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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 1 of 2)

The Curia joins some ten or twenty together


Romanists assert that the Pope, bishops, priests, and monks belong to and constitute the _spiritual estate_, while princes, lords, artisans, and peasants are the _temporal estate_, which is subject to the spiritual. But this _spiritual estate_ is a mere delusion. The real _spiritual estate_ is the whole body of believers in Jesus Christ, and they are spiritual because Jesus has made all His followers priests to God and to His Christ. A cobbler belongs to the _spiritual estate_ as truly as a bishop. The clergy are distinguished from the laity not by an indelible character imposed upon them in a divine mystery called ordination, but because they have been set apart to do a particular kind of work in the commonwealth. If a Pope, bishop, priest, or monk neglects to do the work he is there to do, he deserves to be punished as much as a careless mason or tailor, and is as accountable to the civil authorities. The _spiritual priesthood of all believers_, the gift of the faith which justifies, has shattered the first and most formidable of these papal fortifications.

It is foolish to say that the _Pope alone can interpret Scripture_. If that were true, where is the need of Holy Scriptures at all?

"Let us burn them, and content ourselves with the unlearned gentlemen at Rome, in whom the Holy Ghost alone dwells, who, however, can dwell in pious souls only. If I had not read it, I could never have believed

that the devil should have put forth such follies at Rome and find a following."

The Holy Scripture is open to all, and can be interpreted by all true believers who have the mind of Christ and approach the word of God humbly seeking enlightenment.

The third wall falls with the other two. It is nonsense to say that _the Pope alone can call a Council_. We are plainly taught in Scripture that if our brother offends we are to tell it to the Church; and if the Pope offends, and he often does, we can only obey Scripture by calling a Council. Every individual Christian has a right to do his best to have it summoned; the temporal powers are there to enforce his wishes; Emperors called General Councils in the earlier ages of the Church.

The straw and paper walls having been thus cleared away, Luther proceeds to state his indictment. There is in Rome one who calls himself the Vicar of Christ, and who lives in a state of singular resemblance to our Lord and to St. Peter, His apostle. For this man wears a triple crown (a single one does not content him), and keeps up such a state that he needs a larger personal revenue than the Emperor. He has surrounding him a number of men, called cardinals, whose only apparent use is that they serve to draw to themselves the revenues of the richest convents, endowments, and benefices in Europe, and spend the money thus obtained in keeping up the state of a great monarch in Rome. When it is impossible to seize the whole revenue of an ecclesiastical benefice, the Curia joins some ten or twenty together, and mulcts each in a good round sum for the benefit of the cardinal. Thus the priory of Wuerzburg gives one thousand gulden yearly, and Bamberg, Mainz, and Trier pay their quotas. The papal court is enormous,--three thousand papal secretaries, and hangers-on innumerable; and all are waiting for German benefices, whose duties they never fulfil, as wolves wait for a flock of sheep. Germany pays more to the Curia than it gives to its own Emperor. Then look at the way Rome robs the whole German land. Long ago the Emperor permitted the Pope to take the half of the first year's income from every benefice--the _Annates_--to provide for a war against the Turks. The money was never spent for the purpose destined; yet it has been regularly paid for a hundred years, and the Pope demands it as a regular and legitimate tax, and uses it to pay posts and offices at Rome.

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