Luther and the Reformation: eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 145 pages of information about Luther and the Reformation:.

“The bodies of St. Peter and St. Paul, with those of many blessed martyrs, lie exposed, trampled on, polluted, dishonored, and rotting in the weather.  Our most holy lord the pope means to build the church to cover them with glory that shall have no equal on the earth.  Shall those holy ashes be left to be trodden in the mire?”

“Therefore bring your money, and do a work most profitable to departed souls.  Buy! buy!”

“This red cross with the pope’s arms has equal virtue with the Cross of Christ.”

“These pardons make cleaner than baptism, and purer than Adam was in his innocence in Paradise.”

In the certificates which Tetzel gave to those who bought these pardons he declared that “by the authority of Jesus Christ, and of his apostles Peter and Paul, and of the most holy pope, I do absolve thee first from all ecclesiastical censures, in whatever manner they have been incurred, and then from all thy sins, transgressions, and excesses, however enormous soever they may be.  I remit to you all punishment which you deserve in Purgatory on their account, and I restore you to the holy sacraments of the Church, union with the faithful, and to that innocence and purity possessed at baptism; so that when you die the gates of punishment shall be shut and the gates of the happy Paradise shall be opened; and if your death shall be delayed, this grace shall remain in full force when you are at the point of death.”

The sums required for these passports to glory varied according to the rank and wealth of the applicant.  For ordinary indulgence a king, queen, or bishop was to pay twenty-five ducats (a ducat being about a dollar of our money); abbots, counts, barons, and the like were charged ten ducats; other nobles and all who enjoyed annual incomes of five hundred florins were charged six ducats; and so down to half a florin, or twenty-five cents.

But the commissioner also had a special scale for taxes on particular sins.  Sodomy was charged twelve ducats; sacrilege and perjury, nine; murder, seven or eight; witchcraft and polygamy, from two to six; taking the life of a parent, brother, sister, or an infant, from one to six.


Luther was on a tour of inspection as district vicar of the Augustinians when he first heard of these shameful doings.  As yet he understood but little of the system, and could not believe it possible that the fathers at Rome could countenance, much less appoint and commission, such iniquities.  Boiling with indignation for the honor of the Church, he threatened to make a hole in Tetzel’s drum, and wrote to the authorities to refuse passports to the hucksters of these shameful deceptions.

But Tetzel soon came near to Wittenberg.  Some of Luther’s parishioners heard him, and bought absolutions.  They afterward came to confession, acknowledging great irregularities of life.  Luther rebuked their wickedness, and would not promise them forgiveness unless contrite for their sins and earnestly endeavoring to amend their evil ways.  They remonstrated, and brought out their certificates of plenary pardon.  “I have nothing to do with your papers,” said he.  “God’s Word says you must repent and lead better lives, or you will perish.”

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Luther and the Reformation: from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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