Luther Quote of the Day

Luther on Genesis 24:1-4

Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years; and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all thingsAnd Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his house, who had charge of all that he had: Put your hand under my thighand I will make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwellbut will go to my country and my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.

Moreover, it is the first passage—and one that is completely clear—concerning the duty of parents toward their children and, on the other hand, concerning the proper and respectful attitude of parents toward their children when a marriage is contracted. As common as this discussion is at present, so very vexatious it is, since those mutual duties, imposed by divine and human right, have almost been done away with because of the depravity of men. Therefore when we attempt to restore them and to convince men by teaching that a betrothal entered into without the consent and will of parents can neither be lawful nor regarded as valid,1 we incur the hatred and calumny of many.

The canonists of the pope oppose us very sharply. The professors of civil law are in complete agreement with them, and we surely have them as our implacable and mortal enemies in the whole world. Therefore even though these efforts are thankless, yet the defense and confession of the truth must not for this reason be given up or thrust aside. For in this passage we have a clear example of our conviction, even though no law is being established. For elsewhere, of course, there is no lack of the authority of laws, not only of those that are divine but also of those that are drawn by sound inference from the fountainhead of natural right, as laws and civil rights are. On our side are the examples of Scripture, the written laws and the rights. Why, then, do the jurists and pettifoggers inveigh against us?

Accordingly, let us fortify ourselves with Holy Scripture against their stubborn spite. It is their habit to boast before their hearers that they cannot depart from their canons and pronounce a decision on the basis of our writings, which they contemptuously and shamefully call canonical,2 as though we actually were inventing or sanctioning something new and out of our own heads. We have God’s will, natural reason, the examples of the fathers, and civil law in our favor.

And they themselves know this, but they do not want to be admonished and rebuked. Yet it must not be tolerated that they corrupt and infect the hearts of young people with their outrageous opinions. We shall never tolerate it that their wicked, execrable, and vicious canons, which contradict the Word of God, prescribe anything to us; and on this account I am giving this warning, so that the godly may fortify themselves against their calumnies and blasphemies.

What a wickedness it is to know the truth and yet to say: “In my book I find it written differently; therefore a different decision must be made, without regard for laws, civil right, and the Word of God, which decree the opposite”! Should one delude and turn up one’s nose3 at people in such a way that they are forced to regard as settled whatever wicked pronouncements the canonists make in accordance with their canons?

This senselessness is vicious, contrary to reason and common sense. They confess that they know that our opinion is godly and honorable; and yet, contrary to their conscience and the acknowledged truth, they render a different decision, obviously because their books prescribe otherwise.4

By the same reasoning I, too, might state: “I have been promoted to a doctorate in scholastic theology, but in the Bible I find very many things that conflict with this theology. Nevertheless, I shall follow the Cardinal of Cambrai, no matter how much the Holy Scriptures may teach the opposite.”5 Who would put up with this and not detest such teachers? But they show that they are nourishing in themselves a prodigious hatred of the Holy Spirit, because they carry the spirit of the pope imprinted on their hearts; and this wickedness of theirs comes close to downright blasphemy.

Let us strengthen ourselves with the Holy Spirit against that inhuman shamelessness and villainy, and let us hold those people in contempt with the utmost unconcern. Let him who up to this time has erred with them learn to have a better understanding, and let him follow those who have better things to tell. When you see canons that contain error, you should say: “Canon law, give way to the truth of the Holy Spirit!”

Luther’s works, vol. 4: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 21-25 p 218-220


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