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Title: Luther and the Reformation: - The Life-Springs of Our Liberties
Author: Seiss, Joseph A.
Language: English
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[Illustration: JOSEPH A. SEISS.]




Copyright, 1883,



The first part of this book presents the studies of the Author in
preparing a Memorial Oration delivered in the city of New York,
November 10, 1883, on the four hundredth anniversary of the birth of
Martin Luther. The second part presents his studies in a like
preparation for certain Discourses delivered in the city of
Philadelphia at the Bi-Centennial of the founding of the Commonwealth
of Pennsylvania. There was no intention, in either case, to make a
book, however small in size. But the utterances given on these
occasions having been solicited for publication in permanent shape for
common use, and the two parts being intimately related in the
exhibition of the most vital springs of our religious and civil
freedom, it has been concluded to print these studies entire and
together in this form, in hope that the same may satisfy all such
desires and serve to promote truth and righteousness.

Throughout the wide earth there has been an unexampled stir with
regard to the life and work of the great Reformer, and these
presentations may help to show it no wild craze, but a just and
rational recognition of God's wondrous providence in the constitution
of our modern world.

And to Him who was, and who is, and who is to come, the God of all
history and grace, be the praise, the honor, and the glory, world
without end!




Human Greatness, 9.--_The Papacy_, 12.--Efforts at Reform, 14.--Time
of the Reformation, 17.--Frederick the Wise, 18.--Reuchlin,
19.--Erasmus, 21.--Ulric von Hütten, 23.--Ulrich Zwingli,
24.--Melanchthon, 24.--John Calvin, 25.--Luther the Chosen Instrument,
27.--His Origin, 28.--Early Training, 29.--_Nature of the
Reformation_, 32.--Luther's Spiritual Training, 34.--Development for
his Work, 39.--Visit to Rome, 42.--Elected Town-Preacher, 45.--Made a
Doctor, 45.--His Various Labors, 48.--Collision with the Hierarchy,
49.--The Indulgence-Traffic, 50.--Tetzel's Performances, 54.--Luther
on Indulgences, 57.--Sermon on Indulgences, 59.--Appeal to the
Bishops, 62.--_The Ninety-five Theses_, 63.--Effect of the Theses,
65.--Tetzel's End, 68.--Luther's Growing Influence, 68.--Appeal to the
Pope, 69.--Citation to Rome, 70.--Appears before Cajetan,
71.--Cajetan's Failure, 72.--Progress of Events, 74.--_The Leipsic
Disputation_, 75.--Results of the Debate, 76.--Luther's
Excommunication, 78.--Answer to the Pope's Bull, 81.--_The Diet of
Worms_, 83.--Doings of the Romanists, 85.--Luther Summoned to the
Diet, 87.--Luther at the Diet, 90.--Refuses to Retract, 92.--His
Condemnation, 95.--Carried to the Wartburg, 95.--_Translation of the
Bible_, 96.--His Conservatism, 98.--Growth of the Reformation,
100.--_Luther's Catechisms_, 103.--Protestants and War, 103.--_The
Confession of Augsburg_, 105.--League of Smalcald, 109.--Luther's
Later Years, 111.--_His Personale_, 114.--His Great Qualities,
119.--His Alleged Coarseness, 123.--His Marvelous Achievements,
126.--His Impress upon the World, 127.--His Enemies and Revilers, 131.



Beginning of Colonization in America, 137.--Movements in Sweden,
138.--Swedish Proposals, 143.--Was Penn Aware of these Plans?
145.--The Swedes in Advance of Penn, 147.--_The Men of those Times_,
151.--Gustavus Adolphus, 152.--Axel Oxenstiern, 155.--Peter Minuit,
157.--William Penn, 159.--Estimate of Penn, 161.--Penn and the
Indians, 162.--Penn's Work, 168.--The Greatness of Faith, 169.


Man's Religious Nature, 173.--_Our State the Product of Faith_,
174.--Gustavus and the Swedes, 176.--The Feelings of William Penn,
178.--_Recognition of the Divine Being_, 180.--Enactments on the
Subject, 183.--Importance of this Principle, 185.--_Religious
Liberty_, 187.--Persecution for Opinion's Sake, 189.--Spirit of the
Founders of Pennsylvania, 190.--Constitutional Provisions,
193.--_Safeguards to True Liberty_, 194.--Laws on Religion and Morals,
197.--Forms of Government, 200.--_A Republican State_, 202.--The Last
Two Hundred Years, 203.


A rare spectacle has been spreading itself before the face of heaven
during these last months.

Millions of people, of many nations and languages, on both sides of
the ocean, simultaneously engaged in celebrating the birth of a mere
man, four hundred years after he was born, is an unwonted scene in our

Unprompted by any voice of authority, unconstrained by any command of
power, we join in the wide-ranging demonstration.

In the happy freedom which has come to us among the fruits of that
man's labors we bring our humble chaplet to grace the memory of one
whose worth and services there is scarce capacity to tell.


Some men are colossal. Their characters are so massive, and their
position in history is so towering, that other men can hardly get
high enough to take their measure. An overruling Providence so endows
and places them that they affect the world, turn its course into new
channels, impart to it a new spirit, and leave their impress on all
the ages after them. Even humble individuals, without titles, crowns,
or physical armaments, have wrought themselves into the very life of
the race and built their memorials in the characteristics of epochs.

History tells of a certain Saul of Tarsus, a lone and friendless man,
stripped of all earthly possessions, forced into battle with a
universe of enthroned superstition, encompassed by perils which
threatened every hour to dissolve him, who, pressing his way over
mountains of difficulty and through seas of suffering, and dying a
martyr to his cause, gave to Europe a living God and to the nations
another and an everlasting King.

We likewise read of a certain Christopher Columbus, brooding in lowly
retirement upon the structure of the physical universe, ridiculed,
frowned on by the learned, repulsed by court after court, yet
launching out into the unknown seas to find an undiscovered
hemisphere, and opening the way for persecuted Liberty to cradle the
grand empire of popular rule amid the golden hills of a new and
independent continent.

And in this category stands the name of MARTIN LUTHER.

He was a poor, plain man, only a doctor of divinity, without place
except as a teacher in a university, without power or authority except
in the convictions and qualities of his own soul, and with no
implements save his Bible, tongue, and pen; but with him the ages
divided and human history took a new departure.

Two pre-eminent revolutions have passed over Europe since the
beginning of the Christian era. The one struck the Rome and rule of
emperors; the other struck the Rome and rule of popes. The one brought
the Dark Ages; the other ended them. The one overwhelmed the dominion
of the Cæsars; the other humiliated a more than imperial dominion
reared in Cæsar's place. Alaric, Rhadagaisus, Genseric, and Attila
were the chief instruments and embodiment of the first; _Martin
Luther_ was the chief instrument and embodiment of the second. The one
wrought bloody desolation; the other brought blessed renovation, under
which humanity has bloomed its happiest and its best.


Since Phocas decreed the bishop of Rome the supreme head of the Church
on earth there had grown up strange power which claimed to decide
beyond appeal respecting everybody and everything--from affairs of
empire to the burial of the dead, from the thoughts of men here to the
estate of their souls hereafter--and to command the anathemas of God
upon any who dared to question its authority. It held itself divinely
ordained to give crowns and to take them away. Kings and potentates
were its vassals, and nations had to defer to it and serve it, on pain
of _interdicts_ which smote whole realms with gloom and desolation,
prostrated all the industries of life, locked up the very graveyards
against decent sepulture, and consigned peoples and generations to an
irresistible damnation. It was omnipresent and omnipotent in civilized
Europe. Its clergy and orders swarmed in every place, all sworn to
guard it at every point on peril of their souls, and themselves held
sacred in person and retreat from all reach of law for any crime save
lack of fealty to the great autocracy.[1] The money, the armies, the
lands, the legislatures, the judges, the executives, the police, the
schools, with the whole ecclesiastical administration, reaching even
to the most private affairs of life, were under its control. And at
its centre sat its absolute dictator, unanswerable and supreme, the
alleged Vicar of God on earth, for whom to err was deemed impossible.

Think of a power which could force King Henry IV., the heir of a long
line of emperors, to strip himself of every mark of his station, put
on the linen dress of a penitent, walk barefooted through the winter's
snow to the pope's castle at Canossa, and there to wait three days at
its gates, unbefriended, unfed, and half perishing with cold and
hunger, till all but the alleged Vicar of Jesus Christ were moved with
pity for his miseries as he stood imploring the tardy clemency of
Hildebrand, which was almost as humiliating in its bestowal as in its

Think of a power which could force the English king, Henry II., to
walk three miles of a flinty road, with bare and bleeding feet, to
Canterbury, to be flogged from one end of the church to the other by
the beastly monks, and then forced to spend the whole night in
supplications to the spirit of an obstinate, perjured, and defiant
archbishop, whom four of his over-zealous knights, without his orders,
had murdered, and whose inner garments, when he was stripped to
receive his shroud, were found alive with vermin!

Think of a power which, in defiance of the sealed safe-conduct of the
empire, could seize John Huss, one of the worthiest and most learned
men of his time, and burn him alive in the presence of the emperor!

Think of a power which, by a single edict, caused the deliberate
murder of more than fifty thousand men in the Netherlands alone!


[1] Many assumed the clerical character for no other reason than that
it might screen them from the punishment which their actions deserved,
and the monasteries were full of people who entered them to be secure
against the consequences of their crimes and atrocities.--Rymer's
_Foedera_, vol. xiii. p. 532.


To restrain and humble this gigantic power was the desideratum of
ages. For two hundred years had men been laboring to curb and tame it.
From theologians and universities, from kings and emperors, from
provinces and synods, from general councils, and even the College of
Cardinals--in every name of right, virtue, and religion--appeal after
appeal and solemn effort after effort were made to reform the Roman
court and free the world from the terrible oppression. Wars on wars
were waged; provinces on provinces were deluged with blood;
coalitions, bound by sacred oaths, were formed against the giant
tyranny. And yet the hierarchy managed to maintain its assumptions and
to overwhelm all remedial attempts. Whether made by individuals or
secular powers, by councils or governments, the result was the same.
The Pontificate still triumphed, with its claims unabridged, its
dominion unbroken, its scandals uncured.

A general council sat at Constance to reform the clergy in head and
members. It managed to rid itself of three popes between whom
Christendom was divided, when the emperor moved that the work of
reform proceed. But the cardinals said, How can the Church reform
itself without a head? So they elected a pope who was to lead reform.
Yet a day had hardly passed before they found themselves in a
traitor's power, who reaffirmed all the acts of the iniquitous John
XXIII., who had just been deposed for his crimes, and presently
endowed him with a cardinal's hat!

When this pope, Martin V., died, the cardinals thought to remedy their
previous mistake. They would secure their reforms before electing a
pope. So they erected themselves into a standing senate, without
which no future pope could act. And they each took solemn oath, before
God and all angels, by St. Peter and all apostles, by the holy
sacrament of Christ's body and blood, and by all the powers that be,
if elected, to conform to these arrangements and to use all the rights
and prerogatives of the sublime position to put in force the reforms
conceded to be necessary.

But what are oaths and fore-pledges to candidates greedy for office?
The tickets which elected the new pope had hardly been counted when he
absolved himself from all previous obligations, disowned the senate of
cardinals he had helped to erect, began his career with violence and
robbery, plundered the cities and states of Italy, religiously
violated all compacts but those which favored his absolute supremacy,
brought to none effect the reform Council of Basle, deceived Germany
with his specious and hollow concessions, averted the improvements he
had sworn to make, and by his perfidy and cunning managed to retain in
subordination to the old régime nearly the whole of that Christendom
which he had outraged!

In spite of the efforts of centuries, this super-imperial power held
by the throat a struggling world.

To break that gnarled and bony hand, which locked up everything in its
grasp; to bring down the towering altitude of that olden tyranny,
whose head was lifted to the clouds; to strike from the soul its
clanking chains and set the suffering nations free; to champion the
inborn rights of afflicted humanity, and conquer the ignorance and
imposture which had governed for a thousand years,--constituted the
work and office of the man the four hundredth anniversary of whose
birth half the civilized world is celebrating to-day.


It has been said that when this tonsured Augustinian came upon the
stage almost any brave man might have brought about the impending
changes. The Reformers before the Reformation, though vanquished, had
indeed not lived in vain. The European peoples were outgrowing feudal
vassalage, and moving toward nationalization and separation between
the secular and ecclesiastical powers. Travel, exploration, and
discovery had introduced new subjects of human interest and
contemplation. Schools of law, medicine, and liberal education were
being established and largely attended. The common mind was losing
faith in the professions and teachings of the old hierarchy. Free
inquiry was overturning the dominion of authority in matters of
thought and opinion. The intellect of man was beginning to recover
from the nightmare of centuries. A mightier power than the sword had
sprung up in the art of printing. In a word, the world was gravid with
a new era. But it was not so clear who would be able to bring it
safely to the birth.

There were living at the time many eminent men who might be thought of
for this office had it not been assigned to Luther. Reuchlin, Erasmus,
Hütten, Sickingen, and others have been named, but the list might be
extended, and yet no one be found endowed with the qualities to
accomplish the work that was needed and that was accomplished.


The Saxon Elector, Frederick the Wise, was the worthiest, most
popular, and most influential ruler then in Europe. He could have been
emperor in place of Charles V. had he consented to be. The history of
the world since his time might have been greatly different had he
yielded to the general desire. His principles, his attainments, his
wisdom, and his spirit were everything to commend him. He founded the
University of Wittenberg in hope that it would produce preachers who
would leave off the cold subtleties of Scholasticism and the
uncertainties of tradition, and give discourses that would possess the
nerve and power of the Gospel of God. He sought out the best and most
pious men for his advisers. He was the devoted friend of learning,
truth, and virtue. By his prudence and foresight in Church and State
he helped the Reformation more than any other man then in power. Had
it not been for him perhaps Luther could not have succeeded. But it
was not in the nature of things for the noble Elector to give us such
a Reformation as that led by his humble subject. It is useless to
speculate as to what the Reformation might have become in his hands;
but it certainly could never have become what we rejoice to know it
was, while the probabilities are that we would now be fighting the
battles which Luther fought for us three and a half centuries ago.


Reuchlin was a learned and able man, and deeply conscious of the need
of reform. When the Greek Argyrophylos heard him read and explain
Thucydides, he exclaimed, "Greece has retired beyond the Alps." He was
the first Hebrew scholar of Germany, and served to restore the Hebrew
Scriptures to the knowledge of the Church. He held that popes could
err and be deceived. He had no faith in human abnegations for
reconciliation with God. He saw no need for hierarchical mediations,
and discredited the doctrine of Purgatory and masses for the dead. He
bravely defended the cause of learning against the ignorant monks,
whom he hated and held up to merciless ridicule. He was a brilliant
and persuasive orator. He was an associate and counselor of kings. He
gave Melanchthon to the Reformation, and did much to promote it.
Luther recognized in him a great light, of vast service to the Gospel
in Germany. But Reuchlin could never have accomplished the
Reformation. The vital principles of it were not sufficiently rooted
in him. He was a humanist, whose sympathies went with the republic of
letters, not with the wants of the soul and the needs of the people.
When he got into trouble he appealed to the pope. And though he lived
to see Luther in agonizing conflict with the hierarchy of Rome, he
refrained from making common cause with him, and died in connection
with the unreformed Church, whose doctrines he had questioned and
whose orders he had so unsparingly ridiculed.


Erasmus was a notable man, great in talent and of great service in
preparing the way for the Reformation. He turned reviving learning to
the study of the Word. He produced the first, and for a long time the
only, critical edition of the New Testament in the original, to which
he added a Latin translation and notes. He paraphrased the Epistle to
the Romans--that great Epistle on which above all, the Reformation
moved. Though once an inmate of a monastery, he abhorred the monks and
exposed them with terrible severity. He had more friends, reputation,
and influence than perhaps any other private man in Europe. And he was
deep in the spirit of opposition to the scandalous condition of things
in the Church. But he never could have given us the Reformation. He
said all honest men sided with Luther, and as an honest man his place
would have been by Luther's side; but he was too great a coward. "If I
should join Luther," said he, "I could only perish with him, and I do
not mean to run my neck into the halter. Let popes and emperors
settle matters."--"Your Holiness says, Come to Rome; you might as well
tell a crab to fly. If I write calmly against Luther, I shall be
called lukewarm; if I write as he does, I shall stir up a hornet's
nest.... Send for the best and wisest men in Christendom, and follow
their advice."--"Reduce the dogmas necessary to be believed to the
smallest possible number. On other points let every one believe as he
likes. Having done this, quietly correct the abuses of which the world
justly complains."

So wrote Erasmus to the pope and to the archbishop of Mayence. Such
was his ideal of reformation--a thing as impossible to bring into
practical effect as its realization would have been absurd. It is easy
to tell a crab to fly, but will he do it? As well propose to convert
infallibility with a fable of Æsop as to count on bringing
regeneration to the hierarchy by such counsels.

The waters were too deep and the storms too fierce for the vacillating
Erasmus. He did some excellent service in his way, but all his
counsels and ideas failed, as they deserved. Once the idol of Europe,
he died a defeated, crushed, and miserable man. "Hercules could not
fight two monsters at once," said he, "while I, poor wretch! have
lions, cerberuses, cancers, scorpions, every day at my sword's
point.... There is no rest for me in my age, unless I join Luther; and
that I cannot, for I cannot accept his doctrines. Sometimes I am stung
with desire to avenge my wrongs; but my heart says, Will you in your
spleen raise hand against your mother who begot you at the font? I
cannot do it. Yet, because I bade monks remember their vows; because I
told persons to leave off their wranglings and read the Bible; because
I told popes and cardinals to look to the apostles and be more like
them,--the theologians say I am their enemy."

Thus in sorrow and in clouds Erasmus passed away, as would the entire
Reformation in his hands.


Ulric von Hütten, soldier and knight, equally distinguished in letters
and in arms, and called the Demosthenes of Germany, was a zealous
friend of reform. He had been in Rome, and sharpened his darts from
what he there saw to hurl them with effect. All the powers of satire
and ridicule he brought to bear upon the pillars of the Papacy. He
helped to shake the edifice, and his plans and spirit might have
served to pull it down had he been able to bring Europe to his mind;
but it would only have been to bury society in its ruins.


Ulrich Zwingli is ranked among Reformers, and he was energetic in
behalf of reform. But he fell a victim to his own mistakes, and with
him would have perished the Reformation also had it depended upon him.
Even had he lived, his radical and rationalistic spirit, his narrow
and fiery patriotism, his shallow religious experience, and his
eagerness to rest the cause of Reformation on civil authority and the
sword, would have wrecked it with nine-tenths of the European peoples.


Philip Melanchthon was a better and a greater man, and did the
Reformation a far superior service. Luther would have been much
disabled without him, and Germany has awarded him the title of its
"Preceptor." But no Reformation could have come if the fighting or
directing of its battles had been left to him. Even with the great
Luther ever by his side, he could hardly get loose from Rome and
retain his wholeness, and when he was loose could hardly maintain his
legs upon the ground that had been won.


John Calvin was a man of great learning and ability. Marked has been
his influence on the theology and government of a large portion of the
Reformed churches. But the Reformation was twelve years old before he
came into it. It had to exist already ere there could be a Calvin,
while his repeated flights to avoid danger prove how inadequate his
courage was for such unflinching duty as rendered Luther illustrious.
He was a cold, hard, ascetic aristocrat at best, more cynical, stern,
and tyrannical than brave. The organization for the Church and civil
government which he gave to Geneva was quite too intolerant and
inquisitorial for safe adoption in general or to endure the test of
the true Gospel spirit. Under a régime which burnt Servetus for
heresy, threw men into prison for reading novels, hung and beheaded
children for improper behavior toward parents, whipped and banished
people for singing songs, and dealt with others as public blasphemers
if they said a word against the Reformers or failed to go to church,
the cause of the Reformation could never have commanded acceptance by
the nations, or have survived had it been received. The famous "Blue
Laws" of the New England colonies have had to be given up as a scandal
upon enlightened civilization; but they were largely transcribed from
Calvin's code and counsels, including even the punishing of witches.
For the last two hundred years the Calvinistic peoples have been
reforming back from Calvin's rules and spirit, either to a better
foundation for the perpetuation and honor of the Church or to a
rationalistic skepticism which lets go all the distinctive elements of
the genuine Christian Creed--the natural reaction from the hard and
overstrained severity of a legalistic style of Christianity.

With all the great service Calvin has rendered to theological science
and church discipline, there was an unnatural sombreness about him,
which linked him rather with the Middle Ages and the hierarchical rule
than with the glad, free spirit of a wholesome Christian life. At
twenty-seven he had already drawn up a formula of doctrine and
organization which he never changed and to which he ever held. There
was no development either in his life or in his ideas. The evangelic
elements of his system he found ready to his hand, as thought out by
Luther and the German theologians. They did not originate or grow with
him. And had the Reformation depended upon him it could never have
become a success. So too with any others that might be named.


We may not limit Providence. The work was to be done. Every interest
of the world and of the kingdom of God demanded it. And if there had
been no Luther at hand, some one else would have been raised up to
serve in his place. But there _was_ a Luther, and, as far as human
insight can determine, he was the only man on earth competent to
achieve the Reformation. And he it was who did achieve it.

Looked at in advance, perhaps no one would have thought of him for
such an office. He was so humbly born, so lowly in station, so
destitute of fortune, and withal so honest a Papist, that not the
slightest tokens presented to mark him out as the chosen instrument to
grapple with the magnitudinous tyranny by which Europe was enthralled.

But "God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the
things that are mighty." Moses was the son of a slave. The founder of
the Hebrew monarchy was a shepherd-boy. The Redeemer-King of the world
was born in a stable and reared in the family of a village carpenter.
And we need not wonder that the hero-prophet of the modern ages was
the son of a poor toiler for his daily bread, and compelled to sing
upon the street for alms to keep body and soul together while
struggling for an education.

It has been the common order of Providence that the greatest lights
and benefactors of the race, the men who rose the highest above the
level of their kind and stood as beacons to the world, were not such
as would have been thought of in advance for the mighty services which
render their names immortal. And that the master spirit of the great
Reformation was no exception all the more surely identifies that
marvelous achievement as the work of an overruling God.


Luther was a Saxon German--a German of the Germans--born of that blood
out of which, with but few exceptions, have sprung the ruling powers
of the West since the last of the old Roman emperors. He came out of
the bosom of the freshest, strongest, and hardiest peoples then
existing--the direct descendants of those wild Cimbrian and Teutonic
tribes who, even in their heathenism, were the most virtuous, brave,
and true of all the Gentiles.

Nor was he the offspring of enfeebled, gouty, aristocratic blood. He
was the son of the sinewy and sturdy yeomanry. Though tradition
reports one of his remote ancestors in something of imperial place
among the chieftains of the semi-savage tribes from which he was
descended, when the period of the Reformation came his family was in
like condition with that of the house of David when the Christ was
born. His father and grandfather and great-grandfather, he says
himself, were true Thuringian peasants.


In the early periods of the mediæval Church her missionaries came to
these fiery warriors of the North and followed the conquests of
Charlemagne, to teach them that they had souls, that there is a living
and all-knowing God at whose judgment-bar all must one day stand to
give account, and that it would then be well with the believing,
brave, honest, true, and good, and ill with cowards, profligates, and
liars. It was a simple creed, but it took fast hold on the Germanic
heart, to show itself in sturdy power in the long after years.

This creed, in unabated force, descended to Luther's parents, and
lived and wrought in them as a controlling principle. They were also
strict to render it the same in their children.

_Hans Luther_ was a hard and stern disciplinarian, unsparing in the
enforcement of every virtue.

_Margaret Luther_[2] was noted among her neighbors as a model woman,
and was so earnest in her inculcations of right that she preferred to
see her son bleed beneath the rod rather than that he should do a
questionable thing even respecting so small a matter as a nut.

From his childhood Luther was thus trained and attempered to fear
God, reverence truth and honesty, and hate hypocrisy and lies.
Possibly his parents were severer with him than was necessary, but it
was well for him, as the prospective prophet of a new era, to learn
absolute obedience to those who were to him the representatives of
that divine authority which he was to teach the world supremely to

But no birth, or blood, or parental drilling, or any mere human
culture, could give the qualities necessary to a successful Reformer.
The Church had fallen into all manner of evils, because it had drifted
away from the apostolic doctrine as to how a man shall be just with
God; which is the all-conditioning question of all right religion.
There could then be no cure for those evils except by the bringing of
the Church back to that doctrine. But to do anything effectual toward
such a recovery it was pre-eminently required that the Reformer
himself should first be brought to an experimental knowledge of what
was to be witnessed and taught.

On two different theatres, therefore, the Reformation had to be
wrought out: first, in the Reformer's own soul, and then on the field
of the world outside of him.


[2] The maiden name of Margaret Luther, the mother of Martin, was
_Margaret Ziegler_. There has been a traditional belief that her name
was Margaret Lindeman. The mistake originated in confounding Luther's
grandmother, whose name was _Lindeman_, with Luther's mother, whose
name was _Ziegler_. Prof. Julius Köstlin, in his _Life of Luther_,
after a thorough examination of original records and documents, gives
this explanation.


It is hard to take in the depth and magnitude of what is called The
Great Reformation. It stands out in history like a range of Himalayan
mountains, whose roots reach down into the heart of the world and
whose summits pierce beyond the clouds.

To Bossuet and Voltaire it was a mere squabble of the monks; to others
it was the cupidity of secular sovereigns and lay nobility grasping
for the power, estates, and riches of the Church. Some treat of it as
a simple reaction against religious scandals, with no great depths of
principle or meaning except to illustrate the recuperative power of
human society to cure itself of oppressive ills. Guizot describes it
as "a vast effort of the human mind to achieve its freedom--a great
endeavor to emancipate human reason." Lord Bacon takes it as the
reawakening of antiquity and the recall of former times to reshape and
fashion our own.

Whatever of truth some of these estimates may contain, they fall far
short of a correct idea of what the Reformation was, or wherein lay
the vital spring of that wondrous revolution. Its historic and
philosophic centre was vastly deeper and more potent than either or
all of these conceptions would make it. Many influences contributed to
its accomplishment, but its inmost principle was unique. The real
nerve of the Reformation was religious. Its life was something
different from mere earthly interests, utilities, aims, or passions.
_Its seat was in the conscience._ Its true spring was the soul,
confronted by eternal judgment, trembling for its estate before divine
Almightiness, and, on pain of banishment from every immortal good,
forced to condition and dispose itself according to the clear
revelations of God. It was not mere negation to an oppressive
hierarchy, except as it was first positive and evangelic touching the
direct and indefeasible relations and obligations of the soul to its
Maker. Only when the hierarchy claimed to qualify these direct
relations and obligations, thrust itself between the soul and its
Redeemer, and by eternal penalties sought to hold the conscience bound
to human authorities and traditions, did the Reformation protest and
take issue. Had the inalienable right and duty to obey God rather than
man been conceded, the hierarchy, as such, might have remained, the
same as monarchical government. But this the hierarchy negatived,
condemned, and would by no means tolerate. Hence the mighty contest.
And the heart, sum, and essence of the whole struggle was the
maintenance and the working out into living fact of this direct
obligation of the soul to God and the supreme authority of His clear
and unadulterated word.


How Luther came to these principles, and the fiery trials by which
they were burnt into him as part of his inmost self, is one of the
most vital chapters in the history.

His father had designed him for the law. To this end he had gone
through the best schools of Germany, taken his master's degree, and
was advancing in the particular studies relating to his intended
profession, when a sudden change came over his life.

Religious in his temper and training, and educated in a creed which
worked mainly on man's fears, without emphasizing the only basis of
spiritual peace, he fell into great terrors of conscience. Several
occurrences contributed to this: (1) He fell sick, and was likely to
die. (2) He accidentally severed an artery, and came near bleeding to
death. (3) A bosom friend of his was suddenly killed. All this made
him think how it would be with him if called to stand before God in
judgment, and filled him with alarm. Then (4) he was one day overtaken
by a thunderstorm of unwonted violence. The terrific scene presented
to his vivid fancy all the horrors of a mediæval picture of the Last
Day, and himself about to be plunged into eternal fire. Overwhelmed
with terror, he cried to Heaven for help, and vowed, if spared, to
devote himself to the salvation of his soul by becoming a monk. His
father hated monkery, and he shared the feeling; but, if it would save
him, why hesitate? What was a father's displeasure or the loss of all
the favors of the world to his safety against a hopeless perdition?

Call it superstition, call it religious melancholy, call it morbid
hallucination, it was a most serious matter to the young Luther, and
out of it ultimately grew the Reformation. False ideas underlay the
resolve, but it was profoundly sincere and according to the ideas of
ages. It was wrong, but he could not correct the error until he had
tested it. And thus, by what he took as the unmistakable call of God,
he entered the cloister.

Never man went into a monastery with purer motives. Never a man went
through the duties, drudgeries, and humiliations of the novitiate of
convent-life with more unshrinking fidelity. Never man endured more
painful mental and bodily agonies that he might secure for himself an
assured spiritual peace. Romanists have expressed their wonder that so
pure a man thought himself so great a sinner. But a sinner he was, as
we all; and to avert the just anger of God he fasted, prayed, and
mortified himself like an anchorite of the Thebaid. And yet no peace
or comfort came.

A chained Bible lay in the monastery. He had previously found a copy
of it in the library of the university. Day and night he read it,
along with the writings of St. Augustine. In both he found the same
pictures of man's depravity which he realized in himself, but God's
remedy for sin he had not found. In the earnestness of his studies the
prescribed devotions were betimes crowded out, and then he punished
himself without mercy to redeem his failures. Whole nights and days
together he lay upon his face crying to God, till he swooned in his
agony. Everything his brother-monks could tell him he tried, but all
the resources of their religion were powerless to comfort him or to
beget a righteousness in which his anguished soul could trust.

It happened that one of the exceptionally enlightened and
spiritual-minded monks of his time, _John Staupitz_, was then the
vicar-general of the Augustinians in Saxony. On his tour of inspection
he came to Erfurt, and there found Luther, a walking skeleton, more
dead than alive. He was specially drawn to the haggard young brother.
The genial and sympathizing spirit of the vicar-general made Luther
feel at home in his presence, and to him he freely opened his whole
heart, telling of his feelings, failures, and fears--his heartaches,
his endeavors, his disappointments, and his despair. And God put the
right words into the vicar-general's mouth.

"Look to the wounds of Jesus," said he, "and to the blood he shed for
you, and there see the mercy of God. Cast yourself into the Redeemer's
arms, and trust in his righteous life and sacrificial death. He loved
you first; love him in return, and let your penances and
mortifications go."

The oppressed and captive spirit began to feel its burden lighten
under such discourse. God a God of love! Piety a life of love!
Salvation by loving trust in a God already reconciled in Christ! This
was a new revelation. It brought the sorrowing young Luther to the
study of the Scriptures with a new object of search. He read and
meditated, and began to see the truth of what his vicar said. But
doubts would come, and often his gloom returned.

One day an aged monk came to his cell to comfort him. He said he only
knew his Creed, but in that he rested, reciting, "_I believe in the
forgiveness of sins_."--"And do I not believe that?" said
Luther.--"Ah," said the old monk, "you believe in the forgiveness of
sins for David and Peter and the thief on the cross, but you do not
believe in the forgiveness of sins _for yourself_. St. Bernard says
the Holy Ghost speaks it to your own soul, _Thy_ sins are forgiven

And so at last the right nerve was touched. The true word of God's
deliverance was brought home to Luther's understanding. He was
penitent and in earnest, and needed only this great Gospel hope to
lift him from the horrible pit and the miry clay. As a light from
heaven it came to his soul, and there remained, a comfort and a joy.
The glad conclusion flashed upon him, never more to be shaken, "If
God, for Christ's sake, takes away our sins, then they are not taken
away by any works of ours."

The foundation-rock of a new world was reached.

Luther saw not yet what all this discovery meant, nor whither it would
lead. He was as innocent of all thought of being a Reformer as a
new-born babe is of commanding an army on the battlefield. But the
Gospel principle of deliverance and salvation for his oppressed and
anxious soul was found, and it was found for all the world. The anchor
had taken hold on a new continent. In essence the Great Reformation
was born--born in Luther's soul.


More than ten years passed before this new principle began to work off
the putrid carcass of mediæval religion which lay stretched over the
stifled and suffocating Church of Christ. There were yet many steps
and stages in the preparation for what was to come. But from that time
forward everything moved toward general regeneration by means of that
marrow doctrine of the Gospel: _Salvation by loving faith in the merit
and mediation of Jesus alone_.

Staupitz counseled the young monk to study the Scriptures well and
whatever could aid him in their right understanding, and gave orders
to the monastery not to interfere with his studies.

On May 2, 1507, he was consecrated to the priesthood.

Within the year following, at the instance of Staupitz, Frederick the
Wise appointed him professor in the new University of Wittenberg.

May 9, 1509, he took his degree of bachelor of divinity. From that
time he began to use his place to attack the falsehoods of the
prevailing philosophy and to explore and expose the absurdities of
Scholasticism, dwelling much on the great Gospel treasure of God's
free amnesty to sinful man through the merits and mediation of Jesus
Christ, on which his own soul was planted.

Staupitz was astounded at the young brother's thorough mastery of the
sacred Word, the minuteness of his knowledge of it, and the power with
which he expounded and defended the great principles of the evangelic
faith. So able a teacher of the doctrines of the cross must at once
begin to preach. Luther remonstrated, for it was not then the custom
for all priests to preach. He insisted that he would die under the
weight of such responsibilities. "Die, then," said Staupitz; "God has
plenty to do for intelligent young men in heaven."

A little old wooden chapel, daubed with clay, twenty by thirty feet in
size, with a crude platform of rough boards at one end and a small
sooty gallery for scarce twenty persons at the other, and propped on
all sides to keep it from tumbling down, was assigned him as his
cathedral. Myconius likens it to the stable of Bethlehem, as there
Christ was born anew for the souls which now crowded to it. And when
the thronging audiences required his transfer to the parish church, it
was called the bringing of Christ into the temple.

The fame of this young theologian and preacher spread fast and far.
The common people and the learned were alike impressed by his
originality and power, and rejoiced in the electrifying clearness of
his expositions and teachings. The Elector was delighted, for he began
to see his devout wishes realized. Staupitz, who had drunk in the more
pious spirit of the Mystic theologians, shared the same feeling, and
saw in Luther's fresh, biblical, and energetic preaching what he felt
the whole Church needed. "He spared neither counsel nor applause," for
he believed him the man of God for the times. He sent him to
neighboring monasteries to preach to the monks. He gave him every
opportunity to study, observe, and exercise his great talents. He even
sent him on a mission to Rome, more to acquaint him with that city,
which he longed to see, than for any difficult or pressing business
with the pope.


Luther performed the journey on foot, passing from monastery to
monastery, noting the extravagances, indolence, gluttony, and
infidelity of the monks, and sometimes in danger of his life, both
from the changes of climate and from the murderous resentments of some
of these cloister-saints which his rebukes of their vices engendered.

When Rome first broke upon his sight, he hailed it reverently as the
city of saints and holy martyrs. He almost envied those whose parents
were dead, and who had it in their power to offer prayers for the
repose of their souls by the side of such holy shrines. But when he
beheld the vulgarities, profanities, paganism, and unconcealed
unbelief which pervaded even the ecclesiastical circles of that city,
his soul sunk within him.

There was much to be seen in Rome; and the Roman Catholic writers find
great fault with Luther for being so dull and unappreciative as to
move amid it without being touched with a single spark of poetic fire.
They tell of the glory of the cardinals, in litters, on horseback, in
glittering carriages, blazing with jewels and shaded with gorgeous
canopies; of marble palaces, grand walks, alabaster columns, gigantic
obelisks, villas, gardens, grottoes, flowers, fountains, cascades; of
churches adorned with polished pillars, gilded soffits, mosaic floors,
altars sparkling with diamonds, and gorgeous pictures from
master-hands looking down from every wall; of monuments, statues,
images, and holy relics; and they blame Luther that he could gaze upon
it all without a stir of admiration--that he could look upon the
sculpture and statuary and see nothing but pagan devices, the gods
Demosthenes and Praxiteles, the feasts and pomps of Delos, and the
idle scenes of the heathen Forum--that no gleam from the crown of
Perugino or Michael Angelo dazzled his eyes, and no strain of Virgil
or of Dante, which the people sung in the streets, attracted his
ear--that he was only cold and dumb before all the treasures and
glories of art and all the grandeur of the high dignitaries of the
Church, seeing nothing, feeling nothing, exclaiming over nothing but
the licentious impurities of the priests, the pagan pomps of the
pontiff, the profane jests of the ministers of religion, the bare
shoulders of the Roman ladies.

Luther was not dead to the æsthetic, but to see faith and
righteousness thus smothered and buried under a godless Epicurean life
was an offence to his honest German conscience. It looked to him as if
the popes had reversed the Saviour's choice, and accepted the devil's
bid for Christ to worship him. From what his own eyes and ears had now
seen and heard, he knew what to believe concerning the state of things
in the metropolis of Christendom, and was satisfied that, as surely as
there is a hell, the Rome of those days was its mouth.[3]


[3] Bellarmine, an honored author of the Roman Church, one competent
to judge concerning the state of things at that time, and not
over-forward to confess it, says: "For some years before the Lutheran
and Calvinistic heresies were published there was not (as contemporary
authors testify) any rigor in ecclesiastical judicatories, any
discipline with regard to morals, any knowledge of sacred literature,
any reverence for divine things: THERE WAS ALMOST NO RELIGION
REMAINING."--_Bellarm._, Concio xviii., Opera, tom. vi. col. 296,
edit. Colon., 1617, apud _Gerdesii Hist. Evan. Renovati_, vol. i. p.


On his return the Senate of Wittenberg elected him town-preacher. In
the cloister, in the castle chapel, and in the collegiate church he
alternately exercised his gifts. Romanists admit that "his success was
great. He said he would not imitate his predecessors, and he kept his
word. For the first time a Christian preacher was seen to abandon the
Schoolmen and draw his texts and illustrations from the writings of
inspiration. He was the originator and restorer of expository
preaching in modern times."

The Elector heard him, and was filled with admiration. An old
professor, whom the people called "the light of the world," listened
to him, and was struck with his wonderful insight, his marvelous
imagination, and his massive solidity. And Wittenberg sprang into
great renown because of him, for never before had been heard in Saxony
such a luminous expositor of God's holy Word.


On all hands it was agreed and insisted that he should be made a
doctor of divinity. The costs were heavy, for simony was the order of
the day and the pope exacted high prices for all church promotions;
but the Elector paid the charges.

On the 18th of October, 1512, the degree was conferred. It was no
empty title to Luther. It gave him liberties and rights which his
enemies could not gainsay, and it laid on him obligations and duties
which he never forgot. The obedience to the canons and the hierarchy
which it exacted he afterward found inimical to Christ and the Gospel,
and, as in duty bound, he threw it off, with other swaddling-bands of
Popery. But there was in it the pledge "to devote his whole life to
the study, exposition and defence of the Holy Scriptures." This he
accepted, and ever referred to as his sacred charter and commission.
Nor was it without significance that the great bell of Wittenberg was
rung when proclamation of this investiture was made. As the ringing of
the bell on the old State-house when the Declaration of Independence
was passed proclaimed the coming liberties of the American colonies,
so this sounding of the great bell of Wittenberg when Luther was made
doctor of divinity proclaimed and heralded to the nations of the earth
the coming deliverance of the enslaved Church. God's chosen servant
had received his commission, and the better day was soon to dawn.

       *       *       *       *       *

Henceforth Luther's labors and studies went forward with a new impulse
and inspiration. Hebrew and Greek were thoroughly mastered. The
Fathers of the Church, ancient and modern, were carefully read. The
systems of the Schoolmen, the Book of Sentences, the Commentaries, the
Decretals--everything relating to his department as a doctor of
theology--were examined, and brought to the test of Holy Scripture.

In his sermons, lectures, and disquisitions the results of these
incessant studies came out with a depth of penetration, a clearness of
statement, a simplicity of utterance, a devoutness of spirit, and a
convincing power of eloquence which, with the eminent sanctity of his
life, won for him unbounded praise. The common feeling was that the
earth did not contain another such a doctor and had not seen his equal
for many ages. Envy and jealousy themselves, those green-eyed monsters
which gather about the paths of great qualities and successes, seemed
for the time to be paralyzed before a brilliancy which rested on such
humility, conscientiousness, fidelity, and merit.


Years of fruitful labor passed. The Decalogue was expounded. Paul's
letter to the Romans and the penitential Psalms were explained. The
lectures on the Epistle to the Galatians were nearly completed. But no
book from Luther had yet been published.

In 1515 he was chosen district vicar of the Augustinian monasteries of
Meissen and Thuringia. It was a laborious office, but it gave him new
experiences, familiarized him still more with the monks, brought him
into executive administrations, and developed his tact in dealing with

One other particular served greatly to establish him in the hearts of
the people. A deadly plague broke out in Wittenberg. Citizens were
dying by dozens and scores. At a later period a like scourge visited
Geneva, and so terrified Calvin and his ministerial associates that
they appealed to the Supreme Council, entreating, "Mighty lords,
release us from attending these infected people, for our lives are in
peril." Not so Luther. His friends said, "Fly! fly!" lest he should
fall by the plague and be lost to the world. "Fly?" said he. "No, no,
my God. If I die, I die. The world will not perish because a monk has
fallen. I am not St. Paul, not to fear death, but God will sustain
me." And as an angel of mercy he remained, ministering to the sick and
dying and caring for the orphans and widows of the dead.


Such was Luther up to the time of his rupture with Rome. He knew
something of the shams and falsities that prevailed, and he had
assailed and exposed many of them in his lectures and sermons; but to
lead a general reformation was the farthest from his thoughts. Indeed,
he still had such confidence in the integrity of the Roman Church that
he did not yet realize how greatly a thorough general reformation was
needed. Humble in mind, peaceable in disposition, reverent toward
authority, loving privacy, and fully occupied with his daily studies
and duties, it was not in him to think of making war with powers whose
claims he had not yet learned to question.

But it was not possible that so brave, honest, and self-sacrificing a
man should long pursue his convictions without coming into collision
with the Roman high priesthood. Though far off at Wittenberg, and
trying to do his own duty well in his own legitimate sphere, it soon
came athwart his path in a form so foul and offensive that it forced
him to assault it. Either he had to let go his sincerest convictions
and dearest hopes or protest had to come. His personal salvation and
that of his flock were at stake, and he could in no way remain a true
man and not remonstrate. Driven to this extremity, and struck at for
his honest faithfulness, he struck again; and so came the battle which
shook and revolutionized the world.


Luther's first encounter with the hierarchy was on the traffic in
indulgences. It was a good fortune that it there began. That traffic
was so obnoxious to every sense of propriety that any vigorous attack
upon it would command the approval of many honest and pious people.
The central heresy of hierarchical religion was likewise embodied in
it, so that a stab there, if logically followed up, would necessarily
reach the very heart of the oppressive monster. And Providence
arranged that there the conflict should begin.

Leo X. had but recently ascended the papal throne. Reared amid lavish
wealth and culture, he was eager that his reign should equal that of
Solomon and the Cæsars. He sought to aggrandize his relatives, to
honor and enrich men of genius, and to surround himself with costly
splendors and pleasures. These demanded extraordinary revenues. The
projects of his ambitious predecessors had depleted the papal coffers.
He needed to do something on a grand scale in order adequately to
replenish his exchequer.

As early as the eleventh century the popes had betimes resorted to the
selling of pardons and the issuing of free passes to heaven on
consideration of certain services or payments to the Church. From
Urban II. to Leo X. this was more or less in vogue--first, to get
soldiers for the holy wars,[4] and then as a means of wealth to the
Church. If one wished to eat meat on fast-days, marry within
prohibited degrees of relationship, or indulge in forbidden pleasures,
he could do it without offence by rendering certain satisfactions
before or after, which satisfactions could mostly be made by payments
of money.[5] In the same way he could buy remission of sins in
general, or exemption for so many days, years, or centuries from the
pains of Purgatory. Bulls of authority were given, in the name of the
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to issue certificates of exemption from
all penalties to such as did the service or paid the equivalent.
Immense incomes were thus realized. Even to the present this facile
invention for raising money has not been entirely discontinued. Papal
indulgences can be bought to-day in the shops of Spain and elsewhere.

Leo seized upon this system with all the vigor and unscrupulousness
characteristic of the Medici. Had he been asked whether he really
believed in these pardons, he would have said that the Church always
believed the pope had power to grant them. Had he spoken his real mind
in the matter, he would have said that if the people chose to be such
fools, it was not for him to find fault with them. And thus, under
plea of raising funds to finish St. Peter's, he instituted a grand
trade in indulgences, and thereby laid the capstone of hierarchical
iniquity which crushed the whole fabric to its base.

The right to sell these wares in Germany was awarded to Albert, the
gay young prince-archbishop of Mayence. He was over head and ears in
debt to the pope for his pallium, and Leo gave him this chance to get
out.[6] Half the proceeds of the trade in his territory were to go to
his credit. But the work of proclaiming and distributing the pardons
was committed to _John Tetzel_, a Dominican prior who had long
experience in the business, and who achieved "a forlorn notoriety in
European history" by his zeal in prosecuting it.


[4] In the famous Bull of Gregory IX., published in 1234, that pope
exhorts and commands all good Christians to take up the cross and join
the expedition to recover the Holy Land. The language is: "The service
to which mankind are now invited is an effectual atonement for the
miscarriages of a negligent life. The discipline of a regular penance
would have discouraged many offenders so much that they would have had
no heart to venture upon it; but the holy war is a compendious method
of discharging men from guilt and restoring them to the divine favor.
Even if they die on their march, the intention will be taken for the
deed, and many in this way may be crowned without fighting."--Given in
Collier's _Eccl._, vol. i.

[5] The Roman Chancery once put forth a book, which went through many
editions, giving the exact prices for the pardon of each particular
sin. A deacon guilty of murder was absolved for twenty pounds. A
bishop or abbot might assassinate for three hundred livres. Any
ecclesiastic might violate his vows of chastity for the third part of
that sum, etc., etc.--See Robertson's _Charles V._

[6] The pallium, or pall, was a narrow band of white wool to go over
the shoulders in the form of a circle, from which hung bands of
similar size before and behind, finished at the ends with pieces of
sheet lead and embroidered with crosses. It was the mark of the
dignity and rank of archbishops. Albert owed Pope Leo X. forty-five
thousand thalers for his right and appointment to wear the
archbishop's pallium.

It was in this way that the Roman Church was accustomed to sell out
benefices as a divine right. Even _expectative graces_, or mandates
nominating a person to succeed to a benefice upon the first vacancy,
were thus sold. Companies existed in Germany which made a business of
buying up the benefices of particular sections and districts and
retailing them at advanced rates. The selling of pardons was simply a
lower kind of simoniacal bartering which pervaded the whole
hierarchical establishment.


Tetzel entered the towns with noise and pomp, amid waving of flags,
singing, and the ringing of bells. Clergy, choristers, monks, and nuns
moved in procession before and after him. He himself sat in a gilded
chariot, with the Bull of his authority spread out on a velvet cushion
before him.

The churches were his salesrooms, lighted and decorated for the
occasion as in highest festival. From the pulpits his boisterous
oratory rang, telling the virtues of indulgences, the wonderful power
of the keys, and the unexampled grace of which he was the bearer from
the holy lord and father at Rome.

He called on all--robbers, adulterers, murderers, everybody--to draw
near, pay down their money, and receive from him letters, duly sealed,
by which all their sins, past and future, should be pardoned and done

Not for the living only, but also for the dead, he proposed full and
instantaneous deliverance from all future punishments on the payment
of the price. And any wretch who dared to doubt or question the saving
power of these certificates he in advance doomed to excommunication
and the wrath of God.[7]

Catholic divines have labored hard to whitewash or explain away this
stupendous iniquity; but, with all they have said or may say, such
were the presentations made by the hawkers of these wares and such was
the text of the diplomas they issued.

A dispensation or indulgence was nothing more nor less than a
pretended letter of credit on Heaven, drawn at will by the pope out of
the superabundant merits of Christ and all saints, to count so much on
the books of God for so many murders, robberies, frauds, lies,
slanders, or debaucheries. As the matter practically worked, a more
profane and devilish traffic never had place in our world than that
which the Roman hierarchy thus carried on in the name of the Triune


[7] Many of the sayings which Tetzel gave out in his addresses to the
people have been preserved, and are amply attested by those who
listened to his harangues.

"I would not," said he, "exchange my privileges for those of St. Peter
in heaven. He saved many by his sermons; I have saved more by my

"Indulgences are the most precious and sublime of all the gifts of

"No sins are so great that these pardons cannot cover them."

"Not for the living only, but for the dead also, there is immediate
salvation in these indulgences."

"Ye priests, nobles, tradespeople, wives, maidens, young men! the
souls of your parents and beloved ones are crying from the depths
below: 'See our torments! A small alms would deliver us; and you can
give it, and you will not.'"

"O dull and brutish people, not to appreciate the grace so richly
offered! This day heaven is open on all sides, and how many are the
souls you might redeem if you only would! Your father is in flames,
and you can deliver him for ten groschen, and you do it not! What
punishment must come for neglecting so great salvation! You should
strip your coat from your back, if you have no other, and sell it to
purchase so great grace as this, for God hath given all power to the

"The bodies of St. Peter and St. Paul, with those of many blessed
martyrs, lie exposed, trampled on, polluted, dishonored, and rotting
in the weather. Our most holy lord the pope means to build the church
to cover them with glory that shall have no equal on the earth. Shall
those holy ashes be left to be trodden in the mire?"

"Therefore bring your money, and do a work most profitable to departed
souls. Buy! buy!"

"This red cross with the pope's arms has equal virtue with the Cross
of Christ."

"These pardons make cleaner than baptism, and purer than Adam was in
his innocence in Paradise."

In the certificates which Tetzel gave to those who bought these
pardons he declared that "by the authority of Jesus Christ, and of his
apostles Peter and Paul, and of the most holy pope, I do absolve thee
first from all ecclesiastical censures, in whatever manner they have
been incurred, and then _from all thy sins, transgressions, and
excesses, however enormous soever they may be_. I remit to you all
punishment which you deserve in Purgatory on their account, and I
restore you to the holy sacraments of the Church, union with the
faithful, and to that innocence and purity possessed at baptism; _so
that when you die the gates of punishment shall be shut and the gates
of the happy Paradise shall be opened; and if your death shall be
delayed, this grace shall remain in full force when you are at the
point of death_."

The sums required for these passports to glory varied according to the
rank and wealth of the applicant. For ordinary indulgence a king,
queen, or bishop was to pay twenty-five ducats (a ducat being about a
dollar of our money); abbots, counts, barons, and the like were
charged ten ducats; other nobles and all who enjoyed annual incomes of
five hundred florins were charged six ducats; and so down to half a
florin, or twenty-five cents.

But the commissioner also had a special scale for taxes on particular
sins. Sodomy was charged twelve ducats; sacrilege and perjury, nine;
murder, seven or eight; witchcraft and polygamy, from two to six;
taking the life of a parent, brother, sister, or an infant, from one
to six.


Luther was on a tour of inspection as district vicar of the
Augustinians when he first heard of these shameful doings. As yet he
understood but little of the system, and could not believe it possible
that the fathers at Rome could countenance, much less appoint and
commission, such iniquities. Boiling with indignation for the honor of
the Church, he threatened to make a hole in Tetzel's drum, and wrote
to the authorities to refuse passports to the hucksters of these
shameful deceptions.

But Tetzel soon came near to Wittenberg. Some of Luther's parishioners
heard him, and bought absolutions. They afterward came to confession,
acknowledging great irregularities of life. Luther rebuked their
wickedness, and would not promise them forgiveness unless contrite for
their sins and earnestly endeavoring to amend their evil ways. They
remonstrated, and brought out their certificates of plenary pardon. "I
have nothing to do with your papers," said he. "God's Word says you
must repent and lead better lives, or you will perish."

His words were at once carried to the ears of Tetzel, who fumed with
rage at such impudence toward the authority of the Church. He ascended
the pulpit and hurled the curses of God upon the Saxon monk.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus an honest pastor finds some of his flock on the way to ruin, and
tries to guide them right. He is not thinking of attacking Rome. He is
ready to fight and die for holy Mother Church. His very protests are
in her behalf. He is on his own rightful field, in faithful pursuit of
his own rightful duty. Here the erring hierarchy seeks him out and
attacks him. Shall he yield to timid fears and weak advisers, keep
silence in his own house, and let the souls he is placed to guard
become a prey to the destroyer? Is he not sworn to defend God's holy
Word and Gospel? What will be his eternal fate and that of his people
should he now hold his peace?


Without conferring with flesh and blood his resolve was made--a
resolve on which hung all the better future of the world--a resolve to
take the pulpit against the lying indulgences.

For several days he shut himself in his cell to make sure of his
ground and to elaborate what he would say. With eminent modesty and
moderation his sentences were wrought, but with a perspicuity and
clearness which no one could mistake. A crowded church awaited their
delivery. He entered with his brother-monks, and joined in all the
service with his usual voice and gravity. Nothing in his countenance
or manner betrayed the slightest agitation of his soul. It was a
solemn and momentous step for himself and for mankind that he was
about to take, but he was as calmly made up to it as to any other duty
of his life. The moment came for him to speak; _and he spoke_.

"I hold it impossible," said he, "to prove from the Holy Scriptures
that divine justice demands from the sinner any other penance or
satisfaction than a true repentance, a change of heart, a willing
submission to bear the Saviour's cross, and a readiness to do what
good he can.

"That indulgences applied to souls in Purgatory serve to remit the
punishments which they would otherwise suffer is an opinion devoid of
any foundation.

"Indulgences, so far from expiating or cleansing from sin, leave the
man in the same filth and condemnation in which they find him.

"The Church exacts somewhat of the sinner, and what it on its own
account exacts it can on its own account remit, but nothing more.

"If you have aught to spare, in God's name give it for the building of
St. Peter's, but do not buy pardons.

"If you have means, feed the hungry, which is of more avail than
piling stones together, and far better than the buying of indulgences.

"My advice is, Let indulgences alone; leave them to dead and sleepy
Christians; but see to it that ye be not of that kind.

"Indulgences are neither commanded nor approved of God. They excite no
one to sanctification. They work nothing toward salvation.

"That indulgences have virtue to deliver souls from Purgatory I do not
believe, nor can it be proven by them that teach it; the Church says
nothing to that effect.

"What I preach to you is based on the certainty of the Holy
Scriptures, which no one ought to doubt."

So Luther preached, and his word went out to the ends of the earth. It
was no jest, like Ulric von Hütten's _Epistles of Obscure Men_, or
like the ridicule which Reuchlin and Erasmus heaped upon the stupid
monks. It raised no laugh, but penetrated, like a rifle-shot, into the
very heart of things.

Those who listened were deeply affected by the serious boldness of the
preacher. The audience was with him in conviction, but many trembled
for the result. "Dear doctor, you have been very rash; what trouble
may come of this!" said a venerable father as he pulled the sleeve of
Luther's gown and shook his head with misgivings. "If this is not
rightly done in God's name," said Luther, "it will come to nothing; if
it is, let come what will."

It was honest duty to God, truth, and the salvation of men that moved
him. Cowardly policy or timid expediency in such a matter was totally
foreign to his soul.

In a few days, the substance of the sermon was in print. Tetzel raved
over it. Melanchthon says he burnt it in the market-place of
Jüterbock. In the name of God and the pope he bade defiance to its
author, and challenged him by fire and water. Luther laughed at him
for braying so loud at a distance, yet declining to come to Wittenberg
to argue out the matter in close lists.


Anxious to vindicate the Church from what he believed to be an
unwarranted liberty in the use of her name, Luther wrote to the bishop
of Brandenburg and the archbishop of Mayence. He made his points, and
appealed to these his superiors to put down the scandalous falsities
advanced by Tetzel. They failed to answer in any decisive way. The one
timidly advised silence, and the other had too much pecuniary interest
in the business to notice the letter.

Thus, as a pastor, Luther had taken his ground before his parishioners
in the confessional. As a preacher he had uttered himself in earnest
admonition from the pulpit. As a loyal son he had made his
presentation and appeal to those in authority over him. Was he right?
or was he wrong? No commanding answer came, and there remained one
other way of testing the question. As a doctor of divinity he could
lawfully, as custom had been, demand an open and fair discussion of
the matter with teachers and theologians. And upon this he now


He framed a list of propositions on the points in question. They were
in Latin, for his appeal was to theologians, and not yet to the common
heart and mind of Germany. To make them public, he took advantage of a
great festival at Wittenberg, when the town was full of visitors and
strangers, and nailed them to the door of the new castle church,
October 31, 1517.

These were the famous _Ninety-five Theses_. They were plainly-worded
statements of the same points he had made in the confessional and in
his sermon. They contained no assault upon the Church, no arraignment
of the pope, no personal attack on any one. Neither were they given as
necessarily true, but as what Luther believed to be true, and the real
truth or falsity of which he desired to have decided in the only way
questions of faith and salvation can be rightly decided.

The whole matter was fairly, humbly, and legitimately put. "I, Martin
Luther, Augustinian at Wittenberg," he added at the end, "hereby
declare that I have written these propositions against indulgences. I
understand that some, not knowing what they affirm, are of opinion
that I am a heretic, though our renowned university has not condemned
me, nor any temporal or spiritual authority. Therefore, now again, as
often heretofore, I beg of one and all, for the sake of the true
Christian faith, to show me the better way, if peradventure they have
learned it from above, or at least to submit their opinion to the
decision of God and the Church; for I am not so insane as to set up my
views above everything and everybody, nor so silly as to accept the
fables invented by men in preference to the Word of God."

It is from the nailing up of these _Theses_ that the history of the
Great Reformation dates; for the hammer-strokes which fixed that
parchment started the Alpine avalanche which overwhelmed the pride of
Rome and broke the stubborn power which had reigned supreme for a
thousand years.


As no one came forward to discuss his Theses, Luther resolved to
publish them to the world.

In fourteen days they overspread Germany. In a month they ran through
all Christendom. One historian says it seemed as if the angels of God
were engaged in spreading them.

At a single stroke, made in modesty and faith, Luther had become the
most noted person in Germany--the man most talked of in all the
world--the mouthpiece of the best people in Christendom--the leader of
a mighty revolution.

Reuchlin read, and thanked God.

Erasmus read, and rejoiced, only counseling moderation and prudence.

The Emperor Maximilian read, and wrote to the Saxon Elector: "Take
care of the monk Luther, for the time may come when we will need him."

The bishop of Wurzburg read, and was filled with gladness, and wrote
to the Elector Frederick to hold on to Luther as a preacher of the
truth of God.

The prior of Steinlausitz read, and could not suppress his joy. "See
here," said he to his monks: "the long-waited-for has come; he tells
the truth. _Berg_ means mountain, and _Wittenberg_ is the mountain
whither all the world will come to seek wisdom, and will find it."

A student of Annaberg read, and said, "This Luther is the reaper in my
dream, whom the voice bade me follow and gather in the bread of life;"
and from that hour he was a fast friend of Luther and his cause, and
became the distinguished Myconius.

The pope himself read the Theses, and did not think unfavorably of
their author. He saw in Luther a man of learning and brilliant genius,
and that pleased him. The questions mooted he referred to a mere
monkish jealousy--an unsober gust of passion which would soon blow
over. He did not then realize the seriousness which was in the matter.
His sphere was heathen art and worldly magnificence, not searching
into the ways of God's salvation.

The great German heart was moved, and the brave daring of him whose
voice was thus lifted up against the abominations which were draining
the country to fill the pope's coffers was hailed with enthusiasm.
Had Luther been a smaller man he would have been swept away by his
vast and sudden fame.

But not all was sunshine. Erasmus wittily said, Luther committed two
unpardonable sins: he touched the pope's crown and the monks' bellies.
Such effrontery would needs raise a mighty outcry.

Prierias, the master of the sacred palace, pronounced Luther a
heretic. Hochstrat of Cologne, Reuchlin's enemy, clamored for fire to
burn him. The indulgence-venders thundered their anathemas, promising
a speedy holocaust of Luther's body. The monasteries took on the form
of so many kennels of enraged hounds howling to each other across the
spiritual waste. And even some who pronounced the Theses scriptural
and orthodox shook their heads and sought to quash such dangerous

But Luther remained firm at his post. He honestly believed what he had
written, and he was not afraid of the truth. If the powers of the
world should come down upon him and kill him, he was prepared for the
slaughter. In all the mighty controversy he was ever ready to serve
the Gospel with his life or with his death.


Tetzel continued to bray and fume against him from pulpit and press,
denouncing him as a heresiarch, heretic, and schismatic. By Wimpina's
aid he issued a reply to Luther's sermon, and also counter-theses on
Luther's propositions. But the tide was turning in the sea of human
thinking. Luther's utterances had turned it. The people were ready to
tear the mountebank to pieces. Two years later he imploringly
complained to the pope's nuncio, Miltitz, that such fury pursued him
in Germany, Bohemia, Hungary, and Poland that he was nowhere safe.
Even the representative of the pope gave the wretch no sympathy. When
Luther heard of his illness he sent him a letter to tell him that he
had forgiven him all. He died in Leipsic, neglected, smitten in soul,
and full of misery, July 14, 1519.


Six months after the nailing up of the Theses, Luther was the hero of
a general convention of the Augustinians in Heidelberg. He there
submitted a series of propositions on philosophy and theology, which
he defended with such convincing clearness and tact that he won for
himself and his university great honor and renown. Better still, four
learned young men who there heard him saw the truth of his positions,
and afterward became distinguished defenders of the Reformation.

His cause, meanwhile, was rapidly gaining friends. His replies to
Tetzel, Prierias, Hochstrat, and Eck had gone forth to deepen the
favorable impression made by the Ninety-five Theses. Truth had once
more lifted up its head in Europe, and Rome would find it no child's
play to put it down. The skirmish-lines of the hierarchy had been met
and driven in. The tug of serious battle was now to come.


Luther made the advance. He wrote out explanations (or
"_Resolutions_") of his Theses, and sent them, with a letter, to the
pope. With great confidence, point, and elegance, but with equal
submissiveness and humility, he spoke of the completeness of Christ
for the salvation of every true believer, without room or need for
penances and other satisfactions; of the evilness of the times, and
the pressing necessity for a general reform; of the damaging
complaints everywhere resounding against the traffic in indulgences;
of his unsuccessful appeals to the ecclesiastical princes; and of the
unjust censures being heaped upon him for what he had done, entreating
His Holiness to instruct his humble petitioner, and condemn or
approve, kill or preserve, as the voice of Christ through him might
be. He then believed that God's sanction had to come through the high
clergy and heads of the Church. Many good Christians had approved his
Theses, but he did not recognize in that the divine answer to his
testimony. He said afterward: "I looked only to the pope, the
cardinals, the bishops, the theologians, the jurisconsults, the monks,
the priests, from whom I expected the breathing of the Spirit." He had
not yet learned what a bloody dragon claimed to impersonate the Lamb
of God.


While, in open frankness, Luther was thus meekly committing himself to
the powers at Rome, _they_ were meditating his destruction.
Insidiously they sought to deprive him of the Elector's protection,
and answered his humble and confiding appeal with a citation to appear
before them to answer for heresy.

Things now were ominous of evil. Wittenberg was filled with
consternation. If Luther obeyed, it was evident he would perish like
so many faithful men before him; if he refused, he would be charged
with contumacy and involve his prince. One and another expedient were
proposed to meet the perplexity; but to secure a hearing in Germany
was all Luther asked.

To this the pope proved more willing than was thought. He was not sure
of gaining by the public trial and execution of a man so deeply
planted in the esteem of his countrymen, and by bringing him before a
prudent legate he might induce him to retract and the trouble be
ended; if not, it would be a less disturbing way of getting possession
of the accused man. Orders were therefore issued for Luther to appear
before Cardinal Cajetan at Augsburg.


On foot he undertook the journey, believed by all to be a journey to
his death. But Maximilian, then in the neighborhood of Augsburg, gave
him a safe-conduct, and Cajetan was obliged to receive him with
civility. He even embraced him with tokens of affection, thinking to
win him to retraction. Luther was much softened by these kindly
manifestations, and was disposed to comply with almost anything if
not required to deny the truth of God.

The interviews were numerous. Luther was told that it was useless to
think that the civil powers would go to war for his protection; and
where would he then be? His answer was: "I will be, as now, under the
broad heavens of the Almighty." Remonstrances, entreaties,
threatenings, and proposals of high distinction were addressed to him;
but he wanted no cardinal's hat, and for nothing in Rome's power would
he consent to retract what he believed to be the Gospel truth till
shown wherein it was at variance with the divine Word. Cajetan's
arguments tripped and failed at every point, and he could only
reiterate that he had been sent to receive a retraction, not to debate
the questions. Luther as often promised this when shown from the
Scriptures to be in the wrong, but not till then.


Foiled and disappointed in his designs, and astounded and impatient
that a poor monk should thus set at naught all the prayers and powers
of the sovereign of Christendom, the cardinal bade him see his face
no more until he had repented of his stubbornness.

At this the friends of the Reformer, fearing for his safety,
clandestinely hurried him out of Augsburg, literally grappling him up
from his bed only half dressed, and brought him away to his
university. He had answered the pope's summons, and yet was free!

Cajetan was mortified at the result, and was upbraided for his
failure. In his chagrin he wrote angrily to the Elector not to soil
his name and lineage by sheltering a heretic, but to surrender Luther
at once, on pain of an interdict. The Elector was troubled. Luther had
not been proven a heretic, neither did he believe him to be one; but
he feared collision with the pope.

Luther said if he were in the Elector's place he would answer the
cardinal as he deserved for thus insulting an honest man; but, not to
be an embarrassment to his prince, he agreed to leave the Elector's
dominions if he said so. But Frederick would not surrender his
distinguished subject to the legate, neither would he send him out of
the country. It is hard to say which was here the nobler man, Luther
or his illustrious protector.


The minds of men by this time were much aroused, and Luther's cause
grew and strengthened. The learned Melanchthon, Reuchlin's relative
and pupil, was added to the faculty at Wittenberg, and became Luther's
chief co-laborer. The number of students in the university swelled to
thousands, including the sons of noblemen and princes from all parts,
who listened with admiration to Luther's lectures and sermons and
spread his fame and doctrines. And the feeling was deep and general
that a new and marvelous light had arisen upon the world.[8]

It was now that Maximilian died (Jan. 17, 1519), and Charles V., his
grandson, a Spanish prince of nineteen years, succeeded to his place.
The Imperial crown was laid at the feet of the Elector Frederick,
Luther's friend, but he declined it in favor of Charles, only exacting
a solemn pledge that he would not disturb the liberties of Germany.
Civil freedom is one of the glorious fruits of the Reformation, and
here already it began to raise barricades against despotic power.


[8] A writer of the Roman Church, in a vein of somewhat mingled
sarcasm and seriousness, remarks: "The university had reason to be
proud of Luther, whose oral lectures attracted a multitude of
strangers; these pilgrims from distant quarters joined their hands and
bowed their heads at the sight of the towers of the city, like other
travelers before Jerusalem. Wittenberg was like a new Zion, whence the
light of truth expanded to neighboring kingdoms, as of old from the
Holy City to pagan nations."


Up to this time, however, there had been no questioning of the divine
rights claimed by the hierarchy. Luther was still a Papist, and
thought to grow his plants of evangelic faith under the shadow of the
Upas of ecclesiasticism. He had not yet been brought to see how his
Augustinian theology concerning sin and grace ran afoul of the entire
round of the mediæval system and methods of holiness. It was only the
famous Leipsic Disputation between him and Dr. John Eck that showed
him the remoter and deeper relations of his position touching

This otherwise fruitless debate had the effect of making the nature
and bearings of the controversy clear to both sides. Eck now
distinctly saw that Luther must be forcibly put down or the whole
papal system must fall; and Luther was made to realize that he must
surrender his doctrine of salvation through simple faith in Christ or
break with the pope and the hierarchical system.

Accepting the pontifical doctrines as true, Eck claimed the victory,
because he had driven Luther to expressions at variance with those
doctrines. On the other hand, Luther had shown that the pontifical
claims were without foundation in primitive Christianity or the Holy
Scriptures; that the Papacy was not of divine authority or of the
essence of the Church; that the Church existed before and beyond the
papal hierarchy, as well as under it; that the only Head of the
universal Christian Church is Christ himself; that wherever there is
true faith in God's Word, there the Church is, whatever the form of
external organization; that the popes could err and had erred, and
councils likewise; and that neither separately nor together could they
rightfully decree or ordain contrary to the Scriptures, the only
infallible Rule.

To all this Eck could make no answer except that it was Hussism over
again, which the Council of Constance had condemned, and that, from
the standpoint of the hierarchy, Luther was a heretic and ought to be
dealt with accordingly.


Luther now realized that the true Gospel of God's salvation and the
pontifical system were vitally and irreconcilably antagonistic; that
the one could never be held in consistency with the other; and that
there must come a final break between him and Rome. This much
depressed him. He showed his spiritual anguish by his deep dejection.
But he soon rose above it. If he had the truth of God, as he verily
believed, what were the pope and all devils against Jehovah? And so he
went on lecturing, preaching, writing, and publishing with his
greatest power, brilliancy, and effectiveness.

Some of the best and most telling products of his pen now went forth
to multitudes of eager readers. The glowing energy of his faith acted
like a spreading fire, kindling the souls of men as they seldom have
been kindled in any cause in any age. His _Address to the Nobility_
electrified all Germany, and first fired the patriotic spirit of
Ulrich Zwingli, the Swiss Reformer. His book on _The Babylonian
Captivity of the Church_ sounded a bugle-note which thrilled through
all the German heart, gave Bugenhagen to the Reformation, and sent a
shudder through the hierarchy.[9] Already, at Maximilian's Diet at
Augsburg to take measures against the Turk, a Latin pamphlet was
openly circulated among the members which said that the Turk to be
resisted was living in Italy; and Miltitz, the pope's nuncio and
chamberlain, confessed that from Rome to Altenberg he had found those
greatly in the minority who did not side with Luther.


[9] Glapio, the confessor of Charles V., stated to Chancellor Brück at
the Diet of Worms: "The alarm which I felt when I read the first pages
of the _Captivity_ cannot be expressed; they might be said to be
lashes which scourged me from head to foot."


But the tempest waxed fiercer and louder every day. Luther's growing
influence the more inflamed his enemies. Hochstrat had induced two
universities to condemn his doctrines. In sundry places his books were
burned by the public hangman. Eck had gone to Italy, and was "moving
the depths of hell" to secure the excommunication of the prejudged
heretic. And could his bloodthirsty enemies have had their way, this
would long since have come. But Leo seems to have had more respect for
Luther than for them. Learning and talent were more to him than any
doctrines of the faith. The monks complained of him as too much given
to luxury and pleasure to do his duty in defending the Church.
Perhaps he had conscience enough to be ashamed to enforce his traffic
in paper pardons by destroying the most honest and heroic man in
Germany. Perhaps he did not like to stain his reign with so foul a
record, even if dangerous complications should not attend it. Whatever
the cause, he was slow to respond to these clamors for blood. Eck had
almost as much trouble to get him to issue the Bull of Luther's
excommunication as he had to answer Luther's arguments in the Leipsic
Discussion. But he eventually procured it, and undertook to enforce

And yet, with all his zealous personal endeavors and high authority,
he could hardly get it posted, promulged, or at all respected in
Germany. His parchment thunder lost its power in coming across the
Alps. Miltitz also was in his way, who, with equal authority from the
pope, was endeavoring to supersede the Bull by attempts at
reconciliation. It came to Wittenberg in such a sorry plight that
Luther laughed at it as having the appearance of a forgery by Dr. Eck.
He knew the pope had been bullied into the issuing of it, but this was
the biting irony by which he indicated the character of the men by
whom it was moved and the pitiable weakness to which such thunders had
been reduced.

But it was a Bull of excommunication nevertheless. Luther and his
doctrines were condemned by the chief of Christendom.[10] Multitudes
were thrown into anxious perturbation. If the strong arm of the
emperor should be given to sustain the pope, who would be able to
stand? Adrian, one of the faculty of Wittenberg, was so frightened
that he threw down his office and hastened to join the enemy.

Amid the perils which surrounded Luther powerful knights offered to
defend him by force of arms; but he answered, "_No_; by _the Word_ the
world was conquered, by _the Word_ the Church was saved, and by _the
Word_ it must be restored." The thoughts of his soul were not on human
power, but centred on the throne of Him who lives for ever. It was
Christ's Gospel that was in peril, and he was sure Jehovah would not
abandon his own cause.

Germany waited to see what he would do. Nor was it long kept in


[10] The Bull was issued June 15, 1520. It specified forty-one
propositions out of Luther's works which it condemned as heretical,
scandalous, and offensive to pious ears. It forbade all persons to
read his writings, upon pain of excommunication. Such as had any of
his books in their possession were commanded to burn them. He himself,
if he did not publicly recant his errors and burn his books within
sixty days, was pronounced an obstinate heretic, excommunicated and
delivered over to Satan. And it enjoined upon all secular princes,
under pain of incurring the same censure, to seize his person and
deliver him up to be punished as his crimes deserved; that is to be
burnt as a heretic.


In a month he discharged a terrific volley of artillery upon the
Papacy by his book _Against the Bull of Antichrist_.

In thirteen days later he brought formal charges against the
pope--_first_, as an unjust judge, who condemns without giving a
hearing; _second_, as a heretic and apostate, who requires denial that
faith is necessary; _third_, as an Antichrist, who sets himself
against the Holy Scriptures and usurps their authority; and _fourth_,
as a blasphemer of the Church and its free councils, who declares them
nothing without himself.

This was carrying the war into Africa. Appealing to a future general
council and the Scriptures as superior to popes, he now called upon
the emperor, electors, princes, and all classes and estates in the
whole German empire, as they valued the Gospel and the favor of
Christ, to stand by him in this demonstration.

And, that all might be certified in due form, he called a notary and
five witnesses to hear and attest the same as verily the solemn act
and deed of Martin Luther, done in behalf of himself and all who stood
or should stand with him.

Rome persisted in forcing a schism, and this was Luther's bill of

Nay, more; as Rome had sealed its condemnation of him by burning his
books, he built a stack of fagots on the refuse piles outside the
Elster Gate of Wittenberg, invited thither the whole university, and
when the fires were kindled and the flames were high, he cast into
them, one by one, the books of the canon law, the Decretals, the
Clementines, the Papal Extravagants, and all that lay at the base of
the religion of the hierarchy! And when these were consumed he took
Leo's Bull of excommunication, held it aloft, exclaiming with a loud
voice, "Since thou hast afflicted the saints of God, be thou consumed
with fire unquenchable!" and dashed the impious document into the

Well done was that! Luther considered it the best act of his life. It
was a brave heart, the bravest then living in this world, that dared
to do it. But it was done then and for ever. Wittenberg looked on
with shoutings. The whole modern world of civilized man has ever since
been looking on with thrilling wonder. And myriads of the sons of God
and liberty are shouting over it yet.

The miner's son had come up full abreast with the triple-crowned
descendant of the Medici. The monk of Wittenberg had matched the
proudest monarch in the world. Henceforth the question was, Which of
them should sway the nations in the time to come?


The young emperor sided with the religion of the pope. The venerable
Elector Frederick determined to stand by Luther, at least till his
case was fairly adjudged. He said it was not just to condemn a good
and honest man unheard and unconvicted, and that "_Justice must take
precedence even of the pope_."

Conferences of state now became numerous and exciting, and the efforts
of Rome to have Luther's excommunication recognized and enforced were
many and various, but nothing short of a Diet of the empire could
settle the disturbance.[11]

Such a Diet was convoked by the young emperor for January, 1521. It
was the first of his reign, and the grandest ever held on German soil.
Philip of Hesse came to it with a train of six hundred cavaliers. The
electors, dukes, archbishops, landgraves, margraves, counts, bishops,
barons, lords, deputies, legates, and ambassadors from foreign courts
came in corresponding style. They felt it important to show their
consequence at this first Diet, and were all the more moved to be
there in force because the exciting matter of Reform was specified as
one of the chief things to be considered. The result was one of the
most august and illustrious assemblies of which modern history tells,
and one which presented a spectacle of lasting wonder that a poor lone
monk should thus have moved all the powers of the earth.


[11] Audin, in his _Life of Luther_, says: "A monk who wore a cassock
out at the elbows had caused to the most powerful emperor in the world
greater embarrassments than those which Francis I., his unsuccessful
rival at Frankfort, threatened to raise against him in Italy. With the
cannon from his arsenal at Ghent and his lances from Namur, Charles
could beat the king of France between sunrise and sunset; but lances
and cannon were impotent to subdue the religious revolution, which,
like some of the glaciers which he crossed in coming from Spain,
acquired daily a new quantity of soil."--Vol. i. chap. 25. Again, in
chap. 30, he says of the emperor: "The thought of measuring his
strength with the hero of Marignan was far from alarming him, but a
struggle with the monk of Wittenberg disturbed his sleep. He wished
that they should try to overcome his obstinacy."


For three months the Diet wrangled over the affair of Luther without
reaching anything decided. The friends of Rome were the chief actors,
struggling in every way and hesitating at nothing to induce the Diet
and the emperor to acknowledge and enforce the pope's decree. But the
influence of the German princes, especially that of the Elector
Frederick, stood in the way; Charles would not act, as he had no right
to act, without the concurrence of the states, and the princes of
Germany held it unjust that Luther should be condemned on charges
which had never been fairly tried, on books which were not proven to
be his, and especially since the sentence itself presented conditions
with reference to which no answer had been legally ascertained.

To overcome these oppositions different resorts were tried. Leo issued
a second Bull, excommunicating Luther absolutely, anathematizing him
and all his friends and abettors. The pope's legate called for money
to buy up influence for the Romanists: "We must have money. Send us
money. Money! money! or Germany is lost!" The money came; but the
Reformer's friends could not be bought with bribes, however much the
agents of Rome needed such stimulation.

Trickery was brought into requisition to entrap Luther's defenders by
a secret proposal to compromise. Luther was given great credit and
right, except that he had gone a little too far, and it was only
necessary to restrain him from further demonstrations. Rome compromise
with a man she had doubly excommunicated and anathematized! Rome make
terms with an outlaw whom she had infallibly doomed to eternal
execration! Yet with these proposals the emperor's confessor
approached Chancellor Brück. But the chancellor's head was too clear
to be caught by such treachery.

Then it was moved to refer the matter to a commission of arbitrators.
This met with so much favor that the pope's legate, Aleander, was
alarmed lest Luther should thereby escape, and hence set himself with
unwonted energy to incite the emperor to decisive measures.

Charles was persuaded to make a demonstration, but demanded that the
legate should first "convince the Diet." Aleander was the most famous
orator Rome had, and he rejoiced in his opportunity. He went before
the assembly in a prepared speech of three hours in length to show up
Luther as a pestilent heretic, and the necessity of getting rid of him
and his books and principles at once to prevent the world from being
plunged into barbarism and utter desolation. He made a deep impression
by his effort. It was only by the unexpected and crushing speech of
Duke George of Saxony, Luther's bitter personal enemy, that the train
of things, so energetically wrought up, was turned.

Not in defence of Luther, whom he disliked, but in defence of the
German nation, he piled up before the door of the hierarchy such an
overwhelming array of its oppressions, robberies, and scandals, and
exposed with such an unsparing hand the falsities, profligacies,
cupidity, and beastly indecencies of the Roman clergy and officials,
that the emperor hastened to recall the edict he had already signed,
and yielded consent for Luther to be called to answer for himself.


In vain the pope's legate protested that it was not lawful thus to
bring the decrees of the sovereign pontiff into question, or pleaded
that Luther's daring genius, flashing eyes, electric speech, and
thrilling spirit would engender tumult and violence. On March 6th the
emperor signed a summons and safe-conduct for the Reformer to appear
in Worms within twenty-one days, to answer concerning his doctrines
and writings.

So far the thunders of the Vatican were blank.

With all the anxious fears which such a summons would naturally
engender, Luther resolved to obey it.

The pope's adherents fumed in their helplessness when they learned
that he was coming--coming, too, under the safe-conduct of the empire,
coming to have a hearing before the Diet!--_he_ whom the infallible
Vicar of Heaven had condemned and anathematized! Whither was the world

Luther's friends trembled lest he should share the fate of Huss; his
enemies trembled lest he should escape it; and both, in their several
ways, tried to keep him back.

Placards of his condemnation were placed before him on the way, and
spectacles to indicate his certain execution were enacted in his
sight; but he was not the man to be deterred by the prospect of being
burnt alive if God called for the sacrifice.

Lying fraud was also tried to seduce and betray him. Glapio, the
emperor's confessor, who had tried a similar trick upon the Elector
Frederick, conceived the idea that if Von Sickingen and Bucer could be
won for the plot, a proposal to compromise the whole matter amicably
might serve to beguile him to the château of his friend at Ebernburg
till his safe-conduct should expire, and then the liars could throw
off the mask and dispose of him with credit in the eyes of Rome. The
glib and wily Glapio led in the attempt. Von Sickingen and Bucer were
entrapped by his bland hypocrisy, and lent themselves to the execution
of the specious proposition. But when they came to Luther with it, he
turned his back, saying, "If the emperor's confessor has anything to
say to me he will find me at Worms."

But even his friends were alarmed at his coming. It was feared that he
would be destroyed. The Elector's confidential adviser sent a servant
out to meet him, beseeching him by no means to enter the city. "Go
tell your master," said Luther, "I will enter Worms though as many
devils should be there as tiles upon its houses!" And he did enter,
with nobles, cavaliers, and gentry for his escort, and attended
through the streets by a larger concourse than had greeted the entry
of the emperor himself.[12]


[12] "The reception which he met with at Worms was such as he might
have reckoned a full reward of all his labors if vanity and the love
of applause had been the principles by which he was influenced.
Greater crowds assembled to behold him than had appeared at the
emperor's public entry; his apartments were daily filled with princes
and personages of the highest rank; and he was treated with all the
respect paid to those who possess the power of directing the
understanding and sentiments of other men--a homage more sincere, as
well as more flattering, than any which pre-eminence in birth or
condition command."--Robertson's _Charles V._, vol. i. p. 510.


Charles hurried to convene his council, saying, "Luther is come; what
shall we do with him?"

A chancellor and bishop of Flanders urged that he be despatched at
once, and this scandalous humiliation of the Holy See terminated. He
said Sigismund had allowed Huss to be burned, and no one was bound to
keep faith with a heretic. But the emperor was more moral than the
teachings of his Church, and said, "Not so; we have given our promise,
and we ought to keep it."

On the morrow Luther was conducted to the Diet by the marshal of the
empire. The excited people so crowded the gates and jammed about the
doors that the soldiers had to use their halberds to open a way for
him. An instinct not yet interpreted drew their hearts and allied them
with the hero. From the thronged streets, windows, and housetops came
voices as he passed--voices of petition and encouragement--voices of
benediction on the brave and true--voices of sympathy and adjuration
to be firm in God and in the power of his might. It was Germany,
Scandinavia, England, Scotland, and Holland; it was the Americas and
hundreds of young republics yet unborn; it was the whole world of all
after-time, with its free Gospel, free conscience, free speech, free
government, free science, and free schools,--uttering themselves in
those half-smothered voices. Luther heard them and was strengthened.

But there was no danger he would betray the momentous trust. That
morning, amid great rugged prayers which broke from him like massive
rock-fragments hot and burning from a volcano of mingled faith and
agony, laying one hand on the open Bible and lifting the other to
heaven, he cast his soul on Omnipotence, in pledge unspeakable to obey
only his conscience and his God. Whether for life or death, his heart
was fixed.

A few steps more and he stood before Imperial majesty, encompassed by
the powers and dignitaries of the earth, so brave, calm, and true a
man that thrones and kings looked on in silent awe and admiration, and
even malignant scorn for the moment retreated into darkness. Since He
who wore the crown of thorns stood before Pontius Pilate there had not
been a parallel to this scene.[13]


[13] A Romanist thus describes the picture: "When the approach of
Luther was heard there ensued one of those deep silences in which the
heart alone, by its hurried pulsations, gives sign of life. Attention
was diverted from the emperor to the monk. On the appearance of Luther
every one rose, regardless of the sovereign's presence. It inspired
Werner with one of the finest acts of his tragedy.... Heine has
glorified the appearance at Worms. The Catholic himself loves to
contemplate that black gown in the presence of those lords and barons
caparisoned in iron and armed with helmet and spear, and is moved by
the voice of 'that young friar' who comes to defy all the powers of
the earth."--Audin's _Life of Luther_.

"All parties must unite in admiring and venerating the man who,
undaunted and alone, could stand before such an assembly, and
vindicate with unshaken courage what he conceived to be the cause of
religion, of liberty, and of truth, fearless of any reproaches but
those of his own conscience, or of any disapprobation but that of his
God."--Roscoe's _Life of Leo X._, vol. iv. p. 36.

Luther himself, afterward recalling the event, said: "It must indeed
have been God who gave me my boldness of heart; I doubt if I could
show such courage again."


A weak, poor man, arraigned and alone before the assembled powers of
the earth, with only the grace of God and his cause on which to lean,
had demand made of him whether or not he would retract his books or
any part of them, _Yes_ or _No_. But he did not shrink, neither did he
falter. "Since Your Imperial Majesty and Your Excellencies require of
me a direct and simple answer, I will give it. To the pope or councils
I cannot submit my faith, for it is clear that they have erred and
contradicted one another. Therefore, unless I am convinced by proofs
from Holy Scripture or by sound reasons, and my judgment by this means
is commanded by God's Word, _I cannot and will not retract anything_:
for a Christian cannot safely go contrary to his conscience." And,
glancing over the august assembly, on whose will his life hung, he
added in deep solemnity, those immortal words: "HERE I STAND. I

Simple were the facts. Luther afterward wrote to a friend: "I expected
His Majesty would bring fifty doctors to convict the monk outright;
but it was not so. The whole history is this: Are these your books?
_Yes._--Will you retract them? _No._--Well then, begone."

He said the truth, but he could not then know all that was involved in
what he reduced to such a simple colloquy. With that _Yes_ and _No_
the wheel of ages made another revolution. The breath which spoke them
turned the balances in which the whole subsequent history of
civilization hung. It was the _Yes_ and _No_ which applied the brakes
to the Juggernaut of usurpation, whose ponderous wheels had been
crushing through the centuries. It was the _Yes_ and _No_ which
evidenced the reality of a power above all popes and empires. It was
the _Yes_ and _No_ which spoke the supreme obligation of the human
soul to obey God and conscience, and started once more the pulsations
of liberty in the arteries of man. It was the _Yes_ and _No_ which
divided eras, and marked the summit whence the streams began to form
and flow to give back to this world a Church without a pope and a
State without an Inquisition.

Charles had the happiness at Worms to hear the tidings that Fernando
Cortes had added Mexico to his dominions. The emancipated peoples of
the earth in the generations since have had the happiness to know that
at Worms, through the inflexible steadfastness of Martin Luther, God
gave the inspirations of a new and better life for them!


[14] "With this noble protest was laid the keystone of the
Reformation. The pontifical hierarchy shook to its centre, and the
great cause of truth and regenerate religion spread with electric
speed. The marble tomb of ignorance and error gave way, as it were, of
a sudden; a thousand glorious events and magnificent discoveries
thronged upon each other with pressing haste to behold and
congratulate the mighty birth, the new creation, of which they were
the harbingers, when, with a steady and triumphant step, the peerless
form of human intellect rose erect, and, throwing off from its
freshening limbs the death-shade and the grave-clothes by which it was
enshrouded, ascended to the glorious resurrection of that noontide
lustre which irradiates the horizon of our own day, rejoicing like a
giant to run his race."--John Mason Good's _Book of Nature_, p. 321.


After Luther and his friends left Worms the emperor issued an edict
putting him and all his adherents under the ban of the empire,
forbidding any one to give him food or shelter, calling on all who
found him to arrest him, commanding all his books to be burned, and
ordering the seizure of his friends and the confiscation of their

It was what Germany got for putting an Austro-Spanish bigot on the
Imperial throne.


But the cause of Rome was not helped by it. Luther's person was made
safe by the Elector, who arranged a friendly capture by which he was
concealed in the Wartburg in charge of the knights.

No one knew what had become of him. His mysterious disappearance was
naturally referred to some foul play of the Romanists, and the feeling
of resentment was intense and deep. Indeed, Germany was now bent on
throwing off the religion of the hierarchy. No matter what it may once
have been, no matter what service it may have rendered in helping
Europe through the Dark Ages, it had become gangrened, perverted,
rotten, offensive, unbearable. The very means Rome took to defend it
increased revolt against it. It had come to be an oppressive lie, and
it had to go. No Bulls of popes or edicts of emperors could alter the
decree of destiny.

And a great and blessed fortune it was that Luther still lived to
guide and counsel in the momentous transition. But Providence had
endowed him for the purpose, and so preserved him for its execution.
What was born with the Theses, and baptized before the Imperial Diet
at Worms, he was now to nourish, educate, catechise, and prepare for
glorious confirmation before a similar Diet in the after years.


While in the Wartburg he was forbidden to issue any writings. Leisure
was thus afforded for one of the most important things connected with
the Reformation. Those ten months he utilized to prepare for Germany
and for the world a translation of the Holy Scriptures, which itself
was enough to immortalize the Reformer's name. Great intellectual
monuments have come down to us from the sixteenth century. It was an
age in which the human mind put forth some of its noblest
demonstrations. Great communions still look back to its Confessions as
their rallying-centres, and millions of worshipers still render their
devotions in the forms which then were cast. But pre-eminent over all
the achievements of that sublime century was the giving of God's Word
to the people in their own language, which had its chief centre and
impulse in the production of Luther's _German Bible_. Well has it been
said, "He who takes up that, grasps a whole world in his hand--a world
which will perish only when this green earth itself shall pass away."

It was the Word that kindled the heart of Luther to the work of
Reformation, and the Word alone could bring it to its consummation.
With the Word the whole Church of Christ and the entire fabric of our
civilization must stand or fall. Undermine the Bible and you undermine
the world. It is the one, true, and only Charter of Faith, Liberty,
and salvation for man, without which this race of ours is a hopeless
and abandoned wreck. And when Luther gave forth his German Bible, it
was not only a transcendent literary achievement, which created and
fixed the classic forms of his country's language,[15] but an act of
supremest wisdom and devotion; for the hope of the world is for ever
cabled to the free and open Word of God.


[15] Chevalier Bunsen says; "It is Luther's genius applied to the
Bible which has preserved the only unity which is, in our days,
remaining to the German nation--that of language, literature, and
thought. There is no similar instance in the known history of the
world of a single man achieving such a work."


Up to the time of Luther's residence in the Wartburg nothing had been
done toward changing the outward forms, ceremonies, and organization
of the Church. The great thing with him had been to get the inward,
central doctrine right, believing that all else would then naturally
come right in due time. But while he was hidden and silent certain
fanatics thrust themselves into this field, and were on the eve of
precipitating everything to destruction. Tidings of the violent
revolutionary spirit which had broken out reached him in his retreat
and stirred him with sorrowful indignation, for it was the most
damaging blow inflicted on the Reformation.

It is hard for men to keep their footing amid deep and vast commotions
and not drift into ruinous excesses. Storch, and Münzer, and
Carlstadt, and Melanchthon himself, were dangerously affected by the
whirl of things. Even good men sometimes forget that society cannot be
conserved by mere negations; that wild and lawless revolution can
never work a wholesome and abiding reformation; that the perpetuity of
the Church is an historic chain, each new link of which depends on
those which have gone before.

There was precious gold in the old conglomerate, which needed to be
discriminated, extracted, and preserved. The divine foundations were
not to be confounded with the rubbish heaped upon them. There was
still a Church of Christ under the hierarchy, although the hierarchy
was no part of its life or essence. The Zwickau prophets, with their
new revelations and revolts against civil authority; the Wittenberg
iconoclasts, with their repudiation of study and learning and all
proper church order; and the Sacramentarians, with their insidious
rationalism against the plain Word,--were not to be entrusted with
the momentous interests with which the cause of the Reformation was
freighted. And hence, at the risk of the Elector's displeasure and at
the peril of his life, Luther came forth from his covert to withstand
the violence which was putting everything in jeopardy.

Grandly also did he reason out the genuine Gospel principles against
all these parties. He comprehended his ground from centre to
circumference, and he held it alike against erring friends and
menacing foes. The swollen torrent of events never once obscured his
prophetic insight, never disturbed the balance of his judgment, never
shook his hold upon the right. With a master-power he held revolutions
and wars in check, while he revised and purified the Liturgy and Order
of the Church, wrought out the evangelic truth in its applications to
existing things, and reared the renewed habilitation of the pure Word
and sacraments.


It was now that Pope Leo died. His glory lasted but eight years. His
successor, Adrian VI., was a moderate man, of good intentions, though
he could not see what evil there was in indulgences. He exhorted
Germany to get rid of Luther, but said the Church must be reformed,
that the Holy See had been for years horribly polluted, and that the
evils had affected head and members. He was in solemn earnest this
time, and began to change and purify the papal court. To some this was
as if the voice of Luther were being echoed from St. Peter's chair,
and Adrian suddenly died, no man knows of what,[16] and Clement VII.,
a relative of Leo X., was put upon the papal throne.

In 1524 a Diet was convened at Nuremberg with reference to these same
matters. Campeggio, the pope's legate, thought it prudent to make his
way thither without letting himself be known, and wrote back to his
master that he had to be very cautious, as the majority of the Diet
consisted of "great Lutherans." At this Diet the Edict of Worms was
virtually annulled, and it was plain enough that "great Lutherans" had
become very numerous and powerful.

Luther himself had become of sufficient consequence for Henry VIII.,
king of England, to write a book against him, for which the pope gave
him the title of "Defender of the Faith," and for which Luther repaid
him in his own coin. Erasmus also, long the prince of the whole
literary world, was dogged into the writing of a book against the
great Reformer. Poor Erasmus found his match, and was overwhelmed with
the result. He afterward sadly wrote: "My troops of friends are turned
to enemies. Everywhere scandal pursues me and calumny denies my name.
Every goose now hisses at Erasmus."

In 1525, Luther's friend and protector, the Elector Frederick, died.
This would have been a sad blow for the Reformation had there been no
one of like mind to take his place. But God had the man in readiness.
"Frederick the Wise" was succeeded by his brother, "John the

In Hesse, in Holland, in Scandinavia, in Prussia, in Poland, in
Switzerland, in France, _everywhere_, the Reformation advanced. Duke
George of Saxony raged, got up an alliance against the growing cause,
and beheaded citizens of Leipsic for having Luther's writings in their
houses. Eck still howled from Ingolstadt for fire and fagots. The
dukes of Bavaria were fierce with persecutions. The archbishop of
Mayence punished cities because they would not have his priests for
pastors. The emperor from Spain announced his purpose to crush and
exterminate "the wickedness of Lutheranism." But it was all in vain.
The sun had risen, the new era had come!

Luther now issued his _Catechisms_, which proved a great and glorious
aid to the true Gospel. Henceforth the children were to be bred up in
the pure faith. Matthesius says: "If Luther in his lifetime had
achieved no other work but that of bringing his two Catechisms into
use, the whole world could not sufficiently thank and repay him."

A quarrel between the emperor and the pope also contributed to the
progress of the Reformation. A Diet at Spire in 1526 had interposed a
check to the persecuting spirit of the Romanists, and granted
toleration to those of Luther's mind in all the states where his
doctrines were approved. The respite lasted for three years, until
Charles and Clement composed their difference and united to wreak
their wrath upon Luther and his adherents.


[16] The death of Adrian VI., on the 14th of September, 1523, was a
subject of general rejoicing in Rome. There was a crown of flowers
hung to the door of his physician, with a card appended which read,
"_To the savior of his country_."


A second Diet at Spire, in 1529, revoked the former act of toleration,
and demanded of all the princes and estates an unconditional
surrender to the pope's decrees. This called forth the heroic
_Protest_ of those who stood with Luther. They refused to submit,
claiming that in matters of divine service and the soul's salvation
conscience and God must be obeyed rather than earthly powers. It was
from this that the name of _Protestants_ originated--a name which half
the world now honors and accepts.

The signers of this Protest also pledged to each other their mutual
support in defending their position. Zwingli urged them to make war
upon the emperor. He himself afterward took the sword, and perished by
it. Calvin, Cranmer, Knox, and even the Puritan Fathers as far as they
had power and occasion, resorted to physical force and the civil arm
to punish the rejecters of their creed. Luther repudiated all such
coercion. The sword was at his command, but he opposed its use for any
purposes of religion. All the weight of his great influence was given
to prevent his friends from mixing external force with what should
ever have its seat only in the calm conviction of the soul. He thus
practically anticipated Roger Williams and William Penn and the most
lauded results of modern freedom--not from constraint of
circumstances and personal interests, but from his own clear insight
into Gospel principles. Bloody religious wars came after he was dead,
the prospect of which filled his soul with horror, and to which he
could hardly give consent even in case of direst necessity for
self-defence; but it is a transcendent fact that while he lived they
were held in abeyance, most of all by his prayers and endeavors. He
fought, indeed, as few men ever fought, but the only sword he wielded
was "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God."


And yet another Imperial Diet was convened with reference to these
religious disturbances. It was held in Augsburg in the spring of 1530.
The emperor was in the zenith of his power. He had overcome his French
rival. He had spoiled Rome, humbled the pope, and reorganized Italy.
The Turks had withdrawn their armies. And the only thing in the way of
a consolidated empire was the Reformation in Germany. To crush this
was now his avowed purpose, and he anticipated no great hardship in
doing it. He entered Augsburg with unwonted magnificence and pomp. He
had spoken very graciously in his invitation to the princes, but it
was in his heart to compel their submission to his former Edict of
Worms. It behoved them to be prepared to make a full exhibit of their
principles, giving the ultimatum on which they proposed to stand.

Luther had been formulating articles embodying the points adhered to
in his reformatory teachings. He had prepared one set for the Marburg
Conference with the Swiss divines. He had revised and elaborated these
into the Seventeen Articles of Schwabach. He had also prepared another
series on abuses, submitted to the Elector John at Torgau. All these
were now committed to Melanchthon for careful elaboration into
complete style and harmony for use at the Diet. Luther assisted in
this work up to the time when the Diet convened, and what remained to
be done was completed in Augsburg by Melanchthon and the Lutheran
divines present with him. Luther himself could not be there, as he was
a dead man to the law, and by command of his prince was detained at
Coburg while the Diet was in session.

The first act of the emperor was to summon the protesting princes
before him, asking of them the withdrawal of their Protest. This they
refused. They felt that they had constitutional right, founded on the
decision of Spire, to resist the emperor's demand; and they did not
intend to surrender the just principles put forth in their noble
Protest. They celebrated divine service in their quarters, led by
their own clergy, and refused to join in the procession at the Roman
festival of Corpus Christi. This gave much offence, and for the sake
of peace they discontinued their services during the Diet.

At length they were asked to make their doctrinal presentation.
Melanchthon had admirably performed the work assigned him in the
making up of the Confession, and on the 25th day of June, 1530, the
document, duly signed, was read aloud to the emperor in the hearing of

The effect of it upon the assembly was indescribable. Many of the
prejudices and false notions against the Reformers were effectually
dissipated. The enemies of the Reformation felt that they had solemn
realities to deal with which they had never imagined. Others said that
this was a more effectual preaching than that which had been
suppressed. "Christ is in the Diet," said Justus Jonas, "and he does
not keep silence. God's Word cannot be bound." In a word, the world
now had added to it one of its greatest treasures--the renowned and

Luther was eager for tidings of what transpired at the Diet. And when
the Confession came, as signed and delivered, he wrote: "I thrill with
joy that I have lived to see the hour in which Christ is preached by
so many confessors to an assembly so illustrious in a form so

Even Reformed authors, from Calvin down, have cheerfully added their
testimony to the worth and excellence of this magnificent
Confession--the first since the Athanasian Creed. A late writer of
this class says of it that "it best exhibits the prevailing genius of
the German Reformation, and will ever be cherished as one of the
noblest monuments of faith from the pentecostal period of

The Romanists attempted to answer the noble Confession, but would not
make their Confutation public. Compromises were proposed, but they
came to naught. The Imperial troops were called into the city and the
gates closed to intimidate the princes, but it resulted in greater
alarm to the Romanists than to them. The confessors had taken their
stand, and they were not to be moved from it. The Diet ended with the
decision that they should have until the following spring to determine
whether they would submit to the Roman Church or not, and, if not,
that measures would then be taken for their extermination.


The emperor's edict appeared November 19th, and the Protestant princes
at once proceeded to form a league for mutual protection against
attempts to force their consciences in these sacred matters. It was
with difficulty that the consent of Luther could be obtained for what,
to him, looked like an arrangement to support the Gospel by the sword.
But he yielded to a necessity forced by the intolerance of Rome. A
convention was held at Smalcald at Christmas, 1530, and there was
formed the _League of Smalcald_, which planted the political
foundations of Religious Liberty for our modern world.

By the presentation of the great Confession of Augsburg, along with
the formation of the League of Smalcald, the cause of Luther became
embodied in the official life of nations, and the new era of Freedom
had come safely to its birth. Long and terrible storms were yet to be
passed, but the ship was launched which no thunders of emperors or
popes could ever shatter.[17]

When the months of probation ended, France had again become
troublesome to the emperor, and the Turks were renewing their
movements against his dominions. He also found that he could not count
on the Catholic princes for the violent suppression of the
Protestants. Luther's doctrines had taken too deep hold upon their
subjects to render it safe to join in a war of extermination against

The Zwinglians also coalesced with the Lutherans in presenting a
united front against the threatened bloody coercion. The Smalcald
League, moreover, had grown to be a power which even the emperor could
not despise. He therefore resolved to come to terms with the
Protestant members of his empire, and a peace--at least a truce--was
concluded at Nuremberg, which left things as they were to wait until a
general council should settle the questions in dispute.


[17] "The Reformation of Luther kindled up the minds of men afresh,
leading to new habits of thought and awakening in individuals energies
before unknown to themselves. The religious controversies of this
period changed society, as well as religion, and to a considerable
extent, where they did not change the religion of the state, they
changed man himself in his modes of thought, his consciousness of his
own powers, and his desire of intellectual attainment. The spirit of
commercial and foreign adventure on the one hand and, on the other the
assertion and maintenance of religious liberty, having their source in
the Reformation, and this love of religious liberty drawing after it
or bringing along with it, as it always does, an ardent devotion to
the principle of civil liberty also, were the powerful influences
under which character was formed and men trained for the great work of
introducing English civilization, English law, and, what is more than
all, Anglo-Saxon blood, into the wilderness of North America."--Daniel
Webster, _Works_, vol. i. p. 94.


Luther lived nearly fifteen years after this grand crowning of his
testimony, diligently laboring for Christ and his country. The most
brilliant part of his career was over, but his labors still were great
and important. Indeed, his whole life was intensely laborious. He was
a busier man than the First Napoleon. His publications, as reckoned up
by Seckendorf, amount to eleven hundred and thirty-seven. Large and
small together, they number seven hundred and fifteen volumes--one for
every two weeks that he lived after issuing the first. Even in the
last six weeks of his life he issued thirty-one publications--more
than five per week. If he had had no other cares and duties but to
occupy himself with his pen, this would still prove him a very
Hercules in authorship.[18]

But his later years were saddened by many anxieties, afflictions, and
trials. Under God, he had achieved a transcendent work, and his
confidence in its necessity, divinity, and perpetuity never failed;
but he was much distressed to see it marred and damaged, as it was, by
the weaknesses and passions of men.

His great influence created jealousies. His persistent conservatism
gave offence. Those on whom he most relied betimes imperiled his cause
by undue concessions and pusillanimity. The friends of the Reformation
often looked more to political than Christian ends, or were more
carnal than spiritual. Threatening civil commotions troubled him.
Ultra reform attacked and blamed him. The agitations about a general
council, which Rome now treacherously urged, and meant to pack for its
own purposes, gave him much anxiety. It was with reference to such a
council that one other great document--_The Articles of
Smalcald_--issued from his pen, in which he defined the true and final
Protestant position with regard to the hierarchy, and the fundamental
organization of the Church of Christ. His bodily ailments also became
frequent and severe.

Prematurely old, and worn out with cares, labors, and vexations--the
common lot of great heroes and benefactors--he began to long for the
heavenly rest. "I am weary of the world," said he, "and it is time the
world were weary of me. The parting will be easy, like a traveler
leaving his inn."

He lived to his sixty-third year, and peacefully died in the faith he
so effectually preached, while on a mission of reconciliation at the
place where he was born, honored and lamented in his death as few men
have ever been. His remains repose in front of the chancel in the
castle church of Wittenberg, on the door of which his own hand had
nailed the Ninety-five Theses.[19]


[18] "Never before was the human mind more prolific." "Luther holds a
high and glorious place in German literature." "In his manuscripts we
nowhere discover the traces of fatigue or irritation, no embarrassment
or erasures, no ill-applied epithet or unmanageable expression; and by
the correctness of his writing we might imagine he was the copyist
rather than the writer of the work."--So says _Audin_, his Roman
Catholic biographer.

Hallam's flippant and disparaging remarks on Luther, contained in his
_Introduction to the Literature of Europe_, are simply outrageous,
"stupid and senseless paragraphs," evidencing a presumption on the
part of their author which deserves intensest rebuke. "Hallam knows
nothing about Luther; he himself confesses his inability to read him
in his native German; and this alone renders him incapable of judging
intelligently respecting his merits as a writer; and, knowing nothing,
it would have been honorable in him to say nothing, at least to say
nothing disparagingly. And, by the way, it seems to us that writing a
history of European literature without a knowledge of German is much
like writing a history of metals without knowing anything of iron and
steel.... Luther's language became, through his writings, and has ever
since remained, the language of literature and general intercourse
among educated men, and is that which is now understood universally to
be meant when _the German_ is spoken of. His translation of the Bible
is still as much the standard of purity for that language as Homer is
for the Greek."--_Dr. Calvin E. Stowe._

[19] "Nothing can be more edifying than the scene presented by the
last days of Luther, of which we have the most authentic and detailed
accounts. When dying he collected his last strength and offered up the
following prayer: 'Heavenly Father, eternal, merciful God, thou hast
revealed to me thy dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Him I have taught,
him I have confessed, him I love as my Saviour and Redeemer, whom the
wicked persecute, dishonor, and reprove. Take my poor soul up to

"Then two of his friends put to him the solemn question: 'Reverend
Father, do you die in Christ and in the doctrine you have constantly
preached?' He answered by an audible and joyful '_Yes_;' and,
repeating the verse, 'Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,' he
expired peacefully, without a struggle."--_Encyc. Britannica._


The personal appearance of this extraordinary man is but poorly given
in the painted portraits of him. Written descriptions inform us that
he was of medium size, handsomely proportioned, and somewhat darkly
complected. His arched brows, high cheek-bones, and powerful jaws and
chin gave to his face an outline of ruggedness; but his features were
regular, and softened all over with benevolence and every refined
feeling. He had remarkable eyes, large, full, deep, dark, and
brilliant, with a sort of amber circle around the pupil, which made
them seem to emit fire when under excitement. His hair was dark and
waving, but became entirely white in his later years. His mouth was
elegantly formed, expressive of determination, tenderness, affection,
and humor. His countenance was elevated, open, brave, and unflinching.
His neck was short and strong and his breast broad and full.

Though compactly built, he was generally spare and wasted from
incessant studies, hard labor, and an abstemious life.

Mosellanus, the moderator at the Leipsic Disputation, describes him
quite fully as he appeared at that time, and says that "his body was
so reduced by cares and study that one could almost count his bones."
He himself makes frequent allusion to his wasted and enfeebled body.
His health was never robust. He was a small eater. Melanchthon says:
"I have seen him, when he was in full health, absolutely neither eat
nor drink for four days together. At other times I have seen him, for
many days, content with the slightest allowance, a salt herring and a
small hunch of bread per day."

Mosellanus further says that his manners were cultured and friendly,
with nothing of stoical severity or pride in him--that he was cheerful
and full of wit in company, and at all times fresh, joyous, inspiring,
and pleasant.

Honest naturalness, grand simplicity, and an unpretentious majesty of
character breathed all about him. An indwelling vehemency, a powerful
will, and a firm confidence could readily be seen, but calm and
mellowed with generous kindness, without a trace of selfishness or
vanity. He was jovial, free-spoken, open, easily approached, and at
home with all classes.

Audin says of him that "his voice was clear and sonorous, his eye
beaming with fire, his head of the antique cast, his hands beautiful,
and his gesture graceful and abounding--at once Rabelais and Fontaine,
with the droll humor of the one and the polished elegance of the

In society and in his home he was genial, playful, instructive, and
often brilliant. His _Table-Talk_, collected (not always judiciously)
by his friends, is one of the most original and remarkable of
productions. He loved children and young people, and brought up
several in his house besides his own. He had an inexhaustible flow of
ready wit and good-humor, prepared for everybody on all occasions. He
was a frank and free correspondent, and let out his heart in his
letters, six large volumes of which have been preserved.

He was specially fond of music, and cultivated it to a high degree. He
could sing and play like a woman.[20] "I have no pleasure in any
man," said he, "who despises music. It is no invention of ours; it is
the gift of God. I place it next to theology."

He was himself a great musician and hymnist. Handel confesses that he
derived singular advantage from the study of his music; and Coleridge
says: "He did as much for the Reformation by his hymns as by his
translation of the Bible." To this day he is the chief singer in a
Church of pre-eminent song. Heine speaks of "those stirring songs
which escaped from him in the very midst of his combats and
necessities, like flowers making their way from between rough stones
or moonbeams glittering among dark clouds." _Ein feste Burg_ welled
from his great heart like the gushing of the waters from the smitten
rock of Horeb to inspirit and refresh God's faint and doubting people
as long as the Church is in this earthly wilderness. There is a mighty
soul in it which lifts one, as on eagles' wings, high and triumphant
over the blackest storms. And his whole life was a brilliantly enacted
epic of marvelous grandeur and pathos.[21]


[20] Mattähus Ratzenberger, in a passage of his biography preserved in
the _Bibliotheca Ducalis Gothana_, says: "Lutherus had also this
custom: as soon as he had eaten the evening meal with his table
companions he would fetch out of his little writing-room his _partes_
and hold a _musicam_ with those of them who had a mind for music.
Greatly was he delighted when a good composition of the old master
fitted the responses or _hymnos de tempore anni_, and especially did
he enjoy the _cantu Gregoriana_ and chorale. But if at times he
perceived in a new song that it was incorrectly copied he set it again
upon the lines (that is, he brought the parts together and rectified
it _in continenti_). Right gladly did he join in the singing when
_hymnus_ or _responsorium de tempore_ had been set by the _Musicus_ to
a _Cantum Gregorianum_, as we have said, and his young sons, Martinus
and Paulus, had also after table to sing the _responsoria de tempore_,
as at Christmas, _Verbum caro factum est_, _In principio erat verbum_;
at Easter, _Christus resurgens ex mortuis_, _Vita sanctorum_, _Victimæ
paschali laudes_, etc. In these _responsoria_ he always sang along
with his sons, and in _cantu figurali_ he sang the alto."

The alto which Luther sang must not be confounded with the alto part
of to-day. Here it means the _cantus firmus_, the melody around which
the old composers wove their contrapuntal ornamentation.

Luther was the creator of German congregational singing.

[21] Luther's first poetic publication seems to have been certain
verses composed on the martyrdom of two young Christian monks, who
were burned alive at Brussels in 1523 for their faithful confession of
the evangelical doctrines. A translation of a part of this composition
is given in D'Aubigné's _History of the Reformation_ in these
beautiful and stirring words:

     "Flung to the heedless winds or on the waters cast,
     Their ashes shall be watched, and gathered at the last;
     And from that scattered dust, around us and abroad,
     Shall spring a plenteous seed of witnesses for God.

     "Jesus hath now received their latest living breath,
     Yet vain is Satan's boast of victory in their death.
     Still, still, though dead, they speak, and trumpet-tongued proclaim
     To many a wakening land the One availing Name."

Audin, though a Romanist, says: "The hymns which he translated from
the Latin into German may be unreservedly praised, as also those which
he composed for the members of his own communion. He did not travesty
the sacred Word nor set his anger to music. He is grave, simple,
solemn, and grand. He was at once the poet and musician of a great
number of his hymns."


Luther's qualities of mind, heart, and attainment were transcendent.
Though naturally meek and diffident, when it came to matters of duty
and conviction he was courageous, self-sacrificing, and brave beyond
any mere man known to history. Elijah fled before the threats of
Jezebel, but no powers on earth could daunt the soul of Luther. Even
the apparitions of the devil himself could not disconcert him.

Roman Catholic authors agree that "Nature gave him a German industry
and strength and an Italian spirit and vivacity," and that "nobody
excelled him in philosophy and theology, and nobody equaled him in

His mental range was not confined to any one set of subjects. In the
midst of his profound occupation with questions of divinity and the
Church "his mind was literally world-wide. His eyes were for ever
observant of what was around him. At a time when science was hardly
out of its shell he had observed Nature with the liveliest curiosity.
He studied human nature like a dramatist. Shakespeare himself drew
from him. His memory was a museum of historical information, anecdotes
of great men, and old German literature, songs, and proverbs, to the
latter of which he made many rich additions from his own genius.
Scarce a subject could be spoken of on which he had not thought and on
which he had not something remarkable to say."[22] In consultations
upon public affairs, when the most important things hung in peril, his
contemporaries speak with amazement of the gigantic strength of his
mind, the unexampled acuteness of his intellect, the breadth and
loftiness of his understanding and counsels.

But, though so great a genius, he laid great stress on sound and
thorough learning and study. "The strength and glory of a town," said
he, "does not depend on its wealth, its walls, its great mansions, its
powerful armaments, but in the number of its learned, serious, kind,
and well-educated citizens." He was himself a great scholar, far
beyond what we would suspect in so perturbed a life, or what he cared
to parade in his writings. He mastered the ancient languages, and
insisted on the perpetual study of them as "the scabbard which holds
the sword of the Spirit, the cases which enclose the precious jewels,
the vessels which contain the old wine, the baskets which carry the
loaves and the fishes for the feeding of the multitude." His
associates say of him that he was a great reader, eagerly perusing the
Church Fathers, old and new, and all histories, well retaining what he
read, and using the same with great skill as occasion called.

Melanchthon, who knew him well, and knew well how to judge of men's
powers and attainments, said of him: "He is too great, too wonderful,
for me to describe. Whatever he writes, whatever he utters, goes to
the soul and fixes itself like arrows in the heart. _He is a miracle
among men._"

Nor was he without the humility of true greatness. Newton's comparison
of himself to a child gathering shells and pebbles on the shore,
while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before him, has
been much cited and lauded as an illustration of the modesty of true
science. But long before Newton had Luther said of himself, in the
midst of his mighty achievements, "Only a little of the first fruits
of wisdom--only a few fragments of the boundless heights, breadths,
and depths of truth--have I been able to gather."

He was a man of amazing _faith_--that mighty principle which looks at
things invisible, joins the soul to divine Omnipotence, and launches
out unfalteringly upon eternal realities, and which is ever the chief
factor in all God's heroes of every age. He dwelt in constant nearness
and communion with the Eternal Spirit, which reigns in the heavens and
raises the willing and obedient into blessed instruments of itself for
the actualizing of ends and ideals beyond and above the common course
of things. With his feet ever planted on the promises, he could lay
his hands upon the Throne, and thus was lifted into a sublimity of
energy, endurance, and command which made him one of the phenomenal
wonders of humanity. He was a very Samson in spiritual vigor, and
another Hannah's son in the strength and victory of his prayers.

Dr. Calvin E. Stowe says: "There was probably never created a more
powerful human being, a more gigantic, full-proportioned MAN, in the
highest sense of the term. All that belongs to human nature, all that
goes to constitute a MAN, had a strongly-marked development in him. He
was a _model man_, one that might be shown to other beings in other
parts of the universe as a specimen of collective manhood in its
maturest growth."

As the guide and master of one of the greatest revolutions of time we
look in vain for any one with whom to compare him, and as a
revolutionary orator and preacher he had no equal. Richter says, "His
words are half-battles." Melanchthon likens them to thunderbolts. He
was at once a Peter and a Paul, a Socrates and an Æsop, a Chrysostom
and a Savonarola, a Shakespeare and a Whitefield, all condensed in


[22] Froude supplemented.


Some blame him for not using kid gloves in handling the ferocious
bulls, bears, and he-goats with whom he had to do. But what,
otherwise, would have become of the Reformation? His age was savage,
and the men he had to meet were savage, and the matters at stake
touched the very life of the world. What would a Chesterfield or an
Addison have been in such a contest? Erasmus said he had horns, and
knew how to use them, but that Germany needed just such a master. He
understood the situation. "These gnarled logs," said he, "will not
split without iron wedges and heavy malls. The air will not clear
without lightning and thunder."[23]

But if he was rough betimes, he could be as gentle and tender as a
maiden, and true to himself in both. He could fight monsters all day,
and in the evening take his lute, gaze at the stars, sing psalms, and
muse upon the clouds, the fields, the flowers, the birds, dissolved in
melody and devotion. Feared by the mighty of the earth, the dictator
and reprimander of kings, the children loved him, and his great heart
was as playful among them as one of themselves. If he was harsh and
unsparing upon hypocrites, malignants, and fools, he called things by
their right names, and still was as loving as he was brave. Since King
David's lament over Absalom no more tender or pathetic scene has
appeared in history or in fiction than his outpouring of paternal love
and grief over the deathbed, coffin, and grave of his young and
precious daughter Madeleine. "I know of few things more touching,"
says Carlyle, "than those soft breathings of affection, soft as a
child's or a mother's, in this great wild heart of Luther;" and adds:
"I will call this Luther a true Great Man; great in intellect, in
courage, affection, and integrity; one of our most lovable and
precious men. Great not as a hewn obelisk, but as an Alpine mountain,
so simple, honest, spontaneous; not setting up to be great at all;
there for quite another purpose than being great. Ah, yes, unsubduable
granite, piercing far and wide into the Heavens; yet, in the clefts of
it, fountains, green, beautiful valleys with flowers. A right
Spiritual Hero and Prophet; once more, a true Son of Nature and Fact,
for whom these centuries, and many that are yet to come, will be
thankful to Heaven."


[23] "It must be observed that the coarse vituperations which shock
the reader in Luther's controversial works were not peculiar to him,
being commonly used by scholars and divines of the Middle Ages in
their disputations. The invectives of Valla, Filelfo, Poggio, and
other distinguished scholars against each other are notorious; and
this bad taste continued in practice long after Luther down to the
seventeenth century, and traces of it are found in writers of the
eighteenth, even in some of the works of the polished and courtly
Voltaire."--_Cyclopædia of Soc. for Diffus. of Useful Knowledge._


A lone man, whose days were spent in poverty; who could withstand the
mighty Vatican and all its flaming Bulls; whose influence evoked and
swayed successive Diets of the empire; whom repeated edicts from the
Imperial throne could not crush; whom the talent, eloquence, and
towering authority of the Roman hierarchy assailed in vain; whom the
attacks of kings of state and kings of literature could not disable;
to offset whose opinions the greatest general council the Church of
Rome ever held had to be convened, and, after sitting eighteen years,
could not adjourn without conceding much to his positions; and whose
name the greatest and most enlightened nations of the earth hail with
glad acclaim,--necessarily must have been a wonder of a man.[24]

To begin with a minority consisting of one, and conquer kingdoms with
the mere sword of his mouth; to bear the anathemas of Church and the
ban of empire, and triumph in spite of them; to refuse to fall down
before the golden image of the combined Nebuchadnezzars of his time,
though threatened with the burning fires of earth and hell; to turn
iconoclast of such magnitude and daring as to think of smiting the
thing to pieces in the face of principalities and powers to whom it
was as God--nay, to attempt this, _and to succeed in it_,--here was
sublimity of heroism and achievement explainable only in the will and
providence of the Almighty, set to recover His Gospel to a perishing


[24] "In no other instance have such great events depended upon the
courage, sagacity, and energy of a single man, who, by his sole and
unassisted efforts, made his solitary cell the heart and centre of the
most wonderful and important commotion the world ever witnessed--who
by the native force and vigor of his genius attacked and successfully
resisted, and at length overthrew, the most awful and sacred authority
that ever imposed its commands on mankind."--A letter prefixed to
Luther's _Table-Talk_ in the folio edition of 1652.

[25] "To overturn a system of religious belief founded on ancient and
deep-rooted prejudices, supported by power and defended with no less
art than industry--to establish in its room doctrines of the most
contrary genius and tendency, and to accomplish all this, not by
external violence or the force of arms, are operations which
historians the least prone to credulity and superstition ascribe to
that divine providence which with infinite ease can bring about events
which to human sagacity appear impossible."--Robertson's _Charles V._


To describe the fruits of Luther's labors would require the writing of
the whole history of modern civilization and the setting forth of the
noblest characteristics of this our modern world.[26]

On the German nation he has left more of his impress than any other
man has left on any nation. The German people love to speak of him as
the creative master of their noble language and literature, the great
prophet and glory of their country. There is nothing so consecrated in
all his native land as the places which connect with his life,
presence, and deeds.

But his mighty impress is not confined to Germany. "He grasped the
iron trumpet of his mother-tongue and blew a blast that shook the
nations from Rome to the Orkneys." He is not only the central figure
of Germany, but of Europe and of the whole modern world. Take Luther
away, with the fruits of his life and deeds, and man to-day would
cease to be what he is.

Frederick von Schlegel, though a Romanist, affirms that "it was upon
him and his soul that the fate of Europe depended." And on the fate
of Europe then depended the fate of our race.

Michelet, also a Romanist, pronounces Luther "the restorer of liberty
in modern times;" and adds: "If we at this day exercise in all its
plenitude the first and highest privilege of human intelligence, it is
to him we are indebted for it."

"And that any faith," says Froude, "any piety, is alive now, even in
the Roman Church itself, whose insolent hypocrisy he humbled into
shame, is due in large measure to the poor miner's son."

He certainly is to-day the most potently living man who has lived this
side of the Middle Ages. The pulsations of his great heart are felt
through the whole _corpus_ of our civilization.

"Four potentates," says the late Dr. Krauth, "ruled the mind of Europe
in the Reformation: the emperor, Erasmus, the pope, and Luther. The
pope wanes; Erasmus is little; the emperor is nothing; but Luther
abides as a power for all time. His image casts itself upon the
current of ages as the mountain mirrors itself in the river which
winds at its foot. He has monuments in marble and bronze, and medals
in silver and gold, but his noblest monument is the best love of the
best hearts, and the brightest and purest impression of his image has
been left in the souls of regenerated nations."

Many and glowing are the eulogies which have been pronounced upon him,
but Frederick von Schlegel, speaking from the side of Rome, gives it
as his conviction that "few, even of his own disciples, appreciate him
highly enough." Genius, learning, eloquence, and song have volunteered
their noble efforts to do him justice; centuries have added their
light and testimony; half the world in its enthusiasm has urged on the
inspiration; but the story in its full dimensions has not yet been
adequately told. The skill and energy of other generations will yet be
taxed to give it, if, indeed, it ever can be given apart from the
illuminations of eternity.[27]


[26] "From the commencement of the religious war in Germany to the
Peace of Westphalia scarce anything great or memorable occurred in the
European political world with which the Reformation was not
essentially connected. Every event in the history of the world in this
interval, if not directly occasioned, was nearly affected, by this
religious revolution, and every state, great or small, remotely or
immediately felt its influence."--Schiller's _Thirty Years' War_, vol.
i. p. 1.

[27] "Luther was as wonderful as he was great. His personal experience
in divine things was as deep as his mind was mighty, large, and
unbounded. Though called by the Most High, and continued by his
appointment, in the midst of papal darkness, idolatry, and error, with
no companions but the saints of the Bible, nor any other light but the
lamp of the Word to guide his feet, his heaven-taught soul was
ministerially furnished with as rich pasture for the sheep of Christ,
as awful ammunition for the terror and destruction of the enemies by
which he and they were perpetually surrounded. The sphere of his
mighty ministry was not bounded by his defence of the truth against
the great and powerful. No! He was as rich a pastor, as terrible a
warrior. He fed the sheep in the fattest pastures, while he destroyed
the wolves on every side. Nor will those pastures be dried up or lost
until time, nations, and the churches of God shall be no more."--Dr.
Cole's _Pref. to Luther on Genesis_.


Rome has never forgotten nor forgiven him. She sought his life while
living, and she curses him in his grave. Profited by his labors beyond
what she ever could have been without him, she strains and chokes with
anathemas upon his name and everything that savors of him. Her
children are taught from infancy to hate and abhor him as they hope
for salvation. Many are the false turns and garbled forms in which her
writers hold up his words and deeds to revenge themselves on his
memory. Again and again the oft-answered and exploded calumnies are
revived afresh to throw dishonor on his cause. Even while the free
peoples of the earth are making these grateful acknowledgments of the
priceless boon that has come to them through his life and labors,
press and platform hiss with stale vituperations from the old enemy.
And a puling Churchism outside of Rome takes an ill pleasure in
following after her to gather and retail this vomit of malignity.

Luther was but a man. No one claims that he was perfection. But if
those who sought his destruction while he lived had had no greater
faults than he, with better grace their modern representatives might
indulge their genius for his defamation. At best, as we might suppose,
it is the little men, the men of narrow range and narrow heart--men
dwarfed by egotism, bigotry, and self-conceit--who see the most of
these defects. Nobler minds, contemplating him from loftier
standpoints, observe but little of them, and even honor them above the
excellencies of common men. "The proofs that he was in some things
like other men," says Lessing, "are to me as precious as the most
dazzling of his virtues."[28]

And, with all, where is the gain or wisdom of blowing smoke upon a
diamond? The sun itself has holes in it too large for half a dozen
worlds like ours to fill, but wherein is that great luminary thereby
unfitted to be the matchless centre of our system, the glorious source
of day, and the sublime symbol of the Son of God?

If Luther married a beautiful woman, the proofs of which do not
appear, it is what every other honest man would do if it suited him
and he were free to do it.

If he broke his vows to get a wife, of which there is no evidence,
when vows are taken by mistake, tending to dishonor God, work
unrighteousness, and hinder virtuous example and proper life, they
ought to be broken, the sooner the better.

And, whatever else may be alleged to his discredit, and whoever may
arise to heap scandal on his name, the grand facts remain that it was
chiefly through his marvelous qualities, word, and work that the
towering dominion of the Papacy was humbled and broken for ever; that
prophets and apostles were released from their prisons once more to
preach and prophesy to men; that the Church of the early times was
restored to the bereaved world; that the human mind was set free to
read and follow God's Word for itself; that the masses of neglected
and downtrodden humanity were made into populations of live and
thinking beings; and that the nations of the earth have become
repossessed of their "inalienable rights" of "life, liberty, and the
pursuit of happiness."

    "And let the pope and priests their victor scorn,
    Each fault reveal, each imperfection scan,
    And by their fell anatomy of hate
    His life dissect with satire's keenest edge;
    Yet still may Luther, with his mighty heart,
    Defy their malice.
                      Far beyond _them_ soars the soul
    They slander. From his tomb there still comes forth
    A magic which appalls them by its power;
    And the brave monk who made the Popedom rock
    Champions a world to show his equal yet!"


[28] "It was by some of these qualities which we are now apt to blame
that Luther was fitted for accomplishing the great work which he
undertook. To rouse mankind when sunk in ignorance and superstition,
and to encounter the rage of bigotry armed with power, required the
utmost vehemence of zeal as well as temper daring to
excess."--Robertson's _Charles V._



It was in 1492, just nine years after Luther's birth, that the
intrepid Genoese, Christopher Columbus, under the patronage of
Ferdinand, king of Spain, made the discovery of land on this side of
the Atlantic Ocean. A few years later the distinguished Florentine,
Americus Vespucius, set foot on its more interior coasts, described
their features, and imprinted his name on this Western Continent. But
it was not until more than a century later that permanent settlements
of civilized people upon these shores began to be made.

During the early part of the seventeenth century several such
settlements were effected. A company of English adventurers planted
themselves on the banks of the James River and founded Virginia
(1607). The Dutch of Holland, impelled by the spirit of mercantile
enterprise, established a colony on the Hudson, and founded what
afterward became the city and State of New York (1614). Then a
shipload of English Puritans, flying from religious oppression, landed
at Plymouth Rock and made the beginning of New England (1620). A
little later Lord Baltimore founded a colony on the Chesapeake and
commenced the State of Maryland (1633). But it was not until 1637-38
that the first permanent settlement was made in what subsequently
became the State of Pennsylvania.


From the year 1611 to 1632 there was upon the throne of Sweden one of
the noblest of kings, a great champion of religious liberty, the
lamented and ever-to-be-remembered GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS.

In his profound thinking to promote the glory of God and the good of
men his attention rested on this vast domain of wild lands in America.
He knew the sorrows and distresses which thousands all over Europe
were suffering from the constant and devastating religious wars, and
the purpose was kindled in his heart to plant here a colony as the
beginning of a general asylum for these homeless and persecuted
people, and determined to foster the same by his royal protection and

"To this end he sent forth letters patent, dated Stockholm, 2d of
July, 1626, wherein all, both high and low, were invited to contribute
something to the company according to their means. The work was
completed in the Diet of the following year (1627), when the estates
of the realm gave their assent and confirmed the measure. Those who
took part in this company were: His Majesty's mother, the
queen-dowager Christina, the Prince John Casimir, the Royal Council,
the most distinguished of the nobility, the highest officers of the
army, the bishops and other clergymen, together with the burgomasters
and aldermen of the cities, as well as a large number of the people
generally. For the management and working of the plan there were
appointed an admiral, vice-admiral, chapman, under-chapman,
assistants, and commissaries, also a body of soldiers duly
officered."[29] And a more beneficent, brilliant, and promising
arrangement of the sort was perhaps never made. The devout king
intended his grand scheme "for the honor of God," for the welfare of
his subjects and suffering Christians in general, and as a means "to
extend the doctrines of Christ among the heathen."

But when everything was complete and in full progress to go into
effect, King Gustavus Adolphus was called to join and lead the allied
armies of the Protestant kingdoms of Germany against the endeavors of
the papal powers to crush out the cause of evangelical Christianity
and free conscience.[30]

For the ensuing five years the attention and energies of Sweden were
preoccupied, first with the Polish, and then with these wars, and the
colonization scheme was interrupted.

Then came the famous battle of Lützen, 1632, bringing glorious victory
over the gigantic Wallenstein, but death to the victor, the royal

Only a few days before that dreadful battle he spoke of his
colonization plan, and commended it to the German people at Nuremberg
as "the jewel of his kingdom;" but with the king's death the company

We could almost wish that Gustavus had lived to carry out his humane
and magnificent proposals with reference to this colony as well as for
Europe; but his work was done. What America lost by his death she more
than regained in the final success and secure establishment of the
holy cause for which he sacrificed his life.


[29] Acrelius's _History_, p. 21.

[30] "When he now beheld that the cause of Protestantism was menaced
more seriously than ever throughout the whole of Germany, he took the
decisive step, and, formally declaring war against the emperor, he, on
the 24th of June, 1630, landed on the coast of Pomerania with fifteen
thousand Swedes. As soon as he stepped upon shore he dropped on his
knees in prayer, while his example was followed by his whole army.
Truly he had undertaken, with but small and limited means, a great and
mighty enterprise." "The Swedes, so steady and strict in their
discipline, appeared as protecting angels, and as the king advanced
the belief spread far and near throughout the land that he was sent
from heaven as its preserver."--_History of Germany_, by Kohlrausch,
pp. 328, 329.

"Bavaria and the Tyrol excepted, every province throughout Germany had
battled for liberty of conscience, and yet the whole of Germany,
notwithstanding her universal inclination for the Reformation, had
been deceived in her hopes: a second Imperial edict seemed likely to
crush the few remaining privileges spared by the edict of
restitution.... Gustavus, urged by his sincere piety, resolved to take
up arms in defence of Protestantism and to free Germany from the yoke
imposed by the Jesuits."--Menzel's _History of Germany_, vol. ii. pp.
345, 346.

"The party of the Catholics were carrying all before them, and
everything seemed to promise that Ferdinand (the Roman Catholic
emperor) would become absolute through the whole of Germany, and
succeed in that scheme which he seemed to meditate, of entirely
abolishing the Protestant religion in the empire. But this miserable
prospect, both of political and religious thraldom, was dissolved by
the great Gustavus Adolphus being invited by the Protestant princes of
Germany to espouse the cause of the Reformed religion, being himself
of that persuasion."--Tytler's _Univ. Hist._, vol. ii. p. 451.

[31] The death of Gustavus Adolphus is thus described by Kohlrausch:
"The king spent the cold autumnal night in his carriage, and advised
with his generals about the battle. The morning dawned, and a thick
fog covered the entire plain; the troops were drawn up in
battle-array, and the Swedes sang, accompanied with trumpets and
drums, Luther's hymn, _Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott_ ('A mighty
fortress is our God'), together with the hymn composed by the king
himself, _Verzage nicht, du Häuflein klein_ ('Fear not the foe, thou
little flock'). Just after eleven o'clock, when the sun was emerging
from behind the clouds, and after a short prayer, the king mounted his
horse, placed himself at the head of the right wing--the left being
commanded by Bernard of Weimar--and cried, 'Now, onward! May our God
direct us!--Lord, Lord! help me this day to fight for the glory of thy
name!' and, throwing away his cuirass with the words, 'God is my
shield!' he led his troops to the front of the Imperialists, who were
well entrenched on the paved road which leads from Lützen to Leipsic,
and stationed in the deep trenches on either side. A deadly cannonade
saluted the Swedes, and many here met their death; but their places
were filled by others, who leaped over the trench, and the troops of
Wallenstein retreated.

"In the mean time, Pappenheim came up with his cavalry from Halle, and
the battle was renewed with the utmost fury. The Swedish infantry fled
behind the trenches. To assist them, the king hastened to the spot
with a company of horse, and rode in full speed considerably in
advance to descry the weak points of the enemy; only a few of his
attendants, and Francis, duke of Saxe-Lauenberg, rode with him. His
short-sightedness led him too near a squadron of Imperial horse; he
received a shot in his arm, which nearly precipitated him to the
ground; and just as he was turning to be led away from the tumultuous
scene he received a second shot in the back. With the exclamation, 'My
God! my God!' he fell from his horse, which also was shot in the neck,
and was dragged for some distance, hanging by the stirrup. The duke
abandoned him, but his faithful page tried to raise him, when the
Imperial horsemen shot him also, killed the king, and completely
plundered him." Pappenheim was also mortally wounded, Wallenstein
retreated, and the victory was with the Swedes, but their noble king
was no more.


The plan of this illustrious king was to found here upon the Delaware
a free state under his sovereign protection, where the laborer should
enjoy the fruit of his toil, where the rights of conscience should be
preserved inviolate, and which should be open to the whole Protestant
world, then and for long time engaged in bloody conflict with the
papal powers for the maintenance of its existence. Here all were to be
secure in their persons, their property, and their religious
convictions. It was to be a place of refuge and peace for the
persecuted of all nations, of security for the honor of the wives and
daughters of those fleeing from sword, fire, and rapine, and from
homes made desolate by oppressive war. It was to be a land of
universal liberty for all classes, the soil of which was never to be
burdened with slaves.[32] And in all the colonies of America there was
not a more thoroughly digested system for the practical realization
of these ideas than that which the great Gustavus Adolphus had thus

Nor did it altogether die with his death. His mantle fell upon one of
the best and greatest of men. Axel Oxenstiern, his friend and prime
minister, and his successor in the administration of the affairs of
the kingdom, was as competent as he was zealous to fulfill the wise
plans and ideas of the slain king, not only with reference to Sweden
and Europe, but also with regard to the contemplated colony in

Having taken the matter into his own hands, on the 10th of April,
1633, only a few months after Gustavus's death, Oxenstiern renewed the
movement which had been laid aside, and repeated the offer to Germany
and other countries, inviting general co-operation in the noble

Peter Minuit, a member of a distinguished family of Rhenish Prussia,
who had been for years the able director and president of the Dutch
mercantile establishment on the Hudson, presented himself in Sweden,
and entered into the matter with great energy and enthusiasm. And by
the end of 1637 or early in 1638 two ships were seen entering and
ascending the Delaware, freighted with the elements and nucleus of
the new state, such as Gustavus had projected.

These ships, under Minuit, landed their passengers but a few miles
south of where Philadelphia now stands, and thus made the first
beginning of what has since become the great and happy Commonwealth of

This was _six years before Penn was born_.


[32] The description of the features of this plan is taken from
Geijer's _Svenska Folkets Historia_, vol. iii. p. 128, given by Dr.
Reynolds in his Introduction to Israel Acrelius's _History of New
Sweden_, published by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. It was
first propounded by Gustavus Adolphus in 1624. Also referred to in
_Argonautica Gustaviana_, pp. 3 and 22.


How far William Penn was illuminated and influenced by the ideas of
the great and wise Gustavus Adolphus in reference to the founding of a
free state in America as an asylum for the persecuted and suffering
people of God in the Old World, is nowhere told; but there is reason
to believe that he knew of them, and took his own plans from them.

A few facts bearing on the point may here be noted.

One peculiarly striking is, that the same plan and principles with
reference to such a colonial state which Penn brought hither in the
_Welcome_ in 1682 were already matured and widely propounded by the
illustrious Swedish king more than half a century before they
practically entered Penn's mind.

Another is, that these proposals and principles were generally
promulgated throughout Europe--first by Gustavus and those associated
with him in the matter, and then again by Oxenstiern, in Germany,
Holland, and other countries.

Still another is, that in 1677 Penn made a special tour of three
months through Holland and various parts of Germany, visiting and
conferring with many of the most pious and devoted people, including
distinguished men and women, and clergy and laity of high standing,
information, and influence. He made considerable stay in Frankfort,
where he says both Calvinists and Lutherans received him with gladness
of heart. He visited Mayence, Worms, Mannheim, Mulheim, Düsseldorf,
Herwerden, Embaden, Bremen, etc., etc., concerning which the editor of
his _Life and Writings_ says he had "interesting interviews with many
persons eminent for their talents, learning, or social position."
Among them were such as Elizabeth, Princess Palatine, niece of Charles
I. of England and the daughter of the king of Bohemia, the special
friend of Gustavus Adolphus, who died of horror on hearing that
Gustavus was slain; Anna Maria, countess of Hornes; the countess and
earl of Falkenstein and Brück; the president of the council of state
at Embaden; the earl of Donau, and the like; among all of which it is
hardly possible that he should have failed to meet with the proposals
which had gone out over all Protestant Europe from the throne of
Sweden. Nor is there any evidence that William Penn had thought of
founding a free Christian state in America until immediately after his
return to England from this tour on the Continent.

Furthermore, the plans of Gustavus respecting his projected colony on
the Delaware were well understood in official circles in England
itself, especially in London, from 1634. John Oxenstiern, brother of
the great chancellor, was at that time Swedish ambassador in London,
and in that year he obtained from King Charles I. a renunciation and
cession to Sweden of all claims of the English to the country on the
Delaware growing out of the rights of first discovery, and for the
very purposes of this colonial free state and asylum first projected
by the Swedish king.


We are left to our own inferences from these facts. But, however much
or little Penn may have been directly influenced and guided by what
Gustavus Adolphus had conceived and elaborated on the subject, the
wise and noble conception which he brought with him for practical
realization in 1682 was known to the European peoples for more than
fifty years before he laid hold on it. The same had also been one of
the chief sources of the inspiration of Lord Baltimore in the founding
of the colony of Maryland, of which Penn was not ignorant. And the
same, not unknown to him, had already begun to be realized here in
what is now called Pennsylvania full forty-four years before his

Shipload after shipload of sturdy and devoted people, mostly Swedes,
animated with the same grand ideas, had here been landed. And so
successfully had they battled with the perils and hardships of the
wilderness, and so justly had they treated and arranged to dwell in
peace and love with the wild inhabitants of the forests, that when
Penn came he found everything prepared to his hand. The Swedes alone
already numbered about one thousand strong. They had conquered the
wild woods, built them homes, and opened plantations; and "the eye of
the stranger could begin to gaze with interest upon the signs of
public improvement, ever regularly advancing, from the region of
Wilmington to that of Philadelphia."

When Penn landed he found a town and court-house at New Castle, and a
town and place of public assemblage at Upland, and a Christian and
free people in possession of the territory, with whom it was necessary
for him to treat before his charter could avail for the planting of
his colony. The land to which the Swedes had acquired title (by
England's release to Sweden of all claim from right of discovery, by
charter from Sweden, by purchase from the Indians, first under Minuit,
the first governor, and then under his successor, Governor Printz, and
by other purchases or agreements) was the west bank of the Delaware
River from Cape Henlopen to Trenton Falls, and thence westward to the
great fall in the Susquehanna, near the mouth of the Conewaga Creek,
which included nearly the whole of Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware.

The fortunes of war, in Europe and between the colonies, in course of
time complicated the titles to one and another portion of this
territory, but the Swedes and Dutch occupied and held the most
prominent parts of it by right of actual possession when and after
Penn's charter was granted.


But when Penn arrived he brought with him letters patent from Charles
II., king of England, to this same district of country and the wilds
indefinitely beyond it, having also obtained from his friend, the
king's brother, the duke of York, full releases of the claims vested
in him to the "Lower Counties," which now form the State of Delaware.

Penn was accompanied by from sixty to seventy colonists--all that
survived the scourge which visited them in their passage across the
sea. He landed first at New Castle, of which the Dutch of New York had
by conquest obtained possession. To them he made known his grants and
his plans, and succeeded in securing their acquiescence in them.

Thence he came to Upland (Chester), the head-quarters of the Swedes,
who "received their new fellow-citizens with great friendliness,
carried up their goods and furniture from the ships, and entertained
them in their own houses without charge." His proposals with regard to
the establishment of a united commonwealth they also received with
much favor. And immediately thereupon he convened a general assembly
of the citizens, which sat for three days, by which an act was passed
for the consolidation of the various interests and parties on the
ground, a code of general regulations adopted, and the necessary
features of a common government enacted; all of which together formed
the basis of our present commonwealth.


The name which Penn had chosen for the territory of his grant was
_Sylvania_, but the king prefixed the name of Penn and called it
_Penn's_ Silvania (_Penn's Woods_), in honor of the recipient's
father, Sir William Penn, a distinguished officer in the British navy.
Penn sought to have the title changed so as to leave his own name out,
as he thought it savored too much of personal vanity; but his efforts
did not avail. And thus our great old commonwealth took the name of
_Pennsylvania_, and the city of Philadelphia was laid out and named by
Penn himself as its capital.


In dwelling upon the founding of our happy commonwealth it is pleasant
to contemplate how enlightened and exalted were the men whom
Providence employed for the performance of this important work.

Many are apt to think ours the age of culminated enlightenment,
dignity, wisdom, and intelligence, and look upon the fathers of two
and three hundred years ago as mere pigmies, just emerging from an era
of barbarism and ignorance, not at all to be compared with the proud
wiseacres of our day. Never was there a greater mistake. The
shallowness and flippancy of the leaders and politicians of this last
quarter of the nineteenth century show them but little more than
school-boys compared with the sturdy, sober-minded, deep-principled,
dignified, and grand-spirited men who discovered and opened this
continent and laid the foundations of our country's greatness. And
those who were most concerned in the founding of our own commonwealth
suffer in no respect in comparison with the greatest and the best.


I have named the illustrious GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS as the man,
above all, who first conceived, sketched, and propounded the grand
idea of such a state. What other colonies reached only through varied
experiments and gradual developments, Pennsylvania had clear and
mature, in ideal and in fact, from the very earliest beginning; and
the royal heart and brain of Sweden were its source.

Gustavus Adolphus was born a prince in the regular line of Sweden's
ancient kings. His grandfather, Gustavus Vasa, was a man of thorough
culture, excellent ability, and sterling moral qualities. When in
Germany he was an earnest listener to Luther's preaching, became his
friend and correspondent, a devout confessor and patron of the
evangelic faith, and the wise establisher of the Reformation in his

Adolphus inherited all his grandfather's high qualities. He was the
idol of his father, Charles IX., and was devoutly trained from
earliest childhood in the evangelic faith, educated in thorough
princely style, familiarized with governmental affairs from the time
he was a boy, and developed into an exemplary, wise, brave, and
devoted Christian man and illustrious king.

He ascended the throne when but seventeen years of age, extricated his
country from many internal and external troubles, organized for it a
new system, and became the hero-sovereign of his age. He was one of
the greatest of men, in cabinet and in field as well as in faith and
humble devotion. He was a broad-minded statesman and patriot, one of
the most beloved of rulers, and a philanthropist of the purest order
and most comprehensive views. That evangelical Christianity which
Luther and his coadjutors exhumed from the superincumbent rubbish of
the Middle Ages was dearer to him than his throne or his life. The
pure Gospel of Christ was to him the most precious of human
possessions. For it he lived, and for it he died. One of his
deep-souled hymns, sung along with Luther's _Ein Feste Burg_ at the
head of his armies in his campaigns for Christian liberty, has its
place in our Church-Book to-day. And the bright peculiar star which
appeared in the heavens at the time he was born fitly heralded his
royal career.

Cut off in the midst of a succession of victories in the thirty-eighth
year of his age, the influence of his mind nevertheless served to give
another constitution to the Germanic peoples, established the right
and power of evangelical Christianity to be and to be unmolested on
the earth, and confirmed a new element in the development and progress
of the European races and of mankind. With the loftiest conceptions of
human life, a thorough acquaintance with the agencies which govern the
world, a mind in all respects in thorough subjection to an
enlightened Christian conscience, a magnanimity and liberality of
sentiment far in advance of his age, and an untarnished devotion which
marked his history to its very end, his name stands at the head of the
list of illustrious Christian kings and human benefactors.[33]


[33] Count Galeazzo Gualdo, a Venetian Roman Catholic, who spent some
years in both the Imperial and the Swedish armies, says of Gustavus
Adolphus that "he was tall, stout, and of such truly royal demeanor
that he universally commanded veneration, admiration, love, and fear.
His hair and beard were of a light-brown color, his eye large, but not
far-sighted. Eloquence dwelt upon his tongue. He spoke German, the
native language of his mother, the Swedish, the Latin, the French, and
the Italian languages, and his discourse was agreeable and lively.
There never was a general served with so much cheerfulness and
devotion as he. He was of an affable and friendly disposition, readily
expressing commendation, and noble actions were indelibly fixed upon
his memory; on the other hand, excessive politeness and flattery he
hated, and if any person approached him in that way he never trusted


AXEL OXENSTIERN, his friend, companion, and prime minister,
was of like mind and character with himself. He was high-born,
religiously trained, and thoroughly educated in both theology and law
in the best schools which the world then afforded. He was Sweden's
greatest and wisest counselor and diplomatist, liberal-minded,
true-hearted, dignified, and devout. In religion, in patriotism,
in earnest doing for the profoundest interests of man, he was one with
his illustrious king. He negotiated the Peace of Kmered with Denmark,
the Peace of Stolbowa with Russia, and the armistice with Poland. He
accompanied his king in the campaigns in Germany, having charge of all
diplomatic affairs and the devising of ways and means for the support
of the army in the field, whilst the king commanded it. He won no
victories of war, but he was a choice spirit in creating the means by
which some of the most valuable of such victories were achieved, and
conducted those victories to permanent peace.

When Gustavus Adolphus fell at Lützen a sacrifice to religious
liberty, the whole administration of the kingdom was placed in
Oxenstiern's hands. The congress of foreign princes at Heilbronn
elected him to the headship of their league against the papal power of
Austria; and it was his wisdom and heroism alone which held the league
together unto final triumph. Bauer, Torstensson, and Von Wrangle were
the flaming swords which finally overwhelmed that power, but the brain
which brought the fearful Thirty Years' War to a final close, and
established the evangelical cause upon its lasting basis of security
by the Peace of Westphalia (1648), was that of Axel Oxenstiern, the
very man who sent to Pennsylvania its original colonists as the
founders of a free state.


A kindred spirit was PETER MINUIT, the man whom Oxenstiern
selected and commissioned to accompany these first colonists to the
west bank of the Delaware, and to act as their president and governor.
He too was a high-born, cultured, large-minded Christian man. He was
an honored deacon in the Walloon church at Wesel. Removing to Holland,
his high qualities led to his selection by the Dutch West India
Company as the fittest man to be the first governor and
director-general of the Dutch colonies on the Hudson. His great
efficiency and public success in that capacity made him the subject of
jealousies and accusations, resulting in his recall after five or six
years of the most effective administration of the affairs of those
colonies. Oxenstiern had the breadth and penetration to understand his
real worth, and appointed him the first governor of the New Sweden
which since has become the great State of Pennsylvania. He lived less
than five years in this new position, and died in Fort Christina,
which he built and held during his last years of service on earth. He
was a wise, laborious, and far-seeing man, consecrated with all his
powers to the formation of a free commonwealth on this then wild
territory. His name has largely sunk away from public attention, as
the work of the Swedes in general in the founding and fashioning of
our commonwealth; but he and they deserve far better than has been
awarded them.

A few years ago (1876) some movement was for the first time made to
erect a suitable monument to the memory of Minuit. Surely the founder
of the greatest city in this Western World, and of the colonial
possessions of two European nations, and the first president and
governor of the two greatest States in the American Union, ranks among
the great historic personages of his period; and his high qualities,
noble spirit, and valuable services demand for him a grateful
recognition which has been far too slow in coming. There is a debt
owing to his name and memory which New York, Pennsylvania, and the
American people have not yet duly discharged.

And to these grand men, first of all, are we under obligation of
everlasting thanks for our free and happy old commonwealth.


But without WILLIAM PENN to reinforce and more fully execute
the noble plans, ideas, and beginnings which went before him, things
perhaps never would have come to the fortunate results which he was
the honored instrument in bringing about.

This man, so renowned in the history of our State, and so specially
honored by the peculiar Society of which he was a zealous apostle, was
respectably descended. His grandfather was a captain in the English
navy, and his father became a distinguished naval officer, who reached
high promotion and gave his son the privileges of a good education.

Penn was for three years a student in the University of Oxford, until
expelled, with others, for certain offensive non-conformities. He was
not what we would call religiously trained, but he was endowed with a
strong religious nature, even bordering on fanaticism, so that he
needed only the application of the match to set his whole being aglow
and active with the profoundest zeal, whether wise or otherwise. And
that match was early applied.

When England had reached the summit of delirium under her usurping
Protector, Oliver Cromwell, there arose, among many other sects full
of enthusiastic self-assertion, that of the Quakers, who were chiefly
characterized by a profound religious, and oft fanatical, opposition
to the Established Church, as well as to the Crown. Coming in contact
with one of their most zealous preachers, young Penn was inflamed with
their spirit and became a vigorous propagator of their particular
style of devotion.

As the Quaker tenets respected the state as well as religion, the bold
avowal of them brought him into collision with the laws, and several
times into prison and banishment. But, so far from intimidating him,
this only the more confirmed him in his convictions and fervency. By
his familiarity with able theologians, such as Dr. Owen and Bishop
Tillotson, as well as from his own studies of the Scriptures, he was
deeply grounded in the main principles of the evangelic faith. Indeed,
he was in many things, in his later life, much less a Quaker than many
who glory in his name, and all his sons after him found their
religious home in the Church of England, which, to Quakers generally,
was a very Babylon. But he was an honest-minded, pure, and cultured
Christian believer, holding firmly to the inward elements of the
orthodox faith in God and Christ, in revelation and eternal judgment,
in the rights of man and the claims of justice. If some of his friends
and representatives did not deal as honorably with the Swedes in
respect to their prior titles to their improved lands as right and
charity would require, it is not to be set down to his personal
reproach. And his zeal for his sect and his genuine devotion to God
and religious liberty, together with a large-hearted philanthropy,
were the springs which moved him to seize the opportunity which
offered in the settlement of his deceased father's claim on the
government to secure a grant of territory and privilege to form a free
state in America--first for his own, and then for all other persecuted


It may be that Penn has been betimes a little overrated. He has, and
deserves, a high place in the history of our commonwealth, but he was
not the real founder of it; for its foundations were laid years before
he was born and more than forty years before he received his charter.
He founded Pennsylvania only as Americus Vespucius discovered America.
Neither was he the author of those elements of free government, equal
rights, and religious liberty which have characterized our
commonwealth. They were the common principles of Luther and the
Reformation, and were already largely embodied for this very
territory[34] long before Penn's endeavors, as also, in measure, in
the Roman Catholic colony of Maryland from the same source.

Nor was he, in his own strength, possessed of so much wise forethought
and profound legislative and executive ability as that with which he
is sometimes credited. But he was a conscientious, earnest, and
God-fearing man, cultured by education and grace, gifted with
admirable address, sincere and philanthropic in his aims, and guided
and impelled by circumstances and a peculiar religious zeal which
Providence overruled to ends far greater than his own intentions or


[34] See sketch of the plan of Gustavus Adolphus for his colony, page
143, and the instructions given to Governor Printz in 1642.


What is called Penn's particular policy toward the Indians, and the
means of his successes in that regard, existed in practical force
scores of years before he arrived. His celebrated treaties with them,
as far as they were fact, were but continuations and repetitions
between them and the English, which had long before been made between
them and the Swedes, who did more for these barbarian peoples than he,
and who helped him in the matter more than he helped himself.

We are not fully informed respecting all the first instructions given
to Governor Minuit when he came hither with Pennsylvania's original
colony in 1637-38, but there is every reason to infer that they
strictly corresponded to those given to his successor, Governor
Printz, five years afterward, on his appointment in 1642, about which
there can be no question. Minuit entered into negotiations with the
Indians the very first thing on his landing, and purchased from them,
as the rightful proprietors, all the land on the western side of the
river from Henlopen to Trenton Falls; a deed for which was regularly
drawn up, to which the Indians subscribed their hands and marks. Posts
were also driven into the ground as landmarks of this treaty, which
were still visible in their places sixty years afterward.

In the appointment and commission of Governor Printz it was commanded
him to "bear in mind the articles of contract entered into with the
wild inhabitants of the country as its rightful lords." "The wild
nations bordering on all other sides the governor shall understand how
to treat with all humanity and respect, that no violence, or wrong be
done them; but he shall rather at every opportunity exert himself that
the same wild people may gradually be instructed in the truths and
worship of the Christian religion, and in other ways brought to
civilization and good government, and in this manner properly guided.
Especially shall he seek to gain their confidence, and impress upon
their minds that neither he, the governor, nor his people and
subordinates, are come into those parts to do them any wrong or

This policy was not a thing of mere coincidence. It was the express
stipulation and command of the throne of Sweden, August 15, 1642,
which was two years before William Penn was born; and "this policy was
steadily pursued and adhered to by the Swedes during the whole time of
their continuance in America, as the governors of the territory of
which they had thus acquired the possession; and the consequences were
of the most satisfactory character. They lived in peace with the
Indians, and received no injuries from them. The Indians respected
them, and long after the Swedish power had disappeared from the shores
of the Delaware they continued to cherish its memory and speak of it
with confidence and affection."[35]

Governor Printz arrived in this country in 1642, and with him came
Rev. John Campanius as chaplain and pastor of the Swedish colony. His
grandson, Thomas Campanius Holm, many years after published numerous
items put on record by the elder Campanius, in which it appears that
the commands to Printz respecting the Indians were very scrupulously
carried out.

According to these records, the Indians were very familiar at the
house of the elder Campanius, and he did much to teach and
Christianize them. "He generally succeeded in making them understand
that there is one Lord God, self-existent and one in three Persons;
how the same God made the world, and made man, from whom all other men
have descended; how Adam afterward disobeyed, sinned against his
Creator, and involved all his descendants in condemnation; how God
sent his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ into the world, who was born
of the Virgin Mary and suffered for the saving of men; how he died
upon the cross, and was raised again the third day; and, lastly, how,
after forty days, he ascended into heaven, whence he will return at a
future day to judge the living and the dead," etc. And so much
interest did they take in these instructions, and seemed so well
disposed to embrace Christianity, that Campanius was induced to study
and master their language, that he might the more effectually teach
them the religion of Christ. He also translated into the Indian
language the Catechism of Luther, perhaps the very first book ever put
into the Indian tongue.

Campanius began his work of evangelizing these wild people four years
before Eliot, who is sometimes called "the morning star of missionary
enterprise," but who first commenced his labors in New England only in
1646. Hence Dr. Clay remarks that "the Swedes may claim the honor of
having been the first missionaries among the Indians, at least in
Pennsylvania."[36] "It was, _in fact, the Swedes who inaugurated the
peaceful policy of William Penn_. This was not an accidental
circumstance in the Swedish policy, but was deliberately adopted and
always carefully observed."[37]

When Mr. Rising became governor of the Swedish colony he invited ten
Indian chiefs, or kings, to a friendly conference with him. It was
held at Tinicum, on the Delaware, June 17, 1654, when the governor
saluted them, in the name of the Swedish queen, with assurances of
every kindness toward them, and proposed to them a firm renewal of the
old friendship. Campanius has given a minute account of this
conference, and recites the speech in which one of the chiefs, named
Naaman, testified how good the Swedes had been to them; that the
Swedes and Indians had been in the time of Governor Printz as one body
and one heart; that they would henceforward be as one head, like the
calabash, which has neither rent nor seam, but one piece without a
crack; and that in case of danger to the Swedes they would ever serve
and defend them. It was at the same time further arranged and agreed
that if any trespasses were committed by any of their people upon the
property of the Swedes, the matter should be investigated by men
chosen from both sides, and the person found guilty "should be
punished for it as a warning to others."[38] This occurred when
William Penn was but ten years of age, and twenty-eight years before
his arrival in America.

And upon the subject of the help which the Swedes rendered to Penn in
his dealings with these people in the long after years, Acrelius
writes: "The Proprietor ingratiated himself with the Indians. The
Swedes acted as his interpreters, especially Captain Lars (Lawrence)
Kock, who was a great favorite among the Indians. He was sent to New
York to buy goods suitable for traffic. He did all he could to give
them a good opinion of their new ruler" (p. 114); and it was by means
of the aid and endeavors of the Swedes, more than by any influence of
his own, that Penn came to the standing with these people to which he
attained, and on which his fame in that regard rests.


[35] Introduction to Acrelius's _History_.

[36] _Swedish Annals_, p. 26.

[37] Dr. Reynolds's _Introduction to Acrelius_, p. 14.

[38] See Acrelius's _History_, pp. 64, 65, and Clay's _Swedish
Annals_, pp. 24, 25.


But still, as a man, a colonist, a governor, and a friend of the race,
we owe to William Penn great honor and respect, and his arrival here
is amply worthy of our grateful commemoration. The location and
framing of this goodly city, and a united and consolidated
Pennsylvania established finally in its original principles of common
rights and common freedom, are his lasting monument. If he was not
the spring of our colonial existence, he was its reinforcement by a
strong and fortunate stream, which more fully determined the channel
of its history. If the doctrine of liberty of conscience and religion,
the principles of toleration and common rights, and the embodying of
them in a free state open to all sufferers for conscience' sake, did
not originate with him, he performed a noble work and contributed a
powerful influence toward their final triumph and permanent
establishment on this territory. And his career, taken all in all,
connects his name with an illustrious service to the cause of freedom,
humanity, and even Christianity, especially in its more practical and
ethical bearings.


Such, then, were the men most concerned in founding and framing our
grand old commonwealth. They were men of faith, men of thorough
culture, men of mark by birth and station, men who had learned to
grapple with the great problem of human rights, human happiness, human
needs, and human relations to heaven and earth. They believed in God,
in the revelation of God, in the Gospel of Christ, in the
responsibility of the soul to its Maker, and in the demands of a
living charity toward God and all his creatures. And their religious
faith and convictions constituted the fire which set them in motion
and sustained and directed their exertions for the noble ends which it
is ours so richly to enjoy. Had they not been the earnest Christians
that they were, they never could have been the men they proved
themselves, nor ever have thought the thoughts or achieved the
glorious works for ever connected with their names.

We are apt to contemplate Christian faith and devotion only in its
more private and personal effects on individual souls, the light and
peace it brings to the true believer, and the purification and hope it
works in the hearts of those who receive it, whilst we overlook its
force upon the great world outside and its shapings of the facts and
currents of history. We think of Luther wrestling with his sins,
despairing and dying under the impossible task of working out for
himself an availing righteousness, and rejoice with him in the light
and peace which came to his agonized soul through the grand and
all-conditioning doctrine of justification by simple faith in an
all-sufficient Redeemer; but we do not always realize how the breaking
of that evangelic principle into his earnest heart was the
incarnation of a power which divided the Christian ages, brought the
world over the summit of the water-shed, and turned the gravitation of
the laboring nations toward a new era of liberty and happiness. And so
we refer to the spiritual training of a Gustavus Adolphus and an Axel
Oxenstiern in the simple truths of Luther's Catechism and the restored
Gospel, and to the opening of the heart of a William Penn to the
exhortations of Friend Loe to forsake the follies of the corrupt world
and seek his portion with the pure in heaven, and mark the unfoldings
of their better nature which those blessed instructions wrought;
whilst we fail to note that therein lay the springs and germs which
have given us our grand commonwealth and established for us the free
institutions of Church and State in which we so much glory and

Ah, yes; there is greatness and good and blessing untold for man and
for the world in the personal hearing, believing, and heeding of the
Word and testimony of God. No man can tell to what new impulses in
human history, or to what new currents of benediction and continents
of national glory, it may lead for souls in the school of Christ to
open themselves meekly to the inflowings of Heaven's free grace. It
was the sowing of God's truth and the planting of God's Spirit in
these men's hearts that most of all grew for us our country and our
blessed liberties.


The religious element in man is the deepest and most powerful in his
nature. It is that also which asserts and claims the greatest
independence from external constraints. It is therefore the height of
unwisdom, not to say tyranny, for earthly magistracy to interfere by
penalty and sword with the religious opinions and movements of the
people, so long as civil authority and public order are not invaded
and the rights of others are not infringed. In such cases it is always
best to combat only with the Word of God. If of men it will come to
naught, and if of God it cannot be suppressed. Reaction against wrongs
done to truth and right is sure to come, and will push through to
revolution and victory in spite of all unrighteous power. It is vain
for any human governments to think to chain up the honest convictions
of the soul. God made it free, and sooner or later it will be free, in
spite of everything.

It was largely the weight and current of such reaction against
arbitrary interference with the religious convictions and free
conscience of man that furnished the impulse to the original peopling
of our State and country, and gave shape to the constitution and laws
of this commonwealth for the last two hundred years. Nor will our
inquiries and showings with regard to the founding of Pennsylvania be
complete without something more respecting the leading principles
which governed in that fortunate movement.


I. It is a matter of indisputable fact that the founding of our
commonwealth was one of the direct fruits of the revived Gospel of
Christ. But a little searching into the influences most active in the
history is required to show that it was religious conviction and
faith, more than anything else, that had to do with the case.

Changes had come. Luther had found the Bible chained, and set it free.
Apostolic Christianity had reappeared, and was re-uttering itself with
great power among the nations. Its quickening truths and growing
victories were undermining the gigantic usurpations and falsehoods
which for ages had been oppressing our world. Conscience, illuminated
and revived by the Word of God, had risen up to assert its rights of
free judgment and free worship, and resentful power had drawn the
sword to put it down. Continental Europe was being deluged with blood
and devastated by relentless religious wars to crush out the evangelic
faith, whose confessors held up the Bible over all popes and secular
powers, and would not consent to part with their inalienable charter
from the throne of Heaven to worship God according to his Word. And
amid these woeful struggles the good providence of the Almighty opened
up to the attention of the nations the vast new territories of this
Western World.

From various motives, indeed, were the several original colonies of
America founded. Some of the colonists came from a spirit of
adventure. Some came for territorial aggrandizement and national
enrichment. Some came as mercantile speculators. And each of these
considerations may have entered somewhat into the most of these
colonization schemes. But it was mainly flight from oppression on
account of religious convictions which influenced the first colony of
New England, and a still freer religious motive induced the
colonization of Pennsylvania.

All the men most concerned in the matter were profoundly religious
men and thorough and active believers in revived Christianity; and it
was most of all from these religious feelings and impulses that they
acted in the case.


The first presentation to the king of Sweden, by William Usselinx,
touching the planting of a colony on the west bank of the Delaware,
looked to the establishment of a trading company with unlimited
trading privileges; and the argument for it was the great source of
revenue it would be to the kingdom. But when Gustavus Adolphus entered
into the subject and gave his royal favor to it, quite other motives
and considerations came in to determine his course. As the history
records, and quite aside from the prospect of establishing his power
in these parts of the world, "the king, whose zeal for the honor of
God was not less ardent than for the welfare of his subjects, _availed
himself of this opportunity to extend the doctrines of Christ among
the heathen_,"[39] and to this end granted letters patent, in which it
was further provided that a free state should be formed, guaranteeing
all personal rights of property, honor, and religion, and forming an
asylum and place of security for the persecuted people of all nations.
And when these gracious intentions of the king were revived after his
death, the same ideas and provisions were carefully maintained,
specially stipulating (1) for every human respect toward the
Indians--to wit, that the governors of the colony should deal justly
with them as the rightful lords of the land, and exert themselves at
every opportunity "that the same wild people may be instructed in the
truths and worship of the Christian religion, and in other ways
brought to civilization and good government, and in this manner
properly guided;" (2) "above all things to consider and see to it that
divine service be duly maintained and zealously performed according to
the unaltered Augsburg Confession;" and (3) to protect those of a
different confession in the free exercise of their own forms.[40]

It is plain, therefore, that the spirit of religion, the spirit of
evangelical missions, the spirit of Christian charity, and the spirit
of devotion to the protection of religious liberty and freedom of
conscience were the dominating motives on the part of those who
founded the first permanent settlement on the territory of


[39] _History of New Sweden_, by Israel Acrelius, p. 21.

[40] Rehearsed in the commission to Governor Printz, 1642, sections 9
and 26.


Bating somewhat the missionary character of the enterprise, the same
may be said of William Penn and his great reinforcement to what had
thus been successfully begun long before his time. He was himself a
very zealous preacher of religion, though more in the line of protest
against the world and the existing Church than in the line of positive
Christianity and the conversion and evangelization of the heathen. He
had himself been a great sufferer for his religious convictions, along
with the people whose cause he had espoused and made his own. His
controlling desire was to honor and glorify God in the founding of a
commonwealth in which those of his way of thinking might have a secure
home of their own and worship their Creator as best agreed with their
feelings and convictions, without being molested or disturbed;
offering at the same time the same precious boon to others in like
constraints willing to share the lot of his endeavors.

The motives of Charles II. in granting his charter were, first of
all, to discharge a heavy pecuniary claim of Penn against the
government on account of his father; next, to honor the memory and
merits of the late Admiral Penn; and, finally, at the same time, to
"favor William Penn in his laudable efforts to enlarge the British
empire, to promote the trade and prosperity of the kingdom, and to
reduce the savage nations by just and gentle measures to the love of
civilized life and the Christian religion." Penn's idea, as stated by
his memorialist, was "to obtain the grant of a territory on the west
side of the Delaware, in which he might not only furnish an asylum to
Friends (Quakers), and others who were persecuted on account of their
religious persuasion, but might erect a government upon principles
approaching much nearer the standard of evangelical purity than any
which had been previously raised."

His own account of the matter is: "For my country I eyed the Lord in
obtaining it; and more was I drawn inward to look to him, and to owe
it to his hand and power, than to any other way. I have so obtained
it, and desire to keep it, that I may not be unworthy of his love, but
do that which may answer his kind providence and serve his truth and
people, that an example may be set up to the nations. There may be
room there, though not here, for such an holy experiment." "I do
therefore desire the Lord's wisdom to guide me and those that may be
concerned with me, that we may do the thing that is truly wise and

And with these aims and this spirit he invited people to join him,
came to the territory which had been granted him, conferred with the
Swedish and Dutch colonists already on the ground, and together with
them established the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.


II. Accordingly, also, the chief corner-stone in the constitutional
fabric of our State was the united official acknowledgment of the
being and supremacy of one eternal and ever-living God, the Judge of
all men and the Lord of nations.

The self-existence and government of Almighty God is the foundation of
all things. Nothing _is_ without him. And the devout and dutiful
recognition of him and the absolute supremacy of his laws are the
basis and chief element of everything good and stable in human
affairs. He who denies this or fails in its acknowledgment is so far
practically self-stultified, beside himself, outside the sphere of
sound rationality, and incapable of rightly understanding or directing
himself or anything else. Nor could those who founded our commonwealth
have been moved as they were, or achieved the happy success they did,
had it not been for their clear, profound, and practical
acknowledgment of the being and government of that good and almighty
One who fills immensity and eternity, and from whom, and by whom, and
to whom are all things.

Some feel and act as if it were an imbecility, or a thing only for the
weak, timid, and helpless, to be concerned about an Almighty God. But
greater, braver, and more manly men did not then exist than those who
were most prominent and active in founding and framing our
commonwealth; and of all men then making themselves felt in the
affairs of our world, they were among the most honest and devout in
the practical confession of the eternal being and providence of

The great Gustavus Adolphus and the equally great Axel Oxenstiern held
and confessed from their deepest souls and in all their thoughts and
doings that there is an eternal God, infinite in power, wisdom, and
goodness, the Creator, Preserver, and Judge of all things, visible and
invisible, and that on him and his favor alone all good and
prosperity in this world and the next depends. This they ever formally
and devoutly set forth in all their state papers and in all their
undertakings and doings, whether as men or as rulers. The sound of
songs and prayers to this almighty and ever-present God was heard at
every sunrise through all the army of Gustavus in the field, as well
as in the tent and closet of its great commander. And all the
instructions given to the governors of the colony on the Delaware were
meekly conditioned to the will of God, with specific emphasis on the
provision: "Above all things, shall the governor consider and see to
it that a true and due worship, becoming honor, laud, and praise be
paid to the Most High in all things."

The same is true of William Penn. From early life he was always a
zealous exhorter to the devout worship of Almighty God as the only
Illuminator and Helper of men. What he averred in his letter to the
Indians was the great root-principle of his life: "There is a great
God and Power, which hath made the world and all things therein, to
whom you and I and all people owe their being and well-being, and to
whom you and I must one day give an account for all that we have done
in this world."

And what was thus wrought into the texture of his being he also wove
into the original constitution of our State.


All the articles of government and regulation ordained by the first
General Assembly, held at Upland (Chester) from the seventh to the
tenth day of December, 1682, were fundamentally grounded on this
express "Whereas, the glory of Almighty God and the good of mankind is
the reason and end of government, and therefore government itself is a
valuable ordinance of God; and forasmuch as it is principally desired
to make and establish such laws as shall best preserve true Christian
and civil liberty, in opposition to all unchristian, licentious, and
unjust practices, whereby God may have his due, Cæsar his due, and the
people their due, from tyranny and oppression on the one side, and
insolence and licentiousness on the other; so that the best and
firmest foundation may be laid for the present and future happiness of
both the governor and the people of this province and their
posterity;" for it was deemed and believed on all hands that neither
permanence nor happiness, enduring order nor prosperity, could come
from any other principle than that of the recognition of the supremacy
and laws of Him from whom all things proceed and on whom all creatures

On this wise also ran the very first of the sixty-one laws ordained by
that Assembly: "Almighty God being the Lord of conscience, Father of
lights, and the Author as well as Object of all divine knowledge,
faith, and worship, who alone can enlighten the mind and convince the
understanding of people in due reverence to his sovereignty over the
souls of mankind," the rights of citizenship, protection, and liberty
should be to every person, then or thereafter residing in this
province, "who shall confess one Almighty God to be the Creator,
Upholder, and Ruler of the world, and profess himself obliged in
conscience to live peaceably and justly under the civil government;"
provided, further, that no person antagonizing this confession, or
refusing to profess the same, or convicted of unsober or dishonest
conversation, should ever hold office in this commonwealth.

And so entirely did this, and what else was then and there enacted and
ordained, fall in with the teachings, feelings, and beliefs of the
hardy and devoted Swedish Lutherans, who had here been professing and
fulfilling the same for two scores of years preceding, that they not
only joined in the making of these enactments, but sent a special
deputation to the governor formally to assure him that, on these
principles and the faithful administration of them, they would love,
serve, and obey him with all they possessed.


Nor can it ever be known in this world how much of the success,
prosperity, and happy conservatism which have marked this commonwealth
in all the days and years since, have come directly from this planting
of it on the grand corner-stone of all national stability, order, and
happiness. Surely, a widely different course and condition of things
would have come but for this secure anchoring of the ship on the
everlasting Rock. And a thousand pities it is that the influence of
French atheism was allowed to exclude so wholesome a principle from
the Declaration of our national Independence and from our national
Constitution. Whilst such recognition of Jehovah's supremacy and
government abides in living force in the hearts of the people, the
absence of its official formulation may be of no material
disadvantage; but for the better preservation of it in men's minds,
and for the obstruction of the insidious growth of what strikes at the
foundation of all government and order, it would have been well had
the same been put in place as the grand corner-stone of our whole
national fabric, as it was in the original organization of the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and kept in both clear and unchangeable
for ever. We might then hope for better things than are indicated by
the present drift, and the outlook for those to come after us would be
less dark and doubtful than it is.

But, since weakenings and degeneration in these respects have come
into the enactments of public power, it is all the more needful for
every true and patriotic citizen to be earnest and firm in witnessing
for God and his everlasting laws, that the people may be better than
the later expressions of their state documents. The example of the
fathers makes appeal to the consciences of their children not to let
go from our hearts and lives the deep and abiding recognition and
confession of that almighty Governor of all things from whose
righteous tribunal no one living can escape, and before whom no
contemner of his authority can stand.


III. Another great and precious principle enthroned in the founding of
our commonwealth was that of religious liberty.

One of the saddest chapters in human history is that of persecution on
account of religious convictions--the imposition of penalties,
torture, and death by the sword of government on worthy people because
of their honest opinions of duty to Almighty God. For the punishment
of the lawless, the wicked, and the intractable, and for the praise,
peace, and protection of them that do well, the civil magistrate is
truly the authorized representative of God, and fails in his office
and duty where the powers he wields are not studiously and vigorously
exercised to these ends. But God hath reserved to himself, and hath
not committed to any creature hands, the power and dominion to
interfere with realm of conscience. As he alone can instruct and
govern it, and as its sphere is that of the recognition of his will
and law and the soul's direct amenability to his judgment-bar, it is a
gross usurpation and a wicked presumption for any other authority or
power to undertake to force obedience contrary to the soul's
persuasion of what its Maker demands of it as a condition of his

It is a principle of human action and obligation recognized in both
Testaments, that when the requirements of human authority conflict
with those of the Father of spirits we must obey God rather than man.
The rights of conscience and the rights of God thus coincide, and to
trample on the one is to deny the other. And when earthly governments
invade this sacred territory they invade the exclusive domain of God
and make war upon the very authority from which they have their right
to be.

The plea of its necessity for the support of orthodoxy, the
maintenance of the truth, and the glory of God will not avail for its
justification, for God has not ordained civil government to inflict
imprisonment, exile, and death upon religious dissenters, or even
heretics; and his truth and glory he has arranged to take care of in
quite another fashion. What Justin Martyr and Tertullian in the early
Church and Luther in the Reformation-time declared, must for ever
stand among the settled verities of Heaven: that it is not right to
murder, burn, and afflict people because they feel in conscience bound
to a belief and course of life which they have found and embraced as
the certain will and requirement of their Maker. We must ward off
heresy with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and not
with the sword of the state and with fire.


And yet such abuses of power have been staining and darkening all the
ages of human administration, and, unfortunately, among professing
Christians as well as among pagans and Jews. Intolerance is so rooted
in the selfishness and ambition of human nature that it has ever been
one of the most difficult of practical problems to curb and regulate
it. Those who have most complained of it whilst feeling it, often only
needed to have the circumstances reversed in order to fall into
similar wickedness. The Puritans, who fled from it as from the Dragon
himself, soon had their Star-Chamber too, their whipping-posts, their
death-scaffolds, and their sentences of exile for those who dissented
from their orthodoxy and their order. Even infidelity and atheism,
always the most blatant for freedom when in the minority, have shown
in the philosophy of Hobbes and in the Reign of Terror in France that
they are as liable to be intolerant, fanatical, and oppressive when
they have the mastery as the strongest faith and the most assured
religionism. And the Quakers themselves, who make freedom of
conscience one of the chief corner-stones of their religion, have not
always been free from offensive and disorderly aggressions upon the
rightful sphere of government and the rightful religious freedom of
other worshipers. Even so treacherous is the human heart on the
subject of just and equal religious toleration.


It is therefore a matter of everlasting gratitude and thanksgiving
that all the men most concerned in the founding of our commonwealth
were so clear and well-balanced on the subject of religious liberty,
and so thoroughly inwove the same into its organic constitution.

Gustavus Adolphus and Axel Oxenstiern were the heroes of their time in
the cause of religious liberty in continental Europe. Though intensely
troubled in their administration by the Roman Catholics and the
Anabaptists, the most intolerant of intolerants in those days, they
never opposed force against the beliefs or worships of either; and
when force was used against the papal powers, it was only so far as to
preserve unto themselves and their fellow-confessors the inalienable
right to worship God according to the dictates of their own
consciences without molestation or disturbance. In their scheme of
colonization in this Western World, first and last, the invitation was
to all classes of Christians in suffering and persecution for
conscience' sake, who were favorable to a free state where they could
have the free enjoyment of their property and religion, to cast in
their lot. In the first charter, confirmed by all the authorities of
the kingdom and rehearsed in the instructions given by the throne for
the execution of the intention, special provision was made for the
protection of the convictions and worship of those not of the same
confession with that for which the government provided. Though a
Lutheran colony, under a Lutheran king, sustained and protected by a
Lutheran government, the Calvinists had place and equal protection in
it from the very beginning; and when the Quakers came, they were at
once and as freely welcomed on the same free principles, as also the
representatives of the Church of England.

As to William Penn, though contemplating above all the well-being and
furtherance of the particular Society of which he was an eminent
ornament and preacher, consistency with himself, as well as the
established situation of affairs, demanded of him the free toleration
of the Church, however unpalatable to his Society, and with it of all
religious sects and orders of worship. From his prison at Newgate he
had written that the enaction of laws restraining persons from the
free exercise of their consciences in matters of religion was but "the
knotting of whipcord on the part of the enactors to lash their own
posterity, whom they could never promise to be conformed for ages to
come to a national religion." Again and again had he preached and
proclaimed the folly and wickedness of attempting to change the
religious opinions of men by the application of force--the utter
unreasonableness of persecuting orderly people in this world about
things which belong to the next--the gross injustice of sacrificing
any one's liberty or property on account of creed if not found
breaking the laws relating to natural and civil things.

Hence, from principle as well as from necessity, when he came to
formulate a political constitution for his colony, he laid it down as
the primordial principle: "I do, for me and mine, declare and
establish for the first fundamental of the government of my province
that every person that doth and shall reside therein shall have and
enjoy the free possession of his or her faith and exercise of worship
toward God, in such way and manner as every such person shall in
conscience believe is most acceptable to God. And so long as such
person useth not this Christian liberty to licentiousness or the
destruction of others--that is, to speak loosely and profanely or
contemptuously of God, Christ, the Holy Scriptures, or religion, or
commit any moral evil or injury against others in their
conversation--he or she shall be protected in the enjoyment of the
aforesaid Christian liberty by the civil magistrate."


This was in exact accord with the principles and provisions under
which the original colony had been formed, and had already been living
and prospering for more than forty years preceding. Everything,
therefore, was in full readiness and condition for the universal and
hearty adoption of the grand first article enacted by the first
General Assembly, to wit: "That no person now or hereafter residing in
this province, who shall confess one Almighty God to be the Creator,
Upholder, and Ruler of the world, and profess himself obliged in
conscience to live peaceably and justly under the civil government,
shall in any wise be molested or prejudiced on account of his
conscientious persuasion or practice; nor shall he be compelled to
frequent or maintain any religious worship, place, or ministry
contrary to his mind, but shall freely enjoy his liberty in that
respect, without interruption or reflection."

In these specific provisions all classes in the colony at the time
heartily united. And thus was secured and guaranteed to every good
citizen that full, rightful, and precious religious freedom which is
the birthright of all Americans, for which the oppressed of all the
ages sighed, and which had to make its way through a Red Sea of human
tears and blood and many a sorrowful wilderness before reaching its
place of rest.


IV. But the religious liberty which our fathers thus sought to secure
and to transmit to their posterity was not a licentious libertinism.
They knew the value of religious principles and good morals to the
individual and to the state, and they did not leave it an open
matter, under plea of free conscience, for men to conduct themselves
as they please with regard to virtue and religion.

To be disrespectful toward divine worship, to interfere with its free
exercise as honest men are moved to render it, or to set at naught the
moral code of honorable behavior in human society, is never the
dictate of honest conviction of duty, and, in the nature of things,
cannot be. It is not conscience, but the overriding of conscience;
nay, rebellion against the whole code of conscience, against the
foundations of all government, against the very existence of civil
society. Liberty to blaspheme Almighty God, to profane his name and
ordinances, to destroy his worship, and to set common morality at
naught, is not religious liberty, but disorderly wickedness, a cloak
of maliciousness, the licensing of the devil as an angel of light. It
belongs to mere brute liberty, which must be restrained and brought
under bonds in order to render true liberty possible. Wild and lawless
freedom must come under the restraints and limits of defined order,
peace, and essential morality, or somebody's freedom must suffer, and
social happiness is out of the question. And it is one of the inherent
aims and offices of government to enforce this very constraint,
without which it totally fails of its end and forfeits its right to
be. Where people are otherwise law-abiding, orderly, submissive to the
requisites for the being and well-being of a state, and abstain from
encroachments upon the liberties of others, they are not to be
molested, forced, or compelled in spiritual matters contrary to their
honest convictions; but public blasphemy, open profanity, disorderly
interference with divine worship and reverence, and the hindrance of
what tends to the preservation of good morals, it pertains to the
existence and office of a state to restrain and punish. Severity upon
such disorders is not tyrannical abridgment of the rights of
conscience, for no proper citizen's conscience can ever prompt or
constrain him to any such things. And everything which tends to weaken
and destroy regard for the eternal Power on which all things depend,
to relax the sense of accountability to the divine judgment, and to
trample on the laws of eternal morality, is the worst enemy of the
state, which it cannot allow without peril to its own existence.

On the other hand, the state is bound for the same reasons to protect
and defend religion in general and the cultivation of the religious
sentiments, in so far, at least, as the laws of virtue and order are
not transgressed in the name of religion. It may not interfere to
decide between different religious societies or churches, as they may
be equally conscientious and honest in their diversities; but where
the tendency is to good and reverence, and the training of the
community to right and orderly life, it belongs to the office and
being of the state not only to tolerate, but to protect them all
alike. In the fatherly care of its subjects, the people consenting,
the state may also recommend and provide support for some particular
and approved order of faith and worship, just as it provides for
public education. And though the civil power may not rightfully
punish, fine, imprison, and oppress orderly and honest citizens for
conscientious non-conformity to any one specific system of belief and
worship, it may, and must, provide for and protect what tends to its
rightful conservation, and also condemn, punish, and restrain
whatsoever tends to unseat it and undermine its existence and peace.
These are fundamental requirements in all sound political economy.


Our fathers, in their wisdom, understood this, and fashioned their
state provisions and laws accordingly.

The thing specified as the supreme concern of the public authorities
in the original settlement of this territory by the Swedes was, to
"consider and see to it that a true and due worship, becoming honor,
laud, and praise be paid to the most high God in all things," and that
"all persons, but especially the young, shall be duly instructed in
the articles of their Christian faith."

But if public worship and religious instruction are to be fostered and
preserved by the state, there must be set times for it, the people
released at those times from hindering occupations and engagements,
and whatever may interfere therewith restrained and put under bonds
against interruption. In other words, the Lord's proper worship
demands and requires a protected Lord's Day. Such appointed and sacred
times for these holy purposes have been from the foundation of the
world. Under all dispensations one day in every seven was a day unto
the Lord, protected and preserved for such sacred uses, on which
secular occupations should cease, and nothing allowed which would
interfere with the public worship of Almighty God and the handling of
his Word. And "because it was requisite to appoint a certain day, that
the people might know when they ought to come together, it appears
that the Christian Church [and so all Christian states] did for that
purpose appoint the Lord's Day," our weekly Sunday.

This William Penn found in existence and observance by the Swedes and
the Dutch on this territory when he arrived. He therefore advised, and
the first General Assembly of Pennsylvania justly ordained, "that,
according to the good example of the primitive Christians and the ease
of the creation, every first day of the week, called the Lord's Day,
people shall abstain from their common daily labor, that they may the
better dispose themselves to worship God according to their
understandings"--a provision so necessary and important that the
statute laws of our commonwealth have always guarded its observance
with penalties which the State cannot in justice to itself allow to go
unenforced, and which no good citizen should refuse strictly to obey.

And to the same end was it provided and ordained by the first General
Assembly that "if any person shall abuse or deride another for his
different persuasion or practice in religion, such shall be looked
upon as disturbers of the peace, and be punished accordingly." And in
the line of the same wholesome and necessary policy it was also
further provided and ordained that "all such offences against God as
swearing, cursing, lying, profane talking, drunkenness, obscene words,
revels, etc. etc., which excite the people to rudeness, cruelty, and
irreligion, shall be respectively discouraged and severely punished."

Such were the good and righteous provisions made for the restraint of
the licentiousness and brutishness of man in the primeval days of our
commonwealth; and wherein it has since sunk away from these original
organic laws the people have only weakened and degraded themselves,
and hindered that virtuous and happy prosperity which would otherwise
in far larger degree than now be our inheritance.


V. And yet again, as the fathers of our commonwealth gave us religion
without compulsion, so they also gave us a State without a king.

There is nothing necessarily wrong or necessarily right in this
particular. Monarchy, aristocracy, republicanism, or pure democracy
cannot claim divine right the one over against the other. Either may
be good, or either may be bad, as the situation and the chances may
be. There has been as much bloody wrong and ruin wrought in the name
of liberty as in the establishment of thrones. There have been as good
and happy governments by kings as by any other methods of human
administration. Civil authority is essential to man, and the power for
it must lie somewhere. The only question is as to the safest
depository of it. The mere form of the government is no great matter.
It has been justly said, "There is hardly a government in the world so
ill designed that in good hands would not do well enough, nor any so
good that in ill hands can do aught great and good." Governments
depend on men, not men on governments. Let men be good, and the
government will not be bad; but if men are bad, no government will
hold for good. If government be bad, good men will cure it; and if the
government be good, bad men will warp and spoil it. Nor is there any
form of government known to man that is not liable to abuse,
prostitution, tyranny, unrighteousness, and oppression.

The best government is that which most efficiently conserves the true
ends of government, be the form what it may. Anything differing from
this is worthless sentimentalism, undeserving of sober regard. And to
meet the true ends of government there must be power to enforce
obedience, and there must be checks upon that power to secure its
subjects against its abuse; for "liberty without obedience is
confusion, and obedience without liberty is slavery." But there may be
liberty under monarchy, as well as reverence and obedience under
democracy, whilst there may be oppression and bloody tyranny under

Amid the varied experiments of the ages the human mind is more and
more settling itself in favor of mixed forms of government, in which
the rights of the people and the limitations of authority are set down
in fixed constitutions, taking the direct rule from the multitude, but
still holding the rulers accountable to the people. Such were more or
less the forms under which the founders of our commonwealth were


But they went a degree further than the precedents before them. They
believed the safest depository of power to be with the people
themselves, under constitutions ordained by those intending to live
under them and administered by persons of their own choice. "Where
the laws rule, and the people are a party to those laws," was believed
to be the true ideal and realization of civil liberty--the way "to
support power in reverence with the people, and to secure the people
from the abuse of power, that they may be free by their just
obedience, and the magistrates honorable for their just

And with these ideas, "with reverence to God and good conscience to
men," the first General Assembly in 1682 enacted a common code of
sixty-one laws, in which the foundation-stones of the civil and
criminal jurisprudence of this broad commonwealth were laid, and a
style of government ordained so reasonable, moderate, just, and equal
in its provisions that no one yet has found just cause to deny the
wisdom and beneficence of its structure, whilst Montesquieu pronounces
it "an instance unparalleled in the world's history of the foundation
of a great state laid in peace, justice, and equality."


Two hundred years have gone by since this completed organization of
our noble commonwealth. Her free and liberal principles then still
remained in large measure to be learned by some of the other American
colonies. From the very start she was the chief conservator of what
was to be the model for all this grand Union of free States--a
character which she has never lost in all the history of our national
existence. Six generations of stalwart freemen has she reared beneath
her shielding care to people her own vast territory and that of many
other States, no one of which has ever failed in truthfulness to the
great principles in which she was born. Always more solid than noisy,
and more reserved than obtrusive, she has ever served as the great
balance-wheel in the mighty engine of our national organization. Her
life, commingled with other lives attempered to her own, now pulsates
from ocean to ocean and from the frozen lakes to the warm Gulf waters,
all glad and glorious in the unity and sunshine of constitutional
government in the hands of a free people. With her population drawn
from all nationalities to learn from her lips the sacred lessons of
independent self-rule, she has sent it forth as freely to the westward
to build co-equal States in the beauty of her own image, whilst four
millions of her children still abide in growing happiness under her
maternal care. Verily, it was the spirit of prophecy which said, two
hundred years ago, "_God will bless that ground_."

That blessing we have lived to see. May it continue for yet many
centennials, and grow as it endures! May the faith and spirit of the
men through whose piety and wisdom it has come still warm and animate
the hearts of their successors to the latest generations! May no
careless or corrupt administration of justice or "looseness" or
infidelities of the people come in to bring down the wrath of Heaven
for its interruption! May the sterling principles of our happy freedom
be made good to us and our posterity by the good keeping of them in
honest virtue and obedience, and in due reverence of Him who gave
them, and who is the God and Judge of nations! May those sacred
conditions of the divine favor "which descend not with worldly
inheritances" be so embedded in the training and education of our
youth that the spirit of the children may not be a libel on the faith
and devotion of their fathers!

Centuries have passed, but the God of Gustavus Adolphus, of the
Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock, of William Penn, and of the hero-saints of
every age and country still lives and reigns. Men may deny it, but
that does not alter it. His government and Gospel are the same now
that they have ever been. What he most approved and blessed in their
days he most approves and blesses in ours. And may their fear and love
of him be to us and our children a copy and a guide, to steer in
safety amid the dangerous rapids of these doubtful times!

"And thou, Philadelphia, the virgin settlement of this province, named
before thou wert born! what love, what care, what service, and what
travail has there been to bring thee forth and preserve thee from such
as would abuse and defile thee! My soul prays to God for thee, that
thou mayest stand in the day of trial, that thy children may be
blessed of the Lord, and thy people saved by his power."


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