Martin Luther on Magistrates Dealing with Matters of Religion

“We therefore conclude that the civil government, as soon as it discovers abominable heresies by which the glory of Christ is diminished and the salvation of souls prevented, is in duty bound, yea that it has the office, to wield the sword and to exercise its full authority against those errors which bring divisions among the people and other great calamities, as we have experienced more than once. And if the teachers of false doctrines will not be convinced of their error, nor desist from their preaching, let the government use its power and compel them to refrain from their mischievous work, so that the true doctrine, and the proper worship of God, may be retained pure and unadulterated, that peace and harmony may prevail. Thus both powers must assist each other to keep the people united in the pure faith and to ward off every offense and shame; this will be done if the authorities of the Church use the Word and discipline, while the government of the State cooperates with the sword. If matters are conducted thus, God will grant His blessing upon both governments. Those wicked persons, however, who care naught for the Word, and who escape the punishment due them from the government of the State, will hear their sentence on the day of judgment. May God in mercy protect us from such an end, and keep us faithful in His Word until our life is past and we are saved in heaven ! Amen.”

Martin Luther

Sermons on the Gospel
Fifth Sunday After Epiphany


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