Charles Ebert Hay.

Luther, the reformer online

. (page 6 of 14)
Online LibraryCharles Ebert HayLuther, the reformer → online text (page 6 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

pcjints," i. g., upon national questions. To this
the Emperor agrce(l, and a courteous sunnnons
w:ls at once forwarded to the Reformer, assuring
hitn "safe conduct" to and from the Diet. The
papists were enraged, but helpless.

Luther promptly decided to obey the call.
Hearing that he woidd be expected to recant,
he sai<L "This shall be my n «aiitation: I ba\e
said that the Pojx' is the representative of Christ
(on earth); this I now recall, and declare that the

Tin: IIKKO AT won MS. 81

Popo is tlie eiR'iny of Christ and an einissarv <>f
tlu' devil."

On Aj)iil '2d, after cnniplttini: an uneoinjtromis-
in«; rejoinder to the pamphlet of an a.^sailant,
Catharinus, lie set out upon the journey, pre-
cecknl l)y the iini)erial lierald, and ^Mcetrd on
every hand l>y jireat thron;:s of his fellow-country-
men. Received with enthusiasm at Krfurt, he
reniained there over Sunday, and j)reached a fer-
vent sermon U])on the text: "Peace he uuio
you.'' Just as the party drew near to Worms,
tliere was puhUshed an edict forl)idding the dis-
semination of the books of Luther and tlius
clearly indieatinj^ the temi)er c)f the monarch.
In face of this, even the herald hesitat<'d to ad-
vance. S])alatin, the Elector's cha]»Iain, sent a
warning', |)ointin^' to the fate of Huss. But the
dauntless cham}>ion of the truth replied: *'I
would enter \\'orms, thoutdi there were as many
devils there as tiles uj>on tlie roofs of the houses."

In the streets of the city he was met l)y a
cavalcade of ]>rominent pcrsonaj^es and, sur-
rounded hy a thronj? of two thousand of the
jjopulace, conducted to his inn. As he alighted
from his carriage he ferventlv ejaculated: "(lod
will l>e with me."

On tlie next day, A]>ril 17th, he wai* summoned
before the Diet. It was a notahle a.ssendtly —
the Kmperor, six electoral princes, whole ranks of
the lower nohility of (lermany, and an imposing'
array of ))apal ollicials. Luther fully appnriated
the jrravity of the occasijjn and at first appeared
overawed. He was tohl that he was merely to
answer two questions : first, whether ho was
the author of certain hooks, whose titles were
read to him; and secondly. wh<ther, if ho, he
was willing to recall their content^. To the finst

(jiu^tion lie replied in the afTirmativc. As the
-econd was of siieh iinportanee, he rcHiuestwl that
a sliort time he j^ranted him for the j)rei)aration
of his answer — a favor which was rehutantly

W'lien recalled late on the fnllowinj; day, he
was asked: '' Do you defend all of y«)ur hooks, or
ire you willing; to recall some thinj^s. '* Adapting
his nply («;iven in Latin) to the new form nf the
question, he deelared that some of his hooks are
purely devotional in eharaeter, and commended
even hy liis enemies. The second class of his
writiuL's are those directed ajjainst the corruptions
of the papacy: to re<"all these would hut jrive en-
coura«;ement to that horrihle tyranny. The third
class consists of his j)ul>lii'ations a«rainst individ-
uals. In these he confessed to have sometimes
used intemperate lan<;ua;ie. The doctrines tau«;ht
in these he is willing; to recall whenever refuted l)y
( itations from the projdiets or evan<,'elists. He
( losed with an eloquent and fearless appeal to
tlic Kmjtcror and ])rinccs to nuct hravi ly the re-
-])onsil)i]ity which (iod ha«l laid upon them.
I pon re<juest, the response w;is repeated in (ier-
man. The papal spokesman, after consultation,
j»ronounced the reply of Luther irrelevant, de-
clared that a refutation of his teachin«:s was un-
necessary, as they had heen already condemned
hy the Council of Constance, and demanded a
plain, direct answer to th(» ijuestion whether he
Would recant or not. Ki>in;i to the luiiiht of the
'•ccasion, he then uttered the immortal words.

" I'nh'ss convinced hy the testimony of Scrip-
ture or evident reasons (for I trust neither the
I'ojie nor councils alone, since it is certain that
they have often ern'd and contradicted thein-
ttcivesj, I am hound hy my own writinirs, as


C'it('<l, and my conscienro is IkUI ('aj)tivc by tlie
Word (»f (iod. Hccant I ncitluT can nor will,
since it is unsafe and dislioiust toad ;i ,'aiiist (•(►n-
sciencc. * * I cannot do otherwise. Here I
stand. So help me God! Amen."

In the midst of tlie tmipt-st that cnsiir*!, the
Emperor rose and dissolved the Diet. Summon-
ing the meml)ers attain very early the next morn-
ing, he expressed his regret at having t^o long
juirleyed with the contumaeicnis monk, and de-
clared his )»urpose, after returning the latter to
WittrnhtTg according to his i)ledge, to at once
proceed to final measures against him.

Movetl in j>art hy sympathy, more largely hy
fears of insurrection, the I)iet ]»leadcd for delay,
in order to elTect, if i)ossible, some compromise.
The Emperor granted a respite of three days.
Now it was that the fortitude of Luther was most
severely tested. A large commission of prom-
inent officials known to he kindly disj)osed to-
ward him was app(»inted hy tlie Diet. For days
these men j»leaded with him, exhausting all their
skill in endeavoring to shake his resolution. They
waived entiri'ly the point of submission to tlu*
pope, and implored him to suhnnt his writings
without reserve to the judgment of a general
council — as he had once been willing to do.
They argue<l that bloodshed would thus be ])re-
vented; that (piite a time must elaj)se before such
a council could !)<• assembled, and that the delay
would l)e favorai»l(; to his cause; that tin* very
calling of a council, in face of the (oiidemnation
already pronounce(l by tlie Tope, would be a
great victory for him; and that its decisions would
in all ]irobal>ility i»e in his favor. JUit in vain!
Luther was willing to submit his writings to any
candid tni»unal, but insist<'d that \\\vy and all


Jiuinan (locuindits must l)o finally tosti'd l>y llic
Word of God alone. Upon this ])rin(ipio he
sjtakr«l lifi- and all, K'aviiii; tin- results with (Io«l.

Hut what would now become of Luther, was
the «jUt'stion upon every han«l. Kven th(»uj;h the
jiKnlLie of safe-eon<luet, violated in the ease of
lluss, should now be faithfully kept, it would
( xpiiT within twenty-one tlays Should he then
l»e left ut the mercy of Ins foes?

A plan was soon perfected. Luther started off
amid the j)laudits of his friends. After some
days' travel the imperial fruard was dismissed.
As the eoaeh in which he rode with his traveling
companion from the monastery and his friend,
Amsdorf, was j)assing throuj^h a shaded roa<l in
the forest, a hand of horsemen suddenly fell upon
them. The monk, territied, was alloweil to es-
cajK'. Amsdorf made a show of noisy resistance
for a tim<', and was then suffered to proceed with
the fri^rlitened coachman. Luther was led hy a
circuitous route to the Wartburg, a strong castle
overlooking: the town of l'j-« ikh li.

Meanwhile, the ban of the Empire was pro-
nounce<l. The severest pi nalties were threatened
to any person who should harbor the outlaw, or
^dve him food or drink. Every faithful subject
was connnanded to aid in arresting him antl send-
ing him to the Km])eror. His books were to be
burned and their printing forever interdicted.
The language of the document was certainly suf-
lieiently vigorous, but not unwillingly doi'S tin*
j.en of history record the facts, — that it harmed
no nne, that it was the last of its kind ever pr<»-
mulgated, and that its dark anathemas can to-<lay
be deciphered only in tin* radiance rellected from
the name of ittf intended victim.



Tin-: WAKTHruc kxilk.

Tin-: sikMcu disai^poanmre of Lutlier awakened
intense feeling thnnij^diout Germany. Many at
once coneludi'd tliat he had heen murdered. The
shrewd Aleander surmised tlie truth, and re})orted
to Rome: "The Saxon fox has hidden the monk."
Very effect ually was he concealed, his nearest
friends havin,^ for a lon*^ time no certain knowl-
edge of his j)laee of refuir*'. Tlie Kmperor and
liis advisers, fully (»ceui)ie(l with the political dilli-
culties surrounding,' them, made no serious attem})t
to capture the fugitive, hein<; satisfied to have, as
they supposed, imposed silence upon him.

For the Reformer him.self the cham^e of sur-
roundin«rs was exhilarating. For the lirst time in
Ijis life he now lived in ease and luxury. lie
roame(l through the cai)acious grounds of the cas-
tle overlooking his heloved Eisenach, gatliering
berries in the woods and listening to the warhhng
of the hirds. Attired as a knight, with sword
by Ids side and a goliUn chain al)out his neck, he
rode at will with his valet through the neighbor-
ing villages, greatly enjoying the humor of the
sHuatiun. Occasionallv he joined in the chase,


l»ut accoiinti'*! it ponr sport. His syinpatliios
NViTe all with tlic ])onr hunted harc^, wliich scnncd
to liini a picture of thi' pt-i-sti-utecl Christians of
the day, while tlic cruel hounds were cardinals
and hishops. lie would rather liave hunted the
ht-ars and wolves that were devastating the
Church. Thus even his diversi(»ns were con-
-lantly made to furnish illustrations and su*r<rcs-
ii«»ns for the great w<»rk in which his whole soul
was enlisted.

JJitterly does he lament his enforced "idle-
ness;" yet he was always busy. \\ ith no hooks
at hand hut his (Ireek and llehrcw Bihles, heat
once addressed himself to earnest work, and
within three weeks had several important docu-
ments well under way. lie completed his com-
mentary upon the " Magnificat," sendini: it to
the puhlisher early in June. This had heen pre-
criled l>y an exposition of Psalm Ixviii.. which
hreathed the sj»irit of triumjihant joy, and consti-
tuted one of the j)roft>undest of all his writings
upon the experience of Christ.

With im]>atienc(\ hut with unsparinix severity,
In- replied to various publications of his ad-
versaries, who were appalled to (ind that the ex-
communicated and outlawed monk was as terrihle
in exile as when holding his seat of honor in the

Among the positive results of thc<piiet hours of
rellection in his " Patmos," was a clear conviction
upon the suhjtHi't of monastic vows. He had
long lield that the enforced celihacy of the priests
was, according to 1 Tim. iv. 1, a doctrine of
devils; hut the vows of monks and nuns, having
heen voluntarily assumed, appeared to him to ho
of hinding force. H<' felt that their results were
evil, and longed to break the yoke of bondage


uikKt wliifli so many thoupands were proaninpj;
yet he wouUl not countenance wront^ nor advance
a sinj^le step without clear scnptural authority.
The ar«;unient8 adduced l)y Carlstadt and Mr-
lanelithon seemed to liim insullicient. At h'n«:th
he found an adequate ground for tlie ahrogation
of these vows in the mistaken views with whicii
they had l)een assumed. They were regarded as
works of merit — a means of <^ainiii<: tlic favor of
(lod — and were lience directly opposed to the
gospel plan of salvation hy faith. Heini; oj»poscd
to tlic (Josprl, they were sinful and could have no
hindiuix authority.

For Luther, to see the truth was to he resistlessly
impelled to announce it heforc the world. With
no regard for the ]Kissil)le consecpicncc^s, his calm,
logical argument is hurled as an emancipation
proclamation from the castle walls. On every
hand, convent doors are thrown open, and the
entire structvue of monasticism is doomed.

The Komish priesthood had long maintained its
hold U])on the masses through an unscru])ulous
use of the confessional. It soon hecame known
that this secret agency was being employed to
warn the multitudes against the arch-heretic, and
to command them, under ]>enalty of eternal death,
to destroy his writings. To.counteract this scheme,
the great father-confessor of awakened (iermany
i.'^sued his Instruction for the Confessing.
He did not, as some others, advocate the aholitiMii
of the custom of auri<'ular confession, as he re-
gard<'d it, when rightly <'mploy«Ml, as a valuable
means of consohng and strengthening the weak.
He insi.sted only that it should he purely volun-
tary, and that every Christian layman was em-
powered to conduct it, sinc<' its authority was
derived not from the station of the administrant,


l»iit soK'ly fmni tin* divine words of pardon wliidi
it announciil to the pi-nitcnt. Thus concciv(*d,
till' ordinance was (le|>rive<l entirely of its vahie
to the hierarchy a.s a means of terrifying and con-
trolling the masses. In this form, it has continucnl
in the Clinrch to the ])resent day, exci'pt where
siipplante*! hy the general confession of the " pre-
paratory service."

With amazement I^nther now learned that the
('ardiiial-areh)>ishop, All)rei']jt of Mayenee, the
former patron of Tetzel, had hej^un the sale of in-
dulgences upon a irrand scale at llalle. That the
foremost e<'c]esiastieal princ*e of Clermany should
have the i-tfrontery to thus ignore all that had
occurri'd in the stirring half-diH'ade just passed
seen)(^l incredilde, Th<' author of the Ninety-
live Tliesesat once prepare<l a lieree denunciation of
the ''new idolatry at llalle," hut, induceil hy the
alarmed Elector, consentt»<l to delay it8 puhliea-
tion an<l content himself with an exccHilingly
plain letter to the Arehhishop. He demands
from him a reply within fourteen davi^, Und de-
dans that, if a siUisfactory response is not riveivcd
within that time, he will show the whole world
tin- dithrenee hetweeu a hishop and a wolf. Tho
jiroud cardinal hastt-ned to prostrate himself as a
"poor sinful worm" at the feet of the outlawed
heretic, and the side of indulgences ceiLsed.

Hut it was only under compulsion that Luther
" wa.sted " th(? pn^ious hours in controversial
writing. His favorite lahors were those devoted
to the eililication of the little hand of j>ersecuted
hrlicvers. He n'joieed in the opj>ortunity now
alT<ird<-d of continuing his l>;itin Exposition of
the Psalms, hut soon turne<l from this to the
still more congenial task of preparing sermons in
German upon the appointed scripture lessons for


the successive Sundays of the chiircli-ycar. Tliese
w«'iv publislied in sirtions uncliT tlu* title, Church
Postils, the series l)eing completed in later years
hy frirnds of the Hifornier. Bcsiilcs being eaj^erly
bouirht by the laity, they were read from many
j)ulpits and became models for thousands of sim-
ilar discourses, j)rovin«; thus a most elTcctive
means of brin^irini^ the great truths of salvation
home to the hearts of the })eople. Luther him-
self considered them the best of all his writings.
While outspoken in di-nuneiation uf }>ai>al errors,
they emphasize the great doctrines of rejientance
and grace, and are pervaded by a tone of lofty
confidence in the final triumj)h of the truth.

Toward the close of the year 15*21 was begun
the greatest work of tbr Reformer's life, the
translation of the Bible from the original
tongues into the language of the connnon peo|>le.
F()r such a task he had jx'culiar fitness. His
vivid imagination and his deep spiritual nature
enabled him to catch the spirit of the sacred
writers, while his thorough familiarity with the
conmion language and the aspirations of his own
beloved countrymen enabled him to express the
inspired thought in simple, toucliing phrase
which made it appear almost as a new revelation.
No j)ains were spared to make the work as nearly
])erfect as possible. lie studied the language of
the })easants in their homes and upon the street,
and talked with meclianics as they plied their
trade. Portions of the work were given to the
press from time to time, and within less than
three months the entire New Testament was com-
])lete(b It was only, however, after th(»rough
revision in conjunction with liis learned associ-
ates at Wittenberg, tliat the work appeared in
September, 1522.

niAiTrn ii


The unrif?]ito<nis edict of Worms served to rc^
veal alike to friend and foe how thoroiiudily tli(»
teaehinjxs of the desj)ised monk had permeated
all classes of the (hrinan nation. Feel»le ctVort.s
wri'v made here and tliere to enforce its reiiuire-
inents in the hurnini^ of the hooks of Luther, ))ut
these could hut awaken ridicule. On every hand
the power of pope and Emperor was dehe<l.
Anonymous ])amphlets, passinj^ from hand to
hand, depicted with keenest satire the course of
events at Worms.

The University at Wittenberg, deprived of
its illustrious h«'a<l, was still rri^arded as the cen-
tre of spiritual illumination. To it eajzer students
Hocked from distant lands. The course of study
was greatly enlari^ecl under the direction of liUther,
and vigorous young scholars of evan<r<'li<'al views
were called to till the newly-estahlished profes-
sorial chairs. The popularity of the youthful
professor of Circek, Melanchthon, was unhounded.
All learning was there made subservient to the
proper understanding an<l illustration of the Scrip-
tures, and the dauntless spirit of the great He-
former appeared still to jtervade the wliole eom-

Sueii ( ntliusi:ism couM not long remain with-
out practical results. Why should the ahuses
he longer tolerated which ]>ul)lic sentiment now
8o heartily condemnecl ? Should all tins throb-
bing energy l)e wasted in mere wortls? O, for an


intrepid leader! Mehmchthon, the timid student,
couki not undertake such a task. Where should
the new Luther he found?

How natural that iiuompetent, impetuous spir-
its should now eome to the front, and that, as the
exeitc'd }>opula('e followed them, reekless violence
should mark the lirst assaults U])on lon^-estab-
lished customs. In the Auirustinian monastery
of the town, a monk, named Gabriel Zwilling,
cnterinjj; the jiulpit which Luther had Ioiil,^ Idled,
assailed with vehemence the abuses of the mass,
demanded that the cup be granted to the laity,
denounced the monastic system, and finally, with
twelve associates, publicly renounced his allegiance
to the monastery. The incident caused great ex-
citement in the connnunity, and was accompanied
with violent demonstrations. Similar scenes were
eiiaete.l at Krfurt and A general
convention of the Augustinian Order ol" (Jer-
niany, held at Wittenberg in January (at which,
however, but few ollicials from al)road were i)res-
ent), proclaimed that no one should be compelled
to remain in a monastery against his own con-
victions of duty, and admonished all, whether
dej)arting or remaining, to conduct themselves
j)eaeeably and devote themselves to useful labors.
This action was taken in pursuance of advice re-
ceived directly from the absent "brother" at the
Wartburg, an<l was in reality an entire surrender
of the principle upon which the maintenance of
the monasteries depended. Many of the monks
availed themselves of the liberty thus granted,
but failed to ol»scrve the aecomjianying admoni-
tion, and the disturbances continued.

Among the ])rofessors at th(? University was
Carlstadt, a man of marke«l talent and restless
energy, but fickle, conceited and imprudent — in


arjiunicnt or action always taking \\\v socond step
iK'fore tho first. After the Leipzig Disputation
he ha«l withdrawn his support from Luther and
again courted the favor of tlie I'hureh, hut he
now sudtU'nly appeared as a reformer far in ad-
vance of Lutlier. lie declared it to he not only
a privilege hut the duty of the clergy to marry,
]»ronounced it a sin to remain in a monastery,
and ]>roposed all manner of social innovations.
He upon liis own res])onsihility administered the
cup to the laity, made contempt for the estah-
lislied fast-days a test of piety, and urged the
jM.pulace to tear down the ])ictures in the churches
an«l destroy the altars.

In the midst of the tumultuous scenes w Inch fol-
lowed, there appearcil three men from Zwickau,
calling themselves prophets. Tliey claimed to
have received direct revelations from (iod in vis-
ions, and to he authorized to estahlish a new
spiritual kingdom. They denounced infant ]>ap-
tism as especially ohnoxious, and announced that
the end of the world was at hand. Mullitu(U»s
were deceived hy the exalted claims of these men.
Va'vw Melanchthon waviTcd and knew \\o\ how to
meet their arguments, receiving one of them, a
former pupil of his, into his own house. C'arl-
stadt at once hecame a zealous convert, adopting
the wildest mystical notions, and advising his
students to ahandon their studies and ai>i)ly them-
selves to useful lahor. Soon all was in confusi«»n.
Hundreds forsook the University and departed to
their homes, carrying the fanatical id(\»s through-
out all (rcrmany. It was reported that even Me-
lanchthon was ahout to leave in despair.

And all thiswasat Wittenherg, thecentreof evan-
gelical truth. The natural result, exdaimed the
adversaries, of the teachings of the heretical monk!


"Put a^ovo the tumult tlicrf was ono unclouded
mind — one heart undaunted. As hv instinct,
Lutlier, from the m<'a«:re reports reaehin«; him,
comprehended the situation of his heloved
A\'iltcuhcrj4crs, and resolved to prove liis loyalty
to them and to the greater cause imperiled hy
their folly. Already in Deeeniher he had, in
knightly disguise, journeyed to Wittenherg an<l
made personal investigation of the condition of
affairs. r])on his return, he had puhlished his
Faithful Warning against Insurrection. He
had cahnly viewed the vagaries of the Zwickau
prophets ; hut now, as the agitation overleaps
all hounds, he notifies the Elector that he pro-
poses to hid farewell to his secure retreat and
return to the post of duty. A hold stc]), in-
deed I lie is still an outcast from the Church and
an outlaw in the land. The disturhances at ^^'it-
tenherg have alienated many of his friends and
encouraged his enemies to fresh z<'al. The repre-
sentatives of the nation, assemhled at Nuremberg,
have just resolved on aggressive measures to make
the edict of \\'orms effective. The P'lector can
afford no protection outside of the castle walls,
and j)lainly tells Luther so. Promptly comes the
resjjonse: " I go forth under a far luLdier than an
Elector's protection. * * ^> He whoso faith is
strongest will in these davs prove the best pro-

Arriving at Wittenberg, March bth, a few days
are spent in (juiet consultation with friends. On
Sunday, the Oth, he ascends the ])ul|»it of tlu^
parish church and in a series of eight daily ser-
mons announces his own views upon the (pies-
tions in disi)Ute and carries with him ri'sistlessly
the convictions of his hearers. He first sunnnons
them to serious rellcction in view of a])proaching

'.♦4 I.rrHKK, THK hkfoumkk.

• loath and jinlpiu'iit, and presses liome tlic jrreat
tluMnes of repentance and faith. He tlien cordially
apphuids the enerjrv of their faith and their eoiir-
aixe in hein;; the lirst to aholish the ahoniinahle
idolatry of tin* mass. With the tone of an ag-
grieved father, he deplores their readiness to follow
stranL'e leailcrs and censures their Mind zeal and
their lack of Christian love in demanding; outward
compliance with the new order of things upon
the part of those whose con.scicnces are not yet
-ulliciently enlightened. He dirlares that no one
can he driven to faith, hut tliat the Word must he
diligently prcacheil an<l allowed t«> gradually, hy
its own i)owcr, jmt error to ilight.

The success of tins }iatcrnal appml was im-
mediate and complete. The calm dt-mcanor of
thi- great leader, his persuasive el(njUcnce, and
the clearness of the j>rinciples announced — in
striking contrast with the inconsistent ravings of
the i)rophcts — proved irresistihle. Not a single
voice was raised in opp(»sition. Zwilling ahan-
<loncd his wild notions and hecamc a disciple of
Luther and a humhle j)reacher of the (lospel,
Carlstadt relapsed into silence. The storm was
stilled. All fears vanishecl, and peace reigned at
Wiltiiiherg. The pilot was at tlie In Im.



XATruAi.LY, without fear and witlioiit exulta-

1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryCharles Ebert HayLuther, the reformer → online text (page 6 of 14)