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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
To the Christian Nobles of the German Nation
By Martin Luther (1483–1546)
 
        
On the Improvement of the Christian Body

(See full text.)
  
  [Introductory address to Nikolaus von Amsdorf, Licentiate of the Holy Scriptures, and Canon of Wittenberg.]

FIRST of all, may the grace and peace of God be with you, my honored, reverend, and dear sir and friend.  1
  The time for keeping silence has gone by, and the time for speaking has come, as the Preacher says. According to our agreement, I have arranged some compositions which have reference to the improvement of the Christian body, in order to present them to the Christian nobles of the German nation, in the hope that God would help his church through the laity; since the ministry, which should rather have seen to it, has become entirely indifferent. I send the complete essay to your Reverence, for your judgment, and for your correction when you find this necessary. I know well that I shall not escape the censure of overestimating myself, in that I, despised and forsaken man that I am, dare to address such high and great people of rank upon such important and supreme themes; as if there were no other person in the world, save Dr. Luther, to protect the Christian body and to give advice to people of such exalted intelligence.  2
  I will not attempt any defense: let who will, blame me. Perhaps I owe my God and the world one more folly. I have now resolved to pay it honestly, if I can, and to become court fool for once. If I do not succeed, I have at least secured one advantage: nobody need buy me a cap, nor shave my crown. But it is a question, which of the two is going to fasten the bells on the other. I must fulfill the proverb, “Whatever the world has to do, a monk must be by, even if he has to be added as a picture.” Surely a fool has frequently spoken wisely, and often completely fooled wise people; as Paul says, “If any man be wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise.”  3
  Further, since I am not only a fool, but a sworn Doctor of the Holy Scriptures, I am glad to have the opportunity to fulfill my oath, just in the manner of such fools. I pray you to apologize for me among men of moderate intelligence, for I do not know how to merit the favor and the grace of those who are top-lofty in understanding: I have indeed often striven for this grace and favor, but from now on I neither crave nor do I esteem them.  4
  God help us to seek not our own honor, but his only. Amen.  5
  At Wittenberg, in the Convent of the Augustines, on St. John the Baptist’s eve, in the year 1520.  6
 
 
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