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Life of Luther by Julius Koestlin

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(St. Matthew xviii. 17), when He said, 'Tell it unto the Church.' Now
the Church or Christendom must be gathered together in a Council. And
like as the most famous of the Councils, that of Nice, and others after
it, had been summoned by the Emperor, so must everyone, as a true member
of the whole body, and when necessary, do what he can to make it a
really free Council: 'which nobody can do so well as the temporal
authorities, who meet these as fellow-Christians, fellow-priests.' Just
as if a fire broke out in a city, no one, because he had not the power
of the burgomaster, durst stand still and let it burn, but every
citizen must run and call others together, so was it in the spiritual
city of Christ, if a fire of trouble and affliction should arise. The
question as to the composition of such a Council Luther does not proceed
to discuss. That he wished, however, the laity to be represented, we may
safely assume from the whole context, though it is doubtful how far he
may then have thought of a representation of the temporal authorities as
such, and, above all, of the Christian body collectively, through
its political members. But the main point on which he insisted was,
that the Council should be a free and really Christian one, bound by
no oath to the Pope, fettered by no so-called Canon law, but subject
only to the Word of God in Holy Writ.

Under twenty-six heads Luther then proceeds to enumerate the points
on which such a Council should treat, and which should be urged in
particular in connection with the question of reform.

The whole arrogance of the Papacy, the temporal pride with which the
Pope clothed himself, the idolatry with which he was treated, were
to Luther a scandal and unchristian. Lord of the universe, the Pope
styled himself, and paraded about with a triple crown in all
temporal splendour, and with an endless train of followers and
baggage, whilst claiming to be the vicegerent of the Lord who
wandered about in poverty, and gave Himself up to the Cross, and
declared that His kingdom was not of this world. Clearly and fully
Luther shows the various ways, embracing the whole life of the
Church, in which Romish tyranny had enslaved the Churches of other
countries, especially of Germany, and had turned them to account and
plundered them: by means of fees and taxes of all kinds, by drawing
away the trial of ecclesiastical cases to Rome, by accumulating
benefices in the hands of Papal favourites of the worst description,
by the unprincipled and usurious sale of dispensations, by the oath
which made the bishops mere vassals of the Pope, and effectually
prevented all reform. In this greed for money in particular, and in
the crafty methods of collecting it, Luther saw the genuine
Antichrist, who, as Daniel had foretold, was to gather the treasures
of the earth (Daniel xi. 8, 39, 43).

To confront this oppression and these acts of usurpation, Luther
would not have men wait for a Council. As for these impositions and
taxes, he says that every prince, noble, and town should straightway
repudiate and forbid them. This lawless pillaging of ecclesiastical
benefices and fiefs by Rome should be resisted at once by the
nobility. Anyone coming from the Papal court to Germany with such
claims, must be ordered to desist, or to jump into the nearest piece
of water with his seals and letters and the ban of excommunication.
Luther insists especially on demanding, as Hutten had already
demanded, that the individual Churches, and particularly those of
Germany, should order and conduct their own affairs independently of
Rome. The bishops were not to obtain their confirmation at Rome,
but, as already decreed by the Nicene Council, from a couple of
neighbouring bishops or an archbishop. The German bishops were to be
under their own primate, who might hold a general consistory with
chancellors and counsellors, to receive appeals from the whole of
Germany. The Pope, in other respects, was still to be left a
position of supremacy in the collective Christian Church, and the
adjudication of matters of importance on which the primates could
not agree. One other matter Luther dwells on, as affecting the
entire constitution of the Church. It is not the mere administrative
and judicial functions that constitute the true meaning of office,
whether in a priest, a bishop, or a Pope, but a constant service to
God's Word. Luther therefore is anxious that the Pope should not be
burdened with small matters. He calls to mind how once the Apostles
would not leave the Word of God, and serve tables, but wished to
give themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word (Acts vi.
2, 4). But he would have a clean sweep made of the so-called
ecclesiastical law, contained in the law-books of the Church. The
Scriptures were sufficient. Besides, the Pope himself did not keep
that law, but pretended to carry all law in the shrine of his own

Consistently with all that he has said about the relative positions
of the temporal and spiritual powers, Luther goes on to protest, on
behalf especially of the German Empire, against the 'overbearing and
criminal behaviour' of the Pope, who arrogates to himself power over
the Emperor, and allows the latter to kiss his foot and hold his
stirrup. Granted that he is superior to the Emperor in spiritual
office, in preaching, in administering the Word of grace; in other
matters he is his inferior.

But the most important demand advanced by Luther, while pushing
further his inquiries into the moral and social regulations and
condition of the Church, is the abolition of the celibacy of the
clergy. If Popes and bishops wish to impose upon themselves the
burden of an unmarried life, he has nothing to say to that. He
speaks only of the clergy in general, whom God has appointed, who
are needed by every Christian community for the service of preaching
and the sacraments, and who must live and keep house amongst their
fellow-Christians. Not an angel from Heaven, much less a Pope, dare
bind this man to what God has never bound him, and thereby
precipitate him into danger and, sin. A limit at least must be
imposed on monastic life. Luther would like to see the convents and
cloisters turned into Christian schools, where men might learn the
Scriptures and discipline, and be trained to govern others and to
preach. He would further give full liberty to quit such institutions
at pleasure. He reverts to the question of clerical celibacy, in
lamenting the gross immoralities of the priesthood, and complaining
that marriage was so frequently avoided on account simply of the
responsibilities it entailed, and the restraints it imposed on loose

Luther would abolish all commands to fast, on the ground that these
ordinances of man are opposed to the freedom of the Bible. He would
do away also with the multitude of festivals and holidays, as
leading only to idleness, carousing, and gambling. He would check
the foolish pilgrimages to Rome, on which so much money was wasted,
whilst wife and child, and poor Christian neighbours were left at
home to starve, and which drew people into so much trouble and
temptation. As regards the management of the poor, Luther's
requirements were somewhat stringent. All begging among Christians
was to be forbidden; each town was to provide for its own poor, and
not admit strange beggars. As the universities at that time, no less
than the schools, were in connection with the Church, Luther offers
some suggestions for their reform. He singles out the writings of
the ancients which were read in the philosophical faculty, and
others, which might be done away with as useless or even pernicious.
With regard to the mass of civil law, he agreed with the complaint
often heard among Germans, that it had become a wilderness: each
state should be governed, as far as possible, 'by its own brief
laws.' For children, girls as well as boys, he would like to see a
school in every town. It grieved him to see how, in the very heart
of Christendom, the young folk were neglected and allowed to perish
for lack of timely sustenance with the bread of the gospel.

He reverts again to the question about the Bohemians, with a view to
silencing at length the vile calumniations of his enemies. And in so
doing he remarks of Huss, that even if he had been a heretic,
'heretics must be conquered with the pen and not with fire. If to
conquer them with fire were an art, the executioners would be the
most learned doctors on the earth.'

Lastly he refers briefly to the prevalent evils of worldly and
social life; to wit, the luxury in dress and food, the habits of
excess common among Germans, the practice of usury and taking
interest. He would like to put a bridle into the mouth of the great
commercial firms, especially the rich house of Fugger; for the
amassing of such enormous wealth, during the life of one man, could
never be done by right and godly means. It seemed to him 'far more
godly to promote agriculture and lessen commerce.' Luther speaks in
this as a man of the people, who were already suspicious about this
accumulation of money, from a right feeling really of the moral and
economical dangers thence accruing to the nation, even if ignorant
of the necessary relations of supply and demand. As to this, Luther
adds: 'I leave that to the worldly-wise; I, as a theologian, can
only say, Abstain from all appearance of evil.' (1 Thessalonians v.

So wide a field of subjects did this little book embrace. We have
only here mentioned the chief points. Luther himself acknowledges at
the conclusion: 'I am well aware that I have pitched my note high,
that I have proposed many things which will be looked upon as
impossible, and have attacked many points too sharply. I am bound to
add, that if I could, I would not only talk but act; I would rather
the world were angry with me than God.' But Rome always remained the
chief object of his attacks. 'Well then,' he says of her, 'I know of
another little song of Rome; if her ear itches for it, I will sing
it to her and pitch the notes at their highest.' He concludes, 'God
give us all a Christian understanding, and to the Christian nobility
of the German nation, especially, a true spiritual courage to do
their best for the poor Church. Amen.'

Whilst Luther was working on this treatise, new disquieting rumours
and remonstrances addressed from Rome to the Elector reached him
through Spalatin. But with them came also that promise of protection
from Schauenburg. Luther answered Spalatin, 'The die is cast, I
despise alike the wrath and the favour of Rome; I will have no
reconciliation with her, no fellowship.' Friends who heard of his
new work grew alarmed; Staupitz, even at the eleventh hour, tried to
dissuade him from it. But before August was far advanced, four
thousand copies were already printed and published. A new edition
was immediately called for. Luther now added another section
repudiating the arrogant pretension of the Pope, that through his
means the Roman Empire had been brought to Germany.

Well might Luther's friend Lange call this treatise a war-trumpet.
The Reformer, who at first merely wished to point out and open to
men the right way of salvation, and to fight for it with the sword
of his word, now stepped forward boldly and with determination,
demanding the abolition of all unlawful and unchristian ordinances
of the Romish Church, and calling upon the temporal power to assist
him, if need be, with material force. The groundwork of this resolve
had been laid, as we have seen, in the progress of his moral and
religious convictions; in the inalienable rights which belong to
Christianity in general, and the mission with which God entrusts
also the temporal power or state; in the independence granted by Him
to this power on its own domain, and the duties He has imposed upon
all Christian authorities, even in regard to all moral and religious
needs and dangers. But he denied altogether, and we may well believe
him, that he had any wish to create disorder or disturbance; his
intention was merely to prepare the way for a free Council. Not
indeed that he shrank from the thought of battle and tumult, should
the powers whom he invoked meet with resistance from the adherents
of Rome or Antichrist. As for himself, though forced to make such a
stormy appearance, he had no idea of himself being destined to
become the Reformer, but was content rather to prepare the way for a
greater man, and his thoughts herein turned to Melancthon. Thus he
wrote to Lange these remarkable words: 'It may be that I am the
forerunner of Philip, and like Elias, prepare the way for him in
spirit and in strength, destroying the people of Ahab' (1 Kings
xviii). Melancthon, on the other hand, wrote to Lange just then
about Luther, saying that he did not venture to check the spirit of
Martin in this matter, to which Providence seemed to have appointed

From the Electoral court Luther learned that his treatise was 'not
altogether displeasing.' And just at this time he had to thank his
prince for a present of game.

TREATISE, in a rather smaller size.]

There is no doubt that Luther received also from that quarter the
advice to approach the Emperor, who had just arrived in Germany, and
whom he had wished to address in his treatise, with a direct
personal request for protection, to prevent his being condemned
unheard. He addressed to him a well-considered letter, couched in
dignified language. He issued at the same time a short public
'offer,' appealing therein to the fact, that he had so long begged
in vain for a proper refutation. These two writings were first
examined and corrected by Spalatin, and so appeared only at the end
of August, not, as is generally supposed, in the January of this
year. Luther never received an answer to his letter to the Emperor,
and therefore never heard how it was received.

The dangers which threatened Luther, and through him also the honour
and prosperity of his Order, affected further his companions and
friends who belonged to it. And of this Miltitz took advantage to
renew his attempts at mediation. He induced the brethren, at a
convention of Augustinian friars held at Eisleben, to persuade
Luther once more to write to the Pope, and solemnly assure him that
he had never wished to attack him personally. A deputation of these
monks, with Staupitz and Link at their head, came to Luther at
Wittenberg on the 4th or 5th of September, and received his promise
to comply with their wishes. At this convention, Staupitz, who felt
his strength no longer equal to the difficult questions and
controversies of the time, had resigned his office as Vicar of the
Order, and Link had succeeded him. Luther saw him now at Wittenberg
for the last time. He retired in quiet seclusion to Salzburg, where
the Archbishop was his personal friend.

But Luther's spirit would not let him desist for a moment from
prosecuting his contest with Rome. He had yet 'a little song' to
sing about her. He was in fact at work in August, while rumours were
already afloat that Eck was on his way with the bull, upon a new
tract, and had even begun to have it printed. It was to treat of the
'Babylonian Captivity of the Church,' taking as its subject the
Christian sacraments. Luther knew that in this he cut deeper into
the theological and religious principles of the Church, which had
come under discussion in his quarrel with Rome, than in all his
demands for reform, put forward in his address to the nobility. For
while, in common with the Church herself, he saw in the Sacraments,
instituted by Christ, the most sacred acts of worship, and the
channels through which salvation itself, forgiveness, grace, and
strength are imparted from above, in those principles he saw them
limited by man's caprice in their original scope and meaning, robbed
of their true significance, and made the instruments of Papal and
priestly domination, while other pretended sacraments were joined to
them, never instituted by Christ. On this account he complained of
the tyranny to which these sacraments, and with them the Church,
were subject, of the captivity in which they lay. Against him were
arrayed not only the hierarchy, but the whole forces of Scholastic
learning. He knew that what he now propounded would sound
preposterous to these opponents; he would make, he said, his feeble
revilers feel their blood run cold. But he met them in the armour of
profound erudition, and with learned arguments lucidly and concisely
expressed in Latin. At the same time his language, where he explains
the real essence of the sacraments, shows a clearness and religious
fervour which no layman could fail to understand.

The subject of the deepest importance to Luther in this treatise was
the sacrament of the altar. He dwells on the mutilated form, without
the cup, in which the Lord's Supper was given to the laity; on the
doctrine invented about the change of the bread, instead of keeping
to the simple word of Scripture; and, lastly, on the substitution of
a sacrifice, supposed to be offered to God by the priest, for the
institution ordained by Christ for the nourishment of the faithful.
The withholding of the cup he calls an act of ungodliness and
tyranny, beyond the power of either Pope or Council to prescribe.
Against the sacrifice of the mass he had published just before a
sermon in German. He was well aware that his principles involved, as
indeed he intended, a revolution of the whole service, and an attack
on an ordinance, upon which a number of other abuses, of great
importance to the hierarchy, depended. But he ventured it, because
God's word obliged him to do it. So now he proceeds to describe, in
contrast to this mass, the one of true Christian institution, and
resting wholly, as he conceived it, on the words of Christ, when
instituting the Last Supper, 'Take, and eat,' etc. Christ would here
say, 'See, thou poor sinner, out of pure love I promise to thee,
before thou canst either earn or promise anything, forgiveness of
all thy sins, and eternal life, and to assure thee of this I give
here my Body and shed my Blood; do thou, by my death, rest assured
of this promise, and take as a sign my Body and my Blood.'

For the worthy celebration of this mass, nothing is required but
faith, which shall trust securely in this promise; with this faith
will come the sweetest stirrings of the heart, which will unfold
itself in love, and yearn for the good Saviour, and in Him will
become a new creature.

As regards baptism Luther lamented that it was no longer allowed to
possess the true significance and value it ought to have for a man's
whole life. Whereas in truth the person baptized received a promise
of mercy from God, to which time after time, even from the sins of
his future life, he might and was bound to turn, it was taught, that
in sinning after baptism, the Christian was like a shipwrecked man,
who, instead of the ship, could only reach a plank; this being the
sacrament of penance, with its accompanying outward formalities.
Whereas further, in true baptism he had vowed to dedicate his whole
life and conduct to God, other vows of human invention were now
demanded of him. Whereas he then became a full partaker of Christian
liberty, he was now burdened with ordinances of the Church, devised
by man.

Concerning this sacrament of penance, with confession, absolution,
and its other adjuncts, Luther rates at its full value the word of
forgiveness spoken to the individual, and values also the free
confession made to his Christian brother by the Christian seeking
comfort. But confession, he said, had been perverted into an
institution of compulsion and torture. Instead of leading the
tempted brother to trust in God's mercy, he was ordered to perform
acts of penance, whereby nominally to give satisfaction to God, but
in reality to minister to the ambition and insatiable avarice of the
Roman see.

From all these abuses and perversions Luther seeks to liberate the
sacraments, and restore them in their purity to Christians.
Nevertheless, he takes care to insist on the fact that it is not the
mere external ceremony, the act of the priest in administering, and
the visible partaking of the receiver, that make the latter a sharer
in the promised grace and blessedness. This, he says, depends upon a
hearty faith in the Divine promise. He who believes enjoys the
benefit of the sacrament, even though its outward administration be
denied him.

The mediaeval Church ordained four other sacraments, namely,
confirmation, marriage, consecration of priests, and extreme
unction. But Luther refuses to acknowledge any of these as a
sacrament. Marriage, he says, in its sacramental aspect, was not an
institution of the New Testament, nor was it connected with any
especial promise of grace. It was but a holy moral ordinance of
daily life, existing since the beginning of the world and among
those who were not Christians as well as those who were. At the same
time he takes the opportunity to protest against those human
regulations with which even this ordinance had been invaded by the
Romish Church, especially against the arbitrary obstacles to
marriage she had created. Even these were made a source of revenue
to her, by the granting of dispensations. For the other three
sacraments there was no especial promise. In the Epistle of St.
James (v. 14), where it speaks of anointing the sick with oil, the
allusion is not to extreme unction to the dying, but to the exercise
of that wonderful Apostolic gift of healing the sick through the
power of faith and prayer. With regard to the consecration of
priests, Luther repeats the principles laid down in his address to
the nobility. Ordination consists simply of this, that out of a
community, all of whom are priests, one is chosen for the particular
work of administering God's word. If, as in consecration, the hand
is laid upon him, this is a human custom and not instituted by the
Lord Himself. But in truth, says Luther, the outrageous tyranny of
the clergy, with their priestly bodily anointing, their tonsure, and
their dress, would arrogate a higher position than other Christians
anointed with the Spirit; these are counted almost as unworthy as
dogs to belong to the Church. And most seriously he warns a man not
to strive for that outward anointing, unless he is earnestly intent
on the true service of the gospel, and has disclaimed all pretension
to become, by consecration, better than lay Christians.

In conclusion Luther declares: he hears that Papal excommunication
is prepared for him, to force him to recant. In that case this
little treatise shall form part of his recantation. After that he
will soon publish the rest, the like of which has never been seen or
heard by the Romish see.

In the beginning of October, probably on the 6th of that month, the
book was issued. Luther had heard some ten days before that Eck had
actually arrived with the bull. He had already caused it to be
posted publicly at Meissen on September 21. Early in October he sent
a copy of it also to the university of Wittenberg.



At Rome, the bull, now newly arrived in Germany, had been published
as early as June 16. It had been considered, when at length, under
the pressure of the influences described above, the subject was
taken up in earnest, very carefully in the Papal consistory. The
jurists there were of opinion that Luther should be cited once more,
but their views did not prevail. As for the negotiations, conducted
through Miltitz, for an examination of Luther before the Archbishop
of Treves, no heed was now paid to the affair.

The bull begins with the words, 'Arise, O Lord, and avenge Thy
cause.' It proceeds to invoke St. Peter, St. Paul, the whole body of
the saints, and the Church. A wild boar had broken into the vineyard
of the Lord, a wild beast was there seeking to devour &c. Of the
heresy against which it was directed, the Pope, as he states, had
additional reason to complain, since the Germans, among whom it had
broken out, had always been regarded by him with such tender
affection: he gives them to understand that they owed the Empire to
the Romish Church. Forty-one propositions from Luther's writings are
then rejected and condemned, as heretical or at least scandalous and
corrupting, and his works collectively are sentenced to be burnt. As
to Luther himself, the Pope calls God to witness that he has
neglected no means of fatherly love to bring him into the right way.
Even now he is ready to follow towards him the example of Divine
mercy which wills not the death of a sinner, but that he should be
converted and live; and so once more he calls upon him to repent, in
which case he will receive him graciously like the prodigal son.
Sixty days are given him to recant. But if he and his adherents will
not repent, they are to be regarded as obstinate heretics and
withered branches of the vine of Christ, and must be punished
according to law. No doubt the punishment of burning was meant; the
bull in fact expressly condemns the proposition of Luther which
denounces the burning of heretics.

All this was called then at Rome, and has been called even latterly
by the Papal party, 'the tone rather of fatherly sorrow than of
penal severity.' The means by which the bull had been brought about,
made it fitting that Eck himself should be commissioned with its
circulation throughout Germany, and especially with its publication
in Saxony. More than this, he received the unheard of permission to
denounce any of the adherents of Luther at his pleasure, when he
published the bull.

Accordingly, Eck had the bull publicly posted up in September at
Meissen, Merseburg, and Brandenburg. He was charged, moreover, by a
Papal brief, in the event of Luther's refusing to submit, to call
upon the temporal power to punish the heretic. But at Leipzig, where
the magistrate, by order of Duke George, had to present him with a
goblet full of money, he was so hustled in the streets by his
indignant opponents, that he was forced to take refuge in the
Convent of St. Paul, and hastened to pursue his journey by night,
whilst the city officials rode about the neighbourhood with the
bull. A number of Wittenberg students, adds Miltitz, made their
appearance also at Leipzig, who 'behaved in a good-for-nothing way
towards him.'

At Wittenberg, where the publication of the bull rested with the
university, the latter notified its arrival to the Elector, and
objected for various reasons to publish it, alleging, in particular,
that Eck, its sender, was not furnished with proper authority from
the Pope. Luther for the first time felt himself, as he wrote to
Spalatin, really free, being at length convinced that the Popedom
was Antichrist and the seat of Satan. He was not at all discouraged
by a letter sent at this time by Erasmus from Holland to Wittenberg,
saying that no hopes could be placed in the Emperor Charles, as he
was in the hands of the Mendicant Friars. As for the bull, so
extraordinary were its contents, that he wished to consider it a

Still the promise which Luther had given to his Augustinian
brethren, only a few weeks before, under pressure from Miltitz,
remained as yet unfulfilled. Nor did Miltitz himself wish the
threads of the web then spun to slip from his fingers. Even at this
hour, with the consent and at the wish of the Elector, an interview
had been arranged between Miltitz and Luther at the Castle of
Lichtenberg (now Lichtenburg, in the district of Torgau), where the
monks of St. Antony were then housed. Just as Miltitz, as we have
seen, had thought to be able to avert the bull by getting Luther to
write a letter to the Pope, so now he promised the Elector still to
conciliate the Pope by that means. Only the letter was to be dated
back to the time, before the publication of the bull, when Luther
first gave his consent to write it. Its substance was to be as then
agreed upon; Luther, as Miltitz expressed it, was to 'eulogise the
Pope personally in a manner agreeable to him,' and at the same time
submit to him an historical statement of what he had done. Luther
consented to publish a letter in these terms, in Latin and German,
under date of September 6, and immediately gave effect to his

It is hardly conceivable how Miltitz could still have nurtured such
a hope. Neither his wish to ingratiate himself with the Elector
Frederick, and to checkmate the plans of Eck whom he detested, nor
his personal vanity and flippancy of character, are sufficient to
account for it. He must have learnt from his own previous personal
intercourse with the Pope, and his experiences of the Papal court,
that Leo did not take up Church questions and controversies so
gravely and so seriously as not to remain fully open all the time to
influences and considerations of other kinds, and that around him
were parties and influential personages, arrayed in mutual hostility
and rivalry. He must have been strangely ignorant of the state of
things at Rome. But as to Luther and his cause there was no longer
any hesitation in that quarter.

In what sense Luther himself was willing to comply with the demand
of Miltitz, the contents of his letter suffice to show. He makes it
clear that nothing was further from his intention than to appease
the angry Pontiff by any dexterous artifices or concealments. The
assurance required from him, that he had no wish to attack the Pope
personally, he construes in its literal terms, apart altogether from
the official character and acts of Leo. And in fact against his
personal character and conduct he had never said a word. But he
takes this opportunity, at the same time, of speaking to him plainly,
as a Christian is bound to do to his fellow-Christian; of repeating
to him, face to face, the severest charges yet made by him against
the Romish chair; of excusing Leo's own conduct in this chair simply
and solely on the ground that he regarded him as a victim of the
monstrous corruption which surrounded him, and of warning him once
more against it as a brother. He tells him to his face that he
himself, the Holy Father, must acknowledge that the Papal see was
more wicked and shameful than any Sodom, Gomorrah, or Babylon; that
God's wrath had fallen upon it without ceasing; that Rome, which
had once been the gate of heaven, was now an open jaw of hell. Most
earnestly he warns Leo against his flatterers,--the 'ear-ticklers'
who would make him a God. He assures him that he wishes him all
that is good, and therefore he wishes that he should not be devoured
by these jaws of hell, but on the contrary, should be freed from
this godless idolatry of parasites, and be placed in a position where
he would be able to live on some smaller ecclesiastical preferment,
or on his own patrimony. As for the historical retrospect which
Miltitz wanted, and which Luther briefly appends to this letter, all
that the latter says in vindication of himself is, that it was not
his own fault, but that of his enemies, who had driven him further
and further onward, that 'no small part of the unchristian doings at
Rome had been dragged to light.'

[Illustration: Fig. 23.--TITLE-PAGE, slightly reduced, of the
original Tract 'On the Liberty of a Christian Man.' The Saxon swords
are represented above, and the arms of Wittenberg below.]

Luther sent with this letter, as a present to the Pope, a pamphlet
entitled 'On the Liberty of a Christian Man.' This is no
controversial treatise intended for the great struggle of churchmen
and theologians, but a tract to minister to 'simple men.' For their
benefit he wished to describe compendiously the 'sum of a Christian
life'; to deal thoroughly with the question, 'What was a Christian?
and how he was to use the liberty which Christ had won and given to
him.' He premises as an axiom that a Christian is a free lord over
all things, and subject to nobody. He considers, first of all, the
new, inner, spiritual man, and asks what makes him a good and free
Christian. Nothing external, he says, can make him either good or
free. It does not profit the soul if the body puts on sacred
vestments, or fasts, or prays with the lips. To make the soul live,
and be good and free, there is nothing else in heaven or on earth
but the Holy Scriptures, in other words, God's Word of comfort by
His dear Son Jesus Christ, through Whom our sins are forgiven us. In
this Word the soul has perfect joy, happiness, peace, light, and all
good things in abundance. And to obtain this, nothing more is
required of the soul than what is told us in the Scriptures, namely,
to give itself to Jesus with firm faith and to trust joyfully in
Him. At first, no doubt, God's command must terrify a man, seeing
that it must be fulfilled, or man condemned; but when once he has
been brought thereby to recognise his own worthlessness, then comes
God's promise and the gospel, and says, Have faith in Christ, in
Whom I promise thee all grace; believe in Him, and thou hast Him. A
right faith so blends the soul with God's word, that the virtues of
the latter become her own, as the iron becomes glowing hot from its
union with the fire. And the soul becomes joined to Christ as a
bride to the bridegroom; her wedding-ring is faith. All that Christ,
the rich and noble bridegroom possesses, He makes His bride's; all
that she has, He takes unto Himself. He takes upon Himself her sins,
so that they are swallowed up in Him and in His unconquerable
righteousness. Thus the Christian is exalted above all things, and
becomes a lord; for nothing can injure his salvation; everything
must be subject to him and help towards his salvation; it is a
spiritual kingdom. And thus all Christians are priests; they can all
approach God through Christ, and pray for others. 'Who can
comprehend the honour and dignity of a Christian? Through his
kingship he has power over all things, through his priesthood he has
power over God, for God does what he desires and prays for.'

But the Christian, as Luther states in his second axiom, is not only
this new inner man. He has another will in his flesh, which would
make him captive to sin. Accordingly, he dare not be idle, but must
work hard to drive out evil lusts and mortify his body. He lives,
moreover, among other men on earth, and must labour together with
them. And as Christ, though Himself full of the Kingdom of God, for
our sake stripped Himself of His power and ministered as a servant,
so should we Christians, to whom God through Christ has given the
Kingdom of all goodness and blessedness, and therewith all that is
sufficient to satisfy us, do freely and cheerfully for our heavenly
Father whatever pleases Him, and do unto our neighbours as Christ
has done for us. In particular, we must not despise the weakness and
weak faith of our neighbour, nor vex him with the use of our
liberty, but rather minister with all we have to his improvement.
Thus the Christian, who is a free lord and master, becomes a useful
servant of all and subject to all. But he does these works, not that
he may become thereby good and blessed in the sight of God; he is
already blessed through his faith, and what he does now he does
freely and gratuitously. Luther thus sums up in conclusion: 'A
Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbour;
in Christ through faith, in his neighbour through love. Through
faith he rises above himself in God, from God he descends again
below himself through love; and yet remains always in God and in
godlike love.'

This tract was a remarkable pendant to Luther's remarkable letter to
the Pope. His Holiness, so he wrote to him in his dedication, might
taste from its contents what kind of occupation the author would
rather, and might with more profit, be engaged in, if only the
godless Papal flatterers did not hinder him. And in fact the Pope
could plainly see from it how Luther lived and laboured, with his
inmost being, in these profound but simple ideas of Christian truth,
and how he was inwardly compelled and delighted to represent them in
their noble simplicity. The whole tone and tenor of this dedication,
so tranquil, fervent, and tender, shows further what profound peace
reigned in the soul of this vehement champion of the faith, and what
happiness the excommunicated heretic found in his God. Next to
Luther's Address to the German Nobility and his Babylonian
Captivity, this tract is one of the most important contributions of
his pen to the cause of the Reformation. It is clear from its pages
that when Luther wrote his letter, at the request of Miltitz, to the
Pope, he had no thought of making peace with the Papacy, or of even
a moment's truce in the campaign.

The bull of excommunication he met in the manner intimated to
Spalatin from the first. He launched a short tract against it, 'On
the new Bull and Falsehoods of Eck,' treating it as Eck's forgery.
This he followed up with another tract in German and Latin, 'Against
the Bull of Antichrist.' He was resolved to unmask the blindness and
wickedness of the Roman evil-doers. He saw partly his own real
doctrines perverted, partly the Christian and Scriptural truth that
his doctrines contained, stigmatised as heresy and condemned. He
declared that if the Pope did not retract and condemn this bull, no
one would doubt that he was the enemy of God and the disturber of

He then solemnly renewed, on November 17, the appeal to a Council,
which he had made two years before. But how was his attitude changed
since then! He, the accused and condemned heretic, now himself
proclaims condemnation and ruin to his enemy, the antichristian
power that seeks to domineer the world. Nor is it only from a future
Council, and one constituted as the previous great assemblies of the
Church, that he expects and demands protection for himself and the
Christian truth; again and again he calls upon the Christian laity
to assist him. Thus in his appeal now published, he invites the
Emperor Charles, the Electors and Princes of the Empire, the counts,
barons, and nobles, the town councils, and all Christian authorities
throughout Germany, to support him and his appeal, that so the true
Christian belief and the freedom of a Council might be saved.
Similarly, in the Latin edition of his tract against the bull, he
calls upon the Emperor Charles, on Christian kings and princes and
all who believe in Christ, together with all Christian bishops and
learned doctors, to resist the iniquities of the Popedom. In his
German version he defends himself against the charge of stirring up
the laity against the Pope and priesthood; but he asks if, indeed,
the laity will be reconciled, or the Pope excused, by the command to
burn the truth. The Pope himself, he says, and his bishops, priests,
and monks are wrestling to their own downfall, through this
iniquitous bull, and want to bring upon themselves the hatred of the
laity. 'What wonder were it, should princes, nobles, and laymen beat
them on the head, and hunt them out of the country?'

Hutten now followed with a stormy demand for a general rising of
Germany against the tyranny of Rome, whose hirelings and emissaries
were to be chased away by main force. When two papal legates,
Aleander and Caraccioli, appeared on the Rhine to execute the bull
and work upon the Emperor in person, he was anxious to strike a blow
at them on his own account, little good as, on calm reflection, it
was evident could have come of it. Luther, on hearing of it, could
not refrain remarking in a letter to Spalatin, 'If only he had
caught them!'

Luther however persisted in repeating to himself and his friends the
warning of the Psalmist, 'Put not your trust in princes, nor in any
child of man, for there is no help in them.' Nay, when Spalatin, who
had gone with the Elector to the Emperor, told him how little was to
be hoped for from the latter, he expressed to him his joy at finding
that he too had learned the same lesson. God, he said, would never
have entrusted simple fishermen with the Gospel, if it had needed
worldly potentates to propagate it. It was to the Last Day that he
looked with full confidence for the overthrow of Antichrist. And,
indeed, his idea that Antichrist had long reigned at Rome was
connected in his mind with the belief that the Last Day was close at
hand. Of this, as he wrote to Spalatin, he was convinced, and for
many strong reasons.

And in fact the Emperor Charles, before leaving the Netherlands, on
his journey to Aix-la-Chapelle to be crowned, had already been
induced by Aleander to take his first step against Luther. He had
consented to the execution of the sentence in the bull, condemning
Luther's works to be burnt, and had issued orders to that effect
throughout the Netherlands. They were burnt in public at Louvain,
Cologne, and Mayence. At Cologne this was done while he was staying
there. It was in this town that the two legates approached the
Elector Frederick with the demand to have the same done in his
territory, and to execute due punishment on the heretic himself, or
at least to keep him close prisoner, or deliver him over to the
Pope. Frederick however refused, saying that Luther must first be
heard by impartial judges. Erasmus also, who was then staying at
Cologne, expressed himself to the same effect, in an opinion
obtained from him by Frederick through Spalatin. At an interview
with the Elector he said to him, 'Luther has committed two great
faults; he has touched the Pope on his crown and the monks on their
bellies.' The Archbishop of Mayence, Cardinal Albert, received
directions from the Pope to take more decisive and energetic steps
against Hutten as well. The burning of Luther's books at Mayence was
effected without hindrance, though Hutten was able to inform Luther
that, according to the account received from a friend, Aleander
narrowly escaped stoning, and the multitude were all the more
inflamed in favour of Luther. The legates in triumph proceeded to
carry out their mission elsewhere.

Luther, however, lost no time in following up their execution of the
bull with his reply. On December 10 he posted a public announcement
that the next morning, at nine o'clock, the antichristian decretals,
that is, the Papal law-books, would be burnt, and he invited all the
Wittenberg students to attend. He chose for this purpose a spot in
front of the Elster Gate, to the east of the town, near the
Augustinian convent. A multitude poured forth to the scene. With
Luther appeared a number of other doctors and masters, and among
them Melancthon and Carlstadt. After one of the masters of arts had
built up a pile, Luther laid the decretals upon it, and the former
applied the fire. Luther then threw the Papal bull into the flames,
with the words 'Because thou hast vexed the Holy One of the Lord,
[Footnote: It is obvious that he refers to Christ, who is spoken of
in Scripture as the Holy One of God (St. Mark i. 24, Acts ii. 27),
not, as ignorance and malice have suggested, to himself.] let the
everlasting fire consume thee.' Whilst Luther with the other
teachers returned to the town, some hundreds of students remained
upon the scene, and sang a Te Deum, and a Dirge for the decretals.
After the ten o'clock meal, some of the young students, grotesquely
attired, drove through the town in a large carriage, with a banner
emblazoned with a bull four yards in length, amidst the blowing of
brass trumpets and other absurdities. They collected from all
quarters a mass of Scholastic and Papal writings, and especially
those of Eck, and hastened with them and the bull, to the pile,
which their companions had meanwhile kept alight. Another Te Deum
was then sung, with a requiem, and the hymn 'O du armer Judas.'

Luther at his lecture the next day told his hearers with great
earnestness and emotion what he had done. The Papal chair he said,
would yet have to be burnt. Unless with all their hearts they
abjured the Kingdom of the Pope, they could not obtain salvation.

He next announced and justified his act in a short treatise entitled
'Why the Books of the Pope and his disciples were burnt by Dr.
Martin Luther.' 'I, Martin Luther,' he says, 'doctor of Holy
Scripture, an Augustinian of Wittenberg, make known hereby to
everyone, that by my wish, advice, and act, on Monday after St.
Nicholas' day, in the year 1520, the books of the Pope of Rome, and
of some of his disciples, were burnt. If anyone wonders, as I fully
expect they will, and asks for what reason and by whose command I
did it, let this be his answer.' Luther considers it his bounden
duty, as a baptized Christian, a sworn doctor of Holy Scripture, and
a daily preacher, to root out, on account of his office, all
unchristian doctrines. The example of others, on whom the same duty
devolved, but who shrank from doing as he did, would not deter him.
'I should not,' he says, 'be excused in my own sight; of that my
conscience is assured, and my spirit, by God's grace, has been
roused to the necessary courage.' He then proceeds to cite from the
law-books thirty erroneous doctrines, in glorification of the
Papacy, which deserved to be burnt. The sum total of this Canon law
was as follows: 'The Pope is a God on earth, above all things,
heavenly and earthly, spiritual and temporal, and everything is his,
since no one durst say, What doest thou?' This, says Luther, is the
abomination of desolation (St: Matth. xxiv. 15), or in other words
Antichrist (2 Thess. ii. 4).

Simultaneously with this, he set out in a longer and exhaustive work
the 'ground and reason' of all his own articles which had been
condemned by the bull. He takes his stand upon God's word in
Scripture against the dogmas of the earthly God;--upon the
revelation by God Himself, which, to everyone who studies it deeply
and with devotion, will lighten his understanding, and make clear
its substance and meaning. What though, as he is reminded, he is
only a solitary, humble man, he is sure of this, that God's Word is
with him.

To Staupitz, who felt faint-hearted and desponding about the bull,
Luther wrote, saying that, when burning it, he trembled at first and
prayed; but now he felt more rejoiced than at any other act in all
his life. He now released himself finally from the restraints of
those monastic rules, with which, as we have remarked before, he had
always tormented himself, besides performing the higher duties of
his calling. He was freed now, as he wrote to his friend Lange, by
the authority of the bull, from the commands of his Order and of the
Pope, being now an excommunicated man. Of this he was glad; he
retained merely the garb and lodging of a monk: he had more than
enough of real duties to perform with his daily lectures and
sermons, with his constant writings, educational, edifying, and
polemical, and with his letters, discourses, and the assistance he
was able to give his brethren.

By this bold act, Luther consummated his final rupture with the
Papal system, which for centuries had dominated the Christian world,
and had identified itself with Christianity. The news of it must
also have made the fire which his words had kindled throughout
Germany, blaze out in all its violence. He saw now, as he wrote to
Staupitz, a storm raging, such as only the Last Day could allay; so
fiercely were passions aroused on both sides.

Germany was then, in fact, in a state of excitement and tension more
critical than at any other period of her history. Side by side with
Luther stood Hutten, in the forefront of the battle with Rome. The
bull he published with sarcastic comments: the burning of Luther's
works of devotion he denounced in Latin and German verses. Eberlin
von Gunzburg, who shortly after began to wield his pen as a popular
writer on reform, called these two men 'two chosen messengers of
God.' A German Litany, which appeared early in 1521, implored God's
grace and help for Martin Luther, the unshaken pillar of the
Christian faith, and for the brave German knight Ulrich Hutten, his

Hutten also wrote now in German for the German people, both in prose
and verse. During his stay with Sickingen in the winter at his
Castle of Ebernburg, he read to him Luther's works, which roused in
this powerful warrior an active sympathy with the doctrines of the
Reformation, and stirred up projects in his mind, of what his own
strong arm could accomplish for the good cause.

Pamphlets, both anonymous and pseudonymous, were circulated in
increasing numbers among the people. They took the form chiefly of
dialogues, in which laymen, in a simple Christian spirit, and with
their natural understanding, complain of the needs of Christendom,
ask questions and are enlightened. The outward evils of the Papal
system are put clearly before the people:--the scandals among the
priesthood and in the convents, the iniquities of the Romish
courtiers and creatures of the Pope, who pandered with menial
subservience to the magnates at Rome, in order to fatten on German
benefices, and reap their harvest of taxes and extortions of every
kind. The simple Word of God, with its sublime evangelical truths,
must be freed from the sophistries woven round it by man, and be
made accessible to all without distinction. Luther is represented as
its foremost champion, and a true man of the people, whose testimony
penetrated to the heart. His portrait, as painted by Cranach, was
circulated together with his small tracts. In later editions the
Holy Ghost appears in the form of a dove hovering above his head;
his enemies spread the calumny, that Luther intended this emblem to
represent himself.

Satirical pictures also were used as weapons on both sides in this
contest. Cranach pourtrayed the meek and suffering Saviour on one side,
and on the other the arrogant Roman Antichrist, in the twenty-six
woodcuts of his 'Passion of Christ and Antichrist:' Luther added short
texts to these pictures.

Luther's enemies now began, on their side, to write in German and
for the people. The most talented among them, as regards vigorous,
popular German and coarse satire, was the Franciscan Thomas Murner;
but his theology seemed to Luther so weak, that he only favoured him
once with a brief allusion. He entered now into a longer literary
duel with the Dresden theologian Emser, who had challenged him after
the disputation at Leipzig, and who now published a work 'Against
the Unchristian Address of Martin Luther to the German Nobility.'
Luther replied with a tract 'To the Goat at Leipzig,' Emser with
another 'To the Bull at Wittenberg,' Luther with another 'On the
Answer of the Goat at Leipzig,' and Emser with a third, 'On the
furious Answer of the Bull at Wittenberg.' Luther, whose reply to
Emser's original work had been directed to the first sheets that
appeared, met the work, when published in its complete form, with
his 'Answer to the over-Christian, over-priestly, over-artful Book
of the Goat Emser.' Emser followed up with a 'Quadruplica,' to which
Luther rejoined with another treatise entitled 'A Refutation by
Doctor Luther of Emser's error, extorted by the most learned priest
of God, H. Emser.' When later, during Luther's residence at the
Wartburg, Emser published a reply, Luther let him have the last
word. Nothing new was contributed to the great struggle by this
interchange of polemics. The most effective point made by Emser and
the other defenders of the old Church system, was the old charge
that Luther, one man, presumed to oppose the whole of Christendom as
hitherto constituted, and by the overthrow of all foundations and
authorities of the Church, to bring unbelief, distraction, and
disturbance upon Church and State. Thus Emser says once in German
doggrel, that Luther imagined that

What Church and Fathers teach was nought;
None lived but Luther;--so he thought.

In threatening Luther with the consequences of his heresy, he never
failed to hold up Huss as a bugbear.

In Germany, as Emser complains, there was already 'such quarrelling,
noise, and uproar, that not a district, town, village, or house was
free from partisans, and one man was against another.' Aleander wrote
to Rome saying that everywhere exasperation and excitement prevailed,
and the Papal bull was laughed at. Among the adherents of the old
Church system one heard rumours of strange and terrible import. A
letter written shortly after the burning of the bull, gave out that
Luther reckoned on thirty-five thousand Bohemians, and as many Saxons
and other North Germans, who were ready, like the Goths and Vandals
of old, to march on Italy and Rome. But it was evident, even at this
stage, that from rancorous words to energetic and self-sacrificing
action was a long step to take. Even in central Germany the bull was
executed without any disturbance breaking out; and that in the
bishoprics of Meissen and Merseburg, which were adjacent to Wittenberg.
Pirkheimer and Spengler at Nuremberg, whose names Eck had included in
the bull, now bowed to the authority of the Pope, represented though
it was by their personal enemy.

Hutten, who saw his hopes in the Emperor's brother deceived, and
believed his own liberty and even his life was menaced by the Papal
bull, burned with impatient ardour to strike a blow. He was anxious
also to see whether a resort to force, after his own meaning of the
term, would meet with any support from the Elector Frederick. He
ventured even, when speaking of Sickingen's lofty mission, to refer
to the precedent of Ziska, the powerful champion of the Hussites,
who had once been the terror and abomination of the Germans. He, a
member of the proud Equestrian order, was willing now to join hands
with the towns and the burghers to do battle with Rome for the
liberty of Germany. But, passionate as were his words, it was by no
means clear what particular end under present circumstances he
sought to achieve by means of arms. Sickingen, who had grasped the
situation in a practical spirit, advised him to moderate his
impatience, and sought, for his own part, to keep on good terms with
the Emperor, in whom Hutten accordingly renewed his hopes. Each, in
short, had overrated the influence which Sickingen really possessed
with the Emperor.

In this posture of affairs, Luther reverted, with increased
conviction, to his original opinion, that the future must be left
with God alone, without trusting to the help of man. Hutten himself
had written to him, during the Diet of Worms, as follows: 'I will
fight manfully with you for Christ; but our counsels differ in this
respect, that mine are human, while you, more perfect than I am,
trust solely in those of God.' And when Hutten seemed really bent on
taking the sword, Luther declared to him and to others, with all
decision of purpose: 'I would not have man fight with force and
bloodshed for the Gospel. By the Word has the world been subdued, by
the Word has the Church been preserved, by the Word will she be
restored. As Antichrist has begun without a blow, so without a blow
will Antichrist be crushed by the Word.' Even against the Romish
hirelings among the German clergy, he would have no acts of violence
committed, such as were committed in Bohemia. He had not laboured
with the German nobility to have such men restrained by the sword,
but by advice and command. He was only afraid that their own rage
would not allow of peaceful means to check them, but would bring
misery and disaster upon their heads.

His expectation--not indeed ungrounded--of the approaching end of
the world, to which, as we have seen, he alluded in a letter to
Spalatin on January 16, 1521, Luther now announced more fully in a
book, written in answer to an attack by the Romish theologian
Ambrosius Catharinus. He based his opinion on the prophecies of the
Old and New Testament, on which Christian men and Christian
communities, sore pressed in the battle with the powers of darkness,
had been wont ere then to rely, in the sure hope of the approaching
victory of God. Luther referred in particular to the vision of
Daniel (chap. viii.), where he states that after the four great
Kingdoms of the World, the last of which Luther takes to be the
Roman Empire, a bold and crafty ruler should rise up, and 'by his
policy should cause craft to prosper in his hand, and should stand
up against the Prince of princes, but should be broken without
hand.' He saw this vision fulfilled in the Popedom; which must,
therefore, be destroyed 'without hand,' or outward force. St. Paul,
in his view, said the same in the passage in which (2 Thess. ii.) he
foreshadowed long before the Roman Antichrist. That 'man of sin' who
set himself up as God in the temple of God, 'the Lord shall consume
with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness
of His coming.' So, said Luther, the Pope and his kingdom would not
be destroyed by the laity, but would be reserved for a heavier
punishment until the coming of Christ. He must fall, as he had
raised himself, not 'with the hand,' but with the spirit of Satan.
The Spirit must kill the spirit; the truth must reveal deceit.

Luther, as we shall see, had all his life held firmly to this belief
that the end was near. As his glowing zeal pictured the loftiest
images and contrasts to his mind, so also this assurance of victory
was already before his eyes. In his hope of the near completion of
the earthly history of Christianity and mankind, he became the
instrument of carving out a new grand chapter in its career.

The announcement of the retractation required from Luther by the
bull, was to have been sent to Rome within 120 days. Luther had
given his answer. The Pope declared that the time of grace had
expired; and on the 3rd of January Leo X. finally pronounced the ban
against Luther and his followers, and an interdict on the places
where they were harboured.



If we consider the powerful influences then at work to further the
ecclesiastical movement in Germany, it seems reasonable to suppose
that they would succeed in accomplishing its ends through the power
of the Word alone, without any such bloodshed and political
convulsions as were feared; and that Germany, therefore, though
vexed with spiritual tempests--the 'tumult and uproar' whose
outburst Luther already discerned--must inevitably rid herself of
the forms and fetters of Romish Churchdom, by the sheer force of her
new religious convictions. And, indeed, even in the short interval
since Luther had commenced, and only with slow steps had advanced
further in the contest, a success had been attained which no one at
the beginning could have ventured to expect, or even hope for.
Frederick the Wise, the Nestor among the great German Princes of the
Empire, had plainly freed himself inwardly from those fetters, and
though, as yet, he did not feel himself called upon to express his
sentiments by decisive action, his conduct, nevertheless, could not
fail to make an impression on those about him. The nobility and
burgher class, among whom the new doctrines had made most progress,
were, politically speaking, powerfully represented at the Diets. The
most important of the spiritual lords, the Archbishop of Magdeburg
and Mayence, who had most cause to resent Luther's onslaught on
indulgences, had hitherto adopted a cautious and expectant attitude,
which left him free to join at some future time a national revolt
against his Romish sovereign. The Diets, indeed, had hitherto
submitted to their old ecclesiastical grievances without any fear of
the wrath or scolding of the Pope. But, as soon as the conviction
prevailed among the Estates, that the pretensions of the Roman see
had no eternal, Divine foundation, they could take in hand at once,
on their own account, the reformation of the Church. As for the
episcopacy, in particular, Luther had never desired, as his Address
to the Nobility sufficiently showed, to interfere with or disturb it
in any way, provided only the bishops would feed their flocks
according to God's Word. An independent German episcopate would then
have been well able to undertake the reforms necessary in the system
of worship. Luther himself, as we shall see, wished and continued to
wish that those reforms should be as few and simple as possible.

In the various German states which afterwards became Protestant, the
work of reform was in fact accomplished, without any serious
agitation, by the Princes themselves, in concert with their Estates;
and in the free towns by the magistrates and representatives of the
burghers, notwithstanding the fact that its opponents were supported
by the majority of the Empire and by the Emperor himself, who was a
staunch adherent of the Romish system. How much easier, in
comparison, must the work of Evangelical reformation have been, had
it been resolved on by the power of the Empire itself, in accord
with the overwhelming voice of the whole nation.

Reference was made, and in significant terms, to the savage and
cruel war of the Hussites. But no one could deny to Luther's
teaching, a clearness, a religious depth, and a freedom from
fanaticism, peculiar to itself, and utterly wanting in the preaching
of the followers of Huss. Again, the wild Hussite wars, which were
still fresh in the sorrowful memory of the Germans, had in the first
instance been provoked by the use of force, on the part of the
Church, against the Bohemians. When Germany revolted, Rome found no
such means of force at her command.

It might fairly be questioned, if the thought were worth pursuing,
whether Luther at that time had sufficient ground for looking for
the triumph of his cause, not indeed to the power of the Word and
the influences then active in his favour, but to the Day of the
Lord, which he believed was near.

It is true that in such great crises of history as this, the final
issue never depends alone on the character and conduct of particular
personages, however eminent they may be. In this antichristian
system of the Papacy, Luther saw Satanic powers at work, which
blinded the human heart, and might indeed succeed, by dint of
suffering and oppression, in overcoming for the moment the Word of
God, but which could never finally extirpate or extinguish it. And
we Protestants must confess that not only did a great mass of the
German people remain bound by the spell of tradition, but that even
to honest and independent-minded adherents of the old system, the
interests of religion and morality might in reality have seemed to
be seriously endangered by the new teaching and by the breach with
the past. But never did the most momentous issue in the fortunes of
the German nation and Church rest so entirely with one man as they
did now with the German Emperor. Everything depended on this,
whether he, as head of the Empire, should take the great work in
hand, or should fling his authority and might into the opposite

Charles had been welcomed in Germany as one whose youthful heart
seemed likely to respond to the newly-awakened life and aspirations;
as the son of an old German princely family, who by his election as
Emperor had won a triumph over the foreign king Francis, supported
though the latter was by the Pope. Rumour now alleged that he was in
the hands of the Mendicant Friars: the Franciscan Glapio was his
confessor and influential adviser, the very man who had instigated
the burning of Luther's works.

[Illustration: Fig. 24.--CHARLES V. (From an engraving by B. Beham,
in 1531.)]

He was, however, by no means so dependent on those about him as
might have been supposed. His counsellors, in the general interests
of his government, pursued an independent line of policy, and
Charles himself, even in these his youthful days, knew to assert his
independence as a monarch and display his cleverness as a statesman.

But a German he was not, in spite of his grandfather Maximilian; he
had not even an ordinary knowledge of the German language. First and
foremost, he was King of Spain and Naples; in his Spanish kingdom he
retained, even after his accession to the imperial dignity, the
chief basis of his power. His religious training and education had
familiarised him only with the strict orthodoxy of the Church and
his duties in respect to her traditional ordinances. To these his
conscience also constrained him to adhere. He never showed any
inclination to investigate the opposite opinions of his German
subjects, at least with any independent or critical exercise of
judgment. A strict regard to his rights and duties as a sovereign
was his sole guide, next to his religious principles, in dictating
his conduct towards the Church. In Spain some reforms were being
then introduced, based essentially on the doctrines and hierarchical
constitution of the mediaeval Church. Stricter discipline, in
particular, was observed with regard to the clergy and monks, who
were admonished to attend more faithfully to their duties of
promoting the moral and religious welfare of the people; and the
result was seen in a revival of popular interest in the forms and
ordinances of religion. Furthermore, the crown enjoyed certain
rights independently of the Roman Curia: an absolute monarchy was
here ingeniously united with Papal absolutism. Such a union,
however, sufficed in itself to make any severance of the German
Church from the Papacy impossible under Charles V. The unity of his
dominions was bound up with the unity of the Catholic Church, to
which his subjects, alike in Spain and Germany, belonged. Added to
this, he had to consider his foreign policy. Provoked as he had been
by Leo X., who had leagued with France to prevent his election,
still, with menaces of war from France, he saw the prudence of
cultivating friendship, and contracting, if possible, an alliance
with the Pope. The pressure desirable for this purpose could now be
supplied by means of the very danger with which the Papacy was
threatened by the great German heresy, and against which Rome so
sorely needed the aid of a temporal power. At the same time, Charles
was far too astute to allow his regard for the Pope, and his desire
for the unity of the Church, to entangle his policy in measures for
which his own power was inadequate, or by which his authority might
be shaken, and possibly destroyed. Strengthened as was his
monarchical power in Spain, in Germany he found it hemmed in and
fettered by the Estates of the Empire and the whole contexture of
political relations.

Such were the main points of view which determined for Charles V.
his conduct towards Luther and his cause. Luther thus was at least a
passive sharer in the game of high policy, ecclesiastical and
temporal, now being played, and had to pursue his own course

The imperial court was quickly enough acquainted with the state of
feeling in Germany. The Emperor showed himself prudent at this
juncture, and accessible to opinions differing from his own, however
small cause his proclamations gave to the friends of Luther to hope
for any positive act of favour on his part.

Whilst Charles was on his way up the Rhine, to hold, at the
beginning of the New Year, a Diet at Worms, the Elector Frederick
approached him with the request that Luther should at least be heard
before the Emperor took any proceedings against him. The Emperor
informed him in reply that he might bring Luther for this purpose to
Worms, promising that the monk should not be molested. The Elector,
however, felt doubts on this point: possibly he thought of the
danger to which Huss had been exposed at Constance. But Luther, to
whom he announced through Spalatin the Emperor's offer, replied
immediately, 'If I am summoned, I will, so far as I am concerned,
come; even if I have to be carried there ill; for no man can doubt
that, if the Emperor calls me, I am called by the Lord.' Violence,
he said, would no doubt be offered him; but God still lived, who had
delivered the three youths from the fiery furnace at Babylon, and if
it was not His will that he should be saved, his head was of little
value. There was one thing only to beseech of God, that the Emperor
might not commence his reign by shedding innocent blood to shield
ungodliness: he would far rather perish by the hands of the
Romanists alone. Some time before, Luther had thought of a place to
fly to, in case it were impossible to stay at Wittenberg; Bohemia
was always open to him. But now he roundly declared, 'I will not
fly, still less can I recant.'

Meanwhile the Emperor began to reflect whether Luther, who lay
already under the ban and interdict, ought to be admitted to the
place of the Diet. As to what proceedings should be taken against
him, if he came, long, wavering, and anxious negotiations now took
place between the Emperor, the Estates, and the legate Aleander, at
Worms, where the Estates assembled in January, and the Diet was
opened on the 28th.

A Papal brief demanded the Emperor to enforce the bull, by which
Luther was now definitely condemned, by an imperial edict. In vain,
he wrote, had God girded him with the sword of supreme earthly
power, if he did not use it against heretics, who were even worse
than infidels. His advisers, however, were agreed in the conviction
that he could not move in this matter without the consent of his
Estates. Aleander sought to gain them over in an elaborate harangue.
He, according to whose principles the appeal to a Council was a
crime, cleverly diverted from himself the comparison and retort
which his present arguments suggested, and insisted all the more on
his complaint, that Luther always despised the authority of Councils
and would take no correction from anyone. Glapio, then the Emperor's
confessor and diplomatist, addressed himself, with expressions of
wonderful friendship, to Frederick's chancellor, Bruck. Even he
found much that was good in Luther's writings, but the contents of
his book, the 'Babylonian Captivity,' were detestable. All that need
be done was that Luther should disclaim or retract that offensive
work, so that what was good in his writings might bear fruit for the
Church, and Luther, together with the Emperor, might co-operate in
the work of true reform. He might be invited to meet some learned,
impartial men at a suitable place, and submit himself to their
judgment. This, at all events, would be a happy means of preventing
his having to appear before the Emperor and the Estates of the
Empire, and if he persisted in refusing to recant, of deciding then
and there his fate. We must leave it an open question, how far
Glapio still seriously thought it possible, by dint of threats and
entreaties, to utilise Luther for effecting a reform in the Spanish
sense, and as an instrument against any Pope who should prove
hostile to the Emperor. But the Elector Frederick would undertake no
responsibility in this dark design: he refused flatly to grant to
Glapio the private audience he desired.

The Emperor acceded so far to the urgency of the Pope as to cause a
draft mandate to be laid before the Estates, proposing that Luther
should be arrested, and his protectors punished for high treason.
The Frankfort deputy wrote home: 'The monk makes plenty of work.
Some would gladly crucify him, and I fear he will hardly escape
them; only they must take care that he does not rise again on the
third day.' After seven days' excited debate in the Diet, in which
the Elector took a prominent and lively part, an answer to the
imperial mandate was at length agreed upon, offering for
consideration 'whether, inasmuch as Luther's preaching, doctrines,
and writings had awakened among the common people all kinds of
thoughts, fancies, and desires, any good result or advantage would
accrue from issuing the mandate alone in all its stringency, without
first having cited Luther before them and heard him.' At the same
time, his examination was to be so far restricted, that no
discussion with him should be allowed, but simply the question put
to him, 'whether or not he intended to insist upon the writings he
had published against our holy Christian faith.' If he retracted
them, he should be heard further on other points and matters, and
dealt with in all equity upon them. If, on the contrary, he
persisted in all or any of the articles at variance with the faith,
then all the Estates of the Empire should, without further
disputation, adhere to and help to maintain the faith handed down by
their fathers, and the imperial edict should then go abroad
throughout the land.

The Emperor, accordingly, on March 6, issued a citation to Luther,
summoning him to Worms, to give 'information concerning his
doctrines and books.' An imperial herald was sent to conduct him. In
the event of his disobeying the citation, or refusing to retract,
the Estates declared their consent to treat him as an open heretic.

Luther, therefore, had to renounce at once all hope of having the
truth touching his articles of faith tested fairly at Worms by the
standard of God's word in Scripture. Spalatin indicated to him the
points on which, according to Glapio's statement, he would in any
case be expected to make a public recantation.

It remained still doubtful, however, how far those articles would be
extended, and how far the 'other points' might be stretched, or
possibly be made the subject of further and profitable discussion,
if he submitted in respect to the former. Glapio had made no
reference to the question of the patristic belief in the
infallibility of the Pope, or his absolute power over the Church
collectively and her Councils: even the Papal nuncio himself had not
ventured to touch on these subjects. There was room enough for the
more liberal and independent principles entertained on these points
by the members of the earlier reforming Councils, if only Luther had
not disputed their authority with that of Councils altogether. The
ecclesiastical abuses, against which the Diet had already
remonstrated to the Pope, were just now at Worms the subject of
general and bitter complaint. The imposts levied by Rome on
ecclesiastical benefices and fiefs, mere outward symbols of
supremacy it is true, but highly important to the Pope, swallowed up
enormous sums; while the Empire hardly knew how to scrape together a
miserable subsidy for the newly organised government and the
expenses of justice, and men talked openly of retaining these Papal
tributes, notwithstanding all protests from Rome, for these
purposes. Even faithful adherents of the old Church system, like
Duke George of Saxony, demanded a comprehensive reformation of the
clergy, whose scandals were so destructive of religion, and, as the
best means to effect this reformation, a General Council of the
Church. Aleander had to report to Rome, that all parties were
unanimous in this desire, so hateful to the Pope himself, and that
the Germans wished to have the Council in their own country.

Luther formed his resolve at once on the two points required of him.
He determined to obey the summons to the Diet, and, if there
unconvicted of error, to refuse the recantation demanded.

The Emperor's citation was delivered to him on March 26 by the
imperial herald, Kaspar Sturm, who was to accompany him to Worms.
Within twenty-one days after its receipt, Luther was to appear
before the Emperor; he was due therefore at Worms on April 16, at
the latest.

Up till now he had continued uninterruptedly his arduous and
multifarious labours, and, to use his own expression, like Nehemiah
he carried on at once the work of peace and of war; he built with
one hand, and wielded the sword with the other. His controversy with
Catharinus he brought quickly to a conclusion. During March he
finished the first part of his Exposition of the Gospel as read in
church, which he had undertaken, as a peaceful and edifying work, at
the request of the Elector, to whom he wrote a dedication; and he
was now at work on a fervent and tender practical explanation of the
_Magnificat_, which he had intended for his devoted friend,
Prince John Frederick, the son of Duke John and nephew of the
Elector Frederick. He addressed a short letter to him on March 31,
enclosing the first printed sheets of this treatise; and the next
day sent him the epilogue, addressed to his friend Link, to his
reply to Catharinus, dedicated also to Link. 'I know,' he says here,
'and am certain, that our Lord Jesus Christ still lives and rules.
Upon this knowledge and assurance I rely, and therefore I will not
fear ten thousand Popes; for He Who is with us is greater than he
who is in the world.'

On the following day, April 2, the Tuesday after Easter, he set out
on his way to Worms. His friend Amsdorf and the Pomeranian nobleman
Peter Swaven, who was then studying at Wittenberg, accompanied him.
He took with him also, according to the rules of the Order, a
brother of the Order, John Pezensteiner. The Wittenberg magistracy
provided carriages and horses.

The way led past Leipzig, through Thuringia from Naumburg to
Eisenach, then southward past Berka, Hersfeld, Grunberg, Friedberg,
Frankfort, and Oppenheim. The herald rode on before in his coat of
arms, and announced the man whose word had everywhere so mightily
stirred the minds of people, and for whose future behaviour and fate
friend and foe were alike anxious. Everywhere people collected to
catch a glimpse of him.

On April 6 he was very solemnly received at Erfurt. The large
majority of the university there were by this time full of
enthusiasm for his cause. His friend Crotus, on his return from
Italy, had been chosen Rector. The ban of excommunication had not
been published by the university, and had been thrown into the water
by the students. Justus Jonas was foremost in zeal; and even
Erasmus, his honoured friend, had no longer been able to restrain
him. Lange and others were active in preaching among the people.

Jonas hastened to Weimar to meet Luther on his approach. Forty
members of the university, with the Rector at their head, went on
horseback, accompanied by a number of others on foot, to welcome him
at the boundary of the town. Luther had also a small retinue with
him. Crotus expressed to him the infinite pleasure it was to see
him, the great champion of the faith; whereupon Luther answered,
that he did not deserve such praise, but he thanked them for their
love. The poet Eoban also stammered out, as he said of himself, a
few words; he afterwards described the progress in a set of Latin

The following day, a Sunday, Luther spent at Erfurt. He preached
there, in the church of the Augustine convent, a sermon which has
been preserved. Beginning with the words, of the Gospel of the day,
'Peace be unto you,' he spoke of the peace which we find through
Christ the Redeemer, by faith in whom and in his work of salvation
we are justified, without any works or merit of our own; of the
freedom with which Christians may act in faith and love; and of the
duty of every man, who possessed this peace of God, so to order his
work and conduct, that it shall be useful not only to himself but to
his neighbour. This he said in protest against the justification by
works taught by most preachers, against the system of Papal
commands, and against the wisdom of heathen teachers, of an
Aristotle or a Plato. Of his present personal position and the
difficult path he had now to tread, he took no thought, but only of
the general obligation he was under, whatever other men might teach;
'I will speak the truth and must speak it; for that reason I am
here, and take no money for it.' During the sermon a crash was
suddenly heard in the overweighted balconies of the crowded church,
the doors of which were blocked with multitudes eager to hear him.
The crowd were about to rush out in a panic, when Luther exclaimed,
'I know thy wiles, thou Satan,' and quieted the congregation with
the assurance that no danger threatened, it was only the devil who
was carrying on his wicked sport.

Luther also preached in the Augustine convents at Gotha and
Eisenach. At Gotha the people thought it significant that after the
sermon the devil tore off some stones from the gable of the church.

In the inns Luther liked to refresh himself with music, and often
took up the lute.

At Eisenach, however, he was seized with an attack of illness, and
had to be bled. From Frankfort he writes to Spalatin, who was then
at Worms, that he felt since then a degree of suffering and weakness
unknown to him before.

On the way he found a new imperial edict posted up, which ordered
all his books to be seized, as having been condemned by the Pope and
being contrary to the Christian faith. Charles V. by this edict had
given satisfaction again to the legates, who were annoyed at Luther
being summoned to Worms. Many doubted whether Luther, after this
condemnation of his cause by the Emperor, would venture to present
himself in person at Worms. He himself was alarmed, but travelled

Meanwhile at Worms disquietude and suspense prevailed on both sides.
Hutten from the Castle of Ebernburg sent threatening and angry
letters to the Papal legates, who became really anxious lest a blow
might be struck from that quarter. Aleander complained that
Sickingen now was king in Germany, since he could command a
following whenever and as large as he pleased. But in truth he was
in no case ready for an attack at that moment. He still reckoned on
being able, with his Church sympathies, to remain the Emperor's
friend, and was just now on the point of taking a post of military
command in his service. Some anxious friends of Luther's were afraid
that, according to Papal law, the safe-conduct would not be observed
in the case of a condemned heretic. Spalatin himself sent from Worms
a second warning to Luther after he had left Frankfort, intimating
that he would suffer the fate of Huss.

Meanwhile Glapio, on the other side, no doubt with the knowledge and
consent of his imperial master, made one more attempt in a very
unexpected manner to influence Luther, or at least to prevent him
from going to Worms. He went with the imperial chamberlain, Paul von
Armsdorf, to Sickingen and Hutten at the Castle of Ebernburg, spoke
of Luther as he had formerly done to Bruck, in an unconstrained and
friendly manner, and offered to hold a peaceable interview with
Luther in Sickingen's presence. Armsdorf at the same time earnestly
dissuaded Hutten from his attacks and threats against the legates,
and made him the offer of an imperial pension if he would desist.
Had Luther agreed to this proposal and gone to the Ebernburg, he
could not have reached Worms in time; the safe-conduct promised him
would have been no longer valid, and the Emperor would have been
free to act against him. Nevertheless Sickingen entered into the
proposal. The danger threatening Luther at Worms must have appeared
still greater to him, and Luther could then have enjoyed the
protection of his castle, which he had offered him before. Martin
Butzer, the theologian from Schlettstadt, happened then to be with
Sickingen; he had already met Luther at Heidelberg in 1518, had then
learned to know him, and had embraced his opinions. He was now
commissioned to convey this invitation to him at Oppenheim, which
lay on Luther's road.

But Luther continued on his way. He told Butzer that Glapio would be
able to speak with him at Worms. To Spalatin he replied, though Huss
were burnt, yet the truth was not burnt; he would go to Worms,
though there were as many devils there as there were tiles on the
roofs of the houses.

On April 16, at ten o'clock in the morning, Luther entered Worms. He
sat in an open carriage with his three companions from Wittenberg,
clothed in his monk's habit. He was accompanied by a large number of
men on horseback, some of whom, like Jonas, had joined him earlier
in his journey, others, like some gentlemen belonging to the
Elector's court, had ridden out from Worms to receive him. The
imperial herald rode on before. The watchman blew a horn from the
tower of the cathedral on seeing the procession approach the gate.
Thousands streamed hither to see Luther. The gentlemen of the court
escorted him into the house of the Knights of St. John, where he
lodged with two counsellors of the Elector. As he stepped from his
carriage he said, 'God will be with me.' Aleander, writing to Rome,
said that he looked around with the eyes of a demon.

Crowds of distinguished men, ecclesiastics and laymen, who were
anxious to know him personally, flocked daily to see him.

On the evening of the following day he had to appear before the
Diet, which was assembled in the Bishop's palace, the residence of
the Emperor, not far from where Luther was lodging. He was conducted
thither by side streets, it being impossible to get through the
crowds assembled in the main thoroughfare to see him. On his way
into the hall where the Diet was assembled, tradition tells us how
the famous warrior, George von Frundsberg, clapped him on the
shoulder, and said: 'My poor monk! my poor monk! thou art on thy way
to make such a stand as I and many of my knights have never done in
our toughest battles. If thou art sure of the justice of thy cause,
then forward in the name of God, and be of good courage--God will
not forsake thee.' The Elector had given Luther as his advocate the
lawyer Jerome Schurf, his Wittenberg colleague and friend.

[Illustration: FIG. 25.-LUTHER. (From an engraving by Cranach, in

When at length, after waiting two hours, Luther was admitted to the
Diet, Eck, [Footnote: This Eck must not be confused with the other
John Eck, the theologian.] the official of the Archbishop of Treves,
put to him simply, in the name of the Emperor, two questions,
whether he acknowledged the books (pointing to them on a bench
beside him) to be his own, and next, whether he would retract their
contents or persist in them. Schurf here exclaimed, 'Let the titles
of the books be named.' Eck then read them out. Among them there
were some merely edifying writings, such as 'A Commentary on the
Lord's Prayer,' which had never been made the subject of complaint.

Luther was not prepared for this proceeding, and possibly the first
sight of the august assembly made him nervous. He answered in a low
voice, and as if frightened, that the books were his, but that since
the question as to their contents concerned the highest of all
things, the Word of God and the salvation of souls, he must beware
of giving a rash answer, and must therefore humbly entreat further
time for consideration.

After a short deliberation the Emperor instructed Eck to reply that
he would, out of his clemency, grant him a respite till the next

So Luther had again, on April 18, a Thursday, to appear before the
Diet. Again he had to wait two hours, till six o'clock. He stood
there in the hall among the dense crowd, talking unconstrained and
cheerfully with the ambassador of the Diet, Peutinger, his patron at

After he was called in, Eck began by reproaching him for having
wanted time for consideration. He then put the second question to
him in a form more befitting and more conformable with the wishes of
the members of the Diet: 'Wilt thou defend _all_ the books
acknowledged by thee to be thine, or recant some part?' Luther now
answered with firmness and modesty, in a well-considered speech. He
divided his works into three classes. In some of them he had set
forth simple evangelical truths, professed alike by friend and foe.
Those he could on no account retract. In others he had attacked
corrupt laws and doctrines of the Papacy, which no one could deny
had miserably vexed and martyred the consciences of Christians, and
had tyrannically devoured the property of the German nation; if he
were to retract these books, he would make himself a cloak for
wickedness and tyranny. In the third class of his books he had
written against individuals, who endeavoured to shield that tyranny,
and to subvert godly doctrine. Against these he freely confessed
that he had been more violent than was befitting. Yet even these
writings it was impossible for him to retract, without lending a
hand to tyranny and godlessness. But in defence of his books he
could only say in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, 'If I have
spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou
me?' If anyone could do so, let him produce his evidence and confute
him from the sacred writings, the Old Testament and the Gospel, and
he would be the first to throw his books into the fire. And now, as
in the course of his speech he had sounded a new challenge to the
Papacy, so he concluded by an earnest warning to Emperor and Empire,
lest by endeavouring to promote peace by a condemnation of the
Divine Word, they might; rather bring a dreadful deluge of evils,
and thus give an unhappy and inauspicious beginning to the reign of
the noble young Emperor. He said not these things as if the great
personages who heard him stood in any need of his admonitions, but
because it was a duty that he owed to his native Germany, and he
could not neglect to discharge it.

Luther, like Eck, spoke in Latin, and then, by desire, repeated his
speech with equal firmness in German. Schurf, who was standing by
his side, declared afterwards with pride, 'how Martin had made this
answer with such bravery and modest candour, with eyes upraised to
Heaven, that he and everyone was astonished.'

The princes held a short consultation after this harangue. Then Eck,
commissioned by the Emperor, sharply reproved him for having spoken
impertinently and not really answered the question put to him. He
rejected his demand that evidence from Scripture might be brought
against him, by declaring that his heresies had already been
condemned by the Church, and in particular by the Council of
Constance, and such judgments must suffice if anything were to be
held settled in Christianity. He promised him, however, if he would
retract the offensive articles, that his other writings should be
fairly dealt with, and finally demanded a plain answer 'without
horns' to the question, whether he intended to adhere to all he had
written, or would retract any part of it.

To this Luther replied he would give an answer 'with neither horns
nor teeth.' Unless he were refuted by proofs from Scripture, or by
evident reason, his conscience bound him to adhere to the Word of
God which he had quoted in his defence. Popes and Councils, as was
clear, had often erred and contradicted themselves. He could, not,
therefore, and he would not, retract anything, for it was neither
safe nor honest to act against one's conscience.

Eck exchanged only a few more words with him in reply to his
assertion that Councils had erred. 'You cannot prove that, 'said
Eck. 'I will pledge myself to do it,' was Luther's answer. Pressed
and threatened by his enemy, he concluded with the famous words:
'Here I stand, I can do, no otherwise. God help me. Amen.'

The Emperor reluctantly broke up the Diet, at about eight o'clock in
the evening. Darkness had meanwhile come on; the hall was lighted
with torches, and the audience were in a state of general excitement
and agitation. Luther was led out; whereupon an uproar arose among
the Germans, who thought that he had been taken prisoner. As he
stood among the heated crowd, Duke Erich of Brunswick sent him a
silver tankard of Eimbeck beer, after having first drank of it

On reaching his lodging, 'Luther,' to use the words of a Nuremberger
present there, 'stretched out his hands, and with a joyful
countenance exclaimed, "I am through! I am through!"' Spalatin says:
'He entered the lodging so courageous, comforted and joyful in the
Lord, that he said before others and myself, "if he had a thousand
heads, he would rather have them all cut off than make one
recantation.' He relates also how the Elector Frederick, before his
supper, sent for him from Luther's dwelling, took him into his room
and expressed to him his astonishment, and delight at Luther's
speech. 'How excellently did, Father Martin speak both in Latin and
German before the Emperor and the Orders. He was bold enough, if not
too much so.' The Emperor, on the contrary, had been so little
impressed by Luther's personality, and had understood so little of
it, that he fancied the writings ascribed to him must have been
written by some one else. Many of his Spaniards had pursued Luther,
as he left the Diet, with hisses and shouts of scorn.

Luther, by refusing thus point-blank to retract, effectually
destroyed whatever hopes of mediation or reconciliation had been
entertained by the milder and more moderate adherents of the Church
who still wished for reform. Nor was any union possible with those
who, while looking to a truly representative Council as the best
safeguard against the tyranny of a Pope, were anxious also to obtain
at such a Council a secure and final settlement of all questions of
Christian faith and morals. It was these very Councils about which
Eck purposely called on Luther for a declaration; and Luther's words
on this point might well have been considered by the Elector as 'too
bold.' Aleander, who had used such efforts to prevent Luther's being
heard, was now well satisfied with the result. But Luther remained
faithful to himself. True it was that he had often formerly spoken
of yielding in mere externals, and of the duty of living in love and
harmony, and respecting the weaknesses of others; and his conduct
during the elaboration of his own Church system will show us how
well he knew to accommodate himself to the time, and, where
perfection was impossible, to be content with what was imperfect.
But the question here was not about externals, or whether a given
proceeding were judicious or not for the attainment of an object
admittedly good. It was a question of confessing or denying the
truth--the highest and holiest truths, as he expressed it, relating
to God and the salvation of man. In this matter his conscience was

And the trial thus offered for his endurance was not yet over. On
the morning of the 19th, the Emperor sent word to the Estates, that
he would now send Luther back hi safety to Wittenberg, but treat him
as a heretic. The majority insisted on attempting further
negotiations with him through a Committee specially appointed. These
were conducted accordingly by the Elector of Treves, to whom
Frederick the Wise and Miltitz had once been anxious to submit
Luther's affair. The friendliness, and the visible interest in his
cause, with which Luther now was urged, was more calculated to move
him than Eck's behaviour at the Diet. He himself bore witness
afterwards how the Archbishop had shown himself more than gracious
to him, and would willingly have arranged matters peaceably. Instead
of being urged simply to retract all his propositions condemned by
the Pope, or his writings directed against the Papacy, he was
referred in particular to those articles in which he rejected the
decisions of the Council of Constance. He was desired to submit in
confidence to a verdict of the Emperor and the Empire, when his
books should be submitted to judges beyond suspicion. After that he
should at least accept the decision of a future Council, unfettered
by any acknowledgment of the previous sentence of the Pope. So
freely and independently of the Pope did this Committee of the
German Diet, including several bishops and Duke George of Saxony,
proceed in negotiating with a Papal heretic. But everything was
shipwrecked on Luther's firm reservation that the decision must not
be contrary to the Word of God; and on that question his conscience
would not allow him to renounce the right of judging for himself.
After two days' negotiations, he thus, on April 25, according to
Spalatin, declared himself to the Archbishop: 'Most gracious Lord, I
cannot yield; it must happen with me as God wills;' and continued:
'I beg of your Grace that you will obtain for me the gracious
permission of His Imperial Majesty that I may go home again, for I
have now been here for ten days and nothing yet has been effected.'
Three hours later the Emperor sent word to Luther that he might
return to the place he came from, and should be given a safe-conduct
for twenty-one days, but would not be allowed to preach on the way.

Free residence, however, and protection at Wittenberg, in case
Luther were condemned by the Empire, was more than even Frederick
the Wise would be able to assure him. But he had already laid his
plan for the emergency. Spalatin refers to it in these words: 'Now
was my most gracious, Lord somewhat disheartened; he was certainly
fond of Dr. Martin, and was also most unwilling to act against the
Word of God, or to bring upon himself the displeasure of the
Emperor. Accordingly, he devised means how to get Dr. Martin out of
the way for a time, until matters might be quietly settled, and
caused Luther also to be informed, the evening before he left Worms,
of his scheme for getting him out of the way. At this Dr. Martin,
out of deference to his Elector, was submissively content, though,
certainly, then and at all times he would much rather have gone
courageously to the attack.'

The very next morning, Friday the 26th, Luther departed. The imperial
herald went behind him, so as not to attract notice. They took the
usual road to Eisenach. At Friedberg Luther dismissed the herald,
giving him a letter to the Emperor and the Estates, in which he
defended his conduct at Worms, and his refusal to trust in the
decision of men, by saying that when God's Word and things eternal
were at stake, one's trust and dependence should be placed, not on
one man or many men, but on God alone. At Hersfeld, where Abbot Crato,
in spite of the ban, received him with all marks of honour, and again
at Eisenach, he preached, notwithstanding the Emperor's prohibition,
not daring to let the Word of God be bound. From Eisenach, whilst
Swaven, Schurf, and several other of his companions went straight
on, he struck southward, together with Amsdorf and Brother Pezensteiner,
in order to go and see his relations at Mohra. Here, after spending
the night at the house of his uncle Heinz, he preached the next
morning, Saturday, May 4. Then, accompanied by some of his relations,
he took the road through Schweina, past the Castle of Altenstein, and
then across the back of the Thuringian Forest to Waltershausen and Gotha.
Towards evening, when near Altenstein, he bade leave of his relations.
About half an hour farther on, at a spot where the road enters the
wooded heights, and ascending between hills along a brook, leads to an
old chapel, which even then was in ruins, and has now quite disappeared,
armed horsemen attacked the carriage, ordered it to stop with threats
and curses, pulled Luther out of it, and then hurried him away at full
speed. Pezensteiner had run away as soon as he saw them approach.
Amsdorf and the coachman were allowed to pass on; the former was in the
secret, and pretended to be terrified, to avoid any suspicion on the
part of his companion. The Wartburg lay to the north, about eight miles
distant, and had been the starting-point of the horsemen, as it now was
their goal; but precaution made them ride first in an eastern direction
with Luther. The coachman afterwards related how Luther in the haste of
the flight dropped a grey hat he had worn. And now Luther 'was given a
horse to ride. The night was dark, and about eleven o'clock they arrived
at the stately castle, situated above Eisenach. Here he was to be kept
as a knight-prisoner. The secret was kept as strictly as possible
towards friend and foe. For many weeks afterwards even Frederick's
brother John had no idea of it, on the contrary, he wrote to Frederick
that Luther, he had heard, was residing at one of Sickingen's castles.
Among his friends and followers the terrible news had spread,
immediately upon his capture, that he had been made away with by his

At Worms, however, while the Pope was concluding an alliance with
Charles against France, the Papal legate Aleander, by commission of
the Emperor, prepared the edict against Luther on the 8th of May. It
was not, however, until the 25th, after Frederick, the Elector of
the Palatinate, and a great part of the other members of the Diet
had already left, that it was deemed advisable to have it
communicated to the rest of the Estates; nevertheless it was
antedated the 8th, and issued 'by the unanimous advice of the
Electors and Estates.' It pronounced upon Luther, applying the
customary strong expressions of Papal bulls, the ban and re-ban; no
one was to receive him any longer, or feed him &c., but wherever he
was found, he was to be seized and handed over to the Emperor.





Luther, after being brought to the fortress, had to live there as a
knight-prisoner. He was called Squire George, he grew a stately
beard, and doffed his monk's cowl for the dress of a knight, with a
sword at his side. The governor of the castle, Herr von Berlepsch,
entertained him with all honour, and he was liberally supplied with
food and drink. He was free to go about as he pleased in the
apartments of the castle, and was permitted, in the company of a
trusty servant, to take rides and walks out of doors. Thus, as he
writes to a friend, he sat up aloft, in the region of the birds, as
a curious prisoner, _nolens volens_, whether he willed or no;
willing, because God would have it so, not willing, because he would
far rather have stood up for the Word of God in public, but of such
an honour God had not yet found him worthy.

[Illustration: Fig 26--LUTHER as "Squire George." (From a woodcut by

Care was also taken at once that he should be able to correspond at
least by letter with his friends, and especially with those at
Wittenberg. These letters were sent by messengers of the Elector
through the hands of Spalatin. When Luther afterwards heard that a
rumour had got abroad as to his place of residence, he sent a letter
to Spalatin, in which he said: 'A report, so I hear, is spread that
Luther is staying at the Wartburg near Eisenach; the people suppose
this to be the case, because I was taken prisoner in the wood below;
but while they believe that, I sit here safely hidden. If the books
that I publish betray me, then I shall change my abode; it is very
strange that nobody thinks of Bohemia.' This letter, so Luther
thought, Spalatin might let fall into the hands of some of his
spying opponents, so as to lead them astray in their conjecture.
Spalatin made no use of this naive attempt at trickery. He could
hardly have done much in the matter, and would probably have
directed those who saw through the meaning of the letter straight to
the Wartburg. He succeeded, however, remarkably well in keeping the
spot a secret, even after it was generally guessed and known that
Luther was to be found somewhere in Saxony. As late as 1528,
Luther's friend Agricola remarks that he had hitherto remained
concealed, whilst some even sought to hear of him by questioning of
the devil; and more than twenty years later Luther's opponent
Cochlaeus declares that he was hidden at Alstedt in Thuringia.

There was no imperial power at that time which might have deemed it
necessary or expedient to track out the man who had been condemned
by the Edict of Worms. The Emperor had left Germany again, and was
engaged in a war with France.

In his quiet solitude Luther threw himself again without delay into
the work of his calling, so far as he could here perform it. This
was the study of Scripture and the active exercise of his own pen in
the service of God's Word. He had now more time than before to
investigate the meaning of the Bible in its original languages. 'I
sit here,' he writes to Spalatin ten days after his arrival, 'the
whole day at leisure, and read the Greek and Hebrew Bible.'

His sojourn at the castle began in the festival time between Easter
and Whitsuntide. He wrote at once an exposition of the sixty-eighth
Psalm, with particular reference to the events of Ascension and

For the liberation of the laity from the Papal yoke, he set at once
further to work by composing a treatise 'On Confession, whether the
Pope has power to order it.' He commends confession, when a man
humbles himself and, receives forgiveness of God through the lips of
a Christian brother, but he denounces any compulsion in the matter,
and warns men against priests who pervert it into a means of
increasing their own power. He now expressed his public thanks to
Sickingen, and dedicated the book to him--'To the just and firm
Francis von Sickingen, my especial lord and patron.' In this
dedication he repeats the fears he had long expressed of the
judgment that the clergy would bring upon themselves by their hatred
of improvement and their obstinacy. 'I have,' he says, 'often
offered peace, I have offered them an answer, I have disputed, but
all has been of no avail: I have met with no justice, but only with
vain malice and violence, nothing more. I have been simply called on
to retract, and threatened with every evil if I refused.' Then
speaking of the critical moment at which he was obliged to withdraw,
'I can do no more,' he says, 'I am now out of the game. They have
now time to change that which cannot, and should not, and will not
be tolerated from them any longer. If they refuse to make the
change, another will make it for them, without their thanks, one who
will not teach like Luther with letters and words, but with deeds.
Thank God, the fear and awe of those rogues at Borne is now less
than it was.' And again, speaking of Roman insolence: 'They push on
blindly ahead--there is no listening or reasoning. Well, I have
seen; more water-bubbles than even theirs, and once such an
outrageous smoke that it managed to blot out the sun, but the smoke
never lasted, and the sun still shines. I shall continue to keep the
truth bright and expose it, and am as far from fearing my ungracious
masters as they are ready to despise me.'

Luther now finished his exposition of the _Magnificat_, which,
with loving devotion to the subject, he had intended for Prince John
Frederick. He resumed also his work on the Sunday Gospels and
Epistles. The first part of it he had already published in Latin.
But he gave it now a new, and for the Christian people of Germany, a
most important character, by writing in German his comments on these
passages of Scripture, including those already dealt with in Latin,
which formed the text of the sermon for the day. Thus arose his
first collection of sermons, the 'Church-Postills.' By November he
had already sent the first part to the press, though the work
progressed but slowly. In a simple exposition of the words of the
Bible, without any artificial and rhetorical additions or ornament,
but with a constant and cheerful regard to practical life, with an
unceasing attention to the primary questions of salvation, and in
pithy, clear, and thoroughly popular language, he began to lay
before his readers the sum total of Christian truth, and impress it
on their hearts. The work served as much for the instruction and
support of other preachers of the gospel now newly proclaimed, as
for the direct teaching and edifying of the members of their flocks.
It advanced, however, only by degrees, and Luther after many years
was obliged to have it finished by friends, who collected together
printed or written copies of his various sermons.

For the special comfort and advice of his Wittenberg congregation
Luther wrote an exposition of the thirty-seventh Psalm. Nor with
less energy and force did he wield his pen during June, in a
vigorous and learned polemical reply in Latin to the Louvain
theologian, Latomus.

And yet Luther all this while continued to lament that he had to sit
there so idly in his Patmos: he would rather be burnt in the service
of God's Word than stagnate there alone. The bodily rest which took
the place of his former unwearied activity in the pulpit and the
lecturer's chair, together with the sumptuous fare now substituted
for the simple diet of the convent, were no doubt the cause of the
physical suffering which for a long time had grievously distressed
him and put his patience to the test, and which must have weighed
upon his spirits. In his distress he once thought of going to Erfurt
to consult physicians. Some strong remedies, however, which Spalatin
got for him, gave him temporary relief.

He took exercise in the beautiful woods around the castle, and
there, as he related afterwards, he used to look for strawberries.
In August he had news to give Spalatin of a hunt, at which he had
been present two days. He wished to look on at 'this bitter-sweet
pleasure of heroes.' 'We have,' he says, 'hunted two hares and a few
poor little partridges; truly a worthy occupation for idle people!'
But among the nets and hounds he managed, as he says, to pursue
theology. He saw in it all a picture of the devil, who by cunning
and godless doctrines ensnares poor innocent creatures. Graver
thoughts still were suggested to his mind by the fate of a little
hare, which he had helped to save, and had rolled up in the long
sleeve of his cloak, but which, on his putting it down afterwards
and going away, the dogs caught and killed. 'Thus,' he says, 'do the
Pope and Satan rage together, to destroy, despite my efforts, souls
already saved.'

At that time too he fancied he heard and saw all kinds of devil's
noises and sights, which long afterwards he frequently described to
his friends, but which he took at the time with great calmness.
Such, for instance, were a strange continual rumbling in a chest in
which he kept hazel nuts, nightly noises of falling on the stairs,
and the unaccountable appearance of a black dog in his bed.

Of the well-known ink-stain at the Wartburg we hear nothing either
from those or after-times; and a similar spot was shown in the last
century at the Castle of Coburg, where Luther stayed in 1530.

In the outer world, meanwhile, the great movement that emanated from
Luther continued to advance and grow, in spite of his disappearance.
It was apparent how powerless was his enforced absence to suppress
it. Soon too it was to be seen how much on the other hand it
depended on him that the movement should not bring real danger and

At Wittenberg his friends continued labouring faithfully and
undisturbed. Much as Melancthon troubled himself about Luther and
longed for his return, Luther relied with confidence upon him and
his efforts, as rendering his own presence unnecessary. With joyful
congratulations to his friend he acknowledged his receipt at the
Wartburg of the sheets of his work--the _Loci Communes_--wherein
Melancthon, whilst intending at first only to proclaim the
fundamental principles and doctrines of the Bible, and especially of
the Epistle to the Romans, actually laid the foundation for the
dogma of the Evangelical Church.

Just at this time new forces had stepped in to further the work and the
battle. Shortly before Luther's departure to Worms, John Bugenhagen of
Pomerania had appeared at Wittenberg,--a man only two years younger
than Luther, well trained in theology and humanistic learning, and
already won over to Luther's doctrines by his writings, and more
especially by his work on the Babylonish Captivity. He had made friends
with Luther and Melancthon, and soon began to teach with them at the
university. John Agricola from Eisleben had already taken part in the
biblical lectures at the university, which was then the chief place for
the exposition of evangelical doctrine. This man, born in 1494, had
lived at Wittenberg since 1516. He had from the first been an adherent
of Luther, and had won his confidence, as also that of Melancthon. He
was now their fellow-lecturer at the university, and since the spring
of 1521 had been appointed by the town as catechist at the parish
church, charged with the duty of teaching children religion. Wittenberg
had also gained the services of the learned Justus Jonas, so conspicuous
for his high culture, and a staunch and open friend of Luther. Shortly
after his journey with Luther from Erfurt to the Diet of Worms, he
obtained, by grant of the Elector, the office of provost to the church
of All Saints at Wittenberg, and became a member also of the theological
faculty at the university. The excommunication under which Melancthon
had fallen with Luther did not deter the mass of students from their
cause. The academical youth who had assembled here from the whole of
Germany, and from Switzerland, Poland, and other countries, were
renowned for the exemplary unity in which, unlike their brethren in
most of the universities in those days, they lived together and
devoted themselves to the purest and most elevating studies.
Everywhere students might be seen with Bibles in their hands; the
young nobles and sons of burghers applied themselves diligently to
self-discipline; and the drinking-bouts practised elsewhere, and so
destructive to the muses, were unknown among them.

Luther, by his behaviour at Worms in particular, had fastened upon
himself the eyes of all Germany. The proceedings before the Diet,
made known, as they would be nowadays, by the newspapers, were then
published abroad by means of fugitive pamphlets of a longer or
shorter kind. Luther's speech in particular was circulated from
notes made partly by himself, partly by others. Day after day, and
especially during the sittings of the Diet, a number of other short
tracts and fly-sheets set forth, mainly in the form of a dialogue, a
popular discussion and explanation of his cause. His fate at Worms
was immediately proclaimed in a book called 'The Passion of Dr.
Martin Luther,' the title of which sufficiently indicated the
analogy suggested. Then came the stirring and disquieting news of
his sudden kidnapping by the powers of darkness; rumours which only
served to stimulate him further in his concealment to speak out and
march forwards with undaunted courage and assurance.

As writers who now began to labour for the cause in a similar spirit
to Luther's and in a similarly popular style and manner, we must not
omit to name the following. First and foremost was Eberlin of
Gunzburg, formerly a Franciscan at Tubingen; next, the Augustine
monk Michael Stifel of Esslingen, who came himself to Wittenberg and
joined there the circle of friends; and lastly, the Franciscan Henry
von Kettenbach at Ulm. The authors of some other influential works,
such as the dialogue 'Neu Karsthans' (Karsthans being a name for
peasants), are not known with certainty. In these men and their
writings, ideas and thoughts already made their appearance, going
beyond the intentions of Luther, and into a territory which, from
his standpoint of religion, he would rather have seen more exactly
defined, and taking up weapons which he had rejected. Thus
'Karsthans' contains the advice to break off, after the example of
the Hussites in Bohemia, from most of the Churches, as being tainted
with avarice and superstition; and a rising against the clergy is
contemplated, in which the nobles and peasants should combine.
Eberlin, with his extraordinary energy, not content with the most
comprehensive and far-reaching schemes of ecclesiastical reform,
plunged into questions affecting the wants of municipal, social, and
political life, which Luther, in his Address to the German Nobility,
had only briefly alluded to, and had carefully distinguished from
his own particular work in hand. To the dealings of the great
merchants he showed himself more hostile even than Luther; and put
forward such proposals as the establishment by the civil authorities
of a cheaper tariff of prices for provisions, the appointment to
magisterial offices by election, for which peasants also should be
qualified, and free rights of hunting and fishing.

The Edict of Worms, intended to proscribe and suppress throughout
Germany the heretic and his writings, was published in the different
states and towns by the princes and magistrates; but the power, and
partly also the will, was wanting to enforce its execution. At
Erfurt, shortly after Luther's passage through the town upon his way
to Worms, the interference of the clergy against a member of a
religious institution which had taken part in the ovation accorded
to the Reformer, gave the first occasion to violent and repeated
tumults. Students and townspeople attacked upwards of sixty houses
of the priests, and demolished them. Luther told his friends at
once, that he saw in this the work of Satan, who sought by this
means to bring contempt and legitimate reproach upon the gospel.

Elsewhere, and above all at Wittenberg, his followers busied
themselves in his absence with putting into practice what he had
defended with his words. Calmly and with mature deliberation and
courage, Luther took part in their labours from the solitude of his
watch-tower. He had a very lively and, as he himself confesses,
often painful consciousness of his own responsibility, as the one
who had put the first match to the great fire, and whose first
duties lay with his Wittenberg brethren, as their teacher and

Shortly after his arrival at the Wartburg, he received the news that
Bartholomew Bernhardi of Feldkirchen, provost in the little town of
Kemberg near Wittenberg, had publicly, and with the consent of his
congregation, taken a wife. He was not the first priest who had

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