Luther On His State When He Wrote The 95 Theses In 1517

But above all else, I beg the sincere reader, and I beg for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ himself, to read those things judiciously, yes, with great commiseration. May he be mindful of the fact that I was once a monk and a most enthusiastic papist when I began that cause. I was so drunk, yes, submerged in the pope’s dogmas, that I would have been ready to murder all, if I could have, or to co-operate willingly with the murderers of all who would take but a syllable from obedience to the pope. So great a Saul was I, as are many to this day. I was not such a lump of frigid ice in defending the papacy as Eck and his like were, who appeared to me actually to defend the pope more for their own belly’s sake than to pursue the matter seriously. To me, indeed, they seem to laugh at the pope to this day, like Epicureans! I pursued the matter with all seriousness, as one, who in dread of the last day, nevertheless from the depth of my heart wanted to be saved.

So you will find how much and what important matters I humbly conceded to the pope in my earlier writings, which I later and now hold and execrate as the worst blasphemies and abomination. You will, therefore, sincere reader, ascribe this error, or, as they slander, contradiction to the time and my inexperience. At first I was all alone and certainly very inept and unskilled in conducting such great affairs. For I got into these turmoils by accident and not by will or intention. I call upon God himself as witness.

Hence, when in the year 1517 indulgences were sold (I wanted to say promoted) in these regions for most shameful gain—I was then a preacher, a young doctor of theology, so to speak—and I began to dissuade the people and to urge them not to listen to the clamors of the indulgence hawkers; they had better things to do. I certainly thought that in this case I should have a protector in the pope, on whose trustworthiness I then leaned strongly, for in his decrees9 he most clearly damned the immoderation of the quaestors [revenue officials], as he called the indulgence preachers.

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 34: Career of the Reformer IV, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 34 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 328–29.

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  1. ‘I pursued the matter with all seriousness, as one, who in dread of the last day, nevertheless from the depth of my heart, wanted to be saved.’ – Luther
    ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ ‘Perfecting holiness in the fear of God.’
    – This is what is missing in the Church today!

  2. Luther first feared God because he was afraid of this severe taskmaster who could never be appeased or satisfied with him, no matter how hard he tried. It drove Luther to despair until he came to the revolutionary discovery that for Christ’s sake, God justifies the ungodly. Now Luther loved God and was motivated to worship and serve God like he never had before. His fear of God had changed from being afraid of condemnation to reverence, awe, love, and gratitude toward this God who gave us His only Son to live the life we could not live and die the death we could not die so we might be reconciled to Him by grace, through faith in Christ alone.

  3. Hi Dr Clark. could this mean that the date of the nailing of the 95 Theses should not be the ófficial’ start of the reformation as Luther does not seem to have grasped salvation by grace through faith alone yet? he certainly was not preaching it yet i dont think?

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