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Starts discussion of Fourth Commandment (honor our parents)

By Martin Luther

       The Second Table follows.
                  "Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother."
                  From this Commandment we learn that after the excellent
                  works of the first three Commandments there are no
                  better works than to obey and serve all those who are
                  set over us as superiors. For this reason also
                  disobedience is a greater sin than murder, unchastity,
                  theft and dishonesty, and all that these may include.
                  For we can in no better way learn how to distinguish
                  between greater and lesser sins than by noting the
                  order of the Commandments of God, although there are
                  distinctions also within the works of each Commandment.
                  For who does not know that to curse is a greater sin
                  than to be angry, to strike than to curse, to strike
                  father and mother more than to strike any one else?
                  Thus these seven Commandments teach us how we are to
                  exercise ourselves in good works toward men, and first
                  of all toward our superiors.
                  The first work is that we honor our own father and
                  mother. And this honor consists not only in respectful
                  demeanor, but in this: that we obey them, look up to,
                  esteem and heed their words and example, accept what
                  they say, keep silent and endure their treatment of us,
                  so long as it is not contrary to the first three
                  Commandments; in addition, when they need it, that we
                  provide them with food, clothing and shelter. For not
                  for nothing has He said: "Thou shalt honor them"; He
                  does not say: "Thou shalt love them," although this
                  also must be done. But honor is higher than mere love
                  and includes a certain fear, which unites with love,
                  and causes a man to fear offending them more than he
                  fears the punishment. Just as there is fear in the
                  honor we pay a sanctuary, and yet we do not flee from
                  it as from a punishment, but draw near to it all the
                  more. Such a fear mingled with love is the true honor;
                  the other fear without any love is that which we have
                  toward things which we despise or flee from, as we fear
                  the hangman or punishment. There is no honor in that,
                  for it is a fear without all love, nay, fear that has
                  with it hatred and enmity. Of this we have a proverb of
                  St. Jerome: What we fear, that we also hate. With such
                  a fear God does not wish to be feared or honored, nor
                  to have us honor our parents; but with the first, which
                  is mingled with love and confidence.
                  II. This work appears easy, but few regard it aright.
                  For where the parents are truly pious and love their
                  children not according to the flesh, but (as they
                  ought) instruct and direct them by words and works to
                  serve God according to the first three Commandments,
                  there the child's own will is constantly broken, and it
                  must do, leave undone, and suffer what its nature would
                  most gladly do otherwise; and thereby it finds occasion
                  to despise its parents, to murmur against them, or to
                  do worse things. There love and fear depart, unless
                  they have God's grace. In like manner, when they punish
                  and chastise, as they ought (at times even unjustly,
                  which, however, does not harm the soul's salvation),
                  our evil nature resents the correction. Beside all
                  this, there are some so wicked that they are ashamed of
                  their parents because of poverty, lowly birth,
                  deformity or dishonor, and allow these things to
                  influence them more than the high Commandment of God,
                  Who is above all things, and has with benevolent intent
                  given them such parents, to exercise and try them in
                  His Commandment. But the matter becomes still worse
                  when the child has children of its own; then love
                  descends to them, and detracts very much from the love
                  and honor toward the parents.
                  But what is said and commanded of parents must also be
                  understood of those who, when the parents are dead or
                  absent, take their place, such as relatives,
                  god-parents, sponsors, temporal lords and spiritual
                  fathers. For every one must be ruled and be subject to
                  other men. Wherefore we here see again how many good
                  works are taught in this Commandment, since in it all
                  our life is made subject to other men. Hence it comes
                  that obedience is so highly praised and all virtue and
                  good works are included in it.
                  III. There is another dishonoring of parents, much more
                  dangerous and subtile than this first, which adorns
                  itself and passes for a real honor; that is, when a
                  child has its own way, and the parents through natural
                  love allow it. Here there is indeed mutual honor, here
                  there is mutual love, and on all sides it is a precious
                  thing, parents and child take mutual pleasure in one
                  This plague is so common that instances of the first
                  form of dishonoring are very seldom seen. This is due
                  to the fact that the parents are blinded, and neither
                  know nor honor God according to the first three
                  Commandments; hence also they cannot see what the
                  children lack, and how they ought to teach and train
                  them. For this reason they train them for worldly
                  honors, pleasure and possessions, that they may by all
                  means please men and reach high positions: this the
                  children like, and they obey very gladly without
                  Thus God's Commandment secretly comes to naught while
                  all seems good, and that is fulfilled which is written
                  in the Prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, that the children
                  are destroyed by their own parents, and they do like
                  the king Manasseh, who sacrificed his own son to the
                  idol Moloch and burned him, II. Kings xxi. What else is
                  it but to sacrifice one's own child to the idol and to
                  burn it, when parents train their children more in the
                  way of the world than in the way of God? let them go
                  their way, and be burned up in worldly pleasure, love,
                  enjoyment, possessions and honor, but let God's love
                  and honor and the desire of eternal blessings be
                  quenched in them?
                  O how perilous it is to be a father or a mother, where
                  flesh and blood are supreme! For, truly, the knowledge
                  and fulfilment of the first three and the last six
                  Commandments depends altogether upon this Commandment;
                  since parents are commanded to teach them to their
                  children, as Psalm lxxviii. says, "How strictly has He
                  commanded our fathers, that they should make known
                  God's Commandments to their children, that the
                  generation to come might know them and declare them to
                  their children's children." This also is the reason why
                  God bids us honor our parents, that is, to love them
                  with fear; for that other love is without fear,
                  therefore it is more dishonor than honor.
                  Now see whether every one does not have good works
                  enough to do, whether he be father or child. But we
                  blind men leave this untouched, and seek all sorts of
                  other works which are not commanded.
                  IV. Now where parents are foolish and train their
                  children after the fashion of the world, the children
                  are in no way to obey them; for God, according to the
                  first three Commandments, is to be more highly regarded
                  than the parents. But training after the fashion of the
                  world I call it, when they teach them to seek no more
                  than pleasure, honor and possessions of this world or
                  its power.
                  To wear decent clothes and to seek an honest living is
                  a necessity, and not sin. Yet the heart of a child must
                  be taught to be sorry that this miserable earthly life
                  cannot well be lived, or even begun, without the
                  striving after more adornment and more possessions than
                  are necessary for the protection of the body against
                  cold and for nourishment. Thus the child must be taught
                  to grieve that, without its own will, it must do the
                  world's will and play the fool with the rest of men,
                  and endure such evil for the sake of something better
                  and to avoid something worse. So Queen Esther wore her
                  royal crown, and yet said to God, Esther xiv, "Thou
                  knowest, that the sign of my high estate, which is upon
                  my head, has never yet delighted me, and I abhor it as
                  a menstruous rag, and never wear it when I am by
                  myself, but when I must do it and go before the
                  people." The heart that is so minded wears adornment
                  without peril; for it wears and does not wear, dances
                  and does not dance, lives well and does not live well.
                  And these are the secret souls, hidden brides of
                  Christ, but they are rare; for it is hard not to
                  delight in great adornment and parade. Thus St. Cecilia
                  wore golden clothes at the command of her parents, but
                  within against her body she wore a garment of hair.
                  Here some men say: "How then could I bring my children
                  into society, and marry them honorably? I must make
                  some display." Tell me, are not these the words of a
                  heart which despairs of God, and trusts more on its own
                  providing than on God's care? Whereas St. Peter teaches
                  and says, I. Peter v, "Cast all your care upon Him, and
                  be certain that He cares for you." It is a sign that
                  they have never yet thanked God for their children,
                  have never yet rightly prayed for them, have never yet
                  commended them to Him; otherwise they would know and
                  have experienced that they ought to ask God also for
                  the marriage dower of their children, and await it from
                  Him. Therefore also He permits them to go their way,
                  with cares and worries, and yet succeed poorly.
                  V. Thus it is true, as men say, that parents, although
                  they had nothing else to do, could attain salvation by
                  training their own children; if they rightly train them
                  to God's service, they will indeed have both hands full
                  of good works to do. For what else are here the hungry,
                  thirsty, naked, imprisoned, sick, strangers, than the
                  souls of your own children? with whom God makes of your
                  house a hospital, and sets you over them as chief
                  nurse, to wait on them, to give them good words and
                  works as meat and drink, that they may learn to trust,
                  believe and fear God, and to place their hope on Him,
                  to honor His Name, not to swear nor curse, to mortify
                  themselves by praying, fasting, watching, working, to
                  attend worship and to hear God's Word, and to keep the
                  Sabbath, that they may learn to despise temporal
                  things, to bear misfortune calmly, and not to fear
                  death nor to love this life.
                  See, what great lessons are these, how many good works
                  you have before you in your home, with your child, that
                  needs all these things like a hungry, thirsty, naked,
                  poor, imprisoned, sick soul. O what a blessed marriage
                  and home were that where such parents were to be found!
                  Truly it would be a real Church, a chosen cloister,
                  yea, a paradise. Of such says Psalm cxxviii: "Blessed
                  are they that fear God, and walk in His Commandments;
                  thou shalt eat of the labor of thine hands; therefore
                  thou shalt be happy, and it shall be well with thee.
                  Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine in thine house,
                  and thy children shall be as the young scions of laden
                  olive trees about thy table. Behold, thus shall the man
                  be blessed, that feareth the Lord," etc. Where are such
                  parents? Where are they that ask after good works? Here
                  none wishes to come. Why? God has commanded it; the
                  devil, flesh and blood pull away from it; it makes no
                  show, therefore it counts for nothing. Here this
                  husband runs to St. James, that wife vows a pilgrimage
                  to Our Lady; no one vows that he will properly govern
                  and teach himself and his child to the honor of God; he
                  leaves behind those whom God has commanded him to keep
                  in body and soul, and would serve God in some other
                  place, which has not been commanded him. Such
                  perversity no bishop forbids, no preacher corrects;
                  nay, for covetousness' sake they confirm it and daily
                  only invent more pilgrimages, elevations of saints,
                  indulgence-fairs. God have pity on such blindness.
                  VI. On the other hand, parents cannot earn eternal
                  punishment in any way more easily than by neglecting
                  their own children in their own home, and not teaching
                  them the things which have been spoken of above. Of
                  what help is it, that they kill themselves with
                  fasting, praying, making pilgrimages, and do all manner
                  of good works? God will, after all, not ask them about
                  these things at their death and in the day of judgment,
                  but will require of them the children whom He entrusted
                  to them. This is shown by that word of Christ, Luke
                  xxiii, "Ye daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but
                  for yourselves and for your children. The days are
                  coming, in which they shall say: Blessed are the wombs
                  that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck."
                  Why shall they lament, except because all their
                  condemnation comes from their own children? If they had
                  not had children, perhaps they might have been saved.
                  Truly, these words ought to open the eyes of parents,
                  that they may have regard to the souls of their
                  children, so that the poor children be not deceived by
                  their false, fleshly love, as if they had rightly
                  honored their parents when they are not angry with
                  them, or are obedient in worldly matters, by which
                  their self-will is strengthened; although the
                  Commandment places the parents in honor for the very
                  purpose that the self-will of the children may be
                  broken, and that the children may become humble and
                  Just as it has been said of the other Commandments,
                  that they are to be fulfilled in the chief work, so
                  here too let no one suppose that the training and
                  teaching of his children is sufficient of itself,
                  except it be done in confidence of divine favor, so
                  that a man doubt not that he is wellpleasing to God in
                  his works, and that he let such works be nothing else
                  than an exhortation and exercise of his faith, that he
                  trust God and look to Him for blessings and a gracious
                  will; without which faith no work lives, or is good and
                  acceptable; for many heathen have trained their
                  children beautifully, but it is all lost, because of
                  their unbelief.
                  VII. The second work of this Commandment is to honor
                  and obey the spiritual mother, the holy Christian
                  Church, the spiritual power, so that we conform to what
                  she commands, forbids, appoints, orders, binds and
                  looses, and honor, fear and love the spiritual
                  authority as we honor, love and fear our natural
                  parents, and yield to it in all things which are not
                  contrary to the first three Commandments.
                  Now with regard to this work, things are almost worse
                  than with regard to the first. The spiritual authority
                  should punish sin with the ban and with laws, and
                  constrain its spiritual children to be good, in order
                  that they might have reason to do this work and to
                  exercise themselves in obeying and honoring it. Such
                  zeal one does not see now; they act toward their
                  subjects like the mothers who forsake their children
                  and run after their lovers, as Hosea ii. says; they do
                  not preach, they do not teach, they do not hinder, they
                  do not punish, and there is no spiritual government at
                  all left in Christendom.
                  What can I say of this work? A few fast-days and
                  feast-days are left, and these had better be done away
                  with. But no one gives this a thought, and there is
                  nothing left except the ban for debt, and this should
                  not be. But spiritual authority should look to it, that
                  adultery, unchastity, usury, gluttony, worldly show,
                  excessive adornment, and such like open sin and shame
                  might be most severely punished and corrected; and they
                  should properly manage the endowments, monastic houses,
                  parishes and schools, and earnestly maintain worship in
                  them, provide for the young people, boys and girls, in
                  schools and cloisters, with learned, pious men as
                  teachers, that they might all be well trained, and so
                  the older people give a good example and Christendom be
                  filled and adorned with fine young people. So St. Paul
                  teaches his disciple Titus, that he should rightly
                  instruct and govern all classes, young and old, men and
                  women. But now he goes to school who wishes; he is
                  taught who governs and teaches himself; nay, it has,
                  alas! come to such a pass that the places where good
                  should be taught have become schools of knavery, and no
                  one at all takes thought for the wild youth.
                  VIII. If the above order prevailed, one could say how
                  honor and obedience should be given to the spiritual
                  authority. But now the case is like that of the natural
                  parents who let their children do as they please; at
                  present the spiritual authority threatens, dispenses,
                  takes money, and pardons more than it has power to
                  pardon. I will here refrain from saying more; we see
                  more of it than is good; greed holds the reins, and
                  just what should be forbidden is taught; and it is
                  clearly seen that the spiritual estate is in all things
                  more worldly than the worldly estate itself. Meanwhile
                  Christendom must be ruined, and this Commandment
                  If there were a bishop who would zealously provide for
                  all these classes, supervise, make visitations and be
                  faithful as he ought, truly, one city would be too much
                  for him. For in the time of the Apostles, when
                  Christendom was at its best estate, each city had a
                  bishop, although the smallest part of the inhabitants
                  were Christians. How may things go when one bishop
                  wants to have so much, another so much, this one the
                  whole world, that one the fourth of it.
                  It is time that we pray God for mercy. Of spiritual
                  power we have much; but of spiritual government nothing
                  or little. Meanwhile may he help who can, that
                  endowments, monastic houses, parishes and schools be
                  well established and managed; and it would also be one
                  of the works of the spiritual authority that it lessen
                  the number of endowments, monastic houses and schools,
                  where they cannot be cared for. It is much better that
                  there be no monastic house or endowment than that there
                  be evil government in them, whereby God is the more
                  provoked to anger.
                  IX. Since, then, the authorities so entirely neglect
                  their work, and are perverted, it must assuredly follow
                  that they misuse their power, and undertake other and
                  evil works, just as parents do when they give some
                  command contrary to God. Here we must be wise; for the
                  Apostle has said, that those times shall be perilous in
                  which such authorities shall rule. For it seems as if
                  we resisted their power if we do not do and leave
                  undone all that they prescribe. Therefore we must take
                  hold of the first three Commandments and the First
                  Table, and be certain that no man, neither bishop, nor
                  pope, nor angel, may command or determine anything that
                  is contrary to or hinders these three Commandments, or
                  does not help them; and if they attempt such things, it
                  is not valid and amounts to nothing; and we also sin if
                  we follow and obey, or even tolerate such acts.
                  From this it is easy to understand that the commands of
                  fasting do not include the sick, the pregnant women, or
                  those who for other reasons cannot fast without injury.
                  And, to rise higher, in our time nothing comes from
                  Rome but a fair of spiritual wares, which are openly
                  and shamelessly bought and sold, indulgences, parishes,
                  monastic houses, bishoprics, provostships, benefices,
                  and every thing that has ever been founded to God's
                  service far and wide; whereby not only is all money and
                  wealth of the world drawn and driven to Rome (for this
                  would be the smallest harm), but the parishes,
                  bishoprics and prelacies are torn to pieces, deserted,
                  laid waste, and so the people are neglected, God's Word
                  and God's Name and honor come to naught, and faith is
                  destroyed, so that at last such institutions and
                  offices fall into the hands not only of unlearned and
                  unfit men, but the greater part into the hands of the
                  Romans, the greatest villains in the world. Thus what
                  has been founded for God's service, for the
                  instruction, government and improvement of the people,
                  must now serve the stable-boys, mule-drivers, yea, not
                  to use plainer language, Roman whores and knaves; yet
                  we have no more thanks than that they mock us for it as
                  X. If then such unbearable abuses are all carried on in
                  the Name of God and St. Peter, just as if God's Name
                  and the spiritual power were instituted to blaspheme
                  God's honor, to destroy Christendom, body and soul: we
                  are indeed in duty bound to resist in a proper way as
                  much as we can. And here we must do like pious children
                  whose parents have become insane, and first see by what
                  right that which has been founded for God's service in
                  our lands, or has been ordained to provide for our
                  children, must be allowed to do its work in Rome, and
                  to lapse here, where it ought to serve. How can we be
                  so foolish?
                  Since then bishops and spiritual prelates stand idle in
                  this matter, offer no opposition or are afraid, and
                  thus allow Christendom to perish, it is our duty first
                  of all humbly to call upon God for help to prevent this
                  thing, then to put our hand to work to the same end,
                  send the courtesans and those who bear letters from
                  Rome about their business, in a reasonable, gentle way
                  inform them that, if they wish to care for their
                  parishes properly, they shall live in them and improve
                  the people by preaching or by good example; or if not,
                  and they do live in Rome or elsewhere, lay waste and
                  debauch the churches, then let the pope feed them, whom
                  they serve. It is not fitting that we support the
                  pope's servants, his people, yes, his knaves and
                  whores, to the destruction and injury of our souls.
                  Lo! these are the true Turks, whom the kings, princes
                  and the nobility ought to attack first: not seeking
                  thereby their own benefit, but only the improvement of
                  Christendom, and the prevention of the blasphemy and
                  disgracing of the divine Name; and so to deal with the
                  clergy as with a father who has lost his sense and
                  wits; who, if one did not restrain him and resist him
                  (although with all humility and honor), might destroy
                  child, heir and everybody. Thus we are to honor Roman
                  authority as our highest father; and yet, since they
                  have gone mad and lost their senses, not allow them to
                  do what they attempt, lest Christendom be destroyed
                  XI. Some think, this should be referred to a General
                  Council. To this I say: No! For we have had many
                  councils in which this has been proposed, namely, at
                  Constance, Basel and the last Roman Council; but
                  nothing has been accomplished, and things have grown
                  ever worse, Moreover, such councils are entirely
                  useless, since Roman wisdom has contrived the device
                  that the kings and princes must beforehand take an oath
                  to let the Romans remain what they are and keep what
                  they have, and so has put up a bar to ward off all
                  reformation, to retain protection and liberty for all
                  their knavery, although this oath is demanded, forced
                  and taken contrary to God and the law, and by it the
                  doors are locked against the Holy Spirit, Who should
                  rule the councils. But this would be the best, and also
                  the only remedy remaining, if kings, princes, nobility,
                  cities and communities themselves began and opened a
                  way for reformation, so that the bishops and clergy,
                  who now are afraid, would have reason to follow. For
                  here nothing else shall and must be considered except
                  God's first three Commandments, against which neither
                  Rome, nor heaven nor earth can command or forbid
                  anything. And the ban or threatening with which they
                  think they can prevent this, amounts to nothing; just
                  as it amounts to nothing if an insane father severely
                  threatens the son who restrains him or locks him up.
                  XII. The third work of this Commandment is to obey the
                  temporal authority, as Paul teaches, Romans xiii, and
                  Titus iii, and St. Peter, I. Peter ii: "Submit
                  yourselves to the king as supreme, and to the princes
                  as his ambassadors, and to all the ordinances of the
                  worldly power." But it is the work of the temporal
                  power to protect its subjects, and to punish thievery,
                  robbery, and adultery, as St. Paul says, Romans xiii:
                  "It beareth not the sword in vain; it serves God with
                  it, to the terror of evil doers, and to the protection
                  of the good."
                  Here men sin in two ways. First, if they lie to the
                  government, deceive it, and are disloyal, neither obey
                  nor do as it has ordered and commanded, whether with
                  their bodies or their possessions. For even if the
                  government does injustice, as the King of Babylon did
                  to the people of Israel, yet God would have it obeyed,
                  without treachery and deception. Secondly, when men
                  speak evil of the government and curse it, and when a
                  man cannot revenge himself and abuses the government
                  with grumbling and evil words, publicly or secretly.
                  In all this we are to regard that which St. Peter bids
                  us regard, namely, that its power, whether it do right
                  or wrong, cannot harm the soul, but only the body and
                  property; unless indeed it should try openly to compel
                  us to do wrong against God or men; as in former days
                  when the magistrates were not yet Christians, and as
                  the Turk is now said to do. For to suffer wrong
                  destroys no one's soul, nay, it improves the soul,
                  although it inflicts loss upon the body and property;
                  but to do wrong, that destroys the soul, although it
                  should gain all the world's wealth.
                  XIII. This also is the reason why there is not such
                  great danger in the temporal power as in the spiritual,
                  when it does wrong. For the temporal power can do no
                  harm, I since it has nothing to do with preaching and
                  faith and the first three Commandments. But the
                  spiritual power does harm not only when it does wrong,
                  but also when it neglects its duty and busies itself
                  with other things, even if they were better than the
                  very best works of the temporal power. Therefore, we
                  must resist it when it does not do right, and not
                  resist the temporal power although it does wrong. For
                  the poor people believe and do as they see the
                  spiritual power believing and doing; if they are not
                  set an example and are not taught, then they also
                  believe nothing and do nothing; since this power is
                  instituted for no other reason than to lead the people
                  in faith to God. All this is not found in the temporal
                  power; for it may do and leave undone what it will, my
                  faith to God still goes its way and works its works,
                  because I need not believe what it believes.
                  Therefore, also, the temporal power is a very small
                  thing in God's sight, and far too slightly regarded by
                  Him, that for its sake, whether it do right or wrong,
                  we should resist, become disobedient and quarrel. On
                  the other hand, the spiritual power is an exceeding
                  great blessing, and far too precious in His eyes, that
                  the very least of Christians should endure and keep
                  silent, if it departs a hair's breadth from its own
                  duty, not to say when it does the very opposite of its
                  duty, as we now see it do every day.
                  XIV. In this power also there is much abuse. First,
                  when it follows the flatterers, which is a common and
                  especially harmful plague of this power, against which
                  no one can sufficiently guard and protect himself. Here
                  it is led by the nose, and oppresses the common people,
                  becomes a government of the like of which a heathen
                  says: "The spider-webs catch the small flies, but the
                  mill-stones roll through." So the laws, ordinances and
                  government of one and the same authority hold the small
                  men, and the great are free; and where the prince is
                  not himself so wise that he needs nobody's advice, or
                  has such a standing that they fear him, there will and
                  must be (unless God should do a special wonder) a
                  childish government.
                  For this reason God has considered evil, unfit rulers
                  the greatest of plagues, as He threatens, Isaiah iii,
                  "I will take away from them every man of valor, and
                  will give children to be their princes and babes to
                  rule over them." Four plagues God has named in
                  Scripture, Ezekiel xiv. The first and slightest, which
                  also David chose, is pestilence, the second is famine,
                  the third is war, the fourth is all manner of evil
                  beasts, such as lions, wolves, serpents, dragons; these
                  are the wicked rulers. For where these are, the land is
                  destroyed, not only in body and property, as in the
                  others, but also in honor, discipline, virtue and the
                  soul's salvation. For pestilence and famine make people
                  good and rich; but war and wicked rulers bring to
                  naught everything that has to do with temporal and
                  eternal possessions.
                  XV. A prince must also be very wise and not at all
                  times undertake to enforce his own will, although he
                  may have the authority and the very best cause. For it
                  is a far nobler virtue to endure wrong to one's
                  authority than to risk property and person, if it is
                  advantageous to the subjects; since worldly rights
                  attach only to temporal goods.
                  Hence, it is a very foolish saying: I have a right to
                  it, therefore I will take it by storm and keep it,
                  although all sorts of misfortune may come to others
                  thereby. So we read of the Emperor Octavianus, that he
                  did not wish to make war, however just his cause might
                  be, unless there were sure indications of greater
                  benefit than harm, or at least that the harm would not
                  be intolerable, and said: " War is like fishing with a
                  golden net; the loss risked is always greater than the
                  catch can be." For he who guides a wagon must walk far
                  otherwise than if he were walking alone; when alone he
                  may walk, jump, and do as he will; but when he drives,
                  he must so guide and adapt himself that the wagon and
                  horses can follow him, and regard that more than his
                  own will. So also a prince leads a multitude with him
                  and must not walk and act as he wills, but as the
                  multitude can, considering their need and advantage
                  more than his will and pleasure. For when a prince
                  rules after his own mad will and follows his own
                  opinion, he is like a mad driver, who rushes straight
                  ahead with horse and wagon, through bushes, thorns,
                  ditches, water, up hill and down dale, regardless of
                  roads and bridges; he will not drive long, all will go
                  to smash.
                  Therefore it would be most profitable for rulers, that
                  they read, or have read to them, from youth on, the
                  histories, both in sacred and in profane books, in
                  which they would find more examples and skill in ruling
                  than in all the books of law; as we read that the kings
                  of Persia did, Esther vi. For examples and histories
                  benefit and teach more than the laws and statutes:
                  there actual experience teaches, here untried and
                  uncertain words.
                  XVI. Three special, distinct works all rulers might do
                  in our times, particularly in our lands. First, to make
                  an end of the horrible gluttony and drunkenness, not
                  only because of the excess, but also because of its
                  expense. For through seasonings and spices and the
                  like, without which men could well live, no little loss
                  of temporal wealth has come and daily is coming upon
                  our lands. To prevent these two great evils would truly
                  give the temporal power enough to do, for the inroads
                  they have made are wide and deep. And how could those
                  in power serve God better and thereby also improve
                  their own land?
                  Secondly, to forbid the excessive cost of clothing,
                  whereby so much wealth is wasted, and yet only the
                  world and the flesh are served; it is fearful to think
                  that such abuse is to be found among the people who
                  have been pledged, baptised and consecrated to Christ,
                  the Crucified, and who should bear the Cross after Him
                  and prepare for the life to come by dying daily. If
                  some men erred through ignorance, it might be borne;
                  but that it is practised so freely, without punishment,
                  without shame, without hindrance, nay, that praise and
                  fame are sought thereby, this is indeed an unchristian
                  thing. Thirdly, to drive out the usurious buying of
                  rent-charges, which in the whole world ruins, consumes
                  and troubles all lands, peoples and cities through its
                  cunning form, by which it appears not to be usury,
                  while in truth it is worse than usury, because men are
                  not on their guard against it as against open usury.
                  See, these are the three Jews, as men say, who suck the
                  whole world dry. Here princes ought not to sleep, nor
                  be lazy, if they would give a good account of their
                  office to God.
                  XVII. Here too ought to be mentioned the knavery which
                  is practised by officiales and other episcopal and
                  spiritual officers, who ban, load, hunt and drive the
                  poor people with great burdens, as long as a penny
                  remains. This ought to be prevented by the temporal
                  sword, since there is no other help or remedy.
                  O, would God in heaven, that some time a government
                  might be established that would do away with the public
                  bawdy-houses, as was done among the people of Israel!
                  It is indeed an unchristian sight, that public houses
                  of sin are maintained among Christians, a thing
                  formerly altogether unheard of. It should be a rule
                  that boys and girls should be married early and such
                  vice be prevented. Such a rule and custom ought to be
                  sought for by both the spiritual and the temporal
                  power. If it was possible among the Jews, why should it
                  not also be possible among Christians? Nay, if it is
                  possible in villages, towns and some cities, as we all
                  see, why should it not be possible everywhere?
                  But the trouble is, there is no real government in the
                  world. No one wants to work, therefore the mechanics
                  must give their workmen holiday: then they are free and
                  no one can tame them. But if there were a rule that
                  they must do as they are bid, and no one would give
                  them work in other places, this evil would to a large
                  extent be mended. God help us! I fear that here the
                  wish is far greater than the hope; but this does not
                  excuse us.
                  Now see, here only a few works of magistrates are
                  indicated, but they are so good and so many, that they
                  have superabundant good works to do every hour and
                  could constantly serve God. But these works, like the
                  others, should also be done in faith, yea, be an
                  exercise of faith, so that no one expect to please God
                  by the works, but by confident trust in His favor do
                  such works only to the honor and praise of his gracious
                  God, thereby to serve and benefit his neighbor.
                  XVIII. The fourth work of this Commandment is obedience
                  of servants and workmen toward their lords and ladies,
                  masters and mistresses. Of this St. Paul says, Titus
                  ii: "Thou shalt exhort servants that they highly honor
                  their masters, be obedient, do what pleases them, not
                  cheating them nor opposing them"; for this reason also:
                  because they thereby bring the doctrine of Christ and
                  our faith into good repute, that the heathen cannot
                  complain of us and be offended. St. Peter also says:
                  "Servants, be subject to your masters, for the fear of
                  God, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the
                  froward and harsh. For this is acceptable with God, if
                  a man suffers harshness, being innocent."
                  Now there is the greatest complaint in the world about
                  servants and working men, that they are disobedient,
                  unfaithful, unmannerly, and over-reaching; this is a
                  plague sent of God. And truly, this is the one work of
                  servants whereby they may be saved; truly they need not
                  make pilgrimages or do this thing or the other; they
                  have enough to do if their heart is only set on this,
                  that they gladly do and leave undone what they know
                  pleases their masters and mistresses, and all this in a
                  simple faith; not that they would by their works gain
                  much merit, but that they do it all in the confidence
                  of divine favor (in which all merits are to be found),
                  purely for nothing, out of the love and good-will
                  toward God which grows out of such confidence. And all
                  such works they should think of as an exercise and
                  exhortation ever to strengthen their faith and
                  confidence more and more. For, as has now been
                  frequently said, this faith makes all works good, yea,
                  it must do them and be the master-workman.
                  XIX. On the other hand, the masters and mistresses
                  should not rule their servants, maids and workingmen
                  roughly, not look to all things too closely,
                  occasionally overlook something, and for peace' sake
                  make allowances. For it is not possible that everything
                  be done perfectly at all times among any class of men,
                  as long as we live on earth in imperfection. Of this
                  St. Paul says, Colossians iv, "Masters, do unto your
                  servants that which is just and equal, knowing that ye
                  also have a Master in heaven." Therefore as the masters
                  do not wish God to deal too sharply with them, but that
                  many things be overlooked through grace, they also
                  should be so much the more gentle toward their
                  servants, and overlook some things, and yet have a care
                  that the servants do right and learn to fear God.
                  But see now, what good works a householder and a
                  mistress can do, how finely God offers us all good
                  works so near at hand, so manifold, so continuously,
                  that we have no need of asking after good works, and
                  might well forget the other showy, far-off, invented
                  works of men, such as making pilgrimages, building
                  churches, seeking indulgence, and the like.
                  Here I ought naturally also to say how a wife ought to
                  be obedient, subject to her husband as to her superior,
                  give way to him, keep silent and give up to him, where
                  it is a matter not contrary to God's commands. On the
                  other hand, the husband should love his wife, overlook
                  a little, and not deal strictly with her, of which
                  matter St. Peter and St. Paul have said much. But this
                  has its place in the further explanation of the Ten
                  Commandments, and is easily inferred from these
                  XX. But all that has been said of these works is
                  included in these two, obedience and considerateness.
                  Obedience is the duty of subjects, considerateness that
                  of masters, that they take care to rule their subjects
                  well, deal kindly with them, and do everything whereby
                  they may benefit and help them. That is their way to
                  heaven, and these are the best works they can do on
                  earth; with these they are more acceptable to God than
                  if without these they did nothing but miracles. So says
                  St. Paul, Romans xii: "He that ruleth, let him do it
                  with diligence"; as who should say: "Let him not allow
                  himself to be led astray by what other people or
                  classes of people do; let him not look to this work or
                  to that, whether it be splendid or obscure; but let him
                  look to his own position, and think only how he may
                  benefit those who are subject to him; by this let him
                  stand, nor let himself be torn from it, although heaven
                  stood open before him, nor be driven from it, although
                  hell were chasing him. This is the right road that
                  leads him to heaven."
                  Oh, if a man were so to regard himself and his
                  position, and attended to its duties alone, how rich in
                  good works would he be in a short time, so quietly and
                  secretly that no one would notice it except God alone!
                  But now we let all this go, and one runs to the
                  Carthusians, another to this place, a third to that,
                  just as if good works and God's Commandments had been
                  thrown into corners and hidden; although it is written
                  in Proverbs i, that divine wisdom crieth out her
                  commandments publicly in the streets, in the midst of
                  the people and in the gates of the cities; which means
                  that they are present in profusion in all places, in
                  all stations of life and at all times, and we do not
                  see them, but in our blindness look for them elsewhere.
                  This Christ declared, Matthew xxiv: "If they shall say
                  unto you: Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe it not.
                  If they shall say: Behold, He is in the desert, go not
                  forth; behold, He is in the secret chambers, believe it
                  not; they are false prophets and false Christs."
                  XXI. Again, obedience is the duty of subjects, that
                  they direct all their diligence and effort to do and to
                  leave undone what their over-lords desire of them, that
                  they do not allow themselves to be torn or driven from
                  this, whatever another do. Let no man think that he
                  lives well or does good works, whether it be prayer or
                  fasting, or by whatever name it may be called, if he
                  does not earnestly and diligently exercise himself in
                  But if it should happen, as it often does, that the
                  temporal power and authorities, as they are called,
                  should urge a subject to do contrary to the
                  Commandments of God, or hinder him from doing them,
                  there obedience ends, and that duty is annulled. Here a
                  man must say as St. Peter says to the rulers of the
                  Jews: "We ought to obey God rather than men." He did
                  not say: "We must not obey men"; for that would be
                  wrong; but he said: "God rather than men." Thus, if a
                  prince desired to go to war, and his cause was
                  manifestly unrighteous, we should not follow nor help
                  him at all; since God has commanded that we shall not
                  kill our neighbor, nor do him injustice. Likewise, if
                  he bade us bear false witness, steal, lie or deceive
                  and the like. Here we ought rather give up goods,
                  honor, body, and life, that God's Commandments may
                  The four preceding Commandments have their works in the
                  understanding, that is, they take a man captive, rule
                  him and make him subject, so that he rule not himself,
                  approve not himself, think not highly of himself; but
                  in humility know himself and allow himself to be led,
                  that pride be prevented. The following Commandments
                  deal with the passions and lust of men, that these also
                  be killed.

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