disputation of Master Martin Luther, Theologian, for the elucidation of
the virtue of Indulgences.
From a zealous desire to bring to light the truth,
the following theses will be maintained at Wittenberg, under the
presidency of the Rvd. Fr. Martin Luther, Master of Arts, Master of
Sacred Theology and official Reader therein. He therefore asks that all
who are unable to be present to dispute with him verbally will do so in
writing. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, in saying
"Repent ye, etc.," meant the whole life of the faithful to be an act of
2. This saying cannot be understood of the
sacrament of penance (i.e. of confession and absolution) which is
administered by the priesthood.
5. The pope has neither the wish nor the power to
remit any penalties save those which he has imposed at his own will or
according to the will of the canons.
6. The pope has no power to remit guilt, save by
declaring and confirming that it has been remitted by God; or, to be
sure, by remitting the cases reserved to himself. If he neglected to
observe these limitations the guilt would remain.
16. . . . the difference between Hell, Purgatory,
and Heaven seems to be the same as the difference between despair,
almost despair, and confidence.
27. Those who assert that a soul straightway flies
out (of purgatory) as a coin tinkles in the collection-box, are
preaching an invention of man (hominem praedicant).
40. True contrition asks for penance and accepts
it with love; but the bounty of indulgences relaxes the penalty and
induces hatred of it . . . .
45. Christians are to be taught that a man who
sees a brother in need and passes him by to give his money for the
purchase of pardon wins for himself not the indulgences of the pope but
the indignation of God.
50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope
knew the exactions of the preachers of indulgences he would rather have
S. Peter's basilica reduced to ashes than built with the skin, flesh
and bones of his sheep.
52. Confidence in salvation through letters of
indulgence is vain . . . .
62. The true measure of the Church is the
sacrosanct Gospel of the glory and grace of God.
63. But this is . . . hated, since it makes the
66. The treasures of indulgences are nets . . .
which . . . fish for the riches of men.
68. They [indulgences] are . . . of little account
as compared with the grace of God and the piety of the cross.
72. Blessed be he that strives against the wanton
and disorderly preaching of the sellers of pardons.
76. . . . Papal pardons cannot take away the least
of venial sins, as regard guilt.
81. This wanton preaching of pardons makes it hard
even for learned men to defend the honour of the pope against calumny,
or at least against the shrewd questions of the laity.
They ask: Why does not the pope empty purgatory on
account of most holy charity and the great need of souls, the most
righteous of causes, seeing that he redeems an infinite number of souls
on account of sordid money, given for the erection of a basilica, which
is a most trivial cause?
90. To suppress these careful arguments of the
laity merely by papal authority, instead of clearing them up by a
reasoned reply, is to expose the Church and the pope to the ridicule of
the enemy and to render Christians unhappy.
91. Now if pardons were preached according to the
spirit and mind of the pope all these questions would easily be
disposed of; nay, they would not arise.
92. And so let all those prophets depart who say
to Christ's people 'Peace, peace,' and there is no peace.
93. And farewell to all those prophets who say to
Christ's people 'the cross, the cross' and there is no cross.
94. Christians are to be exhorted to endeavor to
follow Christ, their head, through pains, deaths, and hells.
And so let them trust to enter heaven rather through many tribulations
than through the false confidence of peace.