Martin Luther to all faithful and godly Pastors and Preachers:
Grace, Mercy and Peace, in Jesus Christ, our Lord!
The deplorable condition in which I found religious affairs during a recent visitation of the congregations, has impelled me to publish this Catechism, or statement of the Christian doctrine, after having prepared it in very brief and simple terms. Alas! what misery I beheld! The people, especially those who live in the villages, seem to have no knowledge whatever of Christian doctrine, and many of the pastors are ignorant and incompetent teachers. And, nevertheless, they all maintain that they are Christians, that they have been baptized, and that they have received the Lord’s Supper. Yet they cannot recite the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, or the Ten Commandments; they live as if they were irrational creatures, and now that the Gospel has come to them, they grossly abuse their Christian liberty.
Ye bishops! what answer will ye give to Christ for having so shamefully neglected the people, and paid no attention to the duties of your office? I invoke no evil on your heads. But you withhold the cup in the Lord’s Supper, insist on the observance of your human laws, and yet, at the same time, do not take the least interest in teaching the people the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, or any other part of the word of God. Woe unto you!
Wherefore I beseech you in the Name of God, my beloved brethren, who are pastors or preachers, to engage heartily in the discharge of the duties of your office, to have mercy on the people who are entrusted to your care, and to assist us in introducing the Catechism among them, and especially among the young. And if any of you do not possess the necessary qualifications, I beseech you to take at least the following forms, and read them, word for word, to the people, on this wise:—
(from Luther’s Small Catechism, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)