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From Reformer to Revolutionary – Thomas Müntzer, Sermon to the Princes (July 13, 1524)

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Accordingly the scribes refused him [Christ] (Ps. 118:22; Matt. 21:44–46; Mark 12:10–12; Luke 20:17–19), as they are still accustomed to do today. Verily in fact they have been reenacting the Passion with him, ever since the pupils of the apostles died. They have taken the Spirit of Christ for laughingstock and do indeed as it is written in Ps. 69. They have quite openly stolen him like the thieves and murderers (John 10:1). They have robbed Christ’s sheep of the true voice and have made the true crucified Christ into an utterly fantastic idol. How has this happened? Answer: They have rejected the pure handiwork of God* and set in his place a pretty little golden statue of deity, before which the poor peasants slobber, as Hosea has clearly said (ch. 4:8–10) and [again] Jeremiah in Lamentations (ch. 4:5): They that did eat fine spiced food have now received in its place dirt and filth. O woe to the abomination of desolation of which Christ himself says (Matt. 24:15) that he will be so wretchedly mocked with the devilish holding of Mass, with superstitious preaching, ceremonies, and manner of life! And yet all the time there is nothing there but a mere wooden statue of deity—yea, a superstitious wooden priest, and a gross, boorish, coarse people who are unable to conceive of God in the slightest. Is that not a great pity, a sin, and a scandal? Yes, I maintain, the beasts of the belly (Phil. 3:19) and the swine (of which it is written in Matt. 7:6, II Peter 2:22) have completely trampled the precious Stone Jesus Christ with their feet, as far as they could. For he has become for the whole world like a rag to wipe off one’s boots. For this reason all the unbelieving Turks, pagans, and Jews have very cheaply ridiculed us and held us for fools, as one should hold senseless men who do not want to hear the [true] Spirit of their faith [even] mentioned. For this reason the suffering of Christ is nothing other than such a fairing at the hands of the desperate knaves as no lansquenet ever had [to give at Calvary] and as Ps. 69:2 says. Therefore, you dear brothers, we ought to arise from this filth and become God’s real pupils, instructed of God (John, ch. 6; Matt., ch. 23). Thus it will be necessary for us that a great mighty power, which will be vouchsafed us from above, should punish and reduce to nothingness such unspeakable wickedness. This is the most clear knowledge of God (Prov. 9:10) which alone springs from the pure unsimulated fear of God. The same must alone arm us with a mighty hand for the avenging of the enemies of God with utmost zeal for God, as is written (Prov. 5:12; John 2:17; Ps. 69:9). For there is absolutely no excusing [of the enemies of God] by means of human or rational expedients, since outward appearance of the godless is above all measure pretty and deceptive like the pretty poppy among the golden ears of wheat (Eccl. 8:10). But the wisdom of God discerns this deception.

Secondly. We must examine further and well that abomination which despises this Stone. If we are, however, to recognize the rightfulness of him, we must be daily conscious of the [fresh] revelation of God. Oh that is become quite precious and rare in this wicked world, for the wily expedients of the captiously clever would overwhelm us every moment and hold us much more strongly from the pure Handiwork of God (Prov. 4:16–19; Ps. 37:12–15, 32 f.). Such a person one must stave off in the fear of the Lord. If only the same [the fear] would be assured in us, then surely holy Christendom could come easily again to the spirit of wisdom and revelation of divine will. This is all comprehended in Scripture (Ps. 145:18 f.; Ps. 111:5, 10; Prov. 1:7). But the fear of God must be pure without any fear of men or creatures (Ps. 19:10; Isa. 66:2; Luke 12:4 f.). O how highly necessary fear is for us! For as little as one can happily serve two masters (Matt. 6:24), so little can one happily reverence both God and his creatures. Nor can God have mercy upon us (as the Mother of Christ our Lord says [Luke 1:50]), unless we fear him with our whole heart. Therefore God says (Mal. 1:6): If I be your Father, where is my honor? If I be your Lord, where then is my fear? Thus, ye amiable princes, it is necessary that we apply utmost diligence in these parlous days (I Tim., ch. 4), as all the dear fathers have delineated in the Bible from the beginning of the world, in order to cope with this insidious evil. For the age is dangerous and the days are wicked (II Tim. 3:1; Eph. 5:15 f.). Why? Simply because the noble power of God is so wretchedly disgraced and dishonored that the poor common people are misled by the ungodly divines all with such rigmarole, as the prophet Micah (ch. 3:5–37) says of it: This is now the character of almost all divines with mighty few exceptions. They teach and say that God no longer reveals his divine mysteries to his beloved friends by means of valid visions or his audible Word, etc. Thus they stick with their inexperienced way (cf. Ecclesiasticus 34:9) and make into the butt of sarcasm those persons who go around in possession of revelation, as the godless did to Jeremiah (ch. 20:7 f.):** Hark! Has God just recently spoken to thee? Or hast thou recently asked at the mouth of God and taken counsel with him: Hast thou the Spirit of the Christ? This is what they do with scorn and mockery.

[ . . . ]

* This expression derives from German mysticism. It denotes the mystical way of salvation and the experienced Word in self-conscious rejection of Luther’s stress upon doctrine.
** Müntzer is paraphrasing the text for dramatic effect.

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