Martin Luther Collection: Luther, Martin - Martin Luther's Large Catechism, translated by Bente and Dau: Martin Luther's Large Catechism

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Martin Luther Collection: Luther, Martin - Martin Luther's Large Catechism, translated by Bente and Dau: Martin Luther's Large Catechism

TOPIC: Luther, Martin - Martin Luther's Large Catechism, translated by Bente and Dau (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: Martin Luther's Large Catechism

Other Subjects in this Topic:

The Large Catechism by Dr. Martin Luther

Translated by F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau

Published in:

Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church.

St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921), pp. 565-773


A Christian, Profitable, and Necessary Preface and Faithful, Earnest

Exhortation of Dr. Martin Luther to All Christians, but Especially to

All Pastors and Preachers, that They Should Daily Exercise Themselves

in the Catechism, which is a Short Summary and Epitome of the Entire

Holy Scriptures, and that they May Always Teach the Same.

We have no slight reasons for treating the Catechism so constantly [in

Sermons] and for both desiring and beseeching others to teach it, since

we see to our sorrow that many pastors and preachers are very negligent

in this, and slight both their office and this teaching; some from

great and high art [giving their mind, as they imagine, to much higher

matters], but others from sheer laziness and care for their paunches,

assuming no other relation to this business than if they were pastors

and preachers for their bellies' sake, and had nothing to do but to

[spend and] consume their emoluments as long as they live, as they have

been accustomed to do under the Papacy.

And although they have now everything that they are to preach and

teach placed before them so abundantly, clearly, and easily, in so many

[excellent and] helpful books, and the true Sermones per se loquentes,

Dormi secure, Paratos et Thesauros, as they were called in former

times; yet they are not so godly and honest as to buy these books, or

even when they have them, to look at them or read them. Alas! they are

altogether shameful gluttons and servants of their own bellies who

ought to be more properly swineherds and dog-tenders than care-takers

of souls and pastors.

And now that they are delivered from the unprofitable and burdensome

babbling of the Seven Canonical Hours, oh, that, instead thereof, they

would only, morning, noon, and evening, read a page or two in the

Catechism, the Prayer-book, the New Testament, or elsewhere in the

Bible, and pray the Lord's Prayer for themselves and their

parishioners, so that they might render, in return, honor and thanks to

the Gospel, by which they have been delivered from burdens and troubles

so manifold, and might feel a little shame because like pigs and dogs

they retain no more of the Gospel than such a lazy, pernicious,

shameful, carnal liberty! For, alas! as it is, the common people regard

the Gospel altogether too lightly, and we accomplish nothing

extraordinary even though we use all diligence. What, then, will be

achieved if we shall be negligent and lazy as we were under the Papacy?

To this there is added the shameful vice and secret infection of

security and satiety, that is, that many regard the Catechism as a

poor, mean teaching, which they can read through at one time, and then

immediately know it, throw the book into a corner, and be ashamed, as

it were, to read in it again.

Yea, even among the nobility there may be found some louts and

scrimps, who declare that there is no longer any need either of

pastors or preachers; that we have everything in books, and every one

can easily learn it by himself; and so they are content to let the

parishes decay and become desolate, and pastors and preachers to suffer

distress and hunger a plenty, just as it becomes crazy Germans to do.

For we Germans have such disgraceful people, and must endure them.

But for myself I say this: I am also a doctor and preacher, yea, as

learned and experienced as all those may be who have such presumption

and security; yet I do as a child who is being taught the Catechism,

and every morning, and whenever I have time, I read and say, word for

word, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Psalms,

etc. And I must still read and study daily, and yet I cannot master it

as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the Catechism, and am

glad so to remain. And yet these delicate, fastidious fellows would

with one reading promptly be doctors above all doctors, know everything

and be in need of nothing. Well, this, too, is indeed a sure sign that

they despise both their office and the souls of the people, yea, even

God and His Word. They do not have to fall, they are already fallen all

too horribly, they would need to become children, and begin to learn

their alphabet, which they imagine that they have long since outgrown.

Therefore I beg such lazy paunches or presumptuous saints to be

persuaded and believe for God's sake that they are verily, verily! not

so learned or such great doctors as they imagine; and never to presume

that they have finished learning this [the parts of the Catechism], or

know it well enough in all points, even though they think that they

know it ever so well. For though they should know and understand it

perfectly (which, however, is impossible in this life), yet there are

manifold benefits and fruits still to be obtained, if it be daily read

and practiced in thought and speech; namely, that the Holy Ghost is

present in such reading and repetition and meditation, and bestows ever

new and more light and devoutness, so that it is daily relished and

appreciated better, as Christ promises, Mat_18:1-35; Mat_20:1-34 : Where two or

three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of


Besides, it is an exceedingly effectual help against the devil, the

world, and the flesh and all evil thoughts to be occupied with the Word

of God, and to speak of it, and meditate upon it, so that the First

Psalm declares those blessed who meditate upon the law of God day and

night. Undoubtedly, you will not start a stronger incense or other

fumigation against the devil than by being engaged upon God's

commandments and words, and speaking, singing, or thinking of them. For

this is indeed the true holy water and holy sign from which he flees,

and by which he may be driven away.

Now, for this reason alone you ought gladly to read, speak, think and

treat of these things if you had no other profit and fruit from them

than that by doing so you can drive away the devil and evil thoughts.

For he cannot hear or endure God's Word; and God's Word is not like

some other silly prattle, as that about Dietrich of Berne, etc., but as

St. Paul says, Rom_1:1-32; Rom_16:1-27, the power of God. Yea, indeed, the power of

God which gives the devil burning pain, and strengthens, comforts, and

helps us beyond measure.

And what need is there of many words ? If I were to recount all the

profit and fruit which God's Word produces, whence would I get enough

paper and time? The devil is called the master of a thousand arts. But

what shall we call God's Word, which drives away and brings to naught

this master of a thousand arts with all his arts and power? It must

indeed be the master of more than a hundred thousand arts. And shall we

frivolously despise such power, profit, strength, and fruit -- we,

especially, who claim to be pastors and preachers? If so, we should not

only have nothing given us to eat, but be driven out, being baited with

dogs, and pelted with dung, because we not only need all this every day

as we need our daily bread but must also daily use it against the daily

and unabated attacks and lurking of the devil, the master of a thousand


And if this were not sufficient to admonish us to read the Catechism

daily, yet we should feel sufficiently constrained by the command of

God alone, who solemnly enjoins in Deu_6:1-25; Deu_6:1-25 ff. that we should always

meditate upon His precepts, sitting, walking, standing, Lying down, and

rising, and have them before our eyes and in our hands as a constant

mark and sign. Doubtless He did not so solemnly require and enjoin this

without a purpose; but because He knows our danger and need, as well as

the constant and furious assaults and temptations of devils, He wishes

to warn, equip, and preserve us against them, as with a good armor

against their fiery darts and with good medicine against their evil

infection and suggestion.

Oh, what mad, senseless fools are we that, while we must ever live and

dwell among such mighty enemies as the devils are, we nevertheless

despise our weapons and defense, and are too lazy to look at or think

of them! And what else are such supercilious, presumptuous saints, who

are unwilling to read and study the Catechism daily, doing than

esteeming themselves much more learned than God Himself with all His

saints, angels [patriarchs], prophets, apostles, and all Christians For

inasmuch as God Himself is not ashamed to teach these things daily, as

knowing nothing better to teach, and always keeps teaching the same

thing, and does not take up anything new or different, and all the

saints know nothing better or different to learn, and cannot finish

learning this, are we not the finest of all fellows to imagine, if we

have once read or heard it, that we know it all, and have no further

need to read and learn, but can finish learning in one hour what God

Himself cannot finish teaching, although He is engaged in teaching it

from the beginning to the end of the world, and all prophets, together

with all saints, have been occupied with learning it and have ever

remained pupils, and must continue to be such ?

For it needs must be that whoever knows the Ten Commandments perfectly

must know all the Scriptures, so that, in all affairs and cases, he can

advise, help, comfort, judge, and decide both spiritual and temporal

matters and is qualified to sit in judgment upon all doctrines,

estates, spirits, laws, and whatever else is in the world. And what,

indeed, is the entire Psalter but thoughts and exercises upon the First

Commandment? Now I know of a truth that such lazy paunches and

presumptuous spirits do not understand a single psalm, much less the

entire Holy Scriptures; and yet they pretend to know and despise the

Catechism, which is a compend and brief summary of all the Holy


Therefore I again implore all Christians, especially pastors and

preachers, not to be doctors too soon, and imagine that they know

everything (for imagination and cloth unshrunk [and false weights] fall

far short of the measure), but that they daily exercise themselves well

in these studies and constantly treat them; moreover, that they guard

with all care and diligence against the poisonous infection of such

security and vain imagination, but steadily keep on reading, teaching,

learning, pondering, and meditating, and do not cease until they have

made a test and are sure that they have taught the devil to death and

have become more learned than God Himself and all His saints.

If they manifest such diligence, then I will promise them, and they

shall also perceive, what fruit they will obtain, and what excellent

men God will make of them, so that in due time they themselves will

acknowledge that the longer and the more they study the Catechism, the

less they know of it, and the more they find yet to learn; and then

only, as hungry and thirsty ones, will they truly relish that which now

they cannot endure because of great abundance and satiety. To this end

may God grant His grace! Amen.


This sermon is designed and undertaken that it might be an instruction

for children and the simple-minded. Hence of old it was called in Greek

catechism, i.e., instruction for children, what every Christian must

needs know, so that he who does not know this could not be numbered

with the Christians nor be admitted to any Sacrament, just as a

mechanic who does not understand the rules and customs of his trade is

expelled and considered incapable. Therefore we must have the young

learn the parts which belong to the Catechism or instruction for

children well and fluently and diligently exercise themselves in them

and keep them occupied with them.

Therefore it is the duty of every father of a family to question and

examine his children and servants at least once a week and to

ascertain what they know of it, or are learning and, if they do not

know it, to keep them faithfully at it. For I well remember the time,

indeed, even now it is a daily occurrence that one finds rude, old

persons who knew nothing and still know nothing of these things, and

who, nevertheless, go to Baptism and the Lord's Supper, and use

everything belonging to Christians, notwithstanding that those who come

to the Lord's Supper ought to know more and have a fuller understanding

of all Christian doctrine than children and new scholars. However, for

the common people we are satisfied with the three parts, which have

remained in Christendom from of old, though little of it has been

taught and treated correctly until both young and old who are called

and wish to be Christians, are well trained in them and familiar with

them. These are the following:



1. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.

2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain [for the

Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain].

3. Thou shalt sanctify the holy-day. [Remember the Sabbath-day to keep

it holy.]

4. Thou shalt honor thy father and mother [that thou mayest live long

upon the earth].

5. Thou shalt not kill.

6. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

7. Thou shalt not steal.

8. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his man-servant, nor

his maidservant, nor his cattle [ox, nor his ass], nor anything that is




1. I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

2. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by

the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell; the third day

He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth on

the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to

judge the quick and the dead.

3. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy Christian Church, the

communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the

body, and the life everlasting. Amen.



Our Father who art in heaven.

1. Hallowed be Thy name.

2. Thy kingdom come.

3. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

4. Give us this day our daily bread.

5. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass

against us.

6. And lead us not into temptation.

7. But deliver us from evil. [For Thine is the kingdom and the power

and the glory, forever and ever.] Amen.

These are the most necessary parts which one should first learn to

repeat word for word and which our children should be accustomed to

recite daily when they arise in the morning when they sit down to their

meals, and when they retire at night; and until they repeat them, they

should be given neither food nor drink. Likewise every head of a

household is obliged to do the same with respect to his domestics,

ma-servants and maid-servants and not to keep them in his house if they

do not know these things and are unwilling to learn them. For a person

who is so rude and unruly as to be unwilling to learn these things is

not to be tolerated, for in these three parts everything that we have

in the Scriptures is comprehended in short, pain, and simple terms. For

the holy Fathers or apostles (whoever they were) have thus embraced in

a summary the doctrine, life, wisdom, and art of Christians, of which

they speak and treat, and with which they are occupied. Now, when these

three arts are apprehended, it behooves a person also to know what to

say concerning our Sacraments, which Christ Himself instituted, Baptism

and the holy body and blood of Christ, namely, the text which Matthew

[28, 19 ff.] and Mark [16, 15 f.] record at the close of their Gospels

when Christ said farewell to His disciples and sent them forth.


Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father,

and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. He that believeth and is

baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. So

much is sufficient for a simple person to know from the Scriptures

concerning Baptism. In like manner, also, concerning the other

Sacrament in short, simple words, namely the text of St. Paul [1 Corinthians 11, 23 f.].


Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which He was betrayed, took

bread; and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and gave it to His

disciples and said, Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you:

this do in remembrance of Me.

After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, gave

thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; this cup is

the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the remission

of sins: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.

Thus, ye would have, in all, five parts of the entire Christian

doctrine which should be constantly treated and required [of children]

and heard recited word for word. For you must not rely upon it that the

young people will learn and retain these things from the sermon alone.

When these parts have been well learned, you may, as a supplement and

to fortify them. lay before them also some psalms or hymns, which have

been composed on these parts, and thus lead the young into the

Scriptures, and make daily progress therein.

However, it is not enough for them to comprehend and recite these

parts according to the words only, but the young people should also be

made to attend the preaching, especially during the time which is

devoted to the Catechism, that they may hear it explained and may learn

to understand what every part contains, so as to be able to recite it

as they have heard it, and, when asked, may give a correct answer, so

that the preaching may not be without profit and fruit. For the reason

why we exercise such diligence in preaching the Catechism so often is

that it may be inculcated on our youth, not in a high and subtle

manner, but briefly and with the greatest simplicity, so as to enter

the mind readily and be fixed in the memory. Therefore we shall now

take up the above mentioned articles one by one and in the plainest

manner possible say about them as much as is necessary.

Part First. The Ten Commandments.

The First Commandment.

Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.

That is: Thou shalt have [and worship] Me alone as thy God. What is the

force of this, and how is it to be understood? What does it mean to

have a god? or, what is God? Answer: A god means that from which we are

to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress,

so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him

from the [whole] heart; as I have often said that the confidence and

faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and

trust be right, then is your god also true; and, on the other hand, if

your trust be false and wrong, then you have not the true God; for

these two belong together faith and God. That now, I say, upon which

you set your heart and put your trust is properly your god.

Therefore it is the intent of this commandment to require true faith

and trust of the heart which settles upon the only true God and clings

to Him alone. That is as much as to say: "See to it that you let Me

alone be your God, and never seek another," i.e.: Whatever you lack of

good things, expect it of Me, and look to Me for it, and whenever you

suffer misfortune and distress, creep and cling to Me. I, yes, I, will

give you enough and help you out of every need; only let not your heart

cleave to or rest in any other.

This I must unfold somewhat more plainly, that it may be understood and

perceived by ordinary examples of the contrary. Many a one thinks that

he has God and everything in abundance when he has money and

possessions; he trusts in them and boasts of them with such firmness

and assurance as to care for no one. Lo, such a man also has a god,

Mammon by name, i.e., money and possessions, on which he sets all his

heart, and which is also the most common idol on earth. He who has

money and possessions feels secure, and is joyful and undismayed as

though he were sitting in the midst of Paradise. On the other hand, he

who has none doubts and is despondent, as though he knew of no God. For

very few are to be found who are of good cheer, and who neither mourn

nor complain if they have not Mammon. This [care and desire for money]

sticks and clings to our nature, even to the grave.

So, too, whoever trusts and boasts that he possesses great skill,

prudence, power, favor friendship, and honor has also a god, but not

this true and only God. This appears again when you notice how

presumptuous, secure, and proud people are because of such

possessions, and how despondent when they no longer exist or are

withdrawn. Therefore I repeat that the chief explanation of this point

is that to have a god is to have something in which the heart entirely


Besides, consider what in our blindness, we have hitherto been

practicing and doing under the Papacy. If any one had toothache, he

fasted and honored St. Apollonia [lacerated his flesh by voluntary

fasting to the honor of St. Apollonia]; if he was afraid of fire, he

chose St. Lawrence as his helper in need; if he dreaded pestilence, he

made a vow to St. Sebastian or Rochio, and a countless number of such

abominations, where every one selected his own saint, worshiped him,

and called for help to him in distress. Here belong those also, as,

e.g., sorcerers and magicians, whose idolatry is most gross, and who

make a covenant with the devil, in order that he may give them plenty

of money or help them in love-affairs, preserve their cattle, restore

to them lost possessions, etc. For all these place their heart and

trust elsewhere than in the true God, look for nothing good to Him nor

seek it from Him.

Thus you can easily understand what and how much this commandment

requires, namely, that man's entire heart and all his confidence be

placed in God alone, and in no one else. For to have God, you can

easily perceive, is not to lay hold of Him with our hands or to put Him

in a bag [as money], or to lock Him in a chest [as silver vessels]. But

to apprehend Him means when the heart lays hold of Him and clings to

Him. But to cling to Him with the heart is nothing else than to trust

in Him entirely. For this reason He wishes to turn us away from

everything else that exists outside of Him, and to draw us to Himself,

namely, because He is the only eternal good. As though He would say:

Whatever you have heretofore sought of the saints, or for whatever

[things] you have trusted in Mammon or anything else, expect it all of

Me, and regard Me as the one who will help you and pour out upon you

richly all good things.

Lo, here you have the meaning of the true honor and worship of God,

which pleases God, and which He commands under penalty of eternal

wrath, namely, that the heart know no other comfort or confidence than

in Him, and do not suffer itself to be torn from Him, but, for Him,

risk and disregard everything upon earth. On the other hand, you can

easily see and judge how the world practices only false worship and

idolatry. For no people has ever been so reprobate as not to institute

and observe some divine worship; every one has set up as his special

god whatever he looked to for blessings, help, and comfort.

Thus, for example, the heathen who put their trust in power and

dominion elevated Jupiter as the supreme god; the others, who were bent

upon riches, happiness, or pleasure, and a life of ease, Hercules,

Mercury, Venus or others; women with child, Diana or Lucina, and so on;

thus every one made that his god to which his heart was inclined, so

that even in the mind of the heathen to have a god means to trust and

believe. But their error is this that their trust is false and wrong

for it is not placed in the only God, besides whom there is truly no

God in heaven or upon earth. Therefore the heathen really make their

self-invented notions and dreams of God an idol, and put their trust in

that which is altogether nothing. Thus it is with all idolatry; for it

consists not merely in erecting an image and worshiping it, but rather

in the heart, which stands gaping at something else, and seeks help and

consolation from creatures saints, or devils, and neither cares for

God, nor looks to Him for so much good as to believe that He is willing

to help, neither believes that whatever good it experiences comes from


Besides, there is also a false worship and extreme idolatry, which we

have hitherto practiced, and is still prevalent in the world, upon

which also all ecclesiastical orders are founded, and which concerns

the conscience alone that seeks in its own works help, consolation, and

salvation, presumes to wrest heaven from God, and reckons how many

bequests it has made, how often it has fasted, celebrated Mass, etc.

Upon such things it depends, and of them boasts, as though unwilling to

receive anything from God as a gift, but desires itself to earn or

merit it superabundantly, just as though He must serve us and were our

debtor, and we His liege lords. What is this but reducing God to an

idol, yea, [a fig image or] an apple-god, and elevating and regarding

ourselves as God ? But this is slightly too subtle, and is not for

young pupils.

But let this be said to the simple, that they may well note and

remember the meaning of this commandment, namely, that we are to trust

in God alone, and look to Him and expect from Him naught but good, as

from one who gives us body, life, food, drink, nourishment, health,

protection, peace, and all necessaries of both temporal and eternal

things. He also preserves us from misfortune, and if any evil befall

us, delivers and rescues us, so that it is God alone (as has been

sufficiently said) from whom we receive all good, and by whom we are

delivered from all evil. Hence also, I think, we Germans from ancient

times call God (more elegantly and appropriately than any other

language) by that name from the word good as being an eternal fountain

which gushes forth abundantly nothing but what is good, and from which

flows forth all that is and is called good.

For even though otherwise we experience much good from men, still

whatever we receive by His command or arrangement is all received from

God. For our parents, and all rulers, and every one besides with

respect to his neighbor, have received from God the command that they

should do us all manner of good, so that we receive these blessings not

from them, but, through them, from God. For creatures are only the

hands, channels, and means whereby God gives all things, as He gives to

the mother breasts and milk to offer to her child, and corn and all

manner of produce from the earth for nourishment, none of which

blessings could be produced by any creature of itself.

Therefore no man should presume to take or give anything except as God

has commanded, in order that it may be acknowledged as God's gift, and

thanks may be rendered Him for it, as this commandment requires. On

this account also these means of receiving good gifts through creatures

are not to be rejected, neither should we in presumption seek other

ways and means than God has commanded. For that would not be receiving

from God, hut seeking of ourselves.

Let every one, then, see to it that he esteem this commandment great

and high above all things, and do not regard it as a joke. Ask and

examine your heart diligently, and you will find whether it cleaves to

God alone or not. If you have a heart that can expect of Him nothing

but what is good, especially in want and distress, and that, moreover

renounces and forsakes everything that is not God, then you have the

only true God. If on the contrary, it cleaves to anything else, of

which it expects more good and help than of God, and does not take

refuge in Him, but in adversity flees from Him, then you have an idol,

another god.

In order that it may be seen that God will not have this commandment

thrown to the winds, but will most strictly enforce it, He has attached

to it first a terrible threat, and then a beautiful, comforting promise

which is also to be urged and impressed upon young people, that they

may take it to heart and retain it:

[Exposition of the Appendix to the First Commandment.]

For I am the Lord, thy God, strong and jealous, visiting the iniquity

of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation

of them that hate Me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that

love Me and keep My commandments.

Although these words relate to all the commandments (as we shall

hereafter learn), yet they are joined to this chief commandment

because it is of first importance that men have a right head; for

where the head is right, the whole life must be right, and vice versa.

Learn, therefore, from these words how angry God is with those who

trust in anything but Him, and again, how good and gracious He is to

those who trust and believe in Him alone with the whole heart; so that

His anger does not cease until the fourth generation, while, on the

other hand, His blessing and goodness extend to many thousands lest you

live in such security and commit yourself to chance, as men of brutal

heart, who think that it makes no great difference [how they live]. He

is a God who will not leave it unavenged if men turn from Him, and will

not cease to be angry until the fourth generation, even until they are

utterly exterminated. Therefore He is to be feared, and not to be


He has also demonstrated this in all history, as the Scriptures

abundantly show and daily experience still teaches. For from the

beginning He has utterly extirpated all idolatry, and, on account of

it, both heathen and Jews; even as at the present day He overthrows all

false worship, so that all who remain therein must finally perish.

Therefore, although proud, powerful, and rich worldlings

[Sardanapaluses and Phalarides, who surpass even the Persians in

wealth] are now to be found, who boast defiantly of their Mammon, with

utter disregard whether God is angry at or smiles on them, and dare to

withstand His wrath, yet they shall not succeed, but before they are

aware, they shall be wrecked, with all in which they trusted; as all

others have perished who have thought themselves more secure or

powerful. And just because of such hardened heads who imagine because

God connives and allows them to rest in security, that He either is

entirely ignorant or cares nothing about such matters, He must deal a

smashing blow and punish them, so that He cannot forget it unto

children's children; so that every one may take note and see that this

is no joke to Him. For they are those whom He means when He says: Who

hate Me, i.e., those who persist in their defiance and pride; whatever

is preached or said to them, they will not listen; when they are

reproved, in order that they may learn to know themselves and amend

before the punishment begins, they become mad and foolish so as to

fairly merit wrath, as now we see daily in bishops and princes.

But terrible as are these threatenings, so much the more powerful is

the consolation in the promise, that those who cling to God alone

should be sure that He will show them mercy that is, show them pure

goodness and blessing not only for themselves, but also to their

children and children's children, even to the thousandth generation and

beyond that. This ought certainly to move and impel us to risk our

hearts in all confidence with God, if we wish all temporal and eternal

good, since the Supreme Majesty makes such sublime offers and presents

such cordial inducements and such rich promises.

Therefore let everyone seriously take this to heart, lest it be

regarded as though a man had spoken it. For to you it is a question

either of eternal blessing, happiness, and salvation, or of eternal

wrath, misery, and woe. What more would you have or desire than that He

so kindly promises to be yours with every blessing, and to protect and

help you in all need?

But, alas! here is the failure, that the world believes nothing of

this, nor regards it as God's Word, because it sees that those who

trust in God and not in Mammon suffer care and want, and the devil

opposes and resists them, that they have neither money, favor, nor

honor, and, besides, can scarcely support life; while, on the other

hand, those who serve Mammon have power, favor, honor, possessions, and

every comfort in the eyes of the world. For this reason, these words

must be grasped as being directed against such appearances; and we must

consider that they do not lie or deceive, but must come true.

Reflect for yourself or make inquiry and tell me: Those who have

employed all their care and diligence to accumulate great possessions

and wealth, what have they finally attained? You will find that they

have wasted their toil and labor, or even though they have amassed

great treasures, they have been dispersed and scattered, so that the

themselves have never found happiness in their wealth, and afterwards

never reached the third generation. Instances of this you will find a

plenty in all histories, also in the memory of aged and experienced

people. Only observe and ponder them.

Saul was a great king, chosen of God and a godly man; but when he was

established on his throne, and let his heart decline from God, and put

his trust in his crown and power, he had to perish with all that he

had, so that none even of his children remained. David, on the other

hand, was a poor, despised man, hunted down and chased, so that he

nowhere felt secure of his life; yet he had to remain in spite of Saul,

and become king. For these words had to abide and come true, since God

cannot lie or deceive. Only let not the devil and the world deceive you

with their show, which indeed remains for a time, but finally is


Let us, then, learn well the First Commandment, that we may see how God

will tolerate no presumption nor any trust in any other object, and how

He requires nothing higher of us than confidence from the heart for

everything good, so that we may proceed right and straightforward and

use all the blessings which God gives no farther than as a shoemaker

uses his needle, awl, and thread for work, and then lays them aside, or

as a traveler uses an inn, and food, and his bed only for temporal

necessity, each one in his station, according to God's order, and

without allowing any of these things to be our food or idol. Let this

suffice with respect to the First Commandment, which we have had to

explain at length, since it is of chief importance, because, as before

said, where the heart is rightly disposed toward God and this

commandment is observed, all the others follow.

The Second Commandment.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.

As the First Commandment has instructed the heart and taught [the

basis of] faith, so this commandment leads us forth and directs the

mouth and tongue to God. For the first objects that spring from the

heart and manifest themselves are words. Now, as I have taught above

how to answer the question, what it is to have a god, so you must learn

to comprehend simply the meaning of this and all the commandments, and

to apply it to yourself. If, then, it be asked: How do you understand

the Second Commandment, or what is meant by taking in vain, or misusing

God's name? answer briefly thus: It is misusing God's name when we call

upon the Lord God no matter in what way, for purposes of falsehood or

wrong of any kind. Therefore this commandment enjoins this much, that

God's name must not be appealed to falsely, or taken upon the lips

while the heart knows well enough, or should know, differently; as

among those who take oaths in court, where one side lies against the

other. For God's name cannot be misused worse than for the support of

falsehood and deceit. Let4this remain the exact German and simplest

meaning of this commandment.

From this every one can readily infer when and in how many ways God's

name is misused, although it is impossible to enumerate all its

misuses. Yet, to tell it in a few words, all misuse of the divine name

occurs, first, in worldly business and in matters which concern money,

possessions, honor, whether it be publicly in court, in the market, or

wherever else men make false oaths in God's name, or pledge their souls

in any matter. And this is especially prevalent in marriage affairs

where two go and secretly betroth themselves to one another, and

afterward abjure [their plighted troth].

But. the greatest abuse occurs in spiritual matters, which pertain to

the conscience, when false preachers rise up and offer their Lying

vanities as God's Word. Behold, all this is decking one's self out with

God's name, or making a pretty show, or claiming to be right, whether

it occur in gross, worldly business or in sublime, subtle matters of

faith and doctrine. And among liars belong also blasphemers, not alone

the very gross, well known to every one, who disgrace God's name

without fear (these are not for us, but for the hangman to discipline);

but also those who publicly traduce the truth and God's Word and

consign it to the devil. Of this there is no need now to speak further.

Here, then, let us learn and take to heart the great importance of this

commandment, that with all diligence we may guard against and dread

every misuse of the holy name, as the greatest sin that can be

outwardly committed. For to lie and deceive is in itself a great sin,

but is greatly aggravated when we attempt to justify it, and seek to

confirm it by invoking the name of God and using it as a cloak for

shame, so that from a single lie a double lie, nay, manifold lies,


For this reason, too, God has added a solemn threat to this

commandment, to wit: For the Lord will not hold him guiltless that

taketh His name in van. That is: It shall not be condoned to any one

nor pass unpunished. For as little as He will leave it unavenged if any

one turn his heart from Him, as little will He suffer His name to be

employed for dressing up a lie. Now alas! it is a common calamity in

all the word that there are as few who are not using the name of God

for purposes of Lying and all wickedness as there are those who with

their heart trust alone in God. For by nature we all have within us

this beautiful virtue, to wit, that whoever has committed a wrong would

like to cover up and adorn his disgrace, so that no one may see it or

know it; and no one is so bold as to boast to all the world of the

wickedness he has perpetrated, all wish to act by stealth and without

any one being aware of what thy do. Then, if any one be arraigned, the

name of God is dragged into the affair and must make the villainy look

like godliness, and the shame like honor. This is the common course of

the world, which, like a great deluge, has flooded all lands. Hence we

have also as our reward what we seek and deserve: pestilences wars,

famines, conflagrations, floods, wayward wives, children, servants, and

all sorts of defilement. Whence else should so much misery come? It is

still a great mercy that the earth bears and supports us.

Therefore, above all things, our young people should have this

commandment earnestly enforced upon them, and they should be trained to

hold this and the First Commandment in high regard; and whenever they

transgress, we must at once be after them with the rod and hold the

commandment before them, and constantly inculcate it, so as to bring

them up not only with punishment, but also in the reverence and fear of


Thus you now understand what. it is to take God's name in vain, that is

(to recapitulate briefly), either simply for purposes of falsehood, and

to allege God's name for something that is not so, or to curse, swear,

conjure, and, in short, to practice whatever wickedness one may.

Besides this you must also know how to use the name [of God] aright.

For when saying: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God, in

vain, He gives us to understand at the same time that it is to be used

properly. For it has been revealed and given to us for the very purpose

that it may be of constant use and profit. Hence it is a natural

inference, since using the holy name for falsehood or wickedness is

here forbidden, that we are, on the other hand, commanded to employ it

for truth and for all good, as when one swears truly where there is

need and it is demanded. So also when there is right teaching, and when

the name is invoked in trouble or praised and thanked in prosperity

etc.; all of which is comprehended summarily and commanded in the

passage Psa_50:1-23; Psa_15:1-5 : Call upon Me in the days of trouble; I will deliver

thee, and thou shalt glorify Me. For all this is bringing 't into the

service of truth, and using it in a blessed way, and thus His name is

hallowed, as we pray in the Lord's Prayer.

Thus you have the sum of the entire commandment explained. And with

this understanding the question with which many teachers have troubled

themselves has been easily solved, to wit, why swearing is prohibited

in the Gospel, and yet Christ, St. Paul, and other saints often swore.

The explanation is briefly this: We are not to swear in support of

evil, that is, of falsehood, and where there is no need or use; but for

the support of good and the advantage of our neighbor we should swear.

For it is a truly good work, by which God is praised, truth and right

are established, falsehood is refuted, peace is made among men,

obedience is rendered, and quarrels are settled. For in this way God

Himself interposes and separates between right and wrong, good and

evil. If one part swears falsely, he has his sentence that he shall not

escape punishment, ad though it be deferred a long time, he shall not

succeed; that all that he may gain thereby will slip out of his hands,

and he will never enjoy it; as I have seen in the case of many who

perjured themselves in their marriage-vows, that they have never had a

happy hour or a healthful day, and thus perished miserably in body,

soul, and possessions.

Therefore I advise and exhort as before that by means of warning and

threatening, restraint and punishment, the children be trained betimes

to shun falsehood, and especially to avoid the use of God's name in its

support. For where they are allowed to do as they please, no good will

result, as is even now evident that the world is worse than it has ever

been and that there is no government, no obedience, no fidelity, no

faith, but only daring, unbridled men, whom no teaching or reproof

helps; all of which is God's wrath and punishment for such wanton

contempt of this commandment.

On the other hand, they should be constantly urged and incited to

honor God's name, and to have it always upon their lips in everything

that may happen to them or come to their notice: For that is the true

honor of His Name, to look to it and implore it for all consolation, so

that (as we have heard above) first the heart by faith gives God the

honor due Him, and afterwards the lips by confession.

This is also a blessed and useful habit and very effectual against the

devil, who is ever about us, and lies in wait to bring us into sin and

shame, calamity and trouble, but who is very loath to hear God's name,

and cannot remain long where it is uttered and called upon from the

heart. And, indeed, many a terrible and shocking calamity would befall

us if, by our calling upon His name, God did not preserve us. I have

myself tried it, and learned by experience that often sudden great

calamity was immediately averted and removed during such invocation. To

vex the devil, I say, we should always have this holy name in our

mouth, so that he may not be able to injure us as he wishes.

For this end it is also of service that we form the habit of daily

commending ourselves to God, with soul and body, wife, children,

servants, and all that we have, against every need that may occur;

whence also the blessing and thanksgiving at meals, and other prayers,

morning and evening, have originated and remain in use. Likewise the

practices of children to cross themselves when anything monstrous or

terrible is seen or heard, and to exclaim: "Lord God, protect us!"

"Help, dear Lord Jesus!" etc. Thus, too, if any one meets with

unexpected good fortune, however trivial, that he say: "God be praised

and thanked; this God has bestowed on me!" etc., as formerly the

children were accustomed to fast and pray to St. Nicholas and other

saints. This would be more pleasing and acceptable to God than all

monasticism and Carthusian sanctity.

Behold, thus we might train our youth in a childlike way and playfully

in the fear and honor of God, so that the First and Second Commandments

might be well observed and in constant practice. Then some good might

take root, spring up and bear fruit, and men grow up whom an entire

land might relish and enjoy. Moreover, this would be the true way to

bring Up children well as long as they can become trained with kindness

and delight. For what must be enforced with rods and blows only will

not develop into a good breed and at best they will remain godly under

such treatment no longer than while the rod is upon their back.

But this [manner of training] so spreads its roots in the heart that

they fear God more than rods and clubs. This I say with such

simplicity for the sake of the young, that it may penetrate their

minds. For since we are preaching to children, we must also prattle

with them. Thus we have prevented the abuse and have taught the right

use of the divine name, which should consist not only in words, but

also in practices and life, so that we may know that God is well

pleased with this and will as richly reward it as He will terribly

punish the abuse.

The Third Commandment.

Thou shalt sanctify the holy day.

[Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.]

The word holy day (Feiertag) is rendered from the Hebrew word Sabbath

which properly signifies to rest, that is, to abstain from labor. Hence

we are accustomed to say, Feierbend machen [that is, to cease working],

or heiligen Abend geben [sanctify the Sabbath]. Now, in the Old

Testament, God separated the seventh day, and appointed it for rest,

and commanded that it should be regarded as holy above all others. As

regards this external observance, this commandment was given to the

Jews alone, that they should abstain from toilsome work, and rest, so

that both man and beast might recuperate, and not be weakened by

unremitting labor. Although they afterwards restricted this too

closely, and grossly abused it, so that they traduced and could not

endure in Christ those works which they themselves were accustomed to

do on that day, as we read in the Gospel just as though the commandment

were fulfilled by doing no external [manual] work whatever, which,

however, was not the meaning, but, as we shall hear, that they sanctify

the holy day or day of rest.

This commandment, therefore, according to its gross sense, does not

concern us Christians; for it is altogether an external matter, like

other ordinances of the Old Testament, which were attached to

particular customs, persons, times, and places, and now have been made

free through Christ. But to grasp a Christian meaning for the simple as

to what God requires in this commandment, note that we keep holy days

not for the sake of intelligent and learned Christians (for they have

no need of it [holy days]), but first of all for bodily causes and

necessities, which nature teaches and requires; for the common people,

man-servants and maid-servants, who have been attending to their work

and trade the whole week, that for a day they may retire in order to

rest and be refreshed.

Secondly, and most especially, that on such day of rest (since we can

get no other opportunity) freedom and time be taken to attend divine

service, so that we come together to hear and treat of God's and then

to praise God, to sing and pray.

However, this, I say, is not so restricted to any time, as with the

Jews, that it must be just on this or that day; for in itself no one

day is better than another; but this should indeed be done daily;

however, since the masses cannot give such attendance, there must be at

least one day in the week set apart. But since from of old Sunday [the

Lord's Day] has been appointed for this purpose, we also should

continue the same, in order that everything be done in harmonious

order, and no one create disorder by unnecessary innovation.

Therefore this is the simple meaning of the commandment: since

holidays are observed anyhow, such observance should be devoted to

hearing God's Word, so that the special function of this day should be

the ministry of the Word for the young and the mass of poor people, yet

that the resting be not so strictly interpreted as to forbid any other

incidental work that cannot be avoided.

Accordingly, when asked, What is meant by the commandment: Thou shalt

sanctify the holy day? answer: To sanctify the holy day is the same as

to keep it holy. But what is meant by keeping it holy? Nothing else

than to be occupied in holy words, works, and life. For the day needs

no sanctification for itself; for in itself it has been created holy

[from the beginning of the creation it was sanctified by its Creator].

But God desires it to be holy to you. Therefore it becomes holy or

unholy on your account, according as you are occupied on the same with

things that are holy or unholy.

How, then, does such sanctification take place? Not in this manner,

that [with folded hands] we sit behind the stove and do no rough

[external] work, or deck ourselves with a wreath and put on our best

clothes, but (as has been said) that we occupy ourselves with God's

Word, and exercise ourselves therein.

And, indeed, we Christians ought always to keep such a holy day, and be

occupied with nothing but holy things, i.e., daily be engaged upon

God's Word, and carry it in our hearts and upon our lips. But (as has

been said) since we do not at all times have leisure, we must devote

several hours a week for the sake of the young, or at least a day for

the sake of the entire multitude, to being concerned about this alone,

and especially urge the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord's

Prayer, and thus direct our whole life and being according to God's

Word. At whatever time, then, this is being observed and practiced,

there a true holy day is being kept; otherwise it shall not be called a

Christians' holy day. For, indeed, non-Christians can also cease from

work and be idle, just as the entire swarm of our ecclesiastics, who

stand daily in the churches, singing, and ringing bells but keeping no

holy day holy, because they neither preach nor practices God's Word,

but teach and live contrary to it.

For the Word of God is the sanctuary above all sanctuaries, yea, the

only one which we Christians know and have. For though we had the bones

of all the saints or all holy and consecrated garments upon a heap,

still that would help us nothing; for all that is a dead thing which

can sanctify nobody. But God's Word is the treasure which sanctifies

everything, and by which even all the saints themselves were

sanctified. At whatever hour then, God's Word is taught, preached,

heard, read or meditated upon, there the person, day, and work are

sanctified thereby, not because of the external work, but because of

the Word which makes saints of us all. Therefore I constantly say that

all our life and work must be ordered according to God's Word, if it is

to be God-pleasing or holy. Where this is done, this commandment is in

force and being fulfilled.

On the contrary, any observance or work that is practiced without

God's Word is unholy before God, no matter how brilliantly it may

shine! even though it be covered with relics, such as the fictitious

spiritual orders which know nothing of God's Word and seek holiness in

their own works. Note, therefore, that the force and power of this

commandment lies not in the resting but in the sanctifying so that to

this day belongs a special holy exercise. For other works and

occupations are not properly called holy exercises, unless the man

himself be first holy. But here a work is to be done by which man is

himself made holy, which is done (as we have heard ) alone through

God's Word. For this, then, fixed places, times, persons, and the

entire external order of worship have been created and appointed, so

that it may be publicly in operation.

Since, therefore, so much depends upon God's Word that without it no

holy day can be sanctified, we must know that God insists upon a strict

observance of this commandment, and will punish all who despise His

Word and are not willing to hear and learn it, especially at the time

appointed for the purpose.

Therefore not only those sin against this commandment who grossly

misuse and desecrate the holy day, as those who on account of their

greed or frivolity neglect to hear God's Word or lie in taverns and are

dead drunk like swine; but also that other crowd, who listen to God's

Word as to any other trifle, and only from custom come to preaching,

and go away again, and at the end of the year know as little of it as

at the beginning. For hitherto the opinion prevailed that you had

properly hallowed Sunday when you had heard a mass or the Gospel read;

but no one cared for God's Word, as also no one taught it. Now, while

we have God's Word we nevertheless do not correct the abuse; we suffer

ourselves to be preached to and admonished, but we listen without

seriousness and care.

Know, therefore, that you must be concerned not only about hearing, but

also about learning and retaining it in memory, and do not think that

it is optional with you or of no great importance, but that it is God's

commandment, who will require of you how you have heard, learned, and

honored His Word.

Likewise those fastidious spirits are to be reproved who, when they

have heard a sermon or two, find it tedious and dull, thinking that

they know all that well enough, and need no more instruction. For just

that is the sin which has been hitherto reckoned among mortal sins, and

is called _achedia_, i.e., torpor or satiety, a malignant, dangerous

plague with which the devil bewitches and deceives the hearts of many,

that he may surprise us and secretly withdraw God's Word from us.

For let me tell you this, even though you know it perfectly and be

already master in all things, still you are daily in the dominion of

the devil, who ceases neither day nor night to steal unawares upon you,

to kindle in your heart unbelief and wicked thoughts against the

foregoing and all the commandments. Therefore you must always have

God's Word in your heart, upon your lips, and in your ears. But where

the heart is idle, and the Word does not sound, he breaks in and has

done the damage before we are aware. On the other hand, such is the

efficacy of the Word, whenever it is seriously contemplated heard, and

used, that it is bound never to be without fruit, but always awakens

new understanding, pleasure, and devoutness, and produces a pure heart

and pure thoughts. For these words are not inoperative or dead, but

creative, living words. And even though no other interest or necessity

impel us, yet this ought to urge every one thereunto, because thereby

the devil is put to flight and driven away, and, besides, this

commandment is fulfilled, and [this exercise in the Word] is more

pleasing to God than any work of hypocrisy, however brilliant.

The Fourth Commandment.

Thus far we have learned the first three commandments, which relate to

God. First that with our whole heart we trust in Him, and fear and love

Him throughout all our life. Secondly, that we do not misuse His holy

name in the support of falsehood or any bad work, but employ it to the

praise of God and the profit and salvation of our neighbor and

ourselves. Thirdly, that on holidays and when at rest we diligently

treat and urge God's Word, so that all our actions and our entire life

be ordered according to it. Now follow the other seven, which relate to

our neighbor among which the first and greatest is:

Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother.

To this estate of fatherhood and motherhood God has given the special

distinction above all estates that are beneath it that He not simply

commands us to love our pa