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yet published, and was alone enough to he discovered he could do without them, make his condemnation for heresy impera- and the discovery proved a new charter of tive.
liberty for himself and in the end for mulThe sacramental system was the very titudes of others. heart of traditional Catholicism. Super- That charter found its clearest and natural means by which alone the Church most beautiful expression in a little tract dispensed the divine grace intrusted to published almost immediately after the her, the sacraments, it had been believed work on the sacraments and entitled The since the second century, were absolutely Freedom of a Christian Man. At its very essential to salvation. As their validity beginning were placed the paradoxical depended ordinarily upon their perform- statements: ance by duly ordained priests, Christians were obliged to rely altogether upon
A Christian man is a most free lord of priestly ministrations and were quite help- all things and subject to no one; a Christian less alone. The authority of church and man is a most dutiful servant of all things hierarchy over the faith and life of Chris
and subject to every one. tendom was rooted in this fact and to deny it was to attack Catholicism at its most What he meant by the former appears vital spot. Deny it Luther did, and with in such words as these: emphasis. Every Christian, he claimed, is truly a priest in the sight of God, and need Every Christian is by faith so exalted depend on no one else for divine grace.
above all things that in spiritual power he is And what was more, the sacraments them- completely lord of all. Nothing whatever selves, he insisted, are mere signs of the can do him any hurt, but all things are subforgiving love of God in Christ. Unless ject to him and are compelled to be subtheir message be believed they are of no servient to his salvation. A Christian man help, and if it be believed without them
needs no work, no law for salvation, for by they may be dispensed with. Thus while
faith he is free from all law and in perfect recognizing their value as aids to faith he
freedom does gratuitously all he does, seekfreed Christians from slavish dependence ing neither profit nor salvation, but only on them and on church and priesthood as
what is well-pleasing to God, since by the well. Never was man more independent grace of God he is already satisfied and of external and factitious means,
saved through his faith. franker and more fearless in declaring their needlessness. Splendidly regardless And what he meant by the second of his of consequences either to himself or to paradoxical statements appears with equal others he proclaimed his message of eman- clearness in the following passage: cipation in ringing terms.
The work was a declaration of freedom Though he is thus free from all works yet such as alone made his own position tena
he ought again to empty himself of this libble. It was of a piece with his sermon on erty, take on the form of a servant, be made the ban, published two years earlier, and
in the likeness of men, be found in fashion in harmony with the religious point of
as a man, serve, help, and in every way act view attained long before that as a result
toward his neighbor as he sees that God of his youthful struggles in the convent. through Christ has acted and is acting toOut of despair due to a vivid sense of the ward him. All this he should do freely and wrath of God he had been rescued by the with regard to nothing but the good pleasrecognition of divine love, and the ensuing ure of God; and he should reason thus: Lo, peace was the salvation he sought. A to me, an unworthy, condemned, and conpresent reality it was, not simply a future temptible creature, altogether without merit, hope
, a state of mind and so the fruit of my God of His pure and free mercy has faith not of works. To one thus already given in Christ all the riches of righteoussaved sacraments and hierarchy were of ness and salvation, so that I am no longer secondary importance. Though Luther in want of anything except faith to believe long remained unconscious of his inner in- this is so. For such a father therefore, who dependence of them, when the conflict has overwhelmed me with these inestimable came and he was threatened with their loss riches of His, why should I not freely, gladly,
with a whole heart, and eager devotion, do arrived in Wittenberg. The letter was all that I know will be pleasing and accepta- of a very different tone from the two preble in His sight? I will therefore give my- viously addressed to the pope. While proself as a sort of Christ to my neighbor, as testing his regard for Leo's own person, Christ has given himself to me, and will do Luther spoke in sharp terms of the corrupnothing in this life except what I see to be tion of the papal see, and of the evils it needful, advantageous, and wholesome for was bringing upon Christendom. The my neighbor, since through faith I abound humble monk had traveled far who could in all good things in Christ.
calmly address the supreme head of the
church, the world's greatest potentate, in The theme of the tract was not liberty such words as the following: as an end, as though it were a good in itself, without regard to the use made of it,
Therefore, Leo, my father, beware of lisbut liberty as a means to the service of tening to those sirens who make you out to others. Just because a Christian is the
be not simply a man, but partly a god, so most free lord of all and subject to no one,
that you can command and require whatever he can be the most dutiful servant of all you will. It will not happen so, nor will and subject to every one.
It was a pro
you prevail. A servant of servants you are, found observation of Luther's, based upon
and above all men in a most pitiable and his own monastic experience, that so long perilous position. Let not those deceive you as one is troubled and anxious about one's who pretend that you are lord of the world; own fate single-minded devotion to others who will not allow any one to be a Christian is very difficult. To be freed from con- without your authority; who babble of your cern for oneself, he felt, was the first having power over heaven, hell, and purgarequisite of genuine Christian living, for tory. They are your enemies and are seekthe Christian life meant not chiefly growth ing your soul to destroy it, as Isaiah says, in character and piety, but unselfish labor "My people, they that call thee blessed are for others' good. As he said later in one
themselves deceiving thee.” They are in of his sermons: “What is it to serve God
error who raise you above councils and the and do His will? Nothing else than to
universal church. They are in error who show mercy to one's neighbor, for it is our attribute to you alone the right of interneighbor needs our service, God in heaven preting Scripture. All these are seeking to needs it not."
set up their own impieties in the church Religion he saw, as commonly under- under your name, and alas, Satan has gained stood, had added burdens instead of re
much through them in the time of your premoving them. From such burdens he decessors. In short, believe not those who would set men free, making religion wholly exalt you, but those who humiliate you. subservient to common human duty and service. And he would set them free not The year 1520, which saw the publicaonly from the trammels of religious obliga- tion of Luther's greatest reformation tion-skepticism and unbelief might do tracts, witnessed also his complete and that equally well—but also from anxiety permanent break with the Roman Church. about the present, by giving them faith At the Leipsic debate he had shown himin their Father God, whose world this is self sharply at variance with it, and while and in whose hands all things are working Miltitz and others were still hoping for for His children's good. Freedom from reconciliation Eck saw the hope was vain the fear both of present and of future was and no course left the church but to conLuther's gospel, a freedom making possi- demn the dangerous heretic. Early in ble the living of a serene and confident and 1520 Eck betook himself to Rome with wholesome life of usefulness.
the express purpose of convincing the auThis most beautiful of all Luther's thorities of the need of decisive action. writings was preceded by a long letter to With devotion to the faith was perhaps the pope penned at the solicitation of Mil- associated, as many of his contemporaries titz and at his request dated back from believed, the desire for personal glory and October to September 6 that it might not aggrandizement, but his conduct was conseem to have been called forth, as it actu- sistent throughout and much more to his ally was not, by the papal bull recently credit than the vacillating and temporizing
TITLE-PAGE OF LUTHER'S ADDRESS “TO THE GERMAN NOBILITY"
Melchior Lotter, for a number of Luther's writings.
policy of the holy see. To be sure it was tect him, suspended him from the minispossible for him as a mere theologian to try, and announced his definitive excomdisregard considerations that must weigh munication, if he did not repent and recant heavily with the Roman authorities. They within sixty days after the publication of too knew that Luther was a heretic, but the bull in Germany. As is apt to be the he had the backing of the most important case, the document gave little hint of Luprince in Germany and of an aroused pub- ther's real interest or the fundamental diflic sentiment not to be lightly disregarded. ferences between him and the church. Month after month they waited, hoping Propositions concerning the sacraments, perhaps that Miltitz might succeed in ef- indulgences, excommunication, the authorfecting a compromise, or that Luther's ity of the pope, the condemnation of Hus, growing radical
free will, purgaism might bring
tory, and the menreaction in Ger
dicant orders, were many and cost him
condemned, as was the elector's sup
also Luther's stateport.
ment that to burn Finally, in the
heretics is against spring of 1520,
the will of the formal process was
Spirit. The list of once more institu
errors might easily ted and condemna
have been made tion definitely set
formidable tled upon. Real
by anyone intiizing the gravity
mately acquainted of the situation the
with Luther's wriCuria went about
tings, but it seemed the matter in the
to the papal commost careful way.
mission quite suffiNo such summary
cient for the purproceedings as had
pose. been indulged in a
The bull clearly couple of years beLYCAE OPVS EFFIGIES HAEC EST MORITVRAI LUTHERI
reflected the diffifore were now AETHERNAMMENTIS. EXPRIMIT IPSE
culties of the situthought of. Noth
ation. Inits phraseing could better From a copperplate engraving by Lucas Cranach
ology it was a mild show the strength
document, in strikMARTIN LUTHER AS MONK the feeling
ing contrast with This engraving made in 1521, the year of the condemna. against the papacy tion at Worms, by his friend Lucas Cranach, is the
Luther's heated dein Germany than second earliest known likeness of Luther.
nunciations of the the hesitation of
holy see. Full of the Roman authorities at this time. Even pathos it was too, and almost apologetic after a carefully selected commission was
in tone: at work upon the matter, as late as May, 1520, its sessions were suspended, when So far as concerns Martin himself, good a report reached the Vatican that there God, what have we omitted, what have we was still some hope of an easier way out not done, what have we neglected of paterof the difficulty, and the decisive step was nal charity, that we might recall him from finally taken only in June, when the hope his errors? After we had summoned him, was seen to be groundless.
desiring to deal more mildly with him, we The papal bull Exurge Domine, pub- urged and exhorted him, through our legate lished on the fifteenth of that month, con- and by letter, to renounce his errors, or to demned forty-one propositions drawn from come without any hesitation or fear-for Luther's writings, forbade the reading of perfect love should cast out fear-and after his books and called upon Christians every- the example of our Saviour and the blessed where to burn them, threatened with the Apostle Paul, talk not secretly but openly ban everybody who should support or pro
and face to face. To this end we offered
him a safe conduct and money for the jour- him. Eck had the satisfaction of seeing
Pirkheimer, Spengler, and others of the ney. If he had done this he would certainly, we believe, have seen his errors and re- Nuremberg group sue humbly for pardon pented. Nor would he have found so many and seek his good offices in their behalf. evils in the Roman curia which, relying upon Staupitz, although not named in the the empty rumors of its enemies, he vitupe- bull, had to suffer for his known sympathy rates much more than is seemly. We should with the Wittenberg heretic. The relaalso have taught him more clearly than tions between the two old friends had been light that the holy Roman pontiffs, though he strained for some time. Luther's radicalabuses them beyond all modesty, have never ism greatly distressed the older man and erred in their canons or constitutions. led to a growing estrangement. Already in
the spring of 1519 Luther complained to Luther's disobedience and contumacy Lang that Staupitz had completely forwere then recited and his appeal to a fu- gotten him, and in the fall of the same year ture council was condemned with special he appealed to his beloved superior in the emphasis in accordance with a constitu- following affecting words: tion of Pius II and Julius II which threat
You forsake me too much. I have sorened any one thus appealing with punish
rowed for you like a weaned child for its ment for heresy.
mother. I beseech you praise the Lord even With a singular disregard for the demands of the situation, betrayed not in
in me a sinner. Last night I dreamed of frequently in the Curia's dealings with
you. I thought you were leaving me, and Luther, Eck was appointed one of two
as I was weeping and lamenting most bit
terly, you waved your hand and told me to commissioners to publish the papal bull in
be quiet for you would return. Germany. At best it was bound to be unpopular there, and Eck's connection with it served only to discredit it the more,
For a time, indeed, communication was
resumed between the two old friends but giving currency to the belief that it was a partizan document, wrung from the papal
was soon interrupted again. In August, see by Luther's principal antagonist." To feeling unequal to the strain put upon him make matters worse Eck was given au
by his position as vicar in the troublous thority to insert in the bull the names of days upon which the Augustinian order a limited number of Luther's supporters,
had fallen, Staupitz resigned his office, and an opportunity he used to revenge himself
soon afterward retired to Salzburg, where upon some of his own antagonists, among
he ultimately joined the Dominicans. He them the famous humanist Willibald hoped his retirement would bring him Pirkheimer, author of the stinging satire
peace, but he was not allowed to escape "Der abgehobelte Eck" (The Corner
so easily. The pope called upon him to [Eck] Rounded-off).
join in the condemnation of Luther's hereAs might have been expected, the recep
sies. Sorely stricken by the necessity laid tion accorded the bull in Germany was far
upon him, he wrote pathetically to his from cordial. Coming "bearded, bulled, successor, Wenceslaus Link, “Martin has and monied,” as Luther put it, Eck found
undertaken a dangerous task and is carryhimself almost everywhere an object of
ing it on with high courage under the hatred and contumely. In many places
But I stammer, and the bull was treated with open contempt,
am a child in need of milk." in others its publication was delayed or
Finally he yielded, at least so far as to prevented altogether on technical grounds
declare his complete submission to the of one kind and another. To be sure,
pope, and with this the Curia was satisfied. there were those who welcomed it warmly,
His action drew from Luther a sharp proand here and there its provisions were put by the weakness of his old superior. Thus
test, showing how deeply he was grieved into immediate effect. Whole wagonloads of Luther's books were burned at
Luther wrote to him: Cologne, Mayence, and some other towns.
This is no time for fear, but for crying It had also the desired effect in leading aloud, when our Lord Jesus Christ is connot a few of his adherents, real or sup
demned, cast off, and blasphemed. As you posed, to renounce all connection with exhorted me to humility I exhort you to
In many places guidance of God.