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Life of Luther by Julius Koestlin

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if Esau gives you fair words. Give no heed to the wailings of the
ungodly; they will beg, weep, and entreat you for pity, like
children. Show them no mercy, as God commanded Moses (Deut. vii.)
and has declared the same to us.... To work! while the fire is hot;
let not the blood cool upon your swords.... To work! while it is
day. God is with you; follow Him!' Of Luther he spoke in terms of
peculiar hatred and contempt. In a letter which he addressed to
'Brother Albert of Mansfeld,' with the object of converting the
Count, he alluded to him in expressions of the coarsest possible

In Thuringia, in the Harz, and elsewhere, numbers of convents, and
even castles, were reduced to ashes. The princes were everywhere
unprepared with the necessary troops, while the insurgents in
Thuringia and Saxony counted more than 30,000 men. The former,
therefore, endeavoured to strengthen themselves by coalition. Duke
John, at Weimar, prepared himself for the worst: his brother, the
Elector Frederick, was lying seriously ill at his Castle at Lochau
(now Annaburg) in the district of Torgau.

At this crisis Luther, having left Eisleben, appeared in person
among the excited population. He preached at Stolberg, Nordhausen,
and Wallhausen. In his subsequent writings he could bear witness of
himself, how he had been himself among the peasants, and how, more
than once, he had imperilled life and limb. On May 3 we find him at
Weimar; and a few days afterwards in the county of Mansfeld. Here he
wrote to his friend, the councillor Ruhel of Mansfeld, advising him
not to persuade Count Albert to be 'lenient in this affair'--that
is, against the insurgents; for the civil power must assert its
rights and duties, however God might rule the issue. 'Be firm,' he
entreats Ruhel, 'that his Grace may go boldly on his way. Leave the
matter to God, and fulfil His commands to wield the sword as long as
strength endures. Our consciences are clear, even if we are doomed
to be defeated.... It is but a short time, and the righteous Judge
will come.'

Luther now hastened back to his Elector, having received a summons
from him at Lochau. But before he could arrive there, Frederick had
peacefully breathed his last, on May 5. Faithfully and discreetly,
and in the honest conviction that truth would prevail, he had
accorded Luther his favour and protection, whilst purposely
abstaining to employ his power as ruler for infringing or invading
the old-established ordinances of the Church. He allowed full
liberty of action to the bishops, and carefully avoided any personal
intercourse with Luther. But in the face of death, he confessed the
truth of the gospel, as preached by Luther, by partaking of the
communion in both kinds, and refusing the sacrament of extreme

When his corpse was brought in state to Wittenberg, and buried in
the Convent Church, Luther, who had to preach twice on the occasion,
spoke of the universal grief and lamentation that 'our head is
fallen, a peaceful man and ruler, a calm head.' And he pointed out
as the 'most grievous sorrow of all,' how this loss had happened
just in those difficult and wondrous times when, unless God
interposed His arm, destruction threatened the whole of Germany. He
exhorted his hearers to confess to God their own ingratitude for His
mercy in having given them such a noble vessel of His grace. But of
those who set themselves against authorities, he declared, in the
words of the Apostle (Rom. xiii. 2), that 'they shall receive to
themselves damnation.' 'This text,' he said, 'will do more than all
the guns and spears.'

Quite in the same spirit that dictated his letter sent to Ruhel only
a few days before at Mansfeld, Luther now sent forth a public
summons 'Against the murderous and plundering bands of peasants.' He
began it with the words already quoted, 'Before I could look about
me, forth they rush ... and rage like mad dogs.'

Thus he wrote when he saw the danger was at its highest. He even
suggested the possibility 'that the peasants might get the upper
hand (which God forbid!);' and that 'God perhaps willed that, in
preparation for the Last Day, the devil should be allowed to destroy
all order and authority, and the world turned into a howling
wilderness.' But he called upon the Christian authorities, with all
the more urgency and vehemence, to use the sword against the
devilish villains, as God had given them command. They should leave
the issue to God, acknowledge to Him that they had well deserved His
judgments, and thus with a good conscience and confidence 'fight as
long as they could move a muscle.' Whosoever should fall on their
side would be a true martyr in God's eyes, if he had fought with
such a conscience. Then, thinking of the many better people who had
been forced by the bloodthirsty peasants and murderous prophets to
join the devilish confederacy, he broke out by exclaiming, 'Dear
lords, help them, save them, take pity upon these poor men; but as
to the rest, stab, crush, strangle whom you can.'

These words of Luther were speedily fulfilled by the events. The
Saxon princes, the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, the Duke of Brunswick,
and the Counts of Mansfeld combined together before the mass of the
peasants in Thuringia and Saxony had collected into a large army. On
May 15 the forces of Munzer, numbering about 8,000 men, were
defeated in the battle of Frankenhausen. Munzer himself was taken
prisoner, and, crushed in mind and spirit, was executed like a
criminal. A few days before, the main army of the Swabian peasants
had been routed, and during the following weeks, one stronghold of
the rebellion after another was reduced, and the horrors perpetrated
by the peasants were repaid with fearful vengeance on their heads.
The Landgrave Philip, and John, the new Elector of Saxony,
distinguished themselves by their clemency in dismissing unpunished
to their homes, after the victory, a number of the insurgent

But Luther's violent denunciations now gave offence even to some of
his friends. His Catholic opponents, and those even who saw no harm
in burning heretics wholesale for no other reason than their faith,
reproached him then, and do so even now, with horrible cruelty for
this language. Luther replied to the 'complaints and questions about
his pamphlet,' with a public 'Epistle on the harsh pamphlet against
the peasants.' His excitement and irritation was increased by what
he heard talked about his conduct. He maintained what he had said.
But he also reminded his readers, that he had never, as his
calumniators accused him, spoken of acting against the conquered and
humbled, but solely of smiting those actually engaged in rebellion.
He declared further, at the close of his new and forcible remarks on
the use of the sword, that Christian authorities, at any rate were
bound, if victorious, to 'show mercy not only to the innocent, but
also to the guilty.' As for the 'furious raging and senseless
tyrants, who even after the battle cannot satiate themselves with
blood, and throughout their life never trouble themselves about
Christ'--with these he will have nothing whatever to do. Similarly,
in a small tract on Munzer, containing characteristic extracts from
the writings of this 'bloodthirsty prophet,' as a warning to the
people, Luther entreated the lords and civil authorities 'to be
merciful to the prisoners and those who surrendered, ... so that the
tables should not be turned upon the victors.' If we have now to
lament, as we must, that after the rebellion was put down, nothing
was done to remedy the real evils that caused it; nay, that those
very evils were rather increased as a punishment for the vanquished,
this reproach at least applies just as much to the Catholic lords,
both spiritual and temporal, as to the Evangelical authorities or

In addition also to his alleged harshness and severity to the
insurgents, Luther was accused, both then and since, by his
ecclesiastical opponents, of having given rise to the rebellion by
his preaching and writings. When the danger and anxiety were over,
Emser had the effrontery to say of him in some popular doggrel, 'Now
that he has lit the fire, he washes his hands like Pilate, and turns
his cloak to the wind;' and again, 'He himself cannot deny that he
exhorted you to rebellion, and called all of you dear children of
God, who gave up to it your lives and property, and washed your
hands in blood. Thus did he write in public, and thereto has he

[Illustration: Fig. 28.--Munzer (his execution in the background.)
From an old woodcut.]

In answer to this charge, Luther referred to his treatise 'On the
Secular Power,' and to other of his writings. 'I know well,' he was
able to say with truth, 'that no teacher before me has written so
strongly about secular authority; my very enemies ought to thank me
for this. Who ever made a stronger stand against the peasants, with
writing and preaching, than myself?' Among the Estates of the
Empire, not even the most violent enemies of evangelical doctrine
could venture now to turn their victorious weapons against their
associates in arms who espoused that doctrine, with whom they had
achieved the common conquest, and from whose midst had sounded the
most vigorous call to battle and to victory. Luther, on the
contrary, was not afraid at this moment to exhort the Archbishop,
Cardinal Albert, of whose friendly disposition to himself, his
friend Ruhel had recently informed him, to follow the example of his
cousin, the Grand Master in Prussia, by converting his bishopric
into a temporal princedom, and entering the state of matrimony, and
to name, as the chief motive for so doing, the 'hateful and horrible
rebellion,' wherewith God's wrath had visited the sins of the

Thus did Luther, in these stormy times, whatever might be thought of
the violence of his utterances, take up his position clearly and
resolutely from the first, and maintain it to the end;--sure of his
cause, and safe against the new attack which he saw now the devil
was making; unyielding and defiant towards his old Papal enemies and
their new calumniations. And in this frame of mind he took just now
a step, calculated to sharpen all the tongues of slander, but one in
which he saw the fulfilment of his calling. Freed from unchristian
monastic vows, he entered into the holy state of matrimony ordained
by God. We first hear him speaking decidedly on this subject in a
letter to Ruhel of May 4. After referring to the devil as the
instigator of the insurgent peasants, and of the murderous deeds
which made him anxious to prepare himself for death, he continues
with the following remarkable words: 'And if I can, in spite of him,
I will take my Kate in marriage before I die. I hope they will not
take from me my courage and my joy.'



Our readers will recall to mind those words of Luther at the
Wartburg, on hearing that his teaching was making the clergy marry
and monks renounce the obligation of their vows. No wife, he
declared, should be forced upon him. He remained in his convent;
looked on quietly, as one friend and fellow-labourer after the other
took advantage of their liberty; wished them happiness in the
enjoyment of it, and advised others to do the same; but never
changed his views about himself.

His enemies reproached him with living a worldly life, with drinking
beer in company with his friends, with playing the lute, and so on.
Nor was it merely his Catholic opponents who sought in such charges
material for vile slander, but also jealous ranters like Munzer gave
vent to their hatred in this manner. All the more remarkable it is
that no slanderous reports of immoral conduct were ever launched at
this time, even by his bitterest enemies, against the man who was
denouncing so openly and sternly offences of that description among
the superior, no less than the inferior, clergy. Calumnies of this
kind were reserved for the occasion of his marriage.

In truth, his life was one of the most arduous labour, anxiety, and
excitement; and as regards his bodily needs, he was satisfied with
the plainest and most sparing diet and the simplest enjoyments. The
Augustinian convent, whence he received his support, being gradually
denuded of its inmates by their abandonment of monastic life, its
revenues accordingly were stopped. Luther informed Spalatin in 1524
of the poverty to which they were reduced; not indeed, as Spalatin
well knew, that he concerned himself much about it, or wished to
make it a subject of complaint; if he had no meat or wine, he could
live well enough on bread and water. Melancthon describes how once,
before his marriage, Luther's bed had not been made for a whole
year, and was mildewed with perspiration. 'I was tired out,' says
Luther, 'and worked myself nearly to death, so that I fell into the
bed and knew nothing about it.'

When, moreover, he exchanged, as we have seen, in the autumn of
1524, the monastic cowl for the garb of a professor; and when he and
the prior Brisger were the only ones of all the former monks left in
the convent, he remained quietly where he was, and never entertained
the idea of marriage. A noble lady, Argula von Staufen, wife of the
Ritter von Grumbach, formerly in the Bavarian army, who had written
publicly for the cause of the gospel, and thereby incurred, with her
husband, the displeasure of the Duke of Bavaria, and who was now in
active correspondence with the Wittenbergers and Spalatin, expressed
to the latter her surprise that Luther did not marry. Luther
thereupon wrote to Spalatin on November 30, 1524, saying, 'I am not
surprised that folks gossip thus about me, as they gossip about many
other things. But please thank the lady in my name, and tell her
that I am in the hands of the Lord, as a creature whose heart He can
change and re-change, destroy or revive, at any hour or moment; but
as my heart has hitherto been, and is now, it will never come to
pass that I shall take a wife. Not that I am insensible to my I
flesh or sex, ... but because my mind is averse to wedlock, because
I daily expect the death and the well-merited punishment of a

Shortly afterwards Luther wrote to his friend Link: 'Suddenly, and
while I was occupied with far other thoughts, the Lord has plunged
me into marriage.' It was in the spring of 1525 that he had formed
this resolve, which speedily ripened to its fulfilment.

In a letter of March 12, 1525, he complained to his friend Amsdorf,
who had gone to Magdeburg, of depression of spirits and temptation,
and besought him to pay him a friendly visit to cheer him. It was,
as we see from the contents of the letter, a temptation, which
caused Luther to feel that, in the words of Scripture, it was 'not
good for man to be alone,' but that he ought to have a help-meet to
be with him. As to the choice of such a help-meet he may have
already talked with Amsdorf, and very possibly they may have spoken
of a lady of Magdeburg of the family of Alemann, who were
conspicuous there for their devotion to the evangelical cause.

But Luther's own choice turned on Catharine von Bora, a former nun.
Sprung from an ancient, though poor family of noble blood, she had
been brought up from childhood in the convent of Nimtzch near
Grimma. We find her there as early as 1509; she was born on January
29, 1499, and was consecrated as a nun at the age of sixteen. When
the evangelical doctrine became known at Nimtzch, Catharine
endeavoured with other nuns to break the bonds, which she had taken
upon herself without any real free-will or knowledge of her own. In
vain she entreated her relatives to release her. At length one
Leonhard Koppe, a burgher and councillor of Torgau, took her part.
Assisted by him and two of his friends, nine nuns escaped secretly
from the convent on Easter Eve, April 5, 1523. Luther justified
their escape in a public letter addressed to Koppe, and collected
funds for their support, until they could be further provided for.
They fled first to Wittenberg, and here Catharine stayed at the
house of the town clerk and future burgomaster, Philip Reichenbach.

She was now in her twenty-sixth year, when Luther turned his thoughts
towards her. He told afterwards his friends and Catharine herself,
with perfect frankness, that he had not been in love with her before,
for he had his suspicions, and they were not unfounded, that she was
proud. He had even thought, shortly before, of arranging a marriage
between her and a minister named Glatz, who later on, however, proved
himself unworthy of his office. Catharine, on the other hand, is said
to have gone to Amsdorf, as the trusted friend of Luther, and to have
told him frankly that she did not wish to marry Glatz, but was ready
to form an honourable alliance with himself or with Luther. If
Cranach's portrait of her is to be trusted, she was not remarkable
for beauty or any outward attraction. But she was a healthy, strong,
frank and true German woman. Luther might reasonably expect to have
in her a loyal, fresh-hearted, and staunch help-meet for his life,
whose own cares or requirements would cause him little anxiety,
while she would be just such a companion as, with his physical
ailments and mental troubles, he required. In the event of her
haughty disposition asserting itself unduly, he was the very man
to correct it with quiet firmness and affection.

What further considerations induced him to marry, appear from his
letters, in which he urged his friends to do likewise. Thus he wrote
on March 27 to Wolfgang Reissenbusch, preceptor of the convent at
Lichtenberg, saying that man was created by God for marriage. God
had so made man that he could not well do without it; whoever was
ashamed of marrying, must also be ashamed of his manhood, or must
pretend to be wiser than God. The devil had slandered the married
state by letting people who lived in immorality be held in high
honour. Luther, in thus frankly stating the natural disposition of
man to married life, spoke from his own experience. 'To remain
righteous unmarried,' he said once later on, 'is not the least of
trials, as those know well who have made the attempt.' In referring
as he did to the devil, he probably had in his mind the scandal
which threatened him if he should decide on marrying. He then goes
on to say to Reissenbusch that if he honoured the Word and work of
God, the scandal would be only a matter of a moment, to be followed
by years of honour. To Spalatin he writes on April 10: 'I find so
many reasons for urging others to marry, that I shall soon be
brought to it myself, notwithstanding that enemies never cease to
condemn the married state, and our little wiseacres ridicule it
every day.' The 'wiseacres' he was thinking of were professors and
theologians of his circle at Wittenberg. Not only was he resolved,
however, to obey the will of his Creator, despite all condemnation
and ridicule, but he deemed it his duty to testify to the rightness
of the step by his example as well as by his words. His enemies, in
fact, were taunting him that he did not venture to practise himself
what he preached to others. A few days after, immediately before his
departure for Eisleben, he wrote again to Spalatin, recommending his
friend, who had been so utterly averse to matrimony, to take care
that he was not anticipated in the step.

Amidst all the terrors of the Peasants' War, which had now broken
out in all its violence, and in earnest contemplation of a near end
possibly threatening himself, he had formed the fixed resolve, as
his letter of May 4 to Ruhel shows, to 'take his Kate to wife, in
spite of the devil.' This is the first letter in which he mentions
her name to a friend. And to this resolve he steadily adhered during
the troublous weeks that followed, when he was called on to pay the
last honours to his Elector, to rouse men to the sanguinary contest
with the peasants, and to hear contumely and reproach heaped upon
his stirring words. Besides writing to the Cardinal Albert himself,
recommending him to marry, he sent a letter also on June 3 to his
friend Ruhel, who held office as one of his advisers, saying, 'If my
marrying might serve in any way to strengthen his Grace to do the
same, I should be very willing to set his Grace the example; for I
have a mind, before leaving this world, to enter the married state,
to which I believe God has called me.' He had thoughts of this kind,
he added, even if it should end only in a betrothal, and not an
actual marriage.

He speedily gave effect to his final resolve, in order to cut short
all the loose and idle gossip which threatened him as soon as his
intentions were known with regard to Catharine von Bora. He took
none of his friends into his confidence, but acted, as he afterwards
advised others to act. 'It is not good,' he said, 'to talk much
about such matters. A man must ask God for counsel, and pray, and
then act accordingly.'

As to how he finally came to terms with Catharine we have no account
to show. But on the evening of June 13, on the Tuesday after the
feast of the Trinity, he invited to his house his friends
Bugenhagen, the parish priest of the town, Jonas, the professor and
provost of the church of All Saints, Lucas Cranach with his wife,
and the juristic professor Apel, formerly a dean of the Cathedral at
Bamberg, who himself had married a nun, and in their presence was
married to Catharine. The marriage was solemnised in the customary
way. The pair were asked, by the priest present, Bugenhagen,
according to the custom prevailing in Germany, and which Luther
afterwards followed in his tract on Marriage, whether they would
take one another for husband and wife; their right hands were then
joined together, and thus, in the name of the Trinity, they were
'joined together in matrimony.' The ceremony was therewith
concluded, and Catharine remained thenceforth with Luther as his
wife. Some days after Luther gave a little breakfast to his friends;
and the magistracy, of whom Cranach was a member, sent him their
congratulations, together with a present of wine. A fortnight later,
on June 27, Luther celebrated his wedding in grander style, by a
nuptial feast, in order to gather his distant friends around him. He
wrote to them saying that they were to 'seal and ratify' his
marriage, and 'help to pronounce the benediction.' Above all he
rejoiced to be able to see his 'dear father and mother' at the
feast. Among the motives for his marrying he especially mentioned
that he had felt himself bound to fulfil an old duty, in accordance
with his father's wishes.

Great as was the surprise which Luther occasioned by his speedy
marriage, it was no greater than the talk and sensation that
immediately ensued.

Among even his adherents and friends--especially the 'wiseacres' of
whom he had spoken--there was much astonishment and shaking of
heads. It was considered that the great man had lowered himself, and
gossip was busy in asking what reasons could have induced him to
take the step. Melancthon, his devoted friend, lost for the moment,
as is shown by his letter of June 16 to the philologist Camerarius,
his accustomed self-possession. He admitted that married life was a
holy state, and one well-pleasing to God, and that its results might
be beneficial to Luther's nature and character; but he was of
opinion that Luther's lowering himself to this condition was a
lamentable act of weakness, and injurious to his reputation--and
that, too, at a time when Germany was more than ever in need of all
his spirit and his energy. Luther had not invited him to be present
on the 13th, from a suspicion that Melancthon would scarcely approve
of what he was doing. A few days afterwards, however, he warmly
besought Link, their common friend, to be sure and attend their
nuptial feast on the 27th. That Luther, in this respect also, had
acted as a man of strong character and determination, would soon be
evident to them all.

His enemies seized the occasion of his marriage to spread vulgar
falsehoods about him, which soon were further exaggerated, and have
been raked up shamelessly again, even in our own time, or at least
repeated in veiled and scandalous inuendoes.

[Illustration: Fig. 29.--LUTHER. (From a Portrait by Cranach in
1525.) At Wittenberg.]

As for Luther himself, he at first felt strange in the new mode of
life which he had entered at the age of forty-one, so suddenly, and
in the midst of his arduous labours, and the stirring public events
and struggles of the time. At the same time he could not but be
aware of the unfavourable reception which his step would encounter,
even with his friends at Wittenberg. Melancthon found him, during
the early days of his married life, in a restless and uncertain
mood. But he remained firm in his conviction that God had called him
to the married state. The same day that Melancthon wrote so
anxiously to Camerarius about his marriage, Luther himself wrote to
Spalatin, saying, 'I have made myself so vile and contemptible
forsooth, that all the angels, I hope, will laugh, and all the
devils weep.' In his letter of invitation to his friends for June
27, friendly humour is mingled with words of deep earnestness; nay,
even with thoughts of death, and a longing for release from this
infatuated world. Later on Luther preached, on the ground of his own
experiences, about the blessings, the joys, and the purifying
burdens of the state ordained and sanctified by God, and never
without an expression of gratitude to God for having brought him to
enter into it. Seventeen years after his marriage he bore testimony
to Catharine in his will, that she had been to him a 'pious,
faithful, and devoted wife, always loving, worthy, and beautiful.'

[Illustration: Fig. 30.--CATHARINE VON BORA, LUTHER'S WIFE. (From a
Portrait by Cranach about 1525.) At Berlin.]

Of the wedding feast of June 27 we have no further details. It was,
so far as concerns the repast, a very simple one, as compared with
the elaborate nuptial entertainments then in fashion. The university
presented Luther with a beautifully chased goblet of silver, bearing
round its base the words: 'The honourable University of the
Electoral town of Wittenberg presents this wedding gift to Doctor
Martin Luther and his wife Kethe von Bora. [Footnote: The goblet is
now in the possession of the University of Greifswald.]

[Illustration: Fig. 3l.--LUTHER'S RING FROM CATHARINE.]

Apartments in the convent, which Brisger also quitted shortly after to
become a minister, were appointed by the Elector as the dwelling-place
of Luther. Here, therefore, Catharine had to manage her household.

[Illustration: Fig. 82.--LUTHER'S DOUBLE RING.]

Protestant posterity has been anxious to retain a memorial of this
marriage in the wedding rings of the newly-married couple. These,
however, were probably not used at the marriage itself, since Luther
wished to have it solemnised so quickly and without the knowledge of
others. But a ring has been preserved, which Luther, to judge from
the inscription (D. Martino Luthero Catharina v. Boren 13 Jun.
1525), received at any rate from his Kate as a supplementary
reminiscence of the day. In recent times--about 1817--it has been
multiplied by several copies. It bears the figure of the crucified
Saviour and the instruments of His death; in perfect keeping with
the spirit of the Reformer, whose marriage, like the other acts of
his life, was concluded in the name of Christ crucified. There
exists also, in the Ducal Museum at Brunswick, a double ring,
consisting of two interfastened in the middle, of which one bears a
diamond with his initials M. L. D., and the other a ruby with the
initials of his wife, C. v. B. The inner surface of the first ring
is engraved with the words: 'WAS. GOT. ZUSAMEN. FIEGT,' (Those whom
God hath joined together), and the second, 'SOL. KEIN. MENSCH.
SCHEIDEN,' (Shall no man put asunder). This double ring was probably
given by some friend to Luther, or, as others suppose, to his wife.


RELIGIOUS PEACE_. 1525-1532.



The year 1525 marks in the life of Luther and the history of the
Reformation an epoch and a departure of general importance.

Luther's preaching had originally forced its way among the German
people and its various classes, with an energy and strength never
counted on by its opponents. It seemed impossible to calculate how
far the ferment would extend, and what would be its ultimate
results. It was the idea of the Elector Frederick the Wise, now
dead, that by simply letting the word of the gospel unfold itself
quietly and work its way without hindrance, the truth could not fail
eventually to penetrate all Christendom, or at least the Christian
world of Germany, and thus accomplish a peaceful victory. This hope
had guided him during his lifetime in his relations with Luther, and
no one appreciated and responded to it more loyally than Luther
himself. But now, as we have seen, those German princes who adhered
to the old Church system had begun to form a close alliance, and
were meditating means of remedying, albeit in their own fashion,
certain evils in the Church. Erasmus, still the representative of a
powerful modern movement of the intellect, had at length broken
finally with Luther, and renewed his former allegiance to the Romish
Church. From the German nobility, whose sympathy and co-operation
Luther had once so boldly and hopefully invoked in his contest with
the Papacy, it was vain, since the fatal enterprise of Sickingen,
which Luther himself had been forced to condemn, to expect any
material assistance in furtherance of the Evangelical cause. True,
there was the extensive rising of another class, the peasantry, who
likewise appealed to the gospel. But genuine disciples of the gospel
could not fail to see in this movement, with terror, how a perverse
conception of the sacred text led to errors and crimes which even
Luther wished to see suppressed in blood. And the Catholic nobles
took advantage of this rising to persecute with the greater rigour
all evangelical preaching, and to extend, without further inquiry,
their denunciation of the insurgents to those of evangelical
sympathies who held entirely aloof from the insurrection. Luther, in
his dealings with the nobles and peasants, failed to preserve that
boldness and confidence of mind and language which he had previously
displayed towards his fellow-countrymen. That his cause, indeed, was
the cause of God, he remained unshakenly convinced; but in a sadder
spirit than he had ever shown before, he left God's will to
determine what amount of visible success that cause should attain to
in the present evil world, or how far the decision should depend
upon His last great Judgment.

[Illustration: Fig. 33.--The Saxon Electors, FREDERICK THE WISE,
JOHN, and JOHN FREDERICK. (From a Picture by Cranach.) At

[Illustration: Fig. 34.--Facsimile of FREDERICK's signature.]

Even before the Peasants' War broke out, the proceedings of the
fanatics had begun to hamper and disturb his labours in the field of
reformation, and had prepared for him much pain and tribulation. He
had to grow distrustful of so many whom he had regarded as brothers,
and of their manner of proclaiming the Word of God, Whom they
pretended to serve. He already heard of men among them, who not only
rejected infant baptism, and openly attacked his own, no less than
the Catholic doctrine of the Sacrament, but who impugned the
universal belief of Christendom in the Triune God and the Divinity
of the Saviour. Early in 1525 news reached him of such a man at
Nuremberg, John Denk, the Rector of the school there, who was
expelled on that account by the magistrates. Luther's own doctrine
of the presence of Christ's Body in the Lord's Supper, which he had
previously to defend against Carlstadt, his former colleague and
fellow-combatant, now found a far more formidable opponent in the
Zurich Reformer, Ulrich Zwingli. The latter, in a letter of November
16, 1524, to Alber, a preacher at Reutlingen, had already disputed
the Real Presence, by interpreting the words 'This _is_ my
body' to mean 'This _signifies_ my body.' In March 1525 he made
known this interpretation to the world by publishing his letter,
together with a pamphlet 'On the True and False Religion.' He was
joined at Basle by Oecolampadius, whom Luther had welcomed formerly
as a fellow-labourer, and who published his own interpretation of
the words of Christ. Butzer and Capito, the evangelical preachers at
Strasburg, inclined to the same view, which threatened to spread
rapidly over the South of Germany. The opposition now encountered by
Luther was far more dangerous for his teaching than the theories and
agitations of a Carlstadt, since whatever judgment may be formed
about its merits, it proceeded at any rate from men of far more
thoughtful minds, more solid theological acquirements, and more
honest reverence for the Word of God. Herewith then began that
division of opinion among the ranks of the Evangelical Reformers,
which served more than anything else to retard the fresh and
vigorous progress of the Reformation, and infected even Luther's
spirit with the bitterness of the controversy it entailed.

At the same time, however, Luther had now won firm ground for the
Evangelical cause upon a fixed and extensive territory. Within these
limits it was possible to construct a new Church system, upon stable
foundations and with a new constitution. John, the new Elector of
Saxony, did not enjoy, it is true, the same high consideration
throughout the Empire as his brother Frederick, Luther's great
protector, and he was also his inferior as a statesman. But with
Luther himself both he and his son John Frederick had already
maintained a friendly personal intercourse, such as his predecessor
had carefully avoided. Nor did his disposition lead him, like
Frederick, to pay any such regard to the possible preservation of
Church unity in the German Empire and Western Christendom; on the
contrary, he soon showed his readiness to undertake independently,
as sovereign of his country, the establishment of a new Evangelical
Church. Prussia had just preceded him in a reform embracing the
whole country, under the former Grand Master of the Teutonic
Knights, their present Duke. The Elector now found a further ally
for the work in the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, the most active and
politically the most important of all. As a young man of only twenty
years of age, in the beginning of 1525, he had rendered valuable
service by his energy, resolution, and warlike ability, in the
defeat of Sickingen, and again when opposed to the seditious
peasants. Already before the Peasants' War commenced, he had
acquired, mainly through Melancthon, whom he had met when
travelling, a knowledge and love of the evangelical doctrines. His
father-in-law, Duke George of Saxony, had vainly endeavoured, after
their common victory over the insurgents, to alienate him from the
cause of the hateful Luther, who he said was the author of so much
mischief. But the menaces hurled against that cause by the Catholic
States of the Empire served only to attach him more closely and
loyally to John and John Frederick, and thence resulted in the
following spring the League of Torgau, which was joined also by the
princes of Brunswick-Luneburg, Anhalt, and Mecklenburg, and the town
of Magdeburg. The co-operation of the territorial princes made it
possible to procure for the Reformation and its Church system a firm
position in the German Empire against the Emperor and the hostile
Catholic States. And, at the same time, it offered means for
establishing on the ground newly occupied by the Reformation itself,
firm and generally recognised regulations of Church polity, and
defending them from being disturbed by the proceedings of fanatics.

[Illustration: Fig. 35.--PHILIP OF HESSE. (From a woodcut of

Under these new conditions and circumstances, Luther's work became
limited, as was natural, to a narrower field, and bore no longer the
same character of boldness and independence which had marked it in
his original contest with Rome. But it required, on this account,
all the more perseverance and patience, faithfulness and
circumspection in minor matters, and an adequate regard to what was
actually required and practicable, while clinging firmly to the
lofty aims and objects with which the work of the Reformation had

To the portrait of Luther as the Reformer we have to add henceforth
that of the married man and head of the household, whose single
desire is to fulfil, as a man and a Christian, the duties belonging
to this state of life, and to enjoy with a quiet conscience the
blessings of God. In his letters to intimate friends we find happy
home news alternating with the most profound and serious reflections
on the conduct and duties of the Evangelical Church, and on abstruse
questions of theology. His language as a Reformer deals now no
longer, as in his Address to the German Nobility, in particular,
with the problems and interests of political and social life; it is
mainly to religious and spiritual matters, and to the kindred
questions affecting the active work and constitution of the Church,
that his mission is now directed. But his personal relations with
his countrymen became all the more close and intimate in consequence
of this change of life; and that which by many of his friends was
regretted as a lowering of his reputation and influence, becomes a
valuable and essential feature in the historical portrait now
presented to our eyes.

In single dramatic incidents and changes, so to speak, Luther's life
henceforth, as was only natural, is no longer so rich as during the
earlier years of development and struggle. We shall no longer meet
with crises of such a kind as mark a momentous epoch.



Among the particular labours which occupied Luther during the
further course of the year 1525, apart from his persevering industry
as a professor and preacher, we have already had occasion to mention
one, namely, his reply to Erasmus. We find him towards the end of
September entirely engrossed in this work. Not a single proposition
in Erasmus' book, so he wrote to Spalatin, would he admit.

The reckless severity with which he assailed that distinguished
opponent appears all the more remarkable when contrasted with the
conciliatory tone whereby he was then hoping to appease the wrath of
his two bitterest enemies in high places, King Henry VIII. of
England and Duke George of Saxony.

On September 1, 1525, he addressed a humble letter to Henry. King
Christian II. of Denmark, who, after forfeiting his throne by his
arbitrary and despotic rule, had taken refuge with the Elector
Frederick, showed an inclination to favour the new doctrine, and
even came in person to Wittenberg. By him Luther was induced to
believe--for what reason it does not appear--that Henry VIII. had
entirely changed his Church principles; and to hope that, if only he
could make amends for the personal offence he had given him, Henry
might be won over still further for the Evangelical cause. Luther
refers to this hope as follows: 'My Most Gracious Sire the King gave
me good cause to hope for the King of England ... and ceased not to
urge me by speech and letter, giving me so many good words, and
telling me that I ought to write humbly, and that it would be useful
to do so, and so forth, until I am fairly intoxicated with the
idea.' He then cast himself in his letter at the feet of his
Majesty, and besought him to pardon him for the offence he had given
by his earlier pamphlet, 'because from good witnesses he had learned
that the Royal treatise which he had attacked, was not indeed the
work of the King himself, but a concoction of the miserable Cardinal
of York' (Edward Lee). He promised to make a public retractation, in
another pamphlet, for the sake of the King's honour. At the same
time, he wished that the grace of God might assist his Majesty, and
enable him to turn wholly to the gospel, and shut his ears against
the siren voices of its enemies.

With regard to Duke George of Saxony, all that Luther had as yet
heard about him was that he was incessantly bringing fresh
complaints about him to the Elector, that he rigorously excluded the
new teaching from his own territory, and, what was more, that, he
was anxious to go on from the conquest of the peasants to the
suppression of Lutheranism, which had been the cause, he declared,
of all the mischief. Now, however, Luther learned from certain Saxon
nobles, that the Duke himself was not so unfavourably disposed to
the cause, and was willing to treat with mildness and toleration
those who preached or confessed the gospel; that it was with Luther
personally that he was so offended and irritated. Luther wrote to
him on December 22 of this year. 'I have been advised,' he says,
'once more to entreat your Grace in this letter, with all humility
and friendship, for it almost seems to me as if God, our Lord, would
soon take some of us from hence, and the fear is that Duke George
and Luther may also have to go.' He then entreats, with all
submission, his pardon for whatever wrong he had done the Duke by
writing or in speech; but of his doctrine he could, for conscience'
sake, retract nothing. Luther, however, did not humble himself to
George as he had done to King Henry, and his letter bears his
characteristic sharpness of tone. He assured the Duke, however,
that, with all his former severity of language towards him, he was a
better friend to him than all his sycophants and parasites, and that
the Duke had no need to pray to God against him.

Luther undoubtedly wrote the two letters, as he himself says of the
one to Henry, with a simple and honest heart. They show, indeed, how
much genuine good-nature, and at the same time how strange an
ignorance of the world and of men, was combined in him together with
a passionate zeal for combat. George answered him at once with
ferocity, and, as Luther says, with the coarseness of a peasant. The
prince, otherwise not ignoble, was so embittered by hatred against
the heretic as to reproach him with the vulgarest motives of
avarice, ambition, and the lust of the flesh. Never had Luther, even
with his worst enemies, stooped to such personal slander. Concerning
the answer which came afterwards from King Henry, as well as the
reply of Erasmus, we shall speak further on.

Meanwhile, Luther and his friends were directing their attention to
the newly published doctrine of the Last Supper. At first Luther
left others to contest it: Bugenhagen addressed a public letter
against it to his friend Hess at Breslau; Brenz at Schwabish Hall,
together with other Swabian preachers, published tracts against
Oecolampadius. Luther himself, after February 1525, referred
repeatedly to Zwingli's theory in sermons to the congregation at
Wittenberg which were printed at the time. But beyond this he
confined himself to sending warnings by letter, on November 5, 1525,
and January 4, 1526, to Strasburg and Reutlingen, whence he had been
appealed to on the subject, against the false doctrines which had
been put forward concerning the Sacrament, and particularly against
the fanatics. We shall follow later on the further course of the

All these polemics, however, were only an adjunct to his positive
labours and activity. His chief task now was to carry out the work
he had begun in his own Church. For this he could rely with
certainty on the inward sympathy of the new Elector, and he hastened
to turn it actively to account as soon as possible, for the
furtherance of his Church objects. During his communications with
the late Elector Frederick, Spalatin had always acted as
intermediary; but to John he addressed himself direct, and, whenever
occasion offered, by word of mouth, and this at times with much
urgency. Spalatin was now the pastor of a parish, as had been his
wish some time before. He was the successor at Altenburg of Link,
who had removed to Nuremberg, and he enjoyed the especial confidence
of John.

In his official capacity Luther was, and always remained, before all
things, a member of the university. He cherished at all times a
lively appreciation of its importance to the cause of evangelical
truth, the Church, and the common welfare of society. He began by
pleading on its behalf to the new Elector, to remedy the defects and
grievances which had crept in during the latter years of the old and
ailing Elector Frederick. The requisite salary, in particular, was
wanting for several of the professorships, and the customary
lectures on many branches of study had been dropped. Luther, as he
himself afterwards told the Elector in a tone of apology, had
'worried him sorely to put the university in order,' so much so that
'his urgency wellnigh surprised the Elector, as though he had not
much faith in his promises.' In September the necessary reforms at
Wittenberg were provided for by a commission specially appointed by
the prince. The interest the latter took in theology made him double
Melancthon's salary, in order to attach him the more closely to the
theological lectures, which originally were not part of his duty.

Luther next devoted all his energies towards the requirements of the
new Church system.

At Wittenberg, and from thence in other places, regulations for the
performance of public worship had already been established, with the
object of giving full and free expression to evangelical truth. The
congregation had the Word of God read aloud to them, and joined in
the singing of German hymns. The portions of the Liturgy, however,
which were sung partly by the priests and partly by the choir, were
still conducted in Latin. Luther now introduced a complete service
in German, changing here and there the old form. To assist him in
the musical alterations required, the Elector sent him two musicians
from Torgau. With one of these in particular, John Walter, Luther
worked with diligence, and continued afterwards on terms of friendly
intercourse. He himself composed a few pieces for the work.

Of these, as of the earlier regulations at Wittenberg, Luther
published a formal account. It appeared at the beginning of the next
year (1526), under the title of 'The German Mass and Order of Divine
Worship at Wittenberg.' But he guarded himself in this publication,
from the outset, against the new Service being construed into a law
of necessary obligation, or made a means of disquieting the
conscience. In this matter, as in others, he wished above all things
that regard should be paid to the weak and simple brethren--to those
who had still to be trained and built up into Christians. Nay, he
had meant it for a people among whom, as he said, many were not
Christians at all, but the majority stood and stared, for the mere
sake of seeing something new, just as though a Christian Service
were being performed among Turks and heathens. The first question
with these was how to attract them publicly to a confession of
belief and Christianity. He thought also, at this time, of another
and, as he termed it, a true kind of Evangelical Service, for which,
however, the people were not yet prepared. His idea in this was that
all individuals who were Christians in earnest, and were willing to
confess the gospel, should enrol themselves by name, and meet
together for prayer, for reading the Word of God, for administering
the Sacraments, and exercising works of Christian piety. For an
assembly of this kind, and for their worship of God, he contemplated
no elaborate form of Liturgy, but, on the contrary, simply a 'short
and proper' means of 'directing all in common to the Word and prayer
and charity,' and in addition thereto, a regular exercise of
congregational discipline and a Christian care of the poor, after
the example of the Apostles. But for the present, he said, he must
resign this idea of a congregation simply from the want of proper
persons to compose it. He would wait 'until Christians were found
sufficiently earnest about the Word to offer themselves for the
purpose, and adhere to it;' otherwise it might serve only to
generate a 'spirit of faction,' if he attempted to carry it through
by himself; for the Germans, he said, were a wild people, and very
difficult to deal with, unless extreme necessity compelled them. The
Elector, however, readily assented to this project, and purposed to
propose it as a model for other churches in his dominions.

At this point, however, a wider field of action opened out, the
details of which could not be comprehended at a single glance, and
which seemed to require a higher care, and the guidance and support
of higher powers and authorities. In many places, nothing as yet, or
at all events nothing of a stable and well-ordered kind, had been
done towards a reconstruction of the Church and the satisfaction of
spiritual requirements in an evangelical sense. There was no
collective Church, and no ecclesiastical office existing by whose
influence and authority reforms might have been made, and a new
organisation established. This was a grievous state of need where,
perhaps, the existing clergy and the majority or the flower of their
congregations were already unanimous and decided in their confession
of evangelical doctrine. And in a number of congregations, indeed,
among the great mass of the country people, there prevailed to a
peculiar degree, that want of understanding, of ripe thought, and of
inward sympathy, which Luther noticed even among many of his
Wittenbergers. The bishops, in their visitations in Saxony under the
Elector Frederick, had been unable to check any longer the progress
of the new teaching, and did not venture on any further
interference. And yet this teaching, as Luther knew better than
anyone, had not yet succeeded, in spite of all its popularity, in
penetrating the souls of men. To a large extent, the masses seemed
to be still stolid and indifferent. Even among the clergy, many were
so unstable, so obscure, and so incompetent, that they failed to
make any progress with their congregations. There were even some
among them who were ready, according to circumstances, to adopt
either the old or the new Church usages. In some places the new
practices were opposed as innovations, especially by various nobles,
and by the priests, who were dependent on the nobles: if such
opposition was to be broken, it could only be done by the authority
and power of the local sovereign. Lastly, and apart from all this,
the new Church system was threatened with imminent disturbance and
dissolution from the insufficiency or misuse of the funds required
for its support. The customary revenues were falling off; payments
were no longer made for private masses; and many of the nobles,
including even those who remained attached to the old system, began
to secularise the property of the Church. 'Unless measures are
taken,' said Luther, 'to secure a suitable disposition and proper
maintenance for ministers and preachers, there will shortly be
neither parsonages nor schools worth speaking of, and Divine Worship
and the Word of God will come utterly to an end.'

The first question was to establish the principles on which a new
organisation of the Church should be based.

The earlier opinions expressed by Luther, especially in his Address
to the German Nobility, might have led one to expect that the new
Church system conformably to his ideas would have to be built up, to
use a modern expression, from below, that is to say, on the basis of
the universal priesthood of all baptized Christians, who should now
therefore, after hearing and receiving the Word of the Gospel, have
proceeded to organise and embody themselves into a new community.
Luther had also, in that treatise, as we have seen, allotted certain
duties to the civil authorities in regard even to ecclesiastical
matters; and it was now from profound and painful conviction that he
confessed that the great bulk of the people were as yet not genuine
Christians, but needed public means of attraction to draw them to
Christianity. Later on we met with his idea of a 'German Mass,'
involving a voluntary union and assembly of genuine Christians, as
explained by him three years before in a sermon. There were elements
here at least, one might have thought, sufficient to constitute an
independent system of congregations. Shortly afterwards, in October
1526, a Hessian synod, convoked by the Landgrave Philip at Homberg,
actually adopted the draft of a constitution, which provided that
those Christians who acknowledged the Word of God should voluntarily
enrol themselves as members of a Christian Evangelical Brotherhood
or congregation, who should elect in assembly their pastors and
bishops, and that the latter, together with other deputies, should
constitute a general synod for the national Church. But Luther, true
to his conviction, previously expressed, that there were not the men
fitted for such an institution, stated now his opinion to Philip,
that he had not the boldness to carry out such a heap of
regulations, and that people were not as fit for them as those who
sat and made the regulations imagined. Moreover he could not
tolerate the idea that the mass of those who remained outside this
community, and who were looked upon, according to the Homberg
scheme, as heathens, should be left to their fate, without preachers
of the Word, and above all, without either baptism or the Christian
education of their children. Added to this, he adhered strenuously
to his belief, which we have noticed long before, that certain
duties with reference to religion and the Church were incumbent on
the civil authorities, the princes and magistrates, in common with
all the rest of Christendom. It was their duty, he declared in those
earlier writings of his, to prohibit, by force if necessary, the
proceedings of those priests who were hostile to the gospel. He now
applied the idea and definition of external, idolatrous practices to
the Papal system of public worship and the sacrifice of the mass. To
suppress these practices, he said, was the duty of those authorities
who watched over the external relations of life: such was his demand
against the Catholics at Altenburg. On the other hand, this province
of external life and external regulations embraced also the material
means required for the external maintenance of the Church. And it
was only a step further for those authorities to forbid any public
exposition of doctrines which they found to be at variance with the
Word of God, and to appoint also preachers of that Word; nay, to
undertake, in short, the establishment and preservation of the
constitution of the Church, so far as the same was external, and
necessary, and incapable of being established by any other power.
The Elector John himself had already, on August 16, 1525, announced
at his palace of Weimar to the assembled clergy of the district,
'that the gospel should be preached, pure and simple, without any
additions by man.'

Under such circumstances, and starting with such views, Luther now
urged the Elector to take in hand a comprehensive regulation of the
Church. As soon as he had discharged his duties at the university
and completed his new Church Service in German, he turned his
efforts to a general 'Reform of parishes.' This, as he said in a
letter at the end of September, was now the stumbling-block before
him. On October 31, 1525, the anniversary of his ninety-five theses,
he represented to the Elector that, now that the reorganisation of
the university and the regulation of public worship had been
completed, there still remained two points which demanded the
attention and care of his Highness, as the supreme temporal
authority in his country. One of these was the miserable condition
of the parishes in general; the other was the proposal that the
Elector, as Luther had already advised him at Wittenberg, should
institute an inspection also of the civil administration of his
councillors and officials, about which there were everywhere
complaints both in the towns and country districts. With regard to
the first point, he went on to explain, on receiving a gracious
reply from the Elector, that the people who wished to have an
evangelical preacher should themselves be made to contribute the
additional income required; and he proposed that the country should
be divided into four or five districts, each of which should be
visited by two commissioners appointed by the prince. He then
proceeded to consider the external maintenance of the parochial
clergy, and the means necessary for that purpose. He suggested
further that ministers advanced in years, or unfit to preach, but
otherwise of pious life and conduct, should be instructed to read
aloud, in person or by deputy, the Gospel, together with the
Postills or short homilies. With regard to those parishes where the
appointment of an evangelical preacher was a matter of indifference
or of actual repugnance, he expressed at present no opinion; but in
his later proposals he assumed the establishment of evangelical
preachers throughout the country. He expresses his conviction that
the Elector will give his services to God in these reforms of the
Church, as a faithful instrument in His hands, 'because,' as he
says, 'your Highness is entreated and demanded to do so by us, and
by the pressing need itself, and, therefore, assuredly by God.'

Readily as the Elector John listened to Luther's words and
exhortations, he found it difficult, nevertheless, to initiate at
once so vast an undertaking as was imposed upon him. Luther was well
aware, as he himself told John, that matters of importance might
easily be delayed at court, 'through the overwhelming press of
business;' and that princely households had much to do, and it was
necessary to importune them perseveringly. He knew his prince--that
with the best will possible, he was not energetic enough with those
about him; and among the latter he suspected that many were
indifferent and selfish with regard to matters of religion and the
Church. The task, however, that now lay before him, was even more
difficult and involved than Luther himself had imagined when first
shaping and propounding his idea.

A whole year went by before the project was taken up
comprehensively. Only in the district of Borna, in January 1526, was
an inspection of parishes effected by Spalatin and a civil official
of the prince; and another one was held during Lent in the
Thuringian district of Tenneberg, in which Luther's friend Myconius
of Gotha, afterwards one of the most prominent Reformers in
Thuringia, took an active part. Meantime, however, the clergy in
general received directions from the Elector to perform public
worship in the manner prescribed by Luther's 'German Mass.'

In the course of the summer the development of the general affairs
of the Empire enabled the desired co-operation of the civil
authorities in the work of Reformation to be established on a basis
of law. And yet, just now, the situation, as regards the Evangelical
cause, had become more critical than at any previous time since the
Diet of Worms. For the Emperor Charles had terminated, by a
brilliant victory, the war with France, which had compelled him to
let his Edict remain dormant; and the peace concluded with the
captured King Francis, in January 1526, at Madrid, was designated by
the two monarchs as being intended to enable them to take up their
Christian arms in common for the expulsion of the infidels and the
extirpation the Lutheran and other heresies. The Emperor issued an
admonition to certain princes of Germany, bidding them take measures
accordingly, and a number of them held a conference together on the
subject. Against the danger thus threatening, the Evangelical party
formed the League of Torgau. But no sooner was King Francis at
liberty and back in France, than he broke the peace so solemnly
contracted. Pope Clement, to whom this peace had offered such a
splendid prospect of purifying and uniting Christendom, set more
store by his political interests and temporal possessions in Italy,
which formed a subject of such jealous rivalry and contention
between himself, the Emperor, and the King. Terrified at the
overwhelming power of the Emperor, the Holy Father made use of his
Divine credentials to absolve the French king from his oath, and
himself concluded a warlike alliance with him against Charles, which
went by the name of the 'Holy League.' Myconius remarked of this
compact that 'whatever Popes do must be called most holy, for so
holy are they that even God, the Gospel, and all the world, must lie
at their feet.' Meanwhile, the Turks from the East were advancing on
Germany. Thus it came to pass that a Diet at Spires, which seemed
originally to have been summoned for the final execution of the
Edict of Worms, led to the Imperial Recess of August 27, 1526,
wherein it was declared that until the General, or at least National
Council of the Church, which was prayed for, should be convoked,
each State should, in all matters appertaining to the Edict of
Worms, 'so live, rule, and bear itself as it thought it could answer
it to God and the Emperor.'

Luther now turned again, on November 22, 1526, to John, 'not having
laid for a long while any supplication before his Electoral
Highness.' The peasants, he said, were so unruly, and so ungrateful
for the Word of God, that he had almost a mind to let them go on
living like pigs, without a preacher, only their poor young
children, at any rate, must be cared for. He laid down in this
letter some important principles concerning the duty of the civil
power and the State. The prince, he declared, was the supreme
guardian of the young, and of all who required his protection. All
towns and villages that could afford the means, should be compelled
to keep schools and preachers, just as they were compelled to pay
taxes for bridges, roads, and other local requirements. In support
of this demand, he appealed to the direct command of God, and to the
universal state of destitution prevailing. If that duty were
neglected, the country would be full of vagrant savages. With regard
to the convents and other religious foundations, he stated that, as
soon as the Papal yoke had been removed from the land, they would
pass over to the prince as the supreme head; and it would then
become his duty, however onerous, to regulate such matters, since no
one else would have the power to do so. He particularly warned the
Elector not to allow the nobles to appropriate the property of the
convents, 'as is talked of already, and as some of them are actually
doing.' They were founded, he said, for the service of God: whatever
was superfluous might be applied by the Elector to the exigencies of
the state or the relief of the poor. To his friends Luther
complained with grief and bitterness of some courtiers of the
Elector, who after having always shut their ears to religion and the
gospel, were now chuckling over the rich spoils in prospect, and
laughing at evangelical liberty.

The work now commenced in real earnest. The Elector had the
necessary regulations prepared at Wittenberg, at a conference
between his chancellor Bruck, Luther, and others. In February 1527
visitors were appointed, and among them was Melancthon. They began
their labours at once in the district to which Wittenberg belonged,
but of their proceedings here nothing further is known. In July the
first visitation on a large scale took place in Thuringia.

Just at this time, however, Luther was overtaken by severe bodily
suffering and also by troubles at home, while the visitation and the
academical life at Wittenberg had to experience an interruption.

Luther's first year of married life had been one of happiness.
Symptoms of a physical disorder, the stone, had appeared, however,
even then, and in after years became extremely painful and

On June 7, 1526, as he announced to his friend Ruhel, his 'dear Kate
brought him, by the great mercy of God, a little Hans Luther,'--her
firstborn. With joy and thankfulness, as he says in another letter,
they now reaped the fruit and blessings of married life, whereof the
Pope and his creatures were not worthy.

Amidst all his various labours in theology and for the Church, and
in preparing for the visitation, he took his share in the cares of
his household, laid out the garden attached to his quarters at the
convent, had a well made, and ordered seeds from Nuremberg through
his friend Link, and radishes from Erfurt. He wrote at the same time
to Link for tools for turning, which he wished to practise with his
servant Wolf or Wolfgang Sieberger, as the 'Wittenberg barbarians'
were too much behind in the art; and he was anxious, in case the
world should no longer care to maintain him as a minister of the
Word, to learn how to gain a livelihood by his handiwork.

Early in January 1527 he was seized with a sudden rush of blood to
the heart. It nearly proved fatal at the moment, but fortunately
soon passed away. An attack of illness, accompanied by deep
oppression and anxiety of mind, and the effects of which long
remained, followed on July 6. On the morning of that day, being
seized with anguish of the soul, he sent for his faithful friend and
confessor Bugenhagen, listened to his words of comfort from the
Bible, and with persevering prayer commended himself and his beloved
ones to God. At Bugenhagen's advice, he then went to a breakfast, to
which the Elector's hereditary marshal, Hans Loser, had invited him.
He ate little at the meal, but was as cheerful as possible to his
companions. After it was over, he sought to refresh himself with
conversation with Jonas in his garden, and invited him and his wife
to spend the evening at his home. On their arrival, however, he
complained of a rushing and singing noise, like the waves of the
sea, in his left ear, and which afterwards shot through his head
with intolerable pain, like a tremendous gust of wind. He wished to
go to bed, but fainted away by the door of his bedroom, after
calling aloud for water. Cold water having been poured upon him, he
revived. He began to pray aloud, and talked earnestly of spiritual
things, although a short swoon came over him in the interval. The
physician Augustin Schurf, who was called in, ordered his body, now
quite cold, to be warmed. Bugenhagen too was sent for again. Luther
thanked the Lord for having vouchsafed to him the knowledge of His
holy Name; God's will be done, whether He would let him die, which
would be a gain to himself, or allow him to live on still longer in
the flesh, and work. He called his friends to witness that up to his
end he was certain of having taught the truth according to the
command of God. He assured his wife, with words of comfort, that in
spite of all the gossip of the blind world she was his wife, and he
exhorted her to rest solely on God's Word. He then asked, 'Where is
my darling little Hans?' The child smiled at his father, who
commended him with his mother to the God who is the Father of the
fatherless and judges the cause of the widow. He pointed to some
silver cups which had been given him, and which he wished to leave
his wife. 'You know,' he added, 'we have nothing else.' After a
profuse perspiration he grew better, and the next day he was able to
get up to meals. He said afterwards that he thought he was dying, in
the hands of his wife and his friends, but that the spiritual
paroxysm which had preceded had been something far more difficult
for him to bear.

Luther, after recovering from this attack, still complained of
weakness in the head, and his inward oppression and spiritual
anguish was renewed and became intensified. On August 2 he told
Melancthon, who was then busy with his visitation in Thuringia, that
he had been tossed about for more than a week in the agonies of
death and hell, and that his limbs still trembled in consequence.

Whilst he was still in this state of suffering, news came that the
plague was approaching Wittenberg, nay, had actually broken out in
the town. It is well known how this fearful scourge had repeatedly
raged in Germany, and how ruinous it had been, from the panic which
preceded and accompanied it. The university, from fear of the
epidemic, was now removed to Jena.

Luther resolved, however, together with Bugenhagen, whom he was
assisting as preacher, to remain loyally with the congregation, who
now more than ever required his spiritual aid; although his Elector
wrote in person to him saying, 'We should for many reasons, as well
as for your own good, be loth to see you separated from the
university.... Do us then the favour.' He wrote to a friend, 'We are
not alone here; but Christ, and your prayers, and the prayers of all
the saints, together with the holy angels, are with us.'

The plague had really broken out, though not with that violence
which the universal panic would have led one to suppose. Luther soon
counted eighteen corpses, which were buried near his house at the
Elster Gate. The epidemic advanced from the Fishers' suburb into the
centre of the town: here the first victim carried off by it, died
almost in Luther's arms--the wife of the burgomaster Tilo Denes. To
his friends elsewhere Luther sent comforting reports, and repressed
all exaggerated accounts. His friend Hess at Breslau asked him 'if
it was befitting a Christian man to fly when death threatened him.'
Luther answered him in a public letter, setting forth the whole duty
of Christians in this respect. Of the students, a few at any rate
remained at Wittenberg. For these he now began a new course of

Luther's spiritual sufferings continued to afflict him for several
months, and until the close of the year. Though he had known them,
he said, from his youth, he could never have expected that they
would prove so severe. He found them very similar to those attacks
and struggles which he had had to endure in early life. The invasion
of the plague, and the parting from all his intimate friends except
Bugenhagen, must have contributed to increase them.

He was just now deeply shocked and agitated by the news of the death of
a faithful companion in the faith, the Bavarian minister Leonard Kaser
or Kaiser, who was publicly burnt on August 16, 1527, in the town of
Scherding. Luther broke out, as he had done after Henry of Zutphen's
martyrdom, into a lamentation of his own unworthiness compared with
such heroes. He published an account of Leonard and his end, which had
been sent him by Michael Stiefel, adding a preface and conclusion of
his own. About the same time he composed a consolatory tract for the
Evangelical congregation at Halle-on-the-Saale, whose minister Winkler
had been murdered in the previous April.

In the autumn a new controversial treatise was published against him
by Erasmus, which he rightly described as a product of snakes; and
he now stood in the midst of the contest between Zwingli and
Oecolampadius. He exclaimed once in a letter to Jonas, 'O that
Erasmus and the Sacramentarians (Zwingli and his friends) could only
for a quarter of an hour know the misery of my heart. I am certain
that they would then honestly be converted. Now my enemies live, and
are mighty, and heap sorrow on sorrow upon me, whom God has already
crushed to the earth.'

The pestilence soon reached his friends. The wife of the physician
Schurf, who was then living in the same house with him, was attacked
by it, and only recovered slowly towards the beginning of November.
At the parsonage the wife of the chaplain or deacon George Rorer
succumbed to it on November 2, whereupon Luther took Bugenhagen and
his family from the panic-stricken house into his own dwelling. But
soon after dangerous symptoms showed themselves with a friend,
Margaret Mocha, who was then staying with Luther's family, and she
was actually ill unto death. His own wife was then near her
confinement. Luther was the more concerned about her, as Rorer's
wife, when in the same condition, had sickened and died. But Frau
Luther remained, as he says, firm in the faith, and retained her
health. Finally, towards the end of October his little son Hans fell
ill, and for twelve whole days would not eat. When the anniversary
of the ninety-five theses came round again, Luther wrote to Amsdorf
telling him of these troubles and anxieties, and concluded with the
words: 'So now there are struggles without and terror within.... It
is a comfort which we must set against the malice of Satan, that we
have the Word of God, whereby to save the souls of the faithful,
even though the devil devour their bodies.... Pray for us, that we
may endure bravely the hand of the Lord, and overcome the power and
craft of the devil, whether it be through death or life. Amen.
Wittenberg: All Saints' Day, the tenth anniversary of the death-blow
to indulgences, in thankful remembrance whereof we are now drinking
a toast.'

[Illustration: Fig. 36.--LUTHER. (From a Portrait by Cranach in
1528, at Berlin.)]

A short time afterwards Luther was able to send Jonas somewhat
better news about the sickness at home, though he was still sighing
with deep inward oppression; 'I suffer,' he said, 'the wrath of God,
because I have sinned in His sight. Pope, Emperor, princes, bishops,
and all the world hate me, and, as if that were not enough, my
brethren too (he means the Sacramentarians) must needs afflict me.
My sins, death, Satan with all his angels--all rage unceasingly;
and what could comfort me if Christ were to forsake me, for Whose
sake they hate me? But He will never forsake the poor sinner.' Then
follow the words above quoted about Erasmus and the Sacramentarians.

[Illustration: Fig. 37.--LUTHER'S WIFE. (From a Portrait by Cranach
in 1528, at Berlin.)]

Towards the middle of December the plague gradually abated. Luther
writes from home on the tenth of that month: 'My little boy is well
and happy again. Schurf's wife has recovered, Margaret has escaped
death in a marvellous manner. We have offered up five pigs, which
have died, on behalf of the sick.' And on his return home this day
to dinner from his lecture, his wife was safely delivered of a
little daughter, who received the name of Elizabeth.

To his own inward sufferings Luther rose superior by the
strengthening power of the conviction that even in these his Lord
and Saviour was with him, and that God had sent them for his own
good and that of others; that is to say, for his own discipline and
humbling. He applied to himself the words of St. Paul, 'As dying,
and behold we live;' nay, he wished not to be freed of his burden,
should his God and Saviour be glorified thereby.

Luther's famous hymn, _Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott_,
appeared for the first time, as has been recently proved, in a
little hymn-book, about the beginning of the following year. We can
see in it indeed a proof how anxious was that time for Luther. It
corresponds with his words, already quoted, on the anniversary of
the Reformation.

With the cessation of the pestilence and the return of his friends,
the new year seems to have brought him also a salutary change in his
physical condition; for his sufferings, which were caused by impeded
circulation, became sensibly diminished.

Since the outbreak, and during the continuance of the plague, the
work of Church visitation had been suspended. Melancthon, however,
who had followed the university to Jena, was commissioned meanwhile
to prepare provisionally some regulations and instructions for
further action in this matter, and in August Luther received the
articles which he had drafted for his examination and approval.

These articles or instructions comprised the fundamental principles
of Evangelical doctrine, as they were henceforth to be accepted by
the congregations. They were drawn up with especial regard to the
'rough common man,' who too often seemed deficient in the first
rudiments of Christian faith and life, and with regard also to many
of those confessing the new teaching, who, as Melancthon perceived,
were not unfairly accused of allowing the word of saving faith to be
made a 'cloak of maliciousness,' and who filled their sermons rather
with attacks against the Pope than with words of edifying purport.
Melancthon said on this point, 'those who fancy they have conquered
the Pope, have not really conquered the Pope.' And whilst teaching
that those who were troubled about their sins had only to have faith
in their forgiveness for the merits of Christ, to be justified in
the sight of God and to find comfort and peace, nevertheless, he
would have the people earnestly and specially reminded that this
faith could not exist without true repentance and the fear of God;
that such comfort could only be felt where such fear was present,
and that to achieve this end God's law, with its demands and threats
of punishment, would effectually operate upon the soul.

Luther himself had taught very explicitly, and in accordance with
his own experience of life, that the faith which saves through God's
joyful message of grace could only arise in a heart already bowed
and humbled by the law of God, and, having arisen, was bound to
employ itself actively in fruits of repentance; although, in stating
this doctrine, he had not perhaps so equally adjusted the
conditions, as Melancthon had here done. An outcry, however, now
arose from among the Romanists, that Melancthon no longer ventured
to uphold the Lutheran doctrine; of course it suited their interests
to fling a stone in this manner at Luther and his teaching. But what
was far more important, an attack was raised against Melancthon from
the circle of his immediate friends. Agricola of Eisleben, for
instance, would not hear of a repentance growing out of such
impressions produced by the Law and the fear of punishment. The
conversion of the sinner, he declared, must proceed solely and
entirely from the comforting knowledge of God's love and grace, as
revealed in His message to man: thence, further, and thence alone,
came the proper fear of God, a fear, not of His punishment, but of
Himself. This distinction he had failed to find in Melancthon's
Instructions. It was the first time that a dogmatic dispute
threatened to break out among those who had hitherto stood really
united on the common ground of Lutheran doctrine.

Luther, on the contrary, approved Melancthon's draft, and found
little to alter in it. What his opponents said did not disturb him;
he quieted the doubts of the Elector on that score. Whoever
undertook anything in God's cause, he said, must leave the devil his
tongue to babble and tell lies against it. He was particularly
pleased that Melancthon had 'set forth all in such a simple manner
for the common people.' Fine distinctions and niceties of doctrine
were out of place in such a work. Even Agricola, who wished to be
more Lutheran than Luther himself, was silenced.

Melancthon's work, after having been subjected by the Elector to
full scrutiny and criticism in several quarters, was published by
his command in March 1528, with a preface written by Luther, as
'Instructions of the Visitors to the parish priests in the
Electorate of Saxony.' In this preface Luther pointed out how
important and necessary for the Church was such a supervision and
visitation. He explained, as the reason why the Elector undertook
this office and sent out visitors, that since the bishops and
archbishops had proved faithless to their duty, no one else had been
found whose special business it was, or who had any orders to attend
to such matters. Accordingly, the local sovereign, as the temporal
authority ordained by God, had been requested to render this service
to the gospel, out of Christian charity, since, in his capacity as
civil ruler, he was under no obligation to do so. In like manner,
Luther afterwards described the Evangelical sovereigns as
'Makeshift-bishops' (_Nothbischofe_). At the same time the
instructions for visitation introduced now in the smaller districts
the office of superintendent as one of permanent supervision.

In the course of the summer preparations were made for a visitation
on a large scale, embracing the whole country. The original
intention had been to deal, by means of one commission, with the
various districts in rotation. Such a course would have necessarily
entailed, as was admitted, much delay and other inconveniences. A
more comprehensive method was accordingly adopted, of letting
different commissions work simultaneously in the different
districts. Each of these commissions consisted of a theologian and a
few laymen, jurists, and councillors of state, or other officials.
Luther was appointed head of the commission for the Electoral
district. The work was commenced earlier in some districts than in
others. Luther's commission was the first to begin, on October 22,
and apparently in the diocese of Wittenberg.

Luther had already, since May 12, voluntarily undertaken a new and
onerous labour. Bugenhagen had left Wittenberg that day for the town
of Brunswick, where, at the desire of the local magistracy, he
carried out the work of reform in the Church, until his departure in
October for the same purpose to Hamburg, where he remained until the
following June. Luther undertook his pastoral duties in his absence,
and preached regularly three or four times in the week.
Nevertheless, he took his share also in the work of visitation; the
district assigned to him did not take him very far away from
Wittenberg. He remained there, actively engaged in this work, during
the following months, and with some few intervals, up to the spring.
From the end of January 1529 he again suffered for some weeks from
giddiness and a rushing noise in his head; he knew not whether it
was exhaustion or the buffeting of Satan, and entreated his friends
for their prayers on his behalf, that he might continue steadfast in
the faith.

The shortcomings and requirements brought to light by the visitation
corresponded to what Luther had expected. In his own district the
state of things was comparatively favourable; happily, a third of
the parishes had the Elector for their patron, and in the towns the
magistrates had, to some extent at least, fulfilled their duties
satisfactorily. The clergy, for the most part, were good enough for
the slender demands with which, under existing circumstances, their
parishioners had to be content. But things were worse in many other
parts of the country. A gross example of the rude ignorance then
prevailing, not only among the country people, but even among the
clergy, was found in a village near Torgau, where the old priest was
hardly able to repeat the Lord's Prayer and the Creed, but was in
high reputation far and near as an exorcist, and did a brisk
business in that line. Priests had frequently to be ejected for
gross immorality, drunkenness, irregular marriages, and such like
offences; many of them had to be forbidden to keep beer-houses, and
otherwise to practise worldly callings. On the other hand, we hear
of scarcely any priests so addicted to the Romish system as to put
difficulties in the way of the visitors. Poverty and destitution, so
Luther reports, were found everywhere. The worst feature was the
primitive ignorance of the common people, not only in the country
but partly also in the towns. We are told of one place where the
peasants did not know a single prayer; and of another, where they
refused to learn the Lord's Prayer, because it was too long. Village
schools were universally rare. The visitors had to be satisfied if
the children were taught the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten
Commandments by the clerk. A knowledge of these at least was
required for admission to the Communion.

Luther in the course of his visitations mixed freely with the
people, in the practical, energetic, and hearty manner so peculiar
to himself.

For the clergy, who needed a model for their preaching, and for the
congregations to whom their pastors, owing to their own incompetence,
had to preach the sermons of others, nothing more suitable for this
purpose could be offered than Luther's Church-Postills. Its use,
where necessary, was recommended. It had shortly before been
completed; that is to say, after Luther in 1525 had finished the
portion for the winter half-year, his friend Roth, of Zwickau,
brought out in 1527 a complete edition of sermons for the Sundays
of the summer half-year, and all the feast-days and holidays,
compiled from printed copies and manuscripts of detached sermons.

The most urgent task, however, that Luther now felt himself bound to
perform, was the compilation of a Catechism suitable for the people,
and, above all, for the young. Four years before, he had endeavoured
to encourage friends to write one. His 'German Mass' of 1526 said:
'The first thing wanted for German public worship is a rough,
simple, good Catechism;' and further on in that treatise he declared
that he knew of no better way of imparting such Christian
instruction, than by means of the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and
the Lord's Prayer, for they summed up, briefly and simply, almost
all that was necessary for a Christian to know.

He now took in hand at once, early in 1529, and amidst all the
business of the visitations, a larger work, which was intended to
instruct the clergy how to understand and explain those three main
articles of the faith, and also the doctrines of Baptism and the
Lord's Supper. This work is his so-called 'Greater Catechism,'
originally entitled simply the 'German Catechism.'

Shortly afterwards followed the 'Little Catechism,'--called also the
'Enchiridion'--which contains in an abbreviated form, adapted to
children and simple understandings, the contents of his larger work,
set out here in the form of question and answer. 'I have been
induced and compelled,' says Luther in his introduction, 'to
compress this Catechism, or Christian teaching, into this modest and
simple form, by the wretched and lamentable state of spiritual
destitution which I have recently in my visitations found to prevail
among the people. God help me! how much misery have I seen! The
common folk, especially the villagers, know absolutely nothing of
Christian doctrine, and alas, many of the parish priests are almost
too ignorant or incapable to teach them!' He entreats therefore his
brother clergymen to take pity on the people, to assist in bringing
home the Catechism to them, and more particularly to the young; and
to this end, if no better way commended itself, to take these forms
before them, and explain them word by word.

For the use of the pastors, he added to this Catechism a short tract
on Marriage, and in the second edition, which followed immediately
after, he subjoined a reprint of his treatise on Baptism, which he
had published three years before.

The Catechism met the requirements of simple minds and of a
Christian's ordinary daily life, by providing also forms of prayer
for rising, going to bed, and eating, and lastly a manual for
households, with Scriptural texts for all classes. This ends with
the words--

Let each his lesson learn to spell,
And then his house will prosper well.

To the clergy, in particular, Luther addressed himself, that they
might imbue the people in this manner with Christian truth. But he
wished also, as he said, to instruct every head of a household how
to 'set forth that truth simply and clearly to his servants,' and
teach them to pray, and to thank God for His blessings.

The contents of the Catechism were carefully confined to the
highest, simplest, and thoroughly practical truths of Christian
teaching, without any trace or feature of polemics. In its
composition, as for instance, in his exposition of the Lord's
Prayer, and in his small prayers above mentioned, he availed himself
of old materials. How excellently this Catechism, with its
originality and clearness, its depth and simplicity, responded to
the wants not only of his own time, but of after generations, has
been proved by its having remained in use for centuries, and amid so
many different ranks of life and such various degrees of culture.
Except his translation of the Bible, this little book of Luther is
the most important and practically useful legacy which he has
bequeathed to his people.

The visitations were over when the two Catechisms appeared, although
they had not yet been held in all the parishes. Events of another
kind and dangers threatening elsewhere now demanded the first
attention of the Elector and the Reformers.


UP TO 1528.

Luther's controversy with Erasmus, the most important of the
champions of Catholic Churchdom, had terminated, it will be
remembered, so far as Luther was concerned, with his treatise 'On
the Bondage of the Will.' To the new tract which Erasmus published
against him, in two parts, in 1526 and 1527, and which, though
insignificant in substance, was violent and insulting enough in
tone, Luther made no reply. Erasmus, nevertheless, to the pleasure
of himself and his patrons in high places, continued his virulent
attacks on the Reformation, which was bringing ruin, he declared, on
the noble arts and letters, and carrying anarchy into the Church,
while he himself, in his own mediating manner, and in the sense and
with the help of the temporal rulers, was doing his best to promote
certain reforms in the Church, within the pale of the ancient
system, and on its proper hierarchical basis. On what principles,
however, that basis was established, and the Divine rights of the
hierarchy reposed, he wisely abstained, now as he had done before,
from explaining. In Luther's eyes he was merely a refined Epicurean,
who had inward doubts about religion and Christianity, and treated
both with disdain.

Luther's letter to Henry VIII., which we have noticed in an earlier
chapter, took a long time before it reached the King, and before the
latter could send an answer to it. The writing of that answer must
have given his royal adversary much satisfaction; it turned out a
good deal coarser than even the one from Duke George; Luther's
marriage in particular afforded Henry an occasion for insulting
language. Emser published it in German early in 1527, adding some
vituperations and falsehoods of his own. Luther's only object in
replying was to dissipate any impression that he had ever declared
to Henry his readiness to recant. His reply consisted of a few but
powerfully written pages. He pointed out that in his letter he had
expressly excepted his doctrines from any offer of retractation;
upon these doctrines he took his stand, let kings and the devil do
their worst. Beyond these he had nothing which so encouraged his
heart, and gave him such strength and joy. To the personal insults
and imputations of sensuality and so forth, which Henry VIII., this
man of unbridled passions, had poured upon him, he replied that he
was well aware that, in regard to his personal life, he was a poor
sinner, and that he was glad his enemies were all saints and angels.
He added, however, that though he knew himself to be a sinner before
God and his dear Christian brethren, he wished at the same time to
be virtuous before the world, and that virtuous he was--so much so
that his enemies were not worthy to unloose the latchet of his
shoes. With regard to his letter to Henry he acknowledged that in
this, as in his letter to Duke George, and others, he had been
tempted to make a foolish trial of humility. 'I am a fool, and
remain a fool, for putting faith so lightly in others.'

Luther reverts in this reply to enemies of a different sort, who
make his heart still heavier. These are to him his 'tender
children,' his 'little brothers,' his 'golden little friends, the
spirits of faction and the fanatics,' who would not have known
anything worth knowing either of Christ or of the gospel, if Luther
had not previously written about it. He alluded, in particular, to
the new 'Sacramentarians,' and to Zwingli their leader.

Although this is the first time that Zwingli makes his appearance in
the history of Luther, and was never treated by him otherwise than
as a new offshoot of fanaticism, it is important, in order to
understand and appreciate him aright, to bear in mind the fact that,
himself only a few months younger than Luther, he had been working
since 1519 among the community at Zurich as an independent and
progressive Evangelical Reformer, and had extended his active
influence over Switzerland, however little noticed he had been at

His career hitherto had been made easier for him than was the case
with Luther. The Grand Council of the city of Zurich not only
afforded him their protection, but in 1520 decreed full liberty to
preach the Gospels and Epistles of the Apostles in the sense he
ascribed to them, and in 1523 formally declared their acceptance of
his doctrines, and abolished all idolatrous practices. No Recess of
a Diet was here to disturb or threaten him. The Pope, for political
reasons, behaved with unwonted caution and discretion: he delayed in
this case for several years the ban of excommunication which he had
pronounced so readily against Luther. Even Hadrian, the man of firm
character, to whom Luther was an object of abhorrence, had only
gracious and insinuating words for the Zurich Reformer. The Zurich
authorities, at the same time, acting in concert with Zwingli,
adopted severe measures against any intrusion of fanatics and
Anabaptists, nor did the entire population of the small republic
contain any great number of persons so thoroughly neglected, and so
difficult of influence by preachers, as was the case with the
country people in Germany. Well might Zwingli press forward with a
lighter heart than Luther's in his work.

[Illustration: Fig. 38.--ZWINGLI. (From an old engraving.)]

Personally, moreover, he had never passed through such severe inward
struggles as Luther, nor had ever wrestled with such spiritual
anguish and distress. The thought of reconciliation with God, and
the comforting of conscience by the assurance of His forgiving
mercy, were not with Zwingli, as with Luther, the centre and focus
of his aspirations and religious interests. He knew not that fervour
and intenseness which made Luther grasp at every means for bringing
home God's grace to congregations of believers, or to each individual
Christian according to his spiritual need. His view, from the very
first, extended rather to the totality of religious truth, as revealed
by God in Scripture, but sadly disfigured in the creeds of the Church
by man's additions and misinterpretations; and he aimed, far more than
Luther, at a reconstruction of moral, and especially of communal life,
in conformity with what the Word of God appeared to demand. It was
easier for him, therefore, to break with the past: critical scruples
against tradition did not weigh so heavily on his conscience. His
critical faculties, no doubt, were sharpened by the humanistic culture
he had acquired. Compared with Luther's peculiar meditative mood, and
his half-choleric, half-melancholic temperament, Zwingli evinced, in
all his conduct and demeanour, a more clear and sober intelligence,
and a far calmer and more easy disposition. His practical policy and
conduct was allied with a tendency to judicial severity, in contrast
to the free spirit which animated Luther. So rigorous and narrow-minded
was his zeal against the toleration of images, that the Wittenberg
theologians could not help detecting in him a spirit akin to that
of Carlstadt and the other fanatics. In renouncing the Catholic
doctrine of transubstantiation and the idea of a sacrifice, Zwingli
had rejected altogether the supposition of a Real Presence of Christ's
Body at the Sacrament; nay, as he declared later on, he had never truly
believed in it. He quoted the words of Christ, 'The flesh profiteth
nothing' (St. John vi. 63). He would understand by the Sacrament
simply a spiritual feeding of the faithful, who, by the Word of God
and His Spirit, are enabled to enjoy in faith the salvation
purchased by the death of Christ. He saw no particular necessity for
offering this salvation to them by an administration of Christ's
Body, which had been given for them, through the visible medium of
the bread; nor did he see how by so doing their faith could be
strengthened. In Luther's view the practical significance of the
Real Presence lay in this, that in this special manner the
Christian, who felt his need of salvation, was assured, and became a
partaker, of forgiveness and communion with his Saviour. With
Zwingli, such a visible communication of the Divine gift of
salvation was opposed to his conception of God and the Divine
Nature; just as this conception was opposed to that kind of union of
the Divine and human nature in Christ Himself, by virtue of which,
according to Luther, Christ was able and willing to be actually
present everywhere in the Sacrament with His human, transfigured
body. Inasmuch, said Zwingli, as this spiritual feeding took place
in faith everywhere, and not only at the Sacrament, it was no
essential part of the Sacrament; the real essence whereof consisted
in this, that the faithful here confessed by that act their common
belief in the commemoration of Christ's death, and, as members of
His Body, pledged themselves to such belief: he called the Sacrament
the symbol of a pledge. Luther himself, as we have seen, had taught
from the first that the Sacrament or Communion should represent the
union of Christians with the spiritual Body, or their communion of
the spirit, of faith, and of love. But with him this communion was a
secondary condition; it was the feeding on the Body of Christ
Himself which was to promote such communion with one another and,
above all, with Christ. Zwingli explained the word 'is' of our Lord,
in His institution of the Sacrament, to mean 'signifies.'
Oecolampadius preferred the explanation that the bread was not the
Body in the proper sense of the word, but a symbol of the Body. In
point of fact, this was a distinction without a difference.

Such, briefly stated, was the doctrinal controversy in which the two
Reformers, the German and the Swiss, now engaged, and which had
first brought them into contact.

About the same time Luther made the acquaintance of another opponent
of his doctrine of the Lord's Supper, the Silesian Kaspar
Schwenkfeld. He also, like his friend Valentin Krautwald, denied the
Real Presence; but sought to interpret the words of institution in
yet another manner, connecting with his theory of their meaning
deeper mystical ideas of the means of salvation in general, which at
least in some quarters and to a small extent, have still survived.

In all of them, however--in Carlstadt, Zwingli, Schwenkfeld, and the
rest--Luther, as he wrote to his friends at Reutlingen, perceived
only one and the same puffed up, carnal mind, twisting about and
struggling, to avoid having to remain subject to the Word of God.

His first public declaration against Zwingli's new doctrine was in
1526, in his preface to the Syngramma or treatise of the fourteen
Swabian ministers, written, as his opening words express it,
'against the new fanatics, who put forth novel dreams about the
Sacrament, and confuse the world.'

Blow upon blow followed in the battle thus commenced. While
Oecolampadius was busy composing a reply to the treatise and its
preface, by which he in particular had been assailed, Luther
proceeded to follow up the attack. The same year he published a
'Sermon on the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, against
the Fanatics;' and in the following spring a larger work with the
title 'A Proof that Christ's Words of Institution, "This is My
Body," &c., still stand, against the Fanatics.' He concludes the
latter with the wish, 'God grant that they may be converted to the
truth; if not, that they may twist cords of vanity wherewith to
catch themselves, and fall into my hands.' Just then, however,
Zwingli had written against him, and to him, and the missive arrived
at the moment when he had issued the last-named work. Zwingli wrote
in Latin, entitling his tract, 'A Friendly Exposition of the matter
concerning the Sacrament,' and sent it with a letter to Luther.
These were followed almost immediately by a reply, in German, to
Luther's Sermon, under the title of 'A Friendly Criticism of the
Sermon of the Excellent Martin Luther against the Fanatics.' Zwingli
had scarcely had Luther's last written work in his hands when he
replied to it in a new treatise: 'A proof that Christ's words, "This
is My Body which is given for you," will for all ages retain the
ancient and only meaning, and that Martin Luther in his last book
has neither taught nor proved his own and the Pope's meaning;' the
title thus indicating that Luther's and the Pope's meaning were one
and the same. Oecolampadius at the same time published 'A fair
Reply' to Luther's work. These were the writings of the
Sacramentarians which reached Luther during the troublous time of
the plague at Wittenberg, and filled him with the pain of which we
heard him then complain.

Zwingli's doctrine, from the time of its first announcement, had
seemed to Luther nothing but a visionary--nay, 'devilish' perversion
of the truth and the Word of God. The progress of the controversy,
so far from healing the difference between them, tended only to
sharpen and intensify it. From the first hour the two Reformers met
in opposition, the gulf was already fixed which henceforth divided
Evangelical Protestantism into two separate Confessions and Church

This is not the place to pass judgment on the matter in controversy,
or to trace minutely the leading points of dogma involved in the
dispute. Regarding it, however, by the light of history, it must be
acknowledged and avowed that this was no mere passionate quarrel
about words alone or propositions of dogmatic and metaphysical
interest, but devoid of any religious importance. Even in the
attempts to establish points of detail, reference was constantly
made, on both sides, to deep questions and views of Christian

Not only did Zwingli and Oecolampadius, in their anti-literal and
figurative interpretation of the words of institution, endeavour to
support it by Scriptural analogies, more or less appropriate, but
in the practical objections they raised, which Luther treated as
over-curious subtleties of human reason, they were actuated in reality
by motives of a religious character. In their view, a pure and
reverential conception of God was inconsistent with the idea of such
an offertory of Divine gifts, consisting of material elements and
for mere bodily nourishment. Not indeed that Luther, in accepting
the words in their literal sense, had become a slave to the letter,
in contradiction to the free and lofty spirit in which he had
elsewhere accepted the contents of Holy Scripture. The question with
him here was about a word of unique importance--a word used by
Christ on the threshold, so to speak, of His death for our
redemption; and we have already remarked what value he attached to
the actual bodily presence indicated by that word, as assuring and
imparting salvation to those who partook at His table in faith. No
analogies to the contrary, derived from other figurative
expressions, would content him, though of course he never denied
that such expressions could and did occur throughout the Bible. The
text, 'The flesh profiteth nothing,' on which Zwingli primarily
relied, Luther understood as referring not to the flesh of Christ,
but to the carnal mind of man; though he was careful to declare that
it was not the fleshly presence, as such, of our Saviour which gave
the Sacrament its value and importance; nor must the feeding of the
communicants be a mere bodily feeding, but that the word and promise
of Christ were there present, and that faith alone in that word and
promise could make the feeding bring salvation. God's glory was
therein exalted to the highest, that from His pitying love he made
Himself equal with the lowest.

In the doctrine concerning the person of the Redeemer, a point to
which the controversy further led, the Church had hitherto affirmed
simply a union of the Divine and human natures, each retaining the
attributes and qualities peculiar to itself. Luther wished to see in
the Man Jesus, the Divine nature, which stooped to share humanity,
conceived and realised with deeper and more active fervour. As the
Son of God He died for us, and as the Son of Man He was exalted,
with His body, to sit at the right hand of God, which is not limited
to any place, and is at once nowhere and everywhere. It is true,
Luther does not proceed to explain how this body is still a human
body, or indeed a body at all. Zwingli, in keeping the two natures
distinct, wished to preserve the sublimity of his God and the
genuine humanity of the Redeemer; but in so doing, he ended by
making the two natures run parallel, so to speak, in a mere stiff,
dogmatic formulary, and by an artificial interpretation and analysis
of the words of Scripture touching the One Jesus, the Son of God and

The manner, however, in which this controversy was conducted on both
sides betrays an utter failure on the part of either combatant to
apprehend and do justice to the religious and Christian motives,
which, with all their antagonism, never ceased to animate the
opposite party. Luther's attitude towards Zwingli we have already
noticed. We have seen how his zeal, in particular, prompted him too
often to see in the conduct of individual opponents simply and
solely the dominating influence of that spirit, from which certain
pernicious tendencies, according to his own convictions, proceeded
and had to be combated. Thus it was in this instance. It was all
visionary nonsense, nay, sheer devilry, and be attacked it in language
of proportionate violence. From Zwingli a different attitude was to
be expected, from the amicable titles of his treatises and the
personal correspondence with Luther which he himself invited. He
adopted here for the most part, as in other matters, a calm and
courteous tone, and exercised a power of self-restraint to which
Luther was a stranger. But with a lofty mien, though in the same
tone, he rejected Luther's propositions, as the fruit of ludicrous
obstinacy and narrowness of mind, nay, as a retrograde step into
Popery. His letter, moreover, embittered the contest by importing
into it extraneous matter of reproach, such as, in particular,
Luther's conduct in the Peasants' War. Luther had reason to say of him,
'He rages against me, and threatens me with the utmost moderation and
modesty.' Zwingli's later replies evince a straightforwardness we miss
in the earlier ones, but they are marred by much rudeness and coarseness
of language, and display throughout a lofty self-consciousness and a
triumphant assurance of victory.

Luther, after reading the last-mentioned treatises of Zwingli and
Oecolampadius, resolved to publish one answer more, the last; for
Satan, he said, must not be suffered to hinder him further in the
prosecution of other and more important matters. At this time he was
particularly anxious to complete his translation of the Bible, being
now hard at work with the books of the Prophets. His answer to
Zwingli grew ultimately into the most exhaustive of all his
contributions to the dispute. It appeared in March 1528 under the
title of 'Confession concerning the Lord's Supper.' He went over
once more all the most important questions and arguments which had
formed the subject of contention, expounded his ideas more fully on
the Person and Presence of Christ, and explained calmly and
impressively the passages of Scripture relating thereto. He
concluded with a short summary of his own confession of Christian
faith, that men might know, both then and after his death, how
carefully and diligently he had thought over everything, and that
future teachers of error might not pretend that Luther would have
taught many things otherwise at another time and after further

Zwingli and Oecolampadius hastened at once to prepare new pamphlets
in reply, and to publish them with a dedication to the Elector John
and the Landgrave Philip. But Luther adhered to his resolve. He let
them have the last word, as he had done with Erasmus. They had not
contributed anything new to the dispute.

While Luther was writing his last treatise against the
Sacramentarians, he found himself obliged to issue a fresh protest
against the Anabaptists. This was a tract entitled 'On Anabaptism;
to two pastors.' But while denouncing these sectaries, he protested
strongly against the manner in which the civil authorities were
dealing with them, by the infliction of punishment and even death on
account of their principles, even when no seditious conduct could be
alleged against them. Everyone, he said, should be allowed to
believe what he liked. Similarly he wrote to Nuremberg shortly
after, where as we have already mentioned, the new errors were
spreading, saying that he could in no wise admit the right to
execute false prophets or teachers; it was quite enough to expel
them. Luther in this distinguished himself above most of the men of
the Reformation. At Zurich, while Zwingli was accusing Luther of
cruelty, Anabaptists were being drowned in public.

The foreground is now occupied again by the struggle with
Catholicism--in other words, by the contest with the German princes
who were hostile to the Reformation, and with the Emperor himself
and the majority of the Diet.


MARBURG, 1529.

In the war against the Pope and France an imperial army in 1527 had
stormed and plundered Borne. God, as Luther said, had so ordained,
that the Emperor, who persecuted Luther for the Pope, had to destroy
the Pope for Luther. But Charles V. was not then in a position to
break with the Head of the Church. In the treaty concluded with the
Pope in November, mention was again made of extirpating the Lutheran
heresy. And whilst in Italy the war with France was still going on,
the Emperor in the spring of 1528 sent an ambassador to the German
Courts, to rouse fresh zeal for the Church in this matter.

But before the threatened danger actually reached the Evangelical
party, it was preceded by disquieting rumours and false alarms.

In March 1528 a new Diet was to assemble at Ratisbon. Luther heard
in February of strange designs being meditated there by the Papists.
His wish was that Charles's brother Ferdinand might be detained in
Hungary, where he was occupied in fighting the Turks and their
_protege,_ Prince John Zapolya of Transylvania, and that the
Diet should be prevented from meeting. Luther's adversaries, on the
other hand, feared an unfavourable decision from the Estates, and
the Emperor at length peremptorily forbade their meeting.

Just about this time, John Pack, a steward of the chancery who had
been dismissed by Duke George of Saxony, came to the Landgrave
Philip and informed him of a league concluded with King Ferdinand by
the Dukes of Saxony and Bavaria, the Electors of Mayence and
Brandenburg, and several Bishops, to attack the Evangelical princes.
The Electorate of Saxony, where John was just then engaged in
completing the re-organisation of the Church, was to be partitioned
among them, and Hesse was to be allotted to Duke George. John and
Philip quickly formed an offensive and defensive alliance, and
called out their troops. The whole scheme, as was shortly proved
beyond dispute, was an invention, and the pretended treaty a
forgery, of Pack, who had been paid a large sum for his revelations.
Luther himself had no doubt of the genuineness of the document, and
persisted even afterwards in his belief. But while the Landgrave,
with his habitual vehemence, was impatient to strike quickly, before
their enemies were prepared, both Luther and the other Wittenberg
theologians did their utmost to restrain their sovereign from any
act of violence. Luther earnestly bade him remember the words:
'Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth' (St. Matt.
v. 5),--'As much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men' (Rom.
xii. 18),--'Those that take the sword, shall perish with the sword'
(St. Matt. xxvi. 52). He warned them that 'one durst not paint the
devil over one's door, nor ask him to stand godfather.' He feared a
civil war among the princes, which would be worse than a rising of
the peasants, and utterly ruinous to Germany. Philip accordingly
stayed his hand, until the reply of his supposed enemies, from whom
he demanded an explanation, puzzled him as to the meaning of Pack's

A private letter sent by Luther to Link, in which he spoke of George
as a fool, and said he mistrusted his promises, led afterwards, on
George's learning its contents, to a new and bitter quarrel between
the two. The Duke made a violent attack on Luther in a pamphlet,
which appeared early in 1521, to which the latter replied with equal
violence, denouncing the abuse of 'secret (_i.e._ private) and
stolen letters.' George retorted in the same strain, and persuaded
his cousin John, to whom he addressed a formal complaint, to
prohibit Luther from printing anything more against him without
Electoral permission;--a step which effectually silenced his

On November 30, 1528, the Emperor summoned a Diet to meet at Spires
on February 21 of the following year, in order that decisive and
energetic measures should be taken--as recommended once more by the
Pope--to secure the unity and sole supremacy of the Catholic Church.
The chief subjects named for deliberation were, the armament against
the Turks, and the innovations in matters of religion.

As regards the war against the Turks, Luther, who had previously let
fall some occasional remarks about certain wholesome effects it
would have in checking the designs of the Papacy, let his voice be
heard, notwithstanding, in summoning the whole nation to do battle
against the fearful and horrible enemy, whom they had hitherto
suffered so shamefully to oppress them. Since the latter part of the
summer of 1528 he had been engaged upon a pamphlet 'On the War
against the Turks,' the publication of which was accidentally
delayed till March, when he was busy with his Catechism.

In this pamphlet he spoke to his fellow-Germans, with the noblest
fire and in the fulness of his strength, as a Christian, a citizen,
and a patriot, and with a clearness and decision derived from
convictions and principles of his own. He had no wish to preach a
new crusade; for the sword had nothing to do with religion, but only
with bodily and temporal things. But he exhorted and encouraged the
authority, whom God had entrusted with temporal power, to take up
the sword against the all-devouring enemy, with sure trust in God
and certain confidence in his mission. By the 'authority' he meant
the Emperor, in whom he recognised the head of Germany. He it was
who must fight against the Turks; under his banner they must march,
and upon that banner should be seen the command of God, which said
'Protect the righteous, but punish the wicked.' 'But,' asked Luther,
'how many are there who can read those words on the Emperor's
banner, or who seriously believe in them?' He complained that
neither Emperor nor princes properly believed that they were Emperor
and princes, and therefore thought little about the protection they
owed to their subjects. Further on he rebuked the princes for
letting matters go on as if they had no concern in them, instead of
advising and assisting the Emperor with all the means in their
power. He knew well the pride of some of the princes, who would like
to see the Emperor a nonentity and themselves the heroes and
masters. Rebellion, he said, was punished in the case of the
peasants; but if rebellion were punished also among princes and
nobles, he fancied there would be very few of them left. He feared
that the Turk would bring some such punishment upon them, and he
prayed God to avert it. Finally, he bade them remember not to buckle
on their armour too loosely, and underrate their enemies, as Germans
were too prone to do. He warned them not to tempt God by inadequate
preparation, and sacrifice the poor Germans at the shambles, nor as
soon as the victory was won to 'sit down again and carouse until the
hour of need returned.'

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