Martin Luther
Whether One Should Flee From a Deadly Plague
Written in 1527

The Bubonic Plague struck Wittenberg, Germany, in 1527. Martin Luther, and others who lived in Wittenberg, struggled to care for the sick and take precautionary public health measures.

Martin Luther wrote a letter entitled, “Whether One Should Flee From a Deadly Plague,” to his friend, Rev. Dr. Johann Hess, who was a pastor in the city of Breslau.

Below is a quote from Martin Luther’s letter:

Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbor does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body?

You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us.

Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.

If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me, however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely, as stated above. See, this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God …