Christ, equally endureth forever. For the works of God are not like the works of men to fall to the ground unless they happen to be renewed and made over.
In the same epistle, 8:1, “Now in the things which we are saying the chief point is this: We have such a high priest, who sat down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,” etc. What presumption is it, therefore, to make one’s self a high priest or minister, when He alone is our high priest who sat down on the right hand of God!
In the same epistle, 9:11 and 12, “But Christ having come a high priest of the good things to come, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption.” What arrogance, therefore, to take upon one’s self the work of the Son of God, when He offered up His own blood, and alone did it, and thus to boast, being a man subject to sin, that one is offering up the same blood which He offered up once for all, but so abundantly and generously that the redemption won endureth forever!For God is everlasting. He who redeemed also created. I will quote from this epistle one more proof in which all that I have said is seen as on a tablet.
In the same epistle, 9:24, “For Christ entered not into holy place made with hands, like in pattern to the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the [Levitical] high priest entereth into the holy place year by year with blood not his own; else must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world; but now once at the end of the ages hath he been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” See how being offered up involves suffering!What dullness, then, not to see that when Christ is offered up He also dies! And since He can have died only once, He can have been offered up only once. But, once offered up, He purifies forever the sanctified, that is, those destined for everlasting life. He who reconciles the Father to us must sit in heaven. Hence also the Church that through Christ possesses and obtains all things is called the true Church of Christ.
But why should I trouble Your Majesty with more words, since it is clearer than the sun that no one can offer up Christ but Himself, and, secondly, that He can be offered up once only? For if the offering up of Him were repeated, it would show that His own doing it was not sufficient. Thirdly, if He were offered up, He would suffer again. It is, therefore, established that the Papists deny Christ and make void His work.
But since the ancient theologians, who drank in and treated of the Christian religion in greater purity and simplicity, very often call the Eucharist an offering (for the word “Mass” was not heard until after the time of Augustine), some one might raise the objection, “Why, then, did they call it an offering if it is not really an offering?” especially since in the judgment of all they spoke more learnedly and to the point than later writers. I answer, “The more learned and religious anyone is, the less he wanders from the truth whatever words he uses.” For learning, like a lamp, lights up and makes clear to the sight whatever is said, but religion forbids that anything at variance with the truth should be accepted on account of the apparent meaning of the words. It takes to heart the warning in Saint Augustine’s rule, and says, “Even though you do not grasp the words, and do not know the real meaning of the divine utterance, yet it is certain that God’s utterances are every way consistent, and however much they seem to have a different meaning in different passages, yet they never do contradict themselves.” When they seem to us at first sight to contradict themselves, this is due to our being deceived by our ignorance of language or feebleness of religious feeling. When, therefore, they call an offering what cannot really and literally be an offering, we must first appeal to our religious consciousness. Religion denies, as I think has been said strongly enough, that there can be any other high priest than Christ. Therefore, not even the Pope, however great he is, if we are to estimate him at his own valuation, can offer up Christ. While this is firmly established by religion, she is seconded by her handmaid, learning. “Go to,” she says to righteousness, “It is nothing new for things to get names from their inventors, or authors, or from what they represent.” This useful quality in words the learned call “metonymy,” that is, “the substitution of the name of one object for that of another.” For instance, when Paul says. “When Moses is read, the veil is upon their eyes,” where “Moses” signifies the law that is, the entire Old Testament, simply because Moses brought out the law according to God’s will and command. Also when the lamb which was eaten at the Supper is called the Passover, though it only signifies the passover. So also the Eucharist was learnedly and religiously called an offering by the ancients, not because it was one, but because it signified that offering in which Christ, by offering Himself up in that one offering, made perfect and redeemed forever those who have been sanctified, that is, have been elected of God. But you might call this that I say a thing made up by me if you did not find that Augustine expresses the same view in the letter to Boniface which is numbered 23.
“We often say in ordinary parlance when Easter is approaching, ‘tomorrow or the day after is the Lord’s Passion,’ although He suffered so many years ago, and, in general, that Passion took place once for all time. On Easter Sunday itself we say, ‘This day the Lord rose from the dead,’ although so many years have passed since His resurrection. But no one is so foolish as to accuse us of falsehood when we use these phrases, for the reason, that we give such names to these days on the ground of a likeness between them and the days on which the events referred to actually occurred, the day being called the day of that event, although it is not the same, but one corresponding to it by the revolution of the same time of the year, and it being said, on account of the celebration of the sacrament, that a thing is done on that day which was done not on that day but long ago. Was not Christ offered once for all in His own person as a sacrifice, and yet in the sacrament He is offered to the nations not only all through the solemnities of the Easter day, but also daily among our congregations, so that the man who, being questioned, answers that He is offered as a sacrifice in that ordinance is strictly true. For if sacraments had not some likeness to the things of which they are the sacraments, they would not be sacraments at all. In most cases, moreover, they do in virtue of this likeness bear the names of the realities which they resemble. As, therefore, in a sense the sacrament of the body of Christ is the body of Christ, and the sacrament of the blood of Christ is the blood of Christ, so the sacrament of faith is faith,” etc.
From these words of Augustine Your Highness easily discerns that the Eucharist is called a sacrifice or offering exactly as the Resurrection and Passion of the Lord arc so called, which days, inasmuch as they signify and call to mind real things which took place once, receive the names of those things. It is established, therefore, that the Papists are entirely mistaken when they make the Mass or Eucharist a real offering, seeing that it is only the likeness and commemoration of an offering. This also is established, that they are foolish and ignorant who think that sacraments and festivals of praise are not properly called by the names of the things which they signify, however much they are not these things. When, therefore, the Papists strive to make the thing itself out of the symbol, they only succeed in showing all men that they arc themselves uneducated and ignorant.
I pass over in silence the other errors into which they fall in regard to the Mass, or rather which they invent and devise with perverted ingenuity: –the way they traffic in it and make it a matter of revenue, which is not only an attack upon the holiness of our religion but upon common honesty. (For who among the heathen have ever pursued filthy luerc so sordidly as openly to defile religion?) I also pass over that they promise the redemption of the soul from purgatory through it, when neither any fire of purgatory exists as they think, nor any offering which can reach God save that through which Christ sacrificed and offered Himself up upon the altar of the cross. I pass over their saying that Christ’s body is eaten by an unbeliever just as much as by a believer; that the Mass is equally effective whether performed by a reprobate or by a pious and holy man; their speaking so ignorantly of the body of Christ as to say that it is eaten in the Supper in the proportions in which it hung upon the cross and lay in the manger, and hundreds of other declarations as foolish as they are impudent. Meanwhile they say that I am a heretic if I do not assent to all their madness, and they weave together extraordinary lies to bring my teaching under suspicion in the eyes of those to whom a report of them may come. As if I denied that Christ was in the Supper, denied His omnipotence, denied His words, and other things of that kind. But do you, most gracious King, hear a brief statement of my opinion as to how the body of Christ is in the Supper.
I believe that Christ is truly in the Supper, nay, I do not believe it is the Lord’s Supper unless Christ is there. Proof:-“Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there will I be in the midst of them” [Matth. 18: 20]. How much more is He there where the whole Church is gathered together for Him! But that His body is eaten in the dimensions that they say is absolutely at variance with the truth and with the spirit of faith. With the truth, because He said, “I shall be no more in the world” [John 17: 11], and, “the flesh profiteth nothing” [John 6: 63], as far as eating is concerned, that is, in the way the Jews then thought and the Papists now think he must be eaten. And it is inconsistent with the spirit of faith, because faith (I speak of grand and true faith) embraces in itself love and religious feeling or reverence and fear of God. And this religious feeling shrinks from that carnal and crude manducation just as much as any one would shrink from eating a dearly beloved son. Proof:-The centurion, whose faith Christ proclaimed as greater than any in Israel, out of the reverence of faith said to Him, “Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof” [Matth. 8: 8], and Peter, when at the draught of fish he bids Jesus to depart from him [Luke 5: 8], on account of the fear that had taken possession of him, shrinks in consequence of this same reverence from His bodily and visible presence.
It is clear, then, that the heart and faith, that is, the truth, which is the one light of the mind, and religious feeling, by which we seize hold of, revere, and worship God, shrink from such crude manducation as that in which the men of Capernaum and the Papists say that, they eat the body of Christ. For, as Augustine holds, when the men of Capernaum said “How can this man give us his flesh to cat?” and “Is not this the son of Joseph?” [John 6: 52], they thought that His body was offered them to cat as meat from the market is eaten, as, namely, it stood before them as perceived by the senses, in its special form and height. And what else do the Papists maintain when they say that Jesus is eaten in the proportions in which He hung upon the cross and lay in the tomb? For truth and the heart shrink from such manducation, and religious feeling and faith have too holy a regard and love for Christ to desire to eat Him in this way.
I maintain, therefore, that the body of Christ is not eaten in the Supper in the carnal and crude fashion they say, but I believe that the real body of Christ is eaten in the Supper sacramentally and spiritually by the religious, faithful, and pure mind, as also Saint Chrysostom holds. And this is a brief resume of my view, or, rather not mine but the truth’s own, in this controversy.
I want, however, to subjoin the order of service which we, use in celebrating the Supper, that Your Majesty may see that I do not alter or make void the words of Christ, or distort them into a perverted meaning, and that I preserve entire in the Supper the things that ought to have been preserved in the Mass, namely, prayers, praise, confession of faith, communion of the Church or the believers, and the spiritual and sacramental eating of the body of Christ, while, on the other hand we omit all those things which are not of Christ’s institution, to wit, “We offer efficaciously for the living and the dead:” “We offer for the remission of sins,” and the other things that the Papists assert less impiously than ignorantly.
First, in a sermon of appropriate length is preached the goodness of God which He has shown us through His Son, and the people are directed to the knowledge of this and thanksgiving for it. When this is finished a table is placed in front of the choir, so-called, before the steps; this is covered with a cloth, the unleavened bread is placed upon it, and the wine poured into cups. Then the pastor comes forward with two assistants, and they all turn towards the people, so that the pastor or bishop stands between the others, having on only the usual garb worn by men of standing and ministers of the Church. Then the pastor begins in a loud voice, not in the Latin tongue, but in the vernacular, so that all shall understand what is going on, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” The assistants respond in the name of the whole Church, “Amen.” The Pastor: –“Let us pray.” Now the church kneels.
“Almighty and everlasting God, whom all creatures rightly worship, adore, and praise, as their Maker, Creator, and Father, grant unto us miserable sinners that we may in sincere faith render that praise and thanksgiving which Thy only begotten Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ instructed us to do, through that same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, God, in the unity of the Holy Spirit world without end. Amen.”
Then the assistant who stands on the left reads, “What is now read is written in the first Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, eleventh chapter,—-‘When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper,”‘ [v. 20], and the rest as far as, “not discerning the Lord’s body” [v. 29].
Then the assistants and the Church respond, “Praise be to God.” The Pastor, “Glory to God in the highest.” The Deacon, “And on earth peace.” The Sub-deacon, “To men a sound and tranquil mind.” The Deacon, “We praise Thee, we bless Thee,” and the rest to the end of this hymn, the assistants reciting it alternately, verse by verse, the Church understanding the whole and admonished at the beginning that each man is to say over in his heart and consider in the sight of God and the Church the things that are said. The Deacon says, “The Lord be with you.” The assistants respond, “And with Thy spirit.” The Deacon, “What is now read is written in the Gospel of John, the sixth chapter.” The Church responds, “Glory be to Thee, O Lord.” The Deacon, “Thus spake Jesus, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna,” etc., to the words, “the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” After these words the Pastor says, “Glory to God who deigns to forgive all our sins according to His word.
The assistants respond, “Amen.” The Pastor, “I believe in one God.” The Deacon, “The Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.” The Sub-deacon, “And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord,” and the rest to the end of the Apostles’ Creed, so-called, the ministers repeating it alternately in loud voice just as they did before the hymn, “Glory in the Highest.”
Invitation of the pastor to the worthy celebration of the Supper:–“We now desire, dear brethren, in accordance with the custom instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ, to eat this bread and drink this cup, as He commanded should be done in commemoration, praise, and thanksgiving, because He suffered death for us, and poured out His blood to wash away our sins. Therefore, let every man examine and question himself, as Paul suggests, as to how sure a trust he puts in our Lord Jesus Christ, that no one may behave like a believer who yet hath not faith, and so become guilty of the Lord’s death, and sin against the whole Church (which is His body) by thus showing contempt for it. Accordingly fall upon your knees and pray, ‘Our Father which art in heaven,'” etc., to the end. And when the ministers have responded “Amen,” let the pastor again pray.
Prayer: “Lord, God Almighty, who by Thy spirit hast united us into Thy one body in the unity of the faith, and hast commanded Thy body to give praise and thanks unto Thee for that bounty and kindness with which Thou hast delivered Thy Only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ unto death for our sins, grant that we may fulfil this Thy command in such faith that we may not by any false pretenses offend or provoke Thee who art the infallible truth. Grant also that we may live purely, as becometh Thy body, Thy sons and Thy family, that even the unbelieving may learn to recognize Thy name and Thy glory. Keep us, Lord, lest Thy name and glory come into ill repute through the depravity of our lives. We always pray, ‘Lord, increase our faith, that is, our trust in Thee, who livest and reignest God world without end.’ ” The church responds “Amen.” Then the pastor speaks the sacred words with the following actions:- “The Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed to death took bread” (here the pastor takes the unleavened bread into his hands); “and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of me.” (Here the pastor hands the bread to the ministers who are standing about the table, and they immediately take it with reverence, divide it between them, and eat. Meanwhile the pastor continues): “After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped,” (here the pastor takes the cup into his hands), “gave thanks and said, Drink ye all of it. This cup is the new testament in my blood; this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death,” (ye praise Him and thank Him) “till he come.”
After this the assistants carry round the unleavened bread, and each person takes a piece of the bread with his own hand, and then passes the rest to his neighbor. If any one does not wish to handle the bread with his own hand, the minister carrying it round hands it to him. Then the assistants follow with the cups and hand one another the Lord’s cup. Let not Your Majesty shrink from this custom of offering and receiving the elements, for it has often been found that men who had accidentally taken seats next each other when they yet felt enmity and hatred towards each other, have laid aside their angry feelings through this participation in the bread or wine.
Another assistant reads again from the pulpit out of the Gospel of John, while the congregation is eating and drinking the sacrament of the Lord’s body and blood; beginning at the thirteenth chapter. When all the cups have been brought back, the pastor begins, “Fall upon your knees,” for we eat and drink the sacrament of the Supper sitting and silently listening to the word of the Lord, and when all kneel, the pastor begins, I say: “Praise, O ye servants, the Lord, praise the name of the Lord.” The Deacon: “Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and for evermore” [Ps. 113: 2ff.]. The Subdeacon: “From the rising of the sun unto the going down, etc.,” and so again the assistants go through alternately this psalm which the Hebrews say used to be said by their ancestors after eating. After this the pastor exhorts the Church in these words: “Be mindful, dearly beloved brethren, of what we have now done together by Christ’s command. We have borne witness by this giving of thanks, which we have done in faith, that we are indeed miserable sinners, but have been purified by the body and blood of Christ which He delivered up and poured out for us, and have been redeemed from everlasting death. We have borne witness that we are brethren. Let us, therefore, confirm this by love, faith, and mutual service. Let us, therefore, pray the Lord that we may keep His bitter death deep in our hearts so that though we daily die to our sins we may be so sustained and increased in all virtues by the grace and bounty of His Spirit that the name of the Lord shall be sanctified in us, and our neighbor be loved and helped. The Lord have mercy upon us and bless us! The Lord cause His face to shine upon us and be gracious unto us! Amen.”
The pastor again prays: -“We give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, for all Thy gifts and benefits, who livest and reignest God, world without end. Amen.” The pastor: “Go in peace. Amen.” Then the Church separates.
Here you see, most wise King, how nothing is lacking which is required for the proper, apostolic celebration of the Eucharist, as far as the substance of things is concerned, but that the things which are suspected of having been introduced from greed of gain are omitted.
But if any one complain, that we have no right to use a new form of celebration even if some errors have crept into the Mass, for when we venture to do this, it is just as if any one in a kingdom or city, disregarding the laws of the state, should enact special laws for himself, living according to which he would throw the rest into uproar and sedition, and therefore we should rightly be called heretics, for errors can be tolerated for a time even according to the example of the apostles until the general council of the Church decrees something else, let him, I pray, consider that this case of kingdoms and cities and laws is by no means parallel with the case of the divine laws and the liberty of truth and faith and the rights of the Church. For whatever human laws command applies to the arrangement and regulation of external affairs, but what the divine law enjoins strikes the conscience so that as soon as it understands the divine will it condemns itself unless it acquiesces and obeys. For by the law cometh knowledge of sin, and the more we detect that we are sinning against the Holy Spirit, the less can the conscience assent to and tolerate insult to the Creator.
Since, therefore, we have learned under the tuition of the Holy Spirit that there is but one offering and that made by the Son of God, and have pointed that out to the great men in the Church, that whatever was wrong might be corrected, and yet they have more and more not only contended but raged against the truth, the power of the pontiff, that had been seized by violence ought not to stand in the way of anyone’s defending the truth and clearing away the disgraceful dishonor to the Son of God. For what reason would there be, alas, to have regard for a pontiff of the Church who did not reverence that on which the Church is based and built? The Church is based upon faith in God which lays hold of His word. When the pontiff does not believe God’s Word, how can he rule the Church? Can faith be increased or retarded according to the actions of men? Or, when the Lord said, “Do unto others as ye would that they should do to you,” is one to postpone accepting this law until the heads of the Church decree its acceptance? This law has certainly to do with human affairs merely, though to offer up the Son of God is an insult to God Himself.
Finally it is the right of the Church to believe and live according to the inspiration of the divine Spirit, as Paul commands, “Quench not the Spirit” [I Thess. 5: 19]. For who does not immediately reject the nonsense of indulgences when he understands that they arc a lying invention? Faith waiteth not for the judgment of another, but rests upon her own. When, therefore, she sees these terrible blasphemies against the Son of God, she feels that they are not to be tolerated but to be abolished or abandoned at the very first possible moment. Thus, then, the Mass of the Papists has been abolished among us by desertion and defection. For when the people fled from it, having recognized its error, and some of the officiating priests shrank away, while some feared an attack from the crowd, the Mass was so thoroughly deserted that we found it necessary to cast about for a simple and Christian form of celebration. When this had been perfected, the Council of our city appointed a conference between us and the Roman bishops. Learned men among them came, but declared that they could not confer upon so difficult a matter without a council (though three years later they themselves appointed a conference at Baden with much corruption).
Our Council, therefore, having heard what was brought before them pro and con from the divine Scriptures and other writers, voted that no man should be compelled to perform or to hear the Mass. Then the Roman party attempted bribery, and violence began to be resorted to, and forced by this, our illustrious Council passed this decree, “No one shall celebrate the Mass in our city after the Popish fashion henceforth forever, unless he maintains from the Holy Scriptures that it has a right to be preserved.” Thus, I say, the Popish Mass was abolished, and the Lord’s Supper instituted. Our example has been followed by many princes, nobles, peoples, and cities in Germany, and by countless individual priests, monks, magistrates and private persons throughout the world. Nothing, therefore, has been among us at variance with reason, nothing at variance with the authority of the divine oracles, which we rely and stand dauntless in the face of all assaults, sure that He who is on our side is stronger than any opposing power whatever. But we have dismissed the Mass, and pray that Your Majesty be strong mightily in God.