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WORKS OF MARTIN LUTHER -
A SERMON ON KEEPING CHILDREN IN SCHOOL
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Dear friends: I see that the common people are indifferent to the maintenance of the schools, and are taking their children entirely away from learning, and are turning them only to the making of a living and to care for their bellies. Besides, they either will not or cannot think what a horrible and unchristian undertaking this is, and what great and murderous harm they are doing throughout the world, in the service of the devil.
Therefore I have undertaken to give you this exhortation, on the chance that there may still be some who believe a little that there is a God in heaven and a hell prepared for unbelievers, and that they may be converted by this exhortation; though almost all the world is acting as though there were neither a God in heaven nor a devil in hell. Therefore, I shall count up the profit and loss in this thing. First we shall take up the spiritual, or eternal, profit and loss, and then the temporal, or worldly.
I hope, indeed, that believers, and those who want to be called Christians, know very well that the spiritual estate has been established and instituted by God, not with gold or silver, but with the precious blood and the bitter death of His only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. From His wounds flow the Sacraments (they used to depict this on the broadsides ), and He earned it dearly that in the whole world men should have this office of preaching, baptizing, loosing, binding, giving the Sacrament, comforting, warning, exhorting with God’s Word, and whatever else belongs to the pastoral office. This office not only helps to further and maintain this temporal life and all the worldly classes, but it also delivers from sin and death, which is its proper and chief work. Indeed, the world stands and abides only because of the spiritual estate; if it were not for this estate, it would long since have gone to destruction.
I am not thinking, however, of the present spiritual estate in the monastic houses and the foundations, with its celibacy, for it has long since fallen from its first glorious foundation and is now nothing more than an estate founded by worldly wisdom for the getting of money and income. There is nothing spiritual about it except that the clergy are not married, and they do not need marriage, for they have something else in its place; except for this, everything about it is merely external, temporal, perishable pomp.
They give no heed to the Word or the office of preaching; and where the Word is not in use, the clergy must be bad. But the estate of which I am thinking is that which has the office of preaching and the service of Word and Sacraments, which gives the Spirit and all blessedness such as one cannot attain by any chanting or pomp. It includes the work of pastors, teachers, preachers, lectors, priests (whom men call chaplains), sacristans, school-teachers, and whatever other work belongs to these offices and persons. This estate the Scriptures highly exalt and praise. St. Paul calls them God’s stewards and servants; bishops, doctors, prophets; God’s ambassadors to reconcile the world to God. Joel calls them “saviors,” David “kings and priests,” Haggai “angels”; and Malachi says, “The lips of the priest keep the law, for he is an angel of the Lord of Sabaoth.” Christ Himself gives them the same name, not only in Matthew 6, where He calls John the Baptist an angel, but also through the whole book of John’s Revelation.
For this reason the ancients greatly avoided this estate and dreaded to take the office upon them because of its great dignity and honor, and had to be forced and driven into it. To be sure, there have been many since then who have praised this estate highly, though more because of the saying of mass than because of preaching. This praise and glorification grew to the point where the office and estate of the priesthood (i.e. of the sacrificing of the mass) was placed above Mary and the angels, because the angels and Mary could not say mass, and a priest could. A new priest and his first mass were glorious, and blessed was the woman who had borne a priest; though the office of preaching is the highest and chief of all, and it was not regarded so highly. In a word, a priest was a man who could say mass, even though he did not know a word to preach and was an unlearned ass. That is in fact the spiritual estate even to the present day.
Now if it is sure and true that God Himself has established and instituted the spiritual estate with His own blood and death, it is easy to conclude that He will have it highly honored and not suffer it to be destroyed or to cease, but will have it maintained until the Last Day. For the Gospel and the Church must abide until the Last Day, as Christ says in the last chapter of Matthew. But by whom shall it be maintained? Oxen and horses and dogs and swine will not do it, neither will wood and stone. We men shall have to do it, for this office is not committed to oxen and horses, but to us men. But where shall we get men for it except from those who have children? If you will not raise your child for this office, and the next man will not, and so on, and no father or mother will give a child to God for this work, what will become of the spiritual office and estate? The old men, who are now in the office, will not live forever, but are dying off every day, and there are no others to take their place. What will God say to this at last? Think you that He will be pleased because we so shamefully despise His office, divinely instituted for His praise and our salvation, and won so dearly, and because we so ungratefully let it drop and pass away?
He has not given you children and the means to support them, only that you may do with them as you please, or train them for worldly glory. You have been earnestly commanded to raise them for God’s service, or be completely rooted out, with your children and everything else; then everything that you have spent on them will be lost. The First Commandment says, “I visit the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.” But how will you raise them for God’s service if the office of preaching and the spiritual estate have gone down? And it is your fault; you could have done something for it and helped to maintain it, if you had allowed your child to study. If you can do it, and your child has the ability or the desire, and you do it not, but stand in the way, listen to this, — You are guilty of the harm that is done if the spiritual estate goes down, and neither God nor God’s Word remains in the world. In so far as you are able, you are letting it go down; you will not give one child to it, and you would do the same thing about all your children, if you had a world full of them; thus, so far as you are concerned, the service of God simply goes to destruction.
It does not help your case to say, “My neighbor keeps his son in school and so I need not”; for your neighbor can say the same thing and so can all the neighbors; meanwhile, where is God getting people for His spiritual office?
You have the people and will not give them; your neighbor also will not give them; thus the office goes to destruction, so far as your part in it is concerned. Because, then, you allow the office, instituted and established by your God and so dearly won, go to ruin and be destroyed, with such horrible ingratitude, you will be accursed and have nothing but shame and misery for yourself and your children, or be so tormented otherwise that both you and they will be damned, not only here on earth, but eternally in hell. This will not fail; and you will learn that your children are not so wholly yours that you need give nothing of them to God. It is His will that He shall also have a right in them; and they are more His than yours.
In order that you may not think that I am too severe with you in this, I shall lay before you a partial statement of the profit and the loss (for who can tell it all?) that you experience, so that you yourself may be compelled to say that you belong to the devil and ought rightly to be damned eternally in hell, if you find yourself guilty in this matter and do not reform; or else that you may rejoice and be glad from the heart, if you find that you are chosen by God, with your wealth and your labor, to raise a son who will be a pious Christian pastor, preacher, or school-teacher, and thereby have raised for God a special servant, nay (as has been said) an angel of God, a true bishop before God, a savior of many people, a king and prince in the kingdom of Christ, and a teacher of God’s people, a light of the world. Who can tell all the glory and the virtue that a real and faithful pastor has in the eyes of God? There is no dearer treasure, nor any more precious thing on earth or in this life than a real and faithful pastor or preacher.
Reckon for yourself the profit which the preaching-office and the care of souls produce; your son is assuredly producing this profit, if he is conducting this office faithfully. For example, — So many souls are daily taught by him, converted, baptized and brought to Christ and saved, redeemed from sins, death, hell, and the devil, and through him come to everlasting righteousness, to everlasting life and heaven. As Daniel says, “They that teach others shall shine as the heavens, and they that turn many to righteousness shall be as the stars in eternity.” Because God’s Word and office when they are rightly administered, must without ceasing do great things, and work actual miracles, so your son must without ceasing do great miracles before God, such as raising the dead, driving out devils, making the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lepers clean, the dumb to speak. Though these things may not happen in a bodily way, yet they do happen spiritually in the soul, where the miracles are even greater. Christ says, in John 14, “He that believeth on Me shall do the works that I do, and do still greater works.” If a believer can do this to single individuals, how much more will a public preacher do it to a great crowd? Not that he does this as a man! It is his office, ordained by God for this purpose, that does it, that and the Word of God which he teaches; he is the instrument for this.
Now if he does such great works and miracles spiritually, it follows that he does them also in a bodily way, or at least begins and causes them. For how does it happen that Christians will rise from the dead at the Last Day, and that all the deaf, blind, lame, and those that suffer other bodily ills, must lay these ills off, and their bodies become not only fine and beautiful and sound, but even shine as bright and fair as suns, as Christ says? Is it not because here on earth, through God’s Word, they have been converted, become believers, been baptized, and been incorporated into Christ? Thus Paul says, in Romans 8, that God will raise up our mortal bodies because of the Spirit Who dwelleth in us. Now who helps men to this faith and to this beginning of the resurrection of the body without the office of preaching and of the Word of God, which your son has? Is that not an immeasurably greater and more glorious work and miracle than if he were in a bodily or temporal way to raise the dead again to this life, or help the blind, deaf, dumb, and leprous in the world and in this transitory life?
If you were sure that your son would do this work for one single man, viz., that he would make one blind man see or one dead man rise, take one soul from the devil, rescue one person from hell; whichever one of these things he would do, ought you not rightly, with all joy, pledge all of your property to train him for this office and work, and leap for joy because with your money you had accomplished so great a thing for God? What are all the foundations and monastic houses, as they now exist, with all their works, compared with one such pastor, preacher, or school-teacher? In former times, and at the beginning, they were founded, indeed, by pious kings and lords for the precious work of training such preachers and pastors; but now, sad to say! they have fallen, through the devil’s activity, into such a wretched state that they have become caves of death and outer courts of hell, for the corruption and injury of the Church.
See, now! Your son does these works, not only for one person, but for many, nay, for all men together; and he does them every day. Best of all, he does them in the sight of God, Who looks upon them and holds them so high and dear, as has been said, even though men may not recognize them or pay any heed to them. Nay, if all the world calls him a heretic, a deceiver, a liar, a rebel, it is so much the better, and is a good sign that he is an upright man and like his Lord Christ. For Christ, too, had to be a rebel, a murderer, and a deceiver, and be judged and crucified with the murderers. What would it matter, if I were a preacher, that the world called me a devil, if I knew that God called me His angel? Let the world call me a deceiver as long as it will; God calls me His true servant and steward, the angels call me their comrade, the saints call me their brother, believers call me their father, wretched souls call me their savior, the ignorant call me their light; and God says “Yes, it is so,” and the angels and all creatures join in. Ah! How prettily has the world, together with the devil, deceived me, with its slanders and scoffings! What has it won at my expense? What harm has it done me? The dear thing!
I have spoken of the works and wonders which your son does for souls, to help them against sin and death and the devil. But for the world, too, he does great and mighty works. He informs and instructs all classes how they are to conduct themselves outwardly in their offices and ranks, so that they may do what is right before God; he can comfort and advise those who are troubled, compose difficulties, relieve troubled consciences, help to maintain peace and to settle and remove differences, doing innumerable works of this kind every day. For a preacher confirms and strengthens and helps to maintain government, and temporal peace of all kinds. He checks the rebellious; teaches obedience, morals, discipline, and honor; instructs fathers and mothers and children and servants in their duties; in a word, he is the teacher of all secular offices and ranks. These are, indeed, the smallest good works of a pastor, and yet they are so high and noble that no wise men among all the heathen have either known them or understood them, still less been able to do them. Nay more, even today no jurist, no university, foundation, or monastery knows these works, and they are not taught either in canon law or secular law. For in these spheres there is no one who calls these offices God’s great gifts, or His gracious ordinances; it is only the Word of God and the preachers that praise and honor them so highly.
Therefore, to tell the truth, peace, which is the greatest of earthly goods, and in which all other temporal goods are comprised, is really a fruit of true preaching, for where true preaching is, there war and discord and bloodshed do not come; but where the preaching is not right, it is no wonder that there is war or constant unrest and the desire and the will for fighting and the shedding of blood. We can see right now that the sophists can do nothing but cry “Blood” and spit fire. They are shedding the blood of innocent priests because they have married, although the pope and their own canon law, while they punish this kind of marriage severely, only depose the priest from his office, but leave their persons and their property untouched and allow them to retain their Christian honor; still less do they condemn such priests to hell or regard them as heretics. To this the jurists and all the world bear witness, and it was made a law at the diet of Nuremberg. But these blind blood-hounds have given up preaching and betaken themselves to lies, and therefore they cannot desist from murder.
The devil, their god, does this also. He was from the beginning, and still remains, “a liar and a murderer.”
A true pastor, then, serves men in body and soul, in property and honor.
See now how he serves God and what a glorious sacrifice, or service, he renders; for by his work and his word the kingdom of God is maintained in the world; so, too, are kept the Name and the honor and the glory of God, the true knowledge of God, the right faith and understanding of Christ, the fruits of the suffering and blood and death of Christ, the gifts and works and power of the Holy Spirit, the true and saving use of baptism and the Sacrament, the right and pure doctrine of the Gospel, the right way of disciplining and crucifying the body. Who could ever give high enough praise to any one of these things? What more can be said about them? The more one does with these things, the more he carries on the battle against the devil, the world’s wisdom, and the imaginations of the flesh; the more victories he wins; the more he puts down error and prevents heresy. For he must strive and fight against the gates of hell and overcome the devil. He does it, too; and yet not he, but his work and his word. These are the innumerable and unspeakable works and miracles of the preaching-office.
In a word, if one would praise God to the uttermost, one must praise His Word and the preaching of it; for it is God’s Word, and the preaching of it is His.
Now even though you were a king, you ought not think yourself worthy to give your son and train him to this office and work, even at the cost of all that you had. Is not the money and the labor that you expend on such a son too highly honored, too gloriously blessed, too profitably invested? Is it not counted in God’s sight better than any kingdom or empire? A man ought to go on his knees to the ends of the earth, carrying his penny, if he were sure that there it could be so gloriously and profitably invested; and yet, only see! You have in your house and on your lap that in which you can invest it so gloriously. Shame, and shame, and shame again upon our blind and shameful ingratitude! We do not see what a fine and beautiful service we could render to God; nay, what great lords we could be in His sight, with just a little effort, and that with our own money and property.
The sophists accuse us Lutherans of not teaching good works. Fine fellows they are! They have not so bad an understanding of good works! Are not the things that have been mentioned good works? What are all the works of the foundations and the monasteries compared with these glorious wonders? They are the cawings of daws and ravens, and not as good as the cawing of the daws; for the daws caw from love, because they take pleasure in it, but they howl their croakings without pleasure, like hoopees or owls. Now if it was formerly the custom to think highly of new priests and their first masses, and if fathers and mothers and all their friends were glad that they had raised a son to be an idle, lazy, useless mass-priest, or glutton, who puts God to shame with his blasphemous sacrifice of the mass and his wasted prayers, and scandalizes and defrauds the world with his unchaste life; how much more should you rejoice if you have raised a son for this office and are sure that he serves God so gloriously, helps men so richly, and smites the devil in such knightly fashion? You have made your son a genuine and fine sacrifice to God, and the very angels must look upon it as a splendid miracle.
You ought also to know the harm that you are doing, if you take the opposite course. If God has given you a child who has the ability and the talent for this office, and you do not train him for it, but look only to the belly and to temporal livelihood, then take the list of things mentioned above and run over the good works and wonders noted there, and see what a pious prig and small potato you are. For, so far as in you lies, you are depriving God of an angel, a servant, a king and prince in His kingdom, a savior and comforter of men in matters that pertain to body and soul, property and honor, a captain and a knight to fight against the devil. Thus you are making place for the devil and advancing his kingdom, so that he keeps souls in sin and death and hell, and daily brings more into them, and wins victories everywhere; the world remains in heresy, errors, contention, war, and strife and gets worse every day; the kingdom of God goes down, together with Christian faith, the fruits of the sufferings and the blood of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit, the Gospel, and all worship of God; and all devil-worship and misbelief get the upper hand. All of this need not have happened and could have been hindered, or even improved, if your son had been trained for this work and entered it.
Suppose that God were to address you on your death-bed, or at the Last Judgment, and say, — “I was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, imprisoned, and you rendered me no service? For in that you have not done it to people on earth, or to my kingdom or Gospel, but have helped put them down and allowed men’s souls to be ruined, you have done this to me; for you could have helped. I had given you a child and money for this purpose, but you wantonly allowed me and my kingdom and all men’s souls to suffer want and pine away, and thereby served the devil and his kingdom against me and my kingdom; now let him be your reward. Go with him into the abyss of hell. My kingdom in heaven and earth you have not helped to build, but to destroy and weaken; but you have helped the devil to build and increase his hell; live, therefore in the house that you have built.” How shall you stand then?
What think you? Will you not be overwhelmed, not by little drops of sin, but by whole cloudbursts of it — you, who now give no heed and go along securely, as though you were doing well not to train your child in doctrine?
But then you will have to say that you are justly condemned to the abyss of hell as one of the worst and most harmful of men who have lived on earth, and indeed, if you were to consider these things, even now, while you are living, you would be truly horrified at yourself, for no conscience can endure it to be found guilty of the things that have been mentioned; how much less can it endure it, if things like this, more than can be numbered, fall on it all at once, and suddenly? Your heart will then have to cry out that your sins are more than the leaves and the grass, and greater than heaven and earth; and you will say, with Manassah, king of Judah, “My sins are more than the sands of the sea, and my iniquity is great.” Even the law of nature tells you that. He who can prevent injury, and does not, is guilty of the injury, because he certainly desired and willed the injury, and would inflict it himself, if he had occasion or opportunity. These people, therefore, are certainly as good as the devil himself, because they are so hostile to both God and the world that they help to ruin both heaven and earth, and serve the devil so faithfully. In a word, if we can call the devil hard enough names, then we can give hard enough names to these people, who hinder the work of God; for they are the servants of the devil.
By what I have said I do not want to insist that every man must train his child for this office, for not all the boys must become pastors, preachers and school-masters. It is well to know that the children of lords and great men are not to be used for this work, for the world needs heirs and people, otherwise the government will go to pieces. I am speaking of the common people, who used to have their children educated for the sake of the livings and benefices, and now keep them away, only for the sake of support. They do not need heirs, and yet they keep their children out of school, regardless of the fact that the children are clever and apt for these offices, and could serve God in them, without privation or hindrance. Such boys of ability ought to be kept at study, especially if they are poor men’s sons, for all the foundations and monasteries and livings endowments were established for this purpose. Beside them, indeed, other boys ought also to study, even though they are not so clever, and ought to learn to understand, write, and read Latin; for it is not only highly learned Doctors and Masters of Holy Scripture, that we need. We must also have ordinary pastors, who will teach the Gospel and the Catechism to the young and the ignorant, and baptize, and administer the Sacrament. They are of no use in a conflict with heretics, but that does not matter; in a good building we must have not only hewn facings, but also backing-stone; so we must have sacristans and other persons, who serve and help the preachers and the Word of God.
Even though a boy who has studied Latin afterwards learns a handicraft, and becomes a burgher, we have him in reserve, in case he should have to be used as a pastor, or in some other service of the Word. His knowledge does not hurt him in the earning of a living; on the contrary, he can rule his house all the better because of it, and besides, he is prepared for the work of preacher or pastor, if he is needed. It is especially easy in our day to train persons who can teach the Gospel and the Catechism, because not only Holy Scriptures, but knowledge of all kinds is so abundant, what with so many books, and so much reading, and (thank God!) so much preaching, that one can learn more in three years than used to be possible in twenty. Even women and children can now learn from German books and sermons more about God and Christ (I am telling only the truth!) than all the universities, foundations, monasteries, the whole papacy and all the world used to know. But the ordinary pastors must be able to use Latin; they cannot do without it any more than the scholars can do without Greek and Hebrew; so St. Augustine says, and so even the canon law prescribes.
But you say, “Suppose things were to turn out badly, and my son were to become a heretic, or a knave of some other kind; it is said that the learned are the crooked, etc.” O well! You have to take that chance. Your diligence and labor will not be lost. God will have regard to your faithful service and count it as though it had turned out well. You have to take the chance of how he will turn out in any other occupation for which you train him. How was it with the good Abraham? His son Ishmael did not turn out well; neither did Isaac’s son Esau, or Adam’s son Cain. Should Abraham have given up training his son Isaac, or Isaac his son Jacob, or Adam his son Cain for the service of God? How many bad kings and people there were among the holy and chosen nation of Israel, who were the cause of heresies and idolatries and all kinds of misfortune, and who killed all the prophets! Ought Levi the priest to have let the whole nation go on that account, and no longer trained anyone for the service of God? How many bad priests and Levites were there in the tribe of Levi, which God Himself had chosen for the priesthood? How many people has God on the earth who misuse all His kindness and all His creatures? Ought He on that account desist from His kindness and let no man live? Ought He cease to do good?
Then, too, in order that you may not worry too much about where your son’s living will come from, if he gives himself to learning, and to God’s work and service, He has not left you or forgotten you, and you ought not to worry or complain. He has promised by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 9, “He that serves the Gospel shall be supported by the Gospel”; and Christ Himself says in Matthew 10:10, “A laborer is worthy of his hire; eat and drink what they have.” Under the Old Testament, in order that His office of preaching might not perish, He chose and took the whole family of Levi, one-twelfth of the whole nation of Israel, and gave them the tithe from the whole nation, beside the first-fruits of all kinds of sacrifices, their own cities and villages, fields, pasture-lands, cattle, and all that goes with them.
Under the New Testament, see how, in former times, emperors, kings, princes, and lords gave to this office rich possessions, which the foundations and monasteries now hold, and use them to surpass kings and princes. He will not and cannot leave those who serve Him faithfully; the promises that He has made are too great, when He has said, in Hebrews 13:5, “I will not leave thee nor neglect thee.”
Count for yourself, too, how many parishes, preaching places, schools, and sacristanships there are. Most of them are sufficiently provided for, and vacancies are occurring every day. What does that mean except that God has provided kitchen and cellar for your son, so that his living is ready for him before he needs it, and he does not have to seek it? When I was a young student, I heard it said that in Saxony there were (if I remember rightly) about eighteen hundred parishes. If that were true, and every parish required at least two persons, a pastor and a sacristan (except that in the cities there are preachers, chaplains, assistants, schoolteachers, and helpers), then in this one principality, there are needed about four thousand educated persons, of whom about one-third die off every ten years. I would wager that in half of Germany there are not four thousand pupils in the schools. I estimate that there are scarcely eight hundred parishes in Saxony; how many will that make for the whole of Germany? I would like to know where we are going to get pastors, schoolteachers, and sacristans three years from now. If we do nothing about this, and if the princes especially do not try to see that the boys’ schools and the universities are properly provided for, there will be such a scarcity of men that we shall have to give three or four towns to one pastor and ten villages to one chaplain, if we can get even that many men.
The universities at Erfurt, Leipzig, and elsewhere are ruined, and so are the boys’ schools here and there, so that it is distressing to see them, and little Wittenberg now has to do better than any of them. The foundations and the monasteries (bad luck to them!) will also feel the scarcity, I think. They will not sing the song through on the high pitch that they have struck, however refractory they become, and even though they have to put up with, or even reverence, in their chapters people whom they would once have been unwilling to look at. Let your boy go on with his studying then, and do not worry; perhaps if the world stands for a while longer and God gives the princes and the cities grace to act, the property of the foundations and the monasteries will come back to the use for which it was appointed.
And where is the use of worrying much about the belly? There stands Christ, and says, “Do not worry about what ye shall eat and drink; your heavenly Father well knows that you need this; seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all this will come to you.” If anyone does not believe, let him keep on worrying and die of hunger.
To be sure, it is true that a few years ago many pastors did suffer great want, and they still do. That must be blamed on the evil that is in the world, making the people so wicked and ungrateful and avaricious, and making them persecute the Gospel. By this God is trying us to see whether we are upright and sincere. We must think of this time as like the time of the martyrs, for then, too, godly teachers suffered great want and poverty, as Paul himself boasted, and Christ also prophesied in Matthew 9:15, “When the bridegroom is taken from them, then shall they fast.” That is the true fasting of the Gospel. Seldom, too, has God’s Word come, that hard times have not come with it. In the days of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Elijah, and Elisha, there was cruel want, alongside of the great light of the truth; and in the beginning of the Gospel there was a great famine throughout the world. This has to be the fault of the dear Gospel and the Word of God, and not of the world’s previous iniquity and present obstinate ingratitude! Thus the Jews blamed all their misery on the teaching of Jeremiah, and the Romans, when they were overthrown by the Goths, knew nothing to blame it on except the fact that they had become Christians; against this St. Augustine wrote a great book, De civitate dei. No matter what people say, the world is the world. As those men became liars and were destroyed, so these shall become liars and pass away, that Christ and His Word may abide. He is seated firm and high, as it is written, “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand.” There He sits; if anyone likes, and is wicked, let him pull Him down! But as long as He remains seated there, we too shall remain; what is the use? To put it in a word, your son can easily get as good a living in the preaching office as in a trade; unless it be that you are thinking of great wealth and of making your son a great lord in the eyes of the world, such as the bishops and canons are. If that is in your mind, then what I am saying does not concern you. I am speaking now to believers, who honor the preaching office and hold it high above all riches, as the office that is nearest to God Himself and the highest treasure that is given to men, so that they may know how great is the service they can render to God in this, as men who would rather have a part in this work, even with small possessions, than have this world’s goods and be without this work. These men will recognize that the soul is more than the belly, and that the belly may easily have enough and be obliged to leave behind that which is more than enough. But they that seek riches will take all their goods with them; how can that fail?
Let this be the first part of this sermon, a hasty and brief account of the spiritual profit and loss which one has from the support or the neglect of the schools.
The second part will deal with the temporal, or worldly, profit and loss.
And in the first place, it is true that the office of worldly government is in no way to be compared with the spiritual office of preaching, as St. Paul calls it; for it is not purchased at so dear a price as the preaching office, with the blood and the death of the Son of God; therefore it cannot do such great wonders and works as the preaching office. For all the works of this estate belong to this temporal, transient life, — the maintaining of body, wife, child, house, property, and honor, and what belongs to the needs of this life. As far as eternal life surpasses this temporal life, so far and so high above the temporal office does the preaching office go. For worldly lordship is a picture, shadow, and figure of the lordship of Christ.
The office of preaching (where it exists as God ordained it) brings and bestows eternal righteousness, eternal peace, and eternal life. This is the praise that St. Paul gives it in 2 Corinthians 4:1. But worldly government maintains temporal and transient peace and life.
Nevertheless it is a glorious ordinance of God and splendid gift of God, Who has established and instituted it, and will have it maintained, as something that men cannot do without. If there were no worldly government, no man could live because of other men; one would devour the other, as the brute beasts do. Therefore as it is the function and the honor of the office of preaching to make sinners saints, and dead men live, and damned men saved, and the devil’s children God’s children; so it is the function and the honor of worldly government to make men out of wild beasts and to prevent men from becoming wild beasts. It keeps a man’s body, so that not everyone may slay it; it keeps a man’s wife, so that not everyone may seize and defile her; it keeps a man’s child, his daughter or son, so that not everyone may carry them away and steal them; it keeps a man’s house, so that not everyone may break in and commit outrage there; it keeps a man’s fields and cattle and all his goods; so that not everyone may attack and steal and rob and damage them. There is nothing of this among the beasts, and if it were not for worldly government, there would be nothing of it among men, but they would cease to be men and become mere beasts. Do you not think that, if the birds and beasts could speak, and were to see worldly government among men, they would say, “O ye men!
You are not men but gods, compared with us! How safe you live and hold your property, while among us no one is sure for an hour of life, or property, or means of livelihood, because of the others! Out upon your thanklessness, who do not see what a glorious life the God of all of us has given you compared with us beasts!”
It is certain, then, that government is a creation and an ordinance of God, and that for us men in this life it is a necessary office and rank, which we can no more do without than we can do without life itself, since without government this life cannot continue. Therefore it is easy to understand that God has not commanded it and instituted it in order that it may be destroyed, but that He will have it maintained, as is clearly stated in Romans 13:4 by Paul, and in 1 Peter 2:13, where it is said that they are to protect the good and punish the bad. Now who will maintain it except us men, to whom God has committed it and who verily need it for ourselves? The wild beasts will not maintain it, nor will wood and stone.
But who are the men that can maintain it? Assuredly not only those men who want to rule with the fist, as many now think to do. For if the fist alone is to rule, things will surely come to such a condition as exists among the beasts, and whoever gets the better of another will stick him in the bag.
We have before our eyes enough examples of how much good the fist does without wisdom or reason.
Therefore Solomon says, in Proverbs 8:14, that wisdom must rule, not force, and speaks of wisdom thus, “Mine is both counsel and help; mine is both understanding and might; by me must kings be kings, and counsellors sit justly”; and in Ecclesiastes 9:18, “Wisdom is better than armor or weapons”; and again, “Wisdom is better than strength.” All experience proves this and in all the histories we find that force, without reason or wisdom, has never once accomplished anything. Therefore the murderers and tyrants, if they do not proceed cautiously and get some justice and counsel and laws among them (even though they are themselves wicked), and direct and use their fist and their power accordingly, will not be able to continue, but will fall out with one another and go to destruction of themselves. Briefly, then, it is not the law of the fist, but the law of the head that must rule; not force, but wisdom or reason, among the wicked as among the good.
Accordingly, since our government in Germany must be guided by the Roman imperial law, and this is our government’s wisdom and reason, given it by God, it follows that this government cannot be maintained, but must go to destruction, unless this law is maintained. Now who will maintain it? Fist and armor do not; heads and books must do it. Men must learn and know the law and the wisdom of our worldly government. It is a fine thing, to be sure, if an emperor, prince, or lord is by nature so wise and able that he can get at the law without studying it, as could Duke Frederick of Saxony and Sir Fabian von Feilitsch, both of whom I knew. I will not mention any men who are now living. But because such birds are rare and their examples are dangerous on account of the others who have not this power by nature, it is better, in ruling, to keep the common law that is written in the books, so that the government may have greater reputation and honor and need no miracles or special gifts.
Thus the jurists and scholars in this worldly government are the persons who preserve this law, and maintain the worldly government; and just as a pious theologian and sincere preacher is called, in the realm of Christ, an angel of God, a savior, prophet, priest, servant, and teacher (as has been said above), so a pious jurist and true scholar can be called, in the worldly realm of the emperor, a prophet, priest, angel, and savior.
Moreover, as a heretic or false preacher is, in the realm of Christ, a devil, thief, murderer, and blasphemer, so a false and faithless jurist, in the emperor’s house or realm, is a thief and a knave and a traitor, a scoundrel and a devil for the whole Empire. When I speak of the jurists, I do not mean only the Doctors of Laws, but the whole profession, including chancellors, secretaries, judges, advocates, notaries, and all who have to do with the legal side of government; also the big-bugs known as counselors, for they, too, work with law, and belong among the jurists; and just as the word “counsellors” (Rethe) is not far from the word “traitors” (Verrether), so the deeds of the two are not far apart; they “counsel” their lords, at times, so faithfully that no traitor could betray them so well.
You see, then, the profit that a pious legal scholar, or jurist, can produce; nay, who can tell it all? For whatever belongs to the work and ordinance of God produces constantly so many and so great fruits that they cannot be counted or comprehended. For one thing, he maintains and helps to further with his law book, (by God’s ordinance), the whole worldly government, — emperor, princes, lords, cities, land, and people, as has been said above; for all of these must be preserved by wisdom and law. But who will praise this work highly enough? From it you have guardianship and protection for your body and life, against neighbors, enemies, murderers.
Then, too, you have protection and peace for your wife, daughter, son, house, and home, servants, money, property, lands, and everything that you have. For all of this is bound around, walled in, and hedged about with law. The greatness of all this can never be completely written in any books; for who will speak fully of the unspeakable blessing of peace, and say how much it both gives and saves in one single year?
All these great works your son can do, and he can become so useful a man, if you will hold him to it, and have him study; and you can become a partaker of all this, and invest your money thus profitably. Ought it not to flatter you, and be a great honor for you, to see your son an angel in the empire and an apostle of the empire, and a cornerstone and bulwark of temporal peace on earth, and all this with the certainty that God so regards it, and that it is really true? For although this work does not make men righteous before God, or save them, nevertheless, it is a joyful comfort to know that these works please God so well, and please Him even more when such a man is a believer and in the kingdom of Christ; for in this way he thanks God for His benefits and presents the finest thank-offering, the highest worship.
You must be a gross, ungrateful clod, worthy that men should drive you out among the beasts, if you saw that your son could become a man to help the emperor preserve his empire, sword, and crown; to help the prince rule his land; to counsel and help cities and territories; to help protect so many men’s bodies, wives, children, property, and honor; and would not risk enough on it to permit your son to study and come to this position. Tell me, what do all the foundations, monasteries, and the like do? I would take the work of a faithful, pious jurist and secretary in preference to the holiness of all priests, monks, and nuns, even when they are doing their very best. If these great and good works do not move you, then you ought at least be moved by the honor and the good pleasure of God, when you know that by this means you thank God so gloriously and render Him such great service, as has been said. It is a shameful despising of God that we do not grant this glorious and divine work to our children, and only stick them into the service of the belly and of avarice, and do not let them study except to seek a living, like hogs, wallowing forever with noses in the filth, and do not train them to so worthy a rank and duty. Certainly we must either be crazy, or without love for our children.
But listen still further. Suppose that it is God’s will, and that He demands your son for this office! You surely owe it to your God to help maintain this institution, if you can. Now it cannot be maintained unless we keep our children at their studies and in school; there is no doubt about that. And there is need in this office of abler people than are needed in the office of preaching, so that it is necessary to keep the best boy for this work; for in the preaching office Christ does the whole thing, by His Spirit, but in worldly government one must use reason, — from which the laws have come, — for God has subjected temporal rule and bodily things to reason ( Genesis 2:19), and has not sent the Holy Spirit from heaven for this purpose. Therefore governing is harder, because it cannot be ruling over things that are certain, and must act, so to speak, in the dark.
Now if you have a son who is gifted for learning, and you can keep him at it, and do not do so, but go your way without asking what is to become of worldly government and law and peace; then you are doing everything you can against worldly authority, like the Turks, nay, like the devil himself.
For you are taking from empire, princedom, land, city, a savior, comforter, cornerstone, helper, and deliverer, and so far as you are concerned, the emperor might lose sword and crown, the land lose protection and peace; and you are the man through whose fault (so far as your power goes) no one may have securely his body, wife, child, house, home, or goods; but you offer all these freely on the butcher’s bench, and become the reason why men are to become mere beasts, and devour one another in the end.
All this you assuredly are doing, especially if you are knowingly keeping your son out of this wholesome office for the belly’s sake. Now are you not a fine, useful man in the world? Every day you use the empire and its peace, and by way of thanks you rob it of your son and stick him into the service of avarice, and thus you strive with all diligence that there may be no one to help maintain the empire and law and peace, but that everything may go to destruction, provided only that by this empire you may have and keep your own body and life, property and honor.
What do you think you have deserved by this? Are you worthy that men should let you live among them? But what will God say to it, Who has given you your child and your property so that you may serve God with them and keep your son in His service? Or is it not serving God when we help maintain His ordinance, and worldly government? Now you neglect that service as though it were no concern of yours, or as though you were more free than other men, and were not bound to serve God, but might do as you pleased with your son and your property, even though God, with both His worldly and His spiritual empire, were to fall into the abyss. And yet you want to make daily use of the empire’s protection, peace, and law, and to have the preaching office and the Word of God ready for you and at your service, so that God may serve you free of charge both with preaching and with worldly government, in order that, without any worry, you may take your son away from Him and teach him to serve only Mammon. Do you not think that God will some day say such a Benedicite over your avarice and belly-care as will ruin you, both here and hereafter, with your son and all that you have? Dear fellow, is not your heart terrified at this abominable abomination, — your idolatry, despising of God, ingratitude, your destruction of both of God’s institutions and ordinances, nay, the injury and ruin that you inflict on all men? Ah, well! I have told you and warned you; do you see to it! You hear both the profit you can gain and the loss that you can suffer, do as you please; God will recompense you.
I shall say nothing here about the fine pleasure that a man gets from having studied, even though he never has an office of any kind; how at home by himself he can read all kinds of things, how he can talk and associate with the learned; travel and do business in foreign lands; for perhaps there are very few people who are moved by this pleasure. But since you are so bent on the pursuit of Mammon and of a living, see how much and how great is the wealth that God has put at the disposal of the schools and scholars, so that you have no need to despise learning and knowledge because of your poverty. Then see that emperors and kings must have chancellors and secretaries, counselors, jurists, and scholars; there is no prince who does not need to have chancellors, jurists, counselors, scholars, and secretaries; all the counts, lords, cities, and castles must have syndics, secretaries, and other scholars; there is not a noble but must have a secretary; and to speak of men of ordinary education, there are also the miners and the merchants and the traders. Only count the number of kings, princes, counts, lords, cities, etc. Three years from now, where shall we be getting the educated men, when the scarcity is now beginning here and there? I really believe that kings will have to become lawyers, princes chancellors, counts and lords secretaries, and burgomasters sacristans.
Unless something is done about this quickly, we must become Tartars or Turks, or an uneducated schoolmaster will become a doctor and counselor at court. Therefore I hold that there was never a better time to study than now; not only because knowledge is so abundant and so cheap, but also because of the great wealth and honor that must follow knowledge. Those who study in these times will become expensive folk, for two princes and three cities will yet compete for one scholar. For whether you look above you or about you, you find that countless offices are waiting in these next ten years for scholars, and yet there are very few who are being trained for them. And not only has God appointed such great wealth for schools and scholars, but it is honorable and divine wealth, earned in a divine and honorable position, by many glorious, good, and useful works, which please God and are a service of God. The avaricious man, on the contrary, earns his wealth with despite (even though his works are not Godless and sinful) and with hateful works, about which he cannot have a glad conscience, and cannot say that he is serving God with them.
For my part, I would rather earn ten gulden by a work that is a service of God, than a thousand gulden by a work that is not a service of God, but only of my own profit and of Mammon.
But with this honorable wealth honor also goes. Chancellors, secretaries, and the people who hold the offices sit also in high places and help to counsel and to rule, as has been said, and they are in actual fact lords upon earth, even though they are not lords personally and by birth and rank. Daniel says that he had to do the king’s work, and it is true. A chancellor must attend to the work or business of emperor, king, or prince; a town secretary must do the work of the Council or the town; and this with God and with honor, for God gives it blessing and good fortune and success. And when an emperor, king, prince is not at war, but rules by law, what is he except a secretary and a jurist, if it is the work he does that we are speaking of? For they deal with the law, and that is the work of a secretary or a jurist. Who rules the prince’s land and people when there is peace, and not war? Is it the fighting-men, or the captains? I think it is the pen that does it. And what is greedy-belly doing, meantime, with his Mammon? He comes to no such honor, and dirties himself the while with his rust-eaten money.
The Emperor Justinian himself declares: O portet majestatem imepritoriam nonsolumarmis decoratum, sed etiam legibus armatam ese. “Imperial majesty,” he says, “must not only be adorned with arms, but also armed with laws.” See how daringly this emperor turns his words about.
He calls the laws his armor and weapons, and arms his decoration and adornment; he would make his secretaries his knights and fighting-men. It is finely said indeed. For the laws are indeed the true armor and weapons which maintain and protect land and people, nay, the very empire itself, and the worldly government, as has been sufficiently told above. Thus wisdom is better than might, and pious jurists are the true knights, who defend the emperor and the princes. Many sayings of this kind could be brought out of the poets and the histories, but it would take too long. Solomon himself says, in Ecclesiastes 9, that a poor man saved a city, by his wisdom, from a mighty king.
I do not wish to be understood as breaking off, by what I have said, with soldiers, fighting-men, and those whose business is war, or as despising or casting them off. They too, when they are obedient, help with their fist, to protect peace and everything. Everything has its own honor before God, as His ordinance and work. But I must also praise my own trade for once because my neighbors have fallen out with it and there is danger that it may come into contempt. This is the way that St. Paul praises his own office so constantly that some think he goes too far and is guilty of pride. If there is anyone who wants to have force and soldiers praised and honored, he will find enough about the things for which they are to be praised, I hope, in another little book, in which I have praised them honestly and fully. For the jurists and petty secretaries do not please me at all when they so praise themselves as to despise or mock at other classes, as though they were the whole thing and there was nobody else in the world who amounted to anything except themselves. This is what the shavelings and the whole papacy have done heretofore. All classes and all the works of God are to be praised as highly as ever they can be, and none of them is to be despised in favor of another, for it is written, Confessio et magnificentia opus ejus, “What God does is fair and fine”; and again in <19A431> Psalm 104:31, “God is well pleased with His works.” Especially ought preachers to impress these ideas upon the people from their youth up, schoolteachers impress them on the boys, and parents on their children, so that they may well learn what classes and offices are God’s and ordained of God. If they know this, so that they despise and mock at and speak evil of none of them, but hold them all in honor, that pleases God and serves the cause of peace and unity; for God is a great lord, and has many kinds of servants.
We find, too, some swaggerers who permit themselves to think that the name “secretary” is scarcely worthy to be mentioned or listened to. O well!
Do not let that worry you! Remember that these good fellows must sometimes have a little pastime and fun, and let this be their fun! You are still a secretary before God and the world. They may swagger, but notice that they pay the highest honor to the quill. They put it on the top of their hats and their helmets, as though to confess, by this act, that the quill is the highest thing in the world, without which they would be armed for battle and could not walk about in times of peace, still less swagger so boldly. For they, too, must make use of the peace which the emperor’s preachers and teachers, i.e. the jurists, teach and maintain. You see, therefore, that they put the tool of our trade, the good quill, on top, and rightly; but the tool of their trade, the sword, they gird about their loins, where it hangs well and is ready for their work. On their heads it would not be becoming; there the quill must wave. So if they have sinned against you, this is their penance, and you should forgive them.
But that brings me to this fact. There are many great to whom the trade of a writer is a hateful thing, because they do not know, or do not consider, that it is a divine office and work, and do not see how necessary and useful it is to the world; and if they were to see (which may God forbid!), their knowledge would come too late. Therefore, this is what you ought to do.
Pay no attention to them, and look around at fine, pious noblemen, such as Count George von Wertheim, Hans von Schwarzenberg, George von Frundsberg, and their like, who are dead, for I will say nothing about the living. Refresh yourself and comfort yourself with them, and remember that for the sake of one man, Lot, God honored the whole land of Zoar; for the sake of a single Naaman, the whole land of Syria; for the sake of one Joseph, the whole kingdom of Egypt. Why should not you also honor all the nobility for the sake of the many honest noblemen whom you, without doubt, have before your eyes? And when you look at them, you must think that there is not a bad one left. How could it be that untimely fruit should not fall from the fair tree of nobility, and that some of the fruit should not be wormy and warty? That does not make it a bad tree, to be condemned. Thus it is with the children of God. For God Himself spares the whole human race for the sake of one man, whose name is Jesus Christ; if He were to look only at men, He would have nothing but wrath. The preachers, to be sure, and the worldly authorities, cannot do this, and neither look at nor consider anything bad, for they must punish the bad, one with the word, the other with the sword. But I am speaking to individuals, as Christians, and say that they ought to learn to distinguish between God’s work and men’s wickedness. In all of God’s offices and ranks there are many wicked men; but the rank is and remains good, no matter how much men misuse it. You find many bad women, many false servants, many unfaithful maids, many wrong-doing officials and counselors; nevertheless, the classes — wives, servants, maids — and all the offices are God’s institution, work, and ordinance. The sun remains good, even though the whole world misuse it, one to rob and another to kill, one to do this kind of evil and another that. Who could do anything evil, unless he had the sun to light him to it, and the earth to hold him up, and the air to keep him alive, and thus had God Himself to guard him? The saying continues true, Omnis creatura subjecta est vanitate, sed non volens ( Romans 8:20).
Some think that the office of writer is a light and little office, while it is a real work to ride in armor and endure heat, frost, dust, thirst, and other discomforts. Of course! That is the old story! No one sees where the other’s shoe pinches, and stands agape at the other man’s good luck. True it is that it would be hard for me to ride in armor; but, on the other hand, I would like to see the horseman who could sit still the whole day and look into a book, even though he had nothing to care about, to dream, to think, or to read. Ask a writer, preacher, or speaker whether writing and speaking is work; ask a schoolmaster whether teaching and training boys is work?
The pen is light; that is true. Also there is no tool of any of the trades that is easier to get than the writer’s tool, for all that is needed is goose feathers, and there are enough of them everywhere. But the best part of the body (which is the head) must lay hold here and do most of the work, and the noblest of the members (which is the tongue), and the high faculty (which is speech). In other occupations, it is only the fist or the foot or the back or some other such member that has to work; and while they are at it, they can sing and jest, which the writer cannot do. “Three fingers do it,” they say of writers; but a man’s whole body and soul work at it.
I have heard it said of the praiseworthy and dear Emperor Maximilian, that when the big men complained because he used writers so much for embassies and work of the kind, he said, “What shall I do? They cannot be used, so I have to take writers”; and again, “I can make knights, but I cannot make doctors.” So, too, I have heard of a fine nobleman, who said, “I will have my son study. It is no great art to hang two legs over a horse and become a knight; he has already learned that from me.” That was well said. Once more, I do not want this to be understood as though I were speaking against the knightly class, or any other class, but only against the worthless swaggerers, who despise all learning and wisdom, and can boast of nothing except wearing armor and hanging two legs over a horse, though they seldom have to do it, and in return have enough of comfort, pleasure, joy, honor, and wealth the whole year round. It is true that, as they say, knowledge is light to carry and armor heavy; but wearing armor is soon learned, and wisdom is not soon learned, and is not easily practiced or used.
To bring this talk to an end! We ought to know that God is a wonderful lord. His trade is to take beggars and make them lords, just as He makes all things out of nothing. This trade of His no one will interfere with or hinder.
He has the whole world sing of Him, in <19B305> Psalm 113:5, “Who is like the Lord, Who sitteth so high and beholdeth so deep? Who lifteth the small out of the dust and raiseth the poor out of the filth, that He may make them sit among the princes, even among the princes of His people.” Look about you, at the courts of all the kings and princes, at the cities and the parishes; see whether this Psalm does not rule with many strong examples. There you will find jurists, doctors, counselors, writers, preachers, who were usually poor and have certainly been boys at school, and have mounted and flown up by their pens, until they are lords, as the Psalm says, and like princes, help to rule lands and peoples. It is not God’s will that born kings, princes, lords, and nobles should rule and be lords alone; He wills to have His beggars with them, so that they may not think that noble birth alone, and not God alone, makes lords and rulers. It is said, and it is true, that the pope too was a school boy. Therefore do not despise the fellows who come to your door and say, Panem propter deum and sing for bread; you are listening, as this Psalm says, to the singing of great princes and lords. I too was such a Partekenhengst, and got bread at the housedoors, especially at Eisenach, my dear town, although afterwards my dear father lovingly and faithfully kept me at the university at Erfurt, and by his sweat and labor helped me to what I have become. Nevertheless, I was a Partekenhengst, and I have come so far by means of the writer’s pen, as this Psalm says, that I would not change with the emperor of the Turks, and have his wealth and do without my knowledge; nay, I would not take for it all the wealth in the world heaped up many times. And without any doubt, I should not have come to this, if I had not got into school and into the trade of writing.
Therefore, have your son study, and do not hesitate about it, and even if he has to go after his bread meanwhile, you are giving our Lord God a fine bit of wood out of which He can carve you a lord. It must continue to be a fact that your son and my son, — that is, the sons of common folk, — must rule the world, both in the spiritual and the worldly ranks, as this Psalm testifies. For the rich misers cannot and will not do it; they are the Carthusians and monks of Mammon, and they must serve him day and night. The born princes and lords cannot do it alone, and especially they cannot understand anything at all about the spiritual office. Thus both kinds of government on earth must remain with the middle class common people, and with their children.
And do not be disturbed because the common miser despises knowledge so deeply and says, “Ha, if my son can read and write German and do sums, he can do enough. I am going to make a business man of him.” They will soon be so tame that they will dig ten ells deep into the earth with their fingers to get a scholar. For the business man will not be a business man long, if preaching and law shall fail; this I know for sure. We theologians and jurists must continue, or all the rest will go to ruin with us; this will not fail. When the theologians disappear, God’s Word also disappears, and there remain nothing but heathen, nay, nothing but devils; when the jurists disappear, then the law disappears, and peace with it, and there remains nothing but robbery, murder, crime, and violence, nay, nothing but wild beasts. But what earnings and profits the business man will have when peace is gone, I shall let his ledger tell him; and what good all his property will do him when preaching goes down, I shall let his conscience show him.
It is particularly vexing that such rude and unchristian words are spoken by those who want to be so altogether evangelical. They know how to get the better of everyone and cry down everyone with Scripture, and yet they will not grant either God or their own children so much honor or wealth as to train them in the schools, so that they may come to glorious and divine positions, in which they can serve God and the world, even though it is plain and certain that these positions are established and ready, and well provided with wealth and honor. On the contrary, they turn their sons away from them and shove them into the service of Mammon, of which nothing is plain and certain, which must be full of danger to body and wealth and soul, and which cannot be, besides, a service of God.
At this point I should also tell how many scholars are needed in medicine and other liberal arts, concerning which a great book could be written and about which one could preach for a half year. Where would the preachers and lawyers and physicians come from, if we had not grammar and the other sciences of speech? They must all flow from this spring. But the task would be too long and too great. I would be brief and say that a diligent and pious schoolteacher, or master, or whoever it is that faithfully trains and teaches boys, can never be sufficiently rewarded, or repaid with any money, as even the heathen Aristotle says. Nevertheless, this work is as shamefully despised among us as though it was nothing at all. I myself, if I could leave the preaching office and other things, or had to do so, would not be so glad to have any other work as that of schoolmaster, or teacher of boys, for I know that this is the most useful, the greatest, and the best, next to the work of preaching. Indeed, I scarcely know which of the two is the better; for it is hard to make old dogs obedient and old rascals pious; and that is the work at which the preacher must labor, often in vain. But young trees can be better bent and trained, though some of them break in the process. Let it be one of the greatest virtues on earth faithfully to train other people’s children; very few people, almost none, in fact, do this for their own.
That the physicians are lords, we can see with our own eyes, and that we cannot do without them, our own experience teaches. But that they are a class that is useful to the world, a comforting and wholesome class, and that their work is a service acceptable to God and made and founded by Him, — all of this not only is proved by the nature of the work itself, but it is testified by the Scriptures, in Ecclesiasticus 38 where almost a whole chapter is given up to praise of the physicians, It says, — “Thou shalt honor the physician, for one cannot do without him, and God has appointed him, for all healing is of God. The skill of the physician bringeth him to honor, and in the sight of great men he shall be held worthy. God hath created medicines out of the earth, and he is no reasonable man who despiseth them. For as in the time of Moses the bitter water was sweetened with wood, it was His will to make known to men thereby what medicine can do; and He hath also given to men this skill, that His wonders may be praised. For herewith can the physician soothe all kinds of pain, and make many sweet and good confections, and prepare salves whereby the sick become well; and of these works of his there is no end, etc.” But I have said too much about this; the preachers can draw all these things out more fully, and impress upon the people the profit and the loss that they can here produce, for the whole world, and for our descendants, better than I can write it.
I will let everything rest here, for it has been my purpose faithfully to exhort and urge everyone who can help in this cause. Only think for yourself how many good things God has given you gratis, and is daily giving, namely, body and soul, house and home, wife and child, the services and the use of all His creatures in heaven and earth; beside all this, the Gospel and the office of preaching, baptism, the Sacrament, and the whole treasure of His Son and His Spirit, not only without your merit, but also without cost or trouble to you, for you do not now have to support either schools or parishes, as you would be bound to do according to the Gospel. And you are such an accursed, ungrateful wretch that you will not give a son to be trained to preserve these gifts of God. You have everything, gratis; and you show not a particle of gratitude, but you let God’s kingdom and men’s souls’ salvation go to ruin and help cast it down to the ground.
Ought not God to be angry over this? Ought not famine come? Ought not pestilence, the sweating-sickness, and the French disease find us? Ought not blind folk, wild, raving tyrants, rule? Ought not war and contention arise? Ought not government in Germany become bad? Ought not Turk and Tartar plunder us? Nay, it would be no wonder if God opened the doors and windows of hell and snowed and hailed devils among us, or let brimstone and hell-fire rain from heaven and sink us, all together, into the abyss of hell, like Sodom and Gomorrah. For if Sodom and Gomorrah had had or seen or heard as much as we, they would be standing today. They were not one tenth as wicked as Germany is, for they had not God’s Word and the preaching office, while we have both gratis, and act like men who want God and His Word, and all moral control and honor to go to ruin; indeed, the fanatics have actually begun to suppress the Word of God. The nobles and the rich men, too, have attacked it to overthrow good morals and honor, so that we may become the kind of people that we have deserved to be.
For what else are the Gospel and the preaching office that we have than the blood and sweat of our Lord? He won them by His anguished, bloody sweat, earned them by His blood and Cross, and gave them to us. We have them without any cost to ourselves, and have done nothing for them, nor given anything. Ah, God! How bitter it was for Him, and yet how kindly and gladly He did it! How greatly the dear Apostles and all the saints suffered in order that these things might come to us! How many have been put to death for them in our own time! To speak of myself, too, how many times I have had to suffer death for them, so that I might serve my Germans with them! But all this is nothing, compared with what Christ, God’s Son and our dear heart, has spent on them. And yet, by all this suffering, He will have earned from us only this, — some persecute this office, and condemn, and slander it, and wish it to the devil; while others keep hands off, support neither pastors nor preachers, and give nothing toward their maintenance. Besides this, they turn the children away from this office, so that it will soon go to destruction, and Christ’s blood and agony be in vain; and yet, they go their ways undisturbed, have no qualms of conscience, no repentance, and no sorrow for this hellish and more than hellish ingratitude, this unspeakable sin and blasphemy. They show neither fear nor awe of God’s wrath, neither desire nor love for the dear Savior in return for His bitter and hard pains. Nevertheless, with these terrible abominations they want to be Evangelicals and Christians!
If this is the way that things are to go in Germany, I am sorry that I was born a German, or ever wrote or spoke German; and if I could do it with a good conscience, I would give my aid and counsel to have the pope come back over us, and oppress and shame and ruin us worse than ever he did before. Formerly, when people served the devil and put the blood of Christ to shame, all the purses were wide open, and there was no limit to men’s giving to churches, schools, and all sorts of abominations. Children could be driven, pushed, and forced into monasteries, churches, foundations, and schools, at unspeakable cost, and all of it was lost. But now, when they are to found real schools and real churches, — nay, not found them, but keep them in repair, for God has founded them and given enough even for their maintenance, and we know what God’s Word is and that to honor Christ’s blood is to found a real church, now, I say, all the purses are closed with iron chains, and nobody can give anything. And besides, they tear their children away, and do not allow them to be supported by the churches (to which we give nothing) and to enter these wholesome offices, in which, without their effort they are cared for even in temporal things, in order to serve God and honor and preserve Christ’s blood and pains; but they push them, rather, into the jaws of Mammon, meanwhile treading Christ’s blood under foot; and yet they are good Christians!
I pray that God will graciously let me die and take me hence, that I may not see the misery that must come over Germany. For I believe that if ten Moseses stood and prayed for us, they would accomplish nothing. I feel, too, when I would pray for my dear Germany, that my prayer rebounds, and does not press up to heaven, as it does when I pray for other things.
For it shall be that God will save Lot and sink Sodom. God grant that I am compelled to lie, and be, in this matter, a false prophet! That would happen, if we reformed, and honored our Lord’s Word and His precious blood and death otherwise than we have done heretofore, and helped and trained our young people for God’s offices, as has been said.
But I hold that it is the duty of the government to compel its subjects to keep their children in school, especially those children who were mentioned above. For it is truly its duty to maintain the offices and classes that have been mentioned, so that preachers, jurists, pastors, writers, physicians, schoolmasters, and the like may continue, for we cannot do without them.
If it can compel its subjects who are fitted for the work to carry pike and musket, man the walls, and do other kinds of work, when war is necessary; how much more can it and ought it compel its subjects to keep their children in school, because here there is a worse war on, a war with the very devil, who goes about to suck out secretly the strength of cities and princedoms, and empty them of able persons, until he has bored out the pith, and left an empty shell of useless folk, with whom he can play and juggle as he will. That is, indeed, starving out a city or a land; it destroys itself without battle, before one is aware of it. The Turk acts differently. He takes every third child in his whole empire and trains it for what he will.
How much more ought our lords take some boys for schooling, since that does not take the child away from its parents, but is for their own good too; and it trains him for usefulness to the community, and for an office in which enough is given him.
Therefore let everyone be on his guard who can. Let the government, when it sees a promising boy, have him kept in school; if the father is poor, let it help him with church property. Let the rich make their wills with this work in view, as some have done who have endowed stipends; that is the right way to bequeath your money to the Church. This way you do not, to be sure, release departed souls from purgatory, but by maintaining God’s offices, you help the living and those to come who are not yet born, so that they do not get into purgatory, nay, so that they are released from hell and go to heaven; and you help the living to peace and comfort. That would be a praiseworthy Christian testament, and God would have delight and pleasure in it, and would bless and honor you in return, by giving you pleasure and joy in Him.
Well, then, dear Germans, I have said enough to you. You have heard your prophet. God grant that we may obey His Word, to praise and thank our dear Lord for His precious blood, so freely offered for us; and may He keep us from the abominable wickedness of ingratitude and forgetfulness of His blessings. Amen.
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