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pire, he could not possibly refuse to do so send their messengers to fetch me, you will without bringing serious evils upon his have been obedient enough. Herewith I land and people.
commend your Highness to the grace of Despite his protest, the reformer started God. If necessary, we will very soon talk for Wittenberg the day after receiving further. I have written this letter in haste the elector's communication. On the way that your Highness may not be distressed by he replied to it in the following fashion: the news of my arrival, for I must comfort
everybody and harm nobody, if I would be Your Electoral Highness knows, or, if a true Christian. It is another man than you do not, I now inform you, that I re- Duke George with whom I have to do. He ceived the gospel not from men, but from knows me well, and I know him not ill. If Heaven alone, through our Lord Jesus your Highness believed, you would see the Christ. I write thus that you may know glory of God; but since you do not yet beI come to Wittenberg under the protection lieve, you have as yet seen nothing. To God of a higher power than the elector, and I be love and honor forever. Amen! have no mind to seek shelter from your Highness. Indeed, I believe I can protect The elector was obliged to content himyour Highness better than you can protect self with a letter, written by Luther at me. If I thought you could and would his request, explaining the reasons for his protect me, I would not come. No sword return to Wittenberg and relieving Fredcan help in this affair. God must act alone erick from all responsibility. This he without man's care or aid. Therefore who wished to show his fellow-princes in case believes most will be of most protection here. he was blamed for his defiance of the And since I suspect your Highness is still Worms decree in allowing the condemned weak in faith, I can by no means regard you monk to go on with his work in Wittenas the man who can protect or rescue me. berg. While desiring to protect Luther, Since your Highness desires to know what it is interesting to see he preferred to to do in this affair and fancies you have pose as incompetent rather than to avow done too little, I answer respectfully that you
his sympathy openly. But however he have already done altogether too much, might veil his attitude, the important and should do nothing. For God will not fact is he continued to protect him. Anand cannot endure either your care and noyed though he must have been at effort or mine. He wishes it left to Him Luther's defiant return, he permitted him and to no one else. May your Highness act to resume his work and take up his old accordingly. If your Highness believes this position in church and university as if you will be secure and will have peace. If nothing had happened. He could easily you do not, I do, and I must leave you to have stopped him by putting him under sorrow in your unbelief, as it becomes all arrest. An outlaw, as the reformer was, unbelievers to suffer. Since I will not obey and under the ban of the empire, it was your Highness, you are excused in the sight only by the elector's grace he remained of God if I am imprisoned or killed. Be- free at all. Had his prince's favor been fore men your Highness should conduct withdrawn, his career would speedily have yourself as follows: as an elector you come to an end. But it was never withshould be obedient to the higher powers and drawn, and despite papal bull and impermit his Imperial Majesty to rule body perial ban the bold monk went on unmoand goods in your cities and lands in ac- lested. cordance with the law of the empire, and Arrived in Wittenberg on March 6, you should offer no opposition and interpose. 1522, Luther at once took command, and no hindrance if he tries to arrest or slay me. speedily brought order out of chaos. For no one ought to withstand the authori- Never was the power of the man more ties save he who has appointed them. Else strikingly exhibited than at this critical is it uproar and against God. I hope, how- juncture of his career. Hitherto he had ever, they will have the good sense to recog- been a radical iconoclast, striking right nize that your Highness was born in too and left at existing principles and praclofty a cradle to be yourself my executioner. tices. Now he gave himself to the much If you leave the door open and see that they more difficult task of controlling and are unmolested if they come themselves, or moderating the forces he himself had set
in motion. In a time of wide-spread dis- he reminded his followers, as he had content it is comparatively easy to inflame clearly shown nearly two years before in the smoldering passions of men and to his beautiful tract on the freedom of a lead the populace in a more or less un- Christian man, was not an end in itself, reasoning assault upon existing institu- but only a means to a higher end — the sertions; but to control the tremendous forces vice of one's fellows in self-forgetful love. thus let loose, and so to guide them that Faith, he insisted, is nothing unless folthey do not merely spend themselves in lowed by love, and not our own rights, impotent fury, but lend their strength to but our brother's good, should be always the building of a new and stable structure, foremost in our thoughts. He acknowis another matter altogether. And yet we ledged frankly his dislike for many of the should entirely misunderstand Luther if ceremonies and customs of the past. Too we imagined that at this great crisis of his often they had no warrant in Scripture, career he turned his back upon his past and served only to bind the conscience and and became another man. It is most illu- obscure the gospel. At the same time he minating to see how calmly and confi- declared the Christian life consists neither dently he met the situation now confront- in refraining from nor engaging in extering him. Though the radicals, as he nal religious practices, but in faith and declared, were doing his cause more harm love. Far better to retain indifferent than all his papal opponents, he was things than to offend weak consciences not dismayed or thrown off his balance. and imperil the success of the cause by Nor did he repudiate the principles hith- forcibly setting them aside. He had now, erto governing him, and seek refuge in as always, a splendid disregard of exterother and safer ways. Moving straight nals and a magnificent insight into the ahead in the path he had long been trav- real essentials. Mere uniformity he cared eling, he simply applied to the new nothing about. Because the monastic life, situation the same gospel that had made or private confession, or fasting, was good him an iconoclast, showing how, by its for one person was no reason to require it very nature, it conserved as well as de- of all. Let those who found such things stroyed.
helpful, as he himself continued to find Beginning on the Sunday after his re- the confessional helpful, employ them turn, he preached in the city church on freely; but let them not insist upon others eight successive days, handling one ques- doing the same. He believed when the tion after another frankly, vigorously, and gospel was everywhere accepted and unwith the greatest common sense. Violence derstood, all things inconsistent therewith of every kind he strenuously opposed. By would fall of themselves. In the meanthe word alone can superstition be over- time he would have liberty for the old as come and the old system reformed. In well as for the new. But in the meanone of the sermons he remarked :
time, too, he would do all he could to
instruct Christians in the truly important Take me as an example. I only preached things, and thus wean them as rapidly and wrote God's word and did nothing
as possible from trust in the formal and else. But this accomplished so much that external. while I slept and while I drank Witten- Before Luther finished his sermons, the berg beer with Philipp and Amsdorf, the
lawyer Jerome Schurf wrote the elector: papacy grew weaker and suffered more damage than any prince or emperor ever Dr. Martin's coming and preaching have inflicted. I did nothing; the word did it all. given both learned and unlearned among us If I had wished to make trouble, I could
great joy and gladness.
For we poor men have plunged Germany into a sea of blood. who had been vexed and led astray have Yes, I could have started such a game at again been shown by him, with God's help, Worms that the emperor himself would
the way of truth. Daily he incontrovertibly have been unsafe. But what would that
exposes the errors into which we were mishave been? A fool's game.
erably led by the preachers from abroad.
It is evident that the Spirit of God is in He did not stop with the denunciation him and works through him, and I am conof physical violence. Christian liberty, vinced he has returned to Wittenberg at this time by the special providence of the upon his mind. His correspondence durAlmighty.
ing 1522 and the following years had to
do increasingly with such matters. He Under Luther's direction the changes also traveled widely, visiting places in in the worship of the city church vio- need of advice and bringing his wisdom lently made during his absence were aban- to bear upon the many difficult questions doned, and the old forms for the most that were emerging month by month. part restored.
Calm was reëstablished, The constant temptation, as in Wittenand the town again speedily resumed its berg, was to go too fast, and he was obliged normal aspect. Early in May he could often to remonstrate with the authorities write Spalatin, with great relief, “Here and urge upon them the considerations there is nothing but love and friendship.” governing his own conduct. But as time
More important than the return to the passed and the influence of his principles old forms was the public stand Luther spread, he approved both for Wittenberg now took against social and economic and elsewhere more radical changes than revolution, and his emphatic denial that at first. In 1523, we hear him frequently his gospel meant the violent overthrow of declaring that the prejudices of the weak the existing religious system. The conse- had been long enough regarded, and the quence was a great revulsion of feeling time had come to do away with many of toward him on the part of many of the the more obnoxious forms and customs of princes of Germany. They saw that he the past. Even now he was surprisingly was less radical than they had supposed; conservative. Many of his followers that he stood for order, not anarchy; and wished to cast aside everything not susthat he was able to control the seething tained by direct warrant of Scripture; masses as nobody else could. When at the but he took the position, and maintained Diet of Nuremberg, in the autumn of it to the end of his life, that the old was 1522, the attempt was made by the repre- to be left unmolested whenever it did not sentatives of the devout and pious Pope contradict or obscure the gospel of Christ. Adrian VI, successor of Leo X, to induce He also continued to oppose hasty and viothe German rulers to take steps for the lent innovations of every kind. Usually more vigorous enforcement of the Edict his advice was followed, but occasionally, of Worms, the majority refused to give particularly in places at a distance from their consent. Though the edict had been Wittenberg, he was unable to control the adopted only a year and a half before, the more radical spirits and had to witness situation was so changed that they now changes he greatly disliked. He did not declined to reaffirm it, and left it to the hesitate in such cases to express himself conscience of each prince to execute it so with the same sharpness he employed far as he pleased, while they appealed to against his papal opponents. Carlstadt, a general council for the final settlement who left Wittenberg in disgust in 1523, of the matter. Thus the whole question, and Thomas Münzer, a clergyman of already decided both by pope and diet, was Zwickau and one of the leaders of the again thrown open, and a quasi and tem- fanatical prophets of that neighborhood, porary license given to the new movement. made him most trouble. They denounced
In the meantime its organization was him as a tyrant, declared him recreant to proceeding steadily. Town after town his own principles and untrue to the word took the management of religious affairs of God, and strove in every way to underinto its own hands and adopted new forms mine his influence and force a radical rebetter fitted to the principles of the Re- form. formation. Luther was continually ap- In Orlamünde, a little town not far from pealed to for counsel, and his help was Zwickau, he had a humiliating, if somesought in securing preachers of the right what amusing, experience in the autumn stamp to take the place of those out of of 1524. Carlstadt was for a time pastor sympathy with the new order of things. there, and gained a large following. UnHe was becoming more and more the der his influence, images were destroyed, bishop, or general overseer, of the churches convents forcibly closed, and one after anaccepting the Reformation, and all sorts of other of the old customs violently set administrative problems were constantly aside. In the course of a tour of visitation, Luther appeared upon the scene, and tinate and the young Landgrave Philip of in an extended interview with the authori- Hesse, both of them already favorably inties of the town tried to convince them of clined toward Luther and his cause. the error of their ways. They defended Sickingen's campaign was a complete themselves warmly, insisting they were failure. He was obliged to return to his truer to the word of God than he. If stronghold, the Landstuhl, where he was to be true to it means to follow it slav- besieged in the spring of 1523, and where ishly in all its parts, they were certainly he died of his wounds on the seventh of right. But in contrast with their nar- May, just after the castle was taken by his row literalism, Luther's moderation and enemies. His defeat foreshadowed the common sense appear to great advantage. speedy dissolution of the knights' revoluHe would not allow himself to be carried tionary party, and their influence in Gerto fanatical extremes even by his own man affairs was permanently broken. principle of loyalty to the Bible. In the Ulrich von Hutten, who had done much course of the discussion, a shoemaker justi- to encourage the formation of the party, fied the destruction of images by a Scrip- survived his old friend and protector only tural argument so picturesque and far- a few months. He left before the beginfetched that Luther was nearly overcome ning of Sickingen's last campaign, and in with laughter and was quite unable to August, 1523, after wandering from place answer. As a matter of fact, he produced to place, died in poverty at Zurich, beno impression upon his interlocutors, and friended by the Swiss reformer Zwingli, only confirmed them in the opinion that but deserted by all his old friends. Mehe was inconsistent and half-hearted in the lanchthon spoke bitterly and contemptuwork of reformation. He wrote after- ously of him after his death. Happily, so ward: "I was glad enough not to be far as we are aware, Luther did not foldriven out of Orlamünde with stones and low his example, but one searches his writmud, for some of them blessed me with ings in vain for an expression of regret the words, 'Get out, in the name of a at the death of his erstwhile champion and thousand devils, and break your neck be- confidant. The cause meant so much to fore you leave!'”
him that he found it difficult to think Meanwhile there occurred an event kindly of any one who hindered or brought which served only to confirm Luther in disrepute upon it, as Hutten's incendiary his attitude toward violence and anarchy. writings and final loss of prestige had Franz von Sickingen, whose offers of sup- done. port had meant a great deal to him not It was well Sickingen's attempt mislong before, and to whom he had dedi- carried. His success would have meant cated a book on the confessional, written at least a partial return to a state of soin the early days of his stay at the Wart- ciety already largely outgrown and quite burg, began war in the summer of 1522 unsuited to the demands of the new age; upon an old enemy, the Elector and and had the Reformation become identiArchbishop of Treves. The campaign fied with the class interests of the nobles, was intended to be only the beginning it would have perished with them in the of a general struggle to curtail the power fall that was bound to come ultimately, if of the great princes of the realm and not then. restore the nobles to their rapidly wan- Naturally, the affair was used by ing influence. Its controlling motive Luther's enemies to discredit the whole was certainly political and economic, but Reformation movement. The confident Sickingen claimed to be a champion of the expectation was expressed that now the Reformation, interested to promote the rival emperor was fallen, the anti-pope true gospel, and announced his intention would soon follow. There was some to revolutionize ecclesiastical and religious apparent justification for this attitude. conditions. He undoubtedly hoped thus Luther's famous address to the German to enlist the support of Luther's sympa- nobility, written in 1520, and his occathizers, but the hope proved vain. The sional warlike declarations of the same real significance of the affair was gen- year, which still echoed in the dedication erally understood, and the Archbishop of of his book on the confessional, had led Treves was supported by the Count Pala- many to identify his cause with that of the nobles, and Sickingen's avowed plan to This greatest tragedy of the age had been promote the Reformation was taken to long preparing. Frequently during recent mean he had Luther's support, and was generations the unhappy conditions of the fighting the reformer's battles as well as peasant class had led to more or less serihis own.
ous outbreaks, but none of them compared Melanchthon complained of this as early in importance with the tremendous moveas January, 1523, denouncing Sickingen's ment of 1525. Luther was not responsible campaign as a dishonorable act of rob- for it, nor did it begin among his disciples. bery and declaring that Luther was It was only the repetition on a large scale greatly distressed by it. Luther himself of many similar attempts, and the interests had very little to say on the subject. In a underlying all of them were not religious, letter of December, 1522, to his friend as with him, but economic. At the same Link, he wrote: “Franz von Sickingen has time it was due in no small part to him declared war against the Palatinate. It that this particular uprising surpassed in will be a very bad affair.” Beyond this magnitude any seen in Germany before or casual remark we have no reference to the since. His attacks upon many features of matter in his writings; but when a rumor the existing order, his criticisms of the of Sickingen's death reached him, he wrote growing luxury of the wealthier classes, Spalatin he hoped it was false; and upon his denunciations of the rapacity and greed its confirmation a day or two later, he of great commercial magnates and of the added: “The true and miserable his- tyranny and corruption of rulers both civil tory of Franz Sickingen I heard and read and ecclesiastical, all tended to inflame the yesterday. God is a just but wonderful populace and spread impatience and disjudge."
content. His gospel of Christian liberty Despite the effort of his opponents to also had its effect. For the spiritual freehold Luther responsible for Sickingen's dom he taught, multitudes substituted abortive attempt, its controlling motive freedom from political oppression, from was too apparent and too completely in social injustice, and from economic burline with the warlike knight's entire ca- dens. Then, too, the extraordinary rereer to furnish an adequate ground for a sponse he had met with, the confusion serious attack upon the reformer, and all Germany had been thrown into by probably the affair lost him few friends or the Reformation, and the wide-spread supporters. On the other hand, it very weakening of respect for traditional aulikely affected his own attitude, serving thority resulting therefrom, made this to confirm his conviction that the preach- seem a peculiarly favorable time for the ing of the gospel is incompatible with peasants to press their claims. the use of physical force. He saw more Early in 1525 a series of twelve brief clearly than ever the undesirability and articles was published in southwestern impossibility of promoting the Reforma- Germany, containing a very moderate tion by the sword. It may be, had statement of the demands of the peasants, Sickingen been victorious, Luther would as, for instance, the privilege of electing have seen the hand of God in his vic- their own pastors, the abolition of villeintory, as he did in his defeat, and would age, freedom to hunt and fish and to suphave been led to tolerate, if not actively to ply themselves with fuel from the forest, favor, such warlike measures. His some
reduction of exorbitant rents, extra paywhat inconsistent utterances seem to show ment for extra labor, and restoration to that while feeling the unchristian charac- the community of lands unjustly approter of war and violence, he was yet not priated by private persons. With such sure it might not be God's will in the demands as these no one could justly find present juncture, as occasionally in the past, fault. They involved social reform only, to put an end to existing evils by the not revolution, and looked for the most sword. But if he was really in doubt, part simply to the more equitable adjustSickingen's fate settled the question for ment of existing conditions. him. Thenceforth he insisted always on At first there was apparently no thought the use of peaceful measures only.
of violence. The peasants were a harmless Much more disastrous in its effect upon and peaceable folk. But here and there the Reformation was the Peasants' War. they gathered in large numbers to present