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he was engaged in. Others had tried antagonists. For the latter, he often conto do what he was now attempting, and tented himself with personal abuse instead had failed. Even this did not dishearten of reasoned argument. His treatment of him. He believed the times were fast opponents has always been a ground of growing ripe, and was sure that either he offense to his enemies and of confusion to or some one else for whom he was pre- his friends. After the not uncommon fashparing the way, his colleague Melanch- ion of the day, error in opinion was taken thon, for instance-would yet accomplish as a sign of moral obliquity, and the inexthe hitherto impossible. Fantastic notions haustible stores of his rich and racy vocabthat the end of the world was at hand, ulary were freely drawn upon to portray notions very common in that day, began the character of those venturing to oppose to find lodgment in his mind, and were him. His violence has been excused by never afterward altogether abandoned. It appealing to the prevailing tone of conwas a time of feverish excitement for him, temporary polemics, but the appeal is funot altogether conducive to calm and de- tile. Though his form of expression might liberate work.
have been different in another century, the The months succeeding the Leipsic dis- man he was would have been violent and putation were very busy ones for Luther. vituperative in any. Often he went beHe was more active with his pen than yond all reason and broke the canons of ever, continually sending pamphlets to the good taste recognized even in that freepress and occasionally books of considerable spoken age; but he was not engaged in a size. In one of his letters he complained parlor exhibition, and he would have cared of his inability to publish as rapidly as as little for our criticisms of his style of he wished because of the limitations of fighting as he did for the criticisms of his the printing-office, and a little later in- contemporaries. Had he been other than formed a friend that he kept three presses he was, he might have been better liked going all the time. It was his habit to by many a delicate soul, but he could not send copy to the printer day by day, and have wielded the influence he did. His he was nearly always reading the proof of fiercest onslaughts carried terror and joy the earlier pages of a book while writing to the ends of Christendom, and by them the later. Often the preface was in type no less than by his inimitable appeals to before the work itself was even begun. It the finer sentiments he swayed and domiis surprising not that much of his pub- nated the masses. He needs no apologies lished work bears the marks of haste, but from us. As well apologize for the fury that so many of his writings still richly of the wind as for the vehemence of Marrepay reading after the lapse of four cen- tin Luther. turies. He had, as he once remarked, a When Spalatin found fault with the quick hand and a ready memory, and all strong language of his reply to the Bishop he wrote flowed from his pen without ef- of Meissen, he wrote: fort. His speed was the despair of friends and foes alike. It is amusing to see how Greeting. Good God! how excited you often, when requested by Spalatin or the are, my Spalatin! You seem elector or some other anxious sympathizer stirred up than I and the others. Do you to refrain from a publication likely to make not see that my patience in not replying to trouble, he replied that their protests were Emser's and Eck's five or six wagon-loads too late, for the deed was already done. of curses is the sole reason why the framers The physical and mental vitality of the of this document have dared to attack me man was one of the most amazing things with such silly and ridiculous nonsense? about him and one of the secrets of his for you know how little I cared that my tremendous power.
sermon at Leipsic was condemned and supHe was indefatigable in controversy, pressed by a public edict; how I despised determined to let no attack go unanswered, suspicion, infamy, injury, hatred. Must and the attacks during these months were these audacious persons even be permitted many and severe. He welcomed them as to add to these follies scandalous pamphlets invitations to let his views be known, and crammed full of falsehoods and blasphemies many a reply was rather a statement of against gospel truth? Do you forbid even his own doctrines than an answer to his to bark at these wolves? The Lord is my
witness how I restrained myself lest I surpass them, for they dispute only in a deshould not treat with reverence this accursed ceitful fashion. Farewell, and be not afraid. and most impotent document issued in the bishop's name. Otherwise I should have
Twenty years and more later, referring said things those heads ought to hear, and
to one of his bitterest and most scathing I will yet, when they acknowledge their au
invectives, he remarked: "I have read my thorship by beginning to defend themselves.
book over again, and wonder how it hapI beg, if you think rightly of the gospel, do
pened that I was so moderate. I ascribe not imagine that its cause can be accom
it to the state of my head, which was such plished without tumult, scandal, and sedi
that my mind was prevented from worktion. Out of the sword you cannot make a
ing more freely and actively." feather, nor out of war, peace. The word
But if we would do justice to this exof God is a sword, war, ruin, destruction, traordinary man, it must be remembered poison, and, as Amos says, it meets the chil
that the conflict he was engaged in did not dren of Ephraim like a bear in the way and keep him from performing his ordinary a lioness in the woods.
duties with his accustomed vigor and effecI cannot deny that I have been more vehe
tiveness. He did more than a man's full ment than is seemly. But since they knew
work quite apart from his controversy, this, they ought not to have stirred up the though the latter, it would seem, was alone dog. How difficult it is to temper one's pas- enough to absorb all his attention and tax sions and one's pen you can judge even from
all his powers. He preached regularly in your own case. This is the reason I have
the city church and the convent, lectured always disliked to engage in public contro
as usual in the university, and gave a surversy; but the more I dislike it, the more I
prising amount of attention to administraam involved against my will, and that only
tive matters, concerning himself even with by the most atrocious slanders brought the pettiest details of faculty business. He against me and the word of God. If I were
also worked steadily upon the interpretanot carried away thereby either in temper
tion of the Bible, issuing in the autumn or pen, even a heart of stone would be
his famous commentary on Galatians and moved by the indignity of the thing to take
continuing the publication of his careful up arms; and how much more I, who am
and laborious exposition of the Psalms, both passionate and possessed of a pen not
printed many moral and religious pamaltogether blunt! By these monstrosities I
phlets, and wrote beautiful letters and am driven beyond modesty and decorum. At
tracts for the solace and inspiration of the the same time I wonder where this new re
sick and suffering. ligion came from, that whatever you say A couple of brief passages may be quoted against an adversary is regarded as slander.
from his “Tesseredecas," written at this What do you think of Christ? Was he a
time for the comfort of the Elector Fredslanderer when he called the Jews an adul- erick, who was lying grievously ill: terous and perverse generation, the offspring of vipers, hypocrites, sons of the devil? And When you regard as sacred relics, and what about Paul when he uses the words love, kiss, and embrace the coat, the vessels, dogs, vain babblers, seducers, ignorant, and, the water-jars, and all the things Christ in Acts xiii so inveighs against a false touched and used, why do you not much prophet that he seems almost insane: “Oh, more love, embrace, and kiss pains, worldly thou full of all deceit and of all craft, thou evils, ignominy, and death? For these he son of the devil, enemy of truth”? Why not only made sacred, but bathed and did he not gently flatter him, that he might blessed them with his blood, enduring them convert him, rather than thunder in such a with willing heart and deepest devotion. way? It is not possible, if aware of the truth, to be patient with inflexible and un- When Jacob heard that his son Joseph governable enemies of the truth. But was a ruler in Egypt, like one awaking out enough of this nonsense. I see that every- of deep sleep he believed it not until the body wishes I were gentle, especially my wagons sent by Joseph proved the truth of enemies, who shew themselves least so of all his sons told him. Thus it would be all. If I am too little gentle, I am at least indeed difficult to believe so great blessings simple and open, and therein, as I believe, are given us unworthy creatures in Christ,
From the painting by K. F. Lessing THE DISPUTATION AT LEIPSIC, IN 1519, IN THE PRESENCE OF DUKE GEORGE OF SAXONY AND PRINCE BARNIM
OF POMERANIA, BETWEEN MARTIN LUTHER (AT THE LEFT) AND JOHN ECK
if he had not revealed himself to his dis- character when he soon afterward asked ciples in manifold ways, and taught us also the manuscript of this tract back from to believe by use and experience as if we Spalatin, hoping to derive from its perusal saw the very wagons. A wagon bringing consolation in his own troubles. rich comfort it is that Christ has been made His fame meanwhile was rapidly growto us by God righteousness, sanctification, ing and his friends and supporters were
redemption, and wisdom. For I am a sin- multiplying. Particularly important was ner, but I am borne in his righteousness the recognition received from leading hugiven to me; I am impure, but his holiness manists both at home and abroad. In the is my sanctification wherein I sweetly ride; autumn of 1518, speaking of Albrecht I am foolish, but his wisdom carries me; Dürer, Lazarus Spengler, and other celeworthy of damnation I am, but his liberty brated lights of Nuremberg, Christopher is my redemption, a wagon most secure. Scheurl remarked: "Nearly all the con
versation at table concerns a certain MarLuther showed the simplicity of his tin. Him they celebrate, adore, and cham
pion. For him they are prepared to en- manists everywhere now began to realize dure everything." A few months later that Luther's enemies were theirs and his he wrote Eck, expostulating with him for struggle a renewal of the Reuchlin conhis attack on Luther:
flict between the representatives of the old
and the new learning. In such a battle You are bringing upon yourself, unless I it could not be doubtful where their symam mistaken, the strong disfavor and hatred pathies would lie. of most followers of Erasmus and Reuchlin, In October he received a couple of notanearly all friends of learning, and even mod- ble letters from an acquaintance of his ern theologians. I have recently traveled Erfurt student days, the humanist Crotus through a number of important dioceses and Rubeanus, principal author of the famous everywhere found a great many adherents “Letters of Obscure Men.” Crotus was of Martin. The
in Italy at the clergy's love for the
Luman is astonishing.
ther first-hand inThey are Aying to
formation of the him in flocks, like
efforts there on jackdaws and star
foot to crush him. lings. They sub
He also hailed scribe to his opin
him in enthusiastic ions, they applaud
terms as a father him, they bless him.
of the fatherland,
"worthy of a golden About the same
statue and an antime Luther re
nual feast." ceived letters from
This recognition John Froben, the
of the national impublisher of Basel,
portance of Luand from Wolf
ther's work, taken gang Capito,
with the well-known hu
cealed contempt for manist, informing
the Roman curia him that he had
which breathes in many warm and
the letters of Croinfluential friends
tus, was full of in Switzerland and
significance. It along the Rhine,
foreshadowed and that his books LUTHER'S SUPPORTER,
alliance between i were widely read ULRICH VON HUTTEN
Luther and another not only there, but
group of Germans also in Italy, France, Spain, and Eng- who were chiefly interested in economic land.
and political reform. The leading spokesEven the great Erasmus spoke of him man of the group was Ulrich von Hutin a friendly way, and guarded as his ut- ten, one of the most interesting and picterances were, for he early realized the turesque figures of the age. Son of a difference between Luther's spirit and his poor knight, and, on account of his deliown, his attitude was generally interpreted cate physique, destined for the priesthood, as sympathetic, and greatly enhanced he early ran away and spent the remainLuther's credit with men of modern ten- der of his brief life in wandering from dencies.
place to place, at times in abject povThe Leipsic debate still further in- erty, and again enjoying the favor and creased his reputation. The humanist Mo- protection of the great. He was a poet sellan had expected to hear only old and of no mean gifts and an enthusiastic huthreadbare themes discussed in traditional manist. While in Italy, in 1517, he ran scholastic fashion, and was surprised and across Lorenzo Valla's work on the donadelighted at Luther's attitude, as he was tion of Constantine and was led to believe careful to inform his correspondents. Hu- there was no basis for the old papal claim
From an old print