A Treatise on Good Works
To the Illustrious, High-born Prince and Lord, John Duke of Saxony, Landgrave
of Thuringia, Margrave of Meissen, my gracious Lord and Patron.
Illustrious, High-born Prince, gracious Lord! My humble duty and my feeble
prayer for your Grace always remembered!
For a long time, gracious Prince and Lord, I have wished to show my humble
respect and duty toward your princely Grace, by the exhibition of some such
spirtual wares as are at my disposal; but I have always considered my powers
too feeble to undertake anything worthy of being offered to your princely Grace.
Since, however, my most gracious Lord Frederick, Duke of Saxony, Elector and
Vicar of the Holy Roman Empire, your Grace's brother, has not despised, but
graciously accepted my slight book, dedicated to his electoral Grace, and now
published -- though such was not my intention, I have taken courage from his
gracious example and ventured to think that the princely spirit, like the princely
blood, may be the same in both of you, especially in gracious kindness and good
will. I have hoped that yout princely Grace likewise would not despise this my
humble offering which I have felt more need of publishing than an other of my
sermons or tracts. For the greatest of all questions has been raised, the question
of Good Works; in which is practised immeasurably more trickery and deception
than in anything else, and in which the simpleminded man is so easily misled that
our Lord Christ has commanded us to watch carefully for the sheep's clothings
under which the wolves hide themselves.
Neither silver, gold, precious stones, nor any rare thing has such manifold alloys
and flaws as have good works, which ought to have a single simple goodness,
and without it are mere color, show and deceit.
And although I know and daily hear many people, who think slightingly of my
poverty, and say that I write only little pamphletst and German sermons for the
unlearned laity, this shall not disturb me. Would to God I had in all my life, with all
the ability I have, helped one layman to be better! I would be satisfied, thank
God, and be quite willing then to let all my little books perish.
Whether the making of many great books is an art and a benefit to the Church, I
leave others to judge. But I believe that if I were minded to make great books
according to their art, I could, with God's help, do it more readily perhaps than
they could prepare a little discourse after my fashion. If accomplishment were as
easy as persecution, Christ would long since have been cast out of heaven