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Title: History of the Reformation in the Sixteenth Century (Volume 1) - A new translation by Henry Beveridge
Author: D'Aubigné, J. H. Merle
Language: English
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[Illustration: MARTIN LUTHER.








  J'appelle accessoire, l'estat des affaires de ceste vie caduque et
  transitoire. J'appelle principal, le gouvernement spirituel auquel
  reluit souverainement la providence de Dieu.--THEODORE DE BEZE.

  By _accessory_ I mean the state of affairs in this fading and
  transitory life. By principal I mean the spiritual government in
  which the providence of God is sovereignly displayed.








D'Aubigné's History of the Reformation is so well known and so highly
appreciated as to make it not only unnecessary, but almost
presumptuous, for a mere Translator to say any thing in commendation
of it. The public feeling unquestionably is, that of the works which
have recently appeared, it is one of the most talented, interesting,
important, and seasonable. The mere lapse of time, aided by the active
misrepresentations of the Romish party, had begun to make an
impression in some degree unfavourable to the principles of the
Reformation. This admirable work has again placed these principles in
their true light. By its vivid display of what Rome was and did, it
has impressively reminded us of what she still is, and is prepared to
do. Her great boast is, that she has never changed. If so, she longs
to return to her former course, and will return to it the first moment
that circumstances enable her to do so. Being thus warned, our duty is
plain. We must prepare for the combat; and of all preparations, none
promises to be more effectual than that of thoroughly embuing the
public mind with the facts so graphically delineated, and the
principles so luminously and forcibly expounded in this work of

But, it may be asked, Has not this purpose been effected already, or
at least may it not be effected without the instrumentality of a new

To this question the Translator answers, _First_, The form of the
present translation and the price at which it is published place the
work within the reach of thousands to whom it might otherwise be a
sealed book. _Second_, While this Translation is the cheapest in
existence, it is also the only one which can, in strict truth, be
regarded as genuine. The edition from which this translation is made
was published in 1842. The date would have been of little consequence
if the work had continued the same; but the fact is, that the edition
of 1842 is not a reprint, but a complete revision of the one which
preceded it. Numerous passages of considerable length and great
importance have been introduced, while others which had, on a careful
examination, been deemed redundant or inaccurate, have been expunged.
Surely, after all the pains which the distinguished author has
expended on the improvement of his work, it is scarcely doing justice
either to him or to the English reader to leave his improvements
unknown. In another respect the present Translation exclusively
contains what is conceived to be a very decided improvement. All the
Notes, the meaning of which is not given in the Text, have been
literally translated. It seemed somewhat absurd while translating
French for the benefit of the English reader, to be at the same time
presenting him with a large number of passages of untranslated Latin.

While the work has been printed in a form to which the most fastidious
cannot object, it has been issued at a price which makes it accessible
to all. The result, it is hoped, will be, that D'Aubigné's History of
the Reformation will obtain a circulation somewhat adequate to its
merits, and by its introduction into every family become what it well
deserves to be--a household book.




  CHAP. I.

  Christianity--Formation of the Papacy--Unity of the Church--The
         Decretals--Hildebrand--Corruption of Doctrine,             13


  Grace and Works--Pelagianism--Penances--Indulgences--
      Supererogation--Purgatory--Taxation--Jubilee,                 27


  Relics--Easter Merriment--Corruption of the Clergy--A Priest's
        Family--Education--Ignorance,                               34


  Christianity Imperishable--Opposition to Rome--Frederick the
        Wise--His Character--His Anticipation,                      42

  CHAP. V.

  The Empire--National Character--Switzerland--Italy--Spain--
        North--Russia--Poland--Bohemia--Hungary,                    48


  State of Theology--Witnesses for the Truth--The Vaudois--
        Wickliffe---Huss--Savonarola--John Wessel--Prolés,          58


  Literature--Dante--Printing--Reuchlin--His Struggle with the
        Dominicans,                                                 71


  Erasmus--His Genius--His 'Praise of Folly'--His Greek Testament--
        His Influence--His Failings,                                82


  The Nobles--Hütten--'Letters of some Obscure Men'--Seckingen--
        Cronberg--Hans Sachs--General Fermentation,                 94



  CHAP. I.

  Luther--His Parentage--The Paternal Roof--Strict Discipline--
        School--The Shunammite--His Studies--University,           103


  Scholasticism and the Classics--Luther's Piety--His Discovery
        of a Bible--His Sickness--The Thunderstorm--His Entrance
        into a Convent,                                            112


  His Father's Anger--Servile Employments--His Studies--The
        Bible--Hebrew and Greek--His Agony during Mass--Faints,    118


  Staupitz--His Piety--His Visitation--His Conversation--Presents
        Luther with a Bible--The Old Monk--Luther's Consecration--
        His Call to Wittemberg,                                    126

  CHAP. V.

  The University of Wittemberg--Luther's First Employment--
        Biblical Lectures--Preaching at Wittemberg--The Old
        Chapel,                                                    136


  Luther's Journey to Rome--A Convent on the Po--Luther's
        Behaviour at Rome--Corruption of the Romish Clergy--
        Prevailing Immorality--Pilate's Staircase,                 140


  Doctor's Degree--Carlstadt--Luther's Oath--First Views of
        Reformation--The Schoolmen--Spalatin,                      149


  'Popular Declamations'--Moral Purity of Luther--Mysticism--
        Spenlein--Justification by Faith--Necessity of Works,      156


  First Theses--Visit to the Convents--Dresden--Erfurt--Tornator
        Peace and the Cross--Labours--The Plague,                  163

  CHAP. X.

  Luther and the Elector--Duke George--Luther at Court--Dinner
        Emser's Supper,                                            167


  Theses--Human Nature--Rationalism--Eck--Urban Regius--Luther's
        Modesty,                                                   172

  Book III.


  CHAP. I.

  Cortège--Tezel--His Discourse--Sale of Indulgences--Public
        Penance--Letter of Indulgence--Feasting and Debauchery,    180


  The Soul in the Burying-Ground--Shoemaker of Hagenau--Myconius--
        Stratagem--Miner of Schneeberg,                            187


  Leo X--His Necessities--Albert--His Character--Franciscans and
        Dominicans,                                                193


  Tezel Approaches--Luther in the Confessional--Tezel's Rage--
        Luther's Discourse--The Elector's Dream,                   197

  CHAP. V.

  Luther's Theses--Letter to Albert--Dissemination of the Theses,  203


  Reuchlin--Erasmus--Flek--Bibra--The Emperor--The Pope--Myconius--
         The Monks--Adelman--An Old Priest--Bishop of Brandenburg--
         Luther's Moving Principle,                                213


  Tezel's Attack--Luther's Reply--Luther and Spalatin--Study of
        Scripture--Scheurl and Luther--Luther pleads for the
        People--A new Suit,                                        221


  Disputation at Frankfort--Tezel's Theses--Knipstrow--Luther's
        Theses burnt--Tezel's Theses burnt,                        227


  Prierio--His Dialogue--Luther's Reply--Hochstraten--Eck--'The
        Obelisks'--'The Asterisks,'                                235

  CHAP. X.

  Popular Writings--Lord's Prayer--Sermon on Repentance,           244


  Apprehensions of Luther's Friends--Journey to Heidelberg--
        Bibra--The Palatinate Castle--The Paradoxes--Bucer--
        Brentz--Snepf--The Old Professor,                          249



  CHAP. I.

  'Solutions'--Leo X--Luther to the Bishop--To the Pope--To
        the Vicar-General--Rovere to the Elector--Discourse on
        Excommunication,                                           258


  Diet of Augsburg--The Emperor to the Pope--Luther cited to
        Rome--Luther's Peace--Intercession of the University--
        Papal Brief--The Pope to the Elector,                      266


  Schwarzerd--His Wife--Philip Melancthon--His Genius--His
        Studies--Call to Wittemberg--Leipsic--Parallel between
        Luther and Melancthon--Education,                          273


  Luther and Staupitz--Order to Appear--Luther's Departure for
        Augsburg--Weimar--Nuremberg,                               280

  CHAP. V.

  Arrival at Augsburg--De Vio--Serra-Longa--Safe-Conduct--Luther
        to Melancthon,                                             285


  First Appearance--Conditions of Rome--Propositions to Retract--
        Luther's Reply--Impressions on both Sides--Arrival of
        Staupitz,                                                  293


  Communication to the Legate--Second Appearance--Luther's
        Declaration--The Legate's Reply--The Legate's Volubility--
        Luther's Request,                                          299


  Third Appearance--Treasury of Indulgences--Humble Request--
        Legate's Rage--Luther Retires,                             303


  De Vio and Staupitz--Staupitz and Luther--Luther and Spalatin
        Communion--Departure of Staupitz and Link--Luther to
        Cajetan--Luther's Departure--Appeal to the Pope,           307

  CHAP. X.

  Luther's Flight--Luther's Wish--The Legate to the Elector--The
        Elector to the Legate--Prosperity of the University,       316


  Thoughts of Departure--Adieus to the Church--Critical Moment--
        Luther's Courage--Discontentment at Rome--Papal Bull--
        Appeal to a Council,                                       321


My purpose is not to write the history of a party, but that of one of
the greatest revolutions which has taken place among men--the history
of a mighty impulse which was given to the world three centuries ago,
and the influence of which is still, in our day, every where
perceived. The history of the Reformation is different from the
history of Protestantism. In the former, every thing bears testimony
to a revival of human nature, to a transformation, social and
religious, emanating from God. In the latter are too often seen a
remarkable degeneracy from primitive principles, party intrigue, a
sectarian spirit, and the impress of petty private feelings. The
history of Protestantism might interest none but Protestants; the
history of the Reformation is for all Christians, or rather all men.

The historian has a choice in the field in which he is to labour. He
may describe the great events which change the face of a people, or
the face of the world; or he may narrate the calm and progressive
course, whether of a nation, the Church, or mankind, which usually
follows great social changes. Both fields of history are highly
important; but the preference, in point of interest, seems due to
those epochs which, under the name of Revolutions, introduce a nation
or society at large to a new era and a new life.

Such a transformation I have attempted to describe with very humble
powers, hoping that the beauty of the subject will compensate for my
want of ability. In styling it a _Revolution_, I give it a name which
in our day is in discredit with many, who almost confound it with
_revolt_. This is a mistake. A revolution is a change which takes
place in the world's affairs. It is something new evolved (_revolvo_)
from the bosom of humanity; and, indeed, before the end of the last
century, the term was oftener used in a good than a bad sense. They
spoke of "a happy," a "marvellous" revolution. The Reformation being a
re-establishment of the principles of primitive Christianity, is the
opposite of a revolt. For that which behoved to revive it was a
regenerating--for that which must always subsist, a conservative
movement. Christianity and the Reformation, while establishing the
grand principle that all souls are equal in the sight of God, and
overthrowing the usurpations of a haughty priesthood, which presumed
to place itself between the Creator and his creature, lay it down as a
fundamental principle of social order, that all power is of God, and
cry aloud to all, "Love your brethren, fear God, honour the king."

The Reformation differs essentially from the revolutions of antiquity,
and from the greater part of those of modern times. In these,
political changes are in question, and the object is to establish or
overthrow the ascendancy of one, or it may be of many. The love of
truth, of holiness, and eternity, was the simple, yet powerful, spring
by which our Reformation was effected. It marks a step which human
nature has taken in advance. In fact, if man, instead of pursuing only
material, temporal, earthly interests, proposes to himself a higher
aim, aspiring to immaterial and immortal blessings, he advances and
makes progress. The Reformation is one of the brightest days of this
glorious advance. It is a pledge that the new struggle, which is now
being decided, will terminate in favour of truth, with a triumph still
more pure, spiritual, and splendid.

Christianity and the Reformation are the two greatest revolutions on
record. Unlike the different political movements of which we read,
they took place not in one nation merely, but in several nations, and
their effects must be felt to the end of the world.

Christianity and the Reformation are the same revolution, effected at
different times, and under different circumstances. They vary in
secondary features, but are identical in their primary and principal
lineaments. The one is a repetition of the other. The one ended the
old, the other began the new world; the middle ages lie between. The
one gave birth to the other, and if, in some respects, the daughter
bears marks of inferiority, she on the other hand has her own peculiar

One of these is the rapidity of her action. The great revolutions
which have issued in the fall of a monarchy, and the change of a whole
political system, or which have thrown the human mind on a new course
of development, were slowly and gradually prepared. The old power had
long been undermined, and its principal buttresses had one after
another disappeared. It was so on the introduction of Christianity.
But the Reformation is seen, at the first glance, to present a
different aspect. The Church of Rome appears, under Leo X, in all its
power and glory. A monk speaks, and over the half of Europe this power
and glory crumble away, thus reminding us of the words in which the
Son of God announces his second advent: "As the lightning cometh out
of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming
of the Son of man be." (Matth., xxiv, 27.)

This rapidity is inexplicable to those who see, in this great event,
only a _reform_, and regard it as simply an act of criticism, which
consisted in making a choice among doctrines, discarding some,
retaining others, and arranging those retained, so as to form them
into a new system.

How could a whole nation, how could several nations, have so quickly
performed an operation so laborious? How could this critical
examination have kindled that fire of enthusiasm which is essential to
great, and, above all, to rapid revolutions? The Reformation, as its
history will show, was altogether different. It was a new effusion of
the life which Christianity brought into the world. It was the triumph
of the greatest of doctrines, that which animates those who embrace it
with the purest and strongest enthusiasm--the doctrine of faith, the
doctrine of grace. Had the Reformation been what many Catholics and
many Protestants in our day imagine,--had it been that negative system
of negative reason, which childishly rejects whatever displeases it,
and loses sight of the great ideas and great truths of Christianity,
it had never passed the narrow limits of an academy, a cloister, or a
cell. It had nothing in common with what is generally understood by
Protestantism. Far from being a worn-out, emaciated body, it rose up
like a man of might and fire.

Two considerations explain the rapidity and the extent of this
revolution. The one must be sought in God, the other among men. The
impulse was given by a mighty and invisible hand, and the change
effected was a Divine work. This is the conclusion at which an
impartial and attentive observer, who stops not at the surface,
necessarily arrives. But the historian's task is not finished; for God
works by second causes. A variety of circumstances, many of them
unperceived, gradually prepared men for the great transformation of
the sixteenth century, and, accordingly, the human mind was ripe when
the hour of its emancipation pealed.

The task of the historian is to combine these two great elements in
the picture which he presents, and this has been attempted in the
present history. We shall be easily understood, when we come to trace
the second causes which contributed to the Reformation, but some
perhaps will not understand us so well, and will even be tempted to
tax us with superstition, when we attribute the accomplishment of the
work to God. The idea, however, is particularly dear to us. This
history, as indicated by the inscription on its title-page, places in
front and over its head the simple and prolific principle, GOD IN
HISTORY. But this principle being generally neglected, and sometimes
disputed, it seems necessary to expound our views with regard to it,
and thereby justify the method which we have seen it proper to adopt.

History cannot, in our day, be that lifeless series of events which
the greater part of previous historians deemed it sufficient to
enumerate. It is now understood that in history as in man are two
elements, matter and spirit. Our great historians, unable to satisfy
themselves with a detail of facts, constituting only a barren
chronicle, have sought for a principle of life to animate the
materials of past ages.

Some have borrowed this principle from art, aiming at vivid, faithful,
and graphic description, and endeavouring to make their narrative live
with the life of the events themselves.

Others have applied to philosophy for the spirit which should give
fruit to their labours. To facts they have united speculative views,
instructive lessons, political and philosophical truths, enlivening
their narrative by the language which they have made it speak, and the
ideas which it has enabled them to suggest.

Both methods doubtless are good, and should be employed within certain
limits. But there is another source to which, above all others, it is
necessary to apply for the spirit and life of the past--I mean
Religion. History should be made to live with its own proper life. God
is this life. God must be acknowledged--God proclaimed--in history.
The history of the world should purport to be annals of the government
of the Supreme King.

I have descended into the field to which the narratives of our
historians invited me, and there seen the actions of men and of states
in energetic development and violent collision: of the clang of arms,
I have heard more than I can tell; but no where have I been shown the
majestic form of the Judge who sits umpire of the combat.

And yet in all the movements of nations, there is a living principle
which emanates from God. God is present on the vast stage on which the
generations of men successively appear. True! He is there a God
invisible; but if the profane multitude pass carelessly by, because He
is concealed, profound intellects, spirits which feel a longing for
the principle of their existence, seek him with so much the more
earnestness, and are not satisfied until they are prostrated before
Him. And their enquiries are magnificently rewarded. For, from the
heights which they must reach in order to meet with God, the history
of the world, instead of exhibiting to them, as to the ignorant crowd,
a confused chaos, is seen like a majestic temple, on which the
invisible hand of God himself is at work, and which, from humanity, as
the rock on which it is founded, is rising up to his glory.

Shall we not see God in those great phenomena, those great personages,
those great states, which rise, and suddenly, so to speak, spring from
the dust of the earth, giving to human life a new impulse, form, and
destiny? Shall not we see Him in those great heroes who start up in
society, at particular epochs, displaying an activity and a power
beyond the ordinary limits of man, and around whom individuals and
nations come without hesitation, and group themselves as around a
higher and mysterious nature? Who flung forward into space those
comets of gigantic form and fiery tail, which only appear at long
intervals, shedding on the superstitious herd of mortals either plenty
and gladness, or pestilence and terror? Who, if not God?... Alexander
seeks his origin in the abodes of Divinity; and in the most
irreligious age there is no great renown which strives not to connect
itself in some way with heaven.

And do not those revolutions, which cast down dynasties, or even whole
kingdoms into the dust; those huge wrecks which we fall in with in the
midst of the sands; those majestic ruins which the field of humanity
presents, do not those cry loud enough, God in History? Gibbon,
sitting amid the wrecks of the Capitol, and contemplating the
venerable ruins, acknowledges the intervention of a higher power. He
sees, he feels it, and in vain would turn away from it. This spectre
of a mysterious power reappears behind each ruin, and he conceives the
idea of describing its influence in the history of the disorganisation,
the decline and fall of this Roman power, which had subjugated the
nations. This powerful hand, which a man of distinguished genius, one,
however, who had not bent the knee before Jesus Christ, perceives
athwart scattered fragments of the tomb of Romulus, reliefs of Marcus
Aurelius, busts of Cicero and Virgil, statues of Cæsar and Augustus,
trophies of Trajan, and steeds of Pompey, shall not we discover amid
all ruins, and recognise as the hand of our God?

Strange! this interposition of God in human affairs, which even Pagans
had recognised, men reared amid the grand ideas of Christianity treat
as superstition.

The name which Grecian antiquity gave to the Sovereign God, shows us
that it had received primitive revelations of this great truth of a
God, the source of history, and of the life of nations. It called him
_Zeus_,[1] that is to say, He who gives _life_ to all that lives, to
individuals and nations. To his altars kings and subjects come to take
their oaths, and from his mysterious inspirations Minos and other
legislators pretend to have received their laws. Nay more, this great
truth is figured by one of the most beautiful myths of Pagan
antiquity. Even Mythology might teach the sages of our day. This is a
fact which it may be worth while to establish; perhaps there are
individuals who will oppose fewer prejudices to the lessons of
Paganism than to those of Christianity. This Zeus, then, this
Sovereign God, this Eternal Spirit, the principle of life, is father
of Clio, the Muse of History, whose mother is Mnemosyne or Memory.
Thus, according to antiquity, history unites a celestial to a
terrestrial nature. She is daughter of God and man. But, alas! the
short-sighted wisdom of our boasted days is far below those heights of
Pagan wisdom. History has been robbed of her divine parent, and now an
illegitimate child, a bold adventurer, she roams the world, not well
knowing whence she comes, or whither she goes.

  [1] From ζαω, I live.

But this divinity of Pagan antiquity is only a dim reflection, a
flickering shadow of the Eternal Jehovah. The true God whom the
Hebrews worship, sees meet to imprint it on the minds of all nations
that he reigns perpetually on the earth, and for this purpose gives,
if I may so express it, a bodily form to this reign in the midst of
Israel. A visible Theocracy behoved for once to exist on the earth,
that it might incessantly recall the invisible Theocracy which will
govern the world for ever.

And what lustre does not the great truth--God in History--receive from
the Christian Dispensation? Who is Jesus Christ, if he be not God in
History? It was the discovery of Jesus Christ that gave John Müller,
the prince of modern historians, his knowledge of history. "The
Gospel," he says, "is the fulfilment of all hopes, the finishing point
of all philosophy, the explanation of all revolutions, the key to all
the apparent contradictions of the physical and moral world; in short,
life and immortality. Ever since I knew the Saviour, I see all things
clearly; with him there is no difficulty which I cannot solve."[2]

  [2] Letter to Charles Bonnet.

So speaks this great historian; and, in truth, is not the fact of
God's appearance in human nature the key-stone of the arch, the
mysterious knot which binds up all the things of earth, and attaches
them to heaven? There is a birth of God in the history of the world,
and shall God not be in history? Jesus Christ is the true God in the
history of men. The very meanness of his appearance proves it. When
man wishes to erect a shade or shelter on the earth, you may expect
preparations, materials, scaffolding, workmen, tools, trenches,
rubbish. But God, when he is pleased to do it, takes the smallest
seed, which a new-born babe could have clasped in its feeble hand,
deposits it in the bosom of the earth, and, from this grain, at first
imperceptible, produces the immense tree under which the families of
the earth recline. To do great things by imperceptible means is the
law of God.

In Jesus Christ this law receives its most magnificent fulfilment. Of
Christianity, which has now taken possession of the portals of
nations, which is, at this moment, reigning or wandering over all the
tribes of the earth from the rising to the setting sun, and which
incredulous philosophy herself is obliged to acknowledge as the
spiritual and social law of the world--of this Christianity, (the
greatest thing under the vault of heaven, nay, in the boundless
immensity of Creation,) what was the commencement? An infant born in
the smallest town of the most despised nation of the earth--an infant
whose mother had not what the poorest and most wretched female in any
one of our cities has, a room for birth--an infant born in a stable
and laid in a manger!... There, O God, I behold and I adore Thee!

The Reformation knew this law of God, and felt she had a call to
accomplish it. The idea that God is in history was often brought
forward by the Reformers. In particular, we find it on one occasion
expressed by Luther, under one of those grotesque and familiar, yet
not undignified figures which he was fond of employing in order to be
understood by the people. "The world," said he one day at table among
his friends; "the world is a vast and magnificent game at cards,
consisting of emperors, kings, and princes. For several ages the pope
has beaten the emperors, princes, and kings, who stooped and fell
under him. Then our Lord God came and dealt the cards, taking to
himself the smallest, [Luther,] and with it has beaten the pope, who
beat the kings of the earth.... God used it as his ace. 'He hath put
down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree,'
says Mary." (Luke, i, 52.)

The period whose history I am desirous to trace, is important with
reference to the present time. Man, on feeling his weakness, is
usually disposed to seek for aid in the institutions which he sees
existing around him, or in devices, the offspring of his own
imagination. The history of the Reformation shows that nothing new is
done with what is old, and that if, according to our Saviour's
expression, there must be new vessels for new wine, there must also be
new wine for new vessels. It directs man to God, the sole actor in
history--to that divine Word--always ancient, from the eternity of the
truths which it contains--always new, by the regenerating influence
which it exerts, which three centuries ago purified society, restoring
faith in God to those whom superstition had enfeebled; and which, at
all epochs in the world's history, is the source from which salvation

It is singular to see a great number of individuals under the
agitation produced by a vague longing for some fixed belief, actually
applying to old Catholicism. In one sense, the movement is natural.
Religion being so little known, they imagine the only place to find it
is where they see it painted, in large characters, on a banner, which
age makes respectable. We say not that every kind of Catholicism is
incapable of giving man what he wants. Our belief is, that a
distinction should be carefully drawn between Catholicism and the
Papacy. The Papacy we hold to be an erroneous and destructive system;
but we are far from confounding Catholicism with it. How many
respectable men, how many true Christians has not the Catholic Church
contained! What immense services did not Catholicism render to
existing states on their first formation, at a time when it was still
strongly impregnated with the Gospel, and when the Papacy was only
sketched above it in faint outline! But we are far away from those
times. In our day an attempt is made to yoke Catholicism to the
Papacy; and if catholic Christian truths are presented, they are
little else than baits to allure men into the nets of the hierarchy.
There is nothing to be expected from that quarter. Has the papacy
abandoned one of its practices, its doctrines, its pretensions? Will
not this religion, which other ages were unable to bear, be still less
tolerable to ours? What revival was ever seen to emanate from Rome? Is
it from the Papal hierarchy, all engrossed by earthly passions, that
the spirit of faith, hope, and charity, which alone will save us, can
proceed? Is it an effete system, which has no life for itself, which
is everywhere struggling with death, and exists only by aid borrowed
from without, that will give life to others, and animate Christian
society with the heavenly breath for which it sighs?

Or will this void in heart and soul, which some of our contemporaries
begin to feel, dispose others of them to apply to the new
Protestantism which has in several places supplanted the principal
doctrines taught in the days of the Apostles and Reformers? A great
vagueness of doctrine reigns in many of those Reformed Churches whose
original members gave their blood as a seal of the living faith which
animated them. Men of distinguished talents, alive to all that is
beautiful in creation, have fallen into singular aberrations. A
general faith in the divinity of the Gospel is the only standard which
they are willing to follow. But what is this Gospel? This is the
essential question; and yet all are silent on it, or, rather, each
speaks in his own way. What avails it to know that in the midst of the
people stands a vessel placed there by God in order to cure them, if
none care for its contents, if none endeavour to appropriate them?
This system cannot fill up the existing void. While the faith of the
Apostles and Reformers is now in all quarters displaying its activity
and power in the conversion of the world, this vague system does
nothing, gives no light, no life.

But let us not be without hope. Does not Roman Catholicism confess the
great doctrines of Christianity, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Creator, Saviour, and Sanctifier, the Truth? Does not vague
Protestantism hold in its hand the Book of Life, which is "profitable
for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in
righteousness?" And how many upright spirits, honourable in the eyes
of men, and pleasing in the sight of God, are found among the
followers of these two systems! How shall we not love them?--how shall
we not ardently desire their complete emancipation from the elements
of the world? Charity is of vast extent; she takes the most opposite
opinions into her embrace, that she may bring them to the feet of
Jesus Christ.

Already there are signs which show that these two extreme opinions are
in course of approximating to Jesus Christ, who is the centre of
truth. Are there not some Roman Catholic churches in which the reading
of the Scriptures is recommended and practised? And, in regard to
Protestant rationalism, how great the advance which it has already
made! It did not originate in the Reformation, for the history of this
great revolution will prove that it was a time of faith; but may we
not hope that it is tending towards it? May not the force of truth
reach it through the Word of God, and, reaching, transform it? Even
now it gives signs of religious sentiment, inadequate, no doubt, but
still forming an approach towards sound doctrine, and giving hopes of
decisive progress.

Both Protestantism and old Catholicism are in themselves out of the
question, and off the field; and it must be from some other source
that the men of our day are to derive a saving power. There must be
something which comes not of man, but of God. "Give me," said
Archimedes, "a point outside the world, and I will lift it from its
poles." True Christianity is this point outside the world. It lifts
the human heart from the double pivot of egotism and sensuality, and
will one day lift the whole world from its evil course, and make it
turn on a new axis of righteousness and peace.

Whenever religion is in question, three objects engage the
attention--God, man, and the priest. There can only be three religions
on the earth, according as God, man, or the priest, is the author and
head. By the religion of the priest, I mean that which is invented by
the priest for the glory of the priest, and is ruled over by a
sacerdotal caste. By the religion of man, I mean those systems, those
various opinions which human reason forms, and which, created by man
under disease, are, in consequence, utterly devoid of power to cure
him. By the religion of God, I mean the truth as God himself has given
it, having for its end and result the glory of God and the salvation
of men.

Hierarchism, or the religion of the priest, Christianity, or the
religion of God, rationalism, or the religion of man, are the three
systems which in our days share Christendom among them. There is no
safety either for man or for society in hierarchism and rationalism.
Christianity alone will give life to the world; but, unhappily, of the
three dominant systems it is not the one which counts the greatest
number of followers.

Followers, however, it has. Christianity is doing its work of
regeneration among many Catholics in Germany, and, doubtless, in other
countries also. In our opinion, it is accomplishing it more purely and
efficaciously among the evangelical Christians in Switzerland, France,
Great Britain, the United States, etc. Blessed be God, the revivals,
individual or social, which the Gospel produces, are no longer in our
day rare events, for which we must search in ancient annals!

What I design to write, is a general history of the Reformation. I
purpose to follow its course among the different nations, and to show
that the same truths have everywhere produced the same results; at the
same time, pointing out the diversities occasioned by differences of
national character. And, first, it is in Germany especially that we
find the primitive type of reform. There it presents the most regular
development, there, above all, it bears the character of a revolution
not limited to this or that people, but embracing the whole world. The
Reformation in Germany is the fundamental history of reform. It is the
great planet; the other Reformations are secondary planets, which
turn with it, lighted by the same sun, and adapted to the same system,
but still having a separate existence, each shedding a different
light, and always possessing a peculiar beauty. To the Reformation of
the sixteenth century we may apply the words of St. Paul, "There is
one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory
of the stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory." (1
Cor., xv, 41.) The Swiss Reformation took place at the same time with
that of Germany, and independently of it, and presented, more
especially at an after period, some of the grand features which
characterise the German Reformation. The Reformation in England has
very special claims on our attention, from the powerful influence
which the Church of that kingdom is now exercising over the whole
world. But recollections of family and of flight, the thought of
battles, sufferings, and exile endured for the cause of the
Reformation in France, give it, in my eyes, a peculiar attraction.
Considered in itself, and also in the date of its commencement, it
presents beauties of its own.

I believe that the Reformation is a work of God; this must have been
already seen. Still, I hope to be impartial in tracing its history. Of
the principal Roman Catholic actors in this great drama--for example,
of Leo X, Albert of Magdeburg, Charles V, and Doctor Eck--I believe I
have spoken more favourably than the greater part of historians have
done. On the other hand, I have not sought to hide the faults and
failings of the Reformers.

Since the winter of 1831-32, I have delivered public lectures on the
period of the Reformation, and I then published my opening Address.[3]
These lectures have served as a preparative for the work which I now
offer to the public.

  [3] Discours sur l'Etude de l'Histoire du Christianisme, et son
  utilité pour l'époque actuelle. Paris, 1832, chez J. J. Risler.

This history has been drawn from sources made familiar to me by long
residence in Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, and by the
study, in the original tongues, of documents relating to the religious
history of Great Britain, and some other countries besides. These
sources are indicated by notes throughout the work, and therefore
require not to be mentioned here.

I could have wished to authenticate the different parts of my
narrative by numerous original notes, but found that, if long and
frequent, they might interrupt the course of the narrative in a manner
disagreeable to the reader. I have, therefore, confined myself to
certain passages which seemed fitted to make him more thoroughly
acquainted with subject.

I address this history to those who love to see past events simply as
they were, and not by the help of the magic mirror of genius, which
magnifies and gilds, but sometimes also diminishes and distorts them.
Neither the philosophy of the eighteenth, nor the romance of the
nineteenth century, will furnish my opinions or my colours. I write
the history of the Reformation in its own spirit. Principles, it has
been said, have no modesty. Their nature is to rule, and they doggedly
insist on the privilege. If they meet in their path with other
principles which dispute their ascendancy, they give battle instantly;
for a principle never rests till it has conquered. Nor can it be
otherwise. To reign is its life; if it reigns not, it dies. Hence,
while declaring that I am not able, and that I have no wish to rival
other historians of the Reformation, I make a reservation in favour of
the principles on which this history rests, and fearlessly maintain
their superiority.

I cannot help thinking that as yet no history of the memorable epoch
which I am about to describe exists in French. When I commenced my
work, I saw no indication that the blank was to be filled up. This
circumstance alone could have induced me to undertake the work, and I
here bring it forward as my excuse. The blank exists still; and I pray
Him from whom every good gift "cometh down" to grant that this humble
attempt may not be without benefit to some of its readers.







     Christianity--Two distinguishing Principles--Formation of
     the Papacy--First encroachments--Influence of
     Rome--Co-operation of Bishops and Factions--External Unity
     of the Church--Internal Unity of the Church--Primacy of St.
     Peter--Patriarchates--Co-operation of Princes--Influence of
     the Barbarians--Rome invokes the Franks--Secular
     Power--Pepin and Charlemagne--The Decretals--Disorders of
     Rome--The Emperor the Pope's Liege Lord--Hildebrand--His
     character--Celibacy--Struggle with the Emperor--Emancipation
     of the Pope--Hildebrand's Successors--The Crusades--The
     Church--Corruption of Doctrine.

The enfeebled world was rocking on its base when Christianity
appeared. National religions which had sufficed for the fathers, could
no longer satisfy the children. The new generation could not be
moulded in the ancient forms. The gods of all nations transported to
Rome, had there lost their oracles, as the nations had there lost
their liberty. Brought face to face in the Capitol, they had mutually
destroyed each other, and their divinity had disappeared. A great void
had been made in the religion of the world.

A kind of deism, destitute of spirit and life, kept floating, for some
time, over the abyss in which the vigorous superstitions of the
ancients were engulfed. But, like all negative beliefs, it was unable
to build. Narrow national distinctions fell with the gods, and the
nations melted down into one another. In Europe, Asia, and Africa,
there was now only one empire, and the human race began to feel its
universality and its unity.

Then the Word was made flesh.

God appeared among men, and as a man, "to save that which was lost."
In Jesus of Nazareth "dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily."

This is the greatest event in the annals of the world. Ancient times
had prepared it,--new times flow from it. It is their centre, their
bond, and their unity.

Thenceforth all the popular superstitions were without meaning, and
the slender remains which they had saved from the great shipwreck of
infidelity sank before the Majestic Sun of eternal truth.

The Son of man lived thirty-three years here below, curing the sick,
instructing sinners, having no place where to lay his head, yet
displaying, in the depth of this humiliation, a grandeur, a holiness,
a power, and divinity, which the world had never known. He suffered,
died, rose again, and ascended to heaven. His disciples, beginning at
Jerusalem, traversed the empire and the world, everywhere proclaiming
their Master "the Author of eternal salvation." From the heart of a
nation, which stood aloof from all nations, came forth a mercy which
invited and embraced all. A great number of Asiatics, Greeks, and
Romans, till then led by priests to the feet of dumb idols, believed
the Word which suddenly illumined the earth "like a sunbeam," as
Eusebius expresses it.[4] A breath of life began to move over this
vast field of death. A new people, a holy nation, was formed among
men, and the astonished world beheld, in the disciples of the
Galilean, a purity, a self-denial, a charity, a heroism, of which it
had lost even the idea.

  [4] Οια τις ηλιου βολη. (Hist. Eccl., ii, 3.)

Two principles, in particular, distinguished the new religion from all
the human systems which it drove before it. The one related to the
ministers of worship, the other to doctrine.

The ministers of Paganism were in a manner the gods whom those human
religions worshipped. The priests of Egypt, Gaul, Scythia, Germany,
Britain, and Hindostan, led the people so long, at least, as the eyes
of the people were unopened. Jesus Christ, no doubt, established a
ministry, but he did not found a particular priesthood. He dethroned
the living idols of the nations, destroyed a proud hierarchy, took
from man what man had taken from God, and brought the soul again into
immediate contact with the divine source of truth, proclaiming himself
sole Master and sole Mediator.--"One is your Master, even Christ,"
said he; "and all ye are brethren." (Matt., xxiii, 8.)

In regard to doctrine, human religions had taught that salvation was
of man. The religions of the earth had framed an earthly religion.
They had told man that heaven would be given him as a hire--they had
fixed its price, and what a price! The religion of God taught that
salvation came from God, was a gift from heaven, the result of an
amnesty, of an act of grace by the Sovereign. "God," it is said, "has
given eternal life."

It is true, Christianity cannot be summed up under these two heads,
but they seem to rule the subject, especially where history is
concerned; and as we cannot possibly trace the opposition between
truth and error, in all points, we must select those of them which are
most prominent.

Such, then, were two of the constituent principles of the religion
which at that time took possession of the empire, and of the world.
_With_ them we are within the true land-marks of Christianity--_out
of_ them Christianity disappears. On the preservation or the loss of
them depended its greatness or its fall. They are intimately
connected; for it is impossible to exalt the priests of the church, or
the works of believers, without lowering Jesus Christ in his double
capacity of Mediator and Redeemer. The one of these principles should
rule the history of religion, the other should rule its doctrine.
Originally, both were paramount; let us see how they were lost. We
begin with the destinies of the former.

The Church was at first a society of brethren, under the guidance of
brethren. They were all taught of God, and each was entitled to come
to the Divine fountain of light, and draw for himself. (John, vi, 45.)
The Epistles, which then decided great questions of doctrine, were not
inscribed with the pompous name of a single man--a head. The Holy
Scriptures inform us, that the words were simply these, "The apostles,
elders, and brethren, to our brethren." (Acts, xv, 23.)

But even the writings of the apostles intimate, that from the midst of
these brethren a power would rise and subvert this simple and
primitive order. (2 Thess., ii, 2.)

Let us contemplate the formation, and follow the development of this
power--a power foreign to the Church.

Paul of Tarsus, one of the greatest apostles of the new religion, had
arrived at Rome, the capital of the empire and of the world, preaching
the salvation which comes from God. A church was formed beside the
throne of the Cæsars. Founded by this apostle, it consisted at first
of some converted Jews, some Greeks, and some citizens of Rome. For a
long time it shone like a pure light on a mountain top. Its faith was
everywhere spoken of; but at length it fell away from its primitive
condition. It was by small beginnings that the two Romes paved their
way to the usurped dominion of the world.

The first pastors or bishops of Rome early engaged in the conversion
of the villages and towns around the city. The necessity which the
bishops and pastors of the Campagna di Roma felt of recurring in cases
of difficulty to an enlightened guide, and the gratitude which they
owed to the Church of the metropolis, led them to remain in close
union with it. What has always been seen in analogous circumstances
was seen here; this natural union soon degenerated into dependence.
The superiority which the neighbouring churches had freely yielded,
the bishops of Rome regarded as a right. The encroachments of power
form one large part of history, while the resistance of those whose
rights were invaded forms the other. Ecclesiastical power could not
escape the intoxication which prompts all those who are raised to aim
at rising still higher. It yielded to this law of humanity and nature.

Nevertheless, the supremacy of the Roman bishop was at this time
limited to oversight of the churches within the territory civilly
subject to the prefect of Rome.[5] But the rank which this city of the
Emperors held in the world, presented to the ambition of its first
pastor a larger destiny. The respect paid in the second century to the
different bishops of Christendom was proportioned to the rank of the
city in which they resided. Now Rome was the greatest, the richest,
and the most powerful city in the world. It was the seat of
Empire,--the mother of nations; "All the inhabitants of the earth
belong to it," says Julian;[6] and Claudian proclaims it "the fountain
of law."[7]

  [5] "Suburbicaria loca," suburban places. See the Sixth Canon of the
  Council of Nice, which Rufinus (Hist. Eccl., x, 6) quotes thus: "Et ut
  apud Alexandriam et in urbe Roma, vetusta consuetudo servetur, ut vel
  ille Egypti, vel hic suburbicariarum ecclesiarum solicitudinem gerat,"
  etc. And as at Alexandria, and in the city of Rome, an ancient custom
  is observed; viz., That the bishop of the former has charge of the
  churches in Egypt, and the latter of those in the suburbs.

  [6] Julian., Or. 1.

  [7] Claud. in Paneg. Stilic., lib. 3.

If Rome is queen of the cities of the world, why should not its pastor
be the king of bishops? Why should not the Roman Church be the mother
of Christendom? Why should not the nations be her children, and her
authority their sovereign law? It was easy for the ambitious heart of
man to reason in this way. Ambitious Rome did so.

Thus Pagan Rome, when she fell, sent the proud titles which her
invincible sword had conquered from the nations of the earth to the
humble minister of the God of peace seated amidst her ruins.

The bishops in the different quarters of the empire, led away by the
charm which Rome had for ages exercised over all nations, followed the
example of the Campagna di Roma, and lent a hand to this work of
usurpation. They took pleasure in paying to the Bishop of Rome
somewhat of the honour which belonged to the Queen city of the world.
At first there was no dependence implied in this honour. They treated
the Roman pastor as equal does equal;[8] but usurped powers grow like
avalanches. What was at first mere brotherly advice soon became, in
the mouth of the Pontiff, obligatory command. In his eyes a first
place among equals was a throne.

  [8] Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 1. v, c. 24. Socrat. Hist. Eccl. c. 21.
  Cyprian, Ep. 59, 72, 75.

The Western bishops favoured the designs of the pastors of Rome,
either from jealousy of the Eastern bishops or because they preferred
the supremacy of a pope to the domination of a temporal power.

On the other hand, the theological factions which rent the East
sought, each in its turn, to gain the favour of Rome, anticipating
their triumph from the support of the principal Church of the West.

Rome carefully registered these requests, these mediations, and smiled
when she saw the nations throwing themselves into her arms. She let
slip no occasion of increasing and extending her power. Praise,
flattery, extravagant compliments, consultation by other churches, all
became, in her eyes, and in her hands, titles and evidents of her
authority. Such is man upon the throne; incense intoxicates him, and
his head turns. What he has he regards as a motive to strive for more.

The doctrine of the Church, and of the necessity of her external
unity, which began to prevail so early as the third century, favoured
the pretensions of Rome. The primary idea of the Church is, that it is
the assembly of the saints, (1 Cor., i, 2,) the assembly of the
first-born whose names are written in heaven. (Heb., xii, 23.) Still,
however, the Church of the Lord is not merely internal and invisible.
It must manifest itself outwardly, and it was with a view to this
manifestation that the Lord instituted the Sacraments of Baptism and
the Eucharist. The Church considered as external, has characteristics
different from those which distinguish her as the Church invisible.
The internal Church, which is the body of Christ, is necessarily and
perpetually one. The visible Church, doubtless, has part in this
unity, but considered in herself, multiplicity is a characteristic
attributed to her in the Scriptures of the New Testament. While they
speak to us of a Church of God,[9] they mention, when speaking of the
Church, as externally manifested, "the Churches of Galatia," "the
Churches of Macedonia," "the Churches of Judea," "all the Churches of
the Saints."[10] These different Churches, unquestionably, may to a
certain extent cultivate external union; but though this tie be
wanting, they lose none of the essential qualities of the Church of
Christ. In primitive times, the great tie which united the members of
the Church was the living faith of the heart, by which all held of
Christ as their common Head.

  [9] 1 Cor. xv, 9. 1 Tim. iii, 15.

  [10] 1 Cor. xvi, i. 2 Cor. viii, 1. Gal. i, 22. 1 Cor. xiv, 33.

Various circumstances early contributed to originate and develop the
idea of the necessity of an external unity. Men accustomed to the ties
and political forms of an earthly country, transferred some of their
views and customs to the spiritual and eternal kingdom of Jesus
Christ. Persecution, powerless to destroy, or even to shake this new
society, drew its attention more upon itself, and caused it to assume
the form of a more compact incorporation. To the error which sprung up
in deistical schools, or among sects, was opposed the one universal
truth received from the Apostles, and preserved in the Church. This
was well, so long as the invisible and spiritual Church was one with
the visible and external Church. But a serious divorce soon took
place; the form and the life separated from each other. The semblance
of an identical and external organisation was gradually substituted
for the internal and spiritual unity which forms the essence of
genuine religion. The precious perfume of faith was left out, and then
men prostrated themselves before the empty vase which had contained
it. The faith of the heart no longer uniting the members of the
Church, another tie was sought, and they were united by means of
bishops, archbishops, popes, mitres, ceremonies, and canons. The
living Church having gradually retired into the hidden sanctuary of
some solitary souls, the external Church was put in its place, and
declared to be, with all its forms, of divine institution. Salvation,
no longer welling up from the henceforth hidden Word, it was
maintained that it was transmitted by means of the forms which had
been devised, and that no man could possess it if he did not receive
it through this channel. None, it was said, can, by his own faith,
attain to eternal life. Christ communicated to the Apostles, and the
Apostles communicated to the Bishops, the unction of the Holy Spirit;
and this Spirit exists nowhere but in that order! Originally,
whosoever had the Spirit of Jesus Christ was a member of the Church,
but the terms were now reversed, and it was maintained that none but
members of the Church received the Spirit of Jesus Christ.[11]

  [11] "Ubi ecclesia, ibi et Spiritus Dei. Ubi Spiritus Dei, illic
  ecclesia." (Irenæus.) Where the Church, there too the Spirit of God.
  Where the Spirit of God, there the Church.

In proportion as these ideas gained ground, the distinction between
clergy and people became more marked. The salvation of souls no longer
depended solely on faith in Christ, but also, and more especially, on
union with the Church. The representatives and heads of the Church
obtained a part of the confidence due only to Jesus Christ, and in
fact became mediators for the flock. The idea of the universal
priesthood of Christians accordingly disappeared step by step; the
servants of the Church of Christ were likened to the priests under the
Old Dispensation; and those who separated from the bishop were put in
the same class with Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. From an individual
priesthood, such as was then formed in the Church, to a sovereign
priesthood, such as Rome now claims, the step was easy.

In fact, as soon as the error as to the necessity of a visible unity
of the Church was established, a new error was seen to arise, viz.,
that of the necessity of an external representative of this unity.

Although we nowhere find in the gospel any traces of a pre-eminence in
St. Peter over the other apostles; although the very idea of primacy
is opposed to the fraternal relations which united the disciples, and
even to the spirit of the gospel dispensation, which, on the contrary,
calls upon all the children of the Father to be servants one to
another, recognising one only teacher, and one only chief; and
although Jesus Christ sharply rebuked his disciples, as often as
ambitious ideas of pre-eminence arose in their carnal hearts, men
invented, and by means of passages of Scripture ill understood,
supported a primacy in St. Peter, and then in this apostle, and his
pretended successors at Rome, saluted the visible representatives of
visible unity--the heads of the Church!

The patriarchal constitution also contributed to the rise of the Roman
Papacy. So early as the three first centuries, the churches of
metropolitan towns had enjoyed particular respect. The Council of
Nice, in its Sixth Canon, singled out three cities, whose churches
had, according to it, an ancient authority over those of the
surrounding provinces; these were Alexandria, Rome, and Antioch. The
political origin of this distinction is betrayed by the very name
which was at first given to the bishop of these cities. He was called
Exarch, in the same way as the civil governor.[12] At a later period,
the more ecclesiastical name of Patriarch was given to him. This name
occurs for the first time in the Council of Constantinople, but in a
different sense from that which it received at a later period; for it
was only a short time before the Council of Chalcedon, that it was
applied exclusively to the great metropolitans. The second ecumenical
Council created a new patriarchate, that of Constantinople itself, the
new Rome, the second capital of the empire. The Church of Byzantium,
so long in obscurity, enjoyed the same privileges, and was put by the
Council of Chalcedon in the same rank as the Church of Rome. Rome then
shared the patriarchate with these three churches; but when the
invasion of Mahomet annihilated the sees of Alexandria and
Antioch--when the see of Constantinople decayed, and later, even
separated from the west, Rome remained alone, and circumstances
rallied all around her see, which from that time remained without a

  [12] See Canon, Sardic. VI; and also the Council of Chalcedon, Canons
  8 and 18, ο εξαρχος της διοικησεως, the exarch of
  the diocese.

New accomplices, the most powerful of all accomplices, came also to
her aid. Ignorance and superstition seized upon the Church, and gave
her up to Rome with a bandage on her eyes, and chains on her hands.
Still this slavery was not completed without opposition. Often did the
voice of the churches protest their independence: This bold voice was
heard especially in proconsular Africa and the East.[13]

  [13] Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, says of St. Stephen, Bishop of
  Rome:--"Magis ac magis ejus _errorem_ denotabis, qui hæreticorum
  causam contra Christianos et contra _Ecclesiam Dei_ asserere conatur
  ... qui unitatem et veritatem de divina lege venientem non tenens....
  Consuetudo sine veritate vetustas erroris est." (Epist. 74.) "You will
  more and more observe the error of him who is trying to maintain the
  cause of heretics against Christians and against the Church of God ...
  who not holding the unity and truth which come by the Divine law....
  Custom without truth is the antiquity of error."... Firmilian, Bishop
  of Cæsarea, in Cappadocia, also says after the middle of the third
  century: "Eos autem qui Romæ sunt, non ea in omnibus observare quæ
  sunt ab origine tradita, et frustra auctoritatem apostolorum
  prætendere.... Cæterum nos veritati et consuetudinem jungimus, et
  consuetudini Romanorum, consuetudinem sed veritatis opponimus; ab
  initio hoc tenentes quod a Christo et ab apostolo traditum est."
  (Cypr. Ep. 75.) "But they do not in all things observe what was
  originally delivered, and in vain pretend the authority of the
  apostles.... But we (the Bishops of the Churches of Asia, more ancient
  than those of Rome) to truth join custom also, and to the custom of
  the Romans oppose custom, but the custom of truth, holding from the
  beginning what was delivered by Christ and an apostle." These
  testimonies are of great weight.

But Rome found new allies to stifle the cry of the Churches. Princes,
whom tempestuous times often caused to totter on the throne, offered
her their support if she would in return support them. They offered
her spiritual authority, provided she would reinstate them in secular
power. They gave her a cheap bargain of souls, in the hope that she
would help them to a cheap bargain of their enemies. The hierarchical
power which was rising, and the imperial power which was declining,
thus supported each other, and, by this alliance, hastened their
double destiny.

Here Rome could not be a loser. An edict of Theodosius II, and of
Valentinian III, proclaimed the bishop of Rome "Rector of the whole
Church."[14] Justinian issued a similar edict. These decrees did not
contain all that the popes pretended to see in them; but in those
times of ignorance it was easy for them to give prevalence to the
interpretation which was most in their favour. The power of the
emperors in Italy becoming always more precarious, the Bishops of Rome
failed not to avail themselves of the circumstance to shake off their

  [14] Rector totius Ecclesiæ.

But energetic promoters of the Papal power had by this time emerged
from the forests of the North. The barbarians, who had invaded the
West, and there fixed their abode, after intoxicating themselves with
blood and rapine, behoved to lower their fierce sword before the
intellectual, power which they encountered. Altogether new to
Christianity, ignorant of the spiritual nature of the Church, and
requiring in religion a certain external show, they prostrated
themselves, half savages, and half Pagans, before the High Priest of
Rome. With them the West was at his feet. First, the Vandals, then the
Ostrogoths, a little later the Burgundians, afterwards the Visigoths,
lastly, the Lombards and Anglo-Saxons, came to do obeisance to the
Roman Pontiff. It was the robust shoulders of the sons of the
idolatrous North which finished the work of placing a pastor of the
banks of the Tiber on the supreme throne of Christendom.

These things took place in the West at the beginning of the seventh
century, precisely at the same period when the power of Mahomet, ready
also to seize on a portion of the globe, was rising in the East.

From that time the evil ceases not to grow. In the eighth century we
see the Bishops of Rome with one hand repulsing the Greek Emperors,
their lawful sovereigns, and seeking to chase them from Italy, while,
with the other, they caress the Mayors of France, and ask this new
power, which is beginning to rise in the West, for a share in the
wrecks of the empire. Between the East, which she repels, and the
West, which she invites, Rome establishes her usurped authority. She
rears her throne between two revolts. Frightened at the cry of the
Arabs, who, become masters of Spain, vaunt that they will soon arrive
in Italy by the passes of the Pyrennees and the Alps, and proclaim the
name of Mahomet on the seven hills--amazed at the audacious
Astolphus, who, at the head of his Lombards, sends forth his
lion-roar, and brandishes his sword before the gates of the eternal
city, threatening massacre to every Roman,[15]--Rome, on the brink of
ruin, looks around in terror, and throws herself into the arms of the
Franks. The usurper Pepin asks a pretended sanction to his new
royalty; the Papacy gives it to him, and gets him in return to declare
himself the defender of the "Republic of God." Pepin wrests from the
Lombards what they had wrested from the emperor; but, instead of
restoring it to him, he deposits the keys of the towns which he has
conquered on the altar of St. Peter, and, swearing with uplifted hand,
declares that it was not for a man he took up arms, but to obtain the
forgiveness of his sins from God, and do homage to St. Peter for his

  [15] "Fremens ut leo, asserens omnes uno gladio jugulari."
  (Anastasius, Bibl. Vit. Pontif, p. 83.) Roaring like a lion, declaring
  that he would slaughter all with one sword.

Charlemagne appears. The first time, he goes up to the Cathedral of
St. Peter devoutly kissing the steps. When he presents himself a
second time, it is as master of all the kingdoms which formed the
empire of the West, and of Rome herself.

Leo III deems it his duty to give the title to him who already has the
power, and, in the year 800, at the feast of Noel, places on the head
of the son of Pepin the crown of the Emperor of Rome.[16] From that
time the pope belongs to the empire of the Franks, and his relations
with the East are ended. He detaches himself from a rotten tree which
is about to fall, in order to engraft himself on a vigorous wild
stock. Among the Germanic races, to which he devotes himself, a
destiny awaits him to which he had never ventured to aspire.

  [16] "Visum est et ipsi Apostolico Leoni, ... Ut ipsum Carolum
  imperatorem nominare debuisset, qui ipsam Romam tenebat, ubi semper
  Cæsares sedere soliti erant et reliquas sedes."... (Annalista
  Lambecianus; ad an. 801.) It seemed to Apostolic Leo that he ought to
  give Charles the name of Emperor, inasmuch as he was in possession of
  Rome herself, where the Cæsars were always wont to sit, and of their
  other possessions.

Charlemagne bequeathed to his feeble successors only the wrecks of his
empire. In the ninth century civil power being everywhere weakened by
disunion, Rome perceived that now was the moment for her to lift her
head. When could the Church better make herself independent of the
State than at this period of decline, when the crown which Charles
wore was broken, and its fragments lay scattered on the soil of his
ancient empire?

At this time the spurious Decretals of Isidore appeared. In this
collection of pretended decrees of the popes, the most ancient
bishops, the contemporaries of Tacitus and Quintilian, spoke the
barbarous Latin of the ninth century. The customs and constitutions
of the Franks were gravely attributed to the Romans of the time of the
emperors; popes quoted the Bible in the Latin translation of St.
Jerome, who lived one, two, or three centuries after them; and Victor,
Bishop of Rome, in the year 192, wrote to Theophilus, who was
Archbishop of Alexandria, in 395. The impostor, who had forged this
collection, strove to make out that all the bishops derived their
authority from the Bishop of Rome, who derived his immediately from
Jesus Christ. Not only did he record all the successive conquests of
the pontiffs, but he, moreover, carried them back to the remotest
periods. The popes were not ashamed to avail themselves of this
despicable invention. As early as 865, Nicholas I selected it as his
armour[17] to combat princes and bishops. This shameless forgery was
for ages the arsenal of Rome.

  [17] See Ep. ad univer. Episc. Gall. (Mansi xv.)

Nevertheless, the vices and crimes of the pontiffs were for some time
to suspend the effects of the Decretals. The Papacy celebrates its
admission to the table of kings, by shameful libations. It proceeds to
intoxicate itself, and its head turns amidst the debauch. It is about
this time that tradition places upon the Papal throne a damsel named
Joan, who had fled to Rome with her lover, and, being taken in labour,
betrayed her sex in the middle of a solemn procession. But let us not
unnecessarily aggravate the disgrace of the Court of the Roman
Pontiffs. Abandoned females did reign in Rome at this period. A
throne, which pretended to exalt itself above the majesty of kings,
grovelled in the mire of vice. Theodora and Marozia, at will,
installed and deposed the pretended Masters of the Church of Christ,
and placed upon the throne of Peter their paramours, their sons, and
their grandsons. These scandalous proceedings, which are but too true,
perhaps, gave rise to the tradition of Popess Joan. Rome becomes a
vast theatre of disorder, on which the most powerful families in Italy
contend for ascendancy--the Counts of Tuscany usually proving
victorious. In 1033, this house dares to place upon the pontifical
throne, under the name of Benedict the Ninth, a young boy brought up
in debauchery. This child of twelve, when pope, continues his
ineffable turpitude.[18] A faction elects Sylvester in his stead, and
at length Pope Benedict, with a conscience loaded with adultery, and
a hand dyed with the blood of murders,[19] sells the popedom to an
ecclesiastic of Rome.

  [18] "Cujus quidem post adeptum sacerdotium, vita quam turpis, quam
  fœda, quamque execranda extiterit, horresco referre." (Desiderius,
  Abbot of Cassino, afterwards Victor III. De Miraculis a S. Benedicto,
  etc., lib. 3, init.) How base, how foul, and how execrable his life
  was, after he attained the priesthood, I shudder to relate.

  [19] "Theophylactus, cum post multa adulteria et homicidia manibus
  suis perpetrata," etc. (Bonizo, Bishop of Sutri, afterwards of
  Plaisance. Liber ad amicum.) Theophylact, (Benedict,) after many
  adulteries, and many murders perpetrated by his own hand.

The Emperors of Germany, indignant at so many disorders, cleansed Rome
with the sword. The empire, exercising its rights of superiority, drew
the triple crown out of the mire into which it had fallen, and saved
the degraded popedom by giving it decent men for heads. Henry III, in
1046, deposed three popes, and his finger, adorned with the ring of
the Roman Patricians, pointed out the bishop to whom the keys of the
confession of St. Peter were to be remitted. Four popes, all Germans,
and nominated by the emperor, succeeded each other. When the pontiff
of Rome died, deputies from that Church appeared at the imperial
court, like the envoys from other dioceses, to request a new bishop.
The emperor was even glad to see the pope reforming abuses,
strengthening the Church, holding councils, inducting and deposing
prelates, in spite of foreign monarchs; the Papacy, by these
pretensions, only exalted the power of the emperor, its liege lord.
But there was great danger in allowing such games to be played. The
strength which the popes were thus resuming, by degrees, might be
turned, all at once, against the emperor himself. When the viper
recovered, it might sting the bosom which warmed it. This was what
actually happened.

Here a new epoch in the Papacy begins. It starts up from its
humiliation, and soon has the princes of the earth at its feet. To
exalt it is to exalt the Church, is to aggrandise religion, is to
secure to the mind its victory over the flesh, and to God his triumph
over the world. These are its maxims, and in these ambition finds its
profit, fanaticism its excuse.

The whole of this new tendency is personified in one man,--Hildebrand.

Hildebrand, by turns unduly extolled or unjustly stigmatised, is the
personification of the Roman pontificate in its power and glory. He is
one of those master spirits of history, which contain in them an
entire order of new things, similar to those presented in other
spheres by Charlemagne, Luther, and Napoleon.

Leo IX took up this monk in passing through Clugny, and carried him to
Rome. From that time Hildebrand was the soul of the popedom, until he
became the popedom itself. He governed the Church in the name of
several pontiffs before his own reign under that of Gregory VII. One
great idea took possession of this great genius. He wishes to found a
visible theocracy of which the pope, as vicar of Jesus Christ, will be
head. The remembrance of the ancient universal dominion of Pagan Rome
haunts his imagination, and animates his zeal. He wishes to restore to
Papal Rome all that the Rome of the Emperors had lost. "What Marius
and Cæsar," said his flatterers, "could not do by torrents of blood,
thou performest by a word."

Gregory VII was not led by the Spirit of the Lord. To this Spirit of
truth, humility, and meekness, he was a stranger. He sacrificed what
he knew to be true, when he judged it necessary to his designs. In
particular, he did so in the affair of Berenger. But a spirit far
superior to that of the common run of pontiffs, a deep conviction of
the justice of his cause, undoubtedly did animate him. Bold,
ambitious, and inflexible in his designs, he was, at the same time,
dexterous and supple in the employment of means to ensure their

His first labour was to embody the militia of the Church, for he
behoved to make himself strong before he attacked the empire. A
Council held at Rome cut off pastors from their families, and obliged
them to belong entirely to the hierarchy. The law of celibacy,
conceived and executed under popes who were themselves monks, changed
the clergy into a kind of monastic order. Gregory VII pretended to
have over all the bishops and priests of Christendom the same power
which an abbot of Clugny had over the order over which he presided.
The legates of Hildebrand, comparing themselves to the proconsuls of
ancient Rome, traversed the provinces to deprive pastors of their
lawful wives, and if need were, the pope himself stirred up the
populace against married ministers.[20]

  [20] "Hi quocumque prodeunt, clamores insultantium, digitos
  ostendentium, colaphos pulsantium, perferunt. Alii membris mutilati,
  alii per longos cruciatus superbe necati," etc. (Martene et Durand,
  Thesaurus Nov. Anecd. i, 23.) These, wherever they appear, are
  subjected to insulting cries, to pointed fingers, and to blows. Some
  are mutilated, others by long tortures cruelly slain.

But Gregory's main purpose was to shake Rome free of the empire. This
bold design he never would have ventured to conceive, had not the
dissensions which troubled the minority of Henry IV, and the revolt of
the German princes, favoured its execution. The pope was then like one
of the grandees of the empire. Making common cause with the other
great vassals, he forms a party in the aristocratic interest, and then
forbids all ecclesiastics, under pain of excommunication, to receive
investiture to their benefices from the Emperor. He breaks the
ancient ties which unite churches and their pastors to the authority
of the prince, but it is to yoke all of them to the pontifical throne.
His aim is by a powerful hand to enchain priests, kings, and people,
and make the pope a universal monarch. It is Rome alone that every
priest must fear, in Rome alone that he must hope. The kingdoms and
princedoms of the earth are his domain, and all kings must tremble
before the thunder of the Jupiter of modern Rome. Woe to him who
resists! Subjects are loosed from their oath of allegiance, the whole
country is smitten with interdict, all worship ceases, the churches
are shut, and their bells are mute; the sacraments are no longer
administered, and the word of malediction reaches even to the dead, to
whom the earth, at the bidding of a haughty pontiff, refuses the peace
of the tomb.

The pope, who had been subject from the earliest days of his
existence, first to the Roman Emperors, then to the Frank Emperors,
and, lastly to the German Emperors, was now emancipated, and walked,
for the first time, their equal, if not, indeed, their master. Gregory
VII was, however, humbled in his turn; Rome was taken, and Hildebrand
obliged to flee. He died at Salerno, saying, "I have loved
righteousness and hated iniquity, therefore die I in exile."[21] Words
thus uttered at the portals of the grave who will presume to charge
with hypocrisy?

  [21] "Dilexi justitiam, et odivi iniquitatem, propterea morior in

The successors of Gregory, like soldiers who arrive after a great
victory, threw themselves, as conquerors, on the subjugated churches.
Spain, rescued from Islamism, Prussia, delivered from idols, fell into
the hands of the crowned priest. The crusades, which were undertaken
at his bidding, every where widened and increased his authority. Those
pious pilgrims, who had thought they saw saints and angels guiding
their armies, and who, after humbly entering the walls of Jerusalem
barefoot, burned the Jews in their synagogue, and, with the blood of
thousands of Saracens, deluged the spots to which they had come,
seeking the sacred footsteps of the Prince of Peace, carried the name
of pope into the East, where it had ceased to be known from the time
when he abandoned the supremacy of the Greeks for that of the Franks.

On the other hand, what the armies of the Roman republic and of the
empire had not been able to do, the power of the Church accomplished.
The Germans brought to the feet of a bishop the tribute which their
ancestors had refused to the most powerful generals. Their princes, on
becoming emperors, thought they had received a crown from the popes,
but the popes had given them a yoke. The kingdoms of Christendom,
previously subjected to the spiritual power of Rome, now became its
tributaries and serfs.

Thus every thing in the Church is changed.

At first it was a community of brethren, and now an absolute monarchy
is established in its bosom. All Christians were priests of the living
God, (1 Peter, ii, 9,) with humble pastors for their guides; but a
proud head has risen up in the midst of these pastors, a mysterious
mouth utters language full of haughtiness, a hand of iron constrains
all men, both small and great, rich and poor, bond and slave, to take
the stamp of its power. The holy and primitive equality of souls
before God is lost, and Christendom, at the bidding of a man, is
divided into two unequal camps--in the one, a caste of priests who
dare to usurp the name of Church, and pretend to be invested in the
eyes of the Lord with high privileges--in the other, servile herds
reduced to blind and passive submission, a people gagged and swaddled,
and given over to a proud caste. Every tribe, language, and nation of
Christendom, fall under the domination of this spiritual king, who has
received power to conquer.


     Grace--Dead Faith--Works--Unity and
     Duality--Pelagianism--Salvation at the hands of
     Priests--Penances--Flagellations--Indulgences--Works of
     Supererogation--Purgatory--Taxation--Jubilee--The Papacy and
     Christianity--State of Christendom.

But, along with the principle which should rule the history of
Christianity was one which should rule its doctrine. The grand idea of
Christianity was the idea of grace, pardon, amnesty, and the gift of
eternal life. This idea supposed in man an estrangement from God, and
an impossibility on his part to reenter into communion with a Being of
infinite holiness. The opposition between true and false doctrine
cannot, it is true, be entirely summed up in the question of salvation
by faith, and salvation by works. Still it is its most prominent
feature, or rather, salvation considered as coming from man is the
creating principle of all error and all abuse. The excesses produced
by this fundamental error led to the Reformation, and the profession
of a contrary principle achieved it. This feature must stand
prominently out in an introduction to the history of the Reformation.
Salvation by grace, then, is the second characteristic which
essentially distinguished the religion of God from all human
religions. What had become of it? Had the Church kept this great and
primordial idea as a precious deposit? Let us follow its history.

The inhabitants of Jerusalem, Asia, Greece, and Rome, in the days of
the first emperors, heard the glad tidings, "By grace are ye saved
through faith--it is the gift of God." (Ephes., ii, 8.) At this voice
of peace--at this gospel--at this powerful word--many guilty souls
believing were brought near to Him who is the source of peace, and
numerous Christian churches were formed in the midst of the corrupt
generation then existing.

But a great misapprehension soon arose as to the nature of saving
faith. Faith, according to St. Paul, is the means by which the whole
being of the believer--his intellect, his heart, and his will--enter
into possession of the salvation which the incarnation of the Son of
God has purchased for him. Jesus Christ is apprehended by faith, and
thenceforth becomes every thing for man, and in man. He imparts a
divine life to human nature; and man thus renewed, disengaged from the
power of selfishness and sin, has new affections, and does new works.
Faith (says Theology, in order to express these ideas) is the
subjective appropriation of the objective work of Christ. If faith is
not an appropriation of salvation, it is nothing; the whole Christian
economy is disturbed, the sources of new life are sealed up, and
Christianity is overturned at its base.

Such was the actual result. The practical view being gradually
forgotten, faith soon became nothing more than what it still is to
many--an act of the understanding--a simple submission to superior

This first error necessarily led to a second. Faith being stripped of
its practical character, could not possibly be said to save alone.
Works no longer coming after it, behoved to be placed beside it, and
the doctrine that man is justified by faith and by works gained a
footing in the Church. To the Christian unity, which includes under
the same principle justification and works, grace and law, doctrine
and duty, succeeded the sad duality, which makes religion and morality
to be quite distinct,--a fatal error, which separates things that
cannot live unless united, and which, putting the soul on one side,
and the body on the other, causes death. The words of the apostle,
echoing through all ages, are, "Having begun in the Spirit, are ye
now made perfect by the flesh?" (Gal., iii, 3.)

Another great error arose to disturb the doctrine of grace. This was
Pelagianism. Pelagius maintained that human nature is not fallen--that
there is no hereditary corruption--and that man, having received the
power of doing good, has only to will it in order to perform it.[22]
If goodness consists in certain external actions, Pelagius is right.
But if we look to the motives from which those external actions
proceed, we find in every part of man selfishness, forgetfulness of
God, pollution, and powerlessness. The Pelagian doctrine, driven back
from the Church by Augustine, when it advanced with open front, soon
presented a side view in the shape of semi-Pelagianism, and under the
mask of Augustinian formulæ. This heresy spread over Christendom with
astonishing rapidity. The danger of the system appeared, above all, in
this--by placing goodness, not within, but without, it caused a great
value to be set on external works, on legal observances, and acts of
penance. The more of these men did, the holier they were; they won
heaven by them, and individuals were soon seen (a very astonishing
circumstance, certainly) who went farther in holiness than was
required. Pelagianism, at the same time that it corrupted doctrine,
strengthened the hierarchy; with the same hand with which it lowered
grace it elevated the Church; for grace is of God, and the Church is
of man.

  [22] "Velle et esse ad hominem referenda sunt, quia de arbitrii fonte
  descendunt."--(Pelagius in Aug. de Gratia Dei, cap. 4.) To will and to
  be are properties of man, because they spring from the fountain of
  free will.

The deeper our conviction that the whole world is guilty before God,
the more will we cleave to Jesus Christ as the only source of grace.
With such a view, how can we place the Church on a level with him,
since she is nothing but the whole body of persons subject to the same
natural misery? But, so soon as we attribute to man a holiness of his
own, all is changed, and ecclesiastics and monks become the most
natural medium of receiving the grace of God. This was what happened
after Pelagius. Salvation, taken out of the hands of God, fell into
the hands of priests, who put themselves in the Lord's place. Souls
thirsting for pardon behoved no longer to look towards heaven, but
towards the Church, and, above all, towards its pretended head. To
blinded minds, the Pontiff of Rome was instead of God. Hence the
greatness of the popes and indescribable abuses. The evil went farther
still. Pelagianism, in maintaining that man may attain perfect
sanctification, pretended, likewise, that the merits of saints and
martyrs might be applied to the Church. A particular virtue was even
ascribed to their intercession. They were addressed in prayer, their
aid was invoked in all the trials of life, and a real idolatry
supplanted the adoration of the true and living God.

Pelagianism, at the same time, multiplied rites and ceremonies. Man
imagining that he could, and that he ought, by good works, to render
himself worthy of grace, saw nothing better fitted to merit it than
outward worship. The law of ceremonies becoming endlessly complicated,
was soon held equal at least to the moral law, and thus the conscience
of Christians was burdened anew with a yoke which had been declared
intolerable in the times of the apostles. (Acts, xv, 10.)

But what most of all deformed Christianity was the system of penance
which rose out of Pelagianism. Penance at first consisted in certain
public signs of repentance, which the Church required of those whom
she had excluded for scandal, and who were desirous of being again
received into her bosom.

By degrees, penance was extended to all sins, even the most secret,
and was considered as a kind of chastisement to which it was necessary
to submit, in order to acquire the pardon of God through the
absolution of priests.

Ecclesiastical penance was thus confounded with Christian repentance,
without which there cannot be either justification or sanctification.

Instead of expecting pardon from Christ only by faith, it was expected
chiefly from the Church by works of penance.

Great importance was attached to the outward marks of repentance,
tears, fastings, and macerations, while the internal renewal of the
heart, which alone constitutes true conversion, was forgotten.

As confession and works of penance are easier than the extirpation of
sin, and the abandonment of vice, many ceased to struggle against the
lusts of the flesh, deeming it better to supply their place by means
of certain macerations.

Works of penance substituted in lieu of the salvation of God kept
multiplying in the Church from the days of Tertullian in the third
century. The thing now deemed necessary was to fast, go barefoot, and
wear no linen, etc., or to quit house and home for distant lands, or,
better still, to renounce the world and embrace the monastic state!

To all this were added, in the eleventh century, voluntary
flagellations. These, at a later period, became a real mania in Italy,
which at that time was violently agitated. Nobles and peasants, young
and old, even children of five, go two and two by hundreds, thousands,
and tens of thousands, through villages, towns and cities, with an
apron tied round their waist, (their only clothing,) and visit the
churches in procession in the dead of winter. Armed with a whip, they
flagellate themselves without mercy, and the streets resound with
cries and groans, such as to force tears from those who hear them.

Still long before the evil had reached this height, men felt the
oppression of the priests and sighed for deliverance. The priests
themselves had perceived, that if they did not apply a remedy, their
usurped power would be lost, and, therefore, they invented the system
of barter, so well known under the name of Indulgences. What they said
was this:--"You penitents are not able to fulfil the tasks which are
enjoined you? Well, then, we, priests of God, and your pastors, will
take the heavy burden on ourselves. For a fast of seven weeks," says
Regino, Abbot of Prum, "there will be paid by a rich man twentypence,
by one less so tenpence, by the poor threepence, and so in like
proportion for other things."[23] Bold voices were raised against this
traffic, but in vain.

  [23] Libri Duo de Ecclesiasticis Disciplinis.

The pope soon discovered the advantages which he might draw from these
indulgences. In the thirteenth century, Alexander Hales, the
irrefragable doctor, invented a doctrine well fitted to secure this
vast resource to the Papacy, and a bull of Clement VII declared it an
article of faith. Jesus Christ, it was said, did far more than was
necessary to reconcile God to men; for that a single drop of his blood
would have sufficed; but he shed much blood in order to found a
treasury for his church, a treasury which even eternity should not be
able to exhaust. The supererogatory merits of the saints, i. e. the
value of the works which they did beyond their obligation, served also
to augment this treasury, the custody and administration of which have
been intrusted to Christ's vicar upon earth, who applies to each
sinner for the faults committed after baptism these merits of Jesus
Christ and the saints according to the measure and quantity which his
sins render necessary. Who will venture to attack a practice whose
origin is so holy?

This inconceivable traffic soon extends, and becomes more complex. The
philosophers of Alexandria speak of a fire in which souls are to be
made pure. This philosophical opinion, which several ancient doctors
had adopted, Rome declared to be a doctrine of the Church. The pope,
by a bull, annexed purgatory to his domain. He decreed that man should
there expiate what he might not be able to expiate here below, but
that indulgences could deliver souls from that intermediate state in
which their sins must otherwise detain them. This dogma is expounded
by Thomas Aquinas in his famous theological Summa. Nothing was spared
to fill the mind with terror. The torments which the purifying fire
inflicts on those who become its victims were painted in dreadful
colours. Even at the present day, in many Catholic countries, we see
pictures exhibited in churches, or in the public streets, in which
poor souls in the midst of burning flames are calling in agony for
relief. Who could refuse the redemption money which, on falling into
the treasury of Rome, was to ransom the soul from such sufferings?

In order to give regularity to this traffic, there was shortly after
drawn up (probably by John XXII,) the famous and scandalous taxation
of indulgences, of which there have been more than forty editions.

Ears the least delicate would be offended were we to repeat all the
horrible things contained in it.

Incest will cost, if it is not known, five groschen, if known, six; so
much will be paid for murder, so much for infanticide, adultery,
perjury, house-breaking, etc. "Shame upon Rome," exclaims Claudius
Esperse, a Roman theologian, and we add, Shame upon human nature! for
we cannot reproach Rome with anything which does not recoil upon man
himself. Rome is humanity magnified in some of its evil propensities.
We say this for the sake of truth, and we also say it for the sake of

Boniface VIII, the boldest and most ambitious of the popes after
Gregory VII, outstripped all his predecessors.

In the year 1300 he published a bull, by which he announced to the
Church, that every hundred years all persons repairing to Rome would
there obtain a plenary indulgence. Crowds flocked from Italy, Sicily,
Sardinia, Corsica, France, Spain, Germany, Hungary, and all quarters.
Old men of sixty and seventy set out, and there was counted at Rome in
one month to the number of two hundred thousand pilgrims. All these
strangers bringing rich offerings, the pope and the Romans saw their
treasury filled.

Roman avarice soon fixed each jubilee at fifty years, next at
thirty-three, and at last at twenty-five. Then for the greater
convenience of buyers, and the greater profit of sellers, the jubilee
and its indulgences were transported from Rome to all parts of
Christendom. There was no occasion to leave home. What others had
gone to seek beyond the Alps, each might purchase at his own door.

The evil could not go farther.

Then the Reformer arose.

We formerly saw what became of the principle which should rule the
history of Christianity, and we have now seen what became of that
which should rule its doctrine; both were lost.

To establish a mediating caste between man and God, and insist that
the salvation which God gives shall be purchased by works, penances,
and money, is the Papacy.

To give to all by Jesus Christ without a human mediator, and without
that power, which is called the Church, free access to the great gift
of eternal life, which God bestows on man, is Christianity and the

The Papacy is an immense wall raised between man and God by the labour
of ages. Whosoever would pass it must lay his account with paying or
suffering. And yet will it not be passed?

The Reformation is the power which threw down this wall, restored
Christ to man, and levelled the path by which he may come to his

The Papacy interposes the Church between God and man. Christianity and
the Reformation make them meet face to face. The Papacy separates--the
Gospel unites them.

Having thus traced the history of the decay and extinction of the two
great principles which distinguish the religion of God from all the
religions of man, let us attend to some of the results of this vast

First, however, let us pay some tribute of respect to this Church of
the middle ages which succeeded that of the Apostles and Fathers, and
preceded that of the Reformers. The Church, although decayed, and
always more and more enslaved, still was the Church, that is to say,
still remained the most powerful friend that man possessed. Her hands,
though tied, could still bless. During those ages, great servants of
Jesus Christ, men, who in essential doctrines were true Protestants,
shed a benign light, and in the most humble convent or the most
obscure parish, were found poor monks and poor priests to solace deep
griefs. The Catholic Church was not the Papacy. The latter acted the
part of oppressor, the former that of the oppressed. The Reformation,
which declared war on the one came to deliver the other. And yet,
truth to tell, the Papacy itself was sometimes, in the hands of God,
who brings good out of evil, a necessary counterpoise to the power and
ambition of princes.


     Merriment--Manners--Corruption--Dissorderly Lives of
     Priests, Bishops, and Popes--A Priest's

Let us now attend to the State of the Church before the Reformation.

The people of Christendom no longer expecting the gratuitous gift of
eternal life from the true and living God, it was necessary, in order
to obtain it, to have recourse to all the methods which a
superstitious, timid, and frightened conscience could invent. Heaven
is full of saints and mediators who can solicit the favour. Earth is
full of pious works, sacrifices, observances, and ceremonies, which
can merit it. Such is the picture of the religion of this period, as
drawn by one who was long a monk, and afterwards a fellow-worker with

Myconius says, "The sufferings and merits of Christ were as a vain
tale, or as the Fables of Homer. Not a word was said of the faith by
which the righteousness of the Saviour, and the inheritance of eternal
life, are secured. Christ was a severe judge, ready to condemn all who
did not recur to the intercession of saints, or the indulgences of
popes. Instead of him there figured as intercessors, first the Virgin
Mary, like the Diana of Paganism, and after her saints, of whom the
popes were continually enlarging the catalogue. These mediators gave
the benefit of their prayers only to those who had deserved well of
the orders founded by them. For this it was necessary to do not what
God commands in his word, but a great number of works which monks and
priests had devised, and which brought in large sums of money. These
were, Ave-Marias, prayers of St. Ursula, and St. Bridget. It was
necessary to chant and cry night and day. There were as many places of
pilgrimage as there were mountains, forests, or valleys. But these
toils might be bought off with money. Money, therefore, and every
thing that had any value, chickens, geese, ducks, eggs, wax, straw,
butter, and cheese, were brought to the convents and to the priests.
Then chants resounded, and bells were rung, perfumes filled the
sanctuary, and sacrifices were offered; kitchens were stuffed, glasses
rattled, and masses winding up threw a cover over all these pious
works. The bishops did not preach, but they consecrated priests,
bells, monks, churches, chapels, images, books, cemeteries, all these
things yielding large returns. Bones, arms, and feet, were presented
in gold and silver boxes. They were given out to be kissed during
mass, and this too yielded a large profit."

"All these folks maintained, that the pope being in the place of God,
(2 Thess., ii, 4,) could not be deceived, and they would not hear of
any thing to the contrary."[24]

  [24] Myconius' History of the Reformation, and Seckendorf's History of

In the Church of All Saints at Wittemberg were shown a piece of Noah's
Ark, a small portion of soot from the furnace of the Three Young Men,
a bit of the manger in which our Saviour was laid, hair from the beard
of the great Christopher, and nineteen thousand other relics of
greater or less value. At Schaffhausen was shown the breath of St.
Joseph, which Nicodemus had received into his glove. In Wurtemberg, a
vender of indulgences was seen selling his wares, and having his head
adorned with a large feather, plucked from the wing of the archangel
Michael.[25] But there was no occasion to go to a distance in quest of
these precious treasures. Persons with hired relics travelled the
country, and hawked them about, as has since been done with the Holy
Scriptures. The faithful, having them thus brought to their houses,
were spared the trouble and expence of pilgrimage. Relics were
exhibited with great ceremony in the churches, while those travelling
hawkers paid a fixed sum to the owners, and also gave them so much per
centage on their returns. The kingdom of heaven had thus disappeared,
and men, to supply its place on the earth, had opened a disgraceful

  [25] Muller's Reliquien, vol. iii, p. 22.

In this way, a profane spirit had invaded religion, and the most
sacred seasons of the Church, those which, most forcibly and
powerfully invited the faithful to self-examination and love, were
dishonoured by buffoonery and mere heathen blasphemies. The "Easter
Drolleries" held an important place in the acts of the Church. As the
festival of the resurrection required to be celebrated with joy, every
thing that could excite the laughter of the hearers was sought out,
and thrust into sermons. One preacher imitated the note of the cuckoo,
while another hissed like a goose. One dragged forward to the altar a
layman in a cassock; a second told the most indecent stories; a third
related the adventures of the Apostle Peter, among others, how, in a
tavern, he cheated the host by not paying his score.[26] The inferior
clergy took advantage of the occasion to turn their superiors into
ridicule. The churches were thus turned into stages, and the priests
into mountebanks.

  [26] Œcolampad. De Risu Paschali.

If such was the state of religion, what must that of morals have been?
It is true, and equity requires we should not forget, that, at this
time, corruption was not universal. Even when the Reformation took
place, much piety, righteousness, and religious vigour, were brought
to light. Of this, the mere sovereignty of God was the cause; but
still, how can it be denied, that He had previously deposited the
germs of this new life in the bosom of the Church? In our own day,
were all the immoralities and abominations which are committed in a
single country brought together, the mass of corruption would
undoubtedly fill us with alarm. Still it is true, that, at this
period, evil presented itself in a form, and with a universality,
which it has never had since. In particular, the abomination of
desolation was seen standing in the holy place, to an extent which has
not been permitted since the period of the Reformation.

With faith morality had decayed. The glad tidings of eternal life is
the power of God for the regeneration of man. But take away the
salvation which God gives, and you take away purity of heart and life.
This was proved by the event.

The doctrine and the sale of indulgences operated on an ignorant
people as a powerful stimulus to evil. It is no doubt true, that,
according to the doctrine of the Church, indulgences were of use only
to those who promised to amend, and actually kept their promise. But
what was to be expected of a doctrine which had been invented with a
view to the profit which it might be made to yield? The venders of
indulgences, the better to dispose of their wares, were naturally
disposed to present them in the most winning and seductive form. Even
the learned were not too well informed on the subject, while the only
thing seen by the multitude was, that indulgences gave them permission
to sin. The merchants were in no haste to disabuse them of an error so
greatly in favour of the trade.

In those ages of darkness, what disorders and crimes must have
prevailed when impunity could be purchased with money! What ground
could there be for fear when a trifling contribution to build a church
procured exemption from punishment in the world to come! What hope of
renovation, when all direct communication between men and their God
had ceased--when, estranged from him, their spirit and life, they
moved to and fro among frivolous ceremonies and crude observances in
an atmosphere of death!

The priests were the first to yield to the corrupting influence. In
wishing to raise, they had lowered themselves. They had tried to steal
from God a ray of his glory, that they might place it in their own
bosom; but, instead of this, had only placed in it some of the leaven
of corruption, stolen from the Evil one. The annals of the period teem
with scandalous stories. In many places people were pleased to see
their priest keeping a mistress, in the hope that it might secure
their wives from seduction.[27] How humbling the scene which the house
of such a priest must have presented! The unhappy man maintained the
woman and the children she might have borne him, out of tithes and
alms.[28] His conscience upbraided him. He blushed before his people,
his servants, and his God. The woman fearing, that, in the event of
the priest's death, she might become destitute, sometimes made
provision beforehand, and played the thief in her own house. Her
honour was gone, and her children were a living accusation against
her. Objects of universal contempt, both parties rushed into
quarrelling and dissipation. Such was the home of a priest!... In
these fearful scenes, the people read a lesson of which they were not
slow to avail themselves.[29]

  [27] Nicol de Clemangis, De Præsulibus Simoniacis.

  [28] Words of Seb. Stor., Pastor of Leichstall in 1524.

  [29] Füsslin Beytræge, ii, 224.

The rural districts became the theatre of numerous excesses. The
places where priests resided were often the abodes of dissoluteness.
Corneille Adrian at Bruges,[30] and Abbot Trinkler at Cappel,[31]
imitated the manners of the East, and had their harems. Priests
associating with low company, frequented taverns and played at dice,
crowning their orgies with quarrels and blasphemy.[32] The Council of
Schaffhausen issued an order forbidding priests to dance in public
except at marriages, or to carry more than one kind of weapon. They,
moreover, ordered that such priests as were found in houses of bad
fame should be stript of their cassocks.[33] In the archbishopric of
Mayence, they leapt the walls at night, and then shouted and revelled
in all sorts of debauchery within taverns and inns. Doors and locks
were not secure from their attacks.[34] In several places, each priest
was liable to the bishop in a certain tax for the female he kept, and
for every child she bore him. One day, a German bishop, who was
attending a great festival, openly declared that in a single year, the
number of priests who had been brought before him for this purpose
amounted to eleven thousand. This account is given by Erasmus.[35]

  [30] Metern. Nederl. Hist. viii.

  [31] Hottinger, Hist. Eccles. ix, 305.

  [32] Order of 3rd March, 1517, by Hugo, Bishop of Constance.

  [33] Müller's Reliq. iii, 251.

  [34] Steubing. Gesch. der Nass. Oran Lande.

  [35] "Uno anno ad se delata undecim millia sacerdotum palam
  concubinariorum." (Erasm. Op. tom. ix, p. 401.) In one year eleven
  thousand priests were reported to him as living in open concubinage.

Among the higher orders of the priesthood, the corruption was equally
great. The dignitaries of the Church preferred the turmoil of camps to
chanting at the altar, and to take lance in hand, and reduce those
around them to obedience, was one of the first qualities of a bishop.
Baldwin of Tours, who was constantly warring with his vassals and
neighbours, razed their castles, built others of his own, and thought
of nothing but enlarging his territory. It is told of a certain bishop
of Eichstadt, that when he sat in his court, he had a coat-of-mail
under his gown, and a large sword in his hand. One of his sayings was,
that in fair fight he was not afraid of five Bavarians.[36] The
bishops and the inhabitants of the towns where they resided were
perpetually at war. The burghers demanded freedom, while the priests
insisted on absolute obedience. When the latter proved victorious,
they punished revolt, and satiated their vengeance with numbers of
victims; but the flame of insurrection burst forth at the very moment
when they imagined they had suppressed it. And what a spectacle was
presented by the pontifical throne at the period immediately preceding
the Reformation! To say the truth, even Rome was not often witness to
such infamy.

  [36] Schmidt, Gesch. der Deutschen. tom. iv.

Roderigo Borgia, after he had lived with a lady of Rome, continued the
same illegitimate intercourse with her daughter, Rosa Vanozza, and had
five children by her. This man, a cardinal and an archbishop, was
living at Rome with Vanozza, and other females besides, frequenting
churches and hospitals, when the pontifical chair became vacant by the
death of Innocent VIII. Borgia secured it by buying each cardinal for
a regular price. Four mules loaded with gold publicly entered the
palace of Cardinal Sforza, the most influential among them. Borgia
became Pope under the name of Alexander VI, and was delighted at
having thus reached the pinnacle of pleasure.

On his coronation-day, he appointed his son Cæsar, a youth of
ferocious temper and dissolute habits, Archbishop of Valentia and
Bishop of Pampeluna. Then, when his daughter Lucretia was married, he
celebrated the occasion in the Vatican with fêtes which were attended
by his mistress, Julia Bella, and enlivened by comedies and obscene
songs. "All the ecclesiastics," says a historian,[37] "had mistresses,
and all the convents of the capital were houses of bad fame." Cæsar
Borgia espoused the faction of the Guelphs, and when, by their
assistance, he had destroyed the Ghibelins, he turned round upon the
Guelphs, and, in like manner, destroyed them. But he was unwilling
that any should share the spoil with him, and, therefore, after
Alexander had, in 1497, made his eldest son Duke of Benevento, the
Duke disappeared. George Schiavoni, a dealer in wood on the banks of
the Tiber, one night saw a dead body thrown into the river, but said
nothing; such occurrences were common. The dead body proved to be that
of the Duke, who had been murdered by his brother Cæsar.[38] Nor was
this enough. Having taken offence at his brother-in-law, he made him
be stabbed on the stair of the pontifical palace. The wounded man,
covered with blood, was carried to his apartment, where he was
constantly watched by his wife and sister, who, dreading Cæsar's
poison, prepared his food with their own hands. Alexander placed
sentinels at his door, but Cæsar laughed at their precautions, and as
the pope was going to see his son-in-law, Cæsar said to him, "What is
not done at dinner will be done at supper." In short, he one day
forced his way into the room, drove out the wife and sister, and
calling in his executioner, Michilotto, the only person to whom he
showed any confidence, looked on while his brother-in-law was
strangled.[39] Alexander had a favourite, named Peroto. The pope's
partiality for him offended the young Duke. He pursued him, and
Peroto, taking refuge under the pontifical mantle, clasped the pope in
his arms. Cæsar stabbed him, and the blood of his victim sprung into
the pontiffs face.[40] "The pope," adds a contemporary witness to
these scenes, "loves his son the Duke, and is much afraid of him."
Cæsar was the handsomest and most powerful man of his age. He fought
with six wild bulls, and despatched them with ease. Every morning at
Rome persons were found who had been assassinated during the night,
while poison carried off those whom the sword could not reach. Men
dared not to move or breathe in Rome, every one trembling till his own
turn should arrive. Cæsar Borgia was the hero of crime. The spot of
earth where iniquity attained this dreadful height was the pontifical
throne. When once man has given himself over to the powers of
darkness, the higher the station he pretends to occupy in the sight of
God, the deeper he sinks into the abysses of hell. The dissolute fêtes
which were given in the pontifical palace by the pope, his son Cæsar,
and his daughter Lucretia, cannot be described, or even thought of,
without horror. The impure groves of antiquity, perhaps, never saw the
like. Historians have accused Alexander and Lucretia of incest, but
the proof seems defective. The pope had prepared poison for a rich
cardinal, in a small box of comfits which were to be served after a
sumptuous repast. The cardinal being put on his guard, bribed the
steward, and the poisoned box was placed before Alexander, who ate of
it and died.[41] The whole city ran to see the dead viper, and could
not get enough of the sight.[42]

  [37] Infessura.

  [38] "Amazzò il fratello Ducha di Gandia et lo fa butar nel Tevere."
  He assassinated his brother, the Duke of Gandia, and made him be
  thrown into the Tiber. (MS. of Capello, ambassador at Rome in 1500,
  extracted by Ranke.)

  [39] Intro in camera ... fe ussir la moglie e sorella ... estrangolò
  dito zovene.--(Ibid.)

  [40] Adeo il sangue il saltò in la faza del papa.--(Ibid.)

  [41] E messe la scutola venenata avante il papa.--(Sanato.)

  [42] Gordon, Tomasi Infessura, Guicciardini, etc.

Such was the man who occupied the pontifical see at the beginning of
the century in which the Reformation commenced.

The clergy having thus brought religion and themselves into disrepute,
a powerful voice might well exclaim, "The ecclesiastical state is
opposed to God and to his glory. The people well know this, and but
too well do they show it, by the many songs, proverbs, and jests,
against priests, which are current among the lower classes, and by all
those caricatures of monks and priests which we see on all the walls,
and even on playing cards. Every man feels disgust when he sees or
when he hears of an ecclesiastic." These are Luther's words.[43]

  [43] Da man an alle Wände, auf allerley zedel, zuletzt auf den
  Kartenspielen, Pfaffen, und Munche malete.--(L. Ep. ii, 674.)

The evil had spread through all ranks. A spirit of error had been sent
to men, corruption of manners kept pace with corruption of faith, and
a mystery of iniquity lay like an incubus on the enslaved Church of
Jesus Christ.

There was another consequence which necessarily resulted from the
oblivion into which the fundamental doctrine of the gospel had fallen.
Ignorance was the companion of corruption. The priests having taken
into their own hands the distribution of a salvation which belongs
only to God, deemed this a sufficient title to the respect of the
people. What occasion had they to study sacred literature? Their
business was not to expound the Scriptures, but to give diplomas of
indulgence--a ministry which called not for the laborious acquisition
of extensive knowledge.

In the rural districts, says Wimpheling, the persons selected for
preachers were miserable creatures, who had been previously raised
from beggary, cast-off cooks, musicians, huntsmen, grooms, and still

  [44] Apologia pro Rep. Christ.

The higher clergy were often sunk in deep ignorance. A Bishop of
Dunfeld congratulated himself that he had never learned either Greek
or Hebrew, while the monks contended that all heresies sprung out of
these languages, and especially out of the Greek. "The New Testament,"
said one of them, "is a book full of briers and serpents. "The
Greek," continued he, "is a new language recently invented, and of it
we ought specially to beware. As to Hebrew, my dear brethren, it is
certain that all who learn it, that very instant become Jews." We
quote from Heresbach, a friend of Erasmus, and a respectable writer.
Thomas Linacer, a learned and celebrated ecclesiastic, had never read
the New Testament. In the last days of his life, (in 1524,) he caused
a copy of it to be brought, but immediately dashed it from him with an
oath, because, on opening it, he had lighted on these words, "I say
unto you, Swear not at all." Now he was a great swearer. "Either this
is not the gospel," said he, "or we are not Christians."[45] Even the
Theological Faculty of Paris did not hesitate at this time to say, in
presence of the Parliament, "It is all over with religion if the study
of Greek and Hebrew is allowed." If, among ecclesiastics, there were a
scattered few who had made some attainments, it was not in sacred
literature. The Ciceronians of Italy affected great contempt for the
Bible because of its style. Men calling themselves priests of the
Church of Jesus Christ, translated the writings of holy men inspired
by the Spirit of God into the style of Virgil and Horace, in order to
adapt them to the ears of good society. Cardinal Bembo, instead of
_the Holy Spirit_, wrote _the breath of the heavenly zephyr_; instead
of to _forgive sins_,--to _bend the manes and the Sovereign God_; and
instead of _Christ the Son of God_,--_Minerva sprung from the forehead
of Jupiter_. Having one day found the respectable Sadolet engaged in
translating the Epistle to the Romans, he said to him, "Leave off this
child's play; such trifling ill becomes a man of gravity."[46]

  [45] Müller's Reliq. tom. iii, p. 253.

  [46] Felleri, Mon. ined., p. 400.

Such are some of the consequences of the system under which
Christendom then groaned. Our picture, undoubtedly, proves both the
corruption of the Church and the necessity of a Reformation; and it
was this we proposed in sketching it. The vital doctrines of
Christianity had almost entirely disappeared, and with them the light
and life which constitute the essence of genuine religion. The
strength of the Church had been wasted, and its body, enfeebled and
exhausted, lay stretched almost without life, over the whole extent
which the Roman empire had occupied.


     Imperishable nature of Christianity--Two Laws of
     God--Apparent Power of Rome--Hidden
     Opposition--Decay--Threefold Opposition--Kings and
     Subjects--The Pope judged in Italy--Discoveries by Kings and
     Subjects--Frederick the Wise--His Moderation--His

The evils which then afflicted Christendom, viz., superstition,
infidelity, ignorance, vain speculation, and corruption of
manners--all natural fruits of the human heart--were not new upon the
earth. Often had they figured in the history of states. In the East,
especially, various religions which had had their day of glory, but
had become enervated, had been attacked by them, and, yielding to the
assault, had fallen under it, never again to rise. Is Christianity to
experience the same fate? Will she be destroyed like these ancient
popular religions? Will the blow which gave them death be strong
enough to deprive her of life? Is there nothing that can save her?
Will those hostile powers that now oppress her, and which have already
overthrown so many other forms of worship, be able to seat themselves
without opposition on the ruins of the Church of Jesus Christ?

No! There is in Christianity what there was not in any of those
popular religions. It does not, like them, present certain abstract
ideas, interwoven with traditions and fables, destined to fall, sooner
or later, under the attacks of human reason. It contains pure truth,
founded on facts capable of standing the scrutiny of every upright and
enlightened mind. Christianity does not aim merely at exciting certain
vague religious sentiments, which, when they have once lost their
charm, cannot be again revived. Its end is to satisfy, and it, in
fact, does satisfy, all the religious wants of human nature, whatever
the degree of refinement to which it may have attained. It is not the
work of man, whose labours fade and are effaced; it is the work of
God, who sustains what he creates; and the pledge of its duration is
the promise of its divine Head.

It is impossible that human nature can ever rise so high as to look
down on Christianity, or if, for a time, human nature do think herself
able to dispense with it, it soon appears with renewed youth and life,
as alone fit for curing souls. Degenerate nations then return with new
ardour to those ancient, simple, and powerful truths, which, in the
hour of their infatuation, they had turned from with disdain.

Christianity, in fact, displayed in the sixteenth century the same
regenerating power which it had exerted in the first. After fifteen
centuries the same truths produced the same results. In the days of
the Reformation, as in those of Paul and Peter, the Gospel, with
invincible force, overthrew the mightiest obstacles. Its sovereign
power was manifested from north to south among nations differing most
widely from each other in manners, character, and intellectual
development. Then, as in the days of Stephen and James, it lighted up
the fire of enthusiasm and devotedness in nations which seemed almost
extinguished, and exalted them even to the height of martyrdom.

How was this revival of the Church and of the world accomplished?

The observer might then have seen the operation of two laws by which
God governs the world at all times.

First, as He has ages to act in, he begins his preparations leisurely,
and long before the event which He designs to accomplish.

Then, when the time is come, he produces the greatest results by the
smallest means. It is thus he acts in nature and in history. When he
wishes an immense tree to grow, he deposits a little grain in the
earth; and, when he wishes to renew his Church, he employs the
humblest instrument to accomplish what emperors and all the learned
and eminent in the Church were unable to perform. By and by we will
search for and we will discover this little seed which a Divine hand
deposited in the earth in the days of the Reformation; but at present,
let us endeavour to ascertain the various means by which God prepared
this great event.

At the period when the Reformation was ready to burst forth, Rome
appeared to be in peace and safety. One would even have said that
nothing could disturb her triumph after the great victories which she
had gained. General Councils--those Upper and Lower Houses of
Catholicity--had been subdued. The Vaudois and the Hussites had been
suppressed. No University, with the exception, perhaps, of that of
Paris, which sometimes raised its voice when its kings gave the
signal, doubted the infallibility of the oracles of Rome. Each seemed
to have accepted his alloted share in her power. The higher clergy
deemed it better to give a distant chief the tenth part of their
revenues, and quietly consume the other nine, than to hazard all for
an independence which would cost much and yield little. The lower
clergy, decoyed by the perspective of rich benefices, which ambition
made them fancy and discover in the distance, were willing, by a
little slavery, to realise the flattering hopes which they
entertained. Besides, they were almost everywhere so oppressed by the
chiefs of the hierarchy, that they could scarcely struggle under their
powerful grasp, far less rise boldly and hold up their heads. The
people knelt before the Roman altar, and kings themselves, though they
began in secret to despise the Bishop of Rome, durst not venture to
attack his power with a hand which the age would have deemed

But opposition, if it seemed externally to have slackened, or even
ceased, when the Reformation burst forth, had more inward strength. A
nearer view of the edifice will disclose to us more than one symptom
which presaged its downfall. General Councils, though vanquished, had
diffused their principles throughout the Church, and carried division
into the enemy's camp. The defenders of the hierarchy were divided
into two parties, viz., those who maintained the system of absolute
Papal domination, on the principles of Hildebrand, and those who were
desirous of a constitutional Papal government, offering guarantees and
giving liberty to the churches.

Nor was this the whole. Faith in the infallibility of the Roman bishop
was greatly shaken among all parties; and, if no voice was raised in
opposition to it, it was because every one rather desired anxiously to
retain the little faith in it which he still had. The least shock was
dreaded, because it might overturn the edifice. Christendom held in
its breath; but it was to prevent a disaster by which its own
existence might have been endangered. From the moment when man
trembles at the thought of abandoning a long venerated belief, it has
lost its influence over him, and even the appearance of respect which
he may be desirous to keep up will not be long maintained. The
Reformation had been gradually prepared in three different worlds--the
political, the ecclesiastical, and the literary. Political bodies,
private Christians, and theologians, the literary and the learned, all
contributed to the revolution of the sixteenth century. Let us take a
survey of this triple opposition, concluding with the literary class,
though, at the period immediately preceding the revolution, it was
perhaps the most powerful of all.

First, among political bodies, Rome had lost much of its ancient
credit. Of this the Church herself was the primary cause; for,
properly speaking, it was not the errors and superstitions which she
had introduced into Christianity that gave the fatal blow. Before
Christendom could have been able to condemn her on this account, it
must have stood higher than the Church, in respect of intellectual and
religious development. But there was a class of things which the
laity well understood, and it was by these they judged the Church. She
had become of the "earth, earthy." The sacerdotal empire, which
tyrannised over the nations, existed solely by the illusions of its
subjects; and having a halo for its crown, had forgotten its nature,
and left heaven, with his spheres of light and glory, to plunge into
the vulgar interests of burghers and princes. Though representing
those who are born of the Spirit, the priests had exchanged the Spirit
for the flesh. They had abandoned the treasures of knowledge, and the
spiritual power of the Word, for the brute force and tinkling of the

The thing happened naturally enough. At first the Church pretended
that her object was to defend spiritual order. But in order to protect
it from the opposition and assaults of the people, she had resorted to
earthly means, to vulgar weapons, which a false prudence had induced
her to take up. When the Church had once begun to handle such weapons,
her spirituality was at an end. Her arm could not become temporal
without rendering her heart temporal also. The appearance presented
soon became the reverse of what it had been at the outset. At first
she had thought proper to employ the earth in defending heaven; now
she employed heaven to defend the earth. Theocratic forms became in
her hands merely a mean of accomplishing worldly interests. The
offerings which the people laid at the feet of the sovereign pontiff
of Christendom were expended in maintaining the luxury of his court
and the soldiers of his armies. His spiritual power served him as a
ladder on which to climb, and then put the kings and nations of the
earth under his feet. The charm broke, and the power of the Church was
lost as soon as the men of the world could say, "She is become as one
of us."

The great were the first to examine the titles of this imaginary
power.[47] This examination might, perhaps, have been sufficient to
overthrow Rome; but, happily for her, the education of princes was
everywhere in the hands of her adepts. These inspired their august
pupils with sentiments of veneration for the Roman pontiff. The rulers
of the people grew up within the sanctuary, and princes of ordinary
capacity could never entirely quit it. Several even had no other
ambition than to be found in it at the hour of death. They preferred
to die under a cassock rather than a crown.

  [47] Adrien Baillet. Hist. des Demêlés de Boniface VIII avec Philippe
  le Bel.--(Paris, 1708.)

Italy, that apple of discord in Europe, perhaps contributed most to
open the eyes of kings. Having occasion to communicate with popes on
matters which concerned the temporal prince of the States of the
Church, and not the Bishop of bishops, they were greatly astonished
when they saw them ready to sacrifice rights which appertained to the
pontiff, in order to secure certain advantages to the prince. They
discovered that these pretended organs of truth had recourse to all
the petty wiles of politics, to deceit, dissimulation, and
perjury.[48] Then, at length, the bandage, which education had tied
upon the eyes of princes, fell off. Then wily Ferdinand of Arragon
tried stratagem against stratagem. Then the impetuous Louis XII caused
a medal to be struck with this inscription, "Perdam Babylonis
nomen."[49] And honest Maximilian of Austria, grieved to the heart on
learning the treachery of Leo X, declared openly, "Henceforth this
pope, too, is to me nothing better than a villain; now I can say that
throughout my life not one pope has kept faith with me, or been true
to his word. If it please God, I hope that this one will be the

  [48] Guicciardini. History of Italy.

  [49] I will destroy the name of Babylon.

  [50] Scultet. Annal. ad. an. 1520.

Kings and states began, moreover, to feel impatient under the heavy
burden which the popes imposed on them, and to demand that Rome should
free them from contributions and annats which wasted their resources.
Already had France opposed Rome with the pragmatic sanction, and the
heads of the empire claimed to share in it. In 1511 the emperor took
part in the Council of Pisa, and had even at one time an idea of
seizing the popedom for himself. But, among the rulers of the people
none were so useful to the Reformation as the prince in whose states
it was to commence.

Of all the Electors of that period, the most powerful was Frederick of
Saxony, surnamed the Wise. Having succeeded, in 1487, to the
hereditary states of his family, he had received the electoral dignity
from the emperor, and in 1493 undertook a pilgrimage to Jerusalem,
where he was dubbed "Knight of the Holy Sepulchre." His power and
influence, his riches and liberality, raised him above all his equals.
God chose him to be the tree under whose shelter the seed of truth
might be able to push forth its first blade, without being uprooted by
storms from without.[51]

  [51] "Qui prœ multis pollebat princibus aliis auctoritate, opibus,
  potentia, liberalitate, et magnificentia.--(Cochlœns. Acta 1. p. 3.)
  He surpassed many other princes in authority, wealth, power,
  liberality, and magnificence.

No man was better fitted for this noble service. Frederick possessed
the general esteem, and, in particular, had the entire confidence of
the emperor, whom he even represented in his absence. His wisdom
consisted not in the dexterous arts of a wily politician, but in an
enlightened and foreseeing prudence, the first maxim of which was
never to offer violence, from interested motives, to the laws of
honour and religion.

At the same time, he felt in his heart the power of the word of God.
One day when Staupitz, the Vicar-General, was with him, the
conversation turned upon those who entertained the people with vain
declamation. "All discourses," said the Elector, "which are filled
only with subtleties and human traditions, are wondrously cold,
nerveless, and feeble. It is impossible to advance one subtlety which
another subtlety cannot destroy. The Holy Scriptures alone are clothed
with such power and majesty, that, destroying all our learned logical
contrivances, they press us home, and constrain us to exclaim, 'Never
man so spake.'" Staupitz having signified that he was entirely of this
opinion, the Elector shook him cordially by the hand, and said,
"Promise me that you will always think so."*

Frederick was just the prince required at the outset of the
Reformation. Too much feebleness on the part of its friends might have
allowed it to be strangled, while too much haste might have caused the
storm, which at the very first began with hollow murmuring sound to
gather against it, to burst too soon. Frederick was moderate but
strong. He had that Christian virtue which God always requires in
those who would adore his ways--he waited upon God. He put in practice
the wise counsel of Gamaliel, "If this counsel or this work be of men,
it will come to nought; but if it be of God ye cannot overthrow it."
Acts, v, 38, 39. "Matters," said this prince to Spengler of Nuremberg,
one of the most enlightened men of his time; "matters are come to such
a point, that there is nothing more which men can do in them; God
alone must act. To His mighty hand, therefore, we commit these great
events, which are too difficult for us." Providence made an admirable
choice in selecting such a prince to protect his work in its infancy.


     The People--The Empire--Providential Preparations--Impulse
     of the Reformation--Peace--Middle Classes--National
     Character--Yoke of the Pope--State of the Empire--Opposition
     to Rome--The Burghers--Switzerland--Valour--Liberty--Small
     Cantons--Italy--Obstacles to

The discoveries made by kings had gradually extended to their
subjects. The wise began to habituate themselves to the idea that the
Bishop of Rome was only a man, and sometimes even a very bad man. They
had a suspicion that he was no holier than the bishops, whose
reputation was very equivocal. The licentiousness of the popes roused
the indignation of Christendom, and hatred of the Roman name rankled
in the heart of the nations.[52]

  [52] "Odium Romani nominis, penitus infixum esse multarum gentium
  animis opinor, ob ea, quæ vulgo de moribus ejus urbis jactantur."
  (Erasm. Ep., lib. xii, p. 634.) The hatred of the Roman name, which
  rankles in the minds of many nations, is owing, I suspect, to the
  prevailing rumours respecting the morals of μετανοιαthat city.

Numerous causes concurred in facilitating the deliverance of the
different countries of the West. Let us glance at these countries.

The empire was a confederation of different states, with an emperor at
their head, each state having supreme authority within its own
territory. The Imperial Diet, composed of all the princes or sovereign
states, legislated for the whole Germanic body. It belonged to the
emperor to ratify the laws, decrees, or resolutions of the assembly,
and to see them applied and carried into execution, while the seven
most powerful princes under the title of Electors, had the disposal of
the imperial crown.

The north of Germany, inhabited chiefly by the ancient Saxon race, had
acquired the greatest degree of freedom. The emperor, incessantly
attacked by the Turks in his hereditary possessions, was obliged to
court those princes and bold nations whose aid was then necessary to
him. Free towns in the north, west, and south of the empire, had, by
their trade, their manufactures, and exertions of every description,
risen to a high degree of prosperity, and thereby of independence, but
the powerful house of Austria, then invested with the imperial crown,
held the greater part of the southern states of Germany under its
control, and closely watched their movements. It was preparing to
extend its dominion over the whole empire, and even beyond it, when
the Reformation interposed a mighty barrier to its encroachments, and
saved the independence of Europe.

As Judea, when Christianity arose, was in the centre of the ancient
world, so Germany was in the centre of Christendom, looking at once
toward the Netherlands, England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Hungary,
Bohemia, Poland, Denmark, and all the North. It was in the heart of
Europe that the principle of life was to be developed, and the
beatings of this heart were to circulate through all the arteries of
the body the noble blood which was to give animation to all its

The particular constitution which the empire had received conformably
to the dispensation of Providence, favoured the propagation of new
ideas. Had Germany been a monarchy properly so called, like France or
England, the arbitrary will of the monarch might have been able long
to arrest the progress of the gospel. But it was a confederation.
Truth attacked in one state might be received with favour in another.

The internal peace which Maximilian had just secured for the empire
was not less favourable to the Reformation. For a long time the
numerous members of the Germanic body had taken pleasure in tearing
each other. Nought had been seen but trouble and discord, war
incessantly renewed, neighbour against neighbour, town against town,
and noble against noble. Maximilian had given a solid basis to public
order, by erecting the Imperial Chamber, with power to decide in all
questions between different states. The inhabitants of Germany, after
all their troubles and disquietudes, saw the commencement of a new era
of security and repose. Nevertheless, when Luther appeared, Germany
still presented to the observing eye that kind of motion which
agitates the sea after long protracted storms. The calm was uncertain.
More than one example of this will be seen as we proceed. By giving an
entirely new impulse to the Germanic nations, the Reformation put an
end for ever to all the former causes of agitation. Destroying the
system of barbarism, which had till then been paramount, it put Europe
in possession of a new system.

Christianity had, at the same time, exercised a peculiar influence on
Germany. The middle classes had made rapid improvement. Throughout the
different quarters of the empire, and more especially in the free
towns, were numerous institutions well fitted to improve the great
mass of the population. In these arts flourished. The burghers,
devoting themselves in security to the calm toils and sweet relations
of social life, became more and more accessible to knowledge, and in
this way were continually acquiring new influence and authority. The
foundation of the Reformation in Germany was not to be laid by
magistrates, who must often shape their conduct according to political
exigencies, nor by nobles fired with the love of military glory, nor
by a greedy and ambitious clergy, working religion for profit, as if
it were their exclusive property. The task was reserved for the
citizens, the commonalty, the great body of the people.

The national character of the Germans was specially fitted to adapt
itself to a religious Reformation. No spurious civilisation had
enervated it. The precious seed, which the fear of God deposits in the
bosom of a people, had not been thrown to the winds. Ancient manners
yet existed, displaying themselves in that integrity and fidelity,
that love of labour, that perseverance, that serious temper, which is
still to be seen, and gives presage of greater success to the gospel,
than the jeering levity, or boorish temper of some other European

The people of Germany were indebted to Rome for the great instrument
of modern civilisation, viz., faith, polish, learning, laws, all save
their courage and their arms, had come from the sacerdotal city, and,
in consequence, Germany had ever after been in close alliance with the
Papacy. The one was a kind of spiritual conquest by the other, and we
all know to what purposes Rome has invariably applied her conquests.
Nations which were in possession of faith and civilisation before a
Roman pontiff existed, always maintained in regard to him, a greater
measure of independence. Still the more thorough the subjugation of
the German, the more powerful will the reaction be when the period of
awakening shall arrive. When Germany does open her eyes, she will
indignantly break loose from the chains which have so long held her
captive. The bondage she has had to endure will make her more sensible
of her need of deliverance; and freedom, and bold champions of the
truth, will come forth from this house of hard labour and bondage, in
which all her people have, for ages, been confined.

There was, at that time, in Germany, what the politicians of our days
call a "see-saw system." When the emperor was of a resolute character,
his power increased; when, on the contrary, he was of a feeble
character, the influence and power of the princes and electors were
enlarged. Never had these felt themselves stronger in regard to their
chief than in the time of Maximilian, at the period of the
Reformation; and as he took part against it, it is easy to understand
how favourable the circumstance of his comparative weakness must have
been to the propagation of the gospel.

Moreover, Germany was tired of what the Romans derisively styled "the
patience of the Germans." They had indeed, shown much patience from
the days of Louis of Bavaria, when the emperors laid down their arms,
and the tiara was placed, without opposition, above the crown of the

The contest, however, had done little more than change its place, by
descending several steps. The same struggles which the emperors and
popes had exhibited to the world were soon renewed on a smaller scale,
in all the towns of Germany, between the bishops and the magistrates.
The burghers took up the sword which the emperors had allowed to drop
from their hands. As early as 1329 the burghers of Frankfort on the
Oder had intrepidly withstood all their ecclesiastical superiors.
Excommunicated for having continued faithful to the Margrave Louis,
they had been left for twenty-eight years without mass, baptism,
marriage, or Christian burial; and, when the monks and priests made
their re-entry, they laughed at it as a comedy or farce,--sad
symptoms, doubtless, but symptoms of which the clergy were the cause.
At the period of the Reformation this opposition between the
magistrates and ecclesiastics had increased. The privileges of the
former, and the temporal pretensions of the latter, were constantly
causing jostling and collision between the two bodies.

But burgomasters, councillors, and secretaries of towns, were not the
only persons among whom Rome and the clergy found opponents. Wrath was
at the same time fermenting among the people, and broke out as early
as 1502, when the peasantry, indignant at the grinding yoke of their
ecclesiastical sovereigns, entered into a combination which goes under
the name of the Shoe-Alliance.

Thus everywhere, both in the upper and lower regions of society, a
grumbling sound was heard,--a precursor of the thunder which was soon
to burst. Germany seemed ripe for the work which the sixteenth century
had received as its task. Providence, which moves leisurely, had every
thing prepared, and the very passions which God condemns were to be
overruled by his mighty hand for the accomplishment of his designs.

Let us see how other nations were situated.

Thirteen small republics, placed with their confederates in the centre
of Europe among mountains, forming, as it were, its citadel, contained
a brave and simple people. Who would have gone to those obscure
valleys in quest of persons who, with the sons of Germany, might be
the deliverers of the Church? Who would have thought that petty
unknown towns, just emerging from barbarism, hid behind inaccessible
mountains, at the extremity of nameless lakes, would, in point of
Christianity, take precedence of Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth,
and Rome? Nevertheless, it so pleased Him who wills that one spot of
earth be watered with dew, and that another spot on which the rain has
not descended shall remain parched, (Amos.)

There were other circumstances besides which might have been expected
to throw numerous obstacles in the way of the Reformation among the
Helvetic Republics. If, in a monarchy, the impediments of power were
to be dreaded, the thing to be feared in a democracy was the
precipitation of the people.

But Switzerland had also had its preparations. It was a wild but noble
tree, which had been preserved in the bosom of the valleys, in order
that a valuable fruit might one day be engrafted on it. Providence had
diffused among this new people principles of independence and freedom,
destined to display their full power whenever the signal for contest
with Rome should be given. The pope had given the Swiss the title of
Protectors of the Liberty of the Church; but they seem to have taken
the honourable appellation in a very different sense from the pontiff.
If their soldiers guarded the pope in the vicinity of the ancient
Capitol, their citizens, in the bosom of the Alps, carefully guarded
their religious liberties against the assaults of the pope and the
clergy. Ecclesiastics were forbidden to apply to a foreign
jurisdiction. The "Letter of the Priests" (Pfaffenbrief, 1370) was an
energetic protestation of Swiss liberty against the abuses and power
of the clergy. Amongst these states, Zurich was distinguished for its
courageous opposition to the pretensions of Rome. Geneva, at the other
extremity of Switzerland, was at war with its bishop. These two towns
particularly signalised themselves in the great struggle which we have
undertaken to describe.

But if the Swiss towns, accessible to every kind of improvement, were
among the first to fall in with the movement of reform, it was
otherwise with the inhabitants of the mountains. The light had not yet
travelled so far. These cantons, the founders of Swiss freedom, proud
of the part which they had performed in the great struggle for
independence, were not readily disposed to imitate their younger
brethren of the plains. Why change the faith with which they had
chased Austria, and which had by its altars consecrated all the scenes
of their triumph? Their priests were the only enlightened guides to
whom they could have recourse. Their worship and their festivals gave
a turn to the monotony of their tranquil life, and pleasantly broke
the silence of their peaceful retreats. They remained impervious to
religious innovation.

On crossing the Alps, we find ourselves in that Italy which was in the
eyes of the majority the Holy Land of Christendom. Whence should
Europe have expected the good of the Church if not from Italy, if not
from Rome? Might not the power which by turns raised so many different
characters to the pontifical chair, one day place in it a pontiff who
would become an instrument of blessing to the heritage of the Lord? Or
if pontiffs were to be despaired of, were there not bishops and
councils, who might reform the Church? Nothing good comes out of
Nazareth; but out of Jerusalem, out of Rome!... Such might be the
thoughts of men, but God thought otherwise. He said, "Let him who is
filthy, be filthy still," (Rev., xxii,) and abandoned Italy to her
iniquities. This land of ancient glory was alternately a prey to
intestine wars and foreign invasion. The wiles of politics, the
violence of faction, the turmoil of war, seemed to have sole sway, and
to banish far away both the gospel and its peace.

Besides, Italy, broken, dismembered, and without unity, seemed little
fitted to receive a common impulse. Each frontier was a new barrier
where truth was arrested.

And if the truth was to come from the North, how could the Italians,
with a taste so refined, and a society in their eyes so exquisite,
condescend to receive any thing at the hands of barbarous Germans?
Were men who admired the cadence of a sonnet more than the majesty and
simplicity of the Scriptures, a propitious soil for the seed of the
divine word? But be this as it may, in regard to Italy, Rome was still
to continue Rome. Not only did the temporal power of the popes dispose
the different Italian factions to purchase their alliance and favour
at any price, but in addition to this, the universal ascendancy of
Rome presented various attractions to the avarice and vanity of the
ultramontane states. The moment that the question of emancipating the
rest of the world from Rome should be raised, Italy would again become
Italy; domestic quarrels would not prevail to the advantage of a
foreign system. Attacks on the head of the Peninsular family would at
once revive affections and common interests which had long been in

The Reformation had therefore little chance in that quarter. And yet
there did exist, beyond the mountains, individuals who had been
prepared to receive the gospel light, and Italy was not entirely

Spain had what Italy had not--a grave, noble, and religiously-disposed
people. At all times has it numbered men of piety and learning among
its clergy, while it was distant enough from Rome to be able easily to
shake off the yoke. There are few nations where one might have more
reasonably hoped for a revival of that primitive Christianity which
Spain perhaps received from St. Paul himself. And yet Spain did not
raise her head among the nations. She was destined to fulfil the
declaration of Divine wisdom, "The first shall be last." Various
circumstances led to this sad result.

Spain, in consequence of its isolated position, and its distance from
Germany, must have felt only slight shocks of the great earthquake
which so violently heaved the empire. It was moreover, engrossed with
treasures very different from those which the word of God then offered
to the nations. The new world eclipsed the eternal world. A land
altogether new, and apparently silver and gold, inflamed all
imaginations. An ardent desire for riches left no room in a Spanish
heart for nobler thoughts. A powerful clergy, with scaffolds and
treasures at its disposal, ruled the Peninsula. The Spaniard willingly
yielded a servile obedience to his priests, who, disburdening him of
the prior claims of spiritual occupation, left him free to follow his
passions, and to run the way of riches, discoveries, and new
continents. Victorious over the Moors, Spain had, at the expence of
her noblest blood, pulled down the crescent from the walls of Grenada,
and many other cities, and, in its place, planted the cross of Jesus
Christ. This great zeal for Christianity, which seemed to give bright
hopes, turned against the truth. Why should Catholic Spain, which had
vanquished infidelity, not oppose heresy? How should those who had
chased Mahomet from their lovely country allow Luther to penetrate
into it? Their kings did even more. They fitted out fleets against the
Reformation, and in their eagerness to vanquish it, went to seek it in
Holland and England. But these attacks aggrandised the nations against
which they were directed, and their power soon crushed Spain. In this
way, these Catholic regions lost, through the Reformation, even that
temporal prosperity which was the primary cause of their rejection of
the spiritual liberty of the gospel. Nevertheless, it was a brave and
generous people that dwelt beyond the Pyrenees. Several of their noble
sons with the same ardour, but with more light than those who had shed
their blood in Moorish dungeons, came to lay their life, as an
offering, on the faggot piles of the Inquisition.

It was nearly the same with Portugal as with Spain. Emmanuel the Happy
gave it an age of gold, which must have unfitted it for the
self-denial which the gospel demands. The Portuguese, rushing into the
recently discovered routes to the East Indies and Brazil, turned their
backs on Europe and the Reformation.

Few nations might have been thought more disposed than France to
receive the gospel. Almost all the intellectual and spiritual life of
the middle ages centred in her. One would have said that the paths
were already beaten for a great manifestation of the truth. Men who
were the most opposed to each other, and who had the greatest
influence on the French people, felt that they had some affinity with
the Reformation. St. Bernard had given an example of that heart-felt
faith, that inward piety, which is the finest feature of the
Reformation, while Abelard had introduced into the study of theology
that reasoning principle, which, incapable of establishing truth, is
powerful in destroying falsehood. Numerous heretics, so called, had
rekindled the flames of the word of God in the French provinces. The
University of Paris had withstood the Church to the face, and not
feared to combat her. At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the
Clemangis and the Gersons had spoken out boldly. The pragmatic
sanction had been a great act of independence, and promised to prove
the palladium of the Gallican liberties. The French nobility, so
numerous and so jealous of their precedence, and who, at this period,
had just seen their privileges gradually suppressed to the extension
of the influence of the crown, must have felt favourably disposed
towards a religious revolution, the effect of which might be to
restore a portion of the independence which they had lost. The people,
lively, intelligent and open to generous emotions, were accessible to
the truth in a degree as great, if not greater, than any other people.
The Reformation might have promised to be, in this nation, the birth
that was to crown the long travail of many ages. But the Church of
France, which seemed for so many generations to have been rushing in
the same direction, turned suddenly round at the moment of the
Reformation, and took quite a contrary direction. Such was the will of
Him who guides nations and their rulers. The prince who then sat in
the chariot and held the reins, and who, as a lover of letters, might
have been thought likely to be the first to second reform, threw his
people into another course. The symptoms of several centuries proved
fallacious, and the impulse given to France struck and spent itself on
the ambition and fanaticism of its kings. The Valois took the place
which she ought to have occupied. Perhaps, if she had received the
gospel, she would have become too powerful. God was pleased to take
the feeblest nations, nations that as yet were not, to make them the
depositaries of his truth. France, after having been almost reformed,
ultimately found herself again become Roman Catholic. The sword of
princes thrown into the scale, made it incline towards Rome. Alas!
another sword, that of the reformed themselves, completed the ruin of
the Reformation. Hands habituated to the sword, unlearned to pray. It
is by the blood of its confessors, and not by that of its enemies,
that the gospel triumphs.

At this time the Netherlands was one of the most flourishing countries
in Europe. It contained an industrious population, enlightened by the
numerous relations which it maintained with the different quarters of
the world, full of courage, and zealous to excess for its
independence, its privileges, and its freedom. Placed on the threshold
of Germany, it must have been one of the first to hear the sound of
the Reformation. Two parties, quite distinct from each other, occupied
these provinces. The more Southern one was surfeited with wealth, and
submitted. How could all those manufactures, carried to the highest
perfection--how could that boundless traffic by land and sea--how
could Bruges, the great entrepot of the trade of the North--how could
Antwerp, that queen of commercial cities, accommodate themselves to a
long and sanguinary struggle for points of faith? On the contrary, the
northern provinces defended by their sands, the sea, and their inland
waters, and still more, by the simplicity of their manners, and their
determination to lose all sooner than the gospel, not only saved their
franchises, their privileges, and their faith, but also conquered
their independence, and a glorious national character.

England scarcely seemed to promise what she has since performed.
Repulsed from the Continent, where she had so long been obstinately
bent on conquering France, she began to throw her eye towards the
ocean, as the domain which was to be the true scene of her conquests,
and which was reserved for her inheritance. Twice converted to
Christianity, once under the ancient Britons, and the second time
under the Anglo-Saxons, she very devoutly paid to Rome the annual
tribute of St. Peter. But she was reserved for high destinies.
Mistress of the ocean, and present at once in all the different
quarters of the globe, she, with the nations that were to spring from
her, was one day to be the hand of God in shedding the seeds of life
over the remotest islands and the largest continents. Already several
circumstances gave a presentiment of her destiny. Bright lights had
shone in the British Isles, and some glimmerings still remained. A
multitude of foreigners, artists, merchants, and mechanics, arriving
from the Netherlands, Germany, and other countries, filled their
cities and their sea-ports. The new religious ideas must have been
conveyed easily and rapidly. In fine, the reigning monarch was an
eccentric prince, who, possessed of some knowledge and great courage,
was every moment changing his projects and ideas, and turning from
side to side, according to the direction in which his violent passions
blew. It was possible that one of the inconsistencies of Henry VIII
might prove favourable to the Reformation.

Scotland was at this time agitated by factions. A king five years old,
a queen regent, ambitious nobles, and an influential clergy, kept this
bold nation in constant turmoil. It was, nevertheless, one day to hold
a first place among those that received the Reformation.

The three kingdoms of the North, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, were
united under a common sceptre. These rude and warlike nations seemed
to have little in common with the doctrine of love and peace. And yet,
by their very energy, they were, perhaps, more disposed than the
people of the South to receive the evangelical doctrine in its power.
But, the descendants of warriors and pirates, they brought, it would
seem, too warlike a character to the Protestant cause; at a later
period, their sword defended it with heroism.

Russia, retired at the extremity of Europe, had few relations with
other states, and belonged, moreover, to the Greek communion. The
Reformation effected in the Western exerted little or no influence on
the Eastern Church.

Poland seemed well prepared for a reform. The vicinity of the
Christians of Bohemia and Moravia had disposed it to receive, while
the vicinity of Germany must have rapidly communicated, the
evangelical impulse. So early as 1500, the nobility of Poland Proper
had demanded the cup for the laity, appealing to the usage of the
primitive Church. The liberty enjoyed by its towns, and the
independence of its nobles, made it a safe asylum for Christians
persecuted in their own country, and the truth which they brought
thither was received with joy by a great number of its inhabitants. In
our days, however, it is one of the countries which has the smallest
number of confessors.

The flame of reformation, which had long gleamed in Bohemia, had been
almost extinguished in blood. Nevertheless, precious remains which
had escaped the carnage, still survived to see the day of which John
Huss had a presentiment.

Hungary had been torn by intestine wars under the government of
princes without character and without experience, and who had at last
yoked the fate of their people to Austria, by giving this powerful
House a place among the heirs of the crown.

Such was the state of Europe at the beginning of the sixteenth
century, which was destined to produce so mighty a transformation in
Christian society.


     Roman Theology--Remains of Life--Justification by
     Faith--Witnesses for the Truth--Claude--The Mystics--The
     before the Reformation--Arnoldi--Utenheim--Martin--New
     Witnesses in the Church--Thomas Conecte--The Cardinal of
     Crayn--Institoris--Savonarola--Justification by Faith--John
     Vitraire--John Laillier--John of Wessalia--John of
     Goch--John Wessel--Protestantism before the Reformation--The
     Bohemian Brethren--Prophecy of Proles--Prophecy of the
     Franciscan of Isenach--Third Preparative--Literature.

Having pointed out the state of nations and princes, we now proceed to
the preparation for Reform, as existing in Theology and in the Church.

The singular system of Theology which had been established in the
Church must have powerfully contributed to open the eyes of the rising
generation. Made for an age of darkness, as if such an age had been to
exist for ever, it seemed destined to become obsolete and defective in
all its parts as soon as the age should have improved. Such was the
actual result. The popes had from time to time made various additions
to Christian doctrine. They had changed or taken away whatever did not
accord with their hierarchy, while any thing not contrary to their
system was allowed to remain till further orders. This system
contained true doctrines, such as redemption, and the influence of the
Holy Spirit; and these an able theologian, if any such then existed,
might have employed to combat and overthrow all the rest. The pure
gold, mingled with the worthless lead in the treasury of the Vatican,
made it easy to detect the imposition. It is true, that when any bold
opponent called attention to it, the fanner of Rome immediately threw
out the pure grain. But these very proceedings only increased the

This confusion was unbounded, and the pretended unity was only a heap
of disunion. At Rome there were doctrines of the Court, and doctrines
of the Church. The faith of the metropolis differed from the faith of
the provinces; while in the provinces, again, the variation was
endless. There was a faith for princes, a faith for the people, and a
faith for religious orders. Opinions were classed as belonging to such
a convent, such a district, such a doctor, such a monk.

Truth, in order to pass peacefully through the time when Rome would
have crushed her with an iron sceptre, had done, like the insect which
with its threads forms the chrysalis in which it shuts itself up
during the cold season. And strange enough, the instruments which
divine truth had employed for the purpose were the so much decried
schoolmen. These industrious artisans of thought had employed
themselves in unravelling all theological ideas, and out of the
numerous threads had made a veil under which the ablest of their
contemporaries must have found it difficult to recognise the truth in
its original purity. It seems a sad thing, that an insect full of
life, and sometimes glowing with the most brilliant colours, should
enclose itself, apparently without life, in its dark cocoon; and yet
it is the shroud that saves it. It was the same with truth. Had the
selfish and sinister policy of Rome, in the days of her ascendancy,
met the truth in naked simplicity, she would have destroyed, or at
least tried to destroy it, but disguised as it was, by the theologians
of the time, under subtleties and endless distinctions, the popes
either saw it not, or thought that, in such a state, it could not do
them harm. They accordingly patronised both the workmen and their
work. But spring might come, and then forgotten truth might lift her
head, and throw aside her shroud. In her seeming tomb, having acquired
new strength, she might now again prove victorious over Rome and all
its errors. This spring arrived. At the moment when the absurd
trappings of the schoolmen were falling off under the attack of
skilful hands, and amid the jeers of the new generation, truth made
her escape, and came forth all young and beautiful.

But not merely did the writings of the schoolmen bear powerful
testimony in favour of truth. Christianity had everywhere imparted a
portion of her own life to the life of the people. The Church of
Christ was like a building which had fallen into ruin; in digging
among its foundations, a portion of the solid rock on stitutions,
which dated from the pure times of the Church, were still existing,
and could not fail to suggest to many minds evangelical ideas utterly
at variance with the prevailing superstitions. Moreover, the inspired
writers and ancient doctors of the Church, whose writings were extant
in many libraries, occasionally sent forth a solitary voice; and may
we not hope that this voice was listened to in silence by more than
one attentive ear? Let us not doubt, (and how sweet the thought!)
Christians had many brothers and many sisters in those monasteries, in
which we are too ready to see nothing but hypocrisy and dissoluteness.

The Church had fallen in consequence of having lost the grand doctrine
of Justification by faith in the Saviour; and hence, before she could
rise, it was necessary that this doctrine should be restored. As soon
as it was re-established in Christendom, all the errors and
observances which had been introduced, all that multitude of saints,
pious works, penances, masses, indulgences, etc., behoved to
disappear. As soon as the one Mediator and his one sacrifice were
recognised, all other mediators and other sacrifices were done away.
"This article of justification," says one whom we may regard as
divinely illumined on the subject,[53] "is that which creates the
Church, nourishes, builds up, preserves, and defends her. No man can
teach well in the Church, or successively resist an adversary, unless
he hold fast by this truth. This," adds the writer from whom we quote,
"is the heel which bruises the Serpent's head."

  [53] Luther to Brentius.

God, who was preparing his work, raised up during the revolution of
ages a long series of witnesses to the truth. But the truth to which
those noble men bore testimony, they knew not with sufficient
clearness, or at least were unable to expound with sufficient
distinctness. Incapable of accomplishing the work, they were just what
they should have been in order to prepare it. We must add, however,
that if they were not ready for the work, the work was not ready for
them. The measure was not yet filled up. Ages had not accomplished
their destined course, and the need of a true remedy was not generally

No sooner had Rome usurped power than a powerful opposition was formed
against her,--an opposition which extended across the middle ages.

In the ninth century, Archbishop Claude of Turin, and in the twelfth
century, Peter of Bruges, his disciple Henry, and Arnold of Brescia,
in France and in Italy endeavour to establish the worship of God in
spirit and in truth. Generally, however, in searching for this
worship, they confine it too much to the exclusion of images and
external observances.

The Mystics, who have existed in almost all ages, seeking in silence
for holiness of heart, purity of life, and tranquil communion with
God, cast looks of sadness and dismay on the desolation of the Church.
Carefully abstaining from the scholastic brawls and useless
discussions under which true piety had been buried, they endeavoured
to withdraw men from the vain mechanism of external worship, and from
the mire and glare of ceremonies, that they might lead them to the
internal repose enjoyed by the soul which seeks all its happiness in
God. This they could not do without coming at every point into
collision with accredited opinions, and without unveiling the sores of
the Church. Still they had no clear view of the doctrine of
justification by faith.

The Vaudois, far superior to the Mystics in purity of doctrine, form a
long chain of witnesses to the truth. Men enjoying more freedom than
the rest of the Church, appear to have inhabited the heights of the
Alps in Piedmont from ancient times; and their numbers were increased,
and their doctrine purified, by the followers of Valdo. From their
mountain tops the Vaudois, during a long series of ages, protest
against the superstitions of Rome.[54] "They contend for the living
hope which they have in God through Christ, for regeneration, and
inward renewal by faith, hope, and charity, for the merits of Jesus
Christ, and the all-sufficiency of his righteousness and grace."[55]

  [54] Nobla Leyçon.

  [55] Treatise of Antichrist, of the same age as the Nobla Leyçon.

Still, however, this primary truth of a sinner's justification, this
capital doctrine, which ought to have risen from the midst of their
doctrines, like Mont Blanc from the bosom of the Alps, has not due
prominence in their system. Its top is not high enough.

In 1170, Peter Vaud, or Valdo, a rich merchant of Lyons, sells all his
goods and gives to the poor. He, as well as his friends, seem to have
had it in view practically to realise the perfection of primitive
Christianity. He, accordingly, begins in like manner with the
branches, and not the root. Nevertheless, his word is powerful,
because of his appeal to Scripture, and shakes the Roman hierarchy to
its very foundations.

In 1360, Wickliffe appears in England, and appeals from the pope to
the word of God, but the real internal sore of the Church is, in his
eyes, only one of the numerous symptoms of disease.

John Huss lifts his voice in Bohemia, a century before Luther lifts
his in Saxony. He seems to penetrate farther than his predecessors
into the essence of Christian truth. He asks Christ to give him grace
to glory only in his cross, and in the inestimable weight of his
sufferings, but his attention is directed less against the errors of
the Roman Church, than the scandalous lives of its clergy. He was,
however, if we may so speak, the John Baptist of the Reformation. The
flames of his martyrdom kindled a fire in the Church, which threw
immense light on the surrounding darkness, and the rays of which were
not to be so easily extinguished.

John Huss did more; prophetic words came forth from the depth of his
dungeon. He had a presentiment, that the true Reformation of the
Church was at hand. So early as the period when chased from Prague, he
had been forced to wander in the plains of Bohemia, where his steps
were followed by an immense crowd of eager hearers, he had exclaimed,
"The wicked have begun to lay perfidious nets for the Bohemian
goose;[56] but if even the goose, which is only a domestic fowl, a
peaceful bird, and which never takes a lofty flight into the air, has,
however, broken their toils, other birds of loftier wing will break
them with much greater force. Instead of a feeble goose, the truth
will send eagles and falcons, with piercing eye."[57] The Reformers
fulfilled this prediction.

  [56] In Bohemian, Huss means "goose."

  [57] Epist. J. Huss, Tempore Anathematis Scriptæ.

And after the venerable priest had been summoned before the Council of
Constance, after he had been thrown into prison, the chapel of
Bethlehem, where he had proclaimed the Gospel and the future triumphs
of Jesus Christ, occupied him more than his defence. One night, the
holy martyr thought he saw, in the depth of his dungeon, the features
of Jesus Christ, which he had caused to be painted on the walls of his
study, effaced by the pope and the bishops. The dream distresses him,
but next day he sees several painters employed in restoring the
pictures in greater number and splendour. Their task finished, the
painters, surrounded by a great multitude, exclaim, "Now, let popes
and bishops come, they never shall efface them more." John Huss adds,
"Many people in Bethlehem rejoiced, and I among them." "Think of your
defence, rather than of dreams," said his faithful Friend, Chevalier
de Chlum, to whom he had communicated the dream. "I am not a dreamer,"
replied Huss; "but this I hold for certain--the image of Christ will
never be effaced. They wished to destroy it, but it will be painted
anew in men's hearts by far abler preachers than I. The nation which
loves Jesus Christ will rejoice; and I, awaking among the dead, and,
so to speak, rising again from the tomb, will thrill with joy."[58]

  [58] Huss. Ep. sub. Temp. Concuii Scriptæ.

A century elapsed, and the torch of the Gospel, rekindled by the
Reformers, did, in fact, illumine several nations which rejoiced in
its light.

But in those ages, a word of life is heard not only among those whom
Rome regards as its adversaries; Catholicity itself--let us say it for
our comfort--contains in its bosom numerous witnesses to the truth.
The primitive edifice has been consumed; but a noble fire is
slumbering under its ashes, and we see it from time to time throwing
out brilliant sparks.

It is an error to suppose that, up to the Reformation, Christianity
existed only under the Roman Catholic form, and that, at that period
only, a part of that church assumed the form of Protestantism.

Among the doctors who preceded the sixteenth century, a great number,
doubtless, inclined to the system which the Council of Trent
proclaimed in 1562, but several also inclined to the doctrines
professed at Augsburgh in 1530 by the Protestants; the majority,
perhaps, vibrated between the two.

Anselm of Canterbury lays down the doctrines of the incarnation and
expiation as of the essence of Christianity.[59] And in a treatise in
which he teaches how to die, he says to the dying person, "Look only
to the merits of Jesus Christ." St. Bernard with powerful voice
proclaims the mystery of redemption. "If my fault comes from another,"
says he, "why should not my righteousness also be derived? Certainly,
it is far better for me to have it given me, than to have it
innate."[60] Several schoolmen, and after them chancellor Gerson,
forcibly attack the errors and abuses of the Church.

  [59] Cur Deus homo?

  [60] "Et sane mihi tutior donato quam innata." (De Erroribus Abelardi,
  cap. 6.) And it is certainly safer to me given than innate.

But, above all, let us think of the thousands of obscure individuals
unknown to the world, who, however, possessed the true life of Christ.

A monk named Arnoldi, daily in his quiet cell utters this fervent
exclamation, "O Jesus Christ my Lord! I believe that thou alone art my
redemption and my righteousness."[61]

  [61] "Credo quod tu, mi Domine Jesu Christe, solus es mea justitia et
  redemptio."... (Leibnitz, Script. Brunsw. iii, 396.)

Christopher of Utenheim, a pious bishop of Bâsle, causes his name to
be written on a picture painted on glass, and surrounds it with this
inscription, that he may have it always under his eye, "The cross of
Christ is my hope; I seek grace, and not works."[62]

  [62] "Spes mea crux Christi; gratiam, non opera quæro."

Friar Martin, a poor Carthusian, wrote a touching confession, in which
he says, "O most loving God! I know there is no other way in which I
can be saved and satisfy thy justice, than by the merit, the spotless
passion, and death of thy well-beloved Son. Kind Jesus! All my
salvation is in thy hands. Thou canst not turn the arms of thy love
away from me, for they created, shaped, and ransomed me. In great
mercy, and in an ineffable manner, thou hast engraved my name with an
iron pen on thy side, thy hands, and thy feet," etc. Then the good
Carthusian places his confession in a wooden box, and deposits the box
in a hole which he had made in the wall of his cell.[63]

  [63] "Sciens posse me aliter non salvari, et tibi satisfacere nisi per
  meritum," etc. (For these and similar quotations, see Flacius, Catal.
  Test. Veritatis; Wolfii. Lect. Memorabiles; Miller's Reliquien, etc.)

The piety of Friar Martin would never have been known had not the box
been found, 21st December, 1776, in taking down an old tenement which
had formed part of the Carthusian Convent at Bâsle.

But this touching faith these holy men had only for themselves, and
knew not how to communicate to others. Living in retreat, they might
more or less say, as in the writing which Friar Martin put into his
box, "Et si hæc prædicta confiteri non possim lingua, confiteor tamen
corde et scripto." "And these things aforesaid, if I cannot confess
with the tongue, I, however, confess with the heart and in writing."
The word of truth was in the sanctuary of some pious souls, but, to
use a Scripture expression, it had not "free course" in the world.
Still, if the doctrine of salvation was not always confessed aloud,
there were some in the very bosom of the Church of Rome who, at least,
feared not to declare openly against the abuses which dishonoured it.

Scarcely had the Councils of Constance and Bâsle, which condemned Huss
and his followers, been held, than the noble series of witnesses
against Rome, to which we have been pointing, again appears with
greater lustre. Men of a noble spirit, revolting at the abominations
of the Papacy, rise up like the prophets under the Old Testament, like
them sending forth a voice of thunder, and with a similar fate. Their
blood reddens the scaffold, and their ashes are thrown to the wind.

Thomas Conecte, a Carmelite, appears in Flanders, and declares, "that
abominations are done at Rome, that the Church has need of
reformation, and that, in the service of God, one must not fear the
excommunications of the pope."[64] Flanders listens with enthusiasm,
but Rome burns him in 1432, and his contemporaries exclaim that God
has exalted him to heaven.[65]

  [64] Bertrand d'Argentré, Histoire de Bretaigne, Paris, 1618, p. 788.

  [65] "Ille summo vivit Olympo." (Baptista Mantuanus, de Beata Vita, in
  fin.) He lives in the highest heaven.

André, Archbishop of Crayn, and a Cardinal, being at Rome as the
ambassador of the emperor, is amazed when he sees that the holiness of
the pope, in which he had devoutly believed, is only a fable; and in
his simplicity he addresses evangelical representations to Sextus IV.
He is answered with mockery and persecution. Then (1482) he wishes a
new Council to be assembled at Bâsle. "The whole Church," exclaims he,
"is shaken by divisions, heresies, sins, vices, iniquities, errors,
and innumerable evils, so much so, that it is on the eve of being
swallowed up by the devouring abyss of condemnation.[66] This is my
only reason for proposing a General Council for the Reformation of the
Catholic faith, and the amendment of manners." The Archbishop of Bâsle
was thrown into the prison of that town, and there died. Henry
Institoris, the inquisitor, who first moved against him, used these
remarkable words, "The whole world is crying out and demanding a
council; but no human power can reform the Church by means of a
Council. The Almighty will find another method, which is now unknown
to us, though it is at the door; and, by this method the Church will
be brought back to its primitive condition."[67] This remarkable
prophecy, pronounced by an inquisitor, at the very period of Luther's
birth, is the finest apology for the Reformation.

  [66] "A sorbente gurgite damnationis, subtrahi." (J. H. Hottingeri,
  Hist. Eccl. Sæcul. xv, p. 347.)

  [67] "Alium modum Altissimus procurabit, nobis quidem pro nunc
  incognitum, licet heu præ foribus existat, ut ad pristinum statum
  Ecclesia redeat." (J. H. Hottingeri, Hist. Eccl. Sæcul. xv, p. 413.)

The Dominican, Jerome Savonarola, shortly after he had entered the
order at Bologna in 1475, devotes himself to constant prayer, fasting,
and macerations, and exclaims, "O thou who art good, in thy goodness
teach me thy righteousness."[68] Translated to Florence in 1489, he
preaches with effect; his voice is thrilling, his features animated,
his action beautifully attractive. "The Church," exclaims he, "must be
renewed." And he professes the grand principle which alone can restore
life to it. "God," says he, "forgives man his sin, and justifies him
in the way of mercy. For every justified person existing on the earth,
there has been an act of compassion in heaven; for no man is saved by
his works. None can glory in themselves; and if in the presence of
God, the question were put to all the righteous, 'Have you been saved
by your own strength?' they would all with one voice exclaim, 'Not
unto us, O Lord, but unto thy name be the glory.' Wherefore, O God, I
seek thy mercy, and I bring thee not my own righteousness: the moment
thou justifiest me by grace, thy righteousness belongs to me; for
grace is the righteousness of God. So long, O man, as thou believest
not, thou art, because of sin, deprived of grace. O God, save me by
thy righteousness, that is, by thy Son, who alone was found righteous
among men."[69] Thus the great and holy doctrine of justification by
faith gladdens the heart of Savonarola. In vain do the prelates of the
Church oppose him;[70] he knew that the oracles of God are superior to
the visible church, and that he must preach them with her, without
her, or in spite of her.--"Fly far from Babylon," exclaims he. It is
Rome he thus designates. Rome soon answers him in her own way. In 1497
the infamous Alexander launches a brief at him, and in 1498 torture
and faggot do their work on the Reformer.

  [68] "Bonus es tu, et in bonitate tua doce me justificationes tuas."
  (Batesius, Vitæ Selectorum Virorum. Lond. 1681, p. 112.)

  [69] Meditationes in Psalmos; Prediche sopra il Salmo. Quam bonus
  Israel, etc. Sermones supra Archam Noe, etc.

  [70] "Inter omnes vero persecutores, potissimum Ecclesiæ præsides."
  But among all persecutors, chiefly the prelates of the Church.
  (Batesius, p. 118.)

A Franciscan, named John Vitraire, of Tournay, whose monastic spirit
seems not of a very elevated description, nevertheless, declaims
forcibly against the corruption of the Church. "It were better for a
man," says he,[71] "to cut his child's throat than put it into a
religion not reformed. If your curate, or any other priest, keep women
in his house, you ought to go and drag the women by force, or in any
other way, pell-mell, out of the house. There are some persons who say
prayers to the Virgin Mary, in order that, at the hour of death, they
may see the Virgin Mary. Thou shalt see the devil, and not the Virgin
Mary." The monk was ordered to retract, and he did so in 1498.

  [71] D'Argentré, Collectio Judiciorum de Novis Erroribus, II, p. 340.

John Laillier, a Doctor of Sorbonne, declares, in 1484, against the
tyrannical domination of the hierarchy. "All ecclesiastics," says he,
"have received equal power from Christ. The Roman Church is not the
head of other churches. You ought to keep the commandments of God and
the Apostles; and, in regard to the command of all the bishops and
other lords of the Church, care no more for it than you would for a
straw; they have destroyed the Church by their tricks.[72] The priests
of the Eastern Church sin not in marrying; and, believe me, neither
shall we in the Western Church if we marry. Since St. Sylvester the
Church of Rome has been, not a church of Christ, but a church of State
and money. We are no more bound to believe the legends of the saints
than the Chronicles of France."

  [72] Ibidem.

John of Wessalia, a doctor of theology at Erfurt, a man of great
spirit and intellect, attacks the errors on which the hierarchy rests,
and proclaims the holy Scriptures to be the only source of faith. "It
is not religion" (that is, the monastic state) "that saves us," says
he to some monks, "but the grace of God. God has from all eternity
kept a book in which he has entered all his elect. Whosoever is not
entered there will not, through eternity; and whosoever is, will never see
his name erased. It is solely by the grace of God that the elect are saved.
He whom God is pleased to save, by giving him grace, will be saved,
though all the priests in the world were to condemn and excommunicate
him. And he whom God sees meet to condemn, though these should all wish to
save him, will be made to feel his condemnation.[73] How audacious in
the successors of the apostles to order, not what Christ has
prescribed in his holy books, but what they themselves devised, when
carried away, as they now are, by a thirst for money, or a rage for
power. I despise the pope, the Church, and the Councils, and I extol
Jesus Christ." Wessalia, who had gradually arrived at those
convictions, boldly announces them from the pulpit, and enters into
communication with deputies from the Hussites. Feeble, bent with age,
and wasted by disease, the courageous old man, with tottering step,
appears before the Inquisition, and, in 1482, dies in its dungeons.

  [73] "Et quem Deus vult damnare, Si omnes vellent hunc salvare, Adhuc
  iste damnaretur."

Who is condemned by God's decree, Assuredly condemned shall be,
Whoe'er they be would save him.

(Paradoxa Damnata, etc., 1749, Moguntiæ.)

About the same time, John de Goch, prior at Malines, extolled
Christian liberty as the soul of all the virtues. He charged the
received doctrine with Pelagianism, and surnamed Thomas Aquinas the
"Prince of Error." "Canonical Scripture alone," said he, "deserves
full faith, and has an irrefragable authority. The writings of the
ancient fathers are of authority only in so far as they are
conformable to canonical truth.--There is truth in the common byword,
'What a monk dares undertake, Satan would blush to think.'"

But the most remarkable of the forerunners of the Reformation was
undoubtedly John Wessel, surnamed "The Light of the World," a man full
of courage and love for the truth, who taught theology successively
at Cologne, Louvain, Paris, Heidelberg, and Gröningen. Luther said of
him, "Had I read his works sooner, it might have been said, Luther has
drawn everything from Wessel; so much do his spirit and mine
accord."[74] "St. Paul and St. James," says Wessel, "say different but
not contrary things. Both hold that the just live by faith, but a
faith which works by love. He who understanding the gospel believes,
desires, hopes, confides in the good news, and loves Him who justifies
and blesses him, gives himself entirely to Him whom he loves, and
attributes nothing to himself, knowing that in himself he has
nothing.[75] The sheep should distinguish between the things on which
they feed, and avoid a hurtful food, though it should be offered by
the shepherd. The people ought to follow their shepherds to the
pastures, but when they lead them to what is not pasture, they are no
more shepherds; and because they are not in their duty, the flock is
no longer bound to obey them. Nothing is more effectual in destroying
the Church than a corrupt clergy. All Christians, even the meanest and
simplest, are bound to resist those who destroy the Church.[76] The
commands of prelates and doctors ought to be performed only in the
manner prescribed by St. Paul, (1 Thess., v, 21;) namely, in so far
as, sitting in the chair of Moses, they speak according to Moses. We
are the servants of God, and not of the pope, according as it is said,
'Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.'
The Holy Spirit has reserved to himself to foster, quicken, preserve,
and enlarge the unity of the Church, and not abandoned it to the Roman
Pontiff, who often gives himself no concern about the matter. Even sex
does not hinder a woman, if she is faithful and prudent, and has love
shed abroad in her heart, from feeling, judging, approving, and
concluding, by a judgment which God ratifies."

   [74] "Antiquorum Patrum scripta tantum habent auctoritatis quantum
   canonicæ veritati sunt conformia." (Epist. Apologet. Anvers, 1521.)

   [75] "Adeo spiritus utriusque concordat." (Farrago Wesseli, in Præf.)

   [76] "Extentus totus, et propensus in eum quem amat, a quo credit,
   cupit, sperat, confidit, justificatur, nihil sibi ipsi tribuit, qui
   scit nihil habere ex se." (De Magnit. Passionis, cap. xlvi, Op. p.

Thus, as the Reformation approaches, the voices which proclaim the
truth are multiplied. One would say the Church is bent on
demonstrating that the Reformation had an existence before Luther.
Protestantism was born into the Church, the very day that the germ of
the Papacy appeared in it, just as in the political world conservative
principles began to exist the very moment that the despotism of the
great or the disorders of the factious showed open front.
Protestantism was even sometimes stronger than the Papacy in the ages
preceding the Reformation. What had Rome to oppose to all these
witnesses for the truth at the moment when their voice was heard
through all the earth?

But this was not all. The Reformation existed not in the teachers
only; it existed also among the people. The doctrines of Wickliffe,
proceeding from Oxford, had spread over Christendom, and had preserved
adherents in Bavaria, Swabia, Franconia, and Prussia. In Bohemia, from
the bosom of discord and war, ultimately came forth a peaceful
Christian community, which resembled the primitive Church, and bore
lively testimony to the great principle of Evangelical opposition,
viz., "That Christ himself, not Peter and his successor, is the rock
on which the Church is built." Belonging equally to the German and
Slavonian races, these simple Christians had missionaries among the
different nations who spoke their tongues, that they might without
noise gain adherents to their opinions. At Rostoch, which had been
twice visited by them, Nicolas Kuss began in 1511 to preach publicly
against the pope.[77]

  [77] "Nemo magis Ecclesiam destruit, quam corruptus clerus.
  Destruentibus Ecclesiam omnes Christiani tenentur resistre." (De
  Potestate Eccles. Op. p. 769.)

It is important to attend to this state of things. When wisdom from
above will with loud voice deliver her instructions, there will
everywhere be intellects and hearts to receive it. When the sower, who
has never ceased to walk over the Church, will come forth for a new
and extensive sowing, the earth will be ready to receive the grain.
When the trumpet, which the Angel of the covenant has never ceased to
blow, will cause it to sound louder and louder, many will make ready
for battle.

The Church already feels that the hour of battle is approaching. If,
during the last century, more than one philosopher gave intimation of
the revolution with which it was to close, can we be astonished, that,
at the end of the fifteenth century, several doctors foresaw the
impending Reformation which was to renovate the Church?[78]

  [78] Wolfii Lect. Memorab. ii, p. 27.

André Prolés, provincial of the Augustins, who, for more than half a
century, presided over this body, and with unshaken courage maintained
the doctrines of Augustine within his order, when assembled with his
friars in the Convent of Himmelspforte, near Wernigerode, often
stopped during the reading of the word of God, and addressing the
listening monks, said to them "Brethren, you hear the testimony of
holy Scripture. It declares, that by grace we are what we are--that by
it alone we have all that we have. Whence, then, so much darkness, and
so many horrible superstitions?... Oh! brethren, Christianity has
need of a great and bold reformation, and I already see its approach."
Then the monks exclaimed, "Why don't you yourself begin this
reformation, and oppose all their errors?" "You see, my brethren,"
replied the old provincial, "that I am weighed down with years, and
feeble in body, and possess not the knowledge, talent, and eloquence,
which so important a matter requires. But God will raise up a hero,
who, by his age, his strength, his talents, his knowledge, his genius,
and eloquence, will occupy the first rank. He will begin the
reformation, he will oppose error, and God will give him such courage
that he will dare to resist the great."[79] An old monk of
Himmelspforte, who had often heard these words, related them to
Flacius. In the very order of which Prolés was provincial, the
Christian hero thus announced by him was to appear.

  [79] "Excitabit Dominus heroem ætate viribus...." (Flacii, Catal.
  Test. Verit., p. 843.)

In the Franciscan Convent at Isenach, in Thuringia, was a monk named
John Hilten. He was a careful student of the Prophet Daniel, and the
Apocalypse of St. John; he even wrote a Commentary on these Books, and
censured the most crying abuses of monastic life. The enraged monks
threw him into prison. His advanced age, and the filthiness of his
dungeon, bringing on a dangerous illness, he asked for the friar
superintendant, who had no sooner arrived, than, without listening to
the prisoner, he began to give vent to his rage, and to rebuke him
harshly for his doctrine, which (adds the chronicle) was at variance
with the monk's kitchen. The Franciscan, forgetting his illness, and
fetching a deep sigh, exclaims, "I calmly submit to your injustice for
the love of Christ; for I have done nothing to shake the monastic
state, and have only censured its most notorious abuses. _But_,"
continued he, (this is the account given by Melancthon in his _Apology
for the Confession of Augsburg_,) "_another will come in the year of
the Lord one thousand five hundred and sixteen; he will destroy you,
and you will not be able to resist him._"[80] John Hilten, who had
announced the end of the world in the year 1651, was not so much
mistaken in the year in which the future Reformer was to appear. He
was born not long after at a short distance from Hilten's dungeon,
commenced his studies in the same town where the monk was prisoner,
and publicly engaged in the Reformation only a year later than the
Franciscan had mentioned.

  [80] "Alius quidem veniet...." (Apologia Conf. Aug. xiii. De Votis


     Letters--Revival--Remembrance of Antiquity in
     Italy--Influence of the Humanists--Christianity of
     Dante--Valla--Infidelity in Italy--Platonic Philosophy--Rise
     of Literature in Germany--Youth in
     Schools--Printing--Character of German Literature--Literati
     and Schoolmen--A New World--Reuchlin--Reuchlin in Italy--His
     Works--His Influence in Germany--Mystics--Struggle with the

Thus princes and people, the living members of the Church, and the
theologians, laboured, each in their sphere, to prepare the work which
the sixteenth century was about to carry into effect. But there was
another auxiliary which was to lend its aid to the Reformation,--I
mean Literature.

The human mind was expanding--a circumstance which must of itself have
led to its emancipation. If a small seed fall close to an old wall, as
it grows into a tree it will push down the wall.

The Pontiff of Rome had become tutor to the nations, and his superior
intelligence had made the task easy to him. He had long kept them in a
state of minority, but resistance now broke forth on all sides. This
venerable tutelage, which had been primarily established by the
principles of eternal life, and of civilisation which Rome had
imparted to barbarous nations, could no longer be exercised without
opposition. A formidable adversary had met her in the face, and was
prepared to control her. The natural tendency of the human mind to
expand, to investigate, and acquire knowledge, had given birth to this
new power. Man opened his eyes, and at every step questioned the
proceedings of that long respected guide under whose direction, while
blindfolded, he had moved on without saying a word. In regard to the
nations of new Europe, the age of infancy had passed away, and that of
manhood had begun. To the childlike simplicity, which believed
everything, had succeeded a spirit of curiosity, an intellect not to
be satisfied without sifting everything to the utmost. It was asked
for what end God had spoken to the world, and whether men had a right
to station themselves as mediators between God and their brethren.

There was only one thing which could have saved the Church, and this
was to raise herself still higher above the people. To keep on a level
with them was not enough. But so far from this, she was even found to
be far beneath them, having begun to descend at the same time that
they began to rise. At the period when mankind began to ascend to the
regions of intellect, the priesthood was grovelling below among
earthly pursuits and worldly interests. This phenomenon has repeatedly
appeared in history. The wings of the eaglet were full fledged, and
what hand was high enough to prevent it from taking its flight?

The human mind made its first start in Italy.

Scholasticism and romantic poetry had at no time reigned unopposed.
Italy never entirely lost the remembrance of antiquity; and this
remembrance having been strongly awakened towards the end of the
middle ages, soon gave the mind a new impulse.

Even in the fourteenth century, Dante and Petrarch restored the honour
of the ancient Roman poets, at the same time that the former gave the
most powerful popes a place in his hell, and the latter boldly
protested for the primitive constitution of the Church. At the
beginning of the fifteenth century, John of Ravenna taught Latin
literature with applause at Padua and Florence, while Chrysoloras, at
Florence and Pavia, interpreted the beautiful writers of Greece.

While in Europe light was thus coming forth from the prisons in which
it had been confined, the East was sending new beams to the West. The
standard of the Osmanlis, planted in 1453 on the walls of
Constantinople, had put the learned to flight. They had, in
consequence, transported the literature of Greece into Italy, where
the torch of the ancients rekindled minds which had lain smothered for
so many ages. George of Trebisond, Argyropolos, Bessarion, Lascaris,
Chalcondylas, and many others, inspired the West with their love of
Greece and its noblest productions. The patriotic feelings of the
Italians were thus stimulated, and a great number of learned men
appeared in Italy. Of these, the most illustrious were Gasparino,
Aretin, Poggio, and Valla, who strove to restore the honour of Roman
antiquity, and place it on a footing with that of Greece. In this way,
a great flood of light had appeared, and Rome could not but suffer by

The passion for antiquity, which took possession of the _Humanists_,
had a great effect in weakening the attachment to the Church in minds
of the highest order; for "no man can serve two masters." At the same
time, the studies in which the learned were engaged put them in
possession of a new class of instruments, which were unknown to the
schoolmen, and by means of which they could test and decide upon the
lessons of the Church. Finding that beauties which charmed them in
classical authors existed in profusion in the Bible, and not in the
works of theologians, the _Humanists_ were quite prepared to give the
Bible precedence before the Doctors. By reforming taste, they
prepared a reformation in faith.

The Literati, it is true, loudly protested that their pursuits were
not at variance with the belief of the Church; but yet they had
assailed the schoolmen long before the Reformers began to do it, and
played off their wit on these barbarians--those "Teutons who living,
lived not."[81] Some even proclaimed doctrines of the gospel, and
assailed Rome in the objects of her dearest affection. Already Dante,
while adhering to many Roman dogmas, had proclaimed the power of faith
in terms similar to those which the first Reformers employed. "It is
true faith," he said, "that makes us citizens of heaven.[82] Faith,
according to the gospel doctrine, is the principle of life; it is the
feeble spark which, spreading always wider and wider, at length
becomes a living flame, and shines within us like a star in heaven.
Without faith, no good works, no honesty of life, can give us aid. How
great soever our sins may be, the arms of divine grace are greater
still, and wide enough to embrace whatever turns towards God.[83] The
soul is not lost by the anathema of the pontiffs; and eternal love can
always reach it, so long as there remains one bloom of hope.[84] From
God, from God alone, through faith our justice comes." And speaking of
the Church, Dante exclaims, "O my bark! how ill loaded thou art! O
Constantine! what mighty evil was engendered, I will not say by thy
conversion, but by that offering which the rich father then received
from thee!"

  [81] "Qui ne viventes quidem vivebant." (Politiani, Ep. ix, 3.)

  [82] Parad., xxiv, 44.


      Orribil furon li peccati miei;
      Ma la bontà infinita ha si gran braccia
      Che prende ciò che si revolve a lei.

            (Purgator. iii, 121-124.)


      Per lor maladizion si non si perde.
      Che non possa tornar l'eterno amore,
      Mentre che la speranza ha fior del verde?

            (Ibid., 134-136.)

At a later period, Laurentius Valla, applying the study of antiquity
to the opinions of the Church, denies the authenticity of the
correspondence between Christ and King Abgarus, rejects the tradition
as to the origin of the Apostles' Creed, and saps the foundation of
the pretended inheritance which the popes held of Constantine.[85]

  [85] De ementita Constantini donatione declamatio ad Papam." (Op.
  Basil., 1543.)

Still, however, the great light which the study of antiquity threw out
in the fifteenth century, was fitted only to destroy, and not to build
up. The honour of saving the Church could not be given either to Homer
or Virgil. The revival of letters, sciences, and arts did not found
the Reformation. The Paganism of the poets, on reappearing in Italy,
rather strengthened the Paganism of the heart. The scepticism of the
school of Aristotle, and a contempt of everything not connected with
philology, took possession of many of the Literati, and engendered an
infidelity which, while it affected submission to the Church, in
reality attacked the most important truths of religion. Peter
Pomponatius, the most famous representative of this impious tendency,
taught at Bologna and Padua, that the immortality of the soul and
providence are only philosophical problems.[86] John Francis Pica,
nephew of Pica de la Mirandôla, tells of a pope who did not believe a
God,[87] and of another who, having confessed to one of his friends,
that he did not believe in the immortality of the soul, appeared one
night after his death to the same friend, and said to him, "Ah! the
eternal fire that consumes me, makes me but too sensible of the
immortality of that soul, which, according to the view I held, was to
die with the body." This reminds us of the celebrated words which Leo
X is alleged to have said to his Secretary Bembo, "All ages know well
enough of what advantage this fable about Christ has been to us and
ours."[88]... Frivolous superstitions were attacked, but their place
was supplied by infidelity, with its disdainful sneering laugh. To
laugh at things, however sacred, was fashionable, and a proof of wit;
and if any value was set on religion, it was merely as a mean of
governing the people. "I have a fear," exclaimed Erasmus in 1516, "and
it is, that, with the study of ancient literature, ancient Paganism
will re-appear."

  [86] De Immortalitate Animæ, de Predestinatione et Providentia, etc.

  [87] Qui nullum Deum credens." (J. F. Pici de Fide, Op. ii, p. 820.)
  Who believing in God.

  [88] "Ea de Christo fabula." (Mornæi, Hist. Papatus, p. 820.)

It is true that then, as after the sarcasms of the age of Augustus,
and as in our own times, after those of the last century, a new
Platonic philosophy sprung up and attacked that irrational
incredulity, seeking, like the philosophy of the present day, to
inspire some respect for Christianity, and restore the religious
sentiment to the heart. The Medici at Florence favoured these efforts
of the Platonics. But no philosophical religion will regenerate the
Church and the world. Proud, disdaining the preaching of the cross,
and pretending to see nothing in Christian doctrines but figures and
symbols, which the majority of men cannot comprehend, it may bewilder
itself in a mystical enthusiasm, but will always prove powerless,
either to reform or to save.

What then must have happened, had not true Christianity re-appeared in
the world, and had not faith filled the hearts of men anew with its
power and its holiness? The Reformation saved religion, and with it
society, and, therefore, if the Church of Rome had had the glory of
God and the good of the people at heart, it would have welcomed the
Reformation with delight. But what were such things as these to Leo X?

However, a torch could not be lighted in Italy without sending its
beams beyond the Alps. The affairs of the Church established a
constant intercourse between the Italian Peninsula and the other parts
of Christendom, and the _barbarians_ being thus soon made to feel the
superiority and pride of the Italians, began to blush for the
imperfection of their language and their style. Some young noblemen, a
Dalberg, a Langen, a Spiegelberg, inflamed with an eager desire of
knowledge, passed over into Italy, and on their return to Germany,
brought back learning, grammar, and the classics, now so eagerly
sought after, and communicated them to their friends.[89] Shortly
after, Rodolph Agricola, a man of distinguished genius, appeared, and
was held in as high veneration for his learning and genius, as if he
had lived in the age of Augustus or Pericles. The ardour of his mind,
and the fatigues of the school, wore him out in a few years; but not
till noble disciples had been trained, through intimate intercourse
with him, to carry their master's fire all over Germany. Often, when
assembled around him, they had together deplored the darkness of the
Church, and asked why Paul so often repeats that men are justified by
faith and not by works.[90]

  [89] Hamelmann, Relatio Hist. This first impulse has been erroneously
  attributed to Thomas à Kempis. (Delprat over G. Groote, p. 280.)

  [90] "Fide justos esse." (Melancth. Decl., i, 602.)

Around the feet of these new teachers soon gathered rustic youths, who
lived by alms and studied without books, and who, divided into
sections of priests of Bacchus, arquebusiers, and many more besides,
moved in disorderly bands from town to town, and school to school. No
matter; these strange bands were the commencement of a literary
public. The masterpieces of antiquity began gradually to issue from
the presses of Germany, supplanting the schoolmen; and the art of
printing, discovered at Mayence in 1440, multiplied the energetic
voices which remonstrated against the corruption of the Church, and
those voices, not less energetic, which invited the human mind into
new paths.

The study of ancient literature had, in Germany, very different
effects from those which it had in Italy and France. Her study was
combined with faith. In the new literary culture, Germany turned her
attention to the advantage which religion might derive from it. What
had produced in some a kind of intellectual refinement, of a captious
and sterile nature, penetrated the whole life of others, warmed their
hearts, and prepared them for a better light. The first restorers of
letters in France were characterised by levity, and often even by
immorality of conduct. In Germany, their successors, animated by a
spirit of gravity, zealously devoted themselves to the investigation
of truth. Italy offering her incense to profane literature and
science, saw an infidel opposition arise. Germany, occupied with a
profound theology, and turned inwardly upon herself, saw the rise of
an opposition based on faith. The one sapped the foundations of the
Church, and the other repaired them. Within the empire was formed a
remarkable union of free, learned, and noble-minded men, among whom
princes were conspicuous, who endeavoured to render science useful to
religion. Some brought to their studies the humble faith of children,
while others brought an enlightened and penetrating intellect,
disposed, perhaps, to exceed the bounds of legitimate freedom and
criticism; both, however, contributed to clear the pavement of the
temple from the obstructions produced by so many superstitions.

The monkish theologians perceived their danger, and began to clamour
against the very studies which they had tolerated in Italy and France,
because in those countries they had gone hand in hand with levity and
dissoluteness. They entered into a conspiracy to oppose the study of
language and science, because they had caught a glimpse of faith
following in their rear. A monk was putting some one on his guard
against the heresies of Erasmus. "In what," it was asked, "do they
consist?" He confessed that he had not read the work of which he was
speaking, but one thing he knew, viz., that Erasmus had written in too
good Latin.

The disciples of literature, and the scholastic theologians, soon came
to an open rupture. The latter were in dismay when they saw the
movement which was taking place in the domain of intellect, and
thought that immobility and darkness were the best safeguards of the
Church. Their object in contending against the revival of letters was
to save Rome, but they helped to ruin it. Here Rome had much at stake.
Forgetting herself for an instant under the pontificate of Leo X, she
abandoned her old friends, and clasped her young adversaries in her
arms. The papacy and letters formed an intimacy which seemed destined
to break up the ancient alliance between monasticism and the
hierarchy. At the first glance the popes perceived not that what they
had taken for a whip was a sword capable of inflicting a mortal
wound. In the same way, during the last century, princes were seen
receiving at their court political and philosophic systems, which, if
carried into full effect, would have overturned their thrones. The
alliance was not of long duration. Literature advanced without
troubling itself about the injury which it might do to the power of
its patron. The monks and schoolmen were aware that to abandon the
pope was just to abandon themselves; and the pope, notwithstanding of
the passing patronage which he gave to the fine arts, was not the less
active when he saw the danger, in adopting measures, how much opposed
soever they might be to the spirit of the time.

The universities defended themselves as they best could against the
invasion of new light. Cologne expelled Rhagius; Leipsic, Celtes;
Rostoch, Herman von dem Busch. Still the new doctors, and with them
the ancient classics, gradually and often even by the aid of princes,
made good their footing in these public schools. Societies of
grammarians and poets were soon established in spite of the schoolmen,
and every thing, even to the name of the Literati, behoved to be
converted into Latin and Greek; for how could the friends of Sophocles
and Virgil have such names as Krachenberger or Schwarzerd? At the same
time, a spirit of independence breathed in all the universities.
Students were no longer seen in schoolboy fashion, with their books
under their arms, walking sagely and demurely with downcast eye behind
their masters. The petulance of a Martial and an Ovid had passed into
the new disciples of the Muses. It was transport to them to hear the
sarcasms which fell in torrents on the dialectical theologians, and
the heads of the literary movement were sometimes accused of
favouring, and even of exciting, the disorderly proceedings of the

Thus a new world, emerging out of antiquity, was formed in the very
heart of the world of the middle ages. The two parties could not avoid
coming to blows, and the struggle was at hand. It began with the
greatest champion of literature, with an old man on the eve of
finishing his peaceful career.

To secure the triumph of truth, the first thing necessary was to bring
forth the weapons by which she was to conquer, from the arsenals where
they had lain buried for ages. These weapons were the holy Scriptures
of the Old and New Testaments. It was necessary to revive in
Christendom a love and study of sacred literature, both Greek and
Hebrew. John Reuchlin was the individual whom divine Providence
selected for this purpose.

A very fine boy's voice was remarked in the choir of the church of
Pforzheim, and attracted the attention of the Margrave of Baden. It
was that of John Reuchlin, a young boy of agreeable manners and a
lively disposition, son of an honest burgher of the place. The
Margrave soon took him entirely under his protection, and in 1473 made
choice of him to accompany his son Frederick to the University of

The son of the bailiff of Pforzheim arrived with the prince, his heart
exuberant with joy at being admitted to this school, the most
celebrated of all the West. Here he found the Spartan Hermonymos and
John Wessel, surnamed "The Light of the World," and had an opportunity
of engaging under skilful masters in the study of Greek and Hebrew,
which had not then a single professor in Germany, and of which he was
one day to be the restorer in the country of the Reformation. The poor
young German made copies of the poems of Homer, and the speeches of
Isocrates, for wealthy students, and in this way gained the means of
continuing his studies and buying books.

But what he hears from the mouth of Wessel is of a different nature,
and makes a deep impression on his mind. "The popes may be mistaken.
All human satisfactions are blasphemy against Christ, who has
perfectly reconciled and justified the human race. To God alone
belongs the power of giving full absolution. There is no necessity for
confessing our sins to a priest. There is no purgatory, at least if it
be not God himself, who is a devouring fire, and purges away every
defilement." Reuchlin, when scarcely twenty, teaches Philosophy,
Greek, and Latin, at Bâsle, and a German (a thing then regarded as a
wonder) is heard speaking Greek.

The partizans of Rome begin to feel uneasy on seeing noble spirits at
work among these ancient treasures. "The Romans," says Reuchlin, "are
making mouths and raising an outcry, pretending that all these
literary labours are hostile to Roman piety, inasmuch as the Greeks
are schismatics. Oh! what toils and sufferings must be endured to
bring Germany back to wisdom and knowledge!"

Shortly afterward, Eberhard of Wurtemberg invited Reuchlin to
Tubingen, that he might be the ornament of this rising university, and
in 1483 took him with him into Italy. At Florence his companions and
friends were Chalcondylas, Aurispa, and John Pica de Mirandola. At
Rome, when Eberhard received a solemn audience of the pope, surrounded
by his cardinals, Reuchlin delivered an address in such pure and
elegant Latin, that the assembly, who expected nothing of the kind
from a barbarous German, were filled with the greatest astonishment,
while the pope exclaimed, "Assuredly this man deserves to take his
place beside the best orators of France and Italy."

Ten years later Reuchlin was obliged to take refuge in Heidelberg, at
the court of the Elector Philip, to escape the vengeance of Eberhard's
successor. Philip, in concert with John of Dalberg, Bishop of Worms,
his friend and chancellor, exerted himself to spread the light which
was beginning to peep forth from all parts of Germany. Dalberg had
founded a library, to which all the learned had free access, and
Reuchlin, in this new sphere, made great efforts to remove the
barbarism of his countrymen.

Having been sent to Rome by the elector in 1498, on an important
mission, he availed himself of all the time and all the money he could
spare to make new progress in Hebrew, under the learned Israelite,
Abdias Sphorne, and purchased all the Greek and Hebrew manuscripts
which he could find, with the view of employing them as so many
torches to increase the light which was beginning to dawn in his
native country.

Argyropolos, a distinguished Greek, was at this time in the metropolis
explaining the ancient marvels of the literature of his country to a
numerous audience. The learned ambassador repairs with his suite to
the hall where the teacher was lecturing, and, after bowing to him,
deplores the misery of Greece, expiring under the blows of the
Ottomans. The astonished Hellenist asks the German, "Who are you? Do
you understand Greek?" Reuchlin replies, "I am a German, and know
something of your tongue." At the request of Argyropolos he reads and
explains a passage of Thucydides, which the professor had at the
moment before him. Then Argyropolos, filled with astonishment and
grief, exclaims, "Alas! Alas! Greece, oppressed and obliged to flee,
has gone and hid herself beyond the Alps!"

Thus the sons of rude Germany, and those of ancient learned Greece,
met in the palaces of Rome, and the East and West shook hands in this
rendezvous of the world--the one pouring into the lap of the other
those intellectual treasures which had with difficulty been saved from
the barbarism of the Ottomans. God, when his designs require it,
employs some great catastrophe to break down the barrier, and
instantly bring together those who seemed to be for ever parted.

Reuchlin, on his return to Germany, was able to go back to Wurtemberg,
and proceeded, at this time especially, to execute those works which
proved so useful to Luther and the Reformation. This individual, who,
as Count Palatine, held an eminent station in the empire, and who as
a philosopher, contributed to humble Aristotle and exalt Plato--made a
Latin Dictionary, which supplanted those of the Schoolmen--composed a
Greek Grammar, which greatly facilitated the study of that
language--translated and expounded the penitential Psalms--corrected
the Vulgate, and was the first in Germany (this constitutes his
highest merit and glory) who published a Hebrew Grammar and
Dictionary. By this work Reuchlin opened the long sealed books of the
Old Testament, and reared "a monument," as he himself expresses it,
"more durable than brass."

It was not merely by his writings, but also by his life, that Reuchlin
sought to advance the reign of truth. Tall in stature, of commanding
appearance, and affable address, he instantly gained the confidence of
all with whom he had any intercourse. His thirst for knowledge was
equalled only by his zeal in communicating it. He spared neither money
nor labour to introduce the editions of the classics into Germany as
they issued from the presses of Italy; and in this way the son of a
bailiff did more to enlighten his countrymen than rich municipalities
or powerful princes. His influence over youth was great; and, in this
respect, who can calculate how much the Reformation owes to him? We
will give only one example. His cousin, a young man named Schwarzerd,
son of an artisan, who had acquired celebrity as an armourer, came to
lodge with his sister, Elizabeth, in order to study under his
direction. Reuchlin, delighted at the genius and application of his
young pupil, adopted him. Advice, presents of books, examples,
nothing, in short, he spared to make his relative useful to the Church
and to his country. He rejoiced to see his work prospering under his
eye; and, thinking the name Schwarzerd too barbarous, translated it
into Greek, and named the young student Melancthon. It was Luther's
illustrious friend.

But grammatical studies did not satisfy Reuchlin. Like his masters,
the Jewish doctors, he began to study the hidden meaning of the Word;
"God," said he, "is a Spirit, the Word is a breath,--man breathes, God
is the Word. The names which he has given himself are an echo of
eternity."[91] Like the Cabalists, he hoped to "pass from symbol to
symbol, from form to form, till he arrived at the last and purest of
all forms--that which regulates the power of the Spirit."[92]

  [91] De Verbo Mirifico.

  [92] De Arte Cabalistica.

While Reuchlin was bewildering himself in these quiet and abstruse
researches, the enmity of the Schoolmen forced him suddenly, and much
against his will, into a fierce war, which was one of the preludes of
the Reformation.

There was at Cologne a baptized Rabbin, named Pfefferkorn, who was
intimately connected with the inquisitor Hochstraten. This man and the
Dominicans solicited and procured from the emperor, Maximilian, (it
may have been with good intentions,) an order, in virtue of which the
Jews were to bring all their Hebrew books (the Bible excepted) to the
town-house of the place where they resided. There the books were to be
burned. The motive alleged was, that they were full of blasphemies
against Jesus Christ. It must be confessed that they were, at least,
full of absurdities, and that the Jews themselves would not have lost
much by the intended execution.

The emperor desired Reuchlin to give his opinion of the books. The
learned doctor expressly singled out all the books which were written
against Christianity, leaving them to their destined fate, but he
tried to save the others. "The best method of converting the
Israelites," added he, "would be to establish two Hebrew professors in
each University, who might teach theologians to read the Bible in
Hebrew, and thus refute the Jewish doctors." The Jews, in consequence
of this advice, obtained restitution of their books.

The proselytes and the inquisitors, like hungry ravens which see their
prey escape, sent forth cries of fury. Picking out different passages
from the writings of Reuchlin, and perverting their meaning, they
denounced the author as a heretic, accused him of a secret inclination
to Judaism, and threatened him with the fetters of the Inquisition.
Reuchlin was at first taken by surprise; but these men always becoming
more and more arrogant, and prescribing dishonourable terms, he, in
1513, published a "Defence against his Detractors of Cologne," in
which he painted the whole party in vivid colours.

The Dominicans vowed vengeance, and hoped, by an act of authority, to
re-establish their tottering power. Hochstraten, at Mayence, drew up a
charge against Reuchlin, and the learned works of this learned man
were condemned to the flames. The Innovators, the masters and
disciples of the new school, feeling that they were all attacked in
the person of Reuchlin, rose as one man. Times were changed,--Germany
and literature were very different from Spain and the Inquisition.

The great literary movement had created a public opinion. Even the
dignified clergy were somewhat influenced by it. Reuchlin appeals to
Leo X, and that pope, who had no great liking for ignorant monks and
fanatics, remits the whole affair to the Bishop of Spires, who
declares Reuchlin innocent, and condemns the monks in the expences of
process. The Dominicans, those props of the papacy, filled with rage,
recur to the infallible decision of Rome, and Leo, not knowing how to
act between the two hostile powers, issues a mandate superseding the

The union of letters with faith forms one of the characteristic
features of the Reformation, and distinguishes it, both from the
introduction of Christianity, and the religious revival of the present
day. The Christians, who were contemporary with the Apostles, had the
refinement of their age against them, and, with some few exceptions,
it is the same now; but the majority of literary men were with the
Reformers. Even public opinion was favourable to them. The work
thereby gained in extent, but perhaps it lost in depth.

Luther, sensible of all that Reuchlin had done, wrote to him shortly
after his victory over the Dominicans, "The Lord has acted through
you, in order that the light of Holy Scripture may again begin to
shine in this Germany, where, for many ages, alas! it was not only
smothered, but almost extinguished."[93]

  [93] Mai Vita J. Reuchlin, (Francf. 1687,) Maynhoff, J. Reuchlin and
  Seine Zeit, (Berlin, 1830.)


     Erasmus--Erasmus a Canon--At Paris--His Genius--His
     Reputation--His Influence--Popular Attack--Praise of
     Folly--Tatters--Church People--Saints--Folly and the
     Popes--Attack on Science--Principle--The Greek New
     Testament--His Profession of Faith--His Writings and
     Influence--His Failings--A Reform without Shocks--Was it
     possible--The Church without Reform--His timidity--His
     Indecision--Erasmus loses himself with all Parties.

But a man had now appeared, who regarded it as the great business of
his life to attack the scholasticism of the universities and convents,
and was the great writer of the opposition at the commencement of the
sixteenth century.

Reuchlin was not twelve years old when this first genius of the age
was born. A man of great vivacity and talent, by name Gerard, a native
of Gouda, in the Netherlands, loved a physician's daughter, named
Marguerite. The principles of Christianity did not regulate his life,
or at least passion silenced them. His parents, and nine brothers,
would have constrained him to embrace the monastic state. He fled,
leaving the object of his affection about to become a mother, and
repaired to Rome. Frail Marguerite gave birth to a son. Gerard heard
nothing of it, and some time after having received intimation from his
parents, that the object of his affection was no more, he, in a
paroxysm of grief, turned priest, and consecrated himself for ever to
the service of God. On his return to Holland, she was still alive!
Marguerite would not marry another, and Gerard, remaining faithful to
his sacerdotal vows, their affection became concentrated on their
little son. His mother had tended him with the greatest care, and his
father, after his return, sent him to school, though he was only four
years of age. He was not thirteen, when his teacher, Sinthemius, of
Deventer, clasping him rapturously in his arms, exclaimed, "This child
will reach the highest pinnacles of science." It was Erasmus of

  [94] His proper name was Gerard, the same as that of his father. This
  Dutch name he translated into Latin, Desiderius (Desired,) and into
  Greek, Ερασμος, (Erasmus.)

About this time his mother died, and his father, broken-hearted, was
not long in following her to the grave.

Young Erasmus, left alone in the world, showed the greatest aversion
to become a monk, a state of life which his guardians were for
compelling him to adopt, but to which, from the circumstances of his
birth, he may be said to have been always opposed. Ultimately he was
prevailed upon to enter a convent of canons regular, but he had no
sooner done it than he felt, as it were, borne down by the weight of
his vows. Recovering a little liberty, he is soon seen, first at the
Court of the Archbishop of Cambray, and afterwards at the University
of Paris, where he prosecuted his studies in extreme poverty, but with
the most indefatigable diligence. As soon as he could procure any
money, he employed the first part of it in the purchase of Greek
books, and the remainder in the purchase of clothes. Often did the
poor Dutchman make fruitless application to his guardians, and to this
probably it was owing, that, in after life, one of his greatest
pleasures was to give assistance to poor students. Engaged without
intermission in the pursuit of truth and knowledge, he gave a
reluctant attendance on scholastic disputes, and revolted from the
study of theology, afraid that he might discover some errors in it,
and be, in consequence, denounced as a heretic.

It was at this time Erasmus began to feel his strength. By the study
of the ancients, he acquired a perspicuity and an elegance of style,
which placed him far above the most distinguished Literati of Paris.
His employment as a teacher procured him powerful friends, while the
works which he published attracted general admiration and applause. He
well knew how to please the public, and shaking off the last remnants
of the school and the cloister, devoted himself entirely to
literature, displaying in all his writings those ingenious
observations, and that correct, lively, and enlightened spirit, which
at once amuse and instruct.

The laborious habits which he acquired at this period he retained
through life. Even in his journeys, which were usually made on
horseback, he was never idle. He composed while he was rambling across
the fields, and, on arriving at his inn, committed his thoughts to
writing. It was in this way, while travelling from Italy to England,
he composed his Praise of Folly.[95]

  [95] Εγκωμιον μοσιας. Seven editions of this work were
  disposed of in a few months.

Erasmus, early in life, acquired a high reputation among the learned,
but the enraged monks owed him a grudge, and vowed vengeance. He was
much courted by princes, and was inexhaustible in finding excuses to
evade their invitations, liking better to gain his livelihood in
correcting books with the printer Frobenius, than to live surrounded
by luxury and honour, at the magnificent courts of Charles V, Henry
VIII, and Francis I, or to encircle his head with the Cardinal's hat
which was offered him.[96]

  [96] "A principibus facile mihi contingeret fortuna, nisi mihi nimium
  dulcis esset libertas." (Ep. ad Prich.) I might easily make my fortune
  by princes, were not liberty too dear to me.

He taught in Oxford from 1509 to 1516, and then left it for Bâsle,
where he fixed his residence in 1521.

What was his influence on the Reformation?

It has been overrated by some and underrated by others. Erasmus never
was, and never could have been, a Reformer, but he paved the way for
others. Not only did he diffuse among his contemporaries a love of
science, and a spirit of research and examination, which led others
much farther than he went himself, but he was also able, through the
protection of distinguished prelates and mighty princes, to expose the
vices of the Church, and lash them with the most cutting satire.

Erasmus, in fact, attacked monks and abuses in two ways. First, there
was his popular attack. That little fair-haired man, whose peering
blue eyes keenly observed whatever came before him, and on whose lips
a somewhat sarcastic smile was always playing, though timid and
embarrassed in his step, and apparently so feeble that a breath of air
might have thrown him down, was constantly pouring out elegant and
biting sarcasms against the theology and superstition of his age. His
natural character and the events of his life had made this habitual to
him. Even in writings where nothing of the kind was to have been
expected, his sarcastic humour is ever breaking out, and, as with
needle points, impaling those schoolmen and ignorant monks against
whom he had declared war. There are many features of resemblance
between Erasmus and Voltaire. Previous authors had given a popular
turn to that element of folly which mingles with all the thoughts and
all the actions of human life. Erasmus took up the idea, and
personifying Folly, introduces her under the name of Moria, daughter
of Plutus, born in the Fortunate Islands, nursed on intoxication and
impertinence, and swaying the sceptre of a mighty empire. Giving a
description of it, she paints, in succession, all the states of the
world which belong to her, dwelling, especially, on church folks, who
refuse to own her kindness, although she loads them with her favours.
She directs her jibes and jests against the labyrinth of dialectics,
in which the theologians wander bewildered, and the grotesque
syllogisms by which they pretend to support the Church. She also
unveils the disorders, the ignorance, the impurity, and absurd conduct
of the monks.

"They are all mine," says she, "those people who have no greater
delight than to relate miracles, or hear monstrous lies, and who
employ them to dissipate the ennui of others, and, at the same time,
to fill their own purses, (I allude, particularly, to priests and
preachers.) Near them are those who have adopted the foolish, yet
pleasing persuasion, that if they cast a look at a bit of wood or a
picture representing Polyphemus or Christopher, they will, at least,
outlive that day."--"Alas! what follies," continues Moria, "follies at
which even I myself can scarcely help blushing! Do we not see each
country laying claim to its particular _saint_? Each misery has its
saint and its candle. This one relieves you in toothache, that one
gives assistance at childbirth, a third restores your stolen goods, a
fourth saves you in shipwreck, and a fifth keeps watch over your
flocks. Some of these are all-powerful in many things at once. This is
particularly the case with the Virgin, the mother of God, to whom the
vulgar attribute almost more than to her Son.[97] In the midst of all
these follies, if some odious sage arise, and, giving a counternote,
exclaim, (as in truth he may,) 'You will not perish miserably if you
live as Christians.[98] You will redeem your sins, if to the money
which you give you add hatred of the sins themselves, tears, vigils,
prayers, fastings, and a thorough change in your mode of life. Yon
saint will befriend you if you imitate his life.'--If some sage, I
say, charitably duns such words into their ears, Oh! of what felicity
does he not deprive their souls, and into what trouble, what
despondency, does he not plunge them! The mind of man is so
constituted that imposture has a much stronger hold upon it than
truth.[99] If there is any saint more fabulous than another, for
instance, a St. George, a St. Christopher, or a St. Barbara, you will
see them adored with much greater devotion than St. Peter, St. Paul,
or Christ himself."[100]

  [97] "Præcipue Deipara Virgo, cui vulgus hominum plus prope tribuit
  quam Filio." (Encomium Moriæ, Op. iv, p. 444.)

  [98] "Non mali peribis si bene vixeris." (Encomium Moriæ, Op. iv, p.

  [99] "Sic sculptus est hominis animus ut longe magis fucis quam veris
  capiatur." (Ibid., p. 450.)

  [100] "Aut ipsum Christum." (Ibid.)

Folly, however, does not stop here; she applies her lash to the
bishops themselves, "who run more after gold than after souls, and
think they have done enough when they make a theatrical display of
themselves, as Holy Fathers, to whom adoration is due, and when they
bless or anathematise." The daughter of "the Fortunate Isles" has the
hardihood even to attack the Court of Rome, and the pope himself, who,
spending his time in diversion, leaves Peter and Paul to perform his
duty. "Are there," says she, "more formidable enemies of the Church
than those impious pontiffs, who, by their silence, allow Jesus Christ
to be destroyed, who bind him by their mercenary laws, falsify him by
their forced interpretations, and strangle him by their pestilential

  [101] "Quasi sint ulli hostes Ecclesiæ perniciosiores quam impii
  pontifices, qui et silentio Christum sinunt abolescere et quæstuariis
  legibus alligant et coactis interpretationibus adulterant et
  pestilente vita jugulent." (Ibid.)

Holbein appended to the Praise of Folly, most grotesque engravings,
among which the pope figures with his triple crown. Never, perhaps,
was a work so well adapted to the wants of a particular period. It is
impossible to describe the impression which it produced throughout
Christendom. Twenty-seven editions were published in the lifetime of
Erasmus; it was translated into all languages, and served more than
any other to confirm the age in its antisacerdotal tendency.

But to this attack by popular sarcasm, Erasmus added the attack of
science and erudition. The study of Greek and Latin literature had
opened up a new prospect to the modern genius which began to be
awakened in Europe. Erasmus entered with all his heart into the idea
of the Italians, that the school of the ancients was that in which the
sciences ought to be studied, that, abandoning the inadequate and
absurd books which had hitherto been used, it was necessary to go to
Strabo for geography, to Hippocrates for medicine, to Plato for
philosophy, to Ovid for mythology, and to Pliny for natural history.
But he took a farther step, the step of a giant, destined to lead to
the discovery of a new world, of more importance to humanity than that
which Columbus had just added to the old world. Following out his
principle, Erasmus insisted that men should no longer study theology
in Scotus and Thomas Aquinas, but go and learn it from the Fathers of
the Church, and, above all, from the New Testament. He showed that it
was not even necessary to keep close to the Vulgate, which swarmed
with faults, and he rendered an immense service to truth, by
publishing his critical edition of the Greek text of the New
Testament, a text as little known in the West as if it never had
existed. This edition appeared at Bâsle in 1516, the year before the
Reformation. Erasmus thus did for the New Testament what Reuchlin had
done for the Old. Theologians were thenceforth able to read the word
of God in the original tongues, and at a later period to recognise the
purity of doctrine taught by the Reformers.

"I wish," said Erasmus on publishing his New Testament, "to bring to
its level that frigid, wordy, disputatious thing, termed Theology.
Would to God the Christian world may derive advantage from the work,
proportioned to the pain and toil which it has cost." The wish was
accomplished. It was in vain for the monks to exclaim, "He is trying
to correct the Holy Spirit." The new Testament of Erasmus sent forth a
living light. His paraphrases on the Epistles and Gospels of St.
Matthew and St. John; his editions of Cyprian and Jerome; his
translations of Origen, Athanasius, and Chrysostom; his "True
Theology;"[102] his "Preacher;"[103] his Commentaries on several of
the Psalms, contributed greatly to spread a taste for the word of God
and pure theology. The effect of his labours even went farther than
his intentions. Reuchlin and Erasmus restored the Bible to the
learned; Luther restored it to the people. We have not yet described
all that Erasmus did. When he restored the Bible, he called attention
to its contents. "The highest aim of the revival of philosophical
studies," said he, "should be to give a knowledge of the pure and
simple Christianity of the Bible." An admirable sentiment! Would to
God the organs of philosophy, in our day, were as well acquainted with
their calling! "I am firmly resolved," continued he, "to die studying
the Scriptures; it is my joy and my peace."[104] "The sum of all
Christian philosophy," he elsewhere says, "is reduced to this: To
place all our hope in God, who through grace without our merits, gives
us everything by Jesus Christ: To know that we are ransomed by the
death of his Son: To die to worldly lusts, and walk conformably to his
doctrine and his example, not only doing no injury to any, but, on the
contrary, doing good to all: To bear trials patiently, in the hope of
future recompence: in fine, to claim no credit to ourselves because of
our virtues, but give thanks to God for all our faculties, and all our
works. These are the feelings which ought to pervade the whole man,
until they have become a second nature."[105]

  [102] Ratio Veræ Theologiæ.

  [103] Seu de Ratione Concionandi.

  [104] Ad Servatium.

  [105] Ad Joh. Slechtam,1519. "Hæc sunt animis hominum inculcanda, sic,
  ut velut in naturam transeant." (Er. Ep. i, p. 680.) These things are
  to be impressed on the minds of men, so that they may become as it
  were natural.

Then raising his voice against the great mass of ecclesiastical
injunctions, regarding dress, fasts, feast-days, vows, marriage, and
confessions, by which the people were oppressed, and the priest was
enriched, Erasmus exclaims, "In churches, the interpretation of the
gospel is scarcely thought of.[106] The better part of sermons must
meet the wishes of the commissaries of indulgences. The holy doctrine
of Christ must be suppressed, or interpreted contrary to its meaning,
and for their profit. Cure is now hopeless, unless Christ himself turn
the hearts of kings and pontiffs, and awaken them to enquire after
true piety."

  [106] "In templis vix vacat Evangelium interpretari." (Annot. ad
  Matth., xi, 30, "Jugum meum suave.") There is scarcely leisure in
  churches to interpret the gospel.

The works of Erasmus rapidly succeeded each other. He laboured
incessantly, and his writings were read just as they came from his
pen. That spirit, that native life, that rich, refined, sparkling and
bold intellect, which, without restraint, poured out its treasures
before his contemporaries, carried away and entranced vast numbers of
readers, who eagerly devoured the works of the philosopher of
Rotterdam. In this way he soon became the most influential man in
Christendom, and saw pensions and crowns raining down upon him from
all quarters.

When we contemplate the great revolution, which, at a later period,
renewed the Church, it is impossible not to own that Erasmus was used
by many as a kind of bridge, over which they passed. Many who would
have taken alarm at evangelical truths, if presented in all their
force and purity, yielded to the charm of his writings, and
ultimately figured among the most zealous promoters of the

But the very circumstance of his being good in preparing, prevented
him from being good at performing. "Erasmus knows very well how to
expose error," says Luther, "but he knows not how to teach the truth."
The gospel was not the fire which warmed and sustained his life, the
centre around which his activity radiated. He was, first of all, a
learned, and, in the second place only, a Christian man. He was too
much under the influence of vanity to have a decided influence on his
age. He anxiously calculated the effect which every step he took might
have on his reputation, and there was nothing he liked so much to talk
of as himself and his fame. "The pope," wrote he to an intimate friend
with puerile vanity, at the period when he became the declared
opponent of Luther, "the pope has sent me a letter full of kindness
and expressions of respect. His secretary solemnly vows that the like
was never heard of, and that it was written word for word at the
pope's own dictation."

Erasmus and Luther are the representatives of two great ideas on the
subject of reform, and of two great parties of their own age, and of
all ages. The one is composed of men, whose leading characteristic is
a prudential timidity; the other of men of courage and resolution.
These two parties were, at this period, personified in these two
distinguished heads. The men of prudence thought that the cultivation
of theological science might lead gradually, and without disruption,
to the reformation of the Church. The men of action thought that the
diffusion of more correct ideas among the learned would not put a stop
to the superstitions of the people, and that the correction of
particular abuses was of little avail, unless the whole life of the
Church were renewed.

"A disadvantageous peace," said Erasmus, "is far better than the
justest war."[107] He thought (and how many Erasmuses have been and
still are in the world?) that a Reformation which shook the Church
might run a risk of overturning it; and he was therefore terrified
when, on looking forward, he saw the passions of men excited, saw evil
everywhere mingling itself with any little good that could be
accomplished, existing institutions destroyed in the absence of others
to supply their place, and the vessel of the Church leaking in every
part, and at length engulfed amid the storm. "Those who bring the sea
into new lagoons," said he, "are often deceived in the result; the
formidable element, once introduced, does not take the direction which
they wished to give it, but rushes where it pleases, and causes great
devastation.[108] "Be this as it may," continued he, "let disturbances
be by all means avoided. Better put up with wicked princes than by
innovations enthrone evil."[109]

  [107] "Malo hunc qualisqualis est rerum humanarum statum quam novos
  excitari tumultus," (Erasm. Ep. i, p. 953.) I had rather have the
  world as it is than have new tumults excited.

  [108] "Semel admissum, non ea fertur qua destinaret admissor." (Erasm.
  Ep. i, p. 953.) Once admitted, it goes not where the admitter

  [109] "Præstat ferre principes impios, quam novatis rebus gravius
  malum accersere." (Ad Matth. xi, 30.) It is better to bear wicked
  princes, than invite a worse calamity by innovation.

But the courageous among his contemporaries were prepared with their
answer. History had clearly enough demonstrated, that a frank
exposition of the truth, and a mortal struggle with falsehood, could
alone secure the victory. Had temporising and politic artifices been
resorted to, the wiles of the papal court would have extinguished the
light in its first glimmerings. Had not all sorts of mild methods been
tried for ages? Had not Council been held after Council, with the view
of reforming the Church? Yet all had been useless. Why pretend to
repeat an experiment that had so often failed?

No doubt a fundamental reform might be effected without disruption.
But when did anything great and good make its appearance among men
without causing agitation? This fear of seeing evil mingle with good,
if legitimate, would arrest the noblest and holiest enterprises. We
must not fear the evil which may be heaved up in the course of great
agitation, but be strong in combating and destroying it.

Besides, is there not an entire difference between the commotion which
human passions produces and that which emanates from the Spirit of
God? The one shakes society, the other consolidates it. How erroneous
to imagine, like Erasmus, that in the state in which Christianity then
was, with that mixture of opposite elements, truth and falsehood, life
and death, violent shocks might still be prevented! As well might you
try to shut the crater of Vesuvius, when the angry elements are
actually at war in its bosom! The middle ages had seen more than one
violent commotion in an atmosphere less loaded with storms than at the
period of the Reformation. The thing wanted at such a time is not to
arrest and suppress, but to direct and guide.

If the Reformation had not burst forth, who can tell the fearful ruin
by which its place might have been supplied? Society, a prey to a
thousand elements of destruction, and destitute of regenerating and
conservative elements, would have been dreadfully convulsed.
Assuredly it would not have been a reform to the taste of Erasmus, or
such an one as many moderate but timid men in our day dream of, that
would then have overtaken society. The people, devoid of that light
and piety which the Reformation carried down into the humblest ranks,
giving themselves up to the violence of their passions, and to a
restless spirit of revolt, would have burst forth like a wild beast
broken loose from its chain, after having been goaded to madness.

The Reformation was nothing but an interposition of the Spirit of God
among men, a setting of the world in order by the hand of God. No
doubt, it might stir up the fermenting elements which lie hidden in
the human heart; but God was there to overrule them. Evangelical
doctrine, heavenly truth, penetrating the masses of the population,
destroyed what deserved to perish, but, at the same time, gave new
strength to all that deserved to remain. The Reformation exerted
itself in building up, and it is mere prejudice to allege that it
destroyed. "The ploughshare, too," it has been truly said, in speaking
of the Reformation, "might think it hurts the earth, because it cuts
it asunder, whereas it only makes it productive."

The great principle of Erasmus was, "Give light, and the darkness will
disappear of itself." The principle is good, and Luther acted on it.
But when the enemies of the light strive to extinguish it, or to force
the flambeau out of the hand which carries it is it necessary, from a
love of peace, to let them do so? ought not the wicked to be resisted?

Erasmus was deficient in courage. Now, courage is indispensable,
whether it be to effect a Reformation, or to storm a town. There was
much timidity in his character. From a boy the very name of death made
him tremble. He was excessively anxious about his health, and would
grudge no sacrifice in order to escape from a place where some
contagious malady prevailed. His love of the comforts of life was
greater even than his vanity, and hence his rejection, on more than
one occasion, of the most brilliant offers.

Accordingly, he made no pretensions to the character of a Reformer.
"If the corruptions of the Court of Rome demand some great and prompt
remedy," said he, "it is no affair of mine, or of those like me."[110]
He had not the strong faith which animated Luther. While the latter
was always prepared to yield up his life for the truth, Erasmus
candidly declared, "Others may aspire to martyrdom; as for me, I deem
not myself worthy of the honour. Were some tumult to arise, I fear I
would play the part of Peter."[111]

  [110] "Ingens aliquod et præsens remedium, certe meum non est." (Er.
  Ep. i, 653.) Some vast and present remedy assuredly is not for me.

  [111] "Ego me non arbitror hoc honore dignum." (Er. Ep. i, p. 653.)

Erasmus, by his writings and his sayings, had done more than any other
man to prepare the Reformation; but, when he saw the tempest, which he
himself had raised, actually come, he trembled. He would have given
anything to bring back the calm of other days, even though accompanied
with its dense fogs. It was no longer time. The embankment had burst,
and it was impossible to arrest the flood which was destined at once
to purify and fertilise the world. Erasmus was powerful as an
instrument of God, but when he ceased to be so, he was nothing.

Ultimately, Erasmus knew not for which party to declare. He was not
pleased with any, and he had his fears of all. "It is dangerous to
speak," said he, "and it is dangerous to be silent." In all great
religious movements we meet with those irresolute characters, which,
though respectable in some points of view, do injury to the truth,
and, in wishing not to displease any, displease all.

What would become of the truth did not God raise up bolder champions
to defend it? The following is the advice which Erasmus gave to
Viglius Zuichem, (afterwards President of the Supreme Court at
Brussels,) as to the manner in which he ought to conduct himself
towards the sectaries--(this was the name by which he had already
begun to designate the Reformers)--"My friendship for you makes me
desirous that you should keep far aloof from the contagion of the
sects, and not furnish them with any pretext for saying, 'Zuichem is
ours.' If you approve their doctrine, at least disguise it, and, above
all, do not enter into discussion with them. A lawyer should finesse
with these people as a dying man once did with the devil. The devil
asked him, 'What believest thou?' The dying man, afraid that if he
made a confession of his faith, he might be surprised into some
heresy, replied, 'What the Church believes.' The devil rejoined, 'What
does the Church believe?' The man again replied, 'What I believe.' The
devil, once more, 'And what dost thou believe?'--'What the Church
believes.'"[112] Duke George of Saxony, a mortal enemy of Luther,
receiving an equivocal answer from Erasmus to a question which he had
put to him, said, "My dear Erasmus, wash the fur for me, and do not
merely wet it." Secundus Curio, in one of his works, describes two
heavens--the Papistical and the Christian heaven. He does not find
Erasmus in either, but discovers him moving constantly between them in
endless circles.

  [112] Erasm. Ep. 274.

Such was Erasmus. He wanted that internal liberty which makes a man
truly free. How different he would have been if he had abandoned
himself, and sacrificed all for truth! But after trying to effect some
reforms with the approbation of the Church, and for Rome deserting the
Reformation when he saw the two to be incompatible, he lost himself
with all parties. On the one hand, his palinodes could not suppress
the rage of the fanatical partisans of the Papacy. They felt the
mischief which he had done them, and they did not forgive it.
Impetuous monks poured out reproaches on him from the pulpit,--calling
him a second Lucian,--a fox, which had laid waste the vineyard of the
Lord. A doctor of Constance had the portrait of Erasmus hung up in his
study, that he might have it in his power at any moment to spit in his
face. On the other hand, Erasmus, by deserting the standard of the
gospel, deprived himself of the affection and esteem of the noblest
men of the period in which he lived, and must, doubtless, have
forfeited those heavenly consolations which God sheds in the hearts of
those who conduct themselves as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. At
least we have some indication of this in his bitter tears--his painful
vigils, and troubled sleep--his disrelish for his food--his disgust
with the study of the muses, once his only solace--his wrinkled
brow--his pallid cheek--his sad and sunken eye--his hatred of a life
to which he applies the epithet of cruel--and those longings for death
which he unbosoms to his friends.[113] Poor Erasmus!

  [113] "... Vigiliæ molestæ, somnus, irrequietus, cibus insipidus
  omnis, ipsum quoque musarum studium ... ipsa frontis me mœstitia,
  vultus pallor, oculorum subtristis dejectio." (Erasm, Ep. i, p. 1380.)

The enemies of Erasmus went, we think, somewhat beyond the truth when
they exclaimed, on Luther's appearance, "Erasmus laid the egg, and
Luther has hatched it."[114]

  [114] The works of Erasmus were published by John Le Clerc at Liege,
  in 1703, in ten volumes folio. For his life, see Burigny, Vie
  D'Erasme, Paris, 1757; A Müller Leben des Erasmus, Hamb., 1828; and
  the Life inserted by Le Clerc in his Bibliothèque Choisie; see also
  the fine and faithful work of M. Nisard, (Revue des deux Mondes.) who,
  however, seems to me mistaken in his estimate of Erasmus and Luther.


     The nobles--Different Motives--Hütten--Literary
     League--Letters of some Obscure Men--Their Effect--Luther's
     Opinion--Hütten at Brussels--His
     Letters--Seckingen--War--His Death--Cronberg--Hans
     Sachs--General Fermentation.

The same symptoms of regeneration, which we have seen among princes,
bishops, and the learned, existed among the men of the world, among
nobles, knights, and warriors. The German nobility performed an
important part in the Reformation. Several of the most illustrious
sons of Germany entered into close alliance with the Literati, and
inflamed with an ardent, sometimes even an excessive zeal, laboured to
deliver their countrymen from the yoke of Rome.

Various causes must have contributed to procure friends for the
Reformation among the ranks of the nobility. Some, by their attendance
at the universities, had been warmed with the same flame that animated
the learned. Others, whose education had trained them to generous
feelings, had their minds predisposed in favour of the beautiful
doctrines of the gospel. To several, the Reformation seemed to present
something of a chivalrous character, which fascinated them, and bore
them along in its train. Lastly, it must be acknowledged, that not a
few had a grudge at the clergy, who had powerfully contributed in the
reign of Maximilian, to deprive the nobles of their ancient
independence, and bring them under subjection to their sovereigns.
They, in their enthusiasm, considered the Reformation as the prelude
of a great political renovation. They thought they saw the empire
emerging from this crisis with new splendour, and hailed the better
state, brilliant with the purest glory, which was on the eve of being
established in the world by chivalrous swords, not less than by the
word of God.

Ulrich de Hütten,[115] who, on account of his philippics against the
Papacy, has been surnamed the Demosthenes of Germany, forms, as it
were, the link which united the chevaliers and men of letters. He
distinguished himself by his writings, as much as by his sword.
Descended from an ancient family in Franconia, he was sent at eleven
years of age, to the Convent of Foulda, with the view of his becoming
a monk. But Ulrich, who had no inclination for this state, ran off
from the convent when he was sixteen, and repaired to the University
of Cologne, where he devoted himself to the study of languages.
Afterwards leading an unsettled life, he was in the ranks as a common
soldier at the siege of Padua, in 1513, saw Rome in all its disorder,
and there sharpened the arrows which he afterwards shot at her.

  [115] "Animus ingens et ferox, viribus pollens.... Nam si consilia et
  conatus Hütteni non defecissent quasi nervi copiarum, atque potentiæ,
  jam mutatio omnium rerum extitisset, et quasi orbis status publici
  fuisset conversus." (Camer. Vita Melancthonis.) Of a powerful, bold,
  and vigorous intellect.... For had not Hütten's plans and efforts
  (these being, as it were, the sinews of power) been defective, a
  general alteration had taken place, and the condition of the world
  been in a manner changed.

On his return to Germany, Hütten wrote a pamphlet against Rome,
entitled "The Roman Trinity," in which he unveils all the disorders of
that court, and shows the necessity of pulling down her tyranny by
main force. A traveller named Vadiscus, who figures prominently in the
piece, says, "There are three things which are usually brought back
from Rome,--a sore conscience, a disordered stomach, and an empty
purse. There are three things which Rome does not believe,--the
immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the dead, and hell. There
are three things in which Rome carries on a trade,--the grace of
Christ, ecclesiastical benefices, and women." The publication of this
work obliged Hütten to quit the court of the Archbishop of Mayence,
where he was residing when he composed it.

The affair of Reuchlin with the Dominicans was the signal which
brought forward all the literati, magistrates, and nobles, who were
opposed to the monks. The defeat of the inquisitors, who, it was said,
had only saved themselves from a regular and absolute sentence of
condemnation by money and intrigue, gave encouragement to all their
adversaries. Counsellors of the empire, and magistrates of the most
considerable towns--Pirckheimer of Nuremberg, Peutinger of Augsburg,
Stuss of Cologne, distinguished preachers, such as Capito and
Œcolampadius, doctors of medicine, historians, all the literati,
orators, and poets, at the head of whom, Ulrich de Hütten was
conspicuous, formed the _army of Reuchlinists_, of whom a list was
even published.[116] The most remarkable production of this league was
the famous popular satire, entitled, "Letters of some Obscure Men."
This production was principally written by Hütten, and one of his
university friends, Crotus Robianus, but it is difficult to say with
which of the two the idea originated, if, indeed, it was not with the
learned printer, Angst. It is even doubtful if Hütten had any hand in
the first part of the work. Several _Humanists_, who had met in the
fortress of Ebernbourg, appear to have contributed to the second
part. It is a picture in bold characters, a caricature sometimes
coarsely painted, but full of truth and vigour, a striking likeness in
colours of fire. The effect was immense. Monks, who are adversaries of
Reuchlin, and the supposed authors of the letters, discourse on the
affairs of the time, and on theological subjects after their own
manner, and in their barbarous Latin. They address to their
correspondent, Ortuin Gratius, professor at Cologne, and friend of
Pfefferkorn, the silliest and most useless questions. They give the
most amusing proof of the excessive ignorance and incredulity, their
superstition, their low and vulgar spirit, their coarse gluttony in
making a god of their belly, and, at the same time, their pride, their
fanatical and persecuting zeal. They inform him of several of their
droll adventures, their escapes, their dissoluteness, and a variety of
scandals in the lives of Hochstraten, Pfefferkorn, and other leaders
of their party. The tone of these letters, sometimes hypocritical and
sometimes childish, gives them a very comic effect, and yet the whole
is so natural, that the Dominicans and Franciscans of England received
the work with high approbation, believing that it really was composed
on the principles of their order, and in defence of it. A prior of
Brabant, in his credulous simplicity, purchased a great number of
copies, and presented them to the most distinguished among the
Dominicans. The monks, irritated more and more, applied to the pope
for a stringent bull against all who should dare to read these
epistles, but Leo X refused to grant it. They were accordingly obliged
to put up with the general laugh, and gulp down their rage. No work
gave a stronger blow to these pillars of Papism. But it was not by
jesting and satire that the gospel was to triumph. Had this course
been persisted in; had the Reformers, instead of attacking the
Reformation with the weapons of God, had recourse to the jeering
spirit of the world, the cause had been lost. Luther loudly condemned
these satires. A friend having sent him one of them, entitled, "_The
Tenor of the Supplication of Pasquin_," he wrote in answer, "The
foolish things you sent me appear to be written by a mind which is
under no control. I submitted them to a meeting of friends, and they
have all given the same opinion."[117] And speaking of the same work,
he writes to another of his correspondents, "This Supplication appears
to me to be by the same hand as the _Letters of some Obscure Men_. I
approve of his wishes, but I approve not of his work, for he does not
refrain from injury and insult."[118] This sentence is severe, but it
shows what kind of spirit was in Luther, and how superior he was to
his contemporaries. It must be added, however, that he was not at all
times observant of these wise maxims.

  [116] "Exercitus Reuchlinistarum," at the head of a collection of
  letters addressed to Reuchlin on the subject.

  [117] L. Ep. i. p. 37.

  [118] Luth. Ep. i, p. 38.

Ulrich having been obliged to renounce the protection of the
Archbishop of Mayence, applied for that of Charles V, who had at this
time quarrelled with the pope, and accordingly repaired to Brussels,
where Charles was holding his court. But so far from obtaining
anything, he learned that the pope had required the emperor to send
him to Rome bound hand and foot. The inquisitor, Hochstraten,
Reuchlin's persecutor, was one of those whom Rome had charged to
pursue him. Ulrich, indignant that such a demand should have been made
to the emperor, quitted Brabant. When a short way from Brussels, he
met Hochstraten on the highroad. The inquisitor, frightened out of his
wits, falls on his knees, and commends his soul to God and the saints.
"No," said the knight, "I will not soil my sword with such blood as
yours!" and giving him several strokes with the flat of his sword,
allowed him to depart.

Hütten took refuge in the castle of Ebernbourg, where Francis de
Seckingen offered an asylum to all who were persecuted by the
Ultramontanists. It was here that his ardent zeal for the emancipation
of his country dictated the remarkable letters which he addressed to
Charles V, Frederick Elector of Saxony, Albert Archbishop of Mayence,
and the princes and nobles, and which entitle him to a place among the
most distinguished authors. Here too, he composed all those works[119]
which, being read and comprehended by the people, inspired Germany
with a hatred of Rome and a love of freedom. Devoted to the cause of
the Reformers, his object was to induce the nobility to take up arms
in favour of the gospel, and fall with the sword on that Rome which
Luther only wished to destroy by the Word, and by the invincible force
of truth.

  [119] The works of Hütten have been published at Berlin by Manchen,
  1822-1825, in five vols. 8vo.

Still, amid all this fondness for war, we are pleased at finding
tenderness and delicacy of sentiment in Hütten. On the death of his
parents, though he was the eldest son, he gave up all the family
property to his brothers, and prayed them not to write him or send him
any money, lest, notwithstanding their innocence, they might be
brought into trouble by his enemies, and fall into the ditch along
with him.

If the truth cannot own Hütten for one of her children, (for her
companions are ever holiness of life and purity of heart,) she will,
at least, make honourable mention of him, as one of the most
readoubtable adversaries of error.

A similar testimony may be borne to François de Seckingen, his
illustrious friend and patron. This noble chevalier, whom several of
his contemporaries deemed worthy of the imperial crown, holds first
place among the warriors who were the antagonists of Rome. While
delighting in the noise of arms, he had an ardent love of science, and
a high veneration for its professors. When at the head of an army
which threatened Wurtemberg, he gave orders, in the event of Stuttgard
being taken by assault, to spare the property and house of the
celebrated scholar, John Reuchlin. He afterwards invited him to his
camp, and, embracing him, offered to assist him in his quarrel with
the monks of Cologne. For a long time chivalry had gloried in
despising literature, but this period presents us with a different
spectacle. Under the massy cuirass of the Seckingens and Hüttens, we
perceive the intellectual movement which is beginning to be everywhere
felt. The first fruits which the Reformation gives to the world are
warriors enamoured with the arts of peace.

Hütten, who, on his return from Brussels, had taken refuge in the
castle of Seckingen, invited the valorous knight to study the
evangelical doctrine, and made him acquainted with the foundations on
which it rests. "And is there any one," exclaimed Seckingen in
astonishment, "who dares to overturn such an edifice? Who could do

Several individuals, who afterwards became celebrated as Reformers,
found an asylum in this castle; among others, Martin Bucer, Aquila,
Schwebel, and Œcolampadius, so that Hütten justly styled Ebernbourg
"the hotel of the just." Œcolampadius had to preach daily in the
castle, but the warriors there assembled began to weary hearing so
much of the meek virtues of Christianity, and the sermons of
Œcolampadius, though he laboured to shorten them, seemed too long.
They, indeed, repaired to the church almost every day, but, for the
most part, only to hear the blessing and offer a short prayer. Hence
Œcolampadius exclaimed, "Alas! the Word is here sown on stony ground."

Seckingen, longing to serve the cause of truth in his own way,
declared war on the Archbishop of Treves, "in order," as he said, "to
open a door for the gospel." In vain did Luther, who had by this time
appeared, endeavour to dissuade him; he attacked Treves with five
thousand knights and a thousand common soldiers, but the bold
archbishop, aided by the Elector Palatine and the Landgrave of Hesse,
forced him to retreat. The following spring, the allied princes
attacked him in his castle of Landstein. After a bloody assault,
Seckingen, having been mortally wounded, was forced to surrender. The
three princes, accordingly, make their way into the fortress, and,
after searching through it, at last find the indomitable knight on his
death-bed, in a subterraneous vault.

He stretches out his hand to the Elector Palatine, without seeming to
pay any attention to the other princes, who overwhelm him with
questions and reproaches: "Leave me at rest," said he to them; "I am
now preparing to answer a mightier than you!..." When Luther heard of
his death he exclaimed, "The Lord is just, yet wonderful! It is not
with the sword that he means to propagate the gospel!"

Such was the sad end of a warrior, who, as emperor or elector, might,
perhaps, have raised Germany to high renown, but who, confined within
a limited circle, wasted the great powers with which he was endowed.
It was not in the tumultuous spirit of these warriors that Divine
truth, which had come down from heaven, was to take up her abode.
Theirs were not the weapons by which she was to conquer; God, in
annihilating the mad projects of Seckingen, gave a new illustration of
the saying of St. Paul, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal,
but mighty through God."

Another chevalier, Harmut of Cronberg, a friend of Hütten and
Seckingen, appears to have had more wisdom and more knowledge of the
truth. He wrote with great moderation to Leo X, beseeching him to give
up his temporal power to its rightful possessor, viz., the emperor.
Addressing his dependants like a father, he endeavoured to make them
comprehend the doctrines of the gospel, and exhorted them to faith,
obedience, and confidence in Jesus Christ, "who," added he, "is the
sovereign Lord of all." He resigned a pension of two hundred ducats
into the hands of the emperor, "because he was unwilling," as he
expressed it, "to continue in the service of one who lent his ear to
the enemies of the truth." I have somewhere met with a beautiful
saying of his, which seems to place him far above Hütten and
Seckingen. "The Holy Spirit, our heavenly Teacher, is able, when he
pleases, to teach us more of the faith of Christ in one hour than we
could learn in ten years at the University of Paris."

Those who look for the friends of reformation only on the steps of
thrones,[120] or in cathedrals and academies, and maintain that no
such friends exist among the people, are under a serious mistake. God,
while preparing the heart of the wise and powerful, was also
preparing, in retirement, many simple and humble-minded men, who were
one day to become obedient to the Word. The history of the period
gives evidence of the fermentation which was then going on among the
humbler classes. The popular literature, previous to the Reformation,
had a tendency directly opposed to the spirit which was prevalent in
the Church. In the "Eulenspiegel," a celebrated popular poetical
collection of the period, the laugh is incessantly kept up at priests,
beasts, and gluttons, who keep full-stocked cellars, fine horses, and
well-lined pantries. In the "Renard Reinecke," the households of
priests, with their little children, play an important part. Another
popular writer thunders with all his might against those ministers of
Christ who ride splendid horses, but won't fight the infidels; and
John Rosenblut, in one of his carnival games, brings the Grand Turk
upon the stage, to preach a seasonable sermon to all the states of

  [120] See Châteaubriand, Etudes Historiques.

It was unquestionably in the bowels of the people that the
Reformation, which was soon to break out, was fermenting. Not only
from this class were youths seen coming forth, who were afterwards to
occupy the first stations in the Church, but even individuals, who
continued all their lives to labour in the humblest professions,
contributed powerfully to the great awakening of Christendom. It may
be proper to give some traits in the life of one of them.

On the 5th November 1494, a tailor of Nuremberg, by name Hans Sachs,
had a son born to him. The son, named Hans (John) like his father,
after having received some schooling, was apprenticed to a shoemaker.
Young Hans availed himself of the liberty of thought, which this
humble profession afforded, to penetrate into the higher world, in
which his soul delighted. Songs, after they ceased in the castles of
chivalry, seem to have sought, and to have found, an asylum among the
burghers of the joyous cities of Germany. A singing-school was held in
the Church of Nuremberg. The performances which took place there, and
in which young Hans was accustomed to join, opened his heart to
religious impressions, and helped to awaken a taste for poetry and
music. The genius of the youth could not long brook confinement within
the walls of his workshop. He wished to see with his own eyes that
world of which he had read so much, and been told so many stories by
his comrades, and which his imagination peopled with wonders. In 1511
he bundles up his effects, and sets out in the direction of the South.
The young traveller, falling in with gay comrades, students roaming
the country, and many dangerous temptations soon feels a serious
struggle within. The lusts of the world and his pious resolutions war
with each other. Trembling for the result, he takes flight, and, in
1513, hides himself in the little town of Wels in Austria, where he
lives in retirement, devoting himself to the study of the fine arts.
The emperor, Maximilian, happens to pass through the town with a
brilliant suite, and the young poet is quite fascinated with the
splendour of the court. The prince receives him into his hunting
train, and Hans once more forgets himself, under the noisy vaults of
the palace of Insprüch. But his conscience again sounds the alarm, and
the young huntsman, immediately throwing aside his brilliant uniform,
takes his departure, and arrives at Schwatz near Munich. There, in
1514, at the age of twenty, he composed his first hymn, "In Honour of
God," setting it to a remarkable air. It was received with great
applause. In the course of his journeys, he was witness to many sad
proofs of the abuses under which religion groaned.

On his return to Nuremberg, Hans commences business, marries, and
becomes the father of a family. When the Reformation breaks out he
turns a listening ear. He cordially welcomes the Holy Scripture, which
had already endeared itself to him as a poet, and he no longer
searches it for images and hymns, but for the light of truth. To this
truth he consecrates his lyre. From a humble stall in front of one of
the gates of the imperial city of Nuremberg, come forth notes which
re-echo over Germany, and everywhere excite a deep interest in the
great revolution which is going forward. The spiritual songs of Hans
Sachs, and his Bible turned into verse, greatly aided the work.
Indeed, it would be difficult to say which of the two did most for
it--the elector of Saxony, vicegerent of the empire, or the shoemaker
of Nuremberg.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus, then, there was something in all classes which announced a
Reformation. On all sides signs appeared, and events pressed forward
threatening to overthrow the work of ages of darkness, and introduce
men to a period in which "all things were to become new." The
hierarchical form, which several ages had been employed in stamping
upon the world, was on the eve of being effaced. The light which had
just been discovered had, with inconceivable rapidity, introduced a
number of new ideas into all countries, and all classes of society
gave signs of new life. "O age!" exclaims Hütten, "studies flourish,
and minds awake: Mere life is joy!"... The human intellect, which had
been slumbering for so many generations, seemed desirous, by its
activity, to redeem the time which it had lost. To have left it in
idleness, without nourishment, or to have given it no better food than
that which had long maintained its languid existence, would have been
to mistake the nature of man. The human mind having at length
perceived what it was, and what it ought to be, looked boldly at these
two states, and scanned the immense abyss which lay between them.
Great princes were on the throne, the ancient colossus of Rome was
tottering under its own weight, and the old spirit of chivalry was
taking leave of the earth to make way for a new spirit, which breathed
at once on the sanctuaries of knowledge, and on the dwellings of the
poor. The printed Word had taken wing, and been carried, as the wind
does certain seeds, to the most distant regions. The discovery of the
two Indies had enlarged the world.... Every thing announced that a
great revolution was at hand.

But whence will the blow come which is to strike down the ancient
edifice, that a new edifice may arise out of its ruins? Nobody could
say. Who had more wisdom than Frederick? More science than Reuchlin?
More talent than Erasmus? More spirit and versatility than Hütten?
More valour than Seckingen? More virtue than Cronberg? And yet,
neither Frederick, nor Reuchlin, nor Erasmus, nor Seckingen, nor
Hütten, nor Cronberg.... Learned men, princes, warriors, the Church
herself, had sapped some of the foundations: but there they had
stopped. The powerful hand which God had designed to employ was
nowhere to be seen.

All, however, felt that it must soon make its appearance, while some
even pretended to have seen indications of it in the stars. One class,
seeing the miserable state of religion predicted the near approach of
Antichrist. Another class, on the contrary, predicted a speedy
Reformation. The world was waiting.... Luther appeared.





     Luther's Descent--His Parents--His Birth--Poverty--The
     Paternal Roof--Strict Discipline--First Lessons--The School
     of Magdebourg--Wretchedness--Isenach--The Shunammite--The
     House of Cotta--The Arts--Remembrance of those Times--His
     Studies--Trebonius--The University.

All was ready. God takes ages to prepare his work, but when the hour
is come, accomplishes it by the feeblest instruments. To do great
things by small means, is the law of God. This law, which appears in
every department of nature, is found also in history. God took the
Reformers of the Church, where he had taken the Apostles. He selected
them from that humble class which, without containing the meanest of
the people, is scarcely the length of citizenship. Every thing must
manifest to the world that the work is not of man, but of God. The
Reformer Zuinglius comes forth from the hut of a shepherd of the Alps,
Melancthon, the Theologian of the Reformation, from the workshop of an
armourer, and Luther from the cottage of a poor miner.

The first stage in a man's life, that in which he is formed and
moulded under the hand of God, is always important, and was so
especially in the case of Luther. There, even at that period, the
whole Reformation existed. The different phases of that great work
succeeded each other in the soul of him who was the instrument of
accomplishing it, before it was actually accomplished. The knowledge
of the Reformation which took place in Luther's heart is the only key
to the Reformation of the Church. We must study the particular work,
if we would attain to a knowledge of the general work. Those who
neglect the one will never know more than the form and exterior of the
other. They may acquire a knowledge of certain events and certain
results, but the intrinsic nature of the revival they cannot know,
because the living principle which formed the soul of it, is hidden
from them. Let us then study the Reformation in Luther, before
studying it in events which changed the face of Christendom.

In the village of Mora, towards the forests of Thuringia, and not far
from the spot where Boniface, the Apostle of Germany, began to
proclaim the gospel, there existed, and, undoubtedly, had existed for
ages, an ancient and numerous family of the name of Luther.[121] The
eldest son, as usual with the peasantry of Thuringia, always succeeded
to the house and the paternal plot, while the younger members of the
family set out in quest of a livelihood. John Luther having married
Margaret Lindemann, daughter of an inhabitant of Neustadt, in the
bishopric of Warzburg, the married couple removed from the plains of
Isenach, and fixed their residence in the little town of Eisleben, in
Saxony, in order to gain their bread by the sweat of their brow.

  [121] "Vetus familia est et late propagata mediocrium hominum."
  (Melancth. Vita Luth.) It is an old and wide spread family, consisting
  of individuals in humble circumstances.

Seckendorff relates, on the testimony of Robhan, superintendant of
Isenach in 1601, that Luther's mother, thinking she was still far from
her time, had gone to the fair of Eisleben, and there, unexpectedly,
gave birth to a son. Notwithstanding of the credit due to such a man
as Seckendorff, this account appears not to be correct. In fact, none
of the older biographers of Luther make any mention of it. Besides,
Mora is more than twenty-four leagues distant from Eisleben, and
persons in the circumstances in which Luther's mother then was seldom
are disposed to take such long journeys _to go to the fair_. In fine,
the account seems quite at variance with Luther's own statement.[122]

  [122] "Ego natus sum in Eisleben, baptizatusque apud Sanctum Petrum
  ibidem. Parentes mei de prope Isenaco illuc migrarunt." (Luth., Ep. i,
  p. 390.) I was born at Eisleben, and baptized in St. Peter's there. My
  parents came thither from near Isenach.

John Luther was an upright, straightforward, hard-working man, with a
firmness of character bordering on obstinacy. Of a more cultivated
mind than usual with persons of his class, he was a great reader.
Books were then rare. But he never let pass any opportunity of
procuring them. They were his relaxation in the intervals of repose
from hard and long-continued labour. Margaret possessed the virtues
which adorn honest and pious women. She was remarked, in particular,
for her modesty, her fear of God, and her spirit of prayer. The
mothers of the place regarded her as a model whom they ought to

  [123] "Intuebantur in eam cæteræ honestæ mulieres ut in exemplar
  virtutum." (Melancth. Vita Lutheri.) Other honest wives looked to her
  as a model of virtue.

It is not exactly known how long this couple had been fixed at
Eisleben, when, on the 10th November, an hour before midnight,
Margaret gave birth to a son. Melancthon often questioned the mother
of his friend as to the period of his birth. "I remember the day and
the hour very well," would she reply; "but for the year, I am not
certain of it." Luther's brother, James, an honest and upright man,
has stated, that, in the opinion of all the family, Martin was born in
the year of Christ 1483, on the 10th November, being St. Martin's
eve.[124] The first thought of the pious parents was to take the
infant which God had given them, and dedicate it to God in holy
baptism. On the following day, which happened to be a Tuesday, the
father, with gratitude and joy, carried his son to St. Peter's church,
where he received the seal of his dedication to the Lord. He was named
Martin in honour of the day.

  [124] Ibid.

Young Martin was not six months old when his parents quitted Eisleben
for Mansfeld, which is only five leagues distant. The mines of
Mansfeld were then much famed, and John Luther, a labouring man,
feeling that he might perhaps be called to rear a numerous family,
hoped he might there more easily gain a livelihood. It was in this
town that the intellect and powers of young Luther received their
first development; here his activity began to be displayed, and his
disposition to be manifested by what he said and did. The plains of
Mansfeld, the banks of the Wipper, were the scenes of his first sports
with his playmates.

The commencement of their residence at Mansfeld was attended with
painful privations to honest John and his wife; for they lived some
time in great poverty. "My parents," says the Reformer, "were very
poor. My father was a poor wood-cutter, and my mother often carried
his wood on her back to procure subsistence for us children. The toil
they endured for us was severe, even to blood." The example of parents
whom he respected, and the habits in which they trained him, early
accustomed Luther to exertion and frugality. Often, doubtless, he
accompanied his mother to the wood, and made up his little faggot

Promises are given to the just man's labour, and John Luther
experienced the reality of them. Having become somewhat more easy in
his circumstances, he established two smelting furnaces at Mansfeld.
Around these furnaces young Martin grew up; and the return which they
yielded enabled his father, at a later period, to provide for his
studies. "The spiritual founder of Christendom," says worthy
Mathesius, "was to come forth from a family of miners, an image of
what God purposed, when he employed him to cleanse the sons of Levi,
and purify them in his furnaces like gold."[125] Universally respected
for his integrity, his blameless life, and good sense, John Luther was
made a counsellor of Mansfeld, the capital of the county of that name.
Too great wretchedness might have weighed down the spirit of the
child, but the easy circumstances of the paternal roof expanded his
heart, and elevated his character.

  [125] "Drumb musste diese geistliche Schmelzer...." (Mathesius,
  Historien, 1565, p. 3.)

John availed himself of his new situation to cultivate the society
which he preferred. He set great value on educated men, and often
invited the clergymen and teachers of the place to his table. His
house presented an example of one of those societies of simple
citizens which did honour to Germany at the commencement of the
sixteenth century, and, as a mirror, reflected the numerous images
which succeeded each other on the troubled stage of that time. It was
not lost on the child. The sight of men to whom so much respect was
shown in his father's house must, doubtless, on more than one
occasion, have awakened in young Martin's heart an ambitious desire
one day to become a school-master or a man of learning.

As soon as he was of an age to receive some instruction, his parents
sought to give him the knowledge and inspire him with the fear of God,
and train him in Christian virtues. Their utmost care was devoted to
his primary domestic education.[126] This, however, was not the sole
object of their tender solicitude.

  [126] "Ad agnitionem et timorem Dei, ... domestica institutione
  diligenter assuefecerunt." (Melancth. Vit. Luth.) By domestic
  instruction, they carefully trained him into the knowledge and fear of

His father, desirous of seeing him acquire the elements of knowledge
for which he himself had so much esteem, invoked the Divine blessing
on his head, and sent him to school. As Martin was still a very little
boy, his father or Nicolas Emler, a young man of Mansfeld, often
carried him in their arms to the house of George Emilius, and went
again to fetch him. Emler afterwards married one of Luther's sisters.

The piety of the parents, their activity and strict virtue, gave a
happy impulse to the boy, making him of a grave and attentive spirit.
The system of education which then prevailed employed fear and
punishment as its leading stimulants. Margaret, though sometimes
approving the too strict discipline of her husband, often opened her
maternal arms to Martin, to console him in his tears. She herself
occasionally carried to excess that precept of Divine wisdom, which
says, "He that spareth the rod hateth his son." The impetuous temper
of the child often led to frequent reproof and correction. "My
parents," says Luther, in after life, "treated me harshly, and made me
very timid. My mother one day chastised me about a filbert till the
blood came. They believed with all their heart they were doing right,
but they could not discriminate between dispositions, though this is
necessary in order to know when and how punishments should be

  [127] "Sed non poterant discernere ingenia secundum quæ essent
  temperandæ correctiones." (Luth. Op. W. xxii, p. 1785.) But they could
  not discriminate between minds, though these ought to regulate

The poor child's treatment at school was not less severe. His master
one morning beat him fifteen times in succession. "It is necessary,"
said Luther, when mentioning the fact, "it is necessary to chastise
children; but it is necessary, at the same time, to love them." With
such an education, Luther early learned to despise the allurements of
a sensual life. "He who is to become great must begin with
little,"[128] justly remarks one of his earliest biographers; "and if
children are brought up with too much delicacy and tenderness, it does
them harm all the rest of their life."

  [128] "Was gross sol werden, muss klein angeben." (Mathesius, Hist. p.

Martin learned something at school. He was taught the heads of the
Catechism, the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's
Prayer, hymns, forms of prayer, and the _Donat_. This last was a Latin
grammar, composed in the fourth century by Donatus, St. Jerome's
master; and having been improved in the eleventh century by a French
monk, named Remigius, was long in high repute as a school-book. He
moreover conned the Ciseo-Janus, a very singular almanac, composed in
the tenth or eleventh century. In short, he learned all that was
taught in the Latin school of Mansfeld.

But the child seems not to have been brought to God. The only
religious sentiment which could be discovered in him was that of fear.
Whenever he heard Jesus Christ mentioned he grew pale with terror; for
the Saviour had been represented to him as an angry Judge. This
servile fear, so foreign to genuine religion, perhaps predisposed him
for the glad tidings of the gospel, and for the joy which he
afterwards experienced when he became acquainted with him who is meek
and lowly in heart.

John Luther longed to make his son a learned man. The new light, which
began to radiate in all directions, penetrated even the cottage of the
miner of Mansfield, and there awakened ambitious thoughts. The
remarkable disposition, and persevering application of his son,
inspired John with the most brilliant hopes. Accordingly, in 1497,
when Martin had completed his fourteenth year, his father resolved to
part with him, and send him to a school of the Franciscans at
Magdebourg. Margaret behoved, of course, to consent, and Martin
prepared to quit the paternal roof.

Magdebourg was like a new world to Martin. Amid numerous privations,
(for he had scarcely the means of subsistence,) he read and attended
lectures; André Prolés, provincial of the Augustine Order, was then
preaching with great fervour on the necessity of reforming religion
and the Church. He, however, was not the person who deposited in the
young man's soul the first germ of those ideas which afterwards
expanded in it.

This period was a kind of severe apprenticeship to Luther. Launched
upon the world at fourteen, without friend or patron, he trembled in
presence of his masters, and, during the hours of recreation,
painfully begged his food with children as poor as himself. "I and my
comrades," says he, "begged a little food for our subsistence. One
day, at the season when the Church celebrates the birth of Jesus
Christ, we were in a body scouring the neighbouring villages, going
from house to house, and, in four parts, singing the ordinary hymns on
the Babe at Bethlehem. We stopped before a peasant's cottage, which
stood by itself at the extremity of a village. The peasant, hearing us
singing our Christmas carols, came out with some provisions which he
meant to give us, and asked, in a gruff voice, and a harsh tone,
'Where are you, boys?' His tones frightened us, and we took to our
heels. We had no cause for fear; for the peasant was sincere in his
offer of assistance: but our hearts were, no doubt, made timid by the
menaces and tyranny with which masters at this period oppressed their
scholars; hence the sudden fright which seized us. At last, however,
the peasant still continuing to call us, we stopped, laid aside our
fear, and, running up to him, received the food which he intended for
us." "In the same way," adds Luther, "are we wont to tremble and flee
when our conscience is guilty and alarmed. Then we are afraid even of
the assistance which is offered to us, and of those who are friendly
to us, and would do us all sorts of kindness."[129]

  [129] Luth. Op. Walch. ii, 2347.

A year had scarcely passed, when John and Margaret, on being made
aware of the difficulties which their son had in living in Magdebourg,
sent him to Isenach, where there was a celebrated school, and they had
a number of relations.[130] They had other children; and though their
circumstances had improved, they were unable to maintain their son in
a strange town. The forges and late hours of John Luther did no more
than keep the family at Mansfield. It was hoped that Martin would find
a livelihood more easily at Isenach, but he was not more successful.
His relations in the town did not trouble themselves about him.
Perhaps their own poverty made them unable to give him any assistance.

  [130] "Isenachum enim pene totam parentelam habet." (Luth. Ep. i, p.
  390.) For almost all my relations live in Isenach.

When the scholar felt the gnawings of hunger he had no resource but to
do as at Magdebourg,--to join his fellow-students, and sing with them
before the houses for a morsel of bread. This custom of the time of
Luther has been preserved, even to our day, in several towns of
Germany, where the voices of the boys sometimes produce a most
harmonious chant. Instead of bread, poor modest Martin often received
only hard words. Then, overcome with sadness, he shed many tears in
secret, unable to think of the future without trembling.

One day, in particular, he had been repulsed from three houses, and
was preparing, without having broken his fast, to return to his
lodging, when, on arriving at St. George's Square, he halted, and,
absorbed in gloomy thoughts, stood motionless before the house of an
honest burgher.

Will it be necessary, from want of bread, to give up study, and go and
work with his father in the mines of Mansfeld? Suddenly a door opens,
and a female is seen on the threshold,--it was the wife of Conrad
Cotta, the daughter of the burgomaster of Ilefeld.[131] Her name was
Ursula. The Chronicles of Isenach call her "the pious Shunammite," in
allusion to her who so earnestly pressed the prophet Elisha to eat
bread with her. Previous to this the Christian Shunammite had more
than once observed young Martin in the assemblies of the faithful, and
been touched by the sweetness of his voice, and his devout
behaviour.[132] She had just heard the harsh language addressed to the
poor scholar, and seeing him in sadness before her door, she came to
his assistance, beckoned him to enter, and set food before him to
appease his hunger.

  [131] Lingk's Reisegesch, Luth.

  [132] "Dieweil sic umb seines singen und herzlichen Gebets willen."...
  (Mathesius. p. 3.)

Conrad approved of the benevolence of his wife, and was even so much
pleased with the society of young Luther, that some days after he took
him home to his house. From this moment his studies were secure. He
will not be obliged to return to the mines of Mansfeld, and bury the
talent with which God has entrusted him. When he no longer knew what
was to become of him God opened to him the heart and the home of a
Christian family. This event helped to give him that confidence in God
which in after life the strongest tempests could not shake.

In the house of Cotta, Luther was introduced to a mode of life very
different from that which he had hitherto known. He there led an easy
existence, exempt from want and care. His mind became more serene, his
disposition more lively, and his heart more open. His whole being
expanded to the mild rays of charity, and began to beat with life,
joy, and happiness. His prayers were more ardent, and his thirst for
knowledge more intense. He made rapid progress.

To literature and science he added the charms of art. Those who are
designed by God to act upon their contemporaries are themselves, in
the first instance, seized and carried along by all the tendencies of
their age. Luther learned to play on the flute and the lute. The
latter instrument he often accompanied with his fine counter voice,
thus enlivening his heart in moments of sadness. He took pleasure also
in employing his notes to testify his gratitude to his adopted mother,
who was very fond of music. His own love of it continued to old age,
and both the words and the music of some of the finest anthems which
Germany possesses are his composition. Some have even been translated
into our language.

Happy time for the young man! Luther always remembered it with
emotion. Many years after, a son of Conrad having come to study at
Wittemberg, when the poor scholar of Isenach had become the doctor of
his age, he gladly received him at his table and under his roof. He
wished to pay back to the son part of what he had received from the
parents. It was while thinking of the Christian woman who gave him
food when all besides repulsed him, that he gave utterance to this
fine expression, "Earth has nothing gentler than the female heart in
which piety dwells."

Luther was never ashamed of the days when, pressed by hunger, he was
under the necessity of begging for his studies and his maintenance. So
far from this, he, on the contrary, reflected with gratitude on the
great poverty of his youth. He regarded it as one of the means which
God had employed to make him what he afterwards became, and he felt
thankful for it. The poor youths who were obliged to follow the same
course touched his heart. "Do not," said he, "despise the boys who
sing before your houses, and ask 'panem propter Deum,' bread for the
love of God; I have done it myself. It is true that at a later period,
my father, with great love and kindness, kept me at the University of
Erfurt, maintaining me by the sweat of his brow; still I once was a
poor beggar. And now by means of my pen, I am come thus far, that I
would not change situations with the Grand Turk himself. Nay, more,
were all the goods of the world piled up one above another, I would
not take them in exchange for what I have. And yet, I should not be
where I am, if I had not been at school and learned to write." Thus,
in these first humble beginnings this great man traced the origin of
his fame. He fears not to remind us that that voice whose accents made
the empire and the world to tremble, had once begged a morsel of bread
in the streets of a poor city. The Christian takes pleasure in such
recollections, as reminding him that it is in God he must glory.

The strength of his intellect, and the liveliness of his imagination,
soon enabled him to outstrip all his fellow-students.[133] His
progress was particularly rapid in ancient languages, eloquence, and
poetry. He wrote essays and made verses. Lively, complaisant, and what
is called good-hearted, he was a great favourite with his masters and
his comrades.

  [133] "Cumque et vis ingenii acerrima esset, et imprimis ad
  eloquentiam idonea, celeriter æqualibus suis præcurrit," (Melancth.
  Vit. Luth.) As he was of a very powerful mind, and had a particular
  turn for eloquence, he soon got before his companions.

Among the professors, he attached himself particularly to John
Trebonius, a learned man of pleasing manners, who showed youth those
attentions which are so well fitted to encourage them. Martin had
remarked, that when Trebonius entered the class, he took off his hat,
and bowed to the students;--great condescension in those pedantic
times! This had pleased the young man, and made him feel that he was
not a mere cipher. The respect of the master had made the pupil rise
in his own estimation. The colleagues of Trebonius, who had not the
same custom of taking off their hats, having one day expressed their
astonishment at his extreme condescension, he replied, (and the reply
made no less impression on young Luther,) "Among these youths are men
whom God will one day make burgomasters, chancellors, doctors, and
magistrates; and though you do not yet see them with their badges of
office, it is right, however, to show them respect." No doubt, the
young student listened with pleasure to these words, and even then,
perhaps, saw himself with a doctor's cap on his head.


     Scholasticism and the Classics--Luther's
     Piety--Discovery--The Bible--Sickness--Master of
     Arts--Conscience--Death of
     Alexis--Thunderstorm--Providence--Adieus--Entrance into a

Luther had attained his eighteenth year. He had tasted the pleasures
of literature, and burning with eagerness to learn, he sighed after a
university, and longed to repair to one of those fountains of science,
at which he might quench his thirst for knowledge.[134] His father
wished him to study law, and already saw him filling an honourable
station among his fellow-citizens, gaining the favour of princes, and
making a figure on the theatre of the world. It was resolved that the
young student should repair to Erfurt.

  [134] "Degustata igitur literarum dulcedine natura, flagrans
  cupiditate discendi appetit academiam." (Mel. Vit. Luth). Having thus
  tasted the sweets of literature, and having naturally an ardent desire
  of knowledge, he longs for a university.

Luther arrived at this university in the year 1501. Jadocus, surnamed
the Doctor of the Isenach, was then teaching the scholastic philosophy
with much success. Melancthon regrets that the only thing then taught
at Erfurt should have been a dialectics bristling with difficulties.
He thinks that if Luther had found other professors there, if he had
been trained in the milder and calmer discipline of true philosophy,
it might have moderated and softened the vehemence of his nature.[135]
The new scholar began to study the philosophy of the middle ages in
the writings of Occam, Scotus, Bonaventura, and Thomas Aquinas. At a
later period he had a thorough disgust for all this scholasticism. The
very name of Aristotle, pronounced in his hearing, filled him with
indignation; and he even went the length of saying, that if Aristotle
was not a man, he would have no hesitation in taking him for the
devil. But his mind, in its eagerness for learning, stood in need of
better nourishment, and he began to study the splendid monuments of
antiquity, the writings of Cicero and Virgil, and the other classics.
He was not contented, like the common run of students, with committing
the productions of these writers to memory. He endeavoured, above all,
to enter into their thoughts; to imbue himself with the spirit which
animated them; to appropriate their wisdom; to comprehend the end of
their writings; and enrich his understanding with their weighty
sentiments and brilliant images. He often put questions to his
professors, and soon outstripped his fellow students.[136] Possessed
of a retentive memory and a fertile imagination, whatever he read or
heard remained ever after present to his mind, as if he had actually
seen it. "So shone Luther in his youth. The whole university," says
Melancthon, "admired his genius."[137]

  [135] "Et fortassis ad leniendam vehementiam naturæ mitiora studia
  veræ philosophiæ." (Ibid.) Perhaps the milder studies of true
  philosophy might have served to soften the vehemence of his natural

  [136] "Et quidem inter primos, ut ingenio studioque multos coæqualium
  antecellebat." (Cochlœus, Acta Lutheri, p. 1.) And he was indeed among
  the first, excelling many of his fellow-students, both in genius and

  [137] "Sic igitur in juventute eminebat, ut toti academiæ Lutheri
  ingenium admirationi esset." (Vita Luth.) So brilliant was he in
  youth, that the whole university were in admiration at his talents.

But even at that period this young man of eighteen did not confine his
labours to the cultivation of his intellect. He had that serious
thought, that uplifted heart, which God bestows on those whom he
destines to be his most faithful servants. Luther felt that he was
dependent on God--a simple, yet powerful, conviction--the source at
once of profound humility and great achievements. He fervently invoked
the Divine blessing on his labours. Each morning he began the day with
prayer, then he went to church, and on his return set to study, losing
not a moment during the course of the day. "To pray well," he was wont
to say, "is more than the half of my study."[138]

  [138] "Fleissig gebet, ist uber die helft studirt." (Mathes. 3.)

Every moment which the young student could spare from his academical
labours was spent in the library of the university. Books were still
rare, and he felt it a great privilege to be able to avail himself of
the treasures amassed in this vast collection. One day (he had then
been two years at Erfurt, and was twenty years of age) he opens
several books of the library, one after the other, to see who their
authors were. One of the volumes which he opens in its turn attracts
his attention. He has never before seen one like it. He reads the
title, ... it is a Bible! a rare book, at that time unknown.[139] His
interest is strongly excited; he is perfectly astonished to find in
this volume any thing more than those fragments of gospels and
epistles which the Church has selected to be read publicly in the
churches every Sabbath day. Hitherto he had believed that these
formed the whole word of God. But here are so many pages, chapters,
and books, of which he had no idea! His heart beats as he holds in his
hand all this divinely-inspired Scripture, and he turns over all these
divine leaves with feelings which cannot be described. The first page
on which he fixes his attention tells him the history of Hannah and
young Samuel. He reads, and his soul is filled with joy to
overflowing. The child whom his parents lend to Jehovah for all the
days of his life; the song of Hannah, in which she declares that the
Lord lifts up the poor from the dust, and the needy from the dunghill,
that he may set him with princes; young Samuel growing up in the
presence of the Lord; the whole of this history, the whole of the
volume which he has discovered, make him feel in a way he has never
done before. He returns home, his heart full. "Oh!" thinks he, "would
it please God one day to give me such a book for my own!"[140] Luther
as yet did not know either Greek or Hebrew; for it is not probable
that he studied these languages during the first two or three years of
his residence at the university. The Bible which had so overjoyed him
was in Latin. Soon returning to his treasure in the library, he reads
and re-reads, and in his astonishment and joy returns to read again.
The first rays of a new truth were then dawning upon him.

  [139] "Auff ein Zeit, wie er die Bücher fein nacheinander besieht....
  kombt er uberdie lateinische Biblia."... (Mathes 3.)

  [140] "Avide percurrit, cœpitque optare ut olim talem librum et ipse
  nancisci posset." (M. Adami, Vita Luth. p. 103.) He eagerly runs it
  over, and begins to wish that he himself might one day possess such a

In this way God has put him in possession of His word. He has
discovered the book of which he is one day to give his countrymen that
admirable translation in which Germany has now for three centuries
perused the oracles of God. It was perhaps the first time that any
hand had taken down this precious volume from the place which it
occupied in the library of Erfurt. This book, lying on the unknown
shelves of an obscure chamber, is to become the book of life to a
whole people. The Reformation was hid in that Bible.

This happened the same year that Luther obtained his first academical
degree, viz., that of Bachelor. The excessive fatigue which he had
undergone in preparing for his trials brought on a dangerous illness.
Death seemed to be approaching, and solemn thoughts occupied his mind.
He believed that his earthly course was about to terminate. There was
a general lamentation for the young man. What a pity to see so many
hopes so soon extinguished! Several friends came to visit him in his
sickness; among others a priest, a venerable old man, who had with
interest followed the student of Mansfeld in his labours and academic
life. Luther was unable to conceal the thought which agitated him.
"Soon," said he, "I will be called away from this world." But the old
man kindly replied, "My dear bachelor, take courage; you will not die
of this illness. Our God will yet make you a man, who, in his turn,
will console many other men. For God lays his cross on him whom he
loves, and those who bear it patiently acquire much wisdom."[141]
These words made a deep impression on the sick youth. When so near
death he hears the lips of a priest reminding him that God, as
Samuel's mother had said, lifts up the miserable. The old man has
poured sweet consolation into his heart and revived his spirits; he
will never forget him. "This was the first prediction the Doctor
heard," says Mathesius, Luther's friend, who relates the fact; "and he
often mentioned it." It is easy to understand what Mathesius means by
calling it a prediction.

  [141] "Deus te virum faciet qui alios multos iterum consolabitur."

When Luther recovered, something within him had undergone a change.
The Bible, his illness, and the words of the old priest, seemed to
have made a new appeal to him. As yet, however, there was nothing
decided in his mind. He continued his studies, and, in 1505, took his
degree of Master of Arts, or Doctor in Philosophy. The University of
Erfurt was then the most celebrated in Germany,--the others in
comparison with it being only inferior schools. The ceremony was, as
usual, performed with great pomp. A procession with torches came to do
homage to Luther.[142] The fête was superb, and all was joy. Luther,
encouraged, perhaps, by these honours, was disposed to devote himself
entirely to law, agreeably to his father's wish.

  [142] Luth. Op. (W.) xxii, p. 2229.

But God willed otherwise. While Luther was occupied with other
studies, while he began to teach the physics and ethics of Aristotle,
and other branches of philosophy, his heart ceased not to cry to him
that piety was the one thing needful, and that he ought above all to
make sure of his salvation. He was aware of the displeasure which God
testifies against sin; he remembered the punishments which he
denounces against the sinner; and he asked himself in fear, whether he
was sure of possessing the Divine favour. His conscience answered, No!
His character was prompt and decided; he resolved to do all that might
be necessary to give him a sure hope of immortality. Two events, which
happened in succession, shook his soul, and precipitated his

Among his friends at the university was one named Alexis, with whom he
was very intimate. One morning it was rumoured in Erfurt that Alexis
had been assassinated. Deeply moved at the sudden loss of his friend,
he puts the question to himself--What would become of me were I called
thus suddenly? The question fills him with the greatest dismay.[143]

  [143] "Interitu sodalis sui contristatus." (Cochlœus, p. 1.)

This was in the summer of 1505. Luther, left at liberty by the
ordinary recess of the university, resolved on a journey to Mansfeld,
to revisit the loved abodes of his infancy, and embrace his parents.
Perhaps he also wished to open his heart to his father, and sound him
as to the design which was beginning to form in his mind, and obtain a
consent to his embracing another calling. He foresaw all the
difficulties which awaited him. The indolent habits of the majority of
priests displeased the active miner of Mansfeld. Besides,
ecclesiastics were little esteemed in the world; most of them had but
scanty incomes, and the father, who had made many sacrifices to
maintain his son at the university, and who saw him at twenty a public
teacher in a celebrated school, was not disposed to renounce the hopes
which his pride was cherishing.

We know not what passed during Luther's visit at Mansfeld. Perhaps the
decided wish of his father made him afraid to open his heart to him.
He again quitted the paternal roof to go and take his seat on the
benches of the university, and had reached within a short distance of
Erfurt, when he was overtaken by one of those violent storms which are
not unfrequent among these mountains. The thunder bursts, and strikes
close by his side. Luther throws himself on his knees. It may be his
hour is come, Death, judgment, and eternity, surround him with all
their terrors, and speak to him with a voice which he can no longer
resist. "Wrapt in agony, and in the terror of death," as he himself
describes it,[144] he makes a vow, if he is delivered from this danger
to abandon the world, and give himself entirely to God. After he had
risen from the ground, still continuing to see that death which must
one day overtake him, he examines himself seriously, and asks what he
ought to do.[145] The thoughts which formerly agitated him return with
full force. He has endeavoured, it is true, to fulfil all his duties.
But in what state is his soul? Can he appear with a polluted heart
before the tribunal of a God so greatly to be feared? He must become
holy, and, accordingly, he now thirsts for holiness as he had thirsted
for science. But where is it to be found? How shall he acquire it? The
university has furnished him with the means of satisfying his desire
of knowledge. Who will extinguish the agony, the flame which is
consuming him? To what school of holiness must he bend his steps? He
will go into a cloister; the monastic life will save him. How often
has he heard tell of its power to transform a heart, to sanctify a
sinner, to make a man perfect! He will enter a monastic order. He will
then become holy, and in that way secure eternal life.[146]

  [144] "Mit Erschrecken und Angst Ides Todes umgeben." (Luth., Ep. ii,

  [145] "Cum esset in campo, fulminis ictu territus." (Cochlœ. i.) Being
  terrified by a thunderbolt when he was in the field.

  [146] "Occasio autem fuit ingrediendi illud vitæ genus, quod pietati
  et studiis doctrinæ de Deo, existimavit esse convenientius." (Mel.
  Vita Luth.) He adopted this mode of life, because he thought it better
  adapted to piety and the study of divine truth.

Such was the event which changed the calling and all the destinies of
Luther. We here recognise the finger of God. It was his mighty hand
which threw down on the high road this young Master of Arts, this
candidate for the bar, this future lawyer, in order to give an
entirely new direction to his life. Rubianus, one of Luther's friends,
wrote to him at a later period:--"Divine Providence had a view to what
you were one day to become, when, as you were returning from your
parents, the fire of heaven made you fall to the ground like another
Paul, near the town of Erfurt, and carrying you off from our society,
threw you into the Order of Augustine." Analogous circumstances thus
signalised the conversion of Paul and Luther, the two greatest
instruments which Divine Providence has employed in the two greatest
revolutions which have taken place upon the earth.[147]

  [147] Some biographers say that Alexis was killed by the thunder-clap
  which terrified Luther; but two of his contemporaries, Mathesius, (p.
  4,) and Selneccer, (in Orat. de Luth.) distinguish between the two
  events, and we might even corroborate their testimony by that of
  Melancthon, who says, "Sodalem nescio quo casu interfectum." (Vita
  Luth.) His companion being killed by an accident, I know not what.

Luther again enters Erfurt. His resolution is immovable, and yet it is
not without a pang he is going to break ties which are dear to him. He
gives no hint to any one of his intentions. But one evening he invites
his friends in the university to a cheerful and frugal repast. Music
once more enlivens their social intercourse. It is Luther's adieu to
the world. Henceforth, instead of those loved companions of pleasure
and toil--monks; instead of those cheerful and intellectual
conversations--the silence of the cloister; instead of that enchanting
music--the grave notes of the tranquil chapel. God demands it; all
must be sacrificed. Yet, for this last time, once more the joys of
youth. His friends are full of glee. Luther even leads them on. But
at the moment when they are abandoning themselves to mirth and frolic,
the young man becomes unable any longer to restrain the serious
thoughts which occupy his heart. He speaks.... He makes known his
intention to his astonished friends, who endeavour, but in vain, to
combat it. That same night, Luther, afraid perhaps of importunate
solicitation, quits his lodgings, leaving behind him all his effects
and all his books, with the exception of Virgil and Plautus, (as yet
he had no Bible.) Virgil and Plautus! Epic and Comedy! singular
representation of Luther's mind. In fact, there was in him a whole
epic, a beautiful, splendid, and sublime poem; but being naturally
inclined to gayety, pleasantry, and broad humour, he mingled more than
one familiar trait with the solemn and magnificent groundwork of his

Furnished with these two books he proceeds alone, in the dark, to the
convent of the Eremites of St. Augustine, and asks to be received. The
door opens and closes, and he is separated for ever from his parents,
his fellow-students, and the world. This took place on the 17th August
1505, when Luther's age was twenty-one years and nine months.


     His Father's Anger--Pardon--Servile Employments--The Bag and
     the Cell--Courage--St.
     Augustine--D'Ailly--Occam--Gerson--The Bible--Hebrew and
     Greek--The Hours--Asceticism--Agony--Luther during
     Mass--Agony--Useless Observances--Luther in a Faint.

At length he was with God. His soul was in safety. This holiness, so
earnestly longed for, he was now to find. At the sight of this young
doctor, the monks were all admiration, and extolled him for his
courage and contempt of the world.[148] Luther, meanwhile, did not
forget his friends. He wrote to take leave of them and the world, and
the next day despatched these letters, with the clothes he had
hitherto worn, and his diploma of Master of Arts, which he returned to
the university, that nothing might in future remind him of the world
which he had abandoned.

  [148] "Hujus mundi contemptu, ingressus est repente, multes
  admirantibus, monasterium." (Cochlœus, i.) From contempt of this
  world, he, to the wonder of many, suddenly entered a monastery.

His friends at Erfurt were thunderstruck. Must so distinguished a
genius go and hide himself in this monastic life--more properly, a
kind of death?[149] In deep sorrow they hastened to the convent, in
the hope of inducing Luther to retrace the distressing step which he
had taken; but all was useless. The gates were closed, and a month
passed before any one was permitted to see or speak to the new monk.

  [149] "In vita semi-mortua." (Melch. Adami. V. L. p. 102.) A half-dead

Luther had hastened to acquaint his parents with the great change
which had just occurred in his life. His father was thunderstruck. He
trembled for his son,--so Luther himself informs us in his book on
Monastic Vows, which he dedicated to his father. His weakness, his
youth, the ardour of his passions, everything, in short, made him fear
that after the first moment of enthusiasm, the indolence of the
cloister would make the youth fall either into despair, or into
grievous faults. He knew that this mode of life had proved fatal to
many. Besides, the counsellor-miner of Mansfield had other views for
his son. He was proposing a rich and honourable marriage for him--and,
lo! all his ambitious projects are in one night overthrown by this
imprudent action.

John wrote his son a very angry letter, in which, as Luther himself
tells us, he _thou'd_ him whereas he had _you'd_ him ever since he had
taken his degree of Master of Arts. He withdrew all his favour from
him, and declared him disinherited of a father's affection. In vain
did the friends of John Luther, and doubtless his wife also, endeavour
to mollify him; in vain did they say to him, "If you are willing to
make some sacrifice to God, let it be the best and dearest thing that
you have--your son--your Isaac." The inexorable counsellor of Mansfeld
would hear nothing.

Some time after, (the statement is given by Luther in a sermon which
he preached at Wittemberg, 20th January 1544,) the plague broke out,
and deprived John Luther of two of his sons. On the back of these
bereavements, while the father's heart was torn with grief, some one
came and told him, "The monk of Erfurt also is dead!" His friends took
advantage of the circumstance to bring back the father's heart to the
novice. "If it is a false alarm," said they, "at least sanctify your
affliction by consenting sincerely to your son's being a monk." "Well,
well!" replied John Luther, his heart broken, and still half
rebellions; "and God grant him all success." At a later period, when
Luther, who had been reconciled to his father, told him of the event
which had led him to rush into monastic orders,--"God grant," replied
the honest miner, "that what you took for a sign from heaven may not
have been only a phantom of the devil!"[150]

  [150] "Gott geb das es nicht ein Betrug und teuflisch Gespenst sey."
  (Luth. Ep. ii, p. 101.)

At this time Luther was not in possession of that which was afterwards
to make him the Reformer of the Church. His entrance into the convent
proves this. It was an action done in the spirit of an age out of
which he was soon to be instrumental in raising the Church. Though
destined to become the teacher of the world, he was still its servile
imitator. A new stone was placed on the edifice of superstition by the
very hand which was soon to overturn it. Luther was seeking salvation
in himself, in human practices and observances, not knowing that
salvation is wholly of God. He was seeking his own righteousness and
his own glory, and overlooking the righteousness and glory of the
Lord. But what he as yet knew not he soon afterwards learned. That
immense change which substituted God and His wisdom in his heart for
the world and its traditions, and which prepared the mighty revolution
of which he was the most illustrious instrument, took place in the
cloister of Erfurt.

Martin Luther, on entering the convent, changed his name to that of

The monks had received him with joy. It was no small satisfaction to
their self-love to see the university abandoned for a house of their
order, and that by one of the most distinguished teachers.
Nevertheless, they treated him harshly, and assigned him the meanest
tasks. They wished to humble the doctor of philosophy, and teach him
that his science did not raise him above his brethren. They thought,
moreover, they would thus prevent him from spending his time in
studies from which the convent could not reap any advantage. The
_ci-devant_ Master of Arts behoved to perform the functions of
watchman, to open and shut the gates, wind up the clocks, sweep the
church, and clean up the rooms.[151] Then when the poor monk, who was
at once porter, sacristan, and house-hold servant to the cloister, had
finished his task--_"Cum sacco per civitatem"_--"To the town with the
bag," exclaimed the friars; and then, with his bread-bag on his
shoulders, he walked up and down over all the streets of Erfurt,
begging from house to house, obliged, perhaps, to present himself at
the doors of those who had been his friends or inferiors. On his
return, he had either to shut himself up in a low narrow cell, looking
out on a plot only a few yards in extent, or to resume his menial
offices. But he submitted to all. Disposed by temperament to give
himself entirely to whatever he undertook, when he turned monk he did
it with his whole soul. How, moreover, could he think of sparing his
body, or of having regard to what might satisfy the flesh? That was
not the way to acquire the humility and holiness in quest of which he
had come within the walls of the cloister.

  [151] "Loca immunda purgare coactus fuit." (M. Adami, Vita Luth. p.
  103.) He was obliged to clear away filth.

The poor monk, worn out with fatigue, was eager to seize any moment
which he could steal from his servile occupations, and devote it to
the acquisition of knowledge. Gladly did he retire into a corner, and
give himself up to his beloved studies. But the friars soon found him
out, gathered around him, grumbled at him, and pushed him away to his
labours, saying, "Along! along! it is not by studying, but by begging
bread, corn, eggs, fish, flesh, and money, that a friar makes himself
useful to his convent."[152] Luther submitted, laid aside his books,
and again took up his bag. Far from repenting of having subjected
himself to such a yoke, his wish was to bring it to a successful
result. At this period, the inflexible perseverance with which he ever
after followed out the resolutions which he had once formed, began to
be developed. The resistance which he made to rude assaults gave
strong energy to his will. God exercised him in small things that he
might be able to stand firm in great things. Besides, in preparing to
deliver his age from the miserable superstitions under which it
groaned, it was necessary that he should feel the weight of them. In
order to empty the cup he behoved to drink it to the dregs.

  [152] Selnecceri Orat. de Luth. Mathesius, p. 5.

This severe apprenticeship, however, did not last so long as Luther
might have feared. The prior of the convent, on the intercession of
the university of which Luther was a member, relieved him from the
mean functions which had been imposed on him, and the young monk
resumed his studies with new zeal. The writings of the Fathers,
particularly those of Augustine, engaged his attention; the Commentary
of this illustrious doctor on the Psalms, and his treatise "On the
Letter and the Spirit," being his special favourites. Nothing struck
him more than the sentiments of this Father on the corruption of the
human will, and on Divine grace. His own experience convincing him of
the reality of this corruption, and the necessity of this grace, the
words of Augustine found a ready response in his heart; and could he
have been of any other school than that of Jesus Christ, it had
doubtless been the school of the doctor of Hippo. The works of Peter
D'Ailly and Gabriel Biel he almost knew by heart. He was struck with a
remark of the former--that had not the Church decided otherwise, it
would have been much better to admit that in the Lord's Supper bread
and wine are truly received, and not mere accidents.

He likewise carefully studied the theologians, Occam and Gerson, who
both express themselves so freely on the authority of the popes. To
this reading he joined other exercises. In public discussions he was
heard unravelling the most complicated reasonings, and winding his way
through labyrinths where others could find no outlet. All who heard
him were filled with admiration.[153]

  [153] "In disputationibus publicis, labyrinthos aliis inextricabiles,
  diserte, multis admirantibus explicabat." (Melanc. Vit. Luth.) In
  public disputations, he, to the admiration of many, clearly unravelled
  labyrinths which others found inextricable.

But he had entered the cloister, not to acquire the reputation of a
great genius, but in quest of the food of piety.[154] These labours he
accordingly regarded as supernumerary.

  [154] "In eo vitæ, genere non famam ingenii, sed alimenta pietatis
  quærebat." In that course of life he sought not a reputation for
  genius, but the food of piety.

But the thing in which he delighted above all others was to draw
wisdom at the pure fountain of the word of God. In the convent he
found a Bible fastened to a chain, and was ever returning to this
chained Bible. He had a very imperfect comprehension of the Word, but
still it was his most pleasant reading. Sometimes he spent a whole day
in meditating on a single passage; at other times he learned passages
of the Prophets by heart. His great desire was, that the writings of
the apostles and prophets might help to give him a knowledge of the
will of God, increase the fear which he had for his name, and nourish
his faith by the sure testimony of the Word.[155]

  [155] "Et firmis testimoniis aleret timorem et fidem." (Melancth. Vit.
  Luth.) And by its sure testimonies nourish his fear and his faith.

Apparently at this period he began to study the Scriptures in the
original tongues, and thereby lay the foundation of the most perfect
and the most useful of his labours, the translation of the Bible. He
used a Hebrew Lexicon which Reuchlin had just published. His first
guide was probably John Lange, a friar of the convent, versed in Greek
and Hebrew, and with whom he always maintained a close intimacy.[156]
He also made great use of the learned Commentaries of Nicolas Lyra,
who died in 1340, and hence the saying of Pflug, afterwards Bishop of
Naumbourg, "Had not Lyra played the lyre, Luther had never danced. _Si
Lyra non lyrasset, Lutherus non saltasset._"

  [156] Gesch. d. deutsch, Bibelübersetzung.

The young monk studied so closely and ardently that he often omitted
to say his Hours during two or three weeks. Then becoming alarmed at
the thought of having transgressed the rules of his order, he shut
himself up to make amends for his negligence, and commenced
conscientiously repeating all the omitted Hours, without thinking of
meat or drink. On one occasion his sleep went from him for seven

Earnestly intent on acquiring the holiness in quest of which he had
entered the cloister, Luther addicted himself to the ascetic life in
its fullest rigour, seeking to crucify the flesh by fastings,
macerations, and vigils.[157] Shut up in his cell as in a prison, he
struggled without intermission against the evil thoughts and evil
propensities of his heart. A little bread and a herring were often all
his food. Indeed, he was naturally very temperate. Often when he had
no thought of purchasing heaven by abstinence, have his friends seen
him content himself with the coarsest provisions, and even remain four
days in succession without eating or drinking.[158] We have this on
the testimony of a very credible witness, Melancthon, and we may judge
from it what opinion to form of the fables which ignorance and
prejudice have circulated concerning Luther's intemperance. At the
period of which we treat there is no sacrifice he would have declined
to make, in order to become holy and purchase heaven.[159] When
Luther, after he had become Reformer, says that heaven is not
purchased, he well knew what he meant. "Truly," wrote he to George,
Duke of Saxony, "truly I was a pious monk, and followed the rules of
my order more strictly than I can tell. If ever monk had got to heaven
by monkery, I had been that monk. In this all the monks of my
acquaintance will bear me witness. Had the thing continued much longer
I had become a martyr unto death, through vigils, prayer, reading, and
other labours."[160]

  [157] "Summa disciplinæ severitate se ipse regit, et omnibus
  exercitiis, lectionum, disputationum, jejuniorum, precum, omnes longe
  superat." (Melancth. Vita Luth.) He observes the utmost rigour of
  discipline, and in all the exercises of reading, discussion, fastings,
  and prayers, far surpasses all.

  [158] "Erat enim natura, valde modici cibi et potus; vidi continuis
  quatuor diebus, cum quidem recte valeret, prorsus nihil edentem aut
  bibentem." (Ibid.) For he was naturally moderate in the use of meat
  and drink; I have seen him, no doubt, when in perfect health, neither
  eating nor drinking for four successive days.

  [159] "Strenue in studiis et exercitiis spiritualibus militavit ibi
  Deo, annis quatuor." (Cochlœus, i.) There, in studies and spiritual
  exercises, he was a strenuous servant of God for four years.

  [160] Luth. Op. (W.) xix, 2299.

We are touching on the period which made Luther a new man, and which,
revealing to him the immensity of the Divine love, fitted him for
proclaiming it to the world.

The peace which Luther had come in search of he found neither in the
tranquillity of the cloister nor in monastic perfection. He wished to
be assured of his salvation; it was the great want of his soul, and
without it he could have no repose. But the fears which had agitated
him when in the world, followed him into his cell. Nay, they were even
increased; the least cry of his heart raising a loud echo under the
silent vaults of the cloister. God had brought him thither that he
might learn to know himself, and to despair of his own strength and
virtue. His conscience, enlightened by the Divine word, told him what
it was to be holy; but he was filled with alarm at not finding, either
in his heart or his life, that image of holiness which he had
contemplated with admiration in the word of God; a sad discovery made
by every man who is in earnest! No righteousness within, no
righteousness without, everywhere omission, sin, defilement.... The
more ardent Luther's natural disposition was the more strongly he felt
the secret and unceasing resistance which human nature opposes to
goodness. This threw him into despair.

The monks and theologians of the day invited him to do works in order
to satisfy the Divine justice. But what works, thought he, can proceed
from such a heart as mine! How should I be able with works polluted in
their very principle, to stand in presence of my holy Judge? "I felt
myself," says he, "to be a great sinner before God, and deemed it
impossible to appease him by my merits."

He was agitated, and, at the same time, gloomy, shunning the silly and
coarse conversation of the monks, who, unable to comprehend the
tempests of his soul, regarded him with astonishment,[161] and
reproached him for his gloom and taciturnity. It is told by Cochlœus,
that one day, when they were saying mass in the chapel, Luther had
come with his sighs, and stood amid the friars in sadness and anguish.
The priest had already prostrated himself, the incense had been placed
on the altar, the _Gloria_ had been chanted, and they were reading the
Gospel, when the poor monk, no longer able to contain his agony,
exclaimed, in a piercing tone, while throwing himself on his knees,
"Not I! not I!"[162] Every one was in amazement, and the service was
for a moment interrupted. Perhaps Luther thought he had heard himself
reproached with something of which he knew he was innocent; perhaps he
meant to express his unworthiness to be one of those to whom the death
of Christ brought eternal life. Cochlœus says that they were reading
the passage of Scripture which tells of the dumb man out of whom
Christ expelled a demon. If this account is correct, Luther's cry
might have a reference to this circumstance. He might mean to intimate
that though dumb like the man, it was owing to another cause than the
possession of a demon. In fact, Cochlœus informs us that the friars
sometimes attributed the agonies of their brother to occult commerce
with the devil,[163] and he himself is of the same opinion.

  [161] "Visus est fratribus non nihil singularitatis habere."
  (Cochlœus, i.) The friars thought him not a little eccentric.

  [162] "Cum, ... repente ceciderit vociferans: 'Non sum! non sum!'"
  (Ibid.) When he suddenly fell down, crying out, "Not I! not I."

  [163] "Ex occulto aliquo cum dæmone commercio." (Cochlœus, i.) From
  some hidden intercourse with a demon.

A tender conscience led Luther to regard the smallest fault as a great
sin. No sooner had he discovered it than he strove to expiate it by
the severest mortifications. This, however, had no other effect than
to convince him of the utter inefficacy of all human remedies. "I
tormented myself to death," says he, "in order to procure peace with
God to my troubled heart and agitated conscience; but, surrounded with
fearful darkness, I nowhere found it."

The acts of monastic holiness which lulled so many consciences, and to
which he himself had recourse in his agony, soon appeared to Luther
only the fallacious cures of an empirical and quack religion. "At the
time when I was a monk, if I felt some temptation assail me, I am
lost! said I to myself, and immediately resorted to a thousand
methods, in order to suppress the cries of my heart. I confessed every
day, but that did me no good. Thus oppressed with sadness, I was
tormented by a multiplicity of thoughts. 'Look!' exclaimed I, 'there
you are still envious, impatient, passionate! It is of no use then,
for you, O wretch, to have entered this sacred order.'"

And yet Luther, imbued with the prejudices of his day, had from his
youth up considered the acts, whose impotence he now experienced, as
sure remedies for diseased souls. What was he to think of the strange
discovery which he had just made in the solitude of the cloister? It
is possible, then, to dwell in the sanctuary, and still carry within
oneself a man of sin! He has received another garment, but not another
heart. His hopes are disappointed. Where is he to stop? Can it be that
all these rules and observances are only human inventions? Such a
supposition appears to him at one time a suggestion of the devil, and
at another time an irresistible truth. Struggling alternately with the
holy voice which spoke to his heart, and with venerable institutions
which had the sanction of ages, Luther's life was a continual combat.
The young monk, like a shade, glided through the long passages of the
cloister, making them echo with his sad groans. His body pined away
and his strength left him; on different occasions he remained as if he
were dead.[164]

  [164] "Sæpe eum cogitantem attentius de ira Dei, aut de mirandis
  pœnarum exemplis, subito tanti terrores concutiebant ut pene
  exanimaretur." (Melancth. Vita Luth.) Often when meditating more
  attentively on the wrath of God, or striking examples of punishment,
  he was suddenly shaken with such terror that he became like one dead.

Once, overwhelmed with sadness, he shut himself up in his cell, and
for several days and nights allowed no one to approach him. Lucas
Edemberger, one of his friends, feeling uneasy about the unhappy monk,
and having some presentiment of the state in which he actually was,
taking with him several boys, who were accustomed to chant in choirs,
went and knocked at the door of his cell. No one opens or answers.
Good Edemberger, still more alarmed, forces the door. Luther is
stretched on the floor insensible, and showing no signs of life. His
friend tries in vain to revive him, but he still remains motionless.
The young boys begin to chant a soft anthem. Their pure voices act
like a charm on the poor monk, who had always the greatest delight in
music, and he gradually recovers sensation, consciousness, and
life.[165] But if music could for some moments give him a slight
degree of serenity, another and more powerful remedy was wanted to
cure him effectually--that soft and penetrating sound of the gospel,
which is the voice of God himself. He was well aware of this, and,
accordingly, his sorrows and alarms led him to study the writings of
the apostles and prophets with renewed zeal.[166]

  [165] Seckend., p. 53.

  [166] "Hoc studium ut magis expeteret, illis suis doloribus et
  pavoribus movebatur." (Melancth. Vita Luth.) His griefs and fears
  urged him to prosecute this study with greater eagerness.


     Pious Men in Cloisters--Staupitz--His Piety--His
     Visitation--Conversation--The Grace of
     Christ--Repentance--Power of Sin--Sweetness of
     Repentance--Election--Providence--The Bible--The Old
     Monk--The Remission of Sins--Consecration Dinner--The Fête
     Dieu--Call to Wittemberg.

Luther was not the first monk who had passed through similar
struggles. The cloisters often shrouded within the obscurity of their
walls abominable vices, at which if they had been brought to light,
every honest mind would have shuddered; but they often also concealed
Christian virtues which were there unfolded in silence, and which, if
they had been placed before the eyes of the world, would have excited
admiration. These virtues, possessed by those who lived only with
themselves and with God, attracted no attention, and were often even
unknown to the modest convent within which they were contained.
Leading a life known to God only, these humble solitaries fell
occasionally into that mystical theology, sad malady of noblest minds,
which formerly constituted the delight of the first monks on the banks
of the Nile, and which uselessly consumes those who fall under its

Still, when one of these men happened to be called to an eminent
station, he there displayed virtues whose salutary influence was long
and widely felt. The candle being placed on the candlestick gave light
to all the house. Several were awakened by this light, and hence those
pious souls, propagated from generation to generation, kept shining
like solitary torches at the very time when cloisters were often
little better than impure receptacles of the deepest darkness.

A young man had in this way attracted notice in one of the convents of
Germany. He was named John Staupitz, and was of a noble family in
Misnia. From his earliest youth, having a taste for science and a love
of virtue, he longed for retirement, in order to devote himself to
literature;[167] but soon finding that philosophy and the study of
nature could do little for eternal salvation, he began to study
theology, making it his special object to join practice with
knowledge. For, says one of his biographers, it is vain to deck
ourselves with the name of theologian, if we do not prove our title to
the honourable name by our life.[168] The study of the Bible, and of
the theology of St. Augustine, the knowledge of himself, and the war
which he, like Luther, had to wage against the wiles and lusts of his
heart, led him to the Redeemer, through faith in whom he found peace
to his soul. The doctrine of the election of grace had, in particular,
taken a firm hold of his mind. Integrity of life, profound science and
eloquence, combined with a noble appearance and a dignified address,
recommended him to his contemporaries.[169] The Elector of Saxony,
Frederick the Wise, made him his friend, employed him on different
embassies, and under his direction founded the University of
Wittemberg. This disciple of St. Paul and St. Augustine was the first
Dean of the Faculty of Theology in that school which was one day to
send forth light to enlighten the schools and churches of so many
nations. He attended the council of Lateran, as deputy from the
Archbishop of Salzbourg, became provincial of his order in Thuringia
and Saxony, and ultimately vicar-general of the Augustins all over

  [167] "A teneris unguiculis, generoso animi impetu, ad virtutem et
  eruditam doctrinam contendit." (Melanct. Adam. Vita Staupitzii.) From
  his earliest years, with generous intellectual impulse, he tended to
  virtue and learning.

  [168] (Ibid.)

  [169] "Corporis forma atque statura conspicuus." (Cochlœ., iii.) He
  was remarkably tall and handsome.

Staupitz lamented the corruption of manners and the errors in doctrine
which were laying waste the Church. This is proved by his writings on
the love of God, on Christian faith, on resemblance to Christ in his
death, and by the testimony of Luther. But he considered the former of
these evils as greatly the worse of the two. Besides, the mildness and
indecision of his character, and his desire not to go beyond the
sphere of action which he thought assigned to him, made him fitter to
be the restorer of a convent than the Reformer of the Church. He could
have wished to confer important stations only on distinguished men,
but not finding them, he was contented to employ others. "We must
plough with horses," said he, "if we can find them; but if we have no
horses, we must plough with oxen."[170]

  [170] Luth. Op. (W.) v, 2819.

We have seen the anguish and inward wrestlings to which Luther was a
prey in the convent of Erfurt. At this time a visit from the
vicar-general was announced, and Staupitz accordingly arrived to make
his ordinary inspection. The friend of Frederick, the founder of the
University of Wittemberg, the head of the Augustins, took a kind
interest in the monks under his authority. It was not long ere one of
the friars of the convent attracted his attention. This was a young
man of middle stature, whom study, abstinence, and vigils, had so
wasted away, that his bones might have been counted.[171] His eyes,
which at a later period were compared to those of the falcon, were
sunken, his gait was sad, and his looks bespoke a troubled soul, the
victim of numerous struggles, yet still strong and bent on resisting.
His whole appearance had in it something grave, melancholy, and
solemn. Staupitz, whose discernment had been improved by long
experience, easily discovered what was passing in the soul of the
young friar, and singled him out from those around him. He felt drawn
towards him, had a presentiment of his high destiny, and experienced
the interest of a parent for his subaltern. He, too, had struggled
like Luther, and could therefore understand his situation. Above all,
he could show him the way of peace, which he himself had found. The
information he received of the circumstances which had brought the
young Augustin to the convent increased his sympathy. He requested the
prior to treat him with great mildness, and availed himself of the
opportunities which his office gave him to gain the young friar's
confidence. Going kindly up to him, he took every means to remove his
timidity, which was moreover increased by the respect and reverence
which the elevated rank of Staupitz naturally inspired.

  [171] Mosellani Epist.

The heart of Luther, till then closed by harsh treatment, opened at
last, and expanded to the mild rays of charity. "As in water face
answereth to face, so the heart of man to man."[172] The heart of
Staupitz answered to the heart of Luther. The vicar-general understood
him; and the monk, in his turn, felt a confidence in Staupitz which no
one had hitherto inspired. He revealed to him the cause of his
sadness, depicted the fearful thoughts which agitated him, and then in
the cloister of Erfurt commenced a conversation full of wisdom and

  [172] Proverbs, xxvii, 19.

"In vain," said Luther despondingly to Staupitz; "in vain do I make
promises to God; sin has always the mastery."

"O my friend," replied the vicar-general, thinking how it had been
with himself, "more than a thousand times have I sworn to our holy God
to live piously, and I have never done so. Now I no longer swear; for
I know I should not perform. Unless God be pleased to be gracious to
me for the love of Christ, and to grant me a happy departure when I
leave this world, I shall not be able with all my vows and all my good
works to stand before him. I must perish."[173]

  [173] Luth. Op. (W.) viii, 2725.

The young monk is terrified at the thought of the Divine justice, and
lays all his fears before the vicar-general. The ineffable holiness of
God, and his sovereign majesty, fill him with alarm. Who will be able
to support the day of his advent--who to stand when he appeareth?

Staupitz resumes. He knows where he has found peace, and his young
friend will hear it. "Why torment thyself," said he to him, "with all
these speculations and high thoughts? Look to the wounds of Jesus
Christ, to the blood which he has shed for thee; then thou shalt see
the grace of God. Instead of making a martyr of thyself for thy
faults, throw thyself into the arms of the Redeemer. Confide in him,
in the righteousness of his life, and the expiation of his death. Keep
not back; God is not angry with thee; it is thou who art angry with
God. Listen to the Son of God, who became man in order to assure thee
of the Divine favour. He says to thee, 'Thou art my sheep; thou
hearest my voice; none shall pluck thee out of my hand.'"[174]

  [174] Luth. Op. ii, 264.

But Luther does not here find the repentance which he believes
necessary to salvation. He replies, and it is the ordinary reply of
agonised and frightened souls, "How dare I believe in the favour of
God, while there is nothing in me like true conversion? I must be
changed before he can receive me."

His venerable guide shows him that there can be no true conversion
while God is dreaded as a severe Judge. "What will you say then,"
exclaims Luther, "of the many consciences, to which a thousand
unsupportable observances are prescribed as a means of gaining

Then he hears this reply from the vicar-general, or rather his belief
is, that it comes not from man, but is a voice sounding from
heaven.[175] "No repentance," says Staupitz, "is true, save that which
begins with the love of God and of righteousness.[176] What others
imagine to be the end and completion of repentance is, on the
contrary, only the commencement of it. To have a thorough love of
goodness, thou must, before all, have a thorough love of God. If thou
wouldest be converted, dwell not upon all these macerations and
tortures; 'Love him who first loved thee.'"

  [175] "Te velut e cœlo sonantem accepimus." (Luth. Ep. i, 115, ad
  Staupitzium, 30th May, 1518.) We have heard thee, as it were, speaking
  from heaven.

  [176] "Pœnitentia vero non est, nisi quæ ab amore justitiæ et Dei
  incipit," etc. (Ibid.) There is no repentance save that which begins
  with the love of God and of righteousness.

Luther listens and listens again. These consoling words fill him with
unknown joy, and give him new light. "It is Jesus Christ," thinks he
in his heart. "Yes, it is Jesus Christ himself who consoles me so
wonderfully by these sweet and salutary words."[177]

  [177] "Memini inter jucundissimas et salutares fabulas tuas, quibus me
  solet Dominus Jesus mirifice consolari." (Ibid.) I recollect during
  your most pleasing and salutary conversation, with which the Lord is
  wont wondrously to console me.

These words, in fact, penetrated to the inmost heart of the young
monk, like the sharp arrow of a mighty man.[178] In order to repent,
it is necessary to love God. Illumined with this new light, he
proceeds to examine the Scriptures, searching out all the passages
which speak of repentance and conversion. These words, till now so
much dreaded, become, to use his own expressions, "an agreeable sport,
and the most delightful recreation. All the passages of Scripture
which frightened him seem now to rise up from all sides, smiling, and
leaping, and sporting with him."[179]

  [178] "Hæsit hoc verbum tuum in me, sicut sagitta potentis acuta."
  (Ibid.) Your word stuck fast in me, like the sharp arrow of a mighty

  [179] "Ecce jucundissimum ludum, verba undique mihi colludebant,
  planeque huic sententiæ arridebant et assultabant." (Luth. Ep. i,
  115.) When, behold, a most pleasing sport! the words coming from all
  sides, sported with me, obviously smiling and leaping at the

"Hitherto," exclaims he, "though I carefully disguised the state of my
heart, and strove to give utterance to a love which was only
constrained and fictitious, Scripture did not contain a word which
seemed to me more bitter than that of _repentance_. Now, however,
there is none sweeter and more agreeable.[180] Oh! how pleasant the
precepts of God are, when we read them not only in books, but in the
precious wounds of the Saviour."[181]

  [180] "Nunc nihil dulcius aut gratius mihi sonet quam pœnitentia,"
  etc. (Ibid.) Now nothing sounds sweeter or more agreeable to me than

  [181] "Ita enim dulcescunt præcepta Dei, quando non in libris tantum,
  sed in vulneribus dulcissimi Salvatoris legenda intelligimus." (Ibid.)
  For thus do the divine precepts become sweet, when we understand that
  they are to be read not in books merely, but in the wounds of a most
  gracious Saviour.

Meanwhile, Luther, though consoled by the words of Staupitz was still
subject to fits of depression. Sin manifested itself anew to his
timorous conscience, and then the joy of salvation was succeeded by
his former despair. "O my sin! my sin! my sin!" one day exclaimed the
young monk in presence of the vicar-general, in accents of the deepest
grief. "Ah!" replied he, "would you only be a sinner on canvass, and
also have a Saviour only on canvass?" Then Staupitz gravely added,
"Know that Jesus Christ is the Saviour even of those who are great,
real sinners, and every way deserving of condemnation."

What agitated Luther was not merely the sin which he felt in his
heart. The upbraidings of his conscience were confirmed by arguments
drawn from reason. If the holy precepts of the Bible frightened him,
some of its doctrines likewise increased his terror. Truth, which is
the great means by which God gives peace to man, must necessarily
begin by removing the false security which destroys him. The doctrine
of election, in particular, disturbed the young man, and threw him
into a field which it is difficult to traverse. Must he believe that
it was man who, on his part, first chose God? or that it was God who
first chose man? The Bible, history, daily experience, and the
writings of Augustine, had shown him that always, and in every thing,
in looking for a first cause, it was necessary to ascend to the
sovereign will by which every thing exists, and on which every thing
depends. But his ardent spirit would have gone farther. He would have
penetrated into the secret counsel of God, unveiled its mysteries,
seen the invisible, and comprehended the incomprehensible. Staupitz
interfered, telling him not to pretend to fathom the hidden purposes
of God, but to confine himself to those of them which have been made
manifest in Christ. "Look to the wounds of Christ," said he to him,
"and there see a bright display of the purposes of God towards man. It
is impossible to comprehend God out of Jesus Christ. In Christ you
will find what I am, and what I require, saith the Lord. You can find
him nowhere else, either in heaven or on the earth."[182]

  [182] Luth. Op. (W.) xxii., p. 489.

The vicar-general went farther. He convinced Luther of the paternal
designs of Providence, in permitting the various temptations and
combats which the soul has to sustain. He exhibited them to him in a
light well fitted to revive his courage. By such trials God prepares
those whom he destines for some important work. The ship must be
proved before it is launched on the boundless deep. If this education
is necessary for every man, it is so particularly for those who are to
have an influence on their generation. This Staupitz represented to
the monk of Erfurt; "It is not without cause," said he to him, "that
God exercises you by so many combats; be assured he will employ you in
great things as his minister."

These words, which Luther hears with astonishment and humility, fill
him with courage, and give him a consciousness of powers, whose
existence he had not even suspected. The wisdom and prudence of an
enlightened friend gradually reveal the strong man to himself. Nor
does Staupitz rest here. He gives him valuable directions as to his
studies, exhorting him in future to lay aside the systems of the
school, and draw all his theology from the Bible. "Let the study of
the Scriptures," said he, "be your favourite occupation." Never was
good advice better followed. But what, above all, delighted Luther,
was the present of a Bible from Staupitz. Perhaps it was the Latin
Bible bound in red leather, which belonged to the convent, and which
it was the summit of his desire to possess, that he might be able to
carry it about with him wherever he went, because all its leaves were
familiar to him, and he knew where to look for every passage.[183] At
length this treasure is his own. From that time he studies the
Scriptures, and especially the Epistles of St. Paul, with always
increasing zeal. The only author whom he admits along with the Bible
is St. Augustine. Whatever he reads is deeply imprinted on his soul,
for his struggles had prepared him for comprehending it. The soil had
been ploughed deep, and the incorruptible seed penetrates far into it.
When Staupitz left Erfurt, a new day had dawned upon Luther.

  [183] Seckendorf, p. 52.

Nevertheless, the work was not finished. The vicar-general had
prepared it, but its completion was reserved for a humbler instrument.
The conscience of the young Augustin had not yet found repose, and,
owing to his efforts and the stretch on which his soul had been kept,
his body at length gave way. He was attacked by an illness which
brought him to the gates of death. This was in the second year of his
residence in the convent. All his agonies and terrors were awakened at
the approach of death. His own pollution and the holiness of God anew
distracted his soul. One day, when overwhelmed with despair, an old
monk entered his cell, and addressed him in consoling terms. Luther
opened his heart to him, and made him aware of the fears by which he
was agitated. The respectable old man was incapable of following him
into all his doubts as Staupitz had done; but he knew his _Credo_, and
having found in it the means of consoling his own heart, he could
apply the same remedy to the young friar. Leading him back to the
Apostles' Creed, which Luther had learned in infancy at the school of
Mansfield, the old monk good-naturedly repeated the article, "_I
believe in the forgiveness of sins_." These simple words, which the
pious friar calmly repeated at this decisive moment, poured great
consolation into the soul of Luther. "I believe," oft repeated he to
himself on his sick-bed, "I believe in the forgiveness of sins." "Ah!"
said the monk, "the thing to be believed is not merely that David's or
Peter's sins are forgiven; this the devils believe: God's command is,
to believe that our own sins are forgiven."[184] How delightful this
command appeared to poor Luther! "See what St. Bernard says in his
sermon on the annunciation," added the old friar; "the witness which
the Holy Spirit witnesseth with our spirit is, 'Thy sins are forgiven

  [184] "Davidi aut Petro ... Sed mandatum Dei esse ut singuli homines,
  nobis remitti peccata credamus." (Melancth. Vit. Luth.) Not to David
  or Peter, but the command of God is, that every one of us believe that
  our sins are forgiven.

From this moment light sprung up in the heart of the young monk of
Erfurt. The gracious word has been pronounced, and he believes it. He
renounces the idea of meriting salvation, and puts implicit confidence
in the grace of God through Jesus Christ. He does not see all the
consequences of the principle which he has admitted; he is still
sincere in his attachment to the Church, and yet he has no longer need
of her. He has received salvation immediately from God himself; and
from that moment Roman Catholicism is virtually destroyed in him. He
goes forward and searches the writings of the apostles and prophets,
for every thing that may strengthen the hope which fills his heart.
Each day he invokes help from above, and each day also the light
increases in his soul.

The health which his spirit had found soon restores health to his
body, and he rises from his sick-bed, after having, in a double sense,
received a new life. During the feast of Noel, which arrived shortly
after, he tasted abundantly of all the consolations of faith. With
sweet emotion he took part in the holy solemnities, and when in the
middle of the gorgeous service of the day, he came to chant these
words:--"_O beata culpa, quæ talem meruisti Redemptorem!_"[185] his
whole being said _Amen_, and thrilled with joy.

  [185] "O blessed fault, to merit such a Redeemer." (Mathesius, p. 5.)

Luther had been two years in the cloister, and must now be consecrated
priest. He had received much, and he looked forward with delight to
the prospect which the priesthood presented of enabling him freely to
give what he had freely received. Wishing to avail himself of the
occasion to be fully reconciled to his father, he invited him to be
present, and even asked him to fix the day. John Luther, though not
yet entirely appeased, nevertheless accepted the invitation, and named
Sabbath the 2nd May, 1507.

In the list of Luther's friends was the vicar of Isenach, John Braun,
who had been his faithful adviser when he resided in that town. Luther
wrote him on the 22nd April. It is the Reformer's earliest letter, and
bears the following address:--"To John Braun, Holy and Venerable
Priest of Christ and Mary." It is only in the two first letters of
Luther that the name of Mary occurs.

"God, who is glorious and holy in all his works," says the candidate
for the priesthood, "having designed to exalt me exceedingly,--me, a
miserable and every way unworthy sinner, and to call me solely out of
his abundant mercy, to his sublime ministry, it is my duty in order to
testify my gratitude for a goodness so divine and so magnificent, (as
far at least as dust can do it,) to fulfil with my whole heart the
office which is entrusted to me."

At length the day arrived. The miner of Mansfield failed not to be
present at the consecration of his son.... He even gave him an
unequivocal mark of his affection and generosity, by making him a
present of twenty florins on the occasion.

The ceremony took place, Jerome, Bishop of Brandebourg, officiating.
At the moment of conferring on Luther the right to celebrate mass, he
put the chalice into his hand, uttering these solemn words, "_Accipe
potestatem sacrificandi pro vivis et mortuis_"--"Receive power to
sacrifice for the living and the dead." Luther then listened
complacently to these words, which gave him the power of doing the
very work appropriated to the Son of God; but they afterwards made him
shudder. "That the earth did not swallow us both," said he, "was more
than we deserved, and was owing to the great patience and
long-suffering of the Lord."[186]

  [186] Luth. Op. xvi, (Walch.) 1144.

The father afterwards dined at the convent with his son, the friends
of the young priest and the monks. The conversation turned on Martin's
entrance into the cloister, the friars loudly extolling it as one of
the most meritorious of works. Then the inflexible John, turning
towards his son, said to him, "Hast thou not read in Scripture to obey
thy father and thy mother?"[187] These words struck Luther; they gave
him quite a different view of the action which had brought him into
the convent, and for a long time continued to echo in his heart.

  [187] "Ei, hast du nicht auch gehort das man Eltern soll gehorsam
  seyn." (Luth. Ep. ii, 101.)

By the advice of Staupitz, Luther, shortly after his ordination, made
short excursions on foot into the neighbouring parishes and convents,
both for relaxation, to give his body the necessary exercise, and to
accustom himself to preaching.

The Fête Dieu was to be celebrated with splendour at Eisleben, where
the vicar-general was to be present. Luther repaired thither. He had
still need of Staupitz, and missed no opportunity of meeting with this
enlightened conductor who was guiding him into the way of life. The
procession was numerous and brilliant. Staupitz himself carried the
holy sacrament, and Luther followed in his sacerdotal dress. The
thought that it was truly Jesus Christ that the vicar-general was
carrying--the idea that Christ was there in person actually before
him--suddenly struck Luther's imagination, and filled him with such
amazement that he could scarcely move forward. The perspiration fell
from him in drops; he shook, and thought he would have died with agony
and terror. At length the procession ceased. This host which had so
awakened the fears of the monk was solemnly deposited in the
sanctuary, and Luther, as soon as he was alone with Staupitz, threw
himself into his arms, and told him of his consternation. Then the
worthy vicar-general, who had long known that Saviour who breaketh
not the bruised reed, said to him mildly, "It was not Jesus Christ, my
brother. Jesus Christ does not alarm--he consoles merely."[188]

  [188] "Es ist nicht Christus denn Christus schreckt nicht, sondern
  tröstet nur." (Luth. Op. (W.) xxii, pp. 513, 724.)

Luther was not to remain hid in an obscure convent. The time had
arrived for his being transported to a larger theatre. Staupitz, with
whom he was in constant correspondence, was well aware that the soul
of the young monk was too active to be confined within so narrow a
circle. He mentioned him to Frederick of Saxony, and this enlightened
prince, in 1508, probably towards the close of the year, invited him
to a chair in the university of Wittemberg. Wittemberg was a field on
which he was to fight hard battles; and Luther felt that his vocation
was there. Being required to repair promptly to his new post, he
answered the appeal without delay; and, in the hurry of his removal,
had not even time to write him whom he called his master and beloved
father--John Braun, curate of Isenach. Some months after, he
wrote--"My departure was so sudden, that those I was living with
scarcely knew of it. I am far away, I confess: but the better part of
me is still with you."[189] Luther had been three years in the
cloister of Erfurt.

  [189] Luth. Ep. i, p. 5, March 17, 1509.


     The University of Wittemberg--First Employment--Biblical
     Lectures--Sensation--Preaching at Wittemberg--The Old

In the year 1502, the Elector Frederick had founded a new university
at Wittemberg, declaring, in the act by which he confirmed it, that he
and his people would turn to it as towards an oracle. He thought not
at the time that these words would be so magnificently realised. Two
men belonging to the opposition which had been formed against the
scholastic system, viz., Pollich of Mellerstadt, doctor of medicine,
law, and philosophy, and Staupitz, had great influence in founding
this school. The university declared St. Augustine its patron; and
even this choice was a presage of good. In possession of great
freedom, and regarded as a tribunal to which, in cases of difficulty,
the supreme decision belonged, this new institution, which was in
every way fitted to become the cradle of the Reformation, powerfully
contributed to the development of Luther and his work.

On his arrival at Wittemberg, Luther repaired to the convent of
Augustins, where a cell was alloted him; for though professor, he
ceased not to be monk. He was appointed to teach philosophy and
dialectics. In assigning him these departments, regard had, no doubt,
been had to the studies which he had prosecuted at Erfurt, and to his
degree of Master of Arts. Thus Luther, who was hungering and thirsting
for the word of life, saw himself obliged to give his almost exclusive
attention to the scholastic philosophy of Aristotle. He had need of
the bread of life which God gives to the world, and he must occupy
himself with human subtleties. How galling! How much he sighed! "I am
well, by the grace of God," wrote he to Braun, "were it not that I
must study philosophy with all my might. Ever since I arrived at
Wittemberg, I have eagerly desired to exchange this study for that of
theology: but," added he, lest it should be thought he meant the
theology of the time, "the theology I mean is that which seeks out the
kernel of the nut, the heart of the wheat, and the marrow of the
bone.[190] Howbeit God is God," continues he, with that confidence
which was the soul of his life, "man is almost always deceived in his
judgment; but he is our God, and will conduct us by his goodness for
ever and ever." The studies in which Luther was at this time obliged
to engage were afterwards of great service to him in combating the
errors of the schoolmen.

  [190] ... "Theologia quæ nucleum nucis et medullam tritici et medullam
  ossium serutatur." (Luth. Ep. i, 6.)

Here, however, he could not stop. The desire of his heart must be
accomplished. The same power which formerly pushed him from the bar
into the monastic life now pushed him from philosophy towards the
Bible. He zealously commenced the study of ancient languages,
especially Greek and Hebrew, that he might be able to draw science and
learning at the fountain-head. He was all his life an indefatigable
student.[191] Some months after his arrival at the university he
applied for the degree of Bachelor in Divinity, and obtained it in the
end of March 1509, with a special injunction to devote himself to
biblical theology, _ad Biblia_.

  [191] "In studiis literarum, corpore ac mente indefessus."
  (Pallavicini, Hist. Conc. Trid. i, 16.) In literary pursuits, he was
  indefatigable in mind and body.

Every day at one, Luther had to lecture on the Bible,--a precious
employment both for the professor and his pupils--giving them a
better insight into the divine meaning of those oracles which had so
long been lost both to the people and the school.

He began his lectures with an exposition of the Psalms, and shortly
after proceeded to the Epistle to the Romans. It was especially when
meditating upon it that the light of truth entered his heart. After
retiring to his quiet cell he spent hours in the study of the Divine
Word--the Epistle of St. Paul lying open before him. One day, coming
to the seventeenth verse of the first chapter, he read these words of
the prophet Habakkuk, "_The just shall live by faith_." He is struck
with the expression. The just, then, has a different life from other
men, and this life is given by faith. These words, which he receives
into his heart as if God himself had there deposited them, unveils the
mystery of the Christian life to him, and gives him an increase of
this life. Long after, in the midst of his numerous labours, he
thought he still heard a voice saying to him, "The just shall live by

  [192] Seckend., p. 55.

Luther's lectures, thus prepared, had little resemblance to those
which had hitherto been delivered. It was not a declamatory
rhetorician, or a pedantic schoolman that spoke; it was a Christian
who had felt the power of revealed truth--truth which he derived from
the Bible, and presented to his astonished hearers, all full of life,
as it came from the treasury of his heart. It was not a lesson from
man, but a lesson from God.

This novel exposition of the truth was much talked of. The news spread
far and wide, and attracted a great number of foreign students to the
recently founded university. Even some of the professors attended the
lectures of Luther, among others, Mellerstadt, often surnamed, "_The
Light of the World_." He was the first rector of the university, and
had previously been at Leipsic, where he had vigorously combated the
ridiculous lessons of the schoolmen, and denying that "the light of
the first day of creation could be theology," had maintained that this
science ought to be based on the study of literature. "This monk,"
said he, "will send all the doctors to the right about. He will
introduce a new doctrine, and reform the whole Church, for he founds
upon the word of God; and no man in the world can either combat or
overthrow this word, even though he should attack it with all the
weapons of philosophy, the sophists, Scotists, Albertists, Thomists,
and the whole fraternity."[193]

  [193] Melch. Adam. Vita Lutheri, p. 104.

Staupitz, who was the instrument in the hand of Providence to unfold
the gifts and treasures hidden in Luther, invited him to preach in
this church of the Augustins. The young professor recoiled at this
proposal. He wished to confine himself to his academic functions, and
trembled at the thought of adding to them that of preacher. In vain
did Staupitz urge him. "No, no," replied he, "it is no light matter to
speak to men in the place of God."[194] Touching humility in this
great Reformer of the Church! Staupitz insisted; but the ingenious
Luther, says one of his biographers, found fifteen arguments,
pretexts, and evasions, to excuse himself from this calling. The chief
of the Augustins, still continuing his attack, Luther exclaimed, "Ah!
doctor, in doing this, you deprive me of life. I would not be able to
hold out three months." "Very well," replied the vicar-general, "so be
it in God's name. For up yonder, also, our Lord has need of able and
devoted men." Luther behoved to yield.

  [194] Fabricius, Centifol. Lutheri, p. 33. Mathesius, p. 6.

In the middle of the public square of Wittemberg was a wooden chapel,
thirty feet long by twenty wide, whose sides, propped up in all
directions, were falling to decay. An old pulpit made of fir, three
feet in height, received the preacher. In this miserable chapel the
preaching of the Reformation commenced. God was pleased that that
which was to establish his glory should have the humblest origin. The
foundation of the church of the Augustins had just been laid, and
until it should be finished this humble church was employed. "This
building," adds the contemporary of Luther who relates these
circumstances, "may well be compared to the stable in which Christ was
born. It was in this miserable inclosure that God was pleased, so to
speak, to make his beloved Son be born a second time. Among the
thousands of cathedrals and parish churches with which the world
abounded, there was then one only which God selected for the glorious
preaching of eternal life."[195]

  [195] Myconius.

Luther preaches, and every thing is striking in the new preacher. His
expressive countenance, his noble air, his clear and sonorous voice,
captivate the hearers.

The greater part of preachers before him had sought rather to amuse
their auditory than to convert them. The great seriousness which
predominates in Luther's preaching, and the joy with which the
knowledge of the gospel has filled his heart, give to his eloquence at
once an authority, a fervour, and an unction which none of his
predecessors had. "Endowed," says one of his opponents,[196] "with a
keen and acute intellect, and a retentive memory, and having an
admirable facility in the use of his mother tongue, Luther, in point
of eloquence, yielded to none of his age. Discoursing from the pulpit
as if he had been agitated by some strong passion, and suiting his
action to his words, he produced a wonderful impression on the minds
of his hearers, and like a torrent, carried them along whithersoever
he wished. So much force, gracefulness, and eloquence, are seldom seen
in the people of the north." "He had," says Bossuet, "a lively and
impetuous eloquence, which hurried people away and entranced

  [196] Florimond Raymond, Hist. Hæres. cap. v.

  [197] Hist. des Variat. l. 1.

In a short time the little chapel could not contain the hearers who
crowded to it. The council of Wittemberg then made choice of Luther
for their preacher, and appointed him to preach in the town church.
The impression which he produced here was still greater. The power of
his genius, the eloquence of his diction, and the excellence of the
doctrines which he announced, equally astonished his hearers. His
reputation spread far and wide, and Frederick the Wise himself once
came to Wittemberg to hear him.

Luther had commenced a new life. The uselessness of the cloister had
been succeeded by great activity. The liberty, the labour, the
constant activity to which he could devote himself at Wittemberg,
completely restored his internal harmony and peace. He was now in his
place, and the work of God was soon to exhibit its majestic step.


     Journey to Rome--A Convent on the Pô--Sickness at
     Bologna--Remembrances in Rome--Superstitious
     Devotion--Profaneness of the Clergy--Conversation--Disorders
     in Rome--Biblical Studies--Pilate's Stair--Influence on his
     Faith and on the Reformation--The Gate of Paradise--Luther's

Luther was teaching both in his academic chair and in the church, when
his labours were interrupted. In 1510, or, according to some, not till
1511 or 1512, he was sent to Rome. Seven convents of his order having
differed on certain points with the vicar-general,[198] the activity
of Luther's mind, the power of his eloquence, and his talent for
discussion, made him be selected to plead the cause of these seven
monasteries before the pope.[199] This Divine dispensation was
necessary to Luther, for it was requisite that he should know Rome.
Full of the prejudices and illusions of the cloister, he had always
represented it to himself as the seat of holiness.

  [198] "Quod septem conventus a vicario in quibusdam dissentirent."
  (Cochlœus, 7.)

  [199] "Quod esset acer ingenio et ad contradicendum audax et
  vehemens." (Cochlœus, ii.) Because he was of a sharp wit, and bold and
  vehement in reply.

He accordingly set out and crossed the Alps, but scarcely had he
descended into the plains of rich and voluptuous Italy, than he found
at every step subjects of astonishment and scandal. The poor German
monk was received in a rich convent of Benedictines, situated upon the
Pô in Lombardy. This convent had thirty-six thousand ducats of
revenue. Of these, twelve thousand were devoted to the table, twelve
thousand to the buildings, and twelve thousand to the other wants of
the monks.[200] The gorgeousness of the apartments, the beauty of the
dresses, and the rarities of the table, all astonished Luther. Marble
and silk, and luxury under all its forms! How new the sight to the
humble friar of the poor convent of Wittemberg! He was astonished and
said nothing, but when Friday came, how surprised was he to see
abundance of meat still covering the table of the Benedictines! Then
he resolved to speak out. "The Church and the pope," said he to them,
"forbid such things." The Benedictines were indignant at this
reprimand from the rude German, but Luther having insisted, and
perhaps threatened to make their disorders known, some of them thought
that the simplest plan was to get rid of their troublesome guest. The
porter of the convent having warned him that he ran a risk in staying
longer, he made his escape from this epicurean monastery, and arrived
at Bologna, where he fell dangerously sick.[201] Some have seen in
this sickness the effects of poison, but it is simpler to suppose that
it was the effect which a change of living produced in the frugal monk
of Wittemberg, whose principal food was wont to be bread and herrings.
This sickness was not to be unto death, but for the glory of God.
Luther's constitutional sadness and depression again overpowered him.
To die thus far from Germany, under this burning sky in a foreign
land, what a fate! The agonies which he had felt at Erfurt returned
with all their force. The conviction of his sins troubled, while the
prospect of the judgment-seat of God terrified him. But at the moment
when these terrors were at the worst, the passage of St. Paul which
had struck him at Wittemberg, "The just shall live by faith," (Rom.,
i, 17,) presented itself to his mind, and illumined his soul as with
a ray of light from heaven. Revived and comforted, he soon recovered
his health, and resumed his journey to Rome, expecting he should there
find quite a different life from that of the Lombard convents, and
impatient by the sight of Roman holiness to efface the sad impressions
which had been left upon his mind by his residence on the Pô.

  [200] Luth. Op. (W.) xx, p. 1468.

  [201] Matth. Dresser. Hist. Lutheri.

At length, after a painful journey under the burning sky of Italy in
the beginning of summer, he drew near to the city of the seven hills.
His heart was moved, and his eyes looked for the queen of the world,
and of the Church. As soon as he obtained a distant view of the
eternal city, the city of St. Peter and St. Paul, and the metropolis
of Catholicism, he threw himself on the ground, exclaiming, "Holy
Rome, I salute thee."

Luther is in Rome; the professor of Wittemberg is in the midst of the
eloquent ruins of the Rome of the consuls and emperors--the Rome of
the confessors and martyrs. Here lived that Plautus and Virgil, whose
works he had taken with him into the cloister, and all those great men
whose exploits had always caused his heart to beat. He perceives their
statues, and the wrecks of monuments which attest their glory. But all
this glory and all this power are past, and his foot treads on their
dust. At every step he calls to mind the sad forebodings of Scipio
shedding tears at the sight of Carthage in ruins, its burned palaces
and broken walls, and exclaiming, "Thus, too, will it be with Rome!"
"And in fact," says Luther, "the Rome of the Scipios and Cæsars has
been changed into a corpse. Such is the quantity of ruins, that the
foundations of the modern houses rest upon the roofs of the old.
"There," added he, casting a melancholy look on the ruins, "there were
the riches and treasures of the world."[202] All this rubbish, which
he strikes with his foot, tells Luther, within the walls of Rome
herself, that what is strongest in the eyes of men is easily destroyed
by the breath of the Lord.

  [202] Op. (W.) xxii, pp. 2374, 2377.

But he remembers that with profane ashes holy ashes are mingled. The
burial-place of the martyrs is not far from that of the generals and
triumphing heroes of Rome, and Christian Rome, with her sufferings,
has more power over the heart of the Saxon monk than Pagan Rome with
her glory. It was here the letter arrived in which Paul wrote, "_The
just is justified by faith_," and not far off is the Appii Forum and
the Three Taverns. There was the house of Narcissus--here the palace
of Cæsar, where the Lord delivered the apostle from the mouth of the
lion. Oh, what fortitude these recollections give to the heart of the
monk of Wittemberg!

Rome then presented a very different aspect. The pontifical chair was
occupied by the warlike Julius II, and not by Leo X, as it has been
said by some distinguished historians of Germany, no doubt through
oversight. Luther often told an anecdote of this pope. When news was
brought him of the defeat of his army by the French before Ravenna, he
was reading his Hours. He dashed the book upon the ground, and said,
with a dreadful oath, "Very well, so you have turned Frenchman. Is
this the way in which you protect your Church?" Then turning in the
direction of the country to whose aid he meant to have recourse, he
exclaimed, "Holy Switzer, pray for us."[203] Ignorance, levity, and
dissoluteness, a profane spirit, a contempt of all that is sacred, and
a shameful traffic in divine things; such was the spectacle which that
unhappy city presented, and yet the pious monk continued for some time
in his illusions.

  [203] "Sancte Swizere! ora pro nobis." (Luth. Op. (W.) xxii, pp. 1314,

Having arrived about the feast of St. John, he hears the Romans about
him repeating a proverb which was then common among the people:
"Happy," said they, "is the mother whose son says a mass on the eve of
St. John." "Oh! how I could like to make my mother happy!" said
Luther. The pious son of Margaret accordingly sought to say a mass on
that day, but could not; the press was too great.[204]

  [204] Luth. Op. (W.) Dedication of, 117 pages, vol. vi, L. G.

Ardent and simple-hearted, he went up and down, visiting all the
churches and chapels, believing all the lies that were told him, and
devoutly performing the requisite acts of holiness; happy in being
able to do so many pious works, which were denied to his countrymen.
"Oh! how much I regret," said the pious German to himself, "that my
father and mother are still alive. What delight I should have had in
delivering them from the fire of purgatory, by my masses, my prayers,
and many other admirable works."[205] He had found the light, but the
darkness was still far from being entirely banished from his
understanding. His heart was changed, but his mind was not fully
enlightened. He possessed faith and love, but not knowledge. It was
work of no small difficulty to escape from the dark night which had
for so many ages covered the earth.

  [205] (Ibid.)

Luther repeatedly said mass at Rome, taking care to do it with all the
unction and dignity which the service seemed to him to require. But
how grieved was the heart of the Saxon monk, at seeing the profane
formality of the Roman priests in celebrating the sacrament of the
altar. The priests, on their part, laughed at his simplicity. One day
when he was officiating, he found that at the altar next to him seven
masses had been read before he got through a single one. "Get on, get
on," cried one of the priests to him; "make haste, and send Our Lady
back her Son," making an impious allusion to the transubstantiation of
the bread into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. On another
occasion, Luther had only got as far as the Gospel, when the priest
beside him had finished the whole mass. "On, on," said his companion;
"make haste, make haste; are ye ever to have done?"[206]

  [206] Luth. Op. (W.) xix, von der Winkelmesse, Mathesius, 6.

His astonishment was still greater when, in the dignitaries of the
Church, he discovered the same thing that he had found in common
priests. He had hoped better of them.

It was fashionable at the papal court to attack Christianity, and, in
order to pass for a complete gentleman, absolutely necessary to hold
some erroneous or heretical opinion on the doctrines of the
Church.[207] When Erasmus was at Rome, they had attempted to prove to
him, by passages from Pliny, that there was no difference between the
soul of man and that of the brutes;[208] and young courtiers of the
pope maintained that the orthodox faith was merely the result of
crafty inventions by some saints.[209]

  [207] "In quel tempo non pareva, fosse galantuomo, e buon cortegiano
  colui che de dogmi, della chiesa non aveva qualche opinion erronea ed
  heretica." (Carraciola, Vit. MS. Paul IV, quoted by Ranke.)

  [208] Burigny, Vie d'Erasme, i, 139.

  [209] "E medio Romanæ curiæ sectam juvenum ... qui asserebant, nostram
  fidem orthodoxam, potius quibusdam sanctorum astutiis subsistere."
  (Paul Canensius, Vita Pauli II.)

Luther's employment, as envoy of the Augustins of Germany, caused him
to be invited to several meetings of distinguished ecclesiastics. One
day, in particular, he happened to be at table with several prelates,
who frankly exhibited themselves to him in their mountebank manners
and profane conversation, and did not scruple to commit a thousand
follies in his presence, no doubt believing him to be of the same
spirit as themselves. Among other things they related, in presence of
the monk, laughing and making a boast of it, how when they were saying
mass, instead of the sacramental words, which should transform the
bread and wine into the Saviour's flesh and blood, they parodied them,
and said, "_Panis es, et panis manebis; vinum es, et vinum manebis_:"
Bread thou art, and bread wilt remain; wine thou art, and wine wilt
remain. Then, continued they, we raise the _ostensorium_, and all the
people worship it. Luther could scarcely believe his ears. His spirit,
which was lively and even gay in the society of his friends, was all
gravity when sacred things were in question. He was scandalised at the
profane pleasantries of Rome. "I was," said be, "a young monk, grave
and pious, and these words distressed me greatly. If they speak thus
in Rome at table, freely and publicly, thought I to myself, what will
it be if their actions correspond to their words, and if all, pope,
cardinals, courtiers, say mass in the same style? And I, who have
devoutly heard so large a number read, how must I have been

  [210] Luth. Op. (W.) xix, von der Winkelmesse.

Luther often mingled with the monks and the citizens of Rome. If some
extolled the pope and his court, the great majority gave free
utterance to their complaints and their sarcasms. What tales they told
of the reigning pope, of Alexander VI, and of many others! One day his
Roman friends told him how Cæsar Borgia, after having fled from Rome,
was apprehended in Spain. When they were going to try him he pleaded
guilty in prison, and requested a confessor. A monk having been sent,
he slew him, and, wrapping himself up in his cloak, made his escape.
"I heard that at Rome, and it is quite certain,"[211] said Luther. One
day passing through a public street which led to St. Peter's, he
stopped in amazement before a statue, representing a pope under the
form of a woman holding a sceptre, clad in the papal mantle, and
carrying an infant in her arms. It is a girl of Mentz, said they to
him, whom the cardinals chose for pope, and who had a child at this
spot. Hence no pope ever passes through this street. "I am
astonished," said Luther, "how the popes allow the statue to

  [211] "Das habe Ich zu Rom für gewiss gehört." (Luth. Op. (W.) xxii.,

  [212] "Es nimmt mich wunder, das die Päbste solches Bild leiden
  können." (Ibid., p. 1320.)

Luther had expected to find the edifice of the church in strength and
splendour, but its gates were forced, and its walls consumed with
fire. He saw the desolations of the sanctuary, and started back in
dismay. He had dreamed of nothing but holiness, and he discovered
nothing but profanation.

He was not less struck with the disorders outside the churches. "The
Roman police," says he, "is strict and severe. The judge or captain
every night makes a round of the town on horseback, with three hundred
attendants, and arrests every person he finds in the streets. If he
meets any one armed he hangs him up, or throws him into the Tiber; and
yet the city is full of disorder and murder, whereas, when the word of
God is purely and rightly taught, peace and order are seen to reign,
and there is no need of law and its severities."[213] "It is almost
incredible what sins and infamous actions are committed at Rome," says
he, on another occasion; "one would require to see it and hear it in
order to believe it. Hence, it is an ordinary saying, that if there is
a hell, Rome is built upon it. It is an abyss from whence all sins

  [213] Luth. Op. (W.) xxii, p. 2376.

  [214] "Ist irgend eine Hœlle, so muss Rom darauf gebaut seyn." (Ibid.
  p. 2377.)

This sight made a strong impression on Luther's mind at the time, and
the impression was deepened at a later period. "The nearer we approach
Rome the more bad Christians we find," said he several years after.
"There is a common saying, that he who goes to Rome, the first time
seeks a rogue, the second time finds him, and the third time brings
him away with him in his own person; but now people are become so
skilful, that they make all the three journeys in one." A genius, one
of the most unhappily celebrated, but also one of the most profound of
Italy, Machiavelli, who was living at Florence when Luther passed
through it on his way to Rome, has made the same remark: "The
strongest symptom," says he, "of the approaching ruin of Christianity,
(he means Roman Catholicism,) is, that the nearer you come to the
capital of Christendom the less you find of the Christian spirit. The
scandalous examples and crimes of the court of Rome are the cause why
Italy has lost every principle of piety and all religious sentiment.
We Italians," continues the great historian, "are chiefly indebted to
the Church and the priests for our having become a set of profane
scoundrels."[215] At a later period Luther was fully aware how much he
had gained by his journey "I would not take a hundred thousand
florins," said he, "not to have seen Rome."[216]

  [215] Dissertations on the first Decade of Titus Livy.

  [216] 100,000 Gulden. (Luth. Op. xxii, p. 2374.)

The journey was also of the greatest advantage to him in a literary
view. Like Reuchlin, Luther availed himself of his residence in Italy
to penetrate farther into the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. He
took lessons in Hebrew from a celebrated rabbi named Elias Levita; and
thus, at Rome, partly acquired the knowledge of that Divine word under
whose blows Rome was destined to fall.

But there was another respect in which the journey was of great
importance to Luther. Not only was the veil torn away and the sardonic
smile, and mountebank infidelity which lurked behind the Roman
superstitions, revealed to the future Reformer, but, moreover, the
living faith which God had implanted in him was powerfully

We have seen how he at first entered devotedly into all the vain
observances, to which, as a price, the Church has annexed the
expiation of sins. One day, among others, wishing to gain an
indulgence which the pope had promised to every one who should on his
knees climb up what is called Pilate's Stair, the Saxon monk was
humbly crawling up the steps, which he was told had been miraculously
transported to Rome from Jerusalem. But while he was engaged in this
meritorious act, he thought he heard a voice of thunder which cried at
the bottom of his heart, as at Wittemberg and Bologna, "_The just
shall live by faith._" These words, which had already on two different
occasions struck him like the voice of an angel of God, resounded
loudly and incessantly within him. He rises up in amazement from the
steps along which he was dragging his body. Horrified at himself, and
ashamed to see how far superstition has abased him, he flies far from
the scene of his folly.[217]

  [217] Seckend., p. 56.

In regard to this mighty word there is something mysterious in the
life of Luther. It proved a creating word both for the Reformer and
for the Reformation. It was by it that God then said, "Let light be,
and light was."

It is often necessary that a truth, in order to produce its due effect
on the mind, must be repeatedly presented to it. Luther had carefully
studied the Epistle to the Romans, and yet, though justification by
faith is there taught, he had never seen it so clearly. Now he
comprehends the righteousness which alone can stand in the presence of
God; now he receives from God himself, by the hand of Christ, that
obedience which he freely imputes to the sinner as soon as he humbly
turns his eye to the God-Man who was crucified. This is the decisive
period in the internal life of Luther. The faith which has saved him
from the terrors of death becomes the soul of his theology, his
fortress in all dangers, the stamina of his discourse, the stimulant
of his love, the foundation of his peace, the spur of his labours, his
consolation in life and in death.

But this great doctrine of a salvation which emanates from God and not
from man, was not only the power of God to save the soul of Luther, it
also became the power of God to reform the Church; a powerful weapon
which the apostles wielded, a weapon too long neglected, but at length
brought forth in its primitive lustre from the arsenal of the mighty
God. At the moment when Luther stood up in Rome, all moved and
thrilling with the words which Paul had addressed fifteen centuries
before to the inhabitants of this metropolis, truth, till then a
fettered captive within the Church, rose up also, never again to fall.

Here we must let Luther speak for himself. "Although I was a holy and
irreproachable monk, my conscience was full of trouble and anguish. I
could not bear the words, 'Justice of God.' I loved not the just and
holy God who punishes sinners. I was filled with secret rage against
him and hated him, because, not satisfied with terrifying us, his
miserable creatures, already lost by original sin, with his law and
the miseries of life, he still further increased our torment by the
gospel.... But when, by the Spirit of God, I comprehended these words;
when I learned how the sinner's justification proceeds from the pure
mercy of the Lord by means of faith,[218] then I felt myself revive
like a new man, and entered at open doors into the very paradise of
God.[219] From that time, also, I beheld the precious sacred volume
with new eyes. I went over all the Bible, and collected a great number
of passages which taught me what the work of God was. And as I had
previously, with all my heart, hated the words, 'Justice of God,' so
from that time I began to esteem and love them, as words most sweet
and most consoling. In truth, these words were to me the true gate of

  [218] "Qua vos Deus misericors justificat per fidem ..." (Luth. Op.
  (L.) in Præf.) By which a merciful God justifies you through faith.

  [219] "Hic me prorsus renatum esse sensi, et apertis portis in ipsum
  paradisum intrasse." (Ibid.) Here I felt that I was completely born
  again, and entered by open doors into paradise itself.

Accordingly, when called on solemn occasions to confess this doctrine,
Luther always manifested his enthusiasm and rude energy. "I see," said
he on a critical occasion, "that the devil is incessantly attacking
this fundamental article[220] by the instrumentality of his doctors,
and that, in this respect, he cannot rest or take any repose. Very
well, I, Doctor Martin Luther, unworthy evangelist of our Lord Jesus
Christ, hold this article--_that faith alone, without works, justifies
in the sight of God_; and I declare that the emperor of the Romans,
the emperor of the Turks, the emperor of the Tartars, the emperor of
the Persians, the pope, all the cardinals, bishops, priests, monks,
nuns, princes, and nobles, all men and all devils, must let it stand,
and allow it to remain for ever. If they will undertake to combat this
truth, they will bring down the flames of hell upon their heads. This
is the true and holy gospel, and the declaration of me, Doctor Luther,
according to the light of the Holy Spirit.... Nobody," continues he,
"has died for our sins but Jesus Christ the Son of God. I repeat it
once more; should the world and all the devils tear each other, and
burst with fury, this is, nevertheless, true. And if it be He alone
who takes away sin, it cannot be ourselves with our works; but good
works follow redemption, as the fruit appears on the tree. This is our
doctrine; and it is the doctrine which the Holy Spirit teaches with
all true Christians. We maintain it in the name of God. Amen."

  [220] Gloss on the Imperial Edict. 1531. (Luth. Op. (L.) tom. xx.)

It was thus Luther found what all doctors and reformers, even the most
distinguished, had, to a certain degree at least, failed to discover.
It was in Rome that God gave him this clear view of the fundamental
doctrine of Christianity. He had come to the city of the pontiffs
seeking the solution of some difficulties relative to a monastic
order, and he carried away in his heart the safety of the Church.


     Return--Doctor's Degree--Carlstadt--Luther's Oath--Principle
     of Reform--Luther's Courage--First Views of Reformation--The
     Schoolmen--Spalatin--Affair of Reuchlin.

Luther quitted Rome and returned to Wittemberg, his heart full of
sadness and indignation. Turning away his eyes in disgust from the
pontifical city, he directed them in hope to the Holy Scriptures, and
to that new light of which the word of God seemed then to give promise
to the world. This word gained in his heart all that the Church lost
in it. He detached himself from the one and turned towards the other.
The whole Reformation was in that movement. It put God where the
priest had hitherto been.

Staupitz and the elector did not lose sight of the monk whom they had
called to the university of Wittemberg. It would seem that the
vicar-general had a presentiment of the work that was to be done in
the world, and, feeling it too much for himself, wished to urge on
Luther. There is nothing more remarkable, and perhaps more mysterious,
than this personage, who is ever found hurrying on the monk into the
path to which God calls him; and who himself ultimately goes and sadly
ends his days in a convent. The preaching of the young professor had
made an impression on the prince. He had admired the vigour of his
intellect, the nervousness of his eloquence, and the excellence of his
expositions.[221] The elector and his friend, wishing to advance a man
who gave such high hopes, resolved to make him take the honourable
degree of Doctor of Divinity. Staupitz repairing to the convent, led
Luther into the garden, and there alone with him, under a tree which
Luther was afterwards fond of showing to his disciples,[222] the
venerable father said to him--" It is now necessary, my friend, that
you become a doctor of the Holy Scriptures." Luther recoiled at the
idea; the high honour frightened him. "Look out," replied he, "for a
more worthy person; as for me, I cannot consent to it." The
vicar-general insisted, "The Lord God has much to do in the Church,
and has need at present of young and vigorous doctors." These words,
adds Melancthon, were perhaps used half in jest, and yet the event
realised them. Many omens ordinarily precede great revolutions.[223]
It is not necessary to suppose that Melancthon here speaks of
miraculous predictions. The most incredulous age--that which preceded
our own--saw this sentiment verified. There was no miracle; and yet
how many presages announced the revolution with which it closed?

  [221] "Vim ingenii, nervos orationis, ac rerum bonitatem expositarum
  in concionibus admiratus fuerat." (Melancth. Vita Luth.)

  [222] "Unter einem Baum, den er mir und andern gezeigt." (Mathes. 6.)

  [223] "Multa præcedunt mutationes præsagia." (Vita Luth.)

"But I am weak and sickly," replied Luther, "and have not long to
live. Seek a strong man." "The Lord," replied the vicar-general, "has
work in heaven as well as on the earth; dead or alive, God has need of
you in his counsel."[224]

  [224] "Ihr lebet nun oder sterbet, so darff euch Gott in seinem
  Rathe." (Mathes. 6.)

"None but the Holy Spirit can make a doctor of theology,"[225]
exclaimed the monk, still more alarmed. "Do what your convent asks,"
said Staupitz, "and what I, your vicar-general, command. You promised
to obey us." "But my poverty," replied the friar. "I have no means of
paying the expences attendant on such promotion." "Give yourself no
trouble about them," said his friend. "The prince has been graciously
pleased to take all the expences on himself." Luther, thus urged, saw
it his duty to yield.

  [225] "Neminem nisi Spiritum Sanctum creare posse doctorem theologiæ."
  (Weismanni Hist. Eccl i, p. 1404.)

This was towards the end of the summer of 1512. Luther set out for
Leipsic to receive the money necessary for his promotion from the
elector's treasures. But according to the usages of courts, the money
came not. The friar getting impatient would have left, but monastic
obedience detained him. At length, on the 4th of October, he received
fifty florins from Pfeffinger and John Doltzig, and gave them his
receipt for it, in which he designates himself merely as a monk. "I,
Martin," says he, "friar of the order of Eremites."[226] Luther
hastened back to Wittemberg.

  [226] Luth., Ep. i, p. 2.

Andrew Bodenstein was then Dean of the Faculty of Theology, and is
best known under the name of Carlstadt, being that of his native town.
He was also called A. B. C. It was Melancthon who first gave him this
designation, which is taken from the three initial letters of his
name. Bodenstein acquired the first elements of literature in his
native place. He was of a grave and gloomy temper, perhaps inclined to
jealousy, and of a restless intellect, eagerly bent, however, on
acquiring knowledge, and endowed with great ability. He attended
different universities in order to increase his acquirements, and
studied theology even at Rome. On his return from Italy into Germany
he established himself at Wittemberg, and became doctor in divinity.
"At this period," says he himself afterwards, "I had not read the Holy
Scriptures."[227] This account gives a very just idea of what the
theology of that day was. Carlstadt, besides being a professor, was a
canon and archdeacon. This is the person who was at a later period to
make a rent in the Reformation. In Luther at that time, he only saw an
inferior, but the Augustin soon became an object of jealousy to him.
"I am not willing," said he one day, "to be a smaller man than
Luther."[228] When Carlstadt conferred the highest university degree
on his future rival, he was far from foreseeing the celebrity which
the young professor was destined to obtain.

  [227] Weismanni Hist. Eccl., p. 1416.

  [228] Ibid.

On the 18th of October, 1512, Luther was admitted a licentiate in
theology, and took the following oath:--"I swear to defend evangelical
truth by every means in my power."[229] The following day, Bodenstein,
in presence of a numerous assembly, formally delivered to him the
insignia of doctor of theology. He was made Biblical doctor, not
doctor of sentences, and in this way was called to devote himself to
the study of the Bible, and not to that of human tradition.[230] The
oath, then, which he took was, as he relates,[231] to his well-beloved
Holy Scripture. He promised to preach it faithfully, to teach it
purely, to study it during his whole life, and to defend it by
discussion and by writing, as far as God should enable him to do so.

  [229] "Jure me veritatem evangelicam viriliter defensurum." I swear
  that I will manfully defend evangelical truth."

  [230] "Doctor Biblicus," _and not_ "sententiarius." (Melancthon.)

  [231] Luth., Op. (W.) xvi, p. 2061. Mathesius, p. 7.

This solemn oath was Luther's call to be the Reformer. In laying it
upon his conscience freely to seek, and boldly to announce Christian
truth, this oath raised the new doctor above the narrow limits to
which his monastic vow might perhaps have confined him. Called by the
university and by his sovereign, in the name of the emperor, and of
the See of Rome itself, and bound before God, by the most solemn oath,
he was thenceforth the intrepid herald of the word of life. On this
memorable day, Luther was dubbed knight of the Bible.

Accordingly, this oath taken to the Holy Scriptures, may be regarded
as one of the causes of the renovation of the Church. The infallible
authority of the word of God alone was the first and fundamental
principle of the Reformation. All the reformations in detail which
took place at a later period, as reformations in doctrine, in manners,
in the government of the Church, and in worship, were only
consequences of this primary principle. One is scarcely able at the
present time to form an idea of the sensation produced by this
elementary principle, which is so simple in itself, but which had been
lost sight of for so many ages. Some individuals of more extensive
views than the generality, alone foresaw its immense results. The bold
voices of all the Reformers soon proclaimed this powerful principle,
at the sound of which Rome is destined to crumble away:--"Christians,
receive no other doctrines than those which are founded on the express
words of Jesus Christ, his apostles, and prophets. No man, no assembly
of doctors, are entitled to prescribe new doctrines."

The situation of Luther was changed. The call which the Reformer had
received became to him like one of these extraordinary calls which the
Lord addressed to the prophets under the Old Dispensation, and to the
apostles under the New. The solemn engagement which he undertook made
so deep an impression on his mind, that, in the sequel, the
remembrance of this oath was sufficient to console him amid the
greatest dangers and the sharpest conflicts. And when he saw all
Europe agitated and shaken by the word which he had announced; when it
seemed that the accusations of Rome, the reproaches of many pious men,
and the doubts and fears of his own easily agitated heart, would make
him hesitate, fear, and give way to despair, he called to mind the
oath which he had taken, and remained firm, tranquil, and full of joy.
"I have advanced in the name of the Lord," said he, on a critical
occasion, "and I have put myself into his hands. His will be done. Who
asked him to make me a doctor? If He made me, let him sustain me; or
if he repents of having made me, let Him depose me!.... This
tribulation terrifies me not. I seek one thing only, and it is to have
the Lord favourable to me in all that he calls me to do." Another time
he said, "He who undertakes any thing without a divine call, seeks his
own glory; but I, Doctor Martin Luther, was compelled to become a
doctor. Papism sought to stop me in the discharge of my duty, and you
see what has happened to it; and still worse will happen. They will
not be able to defend themselves against me. I desire, in the name of
the Lord, to tread upon the lions, and trample under foot the dragons
and vipers. This will commence during my life, and be finished after
my death."[232]

  [232] Luth. Op. (W.) xxi, 2061.

From the hour when he took the oath Luther sought the truth solely for
itself and for the Church. Still deeply impressed with recollections
of Rome, he saw indistinctly before him a course which he determined
to pursue with all the energy of his soul. The spiritual life which
had hitherto been manifested within him was now manifested outwardly.
This was the third period of his development. His entrance into the
convent had turned his thoughts towards God: the knowledge of the
forgiveness of sins and of the righteousness of faith, had emancipated
his soul; and his doctor's oath gave him that baptism of fire by which
he became the Reformer of the Church.

His thoughts were soon directed in a general way to the subject of
reformation. In a discourse which he had written apparently with a
view to its being announced by the Provost of Litzkan, at the Council
of Lateran, he affirmed that the corruption of the world was
occasioned by the priests, who, instead of preaching the pure word of
God, taught so many fables and traditions. According to him the word
of life alone had power to accomplish the spiritual regeneration of
man. Hence, even at this period, he made the salvation of the world
depend on the re-establishment of sound doctrine, and not on a mere
reformation of manners. Luther was not perfectly consistent with
himself; he entertained contradictory opinions; but a powerful
intellect was displayed in all his writings. He boldly broke the links
by which the systems of the schools chained down human thought, passed
beyond the limits to which past ages had attained, and formed new
paths for himself. God was in him.

The first opponents whom he attacked were those famous schoolmen whom
he had so thoroughly studied, and who then reigned as sovereigns in
all universities. He accused them of Pelagianism; and, forcibly
assailing Aristotle, the father of the school, and Thomas Aquinas,
undertook to tumble both of them from the throne on which they sat,
the one ruling philosophy, and the other theology.[233] "Aristotle,
Porphyry, the theologians of sentences," (the schoolmen,) wrote he to
Lange, "are the lost studies of our age.[234] There is nothing I more
ardently long for than to expose this player, who has sported with the
Church by wrapping himself up in a Greek mask, and to make his
disgrace apparent to all." In all public disputations he was heard to
say, "the writings of the apostles and prophets are more certain and
more sublime than all the sophisms and all the theology of the
school." Such sayings were new, but people gradually became accustomed
to them. About a year after he could triumphantly write--"God works.
Our theology and St. Augustine make wonderful progress, and reign in
our university. Aristotle is on the decline, and is already tottering
to his speedy and eternal overthrow. The lessons on the sentences are
admirable for producing a yawn. No man can hope to have an audience if
he does not profess Biblical theology."[235] Happy the university to
which such a testimony can be given.

  [233] "Aristotelem in philosophicis, sanctum Thomam in theologicis,
  evertendos susceperat." (Pallavicini, i, 16.) He had undertaken to
  overthrow Aristotle among the philosophers, and Thomas Aquinas among
  the theologians.

  [234] "Perdita studia nostri sæculi." Ep. i, 15. (8th Feb., 1516.)

  [235] Ep. i, 57. (18th May, 1517.)

At the same time that Luther attacked Aristotle, he took the part of
Erasmus and Reuchlin against their enemies. He entered into
communication with these great men and others of the learned, such as
Pirckheimer, Mutian, and Hütten, who belonged more or less to the same
party. At this period he formed another friendship also, which was of
great importance to him during his whole life.

There was then at the court of the elector a man distinguished for
wisdom and candour, named George Spalatin. Born at Spalatus or Spalt,
in the bishopric of Eichstadt, he had at first been curate of the
village of Hohenkirch, near the forest of Thuringia, and was
afterwards selected by Frederick the Wise to be his secretary and
chaplain, and also tutor to his nephew, John Frederick, who was one
day to wear the electoral crown. Spalatin retained his simplicity in
the midst of the court. He appeared timid on the eve of great events,
circumspect and prudent like his master,[236] when contrasted with the
impetuous Luther, with whom he was in daily correspondence. Like
Staupitz he was made for peaceful times. Such men are necessary,
somewhat resembling those delicate substances in which we wrap up jems
and trinkets to protect them from injury in travelling. They seem
useless, and yet without them the precious jewels would have been
broken and destroyed. Spalatin was not fitted to do great things, but
he faithfully and unostentatiously acquitted himself of the task which
had been assigned to him.[237] He was at first one of the principal
assistants of his master in collecting those relics of saints, of
which Frederick was long an amateur, but gradually, along with the
prince, turned toward the truth. The faith which was then re-appearing
in the Church did not take the firm hold of him that it did of Luther.
He proceeded at a slower pace. He became Luther's friend at court, the
minister through whom all affairs between the Reformer and the princes
were transacted, the mediator between the Church and the State. The
elector honoured Spalatin with his friendship; when on a journey they
always travelled in the same carriage.[238] In other respects, the air
of the court often half suffocated the good chaplain. He took fits of
melancholy, and would have liked to quit all his honours, and be again
a simple pastor in the woods of Thuringia; but Luther consoled him,
and exhorted him to remain firm at his post. Spalatin acquired general
esteem; the princes and the learned of his time testifying the
sincerest regard for him. Erasmus said, "I inscribe the name of
Spalatin not only among those of my principal friends, but also
amongst those of my most venerated patrons; and this not on paper but
on my heart."[239]

  [236] "Secundum genium heri sui." (Weismanni Hist. Eccl., i, p. 1434.)

  [237] "Fideliter et sine strepitu fungens." (Weismanni Hist. Eccl. i,
  p. 1434.)

  [238] "Qui sum principe in rheda sive lectico solitus est ferri."
  (Corpus Reformatorum, i, 33.)

  [239] Melch. Ad. Vita Spalat. p. 100.

The affair of Reuchlin and the monks was then making a great noise in
Germany. The most pious men were often at a loss as to the party which
they ought to embrace; for the monks wished to destroy Jewish books
which contained blasphemies against Christ. The doctor of Wittemberg
being now in high repute, the elector ordered his chaplain to consult
him on this subject. The following is Luther's reply. It is the first
letter which he addressed to the preacher of the court.

"What shall I say? These monks pretend to drive out Beelzebub, but not
by the finger of God. For this I cease not to lament and groan. We
Christians begin to be wise abroad, and we are void of sense at
home.[240] On all the places of Jerusalem are blasphemies a hundred
times worse than those of the Jews. The world is filled with
spiritual idols. Inspired with a holy zeal, we should put away and
destroy these internal enemies, whereas we leave the matter which is
most pressing; the devil himself persuading us to abandon our own
business at the same time that he prevents us from amending what
belongs to others."

  [240] "Foris sapere et domi desipere." (Luth. Ep. i, p. 8.) To be wise
  abroad and fools at home.


     Faith--Popular Declamations--Academical Instruction--Moral
     Purity of Luther--German Theology or Mysticism--The Monk
     Spenlein--Justification by Faith--Luther on Erasmus--Faith
     and Works--Erasmus--Necessity of Works--Practice of Works.

Luther did not lose himself in this quarrel. Living faith in Christ
filled his heart and his life. "In my heart," said he, "faith in my
Lord Jesus Christ reigns sole, and sole ought to reign. He alone is
the beginning, the middle, and the end, of all the thoughts which
occupy my mind night and day."[241] He was always heard with
admiration when he spoke of this faith in Christ, whether in the
professor's chair or in the church. His lessons diffused light, and
men were astonished at not having sooner perceived truths which in his
mouth appeared so evident. "The desire of justifying ourselves," said
he, "is the source of all anguish of heart, whereas he who receives
Jesus Christ as a Saviour has peace, and not only peace, but purity of
heart. Sanctification of the heart is entirely a fruit of faith; for
faith is in us a Divine work, which changes us, and gives us a new
birth, emanating from God himself. It kills Adam in us by the Holy
Spirit, which it communicates to us, giving us a new heart, and making
us new men. "It is not by hollow speculation," exclaimed he again,
"but by this practical method that we obtain a saving knowledge of
Jesus Christ."[242]

  [241] Præf. ad Gal.

  [242] "Non per speculationem, sed per hanc viam practicam."

At this time Luther preached discourses on the Ten Commandments, which
have come down to us under the name of _Popular Declamations_.
Undoubtedly there are errors in them; for Luther himself was
enlightened only by degrees. "The path of the just is like the shining
light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day." But in these
discourses what truth! what simplicity! what eloquence! How easy to
conceive the effect which the new preacher must have produced upon his
audience and his age! We will quote only one passage taken from the

Luther goes up into the pulpit of Wittemberg, and gives out these
words, "Thou shalt have no other god before me." Then addressing
himself to the people who filled the church, he says, "All the sons of
Adam are idolaters, and guilty of violating this First Commandment."[243]
This strange assertion no doubt surprises his hearers. He must therefore
justify it, and accordingly proceeds:--"There are two kinds of idolatry,
the one without, the other within.

  [243] "Omnes filii Adæ sunt idololatræ." (Decem Præcepta
  Wittembergensi populo prædicata per R. P. D Martinum Lutherum, Aug.
  anno 1516.) These discourses were pronounced in German, but we quote
  from the Latin edition, i, p. 1.

"The one without is, when man worships wood and stone, beasts and

"The one within is, when man, fearing punishment or seeking his ease,
does not give worship to the creature, but loves it internally, and
confides in it.

"What religion is this? You do not bend the knee before riches and
honours, but you offer them your heart, the noblest part of you. Ah!
you worship God with the body, and with the spirit you worship the

"This idolatry reigns in every man until he is cured of it freely by
the faith which is in Jesus Christ.

"And how is this cure performed?

"In this way. Faith in Christ strips you of all confidence in your own
wisdom, your own righteousness, your own strength. It tells you that
if Christ had not died for you, and so saved you, neither yourself nor
any creature could have done it.[244] Then you learn to despise all
those things which remained useless to you.

  [244] "Nisi ipse pro te mortuus esset, tequs servaret, nec tu, nec
  omnis creatura tibi posset prodesse." (Ibid.) Had he not died for
  thee, and did he not preserve thee, neither thyself nor any creature
  would be able to do thee good.

"There now remains to you only Jesus; Jesus alone; Jesus fully
sufficient for your soul. No longer having any hopes in the creatures,
you have now Christ only, in whom you hope all, and whom you love
above all. Now Jesus is the sole, the only, the true God. When you
have him for God you have no longer other gods."[245]

  [245] "At Jesus est verus, unus, solus Deus, quem cum habes non habes
  alienum deum. (Ibid.) But Jesus is God, sole, only, and true; having
  him you have no strange god.

It is thus Luther shows how, by the gospel, the soul is brought back
to God its sovereign good, agreeably to the words of Jesus Christ, "I
am the way; no man cometh unto the Father but by me." The man who
speaks thus to his age is not merely desirous to overthrow some
abuses; he is first of all desirous to establish true religion. His
work is not negative merely--it is primarily positive.

Luther afterwards directs his discourse against the superstitions with
which Christendom then abounded, against signs and mysterious
characters, observations of certain days and certain months, familiar
demons, ghosts, the influence of the stars and wizards, metamorphoses,
incubuses and succubuses, the patronage of saints, etc., etc. He
attacks these idols one after the other, and vigorously casts down
these false gods.

But it was at the university especially, in presence of enlightened
youths, eager for truth, that Luther laid open all the treasures of
the word of God. "His mode of explaining the Scriptures," says his
illustrious friend, Melancthon, "was such, that in the judgment of all
pious and enlightened men it was as if a new light had risen upon
doctrine after a long dark night. He pointed out the difference
between the Law and the Gospel. He refuted the error then prevalent in
churches and schools, that men merit the forgiveness of sins by their
own works, and are rendered righteous before God by means of external
discipline. He thus brought back the hearts of men to the Son of
God.[246] Like John the Baptist, he pointed to the Lamb of God, who
had taken away the sins of the world. He explained how sins are
pardoned freely for the sake of the Son of God, and how man receives
the blessing through faith. He made no change in ceremonies; on the
contrary, the established discipline had not, in his order a more
faithful observer and defender. But he laboured more and more to make
all comprehend the great and essential doctrines of conversion, of the
forgiveness of sins, of faith, and the true consolation which is to be
found in the cross. The pious were charmed and penetrated with the
sweetness of this doctrine, while the learned received it gladly.[247]
One would have said that Christ, the apostles and prophets, were
coming forth from darkness and a loathsome dungeon."[248]

   [246] "Revocavit igitur Lutherus hominum mentes ad Filium Dei."
   (Melancth. Vita Luth.)

   [247] "Hujus doctrinæ dulcedine pii omnes valde capiebantur, et
   eruditis gratum erat." (Ibid.)

   [248] "Quasi ex tenebris, carcere squalore, educi Christum, prophetas,
   apostolos." (Ibid.)

The firmness with which Luther fortified himself by Scripture gave
great authority to his teaching, while other circumstances added to
his power. His life corresponded to his words--his discourses were not
merely from the life,[249] they came from the heart, and were
exemplified in all his conduct. And when the Reformation burst forth
many influential men, who were much grieved at seeing the rents that
were made in the Church, won over by the Reformer's purity of conduct,
and his admirable talents, not only did not oppose him, but even
embraced the doctrine to which his works bore testimony.[250] The more
they loved Christian virtue the more they inclined to the Reformer.
All honest theologians were in his favour.[251] Such is the testimony
of those who knew him, in particular of Melancthon, the wisest man of
his age, and Erasmus, Luther's celebrated opponent. Yet prejudice has
dared to speak of his debauchery. Wittemberg was changed by this
preaching of faith, and became the focus of a light which was soon to
illumine Germany, and diffuse itself over all the Church.

  [249] "Oratio non in labris nasci, sed in pectore." (Ibid.)

  [250] "Eique propter auctoritatem, quam sanctitate morum antea
  pepererat, adsenserunt." (Melancth. Vita Luth.)

  [251] "Puto et hodie theologos omnes probos favere Luthero." (Erasmi,
  Ep. i, 652.)

In 1516, Luther published a treatise by an anonymous mystic
theologian, (probably Ebland, priest at Frankfort,) entitled _German
Theology_, wherein the author shows how man may attain perfection by
the three methods of purification, illumination, and communion. Luther
never plunged into mystical theology, but he received a salutary
impression from it. It confirmed him in the disgust which he felt for
dry scholastics--in his contempt for the works and observances so much
dwelt upon by the Church--in his conviction of man's spiritual
impotence, and of the necessity of grace, and in his attachment to the
Bible. "To the schoolmen,"[252] wrote he to Staupitz, "I prefer the
Mystics and the Bible;" thus placing the Mystics by the side of the
inspired writers. Perhaps the _German Theology_ also assisted him in
forming a sounder idea of the sacraments, and especially of the mass.
For the author of that work insists that the Eucharist gives Christ to
man, but does not offer Christ to God. Luther accompanied this
publication with a preface, in which he declared, that next to the
Bible and St. Augustine, there was no book he had ever met with, from
which he had learned more respecting God, Christ, man, and all things.
Already several doctors had begun to inveigh against the Professors of
Wittemberg, and to accuse them of innovation. "One would suppose,"
continues Luther, "that there never were men before us who taught as
we do; yea, verily, there were. But the wrath of God, which our sins
have deserved, did not permit us to see them, and to hear them. For a
long time the universities kept the word of God lying in a corner. Let
them read this book, and then tell me if our theology is new; for this
book is not new."[253] But if Luther took all the good that was in
mystical theology, he took not the bad that was in it. The great error
in mysticism is, to overlook a free salvation. We are going to see a
remarkable example of the purity of Luther's faith.

  [252] "Illis præfero mysticos et Biblia." (Luth. Ep. i, 107.)

  [253] Die Deutsche Theologie, Strasbourg, 1519; Præf.

Luther, possessed of a tender and affectionate heart, was desirous to
see those whom he loved in possession of the light which had guided
him into the paths of peace; and availed himself of all the
opportunities which he had, as professor, preacher, and monk, as well
as of his extensive correspondence, to communicate his treasure to
others. One of his old brethren of the convent of Erfurt, the monk
George Spenlein, was then in the convent of Memmingen. After having
spent some time at Wittemberg, Spenlein had asked the doctor to sell
different articles which he had left, viz., a tunic of Brussels cloth,
a work of a doctor of Isenach, and a monk's frock. Luther carefully
executed this commission. "I have received," said he to Spenlein, in a
letter, 7th April 1516, "a florin for the tunic, half a florin for the
book, and a florin for the frock, and have remitted the whole to the
father-vicar," to whom Spenlein owed three florins. But Luther passes
quickly from this account of monastic spoils to a more important

"I should like much," says he to friar George, "to know how it is with
your soul. Is it not weary of its own righteousness? does it not
breathe at length and confide in the righteousness of Christ? In our
day pride seduces many, especially those who do their utmost to become
righteous. Not comprehending the righteousness which is freely given
us of God in Christ Jesus, they would stand before him by their
merits. But that cannot be. When you lived with us you were in this
error, as I also was. I am still constantly fighting with it; and have
not yet completely triumphed.

"O my dear brother, learn to know Christ and Christ crucified. Learn
to sing unto him a new song; to despair of thyself, and say, 'Thou, O
Lord Jesus! thou art my righteousness, and I am thy sin! Thou hast
taken what is mine, and given me what is thine.[254] What thou wert
not thou hast become, in order that what I was not I might become.'
Take care, O my dear George, not to pretend to such a purity as will
make you unwilling to acknowledge yourself a sinner; for Christ dwells
in sinners only. He came down from heaven, where he dwelt among the
righteous, that he might dwell also among sinners. Meditate carefully
on this love of Christ, and thou wilt derive ineffable blessing from
it. If our labours and our afflictions could give us peace of
conscience, why should Christ have died? Thou wilt find peace only in
him, by despairing of thyself and of thy works, and learning with
what love he opens his arms to thee, takes upon him all thy sins, and
gives thee all his righteousness."

  [254] "Tu, domine Jesu, es justitia mea; ego autem sum peccatum tuum:
  tu assumpsisti meum, et dedisti mihi tuum." (Luth. Ep. i, p. 17.)

Thus the powerful doctrine which had already saved the world in the
days of the Apostles, and which was to save it a second time in the
days of the Reformers, was expounded by Luther with force and
clearness. Stretching over numerous ages of ignorance and
superstition, he here shook hands with St. Paul.

Spenlein was not the only person whom he sought to instruct in this
fundamental doctrine. He felt uneasy at the little truth which he
discovered in this respect in the writings of Erasmus. It was of
importance to enlighten a man whose authority was so great, and whose
genius was so admirable. But how was he to do it? His friend at court,
the elector's chaplain, was respected by Erasmus; and it is to him
Luther addresses himself. "My dear Spalatin, the thing which
displeases me in Erasmus, that man of vast erudition, is, that by the
righteousness of works or of the law, of which the apostle speaks, he
understands the fulfilment of the ceremonial law. The justification of
the law consists not in ceremonies only, but in all the works of the
Decalogue. When these works are performed without faith in Christ,
they may, it is true, make Fabriciuses, Reguluses, and other men of
strict integrity in the eyes of the world, but then they as little
deserve to be called righteousness, as the fruit of a medlar to be
called a fig. For we do not become righteous, as Aristotle pretends,
by doing works of righteousness; but when we have become righteous we
do such works.[255] The man must first be changed, and then the works.
Abel was first pleasing to God, and then his sacrifice." Luther
continues, "I pray you, fulfil the duty of a friend and of a
Christian, by making Erasmus acquainted with those things." This
letter is dated "In haste, from the corner of our convent, 19th Oct.,
1516." It gives a true view of the footing on which Luther stood with
Erasmus, and shows the sincere interest which he felt in whatever he
thought truly advantageous to this distinguished writer. No doubt, at
a later period, the opposition of Erasmus to the truth forced Luther
to combat him openly, but it was only after he had sought to enlighten
his opponent.

  [255] "Non enim justa agendo justi efficimur: sed justi fiendo et
  essendo, operamur justa." (Luth. Ep. i. p. 22.)

At length those views on the nature of goodness were propounded which
were at once clear and profound, and the great truth was distinctly
proclaimed, that the real goodness of a work consists not in its
external form, but in the spirit in which it is done. Thus giving a
mortal blow to all the superstitious observances, which had for ages
choked the Church, and prevented Christian virtues from growing and
flourishing in it.

"I read Erasmus," again writes Luther, "but he is every day losing his
credit with me. I like to see him, with so much skill and firmness,
rebuking priests and monks for their loathsome ignorance, but I fear
he will not do great service to the doctrine of Jesus Christ. What is
of man has more hold on his heart than what is of God.[256] We live in
dangerous times. A man is not a good and judicious Christian because
he understands Greek and Hebrew. Jerome, who knew five languages, is
inferior to Augustine, who only knew one, though Erasmus thinks
differently. I am very careful to conceal my sentiments concerning
Erasmus, lest I should give an advantage to his opponents. It may be
the Lord will give him understanding in his own time."[257]

  [256] "Humana prævalent in eo plusquam divina." The human prevails in
  him more than the divine.

  [257] "Dabit ei Dominus intellectum suo forte tempore." (Luth. Ep. i,
  p. 52.)

The impotence of man, and the omnipotence of God, were the two truths
which Luther wished to re-establish. It is a sad religion and a sad
philosophy which throws man back upon his natural powers. Ages have
made trial of these boasted powers, and while man has of himself
succeeded wonderfully in things which concern his earthly existence,
he has never been able to dissipate the darkness which hides the true
knowledge of God from his mind, nor to change a single inclination of
his heart. The highest degree of wisdom attained by ambitious
intellects, or minds inflamed with ardent longings after perfection,
has only plunged them into despair.[258] The doctrine, therefore,
which unveils to us our impotence, in order to acquaint us with a
Divine power, which shall enable us to do all things, is a generous,
consoling, and perfectly true doctrine; and the reformation which
exhibits the glory of heaven on the earth, and pleads the rights of
Almighty God with men, is a great reformation.

  [258] Τι ουν; δυνατον αναμαρτητον ειναι
  ηδη.  What, is it possible then to be without sin? asks
  Epictetus, (iv, 12, 19.) Αμηχανον Impossible! he replies.

But nobody was better aware than Luther of the intimate and
indissoluble tie which unites the gratuitous salvation of God with the
free works of man. Nobody showed better than he that it is only by
receiving all from Christ that man can give much to his brethren. He
always presented the two acts, that of God and that of man, in the
same picture. Thus, after having explained to friar Spenlein wherein
saving righteousness consists, he adds "If you believe these things
firmly as you ought to do, (for cursed is he who believeth not,)
receive thy still ignorant and erring brethren as Jesus Christ has
received thee. Bear with them patiently, make their sins thy own, and
if thou hast any thing good, communicate it unto them. Receive one
another, saith the Apostle, as Christ hath received us to the glory of
God. It is a sad righteousness which will not bear with others,
because it finds them wicked, and which thinks only of seeking the
solitude of the desert, instead of doing them good by patience,
prayer, and example. If thou art the lily and the rose of Christ, know
that thy dwelling is among the thorns. Only take care that thou do not
by thy impatience, thy rash judgments, and thy hidden pride, become
thyself a thorn. Christ reigns in the midst of his enemies. Had he
been pleased to live only among the good, and to die only for those
who loved him, for whom, I ask, would he have died, and among whom
would he have lived?"

It is touching to see how Luther himself carried these precepts of
charity into practice. An Augustin of Erfurt, named George Leiffer,
was subjected to severe trials. Luther learned it, and eight days
after he had written the letter to Spenlein, went up to him kindly,
and said--"I learn that you are agitated by many tempests, and that
your spirit is tossed up and down upon the billows.... The cross of
Christ is portioned out over all the earth, and each one receives his
part. Do not you, then, reject that which is fallen to you. Rather
receive it as a holy relic, not in a vessel of gold and of silver, but
what is far better, in a heart of gold--a heart full of meekness. If
the wood of the cross has been so sanctified by the blood and flesh of
Christ, that we consider it to be the most venerable relic, how much
more ought we to regard the injuries, persecutions, inflictions, and
hatred of men as holy relics, since they have not only been touched by
the flesh of Christ, but embraced, kissed, and blessed by his
boundless love?"[259]

  [259] ... "Sanctissimæ reliquiæ ... deificæ voluntatis suæ charitate
  amplexæ osculatæ." (Luth. Ep. i, 18.)


     First Theses--The Old Man and Grace--Visit to the
     Convents--Dresden--Erfurt--Tornator--Peace and the
     Cross--Results of the Journey--Labours--The Plague.

The instructions of Luther bore fruit. Several of his disciples
already felt themselves urged publicly to profess the truths which the
lessons of their master had revealed to them. Among his hearers was a
learned youth, named Bernard of Feldkirchen, professor of the physics
of Aristotle in the university, and who, five years afterwards, was
the first of the evangelical ecclesiastics who entered into the bond
of matrimony.

Luther, while he was presiding, desired Feldkirchen to maintain theses
in which his principles were expounded. The doctrines professed by
Luther thus acquired new publicity. The disputation took place in
1516, and was Luther's first attack on the reign of the sophists and
the Papacy. However feeble it was, it gave him considerable
uneasiness. "I allow these propositions to be printed," said he, many
years after, on publishing them in his works, "principally in order
that the greatness of my cause, and the success with which God has
crowned it, may not puff me up. For they fully manifest my shame; that
is to say, the infirmity and ignorance, the fear and trembling, with
which I commenced this struggle. I was alone, and had imprudently
plunged into this affair. Not being able to draw back, I conceded
several important points to the pope, and even adored him."[260]

  [260] "Sed etiam ultro adorabam." (Luth. Op. (L.) p. 50.)

The following are some of these propositions:[261]--

  [261] Luth. Op. (L) xvii. p. 142; and in the Latin Works, tom. i, p.

"The old man is vanity of vanities--he is wholly vanity, and renders
all other creatures vain, how good soever they be.

"The old man is called _the flesh_, not only because he is led by
sensual lusts, but also because, even though he were chaste, prudent,
and just, he is not born anew of God by the Spirit.

"A man who is without the grace of God cannot observe the commands of
God, nor prepare himself, in whole or in part, to receive grace, but
necessarily remains under sin.

"The will of man without grace is not free, but enslaved, and that

"Jesus Christ, our strength and our righteousness, who trieth the
hearts and reins, is alone the Searcher and Judge of our merits.

"Since everything is possible through Christ to him who believeth, it
is superstitious to seek other aid, whether in the will of man or in
the saints."[262]

  [262] "Cum Credenti omnia sint, auctore Christo, possibilia,
  superstitiosum est, humano arbitrio, aliis sanctis, alia deputari
  auxilia." (Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 142.)

This disputation made a great noise, and has been considered as the
commencement of the Reformation.

The moment approached when this reformation was to burst forth. God
was hastening to prepare the instrument which he meant to employ. The
elector having built a new church at Wittemberg, to which he gave the
name of "All-Saints," sent Staupitz into the Netherlands to collect
the relics with which he was desirous to enrich it. The vicar-general
ordered Luther to take his place during his absence, and in particular
to pay a visit to forty monasteries in Misnia and Thuringia.

Luther repaired first to Grimma, and thence to Dresden, everywhere
labouring to establish the truths which he had ascertained, and to
enlighten the members of his own order. "Don't attach yourself to
Aristotle, or to other teachers of a deceitful philosophy," said he to
the monks, "but diligently read the word of God. Seek not your
salvation in your own strength, and your own good works, but in the
merits of Christ, and in Divine grace."[263]

  [263] Hilscher's Luther's Anwesenheit in Alt Dresden, 1728.

An Augustin monk of Dresden had run off from his convent, and was
living at Mayence, where the prior of the Augustins had received him.
Luther wrote to the prior[264] to demand restitution of the lost
sheep, and added these words, which are full of truth and charity, "I
know that offences must come. It is no wonder that man falls; but it
is a wonder he rises again, and stands erect. Peter fell, in order
that he might know that he was a man; and we still see the cedar of
Lebanon fall. Angels even (a thing which surpasses our comprehension)
fell in heaven, and Adam fell in paradise. Why then be astonished when
a reed is shaken by the wind, and the smoking flax is quenched?" From
Dresden, Luther proceeded to Erfurt, to do the duties of vicar-general
in the very convent where, eleven years before, he had wound up the
clock, opened the door, and swept the Church. He appointed his friend,
bachelor John Lange, a learned and pious, but austere man, prior of
the convent, exhorting him to affability and patience. Shortly after
he wrote him, "Show a spirit of meekness towards the prior of
Nuremberg. This is fitting, inasmuch as the prior has put on a sour
and bitter spirit. Bitter is not expelled by bitter, that is to say,
devil by devil; but sweet expels bitter, that is to say, the finger of
God casts out demons."[265]

  [264] 1st May 1516, Ep. i, p. 20.

  [265] (Luth. Ep. i, p. 36.) "Non enim asper asperum, id est, non
  diabolus diabolum, sed suavis asperum, id est, digitus Dei ejicit

It must perhaps be regretted, that on different occasions Luther did
not remember this excellent advice.

At Neustadt on Orla there was nothing but division. Quarrelling and
disturbance reigned in the convent. All the monks were at war with the
prior, and assailed Luther with their complaints. The prior, Michael
Dressel, or Tornator, as Luther calls him, translating his name into
Latin, on his part explained all his grievances to the doctor.
"Peace! peace!" said he. "You seek peace," replied Luther, "but you
seek the peace of the world, and not that of Christ. Know you not that
our God has placed his peace in the midst of war? He whom nobody
troubles has no peace. But he who, troubled by all men, and by all the
things of life, bears all calmly and joyfully, possesses true peace.
You say, with Israel, Peace, peace; and there is no peace. Say rather
with Christ, The cross, the cross; and there will be no cross. For the
cross ceases to be a cross as soon as we can sincerely say with joy, O
blessed cross, there is no wood like thine!"[266] After his return to
Wittemberg, Luther, wishing to put an end to these divisions allowed
the monks to elect another prior.

  [266] "Tam cito enim crux cessat esse crux quam cito I tus dixeris:
  Crux benedicta! inter ligna nullum tale." (Ep. i, 27.)

Luther returned to Wittemberg after an absence of six weeks. He was
grieved at all that he had seen, but the journey gave him a better
acquaintance with the Church and the world; gave him more confidence
in his intercourse with men and furnished him with numerous
opportunities of founding schools, and urging this fundamental truth,
that "the Holy Scripture alone shows us the way to heaven," and to
exhort the brethren to live together holily, chastely, and
peacefully.[267] Doubtless, much seed was sown in the different
Augustin convents during this journey of the Reformer. The monastic
orders, which had long been the stay of Rome, perhaps did more for the
Reformation than against it. This is true especially of the order of
Augustins. Almost all pious men of a free and exalted spirit who were
in cloisters, turned to the gospel, and a new and noble blood soon
circulated in their orders, which were in a manner the arteries of
German Catholicity. The world knew nothing of the new ideas of the
Augustin of Wittemberg, after they had become the great subject of
conversation in chapters and monasteries. In this way, more than one
cloister was a seminary of reformers. At the moment when the great
blow was struck, pious and brave men came forth from their obscurity,
and abandoned the retreat of the monastic life, for the active career
of ministers of the word of God. Even during the inspection of 1516,
Luther by his words awoke many slumbering spirits, and hence this year
has been called "the morning star of the gospel day."

  [267] "Heiliglich, friedlich und züchtig." (Mathes. p. 10.)

Luther resumed his ordinary avocations. At this period he was
oppressed with work; it was not enough that he was professor,
preacher, and confessor; he had, moreover, a variety of temporal
business connected with his order and his convent. "I almost
constantly require two clerks," wrote he; "for I do little else the
whole day than write letters. I am preacher to the convent, chaplain
at table, pastor and parish minister, director of studies, vice-prior,
which means prior eleven times over, inspector of the ponds of
Litzkau, advocate of the inns of Herzberg at Torgau, reader of St.
Paul, commentator on the Psalms.... I have seldom time to say my Hours
and chant,--to say nothing of my combat with flesh and blood, the
devil and the world.... See how lazy a man I am."[268]

  [268] Ep. i, p. 41, to Lange, (26th Oct. 1516.)

About this time the plague broke out in Wittemberg, and a great part
of the students and teachers left the town. Luther remained. "I don't
well know," wrote he to his friend at Erfurt, "if the plague will
allow me to finish the Epistle to the Galatians. Prompt and brisk, it
makes great ravages, especially among the young. You advise me to
flee. Whither shall I flee? I hope the world will not go to wreck
though friar Martin fall.[269] If the plague makes progress, I will
disperse the friars in all directions, but for myself I am stationed
here, and obedience permits me not to flee, till he who has called me
recall me. Not that I do not fear death, (for I am not the Apostle
Paul, I am only his commentator;) but I hope the Lord will deliver me
from fear." Such was the firmness of the doctor of Wittemberg. Will
he, whom the plague could not force to recoil one step, recoil before
Rome? Will he yield to the power of the scaffold?

  [269] "Quo fugiam? Spero quod non corruet orbis, ruente fratre
  Martino." (Ibid.)


     Relations of Luther with the Elector--Luther and the
     Elector--Counsels to the Chaplain--Duke George--His
     Character--Luther before the Court--Dinner at Court--Emser's

The same courage which Luther displayed in presence of most formidable
evils, he displayed in presence of the great. The elector was much
pleased with the vicar-general, who had made a good collection of
relics in the Netherlands. Luther gives an account of it to Spalatin.
There is something curious in this affair of relics occurring at the
moment when the Reformation is about to commence. Assuredly the
Reformers had little idea of the point at which they were to arrive.
A bishopric seemed to the elector only a fit recompence to the
vicar-general. Luther, to whom Spalatin wrote on the subject, strongly
disapproved of it. "Many things," replied he, "please your prince,
which, however, displease God. I deny not his ability in the affairs
of the world, but in what concerns God and the salvation of souls, I
account him seven-fold blind as well as his counsellor Pfeffinger. I
say not this behind their backs like a slanderer; don't hide it from
them, for I am ready to say it personally to both. Why," continues he,
"would you environ this man with all the whirlwinds and tempests of
episcopal cares?"[270]

  [270] "Multa placent principi tuo, quæ Deo displicent." (Luth. Ep. i,

The elector did not take Luther's frankness in bad part. "The prince,"
says Spalatin in a letter to him, "often speaks of you, and with much
respect." Frederick sent the monk stuff to make a cassock of very fine
cloth. "It would be too fine," said Luther, "were it not the gift of a
prince. I am unworthy that any man should think of me, far less that a
prince should, and so great a prince. The most useful persons to me
are those who think the most ill of me.[271] Return thanks to our
prince for his favour; but know that I desire not to be praised by
you, or by any man--all praise of man being vain, and the praise which
cometh from God alone being true."

  [271] "li mihi maxime prosunt, qui mei pessime meminerint." (Ibid.

The excellent chaplain did not wish to confine himself to his court
functions. He desired to render himself useful to the people; but,
like many of all times, he wished to do it without giving offence. He
not only wished not to irritate any one, but, on the contrary, to
conciliate general favour. "Point out," says he to Luther, "some work
which I may translate into our mother tongue, a work which will please
generally, and at the same time be useful." "Agreeable and useful!"
replies Luther; "the request is beyond me. The better things are, the
less they please. What is more salutary than Jesus Christ? And yet to
most he is a savour of death. You will tell me that you wish to be
useful to those who love what is good. In that case, just let the
voice of Christ be heard. You will be agreeable and useful, depend
upon it; but it will be to a very small number: for the sheep are rare
in this region of wolves."[272]

  [272] Quo sunt aliqua salubriora eo minus placent." (Luth. Ep. i,

Luther, however, recommended to his friend the sermons of Tauler. "I
have never seen," said he, "either in Latin or our own tongue a
sounder theology, or one more agreeable to the gospel. Taste and see
how sweet the Lord is; but be it after you have tasted and seen how
bitter every thing is that is ours."[273]

  [273] "Quam amarum est quicquid nos sumus." (Ibid. p. 46.)

It was in the course of the year 1517 that Luther entered into
communication with Duke George of Saxony. The House of Saxony had then
two heads. The princes, Ernest and Albert, carried off in their youth
from the castle of Altenbourg by Kunz of Kaufungen, had, by the treaty
of Leipsic, become the founders of the two houses which still bear
their name. The Elector Frederick, the son of Ernest, at the period of
which we write, was the chief of the Ernestine branch, while his
brother, Duke George, was chief of the Albertine branch. Dresden and
Leipsic were in the states of the duke, who had his residence in the
former of these cities. His mother, Sidonia, was daughter of George
Podiebrad, King of Bohemia. The long struggle which Bohemia had
maintained with Rome, from the days of John Huss, had had some
influence on the prince of Saxony, and he had often shown a desire for
a reformation. "He has sucked it from his mother," it was said: "he is
by birth an enemy of the clergy."[274] He in various ways annoyed the
bishops, abbots, canons, and monks, in so much that his cousin, the
elector, was more than once obliged to interpose in their behalf. It
might have been supposed that Duke George would be a warm partisan of
the Reformation. Devout Frederick, on the contrary, who had once put
on the spurs of Gregory in the Holy Sepulchre, girt himself with the
great ponderous sword of the conqueror of Jerusalem, and taking an
oath to combat for the Church, like a bold knight, might have been
expected to prove one of the most eager champions of Rome. But when
the gospel is in question, the anticipations of human wisdom are often
at fault. The result was the opposite of what might have been
supposed. The duke would have taken pleasure in humbling the Church,
and those connected with it, and lowering the bishops, whose princely
train far surpassed his own; but to receive into his heart the
evangelical doctrine which must have humbled it, to acknowledge
himself a guilty sinner, incapable of being saved, unless through
grace, was quite a different matter. He would willingly have reformed
others, but he had no desire to reform himself. He would, perhaps,
have assisted in obliging the bishop of Mentz to be contented with a
single bishopric, and have no more than fourteen horses in his stable,
as he himself repeatedly expressed it;[275] but when he saw another
than himself appear as reformer,--when he saw a mere monk undertake
the work,--and the Reformation gaining numerous adherents among the
humbler classes,--the haughty grandson of the Hussite king became the
most violent adversary of the reform of which he had at first promised
to be a partisan.

  [274] Luth. Op. (W.) xxii, p. 1849.

  [275] Ibid.

In July 1517, Duke George asked Staupitz to send him a learned and
eloquent preacher. Staupitz sent Luther representing him as a man of
great learning and irreproachable character. The prince invited him to
preach at Dresden, in the chapel of the castle on the feast of St.
James the Elder.

On the day fixed the duke and his court proceeded to the chapel to
hear the preacher of Wittemberg.

Luther gladly seized the occasion to bear testimony to the truth
before such an assembly. He took for his text the gospel of the day,
"Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons."
(Matth., xx, 20-25.) He preached on the wishes and rash prayers of
men; then dwelt strongly on the assurance of salvation, making it rest
on this foundation, viz., That those who hear the word of God with
faith are the true disciples, whom Jesus Christ has elected unto
eternal life. He next treated of eternal election, showing that this
doctrine, when exhibited in connection with the work of Christ, is
well fitted to calm the terrors of conscience, and so, instead of
disposing men to flee from God, allures them to seek their refuge in
Him. In conclusion, he brought forward a parable of three virgins, and
drew a very instructive improvement from it.

The word of truth made a deep impression on the hearers. Two in
particular appeared to give earnest attention to the discourse of the
monk of Wittemberg. The one was a respectable looking lady who sat in
one of the court pews, and whose features bespoke deep emotion. It was
Madam de la Sale, grand mistress to the duchess. The other was Jerome
Emser, a licentiate in canon law, and secretary and counsellor to the
duke. Emser was a man of talent and extensive information. A courtier
and able politician, his wish would have been to please both parties
at once; to pass at Rome for a defender of the papacy, and at the same
time figure in Germany among the learned men of the age. But under
this flexible spirit a violent temper lay concealed. Thus Luther and
Emser, who were afterwards repeatedly to break a lance, met for the
first time in the chapel of the castle of Dresden.

The dinner-bell having rung for the inmates of the castle, the ducal
family and the persons attached to the court were soon seated at the
table. The conversation naturally turned on the preacher of the
morning. "How did you like the sermon?" said the duke to Madam de la
Sale. "Could I again hear such another discourse," replied she, "I
could die in peace." "And I," replied George, angrily, "would give a
good sum not to have heard it. Such discourses are good only to make
people sin with confidence."

The master having thus stated his opinion, the courtiers proceded
without restraint to express their dissatisfaction. Every one was
ready with his remark. Some alleged, that in the parable of the three
virgins, Luther had had three ladies of the court in his eye. On this
the talk was endless. They rallied the three ladies whom they affirmed
that Luther had intended.[276] He is an ignorant blockhead, said one.
He is a proud monk, said another. Each had his comment on the sermon,
making the preacher say whatever he pleased. The truth had fallen into
the midst of a court ill prepared to receive it. Every one tore it at
pleasure. But while the word of God was to many an occasion of
stumbling, to the grand mistress it was a stone "elect and precious."
Falling sick about a month after, she confidently embraced the grace
of the Saviour, and died rejoicing.[277]

  [276] "Has tres postea in aula principis a me notatas garrierunt."
  (Luth. Ep. i, 85.) It was afterwards prattled that I had alluded to
  three ladies of the court.

  [277] Keith, Leb. Luth., p. 32.

In regard to the duke, perhaps the testimony which he had heard given
to the truth was not in vain. However much he opposed the Reformation
during his life, it is known that in his last moments he declared,
that his only hope was in the merits of Jesus Christ.

It naturally fell to Emser to do the honours to Luther in his master's
name. He accordingly invited him to supper. Luther refused; but Emser
insisted and constrained him to come. Luther only expected to meet a
few friends, but he soon perceived that a trap had been laid for
him.[278] A master of arts from Leipsic, and several Dominicans, were
with the prince's secretary. The master of arts, who had an
overweening opinion of himself, and a deep hatred of Luther, accosted
him with a bland and friendly air; but he soon broke out, and screamed
at full pitch.[279] The battle began. "The discussion," says Luther,
"turned on the absurdities of Aristotle and St. Thomas."[280] At last
Luther challenged the master of arts, with all the erudition of the
Thomists, to define what it was to fulfil the commandments of God. The
master of arts, though embarrassed, put on a good countenance. "Pay me
my fees," says he, stretching out his hand, "_da pastum_." One would
have said, he was going to give a lesson in form, mistaking the
guests for his pupils. "At this foolish reply," adds the Reformer, "we
all burst a laughing, and the party broke up."

  [278] "Inter medias me insidias conjectum." (Luth. Ep. i, 85.) That I
  had fallen into a snare.

  [279] "In me acriter et clamose invectus est." (Ibid.) He keenly and
  clamorously inveighed against me.

  [280] "Super Aristotelis et Thomæ nugis." (Ibid.) On the trifles of
  Aristotle and Thomas.

During the conversation, a Dominican had been listening at the door,
and would fain have come in to spit in Luther's face.[281] He
refrained, however, though he afterwards made a boast of it. Emser,
who had been delighted at seeing his guests battling, while he seemed
to hold a due medium, hastened to apologise to Luther for the manner
in which the party had gone off.[282] Luther returned to Wittemberg.

  [281] "Ne prodiret et in faciem meam spueret." (Luth. Ep. i, 85.) From
  coming forward and spitting in my face.

  [282] "Enixe se excusavit." (Ibid.) Earnestly excused himself.


     Return to Wittemberg--Theses--Nature of
     Man--Rationalism--Demand at Erfurt--Eck--Urban
     Regius--Luther's Modesty.

Luther zealously resumed his labours. He was preparing six or seven
young theologians, who were forthwith to undergo an examination in
order to obtain a licence to teach. And what most delighted him was,
that their promotion was to be to Aristotle's disgrace. "I should
like," said he, "to multiply his enemies as fast as possible."[283]
With that view, he at this time published Theses, which deserve

  [283] "Cujus vellem hostes cito quam plurimos fieri." (Luth. Ep. i,
  59.) Whose enemies I could wish quickly to become as numerous as

The leading topic which he discussed was _liberty_. He had already
glanced at it in the theses of Feldkirchen, but now went deeper into
it. Ever since Christianity began, there has been a struggle, more or
less keen, between the opposite doctrines of the freedom and the
slavery of man. Some schoolmen had taught, like Pelagius and others,
that man possessed in himself the liberty or power of loving God and
doing good. Luther denied this liberty, not to deprive man of it, but,
on the contrary, to make him obtain it. The struggle, then, in this
great question, is not, as is usually said, between liberty and
servitude; but between a liberty proceeding from man, and a liberty
proceeding from God. Some who call themselves the advocates of
liberty, say to man, "You have the power of doing good, and require a
greater liberty." Others, who have been called advocates of slavery,
say to him, on the contrary, "You have no true liberty; but God offers
it to you in the gospel." The one party speaks of liberty, but a
liberty which must end in slavery; while the other speaks of slavery,
in order to give liberty. Such was the struggle in the time of St.
Paul, in the time of Augustine, and in the time of Luther. Those who
say "Change nothing!" are champions of slavery. Those who say "Let
your fetters fall!" are champions of liberty.

It would be a mistake, however, to suppose that the whole Reformation
can be summed up in this particular question. It is one of the many
doctrines which the Wittemberg doctor maintained--that is all. It
would, above all, be a strange illusion to hold, that the Reformation
was fatalism, or an opposition to liberty. It was a magnificent
emancipation of the human mind. Bursting the numerous bands with which
thought had been bound by the hierarchy, and reviving the ideas of
liberty, right, and examination, it delivered its own age, and with it
ours also, and the remotest posterity. And let it not be said that the
Reformation, while it freed man from human despotism, enslaved him by
proclaiming the sovereignty of grace. No doubt, it wished to bring
back the human will to the Divine, to subordinate the one, and
completely merge it in the other; but what philosopher knows not that
entire conformity to the will of God alone constitutes sovereign,
perfect freedom; and that man will never be truly free, until supreme
righteousness and truth have sole dominion over him?

The following are some of the Ninety-nine Propositions which Luther
sent forth into the Church, in opposition to the Pelagian rationalism
of scholastic theology.

"It is true that man, who is become a corrupt tree, can only will and
do what is evil.

"It is not true that the will, when left to itself, can do good as
well as evil; for it is not free but captive.

"It is not in the power of the will of man to choose or reject
whatever is presented to it.

"Man cannot naturally wish God to be God. His wish is that he himself
were God, and that God were no God.

"The excellent, infallible, and sole preparation for grace, is the
eternal election and predestination of God.[284]

  [284] "Optima et infallibilis ad gratiam præparatio et unice
  dispositio, est æterna Dei electio et prædestinatio." (Luth. Op. (L.)
  i, 56.) The best and infallible preparation, and the only
  predisposition for grace, is the eternal election and predestination
  of God.

"It is false to say that when man does all he can, he clears away the
obstacles to grace.

"In one word, nature possesses neither a pure reason nor a good

  [285] "Breviter, nec rectum dictamen habet natura nec bonam
  voluntatem." (Ibid.) Briefly, nature has neither a right dictate nor a
  good will.

"On the part of man, there is nothing which precedes grace, unless it
be impotence and even rebellion.

"There is no moral virtue without pride or sullenness, that is to say,
without sin.

"From the beginning to the end we are not the masters of our actions,
but the slaves of them.

"We do not become righteous by doing what is righteous, but having
become righteous we do what is righteous.

"He who says that a theologian who is not a logician is a heretic and
an adventurer, maintains an adventurous and heretical proposition.

"There is no form of reasoning (syllogism) which accords with the
things of God.[286]

  [286] "Nulla forma syllogistica tenet in terminis divinis." (Luth. Op.
  (L.) i, 56.) No syllogistic form holds in divine terms.

"If the form of the syllogism could be applied to divine things, we
should know the article of the Holy Trinity, and should not believe

"In one word, Aristotle is to theology as darkness to light.

"Man is more hostile to the grace of God than he is to the law itself.

"He who is without the grace of God sins incessantly, even though he
neither kills, nor steals, nor commits adultery.

"He sins, for he does not fulfil the law spiritually.

"Not to kill, and not to commit adultery, externally, and in regard to
action, merely, is the righteousness of hypocrites.

"The law of God and the will of man are two adversaries, who, without
the grace of God, can never agree.[287]

  [287] "Lex et voluntas sunt adversarii duo, sine gratia Dei
  implacabiles." (Ibid. 57.) Law and will are two adversaries implacable
  without the grace of God.

"What the law wishes the will never wishes; only from fear it may make
a show of wishing.

"The law is the hangman of the will, and is subject only to the Child
who has been born unto us.[288] (Isaiah, ix, 6.)

  [288] "Lex est exactor voluntatis, qui non superatur nisi per Parvulum
  qui natus est nobis." (Ibid.)

"The law makes sin abound; for it irritates and repulses the will.

"But the grace of God makes righteousness abound, through Jesus
Christ, who makes us love the law.

"Every work of the law appears good externally, but internally is sin.

"The will, when it turns toward the law without the grace of God, does
so only for its own interest.

"Cursed are those who do the works of the law.

"Blessed are all those who do the works of the grace of God.

"The law, which is good, and in which we have life, is the law of the
love of God, shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, (Rom., v,

"Grace is not given in order that works may be done more frequently
and more easily, but because without grace there cannot be any work of

"To love God is to hate oneself, and know nothing out of God."[289]

  [289] Luth. Op. Lips. xvii, p. 143, et Op. Lat. i.

In this way Luther attributes to God all the good that man can do. The
thing to be done is not to repair, or, so to speak, to patch up the
will of man; an entirely new will must be given him. God alone could
say this; for God alone could perform it. This is one of the greatest
and most important truths that the will of man can acknowledge.

But Luther, while proclaiming the impotence of man, did not fall into
the opposite extreme. He says in the eighth thesis, "It follows not
that the will is naturally bad, that is to say, that its nature is of
the essence of evil, as the Manichees taught."[290] Originally the
nature of man was essentially good; but it turned aside from goodness,
that is, God, and is inclined to evil. Still its origin remains holy
and glorious, and is capable, by the power of God, of regaining its
original. The object of Christianity is to restore it. The gospel, it
is true, exhibits man in a state of degradation and impotence, but as
placed between two glories and two grandeurs,--a past glory, from
which he has been precipitated, and a future glory, to which he is
called. This is the truth, and man knows it to be the truth; and how
little soever he thinks of it, he easily discovers that all which is
told him of his actual purity, power, and glory, is only a lie,
designed to cradle his pride and rock it asleep.

  [290] "Nec ideo sequitur quod sit naturaliter mala, id est natura
  mali, secundum Manichæos." (Ibid.) Nor does it therefore follow that
  it is naturally evil, _i.e._, of the nature of evil, according to the

Luther, in his theses, attacked not only the pretended goodness of
man's will, but also the pretended light of his understanding in
regard to divine things. In fact, scholasticism had exalted reason as
well as the will. This theology, in the hands of some of its teachers,
was, at bottom, only a species of rationalism. The propositions which
we have enumerated indicate this; for they look as if directed against
the rationalism of our own day. In the theses, which were the signal
of the Reformation, Luther attacked the Church and the popular
superstitions which to the gospel had added indulgences, purgatory,
and numberless abuses. In those which we have just given he attacked
the school and the rationalism which had robbed the gospel of the
doctrine of the sovereignty of God, his revelation and his grace. The
Reformation attacked rationalism before it attacked superstition. It
proclaimed the rights of God before lopping off the excrescences of
man. It was positive before it was negative. This has not been
sufficiently attended to, and yet, without attending to it, it is
impossible duly to appreciate the character of this religious

Be this as it may, the truths which Luther thus expressed with so much
energy were quite new. To maintain these theses at Wittemberg had been
an easy matter. There his influence was paramount, and it would have
been said that he had chosen a field of battle where he knew no
combatant could appear. In offering battle in another university he
gave them a greater publicity; and it was by publicity that the
Reformation was effected. He turned his eyes towards Erfurt, where the
theologians had shown themselves so exasperated against him.

He, accordingly, sent his theses to John Lange, prior of Erfurt, and
wrote him as follows: "My anxiety for the decision which you will give
as to these theses is great, extreme, too great, perhaps, and keeps me
on the rack. I much suspect that your theologians will consider as
paradoxical and _kakodoxical_,[291] what I must henceforth regard as
most orthodox. Tell me how it is, and as soon as you possibly can.
Have the goodness to make known to the Faculty of Theology, and to
all, that I am ready to come and publicly maintain these propositions
either in the university or the monastery." It does not seem that
Luther's challenge was accepted. The monks of Erfurt contented
themselves with intimating that his theses had incurred their high

  [291] "Imo cacodoxa videri suspicor." (Luth. Ep. 60.) Nay, I suspect
  they will be thought cacodox, (false doctrine.)

But he was desirous to send them to some other part of Germany; and
with that view bethought him of a man who plays an important part in
the history of the Reformation, and with whom the reader must be made

A distinguished professor, named John Meyer, was then teaching in the
university of Ingolstadt, in Bavaria. He was a native of Eck, a
village in Swabia, and was commonly called Doctor Eck. He was a friend
of Luther, who respected his talents and acquirements. Full of
intellect, he had read much, and was possessed of a very retentive
memory. To erudition he added eloquence. His voice and gesture bespoke
the vivacity of his genius. In regard to talent, Eck was in the south
of Germany what Luther was in the north. They were the two most
distinguished theologians of the period, though of very different
views. Ingolstadt was almost the rival of Wittemberg. The reputation
of these two doctors attracted crowds of eager students from all
quarters to the universities in which they taught; their personal
qualities not less than their abilities endearing them to their
pupils. The character of Doctor Eck has been assailed, but an anecdote
in his history will show that at this period, at least, his heart was
not closed against generous impressions.

Among the students whom his fame had attracted to Ingolstadt was a
young man, named Urban Regius, from the banks of an Alpine lake. He
had first studied at the university of Fribourg in Brisgau. On his
arrival at Ingolstadt, to which he had been attracted by the fame of
Doctor Eck, Urban engaged in his course of philosophy, and gained the
favour of his master. Requiring to provide for his maintenance, he was
under the necessity of taking charge of some young noblemen, and had
not only to superintend their studies and their conduct, but also to
purchase on his own account whatever books and clothes they required.
The youths dressed in style, and kept a good table. Regius becoming
embarrassed prayed the parents to recall their sons. "Never fear," was
the answer. His debts increased, his creditors became pressing, and he
was at his wit's end. The emperor was raising an army against the
Turks, and a recruiting party having arrived at Ingolstadt, Urban in
despair enlisted. Clothed in military attire, he appeared in the ranks
at the time when the review took place, previous to their departure.
Doctor Eck coming up at that instant with several of his colleagues,
was greatly surprised to discover his student among the recruits.
"Urban Regius!" said he, fixing his keen eye on him. "Here," replied
the recruit. "What, pray, is the cause of this?" The young man told
his story. "I take the matter upon myself," replied Eck, and setting
his halberd aside, bought him off from the recruiting party. The
parents, threatened by the Doctor with the displeasure of the prince,
sent the necessary funds to defray the expences of their children, and
Urban Regius was saved to become at a later period one of the pillars
of the Reformation.

Doctor Eck occurred to Luther as the proper person to publish his
theses on Pelagianism and scholastic rationalism in the south of the
empire. He did not, however, send them to the professor of Ingolstadt
directly, but employed a mutual friend, the excellent Christopher
Scheurl, secretary to the town of Nuremberg, praying him to send them
to Eck at Ingolstadt, which is at no great distance from Nuremberg. "I
send you," says he, "my paradoxical, and even kakistodoxical
(κακιστοδοξας) propositions, as many think them.
Communicate them to our dear friend, the very learned and talented Eck,
that I may learn and know what he thinks of them."[292] These were the
terms in which Luther then spoke of Doctor Eck; such was the friendship
then subsisting between them. It was not Luther who broke it off.

  [292] "Eccio nestro, eruditissimo et ingeniosissimo viro exhibete, ut
  audiam et videam quid vocet illas." (Luth. Ep. i, p. 63.) Show them to
  our most learned and ingenious Eck, that I may hear and see what he
  calls them.

Ingolstadt, however, was not the field on which the battle was to be
fought. The doctrines on which these theses turned were perhaps of
greater importance than those which, two months after, set the Church
in a blaze; and yet, notwithstanding of Luther's challenges, they
passed unnoticed. At most, they were read within the circle of the
school, and produced no sensation beyond it. The reason was, because
they were only university propositions and theological doctrines,
whereas the subsequent theses related to an evil which had grown up in
the midst of the people, and was then causing devastation in all parts
of Germany. So long as Luther was contented with reviving forgotten
doctrines, all was silence; but when he attacked abuses which were
universally felt, every one turned to listen.

Nevertheless, all that Luther proposed in either case was to produce
one of those theological discussions which were then so common in
universities. To this circle his views were confined. He was humble,
and his humility amounted even to distrust and anxiety. "Considering
my ignorance," said he, "all I deserve is to be hid in a corner,
without being known by any one under the sun."[293] But a mighty hand
drew him out of this corner in which he wished to remain unknown to
the world. A circumstance, independent of Luther's will, threw him
into the field of battle, and the war commenced. This providential
circumstance we are now called upon to relate.

  [293] Luth. Op. (W.) xviii, 1944.




1517, 1518.

     Cortège--Tezel--Tezel's Discourse--Confession--Four
     Graces--Sale--Public Penance--A Letter of
     Indulgence--Exceptions--Feasting and Debauchery.

At this period the people of Germany were all in motion. The Church
had opened a vast market on the earth. From the crowd of customers,
and the noise and pleasantry of the sellers, one would have thought it
a fair, only a fair held by monks. The merchandise which they were
showing off, and selling a bargain, was, as they said, the salvation
of souls.

The merchants travelled the country in a fine carriage, accompanied by
three mounted attendants, journeying in grand style, and living at
great expence. One would have said it was some high Mightiness with
his suite and officers, and not a vulgar dealer or mendicant monk.
When the cortège approached a town, a messenger was despatched to the
magistrate to say, "The grace of God and of St. Peter is at your
gates." Immediately the whole place was in motion. Clergy, priests,
nuns, the council, school-masters and their scholars, the
incorporations with their colours, men and women, old and young, went
out to meet the merchant with lighted tapers in their hand, amid the
sound of music and the ringing of bells, "insomuch," says a historian,
"that God himself could not have been received with greater honour."
After the formalities were over the whole body proceeded to the
church. The Bull of Grace by the pontiff was carried in front, on a
velvet cushion or cloth of gold. Next came the chief of the indulgence
merchants, carrying a large wooden cross, painted red. The whole
procession moved forward, amid hymns, prayers, and the smoke of
incense. The merchant monk and his attendants were received at the
church by the pealing organ and thrilling music. The cross was placed
in front of the altar, and over it the pope's arms were suspended. All
the time it remained there the clergy of the place, the penitentiaries
and sub-commissaries, came each day after vespers or before the
_salute_, to do obeisance to it with white wands in their hands.[294]
This grand affair produced a lively sensation in the quiet cities of

  [294] "Mit weissen Stæblein." (Instructions of the Archbishop of Mentz
  to the Sub-commissaries of Indulgence, etc. Art. 8.)

At these sales one personage in particular drew the attention of the
spectators. It was he who carried the great red cross, and played the
principal character. He was clothed in the dress of a Dominican, and
had an arrogant air. His voice was Stentorian, and though in his
sixty-third year,[295] he seemed still in full vigour. This man, the
son of one Diez, a jeweller of Leipsic, was called John Diezel, or
Tezel. He had studied in his native town, became bachelor in 1487, and
two years after entered the Dominican order. Numerous honours had
accumulated on his head. Bachelor in theology, prior of the
dominicans, apostolic commissary, inquisitor, _hæreticæ pravitatis
inquisitor_, he had discharged the office of commissary of
indulgences, without intermission, from 1502. The skill which he had
acquired as subaltern soon raised him to the office of commissary-in-chief.
He had eighty florins a month, and all his expences paid, together
with a carriage and three horses; but his perquisites (it is easy to
comprehend what they were) far exceeded his salary. In 1507 at
Freiberg he gained two thousand florins in two days. If he discharged
the functions, he had also the manners of a quack. Convicted of
adultery and shameful misconduct at Inspruck, his vices had almost
cost him his life. The Emperor Maximilian had ordered him to be put
into a sack and thrown into the river; but the Elector Frederick
happening to arrive, obtained his pardon.[296] The lesson which he
thus received had not given him more modesty; for he had two of his
children along with him.

  [295] "Ingenio ferox, et corpore robustus." (Cochl. 5.) In mind
  fierce, and in body robust.

  [296] "Welchen Churfürst Freiderich vom Sack, zu Inspruck erbeten
  hatte." (Mathes. 10.)

Miltitz, the pope's legate, mentions the fact in one of his
letters.[297] It would have been difficult to find in all the
cloisters of Germany a man better fitted for the traffic with which he
was entrusted. To the theology of a monk, to the zeal and temper of an
inquisitor, he united the greatest effrontery; but the thing which,
above all, made the task easy to him, was his skill in inventing
extraordinary stories to captivate the minds of the people. To him all
means were good that filled his coffers. Raising his voice, and
giving free vent to his vulgar eloquence, he offered his indulgences
to every comer, and knew better than any dealer at a fair how to set
off his merchandise.[298]

  [297] Luth. Op. (W.) xv, 862.

  [298] "Circumferuntur venales indulgentiæ in his regionibus a Tecelio
  Dominicano impudentissimo sycophanta." (Melancth. Vita Luth.)
  Indulgences for sale are carried about by the Dominican Tezel, a most
  impudent sycophant.

After the cross was erected, and the arms of the pope suspended over
it, Tezel mounted the pulpit, and with a tone of assurance began to
extol the value of the indulgences in presence of the crowd who had
been attracted to the church by the ceremony. The people listened and
stared on hearing the wondrous virtues of which he told them. A Jesuit
historian, speaking of the Dominicans with whom Tezel was associated,
says, "Some of these preachers failed not, as usual, to outrage the
subject which they treated, and so to exaggerate the value of the
indulgences as to make people suppose they were certain of their own
salvation, and of the deliverance of souls from purgatory as soon as
the money was paid."[299] If such were the scholars, we may judge what
the master was. Let us listen to one of his harangues after setting up
the cross.

  [299] Hist. du Luthéranisme par le P. Maimbourg, de la Compagnie du
  Jésus, 1681, p. 21.

"Indulgences are the most precious and most sublime gift of God.

"This cross (pointing to the red cross) has the very same efficacy as
the actual cross of Jesus Christ.[300]

  [300] Luth. Op. (W.) xxii, p. 1393.

"Come, and I will give you letters under seal, by which even the sins
which you may have a desire to commit in future will all be forgiven.

"I would not exchange my privileges for that of St. Peter in heaven;
for I have saved more souls by my indulgences than the apostle by his

"There is no sin too great for an indulgence to remit; and even should
any one (the thing, no doubt, is impossible) have done violence to the
Holy Virgin Mary, mother of God, let him pay, let him only pay well,
and it will be forgiven him.[301]

  [301] Tezel defends and reiterates this assertion in his Anti-Theses
  published the same year. (Th. 99, 100, and 101.) "Sub-commissariis in
  super ac prædicatoribus veniarum imponere, ut si quis per impossibile
  Dei Genitricem semper Virginem violasset, quod eumdem indulgentiarum
  vigore absolvere possent, luce clarius est." (Positiones fratris J.
  Tezelii quibus defendit indulgentias contra Lutherum.) Moreover, to
  enjoin the sub-commissaries and preachers of pardon, that if any one
  should, by impossibility, have violated the Mother of God, always
  Virgin, they could absolve him in virtue of indulgences, is clearer
  than day.

"Think, then, that for each mortal sin you must, after confession and
contrition, do penance for seven years, either in this life or in
purgatory. Now, how many mortal sins are committed in one day, in one
week? How many in a month, a year, a whole life?[302] Ah! these sins
are almost innumerable, and innumerable sufferings must be endured for
them in purgatory. And now, by means of these letters of indulgence,
you can at once, for life, in all cases except four, which are
reserved to the Apostolic See, and afterwards at the hour of death,
obtain a full remission of all your pains and all your sins."

  [302] "Quot peccata mortalia committuntur in die...." (Löscher's
  Reformations, Acten i, p. 418.) How many mortal sins are committed in
  a day?

Tezel even made financial calculations on the subject.

"Do you not know," said he, "that when a man proposes to go to Rome,
or to any other country where travellers are exposed to danger, he
sends his money to the bank, and for every five hundred florins that
he means to have, gives five, or six at most, in order that, by means
of letters from the bank, he may receive the money safely at Rome or
elsewhere.... And, you, for the fourth of a florin, will not receive
these letters of indulgence, by means of which you might introduce
into the land of paradise, not worthless money, but a divine and
immortal soul, without exposing it to the smallest risk."[303]

  [303] "Si contingat aliquem ire Romam, vel ad alias periculosas
  partes, mittit pecunias suas in banco, et ille pro quolibet centum dat
  quinque aut sex aut decem...." (Ibid.)

Tezel next passed to another subject.

"But more than this," said he; "indulgences not only save the living:
they also save the dead.

"For this repentance is not even necessary.

"Priest! noble! merchant! wife! young girls! young men! hear your
departed parents and your other friends, crying to you from the bottom
of the abyss, 'We are enduring horrible torments! A little alms would
deliver us; you can give it, and yet will not!'"

These words, uttered by the formidable voice of the charlatan monk,
made his hearers shudder.

"At the very instant," continued Tezel, "when the piece of money
chinks on the bottom of the strong box, the soul comes out of
purgatory, and, set free, flies upward into heaven."[304]

  [304] Theses, 56. (Positiones fratris J. Tezelii quibus defendit
  indulgentias contra Lutherum.)

"O imbecile and brutish people, who perceive not the grace which is so
richly offered to you!... Now heaven is everywhere open!... Do you
refuse at this hour to enter? When, then, will you enter? Now you can
ransom so many souls! Hard-hearted and thoughtless man, with twelve
pence you can deliver your father out of purgatory, and you are
ungrateful enough not to save him! I will be justified on the day of
judgment, but you, you will be punished so much the more severely, for
having neglected so great salvation. I declare to you, that though
you had only a single coat, you would be bound to take it off and sell
it, in order to obtain this grace.... The Lord our God is no longer
God. He has committed all power to the pope."

Then, trying to avail himself of other weapons still, he added, "Know
you why our most holy Lord is distributing so great a grace? His
object is to raise up the ruined church of St. Peter and St. Paul, so
that it may not have its equal in the universe. That church contains
the bodies of the holy apostles St. Peter and St. Paul, and of a
multitude of martyrs. Owing to the actual state of the building, these
holy bodies are now, alas! beaten, flooded, soiled, dishonoured, and
reduced to rottenness, by the rain and the hail.... Ah! are these
sacred ashes to remain longer in mud and disgrace?"[305]

  [305] Instruction of the Archbishop of Mentz, etc.

This picture failed not to make an impression on many who felt a
burning desire to go to the help of poor Leo X, who had not wherewith
to shelter the bodies of St. Peter and St. Paul from the rain.

Then the orator opened on the arguers and traitors who opposed his
work. "I declare them excommunicated," exclaimed he.

Afterwards addressing docile souls, and making a profane use of
Scripture, "Happy are the eyes which see what you see; for I tell you,
that many prophets and many kings have desired to see the things which
you see, and have not seen them; and to hear the things which you
hear, and have not heard them." And at last, showing the strong box in
which the money was received, he usually concluded his pathetic
discourse with this triple appeal to the people, "Bring! bring!
bring!" "These words," says Luther, "he uttered with such horrible
bellowing, that one might have thought it was a mad bull making a rush
at people, and striking them with his horns."[306] When his discourse
was ended, he came down from the pulpit, ran towards the chest, and in
presence of the people chucked a piece of money into it, taking care
to make it give a very loud tinkle.[307]

  [306] Resolut. on Theses, 32.

  [307] Tenztel, Reformationsgesch; Myconii, Ref. Hist.; Instruction of
  the Archbishop of Mentz, etc.; Luther's Theses.

Such were the discourses which astonished Germany, heard in the days
when God was preparing Luther.

At the termination of the discourse, the indulgence was understood "to
have established its throne in the place in due form." Confessionals
were set up adorned with the pope's arms. The sub-commissaries, and
the confessors whom they selected, were considered to represent the
apostolical penitentiaries of Rome at the jubilee, and on each of
these confessionals were posted, in large characters, their names,
surnames, and designations.

Then a crowd pressed forward to the confessor, each coming with a
piece of money in his hand. Men, women, and children, the poor, even
those who lived on alms, all found means of procuring money. The
penitentiaries, after having anew explained the greatness of the
indulgence to each individual, asked, "How much money can you afford
to part with, in order to obtain so complete a forgiveness?" "This
question," says the Instruction of the Archbishop of Mentz to the
commissaries; "this question ought to be put at this moment, that the
penitents may thereby be the better disposed to contribute."[308]

  [308] Instruction, etc., 5, 69.

Four valuable graces were promised to those who aided in building the
basilisk of St. Peter. "The first grace which we announce to you,"
said the commissaries, according to their Letter of Instruction, "is
the complete pardon of all sins."[309] After this came three other
graces,--_first_, the right of choosing a confessor, who, whenever the
hour of death should seem to be at hand, would give absolution from
all sins, and even from the greatest crimes reserved for the Apostolic
See;[310] _second_, a participation in all the blessings, works, and
merits of the Catholic Church, in prayers, fastings, alms, and
pilgrimages; and, _third_, the redemption of the souls which are in

  [309] Ibid., 19.

  [310] Ibid., 30.

  [311] Ibid., 35.

To obtain the first of these graces, it was necessary to have
contrition of heart and confession of the lips, or, at least, the
intention of confessing. But for the three others, they could be
obtained without contrition or confession, merely by paying. Previous
to this, Christopher Columbus, extolling the value of gold, had said
quite gravely, "He who possesses it may introduce souls into
paradise." Such was the doctrine taught by the Archbishop-Cardinal of
Mentz, and the commissaries of the pope. "As to those," said they,
"who would deliver souls from purgatory, and procure for them pardon
of all their offences, let them throw money into the chest. It is not
necessary for them to have contrition of the heart or confession of
the lips.[312] Let them only hasten with their money; for they will
thus do a work most useful to the souls of the departed, and to the
erection of the Church of St. Peter." Greater blessings could not be
offered at a cheaper rate.

  [312] "Auch ist nicht nothig dass sie in dem Herzen zerknirscht sind,
  und mit dem Mund gebeichtet haben." (Ibid., 38.).

When the confession was over, and it did not take long, the faithful
hastened towards the seller. One only had charge of the sale, and kept
his counter near the cross. He carefully eyed those who approached
him, examining their air, bearing, and dress, and asked a sum
proportioned to the appearance which each presented. Kings, queens,
princes, archbishops, bishops, were, according to the regulation, to
pay twenty-five ducats for an ordinary indulgence. Abbots, counts, and
barons, paid ten. Others of the nobility, rectors, and all who had an
income of five hundred florins, paid six. Those who had two hundred
florins a-year paid one; others, only a half. Moreover, when the tax
could not be followed to the letter, full powers were given to the
commissary-apostolic, who was to arrange everything in accordance with
the dictates of "sound reason," and the generosity of the donor.[313]
For particular sins, Tezel had a particular tax. Polygamy paid six
ducats; theft in a church, and perjury, nine ducats; murder, eight
ducats; magic, two ducats. Samson, who carried on the same traffic in
Switzerland as Tezel in Germany, had a somewhat different tax. For
infanticide he charged four livres _tournois_; for parricide or
fratricide, a ducat.[314]

  [313] "Nach den Sätzen der gesunden vernunft, nach ihrer Magnificenz
  und Freigebigkeit." (Instruction, etc., 26.)

  [314] Müller's Reliq., iii, p. 264.

The apostolic commissaries sometimes encountered difficulties in
carrying on their trade. It often happened, both in towns and
villages, that husbands were opposed to the whole concern, and
prohibited their wives from giving any thing to these merchants. What,
then, were devout spouses to do? "Have you not your dowry, or some
other property, at your own disposal?" asked the dealers. "In that
case we may dispose of part for so sacred a purpose, even against the
will of your husbands."[315]

  [315] Instr. 27. "Wieder, den Willen ihres Mannes."

The hand which had given the indulgence could not receive the money.
This was prohibited under the severest penalties; for there might be
good reason to suspect that that hand would not have been faithful.
The penitent himself behoved to deposit the price of his pardon in the
chest.[316] Angry looks were given to those who were audacious enough
not to open their purses.[317]

  [316] Ibid., 87, 90, et 91.

  [317] Luth., Op. Leipz., xvii, 79.

If among those who pressed forward to the confessionals, there
happened to be any one whose crime was publicly known, though of a
kind which the civil law could not reach, he behoved, first of all, to
do public penance. For this purpose they first led him to a chapel or
sacristy, where they stripped him of his clothes, and took off his
shoes, leaving him nothing but his shirt. His arms were crossed upon
his breast, a light placed in one hand, and a rod in the other. Then
the penitent walked at the head of the procession which proceeded to
the red cross. He remained on his knees till the chant and the collect
was finished. Then the commissary gave out the Psalm, _Miserere mei_.
The confessors immediately approached the penitent, and led him across
the church towards the commissary, who, taking the rod from his hand,
and gently striking him thrice on the back with it,[318] said to him,
"The Lord have pity on thee, and forgive thy sin." He then gave out
the _Kyrie Eleison_. The penitent was led back to the front of the
cross, and the confessor gave him the apostolic absolution, and
declared him restored to the company of the faithful. Sad mummery,
concluded with a holy expression, which, at such a moment, was mere

  [318] "Dreimal gelind auf den Rücken." (Instruction.)

It is worth while to know the contents of one of those diplomas of
absolution which led to the Reformation of the Church. The following
is a specimen:--"May our Lord Jesus Christ have pity on thee, N. N.,
and absolve thee by the merit of his most holy passion. And I, in
virtue of the apostolic power entrusted to me, absolve thee from all
ecclesiastical censures, judgments, and penalties, which thou mayest
have deserved; moreover, from all the excesses, sins, and crimes,
which thou mayest have committed, how great and enormous soever they
may have been, and for whatever cause, even should they have been
reserved to our most holy Father the pope, and to the apostolic see. I
efface all the marks of disability, and all the notes of infamy which
thou mayest have incurred on this occasion. I remit the pains which
thou shouldest have to endure in purgatory. I render thee anew a
partaker in the sacraments of the church. I again incorporate thee
into the communion of saints, and re-establish thee in the innocence
and purity in which thou wert at the hour of thy baptism; so that, at
the moment of thy death, the gate of entrance to the place of pains
and torments will be shut to thee, and, on the contrary, the gate
which leads to the heavenly paradise, will be opened to thee. If thou
art not to die soon, this grace will remain unimpaired till thy last
hour arrive. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the
Holy Spirit. Amen.

"Friar John Tezel, commissary, has signed it with his own hand."

How dexterously presumptuous and lying words are here intermingled
with holy Christian expressions!

All the faithful required to come and confess at the place where the
red cross was erected. The only exceptions were the sick, the aged,
and pregnant women. If, however, there happened to be in the
neighbourhood some noble in his castle, or some great personage in his
palace, there was an exemption for him;[319] for he might not care to
mingle with the crowd, and his money was worth the going for.

  [319] Instr. 9.

If there happened to be a convent whose heads were opposed to the
traffic of Tezel, and prohibited their monks from visiting the places
where the indulgence had erected its throne, means were still found to
remedy the evil by sending them confessors, who were commissioned to
absolve them against the will of their order and the will of their
heads.[320] There was not a vein in the mine, however small, which
they did not find means of working.

  [320] Ibid., 69.

At length they arrived at the object and end of the whole affair, the
summing up of the cash. For greater security, the strong box had three
keys--one in the hands of Tezel, the second in those of the treasurer,
appointed by the firm of Fugger of Augsburg, who had been appointed
agents in this vast enterprise, while the third was entrusted to the
civil authority. When the moment arrived, the counters were opened in
the presence of a notary-public, and the whole was duly counted and
recorded. Must not Christ arise and drive these profane sellers from
the temple?

The mission being closed, the dealers relaxed from their labours. It
is true the instructions of the commissary-general forbade them to
frequent taverns and suspicious places;[321] but they cared little for
this prohibition. Sin must have appeared a very trivial matter to
people who had such an easy trade in it. "The mendicants," says a
Roman Catholic historian, "led a bad life, expending in taverns,
gaming-houses, and places of infamy, what the people retrenched from
their necessities."[322] It is even averred, that in taverns they
sometimes played at dice for the salvation of souls.[323]

  [321] Ibid., 4.

  [322] Sarpi, Conc. di Trent, p. 5.

  [323] Schröck. K. G. v, d. R., i, 116.


     The Franciscan Confessor--The Soul in the
     Burying-Ground--The Shoemaker of Hagenau--The
     Students--Myconius--Conversation with Tezel--Stratagem by a
     Gentleman--Conversation of the Wise and of the People--A
     Miner of Schneeberg.

But let us look at some of the scenes which then took place in Germany
during this sale of the pardon of sins; for we here meet with
anecdotes which, by themselves alone, give a picture of the times. As
we proceed with our narrative we deem it best to let men speak for

At Magdebourg Tezel refused to absolve a wealthy female, unless she
would pay him one hundred florins in advance. She consulted her
ordinary confessor, who was a Franciscan. "God," replied he, "gives
the remission of sins freely, and does not sell it." However, he
begged her not to tell Tezel what advice he had given her. But the
merchant having somehow or other heard of words so injurious to his
interest, exclaimed, "Such an adviser deserves to be banished or

  [324] Scultet. Annal. Evangel., p. 4.

Tezel rarely found men enlightened enough, and still more rarely men
bold enough, to resist him. For the most part he had a good market
from the superstitious crowd. He had erected the red cross of
indulgences at Zwickau, and the good parishioners had hastened to make
the money which was to deliver them chink on the bottom of the chest.
He was going away with a well-filled purse. The evening before his
departure the chaplains and their attendants applied to him for a
farewell entertainment. The request was reasonable; but how was it
possible to comply with it? the money was already counted and sealed
up. The next morning he orders the large bell to be rung. Crowds
hastened to the church, every one thinking that something
extraordinary must have happened, as the station was closed. "I had
resolved," said he, "to depart this morning, but last night was awoke
by groans. On listening I found they came from the burying-ground.
Alas! it was a poor soul calling and entreating me instantly to
deliver it from the torment by which it was consumed. I have,
therefore, remained one day more, in order to stir up the compassion
of Christian hearts in favour of this unhappy soul. I am willing
myself to be the first to give, and whosoever does not follow my
example will deserve damnation." What heart would not have responded
to such an appeal? Who knew, moreover, whose soul it was that was
crying in the burying-ground? The people contributed freely, and Tezel
gave the chaplains and their attendants a jovial entertainment,
defraying the expence by the offerings which he had received in favour
of the soul of Zwickau.[325]

  [325] Loscher's Ref. Acten, i, 404, Luth. Op. xv, 443, etc.

The indulgence merchants had fixed their station at Hagenau in 1517. A
shoemaker's wife, taking advantage of the authority of the instruction
of the commissary-general, had, contrary to the will of her husband,
procured a letter of indulgence, and paid a gold florin for it. She
died shortly after. The husband not having caused mass to be said for
the repose of her soul, the curate charged him with contempt of
religion, and the judge of Hagenau summoned him to appear. The
shoemaker put his wife's indulgence in his pocket and repaired to the
court. "Is your wife dead?" asked the judge. "Yes," replied he. "What
have you done for her?" "I have buried her body, and commended her
soul to God." "But have you caused a mass to be said for the salvation
of her soul?" I have not; it was unnecessary. She entered heaven the
moment of her death." "How do you know that?" "Here is the proof." So
saying, he takes the indulgence out of his pocket, and the judge, in
presence of the curate, reads in as many words that the woman who
received it would not enter purgatory, but go straight to heaven. "If
the reverend curate maintains that a mass is still necessary, my wife
has been cheated by our most holy father the pope. If she was not
cheated, then it is the reverend curate who is cheating me." This was
unanswerable, and the accused was acquitted. Thus the good sense of
the people did justice to these pious frauds.[326]

  [326] Musculi Loci Communes, p. 362.

One day when Tezel was preaching at Leipsic, and introducing into his
sermons some of those stories of which we have given a sample, two
students feeling quite indignant, rose up and left the church,
exclaiming, "It is impossible for us to listen longer to the
drolleries and puerilities of this monk."[327] One of them, it is
said, was young Camerarius, afterwards the intimate friend of
Melancthon, and his biographer.

  [327] Hoffman's Reformationsgesch, v, Leipz., p. 32.

But of all the young men of the period, he on whom Tezel made the
strongest impression unquestionably was Myconius, afterwards
celebrated as a Reformer, and historian of the Reformation. He had
received a Christian education. His father, a pious man of Franconia,
was wont to say to him, "My son, pray frequently, for all things are
freely given to us by God alone. The blood of Christ," added he, "is
the only ransom for the sins of the whole world. O, my son! were there
only three men that could be saved by the blood of Christ, believe,
and believe with confidence, that thou art one of the three. It is an
insult to the blood of the Saviour to doubt if it saves."[328] Then
cautioning his son against the traffic which was beginning to be
established in Germany--"The Roman indulgences," said he to him, "are
nets which fish for money, and deceive the simple. The forgiveness of
sins and of eternal life are not things for sale."

  [328] "Si tantum tres homines essent salvandi per sanguinem Christi,
  certo statueret unum se esse ex tribus illis." (Melch. Adam. Vita

At the age of thirteen Frederick Myconius was sent to the school of
Annaberg to finish his studies. Shortly after, Tezel arrived in the
town, and remained in it for two years. The people flocked in crowds
to his sermon. "There is no other method," exclaimed Tezel in his
voice of thunder; "there is no other method of obtaining eternal life
than the satisfaction of works; but this satisfaction is impossible
for man, and, therefore, all he can do is to purchase it from the
Roman pontiff."[329] When Tezel was about to quit Annaberg, his
addresses became more urgent. "Soon," exclaimed he, in a threatening
tone, "soon will I take down the cross, shut the gate of heaven,[330]
and quench the lustre of that sun of grace which is now shining in
your eyes." Then resuming the gentle accent of persuasion, "Now," said
he, "is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation." Then raising
his voice anew, the pontifical Stentor,[331] who was addressing the
inhabitants of a rich mineral district, loudly exclaimed, "Bring your
money, burghers of Annaberg, contribute largely in behalf of the
indulgences, and your mines and your mountains will be filled with
pure silver." In conclusion, he declared that at Pentecost he would
distribute his letters to the poor gratuitously, and for the love of

  [329] "Si nummis redimatur a pontifice Romano." (Melch. Adam.)

  [330] Clausurum januam cœli." (Ibid.)

  [331] "Stentor pontificius." (Ibid.)

Young Myconius being among the number of Tezel's hearers, felt an
eager desire to avail himself of this offer. Going up to the
commissaries, he said to them in Latin, "I am a poor sinner, and need
a gratuitous pardon!" The merchants replied, "Those alone can have
part in the merits of Jesus Christ who lend a helping hand to the
Church, in other words, who give money." "What is the meaning then,"
said Myconius, "of those promises of free gift, which are posted up on
the walls and doors of the churches?" "Give at least a shilling," said
Tezel's people who had gone to their master, and interceded with him
for the young man, but without effect. "I am not able." "Only
Sixpence." "I have not even so much." The dominicans then began to
fear that he wished to entrap them. "Listen," said they to him, "we
will make you a present of the sixpence." The young man, raising his
voice in indignation, answered, "I want no indulgences that are
purchased. If I wished to purchase, I would only have to sell one of
my school-books. I want a free pardon, given purely for the love of
God, and you will have to give account to God for having allowed the
salvation of a soul to be lost for a sixpence." "Who sent you to
entrap us?" exclaimed the merchants. "Nothing but the desire of
receiving the grace of God could have tempted me to appear before such
mighty lords," replied the young man, and withdrew.

"I was much grieved," said he, "at being sent thus pitilessly away;
but I still felt within myself a Comforter, who told me that there was
a God in heaven, who, without money and without price, pardons
repenting sinners for the love of his Son Jesus Christ. As I was
taking leave of those people, I melted into tears, and, sobbing,
prayed, 'O God! since these men have refused me the forgiveness of my
sins, because I had no money to pay for it, do thou, O Lord, have pity
on me, and forgive my sins in pure mercy!' I went to my lodging, and
taking up my crucifix, which was lying on my desk, laid it on my
chair, and prostrated myself before it. I cannot describe what I felt.
I asked God to be my Father, and to do with me whatsoever he pleased.
I felt my nature changed, converted, and transformed. What formerly
delighted me now excited my disgust. To live with God, and please him,
was my strongest, my only desire."[332] Thus Tezel himself contributed
to the Reformation. By crying abuses he paved the way for a purer
doctrine, and the indignation which he excited in a generous youth was
one day to break forth mightily. We may judge of this by the following

  [332] Letter of Myconius to Eberus in Hechtii Vita Tezelii. Wittemb.,
  p. 114.

A Saxon gentleman, who had heard Tezel at Leipsic, felt his
indignation aroused by his falsehoods, and going up to the monk, asked
him whether he had power to pardon the sins which were intended to be
committed? "Assuredly," replied Tezel. "I have full power from the
pope to do so." "Well then," resumed the knight, "there is one of my
enemies on whom I should like to take a slight revenge without doing
him any deadly injury, and I will give you ten crowns in return for a
letter of indulgence, which will completely acquit me." Tezel made
some objections; at last, however, they came to an agreement for
thirty crowns. Soon after the monk quits Leipsic. The gentleman
accompanied by his servants, waited for him in a wood between
Jüterboch and Treblin, and rushing out upon him, and giving him some
blows with a stick, carried off the rich indulgence chest, which the
inquisitor had with him. Tezel cries out robbery, and carries his
complaint before the judges, but the gentleman shows the letter with
Tezel's own signature, exempting him beforehand from all punishment.
Duke George, who had at first been very angry, on seeing the document
ordered the accused to be acquitted.[333]

  [333] Albinus Meissn. Chronick. L. W. (W.) xv, 446, etc., Hechtius in
  Vita Tezelii.

This traffic everywhere occupied men's thoughts, and was everywhere
talked of. It was the subject of conversation in castles, in
academies, and at the firesides of the citizens, as well as in inns
and taverns, and all places of public resort.[334] Opinions were
divided, some believing, and others expressing indignation. The
sensible portion of the community rejected the whole system of
indulgences with disgust. It was so contrary to Scripture and to
morality, that all who had any knowledge of the Bible, or any natural
light, condemned it in their hearts, and only waited for a signal to
declare their opposition to it. On the other hand, scoffers found
ample materials for raillery. The people, who had for many years been
irritated by the misconduct of the priests, and whom nothing but the
fear of punishment induced to keep up a certain show of respect, gave
free vent to their hatred. Complaints and sarcasms were everywhere
heard on the avarice of the clergy.

  [334] Luth. Op. (Leips.) xvii, pp. 111 et 116.

Nor did they stop here. They even attacked the power of the keys, and
the authority of the sovereign pontiff. "Why," said they, "does not
the pope deliver all souls from purgatory at once from a holy charity,
and in consideration of the sad misery of these souls, seeing he
delivers so great a number for the love of perishable money, and of
the cathedral of St. Peter? Why do feasts and anniversaries of the
dead continue to be celebrated? Why does not the pope restore or allow
others to resume the benefices and prebends which have been founded in
favour of the dead, since it is now useless, and even reprehensible,
to pray for those whom indulgences have for ever delivered?" "What
kind of new holiness in God and the pope is this--from a love of money
to enable a wicked profane man to deliver a pious soul beloved of the
Lord from purgatory, rather than deliver it themselves gratuitously
from love, and because of its great wretchedness."[335]

  [335] Luther's Theses on Indulgences, (Th. 82, 83, et 84.)

The gross and immoral conduct of the traffickers in indulgences was
much talked of. "In paying carriers for transporting them with their
goods, the innkeepers with whom they lodge, or any one who does any
piece of work for them, they give a letter of indulgence for four,
five, or any number of souls, as the case may be." In this way, the
diplomas of salvation were current in inns and in markets like bank
bills or paper money. "Bring! Bring!" said the common people, "is the
head, the belly, the tail, and the whole body of the sermon."[336]

  [336] Luth. Op. (Leips.) xvi, 79.

A miner of Schneeberg, meeting a seller of indulgences, asked, "Must
we indeed give credit to what you have often said of the power of the
indulgence, and of the authority of the pope, and believe it possible,
by throwing a penny into the box, to ransom a soul from purgatory?"
The merchant assured him it was true. "Ah!" resumed the miner, "what
an unmerciful man the pope must be, for a paltry penny to leave a
miserable soul so long crying in the flames. If he has no ready money,
let him borrow some hundred thousand crowns, and deliver all these
people at once. We poor folks will willingly pay him both the interest
and the capital." Thus Germany was weary of the shameful traffic which
was going on in the midst of her, and could no longer tolerate the
impostures of these master-swindlers of Rome, as Luther calls
them.[337] Yet no bishop, no theologian, durst oppose their quackery
and their fraud. The minds of men were in suspense, and asked whether
God would not raise up some mighty man for the work which required to
be done? This man nowhere appeared.

  [337] "Fessi erant Germani omnes, ferendis explicationibus,
  nundinationibus, et infinitis imposturis Romanensium nebulonum."
  (Luth. Op. Lat. in Præf.) All the Germans were weary with the
  windings, traffickings, and endless impostures of Roman spendthrifts.


     Leo X--Necessities of the Pope--Albert--His
     Character--Favours the Indulgences--The Franciscans and the

The pope then on the pontifical throne was not a Borgia but Leo X, of
the illustrious house of Medici. He was able, frank, kind, and gentle.
His address was affable, his liberality without bounds, and his
morals, superior to those of his court. Cardinal Pallavicini, however,
acknowledges that they were not altogether irreproachable. To this
amiable character he joined several of the qualities of a great
prince. He showed himself friendly to science and art. The first
Italian comedies were represented in his presence; and there are few
of his day which he did not see performed. He was passionately fond of
music. Musical instruments resounded every day in his palace; and he
was often heard humming the airs which had been performed before him.
He was fond of magnificence, and spared nothing when fêtes, games,
theatricals, presents or rewards, were in question. No court
surpassed that of the sovereign pontiff in splendour and gayety.
Accordingly, when it was learned that Julian Medicis was proposing to
reside at Rome with his young bride, "God be praised," exclaimed
Cardinal Bibliena, the most influential counsellor of Leo X, "the only
thing we wanted was a female court."[338] A female court was necessary
to complete the court of the pope. To religious sentiment Leo was
completely a stranger. "His manners were so pleasing," says Sarpi,
"that he would have been perfect if he had had some acquaintance with
religious matters, and been somewhat more inclined to piety, which
seldom, if ever, gave him any concern."[339]

  [338] Ranke, Rœmische Pæbste, i, 71.

  [339] Council of Trent, p. 4. Pallavicini, while pretending to refute
  Sarpi, confirms, and even heightens his testimony. "Suo plane officio
  defuit, (Leo) ... venationes, facetias, pompas adeo frequentes." ...
  (Conc. Trid. Hist. i, pp. 8, 9.) Leo was plainly wanting to his duty,
  so frequent were his shows his amusements, and hunting parties.

Leo was greatly in want of money. He had to provide for his immense
expenditure, supply all his liberalities, fill the purse of gold which
he daily threw to the people, keep up the licentious exhibitions of
the Vatican, satisfy the numerous demands of his relations and
voluptuous courtiers, give a dowry to his sister, who had been married
to Prince Cibo, a natural son of Pope Innocent VIII, and meet the
expenditure occasioned by his taste for literature, arts, and
pleasure. His cousin, Cardinal Pucci, as skilful in the art of
hoarding as Leo in that of lavishing, advised him to have recourse to
indulgences. Accordingly, the pope published a bull, announcing a
general indulgence, the proceeds of which were, he said, to be
employed in the erection of the church of St. Peter, that monument of
sacerdotal magnificence. In a letter, dated at Rome, under the seal of
the Fisherman, in November, 1517, Leo applies to his commissary of
indulgences for one hundred and forty-seven gold ducats, to pay a
manuscript of the thirty-third book of Livy. Of all the uses to which
he put the money of the Germans, this was, doubtless, the best. Still
it was strange to deliver souls from purgatory in order to purchase a
manuscript history of the wars of the Roman people.

There was at this time in Germany a young prince who might be regarded
as in many respects a living image of Leo X. This was Albert, a
younger brother of the elector, Joachim of Brandenburg. At twenty-four
years of age he had been appointed Archbishop and Elector of Mentz and
of Magdeburg, and two years after made a cardinal. Albert had neither
the virtues nor the vices which are often met with in the high
dignitaries of the church. Young, fickle, worldly, but not without
some generous feelings, he was perfectly aware of many of the abuses
of Catholicism, and cared little for the fanatical monks by whom he
was surrounded. His equity disposed him, in part at least, to
acknowledge the justice of what the friends of the gospel demanded. In
his secret heart he was not much opposed to Luther. Capito, one of the
most distinguished Reformers, was long his chaplain, counsellor, and
confidant. Albert regularly attended his sermons. "He did not despise
the gospel," says Capito; "on the contrary, he highly esteemed it, and
for a long time would not allow the monks to attack Luther." But he
would have liked Luther not to compromise him, and to take good care
while exposing the doctrinal errors and vices of the inferior clergy,
not to disclose the faults of bishops and princes. In particular, he
was most anxious that his name should not be mixed up with the affair.
His confidant, Capito, who had imposed upon himself, as men often do
in situations similar to his, thus addressed Luther: "Look to the
example of Jesus Christ and the apostles; they rebuked the Pharisees
and the incestuous man of Corinth, but they never expressly named
them. You know not what is passing in the hearts of the bishops; and,
perhaps, there is more good in them than you suppose." But the fickle
and profane spirit of Albert, still more than the susceptibilities and
fears of his self-love, estranged him from the Reformation. Affable,
clever, handsome, extravagant, and wasteful, delighting in the
pleasures of the table, in rich equipages, splendid buildings,
licentious pleasures, and literary society, this young Archbishop-Elector
was in Germany what Leo X was at Rome. His court was one of the most
magnificent in the empire, and he was prepared to sacrifice to
pleasure and grandeur all the sentiments of truth which, perhaps,
might have insinuated themselves into his heart. Nevertheless, his
better convictions continued even to the last to exercise some degree
of influence over him, and he repeatedly gave indications of
moderation and equity.

Albert, like Leo, was in want of money. The Fuggers, rich merchants in
Augsburg, had made him advances which he behoved to repay, and hence,
though he had managed to secure two archbishoprics and a bishopric, he
was unable to pay Rome for his Pallium. This ornament of white wool,
bespangled with black crosses and blessed by the pope, who sent it to
the archbishops as a token of their dignity, cost them twenty-six, or,
some say, thirty thousand florins. In order to obtain money, Albert,
naturally enough, bethought himself of having recourse to the same
methods as the pope. He accordingly applied to him for the general
farming of the indulgences, or, as they expressed it at Rome, "of the
sins of the Germans."

The popes sometimes kept the indulgences in their own hands, and at
other times farmed them out, in the same way as some governments still
do gaming-houses. Albert made an offer to Leo to share the profit with
him, and Leo, in agreeing to the bargain, stipulated for immediate
payment of the Pallium. Albert had been counting on paying it out of
the indulgences, and therefore applied anew to the Fuggers, who,
thinking the security good, agreed, on certain conditions, to make the
advance required, and were appointed bankers to the concern. They were
the bankers of the princes of this period, and were afterwards made
counts in return for the services which they had rendered.

The pope and the archbishop having thus, by anticipation, shared in
the spoils of the good souls of Germany, the next matter was to select
the persons who were to carry the affair into effect. It was first
offered to the Franciscan order, whose guardian was conjoined with
Albert. But, as it was already in bad odour with honest people, these
monks were not anxious to have anything to do with it. The Augustins,
who were more enlightened than the other religious orders, would have
been less inclined to undertake it. The Franciscans, however, being
afraid of offending the pope, who had just sent their chief, De,
Forli, a cardinal's hat, a hat which had cost this poor mendicant
order thirty thousand florins, the guardian deemed it more prudent not
to refuse openly, but, at the same time, threw all sorts of
difficulties in Albert's way. They could never understand each other,
and, accordingly, when the proposal was made to the Elector to
undertake the whole charge, he eagerly closed with it. The Dominicans,
on the other hand, longed for a share in the general collection which
was about to commence. Tezel, who was already famous in the trade,
hastened to Mentz to offer his services to the Elector. In
consideration of the talent which he had displayed in publishing the
indulgences for the knights of the Teutonic order of Prussia and
Livonia, his proposals were accepted, and in this way, the whole
traffic passed into the hands of his order.[340]

  [340] Seckendorf, 42.


     Tezel approaches--Luther at the Confessional--Tezel's
     Rage--Luther without a Plan--Jealousy among the
     Orders--Luther's Discourse--The Elector's Dream.

In so far as we know, Luther heard of Tezel, for the first time, at
Grimma, in 1516, when he was on the eve of beginning his visit to the
churches. While Staupitz was still with Luther, it was told him that
an indulgence merchant was making a great noise at Vürzen. Even some
of his extravagant sayings were quoted. Luther's indignation was
roused, and he exclaimed, "Please God, I'll make a hole in his

  [341] Lingke, Reisegesch. Luther's, p. 27.

Tezel, on his return from Berlin, where he had met with a most
friendly reception from the elector Joachim, brother of the
farmer-general, took up his head-quarters at Juterboch. Staupitz,
availing himself of his influence with the elector Frederick, had
often represented to him the abuses of the indulgences, and the
scandalous proceedings of the mendicants,[342] and the princes of
Saxony feeling indignant at the shameful traffic, had forbidden the
merchant to enter their territory. He was, accordingly, obliged to
remain on those of the Archbishop of Magdeburg, but at the same time
came as near to Saxony as he could, Juterboch being only four miles
from Wittemberg. "This great thresher of purses," says Luther, "set
about threshing[343] the country in grand style, so that the money
began to leap, tumble, and tinkle, in his chest." The people of
Wittemberg went in crowds to the indulgence market of Juterboch.

  [342] "Instillans ejus pectori frequentes indulgentiarum abusus."
  (Coch. 4.) Impressing him with the frequent abuse of indulgences.

  [343] In German, to thrash like grain, dreschen. (Luth. Op. xvii.)

At this period Luther had the highest respect for the church and for
the pope. "I was then," said he, "a monk, a most bigoted Papist, so
intoxicated and imbued with the doctrines of Rome, that if I had been
able I would willingly have lent a hand in killing any one audacious
enough to refuse obedience to the pope in the minutest matter.[344] I
was a real Saul, as many still are." But, at the same time, his heart
was ready to declare in favour of all that he believed to be truth,
and against all that he believed to be error. "I was a young doctor
just of the irons, ardent and rejoicing in the word of the Lord."[345]

  [344] In Præf. Op. (Witt. i.) "Monachum, et Papistam insanissimum, ita
  ebrium, imo submersum in dogmatibus papæ," etc.

  [345] Luth. Op. (W.) xxii.

One day when Luther had taken his seat in the confessional at
Wittemberg, several citizens of the town came before him, and one
after another confessed the grossest immoralities. Adultery,
libertinism, usury, ill-gotten wealth, were the crimes with which the
minister of the word was entertained by persons of whose souls he was
one day to give account. He rebukes, corrects, and instructs them; but
what is his astonishment when these people tell him that they don't
choose to abandon their sins?... Quite amazed, the pious monk
declares, that since they refuse to promise amendment, he cannot give
them absolution. The wretched creatures then appealed to their letters
of indulgence, exhibiting them and extolling their virtues. But Luther
replied, that he cared little for the paper which they had shown him,
and added, _unless you repent_, _you will all perish_. They made an
outcry, and expostulated, but the doctor was immovable; "they must
cease to do evil, and learn to do well, ... otherwise no absolution."
"Beware," added he, "of lending an ear to the harangues of the venders
of indulgences; you might be better employed than in buying those
licences which are sold you for the most paltry sum."[346]

  [346] "Cœpi dissuadere populis et eos dehortari ne indulgentiariorum
  clamoribus aurem præberent, ..." (Luth Op. Lat. in Præf.)

Much alarmed, these inhabitants of Wittemberg hastened back to Tezel
to tell him how his letters were disregarded by an Augustin monk.
Tezel, on hearing this, became red with fury, crying, and stamping,
and cursing in the pulpit.[347] To strike a deeper terror into the
people, he repeatedly kindled a fire in the market-place, declaring he
had received orders from the pope to burn all heretics who should dare
to oppose his holy indulgences.

  [347] "Wütet, schilt und maledeit græulich auf dem Predigtstuhl."
  (Myconius, Reformationsgesch.)

Such is the circumstance, which was not the cause, but the first
occasion of the Reformation. A pastor seeing the sheep of his flock in
a path which must lead them to destruction, makes an effort to deliver
them. As yet, he has no thought of reforming the church and the world.
He has seen Rome and its corruptions, but he declares not against
Rome. He perceives some of the abuses under which Christianity is
groaning, but has no thought of correcting these abuses. He has no
desire to become Reformer.[348] He has no plan for the reformation of
the Church any more than he had had one for himself. God intends
reform, and for reform selects Luther. The same remedy which had
proved so powerful in curing his own wretchedness, the hand of God
will employ by him to cure the miseries of Christendom. He remains
quiet in the sphere which is assigned to him, walking merely where his
Master calls him, and fulfilling his duties as professor, preacher,
and pastor, at Wittemberg. While seated in the church, his hearers
come and open their hearts to him. Evil makes an assault upon him, and
error seeks him out, of her own accord. He is interfered with in the
discharge of his duty, and his conscience, which is bound to the word
of God, resists. Is it not God that calls him? To resist is a duty,
and being a duty, is also a right. He has no alternative but to speak.
In this way were events ordered by that God who was pleased, says
Mathesius, "to restore Christendom by means of the son of a forge
master, and to purify the impure doctrine of the church, by making it
pass through his furnaces.[349]

  [348] "Hæc initia fuerunt hujus controversiæ in qua Lutherus nihil
  adhuc suspicans aut somnians de futura mutatione rituum." (Melancth.
  Vita Luth.) Such was the beginning of this controversy in which Luther
  was not yet thinking or dreaming of a future change of ritual.

  [349] "Die verseurte Lehr durch den ofen gehen," (p. 10.)

Having given this detail, it must be unnecessary to refute a false
imputation invented by some of Luther's enemies, but not till after
his death. Jealousy for his order, it has been said, grief at seeing a
shameful and condemned traffic entrusted to the Dominicans in
preference to the Augustins, who had hitherto enjoyed it, led the
doctor of Wittemberg to attack Tezel and his doctrines. The well known
fact that this traffic was first offered to the Augustins, who refused
it, is sufficient to refute this fable, which has been repeated by
writers who have copied each other; even Cardinal Pallavicini states
that the Augustins never had discharged this office.[350] Besides, we
have seen the travail of Luther's soul. His conduct needs no other
explanation. It was impossible for him not to make open profession of
the doctrine to which he owed his happiness. In Christianity, every
man who finds a blessing longs to make others partakers in it. In our
day it is time to abandon those puerile explanations which are
unworthy of the great revolution of the sixteenth century. To lift a
world, a more powerful lever was required. The Reformation existed not
in Luther only; it was the offspring of his age.

  [350] "Falsum est consuevisse hoc munus injungi Ermitanis S.
  Augustini."... (p. 14.) It is not true that this office was wont to be
  assigned to the Eremites of St. Augustine.

Luther impelled equally by obedience to the truth of God, and by
charity towards men, mounted the pulpit. He forewarned his hearers;
but, as he himself says, he did it gently.[351] His prince had
obtained particular indulgences from the pope for the church of the
castle of Wittemberg, and it was possible that some of the blows which
he was going to level at the indulgences in question might fall on
those of the Elector. No matter; he will run the risk. If he sought to
please men, he would not be the servant of Christ.

  [351] Säuberlich.

"No man can prove by Scripture," says the faithful minister of the
Word to the people of Wittemberg, "that the justice of God exacts a
penalty or satisfaction from the sinner; the only duty which it
imposes upon him is true repentance, sincere conversion, a resolution
to bear the cross of Jesus Christ, and to be diligent in good works.
It is a great error to think we can ourselves satisfy the justice of
God for our sins. He always pardons them gratuitously by his
inestimable grace.

"The Christian Church, it is true, requires something from the sinner,
and consequently has the power of remitting what she so requires, but
that is all. Even these indulgences of the Church are tolerated, only
on account of indolent and imperfect Christians, who will not
zealously exercise themselves in good works. For they stimulate none
to sanctification, but leave all in imperfection."

Then adverting to the pretext under which the indulgences were
published, he continues:--"It would be much better to contribute to
the erection of St. Peter's church from love to God, than to purchase
indulgences in this view.... But you ask, Are we then never to
purchase them? I have already said, and I repeat it; my advice is,
Don't purchase. Leave them to sleepy Christians, but do you walk apart
in your own path. The faithful must be diverted from indulgences, and
urged to do the works which they neglect."

At last, glancing at his adversaries, Luther concludes thus:--"If some
cry out that I am a heretic, (for the truth which I preach is very
hurtful to their strong box,) their clamour gives me little concern.
They are dull and sickly brains, men who never felt the Bible, never
read Christian doctrine, never comprehended their own teachers, and
who turn to rottenness, wrapped up in the tatters of their vain
opinions,[352] ... God grant them and us a sound mind. Amen." After
these words, the doctor descended from the pulpit, leaving his hearers
in astonishment at his bold language.

  [352] "Sondern in ihren löcherichen, und zerrissenen opinien, viel
  nahe verwessen." (Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 119.)

This sermon was printed, and made a deep impression on all who read
it. Tezel answered it, and Luther replied; but these discussions did
not take place till a later period, (1518).

The feast of All Saints drew near. The chronicles of that day here
relate a circumstance, which, though not important to the history of
the period, may, however, serve to characterise it. It is a dream of
the Elector, which in substance is unquestionably authentic, though
several circumstances may have been added by those who have related
it. It is mentioned by Seckendorf,[353] who observes, that the fear of
giving their adversaries ground to say that the doctrine of Luther was
founded upon dreams, has perhaps prevented several historians from
speaking of it.

  [353] It occurs also in Löscher, i, 46, etc.; Teuzel's Anfund Fortg.
  der Ref.; Jünker's Ehrenged, p. 148; Lehmann's Beschr. d. Meissn.
  Erzgeb., etc., and in a manuscript of the Archives of Weimar, taken
  down from the statement of Spalatin. Our account of the dream is
  conformable to this manuscript, which was republished at the last
  jubilee of the Reformation, (1817).

The Elector Frederick of Saxony, say the chronicles of the time, was
at his castle of Schweinitz, six leagues from Wittemberg. On the
morning of the 31st October, being in company with his brother Duke
John, who was then co-regent, and became sole elector after his death,
and with his chancellor, the Elector said to the Duke,

"Brother, I must tell you a dream which I had last night, and the
meaning of which I should like much to know. It is so deeply impressed
on my mind, that I will never forget it, were I to live a thousand
years. For I dreamed it thrice, and each time with new circumstances."

_Duke John._--"Is it a good or a bad dream?"

_The Elector._--"I know not; God knows."

_Duke John._--"Don't be uneasy at it; but be so good as tell it to

_The Elector._--"Having gone to bed last night, fatigued and out of
spirits, I fell asleep shortly after my prayer, and slept quietly for
about two hours and a half; I then awoke, and continued awake till
midnight, all sorts of thoughts passing through my mind. Among other
things, I thought how I was to observe the feast of All Saints. I
prayed for the poor souls in purgatory, and supplicated God to guide
me, my counsels, and my people, according to truth. I again fell
asleep, and then dreamed that Almighty God sent me a monk, who was a
true son of the Apostle Paul. All the saints accompanied him by order
of God, in order to bear testimony before me, and to declare that he
did not come to contrive any plot, but that all that he did was
according to the will of God. They asked me to have the goodness
graciously to permit him to write something on the door of the church
of the castle of Wittemberg. This I granted through my chancellor.
Thereupon the monk went to the church, and began to write in such
large characters, that I could read the writing at Schweinitz. The pen
which he used was so large that its end reached as far as Rome, where
it pierced the ears of a lion that was couching there,[354] and caused
the triple crown upon the head of the pope to shake. All the
cardinals and princes running hastily up, tried to prevent it from
falling. You and I, brother, wished also to assist, and I stretched
out my arm ... but at this moment I awoke, with my arm in the air,
quite amazed, and very much enraged at the monk for not managing his
pen better. I recollected myself a little: it was only a dream.

  [354] Leo X.

"I was still half asleep, and once more closed my eyes. The dream
returned. The lion, still annoyed by the pen, began to roar with all
his might, so much so that the whole city of Rome and all the states
of the holy empire, ran to see what the matter was. The pope requested
them to oppose this monk, and applied particularly to me, on account
of his being in my country. I again awoke, repeated the Lord's Prayer,
entreated God to preserve his Holiness, and once more fell asleep.

"Then I dreamed that all the princes of the empire, and we among them,
hastened to Rome, and strove one after another to break the pen; but
the more we tried the stiffer it became, sounding as if it had been
made of iron. We at length desisted. I then asked the monk (for I was
sometimes at Rome and sometimes at Wittemberg) where he got this pen,
and why it was so strong. 'The pen,' replied he, 'belonged to an old
goose of Bohemia, a hundred years old.[355] I got it from one of my
old school-masters. As to its strength, it is owing to the
impossibility of depriving it of its pith or marrow, and I am quite
astonished at it myself.' Suddenly I heard a loud noise; a large
number of other pens had sprung out of the long pen of the monk.... I
awoke a third time; it was daylight...."

  [355] John Huss. This circumstance may perhaps have been afterwards
added in allusion to the saying of John Huss, which we have quoted.
See the First Book.

_Duke John._--"Chancellor, what is your opinion? Would we had a Joseph
or a Daniel enlightened by God!"

_Chancellor._--"Your Highnesses know the common proverb, that the
dreams of young girls, learned men, and great lords, have usually some
hidden meaning. The meaning of this dream, however, we will not be
able to know for some time; not till the things to which it relates
have taken place. Wherefore, leave the accomplishment to God, and
place it wholly in his hand."

_Duke John._--"I am of your opinion, Chancellor; 'tis not fit for us
to annoy ourselves in attempting to discover the meaning; the God will
overrule all for his glory."

_Elector._--"May our faithful God do so; yet I will never forget this
dream. I have indeed thought of an interpretation, but I keep it to
myself. Time, perhaps, will show if I have been a good diviner."

Thus, according to the manuscript of Weimar, the morning of 31st of
October was spent at Schweinitz. Let us see how the evening was spent
at Wittemberg. We again return to the province of History.


     Feast of All Saints--The Theses--Their
     Force--Moderation--Providence--Letter to
     Albert--Indifference of the Bishops--Dissemination of the

The words of Luther had produced little effect. Tezel, without
troubling himself, continued his traffic and his impious
harangues.[356] Will Luther submit to these crying abuses, and keep
silence? As a pastor, he has earnestly exhorted those who have had
recourse to his ministry, and, as a preacher, he has lifted his
warning voice in the pulpit. It still remains for him to speak as a
theologian--to address, not individuals in the confessional, not the
assembly of the faithful in the church of Wittemberg, but all who,
like himself, are teachers of the word of God. His resolution is

  [356] "Cujus impiis et nefariis concionibus incitatus Lutherus, studio
  pietatis ardens, edidit propositiones de indulgentiis." (Melancth.
  Vita Luth.) Luther, stimulated by his impious and nefarious harangues,
  and glowing with pious zeal, published his Theses on Indulgences.

He has no thought of attacking the Church, or of putting the pope on
his defence. On the contrary, it is his respect for the pope that will
not allow him to be any longer silent with regard to claims by which
he is injured. He must take the part of the pope against audacious
men, who dare to associate his venerable name with their disgraceful
traffic. Far from thinking of a revolution which is to destroy the
primacy of Rome, Luther expects to have the pope and Catholicism for
his allies against impudent monks.[357]

  [357] "Et in iis certus mihi videbar, me habiturum patronum papam,
  cujus fiducia tune fortiter nitebar." (Luth. Op. Lat. in Præf.) And in
  these I thought myself certain that I would have the patronage of the
  pope, in whom I had then great confidence.

The feast of All Saints was an important day for Wittemberg, and
especially for the church which the Elector had there erected and
filled with relics. On that day these relics, adorned with silver and
gold, and precious stones, were brought out and exhibited to the eyes
of the people, who were astonished and dazzled by their
magnificence.[358] Whoever on that day visited the church and
confessed in it obtained a valuable indulgence. Accordingly, on this
great occasion, pilgrims came in crowds to Wittemberg.

  [358] "... Quas magnifico apparatu publicè populis ostendi curavit."
  (Cochlœus, 4.)

On the 31st of October, 1517, Luther, who had already taken his
resolution, walks boldly towards the church to which the superstitious
crowds of pilgrims were repairing, and puts up on the door of this
church ninety-five Theses or propositions against the doctrine of
indulgences. Neither the Elector, nor Staupitz, nor Spalatin, nor any,
even the most intimate of his friends, had been previously informed of
this step.[359] In these theses, Luther declares, in a kind of
preamble, that he had written them with the express desire of setting
the truth in the full light of day. He declares himself ready to
defend them on the morrow at the university, against all and sundry.
The attention which they excite is great; they are read and repeated.
In a short time the pilgrims, the university, the whole town is
ringing with them. The following are some of these Propositions,
written with the pen of the monk, and fixed on the door of the church
of Wittemberg.

  [359] "Cum hujus disputationis nullu etiam intimorum amicorum fuerit
  conscius." (Luth., Ep. i, p. 186.)

1. "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ says 'repent,' he means that
the whole life of his followers on the earth is a constant and
continual repentance.

2. "This expression cannot be understood of the sacrament of
penitence, (that is to say, of confession and satisfaction,) as
administered by the priest.

3. "Still the Lord intends not to speak merely of internal repentance.
Internal repentance is null, if it does not manifest itself externally
by the mortification of the flesh.

4. "Repentance and sorrow--that is to say, true penitence--continue so
long as a man is displeased with himself--that is, until he passes
from this life into life eternal.

5. "The pope is not able, and does not wish to remit any other penalty
than that which he has imposed of his own good pleasure, or
conformably to the canons, that is to say, the papal ordinances.

6. "The pope cannot remit any condemnation, but only declare and
confirm the remission which God himself has given. At least he can
only do it in cases which belong to him. If he does otherwise, the
condemnation remains exactly as before.

8. "The laws of ecclesiastical penance ought to be imposed on the
living only, and have nothing to do with the dead.

21. "The commissaries of indulgence are mistaken when they say that
the pope's indulgence delivers from all punishment and saves.

25. "The same power which the pope has over purgatory throughout the
Church, each bishop has individually in his own diocese, and each
curate in his own parish.

27. "It is the preaching of human folly to pretend, that at the very
moment when the money tinkles in the strong box, the soul flies off
from purgatory.

28. "This much is certain; as soon as the money tinkles, avarice and
the love of gain arrive, increase, and multiply. But the aids and
prayers of the Church depend only on the will and good pleasure of

32. "Those who imagine they are sure of salvation by means of
indulgences will go to the devil, with those who teach them so.

35. "It is an antichristian doctrine to pretend, that, in order to
deliver a soul from purgatory, or to purchase an indulgence, there is
no need of either sorrow or repentance.

36. "Every Christian who truly repents of his sins has entire
forgiveness of the penalty and the fault, and, so far, has no need of

37. "Every true Christian, dead or alive, participates in all the
blessings of Christ and of the Church by the gift of God and without a
letter of indulgence.

38. "Still the dispensation and pardon of the pope must not be
despised; for his pardon is a declaration of the pardon of God.

40. "Genuine sorrow and repentance seek and love punishment; but the
mildness of indulgence takes off the fear of punishment, and begets
hatred against it.

42. "Christians must be told that the pope has no wish and no
intention that they should in any respect compare the act of
purchasing indulgences with any work of mercy.

43. "Christians must be told that he who gives to the poor, or lends
to the needy, does better than he who buys an indulgence:

44. "For the work of charity makes charity increase, and renders a man
more pious; whereas the indulgence does not make him better, but only
gives him more self-confidence, and makes him more secure against

45. "Christians must be told that he who sees his neighbour want, and,
instead of helping him, purchases an indulgence, purchases not the
indulgence of the pope, but incurs the Divine displeasure.

46. "Christians must be told that if they have no superfluity, they
are bound to keep what they have, in order to procure necessaries for
their families, and not to lavish it on indulgences.

47. "Christians must be told that to purchase an indulgence is
optional, not obligatory.

48. "Christians must be told that the pope having more need of prayer
offered up in faith than of money, desires the prayer more than the
money when he dispenses indulgences.

49. "Christians must be told that the indulgence of the pope is good
provided they do not place their confidence in it, but that nothing is
more hurtful if it diminishes piety.

50. "Christians must be told that if the pope knew of the extortions
of the preachers of indulgences, he would rather that the metropolis
of St. Peter were burned and reduced to ashes, than see it built with
the skin, flesh, and bones, of his sheep.

51. "Christians must be told that the pope, as is his duty, would
dispense his own money to the poor people whom the preachers of
indulgences are now robbing of their last penny, were he, for that
purpose, even to sell the metropolis of St. Peter.

52. "To hope to be saved by indulgences is an empty and lying hope
even should the commissary of indulgences, nay, the pope himself, be
pleased to pledge his own soul in security of it.

53. "Those who, on account of the preaching of indulgences, forbid the
preaching of the word of God, are enemies of the pope and of Jesus

55. "The pope cannot have any other thought than this:--If the
indulgence, which is the lesser matter, is celebrated with bell, pomp,
and ceremony, it is necessary, _à fortiori_, to honour and celebrate
the gospel, which is the greater matter, with a hundred bells, a
hundred pomps, and a hundred ceremonies.

62. "The true and precious treasure of the Church is the holy gospel
of the glory and grace of God.

65. "The treasures of the gospel are nets, which once caught the rich,
and those who were at ease in their circumstances:

66. "But the treasures of indulgence are nets, in which, now-a-days,
they catch, not rich people, but the riches of people.

67. "It is the duty of bishops and pastors to receive the commissaries
of apostolic indulgences with all respect:

68. "But it is still more their duty to use their eyes and their ears,
in order to see that the said commissaries do not preach the dreams of
their own imaginations instead of the orders of the pope.

71. "Cursed be he who speaketh against the indulgence of the pope.

72. "But blessed be he who speaks against the foolish and impudent
words of the preachers of indulgences.

76. "The indulgence of the pope cannot take away the smallest daily
sin, in regard to the fault or delinquency.

79. "To say that a cross adorned with the arms of the pope is as
powerful as the cross of Christ is blasphemy.

80. "Bishops, pastors, and theologians, who allow such things to be
said to the people, will be called to account for it.

81. "This shameful preaching, these impudent eulogiums on indulgences
make it difficult for the learned to defend the dignity and honour of
the pope against the calumnies of the preachers, and the subtile and
puzzling questions of the common people.

86. "Why, say they, does not the pope, whose wealth is greater than
that of rich Crœsus, build the metropolis of St. Peter with his own
money rather than with that of poor Christians?

92. "Would, then, that we were discumbered of all the preachers who
say to the church of Christ, Peace! Peace! when there is no peace!

94. "Christians should be exhorted to diligence in following Christ
their head through crosses, death, and hell.

95. "For it is far better to enter the kingdom of heaven through much
tribulation, than to acquire a carnal security by the flattery of a
false peace."

Here, then, was the commencement of the work. The germ of the
Reformation was contained in these theses of Luther. The abuses of
indulgence were attacked in them, (and this was their most striking
feature,) but behind those attacks there was, moreover, a principle
which although it attracted the attention of the multitude far less,
was destined one day to overthrow the edifice of the papacy. The
evangelical doctrine of a free and gratuitous remission of sins was
here publicly professed for the first time. Henceforth the work must
grow. In fact, it was evident that any man who had faith in the
remission of sins as preached by the doctor of Wittemberg; any one who
had this conversion and sanctification, the necessity of which, he
urged, would no longer concern himself about human ordinances, but
would escape from the swaddling-bands of Rome, and secure the liberty
of the children of God. All errors behoved to give way before this
truth. By it light had at first entered Luther's own mind, and by it,
in like manner, light is to be diffused in the Church. What previous
reformers wanted was a clear knowledge of this truth; and hence the
unfruitfulness of their labours. Luther himself was afterwards aware
that, in proclaiming justification by faith, he had laid the axe to
the root of the tree. "This is the doctrine," said he, "which we
attack in the followers of the papacy. Huss and Wickliff only attacked
their lives, but in attacking their doctrine, we take the goose by the
neck. All depends on the Word which the pope took from us and
falsified. I have vanquished the pope, because my doctrine is
according to God, and his is according to the devil.[360]

  [360] "Wenn man die Lehre angriefft, so wird die Gans am Kragen
  gegriffen." (Luth. Op. (W.) xxii, p. 1369.)

We too have in our day forgotten the capital doctrine of justification
by faith, though, in a sense, the reverse of that of our fathers. "In
the time of Luther," says one of our contemporaries,[361] "the
remission of sins at least cost money, but in our day every one
supplies himself gratis." These two extremes are very much alike.
Perhaps there is even more forgetfulness of God in our extreme, than
in that of the sixteenth century. The principle of justification by
the grace of God, which brought the Church out of so much darkness at
the time of the Reformation, is also the only principle which can
renew our generation, put an end to its doubts and waverings, destroy
the canker of egotism, establish the reign of morality and justice,
and, in one word reunite the world to God, from whom it has been

  [361] Harms de Kiel.

But if the theses of Luther were mighty in virtue of the truth which
they proclaimed, they were not less so through the faith of their
declared defender. He had boldly unsheathed the sword of the Word, and
he had done it trusting to the power of truth. He had felt, that in
leaning on the promises of God he could, in the language of the world,
afford to risk something. Speaking of this bold attack, he says, "Let
him who would begin a good enterprise undertake it, trusting to its
own merits, and not (of this let him beware) to the help and
countenance of man. Moreover, let not men, nor even the whole world,
deter him. For these words will never deceive:--'It is good to trust
in the Lord; and none that trust in him shall be confounded.' But let
him who neither is able nor willing to hazard something through trust
in God, beware of undertaking any thing."[362] Doubtless, Luther,
after putting up his theses on the door of the church of All Saints,
retired to his tranquil cell, in full possession of the peace and joy
imparted by an action done in the name of the Lord, and for the sake
of eternal truth.

  [362] Luth. Op. Leips. vi, p. 518.

These theses, notwithstanding of their great boldness, still bespeak
the monk, who refuses to allow a single doubt as to the authority of
the See of Rome. But in attacking the doctrine of indulgences, Luther
had, without perceiving it, assailed several errors, the exposure of
which could not be agreeable to the pope, seeing that they tended,
sooner or later, to bring his supremacy in question. Luther, at the
time, did not see so far; but he felt all the boldness of the step
which he had just taken, and, consequently, thought himself bound to
temper it in so far as was consistent with the respect due to truth.
He, accordingly, presented his theses only as doubtful propositions on
which he was anxious for the views of the learned; and, conformably
to the established custom, annexed to them a solemn protestation,
declaring that he wished not to say or affirm any thing not founded on
Holy Scripture, the Fathers of the Church, and the rights and
decretals of the See of Rome.

Often, in the sequel, on contemplating the immense and unlooked-for
consequences of this courageous attack, Luther was astonished at
himself, and could not understand how he had ventured upon it. An
invisible hand, mightier than his own, held the leading reins, and
pushed him into a path which he knew not, and from the difficulties of
which he would, perhaps, have recoiled, if he had known them, and been
advancing alone and of himself. "I engaged in this dispute," says he,
"without premeditated purpose, without knowing it or wishing it; and
was taken quite unprepared. For the truth of this I appeal to the
Searcher of hearts."[363]

  [363] "Casu enim, non voluntate nec studio, in has turbas incidi, Deum
  ipsum testor." (Luth. Op. Lat. in Præf.) For I got involved in these
  disturbances by accident, not by will or zeal. God is my witness.

Luther had become acquainted with the source of these abuses. He had
received a little book, ornamented with the arms of the Archbishop of
Mentz and Magdeburg, and containing the regulations to be observed in
the sale of indulgences. It was this young prelate, therefore, this
accomplished prince, who had prescribed, or at least sanctioned, all
this quackery. In him Luther only sees a superior to whom he owes fear
and reverence;[364] and wishing not to beat the air, but to address
those entrusted with the government of the Church, he sends him a
letter, distinguished at once by its frankness and humility. Luther
wrote this letter to Albert the same day on which he put up his

  [364] "Domino suo et pastori in Christo venerabiliter metuendo." To
  his reverently to be feared Lord and pastor in Christ. (Address of the
  letter, Ep. i, p. 68.)

"Pardon me, most reverend Father in Christ, and most illustrious
Prince," says he to him, "if I, who am only the dregs of mankind,[365]
have the presumption to write your High Mightiness. The Lord Jesus is
my witness, that, feeling how small and despicable I am, I have long
put off doing it.... Will your Highness, however, be pleased to let
fall a look on a grain of dust, and, in accordance with your episcopal
meekness, graciously receive my petition.

  [365] Fex hominum. (Ibid.)

"There are people who are carrying the papal indulgence up and down
the country in the name of your Grace. I do not so much blame the
declamation of the preachers, (I have not heard them,) as the
erroneous ideas of unlearned and simple people, who imagine that by
buying indulgences they secure their salvation....

"Good God! souls entrusted to your care, most venerable Father, are
conducted to death, and not to life. The just and strict account which
will be required of you grows and augments from day to day.... I have
not been able to continue longer silent. Ah! man is not saved by
works, or by the performances of his bishop... Even the righteous
scarcely is saved; and the way that leadeth unto life is strait. Why,
then, do the preachers of indulgences by vain fables inspire the
people with a false security?

"According to them, indulgence alone ought to be proclaimed, ought to
be extolled.... What! Is it not the chief and only duty of bishops to
instruct the people in the gospel and the love of Jesus Christ?[366]
Jesus Christ has nowhere ordered the preaching of indulgence; but has
strongly enjoined the preaching of the gospel.[367] How dreadful, then
and how perilous, for a bishop to allow the gospel to be passed in
silence, and nothing but the sound of indulgence to be incessantly
dunned into the ears of his people....

  [366] "Ut populus Evangelium discat atque charitatem Christi." (Ibid.)

  [367] Vehementer præcipit." (Ibid.) Earnestly commands.

"Most worthy Father in God, in the Instruction of the commissaries,
which has been published in name of your Grace, (doubtless without
your knowledge,) it is said that the indulgence is the most precious
treasure,--that it reconciles man to God, and enables those who
purchase it to dispense with repentance.

"What then, can I, what ought I to do, most venerable Bishop, most
serene Prince? Ah! I supplicate your Highness, by the Lord Jesus
Christ, to turn upon this business an eye of paternal vigilance, to
suppress the pamphlet entirely, and ordain preachers to deliver a
different sort of discourses to the people. If you decline to do so,
be assured you will one day hear some voice raised in refutation of
these preachers, to the great dishonour of your most serene Highness."

Luther at the same time sent his theses to the archbishop, and, in a
postscript, asked him to read them, that he might be convinced how
little foundation there was for the doctrine of indulgences.

Thus Luther's whole desire was, that the watchmen of the Church should
awake, and exert themselves in putting an end to the evils which were
laying it waste. Nothing could be more noble and more respectful than
this letter from a monk to one of the greatest princes of the Church
and the empire. Never was there a better exemplification of the spirit
of our Saviour's precept--"Render unto Cæsar the things which are
Cæsar's, and unto God the things which are God's." This is not the
course of violent revolutionists, who contemn powers and blame
dignities. It is a cry proceeding from the conscience of a Christian
and a priest, who gives honour to all, but in the first place fears
God. However, all prayers and supplications were useless. Young
Albert, engrossed by his pleasures and ambitious designs, made no
reply to this solemn appeal. The Bishop of Brandebourg, Luther's
ordinary--a learned and pious man, to whom, also, he sent his
theses--replied that he was attacking the power of the Church, that he
would involve himself in great trouble and vexation, that the thing
was beyond his strength, and that his earnest advice to him was to
keep quiet.[368] The princes of the Church shut their ears against the
voice of God, thus energetically and affectingly declared by the
instrumentality of Luther. They would not comprehend the signs of the
times; they were struck with that blindness which has been the ruin of
so many powers and dignities. "Both thought," says Luther afterwards,
"that the pope would be too many for a miserable mendicant like me."

But Luther was better able than the bishops to perceive the disastrous
effects which the indulgences had upon the manners and lives of the
people; for he was in direct correspondence with them. He had
constantly a near view of what the bishops learned only by unfaithful
reports. If the bishops failed him, God did not fail him. The Head of
the Church, who sits in heaven, and to whom has been given all power
upon the earth, had himself prepared the ground, and deposited the
grain in the hands of his servant. He gave wings to the seed of truth,
and sent it in an instant over the whole length and breadth of his

Nobody appeared at the university next day to attack the propositions
of Luther. The traffic of Tezel was too much in discredit, and too
disgraceful for any other than himself, or some one of his creatures,
to dare to take up the gauntlet. But these theses were destined to be
heard in other places than under the roof of an academical hall.
Scarcely had they been nailed to the door of the castle church of
Wittemberg, than the feeble strokes of the hammer were followed
throughout Germany by a blow which reached even to the foundations of
proud Rome, threatening sudden ruin to the walls, the gates, and the
pillars of the papacy, stunning and terrifying its champions, and at
the same time awakening thousands from the sleep of error.[369]

  [368] "Er sollte still halten; es wäre eine grosse Sache." (Matthes.

  [369] Walthahr. v. Luther, p. 45.

These theses spread with the rapidity of lightning. A month had not
elapsed before they were at Rome. "In a fortnight," says a
contemporary historian,[370] "they were in every part of Germany, and
in four weeks had traversed almost the whole of Christendom; as if the
angels themselves had been the messengers, and carried them before the
eyes of all men. Nobody can believe what a noise they made." They were
afterwards translated into Dutch and Spanish, and a traveller even
sold them at Jerusalem. "Every one," says Luther, "was complaining of
the indulgences; and as all the bishops and doctors had kept silence,
and nobody had ventured to bell the cat, poor Luther became a famous
doctor, because, as they expressed it, one had at length come who
dared to do it. But I liked not this glory; the music seemed to me too
lofty for the words."[371]

  [370] Myconius, Hist. of the Ref., p. 23.

  [371] "Das Lied wollte meiner stimme zu hochwerden." (Luth. Op.)

Some of the pilgrims, who had flocked from different countries to
Wittemberg for the feast of All Saints, instead of indulgences carried
home with them the famous theses of the Augustin monk, and thus helped
to circulate them. All read, pondered, and commented on them. They
occupied the attention of all convents and all universities.[372] All
pious monks who had entered the cloister to save their soul, all
upright and honest men, rejoiced in this striking and simple
confession of the truth, and wished with all their heart that Luther
would continue the work which he had begun. At length a monk had had
the courage to undertake this perilous contest. It was a reparation
made to Christendom, and the public conscience was satisfied. In these
theses piety saw a blow given to all kinds of superstition; the new
theology hailed in them the defeat of the scholastic dogmas; princes
and magistrates regarded them as a barrier raised against the
encroachments of ecclesiastical power; while the nations were
delighted at seeing the decided negative which this monk had given to
the avarice of the Roman chancery. Erasmus, a man very worthy of
credit, and one of the principal rivals of the Reformer, says to Duke
George of Saxony, "When Luther attacked this fable, the whole world
concurred in applauding him." "I observe," said he on another occasion
to Cardinal Campeggi, "that those of the purest morals, and an
evangelical piety, are the least opposed to Luther. His life is lauded
even by those who cannot bear his faith. The world was weary of a
doctrine containing so many childish fables, and was thirsting for
that living water, pure and hidden, which issues from the springs of
the evangelists and the apostles. The genius of Luther was fitted to
accomplish these things, and his zeal must have animated him to the
noble enterprise."[373]

  [372] "In alle hohe Schullen und Klöster." (Mathes. 13.)

  [373] "Ad hoc præstandum mihi videbatur ille, et natura compositus et
  accensus studio." (Erasm. Ep. Campegio Cardinali, i, p. 650.) For
  accomplishing this, he seemed to me both fitted by nature, and
  inflamed by zeal.


     Reuchlin--Erasmus--Flek--Bibra--The Emperor--The
     Pope--Myconius--The Monks--Apprehensions--Adelman--An Old
     Priest--The Bishop--The Elector--The Inhabitants of
     Erfurt--Luther's Reply--Trouble--Luther's Moving Principle.

We must follow these propositions wherever they penetrated; to the
studies of the learned, the cells of monks, and the palaces of
princes, in order to form some idea of the various but wonderful
effects which they produced in Germany.

Reuchlin received them. He was weary of the hard battle which he had
been obliged to fight against the monks. The power which the new
combatant displayed in his theses revived the spirit of the old
champion of letters, and gave joy to his saddened heart. "Thanks be to
God," exclaimed he, after he had read them, "now they have found a man
who will give them so much to do, that they will be obliged to let me
end my old age in peace."

The prudent Erasmus was in the Netherlands when the theses reached
him. He was inwardly delighted at seeing his secret wishes for the
reformation of abuses expressed with so much boldness, and commended
their author, only exhorting him to more moderation and prudence.
Nevertheless, some persons in his presence blaming Luther's violence,
he said, "God has given men a cure which cuts thus deep into the
flesh, because otherwise the disease would be incurable." And at a
later period when the Elector of Saxony asked his opinion as to
Luther's affair, he replied with a smile, "I am not at all astonished
at his having made so much noise, for he has committed two
unpardonable faults; he has attacked the tiara of the pope and the
belly of the monks."[374]

  [374] Müller's Denkw, iv, 256.

Dr. Flek, prior of the cloister of Steinlausitz, had for some time
given up reading mass, but had not told any one his reason. He one day
found the theses of Luther posted up in the refectory of his convent.
He went up and began to read them, but had only perused a few, when
unable to contain his joy, he exclaimed, "Well, well, he whom we have
been so long looking for is come at last; and this you monks will
see." Then reading in the future, says Mathesius, and playing upon the
word Wittemberg, he said, "Everybody will come to seek wisdom at this
mountain, and will find it.[375] He wrote to the doctor to persevere
courageously in his glorious combat. Luther calls him a man full of
joy and consolation.

  [375] "Alle welt von diesem, Weissenberg, Weissheit holen und
  bekommen." (p. 13)

The ancient and celebrated episcopal see of Würzburg was then held by
Lowrence de Bibra, a man, according to the testimony of his
contemporaries, pious, honest, and wise. When a gentleman came to
intimate to him that he intended his daughter for the cloister, "Give
her rather a husband," said he; and then added, "Are you in want of
money for that purpose? I will lend you." The emperor and all the
princes held him in the highest esteem. He lamented the disorders of
the Church, and especially those of convents. The theses having
reached his palace also, he read them with great delight, and publicly
declared his approbation of Luther. At a later period he wrote to the
Elector Frederick, "Don't part with pious Dr. Martin Luther; for he
has been wronged." The Elector delighted at this testimony, wrote the
Reformer with his own hand to acquaint him with it.

The Emperor Maximilian, predecessor of Charles V, also read and
admired the theses of the monk of Wittemberg. He perceived his
talents, and foresaw that this obscure Augustin might, indeed, become
a powerful ally of Germany in her struggle with Rome. Accordingly, he
instructed his envoy to say to the Elector of Saxony, "Take good care
of the monk Luther, for the time may come when we shall have need of
him;"[376] and shortly after, being at a diet with Pfeffinger, the
Elector's confidential councillor, he said to him, "Well what is your
Augustin doing? Assuredly his propositions are not to be despised; he
will give the monks enough to do."[377]

  [376] "Dass er uns den Munch Luther fleisig beware." (Mathes. 15.)

  [377] Schmidt Brand Reformationsgesch, p. 124.

At Rome even, and in the Vatican, the theses were not so ill received
as might have been supposed. Leo X judged of them as a friend of
letters, rather than a pope. The amusement which they gave him made
him overlook the severe truths which they contained; and when
Sylvester Prierias, the master of the sacred palace, who had the
office of examining new works, urged him to treat Luther as a
heretic, he replied, "This Friar, Martin Luther, is a great genius;
all that is said against him is mere monkish jealousy."[378]

  [378] "Che frate Martino Luthero haveva un bellissimo ingegnoe che
  coteste erano invidie fratesche." (Brandelli, contemporary of Leo, and
  a Dominican, Hist. Trag. Pars 3.)

There were few on whom the theses of Luther produced a deeper
impression than on the scholar of Annaberg, whom Tezel had so
pitilessly repulsed. Myconius had entered a convent, and the very
first evening dreamed he saw an immense field quite covered with ripe
corn. "Cut," said the voice of his guide to him; and when he excused
himself for want of skill, his guide showed him a reaper, who was
working with inconceivable rapidity. "Follow, and do like him," said
the guide.[379] Myconius, eager for holiness as Luther had been,
devoted himself when in the convent to vigils, fasts, macerations, and
all the works invented by men; but at length he despaired of ever
attaining the objects of his efforts. He abandoned study, and spent
his whole time in manual labour. Sometimes he bound books, sometimes
used the turning-lathe, and sometimes did any other kind of work.
Still, however, this external labour did not appease his troubled
conscience. God had spoken to him, and he could not fall back into his
former slumber. This state of agony lasted for several years. It is
sometimes supposed that the paths of the Reformers were quite smooth,
and that after they renounced the observances of the Church, their
remaining course was easy and pleasant. It is not considered that they
arrived at the truth by means of internal struggles, a thousand times
more painful than the observances to which servile minds easily

  [379] Melch. Adami Vita Myconii.

At length the year 1517 arrived. The theses of Luther were published,
and, traversing Christendom, arrived also at the convent where the
scholar of Annaberg was residing. He hid himself in a corner of the
cloister, with John Voit, another monk, that they might be able to
read them without interruption.[380] They contained the very truth of
which his father had told him. His eyes were opened, he felt a voice
within him responding to that which was then sounding throughout
Germany, and great consolation filled his heart. "I see plainly," said
he, "that Martin Luther is the reaper whom I saw in my dream, and who
taught me to gather the ears of corn." He immediately began to profess
the doctrine which Luther had proclaimed. The monks, alarmed when they
heard him, argued with him, and declaimed against Luther and against
his convent. "That convent," replied Myconius, "is like our Lord's
sepulchre; they wish to prevent Christ from rising again, but will not
succeed." At last his superiors, seeing they could not convince him,
interdicted him for a year and a half from all intercourse with the
world, not permitting him even to write or to receive letters, and
threatening him with perpetual imprisonment. However, for him also the
hour of deliverance arrived. Being afterwards appointed pastor at
Zwickau, he was the first who declared against the papacy in the
churches of Thuringia. "Then," says he, "I could work with my
venerable father Luther at the Gospel harvest." Jonas describes him as
a man as able as he was willing.[381]

  [380] "Legit tunc cum Joanne Voite, in angulum abdtius, libellos
  Lutheri." (Ibid.)

  [381] "Qui potuit quod voluit."

Doubtless, there were others also to whom Luther's theses were the
signal of life. They kindled a new light in many cells, cottages, and
palaces. "While those who had entered convents in quest of good fare
and indolence, or rank and honours," says Mathesius, "began to load
the name of Luther with reproaches, the monks who lived in prayer,
fasting, and mortification, thanked God as soon as they heard the cry
of the eagle, announced by John Huss, a century before."[382] Even the
people who did not well understand the theology of the question, and
who only knew that Luther was assailing the empire of mendicants and
lazy monks, received it with bursts of joy. An immense sensation was
produced in Germany by his bold propositions. However, some of the
Reformer's contemporaries, who foresaw the consequences to which they
might lead, and the numerous obstacles which they were destined to
encounter, loudly expressed their fears, or at most rejoiced with

  [382] "Darvon Magister Johann. Huss, geweissaget." (Mathes. 13.)

"I am much afraid," wrote the excellent canon of Augsburg, Bernard
Adelman, to his friend Pirckeimer, "that the worthy man must yield at
last to the avarice and power of the partizans of indulgences. His
representations have had so little effect, that the Bishop of
Augsburg, our primate and metropolitan,[383] has just ordered new
indulgences, in the name of the pope, for St. Peter's at Rome. Let him
hasten to seek the aid of princes. Let him beware of tempting God; for
it were to show an absolute want of sense to overlook the imminent
danger to which he is exposed." Adelman was greatly delighted when it
was rumoured that Henry VIII had invited Luther to England. "There,"
thought he, "he will be able to teach the truth in peace." Several
thus imagined that the doctrine of the gospel was to be supported by
the power of princes, not knowing that it advances without this power,
and is often trammelled and weakened by the possession of it.

  [383] He adds, "Totque uxorum vir," The husband of so many wives,
  (Heumann Documenta lit. p. 167.)

The celebrated historian, Albert Kranz, was at Hamburg on his
deathbed, when Luther's theses were brought to him. "You are right,
friar Martin," he exclaimed, "but you will not succeed.... Poor monk!
Go into your cell and cry, 'Lord, have mercy on me!'"[384]

  [384] "Frater, abi in cellam, et dic: Miserere mei." (Lindner in
  Luther's Leben, p. 93.)

An old priest of Hexter in Westphalia, having received and read the
theses in his presbytery, said in Low German, shaking his head, "Dear
friar Martin! if you succeed in overthrowing this purgatory and all
these paper merchants, assuredly you are a mighty segnior!" Erbenius,
a century later, wrote beneath these words the following stanza:--

    "Quid vero nunc si viveret,
    Bonus iste clericus diceret?"

    What then would the good clerk say,
    Were he alive to see this day.

Not only did many of Luther's friends entertain fears as to the step
which he had taken, but several even testified their disapprobation.

The Bishop of Brandenburg, distressed at seeing his diocese the scene
of so important a contest, was anxious to suppress it. He resolved to
take the gentle method, and employed the Abbot of Lenin to say to
Luther, in his name, "I don't find any thing in the theses
contradictory of Catholic truth. I myself condemn these indiscreet
proclamations; but for the love of peace and deference to your bishop,
cease writing on the subject." Luther was confounded at being thus
humbly addressed by so great an abbot and so great a bishop, and led
away by the feelings of the moment, replied, "I consent. I would
rather obey than work miracles, were it in my power."[385]

  [385] "Bene sum contentus: mala obedire quam miracula facere, etiam si
  possem." (Ep. i, 71.)

The Elector was grieved at the commencement of a contest which was no
doubt legitimate, but the end of which it was impossible to foresee.
No prince was more desirous than Frederick for the maintenance of
public peace. Now, what an immense fire might this small spark not
kindle? What discord, what rending of nations, might this quarrel of
monks not produce? The Elector repeatedly made Luther aware how much
he was annoyed.[386]

  [386] "Suumque dolorem sæpe significavit, metuens discordias majores."
  (Melancth. Vita Luth.) And often expressed his sorrow, fearing worse

Even in his own order and his own convent of Wittemberg, Luther met
with disapprobation. The prior and sub-prior, terrified at the clamour
of Tezel and his companions, repaired in fear and trembling to the
cell of friar Martin, and said, "Do not, we entreat you, bring shame
on our order. The other orders, and especially the Dominicans, are
overjoyed to think that they are not to be alone in disgrace." Luther
was moved by these words, but soon recovering himself, he replied,
"Dear fathers, if the thing is not done in the name of God it will
fail, but if it is, let it proceed." The prior and sub-prior said no
more. "The thing proceeds even now," adds Luther, after relating this
anecdote, "and, please God, always will proceed better and better,
even to the end. Amen."[387]

  [387] Luth. Op. (L.) vi, p. 518.

Luther had many other attacks to sustain. At Erfurt he was accused of
violence and pride in his manner of condemning the opinions of
others--the charge usually brought against those who act under the
strong conviction which the word of God gives. He was also charged
with precipitation and fickleness.

"They call upon me for moderation," replied Luther, "and they
themselves, in the judgment which they pass upon me, trample it under
foot!... We see the mote in our brother's eye, and observe not the
beam in our own.... Truth will no more gain by my moderation than it
will lose by my presumption. I desire to know," continued he,
addressing Lange, "what errors you and your theologians have found in
my theses? Who knows not that a new idea is seldom advanced without an
appearance of arrogance, and an accusation of disputatiousness? Were
humility herself to undertake something new, those of an opposite
opinion would charge her with pride.[388] Why were Christ and all the
martyrs put to death? Because they were deemed proud despisers of the
wisdom of the time, and advanced new truths without previously taking
counsel of the organs of ancient opinion."

  [388] "Finge enim ipsam humilitatem nova conari, statim superbiæ
  subjicietur ab iis qui aliter sapiunt." (Luth. Ep. i, p. 73.)

"Let not the wise of the present day, then, expect of me humility, or
rather hypocrisy enough, to ask their opinion before publishing what
duty calls me to say. What I do will be done, not by the prudence of
men, but by the counsel of God. If the work is of God, who can arrest
it? If it is not of God, who can advance it?... Not my will, nor
theirs, nor ours, but Thy will be done, O Holy Father who art in
heaven!" In these words what courage, what noble enthusiasm, what
confidence in God, and, above all, what truth, truth fitted to all

Still the reproaches and accusations which assailed Luther from all
quarters, failed not to make some impression on his mind. His hopes
were disappointed. He had expected to see the heads of the church,
and the most distinguished scholars of the nation, publicly uniting
with him; but it was otherwise. A word of approbation, allowed to
escape at the first moment of enthusiasm, was all that the best
disposed gave him, while several of those whom he had till then most
highly venerated were loud in censuring him. He felt himself alone in
the whole Church,[389] alone against Rome, alone at the foot of that
ancient and formidable edifice, whose foundations lay deep in the
bowels of the earth, whose battlements reached the clouds, and at
which he had just struck a daring blow. He was troubled and depressed.
Doubts which he thought he had surmounted returned with new force. He
trembled at the thought of having the authority of the whole Church
against him, of withdrawing from that authority and resisting that
voice which nations and ages had humbly obeyed, of setting himself in
opposition to that church which he had from infancy been accustomed to
venerate as the mother of the faithful.... He a paltry monk ... the
effort was too great for man.[390] No step cost him more than this,
and, accordingly, it was the step which decided the Reformation.

  [389] "Solus primo eram." (Luth. Op. Lat. in Præf.) At first I was

  [390] "Consilium immanis audaciæ plenum." (Pallavicini, i, 17.) A
  measure of infinite daring.

The struggle which took place in his soul cannot be better described
than in his own words. "I began this affair," says he, "with great
fear and trembling. Who was I, a poor, miserable, despicable friar,
liker a corpse than a living man;[391]--who was I, to oppose the
majesty of the pope, before whom not only the kings of the earth and
the whole world, but also, if I may so speak, heaven and hell
trembled, compelled to yield obedience to his nod? Nobody can imagine
what my heart suffered during those two first years, and into what
depression, I might say what despair, I was often plunged. No idea of
it can be formed by those proud spirits who afterwards attacked the
pope with great boldness, although with all their ability they could
not have done him the least harm, had not Jesus Christ, by me his
feeble and unworthy instrument, given him a wound which never will be
cured. But while they were contented to look on, and leave me alone in
danger, I was not so joyful, so tranquil, or so sure about the
business; for at that time I did not know many things which, thank
God, I know now. It is true, several pious Christians were much
pleased with my Propositions, and set a great value upon them, but I
could not own and regard them as the organs of the Holy Spirit. I
looked only to the pope, the cardinals, bishops, theologians,
jurisconsults, monks, and priests. That was the direction from which I
expected the Spirit to come. Still having, by means of Scripture, come
off victorious over all contrary arguments, I have at length, by the
grace of Christ, though after much pain, travail, and anguish,
surmounted the only argument which arrested me, viz., that it is
necessary to listen to the Church;[392] for from the bottom of my
heart I honoured the church of the pope as the true church, and did so
with much more sincerity and veneration, than those shameless and
infamous corrupters who are now so very forward in opposing me. Had I
despised the pope as much as he is despised in the hearts of those who
praise him so loudly with their lips, I would have dreaded that the
earth would instantly open and swallow me up as it did Corah and his

[391] "Miserrimus tunc fraterculus, cadaveri similior quam homini."
(Luth. Op. Lat. i, p. 49.)

[392] "Et cum omnia argumenta superassem per Scripturas, hoc unum cum
summa difficultate et angustia, tandem Christo favente, vix superavi,
Ecclesiam scilicet esse audiendam." (Luth. Op. Lat. i, p. 49.)

How honourable these misgivings are to Luther! How well they display
the sincerity and uprightness of his soul! And how much more worthy of
respect do those painful assaults which he had to sustain, both within
and without, prove him to be, than mere intrepidity without any such
struggle, could have done! The travail of his soul clearly displays
the truth and divinity of his work. We see that their origin and
principle were in heaven. After all the facts which we have stated,
who will presume to say that the Reformation was an affair of
politics? No, assuredly; it was not the effect of human policy, but of
the power of God. Had Luther been urged by human passions only, he
would have yielded to his fears; his miscalculations and scruples
would have smothered the fire which had been kindled in his soul, and
he would only have thrown a transient gleam upon the Church, in the
same way as the many zealous and pious men, whose names have come down
to us. But now God's time had arrived; the work was not to be
arrested; the emancipation of the Church was to be accomplished.
Luther was destined at least to prepare that complete emancipation and
those extensive developments which are promised to the kingdom of
Christ. Accordingly, he experienced the truth of the magnificent
promise, "The strong men shall faint and be weary, and the young men
utterly fail; but they who wait upon the Lord shall renew their
strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles." This Divine
power which filled the heart of the doctor of Wittemberg, and which
had engaged him in the combat, soon gave him back all his former


     Tezel's Attack--Luther's Reply--Good Works--Luther and
     Spalatin--Study of Scripture--Scheurl and Luther--Doubts on
     the Theses--Luther for the People--A New Suit.

The reproaches, timidity, or silence, of Luther's friends had
discouraged him; the attacks of his enemies had the very opposite
effect. This frequently happens. The adversaries of the truth, while
thinking by their violence to do their own work, often do that of God
himself.[393] The gauntlet which had been thrown down was taken up by
Tezel with a feeble hand. Luther's sermon, which had been to the
people what his theses had been to the learned, was the subject of his
first reply. He refuted it point by point, in his own way, and then
announced that he was preparing to combat his adversary at greater
length in theses which he would maintain at the university of
Frankfort on the Oder. "Then," said he, adverting to the conclusion of
Luther's sermon; "then every one will be able to judge who is
heresiarch, heretic, schismatic, erroneous, rash, and calumnious. Then
will it be manifest to the eyes of all who has a dull brain, who has
never felt the Bible, read Christian doctrines, understood his own
teachers.... In maintaining the propositions which I advance, I am
ready to suffer all things, prison, cudgel, water, and fire."

  [393] "Hi furores Tezelii et ejus satellitum imponunt necessitatem
  Luthero, de rebus iisdem copiosius, disserendi et tuendæ veritatis."
  (Melancth. Vita Luth.) The fury of Tezel and his satellites compelled
  Luther to treat these subjects more copiously, and to defend the

One thing which strikes us in reading this production of Tezel is the
difference between his German and that of Luther. One would say that
an interval of several ages is between them. A foreigner, especially,
sometimes finds it difficult to comprehend Tezel, whereas the language
of Luther is almost the same as that of our day. A comparison of the
two is sufficient to show that Luther is the creator of the German
language. No doubt, this is one of his least merits, but still it is

Luther replied without naming Tezel; Tezel had not named him. But
there was nobody in Germany who could not have placed at the head of
their publications the name which they had judged it expedient to
suppress. Tezel tried to confound the repentance which God demands
with the penance which the Church imposes, in order to give a higher
value to his indulgences. Luther made it his business to clear up this

"To avoid many words," said he, in his graphic style, "I give to the
wind (which, besides, has more leisure than I have) his other words,
which are only sheets of paper and withered leaves; and I content
myself with examining the foundations of his house of bur-thistle.

"The penitence which the holy father imposes cannot be that which
Jesus Christ demands; for whatever the holy father imposes he can
dispense with; and if these two penitences were one and the same, it
would follow that the holy father takes away what Jesus appoints, and
thereby makes void the commandment of God.... Ah! if it so pleases
him, let him maltreat me," continues Luther, after quoting other false
interpretations of Tezel; "let him call me heretic, schismatic,
calumniator, or anything he likes; I will not on that account be his
enemy, but will pray for him as for a friend. But it is not possible
to allow him to treat the Holy Scriptures, our consolation, (Rom., xv,
4,) as a sow treats a sack of corn."[394]

  [394] "Dass er die Schrift, unsern Trost, nicht anders behandelt wie
  die Sau einen Habersack."

We must accustom ourselves to Luther's occasional use of expressions
too harsh and homely for our age,--it was the custom of the time; and
under those words which in our days would violate the proprieties of
language, there is usually a force and justice which disposes us to
pardon their rankness. He continues thus:--

"He who buys indulgences, say our adversaries, does better than he who
gives alms to a poor man not absolutely in extremity. Now, let them
tell us that the Turks are profaning our churches and crosses, we will
be able to hear it without a shudder; for we have amongst ourselves
Turks a hundred times worse, who profane and annihilate the only true
sanctuary, the word of God, which sanctifies all things.... Let him
who would follow this precept take good care not to give food to the
hungry, nor clothing to the naked, before they give up the ghost, and,
consequently, have no need of his assistance."

It is important to contrast the zeal which Luther thus manifests for
good works with what he says of justification by faith. Indeed, no man
who has any experience, or any knowledge of Christianity, needs this
new proof of a truth of which he is fully assured; viz., that the more
we adhere to justification by faith, the more strongly we feel the
necessity of works, and the more diligently we practise them; whereas
lax views as to the doctrine of faith necessarily lead to laxity of
conduct. Luther, as St. Paul before, and Howard after him, are proofs
of the former; all men without faith (and with such the world is
filled) are proofs of the latter.

Luther comes next to the insulting language of Tezel, and pays him
back in his own way. "At the sound of these invectives methinks I hear
a large ass braying at me. I am delighted at it, and would be very
sorry that such people should give me the name of a good Christian."
We must give Luther as he is with all his foibles. This turn for
pleasantry, coarse pleasantry, was one of them. The Reformer was a
great man, undoubtedly a man of God; but he was a man, not an angel,
and not even a perfect man. Who is entitled to call upon him for

"For the rest," adds he, challenging his opponents to the combat,
"although it is not usual to burn heretics for such points, here, at
Wittemberg, am I, Doctor Martin Luther! Is there any inquisitor who
pretends to chew fire, and make rocks leap into the air? I give him to
know, that he has a safe-conduct to come here, an open door, and bed
and board certain, all by the gracious care of our admirable Duke
Frederick, who will never protect heresy."[395]

  [395] Luth. Op. Leips. xvii, 132.

We see that Luther was not deficient in courage. He trusted to the
word of God--a rock which never gives way in the tempest. But God in
faithfulness gave him still further aid. The bursts of joy with which
the multitude had hailed Luther's theses were soon succeeded by a
gloomy silence. The learned had timidly drawn back on hearing the
calamities and insults of Tezel and the Dominicans. The bishops, who
had previously been loud in condemnation of the abuses of indulgences,
seeing them at length attacked, had not failed, with an inconsistency
of which there are but too many examples, to find that at that time
the attack was inopportune. The greater part of the Reformer's friends
were frightened. Several of them had fled. But when the first terror
was over, the minds of men took an opposite direction. The monk of
Wittemberg soon saw himself again surrounded with a great number of
friends and admirers.

There was one who, although timid, remained faithful to him throughout
this crisis, and whose friendship at once solaced and supported him.
This was Spalatin. Their correspondence was not interrupted. "I thank
you," says he, when speaking of a particular mark of friendship which
he had received from him; "but what do I not owe you?"[396] It was on
the 11th November, just fifteen days after the publication of the
theses, and consequently when the minds of men were in a state of the
greatest fermentation, that Luther thus delights to unbosom his
gratitude to his friend.

  [396] "Tibi gratias ago; imo quid tibi non debeo?" (Luth. Ep. i, p.

In the same letter to Spalatin, it is interesting to see the strong
man, who had just performed a most daring exploit, declaring from what
source he derives his strength. "We can do nothing of ourselves; we
can do everything by the grace of God. By us all ignorance is
invincible, but no ignorance is invincible by the grace of God. The
more we endeavour of ourselves to attain to wisdom, the nearer we
approach to folly.[397] It is not true that this invincible ignorance
excuses the sinner; were it so there would be no sin in the world."

  [397] "Quanto magis conamur ex nobis ad sapientiam, tanto amplius
  appropinquamus insipientiæ." (Luth. Ep. i, p. 74.)

Luther had not sent his propositions, either to the prince or to any
of his courtiers. The chaplain seems to have expressed some surprise
at this, and Luther answers:--"I did not wish my theses to reach our
illustrious prince or any of his court, before those who think
themselves specially addressed had received them, lest it should be
thought that I had published them by order of the prince or to gain
his favour, or from opposition to the Bishop of Mentz. I hear there
are already several who dream such things. But now I can swear in all
safety that my theses were published without the knowledge of Duke

  [398] "Sed salvum est nunc etiam jurare, quod sine scitu Ducis
  Frederici exierint." (Ibid., p. 76.) But now it is safe even to swear,
  that they have gone forth without the knowledge of Duke Frederick.

If Spalatin solaced his friend, and supported him by his influence,
Luther on his part was desirous to meet the requests of the modest
chaplain. The latter, among other questions, asked one which is
frequently repeated in our day, "What is the best method of studying
the Holy Scriptures?"

"Till now, my dear Spalatin," replied Luther, "you have asked
questions which I could answer. But to direct you in the study of the
Scriptures is more than I am able to do. However, if you would
absolutely know my method, I will not hide it from you.

"It is most certain that we cannot succeed in comprehending the
Scripture either by study or mere intellect. Your first duty, then, is
to begin with prayer.[399] Entreat the Lord that he will in his great
mercy deign to grant you the true knowledge of his Word. There is no
other interpreter of the word of God than the Author of that word
according as it is said, 'They will all be taught of God.' Hope
nothing from your works, nothing from your intellect. Trust only in
God, and in the influence of his Spirit. Believe one who is speaking
from experience."[400]

  [399] "Primum id certissimum est, sacras literas non posse vel studio,
  vel ingenio penetrari. Ideo primum officium est, ut ab oratione

  [400] "Igitur de tuo studio desperes oportet omnino, simul et ingenio.
  Deo autem soli confidas, et influxui Spiritus. Experto crede ista."
  (Luth. Ep. i, p. 88, 18th Jan.)

We here see how Luther attained possession of the truth of which he
was a preacher. It was not, as some pretend, by confiding in a
presumptuous reason, nor, as others maintain, by abandoning himself to
hateful passions. The source from which he drew it was the purest,
holiest, and most sublime--God himself consulted in humility,
confidence, and prayer. Few in our day imitate him, and hence few
comprehend him. To a serious mind these words of Luther are in
themselves a justification of the Reformation.

Luther likewise found comfort in the friendship of respectable laymen.
Christopher Scheurl, the excellent secretary of the imperial city of
Nuremberg, gave him gratifying marks of his friendship. We know how
pleasant expressions of sympathy are to the man who feels himself
assailed from all quarters. The secretary of Nuremberg did more; he
tried to make friends to his friend. He urged him to dedicate one of
his works to a then celebrated lawyer of Nuremberg, named Jerome
Ebner:--"You have a high idea of my studies," modestly replied Luther;
"but I have the poorest idea of them myself. Nevertheless, I was
desirous to meet your wishes. I have searched ... ; but in all my
store, which I never found so meagre, nothing presented itself which
seemed at all worthy of being dedicated to so great a man by so little
a man."[401] Striking humility! It is Luther who speaks thus, and the
person with whom he contrasts himself is Doctor Ebner, who is
altogether unknown to us. Posterity has not ratified Luther's

  [401] "Luther writes him:--"Literæ tuæ animum tuum erga meam
  parvitatem candidum et longe ultra merita benevolentissimum
  probaverunt." (Ibid., p. 79.) Your letter proves your candid opinion
  of me, and your most kind affection for me, both to a degree far
  exceeding my deserts.

Luther, who had done nothing to circulate his theses, had not sent
them to Scheurl any more than to the Elector and his courtiers. The
secretary of Nuremberg expressed his surprise. "I had no intention,"
replies Luther, "to give my theses so much publicity. I wished only to
confer on their contents with some of those who reside with us or near
us;[402] intending, if they condemned, to destroy, and if they
approved, to publish them. But now they are printed, reprinted, and
spread far and wide, beyond my expectation; so much so that I repent
of their production.[403] Not that I have any fear of the truth being
known by the people, (for this was all I sought,) but this is not the
way of instructing them. There are questions in the theses as to which
I have still my doubts; and if I had thought that they were to produce
such a sensation, there are things which I would have omitted, and
others which I would have affirmed with greater confidence." Luther
afterwards thought differently. Far from fearing he had said too much,
he declared that he ought to have said still more. But the
apprehensions which Luther expresses to Scheurl do honour to his
sincerity. They show that he had nothing like a premeditated plan, had
no party spirit, no overweening conceit, and sought nothing but the
truth. When he had fully discovered the truth, his language was
different. "You will find in my first writings," said he, many years
after, "that I very humbly made many concessions to the pope, and on
points of great importance; concessions which I now detest, and regard
as abominable and blasphemous."[404]

  [402] "Non fuit consilium neque votum eas evulgari, sed cum paucis
  apud et circum nos habitantibus primum super ipsis conferri." (Ibid.,
  p. 95.)

  [403] "Ut me pœniteat hujus fœturæ." (Ibid.)

  [404] "Quæ istis temporibus pro summa blasphemia et abominatione habeo
  et execror." (Luth. Op. Lat. Wit. in Præf.)

Scheurl was not the only layman of importance who, at this time,
testified his friendship for Luther. The celebrated painter, Albert
Durer, sent him a present, (perhaps one of his pictures,) and the
doctor expressed his sense of the obligation in the warmest

  [405] "Accepi simul et donum insignis viri Alberti Durer." (Luth., Ep.
  i, 95.)

Thus Luther had practical experience of the truth of that saying of
Divine wisdom:--"A friend loveth at all times; and a brother is born
for adversity." Those words he remembered for the sake of others also,
and accordingly pleaded the cause of the whole population. The Elector
had just levied a tax, and it was confidently alleged that he was
going to levy another, probably on the advice of his counsellor
Pfeffinger, against whom Luther often throws out cutting sarcasms. The
doctor boldly placed himself in the breach. "Let not your Highness,"
said he, "despise the prayer of a poor mendicant. In the name of God I
entreat you not to order a new tax. My heart is broken, as well as
that of several of your most devoted servants, at seeing how much the
last has injured your fair fame, and the popularity which your
Highness enjoyed. It is true that God has endowed you with profound
intellect, so that you see much farther into things than I, or
doubtless all your subjects, do. But, perhaps, it is the will of God
that a feeble intellect instruct a great one, in order that no one may
trust in himself, but only in the Lord our God. May he deign to keep
your body in health for our good, and destine your soul to life
eternal. Amen." In this way it is that the gospel, while it makes us
honour kings, makes us also plead the cause of the people. While it
tells them of their duties, it, at the same time, reminds the prince
of their rights. The voice of a Christian such as Luther, raised in
the cabinet of a sovereign, might often supply the place of a whole
assembly of legislators.

In this letter, in which Luther addresses a harsh lesson to the
Elector, he fears not to present a request to him, or rather to remind
him of a promise, viz., to give him a new suit. This freedom of
Luther, at a moment when he might have feared he had given offence to
Frederick, is equally honourable to the prince and to the Reformer.
"But," adds he, "if it is Pfeffinger who has the charge of it, let him
give it in reality, and not in protestations of friendship. He knows
very well how to weave a web of good words, but no good cloth ever
comes out of it." Luther thought, that, by the faithful counsel which
he had given to his prince, he had well deserved his court dress.[406]
Be this as it may, two years later he had not received it, and renewed
his request.[407] This seems to indicate that Frederick was not so
much under the influence of Luther as has been said.

  [406] "Mein Hofkleid verdienen." (Luth. Ep. Lat. i, pp. 77, 78.)

  [407] Ibid., p. 283.


     Disputation at Frankfort--Tezel's
     Theses--Menaces--Opposition of Knipstrow--Luther's Theses
     Burnt--The Monks--Luther's Peace--Tezel's Theses
     Burnt--Luther's Vexation.

The minds of men had thus gradually recovered from their first alarm.
Luther himself was disposed to declare that his words did not mean so
much as had been imagined. New circumstances might divert public
attention, and the blow struck at Roman doctrine might, as had been
the case with so many others, spend itself in the air. The partisans
of Rome prevented this result. They fanned the flame instead of
smothering it.

Tezel and the Dominicans replied haughtily to the attack which had
been made upon them. Burning with eagerness to crush the audacious
monk who had disturbed their traffic, and to gain the favour of the
Roman pontiff, they uttered cries of rage. They maintained that to
attack the indulgence ordered by the pope was to attack the pope
himself, and they called in the aid of all the monks and theologians
of their school.[408] In fact, Tezel felt that an opponent like Luther
was too much for him single-handed. Quite disconcerted, but more
especially enraged at the doctor's attack, he quitted the environs of
Wittemberg, and repaired to Frankfort on the Oder, where he arrived as
early as November, 1517. The university of that town, like that of
Wittemberg, was of recent date. One of the professors was Conrad
Wimpina, a man of much eloquence, an old rival of Pollich of
Mellerstadt, and one of the most distinguished theologians of the
time. Wimpina's envy was excited both by the doctor and by the
university of Wittemberg; for their reputation obscured his. Tezel
applied to him for a reply to Luther's theses, and Wimpina wrote two
series of antitheses, the former to defend the doctrine of
indulgences, and the latter to defend the authority of the pope.

  [408] "Suum senatum convocat; monachos aliquot et theologos sua
  sophistica utcunque tinctos."(Melancth. Vita Luth.) He assembles his
  own senate; some monks and theologians imbued with his own sophistry.

This disputation, which had been long prepared and loudly advertised,
and of which Tezel entertained the highest hopes, took place on the
20th January, 1518. Tezel having beaten up for recruits, monks had
been sent from all the neighbouring cloisters, and assembled to the
number of more than three hundred. Tezel read his theses, one of which
declared, "that whosoever says that the soul does not fly away from
purgatory as soon as the money tinkles on the bottom of the strong
box, is in error."[409]

  [409] "Quisquis ergo dicit, non citius posse animam volare, quam in
  fundo cistæ denarius possit tinnire, errat." (Positiones Fratris Joh.
  Tezelii, Pos. 56, Luth. Op. i, p. 94.) Whosoever says that the soul
  cannot fly off sooner than the money can tinkle in the bottom of the
  chest, errs.

But, above all, he maintained propositions, according to which, the
pope appeared to be truly, as the apostle expresses it, _seated as God
in the temple of God_. It was convenient for this shameless merchant
to take refuge under the pope's mantle, with all his disorders and

In presence of the numerous assembly in which he stood, he declared
himself ready to maintain as follows:--

3. "Christians must be taught that the pope, by the greatness of his
power, is above the whole universal Church and all councils. His
orders ought to be implicitly obeyed.

4. "Christians must be taught that the pope alone is entitled to
decide in matters of Christian faith; that he, and none but he, has
the power to explain the meaning of Scripture in his own sense, and to
approve or condemn all words or works of others.

5. "Christians must be taught that the judgment of the pope in things
which concern Christian faith, and which are necessary to the
salvation of the human race, cannot possibly err.

6. "Christians must be taught that in matters of faith they ought to
lean and rest more upon the opinion of the pope, as manifested by his
decisions, than on the opinion of all wise men, as drawn by them out
of Scripture.

8. "Christians must be taught that those who attack the honour and
dignity of the pope are guilty of the crime of lese-majesty, and
deserve malediction.

17. "Christians must be taught that there are many things which the
Church regards as authentic articles of universal truth, although they
are not found either in the canon of Scripture or in ancient doctors.

44. "Christians must be taught to regard those as obstinate heretics,
who, by their words, their actions, or their writings, declare that
they would not retract their heretical propositions were
excommunication after excommunication to rain or hail upon them.

48. "Christians must be taught that those who protect heretics in
their error, and who, by their authority, prevent them from being
brought before the judge who is entitled to try them, are
excommunicated; that if, in the space of a year, they desist not from
doing so, they will be declared infamous, and severely punished with
various punishments, in terms of law, and to the terror of all

  [410] "Pro infamibus sunt tenendi, qui etiam per juris capitula
  terribiliter multis plectentur pœnis omnium hominum terrorem."
  (Positiones Fratris Joh. Tezelii, Pos. 56, Luth. Op. i, p. 98.)

50. "Christians must be told that those who spoil so many books and so
much paper, and who preach or dispute publicly and wickedly on the
confession of the mouth, the satisfaction of works, the rich and great
indulgences of the Bishop of Rome, and on his power; that those who
ally themselves with those so preaching or writing, who take pleasure
in their writings, and circulate them among the people and in the
world; that those, in fine, who secretly speak of those things in a
contemptuous and irreverent manner, may well tremble at incurring the
pains which have just been named, and of precipitating themselves and
others with them, at the last day, into eternal condemnation, and even
here below into great disgrace. For every beast that toucheth the
mountain shall be stoned."

We see that Luther was not the only person whom Tezel attacked. In the
forty-eighth thesis he had probably the Elector of Saxony in view.
These propositions savour much of the Dominican. To threaten every
contradictor with severe punishment was an inquisitor's argument, and
scarcely admitted of a reply. The three hundred monks whom Tezel had
brought together gaped and stared in admiration of his discourse. The
theologians of the university were too much afraid of being classed
with the abettors of heresy, or were too much attached to the
principles of Wimpina, candidly to adopt the extraordinary theses
which had just been read.

The whole affair, about which so much noise had been made, seemed
destined to be only a sham fight; but among the crowd of students
present at the disputation was a young man of about twenty, named John
Knipstrow. He had read the theses of Luther, and found them
conformable to the doctrines of Scripture. Indignant at seeing the
truth publicly trampled under foot, while no one appeared to defend
it, this young man rose up, to the great astonishment of the whole
assembly, and attacked the presumptuous Tezel. The poor Dominican, who
had not counted on such opposition, was quite disconcerted. After some
efforts, he quitted the field of battle, and gave place to Wimpina,
who made a more vigorous resistance; but Knipstrow pressed him so
closely, that, to put an end to a contest, which in his eyes was so
unbecoming, Wimpina, who presided, declared the discussion closed, and
proceeded forthwith to confer the degree of doctor on Tezel, in
recompence of this glorious combat. Wimpina, to disencumber himself of
the young orator, caused him to be sent to the convent of Pyritz in
Pomerania, with orders that he should be strictly watched. But this
dawning light was only removed from the banks of the Oder that it
might afterwards shed a bright effulgence in Pomerania.[411] When God
sees it meet, he employs scholars to confound teachers.

  [411] Spieker, Gesch. Dr. M. Luthers. Beckmani Notitia Univ.
  Francofurt, viii, etc.

Tezel, wishing to repair the check which he had received, had recourse
to the _ultima ratio_ of Rome and the inquisitors,--I mean the faggot.
On a public walk in one of the suburbs of Frankfort, he caused a
pulpit and a scaffold to be erected, and repaired thither in solemn
procession with his _insignia_ of inquisitor. Mounting the pulpit, he
let loose all his fury. He darted his thunder, and with his Stentorian
voice exclaimed, that the heretic Luther ought to be burned alive.
Then placing the doctor's theses and sermon on the scaffold, he burned
them.[412] He was better acquainted with this kind of work than with
the defence of theses. Here he met with no opponents, and his victory
was complete. The impudent Dominican returned in triumph to Frankfort.
When parties in power are vanquished, they have recourse to certain
demonstrations which must be conceded to them as a kind of consolation
to their disgrace.

  [412] "Fulmina in Lutherum torquet; vociferatur ubique hunc hereticum
  igni perdendum esse; propositiones etiam Lutheri in concionem de
  indulgentiis publice conjicit in flammas." (Melancth. Vita Luth.)

The second theses of Tezel form an important epoch in the Reformation.
They changed the locality of the dispute, transporting it from the
indulgence market to the halls of the Vatican, and diverting it from
Tezel to the pope. Instead of the contemptible creature whom Luther
had taken in his fist, they substituted the sacred person of the Head
of the church. Luther was stunned at this. It is probable that he
would himself have taken the step at a later period, but his enemies
spared him the trouble. Thenceforward the question related not merely
to a disreputable traffic, but to Rome; and the blow by which a bold
hand had tried to demolish the shop of Tezel, shook the very
foundations of the pontifical throne.

Tezel's theses were only a signal to the Roman troops. A cry against
Luther arose among the monks, who were infuriated at the appearance of
an adversary more formidable than either Erasmus or Reuchlin had been.
The name of Luther resounded from the pulpits of the Dominicans, who
addressed themselves to the passions of the people, and inveighed
against the courageous doctor, as a madman, a deceiver, and a
demoniac. His doctrine was denounced as the most dreadful heresy.
"Wait only for a fortnight, or four weeks at farthest," said they,
"and this noted heretic will be burned." Had it depended only on the
Dominicans, the fate of the Saxon doctor had soon been that of Huss
and Jerome, but his life was destined to accomplish what the ashes of
Huss had begun. Each does the work of God, one by his death, and
another by his life. Several now began to cry out that the whole
university of Wittemberg was tainted with heresy, and pronounced it
infamous.[413] "Let us pursue the villain, and all his partisans,"
continued they. In several places these exclamations had the effect of
stirring up the passions of the people. Those who shared the opinions
of the Reformer had the public attention directed towards them; and in
every place where the monks were strongest, the friends of the gospel
felt the effects of their hatred. Thus, in regard to the Reformation,
the Saviour's prediction began to be accomplished, "They will revile
you and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you
falsely, for my sake." This is a recompence which the world at no time
fails to bestow on the decided friends of the gospel.

  [413] "Eo furunt usque, ut Universitatem Wittembergensem propter me
  infamem conantur facere et hæreticam." (Luth. Ep. i, p. 92.)

When Luther was made acquainted with Tezel's theses, and with the
general attack of which they were the signal, his courage rose. He
felt that it was necessary to withstand such adversaries to the face;
and his intrepid zeal had no difficulty in resolving so to do. At the
same time, their feebleness made him aware of his own strength, and
told him what he was.

He did not, however, allow himself to give way to those emotions of
pride which are so natural to the heart of man. "It gives me more
difficulty," he writes to Spalatin, "to refrain from despising my
adversaries, and so sinning against Jesus Christ, than it would give
me to vanquish them. They are so ignorant in things human and divine,
that one is ashamed at having to fight with them; and yet it is their
very ignorance which gives them their inconceivable audacity and face
of brass."[414] But the most powerful support to Luther's heart, in
the midst of this universal opposition, was the deep conviction that
his cause was the cause of truth. "Let it not surprise you," he writes
to Spalatin, at the beginning of the year 1518, "that I am so much
insulted. I am delighted with these insults. Did they not curse me, I
could not believe so firmly that the cause which I have undertaken is
God's own cause.[415] Christ has been set up for a sign to be spoken
against. I know," added he, "that from the beginning of the world the
nature of the word of God has been such, that every one who has
preached it to the world, has been obliged, like the apostles, to
leave all and lay his account with death. Were it otherwise, it would
not be the word of Jesus Christ."[416] This peace in the midst of
agitation is a thing unknown to the world's heroes. Men placed at the
head of a government, or of a political party, are seen to give way
under their labours and their vexations. The Christian in his
struggles usually acquires new strength, because he has access to a
mysterious source of repose and courage, unknown to those whose eyes
are closed to the gospel.

  [414] Luth. Ep. i, p. 92.

  [415] "Nisi maledicerer, non crederem ex Deo esse quæ tracto." (Luth.
  Ep. i, 85.)

  [416] In language full of energy he continues:--"Mortem emptum est,
  mortibus vulgatum, mortibus servatum, mortibus quoque servandum aut
  referendum est." It was bought by death, published by deaths,
  preserved by deaths, by deaths also must be preserved or published.

One thing, however, sometimes distressed Luther, viz., the thought of
the dissensions which his courageous opposition might produce. He knew
that a single word might be sufficient to set the world in a flame;
and when he foresaw prince against prince, and perhaps nation against
nation, his patriotic heart was saddened, and his Christian charity
alarmed. His wish was for peace; but he behoved to speak out. So God
required. "I tremble," said he, "I shudder at the thought of being the
cause of discord among such mighty princes."[417]

  [417] "Inter tantos principes dissidii origo esse valde horreo et
  timeo." (Luth. Ep. 1, p. 93.)

He still kept silence in regard to Tezel's propositions concerning the
pope. Had he been carried away by passion, he would doubtless have
made an impetuous assault on the extraordinary doctrine under which
his opponents sought to take shelter. He did not do so; and there is
in this delay, reserve, and silence, something grave and solemn, which
sufficiently explains the spirit by which he was animated. He waited,
but not through weakness; for when he struck he gave a heavier blow.

Tezel, after his _auto da fe_ at Frankfort on the Oder, had hastened
to send his theses into Saxony. There, thought he, they will serve as
an antidote to those of Luther. A man from Halle, employed by the
inquisitor to circulate his propositions, arrived at Wittemberg. The
students of the university, still indignant at Tezel for having burned
the theses of their master, no sooner heard of the messenger's
arrival, than they sought him out, and, gathering round, jostled and
frightened him. "How dare you bring such things here?" demanded they.
Some purchasing part of the copies with which he was provided, and
others seizing the rest, they got possession of his whole stock,
amounting to eight hundred copies. Then, unknown to the Elector, the
senate, the rector, Luther, and all the other professors,[418] they
put up the following notice on the boards of the university:--"Whosoever
is desirous to be present at the burning and funeral of Tezel's
theses, let him repair at two o'clock to the market-place."

  [418] "Hæc inscio principe, senatu, rectore, denique omnibus nobis"
  (Luth. Ep. i, p. 99.)

Crowds assembled at the hour, and committed the propositions of the
Dominican to the flames, amid loud acclamations. One copy which
escaped, Luther afterwards sent to his friend, Lange of Erfurt. These
generous but imprudent youths followed the old precept, "_Eye for eye,
and tooth for tooth_" and not that of Jesus Christ; but after the
example which doctors and professors had given at Frankfort, can we be
astonished that young students followed it at Wittemberg? The news of
this academical execution spread throughout Germany, and made a great
noise.[419] Luther was extremely vexed at it.

  [419] "Fit ex ea re ingens undique fabula." (Ibid.)

"I am astonished," he writes to his old master, Jodocus, at Erfurt,
"how you could think it was I that burned Tezel's theses. Do you think
that I am so devoid of sense? But what can I do? When I am the subject
of remark, every thing seems to be believed.[420] Can I tie up the
tongues of the whole world? Very well! Let them say, let them hear,
let them see, let them pretend whatever they please; I will act as
long as the Lord gives me strength, and with his help will fear
nothing." "What will come out of it," says he to Lange, "I know not,
unless it be that my danger is much increased."[421] The act of the
students shows how much their hearts already burned for the cause
which Luther defended. This was an important symptom; for a movement
among the young of necessity soon extends to the whole nation.

  [420] "Omnes omnibus omnia redunt de me." (Luth. Ep. i, p. 109.)

  [421] (Luth Ep. i, 98.)

The theses of Tezel and Wimpina, though little esteemed, produced a
certain effect. They heightened the dispute, widened the rent which
had been made in the mantle of the Church, and brought questions of
the highest interest into the field. Accordingly, the heads of the
Church began to look more narrowly at the matter, and to declare
decidedly against the Reformer. "Verily, I know not in whom Luther
confides," said the Bishop of Brandenburg, "when he dares thus attack
the power of bishops." Perceiving that this new circumstance called
for new proceedings, the bishop came in person to Wittemberg; but he
found Luther animated with the inward joy which a good conscience
imparts, and determined to give battle. The bishop felt that the
Augustin monk was obeying an authority superior to his, and returned
to Brandenburg in a rage. One day, in the winter of 1518, when sitting
at his fireside, he turned to those who were about him and said, "I
will not lay down my head in peace till I have thrown Martin into the
fire, as I do this brand," throwing one into the grate. The revolution
of the sixteenth century was not to be accomplished by the heads of
the Church any more than that of the first century had been by the
Sanhedrim and the synagogue. In the sixteenth century, the heads of
the Church were opposed to Luther, the Reformation, and its ministers,
in the same way as they were opposed to Jesus Christ, the gospel, and
his apostles, and as they too often are at all times to the truth.
"The bishops," says Luther, in speaking of the visit which the Bishop
of Brandenburg had paid him, "begin to perceive that they ought to
have done what I am doing, and they are consequently ashamed. They
call me proud and audacious, and I deny not that I am so. But they are
not the people to know either what God is, or what we are."[422]

  [422] "Quid vel Deus vel ipsi sumus." (Luth. Ep. i, p. 224.)


     Prierio--System of Rome--The Dialogue--System of
     Reform--Reply to Prierio--The Word--The Pope and the
     Church--Hochstraten--The Monks--Luther replies--Eck--The
     School--The Obelisks--Luther's Sentiments--The

A more serious resistance than that of Tezel was already opposed to
Luther. Rome had answered. A reply had issued from the walls of the
sacred palace. It was not Leo X who had taken it into his head to
speak theology. "A quarrel of monks," he had one day said. "The best
thing is not to meddle with it." And on another occasion, "It is a
drunken German who has written these theses; when he recovers from his
wine he will speak differently."[423] A Dominican of Rome, Sylvester
Mazolini de Prierio or Prierias, master of the sacred palace,
exercised the functions of censor, and in this character was the first
man in Italy who knew of the Saxon monk's theses.

  [423] "Ein voller trunkener Deutscher." (Luth. Op. (W.) xxii, p.

A Roman censor and the theses of Luther! What a rencounter! Liberty of
speech, liberty of investigation, liberty of faith, come into
collision in Rome, with that power which pretends to have in its hands
a monopoly of intelligence, and to open and shut the mouth of
Christendom at its pleasure. The struggle between Christian liberty,
which begets children of God, and pontifical despotism, which begets
slaves of Rome, is, as it were, personified during the first days of
the Reformation, in the encounter between Luther and Prierio.

The Roman censor, prior-general of the Dominicans, employed to
determine what Christendom must say, or not say, and know or not know,
hastened to reply, and published a tract, which he dedicated to Leo X.
He spoke contemptuously of the German monk, and declared, with a
self-sufficiency altogether Roman, "that he was anxious to know
whether this Martin had a nose of iron, or a head of brass, which
could not be broken."[424] Then, in the form of a dialogue, he
attacked the theses of Luther, employing alternately, ridicule,
insult, and threatening.

  [424] "An ferreum nasum aut caput æneum gerat iste Lutherus, ut
  effringi non possit." (Sylv. Prieratis Dialogus.)

The combat between the Augustin of Wittemberg and the Dominican of
Rome took place on the very question which lies at the foundation of
the Reformation; viz., "What is the sole infallible authority to
Christians?" The following is the system of the Church, as expounded
by its most independent organs.[425]

  [425] See Joh. Gersonis Propositiones de Sensu Literali S. Scripturæ.
  (Op. tom. i.)

The letter of the written Word is dead without the spirit of
interpretation, which alone unfolds its hidden meaning. Now this
spirit is not granted to every Christian, but to the Church; in other
words, to the priests. It is great presumption to maintain, that he
who promised to be with his Church always to the end of the world,
could abandon it to the power of error. It will be said, perhaps, that
the doctrine and constitution of the Church are not the same as we
find them in the sacred oracles. This is true; but the change is only
apparent, relating to the form, and not to the substance. Moreover,
the change is an advance. The living power of the Spirit has given
reality to what exists in Scripture only in idea; it has embodied the
sketches of the Word, put a finishing hand to these sketches, and
completed the work of which the Bible had furnished only the first
outlines. Scripture ought, therefore, to be understood in the sense
determined by the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Here
the Catholic doctors are divided. General councils, say some, and
Gerson among the number, are the representatives of the Church. The
pope, says others, is the depositary of the Spirit of interpretation;
and no man is entitled to understand Scripture in a sense differing
from that of the Roman pontiff. This was the opinion of Prierio.

Such was the doctrine which the master of the sacred palace opposed to
the rising Reformation. On the power of the pope and the Church he
advanced propositions at which the most shameless flatterers of the
court of Rome would have blushed. The following is one of the points
which he maintains at the commencement of his tract:--"Whoever rests
not in the doctrine of the Roman Church, and the Roman pontiff, as the
infallible rule of faith, from which the Holy Scripture itself derives
its force and authority, is a heretic."[426]

  [426] "A qua etiam Sacra Scriptura robur trahit et auctoritatem,
  hæreticus est (Fundamentum tertium.")

Then in a dialogue, in which Luther and Sylvester are the speakers,
the latter tries to refute the doctor's propositions. The sentiments
of the Saxon monk were quite new to a Roman censor. Accordingly,
Prierio shows that he understood neither the emotions of his heart,
nor the motives of his conduct. To the teacher of truth he applied the
little standards of the valets of Rome. "Dear Luther!" says he, "were
you to receive a bishopric and a plenary indulgence for the repair of
your Church from our lord the pope, you would proceed more gently,
and would even prose in favour of the indulgence which you are now
pleased to blacken!" The Italian, so proud of the elegance of his
manners, sometimes assumes the most scurrilous tone. "If the property
of dogs is to bite," says he to Luther, "I fear your father must have
been a dog."[427] The Dominican begins at last to be almost astonished
at his own condescension in speaking to a rebellious monk; and
concludes with showing his opponent the cruel teeth of an inquisitor.
"The Roman Church," says he, "having in the pope the summit of
spiritual and temporal power, may, by the secular arm, constrain those
who after receiving the faith, stray from it. She is not bound to
employ arguments for the purpose of combating and subduing the

  [427] "Si mordere canum est proprium, vereor ne tibi pater canis
  fuerit." (Sylvestri Prieratis Dial.)

  [428] "Seculari brachio potest eos compescere, nec tenetur rationibus
  certare ad vincendos protervientes." (Ibid.)

These words traced by the pen of one of the dignitaries of the Roman
court had a very significant meaning. They failed, however, to terrify
Luther. He believed, or feigned to believe, that this dialogue was not
by Prierio, but by Ulrich von Hütten, or by some other of the authors
of "The Letters of some Obscure Men," who (said he in his sarcastic
strain) had, in order to stir up Luther against Prierio, compiled this
mass of absurdity.[429] He had no desire to see the court of Rome in
arms against him. However, after remaining for some time silent, his
doubts, if he had any, having been dispelled, he set to work, and in
two days after was prepared with his reply.[430]

  [429] "Convenit inter nos, esse personatum aliquem Sylvestrum ex
  obscuris viris, qui tantas ineptias in hominem luserit ad provocandum
  me adversus eum." (Ep., i, p. 87, 14th Jan.)

  [430] T. i, Witt. Lat., p. 170.

The Bible had produced the Reformer and begun the Reformation. Luther,
in believing, had no need of the testimony of the Church. His faith
was derived from the Bible itself; from within, and not from without.
His thorough conviction that the evangelical doctrine was immovably
founded on the word of God made him regard all external authority as
useless. Luther's experience, in this respect, opened a new prospect
to the Church. The living spring which had burst forth before the monk
of Wittemberg, was destined to become a stream at which nations would
quench their thirst.

The Church had said that, in order to understand the Word, the Spirit
of God must interpret it, and so far the Church was right. But her
error consisted in regarding the Holy Spirit as a monopoly conferred
on a certain caste, and in thinking that it could be appropriated
exclusively to certain assemblies and colleges, to a city or a
conclave. "The wind bloweth where it listeth," were the words of the
Son of God, when speaking of the Spirit of God; and, on another
occasion, "They will ALL be taught of God." The corruption of the
Church, the ambition of pontiffs, the animosities of councils, the
squabbles of the clergy, and the pomp of prelates, had made this Holy
Spirit, this breath of humility and peace, eschew the dwelling of the
priesthood. He had deserted the assemblies of the proud, and the
palaces of the princes of the Church, and gone to live in retirement
among simple Christians and modest priests. He had shunned a
domineering hierarchy, which often forced blood from the poor, whom it
trampled under foot; he had shunned a proud and ignorant clergy, whose
chiefs were skilled, not in the Bible, but in the sword; and he was
found sometimes among despised sects, and sometimes among men of
talents and learning. The holy cloud, withdrawing from proud basilisks
and gorgeous cathedrals, had descended on the obscure dwellings of the
humble, or on chambers where studious men calmly pursued their
conscientious labours. The Church, degraded by her love of power and
riches, dishonoured in the eyes of the people by the venal use which
she made of the doctrine of life; the Church which sold salvation in
order to fill a treasury, for luxury and debauchery to empty, had lost
all respect. Men of sense no longer set any value on her testimony,
but, despising an authority so degraded, turned with joy, towards the
Divine word, and its infallible authority, as toward the only refuge
which remained to them in the general confusion.

The age, therefore, was prepared. The bold movement by which Luther
changed the point on which the human heart rested its highest hopes,
and with a mighty hand transferred those hopes from the walls of the
Vatican to the rock of the word of God, was hailed with enthusiasm.
This was the work which the Reformer had in view in his reply to

Putting aside the axioms which the Dominican had placed at the head of
his work, he says, "After your example, I, too, am going to lay down
some axioms."

"The first is the saying of St. Paul, 'Should we, or an angel from
heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have
preached unto you, let him be accursed.'"

The second is the following passage of St. Augustine, addressed to St.
Jerome:--"I have learned to pay to the canonical books alone the
honour of believing very firmly that none of them has erred; as to
others, I believe not what they say, for the simple reason, that it is
they who say it."

Luther then vigorously proceeds to lay down the fundamental principles
of the Reformation,--_the word of God, the whole word of God, and
nothing but the word of God_. "If you understand these principles,"
continues he, "you will also understand that your whole dialogue is
completely overturned; for you have done nothing else than adduce the
words and opinions of St. Thomas." Next, attacking the axioms of his
opponent, he frankly declares his opinion that popes and councils may
err. He complains of the flattery of the Roman courtiers in
attributing to the pope the alleged infallibility of both popes and
councils, and declares that the Church exists virtually only in
Christ, and representatively only in Councils.[431] Coming afterwards
to the supposition which Prierio had made, he says, "No doubt you
judge me by yourself, but if I aspired to a bishopric, assuredly I
would not use language which sounds so hateful in your ears. Do you
imagine I am ignorant how bishoprics and the popedom are procured at
Rome? Do not the very children in the streets sing the well known

  [431] "Ego ecclesiam virtualiter non scio nisi in Christo,
  representative non nisi in concilo." (Luth. Op. Lat., p. 174.) I do
  not know the Church virtually, except in Christ, nor representatively,
  except in a Council.

      'Rome now-a-days is more unclean,
      Than ought that in the world is seen?'"[432]

  [432] "Quando hanc pueri in omnibus plateis urbis cantant: Denique
  nunc facta est fœdissima Roma." (Ibid., p. 183.)

This was among the stanzas current in Rome before the election of one
of the last popes. Nevertheless, Luther speaks of Leo with respect. "I
know," says he, "that in him we have, as it were, a Daniel in Babylon;
his integrity has repeatedly endangered his life." He concludes with a
few words in reply to the menaces of Prierio: "In fine, you say that
the pope is at once pontiff and emperor, and that he has power to
constrain by the secular arm. Are you thirsting for murder? Take my
word for it, your rhodomontades and your loud-sounding threats cannot
terrify me. Though I be killed, Christ lives, Christ my Lord, and the
Lord of all, blessed for ever and ever. Amen."[433]

  [433] "Si occidor, vivit Christus. Dominus meus et omnium." (Ibid., p.

Thus Luther with a strong arm assails the infidel altar of the papacy,
opposing to it the altar of the word of God, alone holy, alone
infallible, before which he would have every knee to bow, and on which
he declares himself ready to sacrifice his life.

Prierio published a reply, and after it a third treatise on "the
Irrefragable Truth of the Church and of the Roman Pontiff," in which,
founding on ecclesiastical law, he says, that though the pope were to
send the people and himself to the devil _en masse_, he could not for
so doing be either judged or deposed.[434] The pope was at length
obliged to impose silence on Prierio.

  [434] De Juridica et Irrefragabili Veritate Romanæ Ecclesiæ, lib.
  tertius, cap. 12.

A new opponent soon entered the list. He too was a Dominican. James
Hochstraten, inquisitor at Cologne, whom we have already seen
assailing Reuchlin and the friends of letters, was furious when he saw
Luther's boldness. It was indeed necessary that darkness and monkish
fanaticism should engage in close fight with him who was to give them
their death-blow. Monkism was formed after primitive truth had begun
to decay, and from that period downward, errors and monks had gone
hand in hand. The man who was to hasten their ruin had appeared; but
these sturdy champions would not quit the field without a fierce
combat. This combat they continued to wage with him throughout his
whole life, though the proper personification of it is in Hochstraten;
Hochstraten and Luther--the one, the free and intrepid Christian, and
the other, the blustering slave of monkish superstition. Hochstraten
unchains his rage, and, with loud cries, demands the death of the
heretic.... His wish is to secure the triumph of Rome by means of the
flames. "It is high treason against the Church," exclaims he, "to let
so execrable a heretic live another single hour. Let a scaffold be
instantly erected for him!" This sanguinary counsel was, alas! but too
well followed in many countries; the voice of numerous martyrs, as in
the first days of the Church, bore testimony to the truth in the midst
of the flames. But in vain were fire and sword invoked against Luther.
The angel of Jehovah constantly encamped around him and shielded him.

Luther replied to Hochstraten briefly, but very energetically. "Go,"
says he to him, when concluding; "go, delirious murderer, whose thirst
can only be quenched by the blood of the brethren. My sincere desire
is, that you guard against calling me a Christian and a believer, and
that, on the contrary, you never cease to denounce me as a heretic.
Understand these things well, you bloody man, you enemy of the truth;
and if your furious rage impel you to devise mischief against me, do
it with circumspection, and time your measures well. God knows what I
purpose if he grants me life. My hope and expectation (God willing)
will not deceive me."[435] Hochstraten was silent.

  [435] Luth., Op. Leip. xvii, p. 140.

A more painful attack awaited the Reformer. Dr. Eck, the celebrated
professor of Ingolstadt, who procured the liberty of Urban Regius,
Luther's friend, had received the famous theses. Eck was not the man
to defend the abuses of indulgences, but he was a doctor of the
school, and not of the Bible, being well versant in scholastics, but
not in the word of God. If Prierio had represented Rome, and
Hochstraten had represented the monks, Eck represented the School. The
School which, for about five centuries, had ruled Christendom, far
from yielding to the first blows of the Reformer, proudly rose up to
crush the man who dared to assail it with floods of contempt. Eck and
Luther, the School and the Word, came to blows on more than one
occasion; but the present was the occasion on which the combat

Eck must have regarded several of Luther's assertions as erroneous;
for nothing obliges us to question the sincerity of his convictions.
He defended the scholastic opinions with enthusiasm, just as Luther
defended the declarations of the word of God. We may even suppose that
he was somewhat pained at seeing himself obliged to oppose his old
friend, and yet it would seem, from the mode of attack, that passion
and jealousy had some share in his determination.

He gave the name of _Obelisks_ to his remarks on the theses of Luther.
Wishing at first to save appearances, he did not publish his work, but
contented himself with communicating it confidentially to his
ordinary, the Bishop of Eichstädt. Soon, however, whether through the
indiscretion of the bishop, or of Eck himself, the _Obelisks_ were
circulated in all quarters. A copy having fallen into the hands of a
friend of Luther, Link, preacher at Nuremberg, he lost no time in
sending it to the Reformer. Eck was a much more formidable opponent
than Tezel, Prierio, and Hochstraten; his work was the more dangerous
the more it surpassed theirs in knowledge and subtlety. He affected
pity for his "feeble opponent," (knowing well that pity injures more
effectually than anger,) and insinuated that the propositions of
Luther contained Bohemian poison, and savoured of Bohemia. By these
malicious insinuations he threw upon Luther the obloquy and hatred
which in Germany attached to the name of Huss and the schismatics of
his country.

The malice which shone through this treatise roused Luther's
indignation, while the thought that the blow was given by an old
friend, was still more distressing. However, he must sacrifice his
affections in defending the truth. Luther unbosomed his heart and its
sadness, in a letter to Egranus, pastor at Zwickau--"I am called in
the _Obelisks_ a venomous man, a Bohemian, a heretic, seditious,
insolent, and presumptuous.... I say nothing of milder epithets, such
as sleepy, imbecile, ignorant, contemner of the sovereign pontiff,
etc. This book is full of the grossest insults, and yet the author is
a distinguished man, alike remarkable for learning and talent; and (it
is this that grieves me most) a man with whom I had recently
contracted a close friendship,[436] viz., John Eck, doctor in
theology, and chancellor of Ingolstadt, a celebrated and illustrious
author. Did I not know the thoughts of Satan, I would be astonished at
the furious manner in which this man has broken off a friendship at
once so pleasant and so recent;[437] and this without giving me any
warning--without writing or saying a single word."

  [436] "Et quod magis urit, antea mihi magna recenterque contracta
  amicitia conjunctus." (Luth., Ep. i, p. 100.)

  [437] "Quo furore ille amicitias recentissimas et jucundissimas
  solveret." (Ibid.)

But if Luther's heart be wounded, his courage is not destroyed. On the
contrary, he girds himself for the combat. "Rejoice, my brother," says
he to Egranus, whom a violent enemy had also attacked; "rejoice, and
be not alarmed at all these flying leaves. The more furious my
adversaries become, the more I advance. I leave the things which are
behind, that they may bark after them, and follow those which are
before, that they may in like manner bark after them in their turn."

Eck felt how shameful his conduct had been, and endeavoured to justify
it in a letter to Carlstadt, in which he calls Luther "their common
friend;" and throws all the blame on the Bishop of Eichstadt, at whose
instigation he pretended that he had written the work. His intention,
he said, was not to publish the _Obelisks_; but for this he would have
had more regard for the friendship subsisting between him and Luther;
and he requested that Luther, instead of coming to open rupture with
him, would turn his arms against the theologians of Frankfort. The
professor of Ingolstadt, who had not feared to strike the first blow,
began to be alarmed at the power of the opponent whom he had
imprudently attacked, and would willingly have evaded the contest. It
was too late.

All these fine words did not persuade Luther, who was, however,
disposed to be silent, and said, "I will patiently swallow this
morsel, though fit for Cerberus."[438] But his friends were of a
different opinion, and urged, or rather constrained him to answer. He,
accordingly, replied to the _Obelisks_ by his _Asterisks_, opposing
(as he says, playing upon the word) to the rust and lividity of
Obelisks the light and dazzling brightness of the stars of heaven. In
this work he treats his new opponent less harshly than those whom he
had previously combated; but his indignation is seen peeping through
his words.

  [438] "Volui tamen hanc offam Cerbero dignam absorbere patientia."

He showed that in the chaos of the _Obelisks_ there was nothing from
the holy Scriptures, nothing from the Fathers of the Church, and
nothing from the ecclesiastical canons; that they contained only
scholastic glosses, and opinion after opinion, many of them mere
dreams;[439] in a word, contained the very things which Luther had
attacked. The Asterisks are full of spirit and life. The author's
indignation rises at the errors of his friend's book, but he shows
pity to the man.[440] He reiterates the fundamental principle which he
had laid down in his reply to Prierio:--"The sovereign pontiff is a
man, and may be led into error; but God is truth, and cannot be
deceived."[441] Then employing the _argumentum ad hominem_ against the
scholastic doctor, he says to him, "It is certainly impudent in any
one to teach, as the philosophy of Aristotle, any dogma which cannot
be proved by his authority. You grant this. Well, then, it is _a
fortiori_, the most impudent of all things to affirm in the Church and
among Christians anything that Jesus Christ himself has not
taught.[442] Now in what part of the Bible is it said that the
treasure of Christ's merits is in the hands of the pope?"

  [439] "Omnia scholastissima, opiniosissima, meraque somnia."
  (Asterisci, Op. (L.) Lat. i, p. 145.) The whole most scholastic, most
  opinionative, mere dreams.

  [440] "Indignor rei et misereor hominis." (Ibid., p. 150.) I am
  indignant at the thing, and I pity the man.

  [441] "Homo est summus pontifex, falli potest, sed veritas est Deus,
  qui falli non potest. (Ibid., p. 155.)

  [442] "Longe ergo impudentissima omnium temeritas est, aliquid in
  ecclesia asserere, et inter Christianos, quod non docuit Christus."
  (Ibid., p. 156.)

He adds, "As to the malicious charge of Bohemian heresy, I patiently
bear the reproach for the love of Jesus Christ. I live in a celebrated
university, a distinguished town, an important bishopric, and a
powerful duchy, where all are orthodox, and where, doubtless, no
toleration would be given to so wicked a heretic."

Luther did not publish _The Asterisks_; he only communicated them to
his friends. It was not till a later period that they were given to
the public.[443]

  [443] "Cum privatim dederim Asteriscos meos non fit ei respondendi
  necessitas." (Luth. Ep. i, p. 126.) Since I have circulated my
  Asterisks privately, he is under no necessity of replying.

This rupture between the doctor of Ingolstadt and the doctor of
Wittemberg made a sensation in Germany. They had common friends.
Scheurl, in particular, by whose instrumentality their friendship
appears to have been originally formed, was exceedingly annoyed. He
was one of those who longed to see a reform throughout the whole
Germanic church, produced through the medium of its most distinguished
organs. But if in matters of principle the most eminent theologians of
the period came to open rupture, and while Luther advanced in a new
path, Eck put himself at the head of those who kept to the old path,
what disruption must inevitably ensue? Would not numerous adherents
gather around each of the two chiefs, and form two hostile camps in
the heart of the empire?

Scheurl exerted himself to reconcile Eck and Luther. The latter
declared that he was willing to forget every thing; that he loved the
genius, and admired the erudition of Dr. Eck,[444] and that the
proceedings of his old friend had caused him more grief than anger. "I
am ready," says he, "either for peace or war; but I prefer peace. Do
you then set about it. Grieve with us, that the devil has thrown among
us this beginning of strife, and then rejoice that Christ in his mercy
hath removed it."[445] About the same time, he addressed a most
friendly letter to Eck, who, however, not only did not answer it, but
did not even send him a verbal message."[446] It was too late for
reconciliation; and the breach became wider and wider. The pride of
Eck, and his unforgiving temper, soon completely broke any remaining
ties of friendship.

  [444] "Diligimus hominis igenium et admiramur eruditionem." (Luth. Ep.
  ad Scheurlum, 15th June, 1518, i, p. 125.)

  [445] "Quod ad me attinet, scripsi ad eum has, ut vides, amicissimas
  et plenas literas humanitate, erga eum." (Ibid.) As far as regards
  myself, I have, as you see, written him in the most kindly and
  friendly terms.

  [446] "Nihil neque literarum, neque verborum ne participem fecit."
  (Ibid.) I have had no communication from him, either by word or


     Popular Writings--Our Father--Thy Kingdom Come--Thy Will be
     Done--Our Daily Bread--Sermon on Repentance--Forgiveness
     through Christ.

Such were the struggles which the champion of the word of God had to
maintain at the outset of his career. But these combats with the
leaders of society, these academical disputes, are of small account
with the Christian. Human doctors imagine they have gained the noblest
of triumphs if they succeed in filling some newspapers and some
saloons with the noise of their systems. As it is with them more an
affair of self-love, or party spirit, than of good to humanity, this
worldly success satisfies them. Accordingly, their labours are only a
smoke, which, after blinding us, passes off and leaves no trace
behind. Neglecting to introduce their fire among the masses of the
population, they do nothing more than make it skim along the surface
of society.

It is not so with the Christian. His object is not success in a
coterie, or an academy, but the salvation of souls. He therefore
willingly avoids the brilliant skirmishing, which he might carry on at
his ease with the champions of the world, and prefers the obscure
labours which carry life and light into rural cottages, and the lanes
of cities. Thus did Luther, or rather according to the precept of his
Master, _he did the one, without leaving the other undone_. While
combating inquisitors, university chancellors, and masters of the
sacred palace, he strove to diffuse sound religious knowledge among
the multitude. With that view, he at this time published different
popular writings, such as his _Discourses on the Ten Commandments_,
delivered two years before in the church of Wittemberg, and which we
have already noticed; and his _Exposition of the Lord's Prayer, for
simple and ignorant laymen_.[447] Who would not like to know how the
Reformer then addressed the people?

  [447] Luth. Op. Leips. vii, p. 1086.

We will quote some of the words which he sent, as he says, in the
preface to the second of these works, "to course the country."

Prayer, that inward act of the heart, will doubtless ever be one of
the points with which a reformation in heart and life must commence,
and, accordingly, it early engaged the attention of Luther. It is
impossible, in a translation, to keep up his energetic style, and the
vigour of a language which was formed so to speak, as it fell from his
pen; however, we will try.

"When you pray," says he, "have few words, but many thoughts and
affections, and, above all, let these be profound. The less you speak,
the better you pray. Few words and many thoughts make the Christian,
many words and few thoughts, the pagan.

"Seeming and bodily prayer is that muttering of the lips, that
external babble, which comes forth without attention, striking the
eyes and ears of men; but prayer in spirit and in truth is the inward
desire, the emotions, and sighs which proceed from the depths of the
heart. The former is the prayer of hypocrites, and of all who trust in
themselves. The latter is the prayer of the children of God, who walk
in his fear."

Then coming to the first words of our Lord's Prayer, "Our Father," he
thus expresses himself:--"Among all the names of God, there is none
which inclines more toward him than the name of Father. We should not
have so much happiness and consolation in calling him Lord, or God, or
Judge.... By this name of father his bowels of compassion are moved;
for there is no voice more lovely or touching than that of a child to
its father.

"_Who art in heaven._ He who confesses that he has a Father in heaven
owns himself to be, as it were, an orphan on the earth. Hence his
heart feels an ardent desire like that of a child living out of its
father's country, among strangers, in wretchedness and sorrow. It is
as if he said, 'Alas! my father! thou art in heaven, and I, thy
miserable child, am on the earth, far from thee, in all sorts of
dangers, necessities, and sorrows.'

"_Hallowed be thy name!_ He who is passionate and envious, who curses
or slanders, dishonours God, in whose name he was baptized. Applying
the vessel which God has consecrated to profane uses, he resembles a
priest who should use the holy cup to give drink to a sow, or to
gather manure.

"_Thy kingdom come._ Those who amass wealth, who erect magnificent
buildings, who seek after all that the world can give, and with the
lips repeat this prayer, are like the large pipes of a church organ,
which sounds and cries at full pitch, and without ceasing, but has
neither words, nor sense, nor reason."...

Farther on, Luther attacks the error of pilgrimages, which was then so
general. "One goes to Rome, another to St. James; one builds a chapel,
another founds an endowment, in order to reach the kingdom of God; but
all neglect the essential point, which is to become themselves his
kingdom. Why do you go beyond seas in quest of the kingdom of God?...
Your heart is the place in which it ought to rise.

"It is a dreadful thing," continues he, "to hear us utter this prayer,
'_Thy will be done_.' Where in the Church do we see this will done?...
Bishop rises against bishop, and church against church. Priests,
monks, and nuns, quarrel and fight; throughout there is nothing but
discord. And yet all parties exclaim that they have a good will and an
upright intention; and so to the honour and glory of God they
altogether do the work of the devil....

"Why do we say _our bread_?" continues he, "explaining these words,
"_Give us this day our daily bread_." "Because we pray, not for the
ordinary bread which pagans eat, and which God gives to all men, but
for _our_ bread--bread to us, children of the heavenly Father.

"And what, then, is this bread of God? It is Jesus Christ our Lord;
'_I am the living bread which came down from heaven, and give life to
the world_.' Wherefore let us not deceive ourselves. Sermons and
instructions which do not represent to us, or give us the knowledge
of Jesus Christ, cannot be the daily bread and food of our souls....

"What avails it that such a bread is prepared for us, if it is not
served out to us, and we cannot taste it?... It is as if a magnificent
feast were prepared, and there were nobody to hand the bread, bring
the dishes, and pour out the liquor; so that the guests would be left
to feed by the eye and the smell.... This is the reason why it is
necessary to preach Christ, and Christ alone.

"But what, then, you ask, is it to know Jesus Christ, and what profit
is gained by it? Answer:--To learn to know Jesus Christ is to
comprehend what the Apostle says--_Christ has of God been made unto us
wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption_. Now,
you comprehend this when you perceive that your wisdom is culpable
folly, your righteousness damnable iniquity, your holiness damnable
pollution, your redemption miserable condemnation--when you feel that,
before God and all the creatures, you are truly a fool, a sinner, an
impure and condemned man--and when you show, not only by your words,
but from the bottom of your heart, and by your works, that there
remains to you no comfort and no salvation, save Jesus Christ. To
believe is nothing else than to eat this bread of heaven."

Thus Luther faithfully fulfilled his resolution to open the eyes of a
people whom priests had blindfolded, and were leading at their
pleasure. His writings, which in a short time spread over all Germany,
caused new light to arise, and shed the seeds of truth in abundance on
a soil well prepared to receive it. But while thinking of those at a
distance, he did not forget those who were near.

The dominicans from their pulpits denounced him as an infamous
heretic. Luther, the man of the people, and who, had he been so
disposed, could with a few sentences have set them in commotion,
always disdained such triumphs, and made it his sole aim to instruct
his hearers.

His reputation, which was continually extending, and the courage with
which he raised the banner of Christ in the midst of an enslaved
Church, made his sermons be followed with increasing interest. Never
had the confluence been so great. Luther went straight to the point.
One day, having mounted the pulpit of Wittemberg, he undertook to
establish the doctrine of repentance. The discourse pronounced on this
occasion afterwards became very celebrated, and contains several of
the fundamental principles of evangelical doctrine.

At first he contrasts the pardon of men with the pardon of heaven.
"There are," says he, "two remissions--the remission of the penalty,
and the remission of the fault. The former reconciles man externally
with the Church; the latter, which is the heavenly indulgence,
reconciles man with God. If a man has not within himself that tranquil
conscience, that cheerful heart which God's remission gives, no
indulgence can aid him were he to buy all that ever have been on the

He afterwards continues thus: "They wish to do good works before their
sins are pardoned, whereas sins must be pardoned before good works can
be done. Works do not banish sin; but banish sin, and you will have
works.[448] Good works should be done with a cheerful heart and a good
conscience toward God; in other words, with the forgiveness of sins."

  [448] "Nicht die Werke treiben die Sünde aus; sondern die Anstreibung
  der Sünde thut gute Werke," (Luth. Op. (Lat.) xvii, p. 162.)

He then comes to the principal object of his sermon, an object which
was identified with that of the whole Reformation. The Church had put
herself in the place of God and his word; he objects to this, and
makes every thing depend on faith in the word.

"The remission of the fault," says he, "is not in the power of the
pope, or the bishop, or the priest, or any man whatever, but rests
solely on the word of Christ, and your own faith. For Christ did not
choose to build our comfort or our salvation on a word or work of man,
but only on himself, on his own work and word. Your repentance and
your works may deceive you, but Christ your God will never deceive,
will never waver; and the devil cannot overthrow his words."[449]

  [449] "Christus dein Gott wird dir nicht lugen: noch wanken." (Ibid.)

"A pope or a bishop has no more power than the humblest priest where
the remission of the fault is in question. And even where there is no
priest, each Christian, were it a woman or a child,[450] can do the
same thing. For if a simple Christian says to you, 'God pardons sin in
the name of Jesus Christ,' and you receive the saying with firm faith,
as if God himself had spoken, you are acquitted.

  [450] "Ob es schon ein Weib oder ein kind ware." (Ibid.)

"If you believe not that your sins are pardoned, you make your God a
liar, and declare that you put greater confidence in your vain
thoughts than in God and his word.

"Under the Old Testament neither priest, nor king, nor prophet, had
power to proclaim the forgiveness of sins; but under the New Testament
every believer has this power. The Church is quite replete with the
remission of sins.[451] If a pious Christian comforts your conscience
by the word of the cross, be it man or woman, young or old, receive
the comfort with a faith so firm, that you would sooner submit to many
deaths than doubt that it is ratified in the presence of God....
Repent, and do all the works that you can do; but let the faith which
you have in the pardon of Jesus Christ stand in the front rank, and
have sole command on the field of battle."[452]

  [451] "Also siehst du dass die ganze Kirche voll von Vergebung der
  Süden ist." (Ibid.)

  [452] "Und Hauptmann im Felde bleibe." (Ibid.)

Thus spoke Luther to his astonished and enraptured hearers. All the
scaffoldings which impudent priests had, for their own profit, reared
between God and the soul of man, were thrown down, and man brought
face to face with his Maker. The word of pardon came down pure from on
high, without passing through a thousand corrupting channels. It was
no longer necessary that the testimony of God, in order to be
available, should previously be stamped by men with their false seal.
The monopoly of the sacerdotal caste was abolished, and the Church


     Apprehensions of Luther's friends--Journey to
     Heidelberg--Bibra--The Palatine Castle--Rupture--The
     Hearers--Bucer--Brentz--Snepf--Conversations with
     Luther--Labours of the Young Doctors--Effects on Luther--The
     Old Professor--The True Light--Arrival.

Meanwhile, the fire which had been kindled at Wittemberg behoved to be
kindled elsewhere. Luther, not contented with announcing the truth in
the place of his residence, whether to the academic youth or to the
people, was desirous to shed the seeds of sound doctrine in other
places. The Augustin order were to hold their general chapter at
Heidelberg, in the spring of 1518. Luther, as one of the most
distinguished men of the order, was invited to attend; but his friends
did all they could to dissuade him from undertaking the journey. In
fact, the monks had laboured to render the name of Luther odious in
all the places through which he had to pass. To insult they had added
threatening; and a small matter might have sufficed to excite a
popular tumult of which he might have been made the victim. "Or even,"
said his friends, "what they may not dare to do by violence, they will
accomplish by fraud and stratagem."[453] But in the discharge of a
duty, Luther did not allow himself to be arrested by the fear of any
danger, however imminent. He therefore turned a deaf ear to the timid
suggestions of his friends, and directed them to Him in whom his
confidence was placed, and under whose protection he desired to
undertake the perilous journey. After the feast of Easter he quietly
set out on foot,[454] on the 13th April 1518.

  [453] Ibid., Ep. i, p. 98.

  [454] "Pedester veniam." I will come on foot. (Luth., Ep. i, p. 98.)

He had with him a guide named Urban, who carried his small bundle, and
was to accompany him as far as Wurzburg. How many thoughts must have
occupied the heart of the servant of the Lord during this journey! At
Weissenfels, the pastor, though not of his acquaintance, instantly
recognised him as the doctor of Wittemberg, and gave him a hearty
reception.[455] At Erfurt, he was joined by two other Augustin friars.
At Judenbach, the three fell in with Degenard Pfeffinger, the
Elector's confidential councillor, who entertained them at the inn. "I
have had the pleasure," wrote Luther to Spalatin, "of making this rich
lord some shillings poorer. You know how I like to take every occasion
of making a hole in the purses of the rich for the benefit of the
poor, especially if the rich are my friends."[456] He arrived at
Coburg, worn out with fatigue. "All goes well by the grace of God,"
wrote he; "only, I confess I have sinned in undertaking the journey on
foot. But for this sin I presume I will have no need of the remission
of indulgences, for my contrition is perfect, and my satisfaction
complete. I am knocked up with fatigue, and all the conveyances are
full. Is not this enough, or rather more than enough of penitence,
contrition, and satisfaction?"[457]

  [455] Ibid., p. 105.

  [456] Ibid., p. 104.

  [457] Ibid., p. 106.

The Reformer of Germany, not finding a place in the public
conveyances, nor any one who was willing to yield him his place, was
obliged next morning, notwithstanding of his fatigue, humbly to resume
his journey on foot. He arrived at Wurzburg on the evening of the
second Sabbath after Easter, and sent back his guide.

Bishop Bibra, who had received the theses with so much delight, lived
in this town, and Luther had a letter for him from the Elector of
Saxony. The bishop, overjoyed at the opportunity of becoming
personally acquainted with this bold champion of the truth, hastened
to invite him to the episcopal palace. He went out to receive him,
spoke to him in the kindest terms, and offered to furnish him with a
guide as far as Heidleberg. But at Wurzburg, Luther had fallen in with
his two friends, the vicar-general Staupitz, and Lange, the prior of
Erfurt, who offered him a place in their carriage. He therefore
thanked Bibra for his offer, and next day the three friends set out
from Wurzburg. They travelled thus for three days, conversing
together, and on the 21st April arrived at Heidelberg. Luther went to
lodge at the Augustin convent.

The Elector of Saxony had given him a letter to Count Palatine
Wolfgang, Duke of Bavaria. Luther repaired to his magnificent castle,
the site of which is still the admiration of strangers. The monk of
the plains of Saxony had a heart to admire the position of Heidelberg,
where the two lovely valleys of the Rhine and the Necker unite. He
delivered his letter to James Simler, steward of the court. Simler
having read it, said, "Truly you have here a valuable letter of
credit." The Count Palatine received him with much kindness, and often
invited him, as well as Lange and Staupitz, to his table. This
friendly reception added greatly to Luther's comfort. "We relax and
amuse ourselves with an agreeable and pleasant chit-chat," says he,
"eating and drinking, and surveying all the magnificence of the
Palatine palace, admiring its ornaments, its armoury, and cuirasses;
in short, every thing remarkable in this distinguished and truly royal

  [458] "Ihr habt bei Gott einen köstlichen Credenz." (Luth. Ep. i, p.

However, Luther had other work to do. He behoved to work while it was
day. Transported to an university which exercised great influence on
the west and south of Germany, he was there to strike a blow which
should shake the churches of those countries. He, accordingly, began
to write theses which he proposed to maintain in a public discussion.
Such discussions were of ordinary occurrence; but Luther felt, that in
order to make his useful, it was necessary to give it a peculiar
interest. His disposition, moreover, inclined him to present the truth
under a paradoxical form. The professors of the university would not
allow the discussion to take place in their public hall, and it became
necessary to hold it in a hall of the Augustin convent. The 26th of
April was the day on which it was to take place.

Heidelberg, at a later period, received the gospel, and even at this
discussion in the convent, an observer might have augured that good
would result from it.

The reputation of Luther attracted a large concourse of hearers;
professors, courtiers, citizens, and students, crowded to it. The
doctor gave the name of Paradoxes to his theses, and it is, perhaps,
the name which might still be applied to them in the present day. It
would be easy, however, to translate them into evident propositions.
The following are some of the Paradoxes:--

1. "The law of God is a salutary rule of life. Nevertheless, it cannot
aid man in his search after righteousness; on the contrary, it impedes

3. "Works of man, how fair and good soever they may be, are, to all
appearance, only mortal sins.

4. "Works of God, how deformed and bad soever they may appear, have
always an immortal merit.

7. "The works of the just themselves would be mortal sins, did they
not, through holy reverence for the Lord, fear that their works would
in fact be mortal sins.[459]

  [459] "Justorum opera essent mortalia nisi pio Dei timore, ab ipsismet
  justis, ut mortalia timerentur." (Luth. Op. Lat. i, 55.)

9. "To maintain that works done without Christ are dead, but not
mortal, is dangerous forgetfulness of the fear of God.

13. "Since the fall of man, free will exists only in name, and when
man does all that is possible for him to do, he sins mortally.

16. "A man who expects to attain to grace by doing all that it is
possible for him to do, adds sin to sin, and doubles his guilt.

18. "It is certain that man, to become capable of receiving the grace
of Christ, must entirely despair of himself.

21. "An honorary theologian calls evil good, and good evil; but a
theologian of the cross speaks according to truth.

22. "The wisdom which teaches man to know the invisible perfections of
God in his works, inflates, blinds, and hardens him.

23. "The law excites the wrath of God, kills, curses, accuses, judges,
and condemns, whatever is not in Christ.[460]

  [460] "Lex iram Dei operatur, occidit, maledicit reum facit, judicat,
  damnat, quicquid non est in Christo." (Ibid.)

24. "Still this wisdom (§ 22) is not bad; and the law (§ 23) is not to
be rejected; but the man who does not study the knowledge of God under
the cross, changes its good into evil.

25. "He is not justified who does many works; but he who, without
works, believes much in Jesus Christ.

26. "The law says, Do this! And what it commands is never done. Grace
says, Believe in him! And, lo! all things are accomplished.[461]

  [461] "Lex dicit: Fac hoc! et nunquam fit. Gratia dicit: Crede in
  hunc! et jam facta sunt omnia." (Ibid.)

28. "The love of God finds nothing in man, but creates in him what it
loves. The love of man proceeds from self-love."[462]

  [462] "Amor Dei non inventit sed creat suum diligibile; amor hominis
fit a suo diligibili." (Ibid.)

Five doctors of theology attacked these theses. They had read them
with the astonishment which novelty excites. The theology seemed to
them very strange. Yet according to Luther's own testimony, they
discussed them with a courtesy which he could not but esteem; and, at
the same time, with force and discernment.

Luther, on his part, displayed an admirable mildness in his replies,
incomparable patience in listening to the objections of his opponents,
and all the liveliness of St. Paul in solving the difficulties which
were started. His answers, which were short, but replete with the word
of God, filled all the hearers with admiration. "He very much
resembles Erasmus," said several; "but in one thing he surpasses
him,--he professes openly what Erasmus is contented only to

  [463] Bucer, in Seultetet, Annal. Evangel. Renovat." p. 22.

The discussion was drawing to a close. Luther's opponents had retired
with honour from the field of battle, the youngest of them, Doctor
George Niger, alone continuing the struggle with the mighty combatant.
Amazed at the bold propositions of the Augustin monk, and feeling
utterly at a loss for arguments to refute them, he exclaimed, in an
agitated tone,--"Were our peasants to hear such things, they would
stone you to death."[464] At these words there was a general laugh
throughout the audience.

  [464] "Si rustici hæc audirent, certe lapidibus vos obruerent et
interficerent." (Luth. Ep. i, p. 111.)

Never had hearers listened more attentively to a theological
disputation. The first words of the Reformer had awakened men's minds,
and questions which shortly before had met with indifference, were now
full of interest. Several countenances gave visible expression to the
new ideas which the bold assertions of the Saxon doctor had suggested
to their minds.

Three youths in particular were strongly moved. One of them, named
Martin Bucer, was a Dominican, of about twenty-seven years of age,
who, notwithstanding of the prejudices of his order, seemed unwilling
to lose a single word which fell from the doctor. Born in a little
town of Alsace, he had entered a convent at sixteen, and soon
displayed such talents that the monks entertained the highest hopes of
him.[465] "He will one day be an ornament to our order," said they.
His superiors had sent him to Heidelberg that he might devote himself
to the study of philosophy, theology, Greek, and Hebrew. At this
period Erasmus having published several of his works, Bucer read them
with avidity.

  [465] "Prudentioribus monachis spem de se præclaram excitavit;"
  (Melch. Adam. Vita Buceri, p. 211.)

Shortly after, the first works of Luther appeared, and the Alsatian
student hastened to compare the Reformer's doctrine with the holy
Scriptures. Some doubt as to the truth of the popish religion arose in
his mind.[466] This was the way in which light was diffused in those
days. The Elector Palatine took notice of the young man. His strong
and sonorous voice, his pleasing address, his eloquence, and the
freedom with which he attacked prevailing vices, made him a
distinguished preacher. He was appointed chaplain to the court, and
was acting in this capacity when Luther's journey to Heidelberg was
announced. Bucer was greatly delighted; nobody repaired with greater
eagerness to the hall of the Augustin convent. He had provided himself
with paper, pens, and ink, wishing to write down whatever the doctor
should say. But while his hand was rapidly tracing the words of
Luther, the hand of God was writing the great truths which he heard in
more ineffaceable characters on his heart. The rays of the doctrine of
grace beamed upon his soul on this memorable occasion.[467] The
Dominican was gained over to Christ.

  [466] "Cum doctrinam in eis traditam cum sacris litteris contullisset
  quædam in pontificia religione suspecta habere cœpit." (Ibid.) When he
  had compared the doctrine delivered in them with the Sacred
  Scriptures, he began to have some suspicions of the pope's religion.

  [467] "Primam lucem purioris sententiæ de justificatione in suo
  pectore sensit." (Melch. Adam. Vita Buceri, p. 211.) He felt the first
  dawn of a purer opinion on justification rising in his breast.

Not far from Bucer sat John Brentz or Brentius, then about nineteen
years of age. Brentz, who was the son of a magistrate of a town in
Swabia, had, at thirteen, been enrolled among the students of
Heidelberg. None of them showed such application. As soon as the hour
of midnight struck, Brentz rose and commenced his labours. This
practice became so habitual to him, that, during the rest of his life,
he could never sleep beyond that hour. At a later period he devoted
these still moments to meditation on the Scriptures. Brentz was one of
the first to perceive the new light which then rose on Germany, and he
received it into his soul in the full love of it.[468] He read the
writings of Luther with avidity, and must have been overjoyed at the
prospect of hearing him personally at Heidelberg. Young Brentz was
particularly struck with one of the doctor's propositions, viz., "Not
he who does many works is justified before God, but he who, without
works, believes much in Jesus Christ."

  [468] "Ingens Dei beneficium lætus Brentius agnovit, et grata mente
  amplexus est." (Ibid.) Brentius joyfully recognised the inestimable
  gift of God, and with grateful mind embraced it.

A pious woman of Heilbronn, on the Necker, wife of a councillor of
that town, named Snepf, had, after the example of Hannah, dedicated
her first born to the Lord, earnestly desiring to see him devote
himself to theology. The young man, who was born in 1495, made rapid
progress in literature, but whether from taste or ambition, or
compliance with his father's wishes, he devoted himself to the study
of law. The pious mother was grieved when she saw her son Ehrhard
following another course than that to which she had dedicated him;
she warned and urged him, and always concluded by reminding him of the
vow which she had made at his birth.[469] At length, overcome by his
mother's perseverance, Ehrhard Snepf yielded, and soon felt such
delight in his new studies, that nothing in the world could have
diverted him from them.

  [469] "Crebris interpellationibus eum voti quod de nato ipso fecerat,
  admoneret; et a studio juris ad theologiam quasi conviciis avocaret."
  (Melch. Adami, Snepfii Vita.) She frequently interposed to remind him
  of the vow which she had made at his birth, and, as it were, by her
  reproaches drew him off from the study of law to theology.

He was in terms of intimacy with Bucer and Brentz, and they remained
friends all their lives; "for," says one of their biographers,
"friendships founded on the love of literature and virtue are never
extinguished." He was present with his two friends at the Heidelberg
discussion. The Paradoxes and the bold struggle of the Wittemberg
doctor gave Snepf a new impulse. Rejecting the vain dogma of human
merit, he embraced the doctrine of free justification.

The next day Bucer paid a visit to Luther. "I conversed with him,"
says he, "and without witnesses; and had a most exquisite repast, not
from the viands, but from the truths which were set before me.
Whatever objections I stated, were readily answered by the doctor, who
explained every thing with the utmost clearness. O! that I had time to
write you more about it."[470] Luther himself was touched with the
sentiments of Bucer. "He is the only friar of his order," wrote he to
Spalatin, "who is in good faith. He is a young man of great promise;
he received me with simplicity, and conversed with me with
earnestness; he is deserving of our confidence and our love."[471]

  [470] Gerdesius, Monument. Antiq., etc.

  [471] Luth. Ep. i, p. 412.

Brentz, Snepf, and others also, urged by the new truths which began to
dawn upon their minds, in like manner visited Luther, speaking and
conferring with him, and asking explanations of any thing which they
might not have comprehended. The Reformer, in his answers, founded
upon the Bible. At every word that fell from him fresh light arose,
and his visitors saw a new world opening before them.

After Luther's departure these noble-minded men began to teach at
Heidelberg. It was necessary to follow out what the man of God had
begun, and not allow the torch which he had kindled to be
extinguished. The scholars will speak should the masters be silent.
Brentz, although he was still so youthful, explained St. Matthew, at
first in his own room, and afterwards, when it could not contain his
hearers, in the hall of philosophy. The theologians, filled with envy
at seeing the great concourse which he drew together, were much

Brentz next took orders, and transferred his lectures to the college
of the Canons of the Holy Spirit. In this way the fire which had
already been kindled in Saxony was kindled also in Heidelberg. The
light radiated from numerous _foci_. This period has been designated
the seed-time of the Palatinate.

But the fruits of the Heidelberg discussion were not confined to the
Palatinate. These bold friends of the truth soon became luminaries in
the Church. They all occupied eminent stations, and took part in the
numerous discussions, to which the Reformation gave rise. Strasburg,
and at a later period England, were indebted to the labours of Bucer,
for a purer knowledge of the truth. Snepf taught first at Marburg,
then at Stutgard, Tubingen, and Jena. Brentz, after teaching at
Heidelberg, long continued to labour at Halle, in Swabia, and at
Tubingen. These three individuals will again come before us.

This discussion caused Luther himself to advance. He grew daily in the
knowledge of the truth. "I am one of those," said he, "who have made
progress by writing and by instructing others; and not one of those,
who, from nothing, become all at once great and learned doctors."

He was delighted at seeing the avidity with which youth in schools
received the growing truth; and this consoled him when he saw how
deeply the old doctors were rooted in their opinions. "I have the
glorious hope," said he, "that, in like manner as Christ, when
rejected by the Jews, went to the Gentiles, we will now see true
theology, though rejected by these old men of vain and fantastical
opinions, welcomed by the rising generation."[472]

  [472] Luth. Ep. i, p. 112.

The Chapter being closed, Luther thought of returning to Wittemberg.
The Count Palatine gave him a letter to the Elector, in which he said
that "Luther had displayed so much ability in the discussion as to
reflect great glory on the university of Wittemberg." He was not
permitted to return on foot.[473] The Augustins of Nuremberg conducted
him as far as Wurzburg, and from thence he proceeded to Erfurt with
the friars belonging to it. As soon as he arrived he called on his old
master Jodocus. The venerable professor, who had been much concerned
and shocked at the career which his pupil had followed, was accustomed
to put a theta (θ) before all Luther's sentences,--that being the
letter which the Greeks used to express condemnation.[474] He had
written to the young doctor, censuring his conduct, and he was anxious
to answer by word of mouth. Not having been received, he wrote
Jodocus:--"The whole university, with the exception of a single
licentiate, thinks as I do. Nay, more; the prince, the bishop, several
other prelates, and all our enlightened citizens, declare, with one
voice, that hitherto they have neither known nor understood Jesus
Christ and his gospel. I am ready to receive your correction, and
though it should be harsh I will think it pleasant. Unbosom your heart
then without fear, disburden yourself of your anger. I have no wish, I
am not able to be angry with you. God and my conscience bear

  [473] "Veni autem curru qui ieram pedester." (Ibid., p. 110.) I went
  on foot, but returned in a chariot.

  [474] "Omnibus placitis meis nigrum theta præfigit." (Luth. Ep. i, p.
  111.) He puts a black theta before all my opinions.

  [475] Ibid.

The aged doctor was touched by the sentiments of his old pupil, and
wished to see if there was no means of removing the condemnatory
theta. They had an explanation; but nothing resulted from it. "I have
at least," said Luther, "made him understand, that all their sentences
are like the beast which is said to eat itself. But it is vain to
speak to the deaf. The doctors cling obstinately to their petty
distinctions, although they confess that they have nothing to support
them but what they term the light of natural reason--a dark chaos to
us who proclaim no other light than Jesus Christ, the only true

  [476] "Nisi dictamine rationis naturalis, quod apud nos idem est, quod
  chaos tenebratum, qui non prædicamus aliam lucem, quam Christum Jesum
  lucem veram et solam." (Ibid.)

Luther quitted Erfurt in the carriage of the convent. He was thus
brought to Eisleben, and from thence the Augustins of the place, proud
of a doctor who threw so much lustre on their order and on their town
which had given him birth, caused him to be conveyed to Wittemberg
with their own horses, and at their own expence. All were desirous to
testify affection and esteem for the extraordinary man who was rising
at every step.

He arrived on Saturday after the Ascension. The journey had done him
good. His friends found him stronger and healthier looking than before
his departure,[477] and were delighted with all he told them. Luther
reposed for some time from the fatigues of his campaign and the
discussion at Heidelberg, but this repose was only a preparation for
more severe exertions.

  [477] "Ita ut nonnullis videar factus habitior et corpulentior!"
  (Ibid.) So that some think me fuller in habit, and more corpulent.





     Repentance--The Pope--Leo X--Luther to his Bishop--Luther to
     the Pope--Luther to the Vicar-General--Rovere to the
     Elector--Discourse on Excommunication--Influence and Power
     of Luther.

Truth had at length raised her head in the bosom of Christendom.
Victorious over the inferior organs of the papacy, she behoved to have
a struggle with its chief. We are going to see Luther at close
quarters with Rome.

This step was taken on his return from Heidelberg. His first theses on
indulgences had been misunderstood, and he determined to explain their
meaning with greater clearness. The outcry raised by the blind hatred
of his enemies had convinced him how important it was to gain the most
enlightened part of the nation in favour of truth, and he resolved to
appeal to its judgment by calling attention to the foundation on which
his convictions rested. It was, indeed, necessary for once to appeal
to the decision of Rome; and he hesitates not to send all his
explanations. Presenting them with one hand to the enlightened and
impartial among his countrymen, he with the other lays them before the
throne of the sovereign pontiff.

These explanations of his theses, which he denominated
_Solutions_,[478] were written with great moderation. Luther tried to
soften the passages which had caused most irritation, and gave proof
of genuine modesty. At the same time, he showed that his convictions
were immovable; and he courageously defended all the propositions
which truth obliged him to maintain. He again repeated, that every
Christian who truly repents possesses the remission of sins without
indulgence; that the pope, like the humblest of priests, can only
declare simply what God has already pardoned; that the treasure of the
merits of the saints administered by the pope was a chimera, and that
Holy Scripture was the only rule of faith. Let us hear himself on some
of these points.

  [478] Luth. Op., (Leips.) xvii, pp. 29-113.

He begins with establishing the nature of true penitence, and
contrasts the divine act, which renews man, with the mummery of the
Romish Church. "The Greek word μετανοειτε," says he, "signifies--
be clothed with a new spirit and new feelings; have a new nature; so
that, ceasing to be earthly, you may become heavenly.... Christ is a
teacher of the spirit and not of the letter, and his words are spirit
and life."[479] He, therefore, inculcates, not those external penances
which the proudest sinners can perform without being humbled, but a
repentance according to spirit and truth--a repentance which may be
fulfilled in all the situations of life, under the purple of kings,
the cassock of priests, and the coronet of princes, amid the
magnificence of Babylon, where a Daniel lived, as well as under a
monk's frock and a beggar's tatters.

  [479] On the First Thesis.

Farther on we meet with these bold words, "I give myself no trouble as
to what pleases or displeases the pope. He is a man like other men.
There have been several popes who loved not only errors and vices, but
even things still more extraordinary. I listen to the pope as pope,
that is when he speaks in the canons, according to the canons, or when
he decides some article with a council, but not when he speaks out of
his own head. If I did otherwise, would I not be bound to say with
those who know not Jesus Christ, that the horrible massacres of
Christians of which Julius II was guilty, were the kind acts of an
affectionate shepherd towards the Lord's sheep?"[480]

  [480] Thesis 26.

"I cannot but be astonished," continues he, "at the simplicity of
those who have said that the two swords of the gospel represent, the
one the spiritual power, and the other the temporal. Yes, the pope
holds a sword of steel, and so exhibits himself to Christendom, not as
a tender father, but as a formidable tyrant. Ah! God in his anger has
given us the sword we wished, and withdrawn that which we despised. In
no quarter of the world have there been more dreadful wars than among
Christians.... Why did the ingenious intellect which discovered this
fine commentary, not with equal subtlety interpret the history of the
two keys committed to St. Peter, and in that way make it an
established dogma of the Church, that the one serves to open the
treasures of heaven, and the other the treasures of the world."[481]

  [481] Ibid. 80.

"It is impossible," he again says, "that a man can be a Christian
without having Christ; and if he has Christ, he at the same time has
all that belongs to Christ. The thing which gives peace to our
conscience is, that by faith our sins are no longer ours, but
Christ's, on whom God has laid them; and that, on the other hand, all
the righteousness of Christ is ours, to whom God has given it. Christ
puts his hand upon us, and we are cured. He throws his mantle over us
and we are covered; for he is the glorious Saviour, blessed for ever
and ever."[482]

  [482] Thesis 37.

With such views of the riches of salvation by Jesus Christ, there was
no need of indulgences.

Luther, while attacking the papacy, speaks honourably of Leo X. "The
times in which we live are so bad," says he, "that even the greatest
personages cannot come to the help of the Church. We have now a very
good pope in Leo X. His sincerity and knowledge fill us with joy. But
what can one man, though amiable and agreeable, do by himself alone?
He certainly deserved to be pope in better times. We, in our day,
deserve only such popes as Julius II, and Alexander VI."

He afterwards comes to the crowning point. "I wish to say the thing in
a few words and boldly. The Church stands in need of a reformation;
and this cannot be the work either of a single man, like the pope, or
of many men, like the cardinals, and fathers of councils; but it must
be that of the whole world, or, rather, it is a work which belongs to
God only. As to the time in which such a reformation ought to begin,
He alone who created time can tell.... The embankment is broken down,
and it is no longer in our power to arrest the torrents which are
rushing impetuously along."

Such are some of the thoughts and declarations which Luther addressed
to the enlightened among his countrymen. The Feast of Pentecost was at
hand; and, at this period, when the apostles rendered the first
testimony of their faith to the risen Saviour, Luther, a new apostle,
published this enlivening book in which he expressed his earnest
longings for a resurrection of the Church. Saturday, 22nd May, 1518,
being Pentecost eve, he sent his work to his ordinary, the Bishop of
Brandenburg, with the following letter:--

"MOST WORTHY FATHER IN GOD,--Some time ago, when a novel and
unheard-of doctrine, touching the apostolic indulgences, began to make
a noise in these countries, both learned and ignorant felt concerned;
and many persons, some of them known to me, and others whom I did not
even know by face, urged me to publish, by word of mouth, or by
writing, what I thought of the novelty, I am unwilling to say, the
impudence of this doctrine. At first I was silent, and kept back. But
at length matters came to such a point, that the holiness of the pope
was compromised.

"What was I to do? I thought it best neither to approve nor to condemn
these doctrines; but to establish a discussion on this important
point, until the Holy Church should decide.

"Nobody having come forward to this combat, to which I had invited all
the world, and my theses having been considered not as materials for
discussion, but positive assertions,[483] I feel myself obliged to
publish an explanation of them. Deign, then, most gracious Bishop, to
receive these trifles[484] at my hand. And that all the world may see
I am not acting presumptuously, I supplicate your reverence to take
pen and ink, and blot out, or even throw into the fire and burn,
whatever in them displeases you. I know that Jesus Christ has no need
of my labours and my services, and that he can very well, without me,
publish good tidings to his Church. Not that the bulls and menaces of
my enemies deter me; very much the contrary. If they were not so
impudent and so shameless, nobody would hear a word from me; I would
shut myself up in a corner, and there study by myself for myself. If
this affair is not of God, it certainly cannot be my affair, nor that
of any man, but a thing of nought. Let the glory and honour be
ascribed to Him to whom alone they belong."

  [483] "Non ut disputabilia sed asserta acciperentur." (Luth., Ep. i.

  [484] Ineptias.

Luther had still the greatest respect for the head of the Church. He
supposed that there was justice in Leo X, and a sincere love of truth.
He resolved, therefore, to apply to him also; and eight days after, on
Trinity Sunday, 30th May, 1518, addressed him in a letter, of which we
give the following extracts:--

    "To the Most Blessed Father, LEO X, Sovereign Bishop,
      "Friar Martin Luther, Augustin, wishes eternal salvation!

"I learn, most Holy Father, that evil reports are current with regard
to me, and that my name is brought into bad odour with your Holiness.
I am called heretic, apostate, traitor, and a thousand other
opprobrious epithets; what I see astonishes, what I hear amazes me.
But the only foundation of my tranquillity remains, and that is a pure
and peaceful conscience. Be pleased to listen to me, most Holy Father,
to me, who am only an ignorant child."

Luther relates the origin of the whole affair, and continues thus:--

"In all taverns, nothing was heard but complaints of the avarice of
priests, and attacks on the power of the keys and the sovereign
pontiff. This all Germany can testify. On hearing these things, my
zeal for the glory of Christ was moved, (so I thought,) or if they
will explain it otherwise, my young and boiling blood was inflamed.

"I warned several of the princes of the Church, but some mocked me,
and others turned a deaf ear. All seemed paralysed by the terror of
your name. Then I published the discussion,

"And this, most Holy Father! this is the fire which is said to have
set the whole world in flames!

"Now, what must I do? I cannot retract, and I see that this
publication is subjecting me to inconceivable hatred in all quarters.
I love not to stand forth in the midst of the world; for I am without
knowledge, without talent, and far too feeble for such great things,
especially in this illustrious age, in which Cicero himself, were he
alive, would be obliged to hide in some obscure corner.[485]

  [485] He adds: "Sed cogit necessitas me anserem strepere inter
  olores." (Luth. Ep. i, p. 121.) But necessity forces me, a goose, to
  hiss among the swans.

"But in order to appease my adversaries, and respond to numerous
solicitations, I here publish my thoughts. I publish them, Holy
Father, that I may place myself in safety under the shadow of your
wings. All who are willing will thus be able to understand with what
simplicity of heart I have asked the ecclesiastical authority to
instruct me, and what respect I have shown for the power of the
keys.[486] If I had not managed the affair in a becoming manner, it is
impossible that the most serene lord Frederick, Duke and Elector of
Saxony, who shines among the friends of apostolical and Christian
truth, would ever have tolerated in his university of Wittemberg a man
so dangerous as I am represented to be.

  [486] "Quam pure simpliciterque ecclesiasticam potestatem et
  reverentiam clavium quæsierim et coluerim." (Ibid.)

"Wherefore, most Holy Father, I throw myself at the feet of your
Holiness, and submit to you with all I have, and all I am. Destroy my
cause, or embrace it; decide for me, or decide against me; take my
life, or restore it to me, just as you please. I will recognise your
voice as the voice of Jesus Christ, who presides and speaks by you. If
I have deserved death I refuse not to die.[487] The earth belongs unto
the Lord, and all that it contains. Let him be praised to all
eternity. Amen. May he sustain you for ever and ever. Amen.

"On the day of the Holy Trinity, in the year 1518.

  "FRIAR MARTIN LUTHER, _Augustin_."

  [487] "Quarè beatissime Pater, prostratum me pedibus tuæ Beatitudinis
  offero, cum omnibus quæ sum et habeo; vivifica, occide voca, revoca,
  approba, reproba, ut placuerit. Vocem tuam, vocem Christi in te
  præsidentis et loquentis agnoscam; si mortem merui, mori non
  recusabo." (Luth. Ep. i, p. 121.)

What humility and truth in this fear, or rather in this confession of
Luther, that his young and boiling blood had perhaps been too quickly
inflamed! We here recognise the man of sincerity, who, not presuming
on himself, fears the influence of passion even in those of his
actions which are most conformable to the word of God. There is a wide
difference between this language and that of a proud fanatic. We see
in Luther an earnest desire to gain over Leo to the cause of truth, to
prevent all disruption, and make this reformation, the necessity of
which he proclaims, come from the very pinnacle of the Church.
Assuredly, he is not the person who ought to be charged with
destroying in the West that unity, the loss of which was afterwards so
much regretted. He sacrificed every thing in order to maintain it;
every thing but truth. It was not he, but his adversaries, who, by
refusing to acknowledge the fulness and sufficiency of the salvation
wrought out by Jesus Christ, are chargeable with having rent the
Saviour's robe at the foot of the cross.

After writing this letter, Luther, the very same day, addressed his
friend Staupitz, vicar-general of his order. It was through him he
wished his "Solutions" and his epistle to reach Leo.

"I pray you," says he to him, "kindly to accept the miserable
things[488] which I send you, and transmit them to the excellent pope,
Leo X. Not that I would thereby drag you into the perils to which I am
exposed. I wish to take all the danger to myself. Jesus Christ will
see whether what I have said comes from him or comes from me--Jesus
Christ, without whose will neither the tongue of the pope can move,
nor the hearts of kings resolve.

  [488] His Solutions.

"To those who threaten me I have no answer to give, unless it be the
remark of Reuchlin, 'The poor man has nothing to fear, for he has
nothing to lose.'[489] I have neither money nor goods, and I ask none.
If I once possessed some honour and some reputation, let him that has
begun to strip me of them finish his work. I have nothing left but
this miserable body, enfeebled by so many trials; let them kill it by
force or fraud, to the glory of God. In this way they will, perhaps,
shorten my life an hour or two. Enough for me to have a precious
Redeemer, a powerful Priest, Jesus Christ the Lord! I will praise him
while I have a breath of life; and if none will praise him with me,
how can I help it?"

  [489] "Qui pauper est nihil timet, nihil potest perdere." (Ibid., p.

These words enable us to read Luther's heart.

While he was thus looking with confidence towards Rome, Rome had
thoughts of vengeance towards him. On the 3rd of April, Cardinal
Raphael De Rovere had written to the Elector Frederick in the pope's
name, stating that suspicions were entertained of his faith, and that
he ought to beware of protecting Luther.

"Cardinal Raphael," says Luther, "would have had great pleasure in
seeing me burned by Duke Frederick."[490] Thus Rome began to whet her
arms against Luther, and the first blow which she aimed at him was
through the mind of his protector. If she succeeded in destroying the
shelter under which the monk of Wittemberg was reposing, he would
become an easy prey.

  [490] Luth. Op. (W.) xv, p. 339.

The German princes attached much importance to their reputation as
Christian princes. The slightest suspicion of heresy filled them with
alarm, and the court of Rome had shrewdly availed itself of this
feeling. Frederick, moreover, had always been attached to the religion
of his fathers, and Raphael's letter made a very strong impression on
his mind. But it was a principle with the Elector not to act hastily
in any thing. He knew that truth was not always on the side of the
strongest. The transactions of the empire with Rome had taught him to
distrust the selfish views of that court; and he was aware that in
order to be a Christian prince, it was not necessary to be the pope's

"He was not," says Melancthon, "one of those profane spirits who wish
to stifle all changes in their first beginnings.[491] Frederick
resigned himself to God. He carefully read the writings which were
published, and what he judged true he allowed no one to destroy."[492]
He had power to do so. Supreme in his own States, he was respected in
the empire at least as highly as the emperor himself.

  [491] "Nec profana judicia sequens quæ tenera initia omnium mutationum
  celerrime opprimi jubent." (Melanc. Vita Luth.)

  [492] "Deo cessit, et ea quæ vera esse judicavit, deleri non voluit."

It is probable that Luther learned something of this letter of
Cardinal Raphael, which was sent to the Elector on the 7th of July.
Perhaps it was the prospect of excommunication which this Roman
missive seemed to presage, that led him to mount the pulpit of
Wittemberg on the 15th of the same month, and on this subject deliver
a discourse which made a profound impression. He distinguished between
internal and external excommunication; the former excluding from
communion with God, and the latter excluding only from the ceremonies
of the Church. "Nobody," says he, "can reconcile a lapsed soul with
God save God himself. Nobody can separate man from communion with God
unless it be man himself by his own sins! Happy he who dies unjustly
excommunicated! While for righteousness' sake he endures a heavy
infliction on the part of man, he receives the crown of eternal
felicity from the hand of God."

Some highly applauded this bold language, while others were more
irritated by it. But Luther was no longer alone; and although his
faith needed no other support than that of God, a phalanx of defence
against his enemies was formed around him. The Germans had heard the
voice of the Reformer. His discourses and his writings sent forth
flashes which awoke and illumined his contemporaries. The energy of
his faith fell in torrents of fire on slumbering hearts. The life
which God had infused into this extraordinary soul was imparted to the
dead body of the Church; and Christendom, which had for so many ages
been motionless, was animated with a religious enthusiasm. The
devotedness of the people to the superstitions of Rome diminished
every day, and the number of hands which offered money for the
purchase of pardon became fewer and fewer,[493] while at the same time
Luther's fame continued to increase. People turned towards him, and
hailed him with love and respect as the intrepid defender of truth and
liberty.[494] No doubt the full depth of the doctrines which he
announced was not perceived. It was enough for the greater number to
know that the new doctor withstood the pope, and that the empire of
priests and monks was shaken by his powerful word. To them the attack
of Luther was like one of those fires which are kindled on mountain
tops, as the signal for a whole nation to rise and burst its chains.
Before the Reformer suspected what he had done, all the generous
hearted among his countrymen had already acknowledged him for their
leader. To many, however, the appearance of Luther was something more.
The word of God, which he wielded with so much power, pierced their
minds like a sharp two-edged sword; and their hearts were inflamed
with an ardent desire to obtain the assurance of pardon and eternal
life. Since primitive times the Church had not known such hungering
and thirsting after righteousness. If the preaching of Peter the
Hermit and Bernard so aroused the population of the middle ages as to
make them take up a perishable cross, the preaching of Luther disposed
those of his time to embrace the true cross, the truth which saves.
The framework which then lay with all its weight on the Church had
smothered everything; the form had destroyed the life. But the
powerful word given to Luther caused a quickening breath to circulate
over the soil of Christendom. At the first glance the writings of
Luther were equally captivating to believers and unbelievers,--to
unbelievers, because the positive doctrines afterwards to be
established were not yet fully developed in them; and to believers,
because they contained the germ of that living faith which they so
powerfully express. Hence the influence of these writings was immense;
they spread almost instantaneously over Germany and the world. The
prevailing impression of men every where was, that they were
assisting, not at the establishment of a sect, but at a new birth of
the Church and of society. Those who were born of the Spirit of God
ranged themselves around him who was its organ. Christendom was
divided into two camps,--the one leagued with the spirit against the
form, and the other with the form against the spirit. It is true that
on the side of the form were all the appearances of strength and
grandeur, and on the side of the spirit those of feebleness and
insignificance. But the form, devoid of the spirit, is a lifeless
body, which the first breath may upset. Its appearance of power only
provokes hostility and accelerates its downfall. In this way the
simple truth had placed Luther at the head of a mighty army.

  [493] "Rarescebant manus largentium." (Cochlœus, 7.) The hands of
  contributors grew few.

  [494] "Luthero autem contra augebatur auctoritas, favor, fides
  existimatio, fama; quod tam liber acerque videbatur veritatis
  assertor." (Ibid.) On the contrary, Luther's authority, influence,
  credit, reputation, and fame, increased, because he seemed so free and
  bold an assertor of the truth.


     Diet at Augsburg--The Emperor to the Pope--The Elector to
     Rovere--Luther cited to Rome--Luther's Peace--Intercession
     of the University--Papal Brief--Luther's Indignation--The
     Pope to the Elector.

This army was needed; for the great began to move. Both the empire and
the Church were uniting their efforts to rid themselves of this
troublesome monk. Had the imperial throne been occupied by a brave and
energetic prince, he might have profited by these religious
agitations, and, throwing himself on God and the nation, given new
force to the former opposition to the papacy. But Maximilian was too
old, and was determined, moreover, to sacrifice every thing to what he
regarded as the end of his existence,--the aggrandisement of his
house, and through it the exaltation of his grandson.

The Emperor Maximilian at this time held a diet at Augsburg, Six
Electors attended in person, and all the Germanic States were
represented at it, while the kings of France, Hungary, and Poland,
sent their ambassadors. All these princes and envoys appeared in great
splendour. The war against the Turks was one of the subjects for which
the diet had assembled. The legate of Leo X strongly urged the
prosecution of it; but the States, instructed by the bad use which had
formerly been made of their contributions, and sagely counselled by
the Elector Frederick, contented themselves with declaring that they
would take the matter into consideration, and at the same time,
produced new grievances against Rome. A Latin discourse, published
during the Diet, boldly called the attention of the German princes to
the true danger. "You wish," said the author, "to put the Turk to
flight. This is well; but I am much afraid that you are mistaken as to
his person. It is not in Asia, but in Italy, that you ought to seek

  [495] Schröck, K. Gesch. n. d. R. i, p. 156.

Another affair of no less importance was to occupy the Diet.
Maximilian was desirous that his grandson Charles, already king of
Spain and Naples, should be proclaimed king of the Romans, and his
successors in the imperial dignity. The pope knew his interest too
well to wish the imperial throne to be occupied by a prince whose
power in Italy might prove formidable to him. The Emperor thought he
had already gained the greater part of the electors and states, but he
found a strenuous opponent in Frederick. In vain did he solicit him,
and in vain did the ministers and best friends of the Elector join
their entreaties to those of the Emperor. Frederick was immovable, and
proved the truth of what has been said of him, that when once
satisfied of the justice of a resolution, he had firmness of soul
never to abandon it. The Emperor's design failed.

From this time the Emperor sought to gain the good will of the pope,
in order to render him favourable to his plans; and as a special proof
of his devotedness, on the 5th August, wrote him the following
letter:--"Most Holy Father, we learned some days ago that a friar of
the Augustin order, named Martin Luther, has begun to maintain divers
propositions as to the commerce in indulgences. Our displeasure is the
greater because the said friar finds many protectors, among whom are
powerful personages.[496] If your Holiness and the very reverend
fathers of the Church, (the Cardinals,) do not forthwith employ their
authority to put an end to these scandals, not only will these
pernicious doctors seduce the simple, but they will involve great
princes in their ruin. We will take care that whatever your Holiness
may decide on this matter, for the glory of Almighty God, shall be
observed by all in our empire."

  [496] "Defensores et patrones etiam potentes quos dictus frater
  consecutus est." (Raynald, ad an. 1518.)

This letter must have been written after some rather keen discussion
between Maximilian and Frederick. The same day, the Elector wrote to
Raphael de Rovere. He had doubtless learned that the Emperer was
addressing the Roman pontiff, and to parry the blow he put himself in
communication with Rome.

"I can have no other wish," said he, "than to show myself submissive
to the universal Church. Accordingly, I have never defended the
writings and sermons of Doctor Martin Luther. I understand, moreover,
that he has always offered to appear with a safe-conduct before
impartial, learned, and Christian judges, in order to defend his
doctrine, and submit, in the event of being convinced by Scripture

  [497] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 169.

Leo X, who had hitherto allowed the affair to take its course, aroused
by the cries of theologians and monks, instituted an ecclesiastical
court, which was to try Luther at Rome, and in which Sylvester
Prierio, the great enemy of the Reformer, was at once accuser and
judge. The charge was soon drawn up, and Luther was summoned by the
court to appear personally in sixty days.

Luther was at Wittemberg, calmly awaiting the good effect which his
humble letter to the pope was, as he imagined, to produce, when, on
the 7th of August, only two days after the despatch of the letters of
Maximilian and Frederick, he received the citation from the Roman
tribunal. "At the moment," says he, "when I was expecting the
benediction, I saw the thunder burst upon me. I was the lamb troubling
the water to the wolf. Tezel escapes, and I must allow myself to be

This citation threw Wittemberg into consternation; for whatever course
Luther might adopt, he could not avert the danger. If he repaired to
Rome he must there become the victim of his enemies. If he refused to
go, he would, as a matter of course, be condemned for contumacy,
without being able to escape; for it was known that the legate had
received orders from the pope to do everything he could do to irritate
the Emperor and the German princes against him. His friends were in
dismay. Must the teacher of truth go with his life in his hand to that
great city, _drunk with the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus_?
Is it sufficient to ensure any man's destruction that he has raised
his head from the bosom of enslaved Christendom? Must this man, whom
God appears to have formed for resisting a power which hitherto
nothing has been able to resist, be also overthrown? Luther, himself,
saw no one who could save him unless it were the Elector, but he would
rather die than endanger his prince. His friends at last fell on an
expedient which would not compromise Frederick. Let him refuse a
safe-conduct, and Luther will have a legitimate cause for refusing to
appear at Rome.

On the 8th of August Luther wrote to Spalatin, praying that the
Elector would employ his influence to have him cited in Germany. He
also wrote to Staupitz, "See what ambuscades they use to ensnare me,
and how I am surrounded with thorns. But Christ lives and reigns,
to-day, yesterday, and for ever. My conscience assures me that what I
have taught is the truth, though it becomes still more odious when I
teach it. The Church is like the womb of Rebecca. The children must
struggle together so as even to endanger the life of the mother.[498]
As to what remains, entreat the Lord that I may not have too much joy
in this trial. May God not lay the sin to their charge."

  [498] "Uterus Rebecca est; parvulos in eo collidi necesse est, etiam
  usque ad periculum matris." (Luth. Ep. i, p. 138.)

The friends of Luther did not confine themselves to consultation and
complaint. Spalatin, on the part of the Elector, wrote to Renner, the
Emperor's secretary, "Dr. Martin is very willing that his judges shall
be all the universities of Germany, with the exception of those of
Erfurt, Leipsic, and Frankfort on the Oder, which he has ground to
suspect. It is impossible for him to appear personally at Rome."[499]

  [499] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 173.

The university of Wittemberg wrote a letter of intercession to the
pope himself, and thus spoke of Luther,--"The feebleness of his body,
and the dangers of the journey, make it difficult and even impossible
for him to obey the order of your Holiness. His distress and his
prayers dispose us to have compassion on him. We, then, as obedient
sons, entreat you, most Holy Father, to be pleased to regard him as a
man who has never taught doctrines in opposition to the sentiments of
the Roman Church." On the same day the university, in its anxiety,
addressed Charles de Miltitz, a Saxon gentleman, the chamberlain, and
a great favourite of the pope, and bore testimony to Luther in terms
still stronger than those which it had ventured to insert in the
former letter. "The worthy father, Martin Luther, Augustin, is the
noblest and most honourable man of our university. For several years
we have seen and known his ability, his knowledge, his high
attainments in arts and literature, his irreproachable manners, and
his altogether Christian conduct."[500]

  [500] Ibid. i, 183, 184; xvii, 171, 172.

This active charity on the part of all who were about Luther is his
finest eulogium.

While the issue was anxiously waited for, the affair terminated more
easily than might have been supposed. The Legate de Vio, chagrined at
not having succeeded in the commission which he had received to
prepare a general war against the Turks, was desirous to give lustre
to his embassy in Germany by some other brilliant exploit; and
thinking that if he extinguished heresy he would reappear at Rome with
glory, he asked the pope to remit the affair to him. Leo felt himself
under obligation to Frederick, for having so strenuously opposed the
election of young Charles, and was aware that he might still want his
assistance. Accordingly, without adverting to the citation, he charged
his legate by a brief, dated 23rd of August, to examine the affair in
Germany. The pope lost nothing by this mode of proceeding; and, at the
same time, if Luther could be brought to a retractation, the noise and
scandal which his appearance at Rome might have occasioned were

"We charge you," said he, "to bring personally before you, to pursue
and constrain without delay, and as soon as you receive this our
letter, the said Luther, who has already been declared heretic by our
dear brother, Jerome, Bishop of Asculan."[501]

  [501] "Dictum Lutherum hæreticum per prædictum auditorem jàm
  declaratum." (Breve Leonis X ad Thomam.)

Then the pope prescribes the severest measures against Luther.

"For this purpose invoke the arm and assistance of our very dear son
in Christ, Maximilian, the other princes of Germany, and all its
commonalties, universities, and powers ecclesiastical or secular; and
if you apprehend him, keep him in safe custody, in order that he may
be brought before us."[502]

  [502] "Brachio cogas atque compellas, et eo in potestate tua redacto
  cum sub fideli custodia retineas, ut coram nobis sistatur." (Ibid.)

We see that this indulgent concession of the pope was little else than
a surer method of dragging Luther to Rome. Next follow the gentle

"If he returns to himself, and asks pardon for his great crime, asks
it of himself, and without being urged to do it, we give you power to
receive him into the unity of Holy Mother Church."

The pope soon returns to malediction.

"If he persists in his obstinacy, and you cannot make yourself master
of his person, we give you power to proscribe him in all parts of
Germany, to banish, curse, and excommunicate all who are attached to
him, and to order all Christians to shun their presence."

Still this is not enough. The pope continues:--

"And in order that this contagion maybe the more easily extirpated,
you will excommunicate all prelates, religious orders, communities,
counts, dukes, and grandees, except the Emperor Maximilian, who shall
refuse to seize the said Martin Luther and his adherents, and send
them to you, under due and sufficient guard. And if (which God forbid)
the said princes, communities, universities, grandees, or any one
belonging to them, offer an asylum to the said Martin and his
adherents, in any way, and give him, publicly or in secret, by
themselves or others, aid and counsel, we lay under interdict these
princes, communities, and grandees, with their towns, burghs, fields,
and villages, whither said Martin may flee, as long as he shall remain
there, and for three days after he shall have left."

This audacious chair, which pretends to be the representative on earth
of Him who has said, _God sent not his Son into the world to condemn
the world, but that the world through him might be saved_, continues
its anathemas; and, after having denounced penalties against
ecclesiastics, proceeds:--

"In regard to the laity, if they do not obey your orders instantly,
and without any opposition, we declare them infamous, (with the
exception of the most worthy Emperor,) incapable of performing any
lawful act, deprived of Christian burial, and stript of all fiefs
which they may hold, whether of the apostolic see, or of any other
superior whatsoever."[503]

  [503] "Infamiæ et inhabilitatis ad omnes actus legitimos ecclesiasticæ
  sepulturæ, privationis quoque feudorum." (Breve Leonis X ad Thomam.)

Such was the fate which awaited Luther. The monarch of Rome has
leagued for his destruction, and to effect it, spared nothing, not
even the peace of the tomb. His ruin seems inevitable. How will he
escape this immense conspiracy? But Rome had miscalculated; a movement
produced by the Spirit of God was not to be quelled by the decrees of
its chancery.

Even the forms of a just and impartial inquest had not been observed.
Luther had been declared heretic, not only without having been heard,
but even before the expiry of the period named for his compearance.
The passions (and nowhere do they show themselves stronger than in
religious discussions) overleap all the forms of justice. Strange
proceedings, in this respect, occur, not only in the Church of Rome,
but in Protestant churches also, which have turned aside from the
gospel; in other words, in all places where the truth is not, every
thing done against the gospel is deemed lawful. We often see men who,
in any other case, would scruple to commit the smallest injustice, not
hesitating to trample under foot all forms and all rights when the
matter in question is Christianity, and the testimony borne to it.

When Luther was afterwards made acquainted with this brief, he
expressed his indignation. "Here," says he, "is the most remarkable
part of the whole affair. The brief is dated on the 23rd of August,
and I was cited for the 7th of August; so that between the citation
and the brief there is an interval of sixteen days. Now, make the
calculation, and you will find that my Lord Jerome, Bishop of Asculan,
has proceeded against me, given judgment, condemned, and declared me
heretic, before the citation could have reached me, or at most sixteen
days after it had been despatched to me. Now, I ask, where are the
sixty days given me in the citation? They commenced on the 7th August,
and were to end on the 7th October. Is it the style and fashion of the
court of Rome to cite, admonish, accuse, judge, and pronounce sentence
of condemnation, all in one day, against a man who is at such a
distance from Rome, that he knows nothing at all of the proceedings?
What answer would they give to this? Doubtless, they forgot to purge
themselves with hellebore before proceeding to such falsehoods."[504]

  [504] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 176.

But at the same time that Rome was secretly depositing her thunders in
the hands of her legate, she was endeavouring, by smooth and
flattering words, to detach the prince whose power she most dreaded
from Luther's cause. The same day, 25th August 1518, the pope wrote
the Elector of Saxony. Recurring to those wiles of ancient policy
which we have already pointed out, he endeavoured to flatter the
prince's self-love:

"Dear son," said the Roman pontiff, "when we think on your noble and
honourable race, and on yourself, its head and ornament; when we
recollect how you and your ancestors have always desired to maintain
Christian faith, and the honour and dignity of the Holy See, we cannot
believe that a man who abandons the faith can trust to the favour of
your Highness, in giving loose reins to his wickedness. And yet it is
told us from all quarters that a certain friar, Martin Luther, Eremite
of the order of St. Augustine, has, like a child of malice, and a
contemner of God, forgotten his habit and his order, which consist in
humility and obedience, and is boasting that he fears neither the
authority nor the punishment of any man, because assured of your
favour and protection.

"But, as we know that he is mistaken, we have thought good to write to
your Highness, and exhort you, according to the Lord, to be vigilant
for the honour of your name as a Christian prince, and to defend
yourself from these calumnies--yourself the ornament, the glory, and
sweet savour of your noble race--and to guard, not only against a
fault so grave as that which is imputed to you, but also against even
the suspicion which the insensate hardihood of this friar tends to
excite against you."

Leo X, at the same time, announced to Frederick that he had charged
Cardinal Saint Sixtus to examine the affair, and he enjoined him to
put Luther into the hands of the legate, "lest," added he, returning
again to his favourite argument, "lest the pious people of our time,
and of future times, may one day lament and say, The most pernicious
heresy with which the Church of God has been afflicted was excited by
the favour and support of this high and honourable House."[505]

  [505] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 173.

Thus Rome had taken all her measures. With one hand she diffused the
perfume of praise, which is always so intoxicating, while the other
held terrors and vengeance.

All the powers of the earth, emperor, pope, princes, and legates,
began to move against this humble friar of Erfurt, whose internal
combats we have already traced. "_The kings of the earth stood up, and
the rulers took counsel together against the Lord and against his


     The Armourer Schwarzerd--His Wife--Philip--His Genius--His
     Studies--The Bible--Call to Wittemberg--Melancthon's
     Departure and Journey--Leipsic--Mistake--Luther's
     Joy--Parallel--Revolution in Education--Study of Greek.

The letter and brief had not reached Germany, and Luther was still
fearing that he would be obliged to appear at Rome, when a happy event
gave comfort to his heart. He needed a friend to whom he could unbosom
his sorrows, and whose faithful love would solace him in his hours of
depression. All this God gave him in Melancthon.

On the 14th February 1497, George Schwarzerd, a skilful armour-master
of Bretten, a small town in the Palatinate, had a son born to him, who
was named Philip, and who afterwards distinguished himself under the
name of Melancthon. Patronised by the Palatine princes, and those of
Bavaria and Saxony, George was a man of unimpeachable integrity. He
often refused the price which purchasers offered him, and on learning
that they were poor, insisted on returning their money. He rose
regularly at midnight, and on his knees offered up a prayer. If on any
occasion morning arrived without his having done it, he felt
dissatisfied with himself the whole day. Barbara, Schwarzerd's wife,
was daughter of an honourable magistrate named John Reuter. She was of
a gentle temper, somewhat inclined to superstition, but otherwise
remarkable for wisdom and prudence. From her we have the old
well-known German rhymes--

    The giving of alms impoverisheth not;
    Attendance at Church impedeth not;
    Greasing the wheel retardeth not;
    Ill-gotten gear enricheth not;
    The Book of God deceiveth not.

And again--

    Those who are pleased more to expend
    Than their fields can render,
    Must come to ruin in the end,
    It may be to a halter.[506]

  [506] "Almosen geben armt nicht, etc. Wer mehr will verzehren, etc.
  (Müller's Reliquien.)

Young Philip was not eleven when his father died. Two days before,
George called his son to his bed-side, and exhorted him to have the
thought of God always present. "I foresee," said the dying armourer,
"that dreadful storms are coming to shake the world. I have seen great
things, but greater are in preparation. May God guide and direct you!"
Philip, after receiving his father's blessing, was sent to Spires,
that he might not be present at his death. He departed crying

The young boy's grandfather, the worthy bailie Reuter, who had also a
son, acted as a father to him, and took him, together with his
brother, George, under his own roof. Shortly after he gave the three
boys for tutor John Hungarus, an excellent man, who afterwards, and at
a very advanced age, became a powerful preacher of the gospel. He let
nothing pass in the young man, punishing him for every fault, yet with
discretion. "In this way," says Melancthon in 1554, "he made me a
grammarian. He loved me as a son, I loved him as a father, and we will
meet, I trust, in eternal life."[507]

  [507] "Dilixit me ut filium, et ego eum ut patrem; et conveniemus,
  spero, in vita æterna." (Melancth. Explicat. Evang.)

Philip was remarkable for the excellence of his understanding, and for
his facility in learning, and expounding what he had learned. He
could not endure idleness, and always sought out some one with whom he
might discuss what he had heard.[508] It often happened that educated
strangers passed through Bretten, and visited Reuter. The bailie's
grandson instantly accosted them, entered into conversation with them,
and so pressed them in discussion as to excite the wonder of those
present. To a powerful genius he joined great sweetness of temper, and
was hence a general favourite. He had a stammer, but, like the
celebrated orator of the Greeks, made such exertions to overcome it,
that it afterwards completely disappeared.

  [508] "Quiescere non poterat, sed quærebat ubique aliquem cum quo de
  auditis disputaret." (Camerarius, Vita Melancth. p. 7.)

His grandfather having died, Philip was sent with his brother and his
young uncle, John, to the school of Pforzheim. The boys resided with
one of their relatives, the sister of the famous Reuchlin. Eager for
knowledge, Philip, under the tuition of George Simler, made rapid
progress in science, and especially in the study of Greek, for which
he had a real passion. Reuchlin often came to Pforzheim, and having
become acquainted with his sister's young boarders, was soon struck
with Philip's answers, and gave him a Greek grammar and a Bible. These
two books were to be the study of his whole life.

When Reuchlin returned from his second journey into Italy, his young
relative, then twelve years of age, with some friends, performed a
Latin comedy of his own composition before him, in honour of his
arrival. Reuchlin, in raptures with the talents of the youth, embraced
him tenderly, called him his dear son, and jocularly gave him the red
bonnet which he had received on being made doctor. It was at this time
Reuchlin changed his name of Schwarzerd into that of Melancthon. Both
words, the one German, and the other Greek, mean _black earth_. It was
a general custom with the learned thus to change their names into
Greek or Latin.

Melancthon, at twelve, repaired to the university of Heidelberg, and
began to gratify his eager thirst for knowledge. He was admitted
Bachelor at fourteen. In 1512 Reuchlin invited him to Tubingen, which
contained a great number of distinguished literary men. Here he
attended at the same time lectures on theology, medicine, and
jurisprudence. There was no branch of knowledge which he did not think
it his duty to study. His object was not praise, but the possession of
science and the benefits of it.

The Holy Scriptures particularly occupied him. Those who frequented
the church of Tubingen had often observed a book in his hands, which
he studied between the services. This unknown volume seemed larger
than the common prayer-books, and the report spread that Philip when
in church read profane books. It turned out that the object of their
suspicion was a copy of the Holy Scriptures, printed a short time
before at Bâsle by John Frobenius. This volume he studied through life
with unwearied application. He had it always with him, carrying it to
all the public meetings to which he was invited.[509] Rejecting the
vain system of the schoolmen, he devoted himself to the simple word of
the Gospel. Erasmus at this time wrote to Œcolampadius, "Of Melancthon
I have the highest opinion, and the highest hopes. Jesus grant that
this young man may have a long life! He will completely eclipse
Erasmus."[510] Melancthon, nevertheless, shared in the errors of his
age. "I shudder," says he, in advanced life, "when I think of the
honour which I paid to images when I was still in the papacy."[511]

  [509] Camerar. Vita Philip Melancth. p. 16.

  [510] "Ille prorsus obscurabit Erasmum." (Er. Ep. i, p. 405.)

  [511] "Cohorresco quando cogito quomodo ipse accesserim ad statuas in
  papatu." (Explicat Evangel.)

In 1514, he was made doctor in philosophy, and began to teach. His age
was seventeen. The grace and attractiveness which he gave to his
lectures formed a striking contrast to the insipid method which the
doctors, and especially the monks, had hitherto pursued. He took an
active part in the combat in which Reuchlin was engaged with the
_Obscurants_ of his age. His agreeable conversation, his gentle and
elegant manners, gaining him the love of all who knew him, he soon
acquired great authority, and a solid reputation in the world.

At this time, the Elector Frederick having conceived the idea of
inviting some distinguished professor of ancient languages to his
university of Wittemberg, applied to Reuchlin who suggested
Melancthon. Frederick saw all the lustre which this young Hellenist
might shed on an institution which was so dear to him; and Reuchlin,
delighted at seeing so fine a field opened to his young friend,
addressed him in the words of Jehovah to Abraham,--"_Come out from thy
country, and thy kindred, and thy father's house, and I will render
thy name great, and thou shalt be blessed._" "Yes," continues the old
man, "I hope it will be so with thee, my dear Philip, my work and my
comfort."[512] In this invitation, Melancthon saw a call from God. The
university was grieved to part with him, and yet he was not without
envious rivals and enemies. He left his native country, exclaiming,
"The will of the Lord be done." He was then twenty-one years of age.

  [512] "Meum opus et meum solatium." (Corp. Ref., i, 33.)

Melancthon made the journey on horseback, in company with some Saxon
merchants, in the same way in which caravans travel in the desert;
for, says Reuchlin, he knew neither the towns nor the roads.[513] At
Augsburg he did homage to the Elector, who happened to be there. At
Nuremberg he saw the excellent Pirckheimer, whom he already knew, and
at Leipsic formed an intimacy with the learned Hellenist, Mosellanus.
In this last town the university gave a fete in honour of him. It was
a truly academic repast. The dishes were numerous, and as each made
its appearance, a professor rose and addressed Melancthon in a Latin
discourse previously prepared. He immediately gave an _extempore_
reply. At length, worn out with so much eloquence, "Most illustrious
friends," said he, "allow me to reply once for all to your addresses;
for not being prepared, I cannot put as much variety into my replies
as you into your addresses." Thereafter the dishes arrived without the
accompaniment of a discourse.[514]

  [513] "Des Wegs un der Orte unbekannt." (Corp. Ref., i, 30.)

  [514] Camer. Vita Melancth., 26.

Reuchlin's young relative arrived at Wittemberg, 25th August, 1518,
two days after Leo X had signed the brief addressed to Cajetan, and
the letter to the Elector.

The professors of Wittemberg did not receive Melancthon with so much
favour as those of Leipsic had done. The first impression which he
made upon them did not correspond to their expectations. They saw a
young man, who seemed still younger than he really was, of small
stature, and a feeble, timid air. Is this the illustrious doctor whom
the greatest men of the age, Erasmus and Reuchlin, extol so loudly?...
Neither Luther, with whom he first was made acquainted, nor his
colleagues, conceived high hopes of him, when they saw his youth, his
embarrassment, and whole appearance.

Four days after his arrival (29th August) he delivered his inaugural
address. The whole university was assembled. The boy, as Luther calls
him,[515] spoke such elegant Latin, and displayed so much knowledge, a
mind so cultivated, and a judgment so sound, that all his hearers were
filled with admiration.

  [515] "Puer et adolescentulus, si ætatem consideres." (Luth. Ep. i,
  141.) A boy, and mere youth, if you consider his age.

At the termination of the address, all pressed forward to congratulate
him, but none felt more joy than Luther, who hastened to communicate
to his friends the feelings with which his heart was overflowing.
Writing Spalatin, 31st August, he says, "Melancthon, four days after
his arrival, delivered an address so beautiful and so learned, that it
was listened to with universal approbation and astonishment. We have
soon got the better of the prejudices which his stature and personal
appearance had produced. We praise and admire his eloquence; we thank
the prince and you for the service you have done us. I ask no other
Greek master. But I fear that his delicate body will not be able to
digest our food, and that, on account of the smallness of his salary,
we shall not keep him long. I hear that the Leipsic folks are already
boasting of being able to carry him off from us. Oh, my dear Spalatin,
beware of despising his age and personal appearance. He is a man
worthy of all honour.[516]

  [516] Luth. Ep. i, 135.

Melancthon immediately began to explain Homer, and St. Paul's Epistle
to Titus. He was full of ardour. "I will do my utmost," wrote he to
Spalatin, "to bring Wittemberg into favour with all who love
literature and virtue."[517] Four days after the inauguration, Luther
again wrote to Spalatin, "I recommend to you most particularly the
very learned and very amiable Greek, Philip. His class-room is always
full. All the theologians in particular attend him. He sets all
classes from the highest to the lowest, to the learning of

  [517] "Ut Wittembergam literatis ac bonis omnibus conciliem." (Corp.
  Ref., i, 51.)

  [518] "Summos cum mediis et infimis, studiosos facit Græcitatis."
  (Luth., Ep. i, 140.)

Melancthon was able to return the affection of Luther, in whom he soon
discovered a goodness of heart, a strength of intellect, a courage and
a wisdom, which he had not previously found in any man. He venerated
and loved him. "If there is any one," said he, "whom I love strongly,
and whom my whole soul embraces, it is Martin Luther."[519]

  [519] "Martinum, si omnino in rebus humanis quidquam vehementissime
  diligio et animo integerrimo complector." (Melancth. Ep. i, 411.)

"Thus met Luther and Melancthon, and they were friends till death. We
cannot sufficiently admire the goodness and wisdom of God in uniting
two men so different, and yet so necessary to each other. What Luther
had in warmth, elasticity, and force, Melancthon had in perspicuity,
wisdom, and gentleness. Luther animated Melancthon; Melancthon
moderated Luther. They were like the two forms of electric matter, the
positive and the negative, which modify each other. Had Luther been
without Melancthon, the stream had perhaps overflowed its bank; and,
on the other hand, Melancthon, when without Luther, hesitated, and
even yielded, where he ought to have stood firm.[520] Luther did much
by vigour, and Melancthon perhaps did not less by pursuing a slower
and calmer course. Both were upright, open, and generous, and both,
smitten with the love of the word of eternal life, served it with a
fidelity and devotedness which formed the distinguishing feature of
their lives.

  [520] Calvin wrote to Sleidan: "Dominus cum fortiore spiritu instruat,
  ne gravem ex ejus timiditate jacturam sentiat posteritas." May the
  Lord supply him with a more resolute spirit, that posterity may not,
  through his timidity, sustain some grievous loss.

The arrival of Melancthon produced a revolution, not only at
Wittemberg, but throughout Germany and the learned world. His study of
the Greek and Latin classics, and of philosophy, had given him an
order, perspicuity, and precision of thought, which shed new light and
inexpressible beauty on all the subjects which he discussed. The mild
spirit of the gospel fertilized and enlivened his meditations, and the
driest subjects when he expounded them were invested with a grace
which fascinated all his hearers. The sterility which scholasticism
had spread over education ceased, and a new mode of instruction and
study commenced. "Thanks to Melancthon," says a distinguished German
historian, "Wittemberg became the national school."[521]

  [521] Plank.

It was, indeed, of great importance, that a man thoroughly versed in
Greek should teach in this university, where the new developments of
theology called masters and scholars to study the primitive documents
of the Christian faith in the original languages. Thenceforth Luther
set himself zealously to this task. Often did the meaning of a Greek
term, which had previously been unknown to him, throw sudden light on
his theological views. For example, how great his satisfaction and
delight when he saw that the Greek word, μετανοια, which according
to the Latin church, meant a penance, a satisfaction enacted by the
Church, meant in Greek a transformation or conversion of heart. A
thick mist all at once disappeared from before his eyes. The two
meanings given to this word are sufficient to characterise the two

The impulse which Melancthon gave to Luther, in regard to the
translation of the Bible, is one of the most remarkable circumstances
in the friendship of these two great men. As early as 1517, Luther had
made some attempts at translation, and procured as many Greek and
Latin books as he could. Now, aided by his dear Philip, his task
received a new impetus. Luther obliged Melancthon to take part in his
researches, by consulting him on difficult passages, and the work,
destined to be one of the greatest works of the Reformer, advanced
more surely and more rapidly.

Melancthon, on his part, became acquainted with a new theology. The
beautiful and profound doctrine of justification by faith filled him
with astonishment and joy. Still, in receiving the system Luther
professed, he acted independently, moulding it according to the
particular form of his own intellect; for, although he was only
twenty-one years of age, he was one of those precocious minds which
enter early into possession of all their powers, and are themselves
from the very outset.

The zeal of the masters was soon transfused into the scholars. It was
proposed to reform the course of study. With the concurrence of the
Elector, certain branches, only of scholastic importance, were
suppressed, and at the same time a new impulse was given to classic
pursuits. The school of Wittemberg underwent a transformation, and the
contrast between it and other universities became still more
prominent. Still, however, the landmarks of the Church were observed,
though all felt that they were on the eve of a great battle with the


     Sentiments of Luther and Staupitz--Order to Appear--Alarms
     and Courage--The Elector with the Legate--Departure for
     Augsburg--Sojourn at Weimar--Nuremberg.

The arrival of Melancthon, doubtless, gave a pleasant turn to Luther's
thoughts at this very critical moment; and, doubtless, in the sweet
intercourse of a growing friendship, and amid the biblical labours to
which he devoted himself with new zeal, he sometimes forgot Prierio,
Leo, and the ecclesiastical court before which he behoved to plead.
Still, these were only fleeting moments, and his thoughts were ever
recurring to the formidable tribunal before which implacable enemies
had summoned him to appear. What terrors would not this thought have
thrown into a mind which was seeking aught else than the truth! But
Luther trembled not! Confiding fully in the faithfulness and power of
God, he remained firm, and was quite ready to expose himself
single-handed to the rage of enemies mightier than those who had
lighted the fire for John Huss.

A few days after the arrival of Melancthon, and before the pope's
resolution transferring the citation of Luther from Rome to Augsburg
could be known, Luther wrote Spalatin:--"I ask not our sovereign to do
any thing whatever for the defence of my theses. I am willing to be
delivered up and thrown single into the hands of my adversaries. Let
him allow the whole storm to burst upon me. What I have undertaken to
defend, I hope I shall be able, with the assistance of Christ, to
maintain. Violence, indeed, must be submitted to; but still without
abandoning the truth."[522]

  [522] Luth. Ep. i, p. 139.

The courage of Luther communicated itself to others. Men of the
greatest gentleness and timidity, on seeing the danger which
threatened the witness for the truth, found words full of energy and
indignation. The prudent and pacific Staupitz, on the 7th September,
wrote to Spalatin: "Cease not to exhort the prince, your master and
mine, not to be alarmed at the roaring of the lions. Let him defend
the truth without troubling himself about Luther, or Staupitz, or the
order. Let there be a place where men can speak freely and without
fear. I know that the plague of Babylon--I had almost said of
Rome--breaks forth against all who attack the abuses of those
traffickers in Jesus Christ. I have myself seen a preacher of the
truth thrown headlong from the pulpit; I have seen him, though on a
festival, bound and dragged to a dungeon. Others have seen still
greater cruelties. Therefore, my dear friend, strive to make his
Highness persevere in his sentiments."[523]

  [523] Jen. Aug. i, p. 384.

The order to appear at Augsburg before the cardinal legate at length
arrived. Luther had now to do with one of the princes of the Church.
All his friends entreated him not to go.[524] They feared that on the
journey snares might be laid for him, and an attempt made on his life.
Some employed themselves in looking out for an asylum to him. Staupitz
himself, the timid Staupitz, felt moved at the thought of the dangers
which threatened that friar Martin whom he had drawn from the
obscurity of the cloister, and placed on the troubled stage where his
life was now in peril. Ah! would it not have been better if the poor
friar had remained for ever unknown? It was too late. Still, at least,
he would do everything to save him. Accordingly, on the 15th September
he wrote him from his convent of Salzburg, urging him to flee and seek
an asylum beside himself. "It seems to me," said he, "that the whole
world is enraged, and in coalition against the truth. In the same way
crucified Jesus was hated. I see not that you have anything to expect
but persecution. Shortly, no man will be able without the permission
of the pope, to sound the Scriptures, and search for Jesus Christ in
them, though this Christ himself enjoins. You have only a few friends;
and would to God that the fear of your adversaries did not prevent
those few from declaring in your favour. The wisest course is to quit
Wittemberg for a time and come to me. Thus we will live and die
together. This is also the prince's opinion," adds Staupitz.[525]

  [524] "Contra omnium amicorum consilium comparui." I appeared contrary
  to the advice of all my friends.

  [525] Ep. i, 61.

From different quarters Luther received the most alarming notices.
Count Albert of Mansfeld sent a message to him to beware of setting
out, for some great barons had sworn to make themselves masters of his
person, and to strangle or drown him.[526] But nothing could deter
him. He never thought of availing himself of the vicar-general's
offer. He will not go and hide himself in the obscurity of the convent
of Salzburg, but will faithfully remain on the stormy scene on which
the hand of God has placed him. It is by persevering in the face of
adversaries, and proclaiming the truth with loud voice in the midst of
the world, that the reign of truth advances. Why, then, should he
flee? He is not one of "those who draw back to perdition; but of those
who believe to the saving of the soul." The words of the Master whom
he serves, and loves better than life, are incessantly echoing in his
heart, "_Whosoever will confess me before men, him will I also confess
before my Father who is in heaven._" In Luther and in the Reformation
we uniformly meet with that intrepid courage, that high-toned
morality, that boundless charity, which the first preaching of
Christianity manifested to the world. "I am like Jeremiah," says
Luther, at the period of which we are now speaking; "Jeremiah, the man
of quarrel and discord; but the more they multiply their menaces the
more they increase my joy. My wife and children are well provided, (of
course, meaning he had none;) my fields, my houses, and all my goods,
are in order.[527] They have already torn my honour and my reputation
to shreds. The only thing left me is my poor body, and let them take
it; they will only shorten my life some few hours. My soul they cannot
take from me. He who would publish the word of Christ in the world
must expect death every hour; for our bridegroom is a bridegroom of

  [526] "Ult vel stanguler, vel baptizer ad mortem." (Ibid. 129.) That I
  am either to be strangled or ducked to death.

  [527] "Uxor mea et liberi mei provisi sunt." (Luth. Ep. i, 129.)

  [528] "Sic enim sponsus noster, sponsus sanguinum nobis est." (Ibid.)
  See Exodus, iv, 25.

The Elector was then at Augsburg. A short time before quitting that
town after the Diet, he had of his own accord paid a visit to the
legate. The cardinal, greatly flattered by this mark of respect from
so illustrious a prince, promised that if the monk presented himself
he would listen to him like a father, and kindly dismiss him.
Spalatin, on the part of the prince, wrote to his friend that the pope
had named a commission to try him in Germany; that the Elector would
not allow him to be dragged to Rome; and that he must prepare to set
out for Augsburg. Luther resolved to obey; but the warning which he
had received from Count Mansfeld made him apply to Frederick for a
safe-conduct. Frederick replied that it was unnecessary, and merely
gave him recommendations to some of the leading counsellors of
Augsburg. He also sent him some money for the journey. The Reformer,
poor and defenceless, set out on foot to place himself in the hands of
his adversaries.[529]

  [529] "Veni igitur pedester et pauper Augustam." (Luth. Op. Lat, in

What must have been his feelings on quitting Wittemberg, and directing
his steps towards Augsburg, where the legate of the pope was waiting
for him! The object of this journey was not like that of Heidelberg, a
friendly meeting. He was going to appear in presence of the legate of
Rome without a safe-conduct; perhaps he was going to death. But in him
faith was not a mere matter of show. Being a reality it gave him
peace, and in the name of the Lord of Hosts he could advance without
fear to bear testimony to the Gospel.

He arrived at Weimar on the 28th of September, and lodged in the
convent of the Cordeliers. One of the monks was unable to withdraw his
eyes from him. It was Myconius. This was the first time he had seen
Luther, and he longed to approach him, and tell that he owed the peace
of his soul to him, and that his whole desire was to labour with him.
But Myconius being closely watched by his superiors, was not permitted
to speak to Luther.[530]

  [530] "Ibi Myconius primum vidit Lutherum: Sed ab accessu et colloquio
  ejus tunc est prohibitus." (M. Adami, Vita Mycon. p. 176.)

The elector of Saxony was then holding his court at Weimar, and this
is probably the reason why the Cordeliers gave admittance to the
doctor. The day after his arrival the feast of St. Michael was
celebrated. Luther said mass, and was even invited to preach in the
church of the castle. It was a mark of favour which the prince wished
to give him. He, accordingly, in presence of the court, preached a
long sermon, on the text of the day, which is taken from the Gospel of
St. Matthew, (chap, xviii, 1-11.) He spoke forcibly against
hypocrites, and those who boast of their own righteousness; but he did
not speak of the angels, though this was the customary topic on St.
Michael's day.

The courage of the doctor of Wittemberg, in calmly setting out on foot
to obey a summons, which in the case of so many before him had issued
in death, astonished those who saw him. Interest, admiration, and
compassion, succeeded each other in their minds. John Kestner,
superintendant to the Cordeliers, alarmed at the idea of the dangers
which awaited his guest, said to him, "Brother, you will find at
Augsburg Italians, men of learning, and subtle antagonists, who will
give you much to do. I fear you will not be able to defend your cause
against them. They will cast you into the fire, and with their flames
consume you."[531] Luther replied gravely, "Dear friend, pray to our
Lord God, who is in heaven, and present a _Pater noster_ for me, and
his dear child, Jesus, whose cause my cause is, that he may be
gracious toward me. If he maintain his cause, mine is maintained. But
if he pleases not to maintain it, assuredly it is not I who can
maintain it; and it is he who will bear the affront."

  [531] "Profecto in ignem te conjicient et flammis exurent." (Melch.
  Adam. Vita Mycon. p. 176; Mycon. Hist. Ref. p. 30.)

Luther continued his journey on foot, and arrived at Nuremberg. He was
going to present himself before a prince of the Church, and wished his
dress to be suitable; but his clothes were old, and, besides, had
suffered much by the journey. He borrowed a frock from his faithful
friend, Winceslaus Link, preacher at Nuremberg.

Luther, doubtless, did not confine his visit to Link, but also saw his
other friends in Nuremberg, secretary Scheurl, the celebrated painter,
Albert Durer, to whom Nuremberg is now erecting a statue, and many
others. He strengthened himself by intercourse with the excellent of
the earth, while many monks and laymen expressed alarm, and
endeavoured to shake him by representing the difficulties in his way.
Letters which he wrote from this town show the spirit by which he was
animated. "I have met," says he, "with pusillanimous men, who would
persuade me not to go to Augsburg; but I have determined on going. The
will of the Lord be done. Even at Augsburg, even in the midst of his
enemies, Jesus Christ reigns. Let Christ live; let Luther and every
sinner die. According as it is written: Let the God of my salvation be
exalted! Behave well, persevere, stand firm; for we must not be
reproved either by men or by God; God is true, and man a liar."[532]

  [532] "Vivat Christus, moriatur Martinus.... "(Weismanni, Hist. Secr.
  Nov. Test. p. 165.) Weismann had seen this letter in MS., but it is
  not in M. de Wette's Collection.

Link and an Augustin monk could not consent to allow Luther to travel
alone and meet the dangers which threatened him. They were acquainted
with his bold and fearless character, and suspected he would fail in
due precaution. They, therefore, accompanied him. When they were about
five leagues from Augsburg, Luther, exhausted, no doubt, by the
fatigue of travelling, and the varied emotions of his heart, was
seized with violent pains in the stomach. He thought he was dying, and
his friends becoming very uneasy, hired a car to transport him. They
arrived at Augsburg on the evening of Friday the 7th of October, and
lighted at the Augustin convent. Luther was greatly fatigued, but soon
recovered; his faith and mental energy speedily recruiting his
exhausted body.


     Arrival at Augsburg--De Vio--His
     Character--Serra-Longa--Preliminary Conversation--Visit of
     the Counsellors--Return of Serra-Longa--The Prior--Luther's
     Wisdom--Luther and Serra-Longa--The Safe-Conduct--Luther to

The instant he was at Augsburg, and before he had seen any one,
Luther, wishing to pay all due respect to the legate, begged
Winceslaus Link to go and announce his arrival. Link did so, and
humbly declared to the cardinal, on the part of the doctor of
Wittemberg, that he was ready to appear at his order. The legate was
delighted with the news. At last he had a hold of this boisterous
heretic, who, he assured himself, would not quit the walls of Augsburg
as he had entered. At the same time, when Link went to the legate, the
monk Leonard set out to announce Luther's arrival to Staupitz. The
vicar-general had written the doctor, that he would certainly come as
soon as he should know of his being in the town, and Luther was
unwilling to lose an instant in giving him intimation.[533]

  [533] Luth. Ep. i, p. 144.

The Diet was closed, and the Emperor and the electors had already
separated. The Emperor, it is true, had not left but was hunting in
the neighbourhood. The ambassador of Rome was thus at Augsburg alone.
Had Luther come during the Diet, he would have found powerful
protectors, but now it seemed that every thing must bend under the
weight of papal authority.

The name of the judge before whom Luther had to appear was not fitted
to increase his confidence. Thomas de Vio surnamed Cajetan, from the
town of Gaeta, in the kingdom of Naples, where he was born, had, from
his youth, given great hopes. Having at sixteen entered the Dominican
order, against the express wish of his parents, he afterwards became
general of his order, and a cardinal of the Roman Church. But what was
worse for Luther, this learned doctor was one of the most zealous
defenders of the scholastic theology, which the Reformer had always
treated so unmercifully. His mother was said to have dreamt during her
pregnancy, that St. Thomas would in person educate the child to which
she was to give birth, and introduce him to heaven. Hence De Vio, on
becoming Dominican, had changed his name from James to Thomas. He had
zealously defended the prerogatives of the papacy, and the doctrines
of Thomas Aquinas, whom he regarded as the most perfect of
theologians.[534] A lover of pomp and show, he almost gave a literal
meaning to the Roman maxim that legates are above kings, and
surrounded himself with great state. On the first of August, he had
celebrated a solemn mass in the cathedral of Augsburg, and in presence
of all the princes of the empire, had placed the cardinal's hat on the
head of the Archbishop of Mentz while kneeling before the altar, and
had delivered to the Emperor himself the hat and sword consecrated by
the pope. Such was the man before whom the monk of Wittemberg was
going to appear, clothed in a frock which was not even his own.
Besides, the acquirements of the legate, the austerity of his
disposition, and the purity of his morals, gave him in Germany an
influence and authority which other Roman courtiers would not have
easily obtained. To this reputation for sanctity he doubtless owed his
mission. Rome saw that he would serve her purposes admirably. Thus the
personal qualities of Cajetan made him still more formidable.
Moreover, the business entrusted to him was not complicated. Luther
had already been declared a heretic.[535] If he refused to retract,
the duty of the legate was to put him in prison; or if he escaped, to
launch excommunication at every one who should dare to give him an
asylum. This was all that Rome required to be done by the legate
before whom Luther was cited.[535]

  [534] Divi Thomæ Summa cum Commentariis Thomæ de Vio. Lugduni, 1587.

  [535] Bull of the pope. (Luth Op. (L.) xvii, p. 174.)

Luther had recovered strength during the night, and on Saturday
morning 8th October, being somewhat rested from his journey, began to
consider his strange situation. He felt resigned, and waited till the
will of God should be manifested by the event. He had not long to
wait. A personage who was unknown to him sent in a message, as if he
had been entirely devoted to his service, to say that he was coming to
wait upon him, and that Luther must take good care not to appear
before the legate without having seen him. This message came from an
Italian named Urban of Serra-Longa, who had often been in Germany, as
envoy of the Margrave of Montferrat. He was known to the Elector of
Saxony, to whom he had been accredited, and after the death of the
Margrave had attached himself to Cardinal de Vio.

The finesse and manners of this man formed a very striking contrast to
the noble frankness and generous integrity of Luther. The Italian
shortly after arrived at the Augustin convent. The cardinal had sent
him to sound the Reformer, and prepare him for the retractation which
he was expected to make. Serra-Longa imagined that his residence in
Germany gave him great advantages over the other courtiers in the
suite of the legate, and he hoped to have good sport with the German

He arrived attended by two servants, and pretended to have come of his
own accord, because of the friendship which he felt for a favourite of
the Elector of Saxony, and because of his attachment to the Holy
Church. After paying his respects to Luther in the warmest terms, the
diplomatist added, in an affectionate manner,--

"I come to give you sage and good advice. Re-attach yourself to the
Church. Submit unreservedly to the cardinal. Retract your injurious
expressions. Remember the Abbot Joachim of Florence. He, you know, had
said heretical things, and yet was declared not heretical, because he
retracted his errors."

Luther spoke of defending himself.

_Serra-Longa._--"Beware of doing so!... Would you pretend to fight
with the legate of his holiness, as if you were tilting at a tournay?"

_Luther._--"When it is proved that I have taught anything contrary to
the Roman Church I will pass judgment on myself, and retract
instantly. The whole question will be, Whether the legate leans more
upon St. Thomas than the faith authorises him to do? If he does, I
will not yield to him."

_Serra-Longa._--"Ah! Ah! Do you pretend, then, to break lances?"

Then the Italian began to say things which Luther designates horrible.
He pretended that false propositions might be maintained, provided
they produced money and filled the strong box--that the universities
must take good care not to dispute on the authority of the pope--that
their duty, on the contrary, was to maintain that the pope can, at his
beck, alter or suppress articles of faith;[536] adding other things of
the same nature. But the wily Italian soon perceived that he was
forgetting himself. Returning to soft words, he strove to persuade
Luther to submit to the legate in every thing, and retract his
doctrines, his oaths, and his theses.

  [536] "Et nutu solo omnia abrogare, etiam ea quæ fidei essent." (Luth.
  Ep. i, 144.)

The doctor, who, at the outset, had given some credit to the fine
protestations of orator Urban, (as he designates him in his account of
the interview,) was now convinced that they were of very little value,
and that Serra-Longa was much more on the legate's side than on his.
He, therefore, became less communicative, and contented himself with
saying that he was quite disposed to exercise humility, give proof of
obedience, and make satisfaction in whatever matters he had been
mistaken. At these words Serra-Longa, overjoyed, exclaimed, "I am off
to the legate, and you will follow me; everything will go off most
admirably; it will be soon finished...."[537]

  [537] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 179.

He went off. The Saxon monk, who had more discernment than the Roman
courtier, thought within himself, "This wily Sinon has come along
ill-prepared and ill-instructed by his Greeks."[538] Luther was
suspended between hope and fear; hope, however, predominating. The
visit and the strange assertions of Serra-Longa, whom at a later
period he calls an inexpert mediator,[539] made him resume courage.

  [538] "Hunc Sinonem parùm cousulte instructum arte pelasga." (Luth.
  Ep. i, 144.) See Virgil's Æneid, Book II.

  [539] "Mediator ineptus." (Ibid.)

The counsellors and other inhabitants of Augsburg, to whom the Elector
had recommended Luther, hastened to visit the monk, whose name was now
resounding throughout all Germany. Peutinger, counsellor of the
empire, who was one of the most distinguished patricians of the town,
and often invited Luther to his table, counsellor Langemantel, Dr.
Auerbach of Leipsic, the two brothers Adelmann, both canons, and
several others besides, repaired to the convent of the Augustins, and
gave a cordial welcome to the extraordinary man, who had journeyed so
far to come and place himself in the hands of the creatures of Rome.
"Have you a safe-conduct?" they asked. "No!" replied the intrepid
monk. "What hardihood!" exclaimed they. "It was, indeed," says Luther,
"a fit term to designate my rash folly." All with one voice entreated
him not to go to the legate until he had obtained a safe-conduct from
the Emperor himself. It is probable that the public had already heard
of the papal brief of which the legate was the bearer.

"But," replied Luther, "I came to Augsburg without a safe-conduct, and
have arrived in good health."

"The Elector having recommended you to us, you ought to obey us, and
do what we tell you," rejoined Langemantel, kindly but firmly. Dr.
Auerbach seconded his remonstrances. "We know," says he, "that the
cardinal, at the bottom of his heart, is in the highest degree
incensed against you.[540] No trust can be put in the Italians."[541]

  [540] "Sciunt enim eum in me exacerbatissimum intus, quicquid simulet
  foris.... (Ibid., p. 143.)

  [541] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 201.

Canon Adelmann likewise insisted, "You have been sent defenceless,
and it has been forgotten to furnish you with the precise thing which
you required."[542] These friends engaged to obtain the necessary
safe-conduct from the Emperor. They afterwards told Luther how many
persons even of elevated rank, were inclined in his favour. "Even the
minister of France, who quitted Augsburg a few days ago, spoke of you
in the most honourable terms."[543] This statement struck Luther, and
he afterwards remembered it. Thus, the most respectable citizens in
one of the first cities of the empire were already gained to the

  [542] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 203.

  [543] Seckend., p. 144.

They were still conversing when Serra-Longa re-appeared. "Come," said
he to Luther, "the cardinal is waiting for you and I myself am going
to conduct you to his presence. Listen while I tell you how you are to
appear. When you enter the hall where he is, you will prostrate
yourself before him with your face on the ground; when he tells you to
rise, you will get up on your knees, and not stand erect, but wait
till he bids you.[544] Recollect that it is before a prince of the
Church that you are going to appear. For the rest fear nothing; the
whole will be finished soon, and without difficulty."

  [544] Ibid., p. 130.

Luther, who had promised this Italian that he would be ready to follow
at his call, felt embarrassed. Yet he hesitated not to inform him of
the advice which he had received from his Augsburg friends, and spoke
to him of a safe-conduct.

"Beware of asking one," immediately replied Serra-Longa; "you have no
need of it. The legate is well-disposed, and quite ready to finish the
thing amicably. If you ask a safe-conduct you will totally spoil your

  [545] Luth. Op. (L.) 179.

"My gracious lord, the Elector of Saxony," replied Luther, "has
recommended me to several honourable men of this town, who counsel me
to undertake nothing without a safe-conduct. I must follow their
advice, for, were I not to do so, and were anything to happen, they
would write to the Elector, my master, that I had refused to listen to

Luther persisted in his resolution, and Serra-Longa saw himself
obliged to return to his chief, to announce the obstacle which his
mission had encountered at the moment when he was flattering himself
with seeing it crowned with success.

Thus terminated the conferences of that day with the orator of

Another invitation was given to Luther. John Frosch, the prior of the
Carmelites, who was an old friend of his, and two years before, as a
licentiate of theology, had maintained theses under the presidency of
Luther, paid him a visit, and earnestly begged he would come and
reside with him. He claimed the honour of having the doctor of Germany
for his guest. Men at length feared not to do homage to him in
presence of Rome; the feeble had already become strong. Luther
accepted, and left the Augustin convent for that of the Carmelites.
The day did not close without serious reflection. The eagerness of
Serra-Longa, and the fears of the counsellors, equally served to
acquaint him with the difficulty of his position. Nevertheless, God in
heaven was his protector, and under his guardianship he could sleep
without fear.

The next day, being Sunday,[546] gave him somewhat more repose. He
had, however, to endure a different kind of fatigue. The whole talk of
the town was about Dr. Luther, and, as Melancthon expresses it, every
body was desirous to see "this new Erostratus, who had kindled so
immense a conflagration."[547] The people pressed around him, and the
good doctor, no doubt smiled at their eagerness.

  [546] 9th October.

  [547] "Omnes cupiunt videre hominem, tanti incendii Erostratum."
  (Luth. Ep. i, p. 146.)

But he had to submit to another kind of importunity. If the people
were desirous to see him, they were still more so to hear him, and he
was requested on all hands to preach. Luther had no greater delight
than in proclaiming the word, and would have been happy to preach
Jesus Christ in this great city, in the solemn circumstances in which
he was placed. But on this occasion, as on many others, he showed a
strong sense of propriety, and profound respect for his superiors, and
refused to preach, lest the legate might suppose that he did it in
order to give him pain, and by way of defiance. This moderation and
wisdom were undoubtedly of as much value as a sermon.

The cardinal's creatures, however, did not leave him in tranquillity,
but returned to the charge. "The Cardinal," said they, "assures you of
his entire grace and favour. What do you fear?" They alleged a
thousand reasons in order to induce him to go. "He is a father full of
mercy, said one of these envoys; but another approaching, whispered in
his ear, "Don't believe what is told you--he does not keep his
word."[548] Luther adhered to his resolution.

  [548] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 205.

On Monday morning, 10th October, Serra-Longa returned to the charge.
The courtier had made it a point of honour to succeed in his
negotiation. As soon as he entered, he exclaimed in Latin, "Why do
you not come to the cardinal? He is waiting for you with the most
indulgent feelings. The whole matter may be summed up in six
letters:--REVOCA, Retract. Come, you have nothing to fear."

Luther thought within himself, these six are important letters; but,
without entering into discussion on the subject, said, "As soon as I
have obtained the safe-conduct I will appear."

Serra-Longa broke out on hearing these words. He insisted, and
remonstrated, but found Luther immovable. Becoming more and more
irritated, he exclaimed, "You imagine, doubtless, that the Elector
will take up arms in your behalf, and for your sake run the risk of
losing the territories handed down to him from his fathers."

_Luther._--"God forbid."

_Serra-Longa._--"Abandoned by all, where will your refuge be?"

_Luther._--(_Looking upwards with the eye of faith_,) "Under

  [549] "Et ubi manebis?... Respondi: Sub cœlo." (Luth. Op. in Præf.)
  And where will you remain?... I answered, under heaven.

Serra-Longa, struck with this sublime reply, for which he was not
prepared, remained a moment silent, and then continued:--

"What would you do if you had the pope, the legate, and all the
cardinals, in your hands, as they have you in theirs?"

_Luther._--"I would pay them all honour and respect. But in my view,
the word of God takes precedence of all."

_Serra-Longa._--(_Laughing, and wagging one of his fingers as the
Italians do._) "Hem! Hem! all honour ... I don't believe a word of

He then went out, leapt into his saddle, and disappeared.

Serra-Longa returned no more to Luther; but he long remembered both
the resistance which he had met with from the Reformer, and that which
his master also was soon to experience. At a later period, we shall
see him with loud cries demanding Luther's blood.

Serra-Longa had not long left the doctor when the safe-conduct
arrived. His friends had obtained it from the counsellor of the
empire, who, it is probable, had previously consulted with the
Emperor, as he was not far from Augsburg. It would even seem, from a
remark afterwards made by the cardinals that, to avoid offending him,
his consent had been asked. This may have been his reason for
employing Serra-Longa to work upon Luther; for to have openly opposed
the giving of a safe-conduct would have been to reveal intentions
which he was desirous to conceal. It was safer to induce Luther
himself to desist from his demand. It was soon seen, however, that the
Saxon monk was not made of pliable materials.

Luther is going to appear. While demanding a safe-conduct, he did not
trust to a carnal arm; for he knew very well that a safe-conduct did
not save John Huss from the flames. He only wished to do his duty by
submitting to the advice of his master's friends. Jehovah will decide.
If he requires him to give back his life, he is ready to give it
joyfully. At this solemn moment, he feels a longing for converse with
his friends, especially with Melancthon, now so dear to his heart, and
avails himself of a moment of retirement to write him.

"Comport yourself like a man," says he to him, "as you always do.
Teach our dear youth what is right and agreeable to God. For me, I am
ready to be sacrificed for you and for them, if it is the Lord's
will.[550] Sooner than retract what I was bound to teach, I would die,
and even (what would be to me the greatest misfortune) be deprived for
ever of your delightful society, thus losing (perhaps by my fault) the
excellent studies to which we are now devoted.

  [550] "Ego pro illis et vobis vado immolari."... (Luth. Ep. i, 148.)

"Italy, like Egypt of old, is plunged in darkness, so thick that it
may be felt. Nobody knows anything of Christ, or of what relates to
him; and yet these people are our lords and masters in faith and
manners. Thus the wrath of God is fulfilled upon us, as the prophet
speaks: '_I will give them youths for governors, and babes will rule
over them._' Conduct yourself as in presence of the Lord, my dear
Philip, and avert the divine wrath by pure and fervent prayer."

The legate, informed that Luther was next day to appear before him,
assembled the Italians and Germans, in whom he had the greatest
confidence, in order to consider what was necessary to be done with
the Saxon monk. Opinions were divided. "He must," says one, "be
compelled to retract." "He must be seized," says another, "and
imprisoned." A third thought that it was better to get quit of him;
and a fourth that an attempt should be made to gain him by kindness
and lenity. This last advice the cardinal seems at first to have
determined to adopt.[551]

  [551] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 183.


     First appearance--First Words--Conditions of
     Rome--Propositions to Retract--Luther's reply--He
     withdraws--Impressions on both sides--Arrival of Staupitz.

The day of conference at length arrived.[552] The legate, knowing that
Luther had declared his readiness to retract what could be proved
contrary to the truth, had great hopes of success. He doubted not that
it would be easy for a man of his rank and knowledge to bring back
this monk to the obedience of the Church.

  [552] Tuesday, 11th October.

Luther repaired to the legate, accompanied by the prior of the
Carmelites, (his host and friend,) two friars of the convent, Dr.
Link, and an Augustin, probably the one who had come with him from
Nuremberg. Scarcely had he entered the palace of the legate, than all
the Italians in the suite of the prince of the Church rushed forward.
Every one wished to see the famous doctor, and pressed so upon him
that he could scarcely advance. Luther found the Apostolical Nuncio,
and Serra-Longa, in the hall where the cardinal was waiting. The
reception was cold but polite, and conformable to Roman etiquette.
Luther, following the instructions which Serra-Longa had given him,
prostrated himself before the cardinal; when told to rise, he put
himself on his knees; and, on a new order from the legate, stood
erect. Several of the most distinguished Italians in the service of
the legate pushed forward into the hall to be present at the
interview. They desired above all to see the German monk humbling
himself before the representative of the pope.

The legate remained silent. Hating Luther as an adversary of the
theological supremacy of St. Thomas, and as the head of an active
opposition in a rising university, whose very first steps had greatly
disquieted the Thomists, he was pleased at seeing him lying before
him, and thought, says a contemporary, that Luther was going to sing a
palinode. Luther, on his part, waited till the prince should address
him; but seeing he did not, he took his silence for an invitation to
begin, and spoke as follows:--

"MOST WORTHY FATHER,--On the citation of his Papal Holiness, and at
the request of my most gracious lord, the Elector of Saxony, I appear
before you as a submissive and obedient son of the holy Christian
Church, and I acknowledge that I published the Propositions and
Theses in question. I am ready to listen in all obedience to the
charge brought against me, and to allow myself, if I am mistaken, to
be instructed in the way of truth."

The cardinal, who had resolved to assume the air of a tender father,
full of compassion for an erring child, now spoke in the most friendly
tone, praised the humility of Luther, expressed all the joy it gave
him, and said:--"My dear son, you have stirred up all Germany by your
dispute on indulgences. I am told that you are a very learned doctor
in the Scriptures, and have many disciples. Wherefore, if you would be
a member of the Church, and find in the pope a most gracious lord,
listen to me."

After this exordium, the legate did not hesitate to disclose to him at
once all that he expected of him--so confident was he of his
submission. "Here," said he, "are three articles which, by the order
of our most holy father, Leo X, I have to lay before you; _First_, You
must retrace your steps, acknowledge your faults, and retract your
errors, propositions, and discourses: _Secondly_, You must promise to
abstain in future from circulating your opinions; and, _Thirdly_, You
must engage to be more moderate, and to avoid every thing that might
grieve or upset the Church."

_Luther._--"I request, most worthy father, that you will communicate
to me the brief of the pope, in virtue of which you have received full
power to dispose of this affair."

Serra-Longa, and the other Italians in the cardinal's suite, stared on
hearing this request; and although the German monk had already
appeared to them a very odd man, they could scarcely recover from the
astonishment produced by so bold a speech. Christians, accustomed to
ideas of justice, desire just procedure in the case of others as well
as of themselves, but those who act habitually in an arbitrary manner
are quite surprised when they are told to proceed in regular form,
according to law.

_De Vio._--"This request, my dear son, cannot be granted. You must
acknowledge your errors, take care of your words in future, and not
return to your vomit, so that we may be able to sleep without trouble
and anxiety; thereafter, conformably to the order and authority of our
most holy father the pope, I will arrange the affair."

_Luther._--"Have the goodness, then, to tell me in what I have erred."

At this new request the Italian courtiers, who had expected to see the
poor German on his knees crying mercy, were struck with still greater
astonishment. Not one of them would have thought of condescending so
far as to answer so impertinent a question. But De Vio, who
considered it ungenerous to crush the cative monk with the whole
weight of his authority, and who, besides, was confident that his
superior knowledge would give him an easy victory, consented to tell
Luther of what he was accused, and even to enter into discussion with
him. In justice to this general of the Dominicans, it must be admitted
that he had more equity, a better sense of propriety, and less
passion, than have been shown on many occasions since, in similar
affairs. He assumed a tone of condescension, and said:--

"Very dear son!--Here are two propositions which you have advanced,
and which you must first of all retract: _First_, The treasury of
indulgences does not consist of the merits and sufferings of our Lord
Jesus Christ: _Second_, The man who receives the Holy Sacrament must
have faith in the grace which is offered to him."

In fact, both of these propositions gave a mortal blow to the Roman
traffic. If the pope had not the power to dispose at pleasure of the
merits of the Saviour; if those who received the bills which the
courtiers of the Church were negotiating did not receive part of this
infinite righteousness, the paper lost all its value, and was worth no
more than if it had been blank. It was the same with the sacraments.
Indulgences were to some extent an extraordinary branch of the
commerce of Rome, whereas the sacraments were of the nature of an
ordinary branch. The returns which they yielded were far from being
insignificant. To maintain that faith was necessary before the
sacraments could confer a real benefit on a Christian soul, was to
deprive them of all interest in the eyes of the people; faith being a
thing which the pope did not give, which was beyond his power, and
came from God only. To declare it necessary was to wrest out of the
hands of Rome both speculation and profit. Luther, in attacking these
two dogmas, had imitated Jesus Christ, when at the commencement of his
ministry he overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and drove the
buyers and sellers out of the temple, saying, _Make not my Father's
house a house of merchandise_.

"I will not, in order to combat these errors," continued Cajetan,
"invoke the authority of St. Thomas and the other scholastic doctors;
I will found only on the authority of Holy Scripture, and speak with
you in all friendship."

But scarcely had De Vio begun to unfold his proofs than he deviated
from the rule which he had declared his intention to follow.[553] He
combated Luther's first proposition by an extravagant[554] of Pope
Clement, and the second by all sorts of scholastic dogmas. The
discussion commenced on this constitution of the pope in favour of
indulgences. Luther, indignant at the authority which the legate
ascribed to a decree of Rome, exclaimed:--

  [553] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 180.

  [554] The name given to certain papal constitutions, collected and
  added to the body of the canon law.

"I cannot receive such constitutions as sufficient proofs in so
important matters. For they wrest the Holy Scripture, and never quote
it appositely."

_De Vio._--"The pope has authority and power over all things."

_Luther, (keenly.)_--"Save Scripture."[555]

  [555] "Salva Scriptura."

_De Vio, (ironically.)_--"Save Scripture!... The pope, know you not,
is above Councils? Even recently he condemned and punished the Council
of Bâsle."

_Luther._--"The university of Paris appealed."

_De Vio._--"These Parisian gentry will pay the penalty."

The discussion between the cardinal and Luther afterwards turned on
the second point, viz., on faith. This Luther declared to be
necessary, in order to receive benefit from the sacraments, and,
according to his custom, quoted several passages of Scripture in
favour of the opinion which he maintained, but the legate received
them with loud laughter. "It is of general faith you speak, then,"
said he.--"No!" replied Luther. One of the Italians, master of the
ceremonies to the legate, out of all patience at Luther's opposition
and his answers, was burning with eagerness to speak. He was
constantly trying to break in, but the legate enjoined silence, and at
last was obliged to reprimand him so sharply, that the master of the
ceremonies left the hall in confusion.[556]

  [556] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 180.

"As to indulgences," said Luther, "if it can be shown that I am
mistaken, I am quite willing to be instructed. One may pass over that
point without being a bad Christian, but on the article of faith, were
I to yield a whit, I should be denying Jesus Christ. With regard to
it, then, I am neither able nor willing to yield, and by the grace of
God never shall."

_De Vio, (beginning to lose temper.)_--"Whether you will or not, you
must this very day retract that article; otherwise for that article
alone, I will reject and condemn all your doctrine."

_Luther._--"I have no will apart from that of the Lord; He will do
with me what pleases him. But had I five heads, I would lose them all
sooner than retract the testimony which I have borne to holy Christian

_De Vio._--"I did not come here to reason with you. Retract, or
prepare to suffer the pains which you have deserved."[557]

  [557] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, pp. 180, 183, 206, etc.

Luther saw plainly that it was impossible to settle the matter by a
conference. His opponent sat before him as if he were the pope
himself, and insisted on his receiving humbly, and with submission,
whatever he said, while his answers, even when founded on the Holy
Scriptures, were received with a shrug of his shoulders, and all sorts
of irony and contempt. He thought the wisest course would be to answer
the cardinal in writing. This method, thought he, leaves at least some
consolation to the oppressed. Others will be able to form a judgment
of the affair, and the unjust adversary, who, by clamour, remains
master of the field of battle, may be deterred by it.[558]

  [558] Luth. Op. (L.) p. 209.

Luther having signified his intention to withdraw, the legate said to
him, "Do you wish me to give you a safe-conduct to Rome?"

Nothing would have been more agreeable to Cajetan than the acceptance
of this offer, as it would have disencumbered him of a task, the
difficulties of which he began to comprehend. But the Reformer, who
saw all the difficulties with which he was surrounded even at
Augsburg, took good care not to accept a proposal the effect of which
could only have been to give him over, bound hand and foot, to the
vengeance of his enemies. He rejected it as often as De Vio was
pleased to renew it, and this was frequently. The legate disguised the
pain which he felt at Luther's refusal, and, wrapping himself up in
his dignity, dismissed the monk with a smile of compassion, under
which he tried to conceal his disappointment, and at the same time the
politeness of one who hopes he may succeed better another time.

No sooner was Luther in the court of the palace than the talkative
Italian, the master of the ceremonies, whom his master's reprimands
had obliged to quit the hall of conference, delighted at being able to
speak out of sight of Cajetan, and burning with eagerness to confound
the abominable heretic by his luminous reasons, ran after him, and
continuing to walk, began to retail his sophisms. But Luther, weary of
this foolish personage, answered him with one of those cutting
expressions which he had so much at command, and the poor master of
the ceremonies left off, and returned in confusion to the cardinal's

Luther did not carry away a very high opinion of his opponent. He had
heard from him, as he afterwards wrote to Spalatin, propositions which
were quite at variance with theology, and in the mouth of any other
person would have been regarded as arch-heretical. And yet De Vio was
considered the most learned of the Dominicans. Second to him was
Prierias. "From this," says Luther, "we may infer what those must have
been who were tenth or hundredth."[559]

  [559] Luth. Ep. i, p. 173.

On the other hand, the noble and resolute bearing of the Wittemberg
doctor had greatly surprised the cardinal and his courtiers. Instead
of a poor monk humbly begging pardon, they had found a free man, a
decided Christian, an enlightened teacher, who insisted that unjust
accusations should be supported by proof, and who defended his
doctrine triumphantly. All the inmates of Cajetan's palace inveighed
against the pride, obstinacy, and effrontery of this heretic. Luther
and De Vio had mutually learned to know each other, and both prepared
for their second interview.

A very agreeable surprise awaited Luther on his return to the convent
of the Carmelites. The vicar-general of the Augustin order, his
friend, his father Staupitz, had arrived at Augsburg. Not having been
able to prevent Luther from coming to this city, Staupitz gave his
friend a new and touching proof of his attachment by coming personally
in the hope of being useful to him. This excellent man foresaw that
the conference with the legate would lead to very serious
consequences. He was equally agitated by his fears and his friendship
for Luther, who, after his painful sederunt, felt it refreshing to
clasp so valuable a friend in his arms. Having told him that it had
been impossible for him to get an answer worth any thing, and how the
legate had been contented to demand a retractation without trying to
convince him--"It is absolutely necessary," said Staupitz, "to give
the legate a written answer."

After what he had heard of the first interview, Staupitz hoped nothing
from the others, and, therefore, determined on a proceeding which he
deemed necessary. He resolved to loose Luther from obedience to his
order. By this Staupitz hoped to gain two ends. If, as all
anticipated, Luther fell in the struggle, the disgrace of his
condemnation would not fall on the whole order; or if the cardinal
ordered Staupitz to oblige Luther to silence or retractation, he would
have an excuse for not doing it.[560] The ceremony, which took place
in the usual form, made Luther aware of all that he had thenceforth to
expect. He felt exceedingly at seeing the ties which he had formed in
the enthusiasm of his youth, thus broken. The order of his choice
rejects him. His natural protectors stand aloof, and he becomes a
stranger to his brethren. But though his heart is filled with sadness
at the thought, he recovers all his joy on turning to the promises of
a faithful God, who has said, "_I will never leave you nor forsake

  [560] "Darinn ihn Dr. Staupitz von dem Kloster-Gehorsam absolvitr."
  (Math. 15.)

The counsellors of the empire having intimated to the legate, through
the Bishop of Trent, that Luther was provided with an imperial
safe-conduct, and having caused it to be declared at the same time,
that nothing was to be attempted against the doctor's person, De Vio
became angry, and sharply replied in words characteristically Roman,
"Very well, but I will do what the pope commands."[561] We know what
this was.

  [561] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, 201.


     Communication to the Legate--Second Appearance--Luther's
     Declaration--The Legate's Reply--The Legate's
     Volubility--Luther's Request.

The next day[562] both parties prepared for the second interview,
which promised to be decisive. The friends of Luther, who had resolved
to accompany him to the legate, repaired to the convent of the
Carmelites. The dean of Trent, and Peutinger, both counsellors of the
emperor, and Staupitz, arrived in succession. Shortly after the doctor
had the pleasure to see them joined by the Chevalier Philip von
Feilitsch, and Doctor Ruhel, counsellors of the Elector, who had been
ordered by their master to attend the conferences, and protect the
liberty of Luther. They had arrived the previous evening, and were,
says Mathesius, to stand at his side, as at Constance the Chevalier de
Chlum stood at the side of John Huss. The doctor, moreover, took a
notary, and accompanied with all these friends, proceeded to the

  [562] Wednesday 12th October.

At this moment Staupitz came up to him; he thoroughly comprehended
Luther's situation, and knew that if he did not fix his eye solely on
the Lord, who is the deliverer of his people, he must succumb. "My
dear brother," said he to him seriously, "constantly remember that you
have begun these things in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." Thus
God surrounded his humble servant with consolation and encouragement.[563]

  [563] Seckend., p. 137.

Luther, on arriving at the cardinal's, found a new opponent. This was
the prior of the Dominicans of Augsburg, who was seated at the side
of his chief. Luther, agreeably to the resolution which he had formed,
had written his reply, and, after the usual salutations, with a firm
voice read the following declaration:--

"I declare that I honour the holy Roman Church, and that I will
continue to honour it. I have sought the truth in public discussions;
and all that I have said I regard, even at this hour, as just, true,
and Christian. Still I am a man, and maybe mistaken. I am, therefore,
disposed to receive instruction and correction in the things in which
I may have erred. I declare myself ready to reply, by word of mouth or
by writing, to all the objections and all the charges which my lord
the legate may bring against me. I declare myself ready to submit my
theses to the four universities of Bâsle, Friburg in Brisgau, Louvain,
and Paris; and to retract what they declare to be erroneous. In a
word, I am ready to do all that may be demanded of a Christian. But I
protest solemnly against the course which is sought to be given to
this affair, and against the strange pretension of constraining me to
retract without having refuted me."[564]

  [564] Löscher, ii, 463; Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 181, 209.

Undoubtedly, nothing could be more equitable than these proposals of
Luther, and yet they must have been very embarrassing to a judge whose
decision had been prescribed to him beforehand. The legate, who had
not expected this protestation, sought to conceal his uneasiness by
pretending to laugh at it, and assuming an exterior of gentleness,
said to Luther, smiling, "This protestation is unnecessary, I will not
dispute with you either in public or in private, but I purpose to
arrange the affair kindly, and like a father." The whole policy of the
cardinal consisted in putting aside the strict forms of justice, which
afford protection to those who are prosecuted, and in treating the
affair only as one of administration between superior and inferior;--a
commodious method, in as much as it opens up a wide field for
arbitrary procedure.

Still maintaining the most affectionate manner, "My dear friend," said
De Vio, "abandon, I pray you, a useless design. Rather return to
yourself, acknowledge the truth, and I am ready to reconcile you with
the Church and the sovereign bishop. Whether you will or not, it
matters little. It will be hard for you to kick against the

Luther, who saw himself treated as if he were already proved a
rebellious child, rejected of the Church, exclaimed, "I cannot
retract; but I offer to answer, and in writing. "We had enough of
debating yesterday."[565]

  [565] "Digladiatum," battled. (Luth. Ep. i, p. 181.)

De Vio was irritated at this expression, which reminded him that he
had not acted with sufficient prudence; but he recovered himself, and
said with a smile, "Debating, my dear son! I did not debate with you.
I have no wish to debate; but in order to please the most serene
Elector Frederick, I am willing to hear you, and exhort you amicably
and paternally."

Luther did not comprehend why the legate should have been so much
offended at the expression which he had used; for, thought he, if I
had not wished to speak politely, I would have said, not _debated_,
but _disputed_, and _wrangled_,--for that was truly what we did.

Still De Vio, who felt that before the respectable witnesses who were
present at the conference it was at least necessary to seem to try to
convince Luther to return to the two propositions, which he had
singled out as fundamental errors, thoroughly resolved to let the
Reformer speak as little as possible. Strong in his Italian volubility
he overwhelms him with objections, to which he does not wait for a
reply. Sometimes he jests, sometimes he scolds; he declaims with
impassioned heat, mixes up the most heterogeneous subjects, quotes St.
Thomas and Aristotle, cries, and gets into a passion with all who
differ with him in opinion, and then apostrophises Luther. Luther,
more than ten times, tries to speak, but the legate instantly
interrupts him, and showers down menaces upon him. Retractation!
retractation! is the whole sum of his demand; he thunders, and
domineers, and insists on having all the talk to himself.[566]
Staupitz interferes to stop the legate. "Have the goodness," says he,
"to give Doctor Martin time to answer." But the legate recommences his
discourse, quotes the _extravagants_ and the opinions of St. Thomas,
determined to harangue during the whole interview. If he cannot
convince, and if he dares not strike, he at least can stun.

  [566] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii. pp. 181, 209. "Decies fere cœpi ut
  loquerer, toties rursus tonabat et solus regnabat." I began almost ten
  times to speak, but he again as often thundered and reigned alone.

Luther and Staupitz saw clearly that they must abandon the hope, not
only of enlightening De Vio by discussion, but also of making a useful
profession of faith. Luther, therefore, resumed the request which he
had made at the commencement, and which the cardinal had then evaded.
Since he was not permitted to speak, he asked that he might, at least,
be allowed to write, and send his written reply to the legate.
Staupitz supported him; several others who were present joined their
entreaties, and Cajetan, notwithstanding of all his repugnance for
what was written, (for he remembered that what is written remains,)
at last consented. The meeting broke up. The hope of terminating the
affair at this interview was adjourned, and it became necessary to
await the result of a subsequent conference.

The permission which the general of the Dominicans gave Luther to
prepare an answer, and to answer in writing, the two distinct and
articulate accusations which he had made, touching indulgences and
faith, was nothing more than justice demanded, and yet we are obliged
to De Vio for it, as a mark of moderation and impartiality.

Luther left the cardinal's palace delighted that his request had been
granted. In going and returning he was the object of public attention.
All enlightened men were interested in his case, as if it had been
their own, for it was felt that the cause then pleaded at Augsburg was
the cause of the gospel, justice, and liberty. The lowest of the
people alone were with Cajetan; and of this he doubtless gave some
significant hints to the Reformer, who afterwards spoke of them.[567]

  [567] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p.186.

It became more and more evident that the legate had no wish to hear
any more from Luther than the words "I retract;" and these Luther was
resolved not to pronounce. What will be the issue of this unequal
struggle? How can it be imagined that the whole power of Rome, brought
to bear on a single man, will not succeed in crushing him? Luther sees
this. Feeling the weight of the terrible hand under which he is
placed, he gives up the hope of ever returning to Wittemberg,
revisiting his dear Philip, and again finding himself in the midst of
the generous youths into whose hearts he loved so much to shed the
seeds of life. He sees excommunication hanging over his head, and has
no doubt that it must shortly fall upon him.[568] These prospects
afflict his soul, but do not overwhelm it. His confidence in God is
not shaken. God may break the instrument which he has been pleased
till now to employ, but the truth will be maintained. Whatever
happens, Luther must defend it to the last. He accordingly, begins to
prepare the protestation which he is to present to the legate. It
appears that he devoted to it part of the 13th October.

  [568] Ibid. p.185.


     Third Appearance--Treasury of Indulgences--Faith--Humble
     Request--Legate's Reply--Luther's Reply--Legate's
     Rage--Luther Retires--First Defection.

On Friday the 14th October, Luther returned to the cardinal,
accompanied by the counsellors of the Elector. The Italians pressed
around him as usual, and were present at the conference in great
numbers. Luther advanced, and presented his protestation to the
legate. The cardinal's people looked with astonishment at a writing
which, in their eyes, was so audacious. The following is the doctor of
Wittemberg's declaration to their master:[569]--

  [569] Luth Op. (L.) xvii, p. 187.

"You attack me on two points. First, you oppose to me the Constitution
of Pope Clement VI, in which it is said, that the treasury of
indulgences is the merit of Jesus Christ and the saints; whereas I
deny this in my theses.

"Panormitanus, (Luther thus designates Ives, author of the famous
collection of ecclesiastical law, entitled _Panormia_, and Bishop of
Chartres at the end of the eleventh century,) Panormitanus declares,
in his First Book, that in regard to holy faith, not only a General
Council, but every believer is superior to the pope, if he produces
declarations of Scripture, and better arguments than the pope.[570]

  [570] "Ostendit in materia fidei, non modo generale concilium esse
  super papam, sed etiam quemlibet fidelium, si melioribus nitatur
  auctoritate et ratione quam papa." (Luth. Op. Lat. p. 209.) He shows
  that, in matter of faith, not only a general council is above the
  pope, but also any one of the faithful whatever, if he leans on better
  authority and reason than the pope.

"The voice of our Lord Jesus Christ rises far above all the voices of
men, whatever be the names they bear.

"What gives me the greatest pain and uneasiness is, that this
Constitution contains doctrines quite opposed to the truth. It
declares that the merits of the saints is a treasure, while all
Scripture testifies that God recompenses far more richly than we
deserve. The prophet exclaims, 'Lord, enter not into judgment with thy
servant; for in thy sight can no living man be justified.'[571] 'Woe
to men, however honourable and laudable their life may be,' says St.
Augustine, 'were judgment passed upon it without mercy.'[572]

  [571] Psalm cxliii, 2.

  [572] Confes. ix.

"Hence the saints are not saved by their merits, but only by the mercy
of God, as I have declared. I maintain this, and adhere firmly to it.
The words of holy Scripture, which declare that the saints have not
enough of merit, must take precedence of the words of men, who affirm
that they have too much; for the pope is not above, but beneath the
word of God."

Luther does not stop here, but shows that if indulgences cannot be the
merit of saints, no more are they the merit of Christ. He observes,
that indulgences are barren and without fruit, since they have no
other effect than to exempt men from doing good works, such as prayers
and alms. "No," exclaims he, "the merit of Christ is not a treasure of
indulgences, which exempts from well-doing; but a treasure of grace,
which gives life. The merit of Christ is applied to believers without
indulgences, without keys, by the Holy Spirit only, and not by the
pope. If any one has a better founded opinion than mine," adds he, in
concluding this first point, "let him show it, and then I will

"I have affirmed," says he, in coming to the second article, "that no
man can be justified before God unless it be by faith, and hence that
it is necessary for man to believe with full assurance that he has
obtained grace. To doubt of this grace is to reject it. The
righteousness and life of the righteous is his faith."[573]

  [573] "Justitia justi et vita ejus, est fides ejus." (Luth. Op. Lat.
  i, p. 211.)

Luther proves his proposition by a multitude of quotations from

"Be pleased, then, to intercede for me with our most holy lord, Pope
Leo X," adds he, "in order that he may not treat me with so much
disfavour.... My soul seeks the light of truth. I am not so proud, so
desirous of vain-glory, as to be ashamed to retract if I have taught
what is false. My greatest joy will be to see the triumph of whatever
accords with the will of God. Only let them not force me to do
anything which is contrary to the cry of my conscience."

The legate had taken the declaration from Luther's hands, and after
having perused it, said to him coldly, "You have here useless
verbiage, you have written many vain words; you have answered the two
articles foolishly, and blotted your paper with a number of passages
of holy Scripture which have no reference to the subject." Then, with
a disdainful air, De Vio threw down the protestation, as setting no
value upon it, and resuming the tone which he had found tolerably
successful at the last interview, began to cry at full pitch that
Luther must retract. Luther was immovable. "Friar! friar!" exclaims De
Vio in Italian, "last time you were very good, but to-day you are very
naughty." Then the cardinal begins a long discourse, drawn from the
writings of St. Thomas, again loudly extols the Constitution of
Clement VI, and persists in maintaining, that, in virtue of this
Constitution, the very merits of Jesus Christ are distributed to the
faithful by means of indulgences. He thinks he has silenced Luther,
who sometimes begins to speak, but De Vio scolds, thunders away
without ceasing, and insists on having the whole field of battle to

This method might have had some success a first time, but Luther was
not the man to suffer it a second. His indignation at length burst
forth; it is his turn to astonish the spectators, who deem him already
vanquished by the volubility of the prelate. He raises his powerful
voice, seizes the favourite objection of the cardinal, and makes him
pay dear for his temerity in having entered the lists with him.
"Retract! retract!" repeated De Vio, showing the Constitution of the
pope. "Well," replied Luther, "if it can be proved by this
Constitution that the treasure of indulgences is the merit of Jesus
Christ, I consent to retract according to the will and good pleasure
of your Eminence...."

The Italians, who expected nothing of the kind, stared at these words,
and could scarcely contain their joy at seeing the enemy at length
caught in the net. The cardinal was, as it were, out of himself; he
laughed outright, but with a laugh in which anger and indignation
mingled; darting forward, he lays hold of the volume containing the
famous Constitution, looks it out, pounces upon it, and, quite proud
of his victory, reads it aloud, with boiling and heaving breast.[574]
The Italians exult; the Elector's counsellors are uneasy and
embarrassed: Luther is waiting for his opponent. At length, when the
cardinal comes to the words, "The Lord Jesus Christ has acquired this
treasure by his sufferings,". Luther stops him, "Most worthy father,"
says he, "be so good as consider and carefully meditate this
expression, '_has acquired_.'[575] Christ has acquired a treasure by
his merits; the merits, therefore, are not the treasure; for, to speak
philosophically, cause and effect are different things. The merits of
Christ have acquired authority to the pope to grant such indulgences
to the people, but what the hand of the pope distributes is not the
merits themselves. Thus, then my conclusion is true, and the
Constitution, which you invoke with so much noise, bears testimony
with me to the truth which I proclaim."

  [574] "Legit fervens et anhelans." (Luth. Ep. i, p. 145.)

  [575] "Acquisivit," (Ibid.)

De Vio still holds the book in his hand; his eyes are still riveted on
the fatal passage, but he has nothing to reply. Thus he is taken in
the net which he himself had laid, and Luther with strong hand keeps
him in, to the inexpressible astonishment of the Italian courtiers
around him. The legate would have evaded the difficulty, but could
not. He had long abandoned the testimony of Scripture and the
authority of the Fathers; he had taken refuge in this Extravagant of
Clement VI, and there he is caught. Still he has too much finesse to
let his embarrassment appear. Wishing to hide his shame, the prince of
the Church suddenly changes the subject, and rushes violently to other
articles. Luther who perceives the adroit manœuvre, allows him not to
escape; he grasps and completely closes the net which he has thrown
over the cardinal, and makes evasion impossible. "Most reverend
father!" says he, with an irony clothed in the form of respect, "your
Eminence cannot surely think that we Germans do not know grammar; to
be a treasure, and to acquire a treasure, are very different things."

"Retract!" says De Vio; "retract, or, if you don't, I send you to
Rome, to appear there before the judges entrusted with the cognisance
of your cause. I excommunicate you; you, all your partizans, all who
are or may become favourable to you, and I reject them from the
Church. Full authority in this respect has been given me by the holy
apostolic See.[576] Think you your protectors can stop me? Do you
imagine that the pope cares for Germany? The little finger of the pope
is stronger than all the German princes."[577]

  [576] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 197.

  [577] Ibid. (W.) xxii, p. 1331.

"Deign," replies Luther, "to send the written reply which I handed you
to pope Leo X, with my very humble prayers."

At these words, the legate, glad to find a moment's respite, again
wraps himself up in a feeling of his dignity, and proudly and
passionately says to Luther:--

"Retract, or return not."[578]

  [578] "Revoca, aut non revertere." Ibid. p. 202.

Luther is struck with the expression. This time he gives no verbal
answer, but bows and takes his leave, followed by the Elector's
counsellors. The cardinal and his Italians, left alone, stare at each
other, confounded at the issue of the debate.

Thus the Dominican system, clad in the Roman purple, had proudly
dismissed its humble opponent. But Luther felt that there is a power,
viz., Christian truth--truth, which no authority, secular or
spiritual, can ever subdue. Of the two combatants, he who withdrew was
master of the field.

This is the first step by which the Church detached herself from the

Luther and De Vio never saw each other again; but the Reformer had
made a powerful impression on the legate, an impression which was
never entirely effaced. What Luther had said on faith, and what De Vio
read in the subsequent writings of the doctor of Wittemberg, greatly
modified the cardinal's views. The theologians of Rome were surprised
and displeased at his statements on justification in his Commentary on
the Epistle to the Romans. The Reformer did not recoil, did not
retract; but his judge, he who never ceased exclaiming, Retract!
changed his views, and indirectly retracted his errors. In this way
was the Reformer's unshaken fidelity rewarded.

Luther returned to the convent where he had met with hospitality. He
had stood firm, had borne testimony to the truth and done his part.
God will do the rest. His heart was filled with peace and joy.


     De Vio and Staupitz--Staupitz and Luther--Luther and
     Spalatin--Luther to Carlstadt--Communion--Link and De
     Vio--Departure of Staupitz and Link--Luther to Cajetan--The
     Cardinal's Silence--Luther's Farewell--Departure--Appeal to
     the Pope.

Still the news brought to him were not at all satisfactory. The rumour
in the town was, that if he would not retract, he was to be seized and
immured in a dungeon. The vicar-general of the order, Staupitz
himself, it was confidently said, had been obliged to consent to
it.[579] Luther cannot believe what is told him of his friend. No!
Staupitz will not betray him. As to the designs of the cardinal,
judging by his own words, it is difficult to doubt. Still he is
unwilling to flee before the danger; his life, like truth herself, is
in mighty hands; and, notwithstanding of the danger which threatens
him, he resolves not to quit Augsburg.

  [579] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 210.

The legate soon repented of his violence. He felt that he had gone out
of his course, and he was desirous to return to it. Scarcely had
Staupitz finished dinner, (it was the morning when the interview had
taken place, and the dinner-hour was mid-day,) when he received a
message from the cardinal to wait upon him. Staupitz was accompanied
by Winceslaus Link.[580] The vicar-general found the legate alone with
Serra-Longa. De Vio immediately went up to Staupitz, and, in the
mildest accents said to him:--"Try, then, to persuade your monk, and
induce him to make a retraction. Of a truth I am otherwise satisfied
with him, and he has not a better friend than I."[581]

  [580] Ibid., p. 204.

  [581] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 185.

_Staupitz._--"I have done so already, and will still counsel him to
submit to the Church in all humility."

_De Vio._--"You must answer the arguments which he draws from holy

_Staupitz._--"I must confess to you, my lord, that that is beyond my
strength; for Dr. Martin is my superior both in talent and in
knowledge of the holy Scriptures."

The cardinal doubtless smiled at the vicar-general's frankness. He
himself knew, besides, wherein lay the difficulty of convincing
Luther. He continued, and said to Link:--

"Are you aware, that, as partizans of a heretical doctrine, you are
yourselves liable to the pains of the Church?"

_Staupitz._--Deign to resume the conference with Luther. Appoint a
public discussion of the controverted points."

_De Vio_, (_terrified at the very idea._)--"I won't have any further
discussion with that beast. For it has in its head piercing eyes and
strange speculations."[582]

  [582] "Ego nolo amplius cum hac bestia disputare. Habet enim profundos
  oculos et mirabiles speculationes in capite suo" (Myconius, p. 33.)

Staupitz at last obtained the cardinal's promise to give Luther a
written statement of what he was to retract.

The vicar-general went immediately to Luther, and, shaken by the
cardinal's representations, tried to bring about some arrangement.
"Refute then," says Luther, "the passages of Scripture which I have
brought forward." "It is above my power," said Staupitz. "Well," said
Luther, "it is against my conscience to retract, so long as no other
explanation can be given of these passages." "What!" continued he,
"the cardinal pretends, as you assure me, that he is desirous to
arrange the affair without shame or disadvantage to me. Ah! these are
Roman words, and signify in good German that it would be my disgrace
and eternal ruin. What else has he to expect, who, from fear of man
and against the voice of his conscience, abjures the truth?"[583]

  [583] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 210.

Staupitz did not insist; he merely intimated that the cardinal had
consented to give him a written statement of the points of which he
demanded a retractation. Then, doubtless, he informed him of his
resolution to leave Augsburg, where he had nothing more to do, and
Luther imparted to him a design which he had formed with a view to
comfort and strengthen their souls.

Staupitz promised to return, and they separated for a short time.

Luther, left alone in his cell, turned his thoughts towards friends
who were dear to his heart. He transported himself to Weimar and
Wittemberg. He was desirous to inform the Elector of what was passing;
and, afraid of compromising the prince by addressing him directly,
wrote to Spalatin, and begged him to inform his master how matters
stood. He related the whole affair, even to the promise of the legate
to give him a written statement of the controverted points, and
concluded:--"Thus matters are; but I have neither hope nor confidence
in the legate. I will not retract a single syllable. I will publish
the reply which I have sent him, in order that, if he proceeds to
violence, his shame may extend over all Christendom."[584]

  [584] Luth. Ep. i. 149.

The doctor next availed himself of some moments still left him to
communicate with his friends at Wittemberg.

"Peace and felicity!" wrote he to Doctor Carlstadt. "Accept these few
lines as if they were a long letter; for time and events are pressing
on me. Another time I will write you and others at greater length. For
three days my affair has been under discussion, and things are now
come to this, that I have no hope of returning to you, and expect
nothing but excommunication. The legate is absolutely determined that
I shall have no discussion, either public or private. He says, he
wishes not to be my judge but my father, and yet the only words he
will hear from me are, 'I retract, and own that I have been mistaken.'
These, again, are words which I won't say.

"My cause is in so much the greater peril, that its judges are not
only implacable enemies, but, moreover, men incapable of comprehending
it. However, the Lord God lives and reigns; to his care I commend
myself, and I doubt not that, in answer to the prayers of some pious
souls, he will send me assistance; methinks I feel that I am prayed

"Either I shall return to you without having suffered harm, or, struck
with excommunication, will be obliged to seek an asylum elsewhere.

"Be this as it may, comport yourself valiantly, stand firm, exalt
Christ intrepidly and joyfully....

"The cardinal always calls me his dear son. I know what this amounts
to. Nevertheless, I am persuaded I would be to him the dearest and
most agreeable of men, if I would only pronounce the single word
_Revoco_, I retract. But I will not become a heretic by retracting the
faith which made me become a Christian. Better be hunted, cursed,
burnt, and put to death....

"Take care of yourself, my dear doctor, and show this letter to our
theologians, to Amsdorff, Philip, Otten, and others, in order that you
may pray for me, and also for yourselves; for the affair which is here
discussed is yours also. It is that of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,
and of divine grace."[585]

  [585] Luth. Ep. i. p. 159.

Delightful thought! which ever gives full peace and consolation to
those who have borne testimony to Jesus Christ, to his divinity and
grace, when the world from all quarters showers down its censures,
ejections, and frowns. "Our cause is that of faith in our Lord!" And
how sweet also the conviction expressed by the Reformer, "I feel that
I am prayed for." The Reformation was the work of prayer and piety.
The struggle between Luther and De Vio was a struggle between the
religious element re-appearing in full life, and the expiring remains
of the quibbling dialectics of the middle ages.

Such was Luther's converse with his absent friends. Staupitz soon
returned; Doctor Ruhel and the Chevalier de Ferlitzoch, the Elector's
envoys, also arrived after they had taken leave of the cardinal. Some
other friends of the gospel joined them; and Luther, seeing the
generous men thus assembled on the point of separating, perhaps
separating from himself for ever, proposed that they should join in
celebrating the Lord's Supper. The proposal was accepted, and this
little flock of believers communicated in the body and blood of Jesus
Christ. What feelings must have filled the hearts of these friends of
the Reformer at this moment when celebrating the Eucharist with him
and thinking that it was perhaps the last time he would be permitted
to do so! What joy and love must have animated Luther's heart at
seeing himself so graciously received by his Master at an hour when
men were repulsing him! How solemn must that supper have been--how
sacred that evening![586]

  [586] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 178.

The next day[587] Luther waited for the articles which the legate was
to send him, but no message arriving, he begged his friend, Dr.
Winceslaus Link, to go to the cardinal. De Vio received Link with the
greatest affability, and assured him that he would act only as a
friend. "I no longer," says he, "regard Doctor Martin Luther as a
heretic. I will not excommunicate him at this time, at least if I do
not receive other orders from Rome. I have sent his reply to the pope
by an express." Then, to give a proof of his good intentions, he
added, "Would Doctor Martin Luther only retract what relates to the
indulgences, the affair would soon be ended; for, with regard to
faith in the sacrament, it is an article which every one may interpret
and understand in his own way." Spalatin, who relates these words,
adds the sarcastic but just remark: "It clearly follows, that Rome has
more regard for money than for the purity of the faith and the
salvation of souls."[588]

  [587] Saturday, 15th

  [588] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 182.

Link returned to Luther. He found Staupitz with him, and gave an
account of his visit. When he mentioned the legate's unlooked for
concession, "It had been worth while," said Staupitz, "for Dr.
Winceslaus to have had a notary and witnesses with him to take down
the words, for if such a proposal was known it would greatly prejudice
the cause of the Romans."

Meanwhile, the smoother the prelate's words became, the less the
honest Germans trusted him. Several of the worthy men to whom Luther
had been recommended consulted together. "The legate," said they, "is
plotting some mischief by the courier of whom he speaks; there is good
ground to fear that you will all be seized and cast into prison."

Staupitz and Winceslaus, therefore, determined to quit the town.
Embracing Luther, who persisted in remaining at Augsburg, they set out
in all haste by different roads for Nuremberg, not without a feeling
of great uneasiness as to the fate of the intrepid witness whom they
left behind.

Sunday passed quietly enough. Luther waited in vain for a message from
the legate. But as he did not send him a word, Luther at last resolved
to write him. Staupitz and Link, before their departure, had begged
him to make all possible submission to the cardinal. Luther was yet
without experience in Rome and its envoys; but if submission did not
succeed, he would be able to regard it as a warning. Now, he must at
least make the attempt. In so far as concerns himself, not a day
passes in which he does not condemn himself, does not mourn over the
facility with which he allows himself to be hurried into expressions
which exceed the bounds of propriety. Why should he not confess to the
cardinal that which he daily confesses to God? Luther, moreover, had a
heart which was easily touched, and which suspected no evil. He
therefore took up the pen, and, under a feeling of respect and good
will, wrote to the cardinal as follows:[589]--

  [589] The letter is dated 17th October.

MOST WORTHY FATHER IN GOD,--I come once more, not with my voice, but
by writing, to supplicate your paternal goodness to give me a
favourable hearing. The reverend Doctor Staupitz, my very dear Father
in Christ, has asked me to humble myself, to renounce my own opinion,
and submit it to the judgment of pious and impartial men. He also has
lauded your paternal goodness, and convinced me of the favourable
sentiments with which you are animated towards me. The tidings filled
me with joy.

"Now, then, most worthy father, I confess, as I have already done,
that I have not shown enough of modesty, enough of meekness, enough of
respect for the name of the sovereign pontiff; and although I have
been greatly provoked, I perceive it would have been far better for me
to have treated the affair with more humility, good nature, and
reverence, '_not answering a fool according to his folly, for fear of
being like unto him_.' (Prov., xxvi, 4.)

"This grieves me very much; I ask pardon for it; and I am willing to
announce it to the people from the pulpit, as indeed I have already
often done. I will endeavour, by the grace of God, to speak
differently. Moreover, I am ready to promise, that, unless I am asked,
I will not say a single word on the subject of indulgences after this
affair is arranged. But, in like manner, let those who led me to begin
it be obliged hereafter to be moderate in their discourses, or to be

"As regards the truth of my doctrine, the authority of St. Thomas and
other doctors cannot satisfy me. If I am worthy of it, I must hear the
voice of the spouse, who is the Church. For it is certain that she
hears the voice of the Bridegroom who is Christ.

"With all humility and submission, therefore, I pray your paternal
love to refer the whole of this matter, which to this hour is so
uncertain, to our most holy lord, Leo X, in order that the Church may
decide, pronounce, and ordain, thereby enabling men to retract with a
good conscience, or to believe in sincerity."[590]

  [590] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 198.

The reading of this letter suggests a reflection. It shows us that
Luther was not acting on a premeditated system, but only in virtue of
convictions which were successively impressed on his mind and his

So far from having adopted a fixed system, or calculated opposition,
he was sometimes, without suspecting it, at variance with himself. Old
convictions still prevailed in his mind, even after contrary
convictions had taken root. And yet, in these evidences of sincerity
and truth, men have searched for weapons to assail the Reformation;
because it followed the obligatory law of progress invariably imposed
on the human mind, they have written the history of its variations; in
the very traits which attest its sincerity, and consequently do it
honour, one of the greatest geniuses of Christendom has found his
strongest objections to it.[591] Inconceivable is the waywardness of
the human mind!

  [591] Bosuet, Hist. des Variations. (Livre i, pp. 25, etc.)

Luther received no answer to his letter. Cajetan and his courtiers,
from being violently agitated, became all at once motionless. What
could the reason be? Might it not be the calm which precedes the
storm? Some are of the opinion of Pallavicini, who observes, that "the
cardinal expected that the proud monk would, like inflated bellows,
gradually lose the wind with which he was filled, and become quite
humble."[592] Others, who thought themselves better acquainted with
the ways of Rome, felt assured that the legate was preparing to seize
Luther; but not daring, of his own accord, to proceed to such
extremities in defiance of the imperial safe-conduct, was waiting for
an answer from Rome. Others, again, could not admit that the cardinal
would consent to wait so long. The Emperor, Maximilian, they said,
(and this may indeed have been true,) would have no more scruple in
delivering up Luther to the judgment of the Church, in spite of the
safe-conduct, than Sigismund had in delivering up John Huss to the
Council of Constance. Their conjecture, therefore, was, that the
legate was negotiating with the emperor. The sanction of Maximilian
might arrive at any hour. The greater the opposition he had formerly
showed to the pope, the more disposed he now seemed to flatter him,
until he should succeed in encircling the head of his grandson with
the imperial crown. There was not an instant to be lost, "and,
therefore," said the generous men around Luther, "prepare an appeal to
the pope, and quit Augsburg without delay."

  [592] "Ut follis ille ventosa elatione distentus." (P. 40.)

Luther, whose presence in the town had for four days been quite
useless, and who, by remaining these four days after the departure of
the Saxon counsellors whom the Elector had sent to watch over his
safety, had sufficiently demonstrated that he feared nothing, and was
ready to answer every charge, at length yielded to the urgent
entreaties of his friends. Wishing to leave a notification to De Vio,
he wrote him on Tuesday, the evening before his departure. This second
letter is firmer in its tone than the former. It would seem that
Luther, in perceiving that all his advances were vain, began to hold
up his head, and show that he had a due sense both of his own rights,
and of the injustice of his enemies.

"Most worthy Father in God," wrote he to De Vio, "your paternal
goodness has seen, yes, I say, seen, and distinctly recognised my
obedience. I have undertaken a distant journey, in the midst of great
dangers, in much bodily weakness, and notwithstanding of my extreme
poverty, on the order of our most holy lord, Leo X. I have appeared
personally before your Eminence; in fine, I have thrown myself at the
feet of his Holiness, and am now waiting his pleasure, prepared to
acquiesce in his judgment, whether he condemn or acquit me. I thus
feel that I have omitted nothing which becomes an obedient son of the

"Hence, I cannot see it to be my duty uselessly to prolong my sojourn
here; indeed, it is impossible for me to do so. I want means, and your
paternal goodness has commanded me, in peremptory terms, not again to
show myself in your presence, unless I am willing to retract.

"I depart, therefore, in the name of the Lord, desiring, if it be
possible, to repair to some spot where I may be able to live in peace.
Several personages, of greater weight than I am, have urged me to
appeal from your paternal goodness, and even from our most holy lord,
Leo X, ill informed, to himself better informed. Although I know that
such an appeal will be much more agreeable to our most serene Elector
than a retractation, nevertheless, if I had only had myself to
consult, I would not have taken it. Having committed no fault, I ought
to have nothing to fear."

Luther, having written this letter, which was not sent to the legate
till after his departure, prepared to quit Augsburg. God had kept him
till this hour, and his heart praised Him for it; but he must not
tempt God. He took leave of his friends, Peutinger, Langemantel, the
Adelmanns, Auerbach, and the prior of the Carmelites, who had shown
him so much Christian hospitality. On Wednesday before day-break he
got up, and was ready to depart. His friends had advised him to use
great precaution, lest his intention should be observed and
frustrated, and he followed their counsels as much as he could. A
pony, which Staupitz had left him, was brought to the gate of the
convent, and once more bidding adieu to his brethren, he mounted and
set off, without bridle, boots, or spurs, and unarmed. The magistrates
had sent one of their officers on horseback, who was to accompany him,
and who knew the roads perfectly. The servant led him in the darkness,
through the silent streets of Augsburg, towards a small gate which was
pierced in the city wall, and which counsellor Langemantel had given
orders should be opened to him. He is still in the power of the
legate, and the hand of Rome may still reach him. Doubtless, did the
Italians know that their prey was escaping, they would sally forth in
fury with hue and cry. Who knows if the intrepid opponent of Rome will
not yet be seized and immured in a dungeon?... At length Luther and
his guide arrive at the little gate, and, passing through it, are out
of Augsburg. Then, putting their horses to the gallop, they make off
in all haste.

Luther, on departing, had left his appeal to the pope in the hands of
the prior of Pomesaw. His friends were of opinion that it should not
be sent to the legate, and the prior was therefore charged to see to
its being fixed up, two or three days after the doctor's departure, on
the gate of the cathedral, in presence of a notary and witnesses. This
was accordingly done.

In this document, Luther declares that he appeals from the most holy
father the pope, ill informed, to the most holy lord and father in
Christ, by name Leo X, by the grace of God, when better informed.[593]
This appeal had been regularly drawn up and executed in due form by
Gall de Herbrachtingen, the imperial notary, in presence of two
Augustin monks, Bartholomew Utzmair and Wengel Steinbies. It was dated
16th October.

  [593] "Melius informandum." (Luth. Op. Lat. I, p. 219.)

When the cardinal was informed of Luther's departure, he was
astonished, and even, as he declares in a letter to the Elector, was
frightened and amazed. In fact, he had grounds for irritation. This
departure, which put so abrupt a termination to negotiation,
disappointed the hopes which had so long flattered him. His ambition
was to cure the wounds of the Church, and re-establish the pope's
influence in Germany; and, lo! the heretic has escaped not only
without having been punished, but even without having been humbled.
The conference had only served to bring more prominently into view, on
the one hand, the simplicity, uprightness, and firmness of Luther;
and, on the other, the imperiousness and unreasonable conduct of the
pope and his ambassador. Rome, having gained nothing, must have lost:
her authority not having been strengthened, had, of necessity,
experienced a new check. What will be said at the Vatican? What
tidings will arrive at Rome? The difficulties of his situation will be
forgotten, and the failure imputed to his want of skill. Serra-Longa
and the Italians are furious at seeing persons of their ability
outwitted by a German monk. De Vio is scarcely able to conceal his
irritation. The affront cries for vengeance, and we shall soon see him
giving vent to his wrath in a letter to the Elector.


     Luther's Flight--Admiration--Luther's Wish--The Legate to
     the Elector--The Elector to the Legate--Prosperity of the

Luther continued with his guide to flee from Augsburg. He urged his
steed to the utmost speed that the poor animal's strength would
permit. He thought of the real or supposed flight of John Huss, the
manner in which he was laid hold of, and the assertion of his
adversaries, who pretended that the flight annulled the Emperor's
safe-conduct, and entitled them to condemn him to the flames.[594]
These uneasy thoughts merely crossed Luther's mind. Escaped from the
town, where he had passed ten days under the terrible hand of Rome,
which had already crushed so many thousand witnesses of the truth, and
drenched herself with blood--now that he is free, now that he breathes
the pure air of the field, and traverses the villages and plains--now
that he sees himself wonderfully delivered--his whole soul magnifies
the Lord. Truly he may now say, "_Our soul is escaped as a bird out of
the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped. Our
help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth._"[595]
Luther's heart is thus filled with joy. But his thoughts also revert
to De Vio. "The cardinal," says he, "would have liked to have me in
his hands to send me to Rome. No doubt he is chagrined at my escape.
He imagined that he was master of me at Augsburg--he thought he was
sure of me; but he had an eel by the tail. Is it not a shame in these
people to set so high a price upon me? They would give many crowns to
have me; whereas, our Lord Jesus Christ was sold for thirty pieces of

  [594] Weissmann, Hist. Eccl., i, p. 1237.

  [595] Psalm cxxiv. 7, 8.

  [596] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 202.

The first day Luther travelled fourteen leagues. In the evening, on
arriving at the inn where he was to pass the night, he was so fatigued
(his horse, says one of his biographers, had a very hard trot,) that,
on dismounting, he could not stand erect, and stretched himself out
upon the straw. He, nevertheless, enjoyed some sleep, and the next day
continued his journey. At Nuremberg, he found Staupitz on a visit to
the convents of his order, and, for the first time saw the brief which
the pope had sent to Cajetan respecting him. He was indignant at it.
In all probability, if he had read it before his departure from
Wittemberg, he would never have appeared before the cardinal. "It is
impossible to believe," says he, "that any thing so monstrous could
emanate from a sovereign pontiff."[597]

  [597] Luth. Ep. i, p. 166.

Throughout the journey, Luther was an object of general interest. He
had not yielded a whit. Such a victory gained by a mendicant monk over
a representative of Rome, excited universal admiration. Germany seemed
avenged for the contempt of Italy. The eternal Word had been more
honoured than the word of the pope; and that vast power which had
domineered over the world for so many ages had received an important
check. Luther's journey was a triumph. People were delighted with the
obstinacy of Rome, hoping that it would hasten her downfall. Had she
not chosen to keep fast hold of dishonest gains--had she been wise
enough not to despise the Germans--had she reformed clamant
abuses--perhaps, according to human views, things might have returned
to the state of death out of which Luther had aroused them. But the
papacy chooses not to yield, and the doctor will see himself
constrained to bring many other errors to light, and to advance in the
knowledge and the manifestation of the truth.

On the 26th October Luther arrived at Græfenthal, situated at the
extremity of the forests of Thuringia. Here he fell in with Count
Albert of Mansfeld, who had so strongly dissuaded him from going to
Augsburg. The count laughed heartily on seeing his singular equipage;
and, laying hands on him, obliged him to become his guest. Shortly
after Luther resumed his journey.

He made haste to be at Wittemberg by the 31st October, expecting that
the Elector would be there at the Feast of All Saints, and that he
would be able to see him. The brief which he had read at Nuremberg had
made him fully aware of the danger of his situation. In fact, being
already condemned at Rome, he could not hope either to remain at
Wittemberg, or to obtain an asylum in a convent, or to be in peace and
safety any where else. The protection of the Elector might, perhaps,
defend him, but he was far from being able to calculate upon it. He
could not expect any help from the two friends whom he had formerly
had at the court. Staupitz, having lost the favour he long enjoyed,
had quitted Saxony, Spalatin was loved by Frederick, but had no great
influence over him. The Elector himself was not so well acquainted
with the gospel as to encounter manifest perils on account of it.
However, Luther saw nothing better which he could do than return to
Wittemberg, and there await the decision of an almighty and merciful
God. If, as several thought, he were left at liberty, his wish was to
devote himself entirely to study and the education of youth.[598]

  [598] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 183.

Luther did arrive at Wittemberg by the 30th October; but his haste had
been to no purpose, for neither the Elector nor Spalatin came to the
festival. His friends were overjoyed on seeing him again among them.
The very day of his arrival he hastened to announce it to Spalatin--"I
came back to Wittemberg to-day, safe and sound, by the grace of God;
but how long I shall remain is more than I know.... I am filled with
joy and peace; so much so, that I cannot help wondering how the trial
which I endure appears so great to so many great personages."

De Vio did not wait long, after Luther's departure, to vent all his
indignation to the Elector. His letter breathes vengeance. In an
assuming tone he gives Frederick an account of the conference. "Since
friar Martin," says he, in conclusion, "cannot be brought by paternal
methods to acknowledge his error, and remain faithful to the Catholic
Church, I pray your Highness to send him to Rome, or banish him from
your States. Be assured that this difficult, naughty, and venomous
affair, cannot last longer; for, when I shall have acquainted our most
holy lord with all the craft and malice, there will soon be an end of
it." In a postscript, in his own hand, the cardinal entreats the
Elector not to sully his own honour, and that of his illustrious
ancestors, for a miserable paltry friar.[599]

  [599] Ibid. p. 203.

Never, perhaps, was the soul of Luther filled with nobler indignation
than on reading the copy of this letter which the Elector sent him.
The thought of the sufferings which he is destined to endure, the
value of the truth for which he is combating, the contempt he feels
for the conduct of the legate of Rome, at once fill his heart. His
reply, written under the influence of those feelings, is full of the
courage, dignity, and faith, which he always manifested in the most
difficult crisis of his life. He, in his turn, gives an account of the
conference of Augsburg, and then, after exposing the conduct of the
cardinal continues:--

"I should like to answer the legate in the Elector's stead.

"Prove that you speak with knowledge," I would say to him; "let the
whole affair be committed to writing; then I will send Friar Martin to
Rome, or rather, I myself will cause him to be seized and put to
death. I will take care of my conscience and my honour, and allow no
stain to sully my fame. But as long as your certain knowledge shuns
the light, and manifests itself only by clamour, I cannot give credit
to darkness.

"This, most excellent prince, would be my answer.

"Let the reverend legate, or the pope himself, give a written
specification of my errors; let them explain their reasons; let them
instruct me who desire, who ask, and wish, and wait for instruction,
in so much that even a Turk would not refuse to give it. If I retract
not, and condemn myself after they shall have proved to me that the
passages which I have cited ought to be understood differently from
what I have done, then, O most excellent Elector, let your Highness be
the first to pursue and chase me, let the university discard me, and
load me with its anger. Nay, more, (and I call heaven and earth to
witness,) let the Lord Jesus Christ reject and condemn me! The words
which I speak are not dictated by vain presumption, but by immovable
conviction. I am willing that the Lord God withdraw his grace from me,
and that every creature of God refuse to countenance me, if, when a
better doctrine shall have been shown to me, I embrace it not.

"If, on account of the humbleness of my condition, they despise me, a
poor paltry mendicant friar, and if they refuse to instruct me in the
way of truth, let your Highness pray the legate to point out to you in
writing wherein I have erred; and, if they refuse this favour even to
your Highness, let them write their views either to his Imperial
Majesty, or to some Archbishop of Germany. What ought I, what can I
say more?

"Let your Highness listen to the voice of your honour and your
conscience, and not send me to Rome. No man can command you to do it,
for it is impossible I can be in safety at Rome. The pope himself is
not in safety there. It would be to order you to betray Christian
blood. They have paper, pens, and ink, and they have also notaries
without number. It is easy for them to write, and show wherein and how
I have erred. It will cost less to instruct me by writing while I am
absent, than while present to accomplish my death by stratagem.

"I resign myself to exile. My enemies are so ensnaring me on all
sides, that I can no where live in safety. In order that no evil may
befall you on my account, I, in the name of God, abandon your
territories; I will go wherever an almighty and merciful God wishes me
to be. Let him do with me as seemeth to him good!

"Thus, then, most serene Elector, with veneration I bid you farewell.
I commend you to Almighty God, and give you immortal thanks for all
your kindness towards me. Whatever the people among whom I shall live
in future, I will always remember you, and gratefully pray, without
ceasing, for the happiness of you and yours.[600]... I am still, thank
God, full of joy, and I bless him that Christ his Son counts me
worthy of suffering in so holy a cause. May he eternally guard your
illustrious Highness! Amen!"

  [600] "Ego enim ubicunque ero gentium, illustrissimæ Dominationis tuæ
  nusqum non ero memor...." (Luth. Ep. i. p. 187.)

This letter, so replete with truth, made a profound impression on the
Elector. "He was shaken by a very eloquent letter," says Maimbourg. He
never would have thought of delivering an innocent man into the hands
of Rome. Perhaps he would have asked Luther to remain for some time in
concealment, but not even in appearance would he have yielded, in any
way, to the menaces of the legate. He wrote to his counsellor
Pfeffinger, who happened to be with the Emperor, to make him
acquainted with the real state of matters, and beg him to request Rome
either to put an end to the affair, or at least leave it to be decided
in Germany by impartial judges.[601]

  [601] Luth. Op. (L.) xvii, p. 244.

Some days after the Elector replied to the legate:--"Since Doctor
Martin appeared before you at Augsburg, you ought to be satisfied. We
did not expect that without having convicted him you would have
thought of constraining him to retract. None of the learned in our
dominions have told us that the doctrine of Martin is impious,
antichristian, and heretical." The prince then refuses to send Luther
to Rome, or banish him from his states.

This letter, which was communicated to Luther, filled him with joy.
"Good God!" wrote he to Spalatin, "with what joy I have read it and
re-read it. I know what confidence may be put in these words, so
admirable at once for vigour and moderation. I fear the Romans will
not comprehend all that is meant by them, but they will at least
comprehend that what they thought already finished is not even begun.
Have the goodness to present my thanks to the prince. It is strange
that he, (De Vio,) who not long ago was a mendicant monk like me, is
not afraid to accost the most powerful princes without respect, to
interpel, threaten, and command them, and treat them with
inconceivable pride. Let him learn that the temporal power is of God,
and that it is not permitted him to trample its glory under

  [602] Luth. Ep. i, p. 198.

Frederick, in answering the legate in a tone which he had not
expected, had doubtless been encouraged by an address which he had
received from the university of Wittemberg. This university had good
reason for declaring in the doctor's favour, in as much as it was
flourishing more and more, and eclipsing all the other schools. Crowds
of students flocked from all parts of Germany to hear the
extraordinary man whose lessons seemed to open a new era to religion
and science. These youths who came from all the provinces stopped at
the moment when they perceived the steeples of Wittemberg in the
distance, and raising their hands to heaven, thanked God for making
the light of truth shine on this town as formerly on Zion, and send
its rays even to the remotest countries.[603] A life and activity
hitherto unknown animated the university. "They ply their studies here
like ants," wrote Luther.[604]

  [603] Scultet. Annal. i, p. 17.

  [604] "Studium nostrum more formicarum fervet." (Luth. Ep. i, p. 193.)


     Thoughts of Departure--Adieus to the Church--Critical
     Moment--Deliverance--Luther's Courage--Discontentment at
     Rome--Bull--Appeal to a Council.

Luther, thinking that he might soon be banished from Germany, employed
himself in preparing the Acts of the Conference of Augsburg for
publication. He wished these Acts to remain as evidence of the
struggle which he had maintained with Rome. He saw the storm ready to
burst, but feared it not. Day after day he expected the anathemas of
Rome, and arranged and set every thing in order, that he might be
ready when they arrived. "Having tucked up my coat, and girt my
reins," said he, "I am ready to depart like Abraham; not knowing
whither I shall go, or rather knowing well, since God is every
where."[605] He intended to leave a farewell letter behind him. "Have
the boldness, then," wrote he to Spalatin, "to read the letter of a
man cursed and excommunicated."

  [605] "Quia Deus ubique." (Luth. Ep. i, p. 188.)

His friends were in great fear and anxiety on his account, and begged
him to enter himself prisoner in the hands of the Elector, in order
that that prince might somewhere keep him in safe custody.[606]

  [606] "Ut principi me in captivatem darem." (Ibid. p. 189.)

His enemies could not understand what it was that gave him so much
confidence. One day they were talking of him at the court of the
Bishop of Brandenburg, and asking on what prop he could be leaning.
"It must be in Erasmus," said they, "or Capito, or some other of the
learned, that he confides." "No! no!" replied the bishop, "the pope
would give himself very little trouble with such folks as these. His
trust is in the university of Wittemberg and the Duke of Saxony." Thus
both were ignorant of the fortress in which the Reformer had taken

Thoughts of departure flitted across Luther's mind. They arose not
from fear, but from the foresight of continually recurring obstacles
which the free profession of the truth must encounter in Germany. "If
I remain here," said he, "the liberty of speaking and writing will, as
to many things, be wrested from me. If I depart, I will freely unbosom
the thoughts of my heart, and offer my life to Jesus Christ."[607]

  [607] "Si icro totum effundam et vitam offeram Christo." (Luth. Ep. i,
  p. 190.)

France was the country in which Luther hoped he would be able,
untramelled, to announce the truth. The liberty which the doctors and
university of Paris enjoyed seemed to him worthy of envy. He was,
besides, agreed with them on many points. What would have happened had
he been transported from Wittemberg to France? Would the Reformation
have taken place there as it did in Germany? Would the power of Rome
have been dethroned; and would France, which was destined to see the
hierarchical principles of Rome, and the destructive principles of an
infidel philosophy, long warring in its bosom, have become one great
focus of gospel light? It is useless to indulge in vain conjectures on
this subject; but perhaps Luther at Paris might have somewhat changed
the destinies of Europe and France.

Luther's soul was powerfully agitated. As he often preached at the
town church in place of Simon Heyens Pontanus, pastor of Wittemberg,
who was almost always sick, he thought it his duty, at all events, to
take leave of a people to whom he had so often preached salvation. "I
am," said he one day in the pulpit, "I am a precarious and uncertain
preacher. How often already have I set out suddenly without bidding
you farewell.... In case the same thing should happen again, and I not
return, here receive my adieus." After adding a few words more, he
thus meekly and modestly ended:--"I warn you, in fine, not to be
alarmed though the papal censures let loose all their fury on me.
Impute it not to the pope, and wish no ill either to him or any other
mortal whatsoever, but commit the whole matter to God."[608]

  [608] "Deo rem committerent." (Ibid., p. 191.)

The moment seemed to have at length arrived. The prince gave Luther to
understand he was desirous of his removal to a distance from
Wittemberg; and the wishes of the Elector were too sacred for him not
to hasten to comply with them. He accordingly made preparations for
his departure, without well knowing whither he should direct his
steps. He wished, however, to have a last meeting with his friends,
and for this purpose invited them to a farewell repast. Seated at
table with them, he was still enjoying their delightful conversation,
their tender and anxious friendship. A letter is brought to him....
It comes from the court. He opens and reads, and his heart sinks; it
is a new order to depart. The prince asks why he is so long of setting
out. His soul was filled with sadness. Still, however, he took
courage, and raising his head and looking around on his guests, said
firmly and joyfully, "Father and mother forsake me, but the Lord will
take me up."[609] There was nothing for it but to depart. His friends
were deeply moved. What is to become of him? If Luther's protector
rejects him, who will receive him? And the gospel, and the truth, and
this admirable work ... ; all doubtless must fall with their
illustrious witness. The Reformation apparently is hanging by a
thread; and at the moment when Luther quits the walls of Wittemberg,
will not the thread break? Luther and his friends spoke little.
Stunned with the blow which was directed against their brother, they
melt into tears. But some moments after a second message arrives, and
Luther opens the letter, not doubting he is to find a renewal of the
summons to depart. But, O powerful hand of the Lord! for this time he
is saved. The whole aspect is changed. "As the new envoy of the pope
hopes that every thing may be arranged by means of a conference,
remain still."[610] So says the letter. How important an hour this
was; and who can say what might have happened if Luther, who was
always in haste to obey the will of his prince, had quitted Wittemberg
immediately after the first message? Never were Luther and the work of
the Reformation at a lower ebb than at this moment. Their destinies
seemed to be decided; but an instant sufficed to change them. Arrived
at the lowest point in his career, the doctor of Wittemberg rapidly
reascended; and thenceforward his influence ceased not to increase. In
the language of a prophet, "The Eternal commands, and his servants
descend into the depths; again they mount up to heaven."

  [609] "Vater und Mutter verlassen mich, aber der Herr nimmt mich auf."

  [610] Luth. Op. xv, 824.

Spalatin having, by order of Frederick, invited Luther to Lichtenberg
to have an interview with him, they had a long conversation on the
situation of affairs. "If the censures of Rome arrive," said Luther,
"I certainly will not remain at Wittemberg." "Beware," "of being too
precipitate with your journey to France," replied Spalatin,[611] who,
left telling him to wait till he heard from him. "Only recommend my
soul to Christ," said Luther to his friends. "I see that my
adversaries are strong in their resolution to destroy me, but at the
same time Christ strengthens me in my resolution not to yield to

  [611] "Ne tam cito in Galliam irem." (Luth. Ep. i, p. 195.)

  [612] "Firma Christus propositum non cendi in me." (Ibid.)

Luther at this time published the "_Acts of the Conference at
Augsburg_." Spalatin, on the part of the Elector, had written him not
to do it; but it was too late. After the publication had taken place
the prince approved of it; "Great God!" said Luther in the preface,
"what new, what astonishing crime, to seek light and truth! And more
especially to seek them in the Church, in other words, in the kingdom
of truth." In a letter to Link he says, "I send you my _Acts_. They
are more cutting, doubtless, than the legate expected; but my pen is
ready to give birth to far greater things. I know not myself whence
those thoughts come. In my opinion the affair is not even
commenced;[613] so far are the grandees of Rome from being entitled to
hope it is ended. I will send you what I have written, in order that
you may see whether I have divined well in thinking that the
Antichrist of which the Apostle Paul speaks is now reigning in the
court of Rome. I believe I am able to demonstrate that it is at this
day worse than the very Turks."

  [613] "Res ista necdum habet initium suum meo judicio." (Luth. Ep. i,
  p. 19.)

Ominous rumours reached Luther from all quarters. One of his friends
wrote to him, that the new envoy of Rome had received orders to seize
him, and deliver him up to the pope. Another told him, that in
travelling he had fallen in with a courtier, and the conversation
having turned on the affairs of Germany, the courtier declared that he
had come under an obligation to deliver Luther into the hands of the
sovereign pontiff. "But," wrote the Reformer, "the more their fury and
violence increase, the less I tremble."[614]

  [614] "Quo illi magis furunt, et vi affectant viam, eo minus ego
  terreor." (Ibid., p. 191.)

At Rome there was great dissatisfaction with Cajetan. The chagrin
which they felt at the failure of the affair at first turned upon him.
The Roman courtiers thought themselves entitled to reproach him with a
want of that prudence and finesse which, if they are to be believed,
constitute the first quality of a legate, and with having failed on so
important an occasion, to give pliancy to his scholastic theology. He
is wholly to blame, said they. His lumbering pedantry has spoiled all.
Of what use was it to irritate Luther by insults and menaces, instead
of gaining him over by the promise of a good bishopric, or even of a
Cardinal's hat.[615] These hirelings judged the Reformer by
themselves. However, it was necessary to repair this blunder. On the
one hand, Rome must give her decision, and, on the other, due court
must be paid to the Elector, who might be of great use in the election
of an emperor, an event which must shortly take place.

  [615] Sarpi, Council of Trent, p. 8.

As it was impossible for Roman ecclesiastics to suspect what
constituted the strength and courage of Luther, they imagined that the
Elector was much more implicated in the affair than he really was. The
pope, therefore, resolved to follow another line of conduct. He caused
his legate in Germany to publish a bull, confirming the doctrine of
indulgences in the very points in which they were attacked, but
without mentioning either the Elector or Luther. As the Reformer had
always expressed his readiness to submit to the decision of the Roman
Church, the pope thought that he must now either keep his word, or
stand openly convicted as a disturber of the peace of the Church, and
a contemner of the holy Apostolic See. In either case it seemed that
the pope must gain. But nothing is gained by obstinately opposing the
truth. In vain had the pope threatened to excommunicate every man who
should teach otherwise than he ordered; the light was not arrested by
such orders. The wise plan would have been to curb the pretensions of
the venders of indulgences. This decree of Rome was therefore a new
blunder. By legalising clamant errors, it irritated all the wise, and
made it impossible for Luther to return. "It was thought," says a
Roman Catholic historian, a great enemy of the Reformation,[616] "that
this bull had been made solely for the interest of the pope and the
mendicants, who began to find that nobody would give anything for
their indulgences."

  [616] Maimbourg, p. 38.

The Cardinal de Vio published the bull at Lintz, in Austria, on the
13th December, 1518, but Luther had already placed himself beyond its
reach. On the 28th November, in the chapel of Corpus Christi at
Wittemberg, he had appealed from the pope to a general council of the
Church. He foresaw the storm which was gathering around him, and he
knew that God alone could avert it. Still he did as duty called him.
He must, no doubt, quit Wittemberg (were it only for the sake of the
Elector) as soon as the Roman anathema should arrive; but he was
unwilling to quit Saxony and Germany without a strong protestation.
This he accordingly drew up; and, in order that it might be ready for
circulation the moment the furies of Rome, as he expresses it, should
reach him, he caused it to be printed, under the express condition
that the bookseller Should deposit all the copies in his custody. But
the bookseller, in his eagerness for gain, sold almost the whole,
while Luther was quietly waiting to receive them. He felt annoyed, but
the thing was done. This bold protestation spread every where. In it
Luther declared anew that he had no intention to say any thing against
the Holy Church, or the authority of the Apostolic See, or the pope
well advised. "But," continues he, "considering that the pope, who is
the vicar of God upon earth, may, like any other vicar, err, sin, or
lie, and that the appeal to a general council is the only safeguard
against unjust proceedings which it is impossible to resist, I feel
myself obliged to have recourse to it."[617]

  [617] Löscher. Ref. Act.

Here, then, we see the Reformation launched on a new course. It is no
longer made to depend on the pope and his decisions, but on an
universal council. Luther addresses the whole Church, and the voice
which proceeds from the chapel of Corpus Christi, must reach the whole
members of Christ's flock. There is no want of courage in the
Reformer, and here he gives a new proof of it. Will God fail him? The
answer will be found in the different phases of the Reformation which
are still to be exhibited to our view.


William Collins, and Co., Printers, Glasgow.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's note:

Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).

Small capital text has been replaced with all capitals.

The carat character (^) indicates that the following letter is
superscripted (example: WILL^M).

Archaic words, variations in spelling, punctuation and hyphenation
have been retained except in obvious cases of typographical error.

The following footnotes had no anchors and hence were added by the

Footnote 11: "Ego me non arbitror hoc honore dignum." (Er. Ep. i, p.

Footnote 112: Erasm. Ep. 274.

Footnote 128: "Was gross sol werden, muss klein angeben." (Mathesius,
Hist. p. 3.)

Footnote 563: There was no anchor for the footnote "Seckend. p. 137."
The transcriber has supplied it.

On page 47 there is a footnote anchor with no matching footnote at
"Promise me that you will always think so." The transcriber has placed
an asterisk at the location.

Table of Contents incorrectly lists Book II Chapter IX as beginning on
page 94. The transcriber has changed the number to 93. Likewise the
page number for Chapter X has been changed from 168 to 167. For Book
III Chapter V, the page number has been changed from 204 to 203.

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