Charles Ebert Hay.

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than was re<juiri'ii of tlitni were Mii»p«»sr<l to con-
stitute a sacT(d ** treasure of the Church,"
which the Pope was authorized to apply in nuiking
up delicieneies in the lioliness or ohedienee of
others. He might even thus lij;hten or altogether
remove the penalties yet resting uiM»n souls already
in purgatory, in view of the devotion or gifts of
their surviving relatives.

(Jradually, this theory of pajKil )»anlnn, nr in-
dulgence, was modified in two inijMntant particu-
lars. It was nuule applicahle, not only to the
imperfect ohservance of ihurchly j)enalties, hut to
transgressions of the divine law as v.cU. Thus
contrition, or sorrow for sin, hecame a secondary
matter, and repentance a mere outward ceremony
— a penance rendered hy the sinner himself, and
even this avoidaide uj)on the }»ayment of money
for the henelit of the Chunh.

Thus, hundreds (.f lliMU>aiids of indulgences, as-
suring the full pardon of all sins, were granteil
to those who participated in the Crusades. At a
later day, they were freely hestowed in return for
generous contrihutions of funds to aid in war
against the Turks. The guardians of sacred
sln-ines and of the re])uted relics of the saints in
various ]»laces were authorized to dispense to all
visitors there njaking confession on certain days,
•or to deceased frii'uds of thi' latter, indulgences
covering varying terms of years in purgatory.

Pope Leo was at tliis time /.<al(>usly pr(>secuting
the erection of St. Peter's Cathedral, at Home,
and gracicKisly ofTered to all who should j)ay to his
accredited agents appropriate sums of money cer-
tilicati'S entitling them to claim at the hands of
any priest (penit«nee heing prudently mentioned
in the jiapers, hut as jirudtntly overloukid in the


jireacliinp of tlu' auctionoerinp aj^cnts) abpolution
for all their sins and particij)ati(»n in all Xhv Mcss-
ini^ of salvation. I'rincu All>Lrt, Archliislnip of
Mayence, had undortakin for one-half the j)ro-
ceeds (this private harjrain being unsuspected by
Luther) the distribution of these indulj^ences
throujrh a large j)art of Germany, and had engaired
a bold and unscrui)ul<)us j)riest, John Tetzel, to
urge the j)eo]>le to avail themselves of the oppor-
tunity thus ofTered. The latter, prosecuting his
wnrk with fiery zeal, reached Jiiterbog, a few miles
from \\'ittenberg, in the fall of the year 1517, and
was there literally selling " grace for cash." lie
wrought especially upon the tender regard of his
hearers for their deceased friends, crying: "The
moment the groschen rings in the chest, the soul
llies out of j)urgatory."

Members of Luther's parish jmrchased these
]»apers, and then, boldly confessing sins which
tliey had no idea of forsaking, demanded absolu-
tion at his hands. Ilorrilied at the impiety, he
utterly refused to absolve them and earnestly
admonished tliem to repentance. This they
]>romptly reported to Tetzel, who declaimed fuTcely
against the presumptuous monk daring thus to
treat with contemj>t the ])rinted mandate of the
Vn\H'. But the nn»nk maintained his ground, and
from the |)uljtit denounced the shauieless traflic
He thus discharged his duty as a pastor; but he
felt a larger responsibility resting upon him as a
I)«tetor <»f Theology, sworn to ])roclaim ami to tli-
IVnd the (Jospel l"f..n. all the world.

riTArTKn ir.

Tin: challenge.

The most jjroiniiunt biiililiup in Wittrnl>erg
was the Castle Church. Ori^'inally tstal»li>ln<l
ns a <l(|H)sit«trv f«»ra ''sacnil lljorn," said to liave
\tvvu takni fnun the crown prcssitl u]>on the Sav-
iour's )>ro\v, it liatl for more tlian one hundred and
fifty years been a centre of suixrstitious (Kvotion,
when, in the closing; <lecade of tlie tiftecnth century,
the Elector ?>ederick the Wise greatly enlarped it
and at enormous expense gathered within its walls
relics from all j>arts of the world to the number of
more than iive thousand, including a piii-e of the
burning bush seen by Moses, i)art of the liery fur-
nace of Nebuchadiu'zzar, arms and lingn-s «»f the
babes of Hethhlicni slaughtered by IIcn»d, hair of
the Virgin Mary, fragments t)f tlie Saviour's swad-
dling cl<»thes, his beard, the purple rol>e, toes and
hair of various saints, etc. Whoever worshiped
reverently in this sacred e<lilice on the days innne-
diately preceding or following the festival of All
Saints, was entitled to j)a])al indulgence extending
in some cases for one hundred years. This chun h
stood in close relation with the I'niversity, the
public exercises of the latter being held within its
walls, and academic announcements being upon
the great festival days posted upon its d(K»rs.

Here was lutw the oj.portunity for the bravo
young Doctor. Appointed to preach in this
church on the .'Hst of October, lolT, the afternoon
proce<ling All Saints' day, he discourses fervently
upon true inward rejMntancc as distinguished


from outward fnnnsof peiKiMcc, and foarlossly coii-
dciniis tlu* trallic in induljjrnces, altliou^di well
knowing that he is thenl^y rohhing the treasured
relies of the phice of all their value and exposing
to ridieule the folly <>f his patron, the Kleetor.

Some tinje hefore entering the chureh he had
(|uietly perfornie<l the aet which is now universally
reoognizrd as the actual starting-point of the
Reformation. Stei)j)ing uj) to the great door, he
nailed upon it a j)roelamation inviting all jxrsons
interested to participate in i)ei*s()n or hy writing in
a public discussion of the "Virtue of Indulg-
ences." As a basis for the disputation, he pre-
sented Ninety-five Theses, or brief j)r()posi-
tions, bearing upon tlie subject. He did not him-
self realize that the j)rinciples which lie announced
must eventually abolish the j)raetice altogether
and undermin<' the whole system of church organ-
ization by which they were sui)j)orted. It was
not his calling to forecast the results of his con-
duct, but simply to be faithful to the light which
he had and to his ])osition as a teacher and de-
fender of scriptural truth.

The Theses are moderate and respectful in
tone. The author freely grants the right of tlu^
I'ope to issue indidgences, and denounces only the
llagrant abuse of then). Upon some j)oints he is
not clear in his own mind, and hence states them
in interrogative form, hoping by thorough discus-
sion to arrive at right conclusions. Starting with
the Saviour s call to repent^ince, he maintains that
the latter is to l)e an exjMTience continuing all
through life — an inward sorrow for sin, manifesting
itself outwardly in the ov<'rcoming of the sinful
impulses iti the flesh; that the indulgences issued
l»v the Pope have nothing to do with this, but can
remit only the outward penalties imposed by the


Church; that tlu'v cannot in any way afTcct the
souls of the departed; that every true Christian
enjoys the ]>anlon of all his sins without any in-
dulpMice from the Pope; that it is far hetter to ex-
pend one's in(»ney in works of Christian love than
to Sijuander it in the purchase of indulgences; that
the true ''treasure of the Church " is not any ex-
tra merits of the saints, hut is the (iospil; that, if
the Pope can release so many souls from purga-
tory for money, pure Christian love should impel
him to set them all free; and that it is not by
seeking to av(»id suiTcring and trial, hut hy hearing
them with patience, that we can hope to enter
heavm at l;i>t.

The reception accorded tlic Tin scs far ex-
OtH'<led the expectations of their author. Within
two weeks they had heen scattered throughout
all (lermany and in an incredihly short time had
penetrated to the most distant portions of the

The friends of tlie hrave monk were thoroughly
frightened, and thought he had gone too far. Said
the jurist, Jerome Scheurf : " What do you ex])ect
to accomplish? The authorities ()f the Church
will not endure such holdness." The ])rior and
suh-prior of his cloister hegged him to desist and
not thus hring disgrace upon their entire order.
The theologian, Alhert Krantz, upon hearing the
Theses read, exclaimed: "Thou speakest the
trutli, goo<l hrother, hut thou wilt accomplish
nought hy it. CJo to thy cell, and cry: ' (iod have
mercy Uj»on me.' " On the other hand, no one
venturcil to acc<'j)t the challenge to a puhlic dis-
putation at Wittenhcrg. The Theses, with their
author, stood for a time alone before the world.
Nothing terrified, although sincerely regretting the
wide an«l, as he thought, premature, publicity


given to tlio matter, Lutlier at oiico i.ssued a Dis-
course u}xm Indnhicnces iind (irnrc, einl)0(lyin^ tlie
same ideas, and set himself to the preparation of
a careful elucidation and tlefeucu of the positions
>vhich he had taken.

ClIAl'Tl'R 111


Althouj^h the j)artisans of tlie Pope at first rr-
panlini the Theses with hhmk aiuazenient, and
soujrlit to (liscreiUt thtin as the idh* vajmrin^^s of a
eontrntioiis monk, it s<»(»n hccaine eviih-nt that
nmre serious attention must he «riven to them.

Tetzel, after seeking to add (lignity to his jmsi-
tinn an<l autiiority to his utterances ]>y scH'urinj^
from the Tniversity at Frankfort tlie <h\trrees of
Lieintiate and l)oet«>r of Theolojry, issue<l two
8eri(^ of counter-tlieses in wlneh he l)oldly de-
clared that the repentance spoken of ))y Clirist was
hy Ilim meant to include confession to the j)riest
and theohservance of all the jMiiances imj>osed i»y
tlie Church, an<l that the I'ojte is infallihie in his
utterances an<l >^u|irenie in his power. Tliree hun-
dn-d Dominician friars, assemhii'd at Frankfort,
espoused the cause of Tetzel; hut the \Vitteid»crj^
Htudents, Beizin«r the entire stock of his theses
brought to that place, hurned tiicm in the puhlic

I\arly in January, ISIS, there was issued from
liome an ollicial document f;ir more fornii(l; in
character. Its author was Sylvester Prierias,
Masti'F of the Sacred Palace, to whom had heen
given a censorship over all ])uhlicati<»ns upon the
territory of the Romish Church. It advocated the
most extnine views concerning the suhjiM-tion of
the Clnirch to the Pa]>ncy and the nhsolute neces-
nity of priestly ordinances to salvation, whilst de-
nouncing Luther iu< a leper and a vicious dog. It



f)nifully (Ux'larrd tliat if tlu- r<>|t(lia<I only jrivcn
tliis monk a fat Msliopiic and allowed him to sell
in(lul<ienc('s, he wouM now Ix* a most suhscrvient
vassal of the ]»aj)al throne \\'h('n t(in}>t('<l U>
rriticisi* severely the harsh lan.miajfe scunetimcs
employed hy Lutlier in eontroversy, it will be well
f«»r us to rememher that it was tlie j>apal party
whose oflieial rejtresentatives first descended to ]>er-
st»nalities and the hurlin*; of opprobrious nanus.

The Pope himself, in the following,' month,
instruete«l the \'iear-(leneral of the Augustinian
Order to take prompt measures for the suppression
of the eontumaeious monk of Wittenberg'. This
was not known by Luther, however, until some
months afterward.

Perhaps the most unexpected attack was that of
John Eck, a distin<:uislied theolojrian of In<,'ol-
stadt, with whom Luther had a pleasant ac<iuaint-
ance, and for whose attainments he entertained
sincere respect. This suj)posed friend prepared in
March, ISIS, under the title, Ohdlsci (from the
custom of markinfr condemned passages in books
with the obelisk, f), a criticism of tlie Theses,
denouncing them as full of the poison of Bohemian
heresy, regardless of the restraints of Christian
love, and destructive of all churchly order.

During the following July, Tetzel, emboldened
by the cont<nij)tuous silence with which liis former
assault had Ixen received, returned to the charge,
decrying Luther as an arch-heretic, ignorant of
the Scriptures and of the writings of the Chureh
Fathers. Hoogstraten, meanwhile, who had al-
ready gained repute as a i>ersecutor of the renowned
Hebrew scholar, Keuchlin, called upon the P()])e
to institute a bloody inciuisition, and cleanse the
Chureh from the new leaven of heresy.

To all these rude attacks Luther made reply,


adaptin;! liis tono, in each capo, to tlio temper and
capacity of liis opponent. IVtzcl and Iloojzstratcn
recti vtd very suniniary treatnunt. A^aint?t Kck
he jiulilislicd a formal, scliolarly treatise entitled
Astrrisri (the mar^Miial astt-risk, *, indicating' ap-
proval), whilst in response to tlie otlicial assault
of I'rieriap, lie diu^hed oil within two days a
leiiL'thy and indijrnant rejoinder, fortifying his
positions hy abumlant quotati(»ns frrmi the Scrip-
tures and from the arknowled^'«d authorities of
the Chuah.



The months which followed tlie piihlication of
tlie Tluscs were for Lutlier iiioiitlis of unremit-
ting toil. To the duties of liis j)osition in the
UniviTsity and the lahor devolving upon him as
]);i>t(>r was now added tlie «rrave rcsjjonsihility of
hadiTsliip in the movement for reform which
centred in him as its intrepid leader. He had not
dreamed of hcinj^ hrought into such prominence,
l)Ut lie was not the man to shrink from any path
of dutyopenin<^ plainly hel'orc him. Ilis f^reatest
concern now was to discover the exact truth upon
all tlie j)oints in controversy, and, to this end, he
applied himself with all the ardor of his nature to
the work of investiiration.

As the Thi'ses had not heen desifrncd as a final
statement upon the sul)jects discussed, he l)e<;an
it once the preparation of an extensive exposition
uf them, emphasizing what was fundamental, and
candidly confessinir his uncertainty upon some
less essential points. He re<rarded this work as
most important, and it was not until the follow-
iuL' sprini? that it was <(»m]il('t('d and pven to the
press under the title, '* Elucidations (tf the Theses
concerninj]^ the Virtue of In(lul«;ences." On May
22d, he sent a ])artial coi)y to his superior, the
Archhishop of l^randenhurg, and on the 8()th of
the same month addressed another copy to the
Poi)e, to whom the entire work was dedicated.
In an accomj)anyinp letter, he suhmits his
with the most earnest protestations of his loyalty


to the Churth ami his willingness to rocoive cor-
riH'tion, or even eondcmnation, at the liands of the
Pope. He expresses, however, unshaken eonli-
denee in his cause, and antieipati-s a favoniMc
judgment when his prin(ii)les shall have received
candid exaniinatinn.

A discourse upon '^repentance," jmhlishcd
in Fi'itruarv or March, alT<»nlrd liini opportunity to
present in a positive form his favorite d(»etrine of
the supreme importance of faith, which the special
purpose of the Theses had not enahlcd him there
to discuss at large. He here clearly shows that
without faith neither contrition nor confession nor
any sacramental act can have saving eflicacy.

A very suggestive and comforting ex])osition of
th(? iioth Psalm appi-ared witliin the same

With great simplicity and fervor he continued
to unf«»hl the central truths of the (lospel in his
friKjUcnt sermons and in his academical lectures.
His wide repute for scholarshi]) and the courageous
act which had so suddeidy made him famous at-
tracted students to W'ittenherg in constantly in-
creasing numiters, and these nearly all hecame
earnest advocates of his evangelical views. When
anxious friends suggested that his course must
ultimately hring upon him puhlic condemnation,
he re])lied: "I neither htgan for the sake of glory
or shame, nor will 1 desist for either."

A pleasing variation of the routine of his official
duties occurred in April an<l May. when he was
summone«l to a convention of the Augustinian
Order at Heidelberg. Kemindccl that hiscnt'mies
might end»race the oj>|nirtuiiity to intlict jiersonal
violence upon him, he (Iceland : "The more they
rage, the ujore will I pre.'^s forward." Ten days
were re«jnir''l •"■"• O"- journey, which was made


mostly on foot. During' the visit lie was tivatcd
with much kindness l»y his hrcthrcn, hut no ivfcr-
( nee was direetly made to the jrreat controversy
w ith which his name had hecome so closely con-
nected. W'lien the husiness of the convention
was comj>lete<l, he was invited, according to the

ustom of the day, to conduct a disputation, the
.-erious work of his calliu}^ thus followini: him
u{M)n what l)y less devoted men mi<rht havi' l)e(n
reirarile<l as a well-earned vacation. He prc|»and,
accordin^dy, a series of theses upon the futility
nf the works of the law and the true doctrine of
liie cross. Tln» theologians of Heidelherg com-
hate<l his views with jrreat acuteness, yet in a
friendly spirit; hut the result was seen in the
( onversion (jf a nunduT of young theologians pres-
ent to the views of Luther, some of whom after-
wards hecame very prominent in jtromoting the
Reformation. After an ahsence of ahout live
weeks, he returned, greatly refreshed in body and
mind, and applied himself with renewed vigor to
his studies.

Meanwhile, neither attacks from without nor
his ahsorhing interest in his own deparlint nt
could make him forgetful (»f the general welfare
of the institution in which he lahored. \\'ith a
I'rnad ( (»nipr< hension of the re(iuirements of tin'
age, he earnestly advocated jirogressive measures
in the scientilic and jihilological dei»artments of
the University, fully convinced that the most lih-

ral education could but promote the interests of
true religion.



Meanwhile, in Kniiic, formal proceedings
wtTi' instituttil apiinst Lullur for liiit.^y. On
Au^just 11th, l)c ri'C'civrd an oflicial citation t<Ki|)-
j)rar in the holy city witliin sixty <lays and make
answer to tlie charjics a«:ainst liini hcforc a special
commission, consistin*; of ihv Paj»al Auditor and
the Master of the Sacred Palace, the ahove-nien-
tioned Prierias. As the former of these was merely
a fiscal otlicer, with no aptitude nor experience in
matters of doctrine, it was evident that the decis-
ion of tlic case must rest with Prierias, wlio had
already in such a puhlic and ofTensive way pro-
ni)Unced jud.LMnent airainst the accused.

Luther, always ready to suhmit his ])rincij>lcs
to the calm jud.i:ment of friend or foe, was yet un-
willing to make himself the victim of a mock-trial
at the hand of his sworn enemy. :ni<l 1m ncc very
promptly resolved that he would not obey the
summons. He requested that a trial he panted
him upon German soil and hefore unj)rejudiced
judges, and sought the good oflices (jf his sovereign,
the Elector Frederick, in securing this reasonahle
concession. The latter was ])rovi<lentially just at
this time in ]>osition to wield a peculiarly ])owerful
inlluencc upon hoth the civil and the ecclesiastical
authorities. There was even then assemhed at
Augshurg an Imju'rial Diet, to which Pope Leo
was a])pealing f«»r funds to carry on a ])rolonged
war with the Turks, and from which the Emperor
Maximilian wua endeavoring to secure the election


of Ills graiulsnn, Cliarles of Spain, as his own suc-
' <ss(»r. Both lia«l, tlieiffon', every reason to con-
ciliate the KKitnr Frederiek, of Saxt>ny, who was
llie aeknowh'dged ehief of the electoral princes and
was himself nuiitioned as a prohahle candidate
for the coveted imperial throne.

Thus the scheme to entrap Luther at Rome
failed, and it was agree(l that he should he tried at
AuL^hurir, hythe]>apal representative then ]>resent
at the Diet, Cardinal Cajetan This olheial was
a man of recognized ahility, the acknowIe<lge(l
leader of tlu- Tliomisl party anion.L' the scholastic
tlieolojrians of the day. For his hij^di ofliee Luth<r
t iitertaintHl sincere respect, and it was with n(j
little trej)id-ition that tlie lattef now for the first
time ]trej>are<l to ap]>ear in j»ei*son before a direct
repri'sentative of the Pope, whom he still re<:arded
as the rightful head of the Church.

Disreganling the warnings of sus]>ieio\is friends,
he set out on foot, and on Octoher 7th arrived at
Augsburg weary and sick. He at once notilled
the Cardinal of his jjresence by a messenger, refus-
ing however to apj»ear in person until furnished
with the injperial safe-conduct to which he was
entitled. The Km]>eror being absent from the city
upon a hunt, four days elapsed before the irritated
and im])atient Cardinal could secure the oppor-
tunity of dealing with the tr<»ul)lesome monk.

In the nieantinie, a trusted friend of his. Urban
of Serralonga, called rejieatedly upon Lutlnr
;ind endeavored to induce him to take a less serious
\ iew of the situation. The whole matter could be

ttled, he declared, by one little word of six let-
.ei-s, " revoco" (I recant). Wlun Luther j)leaded
for the common i>eople, who were !)eing so sliame-
fnlly deluded, the trilling ecclesiastic laughingly
maintained tliat it is allowable to deceive the


|H'<»pK\ if by lljat means money ean !>e inaile to
How into the oolTers of the Chiireh. Finally, he
reniinilcil Luther tliat lie eould not cxptvt the
Elirtor to iio to war for his defenee, and taunt-
injxly inquired where In- would lind a refu^ri' when
the strnnj^ arm nf the Kmpire shiKild he invoked
a«;ainst liim. To this Luther ealndy rej)lied:
*' Under the open sky.''

At lenjrtli. on Octnln r Titli, the aeeused and his
jud«,'e stood face to face. Luther, wearing' a rohe
whieh he had lM)rrowed for the occasion, ])ri>st rated
himsi'lf hefore the great s)>iritual j>rince and ex-
presseil his readiness to make any c«>ncessions
which his conscience should allow. The Cardinal
addressed him j)atronizin<rly as his "dear son,"
and proposed to hcl]> him out of all his trouble if
he wouM simply retract his errors and j)romise to
refrain from all conduct tending; to create dissatis-
faction in the Church. In resjujuse to Luther's
demand for a specilication of his su]>posed errors,
the Cardinal limited his charfres to two points: —
Luther, he said, had denied that the merits of
Christ constitut<' a treasure from which the Church
may draw in the dispensin«r of indulirences. and
had maintaincfl that the sacraments cannot benetit
unless then- be faith in the recipient, lie declared
that he would not condescend to enp»<r(» in any ar-
liumcnt uj)on these j)oints, but demanded simply
the distinct revocation of the heretical utterances.
A conference of three days' duration provinir utterly
fruitless, theenraired Cardinal bade Luther depart
from his presence and never return unless to nnant.

A little reflection, however, convinced the
hau|;hty pnlate that In- had been too hasty. It
was tin- (Icsin* of his master, tlw l*o|ie, tlial Luther
nhouM in some way be hnm^ht to silence; an<l
Cii. tin li ..] midc not the slightest progress in that

A nuownEATiNc; cahdinal. 49

(liroctioii. llr sent, tluTofons upon tlio panic day
fur two of Liitlu'i-'s most trusted frit'uds, Staupitz,
the Vicar-(Ji'iieral of Luther's order, and Link,
the Prior of the Auj^ustinian eonvent at Nureni-
l>er^', hoth of whom were witli Luther at the Car-
melite monastery of the eity. As tliey resi)onded
]>rom])tly to Ins summons, he assured tliem of Ids
kindly feelin<,'s toward Luther and his own desire
for pcaec, and ur^ed them to exert their inlluenee
to eoneiliate the liery monk, whose " deej) eyes
and' wonderful speculations" he was unwilling
a^ain to eneounter. They ri'])()rted aecordin.Ldy at
the convent, and Luther, always easily moved hy
kindiu'ss, a<ldn\<scd a courteous letter to the Car-
dinal, apologizing for any lack of propriety in his
speech or demeanor, re-ailirming his willingness
to recall anything which he had said if convinced
of his error, an<l agreeing to remain silent upon
the «|Uestion of indulgences provided his adver-
saries would do likewise.

On ()ct(>her ISth, he notified the Cardinal that
he could not remain much longer in Augshurg,
and, his letters receiving no attention, he two days
later left the city quietly hy night, — not, however,
1)( fore he had ])r<']>are(l a formal ap])eal from th(^

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Online LibraryCharles Ebert HayLuther, the reformer → online text (page 3 of 14)