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bility, and he took occasion in his final I am studying the papal decretals in prepthesis to declare the pope successor of aration for my disputation, and, between us, Peter and universal vicar of Christ, thus I am ignorant whether the pope is antichallenging Luther to debate the question christ himself or his apostle, so miserably is of his supremacy.
Luther saw clearly Christ--that is, the truth-corrupted and enough that the matter was of fundamen- crucified by him in his decretals. tal importance and its discussion sooner or later inevitable. He therefore spent the Already in December, in writing to his months preceding the debate in the most friend Link about the meeting with Cajediligent study of the whole topic. As he tan at Augsburg, he had said: gathered his material, he became convinced that the papal claims had no war
I send you my account of the Augsburg
interview, couched in sharper terms than rant in Christian history. He discovered
the legate wished; but my pen is already the untrustworthiness of many of the doc
pregnant with much greater matters. I do uments appealed to in their support, and
not know where my ideas come from. The was led to the conclusion that the whole
affair, in my judgment, is not yet begun, structure was based on fraud and was of
much less is it nearing its end, as the Rocomparatively recent growth. The con
mans hope. I will send you my trifles, that clusion, as a matter of fact, was quite unwarranted. Papal supremacy was much
you may see whether I rightly divine that
the antichrist, of whom Paul speaks, reigns older than he thought, and was due in no
in the Roman curia. I think I am able to small part to natural causes. But his opin- show that he is worse to-day than the Turk. ion was not surprising in the circumstances, and was shared by many others.
The idea was not a novel one. In the As a consequence, his bitterness steadily Middle Ages the word antichrist was freincreased, and it became more and more difficult for him to distinguish between quently used by disputants as a term of the current theory and the papal institu- opprobrium for political or ecclesiastical tion itself. Writing to his friend Lang fore Luther's time it had been repeatedly
opponents of whatever sort, and long beon the third of February, he said:
applied to the pope by those who saw in Our Eck is waging new wars against me, the political power and worldly interests and it will come to pass that I shall do with of the papacy the profanation of a holy Christ's aid what I have long had in mind; office and the betrayal of Christ. It was namely, attack sometime the Roman scare- this that led Luther to the same condemcrows in a serious book. For hitherto I natory judgment. Not the personal charhave only sported and played with the Ro
acter of the popes, but the secularization man affair, although they complain loudly as of the papacy chiefly aroused his resentif it were real earnest.
ment. As he discovered how consciously
and deliberately and often by what deviAnd before the end of the same month he ous means its political power had been atwrote to Christopher Scheurl:
tained, his anger waxed hot within him. Our Eck, after beautifully hiding his
In another letter to Spalatin, written madness against me until now, has finally
about the same time, he says: let it be seen. Behold what kind of a man Many things I suppress and hold back for he is! But God is in the midst of the gods, the sake of the prince and our university. and knows what he purposes to bring out If I were elsewhere, I should vomit them of this tragedy. Neither Eck nor I can out against Rome, or rather Babylon, the serve our own ends in this affair. The coun- devastator of Bible and church. The truth sel of God, so I believe, will be accom- about the Bible and the church, my Spalaplished. I have often said that hitherto I tin, cannot be discussed without offending have been playing; now at length serious this beast. Therefore do not hope that I things against the Roman pontiff and Ro- shall be quiet and undisturbed unless you man arrogance are under way.
wish me to give up theology altogether. Let
our friends think me mad. This affair will A few days later he declared in a letter not have an end, if it be of God, until all my to Spalatin:
friends desert me, as his disciples and ac
quaintances deserted Christ, and truth be distinguished personages. A number of left alone, which will save itself by its own professors and two hundred students from power and not by mine nor thine nor any Wittenberg were in attendance, and the man's. This hour I have expected from the latter kept the town well stirred up with beginning. If I perish, the world will lose their noisy and not always orderly demonnothing. The Wittenbergers, by the grace strations in support of the Wittenberg of God, have already progressed so far that champions. they do not need me at all. What will you? Peter Mosellan, a Leipsic professor of 1, worthless man that I am, fear I may not humanistic sympathies, gives us a vivid be counted worthy to suffer and die for such description of the participants in the dea cause. That felicity belongs to better bate. The following pen-picture of Lumen, not to so vile
ther, then thirtya sinner.
five years old, is
worth quoting: He evidently realized the seri
Martin is of meousness of the out
dium height and look. It was gen
slender form, with erally believed that
a body so wasted insubordination to
both with cares and the pope could have
study that you can only one result, the
almost count all his condemnation and
bones. He is just death of the rebel.
in the prime of life, He was hastening
with a clear and on, it must seem,
penetrating voice. to certain destruc
His learning and his tion. His friends
knowledge of Scripwere in terror, and
ture .are admirable, urged him to be
and he has almost careful. Carlstadt,
everything at comradical and impet
mand. He knows uous as he was, AETHERNA IPSE SVAE MENTIS SIMVLACHRA LVTHERS
enough Greek and tried to hold him EXPRIMIT AT WITVS CERA LYCAE OCCIDVOS
Hebrew to decide back. Hewas ready
between different and eager to de
interpretations. Nor fend the Augustin
is he wanting in ian theology, but
matter, for he has was not prepared
a great forest both to attack the pope, MARTIN LUTHER IN 1520-HIS EARLIEST
of ideas and words. and Luther's course
Judgment, perhaps, sorely alarmed him.
and discretion you But Luther was not to be dissuaded. might miss in him. In his life and manExpediency meant little to him, his own ners he is polite and affable, not in the least reputation and safety still less. When stoical or supercilious, and he is able to once convinced that a certain evil needed adapt himself to all occasions. In company mending, no other consideration, however he is a gay and merry jester, alert and goodimportant, could long hold him back. humored, everywhere and always with a He would often restrain himself for the bright and cheerful face, however terribly sake of others when he would not for his his enemies threaten him, so that you find own, but the restraint could be only tem- it difficult to believe the man could underporary, and the deed had at length to be take so arduous a task without divine aid. done, whatever it cost either them or him. But there is one thing nearly all count a vice
The great debate began on the twenty- in him: he is a little more imprudent and seventh of June in the hall of the Pleissen- biting in reproof than is either safe in one burg, Duke George's palace, in the pres- who goes new ways in theology or decorous ence of the duke himself and many other in a theologian, a fault which I am not sure
does not attach to all that have learned Council of Constance, he declared: "I late.
shall not be moved until the most excel
lent doctor proves that a council is unable During the first week the debate was to err, has not erred, and does not err. between Eck and Carlstadt, and Luther For a council cannot make divine right of entered the fray only on the fourth of July. what is not by its nature such, nor can it It was for this both Eck and the specta- make that heresy which is not against ditors had been eagerly waiting, and the dis- vine right.” putation now assumed for the first time To which Eck replied: "The Reverend the aspect of a real and serious struggle. Father begs me to prove that a council The disputants began at once with the cannot err. I am ignorant what he means fundamental question of the nature of by this unless he wishes to throw suspicion papal authority. Luther was very careful on the praiseworthy Council of Constance. and moderate in his utterances. He did This I say to you, Reverend Father, if not deny the supremacy of the pope. He you believe that a council lawfully, assemclaimed only that he ruled by human, not bled errs and has erred, you are to me as divine, right, and a Christian might there- a heathen and a publican." fore be saved even if he refused to submit Eck was fully justified in taking this to his authority. This, Eck at once de- position, for to deny or doubt the infalliclared, sounded very like the opinion of bility of a general council was to reject John Hus, who had been condemned by the one ultimate authority depended upon the Council of Constance and burned at for centuries by Catholic Christians. That the stake a hundred years before. The Luther took his stand upon the Bible did spread of Hus's views in Bohemia, his na- not help the matter. It was Catholic betive land, had led to civil war and cost lief that the church alone could properly Germany much blood and treasure. The interpret the Bible, and to set the teachBohemian heresy had become the synonym ing of the one in opposition to the other of riot and revolution, and to accuse Lu- was nothing less than heresy. ther of sympathy with it was to hold him The remainder of the debate, dealing up to general execration. He felt the
He felt the with purgatory, indulgences, penance, and gravity of the accusation, and at first re- related matters, was of little importance, pelled it angrily. “Never,” he retorted, and the interest of the spectators flagged. "have I taken pleasure in any schism It is significant of the change wrought in whatsoever, nor will I to the end of time.
a year and a half that the discussion of The Bohemians have done wrong in vol- indulgences aroused very little interest. untarily separating from our communion, Eck was quite ready to admit the justice even if they have divine right on their of many of his opponent's strictures upon side ; for the highest divine right is love the practice, and Luther declared there and unity of the Spirit.”
never would have been any trouble if the But after thinking the matter over, he ecclesiastical authorities had taken this atdeclared, “It is certain that among the titude in the beginning. The conflict had articles of John Hus and the Bohemians been carried so much further, and had are many most Christian and evangelical, come to involve so much graver things, and those the universal church cannot that agreement or disagreement about the condemn."
matter originally in dispute counted for This was the climax of the debate. little. Luther had been driven by his Luther's words were heard with horror
opponents, and led by his own study and by his enemies and with consternation by reflection, to positions so radical as to his friends. From the duke they elicited make his earlier criticism of abuses seem an angry oath audible to the whole assem- of small importance. He might be orthobly. Seeing the effect produced, Luther dox in every other respect, and accept tried to qualify his statement and make it without question all the doctrines and less offensive; but he had expressed his practices of the church, but to deny its inreal opinion, as everybody saw, and ex- fallible authority was to put himself outplanation did not help the matter. A side the Catholic pale. Unless he repented couple of days later, in response to Eck's and recanted, his excommunication was a continued appeal to the authority of the foregone conclusion.
The debate from Luther's point of view itself, he maintained, has to be used with was not a success. He had hoped much discrimination, for parts of it do not teach from it, and returned home greatly disap- Christian truth. He really substituted pointed. Despite his own and his sup- for all external authorities the enlightened porters' claims, the victory was really conscience of the individual Christian. Eck's, not his, and it was fairly won. No The Bible he read for himself and adother outcome was possible, and the result mitted the claim of no council or body might have been foreseen. Luther made of men to read it for him. This, in prina much better showing against the power- ciple, though he never fully realized it, ful and resourceful debater than Carlstadt, and seldom acted upon.it, meant the right but even his skill was unequal to the task of private judgment in religious things, of defending an essentially indefensible and in it lay the promise of a new age. position. He committed the mistake of It was not skepticism or indifference to supposing that the radical views reached religion that enabled Luther thus to stand under the influence of his own religious upon his own feet. Rather it was the vivexperience were in harmony with the faith idness of his religious experience, making of the church. It is a common mistake. him sure of acceptance with God. BeSome men, when they find themselves out cause of this he found it possible to disof sympathy with the prevailing beliefs of pense with the traditional authorities. the institution wherein they have been Had he not come into conflict with the born and bred, at once turn their backs rulers of the church, he might have lived upon it. Others of a more sanguine tem- to the end of his days quite unaware of perament, or with more of the reformer's any difference between himself and his instinct, read its faith in the light of their fellow-Christians. Many another had had own opinions, and endeavor to call their his experience and had lived and died confellows back to what they believe its real tent in the communion of the Catholic platform. When, as is very apt to hap- Church. There was nothing in his faith pen, a conflict comes and they try to defend to cause a break. But when it became imas orthodox what they were originally led possible to speak his mind about abuses to accept as true, they only invite defeat. and remain within the Roman fellowship, Luther maintained at Leipsic not merely he discovered his faith was such that he that his interpretation of the papacy was could get along outside. He justified his correct, but that it was orthodox, and in attitude not by declaring the church unthis, as Eck showed, he was wrong. There necessary,-even when most radical he remained only the alternative of abandon- was still conservative,-- but by interpreing his interpretation and accepting the ting it as the community of Christian betraditional view or of foregoing the claim lievers wherever found and however govof orthodoxy. Consciously and deliber- erned. Greeks, Bohemians, and others ately he chose the latter course, and in condemned by Rome he now regarded as doing so broke decisively with all his past. members of the universal church, and in Eck repeatedly protested that he held all their communion he felt it possible to enhis opinions subject to correction by the joy all the blessings of Christianity. He ecclesiastical authorities, but Luther did not for a moment imagine that the avowed submission to no one. Only to Roman Church was not a true church, the clear teaching of the divine word but he came to feel that it was not the would he bow, and he would read it only one, and if forced without its pale, with his own and not with other men's he would still be a member of the Chriseyes. In his attack on indulgences he tian family. had appealed from the indulgence-venders The significance of the Leipsic debate to the pope ; at Augsburg, from the pope for Luther's own development it is imposill informed to the pope to be better in- sible to exaggerate.
It meant the final formed; and soon afterward from the pope parting of the ways. It showed him to a council. Now, when the decision of clearly where he stood and emancipated a council was cited against him, he de- him once and for all from the delusion clined to be bound by it, and took his stand that he was in harmony with the Roman upon the sole authority of the Scriptures. Church and could remain permanently But even this was not final. The Bible within it. His condemnation he saw must
After a drawing made by Braun and Hogenberg, dated 1572
BETWEEN LUTHER AND ECK
follow in due time, and while Miltitz was Evidently he had come to look upon the
peared in the debate itself, when he reIt shows the distance traveled and the ferred to the Eastern Church in support lessons learned from the experiences of of his contention that submission to the the last two years that he was neither
pope was not necessary to salvation. Most crushed nor apparently greatly distressed of the Greek fathers either knew nothing by the outlook. His development had been of papal supremacy or consciously rejected gradual, and he was fully prepared to take it. In them he found kindred spirits, and the final step when confronted by it. He thenceforth was always fond of appealing had not foreseen the outcome, and, as he to them. His attitude was not a sign, as often said, would never have dared to be- is often said, of his native breadth of view, gin had he known whither he was going; - liberality was not one of his virtues,but he was driven against his will from but of the instinctive feeling of comradepoint to point, and could not turn back ship with others like himself in opposition. without denying his faith. History pre- He began to feel that he was not merely sents no more striking example of the iron a single individual engaged in a petty conlogic of events.
test of his own, but one of a long line of Though startled when he first discov- fighters against ecclesiastical tyranny and ered his agreement with Hus, he soon corruption. His consciousness expanded, recovered his equanimity, and was heart- and his work came to seem of national and ened rather than dismayed. During the even world-wide meaning. summer he received letters from promi- He always had an uncommonly vivid nent Bohemians expressing their joy in sense of fulfilling the divine will in everyhim and his work and likening his place in thing he undertook. Now the conviction Saxony to that of Hus in Bohemia. In- dominated him more completely than ever, stead of denying all sympathy with the Henceforth he believed himself one of condemned heretic, as he would have done God's chosen instruments, called to carry sometime before, he acknowledged the let- on the labors of the great leaders who had ters with thanks, and after reading for the fought and fallen in earlier days. Marfirst time some of Hus's writings, de- tyrdom he was in constant expectation of, clared, with his usual impulsiveness and looking forward to the fate that had overfrank generosity: "Hitherto I have uncon- taken so many. But he was inspired rather sciously held and taught all the doctrines than oppressed by the thought, and reof John Hus. John Staupitz has also joiced in the opportunity to suffer as they taught them in like ignorance. Briefly had suffered. He also saw more clearly we are all Hussites without knowing it." than before the difficulties of the task