Luther on dealing with demon possession

The Gospel lesson for this Sunday presents how Jesus expelled a demon from a man in the Capernaum synagogue. I have been studying demon possession for this Sunday’s sermon. Here are some of the things that I found about Luther dealing with demon possession:

"Once, during the life of Dr. Martin Luther, a young woman was brought to Wittenberg who was born in the land of Meissen, who was often vexed and tormented by the devil. And a letter was written to blessed Dr. Martin that he should save and rescue this young woman, who was 18 years old, from the evil spirit. When this virgin was brought to Dr. Martin, he asked her at that time whether she could say her faith [the creed]. She answered, 'Yes.' Then the blessed Dr. Martin commanded her to say it. As she now began and came to the article [of the creed] and these words, 'And I believe in Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son, our Lord,' she could no longer speak, but the evil spirit began to convulse and torment her. Then Dr. Luther spoke, 'I know you well, you devil. You would really like it if someone would set up a big ceremony with you and celebrate you greatly. You will find none of that with me.' Then he commanded that she be brought to his sermon in the church on the next day, and afterwards be brought into the sacristy, and he told the other servants of the church to come into the sacristy in addition.

The virgin was obedient and came to the sermon of the doctor, but afterwards, when they wanted to bring her into the sacristy, she fell down and struck and convulsed around, so that several students had to carry her into the sacristy and lay her at the feet of blessed Dr. Martin, and they locked the door to the sacristy, and all the servants of the church with several students stayed therein.

Then Dr. Martin began, and made this short admonition to the servants of the Church, which should be well observed by all preachers of the divine Word who find themselves in the same situation, and they should do nothing different.

1. He began and spoke: 'Now and at our time, people should not drive out devils as it was done at the time of the Apostles and shortly thereafter, when it was necessary to do miracles and signs for the sake of the Gospel, to confirm it as a new doctrine, which now and at our time is not necessary, since the Gospel is not a new doctrine, but has been sufficiently confirmed. And if anyone wants to drive them out as was done at that time, he tempts God,' he said.

2. 'One should also not drive out the devils with conjurations, by commanding, like some in the papacy and even some of our own people do, but one should drive them out with prayers and contempt. For the devil is a proud spirit, who cannot stand prayer and despising, but desires a ceremony. Therefore no one should make a ceremony with him, but should despise him as much as possible.'

3. Dr. Luther spoke further, 'One should drive out the devil with and through prayer in such a way that one prescribes for the Lord Christ no rule, no means and manner, no time or place when and how he should drive out the devils, for that would be tempting God. But we persist in prayer so long, knock and rap [at the door] so long, until God hears our prayer, as He Himself says, Matth. 7, "Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you." But Uzziah, he tempts God by setting and prescribing the time for Him, in which He should help him, Judith 7. Therefore he is rightly rebuked by Judith, Judith 8.'

4. Dr. Luther laid his right hand on the head of the virgin, just like one lays hands on those who are being ordained and consecrated to the preaching office. And he commanded the servants of the Gospel to do the same, and commanded further that they speak after him: First, the Apostles' Creed. Next, the Our Father. Third, Dr. Luther spoke these words, John 14. 'Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name, that will He give to you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.' After these words, the blessed doctor called upon God mightily and prayed that He would rescue and save the poor young woman from the evil spirit which was in her for the sake of Christ and of His holy name, that thereby He would be praised, honored, and glorified. After this prayer and admonition, he stepped away from the girl and shoved her with his foot, and mocked Satan, saying, 'You proud devil, you would gladly see me set up a ceremony with you, but you will not experience that. I won't do it. Do what you want, I will not give up.'

After this procedure, they took the young woman the next day back to Meissen from Wittenberg. And afterwards they wrote and reported several times to Dr. Luther and others that the evil spirit after this no longer tormented and convulsed the girl as previously." – Höker, in Dunte, Conscientiae, pp. 100-103.

This example is quite similar to the exorcism before Baptism in Luther's Taufbüchlein: Imposition of hands, Our Father, Creed, prayers. Luther's Table Talk is full of examples, in the section on the devil and his works. 


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