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^f^:/^^^les Ebert, 1851-

Luther, the reformer





Copyright, 1898,



Xutbcr, tbc "Kctormcr.



Prepa RATION von Action.

A. I). 14s:}-1.j17.


Chapter I. Boyliood •')

" II. Early Student I ):i.vs 11

•' 111. Advanced Studies 11

" IV. Monastery Life 1'.)

V. I'rofessorship at Wittenberg 21


Assertion of Puinciples.

A. I). 1517-1521.

Chapter I. The ("all to Action 32

II. The Hold ( hallenge 'M>

III. Aiic^ry Responses 10

IV. Taticnt Lalmr ... 43

V. A r.rowheating Cardinal 46

VI. Milder Measures 52

VII. Public Debate 56

VIII. Open Enmity 64

IX. Ericnds New and Old 67

X. .\ Tirelt>S!4 Pen 72

XI. The Papal Hull 77

XII. The Hero at Worms 79




Practical Keformation.
A. I). l.VJl-154r,.


( Iwiplrr I. TIk" Wartlturj; Kxilc 85

" II. A TfmiK>st Siilktl 90

*• III. Iii-m-\vi(i .Vrtivity at WiltLMjlKTK .... 95

" IV. KxtiiKliiiK' Infhunce 99

V. TIr- (Hil Kiu-my 104

\I. Faltcrinj,' AUii-s 109

" VII. Ka^iiiK Peasants 11 j

•' VIII. n«.ly Ii<.iuls 121

" IX. Hi'Mtr^'-aiiiz-iiion of the Churt-h 125

X. Political Kvcnl.<* 131

•' XI. i'ersonal AiUitiions Pio

•' XII. Thi' SacniiiKtiUii (oiitroversy 137

" XIII. Lutlur ami ZwiiiKli 142

" XIV. The I^ravc- I'rotcst 14G

" XV. The Marburg ('<»llo{juy 151

" XVI. Prei»aring to Meet the Emperor 157

" XVII. A Second Imprisonment 101

•• XVIII. The(Jreat (Vmft^Mon PIS

•• XIX. \Var-<loij(ls Staye<l 172

*' XX. Harmony among Brethren 17G

" XXI. Parhyiiig with the Papists ISO

'• XXII. Standard of .Monility ISG

•• XXIII. Home Life I'.'I

•*XXIV. Sicknejss and Death I'JG






KvKN ^vlK'n at the sumnnt of his renown,
Lilt 1m r never hesitated to aeknowh'd.L^e his hum-
ble origin. His aneestors for several generations
"vvere sini])le peasants — not paupers, however, hut
owners of the soil whose cultivation furnished
them a modest livelihood. His father, Hans
Luder (Lothar: leader), engaged also in mining
in the vicinity of his xineestral home, Mohra, on
the horder of the Thuringian forest, hut soon
after his marriage removed witli his young wife,
Margaret (Ziegler), to Eisleben, in search of
steadier employment. Here, on Nov. lOtli, 14<S3,
they greeted with delight their tirst-horn child,
who was baptized on tlie same day in St. Peter's
church, receiving the name Martin, it being the
anniversary of that saint in the Church's calendar.

Six months later, the family settled ])erma-
nently in the town of Mansfeld, a few miles dis-
tant, where the father was shortly afterwards en-
abled to rent two smelting furnaces, and gradually
improved his temporal circumstances. We find


liiin a few yt^an? later f>eeupyinp a repponsilJc po-
sition in the villajri" and its eonjrrejration. He was
a stunly son of the Cliurch, faithful in ohservinj;
all its appointed ordinances, hut withal linn in
maintaining; his jKTsonal eon\ietions. His wife
was niodt-st in demeanor, cariust in her j>iety and
mueh given to prayer, lioth were sineenly de-
votcnl to the welfare of their children, altli<>ugh
excessively stern in the exercise of discipline.
They resolved to give their son the advantage of
a liheml education, and prepare him for the prac-
tice of law.

Young Martin accordingly entered tlic village
school at a very early age. His treatment licro
exciidcil in severity that which he had received at
home. He was iuatcn fifteen times in one morn-
ing, as he himself relate s, for failing to recite what
liad not heen taught him. He was speaking from
experience when he afterwards descrihed tho
schoolmasters of that time as tyrants and execu-
tioners, from whom nothing was learned in spite
of stripes, tren)l)ling, terror and tears.

It was thus in a sechided, narrow valley of the
Harz Mountains, in the very centre of Ger-
many, that the early years of the great Re-
former were spent. He was here in daily contact
with nature and with the sim]>le-minded (lennan
I)easantry, phiin in their manners, hlunt in
speech, hut distinguished hy native honesty and
devoutness of spirit. He was one of them, and
even in his maturer years always felt perfectly at
liome in his heloved Mansfeld. He is descrihed
l»y one of his most intimate associates as a
merry, romping boy, fond of companionshij).
His natural (iisjtosjtion may he clearly enough in-
ferred from the originality and vivacity of his
'"'■'d '" 1 ''' r v.-ars, from his ke(»n delight in the


works of naturi', and from the unfailin*,' Ijiunor
wliith marks liis iitttranccs even amid the severest
trials and most exhausting lahors.

The poverty of liis parents and the rigor of
the discipline to whi(.h he was subjected seriously
afrectt'd liis native buoyancy of spirit. He grew
ex<H'e<hngly timid, and his conscience became so
Sensitive that he constantly uitbraided liimself for
the slightest, and often for mere imaginary

For the distress of mind which was thus occa-
sioned, tlie religious teaching of the day afforded
no real relief. Children were, indeed, taught the
Lord's Prayer, the Apostles' Creed and the Ten
Connnandment.s. On festival days the congrega-
tions joined in the singing of certain appropriate
hynms, and there was some preaching in the lan-
guage of the ])eople. Luther always gratefully
acknowledged the benefits whicli he had thus re-
ceived. But the scriptural truth presented in
these ways was almost lost sight of in the great
mass of outward ceremonies and idle fancies.

There was a growing tendency to saint-wor-
ship, whicli threatened to leave no place for sim-
]>le faith in Christ as the divine Redt emer in whom
is revealed the fulness of the Father's love and
mercy. Cireater contidence was felt in the sup-
pose(^l more tender love of the Virgin Mary, who
was addressed as the "Mother of God," and im-
plored to intercede for her petitioners with her
kSon, who was regarded as a stern judge and ruler.
At the very time of Lutli(T's boyhood, it })ecame
a po])ular custom, ])articularly among the hardy
mountaineers of that part of (lermany, to address
prayers especially to Anna, the mother of the Vir-
gin Mary; and the countless hosts (»f minor saints
were parceled out as the patrons of particular


Icx'alitii'S, cluirches, persons or occupations. The
minils of the younjj were IiIUmI with legends of the
Faints, some of wliich were really jmthetic or jxx^tic
in character, hut the j^reat mass of which were
mere empty, silly tales.

There privaihd amon^ the common people of
that ilay an implicit belief in witchcraft. Kvil
spirits were suppostvl to he eonslaiiily attive in
inllicting injuries upon cattle, crops and human
being's, sending sickness, storms, hail, etc.
Luther's own mother liveil in constant dread of a
neighbor whom she accused of bewitching her
children, making them cry themselves almost to
death. Thus the imagination of the lad wa.s
storetl with frightful forms, and a dark cloud of
ever-threatening calamity overshadowed his early

pompous processions were used to imi)ress the
minds of the multitude with the majesty of the
Church, and vast multitudes were induceil to join
in pilgrimages to suj>])oseil sacred places, bearing
oiTerings for various images or relics (^f ancient
saints which were said to be endowed with mirac-
ulous healing i)ower.

Even when the Lord's Prayer, Creed, etc., were
taught by the monks or priests, there was no at-
tempt to lay stress upon the sjiiritual truth which
they contain, but the whole aim was to bring the
rising generation into absolute submission to the
ordinances of the Church. It was particularly
insisted, that all who desire to be saved must appear
at least once a year before the j)riest, confess to
him all their sins, receive from him al>solution, or
the assurance of pardon, and have such j)enances
imposed upon them as the regulations of the
Church might re«|uire. These penances were ex-
eni-<-^<'f \:iri(,iw Ivlti.l^ vii.l, :m particular praycFS


ropoatctl a certain iniinbrr of times, pilp^rimapcs,
fasts, etc., and it was tauf^ht tliat only by a con-
scientious fulfilment of these could the demands
of a righteous (Jod he satisfied and His favor en-
joyed. \\'hoever failed in strictest obedience to
these re<iuirements would at death be cast into the
fires of purgatory, tliere to remain until the meas-
ure of his auMiiy should sulliciently atone for his

It was taught tliat a higher degree of morality
and sanctity than ])()ssible under the ordinary
conditions of life might be attained by the renun-
ciation of marriage, and the surrender of all
earthly ])roperty and personal independence.
Some eagerly embraced the opi)ortunity thus af-
forded to gain rrpute fur ]'iety, assuming the three-
fold vow of poverty, chastity (so-called) and
obedience (to superi(»rs in the Church). Others
enteral ui)on the monastic life to escape the nec-
essity of earning for themselves an honest liveli-
hood. But there were always many who sincerely
sought, by enduring the i)rivations and discharg-
ing the exacting duties imposed upon them by
this cruel system, to gain the favor of God and
secure true peace of conscience.

It was in a religious atmos])here thoroughly per-
meated with these false ideas that the childhood
of Luther was j»assed. His sus(e}>tilile nature was
readily moulded by them; but he could discover
in them nowhere an answer to the deepest yearn-
ings of his heart. The home of his youth could
afford neither counsel nor sympathy where both
were so sorely needed.

To the Church and its ordinances alone could he
l<K)k for help. His whole training had tended to
cultivate a deep resjteet for its authority. There
was, indeed, a growing tendency among the com-


mon people to make merry over tlie inconsistent
lives (»f tlie monks and prii'sts, while eiirnest
nunds were cKeply jzrieved l»y tlu' notorious abuses
which were tolerate<l, and even encoura«:ed, l)y
the Church. But in the secluded re^'ion in which
Luther live<l, these ahuscs had not become so
glaring as in many i)laces, and his jiarciits and
their a.«sociat»s at Mansfcld nmaintd Iminblc and
zcalnus subjects of the tHclesiaftical government
under whieli they had always live<l. Whatever
suspicions may liave been excited in their own
minds must have been carefully concealed from
their children, whom they sought to rear in un-
questioning faith in that Church with whicli, in
their view, w:ls inse]»arably associated the whole
divine j)lan of salvation. Yet how little encour-
agement was to be hoped for fnan this ijuarter,
may be inferred from what has l)een already said.
Against all the sombre iniluences of his early
years the strong, hopeful nature of this boy
bravely struggled. NW- have no evidence that In*
became morose, or gave any hint of the inward
struggles which he silently endured. He dutifully
accepted the calling which his father had marke«l
(»ut for him and sought to make the best use of the
meagre educational advantiigcs at lirst alTorded

r-TIAlTKrv TT.


When fourteen years of a<re, T utlier liad ac-
quired all the knowledge to ])e obtained in the
sc-hool at Mansftld. lie was then, in l')U7, sent
to a school in Magdeburg, in liiLdi niiutc for its
cultivati(»n of the Latin lan<;ua^'e and literature,
and for the prohity of its instructors, who l)clon«red
to a society of pious priests known as the "Null
Brethren." Of his studies here, we have no

Sufferinj]^ on one occasion from a burning fever,
the use of water was strietly ])rohil)it(d. \\'at<h-
in<r his oj^portunity, he sli])])('d down stairs and
drank a wlmle ])iteherful. The fever was ])roken
and he (piickly recovered. This is the llrst re-
corded illustration of the Reformer's inde]tendencc
of character, and furnishes a striking^ ])icture of
the eagerness with which liis thirsting spirit after-
ward (juafTcd the living water forbidden by the
religions doctors of tlie day.

Magdeburg was a ilourishing city of forty thou-
sand inhabitants, and the young student was here
for the first time brought into contact with the
busy life of the coinnnniMl w(»rld. This must
have exerted a broadening influence upon him,
but the only incidents of the ])eriod which he has
deemed worthy of record clearly indicate what
was then already the bent of his mind.

.\ prince of Anhalt who, having surrcndtn^l
bis patrimony, had for twenty-five years subj<'cted
himself to tiie most riu'id ascetic discipline and



was wastoil to a more skeleton, passe<l through the
streets of the eity liare-footol, iniserahly clad ami
bowed to the earth lu'iicath a lu-avv hiirdoii.
Luther was stirn»d to unhounded admiration, and
severely upbraided himself for the worldHnt'Ss of
his own life.

Somewhere, }>rol>al»ly upon a panel in one of
the numerous churches, he saw a ]»aintinp: of a
great ship repn-senting tln' ( atholie Church sail-
ini; for the ci'lestial port. On l>oard were the Pope
and cardinals with a j^oodly numht-r of bishops.
The crew consisted of priests and monks, and the
Holy Ghost was the j)ilot. Stru^jrling in the
waters were a host of ]>oor laymen, some just sink-
ing, and others desperately clinging to roj)es
thrown from the ship and afTording the only hope
of salvation. As he gazed in horror, his soul
yearned to share the security of the holy mc^n on
board, among whom, however, not a single lay-
man was to be seen.

In the following year he entered an excellent
school in Eisenach, where some relatives of his
mother resided, with whom he was probably able
to live more cheaply than among strangers. They
were, however, themselves in moderate circum-
stances, and he was comjx'lled also to help him-
self, which he did by singing in comjiany with a
circle of his school friends uj)on the streets of
Kisenach and in the surrounding country, receiv-
ing in retm-n small contributions of money from
benevolent burghers. Upon one occasion of this
character, the fervor with which he sang the de-
vout hyinns selected attracted the attention of a
refined* and wealthy lady, Madam Ursula Cotta,
who invited him \n her table and p( r.-iKidrd him
to make fre(|Uent visits to her home. This kind-
ness was an inealeuhihle blessing to the lonely


hoy. It sootiicd his sj»irlt and at the same tiiiu'
gave hiin his lirst ac<iuaiiitaiR-e witli the usagi-s of
cultivatcMl society.

The institution at Kisenacli was in synipatliy
with that entliusiastie revival of interest in seien-
titie and ehissieal studies whicli is known as
Humanism. Anionj^ liis teachers liere wen;
Pastor Wiegand, witli wliom lie maintained
fiicndly relations for many years, and John Tre-
bonius, a j)oet and most faithful instructor, who
is said to have always removed his cap when com-
ini^ hefore his jtupils, imi)ressed with the thought
tliat there might l)e among them some future city
magistrate or learned doctor. During the four
years spent at this place, his quick j)ercej)tion,
vivid imagination and i)Ower of apt and ])ictur-
csipie exi)ression hecame manifest to all. lie ac-
(juinMl a full knowledge of Latin, writing it
freely in both prose and versie.



Not far from Mansfclil was tlio University of
Erfurt, then one of the most illustrious of Cer-
inany. Among its prominent professors were
Ijulieus Truttvetter and Arnoldi von Usin«r,.n.
The institution a(l}iere<l to tlie principles of^tlie
later Scholasticism which accepted the tradi-
tional (loLMuas of the ("hunh and exhausted its en-
ergies in hair-splitting and profitless discussions
of the external forms of doctrine. Lutlier here
ac(|uired a thorough ac(juaint;ince with this sys-
tem, which was invaluahle to him in liis suhse-
(jueiit labors, and his natural powers of discern-
ment were greatly (juickened hy the keen encounter
with his academical opponents.

Hut it was anjong the zealous advocates of the
Humanistic stu<lies,which were also here encour-
aged, that Luther found his nio>t coiig.-nial
friends, including Crotus Rubianus. George
Spalatin and John Lange. lie was a welcome
comrade in the circle to which they belonged, be-
ing regarded by them as the philosopher and
musician of the company.

The wide-s})read int<'rest in classical litera-
ture and the liberal sciences which had spread
through the more intelligent cla.sses of all the great
western nations opened an inviting field t<) tlie
ambitious youth of the univei-sities. The ancient
mythology of (ireece and Koine kindled their im-
agination, the poets and orators of anti(piitv be-
came the models of style, and the moral and relig-


ious ]>rin(ii>U'S of the ancient culturt'd licathcn
world Wire inK'(^ns(iouslyinil>il)(»I. Tlie movement
tlius tended to divert the minds of its adhen-nts
entirely away from the C'hristian relij^ion. When
the scriptural ideas of sin, atonement, fellowship
with Ciod, and a future life were ijrnored, hut little
respect could l)e longer entertained U)T the Bihle.
It was ])laeed ui)on a par with the sacred hooks
of other reliizions. (lod Himself and the proi>hets
and saints of the Church were hy many classed
with the L'ods and liemes of heathen nations. Tlie
verv foundations of morality were thus under-
minetl. Tlie voice of consi'ience was smothered
and all serious views of life hanishcd. The jtleas-
ures of intellectual culture were extolled hy some;
social enjoyment l)ecame the sole aim of others;
while not a few, freed from all moral and reli«:;ious
restraint, induljred in gross immorality under the
garh of sui>erior enlightenment.

Yet this new godless culture found it (juite ]tos-
Fihle to thrive under the outward forms of relig-
ious observances then prevalent in the Cliureli.
Its adherents formed a sort of intellectual aristoc-
racy among the liigher civil and ecclesiastical
orders, whilst the ordinances of the Church were
considered a valuahle means of preserving good
order among the niasses, their ohservance by the
enliLditencd classes being only for the sake of ex-
ample. Thus there had sprung U]>, es])ecially in
Italy and notably in Koine, before the Reforma-
tion a new heathenism under the forms of Chris-
tian life, which in utter hypocrisy exceeded any-
thing ever known in the heathen world, and which
afterward boasted a foremost representative in that
so-called Head of tlie Church, Pope Leo X., I'y
whom Lutlicr was condemned as a heretic.

In Germany, however, these destructive ten-


dencics had not yet been developcMi. Tlic young
Humanists and "poets" (as tlicy etylctl tlieiii-
si'lvt-s) of Krfurt wvrv moral and studious, and,
wliilo j^lorifying the ancient classical authors,
maintained the most friendly relations with their
schohu^tic j)rofessors, seeking oidy to give a more
reliuLHl antl poetic expression to the truths taught
by the Church. Thus Luther felt the (luiikcning
iinjmlse of the movement in its purest form.

\\'ith characteristic ardor, the young student now-
entered upon the general philosophical course,
which included granmiar, rlnimie, logic, the
physical scienei^ and moral ]»hilosophy. Among
classical writers, he ])referred Ovid, Virgil and
Cicero. In studying these and other ancient au-
thors, it was not his aim to imitate their elegance
of diction, hut to glean from them ]>ractical lessons
of every-day wisdom. His own style, though
classic in purity, was forceful rather than elegant.
His friends regretted greatly that he did not allow
the spirit of classical culture to more largely mod-
ify the hluntness of his speech and the ]>assionate
energy of his nature. But it was just tliese qual-
ities which kept him in full symjuithy with the
common ]>eoj)le and which enabled him to deal
such terrilic blows against error and breast the
storms which terrified his more fastidious associ-
ates. Although the lirst book printed in (iermany
in (ireek characters left the j)ress of Krfurt in the
very yi'ar of Luther's admission to the Lnivcrsity,
the study of that language was ])ui-sui'd by very
few at that time, and it wm* only in later years
that he beciime j)r()ficicnt in it.

In the general branches of the course his pro-
gress was so rapid that in his third se.-^sion he
readied the lirst academic degree, that of Haehelor.
This was followed, in 1503, by that of Master,


which was ((juivah'nt to oiir " Doctor of IMiil-
osophy." Mclanchthon testifies that liis extraor-
dinary ahihty won the achniration nf the whole

Tlie cuhure of his taUnt for music furnislicd
rcHef from severer hil)ors. Iksieles the further
training of his voice, he h-arned to J'lay upon the

In acconhmce witli his fatlier's desire, lie now
deterniined to apply himself to the study of the
Law, which had in Ilenninj: (ioede a most dis-
tin<:uished representative in tlie faculty at Krfurt;
hut he had scarcely entered upon the new course
of study when he was led to a reniarkahle step
which changed the entire current of his life.

Throuizhout his whole career as a student, con-
science had given him no rest. He hegan every
day with private prayer and attendance U])on
early mass, it heing even then a favorite maxim
with him: "To liave ]traycd well is to have
studied well.'' Yet a fellow-student testilies that
he often said with dee]) earnestness as they
washed their hands: "The more we wai>h our-
selves, the more unclean do we become." II(»
one day discovered in the lihrary of the University
the first entire coj)y of the Bihle which he had
ever seen, and pored over its j)ages with eager de-
light. l>ut he still foun<l nf) j)eace of mind. He
thought of (iod only as a stern and righteous

A number of incidents increased his anxiety.
During a severe sickness he thought himself dying
and was greatly alarmed. One Piaster, as he was
on his way to visit his parents, he accidentally
severed an artery of his leg with his student
sword. Lying uj»on his hack and pressing th(»
wound, he cried out in agony, "Mary, hcli)!"


Soon iiftiT roiH'ivin;^ liis Master's dojxrcc, he was
profouinily move<l by the sudden death of an in-
tiinato friond. Ht'turning fn)ni a visit to Mans-
feld, on July 2d, loOo, he was cau«rht in :i terrific
thunder-storm, an<l, as a vivid Hasli of lijrhtning
dailed ln'fore him, lie fell to the earth and ex-
claimed: "Help me, dear St. Anna; 1 will hccome
a monk.'' Fifteen days afterward he bade fare-
well t«> the world, and entered the Augustinian
nionastrrv of \]\v town.



The talented university student was cordially
welcomed to the cloister. For the first year, iis a
"novice," he was compelled to perform the most
menial services, sueh as s('rul>l)in<]^ the lloors of
the eonvi'iit, and traversing the streets of the town
ill (•oin})any witli an older hrotlier of the order
gatheriiiL^ ^nfts of hread and cheese for the iiunates
of the monastery. The envy of his lussoeiiites, or
the su})])osed necessity of sj)ecial strin<xeney in his
ease to overcome the temptiition to s})iritual pride,
led to the imposing of sucli duties upon him even
after he had heen consecrated to the priesthood.
He performed all these tisks without murmuring;,
and was zealous in meeting all the rehdous re-
(juirements of his jxjsition. Seven or eii-^ht hours
daily were set apart for tlie repeating of prescribed
prayers, the Lord's Prayer and the Ave Maria he-
ing regularly recited twenty-live times every day.

When the year of prol)ation was en<led, the
novice was solemnly received into the order of
Augustinian monks, taking the vow of un(|uestion-
ing ohedience to Almighty God, the Virgin Mary
and the Prior of the convent. II(^ was now given
a cell hy himself, containing a tdile, a hed-stead

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