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Life of Luther by Julius Koestlin

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Pope obstinately opposing a Council, and in that case, of a possible
combination of the entire German nation against the Papal see. He
knew, indeed, well enough, that the Holy Father, in making this
promise, had no intention whatever of keeping it. The Pope now sent
a nuncio to the German princes, to make preparations for giving
effect to his promise; the Emperor sent with him an ambassador of
his own, as well for his control as his support.

When the nuncio and ambassador reached John Frederick at Weimar, the
Elector consulted with Luther, Bugenhagen, Jonas, and Melancthon
about the object of their coming, and for that purpose, on June 15,
1533, he came in person to Wittenberg, and had an opinion drawn up in
writing. The Papal invitation to the Council stated that, agreeably
with the demands of the Germans, it should be a free Christian Council,
and also that it should be held in accordance with ancient usage as
from the beginning. Luther declared that this was merely a 'muttering
in the dark,' half angel-like, half devil-like. For if by the words
'from the beginning' were meant the primitive Christian assemblies,
such as those of the Apostles (Acts xv.), then the Council now intended
was bound to act according to the Word of God, freely, and without
regard to any future Councils; a Council on the other hand, held
according to previous usage, as, for example, that of Constance, was
a Council contrary to the Word of God, and held in mere human blindness
and wantonness. The Pope, in describing the Council proposed by himself
as a free one, was making sport of the Emperor, the request of the
Evangelicals, and the decrees of the Diet. How could the Pope possibly
tolerate a free Christian Council when he must be quite aware how
disadvantageous such a Council would be to himself? Luther's advice
was briefly summed up in this: to restrict themselves to the bare
formalities of speech required, and to wait for further events. 'I
think it is best,' he said, 'not to busy ourselves at present with
anything more than what is necessary and moderate, and that can give
no handle to the Pope or the Emperor to accuse us of intemperate
conduct. Whether there be a Council or not, the time will come for
action and advice.' And it soon became clear enough, that Clement at any
rate would not convene a Council. He now entered into an understanding
with King Francis, who was again meditating an attack against the
power of Charles V., listened to his proposal that the Council might
be abandoned, and in March 1534 announced to the German princes
that, agreeably to the King's wish, he had resolved to adjourn its

How firmly Luther persisted--Council or no Council--in his
uncompromising opposition to the Romish system, was now shown by
several of his new writings, more especially by his treatise 'On
private Masses and the Consecration of Priests.' Concerning private
masses, and the sacrifice of Christ's Body supposed to be there
offered, he now declared that, where the ordinance of Christ was so
utterly perverted, Christ's Body was assuredly not present at all,
but simple bread and simple wine was worshipped by the priest in
vain idolatry, and offered for others to worship in like manner. He
knew how they would 'come rolling up to him with the words, "Church,
Church; custom, custom," just as they had answered him once before
in his attack on indulgences; but neither the Church nor custom had
been able to preserve indulgences from their fate.' In the Church,
even under the Popedom, he recognised a holy place, for in it was
baptism, the reading of the Gospel, prayer, the Apostles' Creed, &c.
But he repeats now, what he had said in his most pungent writings
during the earlier struggles of the Reformation, namely, that
devilish abominations had entered into this place, and so penetrated
it with their presence, that only the light of the Holy Spirit would
enable one to distinguish between the place itself and these
abominations. He contrasts the mass-holding priests and their
stinking oil of consecration with the universal Christian priesthood
and the evangelical office of preacher. To the principle of this
priesthood he still firmly adhered, faithless though he saw the
large mass of the congregations to the priestly character with which
baptism had invested them, and strictly as he had to guide his
action, in the appointment and outward constitution of that office,
by existing circumstances and historical requirements. Thus he
repeats what he had said before, 'We are all born simple priests and
pastors in baptism; and out of such born priests, certain are chosen
or called to certain offices, and it is their duty to perform the
various functions of those offices for us all.' This universal
priesthood he would assert and utilise in the celebration of Divine
service and in the true Christian mass; and he appeals for that
purpose to the true worship of God by an Evangelical congregation.
'There,' he says, 'our priest or minister stands before the altar,
having been duly and publicly called to his priestly office; he
repeats publicly and distinctly Christ's words of institution; he
takes the Bread and Wine, and distributes it according to Christ's
words; and we all kneel beside and around him, men and women, young
and old, master and servant, mistress and maid, all holy priests
together, sanctified by the Blood of Christ. And in such our
priestly dignity are we there, and (as pictured in Revelations iv.)
we have our crowns of gold on our heads, harps in our hands, and
golden censers; and we do not let our priest proclaim for himself
the ordinance of Christ, but he is the mouthpiece of us all, and we
all say it with him from our hearts, and with sincere faith in the
Lamb of God, Who feeds us with His Body and Blood.'

In 1533 Erasmus published a work wherein he endeavoured to effect in
his own way the restoration of unity in the Church, by exhorting men
to abolish practical abuses and show submission in doctrinal
disputes, professing for his own part unvarying subjection to the
Church. In opposition to him, Luther hit the right point in a
preface he wrote to the reply of the Marburg theologian Corvinus.
Erasmus, he said, only strengthened the Papists, who cared nothing
about a safe truth for their consciences, but only kept on crying
out 'Church, Church, Church.' For he too kept on simply repeating
that he wished to follow the Church, whilst leaving everything
doubtful and undetermined until the Church had settled it. 'What,'
asks Luther, 'is to be done with those good souls, who, bound in
conscience by the word of Divine truth, cannot believe doctrines
evidently contrary to Scripture? Shall we tell them that the Pope
must be obeyed so that peace and unity may be preserved?' When,
therefore, Erasmus sought to obtain unity of faith by mutual
concession and compromise, Luther answered by declaring such unity
to be impossible, for the simple reason that the Catholics, by their
very boasting of the authority of the Church, absolutely refused on
their part to make any concession at all. But so far as 'unity of
charity' was concerned, he held that on that point the Evangelicals
needed no admonishment, for they were ready to do and suffer all
things, provided nothing was imposed upon them contrary to the
faith. They had never thirsted for the blood of their enemies,
though the latter would gladly persecute them with fire and sword.
As for Erasmus himself, Luther, as already stated, simply regarded
him as a sceptic, who with his attitude of subjection to the Church,
sought only for peace and safety for himself and his studies and
intellectual enjoyments. Acting on this view, Luther, in a letter to
Amsdorf, written in 1534, and intended for publication, heaped
reproaches on Erasmus which undoubtedly he uttered in honest zeal,
but in which his zeal did not allow him to form an impartial
estimate of his opponent or his writings. He saw the bad spirit of
Erasmus reflected in other men, who, like him, had seen the true
character of the Romish Church, but, like him also, rejoined her
communion. Instances of this were found in his old friend Crotus,
who had now entered the service of Cardinal Albert, and as his
'plate-licker,' as Luther called him, abused the Reformation; and in
the theologian George Witzel, a pupil of Erasmus and student at
Wittenberg, who formerly had been suspected even of sympathising
with the peasants in their rebellion, and of rejecting the doctrine
of the Trinity, but who now wished for a Reformation after Erasmus'
ideas, and was one of the foremost literary opponents of the
Lutheran Reformation. Luther, however, deemed it superfluous, after
all that he had said against the master, to turn also against his
subordinates, and the mere mouthpieces of his teaching.

In addition to Luther's polemics against Catholicism in general,
must be mentioned a fresh quarrel with Duke George. The latter, in
1532, had expelled from Saxony some evangelically disposed
inhabitants of Leipzig and Oschatz, decreed that everyone should
appear once a year at church for confession, and ordered some
seventy or eighty families of Leipzig, who had refused to do so, to
quit his dominions. Luther sent letters, which were afterwards
published, of comfort to the exiled, and of exhortation and advice
to those who were threatened. Duke George thereupon complained to
the Elector that Luther was exciting his subjects to sedition.
Luther, in reply, spoke out again with double vehemence in a public
vindication, whilst George made Cochlaeus write against him. Further
quarrelling was ended by the two princes agreeing, in November 1533,
to settle certain matters in dispute, and their theologians also
were commanded to keep at peace. With regard to the future, however,
Luther had spoken words of significance and weight to his persecuted
brethren at Leipzig, when he reminded them what great and unexpected
things God had done since the Diet of Worms, and how many
bloodthirsty persecutors He had since then snatched away. 'Let us
wait a little while,' he said, 'and see what God will bring to pass.
Who knows what God will do after the Diet of Augsburg, even before
ten years have gone by?'

Firmly, however, as Luther refused to listen to any surrender in
matters of faith, or to any subjection to a Catholic Council of the
old sort, he desired no less to adhere loyally to the 'political
concord.' His whole heart and sympathies, as a fellow-Christian and
a good German, went out with the German troops in their march
against the Turks, who he hoped might be well routed by the Emperor.
He never reflected how perilous the consequences of a decisive
victory by Charles V. over his foreign enemies would be for the
Protestants of Germany, and how divided, therefore, these must feel,
at least in their hopes and wishes, during the progress of the war.
He only saw in him again the 'dear good Emperor.' He wished him like
success against his evil-minded French enemy. The Pope especially he
reproached for his persistent ill-will to the Emperor. The Popes, he
said, had always been hostile to the Emperors, and had betrayed the
best of them and wantonly thwarted their desires.

Early in 1534 Philip of Hesse set in earnest about his scheme, so
momentous for Protestantism, of forcibly expelling King Ferdinand
from Wurtemberg, and restoring it to the exiled Duke Ulrich. The
latter, whom the Swabian League in 1519, upon a decision of the
Emperor and Empire, had deprived of his territory, and transferred
it to the House of Austria, was staying with the Landgrave in 1529,
with whom he attended the conference at Marburg, and shared his
views on Church matters. Since then the Swabian League was
dissolved, and Philip seized this favourable opportunity to
interfere on behalf of his friend. The King of France promised his
aid, and in Germany, especially among the Catholic Bavarians, a
strong desire prevailed to weaken the power of Austria. Luther's
public judgment being of such weight, and his counsels so
influential with the Elector Frederick, Philip informed him, through
pastor Ottinger of Cassel, of his preparations for war, lest he
might otherwise be wrongly given to understand that he was
meditating a step against the Emperor. His intention, he declared,
was merely to 'restore and reinstate Duke Ulrich to his rights in
all fairness,' in the sight of God and of his Imperial Majesty. He
'belonged to no faction or sect:'--this, wrote Ottinger, he was
'instructed by his princely Highness not to conceal from Luther.'
The latter, however, at a conference with his Elector and the
Landgrave at Weimar, protested against a breach of the public peace,
as tending to bring disgrace upon the gospel; and the Elector, in
consequence, kept aloof from the enterprise. Philip, however,
persisted, and carried it through with rapidity and success.
Ferdinand, being helpless in the absence of the Emperor, consented,
in the treaty of Cadan, to the restoration of Ulrich, who
immediately set about a reformation of the Church in Wurtemberg.
Luther recognised in this result the evident hand of God, in that,
contrary to all expectation, nothing was destroyed and peace was
happily restored. God would bring the work to an end.

Meanwhile the Schmalkaldic allies clung tenaciously to their league,
and were intent on still further strengthening their position and
preparing themselves for all emergencies. No scruples as to whether,
if the Emperor should break the peace, they could venture to turn
their arms against him, any longer disturbed them. The terms
extorted from King Ferdinand by the Landgrave's victorious campaign,
were also in their favour. Ferdinand, in the treaty of Cadan,
promised to secure them against the suits which the Imperial
Chamber, notwithstanding the Religious Peace, still continued to
institute against them, in return for which John Frederick and his
allies consented to recognise his election as King of the Romans.

And in the interests and for the objects represented by the league,
namely, to oppose a sufficiently strong and compact power to Roman
Catholicism and its menaces, those further attempts were now made to
promote internal union among the Protestants, to which Butzer had so
unremittingly devoted his labours, and which the Landgrave Philip
among the princes considered of the utmost value.

Luther, although he admitted having formed a more favourable opinion
of Zwingli as a man, since their personal interview at Marburg, in
no way altered his opinion of Zwinglianism or of the general
tendency of his doctrines. Thus in a letter of warning sent by him
in December 1532 to the burgomaster and town-council of Munster, he
classed Zwingli with Munzer and other heads of the Anabaptists, as a
band of fanatics whom God had judged, and pointed out that whoever
once followed Zwingli, Munzer, or the Anabaptists, would very easily
be seduced into rebellion and attacks on civil government. At the
beginning of the next year he published a 'Letter to those at
Frankfort-on-the-Main,' in order to counteract the Zwinglian
doctrines and agitations there prevailing. He also warned the people
of Augsburg against their preachers, inasmuch as they pretended to
accept the Lutheran doctrine of the Sacrament, but in reality did
nothing of the kind. He abstained from entering into any further
controversy against the substance of doctrines opposed to his own.
He was concerned not so much about the victory of his own doctrine,
which he left with confidence in God's hands, but lest, under the
guise of agreement with him, error should creep in and deceit be
practised in a matter so sacred and important. He always felt
suspicious of Butzer on this point.

He now saw the evil and terrible fruits of that spirit which had
possessed Munzer and the Anabaptists,--such fruits as he had always
expected from it. In Munster, where his warning had passed
unregarded, the Anabaptists had been masters since February 1584. As
the pretended possessors of Christianity in its intellectual and
spiritual purity, they established there a kingdom of the saints,
with a mad, sensual fanaticism, a coarse worship of the flesh, and a
wild thirst for blood. This kingdom was demolished the next year by
the combined forces of the Emperor and the bishop, but a further
consequence of their defeat was the exclusion of Protestantism from
the city, which submitted again to episcopal authority. About the
Zwinglian 'Sacramentarianism' Luther wrote at that time, 'God will
mercifully do away with this scandal, so that it may not, like that
of Munster, have to be done away with by force.'

Butzer, however, did not allow himself to be deterred or wearied.
His wish was that the agreement in doctrine which had already been
arrived at between Luther and the South Germans admitted to the
Swabian League, should be publicly and emphatically acknowledged and
expressed. He laboured and hoped to convince even the people of
Zurich and the other Swiss that they attached--as, in fact, they
did--too harsh a meaning to Luther's doctrines, and so to induce
them to reconcile them as nearly as they could with their own. But
they could not be persuaded further than to admit that Christ's Body
was really present in the Sacrament, as food for the souls of those
who partook in faith. They were as suspicious, from their
standpoint, of his attempts at mediation, as Luther was from his.
Butzer represented to the Landgrave that the South German towns, his
allies, were united in doctrine, and that the only objection raised
by the Swiss was to the notion that Christ and His Body became
actual 'food for the stomach,'--a notion which Luther also refused
wholly to entertain. For when the latter said that Christ's Body was
eaten with the mouth, he explained at the same time that the mouth
indeed only touched the bread and did not reach this Body, and that
his doctrine was simply a declaration of a sacramental unity, in so
far as the mouth eats the bread which is united with the body in the
Sacrament. The matter, said Butzer, was a mere dispute about words,
and was only so difficult to settle because they had 'abused and
sent each other to the devil too much.'

[Illustration: PIG. 43.--BUTZER. (From the old original woodcut of

The Landgrave Philip wrote to Luther, and Luther now repeated with
warmth his own desire for a 'well-established union,' which would
enable the Protestants to oppose a common front to the immoderate
arrogance of the Papists. He only warned him again lest the matter
should remain 'rotten and unstable in its foundations.' The
Landgrave then arranged, with Luther's approval, a conference
between Melancthon and Butzer at Cassel for December 27, 1534.
Luther sent to them a 'Consideration, whether unity is possible or
not.' He repeated in this tract, with studied precision and
emphasis, those tenets of his doctrine to which Butzer had referred.
The matter, he said, ought not to remain uncertain or ambiguous. But
when Butzer now agreed with Luther's own opinion, and sent to him at
Wittenberg an explanation that Christ's Body was truly present, but
not as food for the stomach, Luther, in January 1535, declared as
his judgment, that, since the South German preachers were willing to
teach in accordance with the Augsburg Confession, he, for his part,
neither could nor would refuse such concord; and since they
distinctly confessed that Christ's Body was really and substantially
presented and eaten, he could not, if their hearts agreed with their
words, find fault with these words. He would only prefer, as there
was still too much mistrust among his own brethren, that the act of
concord should not be concluded quite so suddenly, but that time
should be allowed for a general quieting down. 'Thus,' he said, 'our
people will be able to moderate their suspicion or ill-will, and
finally let it drop; and if thus the troubled waters are calmed on
both sides, a real and permanent union can be ultimately brought
about.' Of the Swiss no notice was taken in these negotiations.

Meanwhile Butzer and Philip had to rest content with this; and was
it not an important step forwards? This work of union, together with
the Council which was to help in uniting the whole Church, took a
prominent place during the next few years of Luther's life and



Pope Paul III., who succeeded Clement VII. in October 1534, seemed
at once determined to bring about in reality the promised Council.
And in fact he was quite earnest in the matter. He was not so
indifferent as his predecessor to the real interests of the Church
and the need of certain reforms, and he hoped, like a clever
politician, to turn the Council, which could now no longer be
evaded, to the advantage of the Papacy. With this object, and with a
view in particular of arranging the place where the Council should
be held, which he proposed should be Mantua, he sent a nuncio, the
Cardinal Vergerius, to Germany.

In August 1535 Luther was desired by his Elector to submit an
opinion on the proposals of the Pope. He thought it sufficient to
repeat the answer he had given two years before, namely, that the
prince had then fully expressed his zeal for the restoration of
Church unity by means of a Council, but at the same time had
required that its decisions should be strictly according to God's
Word, and declared that he could not give any definite consent
without his allies. Luther still declined, moreover, to believe that
the project of a Council was sincere.

The university of Wittenberg had been removed during the summer to
Jena, on account of a fresh outbreak of the plague, or at all events
an alarm of it, and there they remained till the following February.
Luther, however, would not listen to the idea of leaving Wittenberg.
This time he could stay there in all rest and cheerfulness with
Bugenhagen, and make merry with the idle fears of others. To the
Elector, who was full of anxiety about him, Luther wrote on July 9,
saying that only one or two cases of the disease had appeared; the
air was not yet poisoned. The dog-days being at hand, and the young
people frightened, they might as well be allowed to walk about, to
calm their thoughts, until it was seen what would happen. He noticed,
however, that some had 'caught ulcers in their pockets, others colic
in their books, and others gout in their papers;' some, too, had no
doubt eaten their mother's letters, and hence got heart-ache and
homesickness. The Christian authorities, he said, must provide some
strong medicine against such a disease, lest mortality might arise
in consequence,--a medicine that would defy Satan, the enemy of all
arts and discipline. He was astonished to find how much more was
known of the great plague at Wittenberg in other parts than in the
town itself, where in truth it did not exist, and how much bigger
and fatter lies grew the farther they travelled. He assured his
friend Jonas, who had gone away with the university, that, thanks
to God, he was living there in solitude, in perfect health and
comfort; only there was a dearth of beer in the town, though he had
enough in his own cellar. Nor did Luther afterwards give way to
fear when compelled to acknowledge several fatal cases of the
plague, and when his own coachman once seemed to be stricken with
it. He himself was a sufferer, throughout the winter, from a cough
and other catarrhic affections. 'But my greatest illness,' he wrote
to a friend, 'is, that the sun has so long shone upon me,--a plague
which, as you know well, is very common, and many die of it.'

The Papal nuncio now arrived at Wittenberg, and desired to speak to
Luther in person. After an interview at Halle with the Archbishop
Albert, he had taken the road through Wittenberg on his way to visit
the Elector of Brandenburg at Berlin. On the afternoon of November
6, a Saturday, he entered Wittenberg in state, with twenty-one
horses and an ass, intending to take up his quarters there for the
night, and was received with all due honour at the Elector's castle
by the governor Metzsch. Luther was invited, at the nuncio's
request, to sup with him that evening, but as the former declined
the invitation, he was asked with Bugenhagen to take breakfast with
him the next morning. It was the first time, since his summons by
Caietan at Augsburg in 1518, that Luther had to speak with a Papal
legate--Luther, who had long since been condemned by the Pope as an
abominable child of corruption, and who in turn had declared the
Pope to be Antichrist. So important must Vergerius have thought it,
to attempt to influence, if even only partially, the powerful
adviser of the Protestant princes, and thereby to prevent him from
check-mating his plans in regard to a Council. And in this respect
Vergerius must have had considerable confidence in himself.

The next morning Luther ordered his barber to come at an unusually
early hour. Upon the latter expressing his surprise, Luther said
jokingly, 'I have to go to the Papal nuncio; if only I look young
when he sees me, he may think "Fie, the devil, if Luther has played
us such tricks before he is an old man, what won't he do when he is
one?"' Then, in his best clothes and with a gold chain round his
neck, he drove to the castle with the town-priest Bugenhagen
(Pomeranus). 'Here go,' he said, as he stepped into the carriage,
'the Pope of Germany and Cardinal Pomeranus, the instruments of

Before the legate he 'acted,' as he expressed it, 'the complete
Luther.' He employed towards him only the most indispensable forms
of civility, and made use of the most ill-humoured language. Thus he
asked him whether he was looked upon in Italy as a drunken German.
When they came to speak about the settlement of the Church questions
in dispute by a Council, Vergerius reminded him that one individual
fallible man had no right to consider himself wiser than the
Councils, the ancient Fathers, and other theologians of Christendom.
To this Luther replied that the Papists were not really in earnest
about a Council, and, if it were held, they would only care to treat
about such trifles as monks' cowls, priests' tonsures, rules of
diet, and so forth; whereupon the legate turned to one of his
attendants, who was sitting by, with the words 'he has hit the right
nail on the head.' Luther went on to assert that they, the
Evangelicals, had no need of a Council, being already fully assured
about their own doctrine, though other poor souls might need one,
who were led astray by the tyranny of the Popedom. Nevertheless he
promised to attend the proposed Council, even though he should be
burned by it. It was the same to him, he said, whether it was held
at Mantua, Padua, or Florence, or anywhere else. 'Would you come to
Bologna?' said Vergerius. Luther asked, thereupon, to whom Bologna
belonged, and on being told 'to the Pope,' 'Gracious heavens,' he
exclaimed, 'has the Pope seized that town too?--Very well, I will
come to you even there.' Vergerius politely hinted that the Pope
himself, would not refuse to come to Wittenberg. 'Let him come,'
said Luther; 'we shall be very glad to see him.' 'But,' said
Vergerius, 'would you have him come with arms or without?' 'As he
pleases,' replied Luther; 'we shall be ready to receive him in
either way.' When the legate, after their meal, was mounting his
horse to depart, he said to Luther, 'Be sure to hold yourself in
readiness for the Council.' 'Yes, sir,' was the reply, 'with this my
very neck and head.'

Vergerius afterwards related that he had found Luther to be coarse
in conversation, and his Latin bad, and had answered him as far as
possible in monosyllables. The excuse he urged for his interview was
that Luther and Bugenhagen were the only men of learning at
Wittenberg, with whom he could converse in Latin. He evidently felt
himself unpleasantly deceived in the expectations and projects he
had formed before the meeting. Ten years later, when his conflict
with Evangelical doctrine had taught him thoroughly its real meaning
and value, this high dignitary himself became a convert to it.

In the meantime, while the eyes of all were fixed upon the
approaching Council, the state of affairs in Germany was eminently
favourable to the Evangelicals.

The Emperor, during the summer of 1535, was detained abroad by his
operations against the corsair Chaireddin Barbarossa in Tunis, and
Luther rejoiced over the victory with which God blessed his arms.
The King of France was threatening with fresh claims on Italian
territory. The jealousy between Austria and Bavaria still continued.
With regard to the Church, King Ferdinand learned to value
Lutheranism at any rate as a barrier against the progress of the
more dangerous doctrines of Zwingli. John Frederick journeyed in
November 1535 to Vienna, to receive from him at length, in the name
of the Emperor, the investiture of the Electorship, and met with a
friendly reception.

Under these circumstances the Schmalkaldic League resolved, at a
convention at Schmalkald in December 1535, to invite other States of
the Empire, which were not yet recognised in the Religious Peace as
members of the Augsburg Confession, to join them. The Dukes Barnim
and Philip of Pomerania had now accepted this Confession. Philip
also married a sister of John Frederick. Luther performed the
marriage service on the evening of February 27 at Torgau, and
Bugenhagen pronounced, the next morning, the customary benediction
on the young couple, Luther being prevented from doing so by a fresh
attack of giddiness. The following spring a convention of the allies
at Frankfort-on-the-Main received the Duke of Wurtemberg, the Dukes
of Pomerania, the princes of Anhalt, and several towns into their

Outside Germany, the Kings of France and England sought fellowship
with the allies. Ecclesiastical and religious questions, of course,
had first to be considered; and Luther with others was called on for
his advice.

King Francis, so many of whose Evangelical subjects were complaining
of oppression and persecution, was anxious, as he was now meditating
a new campaign in Italy, to secure an alliance with the German
Protestants against the Emperor, and accordingly pretended with
great solicitude that he had in view important reforms in the
Church, and would be glad of their assistance. They were invited to
send Melancthon and Luther to him for that purpose. With these he
negotiated also in person. Melancthon felt himself much attracted by
the prospect thus opened to him of rendering important and useful
service. The Elector, however, refused him permission to go, and
rebuked him for having already entangled himself so far in the
affair. Melancthon's expectations were certainly very vain: the King
only cared for his political interests, and in no case would he
grant to any of his subjects the right to entertain or act upon
religious convictions which ran counter to his own theory of the
Church. Moreover, John Frederick's relations with King Ferdinand had
by this time become so peaceful, that the Elector was anxious not to
disturb them by an alliance with the enemy of the Emperor.
Melancthon, however, was much excited by his refusal and reproof; he
suspected that others had maliciously intrigued against him with his
prince. Luther, at first moved by Melancthon's wish and the
entreaties of French Evangelicals, had earnestly begged the Elector
to permit Melancthon 'in the name of God to go to France.' 'Who
knows,' he said, 'what God may wish to do?' He was afterwards
startled on his friend's account by the severe letter of the
Elector, but was obliged to acknowledge that the latter was right in
his distrust of the affair.

An alliance with England would have promised greater security,
inasmuch as with Henry VIII. there was no longer any fear of his
return to the Papacy, and with regard to the proceedings about his
marriage, a reconciliation with the Emperor was scarcely to be
expected. Envoys from him appeared in 1535 in Saxony and at the
meeting at Schmalkald. Henry also wished for Melancthon, in order to
discuss with him matters of orthodoxy and Church government, and
Luther again begged permission of the Elector for him to go. But it
was clearly seen from the negotiations conducted with the English
envoys in Germany, how slender were the hopes of effecting any
agreement with Henry VIII. on the chief points, such as the doctrine
of Justification or of the mass, since the English monarch insisted
every whit as strictly upon that Catholic orthodoxy, to which he
still adhered, as he did upon his opposition to Papal power. Luther
had already in January grown sick to loathing of the futile
negotiations with England: 'professing themselves to be wise, they
became fools' (Rom. i. 22). He advised therefore, in his opinion
submitted to the Elector, that they should have patience with
respect to England and the proper reforms in that quarter, but
guarded himself against deviating on that account from the
fundamental doctrines of belief, or conceding more to the King of
England than they would to the Emperor and the Pope. As to
contracting a political alliance with Henry, he left that question,
as a temporal matter, for the prince and his advisers to decide; but
it seemed to him dangerous, where no real sympathy prevailed. How
hazardous it was to have anything to do with Henry VIII. was shown
immediately after by his conduct towards his second wife Anna
Boleyn, whom he had executed on May 19, 1536. Luther called this act
a monstrous tragedy.

Among the German Protestants, however, the negotiations respecting
the Sacramental doctrine were happily brought to maturity in a duly
formulated 'Concord.' Peace also was secured with the Swiss, and
therewith the possibility of an eventual alliance.

Now that Luther had once felt confidence in these attempts at union,
he took the work in hand himself and proceeded steadily with it. In
the autumn of 1535 he sent letters to a number of South German
towns, addressed to preachers and magistrates--to Augsburg,
Strasburg, Ulm, and Esslingen. He proposed a meeting or conference,
at which they might learn to know each other better, and see what
was to be borne with, what complied with, and what winked at. He
wished nothing more ardently than to be permitted to end his life,
now near its close, in peace, charity, and unity of spirit with his
brethren in the faith. They also should 'continue thus, helping,
praying, and striving that such unity might be firm and lasting, and
that the devil's jaws might be stopped, who had gloried hugely in
their want of unity, crying out "Ha! ha! I have won."' These letters
plainly show how glad was Luther now to see the good cause so
advanced, and to be able to further it yet more. Both in them and in
his correspondence with the Elector about the proposed meeting, he
advised not to enlist too many associates, that there might be no
restless, obstinate heads among them, to spoil the affair. He knew
of such among his own adherents--men who went too far for him in the
zeal of dogma.

The conference was appointed to be held at Eisenach in the following
spring, on May 14, the fourth Sunday after Easter. Luther's state of
health would not permit him to undertake a journey to any distant
place or in the winter. Just at this time, moreover, in March 1536,
he had been tormented for weeks by a new malady, an intolerable pain
in the left hip. Later on, he told one of his friends that he had
with Christ risen from the dead at Easter (April 16), for he had
been so ill at that time, that he firmly believed that his time had
come to depart and be with Christ, for which he longed.

The South Germans readily accepted the invitation. The Strasburgers
passed it on to the Swiss, and specially desired that Bullinger from
Zurich might take part in the conference. The Swiss, however, who
had received no direct invitation from Wittenberg, declined the
proposal; they wished to adhere simply to their own articles of
faith, which they had just formulated anew in the so-called 'First
Helvetian Confession,' and which had expressly acknowledged at least
a spiritual nutriment to be offered in the Sacramental symbols. They
could not see anything to be gained by personal discussion. But they
requested that their Confession might be kindly shown to Luther, and
Bullinger sent him special greetings from himself and the
Evangelical Churches of Switzerland. The preachers who were sent as
deputies to Eisenach from the various South German towns, journeyed
by way of Frankfort-on-the-Main, where just then the Schmalkaldic
allies were assembled. On May 10 they went on, eleven in number, to
Eisenach; they represented the communities of Strasburg, Augsburg,
Memmingen, Ulm, Esslingen, Reutlingen, Furfeld, and Frankfort.

At the last moment the whole success, nay even the very plan of the
conference, was imperilled. Melancthon had already been anxious and
despondent, fearing a fresh and violent outburst of the controversy
as a consequence of the impending discussion. Luther had just been
freshly excited against the Zwinglians by a writing found among the
papers Zwingli left behind him, and which Bullinger had published
with high eulogiums upon the author, and also by a correspondence
that had just appeared between Zwingli and Oecolampadius. Butzer,
however, and his friends still wished to maintain their intimacy
with these Zwinglians, and this correspondence was prefaced by an
introduction 'from his own pen. Furthermore, letters had reached
Luther, representing that the people in the South German towns were
not really taught the true Bodily Presence in the Sacrament. In
addition to this, severe after-effects of his old illness again
attacked him, rendering him unfit to travel to Eisenach.
Accordingly, on May 12 he wrote to the deputies begging them to
journey as far as Grimma, where he would either appear in person,
or, if too weak, could at all events more easily communicate by
writing to them and his friends.

The deputies, however, came straight to him at Wittenberg. In
Thuringia they were joined by the pastors Menius of Eisenach and
Myconius of Gotha, two of Luther's friends who with him were
honestly desirous of unity. The constant personal intercourse kept
up during the journey served greatly to promote a mutual

Thus on Sunday, May 21, they arrived at length at Wittenberg.

The next day, the two Strasburgers, Capito and Butzer, held a
preliminary interview with Luther, whose physical weakness made any
lengthy negotiations very difficult. He expressed to them candidly
and emphatically his desire, repeated again and again, that they
should declare themselves at one with him. He would rather, however,
leave matters as they had been, than enter into a union which might
be only feigned or artificial, and must make bad worse. With regard
to the Zwinglian publications, Butzer answered that he and his
friends were in no way responsible for them, and that the preface,
which consisted of a letter from himself, had been printed without
his knowledge and consent. With regard to the doctrine of the
Sacrament, the only question now left to decide was whether the
unworthy and godless communicants verily partook of the Lord's Body.
Luther maintained that they did: it was to him the necessary
consequence of a Bodily Presence, such as took place simply by
virtue of the institution and sure promise of Christ, by which faith
must abide in full trust and belief. Butzer expressed his decided
assent to the doctrine of objective Presence and presentation; but
the actual reception of the Lord's Body, as offered from above, he
could only concede to those communicants who, at least through some
faith, placed themselves in an inward spiritual relation to that
Body and accepted the institution of Christ, not to those who were
simply there with their bodies and bodily mouths. To enable one to
speak of a partaking of the Body, he was satisfied with that faith
which was not exactly the right faith of the heart, and was
connected with moral unworthiness, so that such guests ate to their
own condemnation. He thus acknowledged that the unworthy, but not
the man wholly devoid of faith, could partake of the Body and Blood
of Christ. Luther, therefore, could feel assured that Butzer agreed
with him in rejecting every view which held that, in the Sacrament,
the Body of Christ was present only in the subjective representation
and the imagination, or that faith there rose up out of itself, so
to speak, to the Lord, instead of merely grasping at what was
offered, and thereby being quickened and made strong. But it is
unmistakable, that Luther and Butzer conceived in different ways
both the manner of the Presence and the manner of partaking,--each
of these, indeed, in a mysterious sense and one very difficult to be
defined. Luther could scarcely have failed to observe the
difference, which still remained between them, and the defect from
which, according to his own convictions, the doctrine of the South
Germans still suffered. The question was, whether he could look
beyond this, and whether in the doctrine for which he had fought so
keenly, he should be able and willing to distinguish between what
was essential on the one hand, and what was non-essential or less
essential on the other.

On the Tuesday all the deputies assembled at his house, together
with his Wittenberg friends, and Menius and Myconius. Butzer having
spoken on the deputies' behalf, Luther conferred with them
separately, and after they had declared their unanimous concurrence
with Butzer, he withdrew with his friends into another room for a
private consultation. On his return, he declared, on behalf of
himself and his friends, that, after having heard from all present
their answers and statement of belief, they were agreed with them,
and welcomed them as beloved brethren in the Lord. As to the
objection they had about the godless partakers, if they confessed
that the unworthy received with the other communicants the Body of
Christ, they would not quarrel on that point. Luther, so Myconius
tells us, spoke these words with great spirit and animation, as was
apparent from his eyes and his whole countenance. Capito and Butzer
could not refrain from tears. All stood with folded hands and gave
thanks to God.

On the following days other points were discussed, such as the
significance of infant baptism, and the practice of confession and
absolution, as to which an understanding was necessary, and was
arrived at without any difficulty. The South Germans had also to be
reassured about some individual forms of worship, unimportant in
themselves, and which they found to have been retained from Catholic
usage in the Saxon churches.

On the Thursday the proceedings were interrupted by the festival of
the Ascension. Luther preached the evening sermon of that day on the
text, 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every
creature.' Myconius relates of this sermon, 'I have often heard
Luther before, but it seemed to me then as if not he alone were
speaking, but heaven was thundering in the name of Christ.'

On Saturday Butzer and Capito delivered themselves of their
commissions on behalf of the Swiss. Luther declared after reading
the Confession which they brought, that certain expressions in it
were objectionable, but added a wish that the Strasburgers would
treat with them further the subject, and the latter led him to hope
that the communities in Switzerland, weary of dispute, desired

The spirit of brotherly union received a touching and beautiful
expression on the Sunday in the common celebration of the Sacrament,
and in sermons preached by Alber of Reutlingen in the early morning,
and by Butzer in the middle of the day.

The next morning, May 29, the meeting concluded with the signing of
the articles which Melancthon had been commissioned to draw up. They
recognised the receiving of Christ's Body at the Sacrament by those
who 'ate unworthily,' without saying anything about the faithless.
The deputies who signed their names declared their common acceptance
of the Augsburg Confession and the Apology. This formula, however,
was only to be published after it had received the assent of the
communities whom it concerned, together with their pastors and civil
authorities. 'We must be careful,' said Luther, 'not to raise the
song of victory prematurely, nor give others an occasion for
complaining that the matter was settled without their knowledge and
in a corner.' Luther himself began on the same Monday to write
letters, inviting assent from different quarters to their
proceedings. Among his own associates, at any rate, his intimate
friend Amsdorf at Magdeburg had not been so conciliatory as himself:
Luther waited eight days before informing him of the result of the

Thus, then, unity of confession was established for the German
Protestants, apart from the Swiss, for none of the Churches which
had been represented at the meeting refused their assent. Luther now
advanced a step towards the Swiss by writing to the burgomaster
Meyer at Basle, who was particularly anxious for union, and who
returned him a very friendly and hopeful answer. Butzer sought to
work with them further in the same direction. But they could not
reconcile themselves to the Wittenberg articles. They--that is to
say, the magistrates and clergy of Zurich, Berne, Basle, and some
other towns--were content to express their joy at Luther's present
friendly state of mind, together with a hope of future unity, and
besought Butzer to inform Luther further about their own Confession
and their objections to his own. Butzer was anxious to do this at a
convention which the Schmalkaldic allies appointed to meet at
Schmalkald, in view of the Council having been announced to be held
in February 1537.



A few days after the Protestants had effected an agreement at
Wittenberg the announcement was issued from Rome of a Council, to be
held at Mantua in the following year. The Pope already indicated
with sufficient clearness the action he intended to take at it. He
declared in plain terms that the Council was to extirpate the
Lutheran pestilence, and did not even wish that the corrupt Lutheran
books should be laid before it, but only extracts from them, and
these with a Catholic refutation. Luther, therefore, had now to turn
his energies at once in this direction.

He agreed, nevertheless, with Melancthon that the invitation should
be accepted, although the Elector John Frederick was opposed to such
a Council from the very first. It would be better, Luther thought,
to protest at the Council itself against any unlawful or unjust
proceeding. He hoped to be able to speak before the assembly at
least like a Christian and a man.

The Elector thereupon commissioned him to compile and set forth the
propositions or articles of faith, which, according to his
conviction, it would be necessary to insist on at the Council, and
directed him to call in for this purpose other theologians to his
assistance. Luther accordingly drew up a statement. A few days after
Christmas he laid it before his Wittenberg colleagues, and likewise
before Amsdorf of Magdeburg, Spalatin of Altenburg, and Agricola of
Eisleben. The last named was endeavouring to exchange his post at
the high school at Eisleben, under the Count of Mansfeld, with whom
he had fallen out, for a professor's chair at Wittenberg, which had
been promised him by the Elector; and now, on receiving his
invitation to the conference, he left Eisleben for good without
permission, taking his wife and child with him. Luther welcomed him
as an old friend and invited him to his house as a guest. Luther's
statement was unanimously approved, and sent to the Elector on
January 3.

Even in this summary of belief, intended as it was for common
acceptance and for submission to a Council, Luther emphasised, with
all the fulness and keenness peculiar to himself throughout the
struggle, his antagonism to Roman Catholic dogma and Churchdom.
Fondly as he clung at that time to reconciliation among the
Protestants, he saw no possibility of peace with Rome.

As the first and main article he declared plainly that faith alone
in Jesus could justify a man; on that point they dared not yield,
though heaven and earth should fall. The mass he denounced as the
greatest and most horrible abomination, inasmuch as it was
'downright destructive of the first article,' and as the chiefest of
Papal idolatries; moreover, this dragon's tail had begotten many
other kinds of vermin and abominations of idolatry. With regard to
the Papacy itself, the Augsburg Confession had been content to
condemn it by silence, not having taken any notice of it in its
articles on the essence and nature of the Christian Church. Luther
now would have it acknowledged, 'that the Pope was not by divine
right (_jure divino_) or by warrant of God's Word the head of
all Christendom,' that position belonging to One alone, by name
Jesus Christ; and, furthermore, 'that the Pope was the true
Antichrist, who sets himself up and exalts himself above and against
Christ.' As for the Council, he expected that the Evangelicals there
present would have to stand before the Pope himself and the devil,
who would listen to nothing, but consider simply how to condemn and
kill them. They should, therefore, not kiss the feet of their enemy,
but say to him, 'The Lord rebuke thee, Satan!' (Zach. iii. 2).

The allies accordingly were anxious to consult together and
determine at Schmalkald what conduct to pursue at the Council. An
imperial envoy and a Papal nuncio wished also to attend their
meeting. The princes and representatives of the towns brought their
theologians with them to the number of about forty in all. The
Elector John Frederick brought Luther, Melancthon, Bugenhagen, and

On January 29 the Wittenberg theologians were summoned by their
prince to Torgau. From thence they travelled slowly by Grimma and
Altenburg, where they were entertained with splendour at the
prince's castles, then by Weimar, where, on Sunday, February 4,
Luther preached a sermon, and so on to the place of meeting. Luther
had left his family and house in the care of his guest Agricola. On
February 7 they arrived at Schmalkald.

The theologians at first were left unemployed. The members of the
convention only gradually assembled. The envoy of the Emperor came
on the 14th. Luther made up his mind for a stay there of four weeks.
He preached on the 9th in the town church before the prince himself.
The church he found, as he wrote to Jonas, so large and lofty, that
his voice sounded to him like that of a mouse. During the first few
days he enjoyed the leisure and rejoiced in the healthy air and
situation of the place.

He was already suffering, however, from the stone, which had once
before attacked him. A medical friend ascribed it partly to the
dampness of the inns and the sheets he slept in. However, the attack
passed off easily this time, and on the 14th he was able to tell
Jonas that he was better. But he grew very tired of the idle time at
Schmalkald. He said jokingly about the good entertainment there,
that he and his friends were living with the Landgrave Philip and
the Duke of Wurtemberg like beggars, who had the best bakers, ate
bread and drank wine with the Nurembergers, and received their meat
and fish from the Elector's court. They had the best trout in the
world, but they were cooked in a sauce with the other fish; and so

The Elector soon applied to him for an opinion as to taking part in
the Council, which Luther again recommended should not be bluntly
refused. A refusal, he said, would exactly please the Pope, who
wished for nothing so much as obstacles to the Council; it was for
this reason that, in speaking of the extirpation of heresy, he held
up the Evangelicals as a 'bugbear,' in order to frighten them from
the project. Good people might likewise object, on the ground that
the troubles with the Turks and the Emperor's engagement in the war
with France, were made use of by the Evangelicals to refuse the
Council, whilst in reality the knaves at Borne were reckoning on the
Turkish and French wars to prevent the Council from coming to pass.

Luther now received through Butzer the communications from
Switzerland, together with a letter from Meyer, the burgomaster of
Basle. To the latter he sent on the 17th of the month a cheerful and
friendly reply. He did not wish to induce him to make any further
explanations and promises, but his whole mind was bent upon mutual
forgiveness, and bearing with one another in patience and
gentleness. In this spirit he earnestly entreated Meyer to work with
him. 'Will you faithfully exhort your people,' he said, 'that they
may all help to quiet, soften, and promote the matter to the best of
their power, that they may not scare the birds at roost.' He
promised also, for his part, 'to do his utmost in the same

This same day, however, Luther's malady returned; he concluded his
letter with the words, 'I cannot write now all I would, for I have
been a useless man all day, owing to this painful stone.' The next
day, Sunday, when he preached a powerful sermon before a large
congregation, the malady became much worse, and a week followed of
violent pain, during which his body swelled, he was constantly sick,
and his weakness generally increased. Several doctors, including one
called in from Erfurt, did their utmost to relieve him. 'They gave
me physic,' he said afterwards, 'as if I were a great ox.'
Mechanical contrivances were employed, but without effect.' I was
obliged,' he said, 'to obey them, that it might not look as if I
neglected my body.'

His condition appeared desperate. With death before his eyes, he
thought of his arch-enemy the Pope, who might triumph over this, but
over whom he felt certain of victory even in death. 'Behold,' he
cried to God, 'I die an enemy of Thy enemies, cursed and banned by
Thy foe, the Pope. May he, too, die under Thy ban, and both of us
stand at Thy judgment bar on that day.' The Elector, deeply moved,
stood by his bed, and expressed his anxiety lest God might take away
with Luther His beloved Word. Luther comforted him by saying that
there were many faithful men who, by God's help, would become a wall
of strength; nevertheless, he could not conceal from the prince his
apprehension that, after he was gone, discord would arise even among
his colleagues at Wittenberg. The Elector promised him to care for
his wife and children as his own. Luther's natural love for them, as
he afterwards remarked, made the prospect of parting very hard for
him to bear. To his sorrowing friends he still was able to be
humorous. When Melancthon, on seeing him, began to cry bitterly, he
reminded him of a saying of their friend, the hereditary marshal,
Hans Loser, that to drink good beer was no art, but to drink sour
beer, and then continued, in the words of Job, 'What, shall we
receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?' And
again: 'The wicked Jews,' he said, 'stoned Stephen; my stone, the
villain! is stoning me.' But not for an instant did he lose his
trust in God and resignation to His will. When afraid of going mad
with the pain, he comforted himself with the thought that Christ was
his wisdom, and that God's wisdom remained immutable. Seeing, as he
did, the devil at work in his torture, he felt confident that even
if the devil tore him to pieces Christ would revenge His servant,
and God would tear the devil to pieces in return. Only one thing he
would fain have prayed his God to grant--that he might die in the
country of his Elector; but he was willing and ready to depart
whenever God might summon him. Upon being seized with a fit of
vomiting he sighed, 'Alas, dear Father, take the little soul into
Thy hand; I will be grateful to Thee for it. Go hence, thou dear
little soul, go, in God's name!'

At length an attempt was actually made to remove him to Gotha, the
necessary medical appliances being not procurable at Schmalkald. On
the 26th of the month the Erfurt physician, Sturz, drove him
thither, together with Bugenhagen, Spalatin, and Myconius, in one of
the Elector's carriages. Another carriage followed them, with
instruments and a pan of charcoal, for warming cloths. On driving
off, Luther said to his friends about him,' The Lord fill you with
His blessing, and with hatred of the Pope.'

The first day they could not venture farther than Tambach, a few
miles distant, the road over the mountains being very rough. The
jolting of the carriage caused him intolerable torture. But it
effected what the doctors could not. The following night the pain
was terminated, and the feeling of relief and recovery made him full
of joy and thankfulness. A messenger was sent at once, at two
o'clock in the morning, with the news to Schmalkald, and Luther
himself wrote a letter to his 'dearly-loved' Melancthon. To his wife
he wrote saying, 'I have been a dead man, and had commended you and
the little ones to God and to our good Lord Jesus.... I grieved very
much for your sakes.' But God, he went on to say, had worked a
miracle with him; he felt like one newly-born; she must thank God,
therefore, and let the little ones thank their heavenly Father,
without whom they would assuredly have lost their earthly one.

But on the 28th already, after his safe arrival at Gotha, he
suffered so severe a relapse that during that night he thought, from
his extreme weakness, that his end was near. He then gave to
Bugenhagen some last directions, which the latter afterwards
committed to writing, as the 'Confession and Last Testament of the
Venerable Father.' Herein Luther expressed his cheerful conviction
that he had done rightly in attacking the Papacy with the Word of
God. He begged his 'dearest Philip' (Melancthon) and other
colleagues to forgive anything in which he might have offended them.
To his faithful Kate he sent words of thanks and comfort, saying
that now for the twelve years of happiness which they had spent
together, she must accept this sorrow. Once more he sent greetings
to the preachers and burghers of Wittenberg. He begged his Elector
and the Landgrave not to be disturbed by the charges made against
them by the Papists of having robbed the property of the Church, and
recommended them to trust to God in their labours on behalf of the

The next morning, however, he was again better and stronger. Butzer,
who in regard to unity of confession and his relations with the
Swiss had not been able to have any further conversation with Luther
at Schmalkald, had at once, on receiving the good news from Tambach,
gone straight to Luther at Gotha, accompanied by the preacher
Wolfhart from Augsburg. Luther, notwithstanding his suffering, now
discussed with them this matter, so important in his eyes. As an
honest man, to whom nothing was so distasteful as 'dissimulation,'
he earnestly warned them against all 'crooked ways.' The Swiss, in
case he died, should be referred to his letter to Meyer; should God
allow him to live and become strong, he would send them a written
statement himself.

While, however, he was still at Gotha, the crisis of his illness
passed, and he was relieved entirely of the cause of his suffering.
The journey was continued cautiously and slowly, and a good halt was
made at Weimar. From Wittenberg there came to nurse him a niece, who
lived in his house: probably Lene Kaufmann, the daughter of his
sister. To his wife he wrote from Tambach, telling her that she need
not accept the Elector's offer to drive her to him, it being now
unnecessary. On March 14 he arrived again at his home. His recovery
had made good progress, though, as he wrote to Spalatin, even eight
days afterwards his legs could hardly support him.

Meanwhile the conference of the allies at Schmalkald resulted in
their deciding to decline the Papal invitation to the Council. They
informed the Emperor, in reply, that the Council which the Pope had
in view was something very different to the one so long demanded by
the German Diets; what they wanted was a free Council, and one on
German, not Italian territory.

With regard to Luther's articles, which he had drawn up in view of a
Council, they saw no occasion to occupy themselves with their
consideration. To their official Confession of Augsburg, which had
formed among other things the groundwork and charter of the
Religious Peace, and to the Apology, drawn up by Melancthon in reply
to the Catholic 'Refutation,' they desired, however, now to add a
protest against the authority and the Divine right of the Papacy.
Melancthon prepared it in the true spirit of Luther, though in a
calmer and more moderate tone than was usual with his friend. The
majority of the theologians present at Schmalkald testified their
assent to Luther's articles by subscribing their names. Luther had
his statement printed the following year. The Emperor, on account of
the war with the Turks and the renewal of hostilities with France,
had no time to think of compelling the allies to take part in a
Council, and was quite content that no Council should be held at
all. Whether the Pope himself, as Luther supposed, counted secretly
on this result, and was glad to see it happen, may remain a matter
of uncertainty.

At Schmalkald the seal was now set upon the Concord, which had been
concluded the previous year at Wittenberg, and then submitted for
ratification to the different German princes and towns, the formula
there adopted being now signed by all the theologians present, and
the agreement of the princes to abide by it being duly announced.
Towards the Swiss, who declined to waive their objections to the
Wittenberg articles, Luther maintained firmly the standpoint
indicated in his letter to Meyer. Thus, in the following December he
wrote himself to those evangelical centres in Switzerland from which
Butzer had brought him the communication to Gotha; while the next
year, in May 1538, he sent a friendly reply to a message from
Bullinger, and again in June he wrote once more to the Swiss, on
receiving an answer from them to his first letter. His constant wish
and entreaty was that they should at least be friendly to, and
expect the best of one another, until the troubled waters were
calmed. He fully acknowledged that the Swiss were a very pious
people, who earnestly wished to do what was right and proper. He
rejoiced at this, and hoped that God, even if only a hedge
obstructed, would help in time to remove all errors. But he could
not ignore or disregard that on which no agreement had yet been
arrived at; and he was right in supposing, and said so openly to the
Swiss, that upon their side, as well as upon his own, there were
many who looked upon unity not only with displeasure but even with
suspicion. He himself had constantly to explain misinterpretations
of his doctrine, and he did so with composure. He had never, he
said, taught that Christ, in order to be present at the Sacrament,
comes down from heaven; but he left to Divine omnipotence the manner
in which His Body is verily given to the guests at His table. But he
must guard himself, on the other hand, against the notion that, with
the attitude he now adopted, he had renounced his former doctrine.
And with this doctrine he held firmly to the conception of a
Presence of Christ's Body in the Sacrament different to and apart
from that Presence for purely spiritual nourishment on which the
Swiss now insisted. When Bullinger expressed his surprise that he
should still talk of a difference in doctrine, he gave up offering
any more explanations on the subject; and the Swiss, for their part,
after his second letter, made no further attempt to effect a more
perfect agreement. Luther's desire was to keep on terms of peace and
friendship with them, notwithstanding the difference still
notoriously existing between both parties. On this very account he
was loth to rake up the difference again by further explanations. By
acting thus he believed he should best promote an ultimate
understanding and unity, which was still the object of his hopes.

So far, therefore, during the years immediately following the death
of Zwingli, success had attended the efforts to heal the fatal
division which separated from Luther and the great Lutheran
community those of evangelical sympathies in Switzerland and the
South Germans, who were more or less subject to their influence, and
which had excited the minds on both sides with such violence and
passion. So far Luther himself had laboured to promote this result
with uprightness and zeal; he had conquered much suspicion once
directed against himself, he had sought means of peace; he had
restrained the disturbing zeal of his own friends and followers,
such as Amsdorf or Osiander at Nuremberg.

We must not omit finally to mention, as an important event of these
years and a testimony to Luther's disposition and sentiments, the
friendly relations now formed between himself and the so-called
Bohemian and Moravian Brethren. We have already had occasion to
notice, after the Leipzig disputation in 1519, and again, in
particular, after Luther's return from the Wartburg, an approach,
which promised much but was only transitory, between Luther and the
large and powerful brotherhood of the Bohemian Utraquists, who, as
admirers of Huss and advocates for giving the cup to the laity, had
freed themselves from the dominion of Rome. Quietly and modestly,
but with a far more penetrating endeavour to restore the purity of
Christian life, the small communities of the Moravian Brethren had
multiplied by the side of the Hussites, and had patiently endured
oppression and persecution. Luther afterwards declared of them, how
he had found to his astonishment--a thing unheard of under the
Papacy--that, discarding the doctrines of men, they meditated day
and night, to the best of their ability, on the laws of God, and
were well versed in the Scriptures. It was principally, however, as
Luther himself seems to indicate, the commands of Scripture, in the
strict and faithful fulfilment of which they sought for true
Christianity--with special reference to the commands of Jesus, as
expressed by Him in particular in the Sermon on the Mount, and to
those precepts which they found in their patterns, the oldest
Apostolic communities--that engrossed their attention. With strict
discipline, in conformity with these commands, they sought to order
and sanctify their congregational life. But of Luther's doctrine of
salvation, announced by him mainly on the testimony of St. Paul, or
of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, they had as yet no
knowledge. They taught of the righteousness to which Christians
should attain, as did Augustine and the pious, practical theologians
of the middle ages. Hence they were wanting also in freedom in their
conception of moral life, and of those worldly duties and blessings
to which, according to Luther, the Christian spirit rose by the
power of faith. They shunned rather all worldly business in a manner
that caused Luther to ascribe to them a certain monastic character.
Their priests lived, like Catholics, in celibacy. Another
peculiarity of their teaching was, that in striving after a more
spiritual conception of life, and under the influence of the
writings of the great Englishman Wicliffe, which were largely
disseminated among them, they repudiated the Catholic doctrine of
Transubstantiation, nor would even allow such a Presence of Christ's
Body as was insisted on by Luther. They maintained simply a
sacramental, spiritual, effectual presence of Christ, and
distinguished from it a substantial Presence, which His Body, they
declared, had in heaven alone.

With these, too, as with the Utraquists, Luther became more closely
acquainted soon after his return from the Wartburg. The evangelical
preacher, Paul Speratus, who was then temporarily working in
Moravia, wrote to him about these zealous friends of the gospel,
among whom, however, he found much that was objectionable,
especially their doctrine of the Sacrament. They themselves sent
Luther messages, letters, and writings. Luther, who, in addition to
the Catholic theory, had also to combat doubts as to the Real
Presence of Christ's Body at the Sacrament, turned in 1523, in a
treatise 'On the Adoration of the Sacrament, &c.,' to oppose the
declarations of the Brethren on this subject, and then proceeded to
draw their attention to other points on which he was unable to agree
with them, in the mildest form and with warm acknowledgments of
their good qualities, such as, in particular, their strict
requirements of Christian moral conduct, which in his own circle he
could not possibly expect to see as yet fulfilled. They and Lucas,
their elder, however, took umbrage at his remarks; Lucas published a
reply, whereupon Luther quietly left them to go their own way.

While Butzer now was prosecuting with success his attempts at union,
the Brethren renewed their overtures to Luther. They offered him
fresh explanations about the doctrines in dispute, and these
explanations he was content to treat as consistent with the truth
which he himself maintained, though they differed even from his own
actual statements, not only in form but in substance. For example,
they distinguished between the Presence of Christ's Body in the
Sacrament and His existence in heaven, by describing only the latter
as a Bodily existence. Practically, the theory of the Brethren,
which, however, was by no means clearly defined, agreed most with
that represented afterwards by Calvin. But Luther saw in it nothing
more that was essential, such as would necessitate further
controversy, or deter him from friendly intercourse with these
pious-minded people. At their desire he published two of their
statements of belief in 1533 and 1538 with prefaces from his own
pen. In these prefaces he dwelt particularly on the striking
differences, as regards Church usages and regulations, between their
congregations and his own. But these differences, he said, ought in
no way to prevent their fellowship; a difference of usages had
always existed among Christian Churches, and with the difference of
times and circumstances, was unavoidable. Nor did he withhold a
certain sanction and approbation of the dignity with which the
Brethren continued to invest the state of celibacy, while refusing,
however, to give that sanction the force of a law.

Among the Brethren their gifted and energetic elder John Augusta
laboured to promote an alliance with Luther and the German
Reformation. He repeatedly appeared (and again in 1540) in person at

Thus on all sides, wherever the Evangelical word prevailed, Luther
saw the bonds of union being firmly tied.



Amidst these important and general affairs of the Church, bringing
daily fresh labours and fresh anxieties for Luther--labours,
however, which, in spite of his bodily sufferings, he undertook with
his old accustomed energy--his strength, as in previous years we
have observed with reference to his preaching, now no longer
sufficed as before for the regular work of his calling. In his
official duties at the university the Elector himself, anxiously
concerned as he was for its progress, would have spared him as much
as possible. For these he arranged, in 1536, an ample stipend. In
his announcement of this step he solemnly declared: 'The merciful
God has plenteously and graciously vouchsafed to let His holy,
redeeming Word, through the teaching of the reverend and most
learned, our beloved and good Martin Luther, doctor of Holy
Scripture, be made known to all men in these latter days of the
world with true Christian understanding, for their comfort and
salvation, for which we give Him praise and thanks for ever; and has
made known also, in addition to other arts, the Latin, Greek, and
Hebrew languages, through the conspicuous and rare ability and
industry of the learned Philip Melancthon, for the furtherance of
the right and Christian comprehension of Holy Scripture.' To each of
these two men he now gave a hundred gulden as an addition to his
salary as professor, which in Luther's case had hitherto amounted to
two hundred gulden. At the same time he released Luther from the
obligation of lecturing, and, indeed, from all his other duties at
the university.

Luther began, however, this year a new and important course of
lectures--the exposition of the Book of Genesis, which, according to
his wont, he illustrated with a copious and valuable commentary on
the chief points of Christian doctrine and Christian life. They
progressed, however, but slowly and with many interruptions;
sometimes a whole year was occupied with only a few chapters. The
work was not completed until 1545. They were the last lectures he

In the office of preacher, which he continued to fill voluntarily
and without emolument, he undertook again, after he had returned
from Schmalkald, and had gained fresh strength and, at least, a
temporary recovery from his recent illness, labours at once beyond
and more arduous than his ordinary duties. He resumed, in short, the
duties of Bugenhagen, who was given leave of absence till 1539 to
visit Denmark, for the purpose of organising there, under the new
king Christian III., the new Evangelical Church. He preached
regularly on week-days, in addition to his Sunday sermons;
continuing his discourses, as Bugenhagen had done, though with many
interruptions, on the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. John. The
chancellor Bruck wrote to the Elector from Wittenberg on August 27:
'Doctor Martin preaches in the parish church thrice a week; and such
mightily good sermons are they, that it seems to me, as everyone is
saying, there has never been such powerful preaching here before. He
points out in particular the errors of the Popedom, and multitudes
come to hear him. He closes his sermons with a prayer against the
Pope, his Cardinals and Bishops, and for our Emperor, that God may
give him victory and deliver him from the Popedom.'

Among his literary labours he again took in hand in 1539 his German
translation of the Bible--the most important work, in its way, of
all his life--and persevered with intense and unremitting industry,
in order to revise it thoroughly for a new edition, which was
published at the end of two years. For this work he assembled around
him a circle of learned colleagues, whose assistance he succeeded in
obtaining and whom he regularly consulted. These were Melancthon,
Jonas, Bugenhagen, Cruciger, Matthew Aurogallus, professor of
Hebrew, and afterwards the chaplain Rorer, who attended to the
corrections. From outside also some joined them, such as Ziegler,
the Leipzig theologian, a man learned in Hebrew. Luther's younger
friend Mathesius, who had been Luther's guest in 1540, relates of
these meetings how 'Doctor Luther came to them with his old Bible in
Latin and his new one in German, and besides these he had always the
Hebrew text with him. Philip (Melancthon) brought with him the Greek
text, Dr. Kreuziger (Cruciger) besides the Hebrew, the Chaldaic
Bible (the translation or paraphrase in use among the ancient Jews);
the professors had with them their Rabbis (the Rabbinical writings
of the Old Testament). Each one had previously armed himself with a
knowledge of the text, and compared the Greek and Latin with the
Jewish version. The president then propounded a text, and let the
opinions go round;--speeches of wondrous truth and beauty are said
to have been made at these sittings.'

In other respects Luther's literary activity was chiefly devoted to
the great questions remaining to be dealt with at a Council. In
1539, the year after his publication of the Schmalkaldic Articles,
appeared a larger treatise from his pen 'On Councils and Churches,'
one of the most exhaustive of his writings, and important to us as
showing how firmly and confidently his idea of the Christian Church,
as a community of the faithful, was maintained amidst all the
practical difficulties which events prepared. He complains of the
substitution of the blind, unmeaning word 'Church'--and that even in
the Catechism for the young--for the Greek word in the New Testament
'Ecclesia,' as the name of the community or assembly of Christian
people. Much misery, he said, had crept in under that word Church,
from its being understood as consisting of the Pope and the bishops,
priests, and monks. The Christian Church was simply the mass of
pious Christian people, who believed in Christ and were endowed with
the Holy Spirit, Who daily sanctified them by the forgiveness of
sins, and by absolving and purifying them therefrom.

Of Luther's love for his German mother-language, and of the services
he rendered it, so conspicuously shown by these his writings, and
especially by his persevering industry in his translation of the
Bible, we are further reminded by a request he made in a letter of
March 1535, to his friend Wenzeslaus Link at Nuremberg. He suddenly
in that letter breaks off from the Latin--which was still the
customary language of correspondence between theologians--and
continues in German, with the words, 'I will speak German, my dear
Herr Wenzel,' and then begs his friend to make his servant collect
for him all the German pictures, rhymes, books, and ballads that had
recently been published at Nuremberg, as he wished to familiarise
himself more with the genuine language of the people. Luther himself
made a goodly collection of German proverbs. His original manuscript
which contained them was inherited by a German family, but
unfortunately it was bought about twenty years ago in England. There
was published also at Wittenberg, in 1537, a small anonymous book on
German names, written (unquestionably by Luther) in Latin, and
therefore intended for students. It contains, it is true, many
strange mistakes, but it is, nevertheless, a proof of the interest
he took in such studies, and is interesting as a maiden effort in
this field of national learning.

In the regular government and legal administration of his Saxon
Church, Luther did not occupy any post of office. When in 1539 a
Consistory was established at Wittenberg for the Electoral district,
and afterwards, indeed, for the regulation of marriage and
discipline, he did not become a member; he was certainly never
called upon or qualified to take part in the exercise of such a
jurisdiction. And yet this also was done with his concurrence, and
in cases of difficulty he was resorted to for his advice. All Church
questions of public interest continued, with this exception, to
occupy his independent and influential discussion. And even the
moral evils on the domain of civil, municipal and social life, to
which Luther at the beginning of the Reformation appeared desirous
of extending his preaching of reform, so far, at least, as that
preaching represented a general call and exhortation, but which he
afterwards seemed to discard altogether as something foreign to his
mission, never wholly faded from his purview, or ceased to enlist
his active interest. He wrote again in 1539 against usury, much as
he had written at an earlier period, remarking to his friends that
his book would prick the consciences of petty usurers, but that the
big swindlers would only laugh at him in their sleeves. And in
publishing his Schmalkaldic Articles he briefly refers again in his
preface to the 'countless matters of importance' which a genuine
Christian Council would have to mend in the temporal condition of
mankind--such as the disunion of princes and states, the usury and
avarice, which had spread like a deluge and had become the law, and
the sins of unchastity, gluttony, gambling, vanity in dress,
disobedience on the part of subjects, servants, and workmen of all
trades; as also the removal of peasants, &c. Nor at the same time
was he less prompt to interfere on behalf of individuals who were
suffering from want and injustice, either by his humble intercession
with their lords, or with the sharp sword of his denunciation.

It was Luther's indignation and zeal on such an occasion that caused
now his irremediable rupture with the Archbishop, Cardinal Albert,
and induced him to attack that magnate as recklessly as he did; for
the Cardinal had hitherto been always disposed to treat him with a
certain respect; and Luther, on his side, had refrained at least
from any open exhibition of hostility. The immediate cause of this
rupture was a judicial murder, perpetrated against one John Schonitz
(or Schanz) of Halle, on the river Saale. This man had for years had
the charge, as the confidential servant of the Archbishop, of the
public and even the private funds which his master required for his
stately palaces, his luxury, and his sensual enjoyments, refined or
coarse, legitimate or illegitimate; and had actually lent him large
sums. The Estates of the Archbishopric complained of the demands
made on them for money, and rightly suspected that the funds
supplied were improperly and dishonestly misappropriated. Schonitz
grew alarmed on account of the clandestine 'practices' which he was
carrying on for his master. The latter, however, assured him of his
protection. But when the Estates refused to grant any more subsidies
until a proper account was laid before them, he basely sacrificed
his servant in order to extricate himself from his embarrassment.
For deceptions alleged to have been practised against himself, he
had Schonitz arrested, and confined, in September 1534, in the
Castle of Giebichenstein. In vain Schonitz demanded a public trial
by impartial judges; in vain did the Imperial Court of Justice give
judgment in his favour. A second judgment of the court was answered
by Albert's directing the prisoner, who was a citizen of Halle and
sprung from an old local family, to be tried on June 21, 1535, at
Giebichenstein, by a peasant tribunal hastily summoned from the
surrounding villages, for the trial merely, as the rumour ran in
Halle, of a horse-stealer. The unhappy prisoner was allowed no
regular defence, and no counsel. An admission of guilt was extorted
from him by the rack, and he was summarily sentenced to death. Time
was only allowed him to say to the bystanders that he confessed
himself a sinner in the sight of God, but that he had not deserved
this fate. He was quickly strung up on the gallows, where his corpse
remained hanging till the wind blew it down in February 1537. Albert
took possession of his property. And this was done by the supreme
prince of the Roman Church in Germany, who played the part of a
modern Macenas with regard to art and science.

Whilst now the justices of the town of Halle were protesting against
this treatment of their fellow-townsman to the Archbishop, who
turned a deaf ear to their remonstrance, and Antony, the brother of
the murdered man, exerted himself in vain to vindicate his honour
and the rights of their family, Luther was drawn into the affair by
the fact that one of his guests, Ludwig Rabe, was threatened with
punishment by Albert, for expressions he let fall soon after the
deed was committed. Luther thereupon wrote several times to Albert
himself, and told him openly he was a murderer, and, for his
squandering of Church property, deserved a gallows ten times higher
than the Castle of Giebichenstein. He was restrained, however, from
taking further steps by the Elector of Brandenburg and other of
Albert's influential relatives, who appealed to John Frederick on
his behalf, whilst Albert sought to make a cheap compensation to the
family of the murdered man, or at least pretended to do so.

When, however, a young Humanist poetaster at Wittenberg, named
Lemnius--properly Lemchen--actually glorified the Archbishop in
verse, or, as Luther put it, 'made a saint of the devil,' and at the
same time vilified some men and women at Wittenberg, Luther read
aloud from the pulpit, in 1538, a short indictment, couched in the
plainest possible terms, against the shameless libeller, as also
against the Archbishop whom he glorified; and this indictment soon
appeared in print. And now he no longer refrained from taking up the
cause of Schonitz in a pamphlet of some length. When the Duke of
Prussia endeavoured once more in a friendly way to dissuade him from
his purpose, for the honour of the house of Brandenburg, he replied,
'Wicked sons have sprung from the noble race of David, and princes
ought not to disgrace themselves by unprincely vices.' In the
pamphlet to his opening he declared that a stone was lying upon his
heart which was called 'Deliver them that are drawn unto death, and
those that are ready to be slain' (Prov. xxiv. 11). He denounced the
contempt and denial of justice of which the Archbishop was guilty,
and at the same time boldly exposed the real objects of those
private expenses which the Archbishop, together with his servant,
had incurred, and of which the latter was naturally unable to give
an account--least of all, those that ministered to his carnal
appetites, such as his establishment at Morizburg in Halle. He
himself, says Luther, does not judge the Cardinal; he is simply the
bearer of the sentence pronounced by the great Judge in heaven. To
those who might perhaps have taken exception to his words he says,
'I sit here at Wittenberg, and ask my most gracious lord the Elector
for no further favour or protection than what is given to all
alike.' Albert found it more prudent to keep silent.

But what disturbed and grieved Luther more than anything else during
this, the closing chapter of his life, was the bitter experience he
had yet to make in his own religious community, nay, amidst his most
intimate companions and friends.

The way of life--in other words, the way of saving faith--was now
rediscovered and clearly brought to light; and, as Luther said, a
truly moral life should be the consequence. And great pains were
taken to stamp this new truth clearly and distinctly on doctrine,
and to guard against new errors and perversions. Differences,
however, now arose among those who had hitherto worked so loyally
together for the establishment of the faith--a beginning of those
doctrinal disputes which after Luther's death became so disastrous
to his Church. Again and again Luther bitterly complained of the
moral wrongs and scandals which proved that the faith, however
widely its confession had spread through Germany, was far from
living in its purity and strength in the hearts of men, and bearing
the expected fruit. Only his own conviction, his own faith was never
shaken by this result. It must needs be, as Christ Himself had said,
that offences must come; and, in the words of St. Paul (1 Cor. xi.
19), 'there must be also heresies,' and false teachers and deceivers
must arise.

[Illustration: Fig. 44.--AGRICOLA. (From a miniature portrait by
Cranach, in the University Album at Wittenberg, 1531.)]

We have seen above how cordially Luther welcomed Agricola back at
Wittenberg after throwing up his appointment at Eisleben. He
obtained for him from the Elector in 1537 an ample salary, to enable
him to fill the long-coveted office of teacher at the university,
and be a preacher as well. It soon became known that Agricola
persisted in maintaining that doctrine of repentance in defence of
which he had attacked Melancthon at the first visitation of churches
in the Saxon Electorate. He had been accused of this at Eisleben,
and Count Albert of Mansfeld, whose service he had quitted with
rudeness and discontent, denounced him as a restless and dangerous
fellow. And now at Wittenberg also Agricola had some sermons
printed, and some theses circulated, embodying a statement of his
peculiar doctrine. Luther considered it his duty to refute these,
and he did so from the pulpit, but without naming their author.

The proclamation of God's law, so Agricola now taught, was no
necessary part of Christianity, as such, nor of the way of salvation
prepared and revealed by Christ. The Gospel of the Son of God, our
Saviour, this alone should be proclaimed, and operate in touching
the hearts of men and exposing the true character of their sins as
sinfulness against the Son of God. In this way he sought to give
full effect to the fundamental evangelical doctrine, that the grace
of God alone had power to save through the joyful message of Christ.
The personal vanity, however, which was the chief weakness of this
gifted, intellectual, and fairly eloquent man, and which was now
increased by the dissatisfaction it had caused at Eisleben,
displayed itself further in the assertion of his eccentricities of
dogma. Moreover, he was far from clear in his first principles, and
while maintaining his tenets he was unwilling to stake too much on
his own account, and yet refused actually to abandon them.

He came at first to an understanding with Luther by offering an
explanation which the latter deemed satisfactory, but he then
proceeded to revert to his peculiar tenets in a new publication.
Luther now launched a sharp reply against these antinomian theses,
as well as against others, which went much further, and whose origin
is unknown. He found wanting in Agricola that earnest moral
appreciation of the law, and of the moral demands made of us by God,
whereby the heart of the sinner, as he himself had experienced, must
first be bruised and broken, and thus opened to receive the word of
grace, before that word can truly renew, revive, and sanctify it.
But together with Agricola's tenets he then placed the others,
betraying an equally frivolous estimate of the real nature of those
demands and of the duties they entailed, as evidence of one tendency
and one character, since Agricola, indeed, taught like them, that
the good willed by God in His Commandments was fulfilled in
Christians by the simple fact of their belief in Christ, and as the
fruit of His word of grace. Thus it came about that this tendency
which Luther found represented in Agricola, stood out before him in
all its compass and with its extremest and most alarming
consequences, and called forth the boldest exercise of his zeal. It
grieved him sorely, nevertheless, to have to enter into this dispute
with his old friend. 'God knows,' he said, 'what trials this
business has prepared for me; I shall have died of sheer anxiety
before I have brought my theses against him (Agricola) to the

At the instance, however, of the Elector, who valued Agricola,
another reconciliation was brought about. Agricola humbled himself;
he even authorised his great opponent to draw up a retractation in
his name, and Luther did this in a manner very damaging to Agricola,
in a letter to his former colleague and opponent at Eisleben, Caspar
Guttel. Agricola thereupon received a place in the newly-formed
consistory. But even now he could not refrain from fresh utterances
which betrayed his old opinions. Luther's confidence in him was thus
destroyed for ever: he spoke with indignation, pain, and scorn of
'Grikel (Agricola), the false man.' The latter at length complained
to the Elector against Luther for having unjustly aspersed him. The
Elector testified to him his displeasure; Luther gave a sharp answer
to the charge, and his prince made further inquiries into the matter
of complaint. Agricola finally snatched at a means of escape offered
by his summons to Berlin, whither he had been called as a preacher
of distinction by the Elector Joachim II., who was a convert to the
Reformation. In August 1540 he left Wittenberg. He sent thither from
Berlin another and fully satisfactory retractation in order to
retain his official appointment. But Luther's friendship with him
was broken for ever.

In another quarter also Melancthon had been charged with deviating
in certain statements from the path of right doctrine.

We know already how his anxiety about the dangers caused by the
separation from the great Catholic Church seemed to tempt him to
indulge in questionable concessions, and how it was Luther himself,
with a disposition so different to Melancthon's, who nevertheless
held firmly to his trust in his friend and fellow-labourer,
particularly during the Diet of Augsburg. And, indeed, subsequent
events brought this tendency to concession more fully into notice.

Certain peculiarities now asserted themselves in Melancthon's
independent opinions, with regard both to theology and practical
life, which distinguished his mode of teaching from that of Luther.
He who, again and again, in the Augsburg Confession and the Apology,
as also in the system of evangelical theology which in his 'Loci
Communes' he was the first to elaborate, had expounded with full and
active conviction the fundamental evangelical truth of a justifying
and saving Faith, was anxious also--more so, even, than many strict
confessors of that doctrine--to have the whole field of moral
improvement and the fruits of morality which were necessary to
preserve that faith, estimated at their proper value. And further,
with respect to God's will and the operation of His grace, whereby
alone the sinner could obtain inward conversion and faith, he wished
to make this depend entirely on man's own will and choice, so that
the blame might not appear to lie with God if the call to salvation
remained fruitless, and a temptation thereby be offered to many to
indulge in carelessness or despondency. In addition to this, he
differed unmistakably from Luther in his doctrine of the Sacrament.
For, though it was he who at Augsburg in 1530 had flatly rejected
the Zwinglians, still his historical researches impressed him with
the belief, that, in reality, as indeed the Zwinglians maintained,
not Augustine himself, among the ancients, had taught the Real
Bodily Presence after the manner of Luther, or even of Roman
Catholicism; and his own theological opinion induced him at least to
satisfy himself with more or less obscure propositions about the
communion of the Saviour Who died for us with the guests at His
table, without any fixed or clear declarations about the
substantiality of the Body. This appears, for instance, in his 'Loci
Communes,' although in the formula of the Wittenberg Concord of 1536
he went farther, together with Luther.

On the first point above-mentioned, a priest named Cordatus, a
strict adherent of Luther, had raised a protest against him in 1536.
But the opponent whom Melancthon chiefly feared in this respect was
the theologian Amsdorf, who was not only an old familiar friend of
Luther, but the especial guardian, both then and still more after
Luther's death, of Lutheran orthodoxy. But Luther himself was
anxious to avoid, even in this matter, any rupture or discord with
Melancthon. He took great pains to reconcile the difference, and
knew also how to keep silence, though without deviating from his own
strict standpoint, or being able to overlook the peculiarity of his
friend's teaching, conspicuously apparent as it was in the new
edition of his book.

We are reminded by this, moreover, how Luther, during his illness at
Schmalkald in 1537, made no secret of his fear of a division
breaking out at Wittenberg after his death.



In the great affairs of the Church, amid the threats of his enemies
and in all his dealings with them, Luther continued from day to day
to trust quietly in God, as the Guider of events, Who suffers none
to forestall His designs, and puts to shame and rebuke the
inventions of man. His hope of external peace had hitherto been
fulfilled beyond all expectation. And it had been permitted him to
see the Reformation gain strength and make further progress in the
German Empire. Indeed, it seemed possible that a union might be
effected with those Catholics who had been impressed with the
evangelical doctrine of salvation. These were results accomplished
by the inward power of God's Word, as hitherto preached to the
people, under a Divine and marvellously favourable dispensation of
outer relations and events--fruits as unexpected as they were
gratifying to Luther. Great plans or projects of his own, however,
were still far from his thoughts; nor even did the details of this
historical development demand such activity on his part as he had
shown in the earlier years of the movement. And yet there was no
lack of discord, difficulty, and trouble within the pale of the new
Church and amongst its members; prospects of further, and possibly
much more serious dangers to be encountered; thoughts of sadness and
disquietude to vex the soul of the Reformer, now aged, suffering,
and weary. The goal of his hopes had ever been, and still remained,
not indeed a victory to be gradually achieved for his cause, perhaps
even in his own lifetime, by the course of ecclesiastical and
political changes and events, but the end which the Lord Himself,
according to His promises, would make of the whole wicked world, and
the Hereafter whither he was ever waiting to be summoned.

Since the Schmalkaldic allies had rejected the Emperor with his
invitation to a Council, the Romish zealots might well hope that
Charles at length would prepare to use force against them. He was
not yet able to bring his quarrel with King Francis to a final
termination; but, nevertheless, he concluded a truce with him in
1538 for ten years, while at the same time his vice-chancellor Held
contrived to effect a union of Roman Catholic princes in Germany in
opposition to the Schmalkaldic League. This union was joined, in
addition to Austria, Bavaria, and George of Saxony, by Duke Henry of
Brunswick, the bitter enemy of the Landgrave Philip. Already in the
spring of that year people at Wittenberg talked of operations on a
large scale ostensibly directed against the Turks, but in reality
against the Protestants. Or at least it was feared that the imperial
army, in the event of its defeating the Turks, might, as Luther
expressed it, turn their spears against the Evangelical party. In
this respect Luther had no fears; he did not believe in a victory
over the Turks, and, even in that case, his opinion was that the
imperial troops would no more submit to be made the instruments of
such a policy than they had done some years before, after their
victory at Vienna. Most earnestly he exhorted the Elector, for his
part at least, to do his duty again in the war against the Turks,
for the sake of his Fatherland and the poor oppressed people. On the
other hand, the right of the Protestant States to resist the
Emperor, if it came to a war of religion, was one which he now
asserted without scruple or hesitation. The Emperor, he said, in
such a war would not be Emperor at all, but merely a soldier of the
Pope. He appealed to the fact that once among the people of Israel
pious and godly men had risen up against their sovereign; and the
German princes had additional rights over their Emperor, by virtue
of their constitution. Finally, he reasoned from the law of nature
itself, that a father was bound to protect his wife and children
from open murder; and he likened the Emperor, who usurped a power
notoriously illegal, to a murderer. For the rest, he declared, in a
publication exhorting the Evangelical clergy to pray for peace, that
as to whether the Papists chose to carry out their designs or not he
was perfectly indifferent, in case God did not will to work a
miracle. His only fear was lest a war might arise, if they did so,
which would never end, and would be the total ruin of Germany.

But the Emperor was less zealous and more cautious than his
vice-chancellor. He sent another representative to Germany, with
instructions to prevent an outbreak of hostilities. This envoy, in
the course of some negotiations conducted at Frankfort in April
1539, agreed to an understanding by which the ecclesiastical
law-suits hitherto instituted in the Imperial Chamber against the
Protestants were suspended, and a number of chosen theologians of
piety and laymen were to 'arrange a praiseworthy union of
Christians' at an assembly of the German Estates.

On April 17, in the midst of these transactions, Duke George of
Saxony died after a short illness. His country passed to his brother
Henry, who in his own smaller territory of Freiburg had for some
years, much to the grief of George, established the Evangelical form
of worship, and given shelter to the heretics banished by his
brother. The latter had left no male issue to succeed him. He had
lost two sons in boyhood; and his son John, who held the same
opinions as himself, had died two years ago, when quite a young man,
without leaving any children. His last remaining son Frederick was
of weak intellect, but had nevertheless been married after his
brother's death, and died a few weeks later. He was soon followed by
his unhappy father and sovereign. Luther said of him that he had
gone to everlasting fire, though he would have wished him life and
conversion. To us his end appears the more tragic because we cannot
but acknowledge the honest zeal with which, from his own point of
view, he endeavoured to serve God, and would willingly even have
effected a reform in the Church; whilst, in spite of all his
severity against heretics, he never suffered himself to be hurried
into deeds of coarse violence and cruelty. There are extant prayers
and religious discourses, composed and written down by himself. He
read the Bible, and expressed a wish, when Luther's translation
appeared, that 'the monk would put the whole Bible into German, and
then go about his business.'

Thus the old and constantly revived quarrel between Luther and the
Duke came at length to an end. The Reformation was immediately
introduced throughout the duchy by the appointment of Evangelical
clergy, by changes in public worship, and by a visitation of
churches after the example of the one in Electoral Saxony. When
Henry was solemnly acknowledged sovereign at Leipzig, he invited
Luther and Jonas to be present. On the afternoon of Whitsunday, May
24, 1539, Luther preached a sermon in the court chapel of that
Castle of Pleissenburg, where he had once disputed before George
with Eck, and on the following afternoon he preached in one of the
churches of the town, not venturing to do so in the morning on
account of his weak state of health. He now proclaimed aloud, in his
sermon on the Gospel for Whitsunday, that the Church of Christ was
not there, where men were madly crying 'Church! Church!' without the
Word of God, nor was it with the Pope, the cardinals, and the
bishops; but there, and there only, where Christ was loved and His
Word was kept, and where accordingly He dwelt in the souls of men.
He refrained from any special reference to the state of things
hitherto existing at Leipzig and in the duchy, or to the change
brought about by God. But we call to mind the words he had spoken in
1532, 'Who knows what God will do before ten years are over?' Very
soon, indeed, the magnates of the Saxon court and the nobility,
though accepting the reformed faith of their new sovereign, gave
occasion to Luther for bitter complaints of their rapacity, their
indifference to religion, and their improper and tyrannical
usurpations on the territory of the Church.

In addition to the Saxon duchy, the Electorate of Brandenburg was
also about to go over to Protestantism. The Elector Joachim I.
adhered so strictly to the ancient Church, that his wife Elizabeth,
who was evangelically inclined, had fled to Saxony, where she became
an intimate friend of Luther's household. But on his death in 1535,
his younger son John, together with his territory, the 'Neumark,'
joined at once the Schmalkaldic allies. And now, after longer
consideration, his elder brother also, Joachim II.--a man of quieter
disposition and more attached to ancient ways--took the decisive
step, after an agreement with his Estates and the territorial
bishop, Jagow. On November 1, 1539, he received from the latter
publicly the Sacrament in both kinds.

Under these circumstances the Emperor resolved to give effect to the
essential part of the Frankfort agreement. He summoned a meeting at
Spire 'for the purpose of so arranging matters that the wearisome
dissension in religion might be reconciled in a Christian manner.'
In consequence of a pestilence which appeared at Spire, the assembly
was removed to Hagenau. Here it was actually held in June 1540.

Meanwhile, the most vigorous champion of Protestantism, the
Landgrave Philip, took a step which was calculated to damage the
position of the Evangelical Church and to embarrass its adherents
more than anything which their enemies could possibly attempt.
Philip, in his youth (1523) had taken to wife a daughter of Duke
George of Saxony, but soon repented of his ill-considered resolve,
on the ground that she was of an unamiable disposition and was
afflicted with bodily infirmities, and accordingly proceeded to look
elsewhere for a mistress, after the fashion only too common at that
time with emperors and princes, but scarcely commented upon in their
case. The earnest remonstrances made to him on religious grounds
against this step had the effect of causing him certain prickings of
conscience; he had not ventured on that account, as he now
complained, to present himself at the Lord's table, with one single
exception, since the Peasants' War. But his conscience was not
strong enough to make him give up his evil ways. At last the Bible,
which he read industriously, seemed to him to provide a means of
outlet from his difficulty. He sheltered himself, as the Anabaptist
fanatics had done before him, behind the Old Testament precedent of
Abraham and other godly men, to whom it had been permitted to have
more than one wife, and pleaded, moreover, that the New Testament
contained no prohibition of polygamy. With all the energy and
stubbornness of his nature, he fastened on these notions and clung
to them, when, at the house of his sister, the Duchess Elizabeth, at
Rochlitz, he chanced to meet and fall in love with a lady named
Margaret von der Saal. She refused to be his except by marriage. Her
mother even demanded of him that Luther, Butzer, and Melancthon, or
at least two of them, together with an envoy of the Elector and the
Duke of Saxony, should be present as witnesses at the marriage.
Philip himself found the consent of these divines and of his most
distinguished ally, John Frederick, indispensable. He succeeded
first of all in gaining over the versatile Butzer, and sent him in
December 1539, on this errand, to Wittenberg.

He appealed to the strait that he was in, no longer able with a good
conscience to go to war or to punish crime, and also to the
testimony of Scripture, adding, very truly, that the Emperor and the
world were quite willing to permit both him and anyone else to live
in open immorality. Thus, he said, they were forbidding what God
allowed, and winking at what He prohibited. In other respects,
indeed, a double marriage was not a thing unheard of even by the
Christendom of those days. It was said, for instance, of the
Christian Emperor of Rome, Valentinian II., to whose case Philip
himself appealed, that he had been permitted to contract a marriage
of that kind. To the Pope was ascribed the power to grant the
necessary dispensation.

On December 10 Butzer brought back to the Landgrave from Wittenberg
an opinion of Luther and Melancthon. They told him in decided terms
that it was in accordance with creation itself, and recognised as
such by Jesus, 'that a man was not to have more than one wife;' and
they, the preachers of God's Word, were commanded to regulate
marriage and all human things 'in accordance with their original and
Divine institution, and to adhere thereto as closely as possible,
while at the same time avoiding to their utmost all cause of pain or
annoyance.' They urgently exhorted him not to regard incontinence,
as did the world, in the light of a trifling offence, and
represented to him plainly that if he refused to resist his evil
inclinations, he would not mend matters by taking a second wife. But
with all this exhortation and warning, they confessed themselves
bound to admit that 'what was allowed in respect of marriage by the
law of Moses was not actually forbidden in the gospel;' thereby
maintaining, in point of fact, that an original ordinance in the
Church must be adhered to as the rule, but nevertheless admitting
the possibility of a dispensation under very strong and exceptional
circumstances. They did not say that such a dispensation was
applicable to the case of Philip; they only wished him earnestly to
reconsider the matter with his own conscience. In the event,
however, of his keeping to his resolve, they would not refuse him
the benefit of a dispensation, and only required that the matter
should be kept private, on account of the scandal and possible abuse
it would occasion if generally known.

Luther himself abandoned afterwards the conclusions he drew from the
Old Testament in this respect, and, as a consequence, rejected the
admissibility of a double marriage for Christians. Friends of the
evangelical and Lutheran belief can only lament the decision he
pronounced in this matter. With that belief itself it has nothing
whatever to do. Instead of drawing his conclusions from the moral
aspect of marriage, as amply attested by the spirit of the New
Testament, though not indeed exactly expressed, Luther on this
occasion clung to the letter, and failed, of course, to find any
written declaration on the point. At the same time he mistook, in
common with all the theologians of his time, the difference, in
point of matured morality and knowledge, between the New Covenant
and the standpoint of the Old, which was that also of his best

The simple Christian common sense of the Elector John Frederick, and
his practical view of the position, preserved him this time from the
error into which the theologians had fallen. He lamented that they
should have given an answer, and would have nothing to do with the

Philip, however, rejoiced at the decision, and obtained, moreover,
his wife's consent to take a second one.

In the following March the Protestants held another conference at
Schmalkald, with a view of coming to an agreement as to their
conduct in the attempts at unity in the Church. The Elector summoned
Melancthon thither, but excused Luther, at his own request. Philip
then invited the former, under some pretext or other, to the
neighbouring Castle of Rothenburg on the Fulda. Arrived there, he
was obliged to be a witness with Butzer, on March 4, 1540, to the
marriage of the Landgrave with Margaret. Philip thanked Luther some
weeks after for the 'remedy' allowed him, without which he should
have become 'quite desperate.' He had kept the name of his second
wife a secret from the Wittenbergers; he now told Luther that she
was a virtuous maiden, a relative of Luther's own wife, and that he
rejoiced to have honourably become his kinsman.

Very soon, however, the news of this unheard of event got wind. The
Evangelicals were not less scandalised than their enemies, who in
other respects were glad to see the mischief. The first to demand an
explanation was the Ducal Court of Saxony, the Duke being so nearly
related to Philip's first wife, and on the eve of a quarrel with
Philip about a claim of inheritance. The Landgrave's whole position
was in jeopardy; for bigamy, by the law of the Empire, was a serious
offence. Luther heard now with indignation that the 'necessity' to
which Philip had thought himself justified in yielding had been
exaggerated. The latter, on the other hand, finding concealment no
longer possible, wished to announce his marriage publicly, and
defend it. He went so far as to imagine that even if the allies
should renounce him he might still procure the favour and
consideration of the Emperor. Unpleasant and very painful
discussions arose between him, John Frederick, and Duke Henry of

Meanwhile, the day was now approaching for the conference at
Hagenau. Melancthon was sent there too by the Elector. But on
reaching Weimar on June 13, where the prince was then staying, he
suddenly fell ill, and it seemed as if his end was close at hand. He
was oppressed with trouble and anxiety about the wrongdoing of the
Landgrave. The Elector himself wrote reproachfully to Philip, saying
that 'Philip Melancthon was disturbed with miserable thoughts about
him,' and he now lay between life and death. Luther was sent for by
the Elector from Wittenberg. He found the sick man lying in a state
of unconsciousness and seemingly quite dead to the world. Shocked at
the sight, he exclaimed, 'God help us! how has Satan marred this
vessel of Thy grace!' Then the faithful, manly friend fell to
praying God for his precious companion, casting, as he said, all his
heart's request before Him, and reminding Him of all the promises
contained in His own Word. He exhorted and bade Melancthon to be of
good courage, for that God willed not the death of a sinner, and he
would yet live to serve Him. He assured him he would rather now
depart himself. On Melancthon's gradually showing more signs of
life, he had some food prepared for him, and on his refusing it
said, 'You really must eat, or I will excommunicate you.' By degrees
the patient revived in body and soul. Luther was able to inform
another friend, 'We found him dead, and by an evident miracle he

Luther, after this, was taken to Eisenach by his prince, to advise
him on the news which he expected to receive there from Hagenau. At
Eisenach he and the chancellor Bruck had an earnest consultation
with envoys from Hesse. Against these, both Luther and Bruck
insisted that the proceedings which had taken place between Philip
and the theologians in respect to his marriage should be kept as
secret as a confession, and that Philip must be content to have his
second marriage regarded, in the eyes of the world and according to
the law, as concubinage. He must make up his mind, therefore, to
parry, as best he could, the questions which were being noised
abroad about him, with vague statements or equivocations. He would
then incur no further personal danger. But any attempt to brazen it
out would inevitably land him in confusion and embarrassment, and
only increase and continue the damage done to the Evangelical cause
by this affair.

The Diet at Hagenau made no further demand on Luther's activity. It
was there resolved to take in hand again, at another meeting to be
held at Worms late in the autumn, and after further preparation, the
religious and ecclesiastical questions at issue. Peaceably-disposed
and competent men were to be appointed on both sides for this
purpose. Thus Luther was now at liberty to leave Eisenach towards
the end of July, and return home, dissatisfied, as he wrote to his
wife, with the Diet at Hagenau, where labour and expense had been
wasted, but happy in the thought that Melancthon had been restored
from death to life.

At Worms the proceedings, in which Melancthon and Eck took a
prominent part, were further adjourned to a Diet which the Emperor
purposed to hold in person at Ratisbon early in 1541. Here, on April
27, a debate was opened on religion.

Luther entertained very slender expectations from all these
conferences, considering the long-ascertained opinions of his
opponents. He pointed to the innocent blood which had long stained
the hands of the Emperor Charles and King Ferdinand. Still, during
the Diet at Worms, the thought arose in his mind that, if only the
Emperor were rightly disposed, a German Council might actually
result from that assembly. He saw his enemies busy with their secret
schemes of mischief, and feared lest many of his comrades in the
faith, such as the Landgrave Philip, might treat too lightly the
matter, which was no mere comedy among men, but a tragedy in which
God and Satan were the actors. He rejoiced again, however, that the
falsehood and cunning of his enemies must be brought to nought by
their own folly, and that God Himself would consummate the great
catastrophe of the drama. And in regard to the fear we have just
mentioned, he declared that he, at any rate, would not suffer
himself to be dragged into anything against his own conviction.
'Rather,' said he, 'would I take the matter again on my own
shoulders, and stand alone, as at the beginning. We know that it is
the cause of God, and He will carry it through to the end; whoever
will not go with it, must remain behind.'

Between the Diets of Worms and Ratisbon he entered in 1541, with all
his old severity, and with a violence even beyond his wont, into a
bitter correspondence which had just then begun between Duke Henry
of Brunswick--Wolfenbuttel, a zealous Catholic, and morally of ill
repute with friend and foe, on the one side, and John Frederick and
the Landgrave Philip, the heads of the Schmalkaldic League, on the
other. He published against Duke Henry a pamphlet 'Against Hans
Worst.' The Duke had taunted him with having allowed himself to call
his own sovereign Hans Wurst. Luther assured him, in reply, that he
had never given this name to a single man, whether friend or foe;
but now applied it to the Duke, because he found it meant a stupid
blockhead who wished to be thought clever and all the time spoke and
acted like a simpleton. But he was not content with calling him a
blockhead; he represented him as a profligate man, who, while
libelling the princes and pretending to be the champion of God's
ordinances, himself practised open adultery, committed acts of
violence and insolent tyranny, and incited men to incendiarism in
his opponents' territories. He would let the Duke scream himself
hoarse or dead with his calumnies against John Frederick and the
Evangelicals, and simply answer him by saying, 'Devil, thou liest!
Hans Worst, how thou liest! O, Henry Wolfenbuttel, what a shameless
liar thou art! Thou spittest forth much, and namest nothing; thou
libellest, and provest nothing.' At the same time this pamphlet of
Luther was a literary vindication of the Reformation and
Protestantism; here, said he, and not in the popedom, was the true,
ancient, and original Christian Church. Luther himself, on reading
over his pamphlet after it was printed, thought its tone against
Henry was too mild; a headache, he said, must have suppressed his

Just at this time he had to encounter a fresh and violent attack of
illness. He described it, in a letter to Melancthon, who was then at
Ratisbon, as a 'cold in the head;' it was accompanied not only with
alarming giddiness, from which he was now a frequent sufferer, but
also with deafness and intolerable pains, forcing tears from his

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