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Life of Luther by Julius Koestlin

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the Wittenberg heretic to Rome, or imprisoning him there, namely,
the protection afforded him by his sovereign. Miltitz was of a noble
Saxon family, himself a Saxon subject by birth, and a friend of the
Electoral court. He brought with him a high token of favour for the
Elector. The latter had formerly expressed a wish to receive the
golden rose; a symbol solemnly consecrated by the Pope himself, and
bestowed by his ambassadors on princely personages to this day, for
services rendered to the Church or the Papal see. The bearer of this
decoration was Miltitz, and on October 24, 1518, he was furnished
with a whole armful of Papal indulgences.

Above all, he took with him two letters of Leo X. to Frederick. The
Elector, his beloved son, so ran the first missive, was to receive
the most holy rose, anointed with the sacred chrism, sprinkled with
scented musk, consecrated with the Apostolic blessing, a gift of
transcendent worth and the symbol of a deep mystery, in remembrance
and as a pledge of the Pope's paternal love and singular good-will,
conveyed through an ambassador specially appointed by the Pope, and
charged with particular greetings on that behalf &c. &c. Such a
costly gift, proffered him by the Church through her Pontiff, was
intended to manifest her joy at the redemption of mankind by the
precious blood of Jesus Christ, and the rose was an appropriate
symbol of the quickening and refreshing body of our Redeemer. These
high-sounding and long-winded expressions showed very plainly the
real object of the Pope. The divine fragrance of this flower was so
to permeate the inmost heart of Frederick, the 'beloved son,' that
he being filled with it, might with pious mind receive and cherish
in his noble breast those matters which Miltitz would explain to
him, and whereof the second brief made mention; and thus the more
fervently comprehend the Pope's holy and pious longing, agreeably to
the hope he placed in him. The other letter, however, after
referring to the call for aid against the Turks, goes on to speak of
Luther. From Satan himself came this son of perdition, who was
preaching notorious heresy, and that chiefly in Frederick's own
land. Inasmuch as this diseased sheep must not be suffered to infect
the heavenly flock, and as the honour and conscience of the Elector
also must needs be stained by his presence, Miltitz was commissioned
to take measures against him and his associates, and Frederick was
exhorted in the name of the Lord to assist him with his authority
and favour.

Papal instructions in writing to the same effect were given to
Miltitz for Spalatin, as Frederick's private secretary, and for
Degenhard Pfeffinger, a counsellor of the Elector. To Spalatin in
particular, the most trusted adviser of Frederick in religious
matters, it was represented, how horrible was the heretical audacity
of this 'son of Satan,' and how he imperilled the good name of the
Elector. In like manner the chief magistrate of Wittenberg was
required by letter to give assistance to Miltitz, and enable him to
execute freely and unhindered the Pope's commands against the
heretic Luther, who came of the devil. Miltitz took with him similar
injunctions for a number of other towns in Germany, to ensure safe
passage for himself and his prisoner to Rome, in the event of his
arresting Luther. He was armed, it was said, with no less than
seventy letters of this kind.

As regards the rose, Miltitz had strict orders to make the actual
delivery of it to Frederick depend wholly on his compliance with
Caietan's advice and will. It was deposited first of all in the
mercantile house of the Fuggers at Augsburg. This public precaution
was taken, to prevent Miltitz from parting with the precious gift in
haste or from too anxious a desire for the thanks and praise in
prospect, before there were reasonable grounds for hoping that it
had served its purpose.

Towards the middle of December a Papal bull, issued on November 9,
was published by Caietan in Germany, which finally laid down the
doctrine of indulgences in the sense directly combated by Luther,
and, although not mentioning him by name, threatened excommunication
against all who shared the errors which had lately been promulgated
in certain quarters.

So utterly did the Pope appear to have set his face against all
reconciliation or compromise. And yet, as the event showed, room was
left for Miltitz in his secret instructions to try another method,
according as circumstances might dictate.

Miltitz, after having crossed the Alps, sought an interview first
with Caietan in Southern Germany, and, as the latter had gone to the
Emperor in Austria, he paid a visit to his old friend Pfeffinger, at
his home in Bavaria. Continuing his journey with him, he arrived on
December 25 at the town of Gera, and from there announced his
arrival to Spalatin, who was at Altenburg. On the way he had had
constant opportunities of noticing, both among learned men and the
common people, signs of sympathy for the man against whom his
mission was directed, and a feeling hostile to Rome, of which those
at Rome neither knew nor cared to know. He was a young and clever
man, full of the enjoyment of life, who knew how to mix and converse
with people of every kind, and even to touch now and then on the
situation and doings at Rome which were exciting such lively
indignation. Tetzel also, whom Miltitz summoned to meet him, wrote
complaining that the people in Germany were so excited against him
by Luther, that his life would not be safe on the road. Miltitz
accordingly, with his usual readiness, resolved speedily on an
attempt to make Luther harmless by other means. After paying his
visit to the Elector at Altenburg, he agreed to treat with him there
in a friendly manner.

The remarkable interview with Luther took place at Spalatin's house
at Altenburg in the first week of the new year. Miltitz feigned the
utmost frankness and friendliness, nay, even cordiality. He himself
declared to Luther, that for the last hundred years no business had
caused so much trouble at Rome as this one, and that they would
gladly there give ten thousand ducats to prevent its going further.
He described the state of popular feeling as he had found it on his
journey; three were for Luther where only one was for the Pope. He
would not venture, even with an escort of 25,000 men, to carry off
Luther through Germany to Rome. 'Oh, Martin!' he exclaimed, 'I
thought you were some old theologian, who had carried on his
disputations with himself, in his warm corner behind the stove. Now
I see how young, and fresh, and vigorous you are.' Whilst plying him
with exhortations and reproaches about the injury he did to the
Romish Church, he accompanied them with tears. He fancied by this
means to make him his confidant and conformable to his schemes.

Luther, however, soon showed him that he could be his match in
cleverness. He refrained, he tells us, from letting Miltitz see that
he was aware what crocodile's tears they were. Indeed he was quite
prepared, as he had been before under the menaces of a Papal
ambassador, so now under his persuasions and entreaties, to yield
all that his conscience allowed, but nothing beyond, and then
quietly to let matters take their own course.

In the event of Miltitz withdrawing his demand for a retractation,
Luther agreed to write a letter to the Pope, acknowledging that he
had been too hasty and severe, and promising to publish a
declaration to German Christendom urging and admonishing reverence
to the Romish Church. His cause, and the charges brought against
him, might be tried before a German bishop, but he reserved to
himself the right, in case the judgment should be unacceptable, of
reviving his appeal to the Church in Council. Personally he desired
to desist from further strife, but silence must also be imposed on
his adversaries.

Having come to this point of agreement, they partook of a friendly
supper together, and on parting Miltitz bestowed on him a kiss.

In a report given of this conference to the Elector, Luther
expressed the hope that the matter by mutual silence might 'bleed
itself to death,' but added his fear that, if the contest were
prolonged, the question would grow larger and become serious.

He now wrote his promised address to the people. He bated not an
inch from his standpoint, so that, even if he should for the future
let the controversy rest, he might not appear to have retracted
anything. He allowed a value to indulgences, but only as a
recompense for the 'satisfaction' given by the sinner, and adding
that it was better to do good than to purchase indulgences. He urged
the duty of holding fast in Christian love and unity, and
notwithstanding her faults and sins, to the Romish Church, in which
St. Peter and St. Paul and hundreds of martyrs had shed their blood,
and of submitting to her authority, though with reference only to
external matters. Propositions going beyond what was here conceded
he wished to be regarded as in no way affecting the people or the
common man. They should be left, he said, to the schools of
theology, and learned men might fight the matter out between them.
His opponents indeed, if they had admitted what Luther declared in
this address, would have had to abandon their main principles, for
to them the doctrine that indulgences and Church authority meant far
more than was here stated was a truth indispensable for salvation.

Luther wrote his letter to the Pope on March 3, 1519. It began with
expressions of the deepest personal humility, but differed
significantly in the quiet firmness of its tone from his other
letter of the previous year to Leo X. Quietly, but as resolutely, he
repudiated all idea of retracting his principles. They had already,
through the opposition raised by his enemies, been propagated far
and wide, beyond all his expectations, and had sunk into the hearts
of the Germans, whose knowledge and judgment were now more matured.
If he let himself be forced to retract them he would give occasion
to accusation and revilement against the Romish Church; for the sake
of her own honour he must refuse to do so. As for his battle against
indulgences, his only thought had been to prevent the Mother Church
from being defiled by foreign avarice, and that the people should
not be led astray, but learn to set love before indulgences.

Meanwhile, on January 12, Maximilian had died. He was the last
national Emperor with whom Germany was blessed; in character a true
German, endowed with rich gifts both mental and physical, a man of
high courage and a warm heart, thoroughly understanding how to deal
with high and low, and to win their esteem and love. By Luther too
we hear him often spoken of afterwards in terms of affectionate
remembrance: he tells us of his kindness and courtesy to everyone,
of his efforts to attract around him trusty and capable servants
from all ranks, of his apt remarks, of his tact in jest and in
earnest; further of the troubles he had in his government of the
Empire and with his princes, of the insolence he had to put up with
from the Italians, and of the humour with which he speaks of himself
and his imperial rule. 'God,' said he on one occasion, 'has well
ordered the temporal and spiritual government; the former is ruled
over by a chamois-hunter, and the latter by a drunken priest' (Pope
Julius). He called himself a king of kings, because his German
princes only acted like kings when it suited them. With the lofty
ideas and projects which he cherished as sovereign, he stood before
the people as a worthy representative of Imperialism, even though
his eyes may have been fixed in reality more on his own family and
the power of his dynasty, than on the general interests of the
Empire. The ecclesiastical grievances of the German nation, which we
heard of at the Diet of 1518, had long engaged his lively sympathy,
though he deemed it wiser to abstain from interfering. He had an
opinion on these matters and on the necessary reforms drawn up by
the Humanist Wimpheling. Nay, he had once, in his contest with Pope
Julius, worked to bring about a general reforming Council. The
question forces itself on the mind--however vain such an inquiry may
be from a historical point of view--what turn Luther's great work,
and the fortunes of the German nation and Church would have taken,
if Maximilian had identified his own imperial projects with the
interests for which Luther contended, and thus had come forward as
the leader of a great national movement. As it was, Maximilian died
without ever having realised more of the importance of this monk
than was shown by his remark about him, already noticed, at

[Illustration: FIG. l3.--THE EMPEROR MAXIMILIAN. (From his Portrait
by Albert Durer.)]

His death served to increase the respect which the Pope found it
necessary to show to the Elector Frederick. For, pending the
election of a new Emperor, the latter was Administrator of the
Empire for Northern Germany, and the issue of the election depended
largely on his influence. On June 28 Maximilian's grandson, King
Charles of Spain, then nineteen years of age, was chosen Emperor. He
was a stranger to German life and customs, as the German people and
the Reformer must constantly have had to feel. For the Pope,
however, these considerations were of further import, for in his
dealings with the new Emperor he had to proceed at least with
caution, since the latter was aware that he had done his best to
prevent his election. On the other hand, Charles was under an
obligation to the Elector, being mainly indebted to him for his
crown, and unable to come himself immediately to Germany to accept
his rule.

Miltitz meanwhile had further prosecuted his scheme, without
revealing his own ultimate object. He chose for a judge of Luther's
cause the Archbishop of Treves, and persuaded him to accept the
office. Early in May he had an interview with Caietan at Coblentz,
the chief town of the archiepiscopal diocese, and now summoned
Luther to appear there before the Archbishop.

But Miltitz took good care to say nothing about the opinions
entertained at Rome of his negotiations with Luther. Would Luther
venture from his refuge at Wittenberg without the consent of his
faithful sovereign, who himself evinced suspicion in the matter, and
set forth in the dark, so to speak, on his long journey to the two
ambassadors of the Pope? He would be held a fool, he wrote to
Miltitz, if he did; moreover, he did not know where to find the
money for the journey. What took place between Rome and Miltitz in
this affair was altogether unknown to Luther, as it is to us.

Whilst this attempt at a mediation--if such it could be called--remained
thus in abeyance, a serious occasion of strife had been prepared, which
caused the seemingly muffled storm to break out with all its violence.

Luther's colleague, Carlstadt, who at first, on the appearance of
Luther's theses, had viewed them with anxiety, but who afterwards
espoused the new Wittenberg theology, and pressed forward in that
path, had had a literary feud since 1518 with Eck, on account of his
attacks upon Luther. The latter, meeting Eck at Augsburg in October,
arranged with him for a public disputation in which Eck and
Carlstadt could fight the matter out. Luther hoped, as he told Eck
and his friends, that there might be a worthy battle for the truth,
and the world should then see that theologians could not only
dispute but come to an agreement. Thus then, at least between him
and Eck, there seemed the prospect of a friendly understanding. The
university of Leipzig was chosen as the scene of the disputation.
Duke George of Saxony, the local ruler, gave his consent, and
rejected the protest of the theological faculty, to whom the affair
seemed very critical.

When, however, towards the end of the year, Eck published the theses
which he intended to defend, Luther found with astonishment that
they dealt with cardinal points of doctrine, which he himself,
rather than Carlstadt, had maintained, and that Carlstadt was
expressly designated the 'champion of Luther.' Only one of these
theses related to a doctrine specially defended by Carlstadt,
namely, that of the subjection of the will in sinful man. Among the
other points noticed was the denial of the primacy of the Romish
Church during the first few centuries after Christ. Eck had
extracted this from Luther's recent publications; so far as
Carlstadt was concerned, he could not have read or heard a word of
such a statement.

Luther fired up. In a public letter addressed to Carlstadt he
observed that Eck had let loose against him, in reality, the frogs
or flies intended for Carlstadt, and he challenged Eck himself. He
would not reproach him for having so maliciously, uncourteously, and
in an untheological manner charged Carlstadt with doctrines to which
he was a stranger; he would not complain of being drawn himself
again into the contest by a piece of base flattery on Eck's part
towards the Pope; he would merely show that his crafty wiles were
well understood, and he wished to exhort him in a friendly spirit,
for the future, if only for his own reputation, to be a little more
sensible in his stratagems. Eck might then gird his sword upon his
thigh, and add a Saxon triumph to the others of which he boasted,
and so at length rest on his laurels. Let him bring forth to the
world what he was in labour of; let him disgorge what had long been
lying heavy on his stomach, and bring his vainglorious menaces at
length to an end.

Luther was anxious, indeed, apart from this special reason, to be
allowed to defend in a public disputation the truth for which he was
called a heretic; he had made this proposal in vain to the legate at
Augsburg. He now demanded to be admitted to the lists at Leipzig. He
wished in particular, to take up the contest, openly and decisively,
about the Papal primacy.

His friends just on this point grew anxious about him. But he
prepared his weapons with great diligence, studying thoroughly the
ecclesiastical law-books and the history of ecclesiastical law, with
which until now he had never occupied himself so much. Herein he
found his own conclusions fully confirmed. Nay, he found that the
tyrannical pretensions of the Pope, even if more than a thousand
years old, derived their sole and ultimate authority from the Papal
decretals of the last four centuries. Arrayed against the theory of
that primacy were the history of the previous centuries, the
authority of the Council of Nice in 325, and the express declaration
of Scripture. This he stated now in a thesis, and announced his
opinion in print.

We have already noticed the high importance of this historical
evidence in regard to matters of belief, as well as to the entire
conception of Christian salvation, and of the true community or
Church of Christ. The real essence of the Church is shown not to
depend on its constitution under a Pope. And the course of history,
wherein God allowed the Christians of the West to come under the
external authority of the Pope, just as people come to be under the
rule of different princes, in no way subjected, or should subject,
the whole of Christendom to his dominion. The millions of Eastern
Christians, who are not his subjects, and who are therefore
condemned by the Pope as schismatics, are all, as Luther now
distinctly declares, none the less members of Christendom, of the
Church, of the Body of Christ. Participation in salvation does not
exist only in the community of the Church of Rome. For Christendom
collectively, or the Universal Church, there is no other Head but
Christ. Luther now also discovered and declared that the bishops did
not receive their posts over individual dioceses and flocks until
after the Apostolic period; the episcopate therefore ceases to be an
essential and necessary element of the Church system. What, then, is
really essential for the continuance of the Church, and how far does
it extend? Luther answers this question with the fundamental
principle of Evangelical Protestantism. The Church, he says, is not
at Rome only, but there, and there only, where the Word of God is
preached and believed in; where Christian faith, hope, and charity
are alive, where Christ, inwardly received, stands before a united
Christendom as her bridegroom. This Universal Church, says Luther,
is the one intended by the Creed, when it says 'I believe in a Holy
Catholic Church, the communion of saints.'

The mere external power which the Popedom exercised in its
government of the Church, in the imposition of outward acts and
penalties--appeared, so far, to Luther a matter of indifference in
respect to religion and the salvation of souls. But it was another
and more serious matter with regard to the claim to Divine right
asserted for that power by the Papacy, and to its extension over the
soul and conscience, over the community of the faithful, nay, over
the fate of departed souls. Here Luther saw an invasion of the
rights reserved by God to Himself, and a perversion of the true
conditions of salvation, as established by Christ and testified in
Scripture. Here he saw a human potentate and tyrant, setting himself
up in the place of Christ and God. He shuddered, so he wrote to his
friends, when, in reading the Papal decretals, he looked further
into the doings of the Popes, with their demands and edicts, into
this smithy of human laws, this fresh crucifixion of Christ, this
ill-treatment and contempt of His people. As previously he had said
that Antichrist ruled at the Papal court, so now, in a letter of
March 13, 1519, he wrote privately to Spalatin, 'I know not whether
the Pope is Antichrist himself, or one of his Apostles,' so
antichristian seemed to him the institution of the Papacy itself,
with its principles and its fruits. Of these decretals he says in
another letter: 'If the death-blow dealt to indulgences has so
damaged the see of Rome, what will it do when, by the will of God,
its decretals have to breathe their last? Not that I glory in
victory, trusting to my own strength, but my trust is in the mercy
of God, whose wrath is against the edicts of man.'

[Illustration: Fig. 14.--DUKE GEORGE OF SAXONY. (From an old

Luther earnestly entreated Duke George to allow him to take part in
the disputation. His Elector, who no doubt was personally desirous
of a public, free, and learned treatment of the questions at issue,
had already given him his permission. Luther's understanding with
Miltitz presented no obstacle, since the silence required as a
condition on the part of his opponents, had never been observed, nor
indeed had ever been enjoined or recommended either by Miltitz or
any other authorities of the Church. His application, nevertheless,
to the Duke was referred to Eck for his concurrence, and the latter
let him wait in vain for an answer. At last the Duke drew up a
letter of safe-conduct for Carlstadt and all whom he might bring
with him, and under this designation Luther was included. He might
safely trust himself to George's word as a man and a prince.

The whole disputation was opposed and protested against from the
outset by the Bishop of Merseburg, the chancellor of the university
of Leipzig and the spiritual head of the faculty of theology. The
project must have been inadmissible in his eyes from the mere fact
that Eck's theses revived the controversy about indulgences, which
was supposed to have been settled once and for ever by the Papal
bull. He appealed to this pronouncement as a reason for not holding
it. Inasmuch as the disputation took place, in spite of this
protest, with the Duke's consent, it became an affair of all the
more importance.

Duke George himself took an active interest in the matter. His was a
robust, upright, and sturdy character. He was a staunch and faithful
upholder of the ecclesiastical traditions in which he had grown up;
it was difficult for him to extend his views. But he was honestly
interested in the truth. He wished that his own men of learning
might have a good scuffle in the lists for the truth's sake. On
hearing of the objections of the Leipzig theologians to the
disputation, his remark was, 'They are evidently afraid to be
disturbed in their idleness and guzzling, and think that whenever
they hear a shot fired, it has hit them.' An unusually large
audience being expected for the disputation, he had the large hall
of his Castle of Pleissenburg cleared and furnished for the
occasion. He commissioned two of his counsellors to preside, and was
anxious himself to be present. How much depended on the impression
which the disputation itself, and Luther with it, should produce
upon him!

On June 24 the Wittenbergers entered Leipzig, with Carlstadt at
their head. An eye-witness has described the scene: 'They entered at
the Grimma Gate, and their students, two hundred in number, ran
beside the carriages with pikes and halberds, and thus accompanied
their professors. Dr. Carlstadt drove first; after him, Dr. Martin
and Philip (Melancthon) in a light basket carriage with solid wooden
wheels (Rollwagen); none of the wagons were either curtained or
covered. Just as they had passed the town-gate and had reached the
churchyard of St. Paul, Dr. Carlstadt's carriage broke down, and the
doctor fell out into the dirt; but Dr. Martin and his _fidus
Achates_ Philip, drove on.' Meanwhile, an episcopal mandate,
forbidding the disputation on pain of excommunication, had been
nailed up on the church doors, but no heed was paid to it. The
magistrate even imprisoned the man who posted the bill for having
done so without his permission.

Before commencing the disputation, certain preliminary conditions
were arranged. The proceedings were to be taken down by notaries.
Eck had opposed this, fearing to be hindered in the free use of his
tongue, and not liking to have all his utterances in debate so
exactly defined. The protocols, however, were to be submitted to
umpires charged to decide the result of the disputation, and were to
be published after their verdict was announced. In vain had both
Luther and Carlstadt, who refused to bind themselves to this
decision, opposed this stipulation. The Duke, however, insisted on
it, as a means of terminating judicially the contest.

Early on the morning of June 27 the disputation was opened with all
the worldly and spiritual solemnity that could be given to a most
important academical event. First came an address of welcome in the
hall, spoken by the Leipzig professor, Simon Pistoris; then a mass
in the church of St. Thomas, whither the assembly repaired in a
procession of state; then a still grander procession to the
Pleissenburg, where a division of armed citizens was stationed as a
guard of honour; then a long speech on the right way of disputing,
delivered in the Castle hall by the famous Peter Schade Mosellanus,
a professor at Leipzig and a master of Latin eloquence; and lastly
the chanting three times of the Latin hymn, 'Come, Holy Ghost,' the
whole assembly kneeling. At two o'clock the disputation between Eck
and Carlstadt began. They were placed opposite each other in

A host of theologians and learned laymen had flocked together to the
scene. From Wittenberg had come the Pomeranian Duke Barnim, then
Rector of the University. Prince George of Anhalt, then a young
Leipzig student, and afterwards a friend of Luther, was there. Duke
George of Saxony frequently attended the proceedings, and listened
attentively. His court jester is said to have appeared with him, and
a comic scene is mentioned as having occurred between him and Eck,
to the great diversion of the meeting. Frederick the Wise was
represented by one of his counsellors, Hans von Planitz.

Eck and Carlstadt contended for four days, from June 27 to July 8,
on the question of free will and its relations to the operation of
the grace of God. It was a wearisome contest, with disconnected
texts from Scripture and passages from old teachers of the Church,
but without any of the lively and free animation of moral and
religious spirit, which, in Luther's treatment of such questions,
carried his hearers with him. In power of memory, as in readiness of
speech, Eck proved himself superior to his opponent. On Carlstadt
bringing books of reference with him, he got this disallowed, and
had now the advantage that no one could check his own quotations.
Thus, confident of triumph, he proceeded to his contest with Luther.

Luther meanwhile, on June 29, the day of St. Peter and St. Paul, had
preached a sermon at the request of Duke Barnim at the Castle of
Pleissenburg, wherein, referring to the Gospel of the day, he
treated, in a simple, practical, and edifying manner, of the main
point of the disputation between Eck and Carlstadt, and at the same
time of the point he himself was about to argue, namely, the meaning
of the power of the keys granted to St. Peter. In opposition to him,
Eck delivered four sermons in various churches of the town (none of
which Luther would have been allowed to preach in), and speaking of
them afterwards he said, 'I simply stirred up the people to be
disgusted with the Lutheran errors.' The members of the Leipzig
university kept peevishly aloof from their brethren of Wittenberg
throughout the disputation, while paying all possible homage to Eck.
When Luther one day entered a church, the monks who were conducting
service hastily took away the monstrance and the elements, to avoid
having them defiled by his presence. And yet he was afterwards
reproached for neglecting to go to church at Leipzig. In the
hostelries where the Wittenberg students lodged, such violent scenes
occurred between them and their Leipzig brethren, that halberdiers
had to be stationed at the tables to keep order.

Duke George invited the heretic, together with Eck and Carlstadt, to
his own table, and to a private audience as well. So frank and
genial was he, and so intent on making himself acquainted with
Luther and his cause. Luther spoke of him then as a good, pious
prince, who knew how to speak in princely fashion. The Duke,
however, told him at that audience, that the Bohemians entertained
great expectations of him; and yet George, who on his mother's side
was grand-son to Podiebrad, King of Bohemia, was anxious to have all
taint of the hateful Bohemian heresy most carefully avoided. On this
point Luther remarked to him that he knew well how to distinguish
between the pipe and the piper, and was only sorry to see how
accessible princes might be to the influence of foreign agitations.
Leipzig altogether must have been a strange and uncomfortable
atmosphere for Luther.

On Monday, July 4, he entered the lists with Eck. On the morning of
that day he signed the conditions, which had been arranged in spite
of his protest; but he stated that, against the verdict of the
judges, whatever it might be, he maintained the right of appeal to a
Council, and would not accept the Papal curia as his judge. The
protocol on this point ran as follows: 'Nevertheless Dr. Martin has
stipulated for his appeal, which he has already announced, and so
far as the same is lawful, will in no wise abandon his claim
thereto. He has stipulated further that, for reasons touching
himself, the report of this disputation shall not be submitted for
approval to the Papal court.'

[Illustration: Fig. 15.--LUTHER. (From an engraving of Cranach, in

The appearance of Luther at this disputation has given occasion for
the first description of his person which we possess from the pen of
a contemporary. Mosellanus, already mentioned, says of him in a
letter: 'He is of middle stature, his body thin, and so wasted by
care and study, that nearly all his bones may be counted. He is in
the prime of life. His voice is clear and melodious. His learning
and his knowledge of Scripture are extraordinary; he has nearly
everything at his fingers' ends. Greek and Hebrew he understands
sufficiently well to give his judgment on the interpretation of the
Scriptures. In speaking, he has a vast store of subjects and words
at his command; he is moreover refined and sociable in his life and
manners; he has no rough Stoicism or pride about him, and he
understands how to adapt himself to different persons and times. In
society he is lively and witty. He is always fresh, cheerful, and at
his ease, and has a pleasant countenance, however hard his enemies
may threaten him, so that one cannot but believe that Heaven is with
him in his great undertaking. Most people however reproach him with
wanting moderation in polemics, and with being more cutting than
befits a theologian and one who propounds something new in sacred
matters.' His ability as a disputant was afterwards acknowledged by
Eck, who in referring to this tourney, quoted Aristotle's remark
that when two men dispute together, each of whom has learned the
art, there is sure to be a good disputation.

Eck is described by Mosellanus as a man of a tall, square figure,
with a voice fit for a public crier, but more coarse than distinct,
and with nothing pleasant about it; with the mouth, the eyes, and
the whole appearance of a butcher or soldier, but with a most
remarkable memory. In power of memory and elocution he surpassed
even Luther; but in solidity and real breadth of learning, impartial
men like Pistoris gave the palm to Luther. Eck is said to have
imitated the Italians in his great animation of speech, his
declamation, and gesticulations with his arms and his whole body.
Melancthon even said in a letter after the disputation, 'Most of us
must admire Eck for his manifold and distinguished intellectual
gifts.' Later on he calls him, 'Eckeckeck, the daws'-voice.' At any
rate Eck displayed a rare power and endurance in those Leipzig days,
and understood above all how to pursue with cleverness the real
object he had in view in his contest with Luther.

The two began at once with that point which Eck had singled out as
the chief object of debate, and about which Luther had advanced his
boldest proposition, namely, the question of the Papal power.

[Illustration: Fig 16.--DR. JOHN ECK. (From an old woodcut.)]

After lengthy discussions on the evidence of texts of Scripture; on
the old Fathers of the Church, to whom the Papal supremacy was
unknown; on the Western Church of middle ages, by whom that
supremacy was acknowledged at an earlier period than Luther would
admit; on the non-subjection to Rome of Eastern Christendom, to whom
Luther referred, and whom Eck with a light heart put outside the
pale of salvation, Eck on the second day of the disputation passed,
after due premeditation, from the ecclesiastical authorities he had
quoted in favour of the Divine right of the Papal primacy, to the
statements of the English heretic Wicliffe, and the Bohemian Huss,
who had denied this right, and had therefore been justly condemned.
He was bound to notice them, he said, since, in his own frail and
humble judgment, Luther's thesis favoured in the highest degree the
errors of the Bohemians, who, it was reported, wished him well for
his opinions. Luther answered him as he had done in each case
before. He condemned the separation of the Bohemians from the
Catholic Church, on the ground that the highest right derived from
God was that of love and the Spirit, and he repudiated the reproach
which Eck sought to cast upon him. But he declared at the same time
that the Bohemians on that point had never yet been refuted. And
with perfect self-conviction and calm reflection he proceeded to
assert that among the articles of Huss some were fundamentally
Christian and Evangelical, such as, for example, his statements that
there was only one Universal Church (to which even Greek Christendom
had always and still belonged), and that the belief in the supremacy
of the Church of Rome was not necessary to salvation. No man, he
added, durst impose upon a Christian an article of belief which was
antiscriptural; the judgment of an individual Christian must be
worth more than that of the Pope or even of a Council, provided he
has a better ground for it.

That moment, when Luther spoke thus of the doctrines of Huss, a
heretic already condemned by a Council and proscribed in Germany,
was the most impressive and important in the whole disputation. An
eye-witness, who sat below Duke George and Barnim, relates that the
Duke, on hearing the words, shouted out in a voice heard by all the
assembly, 'A plague upon it!' and shook his head, and put both hands
to his sides. The whole audience, variously as they thought of the
assertion, must have been fairly astounded. Luther, it was true, had
already stated in writing that a Council could err. But now he
declared himself for principles which a Council, namely that of
Constance, solemnly appointed and unanimously recognised by the
whole of Western Christendom, had condemned, and thus openly accused
that Council of error in a decision of the most momentous
importance. Nay more, that decision had been concurred in by the
very men who, while recognising the Papal primacy, strenuously
defended against Papal despotism the rights of General Councils, and
of the nations and states which they represented. The Western
Catholic Church entertained, as we have seen, a diversity of views
as to the relative authority of the Popedom, as an institution of
Christ, and that which appertained to Councils. Luther now, by
denying the Divine institution and authority of the Papacy, seemed
to have broken with all authority whatsoever existing in the Church,
and with every possible exercise of the same.

Luther himself does not appear to have considered at the moment this
extent of his acknowledgment of the 'Christian' character of some of
Huss's articles, nor to have adequately reflected on the attitude of
direct opposition in which it placed him to the Council of
Constance. When Eck declared it 'horrible' that the 'reverend
father' had not shrunk from contradicting that holy Council,
assembled by consent of all Christendom, Luther interrupted him with
the words, 'It is not true that I have spoken against the Council of
Constance.' He then went on to draw the inference that the authority
of the Council, if it erred in respect of those articles, was
consequently fallible altogether.

Some days later, and after further consideration, Luther produced
four propositions of Huss, which were perfectly Christian, although
they had been formally rejected by the Council. He sought means,
nevertheless, to preserve for the Council its dignity. As for these
rejected articles, he said, it had declared only some to be
heretical, and others to be simply mistaken, and the latter, at all
events, must not be counted as heresies--nay, he took the liberty of
supposing that the former were interpolations in the text of the
Council's resolutions. He would grant, further, that the decisions
of a Council in matters of faith must at all times be accepted. And
in order to guard himself against any misunderstanding and
misconstruction, he once broke off from the Latin, in which the
whole disputation had been conducted, and declared in German that he
in no way desired to see allegiance renounced to the Romish Church,
but that the only question in dispute was whether its supremacy
rested on Divine right--that is to say, on direct Divine institution
in the New Testament, or whether its origin and character were
simply such as the Imperial Crown, for example, possessed in
relation to the German nation. He was well aware how charges of
heresy and apostasy were raised against him, and how industriously
Eck had promoted them. It was only with pain and inward struggles
that he stood out, Bible in hand, against the Council of Constance
and such a general gathering of Western Christendom. But not a step
would he go towards any recognition of the Papacy as an institution
resting on Scripture. He insisted that even a Council could not
compel him to do this, or make an essential article of Christian
belief out of anything not found in the Bible. Again and again he
declared that even a Council could err.

For five whole days they contested this main point of the
disputation, without arriving at any further result.

The other subjects of discussion, relating to purgatory,
indulgences, and penance, were after this of very little importance.
With regard to indulgences even Eck now displayed striking
moderation. The dispute on the correct conception of purgatory led
to a new and important declaration by Luther as to the power of the
Church in relation to Scripture. Eck quoted as Biblical proof a
passage from the Apocryphal Books of the Old Testament, which
although not originally included in the records of the Old Covenant,
had been accepted by the middle ages as of equal authority with the
other Biblical writings. For the first time Luther now protested
against the equal value thus assigned to them, and especially
against the Church conferring upon them an authority they did not

The disputation between Eck and Luther lasted till July 13. Luther
concluded his argument with the words: 'I am sorry that the learned
doctor only dips into Scripture as deep as the water-spider into the
water--nay, that he seems to fly from it as the devil from the
Cross. I prefer, with all deference to the Fathers, the authority of
Scripture, which I herewith recommend to the arbiters of our cause.'

After this Carlstadt and Eck had only a short passage of arms. The
disputation was to be concluded on the 15th, as Duke George wished
to receive the Elector of Brandenburg on a visit to the
Pleissenburg. With regard to the universities, to whom the report
of the disputation was to be submitted, those agreed upon were Paris
and Erfurt, but neither of the two would undertake so responsible a

Eck left the disputation with triumph, applauded by his friends and
rewarded by Duke George with favours and honours. He followed up his
fancied victory by further exciting the people against Luther, and
pointing out to them in particular the sympathy between him and
Huss. He wrote even to the Elector Frederick from Leipzig, proposing
that he should have Luther's books burnt. The two men henceforth and
for ever were mutual enemies, with no dealings together but those of
heated controversy in writing. Eck's chief efforts were directed to
securing Luther's formal and public condemnation.

At Leipzig Luther had been watched with the utmost suspicion. The
common people had actually been told that there was something
mysterious in the little silver ring he wore on his finger, very
likely a small charm with the devil inside. It was even remarked on
and wondered at that he carried a bunch of flowers in his hand,
which he would look at and smell. From that time probably originated
the saying of a devout old dame at Leipzig, as published by one of
his theological opponents, the old woman having once lived at
Eisleben with Luther's mother, that her son Martin was the fruit of
an embrace by the devil.

For real information, however, about Luther at Leipzig, and the
impression he produced by his arguments, more is to be gathered from
the effect of his public appearance there during this disputation,
than from a whole heap of printed matter. We allude not only to the
educated laity and men of learning, but to the mass of the people
who shared in the excitement caused by this controversy. A few
months later we hear an opponent complain that Luther's teaching had
given rise to so much squabbling, discord, and rebellion among the
people, that 'there was absolutely not a town, village, or house,
where men were not ready to tear each other to pieces on his

Luther returned to Wittenberg full of dejection. The time at Leipzig
had only been wasted; the disputation had been unworthy of the name;
Eck and his friends there had cared nothing whatever about the
truth. Eck, he said, had made more clamour in an hour than he or
Carlstadt could have done in a couple of years, and yet all the time
the question at issue was one of peaceful and abstruse theology. His
disappointment, however, did not refer, as people perhaps might have
imagined, to the treatment his thesis on the Papal primacy had met
with, or to any embarrassment occasioned him on that account. On the
contrary, while complaining of the unworthy character of the
disputation, he excepted that particular thesis. He alluded rather
to the superficiality and want of interest with which such important
questions as justification by faith, and the sinfulness attaching
even to the best works of man, were passed over or evaded. On all
the points which he had wished to contend for and expound at
Leipzig, he now published further explanations. And with regard to
the Councils, he declared in still stronger terms than at Leipzig,
that they certainly might err and had erred even in the most
important matters; one had no right to identify either them or the
Pope with the Church.

From this he proceeded to explain his true relations with the
Bohemians. The theologian Jerome Emser, a friend of Eck, and a
favourite of Duke George, contributed in his own way to this end. He
had had a hot discussion with Luther before the disputation at
Leipzig, in which he reproached him with causing trouble in the
Church. He now prepared a remarkable public letter to a high
Catholic ecclesiastic at Prague, of the name of Zack. Whilst
asserting in it that the Bohemian schismatics appealed to Luther and
had actually offered prayers and held services for him during the
disputation, he announced, with feigned kindness to Luther, that the
latter, on the contrary, had eagerly repudiated at Leipzig any
fellowship with them, and had denounced their apostasy from Rome.
Luther detected in all this, mere trickery and malice, and we also
can only recognise in it a crafty attempt to ruin Luther's position
all round. If, says Luther, he were to accept in silence the praise
here meted out to him, he would seem to have retracted his whole
teaching, and laid down his arms before Eck; if, on the other hand,
he were to disclaim it, he would be cried down at once as a patron
of the Bohemians, and charged with base ingratitude to Emser.
Accordingly, in a small pamphlet, he broke out, full of wrath and
bitterness, against Emser, who replied to him in a similar tone. But
he represented the case with great clearness. If his doctrines had
pleased the Bohemians, he would not retract them on that account. He
had no desire to screen their errors, but he found on their side
Christ, the Scriptures, and the sacraments of the Church, and
therewith a Christian hatred of the worldliness, immorality, and
arrogance of the Romish clergy. Nay, he rejoiced to think that his
doctrines pleased them, and would be glad if they pleased Jews and
Turks, and Emser, who was enthralled in godless error, and even Eck

Letters were now already on the way to Luther from two ecclesiastics
of Prague, Paduschka and Rossdalovicky, members of the Utraquist
Hussite Church, which in opposition to Rome insisted on the
sacramental cup being given to the laity. They assured Luther of
their joyful and prayerful sympathy with him in his struggle. One of
them sent him a present of knives of Bohemian workmanship, the other
a writing of Huss upon the Church. Luther accepted the presents with
cordiality, and sent them his own writings in return. With regard to
separation from the Romish Church, the experience of Huss plainly
showed him how impossible that Church made it, even to one whose
heart was heavy at the thought of leaving her, to remain in her

Thus the contest at Leipzig was now over, whilst in the meantime at
Frankfort-on-the-Main, after the election of the new Emperor, the
Elector Frederick and the Archbishop of Treves consulted together
about an examination of Luther before the Archbishop, as proposed by
Miltitz. Both wished to postpone it till the Diet, then about to be
held. Miltitz, however, notwithstanding the result of the
disputation and the further declarations of Luther, still clung to
his plan of mediation. He arranged once more an interview with
Luther on October 9 at Liebenwerda, when the latter renewed his
promise to appear before the Archbishop, but he failed to induce the
Elector to let Luther travel with him to the Archbishop. For the
delivery of the golden rose, when it at last took place, he was
richly rewarded with money. But the fruitlessness of his
negotiations with Luther had become apparent.



Luther looked upon his disputation at Leipzig as an idle waste of
time. He longed to get back to his work at Wittenberg. He remained,
in fact, devoted with his whole soul to his official duties there,
though to the historian, of course, his work and struggles in the
broader and general arena of the Church engage the most attention.
He might well quarrel with the occasions that constantly called him
out to it, as so many interruptions to his proper calling.

His energy there in the pulpit was as constant as his energy in the
professor's chair. He glowed with zeal to unfold the one truth of
salvation from its original source, the Scriptures, and to declare
it and impress it on the hearts of his young pupils and his
Wittenberg congregation, of educated and uneducated, of great and
small. But he also wished to lay it before his students as a truth
for life. With this object, he continued active with his pen, both
in the Latin and the German languages. He was glad to turn to this
from the questions of ecclesiastical controversy, which had formed
the subject of his disputation, and of the writings referring to it.
It was enough for him to show forth simply the merciful love of God
and of the Saviour Christ, to point out the simple road of faith,
and to destroy all trust in mere outward works, in one's own merit
and virtue. Only to this extent, and because the authority pretended
by the Church was opposed to this truth and this road to salvation,
he was forced here also, and in face of his congregation, to wield
the sword of his eloquence against that authority, and this he did
with a zeal regardless of consequences. In all that he did, in his
lectures as well as in his sermons, in his exposition of God's word
in particular, as in his own polemics, he always threw his whole
personality into the subject. We see him inwardly moved and often
elated by the joyful message which he himself had learned, and had
to announce to others, inspired by love to his fellow-Christians,
whom he would wish to help save, and zealous even to anger for the
cause of his Lord. At the same time, it cannot be denied that he was
often carried away by the vehemence of his views, which saw at once
in every opponent an uncompromising enemy to the truth; and that his
naturally passionate temperament was often powerfully stirred,
though even then his whole tone and demeanour was blended with
outbursts of the noblest and the purest zeal.

In his academical lectures Luther still remained faithful to that
path which he had struck out on entering the theological faculty. He
wished simply to propound the revealed word of God, by explaining
the books of the Old and New Testaments; though he took pains in
these lectures, in which he devoted several terms to the study of a
single book, to explain thoroughly and impressively the most
important doctrines of Christian faith and conduct. Thus he occupied
himself during the time of the contest about indulgences, and after
the autumn of 1516, with the Epistle to the Galatians, wherein he
found comprised clearly and briefly the fundamental truth of
salvation, the doctrine of the way of faith, of God's laws of
requirements and punishments, and of gospel grace. He then turned
anew to the Psalms, dissatisfied with his own earlier exposition of
them. His exposition of St. Paul's Epistle he had sent to the press
whilst engaged in his preparations for the Leipzig disputation. His
opponents, he says here, might busy themselves with their much
larger affairs, with their indulgences, their Papal bulls, and the
power of the Church, and so on; he would retire to smaller matters,
to the Holy Scriptures and to the Apostle, who called himself not a
prince of Apostles, but the least of the Apostles. He also now began
the printing of his work on the Psalms.

Crowds of listeners gathered around him; his audience at times
numbered upwards of four hundred. During the three years following
the outbreak of the quarrel about indulgences, the number of those
who matriculated annually at the university increased threefold.
Luther wrote to Spalatin that the number of students increased
mightily, like an overflowing river; the town could no longer
contain them, many had to leave again for want of dwellings.

To this prosperity of the university Melancthon especially
contributed. He had been appointed, as we have already mentioned,
first professor of Greek by the Elector, and in addition to the
young theologians, he attracted a number of other students to his
lectures. Of still greater importance for Luther and his work, was
the personal friendship and community of ideas, convictions, and
aspirations which had bound the two men together in close intimacy
from their first acquaintance. Their paths in life had hitherto been
very different. Philip Schwarzerd, surnamed Melancthon, born in 1497
of a burgher's family of the little town of Bretten in the
Palatinate, had passed a happy youth, and harmoniously and
peacefully developed into manhood. He had had from early life
capable teachers for his education, and was under the protection of
the great philologist Reuchlin, who was a brother of his
grandmother. He then showed gifts of mind wonderfully rich and early
ripening. Besides the classics, he learnt mathematics, astronomy,
and law. He also studied the Scriptures, grew to love them, and even
when a youth had made himself familiar with their contents, without
having had first to learn to know their worth by a heavy sense of
inward need, by inward struggles or a long unsatisfied hunger of the
soul. Thus, at seventeen he was already master of arts, and at
twenty-one was appointed professor at Wittenberg. The young man,
with an insignificant, delicate frame, and a shy, awkward demeanour,
yet with a handsome, powerful forehead, an intellectual eye, and
refined, thoughtful features, effaced at once, by his inaugural
address, any doubts arising from his youthful appearance.

[Illustration: FIG. 17.--MELANCTHON. (From a Portrait by Durer.)]

In this speech, however, he already declared that the chief object
of classical studies was to teach theologians to draw from the
original fount of Holy Scripture. He himself delivered a lecture on
the New Testament immediately after one on Homer. And it was the
Lutheran conception of the doctrine of salvation which he adopted in
his own continued study of the Bible.

The year of his arrival at Wittenberg he celebrated Luther in a
poem. He accompanied him to Leipzig. During the disputation there he
is said to have assisted his friend with occasional suggestions or
notes of argument, and thereby to have roused the anger of Eck. He
now took the lowest theological degree of bachelor, to qualify
himself for giving theological lectures on Scripture. He who from
early youth had enjoyed so abundantly the treasures of Humanistic
learning, and had won for himself the admiration of an Erasmus, now
found in this study of Scripture a 'heavenly ambrosia' for his soul,
and something much higher than all human wisdom. And already, in
independent judgment on the traditional doctrines of the Church, he
not only kept pace with Luther but even outwent him. It was he who
attacked the dogma of transubstantiation, according to which in the
mass the bread and wine of the sacrament are so changed by the
consecration of the priest into the body and blood of our Lord, that
nothing really remains of their original substance, but they only
appear to the senses to retain it.

Luther at once recognised with joy the marvellous wealth of talent
and knowledge in his new colleague, whose senior he was by fourteen
years, besides being far ahead of him in theological study and
experience. We have seen, during Luther's stay at Augsburg, how
closely his heart clung to Melancthon and to the 'sweet intercourse'
with him; we know of no other instance where Luther formed a
friendship so rapidly. The more intimately he knew him, the more
highly he esteemed him. When Eck spoke slightingly of him as a mere
paltry grammarian, Luther exclaimed, 'I, the doctor of philosophy
and theology, am not ashamed to yield the point, if this
grammarian's mind thinks differently to myself; I have done so often
already, and do the same daily, because of the gifts with which God
has so richly filled this fragile vessel; I honour the work of my
God in him.' 'Philip,' he said at another time, 'is a wonder to us
all; if the Lord will, he will beat many Martins as the mightiest
enemy to the devil and Scholasticism;' and again, 'This little Greek
is even my master in theology.' Such were Luther's words, not
uttered to particular friends of Melancthon, in order to please
them, nor in public speeches or poetry, in which at that time
friends showered fulsome flattery on friends, but in confidential
letters to his own most intimate friends, to Spalatin, Staupitz, and
others. So willing and ready was he, whilst himself on the road to
the loftiest work and successes, to give precedence to this new
companion whom God had given him. Luther also interested himself
with Spalatin to obtain a higher salary for Melancthon, and thus
keep him at Wittenberg. In common with other friends, he endeavoured
to induce him to marry; for he needed a wife who would care for his
health and household better than he did himself. His marriage
actually took place in 1520, after he had at first resisted, in
order to allow no interruption to his highest enjoyment, his learned

At the university Luther was also busily engaged with the necessary
preparations for many lectures that were not theological. He
steadily persisted in his efforts to secure the appointment of a
competent professor of Hebrew. He also worked hard to get a
qualified printer, the son of the printer Letter at Leipzig, to
settle at the university, and set up there for the first time a
press for three languages, German, Latin, and Greek. For everything
of this kind that was submitted to the Elector, who took a constant
interest in the prosperity of the university, his friend Spalatin
was his confidential intermediary. As early as 1518 Luther had
expressed to him the wish and hope that Wittenberg, in honour of
Frederick the Wise, should, by a new arrangement of study, become
the occasion and pattern for a general reform of the universities.
In addition to his constant and arduous labours of various kinds, he
took part also in the social intercourse of his colleagues, although
he complained of the time he lost by invitations and entertainments.

In the town church at Wittenberg he continued his active duties not
only on Sundays but during the week. His custom was to expound
consecutively in a course of sermons the Old and New Testaments, and
he explained particularly to children and those under age, the
Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments. This work alone, he once
complained to Spalatin, required properly a man for it and nothing
else. These services he gave to the town congregation gratuitously.
The magistracy were content to recognise them by trifling presents
now and then; for instance, by a gift of money on his return from
Leipzig, where he had had to live on his own very scanty means. In
simple, powerful, and thoroughly popular language, Luther sought to
bring home to the people who filled his church, the supreme truth he
had newly gained. Here in particular he employed his own peculiar
German, as he employed it also in his writings.

Both he and Melancthon formed a close personal intimacy with several
worthy townsmen of Wittenberg. The most prominent man among them,
the painter Lucas Cranach, from Bamberg, owner of a house and estate
at Wittenberg, the proprietor of an apothecary's and also of a
stationer's business, besides being a member of the magistracy, and
finally burgomaster, belonged to the circle of Luther's nearest
friends. Luther took a genuine pleasure in Cranach's art, and the
latter, in his turn, soon employed it in the service of the

[Illustration: Fig. l8.--LUCAS CRANACH. (From a Portrait by

While occupied thus in delivering simple and practical sermons to
his congregation in the town, he continued to publish written works
of the same character and purport, in addition to his labours in the
field of learned ecclesiastical controversy, thus showing the love
with which he worked for them at large in this matter. These
writings were little books, tracts, so-called sermons. It did not
disturb him, he once said, to hear daily of certain people who
despised his poverty because he only wrote little books and German
sermons for the unlearned laymen. 'Would to God,' he said, 'I had
all my life long and with all my power served a layman to his
improvement; I should then be content to thank God, and would very
willingly after that let all my little books perish. I leave it to
others to judge whether writing large books and a great number of
them constitutes art and is useful to Christianity; I consider
rather, even if I cared to write large books after their art, I
might do that quicker, with God's help, than making a little sermon
in my fashion. I have never compelled or entreated anyone to listen
to me or read my sermons. I have given freely to the congregation of
what God has given to me and I owe to them; whoever does not like
His word, let him read and listen to others.'

In this spirit he composed, after the Leipzig disputation, a little
consolatory tract for Christians, full of reflection and wisdom. He
dedicated it to the Elector, an illness of whom had prompted him to
write it. Even his most bigoted opponents could not withhold their
approbation of the work. Luther's pupil and biographer Mathesius,
thought there had never been such words of comfort written before in
the German language. In a similar strain Luther wrote about
preparation for dying, the contemplation of Christ's sufferings, and
other matters of like kind. He explained to the people in a few
pages the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer. At the
desire of the Elector, conveyed to him through Spalatin, and
notwithstanding the difficulty he had in finding time for such a
large work, he applied himself to a practical exposition of the
Epistles and Gospels read in church, intended principally for the
use of preachers.

At the same time he made steady progress with his own Scriptural
researches, which led him away more and more from the main articles
of the purely traditional doctrines of the Church. And the light
which dawned upon him in these studies he took pains to impart at
once to his congregation. But it was no mere negative or
hypercritical interest that led him on and induced him to write. In
connection with the saving efficacy of faith, which he had gathered
from the Bible, new truths, full of import, unfolded themselves
before him. On the other hand, such dogmas of the Church as he found
to have no warrant in Scripture, nor to harmonise with the
Scriptural doctrine of salvation, frequently faded from his notice,
and perished even before he was fully conscious of their hollowness.
The new knowledge had ripened with him before the old husk was
thrown away.

Thus he now learnt and taught others to understand anew the meaning
of the Christian sacrament of the Lord's Supper. The Church of the
middle ages beheld with wonder in this sacrament the miracle of
transubstantiation. The body of our Lord, moreover, here present as
the object of adoration, was to serve above all as the bloodless
repetition of the bloody sacrifice for sin on Golgotha, to be
offered to God for the good of Christendom and mankind. To offer
that sacrifice was the highest act which the priesthood could boast
of, as being thought worthy to perform by God. This whole
mysterious, sacred transaction was clothed in the mass, for the eye
and ear of the members of the congregation, with a number of
ritualistic forms. In giving them, moreover, the consecrated
elements in the sacrament, the priest alone partook of the cup.
Luther, on the contrary, found the whole meaning of that institution
of the departing Saviour, according to His own words, 'Take, eat,
and drink,' in the blessed and joyful communion here prepared by Him
for the congregation of receivers, each one of whom was verily to
partake of it in faith. Here, as he taught in a sermon on the
Sacrament in 1519, they were to celebrate and enjoy real communion;
communion with the Saviour, who feeds them with His flesh and blood;
communion with one another, that they, eating of one bread, should
become one cake, one bread, one body united in love; communion in
all the benefits purchased by their Saviour and Head; and communion
also in all gifts of grace bestowed upon His people, in all
sufferings to be endured, and in all virtues alive in their hearts.
Above all, he appealed to Christ's own words, that He had shed His
blood for the forgiveness of sins. Here at His holy Supper, He
wished to dispense this forgiveness, and, with it, eternal life to
all His guests; He pledged it to them here by the gift of His own
body. Luther, but only incidentally, remarked in this sermon, when
speaking of the cup: 'I should be well pleased to see the Church
decree in a General Council, that communion in _both kinds_
should be given to the laity as to the priests.' Even then he
regarded as unfounded that idea of sacrifice at the mass which in
his later writings he so strenuously denied and combated. At the
same time he pointed out the sacrifice which Christendom, and indeed
every Christian, must continually offer to God, namely, the
sacrifice to God of himself and all that he possesses, offered with
inward humility, prayer, and thankfulness. The question as to a
change of the elements, which Melancthon had already denied, Luther
passed by as an unnecessary subtlety. Lastly, together with the
sacrifice supposed to be offered by the priest, he dismissed also
the notion of a peculiar priesthood; for with the real sacrifice
offered by Christians, as he understood it, all became priests.
Instead of the difference theretofore existing between priests and
laymen, he would recognise no difference among Christians but such
as was conferred by the public ministration of God's word and

Whilst discoursing in a sermon, in a similar manner, on the inner
meaning of baptism, he passed from the vow of baptism to the vow of
chastity, so highly prized in the Catholic Church. He admits this
vow, but represents the former one as so immeasurably higher and
all-embracing, as to deprive the Church of her grounds for attaching
such value to the latter.

He enlarged on moral and religious life in general in a long sermon
'On Good Works,' which he dedicated early in 1520 to Duke John, the
brother of the Elector. In clear and earnest language he explained
how faith itself, on which everything depended, was a matter of
innermost moral life and conduct, nay, the very highest work
conformable to God's will; and further, how that same faith cannot
possibly remain merely passive, but, on the contrary, the faithful
Christian must himself become pleasing to God, on whose grace he
relies, must love Him again, and fulfil His holy Will with energy
and activity in all duties and relations of life. These duties he
proceeds to explain according to the Ten Commandments. He will not,
however, have the conscience further laden with duties imposed by
the Church, for which no corresponding moral obligation exists. He
turns then with earnest exhortation to rebuke certain common faults
and crimes in the public life of his nation, the gluttony and
drunkenness, the excessive luxury, the loose living, and the usury,
which was then the subject of so much complaint. Against this last
practice he preached a special sermon, in which, agreeably with the
older teaching of the Church, he spoke of all interest taken for
money as questionable, inasmuch as Jesus had exhorted only to
lending without looking for a return. The creditor, at any rate, he
said, should take his share of the risks to which his capital, in
the hands of the debtor, was exposed from accident or misadventure.

The essence of the Church of Christ he placed in that inner
communion of the faithful with one another and their heavenly Head,
on which he dwelt with such emphasis in connection with the
sacrament of the Lord's Supper. For the stability and prosperity of
this Church he considered no externals necessary beyond the
preaching of God's Word and the administration of the Sacraments, as
ordained by Christ,--no Romish Popedom, nor any other hierarchical
arrangements. But in the same spirit of love and brotherly
fellowship with which he embraced Hussites, as well as the Eastern
Christians who were denounced as Schismatics, he still wished to
hold fast to the visible community of the Church of Rome, declining
to identify it with the corrupt Romish Curia. That love, he said,
should make him assist and sympathise with the Church, even in her
infirmities and faults.

He was anxious also to fulfil personally all the minor duties
incumbent on him as a monk and a priest. And yet the higher
obligations of his calling, that incessant activity in proclaiming
the word, both by speech and writing, were of much greater
importance in his eyes. He performed with diligence such duties as
the regular repetition of prayers, singing, reading the
_Horae_, and never dreamed of venturing to omit them. He
relates afterwards, how wonderfully industrious he had been in this
respect. Often, if he happened to neglect these duties during the
week, he would make up for it in the course of the Sunday from early
morning till the evening, going without his breakfast and dinner. In
vain his friend Melancthon represented to him that, if the neglect
were such a sin, so foolish a reparation would not atone for it.

Measures, however, were now taken by the Romish Church and its
representatives, which, by attacking the word, as he preached it,
drove him further into the battle.

It will be remembered that the Papal bull, directed against his
theses on indulgences, had not actually mentioned him by name.
Contemptuously, therefore, as the Pope had spoken of him as an
execrable heretic, he had never yet uttered a formal public judgment
upon him. Two theological faculties, those of the universities of
Cologne and Louvain, were the first to pronounce an official
condemnation of him and his writings. The latter were to be burnt,
and their author compelled publicly to recant. This sentence, though
pronounced after the disputation at Leipzig, related only to a small
collection of earlier writings. In a published reply he dismissed,
not without scorn, these learned divines, who, in a spirit of vain
self-exaltation and without the smallest grounds, had presumed to
pass sentence on Christian verities. Their boasting, he said, was
empty wind; their condemnation frightened him no more than the curse
of a drunken woman.

The first official pronouncement of a German bishop touched him more
nearly. This was a decree, issued in January 1520 by John, Bishop of
Meissen, from his residence at Stolpen. Herein, Luther's one
statement about the cup, which the Church, as he said, would do well
to restore to the laity, was picked out of his Sermon on the
Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. The people were to be warned against
the grievous errors and inconveniences which were bound to ensue
from such a step; and the sermon was to be suppressed. Luther was
now classed as an open ally of the Hussites, whose very ground of
contention was the cup. Duke George in alarm complained of him to
the Elector Frederick. It was rumoured about him even that he had
been born and educated among the Bohemians.

To this episcopal note, which he ridiculed in a pun, Luther
published a short and pungent reply in Latin and German. He was
particularly indignant that this occasion should have been seized to
tax his sermon with false doctrine, since the wish he there
expressed did not contain, as even his enemies must admit, anything
contrary to any dogma of the Church. For his enemies, no doubt, this
one point was of more practical importance than many deviations from
orthodoxy with which they might have reproached him in his doctrine
of salvation; for it concerned a jealously guarded privilege of
their priestly office, and was connected with the 'Bohemian heresy.'
As for Huss, however, Luther now confessed without reserve the
sympathy he shared with his evangelical teaching. He had learned to
know him better since the Leipzig disputation. He now wrote to
Spalatin: 'I have hitherto, unconsciously, taught everything that
Huss taught, and so did John Staupitz, in short we are all Hussites,
without knowing it. Paul and Augustine are also Hussites. I know
not, for very terror, what to think as to God's fearful judgments
among men, seeing that the most palpable evangelical truth known for
more than a century, has been burnt and condemned, and nobody has
ever ventured to say so.'

On the part of the Elector, Luther still continued to reap the
benefit of that placid good-will which disregarded all attempts,
either by friendly words or menaces, to set that prince against him.
Luther for this thanked him publicly, without meeting with any
demurrer from the Elector, as well in a dedication of the first part
of his new work on the Psalms, which he had sent to the press early
in 1519, as in another prefixed to his tract on Christian comfort,
already noticed. This last work he had been encouraged to write by
Spalatin, the confidant of the sick prince whom it was intended to
please. In the dedication prefixed to the Psalms, he expressed his
joy at hearing how Frederick had declared in a conversation reported
by Staupitz, that all sermons, made by man's wit and uttering man's
opinions, were cold and powerless, and the Scriptures alone inspired
with such marvellous power and majesty that one must needs say,
'There is something more there than mere Scribe and Pharisee; there
is the finger of God;' and how, when Staupitz had concurred in the
remark, the prince had taken his hand and said, 'Promise me that you
will always think thus.' Luther also thanked Frederick for having,
as all his subjects knew, taken more care of his safety than he had
done himself. In his thoughtlessness, he himself had thrown the die,
and had already prepared himself for the worst, and only hoped to be
able to retire into some corner, when his prince had come forward as
his champion.

At the same time the Elector remained constant in his efforts to
check the impetuosity of Luther. We have noticed how he encouraged
him, through Spalatin, to peaceful work in the service of Christian
preaching. When the episcopal missive from Stolpen threatened to
make the storm break out afresh, he sent, by Spalatin, an urgent
exhortation to Luther to restrain his pen, and further advised him
to send letters of explanation, in a conciliatory spirit, to Albert,
Archbishop of Magdeburg and Mayence, and the Bishop of Merseburg.

Luther wrote to both in a tone of perfect dignity. He begged them
not to lend an ear to the complaints and calumniations which were
being circulated against him, especially in reference to giving the
cup to the laity, and to the Papal power, until the matter had been
seriously examined. He spoke at the same time of malicious accusers,
who on those points held secretly the same opinions as himself.

But from this contest with the Bishop of Meissen he refused to
withdraw. To Spalatin he broke out again in February 1520, in terms
more decided than any he had previously given vent to, and which led
people to expect still sharper utterances. 'Do not suppose,' he
said, 'that the cause of Christ is to be furthered on earth in sweet
peace: the Word of God can never be set forth without danger and
disquiet: it is a Word of infinite majesty, it works great things,
and is wonderful among the great and the high; it slew, as the
prophet says (Psalm lxxviii. 31), the wealthiest of them, and smote
down the chosen ones of Israel. In this matter one must either
renounce peace or deny the Word; the battle is the Lord's, who has
not come to bring peace into the world.' Again he says: 'If you
would think rightly of the Gospel, do not believe that its cause can
be advanced without tumult, trouble, and uproar. You cannot make a
pen out of a sword: the Word of God is a sword; it is war,
overthrow, trouble, destruction, poison; it meets the children of
Ephraim, as Amos says, like a bear on the road, or like a lioness in
the wood.' Of himself he adds: 'I cannot deny that I am more violent
than I ought to be; they know it, and therefore should not provoke
the dog. How hard it is to moderate one's heat and one's pen you can
learn for yourself. That is the reason why I was always unwilling to
be forced to come forward in public; and the more unwilling I am,
the more I am drawn into the contest; that this happens so is due to
those scandalous libels which are heaped against me and the Word of
God. So shameful are they that, even if my heat and my pen did not
carry me away, a very heart of stone would be moved to seize a
weapon, how much more myself, who am hot and whose pen is not
entirely blunt.'

The two dignitaries of the Church answered not ungraciously. They
merely expressed an opinion that he was too violent, and that his
writings would have a questionable influence with the mass of the
people. They refrained from giving judgment on the matter; a proof
that, in the Catholic Church in Germany, the questions raised by
Luther could not then have been considered of such importance as the
upholders of the strict Papal system maintained and desired. Even
Albert, the Cardinal, Archbishop, and Primate of the German Church,
ventured to speak of the whole question about the Divine or merely
human right of the Papacy as an insignificant affair, which had but
little to do with real Christianity, and therefore should never have
become the occasion of such passionate dispute.

From Rome was now awaited the supreme judicial decision as to Luther
and his cause. The Pope had already in 1518 indicated clearly enough
to Frederick the Wise in what sense he intended to give this
decision. But it kept on being delayed, because, on the one hand, it
still appeared necessary to act with caution and consideration, and,
on the other, because Roman arrogance continued to underestimate the
danger of the German movement. Meanwhile Eck, by a report of his
disputation and by letters had stirred the fire at Rome. The
theologians of Cologne and Louvain worked in the same direction, and
called on the whole Dominican Order to assist them with their
influence. The Papal pretensions which Luther had disputed were now
for the first time proclaimed in all their fulness of audacity and
exaggeration. Luther's old opponent Prierias, in a new pamphlet,
extended them to the temporal as well as the spiritual sovereignty
of the world; the Pope, he said, was head of the Universe. Eck now
devoted an entire treatise to justifying the Divine right of the
Papal primacy, resting his proofs boldly, and without any attempt at
critical inquiry, on spurious old documents. With this book he
hastened in February 1520 to Rome, in order personally to push
forward and assist in publishing the bull of excommunication which
was to demolish his enemy and extinguish the flame he had kindled.

But Luther's work, in proportion as it advanced and became bolder,
had stirred already the minds of the people both wider and deeper.
Opponents of Rome who had risen up against her in other quarters, on
other grounds, and with other weapons, now ranged themselves upon
his side. Among all alike the ardour of battle grew the more
powerful and violent, the more it was attempted to smother them with
edicts of arbitrary power.



We have already seen how astonished Miltitz was at the sympathy with
Luther which he found among all classes of the German people. The
growth of this sympathy is shown in particular by the increasing
number of printed editions of his writings; the perfect freedom then
enjoyed by the press contributed largely to their wide circulation.
In 1520 alone there were more than a hundred editions of Luther's
works in German. Though the ordinary book-trade as now carried on
was then unknown, there were a multitude of colporteurs actively
employed in going with books from house to house, some of them
merely in the interests of their trade, others also as emissaries of
those who were friends of the cause, thus intended to be furthered.
As reading was a difficult matter to the masses, and even to many of
the higher classes, there were travelling students who went about to
different places, and proffered their assistance. The earnest,
deeply instructive contents of Luther's small popular tracts met the
needs of both the educated and uneducated classes, in a manner never
done by any other religious writings of that time, and served to
stimulate their appetite for more. And to this was added the strong
impression produced directly on their minds by the elementary
exposition of his doctrine, irreconcilable with all notions of the
Church system hitherto prevailing, and stigmatised by his enemies as
poison. All, in short, that this condemned heretic wrote, became
dear to the hearts of the people.

Luther found now, moreover, most valuable allies in the leading
champions of that Humanistic movement, the importance of which, as
regards the culture of the priesthood and the religious and
ecclesiastical development of that time, we had occasion to notice
during Luther's residence at the university of Erfurt. That
Humanism, more than anything else, represented the general
aspiration of the age to attain a higher standard of learning and
culture. The alliance between Luther and the Humanists inaugurated
and symbolised the union between this culture and the Evangelical

Luther, even before entering the convent, had formed a friendship with
at least some of the young 'poets,' or enthusiasts of this new learning.
Later on, when, after the inward struggles and heart-searchings of
those gloomy years of monastic experience, the light dawned upon him
of his Scriptural doctrine of salvation, we find him expressing his
sympathy and reverence for the two leading spirits of the movement,
Reuchlin and Erasmus; and this notwithstanding the fact that he never
approved the method of defence adopted by the supporters of the former,
nor could ever conceal his dislike of the attitude taken up by Erasmus
in regard to theology and religion.

Meanwhile, such Humanists as wished to enjoy the utmost possible
freedom for their own learned pursuits flocked around Reuchlin
against his literary enemies, and cared very little about the
authorities of the Church. The bold monk and his party excited
neither their interest nor their concern. Many of them thought of
him, no doubt, when he was engaged in the heat of the contest about
indulgences, as did Ulrich von Hutten, who wrote to a friend: 'A
quarrel has broken out at Wittenberg between two hot-headed monks,
who are screaming and shouting against each other. It is to be hoped
that they will eat one another up.' To such men the theological
questions at issue seemed not worth consideration. At the same time
they took care to pay all necessary respect to the princes of the
Church, who had shown favour to them personally and to their
learning, and did homage to them, notwithstanding much that must
have shocked them in their conduct as ecclesiastics. Thus Hutten did
not scruple to enter the service of the same Archbishop Albert who
had opened the great traffic in indulgences in Germany, but who was
also a patron of literature and art, and was only too glad to be
recognised publicly by an Erasmus. We hear nothing of any
remonstrances made to him by Erasmus himself. In the same spirit
that dictated the above remark of Hutten, Mosellanus, who opened
with a speech the disputation at Leipzig, wrote to Erasmus during
the preparations for that event. There will be a rare battle, he
said, and a bloody one, coming off between two Scholastics; ten such
men as Democritus would find enough to laugh over till they were
tired. Moreover, Luther's fundamental conception of religion, with
his doctrine of man's sinfulness and need of salvation, so far from
corresponding, was in direct antagonism with that Humanistic view of
life which seemed to have originated from the devotion to classical
antiquity, and to revive the proud, self-satisfied, independent
spirit of heathendom. Even in an Erasmus Luther had thought he
perceived an inability to appreciate his new doctrine.

Melancthon's arrival at Wittenberg was, in this respect, an event of
the first importance. This highly-gifted young man, who had united
in his person all the learning and culture of his time, whose mind
had unfolded in such beauty and richness, and whose personal
urbanity had so endeared him to men of culture wherever he went, now
found his true happiness in that gospel and in that path of grace
which Luther had been the first to make known. And whilst offering
the right hand of fellowship to Luther, he continued working with
energy in his own particular sphere, kept up his intimacy with his
fellow-labourers therein, and won their respect and admiration.
Humanists at a distance, meanwhile, must have noticed the fact, that
the most violent attacks against Luther proceeded from those very
quarters, as for instance, from Hoogstraten, and afterwards from the
theological faculty at Cologne, where Reuchlin had been the most
bitterly persecuted. At length the actual details of the disputation
between Luther and Eck opened men's eyes to the magnitude of the
contest there waged for the highest interests of Christian life and
true Christian knowledge, and to the greatness of the man who had
ventured single-handed to wage it.

At Erfurt Luther had found already in the spring of 1518, on his
return from the meeting of his Order at Heidelberg, in pleasing
contrast to the displeasure he had aroused among his old teachers
there, a spirit prevailing among the students of the university,
which gave him hope that true theology would pass from the old to
the young, just as once Christianity, rejected by the Jews, passed
from them to the heathen. Those well-wishers and advisers who took
his part at Augsburg, when he had to go thither to meet Caietan,
were friends of Humanistic learning. Among the earliest of those,
outside Wittenberg, who united that learning with the new tendency
of religious teaching, we find some prominent citizens of the
flourishing town of Nuremberg, where, as we have seen, Luther's old
friend Link was also actively engaged. Already before the contest
about indulgences broke out, the learned jurist Scheuerl of that
place had made friends with Luther, whom the next year he speaks of
as the most celebrated man in Germany. The most important of the
Humanists there, Willibald Pirkheimer, a patrician of high esteem
and an influential counsellor, and who had once held local military
command, corresponded with Luther, and after learning from him the
progress of his views and studies concerning the Papal power, made
his Leipzig opponent the object of a bitter anonymous satire, 'The
Polished Corner' (Eck). Another learned Nuremberger, the Secretary
of the Senate, Lazarus Spengler, was on terms of close Christian
fellowship with Luther: he published in 1519 a 'Defence and
Christian Answer,' which contained a powerful and worthy vindication
of Luther's popular tracts. Albert Durer also, the famous painter,
took a deep interest in Luther's evangelical doctrine, and revered
him as a man inspired by the Holy Ghost. Among the number of
theologians who ranked next to Erasmus, the well-known John
Oecolampadius, then a preacher at Augsburg, and almost of the same
age as Luther, came forward in his support, towards the end of 1519,
with a pamphlet directed against Eck. Erasmus himself in 1518, at
least in a private letter to Luther's friend Lange at Erfurt, of
which the latter we may be sure did not leave Luther in ignorance,
declared that Luther's theses were bound to commend themselves to
all good men, almost without exception; that the present Papal
domination was a plague to Christendom; the only question was
whether tearing open the wound would do any good, and whether it was
not conceivable that the matter could be carried through without an
actual rupture.

Luther, on his part, approached Reuchlin and Erasmus by letter. To
the former he wrote, at the urgent entreaty of Melancthon, in
December 1518, to the latter in the following March. Both letters
are couched in the refined language befitting these learned men, and
particularly Erasmus, and contain warm expressions of respect and
deference, though in a tone of perfect dignity, and free from the
hyperboles to which Erasmus was usually treated by his common
admirers. At the same time Luther was careful indeed to conceal the
other and less favourable side of his estimate of Erasmus, which he
had already formed in his own mind and expressed to his friends. We
can see how bent he was, notwithstanding, upon a closer intimacy
with that distinguished man.

Reuchlin, then an old man, would have nothing to do with Luther and
the questions he had raised. He even sought to alienate his nephew
Melancthon from him, by bidding him abstain from so perilous an

[Illustration: Fig. l9.--W. PIRKHEIMER. (From a Portrait by Albert

Erasmus replied with characteristic evasion. He had not yet read
Luther's writings, but he advised everyone to read them before
crying them down to the people. He himself believed that more was to
be gained by quietness and moderation than by violence, and he felt
bound to warn him in the spirit of Christ against all intemperate
and passionate language; but he did not wish to admonish Luther what
to do, but only to continue steadfastly what he was doing already.
The chief thought to which he gives expression is the earnest hope
that the movement kindled by Luther's writings would not give
occasion to opponents to accuse and suppress the 'noble arts and
letters.' A regard for these, which indeed were the object of his
own high calling, was always of paramount importance in his eyes.
Not content with attacking by means of ridicule the abuses in the
Church, Erasmus took a genuine interest in the improvement of its
general condition, and in the elevation and refinement of moral and
religious life, as well as of theological science; and the high
esteem he enjoyed made him an influential man among even the
superior clergy and the princes of the Church. But from the first he
recognised, as he says in his letter to Lange, and possibly better
than Luther himself, the difficulties and dangers of attacking the
Church system on the points selected by Luther. And when Luther
boldly anticipated the disturbances which the Word must cause in the
world, and dwelt on Christ's saying that He had come to bring a
sword, Erasmus shrank back in terror at the thought of tumult and
destruction. Conformably with the whole bent of his natural
disposition and character, he adhered anxiously to the peaceful
course of his work and the pursuit of his intellectual pleasures.
Questions involving deep principles, such as those of the Divine
right of the Papacy, the absolute character of Church authority, or
the freedom of Christian judgment, as founded on the Bible, he
regarded from aloof; notwithstanding that silence or concealment
towards either party, when once these principles were publicly put
in question, was bound to be construed as a denial of the truth.

We shall see how this same standpoint, from which this learned man
still retained his inward sympathy with Church matters, dictated
further his attitude towards Luther and the Reformation. For the
present, Luther had to thank the good opinion of Erasmus, cautiously
expressed though it was, for a great advancement of his cause. It
was valuable to Luther in regard to those who had no personal
knowledge of him, as giving them conclusive proof that his character
and conduct were irreproachable. His influence is apparent in the
answer of the Archbishop Albert to Luther, in its tone of gracious
reticence, and its remarks about needless contention. Erasmus had
written some time before to the Archbishop, contrasting the excesses
charged against Luther with those of the Papal party, and denouncing
the corruptions of the Church, and particularly the lack of
preachers of the gospel. Much to the annoyance of Erasmus, this
letter was published, and it worked more in Luther's favour than he

Those hopes which Luther had placed in the young students at Erfurt
were shortly fulfilled by the so-called 'poets' beginning now to
read and expound the New Testament. The theology, which, in its
Scholastic and monastic form, they regarded with contempt, attracted
them as knowledge of the Divine Word. Justus Jonas, Luther's junior
by ten years, a friend of Eoban Hess, and one of the most talented
of the circle of young 'poets,' now exchanged for theology the study
of the law, which he had already begun to teach. To his respect for
Erasmus was now added an enthusiastic admiration for Luther, the
courageous Erfurt champion of this new evangelical doctrine. A close
intimacy sprang up between Jonas and Luther, as also between Jonas
and Luther's friend Lange. Erasmus had persuaded him to take up
theology; Luther, on hearing of it in 1520, congratulated him on
taking refuge from the stormy sea of law in the asylum of the

None of the old Erfurt students, however, had cultivated Luther's
friendship more zealously than Crotus, his former companion at that
university; and this even from Italy, where his sympathies with
Luther had been stirred by the news from Germany, and where he had
learned to realise, from the evidence of his eyes, the full extent
of the scandals and evils against which Luther was waging war. He,
who in the 'Epistolae Virorum Obscurorum,' had failed to exhibit in
his satire the solemn earnestness which recommended itself to
Luther's taste and judgment, now openly declared his concurrence
with Luther's fundamental ideas of religion and theology, and his
high appreciation of Scripture and of the Scriptural doctrine of
salvation. He wrote repeatedly to him, reminding him of their days
together at Erfurt, telling him about the 'Plague-chair' at Rome,
and the intrigues carried on there by Eck, and encouraging him to
persevere in his work. Expressions common to the 'poets' of his
university days were curiously mingled in his letters with others of
a religious kind. He would like to glorify, as a father of their
fatherland, worthy of a golden statue and an annual festival, his
friend Martin, who had been the first to venture to liberate the
people of God, and show them the way to true piety. Not only from
Italy, but also after his return, he employed his characteristic
literary activity, by means of anonymous pamphlets, in the service
of Luther. It was he who, towards the end of 1519, sent from Italy
to Luther and Melancthon at Wittenberg, the Humanist theologian,
John Hess, afterwards the reformer of the Church at Breslau. Crotus
himself returned in the spring of 1520 to Germany.

[Illustration: Fig. 20.--ULRICH VON HUTTEN. (From an old woodcut.)]

Here these Humanist friends of the Lutheran movement had already
been joined by Crotus' personal friend, Ulrich von Hutten, who not
only could wield his pen with more vigour and acuteness than almost
all his associates, but who declared himself ready to take up the
sword for the cause he defended, and to call in powerful allies of
his own class to the fight. He sprang from an old Franconian family,
the heirs, not indeed of much wealth or property, but of an old
knightly spirit of independence. Hatred of monasticism and all that
belonged to it, must have been nursed by him from youth; for having
been placed, when a boy, in a convent, he ran away with the aid of
Crotus, when only sixteen. Sharing the literary tastes of his
friend, he learned to write with proficiency the poetical and
rhetorical Latin of the Humanists of that time. In spite of all his
irregularities, adventures, and unsettlement of habits, he had
preserved an elastic and elevated turn of mind, desirous of serving
the interests of a 'free and noble learning,' and a knightly
courage, which urged him to the fight with a frankness and
straightforwardness not often found among his fellow-Humanists.
Whilst laughing at Luther's controversy as a petty monkish quarrel,
he himself dealt a heavy blow to the traditional pretensions of the
Papacy by the republication of a work by the famous Italian Humanist
Laurentius Valla, long since dead, on the pretended donation of
Constantine, in which the writer exposed the forgery of the edict
purporting to grant the possession of Rome, Italy, and indeed the
entire Western world to the Roman see. This work Hutten actually
dedicated to Pope Leo himself. But what distinguished this knight
and Humanist above all the others who were contending on behalf of
learning and against the oppressions and usurpations of the Church
and monasticism, were his thoroughly German sympathies, and his zeal
for the honour and independence of his nation. He saw her enslaved
in ecclesiastical bondage to the Papal see, and at the mercy of the
avarice and caprice of Rome. He heard with indignation how scornfully
the 'rough and simple Germans' were spoken of in Italy, how even on
German soil the Roman emissaries openly paraded their arrogance, how
some Germans, unworthy of the name, pandered to such scorn and
contempt by a cringing servility which made them crouch before the
Papal chair and sue for favour and office. He warned them to prepare
for a mighty outburst of German liberty, already well-nigh strangled
by Rome. At the same time he denounced the vices of his own countrymen,
particularly that of drunkenness, and the proneness to luxury and
usurious dealing in trade and commerce, all of which, as we have
seen, had been complained of by Luther. Nor less than of the honour
of Germany herself, was he jealous of the honour and power of the
Empire. In all that he did he was guided, perhaps involuntarily, but
in a special degree, by the principles and interests of knighthood.
His order was indebted to the Empire for its chief support, although
the imperial authority no less than that of his own class, had sunk
in a great measure through the increasing power of the different
princes. In the prosperous middle class of Germany he saw the spirit
of trade prevailing to an excess, with its attendant evils. In the
firmly-settled regulations of law and order, which had been established
in Germany with great trouble at the end of the middle ages, he felt
most out of his element: he longed rather to resort to the old method
of force whenever he saw justice trampled on. And in this respect also
Hutten proved true to the traditions of knighthood.

But in the material power required to give effect to his ideas of
reform in the kindred spheres of politics and of the Church in her
external aspect, Hutten was entirely wanting. More than this, we
fail to find in him any clear and positive plans or projects of
reform, nor any such calm and searching insight into the relations
and problems before him as was indispensable for that object. His
call, however rousing and stirring it was, died away in the distance
of time and the dimness of uncertainty.

Hutten found, however, an active and powerful friend, and one versed
in war and politics, in Francis von Sickingen, the 'knight of manly,
noble, and courageous spirit,' as an old chronicler describes him.
He was the owner of fine estates, among them the strong castles of
Landstuhl near Kaiserslautern, and Ebernburg near Kreuznach, and had
already, in a number of battles conducted on his own account and to
redress the wrongs of others, given ample proof of his energy and
skill in raising hosts of rustic soldiery, and leading them with
reckless valour, in pursuit of his objects, to the fray. Hutten won
him over to support the cause of Reuchlin, still entangled in a
prosecution by his old accusers of heresy, Hoogstraten and the
Dominicans at Cologne. A sentence of the Bishop of Spires, rejecting
the charges of his opponents, and mulcting them in the costs of the
suit, had been annulled, at their instance, by the Pope. Against
them and against the Dominican Order in particular, Sickingen now
declared his open enmity, and his sympathy with the 'good old doctor
Reuchlin.' In spite of delay and resistance, they were forced to pay
the sum demanded. Meanwhile, no doubt under the influence of his
friend Crotus, Hutten's eyes were opened about the monk Luther.
During a visit in January 1520 to Sickingen at his castle of
Landstuhl, he consulted with him as to the help to be given to the
man now threatened with excommunication, and Sickingen offered him
his protection. Hutten at the same time proceeded to launch the most
violent controversial diatribes and satires against Rome; one in
particular, called 'The Roman Trinity,' wherein he detailed in
striking triplets the long series of Romish pretensions, trickeries,
and vexatious abuses. At Easter he held a personal interview at
Bamberg with Crotus, on his return from Italy.

For the furtherance of their objects and desires, in respect to the
affairs of Germany and the Church these two knights placed high
hopes in the new young Emperor, who had left Spain, and on the 1st
of July landed on the coast of the Netherlands. Sickingen had earned
merit in his election. He had hoped to find in him a truly German
Emperor, in contrast to King Francis of France, who was a competitor
for the imperial crown. The Pope, as we have seen, had opposed his
election; his chief advocate, on the contrary, was Luther's friend,
the Elector Frederick. Support was also looked for from Charles'
brother Ferdinand, as being a friend of arts and letters. Hutten
even hoped to obtain a place at his court.

[Illustration: Fig. 2l.--FRANCIS VON SICKINGEN. (From an old

On this side, therefore, and from these quarters, Luther was offered
a friendly hand.

We hear Hutten first mentioned by Luther in February 1520, in
connection with his edition of the work of Valla. This work, though
published two years before, had been made known to Luther then, for
the first time, by a friend. It had awakened his keenest interest;
the falsehoods exposed in its pages confirmed him in his opinion
that the Pope was the real Antichrist.

Shortly after, a letter from Hutten reached Melancthon, containing
Sickingen's offer of assistance; a similar communication forwarded
to him some weeks before, had never reached its destination.
Sickingen had charged Hutten to write to Luther, but Hutten was
cautious enough to make Melancthon the medium, in order not to let
his dealings with Luther be known. Sickingen, he wrote, invited
Luther, if menaced with danger, to stay with him, and was willing to
do what he could for him. Hutten added that Sickingen might be able
to do as much for Luther as he had done for Reuchlin; but Melancthon
would see for himself what Sickingen had then written to the monks.
He spoke, with an air of mystery, of negotiations of the highest
importance between Sickingen and himself; he hoped it would fare
badly with the Barbarians, that is, the enemies of learning,--and
all those who sought to bring them under the Romish yoke. With such
objects in view, he had hopes even of Ferdinand's support. Crotus,
meanwhile, after his interview with Hutten at Bamberg, advised
Luther not to despise the kindness of Sickingen, the great leader of
the German nobility. It was rumoured that Luther, if driven from
Wittenberg, would take refuge among the Bohemians. Crotus earnestly
warned him against doing so. His enemies, he said, might force him
to do so, knowing, as they did, how hateful the name of Bohemian was
in Germany. Hutten himself wrote also to Luther, encouraging him, in
pious Scriptural language, to stand firm and persevere in working
with him for the liberation of their fatherland. He repeated to him
the invitation of N., (he did not mention his name,) and assured him
that the latter would defend him with vigour against his enemies of
every kind.

Another invitation, at the same time, and of the same purport, came
to Luther from the knight Silvester von Schauenburg. He too had
heard that Luther was going to the Bohemians. He was willing,
however, to protect him from his enemies, as were also a hundred
other nobles whom with God's help he would bring with him, until his
cause was decided in a right and Christian manner.

Whether Luther really entertained the thought of flying to Bohemia,
we cannot determine with certainty. But we know with what
seriousness, as early as the autumn of 1518, after he had refused to
retract to the Papal legate, he anticipated the duty and necessity
of leaving Wittenberg. How much more forcibly must the thoughts have
recurred to him, when the news arrived of the impending decision at
Rome, of the warning received from there by the Elector, and of the
protest uttered even in Germany, and by such a prince as Duke George
of Saxony, against any further toleration of his proceedings. The
refuge which Luther had previously looked for at Paris was no longer
to be hoped for. Since the Leipzig disputation he had advanced in
his doctrines, and especially in his avowed support of Huss, far
beyond what the university of Paris either liked or would endure.

Such then was Luther's position when he received these invitations.
They must have stirred him as distinct messages from above. The
letters in which he replied to them have not been preserved to us.
We hear, however, that he wrote to Hutten, saying that he placed
greater hopes in Sickingen than in any prince under heaven.
Schauenburg and Sickingen, he says, had freed him from the fear of
man; he would now have to withstand the rage of demons. He wished
that even the Pope would note the fact that he could now find
protection from all his thunderbolts, not indeed in Bohemia, but in
the very heart of Germany; and that, under this protection, he could
break loose against the Romanists in a very different fashion to
what he could now do in his official position.

As he reviewed, in the course of the contest, the proceedings of his
enemies, and was further informed of the conduct of the Papal see,
the picture of corruption and utter worthlessness, nay the
antichristian character of the Church system at Rome, unfolded
itself more and more painfully and fully before his eyes. The
richest materials for this conclusion he found in the pamphlets of
the writers already referred to, and in the descriptions sent from
Italy by men like Hess and others, who shared his own convictions.

All this time, moreover, Luther's feelings as a German were more and
more stirred within him, while thinking of what German Christianity
in particular was compelled to suffer at the hands of Rome. A lively
consciousness of this had been awakened in his mind since the Diet
of Augsburg in 1518, with its protest against the claims of the
Papacy, its statement of the grievances of the German nation, and
the vigorous writings on that subject which were circulated at that
time. He referred in 1519 to that Diet, as having drawn a
distinction between the Romish Church and the Romish Curia, and
repudiated the latter with its demands. As for the Romanists, who
made the two identical, they looked on a German as a simple fool, a
lubberhead, a dolt, a barbarian, a beast, and yet they laughed at
him for letting himself be fleeced and pulled by the nose. Luther's
words were now re-echoed in louder tones by Hutten, whose own wish,
moreover, was to incite his fellow-countrymen, as such, to rise and
betake themselves to battle.

There were certain of the laity who had already brought these German
grievances in Church matters before the Diets, and who now gave vent
in pamphlets to their denunciations of the corruption and tyranny of
the Romish Church. As for Luther, he valued the judgment of a
Christian layman, who had the Bible on his side, as highly, and
higher, than that of a priest and prince of the Church, and ascribed
the true character of a priest to all Christians alike: these
Estates of the Augsburg Diet he speaks of as 'lay theologians.'
Leading laymen of the nobility now came forward and offered to
assist him in his labours on behalf of the German Church. Both he
and Melancthon placed their confidence also gladly in the new German

Several letters of Luther at this time, closely following on each
other, express at once the keenest enthusiasm for the contest, and
the idea of a Reformation proceeding from the laity, represented, as
he understood them, by their established authorities and Estates.

We find in these letters powerful effusions of holy zeal and
language full of Christian instruction, mingled with the most
vehement outbursts of the natural passion which was boiling in
Luther's breast. Compared with them, the cleverest controversial
writings of the Humanists, and even the fiercest satires of Hutten,
sound only like rhetoric and elaborate displays of wit.

Luther, in his Sermon on Good Works, already noticed as so replete
with wholesome doctrine and advice, had already complained that
God's ministry was perverted into a means of supporting the lowest
creatures of the Pope, and had declared that the best and only thing
left was for kings, princes, nobles, towns, and parishes to set to
work themselves, and 'make a breach in the abuse,' so that the
hitherto intimidated clergy might follow. As for excommunication and
threats, such things need not trouble them: they meant as little as
if a mad father were to threaten his son who was guarding him.

The sharpest replies on the part of Luther were next provoked by two
writings which justified and glorified the Divine authority and
power of the Papacy. One was by a Franciscan friar, Augustin von
Alveld; the other by Silvester Prierias, already mentioned, who was
his most active opponent in this matter.

Luther broke out against 'the Alveld Ass' (as he called him in a
letter to Spalatin) in a long reply entitled 'The Popedom at Rome,'
with the object of exposing once and finally the secrets of
Antichrist. 'From Rome' he says 'flow all evil examples of spiritual
and temporal iniquity into the world, as from a sea of wickedness.
Whoever mourns to see it, is called by the Romans a 'good
Christian,' or in their language, a fool. It was a proverb among
them that one ought to wheedle the gold out of the German simpletons
as much as one could.' If the German princes and nobles did not
'make short work of them in good earnest,' Germany would either be
devastated or would have to devour herself.

Prierias' pamphlet provoked him to exclaim, in that same letter to
Spalatin, 'I think that at Rome they are all mad, silly, and raging,
and have become mere fools, sticks and stones, hells and devils.'
His remarks on this pamphlet, written in Latin, contain the
strongest words that we have yet heard from his lips about the 'only
means left,' and the 'short work' to be made of Rome. Emperors,
kings, and princes, he says, would yet have to take up the sword
against the rage and plague of the Romanists. 'When we hang thieves,
and behead murderers, and burn heretics, why do not we lay hands on
these Cardinals and Popes and all the rabble of the Romish Sodom,
and bathe our hands in their blood?' What Luther now in reality
wished to see done, was, as he goes on to say, that the Pope should
be corrected as Christ commands men to deal with their offending
brethren (St. Matth. xviii. 15 sqq.), and, if he neglected to hear,
should be held as an heathen man and a publican.

While these pages of Luther's were in the press, towards the middle
of June, Hutten, full of hope himself, and carrying with him the
hopes of Luther and Melancthon, set off on his journey to the
Emperor's brother in the Netherlands, and, on his way, paid a visit
at Cologne to the learned Agrippa von Nettesheim, accompanied, as
the latter says, by a 'few adherents of the Lutheran party.' There,
as Agrippa relates with terror, they expressed aloud their thoughts.
'What have we to do with Rome and its Bishop?' they asked. 'Have we
no Archbishops and Bishops in Germany, that we must kiss the feet of
this one? Let Germany turn, and turn she will, to her own bishops
and pastors.' Hutten paid the expenses of this journey out of money
given him by the Archbishop Albert; between these two, therefore,
the bonds of friendship were not yet broken. Albert was the first of
the German bishops; Hutten, and very possibly the Archbishop also,
might reasonably suppose that a reform proceeding from the Emperor
and the Empire, might place him at the head of a German National

But Luther had already put his pen to a composition which was to
summon the German laity to the grand work before them, to establish
the foundations of Christian belief, and to set forth in full the
most crying needs and aims of the time. He had resolved to give the
strongest and amplest expression in his power to the truth for which
he was contending.



In a dedication to his friend and colleague Amsdorf, prefixed to the
first of these works, he begins, 'The time of silence is past, and
the time for speaking is come.' He had several points, he tells us,
concerning the improvement of the Christian condition, to lay before
the Christian nobility of Germany; perhaps God would help His Church
through the laity, since the clergy had become entirely careless. If
charged with presumption in venturing to address such high people on
such great matters, so be it, then perhaps he was guilty of a folly
towards his God and the world, and might one day become court-jester.
But inasmuch as he was a sworn doctor of Holy Scripture, he rejoiced
in the opportunity of satisfying his oath in this manner.

He then turns to the 'Most illustrious, Most powerful Imperial
Majesty, and to the Christian nobility of the German nation,' with
the greeting, 'Grace and strength from God first of all, most
illustrious, gracious, and beloved Lords!'

The need and troubles of Christendom, and especially of Germany,
constrained him, as he said, to cry to God that He might inspire
some one to stretch out his hand to the suffering nation. His hopes
were in the noble young blood now given by God as her head. He would
likewise do his part.

The Romanists, in order to prevent their being reformed, had shut
themselves within three walls. Firstly, they said, the temporal
power had no rights over them, the spiritual power, but the
spiritual was above the temporal; secondly, the Scriptures, which
were sought to be employed against them, could only be expounded by
the Pope; thirdly, no one but the Pope could summon a Council.
Against this, Luther calls to God for one of those trumpets which
once blew down the walls of Jericho, in order to blow down also,
these walls of straw and paper.

His assault upon the first wall was decisive for the rest. He
accomplished it with his doctrine of the spiritual and priestly
character of all Christians, who had been baptised and consecrated
by the blood of Christ (1 Peter ii. 9; Rev. v. 10). Thus, according
to Luther, they are all of one character, one rank. The only thing
peculiar to the so-called ecclesiastics or priests, is the special
office or work of 'administering the Word of God and the Sacraments'
to the congregation. The power to do this is given, indeed, by God
to all Christians as priests, but, being so given, cannot be assumed
by an individual without the will and command of the community. The
ordination of priests, as they are called, by a bishop can in
reality only signify that, out of the collective body of Christians,
all possessing equal power, one is selected, and commanded to
exercise this power on behalf of the rest. They hold, therefore,
this peculiar office, like their fellow-members of the community who
are entrusted with temporal authority, namely, to wield the sword
for the punishment of the bad and the protection of the good. They
hold it, as every shoemaker, smith, or builder holds office in his
particular trade, and yet all alike are priests. Moreover, this
temporal magisterial power has the right to exercise its office free
and unhindered in its own sphere of action; no Pope or bishop must
here interfere, no so-called priest must usurp it.

As a consequence of this spiritual character of Christians, the
second wall was also doomed to fall. Christ said of all Christians,
that they shall all be taught of God (St. John vi. 45). Thus any
man, however humble, if he was a true Christian, could have a right
understanding of the Scriptures; and the Pope, if wicked and not a
true Christian, was not taught of God. If the Pope alone were always
in the right, one would have to pray 'I believe in the Pope at Rome,'
and the whole Christian Church would then be centred in one man,
which would be nothing short of devilish and hellish error. After
this the third wall fell by itself. For, says Luther, when the Pope
acts against the Scriptures, it is our duty to stand by the Scriptures
and to punish him as Christ taught us to punish offending brethren

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