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Life of Luther by Julius Koestlin

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ventured to break the unchristian prohibition of marriage by the
Romish Church. But he was the most distinguished of such offenders
hitherto, besides being a particular disciple of Luther and a man of
unimpeachable integrity. Luther wrote about it to Melancthon,
saying: 'I admire the newly married man, who in these stormy times
has no fears, and has lost no time about it. May God guide him.'

At Wittenberg it was now demanded, not without violence, that
monasticism should be abolished, and that the mass and the Lord's
Supper should be changed in conformity with the institution of
Christ. It seemed as if here, in the place of Luther, who had gone
before with the simple testimony of the Word and doctrine, two other
men were now to step in as practical and energetic Reformers. One of
them was Luther's old colleague, Carlstadt, who had returned in July
from a short visit to Copenhagen, whither the King of Denmark had
invited him to promote the new evangelical theology at the
university, but had soon again dismissed him, and who now assumed
the lead at Wittenberg with a passionate and ambitious, but
undeterminate zeal. The other was the Augustine monk, Gabriel
Zwilling, who had introduced himself to notice as a fiery preacher
in the convent church, and in spite of his unattractive appearance
and weak voice had drawn together a large congregation from the town
and university, and fascinated them with his eloquence. A young
Silesian wrote home from the university of Wittenberg about him,
saying: 'God has raised up for us another prophet; many call him a
second Luther. Melancthon is never absent when he preaches.'

For the clergy Carlstadt sought, by a perverse interpretation of
Scripture, to make the married state into a law. Only married men
were to be appointed to offices in the Church. For monks and nuns he
claimed the liberty of renouncing their cloistered and celibate
life, if they found its moral requirements insupportable; but the
biblical evidence that he adduced in support of this doctrine was
unhappily chosen; and he still declared the renunciation of vows to
be a sin, though justified by the avoidance thereby of a still
greater sin, that of unchastity in monastic life. Luther had
required that at the Lord's Supper the cup, in accordance with the
original institution of Christ, should be given to the laity.
Carlstadt and Zwilling, however, wished to make it a sin for a
person to partake of the Communion without the cup being given to
the communicants. Other changes also were now demanded in the mode
of administering the elements, conformably with the Holy Supper held
by Jesus Himself with His twelve disciples. Zwilling would have
twelve communicants at a time partake of the bread and wine. It was
further insisted that, like as at ordinary meals, the elements
should be given into the hand of each individual to partake of, and
not put into his mouth by the priest. The sacrifice of the mass
Zwilling would abolish altogether, but Carlstadt thought it
necessary, in dealing with so important a feature of the old form of
worship, to proceed with caution.

Upon these questions and proceedings Luther expressed his opinion
early in August to Melancthon, who was keenly excited about them,
but on many points was unsettled in his mind. The project of
restoring at Wittenberg the celebration of the Lord's Supper, as
originally instituted, with the cup, met with Luther's full
approval; for the tyranny which the Christian congregations had
hitherto endured in this respect had been acknowledged there, and
there was a general wish to resist it. He declared further, with
regard to private masses, that he was resolved never to say any more
while he lived. But compulsion he would not dream of: if any who
still suffered from this tyranny partook of the Communion without
the cup, no man durst account it to him as a sin. As for the
troubles of the monks and nuns, under their self-imposed vows, his
sympathy for them was no less acute than that of his friends at
Wittenberg, but the arguments by which they sought to help them to
liberty he did not consider sound. He gave now this subject a more
searching and deeper consideration, and shortly addressed a series
of theses on celibacy to the bishops and deacons of the church at
Wittenberg. He attacked vows in general, and assailed them at the
very root. Inasmuch, moreover, as the vows of chastity, he said, and
of other monastic observances were commonly made to God with the
intent and purpose of working out one's own salvation by one's own
works and righteousness, these were not vows in accordance with the
will of God, but denials of the faith. And even though a man should
have made a vow in a spirit of piety, he placed himself at all
events, by his own will and act, under a restraint and yoke at
variance with the gospel and the liberty which faith in Christ
bestows. Luther went still farther, and declared that the chastity
enjoined upon the monk was only possible if he possessed the special
gift of continence spoken of by St. Paul. How dare a man make a vow
to God, which God must first endue him with the power to keep? A
man, therefore, in vowing chastity, makes a vow which it is not
really possible for him to keep, whilst true chastity is made
possible for him by God in the married life which he condemns. These
vows, accordingly, are radically vicious and displeasing to God, and
cease to be binding on a Christian who has been made free in faith,
and has recognised the true will of God.

Personally concerned as Luther was, as an Augustine monk himself, in
these questions which he discussed, he treated the liberty, which
inwardly he knew himself to possess, as quietly and coolly as
possible. On receiving the news from Wittenberg, he wrote to
Spalatin, 'Good Heaven! our Wittenbergers will allow even the monks
to have wives, but they shall not force me to take one.' And he asks
Melancthon jokingly, if he was going to revenge himself upon him for
having helped him to get a wife; he would know well enough how to
guard against that.

At Wittenberg there was great excitement, particularly on account of
the mass. In the Augustinian convent there, the majority of the
monks held with Zwilling; they wished to celebrate the sacrament of
the Lord's Supper in strict accordance with the institution of
Christ. Their prior, Conrad Held, took the opposite side, and
adhered to the ancient usage. Justus Jonas, the provost, expressed
his views with equal ardour in the convent church attached to the
university, and met with violent opposition from other members of
the foundation. A committee, composed of deputies from the
university and chapter of canons, from whom the Elector in October
demanded a formal opinion on the subject, expressed by their
majority the same view, and requested the Elector himself to abolish
the abuse of the mass. But Frederick utterly rejected the idea of
decreeing on his own authority innovations which would constitute a
deviation from the great Christian Catholic Church, more especially
as opinions were not agreed on them even at Wittenberg. He would do
no more than give free scope and protection to the new testimony of
biblical truth, until it should be properly sifted by the Church. In
the church of the Augustinian convent, the mass and the Lord's
Supper were now both suspended.

Men set to work now in earnest to give effect to the new principles
applied to monachism. Thirteen Augustine monks, about a third of the
then inmates of the convent at Wittenberg, quitted that convent
early in November, and cast away their cowls. Some of them took up
at once a civil trade or handicraft. This step increased the growing
feeling of hostility to the monks among the students and inhabitants
of the town. All kinds of enormities ensued: monks were mocked at in
the streets; the convents were threatened; and even the service of
the mass was disturbed by rioters who forced their way into the
parish church.

Meanwhile Luther went on, in the quietness of his seclusion, to
teach the Christian truth about vows and masses, to explain and
establish his newly-acquired knowledge and convictions, and to
prepare by that means the way of ultimate reform. He composed a
tract, in Latin and German, 'On the Abuse of Masses,' and another,
in Latin, 'On Monastic Vows.' The latter he dedicated to his father,
taking note of his protest against his entering the convent, and
telling him with joy that he was now a free man, a monk, and yet no
longer a monk. As for his brethren's desertion of the convent,
however, he disapproved the manner of it. They could, and should,
have parted in peace and amity, not as they did, in a tumult. These
two works he completed in November, and sent them to Spalatin, to
have them printed at Wittenberg.

In this manner Luther occupied himself from the summer to the
winter, continuing all the while his biblical studies and the
composition of his Church-Postills. But he was also preparing to
deal a heavy blow at the Cardinal Albert. This prelate had abstained
as yet, with great caution, from taking any stringent measures to
prevent the spread of Lutheran preaching in his diocese. But he was
in want of money. To supply this want, he published a work, giving
news of a precious relic, which he had placed for view at Halle, his
town, and inviting pilgrimages to see it. A multitude of other rich
and wondrous relics had been collected there; not only heaps of
bones and entire corpses of saints, with a portion of the body of
the patriarch Isaac, but also pieces of the manna, as it had fallen
from heaven in the desert, little bits of the burning bush of Moses,
jars from the wedding at Cana, and some of the wine into which Jesus
there had changed the water, thorns from the Saviour's crown, one of
the stones with which Stephen was stoned, and a multitude of other,
in all nearly 9,000, relics. Whoever should attend with devotion at
the exhibition of these sacred treasures in the Collegiate Church at
Halle, and should give a pious alms to the institution, was to
receive a 'surpassing' indulgence. The first exhibition of this kind
took place about the beginning of September. Albert also had not
scrupled to cause one of the priests who wished to marry to be
imprisoned, though it was notorious how he himself made up for his
celibacy by his loose living.

Luther now, as he wrote to Spalatin on October 7, 1521, could not
restrain himself any longer from breaking out, in private and in
public, against his 'Idol of indulgences' and his scandalous
whoredoms. He took no thought of the fact that his own pious
Elector, only a few years before, had arranged a similar, though
less showy exhibition of relics at the convent church at Wittenberg,
and was thus indirectly assailed by reproaches now no longer
deserved. By the end of the month Luther had a pamphlet ready for
publication. But an attack of such a kind on a magnate like Albert,
the great prince of the Empire, Elector of Mayence, and brother of
the Elector of Brandenburg, was not to Frederick's taste, and he
informed Luther, through Spalatin that he forbade it. He would not
sanction anything, he said, which might disturb the public peace.
Luther told Spalatin, in his reply, that he had never read a more
disagreeable letter than Frederick's. 'I will not put up with it,'
he indignantly broke out; 'I will rather lose you and the prince
himself, and every living being. If I have stood up against the
Pope, why should I yield to his creature?' He wished only to show
his pamphlet first to Melancthon, and submit a few alterations in it
to the judgment of his friend. For this purpose he sent it to
Spalatin, requesting him to forward it. Then, on December 1, he
wrote a letter to Albert himself. Its tone and contents indicate
pretty plainly what the pamphlet itself contained. In clear vigorous
German, and without any circumlocution, he submits to the Cardinal
his 'humble request,' to abstain from corrupting the poor people,
and not to show himself a wolf in bishop's clothing. He must surely
know by this time that indulgences were sheer knavery and trickery.
He was not to imagine that Luther was dead: Luther would trust
cheerfully in God, and carry on a game with the Cardinal of Mayence,
of which not many people were yet aware. As for the priests who had
wished to marry, he warned the Archbishop that a cry would be raised
from the gospel about it; and the bishops would learn that they had
better first pluck out the beam from their own eyes, and drive their
own mistresses away. Luther concluded by giving him fourteen days
for a 'proper' answer; otherwise, when that time expired, he would
immediately publish his pamphlet on 'The Idol at Halle.' All this
while, the news from Wittenberg kept Luther in a state of constant
anxiety. The distance and the difficulty of correspondence had
become quite insupportable. A few days after his letter of December
1, he suddenly re-appeared there among his friends. In secret, and
accompanied only by a servant, he had gone thither on horseback in
his knight's dress. He stayed there for three days with Amsdorf.
Only his most intimate friends were allowed to know of his arrival.
His meeting with them again gave him, as he wrote to Spalatin, the
keenest pleasure and enjoyment. But it was a bitter sorrow to hear
that Spalatin would not look at, or listen to, his pamphlet against
Albert, nor his tracts on masses and monastic vows, but had kept
them back. What his friends now told him of their efforts and
labours he approved of, and he wished them strength from above to
persevere. But he had heard already, when on his way, of fresh
outrages committed by some of the townspeople and students against
the priests and monks, and henceforth he deemed it his nearest duty
to warn them publicly against such acts of violence and disorder.



In secret, as he had first gone there, Luther returned to the
Wartburg, and now set to work with his 'True Admonition for all
Christians to abstain from turbulence and rebellion.' He had before
his eyes the danger of an insurrection, involving the lives of all
the priests and monks who opposed reform, and one in which the
common people, in revenge for their many grievances, might fall to
laying about them with clubs and flails, as the 'Karsthans'
threatened. To the princes, magistrates, and nobles, he had already
addressed a demand to put a stop to the corruption of the Church and
the tyranny of the Pope. Of the civil authorities and the nobility,
he says now that 'they ought to do this, in duty to their ordinary
position and power, every prince and lord on his own territory; for
what is brought about by the exercise of ordinary power is not to be
accounted turbulence.' At the same time, to the masses and to
individuals he plainly prohibits a rising by force. Turbulence was
the usurpation of justice, and revenge, which God would not suffer,
for He said, 'Revenge is Mine.' All turbulence, he said, was wrong,
however good might be the cause, and only made bad worse. As for the
magistrates, he would not have them kill the priests, as once Moses
and Elias had done to the worshippers of idols; they were simply to
forbid them from acting contrary to the gospel. Words would do more
than was enough with them, so there was no need of hewing and
stabbing. We have seen how emphatically Luther expressed himself to
the same effect before he went to Worms. The Apostle's words that
the Lord should consume the Antichrist with the Spirit of His Mouth,
were to be fulfilled, according to Luther, in the words of gospel
preaching. It was his own previous experience that had taught him to
rely with such lofty confidence on the simple Word; he had done more
injury with it alone to the Pope, and the priests and monks, than
all the emperors and princes had ever done with all their power. He
still looked forward steadfastly to the approach of the Last Day,
when Christ by His coming should utterly destroy the Pope, whose
iniquity the Word had exposed. As he had done formerly in his
treatise on Christian liberty, and had now good reason to do with
the Wittenbergers, he exhorts men to a loving and merciful regard to
their weaker brethren, whose consciences were still ensnared by the
old ordinances respecting fasting and masses. They ought not to be
taken unawares, but instructed kindly and, if unable to agree at
once, dealt with patiently. 'The wolves,' he says, 'cannot be
treated too severely, nor the tender sheep too gently.'

Luther's works on the mass and monastic vows were now actually in
print. Cardinal Albert, however, gave the answer demanded by Luther,
in a short letter of December 21. He assured him that the subject of
his complaint had been removed; that as to himself, he did not deny
that he was a miserable sinner, the very filth of the earth, as bad
as anyone. Christian chastisement he could well endure; he looked to
God for grace and strength, to live according to His will. So
abjectly did this magnate quail before the Word, with which Luther
threatened to expose his doings. He must no doubt have been ashamed
of his traffic in indulgences before all his Humanist friends, and
especially Erasmus; and must have expected that the other scandals
with which Luther charged him would be laid bare without mercy or
regard. At the same time we see in all this, how perfectly free from
reproach in this matter of morality must Luther have been, not only
in his own conscience, but also in the eyes of Albert. Luther, on
receiving this letter, doubted indeed the sincerity of its
professions, and even abstained from acknowledging it. But he now
finally abandoned, nevertheless, the publication of the pamphlet,
intended to expose him, which had hitherto been hindered by the

But the most important task that Luther now undertook, and in which
he persevered with steadfast devotion during his further stay at the
Wartburg, was one of a peaceful character, the most beautiful fruit
of his seclusion, the noblest gift that he has bequeathed to his
countrymen. This was his translation of the Bible--first of the New
Testament. 'Our brethren demand it of me,' he wrote to Lange shortly
after his return from Wittenberg. And in these words the wish was
evidently expressed, or else laid to heart anew. The Bible, it is
true, had been translated into German before Luther's time, but in a
clumsy idiom that sounded foreign to the people, and not, like
Luther's version, from the original text, but from the Latin
translation used in the churches. Luther declared that no one could
speak German of this outlandish kind, 'but,' he said, 'one has to
ask the mother in her home, the children in the street, the common
man in the market-place, and look at their mouths to see how they
speak, and thence interpret it to oneself, and so make them
understand. I have often laboured to do this, but have not always
succeeded or hit the meaning.' None the less strictly and faithfully
did he seek to adhere to the spirit of the text, and, where
necessary, even to the letter. Such an interpretation, he said,
required a 'truly devout, faithful, diligent, fearful, Christian,
learned, experienced, and practised heart.' Penetrated himself with
the substance and spirit of the Scriptures, he understood how to
combine in his language, as if by intuition, a dignified tone and a
national character. So hard did he work, that he finished the New
Testament at the Wartburg in a few months; he then wished to revise
it with the help of Melancthon.

Meanwhile, affairs at Wittenberg were assuming so serious an aspect
as to make Luther's apprehensions increase from day to day. The
question of monastic vows indeed was settled peaceably, and in a
manner such as Luther would have desired, by some resolutions (so
far as resolutions could settle it), passed by the Augustinian
brethren at a chapter held at Wittenberg by Link, the Vicar of the
Order. It was there resolved that free permission should be given to
leave the convent, but that those who preferred to adhere to the
monastic life should remain there in voluntary but strict
subordination to their superiors and to the established rules; some
of them should be employed in preaching the Word of God, others
should contribute by manual labour to the support of the
institution. Outside, however, among the people of Wittenberg,
Carlstadt, who had shortly before restrained even his own partisans
in regard to the question of the mass, and who was neither a regular
preacher in the town nor in the possession of any other office, now
pressed forward, by his sermons and writings, impetuously in the
van, and made hasty strides towards the furtherance of his misty
projects of reform. Anticipating a prohibition from the Elector, he
celebrated the Lord's Supper at Christmas in the new manner. Even
the usual vestments were discarded as idolatrous: Zwilling performed
the service in a student's gown. The people were enjoined to eat
meat and eggs on fast days; and confession was no longer held before
the Communion. Carlstadt went further, and denounced the pictures
and images in the churches; it was not enough to desist from
worshipping them, nor durst it be hinted that they served as books
for the instruction of laymen. God had plainly forbidden them; their
proper place was in the fire and not in God's house. Whilst the
town-council, at his instance, resolved to have the images removed
from the parish church, some of the populace stormed in, tore them
down, hewed them to pieces, and burned them.

Luther himself, even with regard to rites and ordinances which he
rejected altogether, always counselled moderation and patience
towards the weak. He could not believe that the great body of his
Wittenberg congregation were already ripe for such changes, or that
many conscientious but weaker brethren among them were not in need
of tender consideration. People might say that it was only a
question of time; well, he did not wish to delay genuine reform for
ever, merely to humour the minority. But it was precisely that those
members should have proper time allowed them, and every means taken
for their instruction and edification, that was to Luther a matter
of conscience. External matters, of which the other Reformers made
so much, such as eating on fast days, the taking with one's own
hands the bread and wine at the Communion, and so forth, he regarded
as trifles, the performance or non-performance of which in no way
affected the true liberty of the faithful, while grievous wrong was
done to the souls of the weaker brethren, if they were compelled to
do anything therein against their consciences. 'By acting thus,' he
says, 'you have made many consciences miserable; if they had to give
an account on their death-beds, or when troubled with temptation,
they would not for the life of them know why or how they had
offended.' Nay, he accuses a man of corrupting souls, who 'plunges'
them carelessly into practices that offend their consciences. 'You
wish,' he says, 'to serve God, and you don't know that you are the
forerunners of the devil. He has begun by attempting to dishonour
the Word; he has set you to work at that bit of folly, so that
meanwhile you may forget faith and love.' Thus Luther wrote in a
work intended for the Wittenbergers. Even the innovations with
regard to pictures and images he numbers among the 'trivial matters
which are not worth the sacrifice of faith and love.' Those which
represented truly Christian subjects he would preserve at all times,
and he valued them highly.

These Wittenberg Reformers, however, with all their desire to assert
the higher spiritual character of evangelical Christianity, still
remained devotees, in their peculiar 'spirit,' to the externals of
worship and, in regard to images, to the letter of the Old Testament
law. And yet their conception of the Christian spirit and of
Christian revelation produced results of another and still stranger
kind. Not only did they repudiate all titles and dignities conferred
by the university, on the plea that, in the words of Christ, no man
durst call himself Rabbi or master, but Carlstadt and Zwilling now
openly expressed their contempt of all human theology and biblical
learning. God, they said, has hid these things from the wise and
prudent, and has revealed them unto babes; the Spirit from above
must enlighten a man. Carlstadt went to simple burghers in their
houses, to have passages in the Bible explained to him. He and
Zwilling won over to their side the master of the boys' school in
the town, and the school was broken up. A new municipal
constitution, supported by the magistracy, made strange inroads on
the rights of the citizens and the domain of social life; a common
chest, containing the revenues of the Church, was utilised for
advancing money without interest to needy handicraftsmen, and making
loans to other townsmen at a low rate of interest. Meantime the
spiritual wants of the community were neglected, and in the
hospitals and prisons entirely overlooked.

Such was the direction here taken by the reform for which Luther's
preaching had prepared the way. And just at this time, at Christmas,
three fanatics came to Wittenberg from Zwickau, with the object of
taking part in the movement and furthering the work of God. These were
Nicholas Storch, a weaver, Mark Stubner, a former student at Wittenberg,
and another weaver, who were now zealously joined by the theologian
Martin Cellarius. They boasted of a direct revelation from God, of
prophetic visions, dreams, and familiar conversations with the Deity.
Compared with these pretensions, Scripture was a thing of small
importance in their eyes. They rejected infant baptism, as incapable
of imparting the Spirit. For communion and intercourse with God they
looked not to faith, which, as Luther taught, accepts submissively
what the Word of God reveals to the conscience and the heart, but to
a mystic process of self-abstraction from everything external, sensual,
and finite, until the soul becomes immovably centred in the one Divine
Being. This spirit, seemingly so elevated and pure, broke out
nevertheless into fanaticism of the wildest kind, by proclaiming and
demanding a general revolution, in which all the priests were to be
killed, all godless men destroyed, and the kingdom of God established.

These fanatical displays had begun at Zwickau, no doubt under
Bohemian influence, and were characterised by the ravings common to
the middle ages. Thomas Munzer, from Stolberg in the Harz country,
who was a preacher at one of the churches, took the lead; and he was
certainly the most important and most dangerous personage among
them. He accounted the civil authorities, with their rights, no more
as Christians than he did the clergy and the hierarchy; and began
already to prate of universal equality and communism. This novel and
exciting doctrine soon won adherents, and propagated the 'spirit of
revelation.' Already disturbances were brewing. But the magistrates
took vigorous and timely measures. Storch, Stubner, and Cellarius
fled to Wittenberg, while Munzer roamed about elsewhere in Germany.

Carlstadt went on with his innovations without allying himself
outwardly with these refugees. But the connection of his aims with
theirs could not be mistaken, and as time went on, became more and
more apparent. Melancthon, with all his refinement and purity of
soul, had not sufficient energy and independence to bridle the
passions and forces that had been aroused by Carlstadt. The Zwickau
prophets, with their visions and revelations, haunted him; he seemed
incapable of forming any settled or sober judgment on this strange
and sudden phenomenon.

Luther, on the contrary, received the news with calmness and
composure. He marvelled at the anxiety of his friend, who in
intellect and learning was his superior. He found no difficulty in
testing these enthusiasts by the standard of the New Testament.
There was nothing, he said, in their words and acts, so far as he
had heard anything of them, which the devil might not do or mimic.
As for their so-called ecstasies of devotion, there was nothing in
all that, even though they boasted of being rapt into the third
heaven. The Majesty of God was not wont to hold such familiar
converse with men in old time. The creature must first perish before
his Creator, as before a consuming fire: when God speaks, he must
feel the meaning of the words of Isaiah, 'As a lion, so will he
break all my bones.' And yet Luther would not have them imprisoned
or dealt with by violence; they could be disposed of without
bloodshed and the sword, and be laughed out of their folly.

But his cares for his Wittenberg congregation and the trouble which
Carlstadt's doings there were giving him, left him no peace. He
could not justify those acts before God and the world: they lay upon
his own shoulders, and above all, they brought discredit on the
gospel. In January he went back to Wittenberg. He was entreated to
do so by the magistrates. In vain did the Elector attempt to detain
him, and so prevent his risking an appearance in public. Moreover,
the Council of Regency at Nuremberg, which represented the Emperor
in his absence, had just demanded of Frederick a strict suppression
of the innovations at Wittenberg.

Luther quitted the Wartburg, without leave, on March 1. About his
journey thence we only know that he passed through Jena and the town
of Borna, lying south of Leipzig. A young Swiss, John Kessler from
St. Gallen, who was then on his way with a companion to the
university at Wittenberg, has left us an interesting account of
their meeting with Luther at the inn of the 'Black Bear,' just
outside Jena. They found there a solitary horseman sitting at the
table, 'dressed after the fashion of the country in a red
_schlepli_ (or slouched hat), plain hose and doublet--he had
thrown aside his tabard--with a sword at his side, his right hand
resting on the pommel, and the other grasping the hilt.' Before him
lay a little book. He invited them in a friendly manner, bashful as
they were, to take a seat by him, and spoke to them about the
Wittenberg studies, about Melancthon and other men of learning, and
as to what people thought of Luther in Switzerland. Discoursing
thus, he made them feel so much at ease, that Kessler's companion
took up the little book lying before him, and opened it: it was a
Hebrew Psalter. At supper, where they were joined by two merchants,
he paid for Kessler and his friend, and fascinated them all by his
'agreeable and godly discourse.' Afterwards he drank with his young
friends 'one more friendly glass for a blessing,' gave them his hand
at parting, and charged them to greet the jurist Schurf at
Wittenberg, who was a fellow-countryman of theirs by birth, with the
words 'He who is coming, salutes you.' The host had recognised
Luther, and told his guests who he was. Early next morning the
merchants found him in the stable: he mounted his horse, and rode
forward on his way.

At Borna, where he lodged with an official of the Elector, he wrote
in haste a long answer to the warning instructions of his prince,
conveyed to him by the governor of Eisenach on the eve of his
departure. He did not seek to excuse himself, or to beg forgiveness,
but to quiet his 'most gracious Highness,' and confirm him in the
faith. He had never spoken with greater certainty about what he had
to do, nor with a calmer and more joyful, bold, and proud assurance,
in view of what lay before him, than now, when he had to encounter,
on two contrary sides, opposition and danger. In his resolve and his
hopes he threw himself entirely on his God. 'I go to Wittenberg,' he
writes to Frederick, 'under a far higher protection than yours. Nay,
I hold that I can offer your Highness more protection than your
Highness can offer me.... God alone must be the worker here, without
any human care or help; therefore, he who has the most faith will be
able to give the most protection.' To the question what the Elector
should do in his cause, he answered, 'nothing at all.' The Elector
must allow the Imperial authorities to exercise their powers in his
territory without let or hindrance, even if they chose to seize him
or put him to death. The Elector would surely not be called on to be
his executioner. Should he leave the door open and give safe-conduct
to those who sought to capture him, he would have done his duty
quite enough.

Luther rode on undaunted, even through the territory of Duke George,
who was now violently exasperated with him and the people of
Wittenberg; and on the evening of March 6 he reached his destination
and his friends, safe in body and happy in his mind.

On the morning of the following Saturday, Kessler and his companion,
on visiting Schurf, found Luther sitting at his house with
Melancthon, Jonas, and Amsdorf, and telling them about his doings.
Kessler thus describes his appearance. 'When I saw Martin in 1522,
he was somewhat stout, but upright, bending backwards rather than
stooping; with a face upturned to heaven; with deep, dark eyes and
eyebrows, twinkling and sparkling like stars, so that one could
hardly look steadily at them.'



It was on a Thursday that Luther arrived again at Wittenberg. The
very next Sunday he re-appeared in his old pulpit among his town
congregation. In clear, simple, earnest, and Scriptural language he
endeavoured to explain to them their errors, and to lead them again
into the right way. For eight successive days he preached in this
manner. The truths and principles he propounded were the same that
he uttered from the Wartburg, and, indeed, ever since his career of
reformation began. Above all things he exhorted them to charity, and
to deal with their faithful fellow-Christians as God had dealt with
them in His love, whereof through faith they were partakers. 'In
this, dear friends,' he said, 'you are almost entirely wanting, and
not a trace of charity can I see in you, but perceive rather that
you have not been thankful to God. I see, indeed, that you can
discourse well enough on the doctrines of faith and love which have
been preached to you, and no wonder: cannot even a donkey sing his
lesson? and should you not then speak and teach the doctrine or the
little Word? But the kingdom of God does not consist in talk or
words, but in deeds, in works and practice.' He taught them to
distinguish between what was obligatory and what was free, between
what was to be observed or what was not. Charity must be practised,
he said, even in essentials, since no man must compel his brother by
force, but must let the Word operate on the hearts of the weak and
erring, and pray for them. Whatever is free must be left free, so as
not to cause vexation to the weak; but against unchristian tyrants a
stand must be made for freedom.

Thus, with the sheer power and fervour of his eloquence, Luther
prevailed with his congregation, and soon had the conduct of the
Church movement again in his hands. Zwilling allowed himself to be
reproved. Carlstadt shrank back silently, though sullenly; Luther
earnestly begged him not to publish anything hostile and thus compel
him to a battle. In his sermons he refrained from all personal
references. Of the recent innovations, only one was retained, the
omission from the mass of the words relating to the sacrifice of the
Body of Christ by the priests. Luther considered them downright
objectionable and unchristian; and important as they were in
themselves, they were scarcely noticed by the weak and simple, being
uttered in Latin, and in a low voice. The sacrament was again
administered to the majority in one kind; and only those who
expressly desired it could receive it with the lay-cup at an altar
set aside for the purpose. The latter form of celebration, however,
soon became the general custom, to the exclusion of the former. As
regards the vestments to be worn during service, the taking the
elements into one's own hand, and such-like matters, Luther
maintained that they were too trifling to make a fuss about, or to
be allowed to be a stumbling-block to the weak adherents of the old
system. Luther himself returned to live at the convent, resumed his
cowl, and observed again the customary ordinance of fasting. It was
only after two years, when his frock was quite worn out, and he had
a new suit made of some good cloth which the Elector had given him,
that he laid aside altogether his monk's dress.

The prophets of Zwickau were away from Wittenberg at the moment when
Luther returned there. A few weeks after Stubner and Cellarius
appeared before Luther. Their real character and spirit were now
fully shown him by the arrogance and violence with which they
demanded belief in their superior authority, and by their outburst
of rage when he ventured to contradict them. He writes thus to
Spalatin: 'I have caught them even in open lying; when they tried to
evade me with miserable smooth words, I at last bade them prove
their teaching by miracles, of which they boasted against the
Scriptures. This they refused, but threatened that I should have to
believe them some day. Thereupon I told them that their God could
work no miracle against the will of my God. Thus we separated.' They
then left the town for ever, without having gained any ground there.

Thus Luther, who was accused by his enemies of subverting all
ordinances of the Church, began his practical labours of reform by
checking, through the firmness and clearness of his principles, the
violence of others, and concentrating all his thoughts on the
spiritual welfare of his congregation. The preacher of free and
saving faith was the foremost to insist, in the practical conduct of
the Church, upon the active exercise of brotherly love in the
service of true freedom. The great man of the people opposed
himself, regardless of popular favour or dislike, to the current
which had now become national. Under the influence of his preaching
the Elector could now quietly allow matters in Wittenberg and the
neighbourhood to shape their further course in quiet. Nevertheless,
he permitted the neighbouring bishops to work against the new
doctrines by visitations in his country; he only denied them the
assistance of magisterial compulsion and temporal penalties. The
truth should make its own way.

Luther, immediately on his return to Wittenberg, was impatient to
explain in full to German Christendom his position, without the
restraints imposed on his words during his residence at the
Wartburg. This he did in a letter to the knight Hartmuth von
Kronberg, near Frankfort-on-the-Main, which he intended for
publication. The latter, son-in-law to Sickingen, a man of upright,
honourable, Christian character, had published a couple of little
tracts in Luther's spirit. Luther, by his letter wished to 'visit
him in spirit and make known to him his joy.' He took the
opportunity, at the same time, of speaking his mind plainly, both
about the contest he had to wage at Wittenberg, and the hostility to
the gospel displayed by Romanists in Germany. But harder yet for the
faith than the snares of such enemies, appeared to him 'the cunning
game' devised by Satan at Wittenberg, to bring reproach upon the
gospel. 'Not all my enemies,' he said, 'have hit me as I now am hit
by our people, and I must confess that the smoke makes my eyes smart
and almost tickles my heart. "Hereby," thought the Evil One, "I will
take the heart out of Luther and weary the tough spirit; this attack
he will neither understand nor conquer!"' Fearlessly also, and in a
manner which would have been impossible to him at the Wartburg, he
spoke out against the grievous 'sin at Worms, when the truth of God
was so childishly despised, so publicly, defiantly, wilfully
condemned;' it was a sin of the whole German nation, because the
heads had done this, and no one at the godless Diet had opposed
them. He reproached himself with having, in order to please good
friends there, and not to appear too obstinate, smothered his
feelings and not spoken out his belief with more vigour and decision
before the tyrants, however much the unbelieving heathens might have
abused him for answering haughtily. Of one of his 'miserable
enemies' he says: 'The chief one is the water-bladder N., who defies
Heaven with his high stomach, and has renounced the gospel. He would
like to devour Christ, as the wolf does a gnat.' This was an
unmistakable allusion to Duke George, who, in his bigoted devotion
to the Church, was especially excited by the dangerous influences
which threatened his country from the neighbouring Wittenberg, and
who shortly before had made violent complaints on that account to
the Elector Frederick. Indeed, in a copy of this letter, he was
mentioned by name. Duke George afterwards demanded satisfaction, but
the matter was prolonged without any result. Luther informs Hartmuth
of his return to Wittenberg, but adds that he does not know how long
he will remain there. He announces to him the portion of his
Postills which had just been published, and states that he had made
up his mind to translate the Bible into German. This, he said, was
necessary for him, for it would show him his mistake in fancying he
was a learned man.

Luther now threw himself into his work in all its branches. He
resumed his academical lectures as well as the regular preaching in
the town church, and he also preached on week days on the different
books of the Bible. These sermons he continued when, in the
following year, after the death of the old pastor Heins, for whom he
had hitherto acted as deputy, his friend Bugenhagen was appointed to
the living. He and Bugenhagen remained from now until the latter
died, united by personal friendship and common theological views,
and laboured faithfully together in the service of their parochial
congregation. Bugenhagen, as town pastor, appears as one of the most
prominent figures in the history of Wittenberg at this time. Luther
assisted him and his congregation with unselfish affection and
friendship, and in turn made confidential use of his services as
pastor and father-confessor.

[Illustration: Fig. 27.--Bugenuagen. From a picture by Cranach in
his album, (at Berlin,) 1543.]

During the busy times of Lent and Easter, 1522, Luther had again
undertaken duty among the Wittenberg congregation, and immediately
after Easter he visited Borna, Altenburg, Zwickau, and Eilenburg,
where the people were longing to hear his preaching, and where he
exerted himself to have an evangelical preacher appointed. His eyes
indeed were chiefly fixed on Zwickau, where he was resolved to
counteract finally by his words the consequences of the recent
infatuation. According to a report, made by a state official, 25,000
people assembled to hear Luther, who preached from a balcony of the
town-hall to the multitude gathered below. At Borna he preached
immediately before a visitation held there by the Bishop of
Merseburg, and again on the day after it. During the following
autumn he also preached several times at Weimar, whither he had been
invited by John, the brother of the Elector Frederick; and likewise
before the congregation at Erfurt, to whom during the summer he had
addressed an instructive exhortation in writing on the subject of
the innovations.

Even at Wittenberg his literary labours, as we have seen from his
letter to Kronberg, were still mainly devoted to the Bible. In
concert with Melancthon, and with the assistance of other friends,
he set about a revision of his translation of the New Testament. He
sent the first sheets when printed to Spalatin, on May 10, as a
'foretaste of our new Bible.' With the aid of three presses the
printing progressed so rapidly, that already in September the work
was ready for publication. September 21, dedicated to St. Matthew,
is distinguished as the birthday of the German New Testament. In
December already a second edition was called for, though the price
of the book, a florin and a half, was a high one at that time.

The work was greedily and thankfully pounced upon by many thousands
in all parts of Germany, who had learnt from Luther to distinguish
the 'pure Word of God' from the dogmas of the Church, and to honour
it accordingly. Nor could any means more powerful than this be found
of spreading the doctrine thus founded on the Word of God, and
making it the real property of hearers and readers. All the greater
was the danger recognised herein by those who adhered to
ecclesiastical authority and traditions. Of great significance for
both sides are the words of one of the most violent of Luther's
contemporary opponents, the theologian Cochlaeus: 'Luther's New
Testament was multiplied by the printers in a most wonderful degree,
so that even shoemakers and women, and every and any lay person
acquainted with the German type, read it greedily as the fountain of
all truth, and by repeatedly, reading it, impressed it on their
memory. By this means they acquired in a few months so much
knowledge, that they ventured to dispute, not only with Catholic
laymen, but even with masters and doctors of theology, about faith
and the gospel. Luther himself, indeed, had long before taught that
even Christian women, and everyone who had been baptized, were in
truth priests, as much as pope, bishop, and priests. The crowd of
Lutherans gave themselves far more trouble in learning the
translation of the Bible than did the Catholics, where the laity
left such matters chiefly to the priests and monks.' The Catholic
authorities immediately issued orders forbidding the book, and
directing it to be delivered up and confiscated. They hastened also
to accuse the translation of a number of pretended errors and
falsifications, which were mostly corrections of passages
mistranslated in the established Latin version from the words of the
original Greek text. Cochlaeus brought one particular charge against
Luther's translation, that he had ventured to alter the beginning of
the Lord's Prayer in contradiction to the Universal, including the
German Church, and likewise to the original text, by substituting
'Unser Vater in dem Himmel' for 'Vater unser, der du bist im
Himmel.' ('Our Father in Heaven,' for 'Our Father which art in
Heaven'). When, some years later, Emser published a rival
translation of the New Testament, it was found to be in great part a
transcript of Luther's, with only a few corrections according to the
old Latin.

Whilst the New Testament was still in the press, Luther set
zealously to work on the Old. Here he encountered more difficulties,
on account of the language; but he had long been studying Hebrew
with devotion and zeal, and moreover he could now get the assistance
of his new colleague, Aurogallus, who was especially famous for
teaching Hebrew. Before Christmas the five Books of Moses were ready
for press; these were to be published by themselves. In 1524 they
were followed by two other parts, containing the biblical books
(according to the present German order) up to the Song of Solomon.
His translation of the prophets, interrupted by other work, was
delayed for several years.

Nor was Luther's sharp pen long idle against Rome, as indeed might
have been anticipated from his letter to Kronberg. He found his
chief occasion for attack in a series of new edicts and other
measures of the German bishops against the innovations--the
abolition of clerical celibacy, the transgression of the laws of
fasting, and so on. For this purpose ecclesiastical visitations were
undertaken by the Bishops of Meissen and Merseburg, such as have
already been alluded to when Luther went to Zwickau.

Luther's sermons against the abuse of Christian liberty were
followed by a small tract entitled 'On the necessity of avoiding
human doctrine.' He did not mean it, as he said, for those 'bold,
intemperate heads;' but he wished to preach Christian liberty to the
poor, humble consciences, enslaved by monkish vows and ordinances,
that they might be instructed how, by God's help and without danger,
to escape and to use their liberty discreetly. Against the existing
Romish episcopacy he declared war to the knife in a treatise
'Against the Order, falsely called Spiritual, of Pope and Bishops.'
He who had been robbed of his title of priest and doctor by the
displeasure of Pope and Emperor, and from whom, by Papal bulls, the
'mark of the beast' (Rev. xiii. 16) was washed off, confronts the
'popish bishops' now, as 'by God's grace, preacher at Wittenberg.'

Luther's further writings against the Romish Churchdom and dogma do
not possess the same interest for us as his earlier ones, inasmuch
as they no longer show the progress and development of his own views
on the Church. In the violent language he now employs he vents his
chief anger in complaining that he, and the truth he represented,
'had been condemned unheard--an unexampled proceeding--unrefuted,
and in headlong and criminal haste.'

With reference to the attack he had made on the 'episcopal
masqueraders' in the tract above mentioned, Luther remarked in a
letter to Spalatin on July 26 that he had purposely been so sharp in
it, because he saw how vainly he had humbled himself, yielded,
prayed and complained. And he added that he would just as little
flatter, the King of England.

King Henry VIII., who later on, for other reasons, broke so entirely
with the Church of Rome and began reforms after his own fashion, had
at that time gained for himself from the Pope the title of 'Defender
of the Faith,' on account of a learned scholastic treatise against
Luther's 'Babylonish Captivity.' This treatise had made such a stir,
that Luther thought it expedient to answer it in one of his own. The
latter, originally written in Latin, gives a carefully considered
explanation of the points of doctrine at issue, and proceeds to
prove the propositions he had previously advanced. He points out
fundamental, and, indeed, irreconcilable variance between his
principles and those of the King, by showing how he, Luther, fought
for freedom and established it, while the King, on the contrary,
took up the cudgels for captivity, without even attempting to
justify it by argument, but simply kept talking of what it consists
of, and how people must be content to remain in it. In fact, the
whole book was a mere reiteration of the dogmas of ecclesiastical
authorities, of the Councils, and of tradition, always taking it for
granted that these dare not be disputed. 'I do not need,' says
Luther,' the King to teach me this.' But the personal tone adopted
by Luther against Henry went beyond anything that his expressions to
Spalatin might have led one to expect, and was even more marked in a
German edition of his treatise, which he published after the royal
one had been translated into German. The King had, moreover, set the
example of abuse, as coarse and defiant as that of his opponent.
Luther did not shrink from an incidental remark at the expense of
other princes. 'King Henry,' he says, 'must help to prove the truth
of the proverb, that there are no greater fools than kings and

But the most important among the works which Luther was now led to
undertake by his opposition to the Romish Church and her teaching,
and by her hostile proceedings against himself, was a treatise on
the secular power, which he began in December, as soon as he had
finished the translation of the five Books of Moses. It appeared
under the title of 'On the Secular Power, and how far obedience is
due to it.'

How far obedience is due to it? This was the question provoked by
the commands and threats of punishment with which Catholic princes
were now endeavouring to aid the spiritual power in suppressing the
gospel, the writings on reform, and especially the new translation
of the Bible. The question was, how far a Christian was bound to

Nor had Luther to step forward less decisively as the champion of
the rights, the Divine authority, and the dignity of the civil
power, against the pretensions of the Catholic Church. Words of
Jesus such as these lay before him: 'But I say unto you, that ye
resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek,
turn to him the other also.' How could these words be reconciled
with the fact that the secular arm resisted wrong with force, and
raised the sword against the evil-doer? The Church of the middle
ages and the School theology maintained that these words were not
general moral commands for all Christians, but merely advice for
those among them who wished to attain a higher degree of perfection.
Hereby the whole civil government with its authorities was assigned
a lower grade of ordinary morality, whilst higher morality or true
perfection was to be represented in the priestly office and
monasticism. On the other hand, friends of Luther, ere now, while
taking note that Christ had spoken these words direct to all his
disciples, and therefore to all Christians, had been troubled to
know how to establish, with regard to Christians, the rights and
duties of temporal power.

With respect to this second point in particular Luther now gives his
explanation. Those words of Christ were unquestionably commands for
all Christians. They demand of every Christian that he should never
on his own account grasp the sword and employ force; and if only the
world were full of good Christians there would be no need of the,
sword of secular authority. But it is necessary to wield it against
evil for the general welfare, to punish sin and to preserve the
peace; and therefore the true Christian, in order thereby to serve
his neighbour, must willingly submit to the rule of this sword, and,
if God assigns him an office, must wield this sword himself. This
command of Scripture is confirmed by other passages, as for instance
by the words of the Apostle: 'Let every soul be subject unto the
higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be
are ordained of God. For he is the minister of God to thee for good
... for he beareth not the sword in vain.' (Romans xiii.). Luther
thus ranks the vocation of civil government together with the other
vocations of moral life in the world. They are all, he said,
instituted by God, and all of them, no less than the so-called
priestly office, are intended and able to serve God and one's
neighbour. These were ideas which laid the foundation for a new
Christian estimate of political, civic, and temporal life in
general. Thus, later on, the Augsburg Confession rejected the
doctrine that to attain evangelical perfection, a man must renounce
his worldly calling, as also the theory of the Anabaptists, who
would allow no Christian to hold civil office or to wield the sword.

But Luther, while thus determining the province of secular
authority, took care to impose limits on its jurisdiction, and to
guard against those limits being invaded. The true spiritual
government, as instituted by Christ, was intended to make men good,
by working upon the soul by the Word, in the power of the Spirit.
The temporal government, whose duty it was to secure external peace
and order, and to protect men against evil-doers, extends only to
what is external upon earth,'--over person and property. 'For God
cannot and will not allow anyone but Himself alone to rule the
soul.'--'No one can or shall force another to believe.'--'True is
the proverb: "Thoughts are free of taxes."' We must 'obey God rather
than man,' as St. Peter says: these words impose a limit on temporal
power. Luther is aware of the objection, that the temporal power
does not force a man to believe, but only outwardly guards against
heretics, to prevent them from leading the people astray with false
doctrines. But he answers: 'Such an office belongs to bishops, and
not to princes. God's Word must here contend for mastery. Heresy is
something spiritual, that cannot be hewn with steel nor burned with
fire.' And among these invasions of the province and office of the
Word, Luther includes the edict to confiscate books. Herein must
subjects obey God rather than such tyrannical princes. They are to
leave the exercise of outward power, even in this matter, to the
civil authorities, they must never venture to oppose them by force;
they must suffer it, if men invade their houses, and take away their
books or property. But if they attempt to rob them of their Bible,
they must not surrender a page or a letter.

These are the most powerful and comprehensive utterances which we
possess from the mouth of the Reformer, about the demarcation of
these provinces of authority, the independent operation of the Word
and the Spirit, and liberty of conscience. It is doubtful, indeed,
how far they are consonant with those measures which he afterwards
found admissible and advisable for the protection of evangelical
communities and evangelical truth against those who attempted to
lead them astray.

Amidst such active labours the year of Luther's return to Wittenberg
passed away.



Luther, as we have seen, was able to prosecute his labours at
Wittenberg, undisturbed by the act of the Diet. In other parts of
Germany as well, the imperial power left wide scope for the spread
of his teaching. At the next approaching Diet at Nuremberg no
majority could be looked for again, to give effect to the
consequences demanded by the Edict of Worms. Any such expectation
was the more futile, from the results, already experienced, of
Luther's reappearance in public.

The new Pope, Hadrian VI., whilst adhering strictly to the doctrines
of mediaval Scholasticism and of Church authority, nevertheless, by
his honest avowal of ecclesiastical abuses, and the firmness and
earnestness of his personal character, led men to expect a new era
of energetic reform for the Romish Church, at least in regard to the
discipline of the clergy and monks, and to a conscientious restraint
of Church ordinances, so that even men like Erasmus might rest
content. And yet, he was the very one who sought now to stamp out
with all severity the Lutheran heresy and its innovations. With this
object he broke out into low abuse and slander against Luther
personally, as a drunkard and a debauchee. Libels of this kind were
perpetually repeated by the Romanists, and no doubt Hadrian believed
them, though Luther did not trouble himself much about such personal
attacks, but in his letters to Spalatin, simply called the Pope an
ass. Hadrian also, like so many Romish Churchmen after him, was
extremely zealous to impress upon princes that he who despises the
sacred decrees and the heads of the Church, would cease to respect a
temporal throne.

But the Diet which assembled at Nuremberg in the winter of 1522-23,
replied to the demands of the Pope by renewing the old grievances of
the German nation, and insisting on a free Christian Council, to be
held in Germany.

Nor did even an unfortunate military enterprise, undertaken at this
time against the Archbishop of Treves by Sickingen, who, while
fighting for his own power and the interests of the German nobles,
announced his wish also to break road for the Gospel, produce those
disastrous results for the evangelical cause in Germany which its
enemies had anticipated and hoped for. Sickingen, indeed, after
being defeated by the superior forces of the allied princes, died of
the wounds he received, but it was as clear as noonday that
Frederick the Wise and his evangelical theologians had had nothing
to do with his act of violence. Luther, on hearing of Sickingen's
enterprise, remarked that it would be 'a very bad business,' and
added, on learning the issue, 'God is a just, but a marvellous

The next meeting of the Diet, from whom, after Hadrian's early
death, his successor, Clement VII.--another modern Pope of Leo's way
of thinking--demanded anew the execution of the Edict of Worms,
resulted in the imperial decree of April 18, 1524. By this, the
states of the Empire agreed to execute that edict 'as far as
possible,' but stipulated that the Lutheran and the other new
doctrines should first be 'examined with the utmost diligence,' and,
together with the grievances presented by the princes against the
Pope and the hierarchy, should be made the subject of a
representation to the Council now demanded. But the inconsistency
that lurked in this decree caught Luther's eye and aroused his
suspicion. It was scandalous, he declared in a paper upon it, that
the Emperor and the princes should issue 'contradictory orders.'
They were going to deal with him according to the Edict of Worms,
and proclaim him a condemned man, and persecute him, and at the same
moment wait to decide what was good or bad in his doctrines. But the
decree was, in fact, a subterfuge, by which they resigned the idea
of executing that edict. The Lord's Supper could be celebrated at
Nuremberg in the new way before the eyes of the whole Diet. Well
might Frederick the Wise hope that men would still, at least in
Germany, come gradually to agree in peace about the truth contained
in Luther's preaching.

The absent Emperor, indeed, remained insensible to all such
influences. In the Netherlands strict penal laws were in force. In a
letter addressed to the German Empire he condemned the decree of
Nuremberg, and, like Hadrian, compared Luther to Mahomet. Further, a
minority of the German princes, including, in particular, Ferdinand
of Austria, and the Dukes William and Louis of Bavaria, entered into
a league at Ratisbon to execute the Edict of Worms, while agreeing
to certain reforms in the Church, according to a Papal scheme
proposed by his nuncio Campeggio. They too began to persecute and
punish the heretics.

Thus, then, the seed sown by Luther began to germinate throughout
the whole of Germany. The number of Lutheran preachers increased,
and requests were made in many places for their services. Even
Cochlaeus had to confess that, however bad were their ultimate
objects, they showed a remarkable unselfishness and industry in
their calling, and that they avoided even the appearance of pushing
themselves forward in an irregular and arbitrary manner, waiting
rather for their appointment in due course by the nobles or the
various congregations. Among the treatises and other writings on
ecclesiastical and religious questions which inundated Germany at
that time, at least ten were written on the Lutheran, one on the
Romish side. The complaint was that there were not more numerous and
better qualified printers for the work.

Among the nobles who espoused the cause of Luther, the support of
Albert of Mansfeld, one of the Counts of Luther's native place, was
particularly grateful. It was mainly by the nobles that the movement
was represented in Austria.

But the gospel gained most ground in German towns, especially among
the burgher class in the free cities of the Empire. Preachers were
invited hither, where none already existed, and the mass was publicly
abolished. This took place during 1523 and 1524 at Magdeburg,
Frankfort-on-the-Main, Schwabish Hall, Nuremberg, Ulm, Strasburg,
Breslau, and Bremen. On Saxon territory also, Lutheran congregations
were formed in various towns, such as Zwickau, Altenburg, and Eisenach.
In many cases Luther's personal friends took part in the movement, and
thus cemented more closely their friendship with the Reformer. He had
already some trusted fellow-labourers at Nuremberg. At Magdeburg his
friend Amsdorf was pastor. Hess, the first evangelical pastor of
Breslau, had formed some years earlier a warm friendship with him and
Melancthon. Link, his old friend, and the successor of Staupitz as
Vicar-General of the Augustines, held office as a preacher at Altenburg,
whence he was recalled, for the same purpose, in 1525, to Nuremberg,
his former place of residence. Wherever Luther heard of evangelical
communities who seemed to need especial help for their strengthening or
consolation under trouble, he addressed to them letters, which were
afterwards circulated in print. These were sent, for instance, to
Esslingen, Augsburg, Worms; also to his 'beloved friends in Christ'
at Wittenberg, who had been harassed by the Romanists, and whose
cause he pleaded to the Archbishop Albert. With particular joy he
sent greetings to the 'chosen and dear friends in God' in the
distant towns of Riga, Reval, and Dorpat; and he sent them also an
exposition of the 127th Psalm.

The Word, rejected and condemned as it had been by bishops and
priests in Germany, met with singular success beyond the eastern
boundary of the Empire, among the Order of Teutonic Knights in
Prussia. The Grand Master of the Order, Albert of Brandenburg,
brother of the Elector of Brandenburg, and cousin of Albert, the
Archbishop and Cardinal, had kept up communication with Luther, both
orally and by letter, and had been advised by him and Melancthon to
make himself familiar with the gospel and the principles of the
Evangelical Church. And, above all, there were here two bishops who
espoused the new teaching, and who were anxious to tend the flocks
committed to their charge as true evangelical bishops or overseers,
in the sense insisted on by Luther, and particularly to minister to
the Word by preaching and by the care of souls. These were George of
Polenz, Bishop of Samland since 1523, and Erhard of Queiss, Bishop
of Pomerania since 1524. The members of the Order, almost without
exception, were on their side: they resolved to establish a temporal
princedom in Prussia and to renounce their vows of 'false chastity
and spirituality.' The King of Poland, under whose suzerainty the
country had long been, solemnly invested the hitherto Grand Master
on April 10, 1525, as hereditary Duke of Prussia. Thus Prussia
became the first territory that collectively embraced the
Reformation, whilst as yet, even in the Electorate of Saxony, no
general measures had been taken in its support. It became, in short,
the first Protestant country. Luther wrote to the new Duke: 'I am
greatly rejoiced that Almighty God has so graciously and wondrously
helped your princely Grace to attain such an eminent position, and
further my wish is that the same merciful God may continue His
blessing to your Grace through life, for the benefit and godly
welfare of the whole country.' And to the Archbishop Albert he held
the new Duke up as a shining example, in saying of him, 'How
graciously has God sent such a change, as, ten years ago, could not
have been hoped for or believed in, even had ten Isaiahs and Pauls
announced it. But because he gave room and honour to the gospel, the
gospel in return has given him far more room and honour--more than
he could have dared to wish for.'

The gospel now received its first testimony in blood. With joyful
confidence Luther beheld what God had done, but could not refrain
from lamenting, with sorrowful humility, that he himself had not
been found worthy of martyrdom. In the Imperial hereditary lands,
where for some years missionaries, chiefly members of Luther's own
Augustine Order, had been actively labouring in the strength of the
convictions derived from Wittenberg, two young Augustine monks,
Henry Voes and John Esch, were publicly burnt, on July 1, 1523, as
heretics. Luther thereupon addressed a letter to 'the beloved
Christians in Holland, Brabant, and Flanders,' praising God for His
wondrous light, that He had caused again to dawn. He spoke out even
stronger in some verses in which he celebrated the young martyrs;
they were published no doubt originally as a broadsheet:

A new song will we raise to Him
Who ruleth, God our Lord;
And we will sing what God hath done,
In honour of His Word.
At Brussels in the Netherlands,
It was through two young lads,
He hath made known His Wonders, &c.

They conclude as follows:--

So let us thank our God to see
His Word returned at last.
The Summer now is at the door,
The Winter is forepast,
The tender flowerets bloom anew,
And He, who hath begun,
Will give His work a happy end.

He was, later on, deeply grieved by the death of his brother-Augustine
and friend Henry Moller of Zutphen, who, after having been forced to
fly from the Netherlands, had begun a blessed work at Bremen, and was
now murdered in the most brutal manner on December 11, 1524, by a mob
instigated by monks, near Meldorf, whither he had gone in response to
an invitation from some of his companions in the faith. Luther informed
his Christian brethren in a circular of the end of this 'blessed
brother' and 'Evangelist.' He mentions, with him, the two martyrs of
Brussels, as well as other disciples of the new doctrine; one Caspar
Tauber, who was executed at Vienna, a bookseller named Georg, who was
burnt at Pesth, and one who had been recently burnt at Prague. 'These
and such as these,' he adds, 'are they whose blood will drown the
popedom, together with its god, the devil.'

With regard to his work of reformation, which had now spread so
widely and found so many coadjutors, Luther at present thought as
little about the outward constitution of a new Church as he had
thought about any outward organisation of the war itself, or an
external alliance of his adherents, or of a cleverly devised
propaganda. Just as here the simple Word was to achieve the victory,
so his whole efforts were devoted solely to restoring to the
congregations the possession and enjoyment of that Word in all its
purity, that they might gather round it, and be thereby further
edified, sustained, and guided.

Wherever this privilege was denied to Christians, Luther claimed for
them the right, by virtue of their universal priesthood, to ordain a
priest for themselves, and to reject the ensnaring deceits of mere
human doctrine. He declared himself to this effect, in a treatise
written in 1523, and intended in the first instance for the
Bohemians--that is to say, for the so-called Utraquists who were
then the leading party in Bohemia. These sectaries, whose only
ground of estrangement from Rome was the question of administering
the cup to the laity, and who had never thought of separating
themselves from the so-called Apostolical succession of the
episcopate in the Catholic Church, Luther then hoped, albeit in
vain, to win over to a genuine evangelical belief and practice of
religion. In this treatise he went a step beyond the election of
pastors by their congregations, by maintaining that a whole
district, composed of such evangelical communities, might appoint
their own overseer, who should exercise control over them, until the
final establishment of a supreme bishopric, of an evangelical
character, for the entire national Church. But of any such
ecclesiastical edifice for Germany, wholly absorbed as he was in her
immediate needs, he had not yet said a word. Congregations of such a
kind, and suitable for such a purpose, could only be created by
preaching the Word; nor had Luther yet abandoned the hope that the
existing German episcopate, as already had been the case in Prussia,
would accept an evangelical reconstruction on a much larger scale.
With regard to individual congregations, moreover, it was the
opinion of Luther and his friends that, where the local magistrates
and patrons of the Church were inclined to the gospel, the
appointment of pastors might be made by them in a regular way. A
separation of civil communities, each represented by their own
magistrate, from the ecclesiastical or religious units, was an idea
wholly foreign to that time.

That the word of God should be preached to the various congregations
in a pure and earnest manner, that those congregations themselves
should be entrusted with the work, should make it their own, and, in
reliance thereon, should lift up their hearts to God with prayer,
supplication, and thanksgiving,--this was the fixed object which
Luther held in view in all the regulations which he made at
Wittenberg, and wished to institute in other places. In this spirit
he advanced cautiously and by degrees in the changes introduced in
public worship,--changes which, as he admits, he had commenced with
fear and hesitation. 'That the Word itself,' he says, 'should
advance mightily among Christians, is shown by the whole of
Scripture, and Christ Himself says (Luke x.) that "one thing is
needful," namely, that Mary should sit at the feet of Christ, and
hear His Word daily. His Word endures for ever, and all else must
melt away before it, however much Martha may have to do.' He points
out as one of the great abuses of the old system of worship, that
the people had to keep silence about the Word, while all the time
they had to accept unchristian fables and falsehoods in what was
read, and sung, and preached in the churches, and to perform public
worship as a work which should entitle them to the grace of God. He
now set vigorously about separating the mere furniture of worship.
As to the Word itself, on the contrary, he was anxious to have it
preached to the congregation, wherever possible, every Sunday
morning and evening, and on week-days, at least to the students and
others, who desired to hear it: this was actually done at
Wittenberg. Innovations, not apparently required by his principles,
he shunned himself, and warned others to do so likewise. Nor was he
less diligent to guard against the danger of having the new forms of
worship, now practised at Wittenberg, made into a law for all
evangelical brethren without distinction. He gave an account and
estimate of them in the form of a letter to his friend Hausmann, the
priest at Zwickau, 'conjuring' his readers 'from his very heart, for
Christ's sake,' that if anyone saw plainly a better way in these
matters, he should make it known. No one, he declared, durst condemn
or despise different forms practised by others. Outward customs and
ceremonies were, indeed, indispensable, but they served as little to
commend us to God, as meat or drink (1 Cor. viii. 8) served to make
us well pleasing before Him.

In order to enable the congregations themselves to take an active
part in the service, he now longed for genuine Church hymns, that is
to say, songs composed in the noble popular language, verse, and
melody. He invited friends to paraphrase the Psalms for this
purpose; he had not sufficient confidence in himself for the work.
And yet he was the first to attempt it. With fresh impulse and with
the exuberance of true poetical genius, his verses on the Brussels
martyrs had flowed forth spontaneously from his inmost soul. They
were the first, so far as we know, that Luther had ever written,
though he was now forty years of age. With the same poetic impulse
he composed, probably shortly after, a hymn in praise of the
'highest blessing' that God had shown towards us in the sacrifice of
His beloved Son.

Rejoice ye now, dear Christians all,
And let us leap for joy,
And dare with trustful, loving hearts,
Our praises to employ,
And sing what God hath shown to man,
His sweet and wondrous deed,
And tell how dearly He hath won. etc.

The full tone of a powerful, fresh, often uncouth, but very tender
popular ballad no other writer of the time displayed like Luther.
And whilst seeking to compose or re-arrange hymns for congregational
use in church, he now busied himself with the Psalter, paraphrasing
its contents in an evangelical spirit and in German metre.

Thus now, early in 1524, there appeared at Wittenberg the first
German hymn-book, consisting at first, of only eight hymns, about
half of them, such as that beginning _Nun freut euch_, being
original compositions of Luther, and three others adapted from the
Psalms. In the course of the same year he brought out a further
collection of twenty hymns, written by himself for the evangelical
congregation there: among these is the one on the Brussels martyrs.
It was, in fact, the year in which German hymnody was born. Luther
soon found the coadjutors he had wished for.

These twenty-four hymns by Luther were followed in after years by
only twelve more from his own pen, among the latter being his grand
hymn, _Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott_, written probably in
1527. Of these later compositions, comparatively few expressed
entirely his own ideas; most of them had reference to subjects
already in the possession and use of the Christian world, and of
German Christians in particular; that is to say, some referred to
the Psalms and other portions of the Bible, others to parts of the
Catechism, others again to short German ballads, sung by the people,
and even to old Latin hymns. In all of them he was governed by a
strict regard to what was both purely evangelical, and also suitable
for the common worship of God. And yet they differ widely, one from
another, in the poetical form and manner in which he now gives
utterance to the longings of the heart for God, now seeks to clothe
in verse suited for congregational singing words of belief and
doctrine, now keeps closely to his immediate subject, now vents his
emotions freely in Christian sentiments and poetical form, as for
example in _Ein' feste Burg_, the most sublime and powerful
production of them all.

The new hymns went forth in town and country, in churches and homes,
throughout the land. Often, far more than any sermons could have
done, they brought home to ears and hearts the Word of evangelical
truth. They became weapons of war, as well as means of edification
and comfort.

In his preface to a small collection of songs, which Luther had
published in the same year, he remarks: 'I am not of opinion that
the gospel should be employed to strike down and destroy all the
arts, as certain high ecclesiastics would have it. I would rather
that all the arts, and especially music, should be employed in the
service of Him who has created them and given them to man.' What he
says here about music and poetry, he applied equally to all
departments of knowledge. He saw art and learning now menaced by
wrong-minded enthusiasts. For this reason he was particularly
anxious that they should be cultivated in the schools.

With great zeal he directed his counsels to the general duty of
caring for the good education and instruction of the young, as
indeed he had done some time before in his address to the German
Nobility. These, above all, he said, must be rescued from the
clutches of Satan. He had again in his mind schools for girls. Thus
in 1523 he recommended the conversion of the cloisters of the
Mendicant Orders into schools 'for boys and girls.' The same advice
was offered by Eberlin, already mentioned, who was then living at
Wittenberg, and who made the suggestion to the magistrates of Ulm.

But Luther's chief advice was directed to the requirements of the
Church and the State, or 'temporal government,' which assuredly were
then in need of educated and well-cultured servants. For the
training here required, the ancient languages, Latin and Greek, were
indispensable, and for the ministers of the Church, Greek and Hebrew
in particular, as the languages in which the Word of God was
originally conveyed to man. 'Languages,' he says, 'are the sheaths
which enclose the sword of the Spirit, the shrine in which this
treasure is carried, the vessel which contains this drink.' He
insisted further on the study of history, and especially of that of
Germany. It was a matter of regret to him that so little had been
done towards writing the history of Germany, whilst the Greeks, the
Romans, and the Hebrews had compiled theirs with such industry. 'O!
how many histories and sayings,' he remarked, 'we ought to have in
our possession, of all that has been done and said in different
parts of Germany, and of which we know nothing. That is why, in
other countries, people know nothing about us Germans, and all the
world calls us German beasts, who can do nothing but fight, and
guzzle, and drink.' Such were his opinions, as given in 1524, in a
public letter 'To the Councillors of all the States of Germany; an
appeal to institute and maintain Christian schools.'

The enthusiasm which had recently inspired young men of talent and
ambition to study and imitate the ancient classics, and had banded
together the leading teachers of Humanism, very quickly died away.
The universities everywhere were less frequented. Enemies of Luther
ascribed this to the influence of his doctrines, though matters were
little better where his doctrines were repudiated. It is not,
indeed, surprising that the Humanist movement, with its regard for
formal culture and aesthetic enjoyment, and its aristocracy of
intellect, should retire perforce before the supreme struggle,
involving the highest issues and interests of life, which was now
being waged by the German people and the Church. A further cause of
this decline of academical studies was to be found, no doubt, in the
vigorous, and somewhat giddy bound taken by trade and commerce in
those days of increased communication and extensive geographical
discovery, and in the striving after material gain and enjoyment,
which seemed to find satisfaction in other ways more easily and
rapidly than by learned industry and the pursuit of culture. It was
from these quarters that came the complaints against the great
merchants' houses, the usury, the rise in prices, the luxury and
extravagance of the age,--complaints which were re-echoed alike by
the friends and foes of the Reformation. The Reformers themselves
fully recognised the thanks they owed to those Humanistic studies,
and their permanent value for Church and State. In the new church
regulations introduced in the towns and districts which accepted the
evangelical teaching, the school system then played a prominent
part. Nuremberg, some years after, was among the most active to
establish a good high school. Luther himself went in April 1525 with
Melancthon to his native place Eisleben, to assist in promoting a
school, founded there by Count Albert of Mansfeld: his friend
Agricola was the head master.

Thus we see that the work of planting and building occupied Luther
at this time more than the contest with his old opponents. Well
might he, as he says in his hymn, rejoice to see the spring-tide and
the flowers, and hope for a rich summer.

On the other hand, not only did the adherents of the old system knit
their ranks together more closely, and, like the confederates of
Ratisbon in 1524, profess their desire to do something at least to
satisfy the general complaint of the corruption of the Church; but
men even, who from their undeniably deep and earnest striving for
religion, seemed originally called to take part in the work and war,
now separated themselves from Luther and his associates, not venturing
to break free from the bonds of old ecclesiastical tradition. Still
more was this the case with men of Humanistic culture, whose temporary
alliance with Luther had been dictated more by the interest they felt
in the arts and letters threatened by the old monastic spirit, and by
the open scandal caused by the outrageous abuses of the clergy and
monachism, than by any sympathy with his religious principles and
ideas. And to those who wavered in so momentous a decision, and shrank
back from it and the contests it involved, there was plenty in what
they observed among Luther's adherents, to give them occasion for
still further reflection. It was not to be denied that, sharply as
Luther had reproved the conduct of the Wittenberg innovators, the
new preaching gave rise among excited multitudes, in many places, to
disturbance, disorder, and acts of violence against obstinate monks
and priests; and all this was held up as a proof of what the
consequences must be of a general dissolution of religious ties.
The desertion of their convents by monks and nuns, ostensibly on the
ground of their newly-proclaimed liberty, but in reality, for the
most part, as was alleged against them by the Catholics, for the
sake of carnal freedom, was denounced with no small severity by
Luther himself; but, in so doing, he recalled to mind the fact,
that equally low interests had led them into the convents, and
that the cloisters also, after their fashion, indulged in the
'worship of the belly.' Luther was just as indignant that the
great majority of those who refused to be robbed any longer of
their money and goods at the demand and by the deceits of the
Papal Church, now withheld them both from serving the objects of
Christian love and benevolence, which they were all the more called
on to promote. The enemies of the new doctrine began already to charge
against it that the faith, which was supposed to make men so blessed,
bore so little good fruit. Lastly, there were many honest-minded men,
and many, also, who looked about for an excuse for abstaining from the
battle, whom Luther's personal participation in the din and clamour of
the fray served to scandalise, if not to alienate from his cause. Thus
among those who had formerly been united by a common endeavour to
improve the condition of the Church and repel the tyranny of Rome, a
crisis had now begun.

Of all who drew back from Luther's work of reformation, none had
been more intimately attached to him than his spiritual father,
Staupitz. And this intimacy he retained as Abbot of Salzburg. In his
view, nothing of all the external matters to which the Reformation
was directed, seemed so important as to warrant the endangerment of
religious concord and unity in the Church. Luther expressed to him
the sorrow he felt at his estrangement, while renewing, at the same
time, his assurance of unalterable affection and gratitude. Staupitz
himself felt unhappy in his attitude and position. But even as
abbot, and in the proximity of the Archbishop of Salzburg, a man of
very different views and temperament to himself, he remained true to
his doctrine of Faith, as being the only means of salvation and the
root of all goodness. And the very last year of his life, in a
letter to Luther, recommending to him a young theologian who was
about to further his education at Wittenberg, he assured him of his
unchanging love, 'passing the love of women' (2 Sam. i. 26), and
gratefully acknowledged how his beloved Martin had first led him
away 'to the living pastures from the husks for the pigs.' Luther
gave a friendly welcome to the young man recommended to his care,
and assisted him in gaining the desired degree of Master of
Philosophy. This is the last that we hear of the intercourse between
these two friends. On December 28, 1524, Staupitz died from a fit of

The earlier acquaintance between the Reformer and the great
Humanist, Erasmus, had now developed into an irreconcilable enmity.
The latter had long been unable to refrain from venting, in private
and public utterances, his dissatisfaction and bitterness at the
storm aroused by Luther, which was distracting the Church and
disturbing quiet study. Patrons of his in high places--above all,
King Henry VIII. of England--urged him to take up the cause of the
Church against Luther in a pamphlet; and, difficult as he felt it to
take a prominent part in such a contest, he was the less able to
decline their overtures, since other Churchmen were reproaching him
with having furthered by his earlier writings the pernicious
movement. He chose a subject which would enable him, at any rate,
while attacking Luther, to represent his own personal convictions,
and to reckon on the concurrence not only of Romish zealots but also
of a number of his Humanist friends, and even many men of deeply
moral and religious disposition. Luther, it will be remembered, had
told him plainly from the first that he knew too little of the grace
of God, which alone could give salvation to sinners, and strength
and ability to the good. Erasmus now retorted by his diatribe 'On
Free Will,' by virtue whereof, he said, man was able and was bound
to procure his own blessing and final happiness.

Luther, on perusing this treatise, in September 1524, was struck
with the feebleness of its contents. So far, indeed, from defining
the operation of the human will, Erasmus floated vaguely about in
loose and incoherent propositions, evidently not from want of
extreme care and circumspection, but from the fact that, in this
province of antiquarian research, he failed in the necessary
acuteness and depth of observation and thought. He declared himself
ready to yield obedience to all decisions of the Church, but without
expressing any opinion as to the real infallibility of an
ecclesiastical tribunal. Throughout his whole treatise, however,
there were personal thrusts at his enemy.

Luther, as he said, only wished to answer this diatribe out of
regard to the position enjoyed by its author, and, from his sheer
aversion to the book, for a long while postponed his reply. We shall
see moreover, very shortly, what other pressing duties and events
engrossed his attention for some time after. It was not until a year
had elapsed, that his reply appeared, entitled 'On the Bondage of
the Will.' Herein he pushes the propositions to which Erasmus took
exception to their logical conclusion. Free Will, as it is called,
has always been subject to the supremacy of a higher Power; with
unredeemed sinners to the power of the devil; with the redeemed, to
the saving, sanctifying, and sheltering Hand of God. For the latter,
salvation is assured by His Almighty and grace-conferring Will. The
fact that in other sinners no such conversion to God and to a
redeeming faith in His Word is effected, can only be ascribed to the
inscrutable Will of God Himself, nor durst man dispute thereon with
his Maker. Luther in this went further than did afterwards the
Evangelical Church that bears his name. And even he, later on,
abstained himself and warned others to abstain from discussing such
Divine mysteries and questions connected with them. But as for
Erasmus, he never ceased to regard him as one who, from his
superficial worldliness, was blind to the highest truth of

In respect to the battle against Catholic Churchdom and dogma, the
controversy between Luther and Erasmus presents no new issue or
further development. But in company with their old master, other
Humanists also, the leading champions of the general culture of the
age, dissociated themselves from Luther, and returned, as his
enemies, to their allegiance to the traditional system of the
Church. Next to Erasmus, the most important of these men was
Pirkheimer of Nuremberg, to whom we have already referred.



In his new as in his old contests, Luther's experiences remained
such as he described them to Hartmuth of Kronberg, on his return to
Wittenberg. 'All my enemies, near as they have reached me, have not
hit me as hard as I have now been hit by our own people.'

At first, indeed, Carlstadt kept silent, and continued quietly, till
Easter 1523, his lectures at the university. But inwardly he was
inclined to a mysticism resembling that of the Zwickau fanatics, and
imbibed, like theirs, from mediaval writings; and he too, soon
turned, with these views, to new and practical projects of reform.

He now began to unfold in writing his ideas of a true union of the
soul with God. He too explained how the souls of all creatures
should empty themselves, so to speak, and prepare themselves in
absolute passiveness, in 'inaction and lassitude,' for a glorified
state. His profession of learning, and his academical and clerical
dignities he resigned, as ministering to vanity. He bought a small
property near Wittenberg, and repaired thither to live as a layman
and peasant. He wore a peasant's coat, and mixed with the other
peasants as 'Neighbour Andrew.' Luther saw him there, standing with
bare feet amid heaps of manure, and loading it on a cart.

He found a place for the exercise of his new work in the church at
Orlamunde on the Saale, above Jena. This parish, like several
others, had been incorporated with the university at Wittenberg, and
its revenues formed part of its endowment, being specially attached
to the archdeaconry of the Convent Church, which was united with
Carlstadt's professorship. The living there, with most of its
emoluments, had passed accordingly to Carlstadt, but the office of
pastor could only be performed by vicars, as they were called,
regularly nominated, and appointed by the Elector. Carlstadt now
took advantage of a vacancy in the office, to go on his own
authority as pastor to Orlamunde, without wishing to resign his
appointment and its pay at Wittenberg. By his preaching and personal
influence he soon won over the local congregation to his side, and
ended by gaining as great an influence here as he had done at
Wittenberg. Here also the images were abolished and destroyed,
crucifixes and other representations of Christ no less than images
of the saints. Carlstadt now openly declared that no respect was to
be paid to any local authority, nor any regard to other
congregations; they were to execute freely the commands of God, and
whatever was contrary to God, they were to cast down and hew to
pieces. And in interpreting and applying these commands of God he
went to more extravagant lengths than ever. Must not the letter of
the Old Testament be the law for other things as well as images?
Acting on this idea, he demanded that Sunday should be observed with
rest in all the Mosaic rigour of the term; this rest he identified
with that 'inaction,' which formed his idea of true union with God.
He proceeded then to advocate polygamy, as permitted to the Jews in
the Old Testament: he actually advised an inhabitant of Orlamunde to
take a second wife, in addition to the one then living. He began, at
the same time, to dispute the real presence of the Body and Blood of
Christ in the Sacrament--a doctrine which Luther steadfastly
insisted on in his contest with the Catholic doctrine of
Transubstantiation. By an extraordinary perversion, as is evident at
a glance, of the meaning of Christ's words of institution, he
maintained that when our Saviour said 'This is My Body,'--alluding,
of course, to the bread which He was then distributing, He was not
referring to the bread at all, but only to His own body, as He stood

The inhabitants of the neighbouring town of Kahla were seized with
the same spirit. These mystical ideas and phrases assumed strange
forms of expression among the common people, who jumbled together in
wild confusion the supernatural and the material. Carlstadt kept up
also a secret correspondence with Munzer.

The question of the authority of the Old Testament soon took a wider
range. It seemed to be one of the authority of Scripture in general,
which was contended for against the Papists. If the authority of
God's Word in the Old Testament applied to the whole domain of civil
life, should it not equally apply, as against particular regulations
established by civil society? On these principles, for example, all
taking of interest, as well as usury, was declared to be forbidden,
just as it had been forbidden to God's people of old. A restoration
of the Mosaic year of Jubilee was even talked of, when after fifty
years all land which had passed into other hands should revert to
its original owners. With eagerness the people took up these new
ideas of social reform, so specious and so full of promises. The
evangelical and earnest preacher, Strauss at Eisenach, worked
zealously with word and pen in this direction. Even a court-preacher
of Duke John, Wolfgang Stein at Weimar, espoused the movement.

Meanwhile Munzer came again to Central Germany. He had succeeded, at
Easter 1523, in obtaining the office of pastor at Allstedt, a small
town in a lateral valley of the Unstrut. In him, more than in any
other, the spirit of the Zwickau prophets fermented with full force,
and was preparing for a violent outburst. Alone, in the room of a
church tower, he held secret intercourse with his God, and boasted
of his answers and revelations. He affected the appearance and
demeanour of a man whose soul was absorbed in tranquillity, devoid
of all finite ideas or aspirations, and open and free to receive
God's Spirit and inner Word. More violently than even the champions
of Catholic asceticism, he reproached Luther for leading a
comfortable, carnal life. But his whole energies were directed to
establishing a Kingdom of the Saints,--an external one, with
external power and splendour. His preaching dwelt incessantly on the
duty of destroying and killing the ungodly, and especially all
tyrants. He wished to see a practical application given to the words
of the Mosaic dispensation, commanding God's people to destroy the
heathen nations from out of the promised land, to overthrow their
altars, and burn their graven images with fire. Community of
property was to be a particular institution of the Kingdom of God,
the property being distributed to each man according to his need:
whatever prince or lord refused to do this, was to be hanged or
beheaded. Meanwhile, Munzer sought by means of secret emissaries in
all directions to enlist the saints into a secret confederacy. His
chief associate was the former monk, Pfeifer at Muhlhausen, not far
from Allstedt. The Orlamundians, however, whom also he endeavoured
to seduce to his policy of violence, would have nothing to say to
such overtures.

The Elector Frederick even now came only tardily to the resolve, to
interpose, in these ecclesiastical matters and disputes, his
authority as sovereign, nor did Luther himself desire his
intervention so long as the struggle was one of minds about the
truth. Duke John had been strongly influenced by the ideas of his
court-preacher. The princes still hoped to be able to restore peace
between Luther and his colleague, Carlstadt, who, with all his misty
projects, was still of importance as a theologian.

Carlstadt consented, indeed, at Easter in 1524, to resume quietly
his duties at Wittenberg university. But he soon returned to
Orlamunde, to re-assert his position there as head and reformer of
the Church.

With regard to the question of Mosaic and civil law, Luther was now
invited by John Frederick, the son of Duke John, to express his
opinion. It is easy to conceive how this question might present,
even to upright and calm-judging adherents of the evangelical
preaching, considerations of difficulty and much inward doubt. It
had cropped up as a novelty, and, as it seemed, in necessary
connection with this preaching: moreover, on its answer depended a
revolution of all ordinances of State and society, in accordance
with the command of God.

Luther's views on this subject, however, were perfectly clear, and
he expressed himself accordingly. In his opinion, the answer had
been given by the keynote of evangelical teaching. It lay in the
distinction between spiritual and temporal government, the essential
features of which he had already explained in 1523 in his treatise
'On the Secular Power.' The life of the soul in God, its
reconciliation and redemption, its relations and duty to God and
fellow-man in faith and love--these are the subjects dealt with in
the gospel message of salvation, or the biblical revelation in its
completeness. God has left to the practical understanding and needs
of man, and to the historical development of peoples and states
under His overruling providence, the arrangement of forms of law for
social life, without the necessity of any special revelation for
that purpose. It is the duty of the secular power to administer the
existing laws, and to make new ones in a proper and legal manner,
according as they may think fit. That God prescribed to the people
of Israel external, civil ordinances by the mouth of Moses, was part
of His scheme of education. Christians are not bound by these
ordinances,--no more, indeed, than is their inner life and right
conduct made conditional on outward rules and forms. Moral commands
alone belong to that part of the Mosaic law whereof the sanction is
eternal; and to the fulfilment of these commands, written, as St.
Paul says, from the beginning on the hearts of men, the Spirit of
God now urges His redeemed people. No doubt the law of Moses, in
regard to civil life, might contain much that would be useful for
other peoples also in that respect. But it would, in that case, be
the business of the powers that be to examine and borrow from it,
just as Germany borrowed her civil law from the Romans.

Such, briefly stated, are the views which Luther enunciated with
clearness and consistency, in his writings and sermons. He guards
the civil power as jealously now against an irregular assertion of
religious principles and biblical authority, as he had formerly done
against the aggressions of an ecclesiastical hierarchy, while at the
same time he defends the religious life of Christians against the
dangers and afflictions which that hierarchy threatened. Thus he
answered the prince, on June 18, 1524, to this effect: Temporal laws
are something external, like eating and drinking, house and
clothing. At present the laws of the Empire have to be maintained,
and faith and love can coexist with them very well. If ever the
zealots of the Mosaic law become Emperors, and govern the world as
their own, they may choose, if they please, the law of Moses; but
Christians at all times are bound to support the law which the civil
authority imposes.

In Munzer Luther looked for a near outbreak of the Evil Spirit. He
alluded to him in his letter of June 18, as the 'Satan of Allstedt,'
adding that he thought he was not yet quite fledged. He soon heard
more about him, namely, that 'his Spirit was going to strike out
with the fist.' On this subject he wrote the next month to the
Elector Frederick and Duke John, and published his letter. Against
Munzer's mere words--his preaching and his personal revilements--he
was not now concerned to defend himself. 'Let them boldly preach,'
he says, 'what they can.... Let the Spirits rend and tear each
other. A few, perhaps, may be seduced; but that happens in every
war. Wherever there is a battle and fighting, some one must fall and
be wounded.' He repeats here, what he had said before, that
Antichrist should be destroyed 'without hands,' and that Christ
contended with the Spirit of His Word. But if they really meant to
strike out with the fist, then Luther would have the prince say to
them, 'Keep your fists quiet, for that is our office, or else leave
the country.'

In August Luther came himself to Weimar, in obedience to a wish
expressed by the two princes. With the court-preacher he had come to
a friendly understanding. Munzer had just left Allstedt, an official
report of his dangerous proceedings having been forwarded from there
to Weimar, whither he was summoned for an examination and inquiry.
On August 14 Luther wrote from this town to the magistrate of
Muhlhausen, where Munzer, as he heard, had taken refuge and had
already mustered a party. He warned the people of Muhlhausen to wait
at least before receiving Munzer, until they had heard 'what sort of
children he and his followers were.' They would not remain long in
the dark about him. He was a tree, as he had shown at Zwickau and
Allstedt, which bore no fruit but murder and rebellion.

From Weimar Luther travelled on to Orlamunde. On August 21 he
arrived at Jena, where a preacher named Reinhard was staying with
Carlstadt. Luther here preached against the 'Spirit of Allstedt,'
which destroyed images, despised the sacrament, and incited to
rebellion. Carlstadt, who was present and heard the sermon, waited
on him afterwards at his lodging, to defend himself against these
charges. Luther insisted, notwithstanding, that Carlstadt was 'an
associate of the new prophets.' He challenged him finally to abandon
his intrigues and confute him openly in writing, and the heated
interview ended by Carlstadt promising to do so, and by Luther
giving him a florin as a pledge and token of the bargain.

From Jena Luther went through Kahla, where also he preached, to
Orlamunde. The people here had been anxious for a personal
discussion with him, but in writing to him for that purpose, had
addressed him in words as follows: 'You despise all those who, by
God's command, destroy dumb idols, against which you trump up feeble
evidence out of your own head, and not grounded on Scripture. Your
venturing thus publicly to slander us, members of Christ, shows that
you are no member of the real Christ.' The discussion he held with
them led to no success, and he gave up any further attempt to
convince them; for, as he said, they burned like a fire, as if they
longed to devour him. On his departure they pursued him with savage
shouts of execration.

Carlstadt, a few weeks later, was deprived of his professorship, and
had to leave the country. Luther put in a word for the people of
Orlamunde as 'good simple folk,' who had been seduced by a stronger
will. But against Carlstadt's whole conduct and teaching he launched
an elaborate attack in a pamphlet, published in two parts, at the
close of 1524 and the beginning of the following year. It was
entitled 'Against the Celestial Prophets, concerning Images and the
Sacrament, &c.,' with the motto 'Their folly shall be manifest unto
all men' (2 Timothy iii. 9). For in Carlstadt he sought to expose
and combat the same spirit that dwelt in the Zwickau prophets and in
Munzer, and that threatened to produce still worse results. If
Carlstadt, like Moses, was right in teaching people to break down
images, and in calling in for this purpose the aid of the disorderly
rabble, instead of the proper authorities, then the mob had the
power and right to execute in like manner all the commands of God.
And the consequence and sequel of this would be, what was soon shown
by Munzer. 'It will come to this length,' says Luther, 'that they
will have to put all ungodly people to death; for so Moses (Deut.
vii.), when he told the people to break down the images, commanded
them also to kill without mercy all those who had made them in the
land of Canaan.'

The great storm, announced and prepared by the 'Spirit of Allstedt,'
broke loose even sooner than could have been expected.

Munzer had really appeared at Muhlhausen. The town-council, however,
were still able to insist on his leaving the place, together with
his friend Pfeifer. He then wandered about for several weeks in the
south-west of Germany, exciting disturbance wherever he went. But on
September 13 he returned with Pfeifer to Muhlhausen, where he
preached in his wonted manner, propounded to the people in the
streets his doctrines and revelations, and attracted the mob to his
side, while respectable citizens and members of the magistracy left
the town from fear of the mischief that was threatening. Towards the
end of February he was offered a regular post as pastor, and soon
after all the old magistrates were turned out and others more
favourable to him elected in their place. The multitude raged
against images and convents. The peasants from the neighbourhood
flocked in, anxious for the general equality which was promised
them. Luther wrote to a friend, 'Munzer is King and Emperor at

Meanwhile, in Southern Germany peasant insurrections had broken out
in various places since the summer of this year. In itself, there
was nothing novel in this. Repeatedly during the latter part of the
previous century, the poor peasantry had risen and erected their
banner, the 'Shoe of the League' (_Bundschuh_), so called from
the rustic shoes which the insurgents wore. Their grievances were
the intolerable and ever-growing burdens, laid upon them by the lay
and clerical magnates, the taxes of all kinds squeezed from them by
every ingenious device, and the feudal service which they were
forced to perform. The nobles had, in fact, towards the close of the
middle ages, usurped a much larger exercise of their ancient
privileges against them, by means partly of a dexterous manipulation
of the old Roman law, and partly of the ignorance of that law which
prevailed among their vassals. On the other side, complaints were
heard at that time of the insolence shown by the wealthier peasants;
of the luxury, in which they tried to rival their masters; and of
the arrogance and defiant demeanour of the peasantry in general. The
oppression endured by any particular class of the civil community
does not usually lead to violent disturbances and outbreaks, unless
and until that class is awakened to a higher sense of its own
importance and has acquired an increase of power. The peasants
found, moreover, discontented spirits like themselves among the
lower orders in the towns, who were avowed enemies of the upper
classes, and who complained bitterly of the hardships and
oppressions suffered by small people at the hands of the great
merchants and commercial companies,--in a word, from the power of
capital. Furthermore, when once the peasants rose in rebellion
against their masters, the latter also, including the nobility,
showed an inclination here and there to favour a general revolution,
if only to remedy the defects of their own position. And, in truth,
throughout the German Empire at that time there was a general
movement pressing for a readjustment of the relations of the various
classes to each other and to the Imperial power. Ideas of a total
reconstruction of society and the State had penetrated the mass of
the people, to an extent never known before.

Thus the way was paved, and incentives already supplied for a
powerful popular movement, apart altogether from the question of
Church Reform. And indeed this question Luther was anxious, as we
have seen, to restrict to the domain of spiritual, as distinguished
from secular, that is to say, political and civil action. It was
impossible, however, but that the accusations of lying, tyranny, and
hostility to evangelical truth, now freely levelled against the
dominant priesthood and the secular lords who were persecuting the
gospel, should serve to intensify to the utmost the prevailing
bitterness against external oppression. With the same firmness and
decision with which Luther condemned all disorderly and violent
proceedings in support of the gospel, he had also long been warning
its persecutors of the inevitable storm which they would bring upon
themselves. Other evangelical preachers, however, as for instance,
Eberlin and Strauss, mingled with their popular preaching all sorts
of suggestions of social reform. At last men went about among the
people, with open or disguised activity, whose principles were
directly opposed to those of Luther, but who proclaimed themselves,
nevertheless, enthusiasts for the gospel which he had brought again
to light, or which, as they pretended, they had been the first to
reveal, together with true evangelical liberty. They appealed to
God's Word in support of the claims and grievances of the oppressed
classes; they grasped their weapons by virtue of the Divine law.
Hence the peculiar ardour and energy that marked the insurrection,
although the enthusiasm, thus kindled, was united with the utmost
barbarity and licentiousness. Never has Germany been threatened with
a revolution so vast and violent, or so immeasurable in its possible
results. On no single man's word did so much depend as on that of
Luther, the genuine man of the people.

The movement began late in the summer of 1524 in the Black Forest
and Hegau. After the beginning of the next year it continued rapidly
to spread, and the different groups of insurgents who were fighting
here and there, combined in a common plan of action. Like a flood
the movement forced its way eastwards into Austria, westwards into
Alsatia, northwards into Franconia, and even as far as Thuringia. At
Rothenburg on the Tauber, Carlstadt had prepared the way for it by
inciting the people to destroy the images. The demands in which the
peasants were unanimous, were now drawn up in twelve articles. These
still preserved a very moderate aspect. They claimed above all the
right of each parish to choose its own minister. Tithes were only to
be abolished in part. The peasants were determined to be regarded no
longer as the 'property of others,' for Christ had redeemed all
alike with his blood. They demanded for everyone the right to hunt
and fish, because God had given to all men alike power over the
animal creation. They based their demands upon the Word of God;
trusting to His promises they would venture the battle. 'If we are
wrong,' they said, 'let Luther set us right by the Scriptures.' God,
who had freed the children of Israel from the hand of Pharaoh, would
now shortly deliver His people. In these articles, and in other
proclamations of the peasantry, there were none of the wild
imaginations of Munzer and his prophets, nor their ideas of a
kingdom and schemes of murder. They burned down, it is true, both
convents and cities, and had done so from the outset. Still in some
places a more peaceable understanding was arrived at with the upper
classes, although neither party placed any real confidence in the

When now the articles arrived at Wittenberg, and Luther heard how
the insurgents appealed to him, he prepared early in April to make a
public declaration, in which he arraigned their proceedings, but at
the same time exhorted the princes to moderation. He was just then
called away by Count Albert of Mansfeld to Eisleben, to assist, as
we have seen, in the establishment of a new school in that town. He
set off thither on Easter Sunday, April 16, after preaching in the
morning. There he wrote his 'Exhortation to peace: On the Twelve
Articles of the Peasantry in Swabia.

In this manifesto he sharply rebukes those princes and nobles,
bishops and priests, who cease not to rage against the gospel, and
in their temporal government 'tax and fleece their subjects, for the
advancement of their own pomp and pride, until the common people can
endure it no longer.' If God for their punishment allowed the devil
to stir up tumult against them, He and his gospel were not to blame;
but he counselled them to try by gentle means to soften, if
possible, God's wrath against them. As for the peasants, he had
never from the first concealed from them his suspicions, that many
of them only pretended to appeal to Scripture, and offered for mere
appearance' sake to be further instructed therein. But he wished to
speak to them affectionately, like a friend and a brother, and he
admitted also that godless lords often laid intolerable burdens upon
the people. But however much in their articles might be just and
reasonable, the gospel, he said, had nothing to do with their
demands, and by their conduct they showed that they had forgotten
the law of Christ. For by the Divine law it was forbidden to extort
anything from the authorities by force: the badness of the latter
was no excuse for violence and rebellion. Respecting the substance
of their demands, their first article, claiming to elect their own
pastor, if the civil authority refused to provide one, was right
enough and Christian; but in that case they must maintain him at
their own expense, and on no account protect him by force against
the civil power. As for the remaining articles, they had nothing
whatever to do with the gospel. He tells the peasants plainly, that
if they persist in their rebellion, they are worse enemies to the
gospel than the Pope and Emperor, for they act against the gospel in
the gospel's own name. He is bound to speak thus to them, although
some among them, poisoned by fanatics, hate him and call him a
hypocrite, and the devil, who was not able to kill him through the
Pope, would now like to destroy and devour him. He is content if
only he can save some at least of the good-hearted among them from
the danger of God's indignation. In conclusion, he gives to both
sides, the nobles and the peasants, his 'faithful counsel and
advice, that a few counts and lords should be chosen from the
nobility, and a few councillors from the towns, and that matters
should be adjusted and composed in an amicable manner--that so the
affair, if it cannot be arranged in a Christian spirit, may at least
be settled according to human laws and agreements.'

Thus spoke Luther, with all his accustomed frankness, fervency,
power, and bluntness, equally indifferent to the favour of the
people or of their rulers. But what fruit, indeed, could be looked
for from his words, uttered evidently with violent inward emotion,
when popular passion was so excited? Was it not rather to be feared
that the peasants would greedily fasten on the first portion of his
pamphlet, which was directed against the nobles, and then shut their
ears all the more closely against the second, which concerned their
own misconduct? The pamphlet could hardly have been written, and
much less published, before new rumours and forebodings crowded upon
Luther, such as made him think its contents and language no longer
applicable to the emergency, but that now it was his duty to sound
aloud the call to battle against the enemies of peace and order. 'In
my former tract,' he said, 'I did not venture to condemn the
peasants, because they offered themselves to reason and better
instruction. But before I could look about me, forth they rush, and
fight and plunder and rage like mad dogs.... The worst is at
Muhlhausen, where the arch-devil himself presides.'

In South Germany, on that very Easter Sunday when Luther set out for
Eisleben, the scene of horror was enacted at Weinsberg, where the
peasants, amid the sound of pipes and merriment, drove the unhappy
Count of Helfenstein upon their spears, before the eyes of his wife
and child. Luther's ignorance of this and similar atrocities, at the
time when he was writing his pamphlet at Eisleben, is easily
intelligible from the slow means of communication then existing.
Soon the news came, however, of bands of rioters in Thuringia, busy
with the work of pillage, incendiarism, and massacre, and of a
rising of the peasantry in the immediate neighbourhood. Towards the
end of April they achieved a crowning triumph by their victorious
entry into Erfurt, where the preacher, Eberlin of Gunzburg, with
true loyalty and courage, but all in vain, had striven, with words
of exhortation and warning, to pacify the armed multitude encamped
outside the town, and their sympathisers and associates inside.

On April 26 Munzer advanced to Muhlhausen, the 'arch-devil, 'as
Luther called him, but as he described himself, the 'champion of the
Lord.' He came with four hundred followers, and was joined by large
masses of the peasants. His 'only fear,' as he said in his summons
to the miners of Mansfeld, 'was that the foolish men would fall into
the snare of a delusive peace.' He promised them a better result.
'Wherever there are only three among you who trust in God and seek
nothing but His honour and glory, you need not fear a hundred
thousand.... Forward now!' he cried; 'to work! to work! It is time
that the villains were chased away like dogs.... To work! relent not

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