Luther Preaching at the Wartburg

[This translation from the German by Christopher S. Doerr originally appeared in the Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly, Vol. 109, No. 1 (Winter 2012) Walther’s original appeared in Lehre und Wehre V. 10 pp. 193-195]

XXIV. About the Household Ranks (Children and Servants)

86. The mutual relationship, by dint of which the parents as such look upon the children as children, and these in return look upon them as their parents and are connected to one another by mutual obligations, remains as long as the parents and children live. (Baier)

87. Secular rule cannot stand, where there is no dissimilarity between persons, so that some are free, some captive, some masters, and some subjects. (Luther)[1]

88. Right there when the Lord teaches that you should sell everything and leave it all behind, he has permitted, or rather commanded, that it be legitimate to seek and own things; for you cannot sell or leave anything behind, unless you first legitimately obtained and possessed it. (Luther)

89. The division of goods, the master’s use of force, and having personal property are civic ordinances that are confirmed by God’s word in the commandment, You shall not steal. (Luther)

90. The equality insisted upon (in God’s word) is to be understood not according to arithmetical but geometrical proportions. (Aegidius Hunnius)[2]

91. Servitude did not exist until after the fall. (Baier)

92. The ruling class has God as its efficient cause. (Baier)

93. The impelling cause, on the part of men, for the ruling class, is the poverty of this life. (Baier)

94. The causality of the efficient cause (for the ruling class), on the part of men, consists in this: the slave is either taken captive in a just war or bought or freely entered into a contract. (Baier)

95. The duty of masters consists in fair imposition of labor, providing the necessities of this life, or, according to the different forms of this relationship, remitting the promised wages, and finally in guidance and judicious and moderate punishment. (Baier)

96. The duty of servants consists in the honor, docility, faithfulness, and patience that is to be shown the master. (Baier)

97. “There should be no slaveowners, since Christ has set all people free.” What is that? That is called making Christian freedom into something altogether fleshly. (Luther)

98. Slaveowning is not contrary to the Christian way. Whoever says it is, lies. People don’t see that Christian freedom redeems souls and Christ has instituted that same spiritual freedom. (Luther)

99. Just as the gospel confirms other political matters, so it also sanctions the freedom to be a master and have servants. (Cruciger)

100. The voice that says, “Honor father and mother,” places all people in servitude. But since also this truth stands written in the nature (of a man), you should consider it beyond all doubt that the causes of servitude are also part of nature. (Melanchthon)

101. The gospel does not abolish the commandment, “Honor father and mother.” Neither does it disapprove of either lordship or servitude, but gives testimony confirming these things, and teaches that there must be lordship and servitude for the taming of the godless and fleshly. The saints make use of these things just like the other good things God created. (Melanchthon)

102. Indeed in Christ’s kingdom and in relation to the common possession of spiritual goods, masters and servants are equal. But in this the gospel does not abolish political order, nor does it do away with the distinction between ranks in civic life. (Gerhard)

103. When Paul says, “treat your slaves the same way,” he does not intend that slaves be made equal to their masters; rather he intends that the equality be observed in geometric proportion. (Melanchthon)

104. Our Lord does not desire that I use my goods to make myself into a beggar and the beggar into a lord; rather I should look upon his need and help him as I am able, in such a way that the poor eat with me and I do not eat with the poor. (Luther)

105. The servants and the free are united by God-given and natural bonds. (Melanchthon)

[1] [Original footnote] In the following we have purposely given a somewhat greater number of theological aphorisms concerning this subpoint about the ranks of master and servant. For although the time draws near with quick strides when slavery will be completely abolished (which we certainly mourn least of all, yes, which we would vote for if need be, for political reasons), the biblical doctrine concerning servitude or slavery remains steadfast just as well after as before the abolition of the latter. In the same way, the doctrine concerning kingship remains steadfast and must be held to firmly by all Christians in a free republic the same as in an absolute monarchy. Yes, because the spirit of these last days works for slavery to be abolished, not for purely political reasons, but in an antichristian spirit that repudiates all God-ordained dominion and submission in the world, after the emancipation of the slaves has been accomplished, the Lutheran theologian has a twofold duty to watch lest with that, false principles, which subvert the order God has set up, slip into the church, as they do in the sects, which do not heed God’s word. The church should not be a weathervane turning with the spirit of the times. The Christian theologian should not be a messenger who courts the godless world’s applause and serves as its whore, while in return the world feigns love but in its actions is all humanism, grounded on pure egoism and enmity toward God’s dominion over it. Rather he should stand in the way of the deluge of a false enlightenment and the false mask of an alleged philanthropy, in the name of the Lord, with the weapons of the clear words of scripture, in defiance of all saintly-looking corrupters of scripture and coarse scoffers against scripture, in defiance of the pious world, this decked out bride of the devil, in defiance of the devil himself and all the gates of hell.—D. R. (der Redakteur? = the editor . . . this was published in July, 1864)

[2] The translator notes: “I think this means fairness in distribution of wealth does not mean everyone has exactly the same amount.”

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