The ancient teachers ordained three sorts of baptizing; of water, of the
Spirit, and of blood; these were observed in the church. The catechumens were
baptized in water; others, that could not get such water-bathing, and
nevertheless believed, were saved in and through the Holy Spirit, as Cornelius
was saved, before he was baptized. The third sort were baptized in blood, that
is, in martyrdom.
Heaven is given unto me freely, for nothing.
I have assurance hereof confirmed unto me by sealed covenants, that is, I am
baptized, and frequent the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Therefore I keep the
bond safe and sure, lest the devil tear it in pieces; that is, I live and
remain in God's fear and pray daily unto him. God could not have given me
better security of my salvation, and of the gospel, than by the death and
passion of his only Son: when I believe that he overcame death, and died for
me, and therewith behold the promise of the Father, then I have the bond
complete. And when I have the seal of baptism and the Lord's Supper prefixed
thereto, then I am well provided for.
I was asked: when there is uncertainty, whether a
person has been baptized, or not, may he be baptized under a condition, as
thus: If thou be not baptized, then I baptize thee? I answered: The church must
exclude such baptizing, and not endure it, though there be a doubt of the
previous baptizing of any person, yet he shall receive baptism, pure and simple
without any condition.
The papists, in private confession, only regard
the work. There was such a running to confession, they were never satisfied; if
one had forgotten to confess any thing, however trivial, which afterwards came
to his remembrance, off he must be back to his confessor, and confess again. I
knew a doctor in law who was so bent upon confessing, that, before he could
receive the sacrament, he went three times to his confessor. In my time, while
in popedom, we made our confessors weary, and they again perplexed us with
their conditional absolutions; for they absolved in this manner: "I absolve and
loosen thee, by reason of the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the sorrow of
thy heart, of thy mouth's confession, and of the satisfaction of thy works,"
etc. These conditions, and what pertained thereunto, were the cause of great
mischief. All this we did out of fear, that thereby we might be justified and
saved before God; we were s o troubled and overburdened with traditions of men,
that Gerson was constrained to slacken the bridle of the conscience and ease
it; he was the first who began to break out of this prison, for he wrote, that
it was no mortal sin to neglect the ordinances and commandments of the church,
or to act contrary to them, unless it were done out of contempt, willfully, or
from a stubborn mind. These words, although they were but weak and few, yet
they raised up and comforted many consciences.
Against such bondage and slavery I wrote a book
on Christian liberty, showing that such strict laws and ordinances of human
inventions ought not to be observed. There are now, however, certain gross,
ignorant, and inexperienced fellows, who never felt such captivity, that
presumptuously undertake utterly to condemn and reject all laws and
If a woman that had murdered her child were
absolved by me, and the crime were afterwards discovered publicly, and I were
examined before the judge, I might not give witness in the matter - we must
make a difference between the church and temporal government. She confessed not
to me as to a man, but to Christ, and if Christ keep silence thereupon, it is
my duty to keep silence also, and to say: I know nothing of the matter thereof:
if Christ heard it, then may he speak of it; though, meantime, I would
privately say to the woman: Thou wretch, do so no more. For, while I am not the
man to speak before the seat of justice, in temporal causes, in matters
touching the conscience, I ought to affright sinners with God's wrath against
sin, through the law. Such as acknowledge and confess their sins, I must lift
up and comfort again, by the preaching of the Gospel. We will not be drawn to
their seats of justice, and markets of hatred and dissension. We have hitherto
protected and maintained the jurisdiction and rights of the church, and still
will do so, yielding not in the least to the temporal jurisdiction in causes
belonging to doctrine and consciences. Let them mind their charge, wherewith
they will find enough to do, and leave ours to us, as Christ has commanded.
Auricular confession was instituted only that
people might give an account of their faith, and from their hearts confess an
earnest desire to receive the holy sacrament. We force no man thereunto.
Christ gave the keys to the church for her
comfort, and commanded her servants to deal therewith according to his
direction, to bind the impenitent, and to absolve them that, repenting,
acknowledge and confess their sins, are heartily sorry for them, and believe
that God forgives them for Christ's sake.
It was asked, did the Hussites well in
administering the sacrament to young children, on the allegation that the
graces of God apply equally to all human creatures? Dr. Luther replied: they
were undoubtedly wrong, since young children need not the communion for their
salvation; but still the innovation could not be regarded as a sin of the
Hussites, since St Cyprian, long ago, set them the example.
Does he to whom the sacrament is administered
by a heretic, really receive the sacrament? Yes, replied Dr. Luther: if he be
ignorant that the person administering is a heretic. The sacramentarians reject
the body of Christ: the anabaptists baptism, and therefore they cannot
efficiently baptize; yet if a person apply to a sacramentarian, not knowing him
as such, and receive from him the sacrament, himself believing it to be the
veritable body of Christ, it is the veritable body of Christ that he actually
The anabaptists cavil as to how the salvation
of man is to be effected by water. The simple answer is, that all things are
possible to him who believes in God Almighty. If, indeed, a baker were to say
to me: "This bread is a body, and this wine is blood," I should laugh at him
incredulously. But when Jesus Christ, the Almighty God, taking in his hand
bread and wine, tells me: "This is my body and my blood," then we must believe,
for it is God who speaks - God who with a word created all things.
It was asked whether, in a case of necessity,
the father of a family might administer the Lord's supper to his children or
servants. Dr. Luther replied, "By no means, for he is not called thereto, and
they who are not called, may not preach, much less administer the sacrament.
`Twould lead to infinite disorder, for many people would then wholly dispense
with the ministers of the church."
When Jesus Christ directed his apostles to go
and instruct and baptize all nations, he meant not that children should be
excluded: the apostles were to baptize all the Gentiles, young or old, great or
small. The baptism of children is distinctly enjoined in Mark x. 14: "The
kingdom of God is of little children." We must not loot at this text with the
eyes of a calf, or of a cow vaguely gaping at a new gate, but do with it as at
court we do with the prince's letters, read it and weigh it, and read it and
weigh it again and again, with our most earnest attention.
The papists say that `twas Pope Melchiades
baptized the emperor Constantine, but this is fiction. The emperor Constantine
was baptized at Nicomedia, by Eusebius, bishop of that town, in the sixty-fifth
year of his life, and the thirty-third of his reign.
The anabaptists pretend that children, not as yet
having reason, ought not to receive baptism. I answer: That reason in no way
contributes to faith. Nay, in that children are destitute of reason, they are
all the more fit and proper recipients of baptism. For reason is the greatest
enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but - more
frequently than not - struggles against the Divine Word, treating with contempt
all that emanates from God. If God can communicate the Holy Ghost to grown
persons, he can, a fortiori, communicate it to young children. Faith
comes of the Word of God, when this is heard; little children hear that Word
when they receive baptism, and therewith they receive also faith.
Some one sent to know whether it was
permissible to use warm water in baptism? The Doctor replied: "Tell the
blockhead that water, warm or cold, is water."
In 1541, Doctor Menius asked Doctor Luther,
in what manner a Jew should be baptized? The Doctor replied: You must fill a
large tub with water, and, having divested the Jew of his clothes, cover him
with a while garment. He must then sit down in the tub, and you must baptize
him quite under the water. The ancients, when they were baptized, were attired
in white, whence the first Sunday after Easter, which was peculiarly
consecrated to this ceremony, was called dominica in albis. This garb
was rendered the more suitable, from the circumstance that it was, as now, the
custom to bury people in a white shroud; and baptism, you know, is an emblem of
our death. I have no doubt that when Jesus was baptized in the river Jordon, he
was attired in a white robe. If a Jew, not converted at heart, were to ask
baptism at my hands, I would take him on to the bridge, tie a stone round his
neck, and hurl him into the river; for these wretches are wont to make a jest
of our religion. Yet, after all, water and the Divine Word being the essence of
baptism, a Jew, or any other, would be none the less validly baptized, that his
own feelings and intentions were not the result of faith.
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