1902 Encyclopedia > Martin Luther > Martin Luther - Second Period (1517-24)

Martin Luther
(Part 2)


Luther's Preaching

Pilgrims who had come to Wittenberg to buy indulgences returned with the theses of Luther in their hands, and with the impression of his powerful evangelical teaching in their hearts. The national mind of Germany took up the matter with a moral earnestness which made an impression, not only upon the princes, but even upon bishops and monks. At first it seemed as if all Germany was going to support Luther. The traffic in indulgences had been so shameless that all good people and all patriotic Germans had been scandalized. But Luther had struck a blow at more than indulgences, although he scarcely knew it at the time. In his theses and explanatory sermons he had declared that the inward spiritual facts of man’s religions experience were of infinitely more value that their expression in stereotyped forms recognized by the church, and he had made it plain too that in such a solemn thing as forgiveness of sin man could go to God directly without human mediation. Pious Christians since the day of Pentecost had thought and felt the same, and all through the Middle Ages men and women had humbly gone to God for pardon trusting in Christ. They had found the pardon they sought, and their simple Christian experience had been sung in the hymns of the medæval church, had found expression in its prayers, had formed the hear of the evangelical preaching of the church, and had stirred the masses of people in the many revivals of the Middle Ages. But those pious people, hymn-writers, and preachers had not seen that this inward experience of theirs was really opposed to a great part of the ecclesiastical system of their day. The church had set such small store by that inward religious experience that the common speech of the times had changed the plain meanings of the words "spiritual," "scared," "holy." A man was "spiritual" if he had been ordained to office in the church; money was "spiritual" if it had been given to the church; an estate, with its roads, woodlands, fields, was "spiritual" or "holy" if it belonged to a bishopric or abbey. And the church that had so degraded the meaning of "spiritual" had thrust itself and its external machinery in between God and the worshipper, and had proclaimed that no man could draw near to God save through its appointed ways of approach. Confession was to be made to God through the priest; God spoke pardon only in the priest’s absolution. When Luther attacked indulgences in the way he did he struck at this whole system.

Compelled to examine the ancient history of the church, he soon discovered the whole tissue of fraud and imposture by which the canon law had from the 9th century down wards been foisted upon the Christian world. There is scarcely any essential point in ancient ecclesiastical history bearing upon the question of the invocation of saints, of clerical priesthood, of episcopal and metropolitan pretensions, which his genius did not discern in its true light. Whatever Luther denounced as fraud or abuse, from its contradiction to spiritual worship, may be said to have been openly or tacitly admitted to be such. But what produced the greatest effect the time were his short popular treatise, exegetical and practicalæhis Interpretation of the Magnificant of the Canticle of the Virgin Mary, his Exposition of the Ten Commandments, and of the Lord’s Prayer. The latter soon found its way into Italy, although without Luther’s name, an has never been surpassed either in genuine Christian thought or in style. He resolved also to preach throughout Germany, and in 1518 appeared at a general meeting of his order at Heidelberg. There he held a public disputation on certain theses called him paradoxes, in which he strove to make apparent the contrast between the external view of religion taught by the schoolmen and the spiritual view of gospel truth based upon justifying faith. He made many disciple on this occasion, of whom perhaps the most notable was Martin Bucer. On his return to Wittenberg in May 1518, Luther wrote and published an able an moderate exposition of the theses, and sent it to some of the German bishops. He proclaimed the need for a thorough reformation of the church, which he thought could only be effected, with the aid of God, by an earnest cooperation of the whole of Christendom. This energy awakened opponents. Conrad Winpina at Frankfort, Hoogstraten at Cologne, Sylvester Trierias at Rome, and above all John Eck, an old fellow student, at Ingolstadt, attacked his theses, and discovered heresy in them. The result was Luther was summoned to appear before the pope at Rome, but the elector of Saxony intervened, and go the matter so arranged that Luther was cited to appear before the pope’s legate at Augsburg.

Before the Legate

The pope was unwilling to quarrel with Germany, where the whole people seemed to be supporting Luther, and the cardinal legate James de Vio of Gaeta, commonly called Cajetan, was told to be conciliatory. Luther went to Augsburg on foot, and presented himself before the legate, but the interview was not a successful one. The cardinal somewhat afraid of him. "I can dispute no longer with this beast," he said; "it has two wicked eyes and marvelous thoughts in its head." Luther could not respect either the learning or the judgment of Cajetan. He felt Augsburg by stealth, afraid of capture, condemned, but appealing "from the pope ill-informed to the pope to-be-better-informed." On his return to Wittenberg he found the elector in great anxiety of mind, in consequence of an imperious letter from the cardinal, and offered to leave Saxony for France. The elector, however, allowed him to remain, and the pope sent another legate to settle the affairs of Germany. This was Carl von Miltitz, a native Saxony, a man of the world, and no great theologian. He resolved to meet Luther privately, and did so in the house of Spalatin, court preacher to the elector of Saxony. In his interview with Cajetan Luther had refused to retract two propositionsæthat the treasury of indulgences is not filled with the merits of Christ, and that he who receives the sacraments must have faith in the grace offered to him. Miltitz made no such demands. He apparently gave up Tetzel and the indulgences, agreed with much of Luther’s theology, but insisted that he had not been respectful to the pope, and that such conduct weakened the authority which rightly belonged to the church. He wished Luther to write to the pope and apologize. Luther consented. It was further arranged that both parties were to cease from writing or preaching on the controverted matters, and that the pope was to commission a body of learned theologians to investigate. Luther accordingly wrote to the pope, telling him that he "freely confessed that the authority f the church was superior to everything, and that nothing in heaven or on earth can be preferred before it save only Jesus Christ, who is Lord over all." This was in March 1519. Meanwhile Luther had appealed from the pope to a general council to be held in Germany. In the end of 1518 a papal bull concerning indulgences had appeared, confirming the old doctrine, without any reference to the late dispute.

The years 1519, 1520, 1521 were a time of fierce but triumph struggle with the hitherto irresistible Church of Rome, soon openly supported by the empire the first of these years passed in public conferences and disputations. Luther had promised Miltitz to refrain from controversy, on the understanding that his adversaries did not attack him, and he kept his word.

Leipzig Disputation

But his old antagonist John Eck published thirteen theses attacking Luther, and challenged Andrew Bodenstein of Carlstadt, a friend and colleague of Luther, to a public disputation. Luther instantly replied to Eck’s theses, and the disputation between Carlstadt and Eck was immediately followed by one between Eck and Luther. In this famous Leipsic disputation the controversy took a new shape. It was no longer a theological dispute; it became a conflict between two opposing sets of principles affecting the whole round of church life. Luther and Eck began about indulgences and penance, but the debate soon turned on the authority of the Roman Church and of the pope. Eck maintained the superiority of the Roman Church and of the pope as successor of St Peter and vicar-general of Christ. His argument was "no pope no church." Luther denied the superiority of the Roman Church, and supported his denial by the testimony of eleven centuries, by the decrees of Nicæa, by the Holy Scriptures. He maintained that the Greek church was part of the church of Christ, else Athanasius, Basil, and the Gregories were outside Christianity. The pope has more need of the church, he said, than the church has of the pope. Eck retorted that these had been the arguments of Wickliffe and of Huss, and that they had been condemned at the council of Constance. Luther refused to admit that the condemnation was right; Eck refused to debate with an opponent who would not abide by the decision of œcumenical councils; and so the disputation ended. But Luther immediately afterwards completed his argument and published it. He asserted that he did not mean to deny the bishop of Rome’s primacy, provided the pope kept his own place as servant of the church, but that he did mean to deny that there could be not church apart from the pope. The church, he said, is the communion of the faithful, and consists of the elect, and so ever can lack the presence of the Holy Spirit, who is not always with popes and councils. This church, he declared, is invisible, but real, and every layman who is in it and has Holy Scripture and holds by it is more to be believed than popes or councils, who do not. This Leipsic disputation had very important consequences. On the one hand, Eck and his associates felt that Luther must now be put down by force, and pressed for a papal bull to condemn him; and Luther himself, on the other hand, felt for the first time what great consequences lay in his opposition to the indulgences. He saw that his Augustinian theology, with its recognition of the heinousness of sin and of the need of the sovereign grace of God, was incompatible with the whole round of mediæval ceremonial life, proved it to be impossible for men to live perfectly holy lives, and so made saints worship and relics and pilgrimages impossible things. He saw the uselessness of the monastic life, with its vigils and facts and scourgings. These things were not helps, he saw, but hindrances to the true religious life. The Leipsic disputation made Luther feel that he had finally broken with Rome, and it made all Germany see it too, and raided the popular enthusiasm to a white heat. The people of the towns declared their sympathy with the bold monk. Ulrich von Hutten and the German humanists saw that this was more than a monkish quarrel, and recognized Luther as their leader. Franz von Sickingen and the free knights hailed him as a useful ally. Even the poor down-trodden peasants hoped that he might be a luckier leader than Joss Fritz, and that he might help them to free themselves from the unbearable miseries of their lot. Luther became the leader of the German nation after the Leipsic disputation.

During 1520 the first great political crisis occurred, on the occasion of the death of Maximilian, and ended fatally, in consequence of the want of patriotic and political wisdom among the German princes. Ranke has pointed out the political elements which then existed for creating a Germany as free and independent as France or England; and Justus Möser of Osanabruck had long before truly declared, "If the emperor at that time had destroyed the feudal system, the deed would have been, according to the spirit in which it was done, the grandest or the blackest in the history of the world." Möser means that if the emperor had embraced the Reformed faith, and placed himself at the head of the lower nobility and cities, united in one body as the lower house of a German parliament, this act would have saved Germany. Probably some such idea was in the mind of the archbishop of Treves when he proposed that Frederick, the elector of Saxony, should be chosen emperor. Frederick might have carried out this policy, just because, if elected, he had nothing to rely upon except the German nation, then more numerous and powerful than it has been since; but he had not the courage to accept a dignity which he supposed to require for its support a more powerful house than his own. Charles, the son of Maximilian, was elected emperor, and that election meant the continuation of a mediæval policy in Germany.

Meanwhile Luther as at Wittenberg continuing his course of preaching, lecturing and writing. The number of matriculated students had increased from 232 in 1517 to 458 in 1519, and to 579 in 1520; but large numbers besides these came to hear Luther. The study of Greek and Hebrew was diligently carried on, and the university was in a most flourishing state. Some of the finest productions of Luther’s pen belong to this period,æhis Sermons on the sacraments, on excommunication, on the priesthood, on good works, his Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation of the Reformation of Christendom, and The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. The address to the German nobles, published on June 26, 1520, created a great deal of excitement not only in Germany but beyond it. It was this appeal which first made Zwingli feel in sympathy with Luther, who showed in this little book that the Romish doctrine of two estates, one secular and the other spiritual, was simply a wall raised round the church to prevent reform. All Christians are spiritual, he said, and there is no difference among them. The secular power is of God as well as the spiritual, and has rule over all Christians without exception,æpope, bishops, monks, and nuns. He also appealed to the people to prevent so much money going out of the kingdom to Italy. "Why," he said, "should 300,000 florins be sent year from Germany to Rome?" His address raised the cry of Germany for the Germans, civil government uncontrolled by ecclesiastics, a married clergy, while he called for a national system of education as the foundation of a better order of things. The most important work of the time, however, was the Babylonian Captivity of the Church of God (October 1520), in which he boldly attacked the papacy in its principles. The main thought in the book is expressed in the title. The catholic church had been taken into bondage by the papacy, as the Jewish people were taken to Babylon, and ought to be brought back into freedom. Luther described the sacraments, real and pretended, and showed how each had been carried into captivity and ought to be delivered. He concluded in a very characteristic fashion. "I hear that bulls and other papistical things have been prepared, in which I am urged to recant or be proclaimed a heretic. If that be true, I wish this little book to be part of my future recantation." The printing press sent thousands of these books through Germany, and the people awaited the bull, armed before-hand against its arguments.

Luther Excommunicated

The bull was published at Rome on July 5, 1520. it accused Luther of holding the opinions of Huss, and condemned him. Eck brought it to Leipsic, and published it there in October. It was posted up in various German towns, and usually the citizens and the students tore it down. At last it reached Luther. He answered it in a pamphlet, in which he called it the execrable bull of Antichrist, and at last he proclaimed at Wittenberg that he would publicly burn it.

Luther Burns the Pope's Bull

On December 10, 1520, at the head of a procession of professors and students, Luther passed out of the university gates to the market-place, where a bonfire had been laid. One of the professors lighted the fuel, and Luther threw the bull on the flames; a companion flung after it a copy of the canon law. Germany was henceforth to be ruled by the law of the land, and not by the law of Rome. The news flashed over all Germany, kindling stern joy. Rome had shot its last bolt; if Luther was to crushed, only the emperor could to it. On December 17th Luther drew up before a notary and five witnesses a solemn protest, in which he appealed from the pope to a general council. This protest especially when we take it along with other future acts of Luther, meant a great deal more than many historians have discerned. It was the declaration that the Christian community is wider than the Roman Church, and was an appeal from later mediæval to earlier medi6val ideas of catholicity. In the times immediately preceding the Reformation, the common description of Christian society was social life in communion with the bishop of Rome, but in the earlier Middle Ages Christian society had also been defined to be social life within the holy Roman empire. For the Roman empire had imposed on all its subjects a creed, and to the extent had made itself a Christian community. The œcumenical council was the ecclesiastical assembly and final court of appeal for this society, whose limits were determined by the boundaries of the mediæval empire, and Luther by this appeal not only declared that he could be a catholic Christian without being in communion with Rome, but secured an ecclesiastical standing ground for himself and his followers which the law could not help recognizing. It was an appeal from the catholic church defined ecclesiastically to the catholic church defined politically, and foreshadowed the future political relations of the Luther Church.

The pope had appealed to the emperor to crush heresy in Germany, and Charles, V., with his Spanish training and his dreams of a restored mediæval empire, where he might reigns as vicar of God circa civilian, had promised his aid. He had declared, however, that he must pay some regard to the views of Frederick of Saxony, from whom he had received the imperial crown, and had in the end resolved to summon Luther before the diet to be held at Worms.

Before the Emperor at Worms

The diet was opened by Charles in January 1521, and the papal nuncio Hieronymus Alexander (afterwards archbishop of Brindisi and cardinal) urged first privately and then publicity in the diet that Luther should be condemned unheard, as one already tried and convicted by the papal bull. He threatened the Germans with extermination, it is said, in case of their refusal to accede to his requests,æ "We shall excite the one to fight against the other, that all may perish in their own blood,"æa threat to which the whole subsequent history of Germany offers the commentary. Bu the princes had their own quarrel with Rome, and urged besides that it would be unfair to condemn a man unheard and untried. A committee appointed by the diet presented a list of one hundred grievances of the German nation against Rome. This started the emperor, who, instead of ordering Luther’s books to be burned, issued only a provisional order that they should be delivered to the magistrate. He then sent to summon Luther before him, and granted him a safe conduct to and from the diet. In April Luther set out for Worms. Before leaving Wittenberg he had devised with his friend Lucas Cranach the artist what he called "a good book for the laity," a series of woodcuts depicting contrasts between Christ and the pope, with explanation in pithy German:æChrist washing the disciples’ feet on one page, the pope holding out his toe to be kissed, on the other; Christ bearing his cross, the pope carried in state through Rome on men’s shoulders; Christ driving money-changes out of the temple, the pope selling indulgences, with piles of money before him; and so on. Luther went to Worms, believing that he was going to his death. Everywhere on the road he saw the imperial edict against his books posted up, yet his journey was in some sort a triumphal progress; the people came out in crowds to meet him, and at Erfurt the herald gave way to the universal request, and, against his instructions, permitted Luther to preach. On the 16th Luther entered the imperial city amidst an immense concourse of people. Next day hew was brought before the diet. When the hour approached he fell on his knees, and uttered in great agony a prayer such as can only be pronounced by a man filled with the spirit of Him who prayed in Gethesemane. When he appeared before the diet he was asked by John Eck, an official of the archbishop of Treves (to be distinguished from Eck the theologian), whether the books piled on a table were his, and whether he would retract what was written in them. Luther acknowledged his writings, and requested that as the matter written concerned the highest of all subjects, the word of God and the welfare of souls, he might have time for consideration before he answered the second question. His request was granted, and he retired. Luther’s resolution had been taken before he appeared at the diet; he only desired to convince friends as well as foes that he did not act with precipitation at so decisive a moment. The next day he employed in prayer and meditation, making a solemn vow upon a volume of Scripture to remain faithful to the gospel, should he have to seal confession with his blood. When he was again brought before the diet, he answered at great length, dividing his writings into three kinds:æ (1) those in which he had written about faith and morals in such fashion that even his opponents admitted that what he had said was worth reading: he could not retract these; (2) those in which he had condemned the papacy and popish doings, which had ruined Christendom body and soul: to retract these would be mean and wicked, and he would not; (å) those in which he had attacked private persons with perhaps more vehemence than was right: he would not retract, but would readily listen to any one who pointed our errors. He spoke in German with earnestness and force, but the emperor and his followers scarcely understood him, and he was asked to repeat his answer in Latin. He did so, and the papal party were irritated; the official declared that they were not there to make distinctions or to discuss things which had been long ago settled by councils; let the accused say whether he recanted or not. Luther answered, "Well then, if your imperial majesty and your graces require a plain answer, I will give you one of that kind without horns and teeth. It is this. I must be convinced either by the witness of Scripture or by clear arguments, for I do not trust either pope or councils by themselves, since it is manifest that they have often erred and contradicted themselvesæfor I am bound by the Holy Scriptures which I have quoted, and my conscience is held by the word of God. I cannot and will not retract anything, for to act against conscience is unsafe and unholy. So help me God. Amen." Eck asked him whether he actually meant to say that general councils had erred. He answered that he declared, and that openly, that councils had erred several times, that the council of Constance had erred. Eck replied that he surely did not mean to say that general councils had erred. Luther persisted that he could prove that they had erred in many places. The emperor made a sign to end the matter, and Luther said, "I can to nought else. Here stand I. God help me. Amen." He went back to his lodgings in deep depression of spirit, but was comforted on learning that the elector had told Spalatin, "Doctor Martin has spoken well in Latin and in German before the emperor and all the princes and estates of the empire; only he is too keen for me." Luther’s answer created very various feelings among those who heard him. The Italians and Spaniards wished the safe conduct revoked, and Luther burnt at once. Most of the Germans resolved to protect him at all hazards. The emperor deliberated for a day, and then declared that he meant to permit Luther to return safely from the council, but that his opinions were to be condemned, and all who clung to them punished for the future. But the proposal to cancel the safe conduct had roused the people. There were threatenings of insurrections of the peasants, and of Sickingen and the knights; and the emperor, to allay the feeling, resolved that three days should be given to Luther to reconsider what he had said. Theologians came to argue with him, and to induce him to make some recantation, but in vain. At last the edict of the diet was pronounced, in which Luther was condemned in the severest terms, and placed under the ban of the empire. This meant that when his safe conduct expired he was an outlaw, and that all people were forbidden to give him food or fire or shelter. His books were to be burnt, his goods confiscated, and his adherents punished. Whoever disobeyed the edict incurred the ban of the empire.

At the Wartburg

Frederick the elector of Saxony thought that Luther’s life was no longer safe, as in twenty-one days his safe conduct would expire. Luther was hurried away from Worms, and as he traveled back to Wittenberg he was stopped near Eisenach by a banc of armed knights, and carried to the fortified castle of the Warburg above Eisenach by Frederick’s orders. The elector’s fears, as matters turned out, were exaggerated. Germany was in no mood to give Luther up, and there were threatenings of risings when he disappeared, only appeased when it was whispered about that he was in friendly keeping. Luther remained at the Wartburg, dressed as a knight, ordered to let his beard grow, and bearing the name Junker George, for ten months, and made use of his enforced leisure to begin what was perhaps his greatest literary work his translation of the Scriptures from the original texts. The New Testaments was almost entirely his own work. He used for the text Erasmus’s fourth edition, and took incredible pains with his work. Some of his MS. Still survives, and shows that he corrected and recorrected with great pains. Some passages were altered at least fifteen times. He often at a loss for want of technical knowledge, and laid all his friends under contribution. Thus, when in difficulty about the translation of Rev. xxi. He wrote to Spalatin to ask for names and descriptions of all the precious stones mentioned. When engaged in the translation of the descriptions of slaughter of beasts, he got a butcher to kill some sheep for him, that he might learn what every part of a sheep was called. His aim was to reproduce the tone and spirit of the original as far as he possibly could. No fine courtly words, he said to Spalatin; this book can only be explained in a simple popular style. It must be understood by the mother in the house, by the children in the streets, and by the "common man in the market." The translation of the New Testament was first published on September 21, 1522, and a second edition appeared in December. By choosing the Franconian dialect in use in the imperial chancery, Luther made himself intelligible to those vernacular dialect was High German or Low German, and his Bible is still the standard of the German tongue, and has preserved unity of language, literature, and thought to the German nation during its political disintegration. The translation of the Old Testament, begun in the same year, was a much more tedious task, and Luther was assisted in it by what Matthesius calls s private Sanhedrim. The friends met once a week, several hours before supper, in the old Augustinian monastery at Wittenberg, which had become Luther’s house. Bugenhagen, Justus Jonas, Melanchthon, Aurogallus, Roser, and several Jewish rabbis made the "Sanhedrim." Luther thus describes the work: "We are labouring hard to bring out the prophets in the mothertongue. Ach Gott! what a great and difficult work it is to make the Hebrew writers speak German! They resist it so, and are unwilling to give up their Hebrew existence and become like Germans." At the Wartburg Luther was ill in health and somewhat troubled in mind. He had been ill before he was summoned to Worms, and his long journey in the wagon its cloth tent, the excitement at Worms, and the solitude at Wartburg had enfeebled him; but his literary activity was untiring. He wrote short commentaries on the 68th Psalm and on other portions of Scripture, and a set of homiles intended to guide evangelical preachers, the Kirchen-postille. He also wrote one or two short treatises on worship, on the mass, on confession, and on monkish vows, intended to guide the reformed churches in the rejection of superstitious usages. Up to this time there had been no change in the church services. The true doctrine of the gospel had been preached in Germany, and Romish rites and ceremonies had been exhibited as abuses, but not a single word or portion of these ceremonies had been changed, and Luther felt that the preaching and the usages into harmony with each other. In the midst of these labours news came to him Germany was threatened with a new sale of indulgences. The cardinal archbishop of Mainz, Albert of Brandenburg, unable to pay the 26,000 ducats due to Rome for his pallium, had resolved to raise the money by indulgences. Luther wrote a fierce tractate Against the New Idol at Halle. The archbishop getting word of this, sent to Frederick asking him to restrain Luther from attacking a brother-elector, and Frederick wished Luther to desist. He was indignant, but at the request of Melanchthon he agreed to lay the treatise aside until he had written to the archbishop getting word of this, sent to Frederick asking him to restrain Luther from attacking a brother-elector, and Frederick wished Luther to desist. He was indignant, but at the request of Melanchthon he agreed to lay the treatise aside until he had written to the archbishop. "Put down the idol within a fortnight, or I shall attack you publicly," he wrote; and the archbishop in reply thanked Luther for his Christian brotherly reproof, and promised, "with the help of God, to live henceforth as a pious bishop and Christian prince."

Back at Wittenberg

Luther’s absence from his congregation, his students, and his friends and books at Wittenberg weighed heavily upon him, and he began to hear disquieting rumours. Carlstadt and other friends at Wittenberg were urging on the Reformation at too rapid a rate. Their idea was that everything in worship not expressly enjoined in the Bible should at once be abolished. The churches were to be stripped of crucifixes, images of saints, and the ritual of the mass; the festivals of the Christian year were to be neglected, the monastic life put down by force; and some even wished it ordained that all clergymen should be married. To Luther all this seemed dangerous, and sure to provoke a reaction; the changed insisted upon were to him matters of indifference, which might be left to the individual to do or leave undone as he pleased. Auricular confession, the reception of the Lord’s Supper under both forms, pictures in churches, the observance of festivals and fasts, and the monastic life were adiapnora. He wrote earnestly warning his friends against rashness and violence, and he was anxious and distressed. Still he held out patiently till events occurred which called for his presence. Certain men claiming to be prophets, Nicolaus Storch, a weaver, and his disciple Thomas Münzer, belonging to the village of Zwickau, near the Erzgebirge on the borders of Bohemia, preached wildly a thorough-going reformation in the church and the banishment of priests and Bibles. All believers were priests, they say, and all the faithful had the Holy Spirit within them, and did not any such external rule as Holy Scripture. They were banished from Zwickau, and came to Wittenberg, where Carlstadt joined them. Fired by their preaching, the people tore down the images in the churches and indulged in various kinds of rioting. Luther felt he could remain no longer in hiding. He wrote to the elector telling him that he must quit the Wartburg, and at the same time declaring that he left at his own peril. "You wish to know what to do in the present troublesome circumstances," he said. "Do nothing. As for myself, let the command of the emperor be executed in town or country. Do not resist if they come to seize and kill me; only let the doors remain open for the preaching of the word of God." He was warned that Duke George of Saxony, a violent enemy of the Reformation, was waiting to execute the sentence of the ban. "If things were at Leipsic as they are at Wittenberg," he said, "I would go there if it rained Duke Georges for nine days running, and every one of them nine times as fierce as he." He left the Wartburg, suddenly appearing in Wittenberg on March 3, 1522, and plunged at once into the midst of struggles very different from those which he had hitherto so victoriously overcome. He found things in a worse state than he had feared; even Melanchthon had been carried away. Luther preached almost daily for eight consecutive days against Carlstadt and the fanatics from Zwickau, and in the end he prevailed and the danger was averted. His theme was that violence does no good to God’s word; there are in religion matters of indifference. "The Word created heaven and earth and all things; the same Word must also now create, and not we poor sinners. Summa summarum, I will preach it, I will talk of it, I will write about it, but I will not use force or compulsion with any one." "In this life every one must not do what he has a right to do, but must forego his rights, and consider what is useful to his brother. Do not make a ‘must be’ out of a ‘may be,’ as you have been doing, that you may not have to answer for those whom you have misled by your uncharitable liberty." Storch and Münzer, sincere though misguided men, sought an interview with him. They laid their claims for support before him; they said that they were inspired and could prove it, for they would tell him what then passed through his mind. Luther challenged them to the proof. "You think in you own heart that my doctrine is true," said one of them impressively. "Get thee behind me, Satan," exclaimed Luther, and dismissed them. "They were quite right," he said to his friends afterwards; "that thought crossed my mind about some of their assertions. A spirit evidently was in them; but what could it be but the evil one?"

Luther and the Diet at Nuremberg

These Charles V. had laid Luther under the ban of the empire, he had undoubtedly been greatly influenced by political consideration. Francis I. of France and Charles of Spain were rivals, and the whole of the European policy of the time turns on this rivalry. The opponents schemed to attract to themselves and to divert from their neighbour the two outside powers of England and the papacy, and in 1521 it was policy of Charles to win alliance with the pope. The Germans saw that they were being sacrificed in this game of statecraft, and there was no great willingness even among Roman Catholics to put the edict of Worms in force. Luther at the Wartburg and at Wittenberg was protected by the national feeling of Germany from attack. The diet of the empire met in 1522 at Nuremberg, and the new imperial council, which ruled in the emperor’s absence, and very fairly represented the popular feeling in Germany, was in no mood to yield to the papacy. Leo X. had died, and Adrian VI., an orthodox Thomist theologian and an advocate for reformation in the cloisters and in the lives of the clergy, proposed to begin reforamation by crushing the German heresy. He instructed his nuncio to the diet to demand the execution of the edict of Worms. The imperial council refused until the grievances of Germany were heard and redressed. They spoke of concordats broken and papal pledges unfulfilled, and finally they demanded a free œcumenical council to be held in Germany within a year, which should settle abuses, and until met they wished the creed to be an open question. The nuncio found that the pulpits of the free imperial city were filled with preachers, mostly monks, who were making the city resound with gospel preaching. He asked the diet at least to arrest the preachers; the diet pleaded incompetence. He proposed to seize them himself in the pope’s name; the magistrates threatened to release them by force, and the nuncio had to desist. The diet then presented a hundred gravamina or subjects of complaint which the German nation had against the papacy, including in the list indulgences, dispensations bought for money, absentee bishops and other ecclesiastics, the use of bans and interdicts, pilgrimages, excessive demands for money, and the decisions of matrimonial cases in ecclesiastical courts. The complaint was an expansions of Luther’s address to the German nobles. The nuncio could do nothing, and was forced to accept by way of compromise a decision from the diet that only the verum, purum, sincerum, et sanctum evangelium was to be preached in Germany. Nuremberg reversed the edict of Worms. Next year the diet met again at Nuremberg, and the new pope, Clement VII., sent the celebrated cardinal-legate Lorenzo Campeggio to demand the execution of the edict of Worms. The diet asked in return what had become of the hundred grievances of the German nation, to which Rome had never deigned to return an answer. Campeggio declared that at Rome the document had been considered merely as a private pamphlet; on which the diet, in great indignation, insisted on the necessity of an œcumenical council, and proceeded to annul the edict of Worms,ædeclaring, however, in their communication to the pope, that it should be conformed to as much as possible, which with respect to many cities and princes meant not at all. Finally it was resolved that a diet to be held at Spires was to decide upon the religious differences. But between Nuremberg and Spires an event occurred, the revolt of Sickingen and the knights, which was destined to work harm to the Reformation. The diet of Spires met, and, many of members being inclined to connect Sickingen and Luther, there was a strong feeling against the Reformation, but the feeling was not strong enough to induce the diet to comply with the demands of the legate Campeggio and revoke the decisions of Nuremberg, and it refused to execute the edict of Worms. Campeggio, however, was able to separate Germany into two parties, and this separation became apparent at the convention of Ratisbon, where Bavaria, Austria, and other South-German states resolved to come to separate terms with the papacy. The curia promised to stop a number of ecclesiastical extortions and indulgences, to make better appointments to benefices, and to hand over some of the ecclesiastical estates to the Austrian and Bavarian princes; while the states promised to set aside the gravamina, and to permit no toleration of the new doctrines. On the other hand many states which had kept aloof from the Reformation now joined it, and declared against the seven sacraments, the abuses of the mass, the worship of saints, and the supremacy of the pope. The emperor’s brother and successor Ferdinand was a bitter foe to the Reformation, and urged persecution. Four Augustinian monks at Antwerp were the first martyrs; they were burnt on 1st July 1523. Ferdinand began the bloody work of persecution in the hereditary states of Austria immediately after the convention of Ratisbon. At Passau in Bavaria, and at Buda in Hungary, the faggots were lighted. The dukes of Bavaria followed the same impulse.

Luther's Writings during this Period

Luther’s literary activity during these years was unparalleled. In 1522 he published, it is said, one hundred and thirty treatises, and eighty-three in the following year, among them the famous Contra Henricum regem Angliæ, in which, after having dealt mercilessly with the royal controversialist, he exclaims, "I cry ‘Gospel! Gospel! Christ! Christ!’ and they cease not to answer ‘Usages! Usages! Ordinances! Ordinances! Fathers! Fathers!’ The apostle St Paul annihilates with a thunderstorm from heaven all these fooleries of Henry." His principal work, however, during these years was the publication of certain short tracks upon worship and its reform, followed by various directories for public worship, which afterwards served as a model for the numerous Lutheran Church ordinances. In 1522, while Luther was still in the Wartburg, Carlstadt had published for the church at Wittenberg an ordinance for directing the government and worship of the church. It was very brief, but very revolutionary (cf. Ritcher’s Evangel, Kirchenordnungen, vol. ii. p. 484). This was withdrawn after Luther’s return; but the Reformer felt that the time had come for a definite reform of public worship and for publishing his views upon the subject. Accordingly, after a series of tracts in 1522 upon religious and monastic vows, the abolition of private masses, the Lord’s Supper under both forms, saint worship, the so-called spiritual estate, and the married life, he published in 1523 The Order of the Worship of God. He was, as usual, conservative, and made as few changes as possible in the form of service, caring only to give full place to prayer and the reading and preaching of the word. The order of worship was followed by the Formula Missæ, published in Latin; but at once translated into German by Paul Speratus, in which the ancient form was as much preserved as is consistent with evangelical doctrine. Luther was of opinion that the more difficult introits should be removed from the order of the Eucharist, and simpler hymns put in their place, and he also was strongly in favour of the singing of hymns in the common worship. This led to the publication in 1524 of a small collection of church hymns, which was Luther’s first German Church Hymn-book, and which was the beginning of the wonderfully rich German Protestant hymnology. In the same year Luther translated the order of baptism, and published it under the title of Das Tauf-Büchlein. He also drew up a directory for public worship fro Leisnig (cf. Richter, op. cit., vol. i.). The hymn-book was followed by a prayer-book, and by the publication of a short summary of the heads of Christian truth fitted for the instruction of the "rude common man." Luther’s catechism for children completed this series of works, intended to aid worship, public and private. Notwithstanding this immense amount of literary work, Luther found time to make preaching tours, and visited in this way Altenburg, Zwickau, Eilenburg, Erfurt, Weimar, and many other places, and was cheered by the progress of the Reformation throughout North Germany. About this time also he sent a powerful address to the municipal councils of the German towns, exhorting them to establish everywhere Christian schools, both elementary and secondary. "Oh my dear Germans," he exclaimed, "the divine word is now in abundance offered to you. God knocks at your door; open it to Him! Forget not the poor youth. . . . The strength of a town does not consist in its towers and buildings, but in counting a great number of learned, serious, honest, and well-educated citizens." He tried to impress upon them the necessity for the highest education, the knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, by showing how serviceable such learning had been to him in his attack upon the abuses of Rome. He also appealed to the princes and cities to help the gospel and the Reformed churches; but church rule and church maintenance could not be fixed on a legal basis until much later.

Here we conclude this first glorious period of Luther’s life. the problem to be solved was not to be solved by Luther and by Germany; the progressive vital element of reformation passed from Germany to Switzerland, and through Switzerland to France, Holland, England, and Scotland. Before he descended into the grave, and Germany into thralldom, Luther saved, as much as was in him, his country and the world, by maintaining the fundamental principles of the Reformation against Melanchthon’s pusillanimity; but three Protestant princes ad the free cities were the leaders. The confession was the work of Melanchthon; but the deed was done by the laity of the nation. The German Reformation was made by a scholastically trained monk, seconded by professors; the Swiss Reformation was the work of a free citizen, an honest Christian, trained by the classics of antiquity, and nursed in true hard-won civil liberty. Luther’s work was continued, preserved, and advanced by the work of the Swiss and French Reformers. The monk began; the citizen finished. If the one destroyed Judaism, the other paganism, then most powerful, both as idolatry and as irreligious learning. But as long as Luther lived he did not lose his supremacy, and he deserved to keep it. His mind was universal, and therefore catholic in the proper sense of the word.

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