The Three Walls Of The Romanists

The Three Walls Of The Romanists

The Romanists have, with great adroitness, drawn three walls round
themselves, with which they have hitherto protected themselves, so that
no one could reform them, whereby all Christendom has fallen terribly.
Firstly, if pressed by the temporal power, they have affirmed and
maintained that the temporal power has no jurisdiction over them, but,
on the contrary, that the spiritual power is above the temporal.
Secondly, if it were proposed to admonish them with the Scriptures,
they objected that no one may interpret the Scriptures but the Pope.
Thirdly, if they are threatened with a council, they pretend that no one
may call a council but the Pope.
Thus they have secretly stolen our three rods, so that they may be
unpunished, and entrenched themselves behind these three walls, to
act with all the wickedness and malice, which we now witness. And
whenever they have been compelled to call a council, they have made it
of no avail by binding the princes beforehand with an oath to leave them
as they were, and to give moreover to the Pope full power over the
procedure of the council, so that it is all one whether we have many
councils or no councils, in addition to which they deceive us with false
pretenses and tricks. So grievously do they tremble for their skin before
a true, free council; and thus they have overawed kings and princes,
that these believe they would be offending God, if they were not to obey
them in all such knavish, deceitful artifices.
Now may God help us, and give us one of those trumpets that
overthrew the walls of Jericho, so that we may blow down these walls of
straw and paper, and that we may set free our Christian rods for the
chastisement of sin, and expose the craft and deceit of the devil, so that
we may amend ourselves by punishment and again obtain God’s favor.

(a) The First Wall

That the Temporal Power has no Jurisdiction over the Spirituality
Let us, in the first place, attack the first wall.
It has been devised that the Pope, bishops, priests, and monks are
called the spiritual estate, princes, lords, artificers, and peasants are the
temporal estate. This is an artful lie and hypocritical device, but let no
one be made afraid by it, and that for this reason: that all Christians are
truly of the spiritual estate, and there is no difference among them, save
of office alone. As St. Paul says (1 Cor. xii.), we are all one body,
though each member does its own work, to serve the others. This is
because we have one baptism, one Gospel, one faith, and are all
Christians alike; for baptism, Gospel, and faith, these alone make
spiritual and Christian people.

And to put the matter even more plainly, if a little company of pious
Christian laymen were taken prisoners and carried away to a desert,
and had not among them a priest consecrated by a bishop, and were
there to agree to elect one of them, born in wedlock or not, and were to
order him to baptize, to celebrate the mass, to absolve, and to preach,
this man would as truly be a priest, as if all the bishops and all the
Popes had consecrated him. That is why in cases of necessity every
man can baptize and absolve, which would not be possible if we were
not all priests. This great grace and virtue of baptism and of the
Christian estate they have quite destroyed and made us forget by their
ecclesiastical law. In this way the Christians used to choose their
bishops and priests out of the community; these being afterwards
confirmed by other bishops, without the pomp that now prevails. So was
it that St. Augustine, Ambrose, Cyprian, were bishops.

We see, then, that just as those that we call spiritual, or priests, bishops,
or popes, do not differ from other Christians in any other or higher
degree but in that they are to be concerned with the word of God and
the sacraments-that being their work and office-in the same way the
temporal authorities hold the sword and the rod in their hands to punish
the wicked and to protect the good. A cobbler, a smith, a peasant, every
man, has the office and function of his calling, and yet all alike are
consecrated priests and bishops, and every man should by his office or
function be useful and beneficial to the rest, so that various kinds of
work may all be united for the furtherance of body and soul, just as the
members of the body all serve one another.
Now see what a Christian doctrine is this: that the temporal authority is
not above the clergy, and may not punish it. This is as if one were to say
the hand may not help, though the eye is in grievous suffering. Is it not
unnatural, not to say unchristian, that one member may not help
another, or guard it against harm? Nay, the nobler the member, the
more the rest are bound to help it. Therefore I say, Forasmuch as the
temporal power has been ordained by God for the punishment of the
bad and the protection of the good, therefore we must let it do its duty
throughout the whole Christian body, without respect of persons,
whether it strikes popes, bishops, priests, monks, nuns, or whoever it
may be. If it were sufficient reason for fettering the temporal power that
it is inferior among the offices of Christianity to the offices of priest or
confessor, or to the spiritual estate-if this were so, then we ought to
restrain tailors, cobblers, masons, carpenters, cooks, cellarmen,
peasants, and all secular workmen, from providing the Pope or bishops,
priests and monks, with shoes, clothes, houses or victuals, or from
paying them tithes. But if these laymen are allowed to do their work
without restraint, what do the Romanist scribes mean by their laws?
They mean that they withdraw themselves from the operation of
temporal Christian power, simply in order that they may be free to do
evil, and thus fulfil what St. Peter said: “There shall be false teachers
among you, . . . and in covetousness shall they with feigned words
make merchandise of you” (2 Peter ii. 1, etc.).

(b) The Second Wall

That no one may interpret the Scriptures but the Pope
The second wall is even more tottering and weak: that they alone
pretend to be considered masters of the Scriptures; although they learn
nothing of them all their life. They assume authority, and juggle before
us with impudent words, saying that the Pope cannot err in matters of
faith, whether he is evil or good, albeit they cannot prove it by a single
letter. That is why the canon law contains so many heretical and
unchristian, nay unnatural, laws; but of these we need not speak now.
For whereas they imagine the Holy Ghost never leaves them, however
unlearned and wicked they may be, they grow bold enough to decree
whatever they like. But were this true, where were the need and use of
the Holy Scriptures? Let us burn them, and content ourselves with the
unlearned gentlemen at Rome, in whom the Holy Ghost dwells, who,
however, can dwell in pious souls only. If I had not read it, I could never
have believed that the devil should have put forth such follies at Rome
and find a following.

Only consider the matter. They must acknowledge that there are pious
Christians among us that have the true faith, spirit, understanding, word,
and mind of Christ: why then should we reject their word and
understanding, and follow a pope who has neither understanding nor
spirit? Surely this were to deny our whole faith and the Christian
Church. Moreover, if the article of our faith is right, “I believe in the holy
Christian Church,” the Pope cannot alone be right; else we must say, “I
believe in the Pope of Rome,” and reduce the Christian Church to one
man, which is a devilish and damnable heresy. Besides that, we are all
priests, as I have said, and have all one faith, one Gospel, one
Sacrament; how then should we not have the power of discerning and
judging what is right or wrong in matters of faith? What becomes of St.
Paul’s words, “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is
judged of no man” (1 Cor. ii. 15), and also, “we having the same spirit of
faith”? (2 Cor. iv. 13). Why then should we not perceive as well as an
unbelieving pope what agrees or disagrees with our faith?
By these and many other texts we should gain courage and freedom,
and should not let the spirit of liberty (as St. Paul has it) be frightened
away by the inventions of the popes; we should boldly judge what they
do and what they leave undone by our own believing understanding of
the Scriptures, and force them to follow the better understanding, and
not their own. Did not Abraham in old days have to obey his Sarah, who
was in stricter bondage to him than we are to any one on earth? Thus,
too, Balaam’s ass was wiser than the prophet. If God spoke by an ass
against a prophet, why should He not speak by a pious man against the
Pope? Besides, St. Paul withstood St. Peter as being in error (Gal. ii.).
Therefore it behooves every Christian to aid the faith by understanding
and defending it and by condemning all errors.

(c) The Third Wall

That no one may call a council but the Pope
to keep still and let it burn on and on, whatever might be burnt, simply
because they had not the mayor’s authority, or because the fire
perchance broke out at the mayor’s house? Is not every citizen bound in
this case to rouse and call in the rest? How much more should this be
done in the spiritual city of Christ, if a fire of offence breaks out, either at
the Pope’s government or wherever it may! The like happens if an
enemy attacks a town. The first to rouse up the rest earns glory and
thanks. Why then should not he earn glory that catches sight of the
coming of our enemies from hell and rouses and summons all

And now I hope the false, lying specter will be laid with which the
Romanists have long terrified and stupefied our consciences. And it will
be seen that, like all the rest of us, they are subject to the temporal
sword; that they have no authority to interpret the Scriptures by force
without skill; and that they have no power to prevent a council, or to
pledge it in accordance with their pleasure, or to bind it beforehand, and
deprive it of its freedom; and that if they do this, they are verily of the
fellowship of antichrist and the devil, and having nothing of Christ but
the name.