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Protestant Reformation Documents

Medieval Sourcebook: Martin Luther: Letter to the Archbishop of Mainz, 1517
Martin Luther: Letter to the Archbishop of Mainz, 1517
Luther wrote to the Archbishop protesting the sale of indulgences to finance the building of a new cathedral. The Archbishop, of course, was one of the people who had authorized the sale of indulgences for that purpose. Note the objections Luther states towards indulgences and their use by church officials.

To the Most Reverend Father in Christ and Most Illustrious Lord, Albrecht of Magdeburg and Mainz, Archbishop and Primate of the Church, Margrave of Brandenburg, etc., his own lord and pastor in Christ, worthy of reverence and fear, and most gracious. JESUS The grace of God be with you in all its fulness and power! Spare me, Most Reverend Father in Christ and Most Illustrious Prince, that I, the dregs of humanity, have so much boldness that I have dared to think of a letter to the height of your Sublimity. The Lord Jesus is my witness that, conscious of my smallness and baseness, I have long deferred what I am now shameless enough to do, -- moved thereto most of all by the duty of fidelity which I acknowledge that I owe to your most Reverend Fatherhood in Christ. Meanwhile, therefore, may your Highness deign to cast an eye upon one speck of dust, and for the sake of your pontifical clemency to heed my prayer. Papal indulgences for the building of St. Peter's are circulating under your most distinguished name, and as regards them, I do not bring accusation against the outcries of the preachers, which I have not heard, so much as I grieve over the wholly false impressions which the people have conceived from them; to wit, -- the unhappy souls believe that if they have purchased letters of indulgence they are sure of their salvation; again, that so soon as they cast their contributions into the money-box, souls fly out of purgatory; furthermore, that these graces [i.e., the graces conferred in the indulgences] are so great that there is no sin too great to be absolved, even, as they say -- though the thing is impossible -- if one had violated the Mother of God; again, that a man is free, through these indulgences, from all penalty and guilt. O God, most good! Thus souls committed to your care, good Father, are taught to their death, and the strict account, which you must render for all such, grows and increases. For this reason I have no longer been able to keep quiet about this matter, for it is by no gift of a bishop that man becomes sure of salvation, since he gains this certainty not even by the "inpoured grace" of God,

If it please the Most Reverend Father he may see these my Disputations. either for salvation or for sanctity. to the shame of your Most Illustrious Sublimity. as I offer them out of a faithful heart.e. by these false fables and promises. . May the Lord Jesus have your Most Reverend Fatherhood eternally in His keeping. for Christ never taught that indulgences should be preached. Finally. one may some time arise. for the sake of preaching the indulgences they are kept quiet. How great then is the horror. do the preachers of pardons. perchance. Again. and yet these are not preached with such ceremony or such zeal. through the prophets Amos and Zechariah. that the Lord. BROTHER MARTIN LUTHER. make the people careless and fearless? Whereas indulgences confer on us no good gift. unless there is some speedy remedy. which it was formerly the custom to impose according to the canons. since I too am a part of your flock. MDXVII. To the Most Reverend Father. altogether devoted to you. and nothing but the noise of indulgences to be spread among his people! Will not Christ say to them. I shrink very much from thinking that this will be done. "the righteous scarcely shall be saved. so narrow is the way that leads to life. and all the penalties of purgatory are destroyed. These faithful offices of my insignificance I beg that your Most Illustrious Grace may deign to accept in the spirit of a Prince and a Bishop. that one of the chief graces of indulgence is that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to God. lest. From Wittenberg on the Vigil of All Saints. works of piety and love are infinitely better than indulgences. Most Reverend Father. i. and yet I fear that it will come to pass.but the Apostle bids us always "work out our own salvation in fear and trembling. nay.." and Peter says. it is said that contrition is not necessary in those who purchase souls [out of purgatory] or buy confessionalia. if he permits the Gospel to be kept quiet. except pray your Most Reverend Fatherhood by the Lord Jesus Christ that you would deign to look [on this matter] with the eye of fatherly care. Most Reverend Father (doubtless without your knowledge and consent). good Primate and Most Illustrious Prince. Why. how great the peril of a bishop. though it is the first and the sole duty of all bishops that the people should learn the Gospel and the love of Christ. "straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel"? In addition to this. it is said in the Instruction to the Commissaries which is issued under your name. and do away entirely with that treatise and impose upon the preachers of pardons another form of preaching. Most Reverend Father in the Lord. calls those who shall be saved "brands plucked from the burning. who will publish writings in which he will confute both them and that treatise. then. but only take away the external penalty." Finally. and learn how doubtful a thing is the opinion of indulgences which those men spread as though it were most certain." and everywhere declares the difficulty of salvation. Amen. But what can I do. with the greatest clemency.

The entire process (election. According to Calvinism: Salvation is accomplished by the almighty power of the triune God. Vol. L. thereby causing them to willingly obey the Gospel. This HTML text prepared by Belle Tuten of Emory University The Five Points of Calvinism This system of theology was reaffirmed by the Synod of Dordt in 1619 as the doctrine of salvation contained in the Holy Scriptures. The system was at that time formulated into "five points" in answer to the unscriptural five points submitted by the Arminians to the Church of Holland in 1610. The Father chose a people. Holman Company. Ed. determines who will be the recipients of the gift of salvation. Henry Eyster Jacobs. Philadelphia: A. regeneration) is the work of God and is by grace alone." they are making an extensive. Reed. The Five Points of Calvinism are easily remembered by the acrostic TULIP T Total Depravity (Total Inability) Total Depravity is probably the most misunderstood tenet of Calvinism. When Calvinists speak of humans as "totally depraved. 1. Adolph Spaeth. the Holy Spirit makes Christ's death effective by bringing the elect to faith and repentance.D. and trans.From: The Works of Martin Luther. rather than an intensive statement. et al. Thus God. 25-28. redemption. J. pp. the Son died for them. The effect of the fall upon man is that sin has extended to every part of his personality . 1915. not man.

This doctrine does not rule out. however. man's responsibility to believe in the redeeming work of God the Son (John 3:16-18). Bearing the fruit of good works is an indication that God has sown seeds of grace in fertile soil. Without the power of the Holy Spirit.the sum total of all those who would ever rightly bear the name "Christian" (Ephesians 5:25). God has elected. his deny man's responsibility is to affirm an unbiblical hyper-calvinism.21).his thinking. Thus. the natural man is blind and deaf to the message of the gospel (Mark 4:11f). This is why Total Depravity has also been called "Total Inability." The man without a knowledge of God will never come to this knowledge without God's making him alive through Christ (Ephesians 2:1-5). Specifically. U Unconditional Election Unconditional Election is the doctrine which states that God chose those whom he was pleased to bring to a knowledge of himself. for many people. based solely upon the counsel of his own will. though good works will never bridge the gulf between man and God that was formed in the Fall.-. Christ died for the invisible Church -. Not necessarily that he is intensely sinful. but not all (Matthew 26:28). "for whose sins did Christ atone?" The Bible teaches that Christ died for those whom God gave him to save (John 17:9). He has done this act before the foundations of the world (Ephesians 1:4-8). The elect are saved unto good works (Ephesians 2:10). indeed. not based upon any merit shown by the object of his grace and not based upon his looking forward to discover who would "accept" the offer of the gospel. good works are a result of God's saving grace. L Limited Atonement (Particular Redemption) Limited Atonement is a doctrine offered in answer to the question. Scripture presents a tension between God's sovereignty in salvation. The unregenerate (unsaved) man is dead in his sins (Romans 5:12). This is what Peter means when he admonishes the Christian reader to make his "calling" and "election" sure (2 Peter 1:10). Both are true -. and his will. some for glory and others for damnation (Romans 9:15. Christ died. and man's responsibility to believe which it does not try to resolve. to deny God's sovereignty is to affirm an unbiblical Arminianism. . but that sin has extended to his entire being.

and that he will not lose any of those for whom he died! I Irresistible Grace The result of God's Irresistible Grace is the certain response by the elect to the inward call of the Holy Spirit. Believing that Jesus' death was a potential. Christ assures the elect that he will not lose them and that they will be glorified at the "last day" (John 6:39). Evangelism is actually lifted up in this doctrine. sinful hearts and wondrously save us through the gracious inward call of the Holy Spirit (I Peter 5:10)! P Perseverance of the Saints Perseverance of the Saints is a doctrine which states that the saints (those whom God has saved) will remain in God's hand until they are glorified and brought to abide with him in heaven. symbolic atonement for anyone who might possibly. for the evangelist may tell his congregation that Christ died for sinners. teaches that all whom God has elected will come to a knowledge of him (John 6:37). . The work of sanctification which God has brought about in his elect will continue until it reaches its fulfillment in eternal life (Phil. and the very Spirit of God leads God's beloved to repentance (Romans 8:14). This description of the Five Points of Calvinism was written by Jonathan Barlow who acknowledges that not all those bearing the name "Calvinist" would agree with every jot and tittle of this document. mostly from those who think that Limited Atonement does damage to evangelism. he will remain in God's stead. accept him trivializes Christ's act of atonement. The Calvinist stands upon the Word of God and trusts in Christ's promise that he will perfectly fulfill the will of the Father in saving all the elect. 1:6). when the outward call is given by the evangelist or minister of the Word of God. Christ. He did not atone for all men. Christ's death was not a death of potential atonement for all people. Romans 8:28-39 makes it clear that when a person truly has been regenerated by God. in the future. What a comfort it is to know that the gospel of Christ will penetrate our hard. because obviously all men are not saved. We have already seen that Christ will not lose any that the father has given to him (John 6:37). himself. Christ died to make holy the church. Men come to Christ in salvation when the Father calls them (John 6:44).This doctrine often finds many objections. Christ died to atone for specific sins of specific sinners.