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

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Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 2:46) perceived the divine wisdom in Daniel. He fell down before him after the mighty truth had overcome him. But he was moved like a reed before the wind, as ch. 3 (vs. 5 ff.) proves. Of the same character are many people now, by far the greater number, who accept the gospel with great joy as long as everything is going fine and friendly (Luke 8:13). But when God wishes to put such people to the test or to the trial by fire (I Peter 1:7), oh, how they take offense at the smallest weed, as Christ in Mark (ch. 4:17) prophesied. Without doubt inexperienced people will to such an extent anger themselves over this little book19 for the reason that I say with Christ (Luke 19:27; Matt. 18:6) and with Paul (I Cor. 5:7, 13) and with the instruction of the whole divine law that the godless rulers should be killed, especially the priests and monks who revile the gospel as heresy for us and wish to be considered at the same time as the best Christians. When hypocritical, spurious (getichte) goodness becomes engaged and embittered beyond the average, it then wishes to defend the godless and says Christ killed no one, etc. And since the friends of God thus quite ineffectually command the wind, the prophecy of Paul (II Tim. 3:5) is fulfilled. In the last days the lovers of pleasures will indeed have the form of godliness (Güttickeit), but they will denounce its power. Nothing on earth has a better form and mask than spurious goodness. For this reason all corners are full of nothing but hypocrites, among whom not a one is so bold as to be able to say the real truth. Therefore in order that the truth may be rightly brought to the light, you rulers—it makes no difference whether you want to or not—must conduct yourselves according to the conclusion of this chapter (ch. 2:48 f.), namely, that Nebuchadnezzar made the holy Daniel an officer in order that he might execute good, righteous decisions, as the Holy Spirit says (Ps. 58:10 f.). For the godless have no right to live except as the elect wish to grant it to them, as it is written in Ex. 23:29–33. Rejoice, you true friends of God, that for the enemies of the cross their heart has fallen into their breeches. They must do right even though they have never dreamed it. If we now fear God, why do we want to enrage ourselves before slack defenseless people (Num. 14:8 f.; Josh. 11:6)? Be but daring! He who wishes to have rule himself, to him all power on earth and heaven is given (Matt. 28:18). May He preserve you, most beloved, forever. Amen.

* How many other changes were made in converting the sermon into a printed booklet is difficult to ascertain.

Source of modern German translation: Thomas Müntzer, Schriften, liturgische Texte, Briefe, edited and translated by Rudolf Bentzinger and Siegfried Hoyer. Berlin: Union Verlag, 1990, pp. 64-86.

Source of English translation: Spiritual and Anabaptist Writers, edited by G.H. Williams and A. M. Mergal (Library of Christian Classics Series). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1957, pp. 49-70. Used by permission of Westminster John Knox Press.

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