Teaching and doing are two things. I say, furthermore, that one should separate teaching and doing as far from each other as heaven from earth. Teaching belongs only to God. He has the right and the power to command, forbid, and be master over the conscience. However, to do and refrain from doing belong to us so that we may keep God's commandment and teaching. Where doing or to refrain from doing is in question, and concerning which God has taught, commanded, and forbidden nothing, there we should permit free choice as God himself has done. Whoever invades God's own sphere of action, burdens the conscience, creates sin and misery, and destroys all that God has left free and certain. In addition he expels the Holy Spirit with all his kingdom, work, and word, so that nothing but devils remain.
Now the elevation of the sacrament, wearing the tonsure, putting on the chasuble and alb, etc., are matters concerning which God has given neither commandments nor prohibitions. Therefore everyone is to have freedom of choice to do these things or refrain from doing them. God wants us to have such freedom, etc. Since the pope does not allow for such freedom of action, but curbs it with his teaching and commandment, he usurps the office of God and sets himself arrogantly in God's place, as St. Paul has forewarned concerning him [II Thess. 2:4]. He makes sin where God would have no sin, and thereby kills souls and binds consciences. Since Dr. Karlstadt does not allow for freedom to refrain from doing what need not be done, but compels with prohibitions and teaching, saying one must not elevate the host, etc., he also usurps the office of God and sets himself in his place. He makes sin where there neither can nor should be any sin. Thus he kills souls on this side, as does the pope on the other side, and both of them, like murderers of souls, destroy Christian liberty.
We however take the middle course and say: There is to be neither commanding nor forbidding, neither to the right nor to the left. We are neither papistic nor Karlstadtian, but free and Christian, in that we elevate or do not elevate the sacrament, how, where, when, as long as it pleases us, as God has given us the liberty to do. Just as we are free to remain outside of marriage or to enter into marriage, to eat meat or not, to wear the chasuble or not, to have the cowl and tonsure or not. In this respect we are lords and will put up with no commandment, teaching, or prohibition. We have also done both here in Wittenberg. For in the cloister we observed mass without chasuble, without elevation, in the most plain and simple way which Karlstadt extols [as following] Christ's example. On the other hand, in the parish church we still have the chasuble, alb, altar, and elevate [the host] as long as it pleases us.
- from Martin Luther, 'Against the Heavenly Prophets in the Matter of Images and Sacraments' (1525)
(American Edition of Luther's Works, 40.129-130)Read More