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_A treatise on Good Works

together with the

Letter of Dedication_

by Dr. Martin Luther, 1520

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. 173-285.

TREATISE ON GOOD WORKS

1520

DEDICATION

JESUS

To the Illustrious, High-born Prince and Lord, John, Duke

of Saxony, Landgrave of Thuringia, Margrave of Meissen,

my gracious Lord and Patron.

Illustrious, High-born Prince, gracious Lord! My humble

duty and my feeble prayer for your Grace always

remembered!

For a long time, gracious Prince and Lord, I have wished

to show my humble respect and duty toward your princely

Grace, by the exhibition of some such spiritual wares as

are at my disposal; but I have always considered my

powers too feeble to undertake anything worthy of being

offered to your princely Grace.

Since, however, my most gracious Lord Frederick, Duke of

Saxony, Elector and Vicar of the Holy Roman Empire, your

Grace's brother, has not despised, but graciously

accepted my slight book, dedicated to his electoral

Grace, and now published -- though such was not my

intention -- I have taken courage from his gracious

example and ventured to think that the princely spirit,

like the princely blood, may be the same in both of you,

especially in gracious kindness and good will. I have

hoped that your princely Grace likewise would not despise

this my humble offering which I have felt more need of

publishing than any other of my sermons or tracts. For

the greatest of all questions has been raised, the

question of Good Works; in which is practised

immeasurably more trickery and deception than in anything

else, and in which the simpleminded man is so easily

misled that our Lord Christ has commanded us to watch

carefully for the sheep's clothings under which the

wolves hide themselves.

Neither silver, gold, precious stones, nor any rare thing

has such manifold alloys and flaws as have good works,

which ought to have a single simple goodness, and without

it are mere color, show and deceit.

And although I know and daily hear many people, who think

slightingly of my poverty, and say that I write only

little pamphlets and German sermons for the unlearned

laity, this shall not disturb me. Would to God I had in

all my life, with all the ability I have, helped one

layman to be better! I would be satisfied, thank God, and

be quite willing then to let all my little books perish.

Whether the making of many great books is an art and a

benefit to the Church, I leave others to judge. But I

believe that if I were minded to make great books

according to their art, I could, with God's help, do it

more readily perhaps than they could prepare a little

discourse after my fashion. If accomplishment were as

easy as persecution, Christ would long since have been

cast out of heaven again, and God's throne itself

overturned. Although we cannot all be writers, we all

want to be critics.

I will most gladly leave to any one else the honor of

greater things, and not be at all ashamed to preach and

to write in German for the unlearned laymen. Although I

too have little skill in it, I believe that if we had

hitherto done, and should henceforth do more of it,

Christendom would have reaped no small advantage, and

have been more benefited by this than by the great, deep

books and quaestiones, which are used only in the

schools, among the learned.

Then, too, I have never forced or begged any one to hear

me, or to read my sermons. I have freely ministered in

the Church of that which God has given me and which I owe

the Church. Whoever likes it not, may hear and read what

others have to say. And if they are not willing to be my

debtors, it matters little. For me it is enough, and even

more than too much, that some laymen condescend to read

what I say. Even though there were nothing else to urge

me, it should be more than sufficient that I have learned

that your princely Grace is pleased with such German

books and is eager to receive instruction in Good Works

and the Faith, with which instruction it was my duty,

humbly and with all diligence to serve you.

Therefore, in dutiful humility I pray that your princely

Grace may accept this offering of mine with a gracious

mind, until, if God grant me time, I prepare a German

exposition of the Faith in its entirety. For at this time

I have wished to show how in all good works we should

practice and make use of faith, and let faith be the

chief work. If God permit, I will treat at another time

of the Faith itself -- how we are daily to pray or recite

it.

I humbly commend myself herewith to your princely Grace,

Your Princely Grace's

Humble Chaplain,

DR. MARTIN LUTHER.

From Wittenberg, March 29th, A. D. 1520.