Basel: Adam Petri, 1519.
Quarto: 18 x 13.5 cm.  p. Collation: A6
FOURTH PRINTING (in the year of the first).
Modern marbled wrappers. Lightly damp-stained, a few side-notes shaved. With an ornamental woodcut title border.
A German translation, attributed to Spalatin, of an early Latin work by Luther on confession.
In 1518 Spalatin had requested that Luther write a short instruction on how to confess. Luther sent him a Latin version of the present tract on January 24, 1519. The Latin original, apparently untitled, was not published. Luther later developed the text into his "Confitendi ratio," (“A Rationale of Confession”), which was issued in March, 1520.
“[Luther wrote a series of tracts after posting the 95 Theses on October 31st, 1517, and before his final breach with Rome. In them is clearly traceable the progress that he was making in dealing with the practical problems offered by the confessional, and which had started the mighty conflict in which he was engaged. They open to us an insight into his own conscientious efforts during the period, when, as a penitent, he was himself endeavoring to meet every requirement which the Church imposed, in order to secure the assurance of the forgiveness of sins as well as to present the questions which as a father confessor and spiritual adviser he asked those who were under his pastoral care. First of all, we find, therefore, tables of duties and sins, reminding us of the lists of cardinal sins and cardinal virtues in which Roman Catholic books abound.
“In the “Kurze Unterweisung wie man beichten soll” of 1519… he has advanced so far as to warn against the attempt to make an exhaustive enumeration of sins. He advises that the confession be made in the most general terms, covering sins both known and unknown. “If one would confess all mortal sins, it may be done in the following words; 'Yea, my whole life, and all that I do, act, speak, and think, is such as to be deadly and condemnable.' For if one regard himself as being without mortal sin, this is of all mortal sins the most mortal." According to this view, the purpose of the most searching self-examination is to exhibit the utter impossibility of ever fathoming the depth of corruption that lies beneath the surface…
“[Luther’s] main effort is to promote the most searching self-examination and the most complete enumeration of the details of sins, since, from the Mediaeval standpoint, the completeness of the absolution is proportioned to the exhaustiveness of the confession. Although [the tract] closes with its note of warning that the value of the confession is not to be estimated by the enumeration of details, but that it rests solely in the resort that is had to the grace of God and the word of His promise, the transition from the one mode of thought to the other is very apparent…
“The Lutheran conception is centered upon the person of the sinner, rather than on his sins. It is the person who is forgiven his sins. Where the person is forgiven but one sin, all his sins are forgiven; where the least sin is retained, all sins are retained, and none forgiven, for “there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” (Roans 8:1). The value of the confession lies not in the confession itself, but in that, through this confession, we turn to Christ and the word of His promise.”(Jacobs, Luther’s Discussion of Confession, in Works of Martin Luther, Vol. I, p. 73 ff.)
Benzing 287; WA 2, 58C.