you have issued pamphlets in which you attack us with a bitterness we did not expect from you. For we perceive that you have not been endued by God with such steadfastness and courage that you can confidently go forward with us to combat this monstrosity — hence we do not expect what is beyond your ability to render. But we have borne your weakness patiently, and highly appreciated your gifts.
For the whole world must confess that it is through you there has been such a revival in letters, through which people have got access to the Bible in its purity, and that you possess great and glorious talents, for which we must ever be grateful. Hence I have never wished you to mingle in our affairs, to the detriment of your gifts; for although your common sense and eloquence might accomplish much, still, if you do not heartily enter into it, it is better that you should only serve God with the talent committed to you. But I fear our enemies might persuade you to condemn our doctrine, and then we would have to contradict you to the face. We have hitherto prevented some entering into conflict with you through their writings, therefore I wished that Hutten’s challenge had not appeared, and still less your Schwamm, which, without doubt, you have learned for yourself.
How easy it is to talk of modesty, and blame Luther for want of it; and, on the other hand, how difficult, nay, impossible it is to act accordingly, except through a special gift of the Spirit. If I, who am easily moved to wrath, have often in the heat of the moment written too bitingly (beizend), I have only done it to stubborn people. And I can testify that my tenderness towards the godless, no matter how unjust and stupid they may be, has not only the testimony of my own conscience, but has been experienced by many. Up till now I have held my pen in check, in spite of your conduct towards me, and have also written to friends, that I would restrain myself till you attacked me openly.
For although you were not of us, and rejected some of the principal points pertaining to everlasting blessedness, or hypocritically refused to give your opinion on the
- Erasmus’s Defense Against Von Hutten’s Challenge.