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_Dr. Martin Luther to the Christian Reader_

by Dr. Martin Luther, 1545

Published in:

_Works of Martin Luther_

Adolph Spaeth, L.D. Reed, Henry Eyster Jacobs, et Al., Trans. & Eds.

(Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1915), Vol. 1, pp. 10-11.

DR. MARTIN LUTHER TO THE CHRISTIAN READER

EDITION OF 1545

Above all things I beseech the Christian reader and beg him for

the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to read my earliest books very

circumspectly and with much pity, knowing that before now I too

was a monk, and one of the right frantic and raving papists. When

I took up this matter against Indulgences, I was so full and

drunken, yea, so besotted in papal doctrine that, out of my great

zeal, I would have been ready to do murder -- at least, I would

have been glad to see and help that murder should be done -- on

all who would not be obedient and subject to the pope, even to

his smallest word.

Such a Saul was I at that time; and I meant it right earnestly;

and there are still many such to-day. In a word, I was not such a

frozen and ice-cold champion of the papacy as Eck and others of

his kind have been and still are. They defend the Roman See more

for the sake of the shameful belly, which is their god, than

because they are really attached to its cause. Indeed I am wholly

of the opinion that like latter-day Epicureans, they only laugh at

the pope. But I verily espoused this cause in deepest earnest and

in all fidelity; the more so because I shrank from the Last Day

with great anxiety and fear and terror, and yet from the depths of

my heart desired to be saved.

Therefore, Christian reader, thou wilt find in my earliest books

and writings how many points of faith I then, with all humility,

yielded and conceded to the pope, which since then I have held and

condemned for the most horrible blasphemy and abomination, and

which I would have to be so held and so condemned forever. Amen.

Thou wilt therefore ascribe this my error, or as my opponents

venomously call it, this inconsistency of mine, to the time, and

to my ignorance and inexperience. At the beginning I was quite

alone and without any helpers, and moreover, to tell the truth,

unskilled in all these things, and far too unlearned to discuss

such high and weighty matters. For it was without any intention,

purpose, or will of mine that I fell, quite unexpectedly, into

this wrangling and contention. This I take God, the Searcher of

hearts, to witness.

I tell these things to the end that, if thou shalt read my books,

thou mayest know and remember that I am one of those who, as St.

Augustine says of himself, have grown by writing and by teaching

others, and not one of those who, starting with nothing, have in a

trice become the most exalted and most learned doctors. We find,

alas! many of these self-grown doctors; who in truth are nothing,

do nothing and accomplish nothing, are moreover untried and

inexperienced, and yet, after a single look at the Scriptures,

think themselves able wholly to exhaust its spirit.

Farewell, dear reader, in the Lord. Pray that the Word may be

further spread abroad, and may be strong against the miserable

devil. For he is mighty and wicked, and just now is raving

everywhere and raging cruelly, like one who well knows and feels

that his time is short, and that the kingdom of his Vicar, the

Antichrist in Rome, is sore beset. But may the God of all grace

and mercy strengthen and complete in us the work He has begun, to

His honor and to the comfort of His little flock. Amen.