In a recent paper having to do with Martin Luther, I noted:
At the same time, Luther's radical change of the rule of faith from an infallible Church and tradition to private judgment and sola Scriptura (Scripture as the only infallible authority) and comments about plowboys being able to interpret Scripture without the checks and balances of that Church and tradition, naturally led to excesses of individuality and sectarianism. People reasoned (consciously or not) that since Luther felt free to break away from Catholicism and gave the example of an ongoing smear campaign of propaganda and calumny against the existing Church, that there was little reason why they could not reject both the Catholic Church and him. In other words, he was again naive to think that he could unleash an entirely new principle, yet expect that no one but him would utilize it, in precisely the way that he had. Hence, Carlstadt and the Anabaptists and Zwinglians and Calvinists and other groups arose, to his great dismay. The truth (whatever it was) was not self-evidently clear to all from Scripture alone. He again failed to see any connection whatever between his teachings on authority, and what ensued.
The tragic failure of the Peasants' War now makes him undergo an abrupt transition, and this at a moment when they stood in helpless discomfiture and pitiful weakness, the especial objects of counsel and sympathy. He and Melancthon, now proclaim for the first time the hitherto unknown doctrine of the unlimited power of the ruler over the subject; demand unquestioning submission to authority; preach and formally teach the spirit of servility and despotism. The object lesson which was to bring the enforcement of the full rigour of the law to the attention of the princes was the Peasants' War. The masses were to be laden down with burdens to curb their refractoriness; the poor man was to be "forced and driven, as we force and drive pigs or wild cattle" (Sammtl. W., XV, 276). . . .
Luther by the creation of his "universal priesthood of all Christians", by delegating the authority "to judge all doctrines" to the "Christian assembly or congregation", by empowering it to appoint or dismiss teacher or preacher, sought the overthrow of the old Catholic order. It did not strike him, that to establish a new Church, to ground an ecclesiastical organization on so precarious and volatile a basis, was in its very nature impossible. The seeds of inevitable anarchy lay dormant in such principles. Momentarily this was clear to himself, when at this very time (1525) he does not hesitate to make the confession, that there are "nearly as many sects as there are heads" (De Wette, op. cit., III, 61). This anarchy in faith was concomitant with the decay of spiritual, charitable, and educational activities. Of this we have a fairly staggering array of evidence from Luther himself.
The English Cyclopaedia, in its article on Anabaptists, observed similarly:
[T]he epithet Anabaptists appears to have been first employed to describe a body of fanatics who made their first appearance in Germany soon after the commencement of the Reformation . . . The Anabaptists were, no doubt, the growth of the Reformation -- though Protestant writers have laboured hard to make it appear that such was not the case. They were the ultra-radicals of the Reformation. Munzer, Stubner, and Storck, who were the first heads and apostles of the sect, had all been disciples of Luther; although no person could have more earnestly condemned their proceedings than did that great reformer. They first began to preach their peculiar doctrines in the town of Wittenberg, in Saxony, in the year 1521. In 1525, their followers, composed almost exclusively of the lowest rabble, rose in a general rebellion against the established authorities throughout that province, Suabia, Thuringia, and Franconia.
(Volume 1, edited by Charles Knight, London: Bradbury, Evans & Co., 1866, p. 304; cf. the analysis of Michael Hughes in Early Modern Germany, 1477-1806, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992, pp. 43-51)
The excerpts below include the famous 1525 statement from Luther: "there are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads." Apart from condemnation of non-trinitarians, etc. (e.g., he attacks -- though not by name -- a pantheistic group known as Loists, who had strange ideas about the Holy Spirit), Luther also goes after those who are fellow Protestants: the Anabaptists (who "won't have baptism") and Zwinglians and proto-Calvinists, or those groups known as "sacramentarians" (those who "deny "the efficacy of the Lord's supper").
Thus, Luther condemns (among many other things) beliefs that are hardly distinguishable from present-day Baptists, or anyone who holds to adult baptism, non-regenerative baptism, or who denies the Real Presence in the Eucharist. This would include the vast majority of Protestant evangelicals and Calvinists; indeed most historic and present-day Protestants, in any reasonable definition of the term. Luther would almost certainly regard them all as damned.
He wrote once, for example (I have it somewhere in my writings), that he would rather break bread with one who believed in transubstantiation than with a person like Zwingli who didn't believe that Christ was truly present. He regarded fellow Protestants like Zwingli and Martin Bucer and Oecolampadius as damned. Thus, he saw Zwingli's 1531 slaying on the battlefield as evidence of God's judgment for his having forsaken the Christian faith.
Interestingly, Luther applied the same exact phrase to the Thomists in 1518:
When it was permitted to a Thomas to stand out against the whole world, and a Scotus, Gabriel, and others to contradict him, and when, even among the scholastics, there are as many sects as there are heads, or rather every single head daily builds up a new system of divinity, why should I not have the same liberty?
(Letter to Johann von Staupitz, 31 March 1518, in Margaret A. Currie [editor and translator], The Letters of Martin Luther, London: Macmillan & Co., 1908, pp. 25-26; cf. alternate rendering in Preserved Smith, Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, Vol. I: 1507-1521, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1913, p. 78)
In his treatise, The Three Universal Creeds, from 1538, Luther made some strange (clearly, self-justifying or -- so a Catholic might hold -- rationalizing) observations about where sectarianism is to be found:
Likewise, under the Papacy, the world was as full of fanatics and sects as in the past when the heathen ruled. The orders, institutions, churches, pilgrimages, brotherhoods, etc. instituted were innumerable. All these enjoyed peace among themselves and increased daily. None devoured another, although some were at loggerheads with each other. The pope confirmed them all . . . But now comes the Gospel, proclaiming that the whole kingdom of Christ constitutes one universal order, one body of Christ, without sects; for here, says Paul (Gal 3, 28), there is no Jew, no Greek, no barbarian, no Carthusian, etc., but all are one, and in one, Christ. Thereupon the holy orders rage and foam against this one order of Christ. But that is a confession that they are the church of sectaries and the order of the devil, and that the only true order is that established by Christ.
(in Luther's Two Catechisms, Explained By Himself in Six Classic Writings, translated by John Nicholas Lenker, Minneapolis: The Luther Press, 1908, p. 230)
The words below are all Luther's own, with my blue highlighting.
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The devil seeing that this sort of disturbance could not last, has devised a new one; and begins to rage in his members, I mean in the ungodly, through whom he makes his way in all sorts of chimerical follies and extravagant doctrines. This won't have baptism, that denies the efficacy of the Lord's supper; a third, puts a world between this and the last judgment; others teach that Jesus Christ is not God; some say this, others that; and there are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads.
I must cite one instance, by way of exemplification, for I have plenty to do with these sort of spirits. There is not one of them that does think himself more learned than Luther; they all try to win their spurs against me; and would to heaven that they were all such as they think themselves, and that I were nothing! The one of whom I speak assured me, amongst other things, that lie was sent to me by the God of heaven and earth, and talked most magnificently, but the clown peeped through all. At last, he ordered me to read the books of Moses. I asked for a sign in confirmation of this order, ' It is,' said he, ' written in the gospel of St. John.' By this time I had heard enough, and I told him, to come again, for that we should not have time, just now, to read the books of Moses. . . .
I have plenty to do in the course of the year with these poor people: the devil could not have found a better pretext for tormenting me. As yet the world had been full of those clamorous spirits without bodies, who oppressed the souls of men; now they have bodies, and give themselves out for living angels . . .
When the pope reigned we heard nothing of these troubles. The strong one (the devil) was in peace in his fortress; but now that a stronger one than he is come, and prevails against him and drives him out, as the Gospel says, he storms and comes forth with noise and fury.
Dear friends, one of these spirits of disorder has come amongst you in flesh and blood; he would lead you astray with the inventions of his pride: beware of him.
First, he tells you that all men have the Holy Ghost. Secondly, that the Holy Ghost is nothing more than our reason and our understanding. Thirdly, that all men have faith. Fourthly, that there is no hell, that at least the flesh only will be damned. Fifthly, that all souls will enjoy eternal life. Sixthly, that nature itself teaches us to do to our neighbour what we would he should do to us ; this he calls faith. Seventhly, that the law is not violated by concupiscence, so long as we are not consenting to the pleasure. Eighthly, that he that has not the Holy Ghost, is also without sin, for he is destitute of reason.
All these are audacious propositions, vain imaginations; if we except the seventh, the others are not worthy of reply. . . .
It is sufficient for us to know that God wills no sin. As to his sufferance of sin, we ought not to approach the question. The servant is not to know his master's secrets, simply his master's orders: how much less should a poor creature attempt to scrutinize or sound the mysteries and the majesty of the Creator ? . . .
To learn the law of God, and to know his soul Jesus Christ, is sufficient to absorb the whole of life. . . .
("Letter of Doctor Martin to the Christians of Antwerp" [1525; possibly on March 21st]; found on pp. 91-92 in Jules Michelet, The Life of Luther Gathered From His Own Writings, translated by G. H. Smith, London: Whittaker & Co., from the original 1835 work; primary source given as: "Luth. Werke, tom. ii. p. 61, sqq.". The same letter included the observation: "No booby is now so abject but that if he dreams or fancies anything, he must impute it to the Holy Ghost, and give himself out for a prophet." Lengthy excerpts also appear in Reuben Weiser, Luther by a Lutheran, 1848 , pp. 315-316), and in Johannes Janssen, History of the German People at the Close of the Middle Ages, Vol. V, pp. 31-32)
For thus do the Anabaptists teach, that baptism is nothing except the person do believe. Out of this principle must needs follow, that all the works of God be nothing if the man be nothing. But baptism is the work of God, and yet an evil man maketh it not to be the work of God. . . . Who seeth not here, in the Anabaptists, men not possessed with devils, but even devils themselves possessed with worse devils? . . .
If one heresy die, by and by another springeth up, for the devil doth neither slumber or sleep. I myself, which, although I be nothing, have been now in the ministry of Christ about twenty years, can truly witness that I have been assailed with more than twenty sects, of the which some are already destroyed, . . . But Satan, the god of all dissension, stirreth up daily new sects, and last of all (which, of all other, I should never have foreseen or once suspected), he hath raised up a sect of such as teach that the Ten Commandments ought to be taken out of the church, and that men should not be terrified with the law, but gently exhorted by the preaching of the grace of Christ . . . Such is the blindness and presumption of these frantic heads, which even by their own judgment do condemn themselves. . . . let the minister of Christ know that so long as he teacheth Christ purely, there shall not be wanting perverse spirits, yea, even of our own, and among ourselves, which shall seek, by all means possible, to trouble the church of Christ. . . . Yea, let him rejoice in the troubles which he suffereth by these sects and seditious spirits, continually springing up one after another.
(Commentary on Galatians, Lafayette, Indiana, Sovereign Grace Publishers, Inc., 2002, Preface, pp. xx1-xxii)
Luther Meets His Match: Part III: Erasmus' Hyperaspistes (1526): Luther's Extreme Dogmatism (To Disagree With Luther is to be Damned)
Luther Meets His Match: Part IV: Erasmus' Hyperaspistes (1526): The Rebellious and Anti-Traditional Elements of Luther's Revolt
Luther Meets His Match: Part VI: Erasmus' Hyperaspistes (1526): Sola Scriptura & Perspicuity (Total Clarity) of Scripture Critiqued
The Problem of Authority: Luther, Calvin, and Protestantism (+ Part II) (vs. Kevin Johnson and Tim Enloe)Dialogue: John Calvin's Letter to Philip Melanchthon Concerning Protestant Divisions: Its Nature, Intent, and Larger Implications
The Early Protestants Were Ecumenical? NOT! (+ Part II) (vs. Dr. Paul Owen)Compelling Biblical Evidence Against Denominations and "Primary vs. Secondary" Doctrines