ConcordCast Week 25
Of Political Order (part 2) » Of Christ’s Return to Judgment » Of Free Will » Of the Cause of Sin » Of Good Works » Of The Invocation of Saints (part 1)
Thanks to Charles Wiese, Christopher Antonetti, and Nils Niemeier for their contributions this week.
Daily Readings from the Book of Concord // Follow ConcordCast on Twitter // Like ConcordCast on Facebook // Subscribe to ConcordCast on iTunes // Contact
Apology XVI, Of Political Order: 61-65
61] It is also a most vain delusion that it is Christian perfection not to hold property. For Christian perfection consists not in the contempt of civil ordinances, but in dispositions of the heart, in great fear of God, in great faith, just as Abraham, David, Daniel, even in great wealth and while exercising civil power, were no less 62] perfect than any hermits. But the monks [especially the Barefoot monks] have spread this outward hypocrisy before the eyes of men, so that it could not be seen in what things true perfection exists. With what praises have they brought forward this communion of property, as though it were 63] evangelical! But these praises have the greatest danger, especially since they differ much from the Scriptures. For Scripture does not command that property be common, but the Law of the Decalog, when it says, Ex. 20:15: Thou shalt not steal, distinguishes rights of ownership, and commands each one to hold what is his own. Wyclif manifestly was raging when he said that priests were not allowed to hold property. 64] There are infinite discussions concerning contracts, in reference to which good consciences can never be satisfied unless they know the rule that it is lawful for a Christian to make use of civil ordinances and laws. This rule protects consciences when it teaches that contracts are lawful before God just to the extent that the magistrates or laws approve them.
65] This entire topic concerning civil affairs has been so clearly set forth by our theologians that very many good men occupied in the state and in business have declared that they have been greatly benefited, who before, troubled by the opinion of the monks, were in doubt as to whether the Gospel allowed these civil offices and business. Accordingly, we have recounted these things in order that those without also may understand that by the kind of doctrine which we follow, the authority of magistrates and the dignity of all civil ordinances are not undermined, but are all the more strengthened [and that it is only this doctrine which gives true instruction as to how eminently glorious an office, full of good Christian works, the office of rulers is]. The importance of these matters was greatly obscured previously by those silly monastic opinions, which far preferred the hypocrisy of poverty and humility to the state and the family, although these have God’s command, while this Platonic communion [monasticism] has not God’s command.
Article XVII, Of Christ’s Return to Judgment
66] The Seventeenth Article the adversaries receive without exception, in which we confess that at the consummation of the world Christ shall appear, and shall raise up all the dead, and shall give to the godly eternal life and, eternal joys, but shall condemn the ungodly to be punished with the devil without end.
Article XVIII, Of Free Will
67] The Eighteenth Article, Of Free Will, the adversaries receive, although they add some testimonies not at all adapted to this case. They add also a declamation that neither, with the Pelagians, is too much to be granted to the free will, nor, with the Manicheans, is all freedom to be denied it. 68] Very well; but what difference is there between the Pelagians and our adversaries, since both hold that without the Holy Ghost men can love God and perform God’s commandments with respect to the substance of the acts, and can merit grace and justification by works which reason performs by itself, without the Holy Ghost? 69] How many absurdities follow from these Pelagian opinions, which are taught with great authority in the schools! These Augustine, following Paul, refutes with great emphasis, whose judgment we have recounted above in the article Of Justification. (see AP IV 1 and AP IV 106) 70] Nor, indeed, do we deny liberty to the human will. The human will has liberty in the choice of works and things which reason comprehends by itself. It can to a certain extent render civil righteousness or the righteousness of works; it can speak of God, offer to God a certain service by an outward work, obey magistrates, parents; in the choice of an outward work it can restrain the hands from murder, from adultery, from theft. Since there is left in human nature reason and judgment concerning objects subjected to the senses, choice between these things, and the liberty and power to render civil righteousness, are also left. For Scripture calls this the righteousness of the flesh which the carnal nature, i.e., reason, renders by itself, 71] without the Holy Ghost. Although the power of concupiscence is such that men more frequently obey evil dispositions than sound judgment. And the devil, who is efficacious in the godless, as Paul says, Eph. 2:2, does not cease to incite this feeble nature to various offenses. These are the reasons why even civil righteousness is rare among men, as we see that not even the philosophers themselves, who seem 72] to have aspired after this righteousness, attained it. But it is false to say that he who performs the works of the commandments without grace does not sin. And they add further that such works also merit de congruo the remission of sins and justification. For human hearts without the Holy Ghost are without the fear of God; without trust toward God, they do not believe that they are heard, forgiven, helped, and preserved by God. Therefore they are godless. For neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit, Matt. 7:18. And without faith it is impossible to please God, Heb. 11:6.
73] Therefore, although we concede to free will the liberty and power to perform the outward works of the Law, yet we do not ascribe to free will these spiritual matters, namely, truly to fear God, truly to believe God, truly to be confident and hold that God regards us, hears us, forgives us, etc. These are the true works of the First Table, which the heart cannot render without the Holy Ghost, as Paul says, 1 Cor. 2:14: The natural man, i.e., man using only natural strength, receiveth not the things 74] of the Spirit of God. (That is, a person who is not enlightened by the Spirit of God does not, by his natural reason, receive anything of God’s will and divine matters.] And this can be decided if men consider what their hearts believe concerning God’s will, whether they are truly confident that they are regarded and heard by God. Even for saints to retain this faith [and, as Peter says (1 Pet. 1:8), to risk and commit himself entirely to God, whom he does not see, to love Christ, and esteem Him highly, whom he does not see] is difficult, so far is it from existing in the godless. But it is conceived, as we have said above, when terrified hearts hear the Gospel and receive consolation [when we are born anew of the Holy Ghost].
75] Therefore such a distribution is of advantage in which civil righteousness is ascribed to the free will and spiritual righteousness to the governing of the Holy Ghost in the regenerate. For thus the outward discipline is retained, because all men ought to know equally, both that God requires this civil righteousness [God will not tolerate indecent, wild, reckless conduct], and that, in a measure, we can afford it. And yet a distinction is shown between human and spiritual righteousness, between philosophical doctrine and the doctrine of the Holy Ghost, and it can be understood for what there is need of the Holy Ghost. 76] Nor has this distribution been invented by us, but Scripture most clearly teaches it. Augustine also treats of it, and recently it has been well treated of by William of Paris, but it has been wickedly suppressed by those who have dreamt that men can obey God’s Law without the Holy Ghost, but that the Holy Ghost is given in order that, in addition, it may be considered meritorious.
Article XIX, Of the Cause of Sin
77] The Nineteenth Article the adversaries receive, in which we confess that, although God only and alone has framed all nature, and preserves all things which exist, yet (He is not the cause of sin, but] the cause of sin is the will in the devil and men turning itself away from God, according to the saying of Christ concerning the devil, John 8:44: When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own.
Article XX, Of Good Works
78] In the Twentieth Article they distinctly lay down these words, namely, that they reject and condemn our statement that men do not merit the remission of sins by good works. [Mark this well!] They clearly declare that they reject and condemn this article. What is to be said on a subject so manifest? 79] Here the framers of the Confutation openly show by what spirit they are led. For what in the Church is more certain than that the remission of sins occurs freely for Christ’s sake, that Christ, and not our works, is the propitiation for sins, as Peter says, Acts 10:43: To Him give all the prophets witness that through His name, whosoever believeth on Him, shall receive remission of sins? [This strong testimony of all the holy prophets may duly be called a decree of the catholic Christian Church. For even a single prophet is very highly esteemed by God and a treasure worth the whole world.] To this Church of the prophets we would rather assent than to these abandoned writers of the Confutation, who so impudently blaspheme Christ. 80] For although there were writers who held that after the remission of sins men are just before God, not by faith, but by works themselves, yet they did not hold this, namely, that the remission of sins itself occurs on account of our works, and not freely for Christ’s sake.
81] Therefore the blasphemy of ascribing Christ’s honor to our works is not to be endured. These theologians are now entirely without shame if they dare to bring such an opinion into the Church. Nor do we doubt that His Most Excellent Imperial Majesty and very many of the princes would not have allowed this passage to remain in the Confutation if they had been admonished of it. 82] Here we could cite infinite testimonies from Scripture and from the Fathers [that this article is certainly divine and true, and this is the sacred and divine truth. For there is hardly a syllable, hardly a leaf in the Bible, in the principal books of the Holy Scriptures, where this is not clearly stated.] But also above we have said enough on this subject. And there is no need of more testimonies for one who knows why Christ has been given to us, who knows that Christ is the propitiation for our sins. [God-fearing, pious hearts that know well why Christ has been given, who for all the possessions and kingdoms of the world would not be without Christ as our only Treasure, our only Mediator and Redeemer, must here be shocked and terrified that God’s holy Word and Truth should be so openly despised and condemned by poor men.] Isaiah says, 53:6: The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquities of us all. The adversaries, on the other hand, [accuse Isaiah and the entire Bible of lying and] teach that God lays our iniquities not on Christ, but on our [beggarly] works. Neither are we disposed to mention here the sort of works [rosaries, pilgrimages, and the like] which they teach. 83] We see that a horrible decree has been prepared against us, which would terrify us still more if we were contending concerning doubtful or trifling subjects. Now, since our consciences understand that by the adversaries the manifest truth is condemned, whose defense is necessary for the Church and increases the glory of Christ, we easily despise the terrors of the world, and with a strong spirit will bear whatever is to be suffered for the glory of Christ and the advantage of the Church. 84] Who would not rejoice to die in the confession of such articles as that we obtain the remission of sins by faith freely for Christ’s sake, that we do not merit the remission of sins by our works? 85] [Experience shows — and the monks themselves must admit it — that] The consciences of the pious will have no sufficiently sure consolation against the terrors of sin and of death, and against the devil soliciting to despair [and who in a moment blows away all our works like dust], if they do not know that they ought to be confident that they have the remission of sins freely for Christ’s sake. This faith sustains and quickens hearts in that most violent conflict with despair [in the great agony of death, in the great anguish, when no creature can help, yea, when we must depart from this entire visible creation into another state and world, and must die].
86] Therefore the cause is one which is worthy that for its sake we should refuse no danger. Whosoever you are that has assented to our Confession, “do not yield to the wicked, but, on the contrary, go forward the more boldly,” when the adversaries endeavor, by means of terrors and tortures and punishments, to drive away from you that consolation which has been tendered to the entire Church in this article of ours [but with all cheerfulness rely confidently and gladly on God and the Lord Jesus, and joyfully confess this manifest truth in opposition to the tyranny, wrath, threatening, and terrors of all the world, yea, in opposition to the daily murders and persecution, of tyrants. For who would suffer to have taken from him this great, yea, everlasting consolation on which the entire salvation of the whole Christian Church depends? Anyone who picks up the Bible and reads it earnestly will soon observe that this doctrine has its foundation everywhere in the Bible]. 87] Testimonies of Scripture will not be wanting to one seeking them, which will establish his mind. For Paul at the top of his voice, as the saying is, cries out, Rom. 3:24f., and 4:16, that sins are freely remitted for Christ’s sake. It is of faith, he says, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure. That is, if the promise would depend upon our works, it would not be sure. If remission of sins would be given on account of our works, when would we know that we had obtained it, when would a terrified conscience find a work which it would consider sufficient to appease God’s wrath? 88] But we spoke of the entire matter above. Thence let the reader derive testimonies. For the unworthy treatment of the subject has forced from us the present, not discussion, but complaint that on this topic they have distinctly recorded themselves as disapproving of this article of ours, that we obtain remission of sins not on account of our works, but by faith and freely on account of Christ.
89] The adversaries also add testimonies to their own condemnation, and it is worth while to recite several of them. They quote from 2 Pet. 1:10: Give diligence to make your calling sure, etc. Now you see, reader, that our adversaries have not wasted labor in learning logic, but have the art of inferring from the Scriptures whatever pleases them [whether it is in harmony with the Scriptures or out of harmony; whether it is correctly or incorrectly concluded. For they conclude thus:] “Make your calling sure by good works.” Therefore works merit the remission of sins. A very agreeable mode of reasoning, if one would argue thus concerning a person sentenced to capital punishment, whose punishment has been remitted: “The magistrate commands that hereafter you abstain from that which belongs to another. Therefore you have merited the remission of the penalty, because you are now abstaining from what belongs to another.” 90] Thus to argue is to make a cause out of that which is not a cause. For Peter speaks of works following the remission of sins, and teaches why they should be done, namely, that the calling may be sure, i.e., lest they may fall from their calling if they sin again. Do good works that you may persevere in your calling, that you [do not fall away again, grow cold and] may not lose the gifts of your calling, which were given you before, and not on account of works that follow, and which now are retained by faith; for faith does not remain in those who lose the Holy Ghost, who reject repentance, just as we have said above (253:1) that faith exists in repentance.
91] They add other testimonies cohering no better. Lastly they say that this opinion was condemned a thousand years before, in the time of Augustine. This also is quite false. For the Church of Christ always held that the remission of sins is obtained freely. Yea, the Pelagians were condemned, who contended that grace is given on account of our works. 92] Besides, we have above shown sufficiently that we hold that good works ought necessarily to follow faith. For we do not make void the Law, says Paul, Rom. 3:31; yea, we establish the Law, because when by faith we have received the Holy Ghost, the fulfilling of the Law necessarily follows, by which love, patience, chastity, and other fruits of the Spirit gradually grow.
Article XXI, Of the Invocation of Saints: 1-39
1] The Twenty-first Article they absolutely condemn, because we do not require the invocation of saints. Nor on any topic do they speak more eloquently and with more prolixity. Nevertheless they do not effect anything else than that the saints should be honored; likewise, that the saints who live pray for others; as though, indeed, the invocation of dead saints were on that account necessary. 2] They cite Cyprian, because he asked Cornelius while yet alive to pray for his brothers when departing. By this example they prove the invocation of the dead. They quote also Jerome against Vigilantius. “On this field” [in this matter], they say, “eleven hundred years ago, Jerome overcame Vigilantius.” Thus the adversaries triumph, as though the war were already ended. Nor do those asses see that in Jerome, against Vigilantius, there is not a syllable concerning invocation. He speaks concerning honors for the saints, not concerning invocation. 3] Neither have the rest of the ancient writers before Gregory made mention of invocation. Certainly this invocation, with these opinions which the adversaries now teach concerning the application of merits, has not the testimonies of the ancient writers.
4] Our Confession approves honors to the saints. For here a threefold honor is to be approved. The first is thanksgiving. For we ought to give thanks to God because He has shown examples of mercy; because He has shown that He wishes to save men; because He has given teachers or other gifts to the Church. And these gifts, as they are the greatest, should be amplified, and the saints themselves should be praised, who have faithfully used these gifts, just as Christ praises faithful business-men, 5] Matt. 25:21, 23. The second service is the strengthening of our faith; when we see the denial forgiven Peter, we also are encouraged to believe the more that grace 6] truly superabounds over sin, Rom. 5:20. The third honor is the imitation, first, of faith, then of the other virtues, which every one should imitate according to his calling. 7] These true honors the adversaries do not require. They dispute only concerning invocation, which, even though it would have no danger, nevertheless is not necessary.
8] Besides, we also grant that the angels pray for us. For there is a testimony in Zech. 1:12, where an angel prays: O Lord of hosts, how long wilt Thou not have mercy on 9] Jerusalem? Although concerning the saints we concede that, just as, when alive, they pray for the Church universal in general, so in heaven they pray for the Church in general, albeit no testimony concerning the praying of the dead is extant in the Scriptures, except the dream taken from the Second Book of Maccabees, 15:14.
Moreover, even supposing that the saints pray for the Church ever so much, 10] yet it does not follow that they are to be invoked; although our Confession affirms only this, that Scripture does not teach the invocation of the saints, or that we are to ask the saints for aid. But since neither a command, nor a promise, nor an example can be produced from the Scriptures concerning the invocation of saints, it follows that conscience can have nothing concerning this invocation that is certain. And since prayer ought to be made from faith, how do we know that God approves this invocation? Whence do we know without the testimony of Scripture that the saints perceive the prayers of each one? 11] Some plainly ascribe divinity to the saints, namely, that they discern the silent thoughts of the minds in us. They dispute concerning morning and evening knowledge, perhaps because they doubt whether they hear us in the morning or the evening. They invent these things, not in order to treat the saints with honor, but to defend lucrative services. 12] Nothing can be produced by the adversaries against this reasoning, that, since invocation does not have a testimony from God’s Word, it cannot be affirmed that the saints understand our invocation, or, even if they understand it, that God approves it. Therefore 13] the adversaries ought not to force us to an uncertain matter, because a prayer without faith is not prayer. For when they cite the example of the Church, it is evident that this is a new custom in the Church; for although the old prayers make mention of the saints, yet they do not invoke the saints. Although also this new invocation in the Church is dissimilar to the invocation of individuals.
14] Again, the adversaries not only require invocation in the worship of the saints, but also apply the merits of the saints to others, and make of the saints not only intercessors, but also propitiators. This is in no way to be endured. For here the honor belonging only to Christ is altogether transferred to the saints. For they make them mediators and propitiators, and although they make a distinction between mediators of intercession and mediators [the Mediator] of redemption, yet they plainly make of the saints mediators of redemption. 15] But even that they are mediators of intercession they declare without the testimony of Scripture, which, be it said ever so reverently, nevertheless obscures Christ’s office, and transfers the confidence of mercy due Christ to the saints. For men imagine that Christ is more severe and the saints more easily appeased, and they trust rather to the mercy of the saints than to the mercy of Christ, and fleeing from Christ [as from a tyrant], they seek the saints. Thus they actually make of them mediators of redemption.
16] Therefore we shall show that they truly make of the saints, not only intercessors, but propitiators, i.e., mediators of redemption. Here we do not as yet recite the abuses of the common people [how manifest idolatry is practised at pilgrimages]. We are still speaking of the opinions of the Doctors. As regards the rest, even the inexperienced [common people] can judge.
17] In a propitiator these two things concur. In the first place, there ought to be a word of God from which we may certainly know that God wishes to pity, and hearken to, those calling upon Him through this propitiator. There is such a promise concerning Christ, John 16:23: Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you. Concerning the saints there is no such promise. Therefore consciences cannot be firmly confident that by the invocation of saints we are heard. This invocation, therefore, 18] is not made from faith. Then we have also the command to call upon Christ, according to Matt. 11:28: Come unto Me, all ye that labor, etc., which certainly is said also to us. And Isaiah says, 11:10: In that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign to the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek. And Ps. 45:12: Even the rich among the people shall entreat Thy favor. And Ps. 72:11,15: Yea, all kings shall fall down before Him. And shortly after: Prayer also shall be made for Him continually. And in John 5:23 Christ says: That all men should honor the Son even as they honor the Father. And Paul, 2 Thess. 2:16-17, says, praying: Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father, … comfort your hearts and stablish you. (All these passages refer to Christ.] But concerning the invocation of saints, what commandment, what example can the adversaries produce from the Scriptures? 19] The second matter in a propitiator is, that his merits have been presented as those which make satisfaction for others, which are bestowed by divine imputation on others, in order that through these, just as by their own merits, they may be accounted righteous. As when any friend pays a debt for a friend, the debtor is freed by the merit of another, as though it were by his own. Thus the merits of Christ are bestowed upon us, in order that, when we believe in Him, we may be accounted righteous by our confidence in Christ’s merits as though we had merits of our own.
20] And from both, namely, from the promise and the bestowment of merits, confidence in mercy arises [upon both parts must a Christian prayer be founded]. Such confidence in the divine promise, and likewise in the merits of Christ, ought to be brought forward when we pray. For we ought to be truly confident, both that for Christ’s sake we are heard, and that by His merits we have a reconciled Father.
21] Here the adversaries first bid us invoke the saints, although they have neither God’s promise, nor a command, nor an example from Scripture. And yet they cause greater confidence in the mercy of the saints to be conceived than in that of Christ, although Christ bade us come to Him 22] and not to the saints. Secondly, they apply the merits of the saints, just as the merits of Christ, to others; they bid us trust in the merits of the saints as though we were accounted righteous on account of the merits of the saints, in like manner as we are accounted righteous by the merits of Christ. Here we fabricate nothing. 23] In indulgences they say that they apply the merits of the saints [as satisfactions for our sins]. And Gabriel, the interpreter of the canon of the Mass, confidently declares: According to the order instituted by God, we should betake ourselves to the aid of the saints, in order that we may be saved by their merits and vows. These are the words of Gabriel. And nevertheless, in the books and sermons of the adversaries still more absurd things are read here and there. What is it to make propitiators if this is not? They are altogether made equal to Christ if we must trust that we are saved by their merits.
24] But where has this arrangement, to which he refers when he says that we ought to resort to the aid of the saints, been instituted by God? Let him produce an example or command from the Scriptures. Perhaps they derive this arrangement from the courts of kings, where friends must be employed as intercessors. But if a king has appointed a certain intercessor, he will not desire that cases be brought to him through others. Thus, since Christ has been appointed Intercessor and High Priest, why do we seek others? [What can the adversaries say in reply to this?]
25] Here and there this form of absolution is used: The passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the merits of the most blessed Virgin Mary and of all the saints, be to thee for the remission of sins. Here the absolution is pronounced on the supposition that we are reconciled and accounted righteous not only by the merits of Christ, but also by the merits of the other saints. 26] Some of us have seen a doctor of theology dying, for consoling whom a certain theologian, a monk, was employed. He pressed on the dying man nothing but this prayer: Mother of grace, protect us from the enemy; receive us in the hour of death.
27] Granting that the blessed Mary prays for the Church, does she receive souls in death, does she conquer death [the great power of Satan], does she quicken? What does Christ do if the blessed Mary does these things? Although she is most worthy of the most ample honors, nevertheless she does not wish to be made equal to Christ, but rather wishes us to consider and follow her example [the example of her faith and her humility]. 28] But the subject itself declares that in public opinion the blessed Virgin has succeeded altogether to the place of Christ. Men have invoked her, have trusted in her mercy, through her have desired to appease Christ, as though He were not a Propitiator, but, only a dreadful judge and avenger. 29] We believe, however, that we must not trust that the merits of the saints are applied to us, that on account of these God is reconcile d to us, or accounts us just, or saves us. For we obtain remission of sins only by the merits of Christ, when we believe in Him. Of the other saints it has been said, 1 Cor. 3:8: Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor, i.e., they cannot mutually bestow their own merits, the one upon the other, as the monks sell the merits of their orders. 30] Even Hilary says of the foolish virgins: And as the foolish virgins could not go forth with their lamps extinguished, they besought those who were prudent to lend them oil; to whom they replied that they could not give it because peradventure there might not be enough for all; i.e., no one can be aided by the works and merits of another, because it is necessary for every one to buy oil for his own lamp. [Here he points out that none of us can aid another by other people’s works or merits.]
31] Since, therefore, the adversaries teach us to place confidence in the invocation of saints, although they have neither the Word of God nor the example of Scripture [of the Old or of the New Testament]; since they apply the merits of the saints on behalf of others, not otherwise than they apply the merits of Christ, and transfer the honor belonging only to Christ to the saints, we can receive neither their opinions concerning the worship of the saints, nor the practise of invocation. For we know that confidence is to be placed in the intercession of Christ, because this alone has God’s promise. We know that the merits of Christ alone are a propitiation for us. On account of the merits of Christ we are accounted righteous when we believe in Him, as the text says, Rom. 9:33 (cf. 1 Pet. 2:6 and Is. 28:16): Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be confounded. Neither are we to trust that we are accounted righteous by the merits of the blessed Virgin or of the other saints.
32] With the learned this error also prevails, namely, that to each saint a particular administration has been committed, that Anna bestows riches [protects from poverty], Sebastian keeps off pestilence, Valentine heals epilepsy, George protects horsemen. These opinions have clearly sprung from heathen examples. For thus, among the Romans, Juno was thought to enrich, Febris to keep off fever, Castor and Pollux to protect horsemen, etc. 33] Even though we should imagine that the invocation of saints were taught with the greatest prudence, yet since the example is most dangerous, why is it necessary to defend it when it has no command or testimony from God’s Word? Aye, it has not even the testimony of the ancient writers. 34] First because, as I have said above, when other mediators are sought in addition to Christ, and confidence is put in others, the entire knowledge of Christ is suppressed. The subject shows this. In the beginning, mention of the saints seems to have been admitted with a design that is endurable, as in the ancient prayers. Afterwards invocation followed, and abuses that are prodigious and more than heathenish followed invocation. From invocation the next step was to images; these also were worshiped, and a virtue was supposed to exist in these, just as magicians imagine that a virtue exists in images of the heavenly bodies carved at a particular time. In a certain monastery we [some of us] have seen a statue of the blessed Virgin, which moved automatically by a trick [within by a string], so as to seem either to turn away from [those who did not make a large offering] or nod to those making request.
35] Still the fabulous stories concerning the saints, which are publicly taught with great authority, surpass the marvelous tales of the statues and pictures. Barbara, amidst her torments, asks for the reward that no one who would invoke her should die without the Eucharist. Another, standing on one foot, recited daily the whole psaltery. Some wise man painted [for children] Christophorus [which in German means Bearer of Christ], in order by the allegory to signify that there ought to be great strength of mind in those who would bear Christ, i.e., who would teach or confess the Gospel, because it is necessary to undergo the greatest dangers [for they must wade by night through the great sea, i.e., endure all kinds of temptations and dangers]. Then the foolish monks taught among the people that they ought to invoke Christophorus, as though such a Polyphemus (such a giant who bore Christ through the sea] had once existed. And although 36] the saints performed very great deeds, either useful to the state or affording private examples, the remembrance of which would conduce much both toward strengthening faith and toward following their example in the administration of affairs, no one has searched for these from true narratives. [Although God Almighty through His saints, as a peculiar people, has wrought many great things in both realms, in the Church and in worldly transactions; although there are many great examples in the lives of the saints which would be very profitable to princes and lords, to true pastors and guardians of souls, for the government both of the world and of the Church, especially for strengthening faith in God, yet they have passed these by, and preached the most insignificant matters concerning the saints, concerning their hard beds, their hair shirts, etc., which, for the greater part, are falsehoods.] Yet indeed it is of advantage to hear how holy men administered governments [as in the Holy Scriptures it is narrated of the kings of Israel and Judah], what calamities, what dangers they underwent, how holy men were of aid to kings in great dangers, how they taught the Gospel, what encounters they had with heretics. Examples of mercy are also of service, as when we see the denial forgiven Peter, when we see Cyprian forgiven for having been a magician, when we see Augustine, having experienced the power of faith in sickness, steadily affirming that God truly hears the prayers of believers. It was profitable that such examples as these, which contain admonitions for either faith or fear or the administration of the state, be recited. 37] But certain triflers, endowed with no knowledge either of faith or for governing states, have invented stories in imitation of poems, in which there are nothing but superstitious examples concerning certain prayers, certain fastings, and certain additions of service for bringing in gain [where there are nothing but examples as to how the saints wore hair shirts, how they prayed at the seven canonical hours, how they lived upon bread and water]. Such are the miracles that have been invented concerning rosaries and similar ceremonies. Nor is there need here to recite examples. For the legends, as they call them, and the mirrors of examples, and the rosaries, in which there are very many things not unlike the true narratives of Lucian, are extant.
38] The bishops, theologians, and monks applaud these monstrous and wicked stories [this abomination set up against Christ, this blasphemy, these scandalous, shameless lies, these lying preachers; and they have permitted them so long, to the great injury of consciences, that it is terrible to think of it] because they aid them to their daily bread. They do not tolerate us, who, in order that the honor and office of Christ may be more conspicuous, do not require the invocation of saints, and censure the abuses in the worship, of saints. 39] And although [even their own theologians], all good men everywhere [a long time before Dr. Luther began to write] in the correction of these abuses, greatly longed for either the authority of the bishops or the diligence of the preachers, nevertheless our adversaries in the Confutation altogether pass over vices that are even manifest, as though they wish, by the reception of the Confutation, to compel us to approve even the most notorious abuses.