The Decisive Documents of 1520
Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation
Trumpet Blast For Reform
Since the Roman curia would not reform the church, Luther said, the German princes had that right and responsibility. Playing on the German leaders’ sense of national pride, he urged them to implement some two dozen church reforms. In the process, Luther set forth the famous doctrine that every Christian is a priest. The work’s large first printing sold out in two weeks.
In the excerpt here, Luther explains how the “Romanists” have barricaded themselves from reform—and he then demolishes their barricades.
The time for silence is past, and the time to speak has come. ...
The Romanists have very cleverly built three walls around themselves. Hitherto they have protected themselves by these walls in such a way that no one has been able to reform them. As a result, the whole of Christendom has fallen abominably.
In the first place, when pressed by the temporal power, they have made decrees and declared that the temporal power had no jurisdiction over them, but that, on the contrary, the spiritual power is above the temporal.
In the second place, when the attempt is made to reprove them with the Scriptures, they raise the objection that only the pope may interpret the Scriptures.
In the third place, if threatened with a council, their story is that no one may summon a council but the pope. ...
Attacking the First Wall
Let us begin by attacking the first wall. It is pure invention that pope, bishop, priests, and monks are called the spiritual estate, while princes, lords, artisans, and farmers are called the temporal estate. This is indeed a piece of deceit and hypocrisy. Yet no one need he intimidated by it, and for this reason: All Christians are ...