Martin Luther’s 95 Theses – Part 3

  • Christians should be taught that they purchase indulgences voluntarily, and are not under obligation to do so.
  • Christians should be taught that, in granting indulgences, the pope has more need, and more desire, for devout prayer on his own behalf than for ready money.
  • Christians should be taught that the pope’s indulgences are useful only if one does not rely on them, but most harmful if one loses the fear of God through them.
  • Christians should be taught that, if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence-preachers, he would rather the church of St. Peter were reduced to ashes than be built with the skin, flesh, and bones of the sheep.
  • Christians should be taught that the pope would be willing, as he ought if necessity should arise, to sell the church of St. Peter, and give, too, his own money to many of those from whom the pardon-merchants conjure money.
  • It is vain to rely on salvation by letters of indulgence, even if the commissary, or indeed the pope himself, were to pledge his own soul for their validity.
  • Those are enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid the word of God to be preached at all in some churches, in order that indulgences may be preached in others.
  • The word of God suffers injury if, in the same sermon, an equal or longer time is devoted to indulgences than to that word.
  • The pope cannot help taking the view that if indulgences (very small matters) are celebrated by one bell, one pageant, or one ceremony, the gospel (a very great matter) should be preached to the accompaniment of a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.
  • The treasures of the church, out of which the pope dispenses indulgences, are not sufficiently spoken of or known among the people of Christ.
  • That these treasures are not temporal are clear from the fact that many of the merchants do not grant them freely, but only collect them.
  • Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, because, even apart from the pope, these merits are always working grace in the inner man, and working the cross, death, and hell in the outer man.
  • St. Laurence said that the poor were the treasures of the church, but he used the term in accordance with the custom of his own time.
  • We do not speak rashly in saying that the treasures of the church are the keys of the church, and are bestowed by the merits of Christ.
  • For it is clear that the power of the pope suffices, by itself, for the remission of penalties and reserved cases.
  • The true treasure of the church is the Holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God.
  • It is right to regard this treasure as most odious, for it makes the first to be the last.
  • On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is most acceptable, for it makes the last to be the first.
  • Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets which, in former times, they used to fish for men of wealth.
  • The treasures of the indulgences are the nets which to-day they use to fish for the wealth of men.
  • The indulgences, which the merchants extol as the greatest of favours, are seen to be, in fact, a favourite means for money-getting.
  • Nevertheless, they are not to be compared with the grace of God and the compassion shown in the Cross.
  • Bishops and curates, in duty bound, must receive the commissaries of the papal indulgences with all reverence.
  • But they are under a much greater obligation to watch closely and attend carefully lest these men preach their own fancies instead of what the pope commissioned.
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