From Here to Forever


Indulgences for Sale

The Roman Church made merchandise of the grace of God. Under the plea of raising funds for the erection of St. Peter's at Rome, indulgences for sin were offered for sale by authority of the pope. By the price of crime a temple was to be built for God's worship. It was this that aroused the most successful of the enemies of popery and led to the battle which shook the papal throne and the triple crown upon the pontiff's head. HF 80.2

Tetzel, the official appointed to conduct the sale of indulgences in Germany, had been convicted of base offenses against society and the law of God, but he was employed to further the mercenary projects of the pope in Germany. He repeated glaring falsehoods and marvelous tales to deceive an ignorant and superstitious people. Had they possessed the Word of God they would not have been deceived, but the Bible had been withheld from them.8 HF 80.3

As Tetzel entered a town, a messenger went before, announcing: “The grace of God and of the holy father is at your gates.”9 The people welcomed the blasphemous pretender as if he were God Himself. Tetzel, ascending the pulpit in the church, extolled indulgences as the most precious gift of God. He declared that by virtue of his certificates of pardon, all the sins which the purchaser should afterward desire to commit would be forgiven him and “not even repentance is necessary.”10 He assured his hearers that his indulgences had power to save the dead; the very moment the money should clink against the bottom of his chest, the soul in whose behalf it had been paid would escape from purgatory and make its way to heaven.11 HF 80.4

Gold and silver flowed into Tetzel's treasury. A salvation bought with money was more easily obtained than that which requires repentance, faith, and diligent effort to resist and overcome sin. (See Appendix) HF 81.1

Luther was filled with horror. Many of his own congregation had purchased certificates of pardon. They soon began to come to their pastor, confessing sins and expecting absolution, not because they were penitent and wished to reform, but on the ground of the indulgence. Luther refused, and warned them that unless they should repent and reform, they must perish in their sins. They repaired to Tetzel with the complaint that their confessor had refused his certificates, and some boldly demanded that their money be returned. Filled with rage, the friar uttered terrible curses, caused fires to be lighted in the public squares, and declared that he “had received an order from the pope to burn all heretics who presumed to oppose his most holy indulgences.”12 HF 81.2