RPM, Volume 15, Number 12, March 17 to March 23, 2013

The Bondage of the Will

Martin Luther's Judgement
Erasmus of Rotterdam.
To a Certain Friend.

By Martin Luther

Grace and peace in Christ,

I RECEIVED your last letter gladly, my excellent friend, because I believe you wish well to, and are concerned for, the state of the Christian cause. And I wish and pray, that the Lord would perfect that which he hath begun in you.

I am grieved at hearing, that among you also this cruel persecution is carried on against Christ. But it will come to this: either that cruel tyrant will change his fury of his own accord, or you will change it for him, and that shortly.

Concerning Predestination, I knew long ago, that Mosellanus agrees with Erasmus: for he is an Erasmian altogether. My fixed opinion is, however, that Erasmus knows less about Predestination, (or rather pretends to know) than even the schools of the Sophists have known. Nor have I any need to fear a fall, while I maintain my sentiments unchanged. Erasmus is not to be dreaded on this point, nor indeed on any essential point of Christianity. Truth is more powerful than eloquence; the Spirit is far above human talent; faith is beyond all erudition; and, as Paul saith, the foolishness of God is wiser than men! (1 Cor. i. 25). The eloquence of Cicero, was often overthrown by inferior eloquence, in the discussion of public causes. Julian, was more eloquent than Augustine. In a word, the victory is in the hands of lying eloquence! As it is written, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength, that thou mightest still the enemy and avenger (Ps. viii. 2; Matt. xxi. 16).

I will not provoke Erasmus, nor will I even when provoked once or twice, return the blow. And yet I do not think he shews his wisdom in directing the powers of his eloquence against me. For I fear he will not find in Luther a Faber of Picardy, nor be able to exult over me, as he does over him, where he says, All congratulate me upon my victory over the Gaul. But however, if he will enter the lists with me, he shall find, that Christ fears neither the powers of the air, nor the gates of hell. And I, a most weak-tongued babe will meet the all-eloquent Erasmus with confidence, caring nothing for his authority, his name, or his reputation. I know well what is in the man; seeing that, I am well acquainted with the thoughts of Satan; though I expect he will daily manifest more and more that disposition towards me which he fosters in his heart.

I express myself thus plainly, that you might have no fear or concern on my account, nor be frightened at the great and swelling words of others. I wish you to salute Mosellanus in my name: for I am not therefore ill-affected towards him, because he leans to the side of Erasmus rather than to mine.

Nay tell him to stand by Erasmus firmly: for the time will come, when he will think otherwise. In the meantime, the weakness of an excellent heart is to be borne with. And may you also prosper in the Lord.

Wirtemberg, 1522.

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