We still have before us the example of the clergy, who were so smug and lived so scandalously that the whole world came to despise them, even though they thought it was impossible for them to be so despised and humbled. But it happened, and it is to be feared that they will never again attain the honor they once had. The nobility are trying hard to do likewise, and I am deeply concerned that they will be just as successful and fall heir to the same fate as the clergy if things go on as they are. For God did not lie when He said: “Those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed” (1 Sam. 2:30). The nobles think that because they are getting away with it, there is no emergency. They defy both God and man; they despise God’s Word, laws, and honor. But just as God suddenly caught up with the clergy, so He will certainly catch up with the nobility. He is big enough, and He will give them such a beating and pounding that they will vanish like ashes in the wind.
If they want to be feared and respected, then certainly they should fear and respect God and gain a reputation for virtue among the people. If, however, they want to bluff their way through with vanity, pride, and defiance, and at the same time despise virtue and honor, this will soon make peasants out of the nobility. For they are actually peasants; only they parade as long as possible in the feathers and under the name of the nobility. But God is a master at humbling the proud and causing the despiser to be despised, and He will not put up with them.
Now in order to keep this evil suspicion from spreading too far, it is necessary to sing the praises of those among the nobility who certainly deserve it. God always takes care that in an estate which He Himself has ordained there are some devout and honest individuals, no matter how few, so that His creation and order are not wasted even if there is only one Lot in all Sodom. What estate on earth is so good that its major part is not bad? Thus when one looks at them individually, one gets the idea that the whole class is worthless. Even if one can come up with a few pious souls, still it is provoking that one has to put up with so many evil and wicked members for the sake of the few good ones.
Psalm • 117
Luther’s works, vol. 14:
Selected Psalms III
Note: This Booklet from the Saturday after St. Bartholomew’s, 1530, after Luther’s return from Coburg, is dedicated to Hans von Sternberg, Knight. “In 1528–29 he had been chairman of the commission which conducted the visitation and investigation of the churches in Franconia, and later he supervised the sequestration of the Franconian monasteries and the orderly transfer of their extensive holdings to secular administration. He had once been on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and, if we are to believe the reports, was a great raconteur whose company Luther enjoyed very much” (p xi-xii).