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A SERMON IN THE TIME OF LUTHER From a photograph by Giacomo Brogi, Florence, of the painting by H. Schäuffelin (1480-1540).

pride. You have too much humility as I Luther defended the greater severity of have too much pride. The affair indeed is the Latin version with the remark that it serious. We see Christ suffering. If hith- seemed necessary "to introduce a little salt erto we were obliged to be silent and hum- for Latin stomachs." ble, now when our most excellent Saviour, On November 17 he renewed his appeal who has given himself for us, is mocked in from the pope to a general council declarall the world, I beseech you shall we not ing, in his usual violent fashion, that the fight for him? Shall we not expose our former was an unrighteous judge, a herelives? My father, the danger is greater tic and apostate, an enemy of the Holy than many suppose.

Here the gospel word Scriptures, and a slanderer of church and applies, Whosoever confesseth me before council. He also called upon emperors, men, him will I also confess before my princes, and all civil officials to support his Father.

appeal and oppose what he styled the un

christian conduct of the pope. Upon Luther's own state of mind in the

Finally, on December 10, he broke perweeks succeeding the arrival of the bull

manently with the papal see by publicly the following passage from a letter to

burning the bull and the canon law in the Spalatin throws sufficient light: "You would scarcely believe how pleased I am

presence of a large concourse of professors

and students. Melanchthon announced that enemies rise up against me more than

the event in the following placard, posted ever. For I am never prouder or bolder

upon the door of the City Church, “Whothan when I dare to displease them. Let

ever is devoted to gospel truth, let him be them be doctors, bishops, or princes, what

on hand at nine o'clock by the Church of difference does it make? If the word of

the Holy Cross, outside the walls, where God were not attacked by them it would

according to ancient and apostolic custom not be God's word.”

the impious books of papal law and schoAt first he pretended to think the bull a

lastic theology will be given to the Aames. forgery of Eck's and poured out the vials

For the audacity of the enemies of the gosof his wrath upon it in a tract entitled

pel has gone so far as to burn the devout “The New Eckian Bulls and Lies.” A

and evangelical books of Luther. Come, little later, accepting it as genuine, he re

reverent and studious youth, to this pious plied briefly in a pamphlet, "Against the

and religious spectacle, for perhaps now is Bull of Antichrist," and at the elector's

the time when Antichrist shall be rerequest, at greater length, in his important vealed.” "Ground and Reason of all the Articles

In a defense published soon afterward unjustly condemned in the Roman Bull."

Luther justified the burning of the canon In the latter work he said:

law on the ground that it taught among Even if it were true, as they assert, that

other things the supremacy of the pope I have put myself forward on my own re

and his absolute authority over Bible, sponsibility, they would not be excused church, and Christian conscience. Again, thereby. Who knows whether God has as so often, there was revealed the kinship called and awakened me for this ? Let them in principle between his revolt and the fear Him and beware lest they despise God many other revolts against unlimited and in me. I do not say I am a prophet, but I unconstitutional monarchy through which do say that they have all the greater reason

freedom has been won for the modern to fear I am one, the more they despise me

world. and esteem themselves.

If I am

Luther's bold act was not the result of prophet I am at any rate sure the word of a sudden and hasty impulse. He had anGod is with me and not with them, for I nounced his intention months before, always have the Bible on my side, they only and though the project was known to the their own doctrine. It is on this account I

elector and many friends, no objection have the courage to fear them so little, much seems to have been made by any of them. as they despise and persecute me.

Writing about it to Staupitz he said he

had done the deed in trembling and prayer Both of these tracts appeared in Latin but after it was over felt more pleased as well as German, and in referring to than at any other act of his life. the longer one, in a letter to Spalatin, Speaking of the matter to the students



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Ebernburg is near Kreuznach, thirty miles northwest of Worms. While
on his way to appear before the Diet at Worins, Luther declined an in-
vitation to visit Ebernburg for an interview with the pope's confessor.

the next day, he told them, according to declaring them guilty of the crime of lesethe report of one of his hearers, that salva- majesty, and condemning them to all the tion was impossible for those submitting spiritual and temporal penalties imposed to the rule of the pope ; and in March he upon heretics by the canons of the church. wrote a friend: "I am persuaded of this, The pope had done his worst. It rethat unless a man fight with all his might, mained to be seen whether his decision and if need be unto death, against the stat would be given effect by the civil power. utes and laws of the pope and bishops, he In ordinary circumstances there would cannot be saved.” This soon became a have been no doubt. To be condemned as common feeling among his adherents. a heretic meant certain death at the hands From the assurance that salvation is possi- either of the ecclesiastical or civil governble apart from the pope both he and they ment. But the present case was unusual. went on to the still more radical belief Luther had the backing of the most imthat it was impossible with the pope. The portant prince in Germany, the support of latter was not a logical deduction from a large body of nobles, the confidence of the former. It was only the instinctive many of the lower clergy, and the devorepayment of condemnation by condemna- tion of great masses of the population. tion. But it found its justification in the Quite apart from sympathy with him and conviction, long growing and now full his views it was widely felt that his apblown, that the pope was Antichrist. The peal from the pope to a council should basis was thus given, not for the possibil- have been heeded, and there were those ity merely, but for the necessity of a new who doubted whether the pope after all church. Catholic exclusiveness was had the right to condemn any one for hermatched by Lutheran, and the new move- esy without conciliar support. The situament was prepared to meet the old on its tion was very complicated. The outcome own ground. Protestants have happily was by no means certain, all the less so in long outgrown the bitterness and narrow- view of the diverse political interests repness of the early days, but it may well be resented in the empire. It was just the doubted whether anything less would have kind of a case, beset sufficiently with doubt, sufficed then to stand the strain.

to offer the best possible excuse for politiOn January 3, 1521, the pope took cal bargaining, and the Emperor and final action against Luther and his fol- princes made good use of the opportunity. lowers in the bull Decet Romanum Pon- In January, 1521, the first imperial diet tificem, pronouncing them excommunicate, of Charles's reign met in the free city of


Worms, one of the most ancient and fa- Saxony and from a desire to retain in his mous towns of Germany, situated on the own hands the means of inducing the pope left bank of the upper Rhine. There is to yield to his wishes in other matters. still extant a remarkable series of de- We are reminded in this connection that spatches addressed to the Vice-Chancellor sometime before, while Charles was still at Rome by the papal legate Jerome Ale- in the Netherlands, his ambassador at ander, containing a vivid account of the Rome advised him to show favor to a cerDiet itself and an interesting picture of tain Martin Luther whom the pope greatly the general situation. The following facts and impressions reported by Aleander are We get also in these despatches a frank perhaps worth repeating. Legions of poor account of the negotiations carried on and noblemen under

the devious means Hutten's lead were

employed by Aleanenlisted against the FRANCISCVB VON SICKINGEN

der and his fellow pope, and the great

legate Caracciolo majority of law

in their efforts to yers, canonists,

secure Luther's grammarians, po

condemnation and ets, priests, and

maintain the aumonks, together

thority of Rome. with the masses of

Flattery, threats, the common peo

and bribery were ple, in fact, nine

freely used, and tenths of all Ger

Aleander did not many were on Lu

hesitate to ther's side, and the

his own falsehoods other tenth against

for the good of the the Curia. Even

cause. A most inwhere the Witten

teresting picture it berg professor was

is of the skilful use not understood, he

of political methwas supported be

ods such as have cause of the genALLEIN GOT DIER LIEB 446

been employed in eral hatred DEN GEMEINE NVCZ BESCH

every age of the Rome. Multitudes IRMDI GERECHTIKEL

world and for all thought they could

sorts of ends. remain good Chris

Aleander comtians and orthodox

plained frequently Catholics while reFRANZ VON SICKINGEN, THE POWERFUL

of his own nouncing


popularity and the PORTER OF LUTHER ance to the pope.

shabby treatment Even those opposed

accorded him by to Luther, including the greatest princes the populace, causing him often to fear and prelates, dared not come out against for his life. He felt called upon also to him for fear of Hutten and Sickingen, defend himself against the accusation of everywhere recognized as his allies. No living voluptuously and luxuriously, averbooks but his were sold in Worms, and ring that he was so poorly housed as his picture was everywhere to be seen, nearly to freeze to death and had had often with the Holy Ghost hovering over no new clothes for ten years. In general his head. The people thought him sinless his reports, at least during the earlier part and infallible and attributed miraculous of his stay in Worms, were gloomy and power to him. Only the Emperor was on despondent enough. It may well be that the side of Rome. If he were to yield in he exaggerated the difficulties in order to the least all Germany would fall away enhance the value of his services, but his from the papacy. And even he hesitated account bears for the most part the marks to bring pressure to bear upon the princes of truth and is a fairly accurate picture of out of consideration for the Elector of the situation from a Roman point of view.



From an old print


The despatches also contain some inter- well. For it is not to be doubted, if the esting pen portraits of the leading actors Emperor summons me I am summoned by in the great events of those weeks. Lu- the Lord. If they use force, as is probable, ther, the Antichrist, as Aleander calls him, for they do not wish me to come that I may is of course spoken of with uniform hatred be instructed, my cause shall be commended and contempt. A hard drinker, and too to the Lord, for He lives and reigns who much of än ignoramus to be the author of preserved the three children in the furnace the books ascribed to him, he is represented of the Babylonian king. If He is unwilling as merely a tool of Hutten and his asso- to preserve me my life is a small thing comciates, like them interested to overthrow pared with Christ's, who was wickedly slain all authority, civil as well as ecclesiastical. to the disgrace of all and the harm of many. Hutten himself would like to be the chief Expect anything of me except fight or releader of the whole movement if he could cantation. I will not flee, much less recant. only count on the support of the people as So may the Lord Jesus strengthen me. Luther can. The real motive underlying all his efforts and those of his followers is In the meantime, fearing the effect of the desire to seize for themselves the prop- Luther's presence in Worms, and incensed erty of the clergy. Sickingen, a man of at the proposal to give a condemned hereunusual ability, is greatly feared by every- tic the opportunity to defend himself bebody and is really king in Germany. Al- fore the Diet, Aleander induced the Embert of Mayence is a good Catholic and peror to withdraw his request and deny at heart loyal to the pope, but sadly lack- Luther a hearing. For a long time it was ing in firmness and courage. The Elector uncertain what would be done. But when Frederick, at first spoken of as an excel- the members of the Diet persistently relent prince, pious and devout, but with fused to give their assent to various meacouncilors more Lutheran than Luther sures the Emperor had at heart until Luhimself, is later called "the infamous ther was permitted to appear, the case was Saxon," and inelegantly compared to a finally compromised in spite of Aleander's fat hog, with the eyes of a dog, which protests. The excommunicated professor rarely look any one straight in the face. was to be summoned and required to reHe is also dubbed a basilisk and a fox who cant his doctrinal heresies. If he refused supports Luther only because of the fame he was to be condemned without further and prosperity he brings the university and ado. If he consented his criticisms of town of Wittenberg. The frankness of ecclesiastical abuses were to be considered the despatches makes them interesting by the Diet and such action taken as might reading, and the bitter prejudice of the le- seem advisable. gate, preventing him from seeing any good An imperial summons was issued on in Luther and his friends, need not be March 6 requiring him to appear within wondered at. Indeed his attitude was in six weeks and guaranteeing him safe conno way different from Luther's own. The duct both in going and returning. To latter too was seldom able to see any good Aleander's disgust the summons in his opponents.

phrased in respectful terms, and an imLate in November, in response to the perial herald, of known Lutheran symwide-spread demand that Luther be ac- pathies, was despatched to Wittenberg corded a hearing in Germany, the Em- to escort the heretic to Worms in state. peror requested the Elector Frederick to The honorable treatment accorded him bring his professor to the Diet and let him was an acknowledgment of the imporanswer for himself before the assembled tant position he occupied in the eyes of estates. Luther was eager to appear and Germany. defend his cause. When the elector, leav- The herald found him ready and eager ing the decision wholly to him, inquired to go. After winding up his affairs in through Spalatin if he were willing to go, anticipation of a long absence, in spite of he answered:

the dangers attending his journey, and the

serious issues hinging upon it, Luther left If I am summoned I will do what in me

Wittenberg for Worms on April 2, 1521, lies to be carried there sick, if I cannot go in good spirits and with a light heart.

( To be continued)


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