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Title: Life of Luther
Author: Köstlin, Julius
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Life of Luther" ***

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[Illustration: LUTHER. (From a Portrait by Cranach in the Town
Church at Weimar.)]










'God's highest gift on earth is to have a pious, cheerful,
God-fearing, home-keeping wife.'


No German has ever influenced so powerfully as Luther the religious
life, and, through it, the whole history, of his people; none has
ever reflected so faithfully, in his whole personal character and
conduct, the peculiar features of that life and history, and been
enabled by that very means to render us a service so effectual and
so popular. If we recall to fresh life and remembrance the great men
of past ages, we Germans shall always put Luther in the van: for us
Protestants, the object of our love and veneration, who will not
prevent, however, or prejudice the most candid historical inquiry;
for others, a rock of offence, whom even slander and falsehood will
never overcome.

I have already in my larger work, 'Martin Luther: his Life and
Writings,' 2 vols., 1875, put together all the materials available
for that subject, together with the necessary references, historical
and critical, and have endeavoured to explain and illustrate at
length the subject matter of his various writings. I now offer this
sketch of his life to the wide circle of what are called educated
German readers. For further explanations and proofs of statements
herein contained I would refer them to my larger work. Further
investigation has prompted me to make some alterations, but only a
few, in matters of detail.

For the illustrations and illustrative documents I beg to express my
warm thanks, and those of the publisher, to the friends who have
kindly assisted us in the work.

J. KOSTLIN, Professor at the University of Halle-Wittenberg.

_Oct_. 31, 1881, the anniversary of Luther's 95 Theses.




I. Birth and Parentage

II. Childhood and School-days

III. Student-days at Erfurt and Entry into the Convent.--1501-1505



I. At the Convent at Erfurt, till 1508

II. Call to Wittenberg. Journey to Rome

III. Luther as Theological Teacher, to 1517



I. The Ninety-five Theses

II. The Controversy concerning Indulgences

III. Luther at Angsburg before Caietan. Appeal to a Council

IV. Miltitz and the Disputation at Leipzig, with its Results

V. Luther's further Work, Writings, and Inward Progress until 1520

VI. Alliance with the Humanists and Nobility

VII. Crisis of Secession: Luther's Works--to the Christian Nobility
of the German Nation, and on the Babylonian Captivity.

VIII. The Bull of Excommunication, and Luther's Reply

IX. The Diet of Worms



I. Luther at the Wartburg, to his Visit to Wittenberg in 1521.

II. Luther's further Sojourn at the Wartburg, and his Return to
Wittenberg, 1522

III. Luther's Reappearance and fresh Labours at Wittenberg, 1522

IV. Luther and his anti-Catholic work of Reformation, up to 1525

V. The Reformer against the Fanatics and Peasants, up to 1525

VI. Luther's Marriage


RELIGIOUS PEACE.--1525-1532._

I. Survey

II. Continued Labours and Personal Life

III. Erasmus and Henry VIII. Controversy with Zwingli and his
Followers, up to 1528

IV. Church Divisions in Germany. War with the Turks. The Conference
at Marburg, 1529

V. The Diet of Augsburg, and Luther at Coburg, 1530

VI. From the Diet of Augsburg to the Religious Peace of Nüremberg,
1632. Death of the Elector John



I. Luther under John Frederick

II. Negotiations respecting a Council and Union among the
Protestants. The Legate Vergerius, 1535. The Wittenberg Concord,

III. Negotiations respecting a Council and Union among the
Protestants (continued). The Meeting at Schmalkald, 1537. Peace with
the Swiss.

IV. Other Labours and Proceedings, 1533-39. The Archbishop Albert
and Schönitz. Agricola

V. Luther and the Progress and Internal Troubles of Protestantism,

VI. Luther and the Progress and Internal Troubles of Protestantism
(continued), 1541-44

VII. Luther's Later Life; Domestic and Personal

VIII. Luther's Last Year and Death


LUTHER. (From a Portrait by Cranach in the Town Church at Weimar)





5. STAUPITZ. (From the Portrait in St. Peter's Convent at Salzburg)


7. SPALATIN. (From L. Cranach's Portrait)

8. ERASMUS. (From the Portrait by A. Dürer)

9. LEO X. (From his Portrait by Raphael) FACSIMILE OF PLACARD OF

10. THE ABCHBISHOP ALBERT. (From Dürer's engraving)

REFORMATION, with an Illustration showing the Sale of Indulgences

12. THE CASTLE CHURCH. (From the Wittenberg Book of Relics, 1509)

13. THE EMPEROR MAXIMILIAN. (From his Portrait by Albert Dürer)

14. DUKE GEORGE OF SAXONY. (From an old woodcut)

15. LUTHER. (From an engraving of Cranach, in 1520)

16. DR. JOHN ECK. (From an old woodcut)

17. MELANCTHON. (From a Portrait by Dürer)

18. LUCAS CRANACH. (From a Portrait by himself)

19. W. PIRKHEIMER. (From a Portrait by Albert Dürer)

20. ULRICH VON HUTTEN. (From an old woodcut)

21. FRANCIS VON SICKINGEN. (From an old engraving)


23. TITLE-PAGE, slightly reduced, of the original Tract 'On the
Liberty of a Christian Man'

24. CHARLES V. (From an engraving by B. Beham, in 1531)

25. LUTHER. (From an engraving by Cranach, in 1521)

26. LUTHER as "SQUIRE GEORGE." (From a woodcut by Cranach)

27. BUGENHAGEN. (From a picture by Cranach in his album, at Berlin,

28. MÜNZER. (From an old woodcut)

29. LUTHER. (From a Portrait by Cranach in 1525.) At Wittenberg.

30. CATHARINE VON BORA, LUTHER'S WIPE. (From a Portrait by Cranach
about 1525.) At Berlin



FREDERICK. (From a Picture by Cranach.) At Nüremberg


35. PHILIP OF HESSE. (From a woodcut of Brosamer)

36. LUTHER. (From a Portrait by Cranach in 1528.) At Berlin

37. LUTHER'S WIFE. (From a Portrait by Cranach in 1528.) At Berlin

38. ZWINGLI. (From an old engraving)


40. VEIT DIETRICH, as Pastor of Nüremberg. (From an old woodcut)

41. LUTHER'S SEAL. (Taken from letters written in 1517)

42. LUTHER'S COAT OF ARMS. (From old prints)

43. BUTZER. (From the old original woodcut of Beusner)

44. AGRICOLA. (From a miniature Portrait by Cranach, in the
University Album at Wittenberg, 1531)

45. JONAS. (From a Portrait by Cranach, in his Album at Berlin,

46. AMSDORF. (From an old woodcut)

47. LUTHER. (From a Portrait by Cranach, in his Album, at Berlin)

48. WITTENBERG. (From an old engraving)

49. THE "LUTHER-HOUSE" (previously the Convent), before its recent


51. LUTHER'S DAUGHTER 'LENE.' (From Cranach's Portrait)


53. MATHESIUS. (From an old woodcut)

54. LUTHER IN 1546. (From a woodcut of Cranach)



57. LUTHER AFTER DEATH. (From a Picture ascribed to Cranach)


title and conclusion, with the signature of the Emperor Charles

EDITION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, 1522. (From the original in the Royal
Public Library at Stüttgart)

attestations of Melancthon, Crueiger, and Bugenhagen. (At Pesth)







On the 10th of November, 1483, their first child was born to a young
couple, Hans and Margaret Luder, at Eisleben, in Saxony, where the
former earned his living as a miner. That child was Martin Luther.

His parents had shortly before removed thither from Möhra, the old
home of his family. This place, called in old records More and Möre,
lies among the low hills where the Thuringian chain of wooded
heights runs out westwards towards the valley of the Werra, about
eight miles south of Eisenach, and four miles north of Salzungen,
close to the railway which now connects these two towns. Luther thus
comes from the very centre of Germany. The ruler there was the
Elector of Saxony.

Möhra was an insignificant village, without even a priest of its
own, and with only a chapel affiliated to the church of the
neighbouring parish. The population consisted for the most part of
independent peasants, with house and farmstead, cattle and horses.
Mining, moreover, was being carried on there in the fifteenth
century, and copper was being discovered in the copper schist, of
which the names of Schieferhalden and Schlackenhaufen still survive
to remind us. The soil was not very favourable for agriculture, and
consisted partly of moorland, which gave the place its name. Those
peasants who possessed land were obliged to work extremely hard.
They were a strong and sturdy race.

From this peasantry sprang Luther. 'I am a peasant's son,' he said
once to Melancthon in conversation. 'My father, grandfather--all my
ancestors were thorough peasants.'

[Illustration: Coat of arms]

His father's relations were to be found in several families and
houses in Möhra, and even scattered in the country around. The name
was then written Luder, and also Ludher, Lüder, and Leuder. We find
the name of Luther for the first time as that of Martin Luther, the
Professor at Wittenberg, shortly before he entered on his war of
Reformation, and from him it was adopted by the other branches of
the family. Originally it was not a surname, but a Christian name,
identical with Lothar, which signifies one renowned in battle. A
very singular coat of arms, consisting of a cross-bow, with a rose
on each side, had been handed down through, no doubt, many
generations in the family, and is to be seen on the seal of Luther's
brother James. The origin of these arms is unknown; the device leads
one to conclude that the family must have blended with another by
intermarriage, or by succeeding to its property. Contemporaneous
records exist to show how conspicuously the relatives of Luther, at
Möhra and in the district, shared the sturdy character of the local
peasantry, always ready for self-help, and equally ready for
fisticuffs. Firmly and resolutely, for many generations, and amidst
grievous persecutions and disorders, such as visited Möhra in
particular during the Thirty Years' War, this race maintained its
ground. Three families of Luther exist there at this day, who are
all engaged in agriculture; and a striking likeness to the features
of Martin Luther may still be traced in many of his descendants, and
even in other inhabitants of Möhra. Not less remarkable, as noted by
one who is familiar with the present people of the place, are the
depth of feeling and strong common sense which distinguish them, in
general, to this day. The house in which Luther's grandfather lived,
or rather that which was afterwards built on the site, can still, it
is believed, but not with certainty, be identified. Near this house
stands now a statue of Luther in bronze.

At Möhra, then, Luther's father, Hans, had grown up to manhood. His
grandfather's name was Henry, but of him we hear nothing during
Luther's time. His grandmother died in 1521. His mother's maiden
name was Ziegler; we afterwards find relations of hers at Eisenach;
the other old account, which made her maiden name Lindemann,
probably originated from confusing her with Luther's grandmother.

What brought Hans to Eisleben was the copper mining, which here, and
especially in the county of Mansfeld, to which Eisleben belonged,
had prospered to an extent never known around Möhra, and was even
then in full swing of activity. At Eisleben, the miners' settlements
soon formed two new quarters of the town. Hans had, as we know, two
brothers, and very possibly there were more of the family, so that
the paternal inheritance had to be divided. He was evidently the
eldest of the brothers, of whom one, Heinz, or Henry, who owned a
farm of his own, was still living in 1540, ten years after the death
of Hans. But at Möhra the law of primogeniture, which vests the
possession of the land in the eldest son, was not recognised; either
the property was equally divided, or, as was customary in other
parts of the country, the estate fell to the share of the youngest.
This custom was referred to in after years by Luther in his remark
that in this world, according to civil law, the youngest son is the
heir of his father's house.

We must not omit to notice the other reasons which have been
assigned for his leaving his old home. It has been repeatedly
asserted, in recent times, and even by Protestant writers, that the
father of our great Reformer had sought to escape the consequences
of a crime committed by him at Möhra. The matter stands thus: In
Luther's lifetime his Catholic opponent Witzel happened to call out
to Jonas, a friend of Luther's, in the heat of a quarrel, 'I might
call the father of your Luther a murderer.' Twenty years later the
anonymous author of a polemical work which appeared at Paris
actually calls the Reformer 'the son of the Möhra assassin.' With
these exceptions, not a trace of any story of this kind, in the
writings of either friend or foe, can be found in that or in the
following century. It was at the beginning of the eighteenth
century, in an official report on mining at Möhra, that the story,
evidently based on oral tradition, assumed all at once a more
definite shape; the statement being that Luther's father had
accidentally killed a peasant, who was minding some horses grazing.
This story has been told to travellers in our own time by people of
Möhra, who have gone so far as to point out the fatal meadow. We are
forced to notice it, not, indeed, as being in the least
authenticated, but simply on account of the authority recently
claimed for the tradition. For it is plain that what is now a matter
of hearsay at Möhra was a story wholly unknown there not many years
ago, was first introduced by strangers, and has since met with
several variations at their hands. The idea of a criminal flying
from Möhra to Mansfeld, which was only a few miles off, and was
equally subject to the Elector of Saxony, is absurd, and in this
case is strangely inconsistent with the honourable position soon
attained, as we shall see, by Hans Luther himself at Mansfeld.
Moreover, the very fact that Witzel's spiteful remark was long known
to Luther's enemies, coupled with the fact that they never turned it
to account, shows plainly how little they ventured to make it a
matter of serious reproach. Luther during his lifetime had to hear
from them that his father was a Bohemian heretic, his mother a loose
woman, employed at the baths, and he himself a changeling, born of
his mother and the Devil. How triumphantly would they have talked
about the murder or manslaughter committed by his father, had the
charge admitted of proof! Whatever occurrence may have given rise to
such a story, we have no right to ascribe it either to any fault or
any crime of the father. More on this subject it is needless to add;
the two strange statements we have mentioned do not attempt to
establish any definite connection between the supposed crime and the
removal to Eisleben.

The day, and even the very hour, when her first-born came into the
world, Luther's mother carefully treasured in her mind. It was
between eleven and twelve o'clock at night. Agreeably to the custom
of the time, he was baptised in the Church of St. Peter the next
day. It was the feast of St. Martin, and he was called after that
saint. Tradition still identifies the house where he was born; it
stands in the lower part of the town, close to St. Peter's Church.
Several conflagrations, which devastated Eisleben, have left it
undestroyed. But of the original building only the walls of the
ground-floor remain: within these there is a room facing the street,
which is pointed out as the one where Luther first saw the light.
The church was rebuilt soon after his birth, and was then called
after St. Peter and St. Paul; the present font still retains, it is
said, some portions of the old one.

[Illustration: Fig. 2.--HANS LUTHER.]

When the child was six months old, his parents removed to the town of
Mansfeld, about six miles off. So great was the number of the miners
who were then crowding to Eisleben, the most important place in the
county, that we can well understand how Luther's father failed there
to realise his expectations, and went in search of better prospects
to the other capital of the rich mining district. Here, at Mansfeld,
or, more strictly, at Lower Mansfeld, as it is called, from its
position, and to distinguish it from Cloister-Mansfeld, he came among
a people whose whole life and labour were devoted to mining. The town
itself lay on the banks of a stream, inclosed by hills, on the edge
of the Harz country. Above it towered the stately castle of the
Counts, to whom the place belonged. The character of the scenery is
more severe, and the air harsher than in the neighbourhood of Möhra.
Luther himself called his Mansfeld countrymen sons of the Harz. In
the main, these Harz people are much rougher than the Thuringians.

[Illustration: MARGARET LUTHER.]

Here also, at first, Luther's parents found it a hard struggle to
get on. 'My father,' said the Reformer, 'was a poor miner; my mother
carried in all the wood upon her back; they worked the flesh off
their bones to bring us up: no one nowadays would ever have such
endurance.' It must not, however, be forgotten that carrying wood in
those days was less a sign of poverty than now. Gradually their
affairs improved. The whole working of the mines belonged to the
Counts, and they leased out single portions, called smelting
furnaces, sometimes for lives, sometimes for a term of years. Harts
Luther succeeded in obtaining two furnaces, though only on a lease
of years. He must have risen in the esteem of his town-fellows even
more rapidly than in outward prosperity.

The magistracy of the town consisted of a bailiff, the chief
landowners, and four of the community. Among these four Hans Luther
appears in a public document as early as 1491. His children were
numerous enough to cause him constant anxiety for their maintenance
and education: there were at least seven of them, for we know of
three brothers and three sisters of the Reformer. The Luther family
never rose to be one of the rich families of Mansfeld, who possessed
furnaces by inheritance, and in time became landowners; but they
associated with them, and in some cases numbered them among their
intimate friends. The old Hans was also personally known to his
Counts, and was much esteemed by them. In 1520 the Reformer publicly
appealed to their personal acquaintance with his father and himself,
against the slanders circulated about his origin. Hans, in course of
time, bought himself a substantial dwelling-house in the principal
street of the town. A small portion of it remains standing to this
day. There is still to be seen a gateway, with a well-built arch of
sandstone, which bears the Luther arms of cross-bow and roses, and
the inscription J.L. 1530. This was, no doubt, the work of James
Luther, in the year when his father Hans died, and he took
possession of the property. It is only quite recently that the stone
has so far decayed as to cause the arms and part of the inscription
to peel off.

The earliest personal accounts that we have of Luther's parents,
date from the time when they already shared in the honour and renown
acquired by their son. They frequently visited him at Wittenberg,
and moved with simple dignity among his friends. The father, in
particular, Melancthon describes as a man, who, by purity of
character and conduct, won for himself universal affection and
esteem. Of the mother he says that the worthy woman, amongst other
virtues, was distinguished above all for her modesty, her fear of
God, and her constant communion with God in prayer. Luther's friend,
the Court-preacher Spalatin, spoke of her as a rare and exemplary
woman. As regards their personal appearance, the Swiss Kessler
describes them in 1522 as small and short persons, far surpassed by
their son Martin in height and build; he adds, also, that they were
dark-complexioned. Five years later their portraits were painted by
Lucas Cranach: these are now to be seen in the Wartburg, and are the
only ones of this couple which we possess. [Footnote: Strange to
say, subsequently and even in our own days, a portrait of Martin
Luther's wife in her old age has been mistaken for one of his
mother.] In these portraits, the features of both the parents have a
certain hardness; they indicate severe toil during a long life. At
the same time, the mouth and eyes of the father wear an intelligent,
lively, energetic, and clever expression. He has also, as his son
Martin observed, retained to old age a 'strong and hardy frame.' The
mother looks more wearied by life, but resigned, quiet, and
meditative. Her thin face, with its large bones, presents a mixture
of mildness and gravity. Spalatin was amazed, on seeing her for the
first time in 1522, how much Luther resembled her in bearing and
features. Indeed, a certain likeness is observable between him and
her portrait, in the eyes and the lower part of the face. At the
same time, from what is known of the appearance of the Luthers who
lived afterwards at Möhra, he must also have resembled his father's



As to the childhood of Martin Luther, and his further growth and
mental development, at Mansfeld and elsewhere, we have absolutely no
information from others to enlighten us. For this portion of his
life we can only avail ourselves of occasional and isolated remarks
of his own, partly met with in his writings, partly culled from his
lips by Melancthon, or his physician Ratzeberger, or his pupil
Mathesius, or other friends, and by them recorded for the benefit of
posterity. These remarks are very imperfect, but are significant
enough to enable us to understand the direction which his inner life
had taken, and which prepared him for his future calling. Nor less
significant is the fact that those opponents who, from the
commencement of his war with the Church, tracked out his origin, and
sought therein for evidence to his detriment, have failed, for their
part, to contribute anything new whatever to the history of his
childhood and youth, although, as the Reformer, he had plenty of
enemies at his own and his parents' home, and several of the Counts
of Mansfeld, in particular, continued in the Romish Church. There
was nothing, therefore, dark or discreditable, at any rate, to be
found attaching either to his home or to his own youth.

It is said that childhood is a Paradise. Luther in after years found
it joyful and edifying to contemplate the happiness of those little
ones who know neither the cares of daily life nor the troubles of
the soul, and enjoy with light hearts the good thing which God has
given them. But in his own reminiscences of life, so far as he has
given them, no such sunny childhood is reflected. The hard time,
which his parents at first had to struggle through at Mansfeld, had
to be shared in by the children, and the lot fell most hardly on the
eldest. As the former spent their days in hard toil, and persevered
in it with unflinching severity, the tone of the house was unusually
earnest and severe. The upright, honourable, industrious father was
honestly resolved to make a useful man of his son, and enable him to
rise higher than himself. He strictly maintained at all times his
paternal authority. After his death, Martin recorded, in touching
language, instances of his father's love, and the sweet intercourse
he was permitted to have with him. But it is not surprising, if, at
the period of childhood, so peculiarly in need of tender affection,
the severity of the father was felt rather too much. He was once, as
he tells us, so severely flogged by his father that he fled from
him, and bore him a temporary grudge. Luther, in speaking of the
discipline of children, has even quoted his mother as an example of
the way in which parents, with the best intentions, are apt to go
too far in punishing, and forget to pay due attention to the
peculiarities of each child. His mother, he said, once whipped him
till the blood came, for having taken a paltry little nut. He adds,
that, in punishing children, the apple should be placed beside the
rod, and they should not be chastised for an offence about nuts or
cherries as if they had broken open a money-box. His parents, he
acknowledged, had meant it for the very best, but they had kept him,
nevertheless, so strictly that he had become shy and timid. Theirs,
however, was not that unloving severity which blunts the spirit of a
child, and leads to artfulness and deceit. Their strictness, well
intended, and proceeding from a genuine moral earnestness of
purpose, furthered in him a strictness and tenderness of conscience,
which then and in after years made him deeply and keenly sensitive
of every fault committed in the eyes of God; a sensitiveness,
indeed, which, so far from relieving him of fear, made him
apprehensive on account of sins that existed only in his
imagination. It was a later consequence of this discipline, as
Luther himself informs us, that he took refuge in a convent. He
adds, at the same time, that it is better not to spare the rod with
children even from the very cradle, than to let them grow up without
any punishment at all; and that it is pure mercy to young folk to
bend their wills, even though it costs labour and trouble, and leads
to threats and blows.

We have a reference by Luther to the lessons he learned in childhood
from his experience of poverty at home, in his remarks in later
life, on the sons of poor men, who by sheer hard work raise
themselves from obscurity, and have much to endure, and no time to
strut and swagger, but must be humble and learn to be silent and to
trust in God, and to whom God also has given good sound heads.

As to Luther's relations with his brothers and sisters we have the
testimony of one who knew the household at Mansfeld, and
particularly his brother James, that from childhood they were those
of brotherly companionship, and that from his mother's own account
he had exercised a governing influence both by word and deed on the
good conduct of the younger members of the family.

His father must have taken him to school at a very early age. Long
after, in fact only two years before his death, he noted down in the
Bible of a 'good old friend,' Emler, a townsman of Mansfeld, his
recollection how, more than once, Emler, as the elder, had carried
him, still a weakly child, to and from school; a proof, not indeed,
as a Catholic opponent of the next century imagined, that it was
necessary to compel the boy to go to school, but that he was still
of an age to benefit by being carried. The school-house, of which
the lower portion still remains, stood at the upper end of the
little town, part of which runs with steep streets up the hill. The
children there were taught not only reading and writing, but also
the rudiments of Latin, though doubtless in a very clumsy and
mechanical fashion. From his experience of the teaching here, Luther
speaks in later years of the vexations and torments with declining
and conjugating and other tasks which school children in his youth
had to undergo. The severity he there met with from his teacher was
a very different thing from the strictness of his parents.
Schoolmasters, he says, in those days were tyrants and executioners,
the schools were prisons and hells, and in spite of blows,
trembling, fear, and misery, nothing was ever taught. He had been
whipped, he tells us, fifteen times one morning, without any fault
of his own, having been called on to repeat what he had never been

At this school he remained till he was fourteen, when his father
resolved to send him to a better and higher-class place of
education. He chose for that purpose Magdeburg; but what particular
school he attended is not known. His friend Mathesius tells us that
the town-school there was 'far renowned above many others.' Luther
himself says that he went to school with the Null-brethren. These
Null-brethren or Noll-brethren, as they were called, were a
brotherhood of pious clergymen and laymen, who had combined
together, but without taking any vows, to promote among themselves
the salvation of their souls and the practice of a godly life, and
to labour at the same time for the social and moral welfare of the
people, by preaching the Word of God, by instruction, and by
spiritual ministration. They undertook in particular the care of
youth. They were, moreover, the chief originators of the great
movement in Germany, at that time, for promoting intellectual
culture, and reviving the treasures of ancient Roman and Greek
literature. Since 1488 a colony of them had existed at Magdeburg,
which had come from Hildesheim, one of their head-quarters. As there
is no evidence of heir having had a school of their own at
Magdeburg, they may have devoted their services to the town-school.
Thither, then, Hans Luther sent his eldest son in 1497. The idea had
probably been suggested by Peter Reinicke, the overseer of the
mines, who had a son there. With this son John, who afterwards rose
to an important office in the mines at Mansfeld, Martin Luther
contracted a lifelong friendship. Hans, however, only let his son
remain one year at Magdeburg, and then sent him to school at
Eisenach. Whether he was induced to make this change by finding his
expectations of the school not sufficiently realised, or whether
other reasons, possibly those regarding a cheaper maintenance of his
son, may have determined him in the matter, there is no evidence to
show. What strikes one here only is his zeal for the better
education of his son.

Ratzeberger is the only one who tells us of an incident he heard of
Luther from his own lips, during his stay at Magdeburg, and this was
one which, as a physician, he relates with interest. Luther, it
happened, was lying sick of a burning fever, and tormented with
thirst, and in the heat of the fever they refused him drink. So one
Friday, when the people of the house had gone to church, and left
him alone, he, no longer able to endure the thirst, crawled off on
hands and feet to the kitchen, where he drank off with great avidity
a jug of cold water. He could reach his room again, but having done
so he fell into a deep sleep, and on waking the fever had left him.

The maintenance his father was able to afford him was not sufficient
to cover the expenses of his board and lodging as well as of his
schooling, either at Magdeburg or afterwards at Eisenach. He was
obliged to help himself after the manner of poor scholars, who, as
he tells us, went about from door to door collecting small gifts or
doles by singing hymns. 'I myself,' he says,' was one of those young
colts, particularly at Eisenach, my beloved town.' He would also
ramble about the neighbourhood with his school-fellows; and often,
from the pulpit or the lecturer's chair, would he tell little
anecdotes about those days. The boys used to sing quartettes at
Christmas-time in the villages, carols on the birth of the Holy
Child at Bethlehem. Once, as they were singing before the door of a
solitary farmhouse, the farmer came out and called to them roughly,
'Where are you, young rascals?' He had two large sausages in his
hand for them, but they ran away terrified, till he shouted after
them to come back and fetch the sausages. So intimidated, says
Luther, had he become by the terrors of school discipline. His
object, however, in relating this incident was to show his hearers
how the heart of man too often construes manifestations of God's
goodness and mercy into messages of fear, and how men should pray to
God perseveringly, and without timidity or shamefacedness. In those
days it was not rare to find even scholars of the better classes,
such as the son of a magistrate at Mansfeld, and those who, for the
sake of a better education, were sent to distant schools, seeking to
add to their means in the manner we have mentioned.

After this, his father sent him to Eisenach, bearing in mind the
numerous relatives who lived in the town and surrounding country,
and who might be of service to him. But of these no mention has
reached us, except of one, named Konrad, who was sacristan in the
church of St. Nicholas. The others, no doubt, were not in a position
to give him any material assistance.

About this time his singing brought him under the notice of one Frau
Cotta, who with genuine affection took up the promising boy, and
whose memory, in connection with the great Reformer, still lives in
the hearts of the German people. Her husband, Konrad or Kunz, was
one of the most influential citizens of the town, and sprang from a
noble Italian family who had acquired wealth by commerce. Ursula
Cotta, as her name was, belonged to the Eisenach family of Schalbe.
She died in 1511. Mathesius tells us how the boy won her heart by
his singing and his earnestness in prayer, and she welcomed him to
her own table. Luther met with similar acts of kindness from a
brother or other relative of hers, and also from an institution
belonging to Franciscan friars at Eisenach, which was indebted to
the Schalbe family for several rich endowments, and was named, in
consequence, the Schalbe College. At Frau Cotta's, Luther was first
introduced to the life in a patrician's house, and learned to move
in that society.

At Eisenach he remained at school for four years. Many years
afterwards we find him on terms of friendly and grateful intercourse
with one Father Wiegand, who had been his schoolmaster there.
Ratzeberger, speaking of the then schoolmaster at Eisenach, mentions
a 'distinguished poet and man of learning, John Trebonius,' who, as
he tells us, every morning, on entering the schoolroom, would take
off his biretta, because God might have chosen many a one of the
lads present to be a future mayor, or chancellor, or learned doctor;
a thought which, as he adds, was amply realised afterwards in the
person of Doctor Luther. The relations of these two at the school,
which contained several classes, must be a matter of conjecture. But
the system of teaching pursued there was praised afterwards by
Luther himself to Melancthon. The former acquired there that
thorough knowledge of Latin which was then the chief preparation for
University study. He learned to write it, not only in prose, but
also in verse, which leads us to suppose that the school at Eisenach
took a part in the Humanistic movement already mentioned. Happily,
his active mind and quick understanding had already begun to
develop; not only did he make up for lost ground, but he even
outstripped those of his own age.

As we see him growing up to manhood, the future hero of the faith,
the teacher, and the warrior, the most important question for us is
the course which his religious development took from childhood.

He who, in after years, waged such a tremendous warfare with the
Church of his time, always gratefully acknowledged, and in his own
teaching and conduct kept steadily in view, how, within herself, and
underneath all the corruptions he denounced, she still preserved the
groundwork of a Christian life, the charter of salvation, the
fundamental truths of Christianity, and the means of redemption and
blessing, vouchsafed by the grace of God. Especially did he
acknowledge all that he had himself received from the Church since
childhood. In that House, he says on one occasion, he was baptised,
and catechised in the Christian truth, and for that reason he would
always honour it as the House of his Father. The Church would at any
rate take care that children, at home and at school, should learn by
heart the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten
Commandments; that they should pray, and sing psalms and Christian
hymns. Printed books, containing them, were already in existence.
Among the old Christian hymns in the German language, of which a
surprisingly rich collection has been formed, a certain number, at
least, were in common use in the churches, especially for festivals.
'Fine songs' Luther called them, and he took care that they should
live on in the Evangelical communities. Those old verses form in
part the foundation of the hymns which we owe to his own poetical
genius. Thus for Christmas we still have the carol of those times,
_Ein Kindelein so lobelich_; and the first verse of Luther's
Whitsun hymn, _Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist_, is taken, he
tells us, from one of those old-fashioned melodies. Of the portions
of Scripture read in church, the Gospels and Epistles were given in
the mother-tongue. Sermons, also, had long been preached in German,
and there were printed collections of them for the use of the

The places where Luther grew up were certainly better off in this
respect than many others. For, in the main, very much was still
wanting to realise what had been recommended and striven for by
pious Churchmen, and writers and religious fraternities, or even
enjoined by the Church herself. The Reformers had, indeed, a heavy
and an irrefutable indictment to bring against the Catholic Church
system of their time. The grossest ignorance and shortcomings were
exposed by the Visitations which they undertook, and from these we
may fairly judge of the actual state of things existing for many
years before. It appeared, that even where these portions of the
catechism were taught by parents and schoolmasters, they never
formed the subject of clerical instruction to the young. It was
precisely one of the charges brought against the enemies of the
Reformation, that, notwithstanding the injunctions of their Church,
they habitually neglected this instruction, and preferred teaching
the children such things as carrying banners in processions and holy
tapers. Priests were found, in the course of these visitations, who
had scarcely any knowledge of the chief articles of the faith. His
own personal experience of this neglect, when young, is not noticed
by Luther in his later complaints on the subject.

But the main fault and failing which he recognised in after life,
and which, as he tells us, was a source of inward suffering to him
from childhood, was the distorted view, held up to him at school and
from the pulpit, of the conditions of Christian salvation, and,
consequently, of his own proper religious attitude and demeanour.

Luther himself, as we learn from him later life, would have
Christian children brought up in the happy assurance that God is a
loving Father, Christ a faithful Saviour, and that it is their
privilege and duty to approach their Father with frank and childlike
confidence, and, if aroused to a consciousness of sin or wrong, to
entreat at once His forgiveness. Such however, he tells us, was not
what he was taught. On the contrary, he was instructed, and trained
up from childhood in that narrowing conception of Christianity, and
that outward form of religiousness, against which, more than
anything, he bore witness as a Reformer.

God was pictured to him as a Being unapproachably sublime, and of
awful holiness; Christ, the Saviour, Mediator, and Advocate, whose
revelation can only bring judgment to those who reject salvation, as
the threatening Judge, against whose wrath, as against that of God,
man sought for intercession and mediation from the Virgin and the
other saints. This latter worship, towards the close of the middle
ages, had increased in importance and extent. Peculiar honour was
paid to particular saints, in particular places, and for the
furtherance of particular interests. The warlike St. George was the
special saint of the town and county of Mansfeld: his effigy still
surmounts the entrance to the old school-house. Among the miners the
worship of St. Anne, the mother of the Virgin, soon became popular
towards the end of the century, and the mining town of Annaberg,
built in 1496, was named after her. Luther records how the 'great
stir' was first made about her, when he was a boy of fifteen, and
how he was then anxious to place himself under her protection. There
is no lack of religious writings of that time, which, with the view
of preserving the Catholic faith, warn men earnestly against the
danger of overvaluing the saints, and of placing their hopes more in
them than in God; but we see from those very warnings how necessary
they were, and later history shows us how little fruit they bore. As
for Luther, certain beautiful features in the lives and legends of
the saints exercised over him a power of attraction which he never
afterwards renounced; and of the Virgin he always spoke with tender
reverence, only regretting that men wished to make an idol of her.
But of his early religious belief, he says that Christ appeared to
him as seated on a rainbow, like a stern Judge; from Christ men
turned to the saints, to be their patrons, and called on the Virgin
to bare her breasts to her Son, and dispose him thereby to mercy. An
example of what deceptions were sometimes practised in such worship
came to the notice of the Elector John Frederick, the friend of
Luther, and probably originated in a convent at Eisenach. It was a
figure, carved in wood, of the Virgin with the infant Saviour in her
arms, which was furnished with a secret contrivance by means of
which the Child, when the people prayed to him, first turned away to
His mother, and only when they had invoked her as intercessor, bowed
towards them with His little arms outstretched.

On the other hand, the sinner who was troubled with cares about his
soul and thoughts of Divine judgment, found himself directed to the
performance of particular acts of penance and pious exercises, as
the means to appease a righteous God. He received judgment and
commands through the Church at the confessional. The Reformers
themselves, and Luther especially, fully recognised the value of
being able to pour out the inner temptations of the heart to some
Christian father-confessor, or even to some other brother in the
faith, and to obtain from his lips that comfort of forgiveness which
God, in His love and mercy, bestows freely on the faithful. But
nothing of this kind, they said, was to be found in the
confessional. The conscience was tormented with the enumeration of
single sins, and burdened with all sorts of penitential formalities;
and it was just with a view that everyone should be drawn to this
discipline of the Church, should use it regularly, and should seek
for no other way to make his peace with God, that the educational
activity of the Church, both with young and old, was especially

Luther, in after life, as we have already remarked, always
recognised and found comfort in the fact that, even under such
conditions as the above, enough of the simple message of salvation
in the Bible could penetrate the heart, and awaken a faith which, in
spite of all artificial restraints and perplexing dogmas, should
throw itself, with inward longing and childlike trust, into the arms
of God's mercy, and so enjoy true forgiveness. He received, as we
shall see, some salutary directions for so doing from later friends
of his, who belonged to the Romish Church, nor was that character of
ecclesiastical religiousness, so to speak, stamped everywhere, or to
the same degree, on Christian life in Germany during his youth.
Nevertheless, his whole inner being, from boyhood, was dominated by
its influence; he, at all events, had never been taught to
appreciate the Gospel as a child. Looking back in later years on his
monastic days, and the whole of his previous life, he declared that
he never could feel assured that his baptism in Christ was
sufficient for his salvation, and that he was sorely troubled with
doubt whether any piety of his own would be able to secure for him
God's mercy. Thoughts of this kind he said induced him to become a

Men have never been wanting, either before or since the time of
Luther's youth, to denounce the abuses and corruptions of the
Church, and particularly of the clergy. Language of this sort had
long found its way to the popular ear, and had proceeded also from
the people themselves. Complaints were made of the tyranny of the
Papal hierarchy, and of their encroachments on social and civil
life, as well as of the worldliness and gross immorality of the
priests and monks. The Papacy had reached its lowest depth of moral
degradation under Pope Alexander VI. We hear nothing, however, of
the impressions produced on Luther, in this respect, in the
circumstances of his early life. The news of such scandals as were
then enacted at Rome, shamelessly and in open day, very likely took
a long while to reach Luther and those about him. With regard to the
carnal offences of the clergy, against which, to the honour of
Germany be it said, the German conscience especially revolted, he
made afterwards the noteworthy remark, that although during his
boyhood the priests allowed themselves mistresses, they never
incurred the suspicion of anything like unbridled sensuality or
adulterous conduct. Examples of such kind date only from a later

The loyalty with which Mansfeld, his home, adhered to the ancient
Church, is shown by several foundations of that time, all of which
have reference to altars and the celebration of mass. The overseer
of the mines, Reinicke, the friend of Luther's family, is among the
founders: he left provision for keeping up services in honour of the
Virgin and St. George.

A peculiarly reverential demeanour, in regard to religion and the
Church, is observable in Luther's father, and one which was common
no doubt among his honest, simple, pious fellow townsfolk. His
conduct was consistently God-fearing. In his house it was afterwards
told how he would often pray at the bedside of his little Martin,--how,
as the friend of godliness and learning, he had enjoyed the friendship
of priests and school-teachers. Words of pious reflection from his
lips remained stamped on Luther's memory from his boyhood. Thus
Luther tells us, in a sermon preached towards the close of his life,
how he had often heard his dear father say, that, as his own parents
had told him, the earth contains many more who require to be fed
than there are sheaves, even if collected from all the fields in the
world; and yet how wondrously does God know how to preserve mankind!
In common with his fellow-townsmen, he followed the precepts and
commands of his Church. When, in the year in which he sent his son to
Magdeburg, two new altars in the church at Mansfeld were consecrated
to a number of saints, and sixty days' indulgence was granted to
anyone who heard mass at them, Hans Luther, with Reinicke and other
fellow-magistrates, was among the first to make use of the invitation.
The enemies of the Reformer, while fain to trace his origin to a
heretic Bohemian, had not a shadow of a reason for suspecting his real
father of any leanings to heresy. Nor do we hear a word in later years
from the Reformer, after his father had separated with him from the
Catholic Church, to show a trace of any hostile or critical remark
against that Church, remembered from the lips of his father during
childhood. Quietly but firmly the latter asserted his own judgment,
and framed his will accordingly. He was firm, in particular, in the
consciousness of his paternal rights and duties, even against the
pretensions of the clergy. Thus, as his son Martin tells us, when he
lay once on the point of death, and the priest admonished him to
leave something to the clergy, he replied in the simplicity of his
heart, 'I have many children: I will leave it them, for they want it
more.' We shall see how unyieldingly, when his son entered a convent,
he insisted, as against all the value and usefulness of monasticism,
on the paramount obligation of God's command, that children should
obey their parents. Luther also tells us how his father once praised
in high terms the will left by a Count of Mansfeld, who without
leaving any property to the Church, was content to depart from this
world trusting solely to the bitter sufferings and death of Christ,
and commending his soul to Him. Luther himself, when a young student,
would have considered, as he tells us, a bequest to churches or
convents a proper will to make. His father afterwards accepted his
son's doctrine of salvation without hesitation, and with the full
conviction that it was right. But remarks of his such as we have
quoted, were consistent with a perfectly blameless demeanour in
regard to the forms of conduct and belief as prescribed by the Church,
with an avoidance of criticism and argument on ecclesiastical matters,
which he knew were not his vocation, and above all with a complete
abstention from such talk in the presence of his children. As to what
concerns further the positive religious influence which he exercised
over his children, any such impressions as he might have given by what
he said of the Count of Mansfeld, were fully counterbalanced by the
severity and firmness of his paternal discipline.

Concurrent with the doctrine of salvation through the intercession
of the saints and the Church, and one's own good works, which Luther
had been taught from his youth, were the dark popular ideas of the
power of the devil--ideas, which, though not actually invented, were
at least patronised by the Church, and which not only threaten the
souls of men, but cast a baneful spell over all their natural life.
Luther, as is well known, has frequently expressed his own opinions
about the devil, in connection with the enchantments supposed to be
practised by the Evil One on mankind, and, more especially, on the
subject of witchcraft. Of one thing he was certain, that in God's
hand we are safe from the Evil One, and can triumph over him. But
even he believed the devil's work was manifested in sudden accidents
and striking phenomena of Nature, in storms, conflagrations, and the
like. As to the tales of sorcery and magic, which were told and
believed in by the people, some he declared to be incredible, others
he ascribed to the hallucinations effected by the devil. But that
witches had power to do one bodily harm, that they plagued children
in particular, and that their spells could affect the soul, he never
seriously doubted.

From his earliest childhood, and especially at home, ideas of that
kind had been instilled into Luther, and accordingly they ministered
strong food to his imagination. They had just then spread to a
remarkable extent among the Germans, and had developed in remarkable
ways. They had affected the administration of ecclesiastical and
civil law, they had given rise to the Inquisition and the most
barbarous cruelties in the punishment of those who were pretended to
be in league with the devil, and they had gradually multiplied their
baneful effects. The year after Luther's birth, appeared the
remarkable Papal bull which sanctioned the trial of witches. When a
boy, Luther heard a great deal about witches, though later in life
he thought there was no longer so much talk about them, and he would
not scruple to tell stories of how they harmed men and cattle, and
brought down storms and hail. Nay, of his own mother he believed
that she had suffered much from the witcheries of a female
neighbour, who, as he said, 'plagued her children till they nearly
screamed themselves to death.' Delusions such as these are certainly
dark shadows in the picture of Luther's youth, and are important
towards understanding his inner life as a man.

But while admitting the existence of these superstitious and
pseudo-religious notions, we must not imagine that they composed the
whole portraiture of Luther's early life. He was, as Mathesius
describes him, a merry, jovial young fellow. In his later reflections
on himself and his youthful days, the very war he was waging against
the false teachings of the Church, from which he himself had
suffered, made him dwell, as was natural, on this side of his early
life. But amidst all those trials and depressing influences, the
fresh and elastic vigour of his nature stood the strain--a vigour
innate and inherited, and which afterwards shone forth in a new and
brighter light, under a new aspect of religious life. His childlike
joy in Nature around him, which afterwards distinguished so
remarkably the theologian and champion of the faith, must be
referred back to his original bent of mind and his life, when a boy,
amid Nature's surroundings.

How much he lived, from childhood, with the peasantry, is shown by
the natural ease with which he spoke in the popular dialect, even
when he was learning Latin and enjoying a higher culture, and by the
frequency with which the native roughnesses of that dialect broke
out in his learned discourses or sermons. In no other theologian,
nay, in no other known German writer of his century, do we meet with
so many popular proverbs as in Luther, to whom they came naturally
in his conversations and letters. German legends also, and popular
tales, such as the history of Dietrich von Bern and other heroes, or
of Eulenspiegel or Markolf, would hardly have been remembered so
accurately by him in later years, if he had not familiarised himself
with them in childhood. He would at times inveigh against the
worthless, and even shameless tales and 'gossip,' as he called it,
which such books contained, and especially against the priests who
used to spice their sermons with such stories; but that he also
recognised their value we know from his allusion to 'some people,
who had written songs about Dietrich and other giants, and in so
doing had expounded much greater subjects in a short and simple
manner.' The pleasure with which he himself may have read or
listened to them, can be gathered from his remark that 'when a story
of Dietrich von Bern is told, one is bound to remember it
afterwards, even though one has only heard it once.'

He maintained through life a faithful devotion to the places where he
had grown up. Eisenach remained, as we have already seen, his beloved
town. Mansfeld was particularly dear to him as his home, and the whole
county as his 'fatherland;' he calls it with pride a 'noble and famous
county.' The miners also, who were his fellow-countrymen and his dear
father's work-mates, he loved all his life long. But a wider horizon
was not opened to him among the people of the little town of Mansfeld,
or where he afterwards went to school. To this fact, and to his quiet
life as a monk, we must ascribe the peculiar feature of his later
activity, namely, that while prosecuting with far-seeing eye and a
warm heart the highest and most extensive tasks for his Church and
for the German people in general, still, at the beginning of his work
and campaign, he understood but little of the great world outside,
and of politics, or even of the general state of Germany; nay, he
shows at times a touchingly childlike simplicity in these matters.

The last few years of his school-life enabled him to make brave
progress on the road to intellectual culture, which his father
wished him to pursue. Thus equipped, he was prepared at the age of
eighteen, to remove, in the summer of 1501 to the university at



Among the German universities, that of Erfurt, which could count
already a hundred years of prosperous existence, occupied at this
time a brilliant position. So high, Luther tells us, was its
standing and reputation, that all its sister institutions were
regarded as mere pigmies by its side. His parents could now afford
to give him the necessary means for studying at such a place. 'My
dear father,' he says, 'maintained me there with loyal affection,
and by his labour and the sweat of his brow enabled me to go there.'
He had now begun to feel a burning thirst for learning, and here, at
the 'fountain of all knowledge,' to use Melancthon's words, he hoped
to be able to quench it.

He began with a complete course of philosophy, as that science was
then understood. It dealt, in the first place, with the laws and
forms of thought and knowledge, with language, in which Latin formed
the basis, or with grammar and rhetoric, as also with the highest
problems and most abstruse questions of physics, and comprised even
a general knowledge of natural science and astronomy. A complete
study of all these subjects was not merely requisite for learned
theologians, but frequently served as an introduction to that of
law, and even of medicine.

When Luther first came from Eisenach to Erfurt, there was nothing
yet about him that attracted the attention of others so far as to
call forth any contemporary account of him. Enough, however, is
known of the most eminent teachers there, at whose feet he sat, and
also of the general kind of intellectual food which they
administered. He gained entrance into a circle of older and younger
men than himself, teachers and fellow-students, who in later years,
either as friends or opponents, were able to bear witness,
favourably or the reverse, as to his life and work at Erfurt.

The leading professor of philosophy at Erfurt was then Jodocus
Trutvetter, who, three years after Luther's arrival, became also
doctor of theology and lecturer of the theological faculty. Next to
him, in this department, ranked Bartholomew Arnoldi of Usingen. It
was to these two men above others, and particularly to the former,
that Luther looked for his instruction.

The philosophy which was then in vogue at Erfurt, and which found its
most vigorous champion in Trutvetter, was that of the Scholasticism of
later days. It is common to associate with the idea of Scholasticism,
or the theological and philosophical School-science of the middle
ages, a system of thought and instruction, embracing, indeed, the
highest questions of knowledge and existence, but at the same time
not venturing to strike into any independent paths, or to deviate an
inch from tradition, but submitting rather, in everything connected,
or supposed to be connected, with religious belief, to the dogmas and
decrees of the Church and the authority of the early Fathers, and
wasting the understanding and intellect in dry formalism or subtle
but barren controversies. This conception fails to appreciate the
vast labour of thought bestowed by leading minds on the attempt to
unravel the mass of ecclesiastical teaching which had twined round
the innermost lives of themselves and their fellow-Christians, and
at the same time to follow those general questions under the guidance
of the old philosophers, especially Aristotle, of whom they knew but
little. But it is applicable, at any rate, to the Scholasticism of
later days. The confidence with which its older exponents had thought
to explain and establish orthodoxy by means of their favourite science,
was gone; all the more, therefore, should that science keep silence in
face of the commands of the Church. Men, moreover, had grown tired of
the old questions of philosophy about the reality and real existence
of Universals. It had been formerly a question of dispute whether our
general ideas had a real existence, or whether they were nothing
more than words or names, mere abstractions, comprehending the
individual, which alone was supposed to possess Reality. At that
time the latter doctrine, that of Nominalism, as it was called,
prevailed. At length, these new or 'modern' philosophers abandoned
the question of Realism, and the relation of thought to Reality, in
favour of a system of pure logic or dialectics, dealing with the
mere forms and expressions of thought, the formal analysis of ideas
and words, the mutual relation of propositions and conclusions--in
short, all that constitutes what we call formal logic, in its widest
acceptation. At this point, the far-famed scholastic intellect, with
its subtleties, its fine distinctions, its nice questions, its
sophistical conclusions, reached its zenith.

To this logic Trutvetter also devoted himself, and in it he taught
his pupils. He had just then published a series of treatises on the
subject. To him this study was real earnest. Compared with others,
he has shown in these excursions a cautious and discreet moderation,
and no inclination for the quarrels and verbal combats often dear to
logicians. The same can be said of his colleague Usingen. Trutvetter
has shown also that he enjoyed and was widely read in earlier and
modern, especially, of course, in Scholastic literature, including
the works not only of the most important, but also of very obscure
authors. We can imagine what delight he took in all this when in his
professor's chair, and how much he expected from his pupils.

At Erfurt meanwhile, and by this same philosophical facility, a
fresh and vigorous impulse was being given to that study of
classical antiquity, which gave birth to a new learning, and ushered
in a new era of intellectual culture in Germany. We have already had
occasion to refer to the movement and influence of Humanism at the
schools which Luther attended at Magdeburg and Eisenach. He now
found himself at one of the chief nurseries of these 'arts and
letters' in Germany, nay, at the very place where their richest
blossoms were unfolded. Erfurt could boast of having issued the
first Greek book printed in Germany in Greek type, namely, a
grammar, printed in Luther's first year at the University. It was
the Greek and Latin poets, in particular, whose writings stirred the
enthusiasm and emulation of the students. For refined expression and
learned intercourse, the fluent and elegant Latin language was
studied, as given in the works of classical writers. But far more
important still was the free movement of thought, and the new world
of ideas thus opened up.

In proportion as these young disciples of antiquity learned to
despise the barbarous Latin and insipidity of the monkish and
scholastic education of the day, they began to revolt against
Scholasticism, against the dogmas of faith propounded by the Church,
and even against the religious opinions of Christendom in general.
History shows us the different paths taken, in this respect, by the
Humanists; and we shall come across them, in another way, during the
career of the Reformer, as having an important influence on the
course of the Reformation. With many, an honest striving after
religion and morality allied itself with the impulse for independent
intellectual culture, and tried to utilise it for improving the
condition of the Church. When the struggle of the Reformation began,
some followed Luther and the other religious teachers on his side,
some, shrinking back from his trenchant conclusions, and, above all,
concerned for their own stock-in-trade of learning, counselled
others to practise prudence and moderation, and themselves retired
to the service of their muses. Others again, broke away altogether
from the Christian faith and the principles of Christian morality.
They took delight in a new life of Heathenism, devoted sometimes to
sensual pleasures and gross immoralities, sometimes to the
indulgence of refined tastes and the enjoyment of art. These latter
never raised a weapon against the Church, but for the most part
accommodated themselves to her forms. In her teachings, her
ordinances, and her discipline, they saw something indispensable to
the multitude, as whose conscious superiors they behaved. Indeed,
they themselves wielded this government in the Church, and
comfortably enjoyed their authority and its fruits. In Italy, at
Rome, and on the Papal chair these despotic pretensions were then
asserted without shame or reserve. In Germany, on the other hand,
the leading champions of the new learning, even when in open arms
against the barbarism of the monks and clergy, sought, for
themselves and their disciples, to remain faithful on the ground of
their Mother Church. At Erfurt, in particular, the relations between
them and the representatives of Scholasticism were peaceful,
unconstrained, and friendly. The dry writings of a Trutvetter they
prefaced with panegyrics in Latin verse, and the Trutvetter would
try to imitate their purer style.

Some talented young students of the classics at Erfurt formed
themselves into a small coterie of their own. They enjoyed the
cheerful pleasures of youthful society, nor were poetry and wine
wanting, but the rules of decorum and good manners were not
overlooked. Several men, whom we shall come across afterwards in the
history of Luther, belonged to this circle;--for instance, John
Jager, known as Crotus Eubianus, the friend of Ulrich Hutten, and
George Spalatin (properly Burkhard), the trusted fellow-labourer of
the Reformer. Both had already been three years at the university
when Luther entered it. Three years after his arrival, came Eoban
Hess, the most brilliant, talented, and amiable of the young
Humanists and poets of Germany.

Such was the learned company to which Luther was introduced in the
philosophical faculty at Erfurt. So far, different avenues of
intellectual culture were opened to him. He threw himself into the
study of that philosophy in all its bearings, and, not content with
exploring the tangled and thorny paths of logic, took counsel how to
enjoy, as far as possible, the fruits of the newly-revived knowledge
of antiquity.

As regards the latter, he carried the study of Ovid, Virgil, and
Cicero, in particular, farther than was customary with the professed
students of Humanism, and the same with the poetical works of more
modern Latin writers. But his chief aim was not so much to master
the mere language of the classical authors, or to mould himself
according to their form, as to cull from their pages rich
apophthegms of human wisdom, and pictures of human life and of the
history of peoples. He learned to express pregnant and powerful
thoughts clearly and vigorously in learned Latin, but he was himself
well aware how much his language was wanting in the elegance,
refinement, and charm of the new school; indeed, this elegance he
never attempted to attain.

With the members of this circle of young Humanists, Luther was on
terms of personal friendship. Crotus was able to remind him in after
life how, in close intimacy, they had studied the fine arts together
at the university. But there is no mention of him in the numerous
letters and poems left to posterity by the aspiring Humanists at
Erfurt. He had made himself, Crotus adds, a name among his
companions as the 'learned philosopher' and the 'musician,' but he
never belonged to the 'poets,' which was the favourite title of the
young Humanists. Many, including even Melancthon, have lamented that
he was not more deeply imbued with the spirit of those 'noble arts
and letters,' which educate the mind, and would have tended to
soften his rugged nature and manner. But they would have been of
little value to him for the quick decision and energy required for
the war he had afterwards to wage. Those intellectual treasures and
enjoyments kept aloof not only from such contests, but also from
sharp and searching investigations of the highest questions of
religion and morality, and from the inward struggle, so often
painful, which they bring. As regards the merits of Humanism, which
Luther again, as a Reformer, eagerly acknowledged, we must not
forget how selfishly it withdrew itself from contact and communion
with German popular life, nor how it helped to create an exclusive
aristocracy of intellect, and allowed the noblest talents to become
as clumsy in their own natural mother-tongue, as they were clever in
the handling of foreign, acquired forms of art. Luther, in not
yielding further to those influences, remained a German.

Philosophy, then, engrossed him, and allowed him but little time for
other things. And in studying this, he sought to grapple with the
highest problems of the human understanding. These problems occupied
also the labours of the later Scholastics, however faulty were the
forms in which they clothed their ideas. At the same time, these
very forms attracted him, from the scope they gave to the exercise
of his natural acuteness and understanding. Disputation was his
great delight; and argumentative contests were then in fashion at
the universities. But in after years, as soon as the contents of the
Bible were opened to his inner understanding, and he recognised in
its pages the object of real theological knowledge, he regretted the
time and labour which he had wasted on those studies, and even spoke
of them with disgust.

Crotus has already told us of the sociable life that Luther led with his
friends. The love for music, which he had shown in school-days, he
continued to keep up, and indulged in it merrily with his fellow-students.
He had a high-pitched voice, not strong, but audible at a distance.
Besides singing, he learned also to play the lute, and this without a
master, and he employed his time in this way when laid up once by an
accident to his leg.

Such rapid progress did he make in his philosophical studies, that
in his third term he was able to attain his baccalaureate, the first
academical degree of the theological faculty. This degree, according
to the general custom of the universities, preceded that of Master,
corresponding to the present Doctor, of philosophy. The examination
for it, which Luther passed on Michaelmas day 1502, professed to
include the most important subjects in the province of philosophy.
But it could not have been very severe. The chief work came when he
took his next degree as Master, which was at the beginning of 1505.
He then experienced what afterwards, speaking of Erfurt's former
glory, he thus describes: 'What a moment of majesty and splendour
was that, when one took the degree of Master, and torches were
carried before, and honour was paid one. I consider that no temporal
or worldly joy can equal it.' Melancthon tells us, on the authority
of several of Luther's fellow-students, that his talent was then the
wonder of the whole university.

In accordance with the wish of his father and the advice of his
relations, he was now to fit himself for a lawyer. In this
profession, they thought, he would be able to turn his talents to
the best account, and make a name in the world. And in this
department also, the university of Erfurt could boast of one of the
most distinguished men of learning of that time, Henning Goede, who
was now in the prime of his vigour. Luther, accordingly, began to
attend the lectures on law, and his father allowed him to buy some
valuable books for that purpose, particularly a 'Corpus Juris.'

Meanwhile, however, in his inner religious life a change was being
prepared, which proved the turning-point of his career.

Luther himself, as we have seen, frequently pointed out in after
life the influences which, even from childhood, under the discipline
of home, the experiences of school, and the teaching of the Church,
combined to bring about this result. He could never shake off for
any length of time, even when in the midst of learned study or the
enjoyment of student life, the consciousness that he must be pious
and satisfy all the strict commands of God, that he must make good
all the shortcomings of his life, and reconcile himself with Heaven,
and that an angry Judge was throned above who threatened him with
damnation. Inner voices of this kind, in a man of sensitive and
tender conscience, were bound to assert themselves the more loudly
and earnestly, as, in his progress from youth to manhood, he
realised more fully his personal responsibility to God, and also his
personal independence. To religious observances, in which he had
been trained from childhood, Luther, as a student, remained
faithful. Regularly he began his day with prayer, and as regularly
attended mass. But of any new or comforting means of access to God
and salvation, he heard nothing, even here. In the town of Erfurt
there was an earnest and powerful preacher, named Sebastian
Weinmann, who denounced in incisive language the prevalent vices of
the day, and exposed the corruption of ecclesiastical life, and whom
the students thronged to hear. But even he had nothing to offer to
satisfy Luther's inward cravings of the soul. It was an episode in
his life when he once found a Latin Bible in the library of the
university. Though then nearly twenty years of age, he had never yet
seen a Bible. Now for the first time he saw how much more it
contained than was ever read out and explained in the churches. With
delight he perused the story of Samuel and his mother, on the first
pages that met his eye; though, as yet, he could make nothing more
out of the Sacred Book. It was not on account of any particular
offences, such as youthful excesses, that Luther feared the wrath of
God. Staunch Catholics at Erfurt, including even later avowed
enemies of the Reformer, who knew him there as a student, have never
hinted at anything of that sort against him. 'The more we wash our
hands, the fouler they become,' was a favourite saying of Luther's.
He referred, no doubt, to the numerous faults in thought, word, and
deed, which, in spite of human carefulness, every day brings, and
which, however insignificant they might seem to others, his
conscience told him were sins against God's holy law. Disquieting
questions, moreover, now arose in his mind, so sorely troubled with
temptation; and his subtle and penetrating intellect, so far from
being able to solve them, only plunged him deeper in distress. Was
it then really God's own will, he asked himself, that he should
become actually purged from sin and thereby be saved? Was not the
way to hell or the way to heaven already fixed for him immutably in
God's will and decree, by which everything is determined and
preordained? And did not the very futility of his own endeavours
hitherto prove that it was the former fate that hung over him? He
was in danger of going utterly astray in his conception of such a
God. Expressions in the Bible such as those which speak of serving
Him with fear became to him intolerable and hateful. He was seized
at times with fits of despair such as might have tempted him to
blaspheme God. It was this that he afterwards referred to as the
greatest temptation he had experienced when young.

His physical condition probably contributed to this gloomy frame of
mind. Already during his baccalaureate we hear of an illness of his,
which awakened in him thoughts of death. A friend, represented by
later tradition as an aged priest, said to him on his sick bed,
'Take courage; God will yet make you the means of comfort to many
others;' and these words impressed him strongly even then. An
accident also, which threatened to be fatal, must have tended to
alarm him. As he was travelling home at Easter, and was within an
hour's distance of Erfurt, he accidentally injured the main artery
of his leg with the rapier which, like other students, he carried at
his side. Whilst a friend who was with him had gone for a doctor,
and he was left alone, he pressed the wound tightly as he lay on his
back, but the leg continued to swell. In the anguish of death he
called upon the Virgin to help him. That night his terror was
renewed when the wound broke open afresh, and again he invoked the
Mother of God. It was during his convalescence after this accident
that he resolved upon learning to play the lute.

He was terribly distressed also, a few months after he had taken his
degree as Master, by the sudden death of one of his friends, not
further known to us, who was either assassinated or snatched away by
some other fatality.

Well might the thought even then have occurred to him, while so
disturbed in his mind and overpowered by feelings of sadness,
whether it would not be better to seek his cure in the monastic
holiness recommended by the Church, and to renounce altogether the
world and all the success he had hitherto aspired to. The young
Master of Arts, as he tells us himself in later years, was indeed a
sorrowful man.

Suddenly and offhand he was hurried into a most momentous decision.
Towards the end of June 1505, when several Church festivals fall
together, he paid a visit to his home at Mansfeld, in quest, very
possibly, of rest and comfort to his mind. Returning on July 2, the
feast of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary, he was already near
Erfurt, when, at the village of Stotternheim a terrific storm broke
over his head. A fearful flash of lightning darted from heaven
before his eyes. Trembling with fear, he fell to the earth, and
exclaimed, 'Help, Anna, beloved Saint! I will be a monk.' A few days
after, when quietly settled again at Erfurt, he repented having used
these words. But he felt that he had taken a vow, and that, on the
strength of that vow, he had obtained a hearing. The time, he knew,
was past for doubt or indecision. Nor did he think it necessary to
get his father's consent; his own conviction and the teaching of the
Church told him that no objection on the part of his father could
release him from his vow. Thus he severed himself at once from his
former life and companions. On July 16 he called his best friends
together to bid them leave. Once more they tried to keep him back;
he answered them, 'To-day you see me, and never again.' The next
day, that of St. Alexius, they accompanied him with tears to the
gates of the Augustinian convent in the town, which he thought was
to receive him for ever.

It is chiefly from what Luther himself has told us that we are
enabled to picture to ourselves this remarkable occurrence. Rumour,
and rumour only, has given the name of Alexius to that unknown
friend whose death so terrified him, and has represented this friend
as having been struck dead by lightning at his side.

The Luther of later days declared that his monastic vow was a
compulsory one, forced from him by terror and the fear of death.
But, at the same time, he never doubted that it was God who urged
him. Thus he said afterwards, 'I never thought to leave again the
convent. I was entirely dead to the world, until God thought that
the time had come.'





Luther's resolve to follow a monastic life was arrived at suddenly,
as we have seen. But he weighed that resolve well in his mind, and
just as carefully considered the choice of the convent which he

The Augustinian monks, whose society he announced his intention to join,
belonged at that time to the most important monastic order in Germany.
So much had already been said with justice, in the way of complaint and
ridicule, of the depravation of monastic life, its idleness, hypocrisy,
and gross immorality, that many of them fancied that the solemn
renunciation of marriage and the world's goods, and the absolute
submission of their wills to the commands of their superiors and the
regulations of their Order, constituted true service to God, and raised
them to a peculiar position of holiness and merit. Outward discipline,
at all events, was universally insisted on. Among the German institutions
of this Order, whilst neglect and depravity had crept in elsewhere, a
large number had, for some time past, distinguished themselves by a
strict adherence to their old statutes, originating, it was supposed,
from their founder St. Augustine, but relating, at the best, to mere
matters of form. These institutions formed themselves into an
association, presided over by a Vicar of the Order, as he was called,
a Vicar-General for Germany. To this association belonged the convent
at Erfurt. Its inmates were treated with marked favour and respect by
the higher and educated classes in the town. They were said to be
active in preaching and in the care of souls, and to cultivate among
themselves the study of theology. Arnoldi, Luther's teacher,
belonged to this convent. As the Order possessed no property, but
all its members lived on alms, the monks went about the town and
country to collect gifts of money, bread, cheese, and other

According to the rules of the Order, applications for admission were
not granted at once, but time was taken to see whether the applicant
was in earnest. After that he was received as a novice for at least
a year of probation. Until that year expired he was at liberty to
reconsider his wish.

Luther, before taking this final step, thought of his parents, with
a view to lay before them his resolve. The monastic brethren,
however, endeavoured to dissuade him, by reminding him how one must
leave father and mother for Christ and His Cross, and how no one who
has put his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom
of God. Upon his writing to his father on the subject, the latter,
strong in the conviction of his paternal rights, flew into a passion
with his son. 'My father,' says Luther later, 'was near going mad
about it; he was ill satisfied, and would not allow it. He sent me
an answer in writing, addressing me in terms that showed his
displeasure, and renouncing all further affection. Soon after he
lost two of his sons by the plague. This epidemic had likewise
broken out so violently at Erfurt, that about harvesttime whole
crowds of students fled with their teachers from the town, and
Luther's father received news that his son Martin had also fallen a
victim. His friends then urged him that, if the report proved false,
he ought at least to devote his dearest to God, by letting this son
who still remained to him, enter the blessed Order of God's
servants. At last the father let himself be talked over; but he
yielded, as Luther informs us, with a sad and reluctant heart.

The young novice was welcomed among his brethren with hymns of joy,
and prayers, and other ceremonies. He was soon clothed in the garb
of his Order. Over a white woollen shirt he was made to wear a frock
and cowl of black cloth, with a black leathern girdle. Whenever he
put these on or off a Latin prayer was repeated to him aloud, that
the Lord might put off the old and put on the new man, fashioned
according to God. Above the cowl he received a scapulary, as it was
called--in other words, a narrow strip of cloth hanging over
shoulders, breast, and back, and reaching down to his feet. This was
meant to signify that he took upon him the yoke of Him who said, 'My
yoke is easy, and my burden is light.' At the same time, he was
handed over to a superior, appointed to take charge of the novices,
to introduce them to the practices of monastic devotion, to
superintend their conduct, and to watch over their souls.

Above all, it was held important that the monks should be taught to
subdue their own wills. They had to learn to endure, without
opposition, whatever was imposed upon them, and that, indeed, all
the more cheerfully, the more distasteful it appeared. Any tendency
to pride was overcome by enjoining immediately the most menial
offices on the offender. Friends of Luther tell us how, during his
first period of probation in particular, he had to perform the
meanest daily labour with brush and broom, and how his jealous
brethren took particular pleasure in seeing the proud young graduate
of yesterday trudge through the streets, with his beggar's wallet on
his back, by the side of another monk more accustomed to the work.
At first, we are told, the university interceded on his behalf as a
member of their own body, and obtained for him at least some
relaxation from his menial duties. From Luther's own lips, in after
life, we hear not a word of complaint about any special vexations
and burdens. As far as was possible, he did not allow them to daunt
him; nay, he longed for even severer exercises, to enable him to win
the favour of God. Even as a Reformer he remembered with gratitude
the 'Pedagogue,' or superintendent of his noviciate; he was a fine
old man, he tells us, a true Christian under that execrable cowl.

The novice found each day, as it went by, fully occupied with the
repetition of set prayers and the performance of other acts of
devotion. For the day and night together there were seven or eight
appointed hours of prayer, or _Horae_. During each of these the
brethren who were not yet priests had to say twenty-five
Paternosters with the Ave Maria, more ample formulas of prayer being
prescribed meanwhile to the priests. Luther was also introduced
already then to certain theological studies, which were under the
supervision of two learned fathers of the monastery. But what was of
the most importance for him was that a Bible--the Latin translation
then in general use in the Church--was put into his hands. Just
about this time, a new code of statutes had come in force for these
Augustinian convents, drawn up by Staupitz, the Vicar of the Order,
which enjoined, as matters of duty, assiduous reading, devout
attention to the Hours, and a zealous study of Holy Writ. Teachers
were wanting to Luther, and he found it very difficult to understand
all he read. But with genuine appetite he read himself, so to speak,
into his Bible, and clung to it ever afterwards.

At the end of his year of probation followed his solemn admission to
the Order. Faithfully 'unto death' did Luther then promise to live
according to the rules of the holy father Augustine, and to render
obedience to Almighty God, to the Virgin Mary, and to the prior of
the monastery. Before doing so, he put on anew the dress of his
Order, which had been consecrated with holy water and incense. The
prior received his vows and sprinkled holy water upon him as he
prostrated himself upon the ground in the form of a cross. When the
ceremony was over, his brethren congratulated him on being now like
an innocent child fresh from the baptism. He was then given a cell
of his own, with table, bedstead, and chair. It looked out upon the
cloistered yard of the monastery. It was destroyed by a fire on
March 7, 1872.

[Illustration: Fig. 4.--LUTHER'S CELL AT ERFURT.]

Luther now, by an inviolable promise, had bound himself to that
vocation through which he aspired to gain heaven. The means whereby
he hoped to realise his aspiration were abundantly provided for him
in his new home. If he sought the favour of the Virgin and of other
saints who should intercede for him before the judgment-seat of God
and Christ, he found at once in his Order a fervent worship of the
Virgin in particular, and all possible directions for her service.
The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which Pius IX., in our
own days, first ventured to raise into a dogma of the Church, was
zealously defended by the Augustinians, and firmly maintained by
Luther himself, even after the beginning of his war of Reformation.
John Palz, one of his two theological teachers in the convent, wrote
profusely in honour of this doctrine, and described all Christians
as its spiritual children. Under its mantle, says Luther, he had to
creep into the presence of Christ. From the multitude of other
saints Luther selected a number as his constant helpers in need. We
notice particularly that among these, in addition to St. Anne and
St. George, was the Apostle Thomas; from him who himself had once
betrayed such cowardice and want of faith he might well hope for
peculiar sympathy. We have already mentioned the set prayers which
filled up a great portion of the day. He was required above all
things to learn and repeat them accurately, word by word.
Afterwards, as he tells us, the _Horae_ were read aloud after
the manner of magpies, jackdaws, or parrots.

If he wished in penitence to be freed from the sins which had
tormented him so long, and were a daily burden on his conscience,
the means of confession provided by the Church were always ready for
him in the convent. Once a week, at the least, every brother had to
attend the private confessional. All his sins, without exception,
had then to be revealed, if he wished to obtain for them
forgiveness. Luther endeavoured to unbosom to his father-confessor
all he had done from his youth up; but this was too much even for
the priest. It was by means of a complete inward contrition,
corresponding to the infinite burden of sin, that the person
confessing was to make himself worthy of the forgiveness which the
priest then testified to him by absolution. According to the
prevailing doctrine, however, what was wanting to the penitent in
completeness of contrition, was supplied by the Sacrament of
Absolution. But the punishments reserved by God for sinners were not
supposed to be ended by this absolution or forgiveness; these had to
be atoned for by peculiar observances, imposed by the priest, and by
prayer, alms, fasting, and other acts of mortification. For him who
was not forgiven, remained hell; for him who had not expiated his
sins, at least the fear and pains of purgatory. Such was and still
is the teaching of the Catholic Church.

Thus Luther was now summoned and directed to pursue methodically the
painful work of self-examination, which had oppressed him even
before he entered the convent, and to use all the means of grace
here offered to him. But the more he searched into his life and
thoughts, the more transgressions of God's will he found, and the
more grievously did they afflict his conscience. It was not, indeed,
as might have been imagined with a strong young man like himself, a
question of any sensual appetites, stimulated all the more by the
restraints of the convent. It was with the passions of anger,
hatred, and envy against his brethren and fellow-creatures, that he
had to reproach himself. Those who disliked him accused him in
particular of self-conceit, and of letting his temper break out too
easily. Faults of that description, in thought, word, or deed, were
to his own conscience as deadly sins, though to the priest who
listened to him at confession, they seemed too trifling to call for
enumeration. To these were added a number of smaller offences
against the ordinances of the Church and the convent, with reference
to outward observances and forms of worship, prayers, and so on, all
of which, insignificant as they must seem to us, the Church was
accustomed to treat as grievous sins. Finally, there arose in his
mind a constant restlessness, which made him look for sins where
none in reality existed. What he had said once before about washing
one's hands, that it only made them become fouler, he had now to
experience for himself. His contrition made him feel pain and fear
in abundance, but not so as to enable him to say to himself that it
purged the evil in the sight of God. Absolution was pronounced over
him again and again, but who ever gave him any assurance that he had
fulfilled its conditions, and therefore could really confide in its
efficacy? As for acts of penance, he willingly performed them, and,
indeed, did far more in the way of prayer, fasting, and vigil than
either the rules of the convent demanded or his father-confessor
enjoined. His body, from his hardy training as a child, was well
prepared for such austerities, but in spite of that, he had for a
long while to suffer from their results. Luther, in later years,
could well bear witness of himself that he had caused his own body
far more pain and torture with those practices of penance than all
his enemies and persecutors had caused to theirs.

What leisure remained, after his other monastic duties were over, he
devoted most industriously to the study of theology. He read, in
particular, the writings of the later Scholastic theologians, with
whom he had partly occupied himself during his philosophical course.
Of some of these, such as the Englishman Occam, in particular, whose
acuteness of reasoning he especially admired, there were writings
which, in reference to questions of external Church polity, might
have led him even then into paths of his own, if his mind had been
disposed for it. These writings were directed against the absolute
power of the Pope in the Church, and against his aggressions in the
territory of Empire and State. But any such aim was very far removed
from the monastic Order to which Luther had devoted himself, and
from the theologians who were here his teachers. Palz, whom we have
mentioned already, had especially distinguished himself by his
glorification of the Papal indulgences. Moreover, the whole Order,
and the German convents belonging to it in particular, were indebted
to the Pope for various acts of favour. Nor was Luther himself less
careful to hold firmly to the ordinances of the hierarchy, than to
avail himself of the means of salvation offered by the Church.

What at all times in his theological studies enlisted his warmest
personal interest was the difficult question, how sinners could
obtain everlasting salvation. And all that he came to read on that
subject in the writings of those theologians, and to hear from his
learned teachers in the convent, served only to increase his
fruitless inward wrestlings, and his anxiety and sense of need. The
great father of the Church, from whom his Order was named, and to
whom their rules were ascribed, had once, on the ground of his own
experiences of the struggle with sin and the flesh, laid down with
great force, and in a triumphant controversy with his opponents, the
doctrine that, as the Apostle says, salvation depends not on the
conduct of man, but on the grace of God, not on the will of man, but
on the willingness of God to pardon, Who alone transforms the
sinner, and grants him the power and the will for good. But any
knowledge or understanding of this theology of Augustine was as
strange to his own Order as to the Scholastics. It was taught,
indeed, that heaven was too high for man to attain to otherwise than
by the grace of God. But it was also taught that the sinner, by his
own natural strength, both could and ought to do enough in God's
sight to earn that grace which would then help him further on the
way to heaven. He who had thus obtained that grace, it was said,
felt himself enabled and impelled to do even more than God's
commands require. Reference to the bitter passion and death of the
Saviour was not omitted, it is true, by the theologians with whom
Luther had to do, and frequently, as, for example, by his teacher
Palz, was impressed on Christian hearts in words full of feeling.
But the chief stress was laid, not on the redeeming love on which
man could rest his confident assurance, but on the necessity of
offering oneself to Him who had offered Himself for man, and of
submitting even to the pains of death, in imitation of Him, and to
pay the penalty of sin. In this way, again and again, Luther saw
before him claims on the part of God which he could never hope to
satisfy. His sorest trial was caused by the thought that God Himself
should have the will to let him fail after all his fruitless
efforts, and finally be numbered with the lost. And it was just with
the later Scholastics that he found, not indeed a theory according
to which God had simply predestined a part of mankind to perdition,
but a general conception of God which would represent Him as a Being
not so much of holy love, as of arbitrary, absolute will.

Luther spent two years in the convent amidst these strivings and
inward sufferings. His spiritual life, as it was called, of strict
discipline and asceticism was quoted in other convents as a model
for imitation. Now and then, indeed, he felt himself puffed up with
a sense of superior sanctity--'a proud saint,' as he afterwards
called himself. But humility was the ruling temper of his mind.
Frequently, in after life, he described his condition as a warning
to others. Thus he speaks of the disciples of the law, who try by
their own works, by constant labour, by wearing shirts of hair, by
self-scourging, by fasting, by every means, in short, to satisfy the
law. Such a one, he tells us, he himself had been. But he had also
learned by experience, he adds, what happens when a man is tempted,
and death or danger frightens him; how he despairs, nay, would fly
from God as from the devil, and would rather that there were no God
at all. So great became his inward sufferings, that he thought both
body and soul must succumb. Thus he tells us later on, when speaking
of the torments of purgatory, of a man, who doubtless was himself,
how he had often endured such agony, only momentary it is true, but
so hellish in its violence, that no tongue could express nor pen
describe it; that, had it lasted longer, even for half an hour, or
only five minutes, he must have died then and there, and his bones
have been consumed to ashes. He himself saw afterwards in these
pains, visitations of a special kind, such as God does not send to
everyone. But they served him then as a proof, and one of universal
application, that that school of the law, as he called it, would
bring no real holiness either to others or himself, but must teach a
man to despair of himself and of any claims or merits of his own.
And, indeed, as we know from all that had gone before, it was not
simply the external barrenness of the regulations of Church and
convent, or a sense of imperfect fulfilment on his part, that caused
his restlessness of conscience; what gave him the deepest anxiety
and harassed him the most were those very inward stirrings, which
revealed to him his opposition to God's eternal demands, the
fulfilment of which he thought indispensable for reconciliation to

His experiences at the convent led him to the perception of those
principles which formed the groundwork of his preaching as a
Reformer. From his exemplary conduct there, and his wonderful and
active conversion, he was compared to St. Paul. In quite another
sense he resembled the great Apostle. The latter, when a Pharisee,
had laboured to justify himself before God by the law and the
prophets. 'O wretched man that I am,' Luther there must have
exclaimed of himself, and afterwards looking back on his
experiences, have counted all as 'dung and loss' in order to be
justified rather by faith through the grace of God and the Saviour,
and to become free and holy.

Just as, meanwhile, inside the Catholic Church, the laws, dogmas,
and School theories relating to the means of salvation, were never
able to supplant entirely the thought of the simple testimony of the
Bible, and of the Church's own confession of God's forgiving love
and His redeeming and absolving grace, or to prevent simple, pious
Christians from seeking here a refuge in the inmost depths of their
hearts, so now, at this very convent of Erfurt, where Luther's
inward development in those theories and dogmas had reached so high
a pitch, he received also the first serious impressions in the other
direction. They found with him a difficult and gradual entrance,
from the energy and consistency with which he had taken up his
original standpoint. But with all the more energy, and with perfect
consistency, did he abandon that standpoint, when new light dawned
upon him from his new conception of the truth.

Luther's teacher at the convent, by whom we shall have to understand
the superintendent of the novices, had already made a deep
impression upon him, by reminding him of the words of the Apostles'
Creed about the forgiveness of sins, and representing to him, what
Luther had never ventured to apply to himself, that the Lord himself
had commanded us to hope. For this he referred him to a passage in
the writings of St. Bernard, where that fervent preacher, imbued
though he was in his theology with the Church notions of the middle
ages, insists on the importance of this very faith in God's
forgiveness, and appeals to the words of St. Paul that man is
justified by grace through faith. Remarks of this kind sank into
Luther's mind, and took root there, though their fruit only ripened
by degrees. Of his teacher Arnoldi, also, he spoke with admiration
and gratitude, for the comfort he had known how to impart to him.

But the one who at this time acquired by far the most potent,
wholesome, and lasting influence upon Luther, was the Vicar-General,
John von Staupitz. He was a remarkable man, of a noble and pious
disposition, and a refined and far-seeing mind. A master of the
forms of Scholastic theology, he was also deeply read in Scripture;
he made its teachings the special standard of his life, and was
careful to enjoin others to do the same. He strove after an inward,
practical life in God, not confined to mere forms and observances.
Sharp conflicts and controversies were not to his taste; but mildly
and discreetly he sought to plant, in his own field of work, and to
leave what he had planted in God's name to grow up.

[Illustration: FIG. 5.--STAUPITZ. (From the Portrait in St. Peter's
Convent at Salzburg.)]

It was during his visits to Erfurt that Staupitz came in contact
with the gifted, thoughtful, and melancholy young monk. He treated
Luther, both in conversation and letter, with fatherly confidence,
and Luther unlocked to him, as to a father, his heart and its cares.
Upon his wishing to confess to him all his many small sins, Staupitz
insisted first on distinguishing between what were really sins, and
what were not; as for self-imagined sins, or such a patchwork of
offences as Luther laid before him, he would not listen to them;
that was not the kind of seriousness, he would say, that God wished
to have. Luther tormented himself with a system of penance,
consisting of actual pain, punishments, and expiations. Staupitz
taught him that repentance, in the Scriptural meaning, was an inward
change and conversion, which must proceed from the love of holiness
and of God; and that, for peace with God, he must not look to his
own good resolutions to lead a better life, which he had not the
strength to carry out, or to his own acts, which could never satisfy
the law of God, but must trust with patience to God's forgiving
mercy, and learn to see in Christ, whom God permitted to suffer for
the sins of man, not the threatening Judge, but rather the loving
Saviour. To Christ above all he referred him, when Luther pondered
on the secret eternal will of God, and was near despair. God's
eternal purpose, he would say, shines clearly in the wounds of
Christ. Did his temptations not cease, he bade him see in them means
to draw him to the love of God. The thoughts of Staupitz turned in
this on the temptations to pride, which might themselves be the
means of curing that pride, and on the great things for which God
wished to prepare him. In a simple, practical manner, and from the
experiences of his own life, he would thus counsel and converse with
Luther. During the long course of a confidential intercourse with
his friend, his own theology in later years became visibly
developed, and his pupil of earlier days became afterwards his
teacher. But Luther, both then and throughout his life, spoke of him
with grateful affection as his spiritual father, and thanked God
that he had been helped out of his temptations by Dr. Staupitz,
without whom he would have been swallowed up in them and perished.

The first firm ground, however, for his convictions and his inner
life, and the foundation for all his later teachings and works, was
found by Luther in his own persevering study of Holy Writ. In this
also he was encouraged by Staupitz, who must, however, have been
amazed at his indefatigable industry and zeal. For the
interpretation of the Bible the means at his command were meagre in
the extreme. He himself explored in all cases to their very centre
the truths of Christian salvation and the highest questions of moral
and religious life. A single passage of importance would occupy his
thoughts for days. Significant words, which he was not able yet to
comprehend, remained fixed in his mind, and he carried them silently
about with him. Thus it was, for example, as he tells us, with the
text in Ezekiel, 'I will not the death of a sinner,' a passage which
engrossed his earnest thoughts.

It was the third and last year of his monastic life at Erfurt that
brought with it, as far as we see, the decisive turn for his inward
struggles and labours.

In his second year, on May 2, 1507, he received, by command of his
superiors, his solemn ordination as a priest. It was then for the
first time since his entry into the convent against his father's
will, that the latter saw him again. A convenient day was expressly
arranged for him, to enable him to take part personally at the
solemnity. He rode into Erfurt with a stately train of friends and
relations. But in his opinion of the step taken by his son he
remained unalterably firm. At the entertainment which was given in
the convent to the young priest, the latter tried to extort from him
a friendly remark upon the subject, by asking him why he seemed so
angry, when monastic life was such a high and holy thing. His father
replied in the presence of all the company, 'Learned brothers, have
you not read in Holy Writ, that a man must honour father and
mother?' And on being reminded how his son had been called, nay,
compelled to this new life by heaven, 'Would to God,' he answered,
'it were no spirit of the devil!' He let them understand that he was
there, eating and drinking, as a matter of duty, but that he would
much rather be away.

To Luther, however, the post of high dignity to which he was now
promoted brought new fear and anxiety. He had now to appear before God
as a priest; to have Christ's Body, the very Christ Himself, and God
actually present before him at the mass on the altar; to offer the
Body of Christ as a sacrifice to the living and eternal God. Added
to this, there were a multitude of forms to observe, any oversight
wherein was a sin. All this so overpowered him at his first mass,
that he could scarcely remain at the altar; he was well-nigh, as he
said afterwards, a dead man.

With these priestly functions he united an assiduous devotion to his
saints. By reading mass every morning, he invoked twenty-one
particular saints, whom he had chosen as his helpers, taking three
at a time, so as to include them all within the week.

As regards the most important problems of life, his study of the
Scriptures gradually revealed to him the light which determined his
future convictions. The path had already been pointed out to him by
the words of St. Paul quoted by St. Bernard. When looking back, at
the close of his life, on this his inward development, he tells us
how perplexed he had been by what St. Paul said of the
'righteousness of God' (Rom. i. 17). For a long time he troubled
himself about the expression, connecting it as he did, according to
the ruling theology of the day, with God's righteousness in His
punishment of sinners. Day and night he pondered over the meaning
and context of the Apostle's words. But at length, he adds, God in
His great mercy revealed to him that what St. Paul and the gospel
proclaimed was a righteousness given freely to us by the grace of
God, Who forgives those who have faith in His message of mercy, and
justifies them, and gives them eternal life. Therewith the gate of
heaven was opened to him, and thenceforth the whole remaining
purport of God's word became clearly revealed. Still it was only by
degrees, during the latter portion of his stay at Erfurt, and even
after that, that he arrived at this full perception of the truth.

After their ordination the monks received the title of fathers.
Luther was not as yet relieved of the duty of going out with a
brother in quest of alms. But he was soon employed in the more
important business of the Order, as, for instance, in transactions
with a high official of the Archbishop, in which he displayed great
zeal for the priesthood and for his Order.

With the Scholastic theology of his time, albeit even now in a path
marked out by himself, his keen understanding and happy memory had
enabled him to become thoroughly familiar. He was scarcely twenty-five
years old when Staupitz, occupied with making provision for the
newly-founded university of Wittenberg, recognised in him the right
man for a professorial chair.



Wittenberg was at that time the youngest of the German universities.
It was founded in 1502 by the Elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony,
a man pre-eminent among the German princes, not only from his
prudence and circumspection, but also from his faithful care for his
country, his genuine love for knowledge, and his deep religious
feeling. His country was not a rich one. Wittenberg itself was a
poor, badly-built town of about three thousand inhabitants. But the
Elector showed his wisdom above all by his right choice of men whom
he consulted in his work, and to whose hands he entrusted its
conduct. These, in their turn, were very careful to select talented
and trustworthy teachers for the institution, which was to depend
for its success on the attractions offered by pure learning, and not
those of outward show and a luxurious style of life among the
students. The supervision of theology was entrusted by Frederick to
Staupitz, whom personally he held in high esteem, and who, together
with the learned and versatile Martin Pollich of Melrichstadt, had
already been the most active in his service in promoting the
foundation of the university. Staupitz himself entered the
theological faculty as its first Dean. A constant or regular
application to his duties was rendered impossible by the
multifarious business of his Order, and the journeys it entailed.
But in his very capacity of Vicar-General, he strove to supply the
theological needs of the university, and, by the means of education
thus offered, to assist the members of his Order. Already before
this the Augustinian monks had had a settlement at Wittenberg,
though little is known about it. A handsome convent was built for
them in 1506. In a short time young inmates of this convent, and
afterwards more monks of the same Order who came from other parts,
entered the university as students and took academical degrees. The
patron saint of the University was, next to the Virgin Mary, St.
Augustine. Trutvetter of Erfurt became professor of theology at
Wittenberg in 1507. It was early in the winter of 1508-9, when
Staupitz, who had been re-elected for the second time, was still
dean of the theological faculty, that Luther was suddenly and
unexpectedly summoned thither. He had to obey not merely the advice
and wish of an affectionate friend, but the will of the principal of
his Order.

As hitherto he had simply graduated as a master in philosophy, and
had not qualified himself academically for a professor of theology,
Luther at first was only called on to lecture on those philosophical
subjects which, as we have seen, occupied his studies at Erfurt.
Theologians, it is true, had been entrusted with these duties, just
as, here at Wittenberg, the first dean of the philosophical faculty
was a theologian, and, in addition to that indeed, a member of the
Augustinian Order. But from the beginning, Luther was anxious to
exchange the province of philosophy for that of theology, meaning
thereby, as he expressed it, that theology which searched into the
very kernel of the nut, the heart of the wheat, the marrow of the
bones. So far, he was already confident of having found a sure
ground for his Christian faith, as well as for his inner life, and
having found it, of being able to begin teaching others. Indeed,
while busily engaged in his first lectures on philosophy, he was
preparing to qualify himself for his theological degrees. Here also
he had to begin with his baccalaureate, comprising in fact three
different steps in the theological faculty, each of which had to be
reached by an examination and disputation. The first step was that
of bachelor of biblical knowledge, which qualified him to lecture on
the Holy Scriptures. The second, or that of a _Sententiarius_,
was necessary for lecturing on the chief compendium of mediaeval
School-theology, the so-called Sentences of Peter Lombardus, the due
performance of which duly led to the attainment of the third step.
Above the baccalaureate, with its three grades, came the rank of
licentiate, which gave the right to teach the whole of theology, and
lastly the formal, solemn admission as doctor of theology. Already,
on March 9, 1509, Luther had attained his first step in the
baccalaureate. At the end of six months he was qualified, by the
statutes of the university, to reach the second step, and in the
course of the next six months he actually reached it.

But before gaining his new rights as a _Sententiarius_, he was
summoned back by the authorities of his Order to Erfurt. The reason
we do not know; we only know that he entered the theological faculty
there as professor, receiving, at the same time, the recognition of
the academical rank he had acquired at Wittenberg. At Erfurt he
remained about three terms, or eighteen months. After that he
returned to the university at Wittenberg. Trutvetter, towards the
end of 1510, had received a summons back to Erfurt from Wittenberg.
The void thus caused by his summons away may have had something to
do with Luther's return thither. At all events his position at
Wittenberg was now vastly different from that which he had
previously held. No theologian, his superior in years or fame, was
any longer above him.

Ere long, however, Luther received another commission from his
Order; a proof of the confidence reposed also in his zeal for the
Order, his practical understanding, and his energy. It was about a
matter in which, by Staupitz's desire, other Augustinian convents in
Germany were to enter into a union with the reformed convents and
the Vicar of the Order. As opposition had been raised, Luther in
1511, no doubt at the suggestion of Staupitz, was sent on this
matter to Rome, where the decision was to be given. The journey
thither and back may easily have taken six weeks or more. According
to rule and custom, two monks were always sent out together, and a
lay-brother was given them for service and company. They used to
make their way on foot. In Rome the brethren of the Order were
received by the Augustinian monastery of Maria del Popolo. Thus
Luther went forth to the great capital of the world, to the throne
of the Head of the Church. He remained there four weeks, discharging
his duties, and surrounded by all her monuments and relics of
ecclesiastical interest.

No definite account of the result of the business he had to
transact, has been handed down to us. We only learn that Staupitz,
the Vicar of the Order, was afterwards on friendly relations with
the convents which had opposed his scheme, and that he refrained
from urging any more unwelcome innovations. For us, however, the
most important parts of this journey are the general observations
and experiences which Luther made in Italy, and, above all, at the
Papal chair itself. He often refers to them later in his speeches
and writings, in the midst of his work and warfare, and he tells us
plainly how important to him afterwards was all that he there saw
and heard.

The devotion of a pilgrim inspired him as he arrived at the city
which he had long regarded with holy veneration. It had been his
wish, during his troubles and heart-searchings, to make one day a
regular and general confession in that city. When he came in sight
of her, he fell upon the earth, raised his hands, and exclaimed
'Hail to thee, holy Rome!' She was truly sanctified, he declared
afterwards, through the blessed martyrs, and their blood which had
flowed within her walls. But he added, with indignation at himself,
how he had run like a crazy saint on a pilgrimage through all the
churches and catacombs, and had believed what turned out to be a
mass of rank lies and impostures. He would gladly then have done
something for the welfare of his friends' souls by mass-reading and
acts of devotion in places of particular sanctity. He felt downright
sorry, he tells us, that his parents were still alive, as he might
have performed some special act to release them from the pains of

But in all this he found no real peace of mind: on the contrary, his
soul was stirred to the consciousness of another way of salvation
which had already begun to dawn upon him. Whilst climbing, on his
knees and in prayer, the sacred stairs which were said to have led
to the Judgment-hall of Pilate, and whither, to this day,
worshippers are invited by the promise of Papal absolutions, he
thought of the words of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans (i.
17), 'The just shall live by faith. As for any spiritual
enlightenment and consolation, he found none among the priests and
monks of Rome. He was struck indeed with the external administration
of business and the nice arrangement of legal matters at the Papal
see. But he was shocked by all that he observed of the moral and
religious life and doings at this centre of Christianity; the
immorality of the clergy, and particularly of the highest
dignitaries of the Church, who thought themselves highly virtuous if
they abstained from the very grossest offences; the wanton levity
with which the most sacred names and things were treated; the
frivolous unbelief, openly expressed among themselves by the
spiritual pastors and masters of the Church. He complains of the
priests scrambling through mass as if they were juggling; while he
was reading one mass, he found they had finished seven: one of them
once urged him to be quick by saying 'Get on, get on, and make haste
to send her Son home to our Lady.' He heard jokes even made about
the priests when consecrating the elements at mass, repeating in
Latin the words 'Bread thou art, and bread thou shalt remain: wine
thou art, and wine thou shalt remain.' He often remarked in later
years how they would apply in derision the term 'good Christian' to
those who were stupid enough to believe in Christian truth, and to
be scandalised by anything said to the contrary. No one, he
declared, would believe what villanies and shameful doings were then
in vogue, if they had not seen and heard them with their own eyes
and ears. But the truth of his testimony is confirmed by those very
men whose life and conduct so shocked and revolted him. He must have
been indignant, moreover, at the contemptuous tone in which the
'stupid Germans' or 'German beasts' were spoken of, as persons
entitled to no notice or respect at Rome.

He was astonished at the pomp and splendour which surrounded the
Pope when he appeared in public. He speaks, as an eye-witness, of
the processions, like those of a triumphing monarch. But the
horrible stories were then still fresh at Rome of the late Pope
Alexander and his children, the murder of his brother, the
poisoning, the incest, and other crimes. Of the then Pope, Julius
II., Luther heard nothing reported, except that he managed his
temporal affairs with energy and shrewdness, made war, collected
money, and contracted and dissolved, entered into and broke,
political alliances. At the time of Luther's visit, he was just
returning from a campaign in which he had conducted in person the
sanguinary siege of a town. Luther did not fail to observe that he
had established in the sacred city an excellent body of police, and
that he caused the streets to be kept clean, so that there was not
much pestilence about. But he looked upon him simply as a man of the
world, and afterwards fulminated against him as a strong man of

All these experiences at Rome did not, however, then avail to shake
Luther's faith in the authority of the hierarchy which had such
unworthy ministers; though, later on, when he was forced to attack
the Papacy itself, they made it easier for him to shape his judgment
and conclusions. 'I would not have missed seeing Rome,' he then
declared, 'for a hundred thousand florins, for I might then have
felt some apprehension that I had done injustice to the Pope. But as
we see, we speak.'

During his visit he also roamed about among the ruins of the ancient
capital of the world, and was astonished at the remains of bygone
worldly splendour. The works of the new art which Pope Julius was
then beginning to call into existence, did not appear to have
particularly engaged his attention. The Pope was then progressing
with the building of the new Church of St. Peter. The indulgence, of
which the proceeds were to enable the completion of this vast
undertaking, led afterwards to the struggle between the Augustinian
monk and the Papacy.



On his return to his Wittenberg convent, Luther was made sub-prior.
At the university he entered fully upon all the rights and duties of
a teacher of theology, having been made licentiate and doctor. Here
again it was Staupitz, his friend and spiritual superior, who urged
this step: Luther's own wish was to leave the university and devote
himself entirely to the office of his Order. The Elector Frederick,
who had been struck with Luther by hearing one of his sermons, took
this, the first opportunity, of showing him personal sympathy, by
offering to defray the expenses of his degree. Luther was reluctant
to accept this, and years after he was fond of showing his friends a
pear-tree in the courtyard of the convent, under which he discussed
the matter with Staupitz, who, however, insisted on his demand. He
must have felt the more sensibly the responsibility of his new task,
from his own personal strivings after new and true theological
light. It was a satisfaction to him afterwards, amidst the endless
and unexpected labours and contests which his vocation brought with
it, to reflect that he had undertaken it, not from choice, but so
entirely from obedience. 'Had I known what I now know,' he would
exclaim in his later trials and dangers, 'not ten horses would ever
have dragged me into it.'

After the necessary preliminaries and customary forms, he received
on October 4, 1512, the rights of a licentiate, and on the 18th and
19th was solemnly admitted to the degree of doctor. As licentiate he
promised to defend with all his power the truth of the gospel, and
he must have had this oath particularly in his mind when he
afterwards appealed to the fact of his having sworn on his beloved
Bible to preach it faithfully and in its purity. His oath as doctor,
which followed, bound him to abstain from doctrines condemned by the
Church and offensive to pious ears. Obedience to the Pope was not
required at Wittenberg, as it was at other universities.

Others, besides Staupitz, expected from the beginning something
original and remarkable from the new professor. Pollich, the first
great representative of Wittenberg in its early days, and who died
in the following year, said of him, 'This monk will revolutionise
the whole system of Scholastic teaching.' He seems, like others whom
we hear of afterwards, to have been especially struck with the depth
of Luther's eyes, and thought that they must reveal the working of a
wonderful mind.

A new theology, in fact, presented itself at once to Luther in the
subject which, as doctor, he chose and exclusively adhered to in his
lectures. This was the Bible, the very book of which the study was
so generally undervalued in School-theology, which so many doctors
of theology scarcely knew, and which was usually so hastily forsaken
for those Scholastic sentences and a corresponding exposition of
ecclesiastical dogmas.

Luther began with lectures upon the Psalms. It is his first work on
theology which has remained to posterity. We still possess a Latin
text of the Psalter furnished with running notes for his lectures (a
copy of it is given in these pages), and also his own manuscript of
those lectures themselves. In these also he states that his task was
imposed upon him by a distinct command: he frankly confessed that as
yet he was insufficiently acquainted with the Psalms; a comparison
of his notes and lectures shows further, how continually he was
engaged in prosecuting these studies. His explanations indeed fall
short of what is required at present, and even of what he himself
required later on. He still follows wholly the mediaeval practice of
thinking it necessary to find, throughout the words of the Psalmist,
pictorial allegories relating to Christ, His work of salvation, and
His people. But he was thus enabled to propound, while explaining
the Psalms, the fundamental principles of that doctrine of salvation
which for some years past had taken such hold on his inmost thoughts
and so engrossed his theological studies. And in addition to the
fruits of his researches in Scripture, especially in the writings of
St. Paul, we observe the use he made of the works of St. Augustine.
His acquaintance with the latter did not commence until years after
he had joined the Order, and had acquired independently an intimate
knowledge of the Bible. It was mainly through them that he was
enabled to comprehend the teaching of St. Paul, and to find how the
doctrine of Divine grace, which we have already alluded to, was
based on Pauline authority. Thus the founder of the Order became, as
it were, his first teacher among human theologians.

From his lectures on the Psalms Luther proceeded a few years later
to an exposition of those Epistles which were to him the main source
of his new belief in God's mercy and justice, namely, the Epistles
to the Romans and the Galatians.

In the convent also at Wittenberg, the direction of the theological
studies of the brethren was entrusted to Luther. His fellow-labourer
in this field was his friend John Lange, who had been with him also
in the convent at Erfurt. He was distinguished for a rare knowledge
of Greek, and was therefore a valuable help even to Luther, to whom
he was indebted in turn for a prolific advance in learning of
another kind. Closely allied with Luther also was Wenzeslaus Link,
the prior of the convent, who obtained his degree as doctor of the
theological faculty a year before him. These men were drawn together
by similarity of ideas, and by a strong and enduring personal
friendship; they had possibly been acquainted at the school at
Magdeburg. The new life and activity awakened at Wittenberg
attracted clever young monks more and more from a distance. The
convent, not yet quite finished, had scarcely room enough for them,
or means for their maintenance.

When in 1515 the associated convents had to choose at Gotha, on a
chapter-day, their new authorities, Luther was appointed, Staupitz
being still Vicar-General, the Provincial Vicar for Meissen and
Thuringia. He obtained by this office the superintendence of eleven
convents, to which in the next year he paid the customary
visitation. In person, by word of mouth, and equally by letters, we
see him labouring with self-sacrificing zeal for the spiritual
welfare of those committed to his care, for the correction of bad
monks, for the comfort of those oppressed with temptations, as also
for the temporal and domestic, and even the legal business of the
different convents.

In addition to his academical duties, he performed double service as
a preacher. In the first place he had to preach in his convent, as
he had already done at Erfurt. When the new convent at Wittenberg
was opened, the church was not yet ready; and in a small, poor,
tumbledown chapel close by, made up of wood and clay, he began to
preach the gospel and unfold the power of his eloquence. When,
shortly after, the town-priest of Wittenberg became weak and ailing,
his congregation pressed Luther to occupy the pulpit in his place.
He performed these different duties with alacrity, energy, and
power. He would preach sometimes daily for a week together,
sometimes even three times in one day; during Lent in 1517 he gave
two sermons every day in addition to his lectures at the university.
The zeal which he displayed in proclaiming the gospel to his hearers
in church, was quite as new and peculiar to himself as the lofty
interest he imparted to his professorial lectures on the Scriptures.

Melancthon says of these first lectures by Luther on the Psalms and
the Epistle to the Romans, that after a long and dark night, a new
day was now seen to dawn on Christian doctrine. In these lectures
Luther pointed out the difference between the law and the gospel. He
refuted the errors, then predominant in the Church and schools, the
old teaching of the Pharisees, that men could earn forgiveness by
their works, and that mere outward penance would justify them in the
sight of God. Luther called men back to the Son of God; and just as
John the Baptist pointed to the Lamb of God who bore our sins, so
Luther showed how, for his Son's sake, God in His mercy will forgive
us our sins, and how we must accept such mercy in faith.

In fact, the whole groundwork of that Christian faith on which the
inner life of the Reformer rests, for which he fought, and which gave
him strength and fresh courage for the fight, lies already before us
in his lectures and sermons during those years, and increases in
clearness and decision. The 'new day' had, in reality, broken upon
his eyes. That fundamental truth which he designated later as the
article by which a Christian Church must stand or fall, stands here
already firmly established, before he in the least suspects that it
would lead him to separate from the Catholic Church, or that his
adopting it would occasion a reconstruction of the Church. The primary
question around which everything else centred, remained always this--how
he, the sinful man, could possibly stand before God and obtain salvation.
With this came the question as to the righteousness of God; and now he
was no longer terrified by the avenging justice of God, wherewith He
threatens the sinner; but he recognised and saw the meaning of that
righteousness declared in the gospel (Rom. i. 17, iii. 25), by which
the merciful God justifies the faithful, in that He of His own grace
re-establishes them in His sight, and effects an inward change, and
lets them thenceforth, like children, enjoy His fatherly love and
blessing. Luther, in teaching now that justification proceeds from
faith, rejects, above all, the notion that man by any outward acts
of his own can ever atone for his sins and merit the favour of God.
He reminds us, moreover, with regard to moral works especially, that
good fruits always presuppose a good tree, upon which alone they can
grow, and that, in like manner, goodness can only proceed from a
man, if and when, in his inward being, his inward thoughts,
tendencies, and feelings, he has already become good; he must be
righteous himself, in a word, before he works righteousness. But it
is faith, and faith alone, which in the inward man determines real
communion with God. Then only, and gradually, can a man's own inner
being, trusting to God, and by means of His imparted grace, become
truly renovated and purged from sin. Had Luther, indeed, made
salvation depend on such a righteousness, derived from a man's own
works, as should satisfy the holy God, the very consciousness of his
own sins and infirmities would have made him despair of such
salvation. Moreover, all the working of the Holy Spirit, and His
gifts in our hearts, presuppose that we are already participators of
the forgiving mercy and grace of God, and are received into
communion with Him. To this, as Luther teaches after St. Paul, we
can only attain through faith in the joyful message of His mercy, in
His compassion, and in His Son, whom He has sent to be our Redeemer.
Thus he speaks of faith, even in his earliest notes on the Psalter,
as the keystone, the marrow, the short road. The worst enemy, in his
sight, is self-righteousness; he confesses having had to combat it

Herein also Luther found the theology of St. Augustine in accord
with the testimony of the great Apostle. While studying that
theology, his conviction of the power of sin and the powerlessness
of man's own strength to overcome it, grew more and more decided.
But St. Paul taught him to understand that belief somewhat
differently to St. Augustine. To Luther it was not merely a
recognition of objective truths or historical facts. What he
understood by it, with a clearness and decision which are wanting in
St. Augustine's teaching, was the trusting of the heart in the mercy
offered by the message of salvation, the personal confidence in the
Saviour Christ and in that which He has gained for us. With this
faith, then, and by the merits and mediation of the Saviour in whom
this faith is placed, we stand before God, we have already the
assurance of being known by God and of being saved, and we are
partakers of the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies more and more the inner
man. According to St. Augustine, on the contrary, and to all
Catholic theologians who followed his teaching, what will help us
before God is rather that inward righteousness which God Himself
gives to man by His Holy Spirit and the workings of His grace, or,
as the expression was, the righteousness infused by God. The good,
therefore, already existing in a Christian is so highly esteemed
that he can thereby gain merit before the just God and even do more
than is required of him. But to a conscience like Luther's, which
applied so severe a standard to human virtue and works, and took
such stern count of past and present sins, such a doctrine could
bring no assurance of forgiveness, mercy, and salvation. It was in
faith alone that Luther had found this assurance, and for it he
needed no merits of his own. The happy spirit of the child of God,
by its own free impulse, would produce in a Christian the genuine
good fruit pleasing in God's sight. It was a long time before Luther
himself became aware how he differed on this point from his chief
teacher amongst theologians. But we see the difference appear at the
very root and beginning of his new doctrine of salvation; and it
comes out finally, based on apostolic authority, clear and sharp, in
the theology of the Reformer.

And inseparably connected with this is what Melancthon said about
the Law and the Gospel. Luther himself always declared in later
days, that the whole understanding of the truth of Christian
salvation, as revealed by God, depends on a right perception of the
relation of one to the other, and this very relation he explained,
shortly before the beginning of his contest with the Church, upon
the authority of St. Paul's Epistles. The Law is to him the epitome
of God's demands with regard to will and works, which still the
sinner cannot fulfil. The Gospel is the blessed offer and
announcement of that forgiving mercy of God which is to be accepted
in simple faith. By the Law says Luther, the sinner is judged,
condemned, killed; he himself had to toil and disquiet himself under
it, as though he were in the hands of a gaoler and executioner. The
Gospel first lifts up those who are crushed, and makes them alive by
the faith which the good message awakens in their hearts. But God
works in both; in the one, a work which to Him, the God of love,
would properly be strange; in the other, His own work of love, for
which, however, he has first prepared the sinner by the former.

Whilst Luther was prosecuting his labours in this path, he became
acquainted in 1516 with the sermons of the pious, deep-thinking
theologian Tauler, who died in 1361; and at the same time an old
theological tract, written not long after Tauler, fell into his
hands, to which he gave the name of 'German Theology.' Now for the
first time, and in the person of their noblest representatives, he
was confronted with the Christian and theological views which were
commonly designated as the practical German mysticism of the middle
ages. Here, instead of the value which the mediaeval Church, so
addicted to externals, ascribed to outward acts and ordinances, he
found the most devout absorption in the sentiments of real Christian
religion. Instead of the barren, formal expositions and logical
operations of the scholastic intellect, he found a striving and
wrestling of the whole inner man, with all the mind and will, after
direct communion and union with God, who Himself seeks to draw into
this union the soul devoted to Him, and makes it become like to
himself. Such a depth of contemplation and such fervour of a
Christian mind Luther had not found even in an Augustine. He
rejoiced to see this treasure written in his native German, and it
certainly was the noblest German he had ever read. He felt himself
marvellously impressed by this theology; he knew of no sermons, so
he wrote to a friend, which agreed more faithfully with the gospel
than those of Tauler. He published that tract--then not quite
complete--in 1516, and again afterwards in 1518. It was the first
publication from his hand. His further sermons and writings show how
deeply he was imbued with its contents. The influences he here
received had a lasting effect on the formation of his inner life and
his theology.

With regard to sin, he now learned that its deepest roots and
fundamental character lay in our own wills, in self-love and
selfishness. To enjoy communion with God it is necessary that the
heart should put away all worldliness, and let its natural will be
dead, so that God alone may live and work in us. So, as he says on
the title-page of 'German Theology,' shall Adam die in us and Christ
be made alive. But the essential peculiarity of Luther's doctrine of
salvation, grounded as it was directly on Scripture, still remained
intact, despite the theology no less of the mystics than of
Augustine, and, after passing through these influences, developed
its full independence during his struggles as a Reformer. For this
communion with God he never thought it necessary, as the mystics
maintained, to renounce one's personality and retire altogether from
the world and things temporal: a purely passive attitude towards
God, and a blessedness consisting in such an attitude, was not his
highest or ultimate ideal. A man's personality, he held, should only
be destroyed so far as it resists the will of God, and dares to
assert its self-righteousness and merits before Him. The road to
real communion with God was always that 'short road' of faith, in
which the contrite sinner, who feels his personality crushed by the
consciousness of sin, grasps the hand of Divine mercy, and is lifted
up by it and restored. Christ was manifested, as the mystics said
with Scripture, in order that the man's personality should die with
Him, and imitate Him in self-renunciation. But the faith, on which
Luther insisted, saw in Christ above all the Saviour who has died
for us, and who pleads for us before God with His holy life and
conduct, that the faithful may obtain through Him reconciliation and
salvation. What the Saviour is to us in this respect Luther has thus
summarised in words of his own: 'Lord Jesus,' he says, 'Thou hast
taken to Thyself what is mine, and given to me what is Thine.' The
main divergence between Luther and the German mysticism of the
middle ages consists primarily in a different estimate of the
general relations between God and the moral personality of man. With
the mystics, behind the Christian and religious, lay a metaphysical
conception of God, as a Being of absolute power, superior to all
destiny, apparently rich in attributes, but in reality an empty
Abstraction,--above all, a Being who suffers nothing finite to exist
in independence of Himself. With Luther the fundamental conception
of God remained this, that He is the perfect Good, and that, in His
perfect holiness, He is Love. This is the God by whom the sinner who
has faith is restored and justified. From this conception as a
starting-point, Luther acquired fresh strength and energy for
advancing in the fight, whilst the pious mystic remained passively
and quietly behind. From this also he learned to realise Christian
liberty and moral duty in regard to daily life and its vocations,
whilst the mystics remained shut off altogether from the world. The
intimate connection between the conclusions to which the views of
Tauler tended, and the principles from which Luther started, is
shown further by the superior attraction which those sermons, so
warmly recommended by Luther, continued to exercise upon members of
the Evangelical, compared with those of the Catholic Church.

What Christ has suffered and done for us, and how we gain through
Him the righteousness of God, peace, and real life,--these thoughts
of practical religion pervaded now all Luther's discourses. To the
saving knowledge of these facts he endeavoured to direct his
lectures, and discarded the dogmatical inquiries and subtle
investigations and speculations of School-theology. At first, and
even in his sermons at the convent, he had employed in his
exposition of Biblical truths, as was the custom of learned
preachers, philosophical expressions and references to Aristotle and
famous Scholastics. But latterly, and at the time we are speaking
of, he had entirely left this off; and, as regards the form of his
sermons, instead of a stiff, logical construction of sentences, he
employed that simple, lively, powerful eloquence which distinguished
him above all preachers of his time. In 1516 and 1517 he delivered a
course of sermons on the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer
before his town congregation, with the view of showing the
connection of the truths of Christian religion. He further had
printed in 1517, for Christian readers generally, an explanation of
the seven penitential psalms. He wished, as the title stated, to
expound them thoroughly in their Scriptural meaning, for setting
forth the grace of Christ and God, and enabling true self-knowledge.
It is the first of his writings, published by himself, and in the
German language, which we possess; for the later lectures that were
published were delivered by him in Latin, and the first sermons we
have of his were also written by him in that language. We give here
the title and preface from the original print.

[Illustration: FIG. 6--Title and Preface of Penitential Psalms.]

Luther had now become possessed with a burning desire to refute, by
means of the truth he had newly learned, the teaching and system of
that School-theology on which he himself had wasted so much time and
labour, and by which he saw that same truth darkened and obstructed.
He first attacked Aristotle, the heathen philosopher from whom this
theology, he said, received its empty and perverted formalism, whose
system of physics was worthless, and who, especially in his
conception of moral life and moral good, was blind, since he knew
nothing of the essence and ground of true righteousness. The
Scholastics, as Luther himself remarked against them, had failed
signally to understand the genuine original philosophy of Aristotle.
But the real greatness and significance which must be allowed to
that philosophy, in the development of human thought and knowledge,
were far removed from those profound questions of Christian morality
and religion which engrossed Luther's mind, and from those truths to
which he again had to testify. In theses which formed the subject of
disputation among his followers, Luther expressed with particular
acuteness his own doctrine, and that of Augustine, concerning the
inability of man, and the grace of God, and his opposition to the
previously dominant Schoolmen and their Aristotle. He was anxious
also to hear the verdict of others, particularly of his teacher
Trutvetter, upon his new polemics.

He already could boast that, at Wittenberg, his, or as he called it,
the Augustinian theology, had found its way to victory. It was
adopted by the theologians who had taught there, though wholly in
the old Scholastic fashion, before him, especially by Carlstadt, who
soon strove to outbid him in this new direction, and who, later on,
in his own zeal for reform, fell into disputes with the great
Reformer himself, and also by Nicholas von Amsdorf, whom we shall
see afterwards at Luther's side as his personal friend and strongest
supporter. At Erfurt, Luther's former convent, his friend and
sympathiser Lange was now prior, having returned thither from
Wittenberg, where indeed his former teachers could not yet
accommodate themselves to his new ways. Of great importance to
Luther's work and position was his friendship with George Spalatin
(properly Burkardt of Spelt), the court preacher and private
secretary of the Elector Frederick, a conscientious, clear-minded
theologian, and a man of varied culture and calm, thoughtful
judgment. He was of the same age as Luther; he had been with him at
Erfurt as a fellow-student, and at Wittenberg afterwards, whither he
came as tutor to the prince, and had remained on terms of intimacy
with him. To Luther he proved an upright, warmhearted friend, and to
the Elector a faithful and sagacious adviser. It was mainly due to
his influence that the Elector showed such continued favour to
Luther, marks of which he displayed by presents, such as that of a
piece of richly-wrought cloth, which Luther thought almost too good
for a monk's frock. Spalatin had also been a member of that circle
of 'poets' at Erfurt; he kept up his connection with them, and
corresponded with Erasmus, the head of the Humanists, and thus acted
as a medium of communication for Luther in this quarter. Elsewhere
in Germany we find the theology of Augustine or of St. Paul, as
represented by Luther, taking root first among his friends at
Nüremberg; in 1517 W. Link came there as prior of the Augustinian

[Illustration: Fig. 7.--SPALATIN. (from L. Cranach's Portrait.)]

We have seen how Luther as a student associated with the young
Humanists at Erfurt, and now, whilst striving further on that road
of theology which he had marked out for himself, he was still
accessible to the general interests of learning as represented by
the Humanistic movement. He made the acquaintance, at least by
letter, of the celebrated Mutianus Rufus of Gotha, whom those
'poets' honoured as their famous master, and with whom Lange and
Spalatin maintained a respectful intercourse. When the Humanist John
Reuchlin, then the first Hebrew scholar in Germany, was declared a
heretic by zealous theologians and monks, on account of the protests
he raised against the burning of the Rabbinical books of the Jews,
and a fierce quarrel broke out in consequence, Luther, on being
asked by Spalatin for his opinion, declared himself strongly for the
Humanists against those who, being gnats themselves, tried to
swallow camels. His heart, he said, was so full of this matter that
his tongue could not find utterance. Still, the bold satire with
which his former college friend Crotus and other Humanists lashed
their opponents and held them up to ridicule, as in the famous
'Epistolae Virorum Obscurorum,' was not to Luther's taste at all.
The matter was to him far too serious for such treatment.

The first place among the men who revived the knowledge of
antiquity, and strove to apply that knowledge for the benefit of
their own times and particularly of theology, belongs undoubtedly to
Erasmus, from his comprehensive learning, his refinement of mind,
and his indefatigable industry. Just when, in 1516, he brought out a
remarkable edition of the New Testament, with a translation and
explanatory comments, which forms in fact an epoch in its history.
Luther recognised his high talents and services, and was anxious to
see him exercise the influence he deserved. He speaks of him in a
letter to Spalatin as 'our Erasmus.' But nevertheless he steadily
asserted his own independence, and reserved the right of free
judgment about him. Two things he lamented in him; first of all that
he lacked, as was the case, the comprehension of that fundamental
doctrine of St. Paul as to human sin and righteousness by faith; and
further, that he made even the errors of the Church, which should be
a source of genuine sorrow to every Christian, a subject of
ridicule. He sought, however, to keep his opinion of Erasmus to
himself, to avoid giving occasion to his jealous and unscrupulous
enemies to malign him.

[Illustration: Fig. 8.--ERASMUS. (From the Portrait by A. Dürer.)]

Bitterness and ill-will, aroused by Luther's words and works, were
already not wanting among the followers of the hitherto dominant
views of theology and the Church. But of any separation from the
Church, her authority and her fundamental forms, he had as yet no
intention or idea. Nor, on the other hand, did his enemies take
occasion to obtain sentence of expulsion against him, until he found
himself forced to conclusions which threatened the power and the
income of the hierarchy.

As yet he had not expressed or entertained a thought against the
ordinances which enslaved every Christian to the priesthood and its
power. He certainly showed, in his new doctrine of salvation, the
way which leads the soul, by simple faith in the message of mercy
sent to all alike, to its God and Saviour. But he had no idea of
disputing that everyone should confess to the priests, receive from
them absolution, and submit to all the penances and ordinances
ordained by the Church. And in that very doctrine of salvation he
knew that he was at one with Augustine, the most eminent teacher of
the Western Church, whilst the opposite views, however dominant in
point of fact, had never yet received any formal sanction of the
Church. Zealously, indeed, he soon exposed many practical abuses and
errors in the religious life of the Church. But hitherto these were
only such as had been long before complained of and combated by
others, and which the Church had never expressly declared as
essential parts of her own system. He gave vent freely to his
opinions about the superstitious worship of saints, about absurd
legends, about the heathen practice of invoking the saints for
temporal welfare or success. But praying to the saints to intercede
for us with God he still justified against the heresy originating
with Huss, and with fervour he invoked the Virgin from the pulpit.
He was anxious that the priests and bishops should do their duty
much better and more conscientiously than was the case, and that
instead of troubling themselves about worldly matters, they should
care for the good of souls, and feed their flocks with God's word.
He saw in the office of bishop, from the difficulties and
temptations it involved, an office fraught with danger, and one
therefore that he did not wish for his Staupitz. But the Divine
origin and Divine right of the hierarchical offices of pope, bishop,
and priest, and the infallibility of the Church, thus governed, he
held inviolably sacred. The Hussites who broke from her were to him
'sinful heretics.' Nay, at that time he used the very argument by
which afterwards the Romish Church thought to crush the principles
and claims of the Reformation, namely, that if we deny that power of
the Church and Papacy, any man may equally say that he is filled
with the Holy Ghost; everyone will claim to be his own master, and
there will be as many Churches as heads.

As yet he was only seeking to combat those abuses which were outside
the spirit and teaching of the Catholic Church, when the scandals of
the traffic in indulgences called him to the field of battle. And it
was only when in this battle the Pope and the hierarchy sought to
rob him of his evangelical doctrine of salvation, and of the joy and
comfort he derived from the knowledge of redemption by Christ, that,
from his stand on the Bible, he laid his hands upon the strongholds
of this Churchdom.





The first occasion for the struggle which led to the great division
in the Christian world was given by that magnificent edifice of
ecclesiastical splendour intended by the popes as the creation of
the new Italian art; by the building, in a word, of St. Peter's
Church, which had already been commenced when Luther was at Rome.
Indulgences were to furnish the necessary means. Julius II. had now
been succeeded on the Papal chair by Leo X. So far as concerned the
encouragement of the various arts, the revival of ancient learning,
and the opening up, by that means, to the cultivated and upper
classes of society of a spring of rich intellectual enjoyment, Leo
would have been just the man for the new age. But whilst actively
engaged in these pursuits and pleasures, he remained indifferent to
the care and the spiritual welfare of his flock, whom as Christ's
vicar he had undertaken to feed. The frivolous tone of morals that
ruled at the Papal see was looked upon as an element of the new
culture. As regards the Christian faith, a blasphemous saying is
reported of Leo, how profitable had been the fable of Christ. He had
no scruples in procuring money for the new church, which, as he
said, was to protect and glorify the bones of the holy Apostles, by
a dirty traffic, pernicious to the soul. Meanwhile, the popes were
not ashamed to appropriate freely to their own needs that indulgence
money, which was nominally for the Church and for other objects,
such as the war against the Turks.

In order to appreciate the nature of these indulgences and of
Luther's attack upon them, it is necessary first to realise more
exactly the significance which the teachers of the Church ascribed
to them. The simple statement that absolution or forgiveness of sins
was sold for money, must in itself be offence enough to any moral
Christian conscience; and we can only wonder that Luther proceeded
so prudently and gradually towards his object of getting rid of
indulgences altogether. But the arguments by which they were
explained and justified did not sound so simple or concise.

[Illustration: Leo X. (From his Portrait by Raphael.)]

Forgiveness of sins, it was maintained, must be gained by penance, namely,
by the so-called sacrament of penance, including the acts of private
confession and priestly absolution. In this the father-confessor promised
to him who had confessed his sins, absolution for them, whereby his guilt
was forgiven and he was freed from eternal punishment. A certain
contrition of the heart was required from him, even if only imperfect,
and proceeding perhaps solely from the fear of punishment, but which
nevertheless was deemed sufficient, its imperfection being supplied by
the sacrament. But though absolved, he had still to discharge heavy
burdens of temporal punishment, penances imposed by the Church, and
chastisements which, in the remission of eternal punishment, God in His
righteousness still laid upon him. If he failed to satisfy these penances
in this life, he must, even if no longer in danger of hell, atone for the
rest in the torments of the fire of purgatory. The indulgence now came in
to relieve him. The Church was content with easier tasks, as, at that
time, with a donation to the sacred edifice at Rome. And even this
was made to rest on a certain basis of right. The Church, it was
said, had to dispose of a treasure of merits which Christ and the
saints, by their good works, had accumulated before the righteous
God, and those riches were now to be so disposed of by Christ's
representatives, that they should benefit the buyer of indulgences.
In this manner penances which otherwise would have to be endured for
years were commuted into small donations of money, quickly paid off.
The contrition required for the forgiveness of sins was not
altogether ignored; as, for instance, in the official announcements
of indulgences, and in the letters or certificates granting
indulgences to individuals in return for payment. But in those
documents, as also in the sermons exhorting the multitude to
purchase, the chief stress, so far as possible, was laid upon the
payment. The confession, and with it the contrition, was also
mentioned, but nothing was said about the personal remission of sins
depending on this rather than on the money. Perfect forgiveness of
sins was announced to him who, after having confessed and felt
contrition, had thrown his contribution into the box. For the souls
in purgatory nothing was required but money offered for them by the
living. 'The moment the money tinkles in the box, the soul springs
up out of purgatory.' A special tariff was arranged for the
commission of particular sins, as, for example, six ducats for

The traffic in indulgences for the building of St. Peter's was
delegated by commission from the Pope, over a large part of Germany, to
Albert, Archbishop of Mayence and Magdeburg. We shall meet with this
great prince of the Church, as now in connection with the origin of
the Reformation, so during its subsequent course. Albert, the brother
of the Elector of Brandenburg, and cousin of the Grand-Master of the
Teutonic Order in Prussia, stood in 1517, though only twenty-seven
years old, already at the head of those two great ecclesiastical
provinces of Germany; Wittenberg also belonged to his Magdeburg
diocese. Raised to such an eminence and so rapidly by good fortune,
he was filled with ambitious thoughts. He troubled himself little
about theology. He loved to shine as the friend of the new Humanistic
learning, especially of an Erasmus, and as patron of the fine arts,
particularly of architecture, and to keep a court the splendour of
which might correspond with his own dignity and love of art. For this
his means were inadequate, especially as, on entering upon his
Archbishopric of Mayence, he had had to pay, as was customary, a heavy
sum to the Pope for the _pallium_ given for the occasion. For
this he had been forced to borrow thirty thousand gulden from the
house of Fugger at Augsburg, and he found his aspirations incessantly
crippled by want of money and by debts. He succeeded at last in
striking a bargain with the Pope, by which he was allowed to keep half
of the profits arising from the sale of indulgences, in order to repay
the Fuggers their loan. Behind the preacher of indulgences, who announced
God's mercy to the paying believers, stood the agents of that commercial
house, who collected their share for their principals. The Dominican monk,
John Tetzel, a profligate man, whom the Archbishop had appointed his
sub-commissioner, drove the largest trade in this business with an
audacity and a power of popular declamation well suited to his work.

[Illustration: Fig. 10.--The Archbishop Albert. (From Dürer's

Contemporaries have described the lofty and well-ordered pomp with
which such a commissioner entered on the performance of his exalted
duties. Priests, monks, and magistrates, schoolmasters and scholars,
men, women, and children, went forth in procession to meet him, with
songs and ringing of bells, with flags and torches. They entered the
church together amidst the pealing of the organ. In the middle of
the church, before the altar, was erected a large red cross, hung
with a silken banner which bore the Papal arms. Before the cross was
placed a large iron chest to receive the money; specimens of these
chests are still shown in many places. Daily, by sermons, hymns,
processions round the cross, and other means of attraction, the
people were invited and urged to embrace this incomparable offer of
salvation. It was arranged that auricular confession should be taken
wholesale. The main object was the payment, in return for which the
'contrite' sinners received a letter of indulgence from the
commissioner, who, with a significant reference to the absolute
power granted to himself, promised them complete absolution and the
good opinion of their fellow-men.

[Illustration: Fig. 11--Title-page of a Pamphlet Written at the
Beginning of the Reformation, with an Illustration showing the Sale
of Indulgences.]

We have evidence to show how Tetzel preached himself, and what he
wished these sermons on indulgences to be like. Calling upon the
people, he summoned all, and especially the great sinners, such as
murderers and robbers, to turn to their God and receive the medicine
which God, in his mercy and wisdom, had provided for their benefit.
St. Stephen once had given up his body to be stoned, St. Lawrence
his to be roasted, St. Bartholomew his to a fearful death. Would
they not willingly sacrifice a little gift in order to obtain
everlasting life? Of the souls in purgatory it was said, 'They, your
parents and relatives, are crying out to you, "We are in the
bitterest torments, you could deliver us by giving a small alms, and
yet you will not. We have given you birth, nourished you, and left
to you our temporal goods; and such is your cruelty that you, who
might so easily make us free, leave us here to lie in the flames."'

To all who directly or indirectly, in public or in private, should
in any way depreciate, or murmur against, or obstruct these
indulgences, it was announced that, by Papal edict, they lay already
by so doing under the ban of excommunication, and could only be
absolved by the Pope or by one of his commissioners.

After Luther had once ventured to attack openly this sale of
indulgences, it was admitted even by their defenders and the violent
enemies of the Reformer, that in those days 'greedy commissioners,
monks and priests, had preached unblushingly about indulgences, and
had laid more stress upon the money than upon confession,
repentance, and sorrow.' Christian people were shocked and
scandalised at the abuse. It was asked whether indeed God so loved
the money, that for the sake of a few pence He would leave a soul in
everlasting torments, or why the Pope did not out of love empty the
whole of purgatory, since he was willing to free innumerable souls
in return for such a trifle as a contribution to the building of a
church. But not one of them found it then expedient to incur the
abuse and slander of a Tetzel by a word spoken openly against the
gross misconduct the fruits of which were so important to the Pope
and the Archbishop.

Tetzel now came to the borders of the Elector of Saxony's dominion,
and to the neighbourhood of Wittenberg. The Elector would not allow
him to enter his territory, on account of so much money being taken
away, and accordingly he opened his trade at Jüterbok. Among those
who confessed to Luther, there were some who appealed to letters of
indulgence which they had purchased from him there.

In a sermon preached as early as the summer of 1516, Luther had
warned his congregation against trusting to indulgences, and he did
not conceal his aversion to the system, whilst admitting his doubts
and ignorance as to some important questions on the subject. He knew
that these opinions and objections would grieve the heart of his
sovereign; for Frederick, who with all his sincere piety, still
shared the exaggerated veneration of the middle ages for relics, and
had formed a rich collection of them in the Church of the Castle and
Convent at Wittenberg, which he was always endeavouring to enrich,
rejoiced at the Pope's lavish offer of indulgences to all who at an
annual exhibition of these sacred treasures should pay their
devotions at the nineteen altars of this church. A few years before
he had caused a 'Book of Relics' to be printed, which enumerated
upwards of five thousand different specimens, and showed how they
represented half a million days of indulgence. Luther relates how he
had incurred the Elector's displeasure by a sermon preached in his
Castle Church against indulgences: he preached, however, again
before the exhibition held in February 1517. The honour and
interest, moreover, of his university had to be considered, for that
church was attached to it, the professors were also dignitaries of
the convent, and the university benefited by the revenues of the

[Illustration: FIG. l2.--THE CASTLE CHURCH. (From the Wittenberg
Book of Relics, 1509: the hill in the background is an addition by
the artist.)]

Luther was then, as he afterwards described himself, a young doctor
of divinity, ardent, and fresh from the forge. He was burning to
protest against the scandal. But as yet he restrained himself and
kept quiet. He wrote, indeed, on the subject to some of the bishops.
Some listened to him graciously; others laughed at him; none wished
to take any steps in the matter.

He longed now to make known to theologians and ecclesiastics
generally his thoughts about indulgences, his own principles, his
own opinions and doubts, to excite public discussion on the subject,
and to awake and maintain the fray. This he did by the ninety-five
Latin theses or propositions which he posted on the doors of the
Castle Church at Wittenberg, on October 31, 1517, the eve of All
Saints' Day and of the anniversary of the consecration of the

These theses were intended as a challenge for disputation. Such
public disputations were then very common at the universities and
among theologians, and they were meant to serve as means not only of
exercising learned thought, but of elucidating the truth. Luther
headed his theses as follows:--

_'Disputation to explain the virtue of indulgences._-In charity
and in the endeavour to bring the truth to light, a disputation on
the following propositions will be held at Wittenberg, presided over
by the Reverend Father Martin Luther.... Those who are unable to
attend personally may discuss the question with us by letter. In the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.'

It was in accordance with the general custom of that time that, on
the occasion of a high festival, particular acts and announcements,
and likewise disputations at a university, were arranged, and the
doors of a collegiate church were used for posting such notices.

The contents of these theses show that their author really had such
a disputation in view. He was resolved to defend with all his might
certain fundamental truths to which he firmly adhered. Some points
he considered still within the region of dispute; it was his wish
and object to make these clear to himself by arguing about them with

Recognising the connection between the system of indulgences and the
view of penance entertained by the Church, he starts with
considering the nature of true Christian repentance; but he would
have this understood in the sense and spirit taught by Christ and
the Scriptures, as, indeed, Staupitz had first taught it to him. He
begins with the thesis 'Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He
says Repent, desires that the whole life of the believer should be
one of repentance.' He means, as the subsequent theses express it,
that true inward repentance, that sorrow for sin and hatred of one's
own sinful self, from which must proceed good works and
mortification of the sinful flesh. The Pope could only remit his sin
to the penitent so far as to declare that God had forgiven it.

Thus then the theses expressly declare that God forgives no man his
sin without making him submit himself in humility to the priest who
represents Him, and that He recognises the punishments enjoined by
the Church in her outward sacrament of penance. But Luther's leading
principles are consistently opposed to the customary announcements
of indulgences by the Church. The Pope, he holds, can only grant
indulgences for what the Pope and the law of the Church have
imposed; nay, the Pope himself means absolution from these
obligations only, when he promises absolution from all punishment.
And it is only the living against whom those punishments are
directed which the Church's discipline of penance enjoins: nothing,
according to her own laws, can be imposed upon those in another

Further on, Luther declares, 'When true repentance is awakened in a
man, full absolution from punishment and sin comes to him without
any letters of indulgence.' At the same time he says that such a man
would willingly undergo self-imposed chastisement, nay, he would
even seek and love it.

Still, it is not the indulgences themselves, if understood in the
right sense, that he wishes to be attacked, but the loose babble of
those who sold them. Blessed, he says, be he who protests against
this, but cursed be he who speaks against the truth of apostolic
indulgences. He finds it difficult, however, to praise these to the
people, and at the same time to teach them the true repentance of
the heart. He would have them even taught that a Christian would do
better by giving money to the poor than by spending it in buying
indulgences, and that he who allows a poor man near him to starve
draws down on himself, not indulgences, but the wrath of God. In
sharp and scornful language he denounces the iniquitous trader in
indulgences, and gives the Pope credit for the same abhorrence for
the traffic that he felt himself. Christians must be told, he says,
that if the Pope only knew of it, he would rather see St. Peter's
Church in ashes, than have it built with the flesh and bones of his

Agreeably with what the preceding theses had said about the true
penitent's earnestness and willingness to suffer, and the temptation
offered to a mere carnal sense of security, Luther concludes as
follows: 'Away therefore with all those prophets who say to Christ's
people "Peace, peace!" when there is no peace, but welcome to all
those who bid them seek the Cross of Christ, not the Cross which
bears the Papal arms. Christians must be admonished to follow Christ
their Master through torture, death, and hell, and thus through much
tribulation, rather than by a carnal feeling of false security, hope
to enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Catholics objected to this doctrine of salvation advanced by
Luther, that by trusting to God's free mercy and by undervaluing
good works, it led to moral indolence. But on the contrary, it was
to the very unbending moral earnestness of a Christian conscience,
which, indignant at the temptations offered to moral frivolity, to a
deceitful feeling of ease in respect to sin and guilt, and to a
contempt of the fruits of true morality, rebelled against the false
value attached to this indulgence money, that these Theses, the
germ, so to speak, of the Reformation, owed their origin and
prosecution. With the same earnestness he now for the first time
publicly attacked the ecclesiastical power of the Papacy, in so far
namely as, in his conviction, it invaded the territory reserved to
Himself by the Heavenly Lord and Judge. This was what the Pope and
his theologians and ecclesiastics could least of all endure.

On the same day that these theses were published, Luther sent a copy
of them with a letter to the Archbishop Albert, his 'revered and
gracious Lord and Shepherd in Christ.' After a humble introduction,
he begged him most earnestly to prevent the scandalising and
iniquitous harangues with which his agents hawked about their
indulgences, and reminded him that he would have to give an account
of the souls entrusted to his episcopal care.

The next day he addressed himself to the people from the pulpit, in
a sermon he had to preach on the festival of All Saints. After
exhorting them to seek their salvation in God and Christ alone, and
to let the consecration by the Church become a real consecration of
the heart, he went on to tell them plainly, with regard to
indulgences, that he could only absolve from duties imposed by the
Church, and that they dare not rely on him for more, nor delay on
his account the duties of true repentance.



Anyone who has heard that the great movement of the Reformation in
Germany, and with it the founding of the Evangelical Church,
originated in the ninety-five theses of Luther, and who then reads
these theses through, might perhaps be surprised at the importance
of their results. They referred, in the first place, to only one
particular point of Christian doctrine, not at all to the general
fundamental question as to how sinners could obtain forgiveness and
be saved, but merely to the remission of punishments connected with
penance. They contained no positive declaration against the most
essential elements of the Catholic theory of penance, or against the
necessity of oral confession, or of priestly absolution, and such
subjects; they presupposed, in fact, the existence of a purgatory.
Much of what they attacked, not one of the learned theologians of
the middle ages or of those times had ever ventured to assert; as,
for instance, the notion that indulgences made the remission of sins
to the individual complete on the part of God. Moreover, the ruling
principles of the theology of the day, which defended the system of
indulgences, though resting mainly on the authority of the great
Scholastic teacher Thomas Aquinas, were not adopted by other
Scholastics, and had never been erected into a dogma by any decree
of the Church. Theologians before Luther, and with far more
acuteness and penetration than he showed in his theses, had already
assailed the whole system of indulgences. And, in regard to any idea
on Luther's part of the effects of his theses extending widely in
Germany, it may be noticed that not only were they composed in
Latin, but that they dealt largely with Scholastic expressions and
ideas, which a layman would find it difficult to understand.

Nevertheless the theses created a sensation which far surpassed
Luther's expectations. In fourteen days, as he tells us, they ran
through the whole of Germany, and were immediately translated and
circulated in German. They found, indeed, the soil already prepared
for them, through the indignation long since and generally aroused
by the shameless doings they attacked; though till then nobody, as
Luther expresses it, had liked to bell the cat, nobody had dared to
expose himself to the blasphemous clamour of the indulgence-mongers
and the monks who were in league with them, still less to the
threatened charge of heresy.

On the other hand, the very impunity with which this traffic in
indulgences had been maintained throughout German Christendom, had
served to increase from day to day the audacity of its promoters.
Ranged on the side of these doctrines of Thomas Aquinas, the chief
mainstay of this trade, stood the whole powerful order of the
Dominicans. And to this order Tetzel himself, the sub-commissioner of
indulgences, belonged. Already other doctrines of the Pope's authority,
of his power over the salvation of the human soul, and the infallibility
of his decisions, had been asserted with ever-increasing boldness. The
mediaeval writings of Thomas Aquinas had conspicuously tended to this
 result. And a climax had just been reached at a so-called General
Council, which met at Rome shortly after Luther's visit there, and
continued its sittings for several years.

Tetzel, who hitherto had only made himself notorious as a preacher, or
rather as a bawling mountebank, now answered Luther with two series of
theses of his own, drawn up in learned scholastic form. One Conrad
Wimpina, a theologian of the university of Frankfort-on-the-Oder, whom
the Archbishop Albert had recommended, assisted Tetzel in this work.
The university of Frankfort immediately made Tetzel doctor of theology,
and thus espoused his theses. Three hundred Dominican monks assembled
round him while he conducted an academical disputation upon them. The
doctrines he now advanced were the doctrines of Thomas Aquinas. But at
the same time he took care to make the question of the Pope's position
and power the cardinal point at issue; he and his patrons knew well
enough, that for Luther, who in his theses had touched upon this
question so significantly though so briefly, this was the most fatal
blow that he could deal. 'Christians must be taught,' he declared,
'that in all that relates to faith and salvation, the judgment of the
Pope is absolutely infallible, and that all observances connected with
matters of faith on which the Papal see has expressed itself, are
equivalent to Christian truths, even if they are not to be found in
scripture.' With distinct reference to his opponent, but without
actually mentioning him by name, he insists that whoever defends
heretical error must be held to be excommunicated, and if he fails
within a given time to make satisfaction, incurs by right and law
the most frightful penalties. Furthermore, he argued--and this has
always been held up against Luther and Protestantism--that if the
authority of the Church and Pope should not be recognised, every man
would believe only what was pleasing to himself and what he found in
the Bible, and thus the souls of all Christendom would be

Luther's theses now found another assailant, and one stronger even
than Tetzel, in the person of a Dominican and Thomist, one Sylvester
Mazolini of Prierio (Prierias), master of the sacred palace at Rome,
and a confidant of the Pope. He too, like Tetzel, based his chief
contention on the question of Papal authority, and was the first to
carry that contention to an extreme. The Pope, he said, is the
Church of Rome; the Romish Church is the Universal Christian Church;
whoever disputes the right of the Romish Church to act entirely as
she may, is a heretic. In this way he treated as contemptuously as
he could the obscure German, whose theses, that 'bite like a cur,'
as he expressed it, he only wished to dismiss with all despatch.

Another Dominican, James van Hoogstraten, prior at Cologne, who had
already figured as the prime zealot in the affair about Reuchlin,
which he was still prosecuting, now demanded, in his preface to a
pamphlet on that subject, that Luther should be sent to the stake as
a dangerous heretic.

But a far more important, and to Luther an utterly unexpected
opponent, appeared in the person of John Eck, professor at the
university of Ingolstadt, and canon at Eichstädt. He was a man of
very extensive learning in the earlier and later Scholastic theology
of the Church; he was a sharp-witted and ready controversialist, and
he knew how to use his weapons in disputations. He was fully
conscious of these gifts, and made a bold push to advance himself by
their means, whilst troubling himself very little in reality about
the high and sacred issues involved in the dispute. He sought to
keep on friendly and useful relations with other circles than those
of Scholastic theology, such as with learned Humanists, and a short
time before, with Luther himself and his colleague Carlstadt, to
whom he had been introduced through a jurist of Nüremberg named
Scheuerl. Luther, after the publication of his theses, had written a
friendly letter to Eck. What then was his surprise to find himself
attacked by Eck in a critical reply entitled 'Obelisks.' The tone of
his remarks was as wounding, coarse, and vindictive as their
substance was superficial. They aimed a well-meditated blow, by
stigmatising Luther's propositions as Bohemian poison, mere Hussite
heresy. Eck, when reproached for such a breach of friendship,
declared that he had written the book for his bishop of Eichstädt,
and not with any view of publication.

Luther himself, loud as was his call to battle in his theses, had
still no intention of engaging in a general contest about the
leading principles of the Church. He had not yet realised the whole
extent and bearings of the question about indulgences. Referring
afterwards to the rapid circulation of his theses through Germany,
and to the fame which his onslaught had earned him, he says, 'I did
not relish the fame, for I myself was not aware of what there was in
the indulgences, and the song was pitched too high for my voice.'
People far and wide were proud of the man who spoke out so boldly in
his theses, while the multitude of doctors and bishops kept silence;
but he still stood alone before the public, confronting the storm
which he had aroused against himself. He did not conceal the fact,
that now and then he felt strange and anxious about his position.
But he had learned to take his stand singly and firmly on the word
of Scripture, and on the truth which God therein revealed to him and
brought home to his conviction. He was only the more strengthened in
that conviction by the replies of his opponents; for he must well
have been amazed at their utter want of Scriptural reference to
disprove his conclusions, and at the blind subservience with which
they merely repeated the statements of their Scholastic authorities.
The arrogant reply of Prierias, his opponent of highest rank, seemed
to him particularly poor. In confident words Luther assures his
friends of his conviction that what he taught was the purest
theology, that what he upheld and his opponents attacked, was a
revelation direct from God. He knew too, that, in the words of St.
Paul, he had to preach what to the holiest of the Jews was a
stumbling-block, and to the wisest of the Greeks foolishness. He was
none the less ready to do so, that Jesus Christ, his Lord, might say
of him, as He said once of that Apostle, 'I will show him how great
things he must suffer for my name's sake.' Luther's enemies in the
Romish Church have thought to see in these words an instance of
boundless self-assertion on the part of an individual subject.

From henceforth Luther, while pursuing with unabated zeal his active
duties at the university and in the pulpit at Wittenberg, and taking
up his pen again and again to write short pamphlets of a simple and
edifying kind, occupied himself untiringly with controversial
writings, with the object partly of defending himself against
attacks, partly of establishing on a firm basis the principles he
had set forth, and of further investigating and making plain the way
of true Christian knowledge. He first addressed himself to German
Christendom, in German, in his 'Sermon on Indulgences and Grace.'
His inward excitement is shown by the vehemence and ruggedness of
expression which now and henceforth marked his polemical writings.
It recalls to mind the tone then commonly met with not only among
ordinary monks, but even in the controversies of theologians and
learned men, and in which Luther's own opponents, especially that
high Roman theologian, had set him the example. In Luther we see
now, throughout his whole method of polemics, as we shall see still
more later on, a mighty, Vulcanic, natural power breaking forth, but
always regulated by the humblest devotion to the lofty mission that
his conscience has imposed upon him. Even in his most vehement
outbursts we never fail to catch the tender expressions of a
Christian warmth and fervour of the heart, and a loftiness of
language corresponding to the sacredness of the subject.

In the midst of these labours and controversies, Luther had to
undertake a journey in the spring of 1518 (about the middle of
April) to a chapter general of his Order at Heidelberg, where,
according to the rules, a new Vicar was chosen after a triennial
term of office. His friends feared the snares that his enemies might
have prepared for him on the road. He himself did not hesitate for a
moment to obey the call of duty.

The Elector Frederick, who owed him at least a debt of gratitude for
having helped to keep his territory free from the rapacious Tetzel,
but who, both now and afterwards, conscientiously held aloof from
the contest, gave proof on this occasion of his undiminished
kindness and regard for him, in a letter he addressed to Staupitz.
He writes as follows:--'As you have required Martin Luder to attend
a Chapter at Heidelberg, it is his wish, although we grudge giving
him permission to leave our university, to go there and render due
obedience. And as we are indebted to your suggestion for this
excellent doctor of theology, in whom we are so well pleased, ... it
is our desire that you will further his safe return here, and not
allow him to be delayed.' He also gave Luther cordial letters of
introduction to Bishop Laurence of Wurzburg, through whose town his
road passed, and to the Count Palatine Wolfgang, at Heidelberg. From
both of these, though many had already declaimed against him as a
heretic, he met with a most friendly and obliging reception.

His relations, moreover, at Heidelberg with his fellow-members of
the Order, and, above all, with Staupitz, remained unclouded.
Staupitz was re-elected here as Vicar of the Order; the office of
provincial Vicar passed from Luther to John Lange, of Erfurt, his
intimate friend and fellow-thinker. The question about indulgences
had not entered at all into the business of the chapter. But at a
disputation held in the convent, according to custom, Luther
presided, and wrote for it some propositions embodying the
fundamental points of his doctrines concerning the sinfulness and
powerlessness of man, and righteousness, through God's grace, in
Christ, and against the philosophy and theology of Aristotelian
Scholasticism. He attracted the keen interest of several young
inmates of the convent who afterwards became his coadjutors, such as
John Brenz, Erhardt Schnepf, and Martin Butzer. They marvelled at
his power of drawing out the meaning from the Scriptures, and of
speaking not only with clearness and decision, but also with
refinement and grace. Thus his journey served to promote at once his
reputation and his influence.

On his return to Wittenberg on May 15, after an absence of five
weeks, he hastened to complete a detailed explanation in Latin of
the contents of his theses, under the title of 'Solutions,' the
greatest and most important work that he published at this period of
the contest.

The most valuable fruit of the controversy so far as regards Luther
and his later work, and evidence of which is given in these
'Solutions,' was the advance he had made, and had been compelled to
make, in the course of his own self-reasoning and researches. New
questions presented themselves: the inward connection of the truth
became gradually manifest: new results forced themselves upon him:
his anxiety to solve his difficulties still continued.

 Luther in his theses, when speaking of the call of Jesus to
repentance, had never indeed admitted that the sacrament of penance
enjoined by the Church, with auricular confession and the penances
and satisfactions imposed by the priest, was based on God's command
or the authority of the Bible. He now openly acknowledged and
declared that these ecclesiastical acts were not enjoined by Christ
at all, but solely by the Pope and the Church.

The contest about the indulgences granted by the Pope in respect of
these acts, opened up now the doctrine of the so-called treasures of
the Church, on which the Pope drew for his bounty. Luther, while
conceding to the Pope the right of dispensing indulgences in the
sense understood by himself, guarded himself against admitting that
the merits of Christ constituted that treasure, and so should be
disposed of by the Pope in this manner: the dispensation of
indulgences rested simply on the Papal power of the keys. It was now
objected to him that herein he was going counter to an express and
duly recorded declaration of a pope, Clement VI., namely, that the
merits of Christ were undoubtedly to be dispensed in indulgences.
Luther, who in his theses against the abuse of indulgences had
abstained as yet from propounding anything which might be
inconsistent with the ascertained meaning of the Pope, now insisted
without hesitation on this contradiction. That Papal pronouncement,
he declared, did not bear the character of a dogmatic decree, and a
distinction was to be drawn between a decree of the Pope and its
acceptance by the Church through a Council.

How then, Luther proceeded to inquire, should the Christian obtain
forgiveness of sin, reconciliation with God, righteousness before
God, peace and holiness in God? And in answering this question he
reverted to the key-note of his doctrine of salvation, which he had
begun to preach before the contest about indulgences commenced. He
had already declared that salvation came through faith; in other
words, through heartfelt trust in God's mercy, as announced by the
Bible, and in the Saviour Christ. How was that consistent with the
acts of ecclesiastical penance, such as absolution in particular,
which must be obtained from the priest? Luther now declared that God
would assuredly allow his offer of forgiveness to be conveyed to
those who longed for it, by His commissioned servant of the Church,
the priest, but that the assurance of such forgiveness must lean
simply on the promise of God, by virtue and on behalf of Whom the
priest performed his office. And at the same time he declared that
this promise could be conveyed to a troubled Christian by any
brother-Christian, and that full forgiveness would be granted to him
if he had faith. No enumeration of particular sins was necessary for
that end; it was enough if the repentant and faithful yearning for
the word of mercy was made known to the priest or brother from whom
the message of comfort was sought. Hence it followed, on the one
hand, that priestly absolution and the sacrament availed nothing to
the receiver unless he turned with inward faith to his God and
Saviour, received with faith the word spoken to him, and through
that word let himself be raised to greater faith. It followed also,
on the other hand, that a penitent and faithful Christian, holding
fast to that word, to whom the priest should arbitrarily refuse the
absolution he looked for, could, in spite of such refusal,
participate in God's forgiveness to the full. Herewith was broken at
once the most powerful bond by which the dominant Church enslaved
the souls to the organs of her hierarchy. Luther has humbled man to
the lowest before God, through Whose grace alone the sinner, in meek
and believing trustfulness, can be saved. But in God and through
this grace he teaches him to be free and certain of salvation.
Christ, he says, has not willed that man's salvation should lie in
the hand or at the pleasure of a man.

As for the outward acts and punishments which the Church and the
Pope imposed, he did not seek to abolish them. In this external
province at least he recognised in the Pope a power originating
direct from God. Here, in his opinion, the Christian was bound to
put up with even an abuse of power and the infliction of unjust

 The whole contest turned ultimately on the question as to who
should determine disputes about the truth, and where to seek the
highest standard and the purest source of Christian verity.
Gradually at first, and manifestly with many inward struggles on the
part of Luther, his views and principles gained clearness and
consistency. Even within the Catholic Church the doctrine as to the
highest authority to be recognised in questions of belief and
conduct was by no means so firmly established as is frequently
represented by both Protestants and Roman Catholics. The doctrine of
the infallibility of the Pope, and of the absolute authority
attaching thereby to his decisions, however confidently asserted by
the admirers of Aquinas and accepted by the Popes, was not erected
into a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church until 1870. The other
theory, that even the Pope can err, and that the supreme decision
rests with a General Council, had been maintained by theologians
whom, at the same time, no Pope had ever ventured to treat as
heretics. It was on the ground of this latter theory that the
University of Paris, then the first university in Europe, had just
appealed from the Pope to a General Council. In Germany opinions
were on the whole divided between this and the theory of Papal
absolutism. Again, the view that neither the decisions of a Council
nor of a Pope were _ipso facto_ infallible, but that an appeal
therefrom lay to a council possibly better informed, had already
been advanced with impunity by writers of the fifteenth century. The
only point as to which no doubt was expressed, was that the
decisions of previous General Councils, acknowledged also by the
Pope, contained absolutely pure Divine truth, and that the Christian
Universal Church could never fall into error; but even then, with
reference to this Church, the question still remained as to who or
what was her true and final representative.

Luther now followed what he found to be the teaching of the Bible,
so far as that teaching presented itself to his own independent and
conscientious research, and as, traced home in the New Testament and
especially in the Epistles of St. Paul, it shaped itself to his
perception. But for all this, he would not yet abandon his agreement
with the Church of which he was a member. The very man whom Eck had
branded as full of 'Bohemian poison,' complained of the Bohemian
Brethren or Moravians for exalting themselves in their ignorance
above the rest of Christendom. A Thomist indeed, who to him was only
a Scholastic among others, he fearlessly opposed; but still we find
no expression of a thought that the Church, assembled at a General
Council, had ever erred, nor even that any future Council could
pronounce an erroneous decision upon the present points in dispute.
Nay, he awaits the decision of such a Council against the charges of
heresy already brought against him, though without ever admitting
his readiness, if such a Council should assemble, to submit
beforehand and unconditionally to its decision, whatever it might
be. Above and before any such decision he held firm to the authority
of his own conviction: his conscience, he said, would not allow him
to yield from that resolve; he was not standing alone in this
contest, but with him stood the truth, together with all those who
shared his doubts as to the virtue of indulgences.

Still, while rejecting the doctrine of the infallibility of the
Popes, it was a hard matter for Luther to reproach them also with
actual error in their decisions. We have seen how necessity forced
him to do so in the case of Clement VI. Towards the existing Head of
the Church he desired to remain, as far as possible, in concord and
subjection. It was not for mere appearance' sake, that in his
ninety-five theses he represented his own view of indulgences as
being also that of the Pope. He hoped, at all events, and wished
with all his heart that it was so; and later on, towards the close
of his life, he tells us how confidently he had cherished the
expectation that the Pope would be his patron in the war against the
shameless vendors of indulgences. Even after those hopes had failed,
he spoke of Leo X. with respect as a man of good disposition and an
educated theologian, whose only misfortune was that he lived in an
atmosphere of corruption and in a vicious age. He was none the less
assured of his Divine credentials as the supreme earthly Shepherd of
Christendom, and the depositary of all canonical power. The duty of
humility and obedience, impressed on him to excess as a monk, must,
no less than the fear of the possible dangers and troubles in store
for himself and his Christian brethren, have made Luther shrink from
the thought of having actually to testify and fight against him. He
ventured to dedicate his 'Solutions' to the Pope himself. The letter
of May 30, 1518, in which he did this, shows the peculiar,
anomalous, and untenable position in which he now found himself
placed. He is horrified, he says, at the charges of heresy and
schism brought against himself. He who would much prefer to live in
peace, had no wish to set up any dogmas in his theses, provoked as
they were by a public scandal, but simply in Christian zeal, or, as
others might have it, in youthful ardour, to invite men to a
disputation, and his present desire was to publish his explanation
of them under the patronage and protection of the Pope himself. But
at the same time he declares that his conscience was innocent and
untroubled, and he adds with emphatic brevity, 'Retract I cannot.'
He concludes by humbly casting himself at the Pope's feet with the
words, 'Give me life or death, accept or reject me as you please.'
He will recognise the Papal voice as that of the Lord Jesus Himself.
He will, if worthy of death, not flinch from it. But that
declaration of his, which he could not retract, must stand.



The task that Luther had now undertaken lay heavy upon his soul. He
was sincerely anxious, whilst fighting for the truth, to remain at
peace with his Church, and to serve her by the struggle. Pope Leo,
on the contrary, as was consistent with his whole character, treated
the matter at first very lightly, and when it threatened to become
dangerous, thought only how, by means of his Papal power, to make
the restless German monk harmless.

Two expressions of his in these early days of the contest are
recorded. 'Brother Martin,' he said, 'is a man of a very fine
genius, and this outbreak the mere squabble of envious monks;' and
again, 'It is a drunken German who has written the theses; he will
think differently about them when sober.' Three months after the
theses had appeared, he ordered the Vicar-General of the
Augustinians to 'quiet down the man,' hoping still to extinguish
easily the flame. The next step was to institute a tribunal for
heretics at Rome, for Luther's trial: what its judgment would be was
patent from the fact that the single theologian of learning among
the judges was Sylvester Prierias. Before this tribunal Luther was
cited on August 7; within sixty days he was to appear there at Rome.
Friend and foe could well feel certain that they would look in vain
for his return.

Papal influence, meanwhile, had been brought to bear on the Elector
Frederick, to induce him not to take the part of Luther, and the
chief agent chosen for working on the Elector and the Emperor
Maximilian was the Papal legate, Cardinal Thomas Vio of Gäeta,
called Caietan, who had made his appearance in Germany. The
University of Wittenberg, on the other hand, interposed on behalf of
their member, whose theology was popular there, and whose biblical
lectures attracted crowds of enthusiastic hearers. He had just been
joined at Wittenberg by his fellow-professor Philip Melancthon, then
only twenty-one years old, but already in the first rank of Greek
scholars, and the bond of friendship was now formed which lasted
through their lives. The university claimed that Luther should at
least be tried in Germany.

Luther expressed the same wish through Spalatin to his sovereign. He
now also answered publicly the attack of Prierias upon his theses,
and declared not only that a Council alone could represent the
Church, but that even a decree of Council might err, and that an Act
of the Church was no final evidence of the truth of a doctrine.
Being threatened with excommunication, he preached a sermon on the
subject, and showed how a Christian, even if under the ban of the
Church, or excluded from _outward_ communion with her, could
still remain in true _inward_ communion with Christ and His
believers, and might then see in his excommunication the noblest
merit of his own.

The Pope, meanwhile, had passed from his previous state of haughty
complacency to one of violent haste. Already, on August 23, thus
long before the sixty days had expired, he demanded the Elector to
deliver up this 'child of the devil,' who boasted of his protection,
to the legate, to bring away with him. This is clearly shown by two
private briefs from the Pope, of August 23 and 25, the one addressed
to the legate, the other to the head of all the Augustinian convents
in Saxony, as distinguished from the Vicar of those congregations,
Staupitz, who already was looked on with suspicion at Borne. These
briefs instructed both men to hasten the arrest of the heretic; his
adherents were to be secured with him, and every place where he was
tolerated laid under the interdict. So unheard of seemed this
conduct of the Pope, that Protestant historians would not believe in
the genuineness of the briefs; but we shall soon see how Caietan
himself refers to the one in his possession.

Other and general relations, interests, and movements of the
ecclesiastical and political life of the German nation now began to
exercise an influence, direct or indirect, upon the history of
Luther and the development of the struggles of the Reformation, and
even caused the Pope himself to moderate his conduct.

Whilst questions of the deepest kind about the means of salvation,
and the grounds and rules of Christian truth, had been opened up for
the first time by Luther during the contest about indulgences, the
abuses, encroachments, and acts of tyranny committed by the Pope on
the temporal domain of the Church, and closely affecting the
political and social life of the people, had long been the subject
of bitter complaints and vigorous remonstrances throughout Germany.
These complaints and remonstrances had been raised by princes and
states of the Empire, who would not be silenced by any theories or
dogmas about the Divine authority and infallibility of the Pope, nor
crushed by any mere sentence of excommunication. And in raising them
they had made no question of the Divine right of the Papacy. Was it
not natural that, in the indignation excited by their wrongs, they
should turn to the man who had laid the axe to the root of the tree
which bore such fruit, and at least consider the possibility of
profiting by his work? Luther, on his part, showed at first a
singularly small acquaintance with the circumstances of their
complaints, and seemed hardly aware of the loud protests raised so
long on this subject at the Diets. But with the question of
indulgences the field of his experience broadened in this respect.
The care he evinced in this matter for the care of souls and true
Christian morality made him the ally of all those who were alarmed
at the vast export of money to Rome, about which he had already said
in his theses that the Christian sheep were being regularly fleeced.

In another respect, also, the ecclesiastical policy of the Papal see
was closely interwoven with the political condition and history of
Germany. If in theory the Pope claimed to control and confirm the
decrees even of the civil power, in practice he at least attempted
to assert and maintain an omnipresent influence. And with regard to
Germany it was all-important to him that the Empire should not
become so powerful as to endanger his authority in general and his
territorial sovereignty in Italy. However loftily the Popes in their
briefs proclaimed their immutable rights, derived from God, and
their plenary power, and took care to let theologians and jurists
advance such pretensions, they understood clearly enough in their
practical conduct to adjust those relations to the rules of
political or diplomatic necessity.

In the summer of 1518 a Diet was held at Augsburg, at which the
Papal legate attended. The Pope was anxious to obtain its consent to
the imposition of a heavy tax throughout the Empire, to be applied
ostensibly for the war against the Turks, but alleged to be wanted
in reality for entirely other objects. The Emperor Maximilian, now
old and hastening to his end, was endeavouring to secure the
succession of his grandson Charles, and Caietan's chief task was to
exert his influence with Maximilian and the Elector Frederick to
bring Luther into their disfavour. The Archbishop Albert, who had
been hit so hard by Luther's attack on the traffic in indulgences,
was solemnly proclaimed Cardinal by order of the Pope.

Of Maximilian it might fairly have been expected that, after his
many experiences and contests with the Popes, he would at least
protect Luther from the worst, however unlikely it might be that he
should entertain the idea of effecting, by his help, a great reform
in the National Church. He did indeed express his wish to
Pfeffinger, a counsellor of the Elector, that his prince should take
care of the monk, as his services might some day be wanted. But he
supported the Pope in the matter of the tax, and hoped to gain him
for his own political ends. He opposed Luther also in his attack on
indulgences, on the ground that it endangered the Church, and that
he was resolved to uphold the action taken by the Pope.

This demand for a tax, however, was received with the utmost
disfavour both by the Diet and the Empire; and a long-cherished
bitterness of feeling now found expression. An anonymous pamphlet
was circulated, from the pen of one Fischer, a prebendary of
Wiirzburg, which bluntly declared that the avaricious lords of Rome
only wished to cheat the 'drunken Germans,' and that the real Turks
were to be looked for in Italy. This pamphlet reached Wittenberg and
fell into the hands of Luther, whom now for the first time we hear
denouncing 'Roman cunning,' though he only charged the Pope himself
with allowing his grasping Florentine relations to deceive him. The
Diet seized the opportunity offered by this demand for a tax, to
bring up a whole list of old grievances; the large sums drawn from
German benefices by the Pope under the name of annates, or extorted
under other pretexts; the illegal usurpation of ecclesiastical
patronage in Germany, the constant infringement of concordats, and
so on. The demand itself was refused, and in addition to this, an
address was presented to the Diet from the bishop and clergy of
Liege, inveighing against the lying, thieving, avaricious conduct of
the Romish minions, in such sharp and violent tones that Luther, on
reading it afterwards when printed, thought it only a hoax, and not
really an episcopal remonstrance.

This was reason enough why Caietan, to avoid increasing the
excitement, should not attempt to lay hands on the Wittenberg
opponent of indulgences. The Elector Frederick, from whose hands
Caietan would have to demand Luther, was one of the most powerful
and personally respected princes of the Empire, and his influence
was especially important in view of the election of a new Emperor.
This prince went now in person to Caietan on Luther's behalf, and
Caietan promised him, at the very time that the brief was on its way
to him from Rome, that he would hear Luther at Augsburg, treat him
with fatherly kindness, and let him depart in safety.

Luther accordingly was sent to Augsburg. It was an anxious time for
himself and his friends when he had to leave for that distant place,
where the Elector, with all his care, could not employ any physical
means for his protection, and to stand accused as a heretic before
that Papal legate who, from his own theological principles, was
bound to condemn him, Caietan being a zealous Thomist like Prierias,
and already notorious as a champion of indulgences and Papal
absolutism. 'My thoughts on the way,' said Luther afterwards, 'were
now I must die; and I often lamented the disgrace I should be to my
dear parents.'

He went thither in humble garb and manner. He made his way on foot
till within a short distance of Augsburg, when illness and weakness
overcame him, and he was forced to proceed by carriage. Another
younger monk of Wittenberg accompanied him, his pupil Leonard Baier.
At Nüremberg he was joined by his friend Link, who held an
appointment there as preacher. From him he borrowed a monk's frock,
his own being too bad for Augsburg. He arrived here on October 7.

The surroundings he now entered, and the proceedings impending over
him, were wholly novel and unaccustomed. But he met with men who
received him with kindness and consideration; several of them were
gentlemen of Augsburg favourable to him, especially the respected
patrician, Dr. Conrad Peutinger, and two counsellors of the Elector.
They advised him to behave with prudence, and to observe carefully
all the necessary forms, to which as yet he was a stranger.

Luther at once announced his arrival to Caietan, who was anxious to
receive him without delay. His friends, however, kept him back until
they had obtained a written safe-conduct from the Emperor, who was
then hunting in the environs. In the meantime, a distinguished
friend of Caietan, one Urbanus of Serralonga, tried to persuade him,
in a flippant, and, as Luther thought, a downright Italian manner,
to come forward and simply pronounce six letters,--_Revoco_--I
retract. Urbanus asked him with a smile if he thought his sovereign
would risk his country for his sake. 'God forbid!' answered Luther.
'Where then do you mean to take refuge?' he went on to ask him.
'Under Heaven,' was Luther's reply.

To Melancthon Luther wrote as follows: 'There is no news here,
except that the town is full of talk about me, and everybody wants
to see the man who, like a second Herostratus, has kindled such a
flame. Remain a man as you are, and instruct the youth aright. I go
to be sacrificed for them and for you, if God so will. For I will
rather die, and, what is the hardest fate, lose for ever the sweet
intercourse with you, than revoke anything that it was right for me
to say.'

On October 11 Luther received the letter of safe-conduct, and the
next day he appeared before Caietan. Humbly, as he had been advised,
he prostrated himself before the representative of the Pope, who
received him graciously and bade him rise.

The Cardinal addressed him civilly, and with a courtesy Luther was
not accustomed to meet with from his opponents; but he immediately
demanded him, in the name and by command of the Pope, to retract his
errors, and promise in future to abstain from them and from
everything that might disturb the peace of the Church. He pointed
out, in particular, two errors in his theses; namely, that the
Church's treasure of indulgences did not consist of the merits of
Christ, and that faith on the part of the recipient was necessary
for the efficacy of the sacrament. With respect to the second point,
the religious principles upon which Luther based his doctrine were
altogether strange and unintelligible to the Scholastic standpoint
of Caietan; mere tittering and laughter followed Luther's
observations, and he was required to retract this thesis
unconditionally. The first point settled the question of Papal
authority. On this, the Cardinal-legate took his chief stand on the
express declaration of Pope Clement: he could not believe that
Luther would venture to resist a Papal bull, and thought he had
probably not read it. He read him a vigorous lecture of his own on
the paramount authority of the Pope over Council, Church, and
Scripture. As to any argument, however, about the theses to be
retracted, Caietan refused from the first to engage in it, and
undoubtedly he went further in that direction than he originally
desired or intended. His sole wish was, as he said, to give fatherly
correction, and with fatherly friendliness to arrange the matter.
But in reality, says Luther, it was a blunt, naked, unyielding
display of power. Luther could only beg from him further time for

Luther's friends at Augsburg, and Staupitz, who had just arrived
there, now attempted to divert the course of these proceedings, to
collect other decisions of importance bearing on the subject, and to
give him the opportunity of a public vindication. Accompanied
therefore by several jurists friendly to his cause, and by a notary
and Staupitz, he laid before the legate next day a short and formal
statement of defence. He could not retract unless convicted of
error, and to all that he had said he must hold as being Catholic
truth. Nevertheless he was only human, and therefore fallible, and
he was willing to submit to a legitimate decision of the Church. He
offered, at the same time, publicly to justify his theses, and he
was ready to hear the judgment of the learned doctors of Basle,
Freiburg, Louvain, and even Paris upon them. Caietan with a smile
dismissed Luther and his proposals, but consented to receive a more
detailed reply in writing to the principal points discussed on the
previous day.

On the morrow, October 14, Luther brought his reply to the legate.
But in this document also he insisted clearly and resolutely from
the commencement on those very principles which his opponents
regarded as destructive of all ecclesiastical authority and of the
foundations of Christian belief. He spoke with crucial emphasis of
the trouble he had taken to interpret the words of Pope Clement in a
Scriptural sense. The Papal decrees might err, and be at variance
with Holy Writ. Even the Apostle Peter himself had once to be
reproved (Galat. ii. 11 sqq.) for 'walking not uprightly according
to the truth of the gospel;' surely then his successor was not
infallible. Every faithful believer in Christ was superior to the
Pope, if he could show better proofs and grounds of his belief.
Still he entreated Caietan to intercede with Leo X., that the latter
might not harshly thrust out into darkness his soul, which was
seeking for the light. But he repeated that he could do nothing
against his conscience: one must obey God rather than man, and he
had the fullest confidence that he had Scripture on his side.
Caietan, to whom he delivered this reply in person, once more tried
to persuade him. They fell into a lively and vehement argument; but
Caietan cut it short with the exclamation 'Revoke.' In the event of
Luther not revoking or submitting to judgment at Rome, he threatened
him and all his friends with excommunication, and whatever place he
might go to with an interdict; he had a mandate from the Pope to
that effect already in his hands. He then dismissed him with the
words, 'Revoke, or do not come again into my presence.'

Nevertheless he spoke in quite a friendly manner after this to
Staupitz, urging him to try his best to convert Luther, whom he
wished well. Luther, however, wrote the same day to his friend
Spalatin, who was with the Elector, and to his friends at
Wittenberg, telling them that he had refused to yield. The legate,
he said, had behaved with all friendliness of manner to Staupitz in
his affair, but neither Staupitz nor himself trusted the Italian
when out of sight. If Caietan should use force against him, he would
publish the written reply he gave him. Caietan might call himself a
Thomist, but he was a muddle-headed, ignorant theologian and
Christian, and as clumsy in giving judgment in the matter as a
donkey with a harp. Luther added further that an appeal would be
drawn up for him in the form best fitted to the occasion. He further
hinted to his Wittenberg friends at the possibility of his having to
go elsewhere in exile; indeed, his friends already thought of taking
him to Paris, where the university still rejected the doctrine of
Papal absolutism. He concluded this letter by saying that he refused
to become a heretic by denying that which had made him a Christian;
sooner than do that, he would be burned, exiled, or cursed.

The appeal of which Luther here spoke, was 'from the Pope ill-informed
to the same when better informed.' On October 16 he submitted it,
formally prepared, to a public notary. While Staupitz and Link, warned
to consult their personal safety, and despairing of any good result,
left Augsburg, Luther still remained there. He even addressed on
October 17 a letter to Caietan, conceding to him the utmost he thought
possible. Moved, as he said, by the persuasions of his dear father
Staupitz and his brother Link, he offered to let the whole question of
indulgences rest, if only that which drove him to this tragedy were
put a stop to; he confessed also to having been too violent and
disrespectful in dispute. In after years he said to his friends, when
referring to this concession, that God had never allowed him to sink
deeper than when he had yielded so much. The next day, however, he
gave notice of his appeal to the legate, and told him he did not wish
longer to waste his time in Augsburg. To this letter he received no

Luther waited, however, till the 20th. He and his Augsburg patrons
began to suspect whether measures had not already been taken to detain
him. They therefore had a small gate in the city wall opened in the
night, and sent with him an escort well acquainted with the road. Thus
he hastened away, as he himself described it, on a hard-trotting hack,
in a simple monk's frock, with only knee-breeches, without boots or
spurs, and unarmed. On the first day he rode eight miles, as far as
the little town of Monheim. As he entered in the evening an inn and
dismounted in the stable, he was unable to stand from fatigue, and
fell down instantly among the straw. He travelled thus on horseback
to Wittenberg, where he arrived well and joyful, on the anniversary of
his ninety-five theses. He had heard on the way of the Pope's brief to
Caietan, but he refused to think it could be genuine. His appeal,
meanwhile, was delivered to the Cardinal at Augsburg, who had it
posted by his notary on the doors of the cathedral.

From Augsburg Luther was followed by a letter from Caietan to the
Elector, full of bitter complaints against him. He had formed, he
said, the highest hopes of his spiritual recovery, and had been
grievously disappointed in him; the Elector, for his own honour and
conscience' sake, must now either send him to Rome or, at least,
expel him from his territory, since measures of fatherly kindness
had failed to make him acknowledge his error. Frederick, after
waiting four weeks, returned a quiet answer, showing how the conduct
of Luther quite agreed with his own view of the matter. He would
have expected that no recantation would have been required of Luther
till the matter in dispute had been satisfactorily examined and
explained. There were a number of learned men, also, at foreign
universities, from whom he could not yet have learned with certainty
that Luther's doctrine was unchristian; while, to say the least, it
was chiefly those whose personal and financial interests were
affected by it that had become his opponents. He would propose
therefore that the judgment of several universities should be
obtained, and have the matter disputed at a safe place. Luther,
however, to whom the Elector showed this letter, at once declared
himself ready to go into exile, but would not be deterred from
publishing new declarations or taking further steps.

He had a report of his conference with Caietan printed, with a
justification of himself to the readers. And in this he advanced
propositions against the Papacy which entirely shook its whole
foundation. Already, in the solutions to his theses, he had
incidentally, and without attracting further notice by the remark,
spoken of a time when the Papacy had not yet acquired supremacy over
the Universal Church, thereby contradicting what the Romish Church
maintained and had made into a dogma, namely, that the Papal see
possessed this primacy by original institution through Christ, and
by means of immutable Divine right. He now expressed this opinion as
a positive proposition. The Papal monarchy, he declared, was only a
Divine institution in the sense in which every temporal power,
advanced by the progress of historical development, might be called
so also. 'The kingdom of God cometh not with observation.'

Without waiting for an answer direct from Rome, Luther now abandoned
all thoughts of success with Leo X. On November 28 he formally and
solemnly appealed from the Pope to a General Christian Council. By
so doing he anticipated the sentence of excommunication which he was
daily expecting. With Rome he had broken for ever, unless she were
to surrender her claims and acquisitions of more than a thousand

After once the first restraints of awe were removed with which
Luther had regarded the Papacy, behind and beyond the matter of the
indulgences, and he had learned to know the Papal representative at
Augsburg, and made a stand against his demands and menaces, and
escaped from his dangerous clutches, he enjoyed for the first time
the fearless consciousness of freedom. He took a wider survey around
him, and saw plainly the deep corruption and ungodliness of the
powers arrayed against him. His mind was impelled forward with more
energy as his spirit for the fight was stirred within him. Even the
prospect that he might have to fly, and the uncertainty whither his
flight could be, did not daunt or deter him. His thought was how he
could throw himself with more freedom into the struggle, if no
longer hampered by any obligations to his prince and his university.
Writing at that time to his friend Link, to inform him of his new
publications and his appeal, he invited his opinion as to whether he
was not right in saying that the Antichrist of whom St. Paul speaks
(2 Thess. ii.), ruled at the Papal court. 'My pen,' he went on to
say, 'is already giving birth to something much greater. I know not
whence these thoughts come. The work, as far as I can see, has
hardly yet begun, so little reason have the great men at Rome for
hoping it is finished.' Again, while informing Spalatin, through
whom the Elector always urged him to moderation, of new Papal edicts
and regulations aimed against him, he declared, 'The more those
Romish grandees rage and meditate the use of force, the less do I
fear them. All the more free shall I become to fight against the
serpents of Rome. I am prepared for all, and await the judgment of

He was really prepared for exile or flight at any moment. At
Wittenberg his friends were alarmed by rumours of designs on the
part of the Pope against his life and liberty, and insisted on his
being placed in safety. Flight to France was continually talked of;
had he not followed in his appeal a precedent set by the university
of Paris? We certainly cannot see how he could safely have been
conveyed thither, or where, indeed, any other and safer place could
have been found for him. Some urged that the Elector himself should
take him into custody and keep him in a place of safety, and then
write to the legate that he held him securely in confinement and was
in future responsible for him. Luther proposed this to Spalatin, and
added, 'I leave the decision of this matter to your discretion; I am
in the hands of God and of my friends.' The Elector himself, anxious
also in this respect, arranged early in December a confidential
interview between Luther and Spalatin at the Castle of Lichtenberg.
He also, as Luther reported to Staupitz, wished that Luther had some
other place to be in, but he advised him against going away so
hastily to France. His own wish and counsel, however, he refrained
as yet from making known. Luther declared that at all events, if a
ban of excommunication were to come from Rome, he would not remain
longer at Wittenberg. On this point also the prince kept secret his



The rumours of the dangers that threatened Luther from Rome had a
good foundation. A new agent from there had now arrived in Germany,
the Papal chamberlain, Charles von Miltitz.

His errand was designed to remove the chief obstacle to summoning
the Wittenberg heretic to Rome, or imprisoning him there, namely,
the protection afforded him by his sovereign. Miltitz was of a noble
Saxon family, himself a Saxon subject by birth, and a friend of the
Electoral court. He brought with him a high token of favour for the
Elector. The latter had formerly expressed a wish to receive the
golden rose; a symbol solemnly consecrated by the Pope himself, and
bestowed by his ambassadors on princely personages to this day, for
services rendered to the Church or the Papal see. The bearer of this
decoration was Miltitz, and on October 24, 1518, he was furnished
with a whole armful of Papal indulgences.

Above all, he took with him two letters of Leo X. to Frederick. The
Elector, his beloved son, so ran the first missive, was to receive
the most holy rose, anointed with the sacred chrism, sprinkled with
scented musk, consecrated with the Apostolic blessing, a gift of
transcendent worth and the symbol of a deep mystery, in remembrance
and as a pledge of the Pope's paternal love and singular good-will,
conveyed through an ambassador specially appointed by the Pope, and
charged with particular greetings on that behalf &c. &c. Such a
costly gift, proffered him by the Church through her Pontiff, was
intended to manifest her joy at the redemption of mankind by the
precious blood of Jesus Christ, and the rose was an appropriate
symbol of the quickening and refreshing body of our Redeemer. These
high-sounding and long-winded expressions showed very plainly the
real object of the Pope. The divine fragrance of this flower was so
to permeate the inmost heart of Frederick, the 'beloved son,' that
he being filled with it, might with pious mind receive and cherish
in his noble breast those matters which Miltitz would explain to
him, and whereof the second brief made mention; and thus the more
fervently comprehend the Pope's holy and pious longing, agreeably to
the hope he placed in him. The other letter, however, after
referring to the call for aid against the Turks, goes on to speak of
Luther. From Satan himself came this son of perdition, who was
preaching notorious heresy, and that chiefly in Frederick's own
land. Inasmuch as this diseased sheep must not be suffered to infect
the heavenly flock, and as the honour and conscience of the Elector
also must needs be stained by his presence, Miltitz was commissioned
to take measures against him and his associates, and Frederick was
exhorted in the name of the Lord to assist him with his authority
and favour.

Papal instructions in writing to the same effect were given to
Miltitz for Spalatin, as Frederick's private secretary, and for
Degenhard Pfeffinger, a counsellor of the Elector. To Spalatin in
particular, the most trusted adviser of Frederick in religious
matters, it was represented, how horrible was the heretical audacity
of this 'son of Satan,' and how he imperilled the good name of the
Elector. In like manner the chief magistrate of Wittenberg was
required by letter to give assistance to Miltitz, and enable him to
execute freely and unhindered the Pope's commands against the
heretic Luther, who came of the devil. Miltitz took with him similar
injunctions for a number of other towns in Germany, to ensure safe
passage for himself and his prisoner to Rome, in the event of his
arresting Luther. He was armed, it was said, with no less than
seventy letters of this kind.

As regards the rose, Miltitz had strict orders to make the actual
delivery of it to Frederick depend wholly on his compliance with
Caietan's advice and will. It was deposited first of all in the
mercantile house of the Fuggers at Augsburg. This public precaution
was taken, to prevent Miltitz from parting with the precious gift in
haste or from too anxious a desire for the thanks and praise in
prospect, before there were reasonable grounds for hoping that it
had served its purpose.

Towards the middle of December a Papal bull, issued on November 9,
was published by Caietan in Germany, which finally laid down the
doctrine of indulgences in the sense directly combated by Luther,
and, although not mentioning him by name, threatened excommunication
against all who shared the errors which had lately been promulgated
in certain quarters.

So utterly did the Pope appear to have set his face against all
reconciliation or compromise. And yet, as the event showed, room was
left for Miltitz in his secret instructions to try another method,
according as circumstances might dictate.

Miltitz, after having crossed the Alps, sought an interview first
with Caietan in Southern Germany, and, as the latter had gone to the
Emperor in Austria, he paid a visit to his old friend Pfeffinger, at
his home in Bavaria. Continuing his journey with him, he arrived on
December 25 at the town of Gera, and from there announced his
arrival to Spalatin, who was at Altenburg. On the way he had had
constant opportunities of noticing, both among learned men and the
common people, signs of sympathy for the man against whom his
mission was directed, and a feeling hostile to Rome, of which those
at Rome neither knew nor cared to know. He was a young and clever
man, full of the enjoyment of life, who knew how to mix and converse
with people of every kind, and even to touch now and then on the
situation and doings at Rome which were exciting such lively
indignation. Tetzel also, whom Miltitz summoned to meet him, wrote
complaining that the people in Germany were so excited against him
by Luther, that his life would not be safe on the road. Miltitz
accordingly, with his usual readiness, resolved speedily on an
attempt to make Luther harmless by other means. After paying his
visit to the Elector at Altenburg, he agreed to treat with him there
in a friendly manner.

The remarkable interview with Luther took place at Spalatin's house
at Altenburg in the first week of the new year. Miltitz feigned the
utmost frankness and friendliness, nay, even cordiality. He himself
declared to Luther, that for the last hundred years no business had
caused so much trouble at Rome as this one, and that they would
gladly there give ten thousand ducats to prevent its going further.
He described the state of popular feeling as he had found it on his
journey; three were for Luther where only one was for the Pope. He
would not venture, even with an escort of 25,000 men, to carry off
Luther through Germany to Rome. 'Oh, Martin!' he exclaimed, 'I
thought you were some old theologian, who had carried on his
disputations with himself, in his warm corner behind the stove. Now
I see how young, and fresh, and vigorous you are.' Whilst plying him
with exhortations and reproaches about the injury he did to the
Romish Church, he accompanied them with tears. He fancied by this
means to make him his confidant and conformable to his schemes.

Luther, however, soon showed him that he could be his match in
cleverness. He refrained, he tells us, from letting Miltitz see that
he was aware what crocodile's tears they were. Indeed he was quite
prepared, as he had been before under the menaces of a Papal
ambassador, so now under his persuasions and entreaties, to yield
all that his conscience allowed, but nothing beyond, and then
quietly to let matters take their own course.

In the event of Miltitz withdrawing his demand for a retractation,
Luther agreed to write a letter to the Pope, acknowledging that he
had been too hasty and severe, and promising to publish a
declaration to German Christendom urging and admonishing reverence
to the Romish Church. His cause, and the charges brought against
him, might be tried before a German bishop, but he reserved to
himself the right, in case the judgment should be unacceptable, of
reviving his appeal to the Church in Council. Personally he desired
to desist from further strife, but silence must also be imposed on
his adversaries.

Having come to this point of agreement, they partook of a friendly
supper together, and on parting Miltitz bestowed on him a kiss.

In a report given of this conference to the Elector, Luther
expressed the hope that the matter by mutual silence might 'bleed
itself to death,' but added his fear that, if the contest were
prolonged, the question would grow larger and become serious.

He now wrote his promised address to the people. He bated not an
inch from his standpoint, so that, even if he should for the future
let the controversy rest, he might not appear to have retracted
anything. He allowed a value to indulgences, but only as a
recompense for the 'satisfaction' given by the sinner, and adding
that it was better to do good than to purchase indulgences. He urged
the duty of holding fast in Christian love and unity, and
notwithstanding her faults and sins, to the Romish Church, in which
St. Peter and St. Paul and hundreds of martyrs had shed their blood,
and of submitting to her authority, though with reference only to
external matters. Propositions going beyond what was here conceded
he wished to be regarded as in no way affecting the people or the
common man. They should be left, he said, to the schools of
theology, and learned men might fight the matter out between them.
His opponents indeed, if they had admitted what Luther declared in
this address, would have had to abandon their main principles, for
to them the doctrine that indulgences and Church authority meant far
more than was here stated was a truth indispensable for salvation.

Luther wrote his letter to the Pope on March 3, 1519. It began with
expressions of the deepest personal humility, but differed
significantly in the quiet firmness of its tone from his other
letter of the previous year to Leo X. Quietly, but as resolutely, he
repudiated all idea of retracting his principles. They had already,
through the opposition raised by his enemies, been propagated far
and wide, beyond all his expectations, and had sunk into the hearts
of the Germans, whose knowledge and judgment were now more matured.
If he let himself be forced to retract them he would give occasion
to accusation and revilement against the Romish Church; for the sake
of her own honour he must refuse to do so. As for his battle against
indulgences, his only thought had been to prevent the Mother Church
from being defiled by foreign avarice, and that the people should
not be led astray, but learn to set love before indulgences.

Meanwhile, on January 12, Maximilian had died. He was the last
national Emperor with whom Germany was blessed; in character a true
German, endowed with rich gifts both mental and physical, a man of
high courage and a warm heart, thoroughly understanding how to deal
with high and low, and to win their esteem and love. By Luther too
we hear him often spoken of afterwards in terms of affectionate
remembrance: he tells us of his kindness and courtesy to everyone,
of his efforts to attract around him trusty and capable servants
from all ranks, of his apt remarks, of his tact in jest and in
earnest; further of the troubles he had in his government of the
Empire and with his princes, of the insolence he had to put up with
from the Italians, and of the humour with which he speaks of himself
and his imperial rule. 'God,' said he on one occasion, 'has well
ordered the temporal and spiritual government; the former is ruled
over by a chamois-hunter, and the latter by a drunken priest' (Pope
Julius). He called himself a king of kings, because his German
princes only acted like kings when it suited them. With the lofty
ideas and projects which he cherished as sovereign, he stood before
the people as a worthy representative of Imperialism, even though
his eyes may have been fixed in reality more on his own family and
the power of his dynasty, than on the general interests of the
Empire. The ecclesiastical grievances of the German nation, which we
heard of at the Diet of 1518, had long engaged his lively sympathy,
though he deemed it wiser to abstain from interfering. He had an
opinion on these matters and on the necessary reforms drawn up by
the Humanist Wimpheling. Nay, he had once, in his contest with Pope
Julius, worked to bring about a general reforming Council. The
question forces itself on the mind--however vain such an inquiry may
be from a historical point of view--what turn Luther's great work,
and the fortunes of the German nation and Church would have taken,
if Maximilian had identified his own imperial projects with the
interests for which Luther contended, and thus had come forward as
the leader of a great national movement. As it was, Maximilian died
without ever having realised more of the importance of this monk
than was shown by his remark about him, already noticed, at

[Illustration: FIG. l3.--THE EMPEROR MAXIMILIAN. (From his Portrait
by Albert Dürer.)]

His death served to increase the respect which the Pope found it
necessary to show to the Elector Frederick. For, pending the
election of a new Emperor, the latter was Administrator of the
Empire for Northern Germany, and the issue of the election depended
largely on his influence. On June 28 Maximilian's grandson, King
Charles of Spain, then nineteen years of age, was chosen Emperor. He
was a stranger to German life and customs, as the German people and
the Reformer must constantly have had to feel. For the Pope,
however, these considerations were of further import, for in his
dealings with the new Emperor he had to proceed at least with
caution, since the latter was aware that he had done his best to
prevent his election. On the other hand, Charles was under an
obligation to the Elector, being mainly indebted to him for his
crown, and unable to come himself immediately to Germany to accept
his rule.

Miltitz meanwhile had further prosecuted his scheme, without
revealing his own ultimate object. He chose for a judge of Luther's
cause the Archbishop of Treves, and persuaded him to accept the
office. Early in May he had an interview with Caietan at Coblentz,
the chief town of the archiepiscopal diocese, and now summoned
Luther to appear there before the Archbishop.

But Miltitz took good care to say nothing about the opinions
entertained at Rome of his negotiations with Luther. Would Luther
venture from his refuge at Wittenberg without the consent of his
faithful sovereign, who himself evinced suspicion in the matter, and
set forth in the dark, so to speak, on his long journey to the two
ambassadors of the Pope? He would be held a fool, he wrote to
Miltitz, if he did; moreover, he did not know where to find the
money for the journey. What took place between Rome and Miltitz in
this affair was altogether unknown to Luther, as it is to us.

Whilst this attempt at a mediation--if such it could be called--remained
thus in abeyance, a serious occasion of strife had been prepared, which
caused the seemingly muffled storm to break out with all its violence.

Luther's colleague, Carlstadt, who at first, on the appearance of
Luther's theses, had viewed them with anxiety, but who afterwards
espoused the new Wittenberg theology, and pressed forward in that
path, had had a literary feud since 1518 with Eck, on account of his
attacks upon Luther. The latter, meeting Eck at Augsburg in October,
arranged with him for a public disputation in which Eck and
Carlstadt could fight the matter out. Luther hoped, as he told Eck
and his friends, that there might be a worthy battle for the truth,
and the world should then see that theologians could not only
dispute but come to an agreement. Thus then, at least between him
and Eck, there seemed the prospect of a friendly understanding. The
university of Leipzig was chosen as the scene of the disputation.
Duke George of Saxony, the local ruler, gave his consent, and
rejected the protest of the theological faculty, to whom the affair
seemed very critical.

When, however, towards the end of the year, Eck published the theses
which he intended to defend, Luther found with astonishment that
they dealt with cardinal points of doctrine, which he himself,
rather than Carlstadt, had maintained, and that Carlstadt was
expressly designated the 'champion of Luther.' Only one of these
theses related to a doctrine specially defended by Carlstadt,
namely, that of the subjection of the will in sinful man. Among the
other points noticed was the denial of the primacy of the Romish
Church during the first few centuries after Christ. Eck had
extracted this from Luther's recent publications; so far as
Carlstadt was concerned, he could not have read or heard a word of
such a statement.

Luther fired up. In a public letter addressed to Carlstadt he
observed that Eck had let loose against him, in reality, the frogs
or flies intended for Carlstadt, and he challenged Eck himself. He
would not reproach him for having so maliciously, uncourteously, and
in an untheological manner charged Carlstadt with doctrines to which
he was a stranger; he would not complain of being drawn himself
again into the contest by a piece of base flattery on Eck's part
towards the Pope; he would merely show that his crafty wiles were
well understood, and he wished to exhort him in a friendly spirit,
for the future, if only for his own reputation, to be a little more
sensible in his stratagems. Eck might then gird his sword upon his
thigh, and add a Saxon triumph to the others of which he boasted,
and so at length rest on his laurels. Let him bring forth to the
world what he was in labour of; let him disgorge what had long been
lying heavy on his stomach, and bring his vainglorious menaces at
length to an end.

Luther was anxious, indeed, apart from this special reason, to be
allowed to defend in a public disputation the truth for which he was
called a heretic; he had made this proposal in vain to the legate at
Augsburg. He now demanded to be admitted to the lists at Leipzig. He
wished in particular, to take up the contest, openly and decisively,
about the Papal primacy.

His friends just on this point grew anxious about him. But he
prepared his weapons with great diligence, studying thoroughly the
ecclesiastical law-books and the history of ecclesiastical law, with
which until now he had never occupied himself so much. Herein he
found his own conclusions fully confirmed. Nay, he found that the
tyrannical pretensions of the Pope, even if more than a thousand
years old, derived their sole and ultimate authority from the Papal
decretals of the last four centuries. Arrayed against the theory of
that primacy were the history of the previous centuries, the
authority of the Council of Nice in 325, and the express declaration
of Scripture. This he stated now in a thesis, and announced his
opinion in print.

We have already noticed the high importance of this historical
evidence in regard to matters of belief, as well as to the entire
conception of Christian salvation, and of the true community or
Church of Christ. The real essence of the Church is shown not to
depend on its constitution under a Pope. And the course of history,
wherein God allowed the Christians of the West to come under the
external authority of the Pope, just as people come to be under the
rule of different princes, in no way subjected, or should subject,
the whole of Christendom to his dominion. The millions of Eastern
Christians, who are not his subjects, and who are therefore
condemned by the Pope as schismatics, are all, as Luther now
distinctly declares, none the less members of Christendom, of the
Church, of the Body of Christ. Participation in salvation does not
exist only in the community of the Church of Rome. For Christendom
collectively, or the Universal Church, there is no other Head but
Christ. Luther now also discovered and declared that the bishops did
not receive their posts over individual dioceses and flocks until
after the Apostolic period; the episcopate therefore ceases to be an
essential and necessary element of the Church system. What, then, is
really essential for the continuance of the Church, and how far does
it extend? Luther answers this question with the fundamental
principle of Evangelical Protestantism. The Church, he says, is not
at Rome only, but there, and there only, where the Word of God is
preached and believed in; where Christian faith, hope, and charity
are alive, where Christ, inwardly received, stands before a united
Christendom as her bridegroom. This Universal Church, says Luther,
is the one intended by the Creed, when it says 'I believe in a Holy
Catholic Church, the communion of saints.'

The mere external power which the Popedom exercised in its
government of the Church, in the imposition of outward acts and
penalties--appeared, so far, to Luther a matter of indifference in
respect to religion and the salvation of souls. But it was another
and more serious matter with regard to the claim to Divine right
asserted for that power by the Papacy, and to its extension over the
soul and conscience, over the community of the faithful, nay, over
the fate of departed souls. Here Luther saw an invasion of the
rights reserved by God to Himself, and a perversion of the true
conditions of salvation, as established by Christ and testified in
Scripture. Here he saw a human potentate and tyrant, setting himself
up in the place of Christ and God. He shuddered, so he wrote to his
friends, when, in reading the Papal decretals, he looked further
into the doings of the Popes, with their demands and edicts, into
this smithy of human laws, this fresh crucifixion of Christ, this
ill-treatment and contempt of His people. As previously he had said
that Antichrist ruled at the Papal court, so now, in a letter of
March 13, 1519, he wrote privately to Spalatin, 'I know not whether
the Pope is Antichrist himself, or one of his Apostles,' so
antichristian seemed to him the institution of the Papacy itself,
with its principles and its fruits. Of these decretals he says in
another letter: 'If the death-blow dealt to indulgences has so
damaged the see of Rome, what will it do when, by the will of God,
its decretals have to breathe their last? Not that I glory in
victory, trusting to my own strength, but my trust is in the mercy
of God, whose wrath is against the edicts of man.'

[Illustration: Fig. 14.--DUKE GEORGE OF SAXONY. (From an old

Luther earnestly entreated Duke George to allow him to take part in
the disputation. His Elector, who no doubt was personally desirous
of a public, free, and learned treatment of the questions at issue,
had already given him his permission. Luther's understanding with
Miltitz presented no obstacle, since the silence required as a
condition on the part of his opponents, had never been observed, nor
indeed had ever been enjoined or recommended either by Miltitz or
any other authorities of the Church. His application, nevertheless,
to the Duke was referred to Eck for his concurrence, and the latter
let him wait in vain for an answer. At last the Duke drew up a
letter of safe-conduct for Carlstadt and all whom he might bring
with him, and under this designation Luther was included. He might
safely trust himself to George's word as a man and a prince.

The whole disputation was opposed and protested against from the
outset by the Bishop of Merseburg, the chancellor of the university
of Leipzig and the spiritual head of the faculty of theology. The
project must have been inadmissible in his eyes from the mere fact
that Eck's theses revived the controversy about indulgences, which
was supposed to have been settled once and for ever by the Papal
bull. He appealed to this pronouncement as a reason for not holding
it. Inasmuch as the disputation took place, in spite of this
protest, with the Duke's consent, it became an affair of all the
more importance.

Duke George himself took an active interest in the matter. His was a
robust, upright, and sturdy character. He was a staunch and faithful
upholder of the ecclesiastical traditions in which he had grown up;
it was difficult for him to extend his views. But he was honestly
interested in the truth. He wished that his own men of learning
might have a good scuffle in the lists for the truth's sake. On
hearing of the objections of the Leipzig theologians to the
disputation, his remark was, 'They are evidently afraid to be
disturbed in their idleness and guzzling, and think that whenever
they hear a shot fired, it has hit them.' An unusually large
audience being expected for the disputation, he had the large hall
of his Castle of Pleissenburg cleared and furnished for the
occasion. He commissioned two of his counsellors to preside, and was
anxious himself to be present. How much depended on the impression
which the disputation itself, and Luther with it, should produce
upon him!

On June 24 the Wittenbergers entered Leipzig, with Carlstadt at
their head. An eye-witness has described the scene: 'They entered at
the Grimma Gate, and their students, two hundred in number, ran
beside the carriages with pikes and halberds, and thus accompanied
their professors. Dr. Carlstadt drove first; after him, Dr. Martin
and Philip (Melancthon) in a light basket carriage with solid wooden
wheels (Rollwagen); none of the wagons were either curtained or
covered. Just as they had passed the town-gate and had reached the
churchyard of St. Paul, Dr. Carlstadt's carriage broke down, and the
doctor fell out into the dirt; but Dr. Martin and his _fidus
Achates_ Philip, drove on.' Meanwhile, an episcopal mandate,
forbidding the disputation on pain of excommunication, had been
nailed up on the church doors, but no heed was paid to it. The
magistrate even imprisoned the man who posted the bill for having
done so without his permission.

Before commencing the disputation, certain preliminary conditions
were arranged. The proceedings were to be taken down by notaries.
Eck had opposed this, fearing to be hindered in the free use of his
tongue, and not liking to have all his utterances in debate so
exactly defined. The protocols, however, were to be submitted to
umpires charged to decide the result of the disputation, and were to
be published after their verdict was announced. In vain had both
Luther and Carlstadt, who refused to bind themselves to this
decision, opposed this stipulation. The Duke, however, insisted on
it, as a means of terminating judicially the contest.

Early on the morning of June 27 the disputation was opened with all
the worldly and spiritual solemnity that could be given to a most
important academical event. First came an address of welcome in the
hall, spoken by the Leipzig professor, Simon Pistoris; then a mass
in the church of St. Thomas, whither the assembly repaired in a
procession of state; then a still grander procession to the
Pleissenburg, where a division of armed citizens was stationed as a
guard of honour; then a long speech on the right way of disputing,
delivered in the Castle hall by the famous Peter Schade Mosellanus,
a professor at Leipzig and a master of Latin eloquence; and lastly
the chanting three times of the Latin hymn, 'Come, Holy Ghost,' the
whole assembly kneeling. At two o'clock the disputation between Eck
and Carlstadt began. They were placed opposite each other in

A host of theologians and learned laymen had flocked together to the
scene. From Wittenberg had come the Pomeranian Duke Barnim, then
Rector of the University. Prince George of Anhalt, then a young
Leipzig student, and afterwards a friend of Luther, was there. Duke
George of Saxony frequently attended the proceedings, and listened
attentively. His court jester is said to have appeared with him, and
a comic scene is mentioned as having occurred between him and Eck,
to the great diversion of the meeting. Frederick the Wise was
represented by one of his counsellors, Hans von Planitz.

Eck and Carlstadt contended for four days, from June 27 to July 8,
on the question of free will and its relations to the operation of
the grace of God. It was a wearisome contest, with disconnected
texts from Scripture and passages from old teachers of the Church,
but without any of the lively and free animation of moral and
religious spirit, which, in Luther's treatment of such questions,
carried his hearers with him. In power of memory, as in readiness of
speech, Eck proved himself superior to his opponent. On Carlstadt
bringing books of reference with him, he got this disallowed, and
had now the advantage that no one could check his own quotations.
Thus, confident of triumph, he proceeded to his contest with Luther.

Luther meanwhile, on June 29, the day of St. Peter and St. Paul, had
preached a sermon at the request of Duke Barnim at the Castle of
Pleissenburg, wherein, referring to the Gospel of the day, he
treated, in a simple, practical, and edifying manner, of the main
point of the disputation between Eck and Carlstadt, and at the same
time of the point he himself was about to argue, namely, the meaning
of the power of the keys granted to St. Peter. In opposition to him,
Eck delivered four sermons in various churches of the town (none of
which Luther would have been allowed to preach in), and speaking of
them afterwards he said, 'I simply stirred up the people to be
disgusted with the Lutheran errors.' The members of the Leipzig
university kept peevishly aloof from their brethren of Wittenberg
throughout the disputation, while paying all possible homage to Eck.
When Luther one day entered a church, the monks who were conducting
service hastily took away the monstrance and the elements, to avoid
having them defiled by his presence. And yet he was afterwards
reproached for neglecting to go to church at Leipzig. In the
hostelries where the Wittenberg students lodged, such violent scenes
occurred between them and their Leipzig brethren, that halberdiers
had to be stationed at the tables to keep order.

Duke George invited the heretic, together with Eck and Carlstadt, to
his own table, and to a private audience as well. So frank and
genial was he, and so intent on making himself acquainted with
Luther and his cause. Luther spoke of him then as a good, pious
prince, who knew how to speak in princely fashion. The Duke,
however, told him at that audience, that the Bohemians entertained
great expectations of him; and yet George, who on his mother's side
was grand-son to Podiebrad, King of Bohemia, was anxious to have all
taint of the hateful Bohemian heresy most carefully avoided. On this
point Luther remarked to him that he knew well how to distinguish
between the pipe and the piper, and was only sorry to see how
accessible princes might be to the influence of foreign agitations.
Leipzig altogether must have been a strange and uncomfortable
atmosphere for Luther.

On Monday, July 4, he entered the lists with Eck. On the morning of
that day he signed the conditions, which had been arranged in spite
of his protest; but he stated that, against the verdict of the
judges, whatever it might be, he maintained the right of appeal to a
Council, and would not accept the Papal curia as his judge. The
protocol on this point ran as follows: 'Nevertheless Dr. Martin has
stipulated for his appeal, which he has already announced, and so
far as the same is lawful, will in no wise abandon his claim
thereto. He has stipulated further that, for reasons touching
himself, the report of this disputation shall not be submitted for
approval to the Papal court.'

[Illustration: Fig. 15.--LUTHER. (From an engraving of Cranach, in

The appearance of Luther at this disputation has given occasion for
the first description of his person which we possess from the pen of
a contemporary. Mosellanus, already mentioned, says of him in a
letter: 'He is of middle stature, his body thin, and so wasted by
care and study, that nearly all his bones may be counted. He is in
the prime of life. His voice is clear and melodious. His learning
and his knowledge of Scripture are extraordinary; he has nearly
everything at his fingers' ends. Greek and Hebrew he understands
sufficiently well to give his judgment on the interpretation of the
Scriptures. In speaking, he has a vast store of subjects and words
at his command; he is moreover refined and sociable in his life and
manners; he has no rough Stoicism or pride about him, and he
understands how to adapt himself to different persons and times. In
society he is lively and witty. He is always fresh, cheerful, and at
his ease, and has a pleasant countenance, however hard his enemies
may threaten him, so that one cannot but believe that Heaven is with
him in his great undertaking. Most people however reproach him with
wanting moderation in polemics, and with being more cutting than
befits a theologian and one who propounds something new in sacred
matters.' His ability as a disputant was afterwards acknowledged by
Eck, who in referring to this tourney, quoted Aristotle's remark
that when two men dispute together, each of whom has learned the
art, there is sure to be a good disputation.

Eck is described by Mosellanus as a man of a tall, square figure,
with a voice fit for a public crier, but more coarse than distinct,
and with nothing pleasant about it; with the mouth, the eyes, and
the whole appearance of a butcher or soldier, but with a most
remarkable memory. In power of memory and elocution he surpassed
even Luther; but in solidity and real breadth of learning, impartial
men like Pistoris gave the palm to Luther. Eck is said to have
imitated the Italians in his great animation of speech, his
declamation, and gesticulations with his arms and his whole body.
Melancthon even said in a letter after the disputation, 'Most of us
must admire Eck for his manifold and distinguished intellectual
gifts.' Later on he calls him, 'Eckeckeck, the daws'-voice.' At any
rate Eck displayed a rare power and endurance in those Leipzig days,
and understood above all how to pursue with cleverness the real
object he had in view in his contest with Luther.

The two began at once with that point which Eck had singled out as
the chief object of debate, and about which Luther had advanced his
boldest proposition, namely, the question of the Papal power.

[Illustration: Fig 16.--DR. JOHN ECK. (From an old woodcut.)]

After lengthy discussions on the evidence of texts of Scripture; on
the old Fathers of the Church, to whom the Papal supremacy was
unknown; on the Western Church of middle ages, by whom that
supremacy was acknowledged at an earlier period than Luther would
admit; on the non-subjection to Rome of Eastern Christendom, to whom
Luther referred, and whom Eck with a light heart put outside the
pale of salvation, Eck on the second day of the disputation passed,
after due premeditation, from the ecclesiastical authorities he had
quoted in favour of the Divine right of the Papal primacy, to the
statements of the English heretic Wicliffe, and the Bohemian Huss,
who had denied this right, and had therefore been justly condemned.
He was bound to notice them, he said, since, in his own frail and
humble judgment, Luther's thesis favoured in the highest degree the
errors of the Bohemians, who, it was reported, wished him well for
his opinions. Luther answered him as he had done in each case
before. He condemned the separation of the Bohemians from the
Catholic Church, on the ground that the highest right derived from
God was that of love and the Spirit, and he repudiated the reproach
which Eck sought to cast upon him. But he declared at the same time
that the Bohemians on that point had never yet been refuted. And
with perfect self-conviction and calm reflection he proceeded to
assert that among the articles of Huss some were fundamentally
Christian and Evangelical, such as, for example, his statements that
there was only one Universal Church (to which even Greek Christendom
had always and still belonged), and that the belief in the supremacy
of the Church of Rome was not necessary to salvation. No man, he
added, durst impose upon a Christian an article of belief which was
antiscriptural; the judgment of an individual Christian must be
worth more than that of the Pope or even of a Council, provided he
has a better ground for it.

That moment, when Luther spoke thus of the doctrines of Huss, a
heretic already condemned by a Council and proscribed in Germany,
was the most impressive and important in the whole disputation. An
eye-witness, who sat below Duke George and Barnim, relates that the
Duke, on hearing the words, shouted out in a voice heard by all the
assembly, 'A plague upon it!' and shook his head, and put both hands
to his sides. The whole audience, variously as they thought of the
assertion, must have been fairly astounded. Luther, it was true, had
already stated in writing that a Council could err. But now he
declared himself for principles which a Council, namely that of
Constance, solemnly appointed and unanimously recognised by the
whole of Western Christendom, had condemned, and thus openly accused
that Council of error in a decision of the most momentous
importance. Nay more, that decision had been concurred in by the
very men who, while recognising the Papal primacy, strenuously
defended against Papal despotism the rights of General Councils, and
of the nations and states which they represented. The Western
Catholic Church entertained, as we have seen, a diversity of views
as to the relative authority of the Popedom, as an institution of
Christ, and that which appertained to Councils. Luther now, by
denying the Divine institution and authority of the Papacy, seemed
to have broken with all authority whatsoever existing in the Church,
and with every possible exercise of the same.

Luther himself does not appear to have considered at the moment this
extent of his acknowledgment of the 'Christian' character of some of
Huss's articles, nor to have adequately reflected on the attitude of
direct opposition in which it placed him to the Council of
Constance. When Eck declared it 'horrible' that the 'reverend
father' had not shrunk from contradicting that holy Council,
assembled by consent of all Christendom, Luther interrupted him with
the words, 'It is not true that I have spoken against the Council of
Constance.' He then went on to draw the inference that the authority
of the Council, if it erred in respect of those articles, was
consequently fallible altogether.

Some days later, and after further consideration, Luther produced
four propositions of Huss, which were perfectly Christian, although
they had been formally rejected by the Council. He sought means,
nevertheless, to preserve for the Council its dignity. As for these
rejected articles, he said, it had declared only some to be
heretical, and others to be simply mistaken, and the latter, at all
events, must not be counted as heresies--nay, he took the liberty of
supposing that the former were interpolations in the text of the
Council's resolutions. He would grant, further, that the decisions
of a Council in matters of faith must at all times be accepted. And
in order to guard himself against any misunderstanding and
misconstruction, he once broke off from the Latin, in which the
whole disputation had been conducted, and declared in German that he
in no way desired to see allegiance renounced to the Romish Church,
but that the only question in dispute was whether its supremacy
rested on Divine right--that is to say, on direct Divine institution
in the New Testament, or whether its origin and character were
simply such as the Imperial Crown, for example, possessed in
relation to the German nation. He was well aware how charges of
heresy and apostasy were raised against him, and how industriously
Eck had promoted them. It was only with pain and inward struggles
that he stood out, Bible in hand, against the Council of Constance
and such a general gathering of Western Christendom. But not a step
would he go towards any recognition of the Papacy as an institution
resting on Scripture. He insisted that even a Council could not
compel him to do this, or make an essential article of Christian
belief out of anything not found in the Bible. Again and again he
declared that even a Council could err.

For five whole days they contested this main point of the
disputation, without arriving at any further result.

The other subjects of discussion, relating to purgatory,
indulgences, and penance, were after this of very little importance.
With regard to indulgences even Eck now displayed striking
moderation. The dispute on the correct conception of purgatory led
to a new and important declaration by Luther as to the power of the
Church in relation to Scripture. Eck quoted as Biblical proof a
passage from the Apocryphal Books of the Old Testament, which
although not originally included in the records of the Old Covenant,
had been accepted by the middle ages as of equal authority with the
other Biblical writings. For the first time Luther now protested
against the equal value thus assigned to them, and especially
against the Church conferring upon them an authority they did not

The disputation between Eck and Luther lasted till July 13. Luther
concluded his argument with the words: 'I am sorry that the learned
doctor only dips into Scripture as deep as the water-spider into the
water--nay, that he seems to fly from it as the devil from the
Cross. I prefer, with all deference to the Fathers, the authority of
Scripture, which I herewith recommend to the arbiters of our cause.'

After this Carlstadt and Eck had only a short passage of arms. The
disputation was to be concluded on the 15th, as Duke George wished
to receive the Elector of Brandenburg on a visit to the
Pleissenburg. With regard to the universities, to whom the report
of the disputation was to be submitted, those agreed upon were Paris
and Erfurt, but neither of the two would undertake so responsible a

Eck left the disputation with triumph, applauded by his friends and
rewarded by Duke George with favours and honours. He followed up his
fancied victory by further exciting the people against Luther, and
pointing out to them in particular the sympathy between him and
Huss. He wrote even to the Elector Frederick from Leipzig, proposing
that he should have Luther's books burnt. The two men henceforth and
for ever were mutual enemies, with no dealings together but those of
heated controversy in writing. Eck's chief efforts were directed to
securing Luther's formal and public condemnation.

At Leipzig Luther had been watched with the utmost suspicion. The
common people had actually been told that there was something
mysterious in the little silver ring he wore on his finger, very
likely a small charm with the devil inside. It was even remarked on
and wondered at that he carried a bunch of flowers in his hand,
which he would look at and smell. From that time probably originated
the saying of a devout old dame at Leipzig, as published by one of
his theological opponents, the old woman having once lived at
Eisleben with Luther's mother, that her son Martin was the fruit of
an embrace by the devil.

For real information, however, about Luther at Leipzig, and the
impression he produced by his arguments, more is to be gathered from
the effect of his public appearance there during this disputation,
than from a whole heap of printed matter. We allude not only to the
educated laity and men of learning, but to the mass of the people
who shared in the excitement caused by this controversy. A few
months later we hear an opponent complain that Luther's teaching had
given rise to so much squabbling, discord, and rebellion among the
people, that 'there was absolutely not a town, village, or house,
where men were not ready to tear each other to pieces on his

Luther returned to Wittenberg full of dejection. The time at Leipzig
had only been wasted; the disputation had been unworthy of the name;
Eck and his friends there had cared nothing whatever about the
truth. Eck, he said, had made more clamour in an hour than he or
Carlstadt could have done in a couple of years, and yet all the time
the question at issue was one of peaceful and abstruse theology. His
disappointment, however, did not refer, as people perhaps might have
imagined, to the treatment his thesis on the Papal primacy had met
with, or to any embarrassment occasioned him on that account. On the
contrary, while complaining of the unworthy character of the
disputation, he excepted that particular thesis. He alluded rather
to the superficiality and want of interest with which such important
questions as justification by faith, and the sinfulness attaching
even to the best works of man, were passed over or evaded. On all
the points which he had wished to contend for and expound at
Leipzig, he now published further explanations. And with regard to
the Councils, he declared in still stronger terms than at Leipzig,
that they certainly might err and had erred even in the most
important matters; one had no right to identify either them or the
Pope with the Church.

From this he proceeded to explain his true relations with the
Bohemians. The theologian Jerome Emser, a friend of Eck, and a
favourite of Duke George, contributed in his own way to this end. He
had had a hot discussion with Luther before the disputation at
Leipzig, in which he reproached him with causing trouble in the
Church. He now prepared a remarkable public letter to a high
Catholic ecclesiastic at Prague, of the name of Zack. Whilst
asserting in it that the Bohemian schismatics appealed to Luther and
had actually offered prayers and held services for him during the
disputation, he announced, with feigned kindness to Luther, that the
latter, on the contrary, had eagerly repudiated at Leipzig any
fellowship with them, and had denounced their apostasy from Rome.
Luther detected in all this, mere trickery and malice, and we also
can only recognise in it a crafty attempt to ruin Luther's position
all round. If, says Luther, he were to accept in silence the praise
here meted out to him, he would seem to have retracted his whole
teaching, and laid down his arms before Eck; if, on the other hand,
he were to disclaim it, he would be cried down at once as a patron
of the Bohemians, and charged with base ingratitude to Emser.
Accordingly, in a small pamphlet, he broke out, full of wrath and
bitterness, against Emser, who replied to him in a similar tone. But
he represented the case with great clearness. If his doctrines had
pleased the Bohemians, he would not retract them on that account. He
had no desire to screen their errors, but he found on their side
Christ, the Scriptures, and the sacraments of the Church, and
therewith a Christian hatred of the worldliness, immorality, and
arrogance of the Romish clergy. Nay, he rejoiced to think that his
doctrines pleased them, and would be glad if they pleased Jews and
Turks, and Emser, who was enthralled in godless error, and even Eck

Letters were now already on the way to Luther from two ecclesiastics
of Prague, Paduschka and Rossdalovicky, members of the Utraquist
Hussite Church, which in opposition to Rome insisted on the
sacramental cup being given to the laity. They assured Luther of
their joyful and prayerful sympathy with him in his struggle. One of
them sent him a present of knives of Bohemian workmanship, the other
a writing of Huss upon the Church. Luther accepted the presents with
cordiality, and sent them his own writings in return. With regard to
separation from the Romish Church, the experience of Huss plainly
showed him how impossible that Church made it, even to one whose
heart was heavy at the thought of leaving her, to remain in her

Thus the contest at Leipzig was now over, whilst in the meantime at
Frankfort-on-the-Main, after the election of the new Emperor, the
Elector Frederick and the Archbishop of Treves consulted together
about an examination of Luther before the Archbishop, as proposed by
Miltitz. Both wished to postpone it till the Diet, then about to be
held. Miltitz, however, notwithstanding the result of the
disputation and the further declarations of Luther, still clung to
his plan of mediation. He arranged once more an interview with
Luther on October 9 at Liebenwerda, when the latter renewed his
promise to appear before the Archbishop, but he failed to induce the
Elector to let Luther travel with him to the Archbishop. For the
delivery of the golden rose, when it at last took place, he was
richly rewarded with money. But the fruitlessness of his
negotiations with Luther had become apparent.



Luther looked upon his disputation at Leipzig as an idle waste of
time. He longed to get back to his work at Wittenberg. He remained,
in fact, devoted with his whole soul to his official duties there,
though to the historian, of course, his work and struggles in the
broader and general arena of the Church engage the most attention.
He might well quarrel with the occasions that constantly called him
out to it, as so many interruptions to his proper calling.

His energy there in the pulpit was as constant as his energy in the
professor's chair. He glowed with zeal to unfold the one truth of
salvation from its original source, the Scriptures, and to declare
it and impress it on the hearts of his young pupils and his
Wittenberg congregation, of educated and uneducated, of great and
small. But he also wished to lay it before his students as a truth
for life. With this object, he continued active with his pen, both
in the Latin and the German languages. He was glad to turn to this
from the questions of ecclesiastical controversy, which had formed
the subject of his disputation, and of the writings referring to it.
It was enough for him to show forth simply the merciful love of God
and of the Saviour Christ, to point out the simple road of faith,
and to destroy all trust in mere outward works, in one's own merit
and virtue. Only to this extent, and because the authority pretended
by the Church was opposed to this truth and this road to salvation,
he was forced here also, and in face of his congregation, to wield
the sword of his eloquence against that authority, and this he did
with a zeal regardless of consequences. In all that he did, in his
lectures as well as in his sermons, in his exposition of God's word
in particular, as in his own polemics, he always threw his whole
personality into the subject. We see him inwardly moved and often
elated by the joyful message which he himself had learned, and had
to announce to others, inspired by love to his fellow-Christians,
whom he would wish to help save, and zealous even to anger for the
cause of his Lord. At the same time, it cannot be denied that he was
often carried away by the vehemence of his views, which saw at once
in every opponent an uncompromising enemy to the truth; and that his
naturally passionate temperament was often powerfully stirred,
though even then his whole tone and demeanour was blended with
outbursts of the noblest and the purest zeal.

In his academical lectures Luther still remained faithful to that
path which he had struck out on entering the theological faculty. He
wished simply to propound the revealed word of God, by explaining
the books of the Old and New Testaments; though he took pains in
these lectures, in which he devoted several terms to the study of a
single book, to explain thoroughly and impressively the most
important doctrines of Christian faith and conduct. Thus he occupied
himself during the time of the contest about indulgences, and after
the autumn of 1516, with the Epistle to the Galatians, wherein he
found comprised clearly and briefly the fundamental truth of
salvation, the doctrine of the way of faith, of God's laws of
requirements and punishments, and of gospel grace. He then turned
anew to the Psalms, dissatisfied with his own earlier exposition of
them. His exposition of St. Paul's Epistle he had sent to the press
whilst engaged in his preparations for the Leipzig disputation. His
opponents, he says here, might busy themselves with their much
larger affairs, with their indulgences, their Papal bulls, and the
power of the Church, and so on; he would retire to smaller matters,
to the Holy Scriptures and to the Apostle, who called himself not a
prince of Apostles, but the least of the Apostles. He also now began
the printing of his work on the Psalms.

Crowds of listeners gathered around him; his audience at times
numbered upwards of four hundred. During the three years following
the outbreak of the quarrel about indulgences, the number of those
who matriculated annually at the university increased threefold.
Luther wrote to Spalatin that the number of students increased
mightily, like an overflowing river; the town could no longer
contain them, many had to leave again for want of dwellings.

To this prosperity of the university Melancthon especially
contributed. He had been appointed, as we have already mentioned,
first professor of Greek by the Elector, and in addition to the
young theologians, he attracted a number of other students to his
lectures. Of still greater importance for Luther and his work, was
the personal friendship and community of ideas, convictions, and
aspirations which had bound the two men together in close intimacy
from their first acquaintance. Their paths in life had hitherto been
very different. Philip Schwarzerd, surnamed Melancthon, born in 1497
of a burgher's family of the little town of Bretten in the
Palatinate, had passed a happy youth, and harmoniously and
peacefully developed into manhood. He had had from early life
capable teachers for his education, and was under the protection of
the great philologist Reuchlin, who was a brother of his
grandmother. He then showed gifts of mind wonderfully rich and early
ripening. Besides the classics, he learnt mathematics, astronomy,
and law. He also studied the Scriptures, grew to love them, and even
when a youth had made himself familiar with their contents, without
having had first to learn to know their worth by a heavy sense of
inward need, by inward struggles or a long unsatisfied hunger of the
soul. Thus, at seventeen he was already master of arts, and at
twenty-one was appointed professor at Wittenberg. The young man,
with an insignificant, delicate frame, and a shy, awkward demeanour,
yet with a handsome, powerful forehead, an intellectual eye, and
refined, thoughtful features, effaced at once, by his inaugural
address, any doubts arising from his youthful appearance.

[Illustration: FIG. 17.--MELANCTHON. (From a Portrait by Dürer.)]

In this speech, however, he already declared that the chief object
of classical studies was to teach theologians to draw from the
original fount of Holy Scripture. He himself delivered a lecture on
the New Testament immediately after one on Homer. And it was the
Lutheran conception of the doctrine of salvation which he adopted in
his own continued study of the Bible.

The year of his arrival at Wittenberg he celebrated Luther in a
poem. He accompanied him to Leipzig. During the disputation there he
is said to have assisted his friend with occasional suggestions or
notes of argument, and thereby to have roused the anger of Eck. He
now took the lowest theological degree of bachelor, to qualify
himself for giving theological lectures on Scripture. He who from
early youth had enjoyed so abundantly the treasures of Humanistic
learning, and had won for himself the admiration of an Erasmus, now
found in this study of Scripture a 'heavenly ambrosia' for his soul,
and something much higher than all human wisdom. And already, in
independent judgment on the traditional doctrines of the Church, he
not only kept pace with Luther but even outwent him. It was he who
attacked the dogma of transubstantiation, according to which in the
mass the bread and wine of the sacrament are so changed by the
consecration of the priest into the body and blood of our Lord, that
nothing really remains of their original substance, but they only
appear to the senses to retain it.

Luther at once recognised with joy the marvellous wealth of talent
and knowledge in his new colleague, whose senior he was by fourteen
years, besides being far ahead of him in theological study and
experience. We have seen, during Luther's stay at Augsburg, how
closely his heart clung to Melancthon and to the 'sweet intercourse'
with him; we know of no other instance where Luther formed a
friendship so rapidly. The more intimately he knew him, the more
highly he esteemed him. When Eck spoke slightingly of him as a mere
paltry grammarian, Luther exclaimed, 'I, the doctor of philosophy
and theology, am not ashamed to yield the point, if this
grammarian's mind thinks differently to myself; I have done so often
already, and do the same daily, because of the gifts with which God
has so richly filled this fragile vessel; I honour the work of my
God in him.' 'Philip,' he said at another time, 'is a wonder to us
all; if the Lord will, he will beat many Martins as the mightiest
enemy to the devil and Scholasticism;' and again, 'This little Greek
is even my master in theology.' Such were Luther's words, not
uttered to particular friends of Melancthon, in order to please
them, nor in public speeches or poetry, in which at that time
friends showered fulsome flattery on friends, but in confidential
letters to his own most intimate friends, to Spalatin, Staupitz, and
others. So willing and ready was he, whilst himself on the road to
the loftiest work and successes, to give precedence to this new
companion whom God had given him. Luther also interested himself
with Spalatin to obtain a higher salary for Melancthon, and thus
keep him at Wittenberg. In common with other friends, he endeavoured
to induce him to marry; for he needed a wife who would care for his
health and household better than he did himself. His marriage
actually took place in 1520, after he had at first resisted, in
order to allow no interruption to his highest enjoyment, his learned

At the university Luther was also busily engaged with the necessary
preparations for many lectures that were not theological. He
steadily persisted in his efforts to secure the appointment of a
competent professor of Hebrew. He also worked hard to get a
qualified printer, the son of the printer Letter at Leipzig, to
settle at the university, and set up there for the first time a
press for three languages, German, Latin, and Greek. For everything
of this kind that was submitted to the Elector, who took a constant
interest in the prosperity of the university, his friend Spalatin
was his confidential intermediary. As early as 1518 Luther had
expressed to him the wish and hope that Wittenberg, in honour of
Frederick the Wise, should, by a new arrangement of study, become
the occasion and pattern for a general reform of the universities.
In addition to his constant and arduous labours of various kinds, he
took part also in the social intercourse of his colleagues, although
he complained of the time he lost by invitations and entertainments.

In the town church at Wittenberg he continued his active duties not
only on Sundays but during the week. His custom was to expound
consecutively in a course of sermons the Old and New Testaments, and
he explained particularly to children and those under age, the
Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments. This work alone, he once
complained to Spalatin, required properly a man for it and nothing
else. These services he gave to the town congregation gratuitously.
The magistracy were content to recognise them by trifling presents
now and then; for instance, by a gift of money on his return from
Leipzig, where he had had to live on his own very scanty means. In
simple, powerful, and thoroughly popular language, Luther sought to
bring home to the people who filled his church, the supreme truth he
had newly gained. Here in particular he employed his own peculiar
German, as he employed it also in his writings.

Both he and Melancthon formed a close personal intimacy with several
worthy townsmen of Wittenberg. The most prominent man among them,
the painter Lucas Cranach, from Bamberg, owner of a house and estate
at Wittenberg, the proprietor of an apothecary's and also of a
stationer's business, besides being a member of the magistracy, and
finally burgomaster, belonged to the circle of Luther's nearest
friends. Luther took a genuine pleasure in Cranach's art, and the
latter, in his turn, soon employed it in the service of the

[Illustration: Fig. l8.--LUCAS CRANACH. (From a Portrait by

While occupied thus in delivering simple and practical sermons to
his congregation in the town, he continued to publish written works
of the same character and purport, in addition to his labours in the
field of learned ecclesiastical controversy, thus showing the love
with which he worked for them at large in this matter. These
writings were little books, tracts, so-called sermons. It did not
disturb him, he once said, to hear daily of certain people who
despised his poverty because he only wrote little books and German
sermons for the unlearned laymen. 'Would to God,' he said, 'I had
all my life long and with all my power served a layman to his
improvement; I should then be content to thank God, and would very
willingly after that let all my little books perish. I leave it to
others to judge whether writing large books and a great number of
them constitutes art and is useful to Christianity; I consider
rather, even if I cared to write large books after their art, I
might do that quicker, with God's help, than making a little sermon
in my fashion. I have never compelled or entreated anyone to listen
to me or read my sermons. I have given freely to the congregation of
what God has given to me and I owe to them; whoever does not like
His word, let him read and listen to others.'

In this spirit he composed, after the Leipzig disputation, a little
consolatory tract for Christians, full of reflection and wisdom. He
dedicated it to the Elector, an illness of whom had prompted him to
write it. Even his most bigoted opponents could not withhold their
approbation of the work. Luther's pupil and biographer Mathesius,
thought there had never been such words of comfort written before in
the German language. In a similar strain Luther wrote about
preparation for dying, the contemplation of Christ's sufferings, and
other matters of like kind. He explained to the people in a few
pages the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer. At the
desire of the Elector, conveyed to him through Spalatin, and
notwithstanding the difficulty he had in finding time for such a
large work, he applied himself to a practical exposition of the
Epistles and Gospels read in church, intended principally for the
use of preachers.

At the same time he made steady progress with his own Scriptural
researches, which led him away more and more from the main articles
of the purely traditional doctrines of the Church. And the light
which dawned upon him in these studies he took pains to impart at
once to his congregation. But it was no mere negative or
hypercritical interest that led him on and induced him to write. In
connection with the saving efficacy of faith, which he had gathered
from the Bible, new truths, full of import, unfolded themselves
before him. On the other hand, such dogmas of the Church as he found
to have no warrant in Scripture, nor to harmonise with the
Scriptural doctrine of salvation, frequently faded from his notice,
and perished even before he was fully conscious of their hollowness.
The new knowledge had ripened with him before the old husk was
thrown away.

Thus he now learnt and taught others to understand anew the meaning
of the Christian sacrament of the Lord's Supper. The Church of the
middle ages beheld with wonder in this sacrament the miracle of
transubstantiation. The body of our Lord, moreover, here present as
the object of adoration, was to serve above all as the bloodless
repetition of the bloody sacrifice for sin on Golgotha, to be
offered to God for the good of Christendom and mankind. To offer
that sacrifice was the highest act which the priesthood could boast
of, as being thought worthy to perform by God. This whole
mysterious, sacred transaction was clothed in the mass, for the eye
and ear of the members of the congregation, with a number of
ritualistic forms. In giving them, moreover, the consecrated
elements in the sacrament, the priest alone partook of the cup.
Luther, on the contrary, found the whole meaning of that institution
of the departing Saviour, according to His own words, 'Take, eat,
and drink,' in the blessed and joyful communion here prepared by Him
for the congregation of receivers, each one of whom was verily to
partake of it in faith. Here, as he taught in a sermon on the
Sacrament in 1519, they were to celebrate and enjoy real communion;
communion with the Saviour, who feeds them with His flesh and blood;
communion with one another, that they, eating of one bread, should
become one cake, one bread, one body united in love; communion in
all the benefits purchased by their Saviour and Head; and communion
also in all gifts of grace bestowed upon His people, in all
sufferings to be endured, and in all virtues alive in their hearts.
Above all, he appealed to Christ's own words, that He had shed His
blood for the forgiveness of sins. Here at His holy Supper, He
wished to dispense this forgiveness, and, with it, eternal life to
all His guests; He pledged it to them here by the gift of His own
body. Luther, but only incidentally, remarked in this sermon, when
speaking of the cup: 'I should be well pleased to see the Church
decree in a General Council, that communion in _both kinds_
should be given to the laity as to the priests.' Even then he
regarded as unfounded that idea of sacrifice at the mass which in
his later writings he so strenuously denied and combated. At the
same time he pointed out the sacrifice which Christendom, and indeed
every Christian, must continually offer to God, namely, the
sacrifice to God of himself and all that he possesses, offered with
inward humility, prayer, and thankfulness. The question as to a
change of the elements, which Melancthon had already denied, Luther
passed by as an unnecessary subtlety. Lastly, together with the
sacrifice supposed to be offered by the priest, he dismissed also
the notion of a peculiar priesthood; for with the real sacrifice
offered by Christians, as he understood it, all became priests.
Instead of the difference theretofore existing between priests and
laymen, he would recognise no difference among Christians but such
as was conferred by the public ministration of God's word and

Whilst discoursing in a sermon, in a similar manner, on the inner
meaning of baptism, he passed from the vow of baptism to the vow of
chastity, so highly prized in the Catholic Church. He admits this
vow, but represents the former one as so immeasurably higher and
all-embracing, as to deprive the Church of her grounds for attaching
such value to the latter.

He enlarged on moral and religious life in general in a long sermon
'On Good Works,' which he dedicated early in 1520 to Duke John, the
brother of the Elector. In clear and earnest language he explained
how faith itself, on which everything depended, was a matter of
innermost moral life and conduct, nay, the very highest work
conformable to God's will; and further, how that same faith cannot
possibly remain merely passive, but, on the contrary, the faithful
Christian must himself become pleasing to God, on whose grace he
relies, must love Him again, and fulfil His holy Will with energy
and activity in all duties and relations of life. These duties he
proceeds to explain according to the Ten Commandments. He will not,
however, have the conscience further laden with duties imposed by
the Church, for which no corresponding moral obligation exists. He
turns then with earnest exhortation to rebuke certain common faults
and crimes in the public life of his nation, the gluttony and
drunkenness, the excessive luxury, the loose living, and the usury,
which was then the subject of so much complaint. Against this last
practice he preached a special sermon, in which, agreeably with the
older teaching of the Church, he spoke of all interest taken for
money as questionable, inasmuch as Jesus had exhorted only to
lending without looking for a return. The creditor, at any rate, he
said, should take his share of the risks to which his capital, in
the hands of the debtor, was exposed from accident or misadventure.

The essence of the Church of Christ he placed in that inner
communion of the faithful with one another and their heavenly Head,
on which he dwelt with such emphasis in connection with the
sacrament of the Lord's Supper. For the stability and prosperity of
this Church he considered no externals necessary beyond the
preaching of God's Word and the administration of the Sacraments, as
ordained by Christ,--no Romish Popedom, nor any other hierarchical
arrangements. But in the same spirit of love and brotherly
fellowship with which he embraced Hussites, as well as the Eastern
Christians who were denounced as Schismatics, he still wished to
hold fast to the visible community of the Church of Rome, declining
to identify it with the corrupt Romish Curia. That love, he said,
should make him assist and sympathise with the Church, even in her
infirmities and faults.

He was anxious also to fulfil personally all the minor duties
incumbent on him as a monk and a priest. And yet the higher
obligations of his calling, that incessant activity in proclaiming
the word, both by speech and writing, were of much greater
importance in his eyes. He performed with diligence such duties as
the regular repetition of prayers, singing, reading the
_Horae_, and never dreamed of venturing to omit them. He
relates afterwards, how wonderfully industrious he had been in this
respect. Often, if he happened to neglect these duties during the
week, he would make up for it in the course of the Sunday from early
morning till the evening, going without his breakfast and dinner. In
vain his friend Melancthon represented to him that, if the neglect
were such a sin, so foolish a reparation would not atone for it.

Measures, however, were now taken by the Romish Church and its
representatives, which, by attacking the word, as he preached it,
drove him further into the battle.

It will be remembered that the Papal bull, directed against his
theses on indulgences, had not actually mentioned him by name.
Contemptuously, therefore, as the Pope had spoken of him as an
execrable heretic, he had never yet uttered a formal public judgment
upon him. Two theological faculties, those of the universities of
Cologne and Louvain, were the first to pronounce an official
condemnation of him and his writings. The latter were to be burnt,
and their author compelled publicly to recant. This sentence, though
pronounced after the disputation at Leipzig, related only to a small
collection of earlier writings. In a published reply he dismissed,
not without scorn, these learned divines, who, in a spirit of vain
self-exaltation and without the smallest grounds, had presumed to
pass sentence on Christian verities. Their boasting, he said, was
empty wind; their condemnation frightened him no more than the curse
of a drunken woman.

The first official pronouncement of a German bishop touched him more
nearly. This was a decree, issued in January 1520 by John, Bishop of
Meissen, from his residence at Stolpen. Herein, Luther's one
statement about the cup, which the Church, as he said, would do well
to restore to the laity, was picked out of his Sermon on the
Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. The people were to be warned against
the grievous errors and inconveniences which were bound to ensue
from such a step; and the sermon was to be suppressed. Luther was
now classed as an open ally of the Hussites, whose very ground of
contention was the cup. Duke George in alarm complained of him to
the Elector Frederick. It was rumoured about him even that he had
been born and educated among the Bohemians.

To this episcopal note, which he ridiculed in a pun, Luther
published a short and pungent reply in Latin and German. He was
particularly indignant that this occasion should have been seized to
tax his sermon with false doctrine, since the wish he there
expressed did not contain, as even his enemies must admit, anything
contrary to any dogma of the Church. For his enemies, no doubt, this
one point was of more practical importance than many deviations from
orthodoxy with which they might have reproached him in his doctrine
of salvation; for it concerned a jealously guarded privilege of
their priestly office, and was connected with the 'Bohemian heresy.'
As for Huss, however, Luther now confessed without reserve the
sympathy he shared with his evangelical teaching. He had learned to
know him better since the Leipzig disputation. He now wrote to
Spalatin: 'I have hitherto, unconsciously, taught everything that
Huss taught, and so did John Staupitz, in short we are all Hussites,
without knowing it. Paul and Augustine are also Hussites. I know
not, for very terror, what to think as to God's fearful judgments
among men, seeing that the most palpable evangelical truth known for
more than a century, has been burnt and condemned, and nobody has
ever ventured to say so.'

On the part of the Elector, Luther still continued to reap the
benefit of that placid good-will which disregarded all attempts,
either by friendly words or menaces, to set that prince against him.
Luther for this thanked him publicly, without meeting with any
demurrer from the Elector, as well in a dedication of the first part
of his new work on the Psalms, which he had sent to the press early
in 1519, as in another prefixed to his tract on Christian comfort,
already noticed. This last work he had been encouraged to write by
Spalatin, the confidant of the sick prince whom it was intended to
please. In the dedication prefixed to the Psalms, he expressed his
joy at hearing how Frederick had declared in a conversation reported
by Staupitz, that all sermons, made by man's wit and uttering man's
opinions, were cold and powerless, and the Scriptures alone inspired
with such marvellous power and majesty that one must needs say,
'There is something more there than mere Scribe and Pharisee; there
is the finger of God;' and how, when Staupitz had concurred in the
remark, the prince had taken his hand and said, 'Promise me that you
will always think thus.' Luther also thanked Frederick for having,
as all his subjects knew, taken more care of his safety than he had
done himself. In his thoughtlessness, he himself had thrown the die,
and had already prepared himself for the worst, and only hoped to be
able to retire into some corner, when his prince had come forward as
his champion.

At the same time the Elector remained constant in his efforts to
check the impetuosity of Luther. We have noticed how he encouraged
him, through Spalatin, to peaceful work in the service of Christian
preaching. When the episcopal missive from Stolpen threatened to
make the storm break out afresh, he sent, by Spalatin, an urgent
exhortation to Luther to restrain his pen, and further advised him
to send letters of explanation, in a conciliatory spirit, to Albert,
Archbishop of Magdeburg and Mayence, and the Bishop of Merseburg.

Luther wrote to both in a tone of perfect dignity. He begged them
not to lend an ear to the complaints and calumniations which were
being circulated against him, especially in reference to giving the
cup to the laity, and to the Papal power, until the matter had been
seriously examined. He spoke at the same time of malicious accusers,
who on those points held secretly the same opinions as himself.

But from this contest with the Bishop of Meissen he refused to
withdraw. To Spalatin he broke out again in February 1520, in terms
more decided than any he had previously given vent to, and which led
people to expect still sharper utterances. 'Do not suppose,' he
said, 'that the cause of Christ is to be furthered on earth in sweet
peace: the Word of God can never be set forth without danger and
disquiet: it is a Word of infinite majesty, it works great things,
and is wonderful among the great and the high; it slew, as the
prophet says (Psalm lxxviii. 31), the wealthiest of them, and smote
down the chosen ones of Israel. In this matter one must either
renounce peace or deny the Word; the battle is the Lord's, who has
not come to bring peace into the world.' Again he says: 'If you
would think rightly of the Gospel, do not believe that its cause can
be advanced without tumult, trouble, and uproar. You cannot make a
pen out of a sword: the Word of God is a sword; it is war,
overthrow, trouble, destruction, poison; it meets the children of
Ephraim, as Amos says, like a bear on the road, or like a lioness in
the wood.' Of himself he adds: 'I cannot deny that I am more violent
than I ought to be; they know it, and therefore should not provoke
the dog. How hard it is to moderate one's heat and one's pen you can
learn for yourself. That is the reason why I was always unwilling to
be forced to come forward in public; and the more unwilling I am,
the more I am drawn into the contest; that this happens so is due to
those scandalous libels which are heaped against me and the Word of
God. So shameful are they that, even if my heat and my pen did not
carry me away, a very heart of stone would be moved to seize a
weapon, how much more myself, who am hot and whose pen is not
entirely blunt.'

The two dignitaries of the Church answered not ungraciously. They
merely expressed an opinion that he was too violent, and that his
writings would have a questionable influence with the mass of the
people. They refrained from giving judgment on the matter; a proof
that, in the Catholic Church in Germany, the questions raised by
Luther could not then have been considered of such importance as the
upholders of the strict Papal system maintained and desired. Even
Albert, the Cardinal, Archbishop, and Primate of the German Church,
ventured to speak of the whole question about the Divine or merely
human right of the Papacy as an insignificant affair, which had but
little to do with real Christianity, and therefore should never have
become the occasion of such passionate dispute.

From Rome was now awaited the supreme judicial decision as to Luther
and his cause. The Pope had already in 1518 indicated clearly enough
to Frederick the Wise in what sense he intended to give this
decision. But it kept on being delayed, because, on the one hand, it
still appeared necessary to act with caution and consideration, and,
on the other, because Roman arrogance continued to underestimate the
danger of the German movement. Meanwhile Eck, by a report of his
disputation and by letters had stirred the fire at Rome. The
theologians of Cologne and Louvain worked in the same direction, and
called on the whole Dominican Order to assist them with their
influence. The Papal pretensions which Luther had disputed were now
for the first time proclaimed in all their fulness of audacity and
exaggeration. Luther's old opponent Prierias, in a new pamphlet,
extended them to the temporal as well as the spiritual sovereignty
of the world; the Pope, he said, was head of the Universe. Eck now
devoted an entire treatise to justifying the Divine right of the
Papal primacy, resting his proofs boldly, and without any attempt at
critical inquiry, on spurious old documents. With this book he
hastened in February 1520 to Rome, in order personally to push
forward and assist in publishing the bull of excommunication which
was to demolish his enemy and extinguish the flame he had kindled.

But Luther's work, in proportion as it advanced and became bolder,
had stirred already the minds of the people both wider and deeper.
Opponents of Rome who had risen up against her in other quarters, on
other grounds, and with other weapons, now ranged themselves upon
his side. Among all alike the ardour of battle grew the more
powerful and violent, the more it was attempted to smother them with
edicts of arbitrary power.



We have already seen how astonished Miltitz was at the sympathy with
Luther which he found among all classes of the German people. The
growth of this sympathy is shown in particular by the increasing
number of printed editions of his writings; the perfect freedom then
enjoyed by the press contributed largely to their wide circulation.
In 1520 alone there were more than a hundred editions of Luther's
works in German. Though the ordinary book-trade as now carried on
was then unknown, there were a multitude of colporteurs actively
employed in going with books from house to house, some of them
merely in the interests of their trade, others also as emissaries of
those who were friends of the cause, thus intended to be furthered.
As reading was a difficult matter to the masses, and even to many of
the higher classes, there were travelling students who went about to
different places, and proffered their assistance. The earnest,
deeply instructive contents of Luther's small popular tracts met the
needs of both the educated and uneducated classes, in a manner never
done by any other religious writings of that time, and served to
stimulate their appetite for more. And to this was added the strong
impression produced directly on their minds by the elementary
exposition of his doctrine, irreconcilable with all notions of the
Church system hitherto prevailing, and stigmatised by his enemies as
poison. All, in short, that this condemned heretic wrote, became
dear to the hearts of the people.

Luther found now, moreover, most valuable allies in the leading
champions of that Humanistic movement, the importance of which, as
regards the culture of the priesthood and the religious and
ecclesiastical development of that time, we had occasion to notice
during Luther's residence at the university of Erfurt. That
Humanism, more than anything else, represented the general
aspiration of the age to attain a higher standard of learning and
culture. The alliance between Luther and the Humanists inaugurated
and symbolised the union between this culture and the Evangelical

Luther, even before entering the convent, had formed a friendship with
at least some of the young 'poets,' or enthusiasts of this new learning.
Later on, when, after the inward struggles and heart-searchings of
those gloomy years of monastic experience, the light dawned upon him
of his Scriptural doctrine of salvation, we find him expressing his
sympathy and reverence for the two leading spirits of the movement,
Reuchlin and Erasmus; and this notwithstanding the fact that he never
approved the method of defence adopted by the supporters of the former,
nor could ever conceal his dislike of the attitude taken up by Erasmus
in regard to theology and religion.

Meanwhile, such Humanists as wished to enjoy the utmost possible
freedom for their own learned pursuits flocked around Reuchlin
against his literary enemies, and cared very little about the
authorities of the Church. The bold monk and his party excited
neither their interest nor their concern. Many of them thought of
him, no doubt, when he was engaged in the heat of the contest about
indulgences, as did Ulrich von Hutten, who wrote to a friend: 'A
quarrel has broken out at Wittenberg between two hot-headed monks,
who are screaming and shouting against each other. It is to be hoped
that they will eat one another up.' To such men the theological
questions at issue seemed not worth consideration. At the same time
they took care to pay all necessary respect to the princes of the
Church, who had shown favour to them personally and to their
learning, and did homage to them, notwithstanding much that must
have shocked them in their conduct as ecclesiastics. Thus Hutten did
not scruple to enter the service of the same Archbishop Albert who
had opened the great traffic in indulgences in Germany, but who was
also a patron of literature and art, and was only too glad to be
recognised publicly by an Erasmus. We hear nothing of any
remonstrances made to him by Erasmus himself. In the same spirit
that dictated the above remark of Hutten, Mosellanus, who opened
with a speech the disputation at Leipzig, wrote to Erasmus during
the preparations for that event. There will be a rare battle, he
said, and a bloody one, coming off between two Scholastics; ten such
men as Democritus would find enough to laugh over till they were
tired. Moreover, Luther's fundamental conception of religion, with
his doctrine of man's sinfulness and need of salvation, so far from
corresponding, was in direct antagonism with that Humanistic view of
life which seemed to have originated from the devotion to classical
antiquity, and to revive the proud, self-satisfied, independent
spirit of heathendom. Even in an Erasmus Luther had thought he
perceived an inability to appreciate his new doctrine.

Melancthon's arrival at Wittenberg was, in this respect, an event of
the first importance. This highly-gifted young man, who had united
in his person all the learning and culture of his time, whose mind
had unfolded in such beauty and richness, and whose personal
urbanity had so endeared him to men of culture wherever he went, now
found his true happiness in that gospel and in that path of grace
which Luther had been the first to make known. And whilst offering
the right hand of fellowship to Luther, he continued working with
energy in his own particular sphere, kept up his intimacy with his
fellow-labourers therein, and won their respect and admiration.
Humanists at a distance, meanwhile, must have noticed the fact, that
the most violent attacks against Luther proceeded from those very
quarters, as for instance, from Hoogstraten, and afterwards from the
theological faculty at Cologne, where Reuchlin had been the most
bitterly persecuted. At length the actual details of the disputation
between Luther and Eck opened men's eyes to the magnitude of the
contest there waged for the highest interests of Christian life and
true Christian knowledge, and to the greatness of the man who had
ventured single-handed to wage it.

At Erfurt Luther had found already in the spring of 1518, on his
return from the meeting of his Order at Heidelberg, in pleasing
contrast to the displeasure he had aroused among his old teachers
there, a spirit prevailing among the students of the university,
which gave him hope that true theology would pass from the old to
the young, just as once Christianity, rejected by the Jews, passed
from them to the heathen. Those well-wishers and advisers who took
his part at Augsburg, when he had to go thither to meet Caietan,
were friends of Humanistic learning. Among the earliest of those,
outside Wittenberg, who united that learning with the new tendency
of religious teaching, we find some prominent citizens of the
flourishing town of Nüremberg, where, as we have seen, Luther's old
friend Link was also actively engaged. Already before the contest
about indulgences broke out, the learned jurist Scheuerl of that
place had made friends with Luther, whom the next year he speaks of
as the most celebrated man in Germany. The most important of the
Humanists there, Willibald Pirkheimer, a patrician of high esteem
and an influential counsellor, and who had once held local military
command, corresponded with Luther, and after learning from him the
progress of his views and studies concerning the Papal power, made
his Leipzig opponent the object of a bitter anonymous satire, 'The
Polished Corner' (Eck). Another learned Nüremberger, the Secretary
of the Senate, Lazarus Spengler, was on terms of close Christian
fellowship with Luther: he published in 1519 a 'Defence and
Christian Answer,' which contained a powerful and worthy vindication
of Luther's popular tracts. Albert Dürer also, the famous painter,
took a deep interest in Luther's evangelical doctrine, and revered
him as a man inspired by the Holy Ghost. Among the number of
theologians who ranked next to Erasmus, the well-known John
Oecolampadius, then a preacher at Augsburg, and almost of the same
age as Luther, came forward in his support, towards the end of 1519,
with a pamphlet directed against Eck. Erasmus himself in 1518, at
least in a private letter to Luther's friend Lange at Erfurt, of
which the latter we may be sure did not leave Luther in ignorance,
declared that Luther's theses were bound to commend themselves to
all good men, almost without exception; that the present Papal
domination was a plague to Christendom; the only question was
whether tearing open the wound would do any good, and whether it was
not conceivable that the matter could be carried through without an
actual rupture.

Luther, on his part, approached Reuchlin and Erasmus by letter. To
the former he wrote, at the urgent entreaty of Melancthon, in
December 1518, to the latter in the following March. Both letters
are couched in the refined language befitting these learned men, and
particularly Erasmus, and contain warm expressions of respect and
deference, though in a tone of perfect dignity, and free from the
hyperboles to which Erasmus was usually treated by his common
admirers. At the same time Luther was careful indeed to conceal the
other and less favourable side of his estimate of Erasmus, which he
had already formed in his own mind and expressed to his friends. We
can see how bent he was, notwithstanding, upon a closer intimacy
with that distinguished man.

Reuchlin, then an old man, would have nothing to do with Luther and
the questions he had raised. He even sought to alienate his nephew
Melancthon from him, by bidding him abstain from so perilous an

[Illustration: Fig. l9.--W. PIRKHEIMER. (From a Portrait by Albert

Erasmus replied with characteristic evasion. He had not yet read
Luther's writings, but he advised everyone to read them before
crying them down to the people. He himself believed that more was to
be gained by quietness and moderation than by violence, and he felt
bound to warn him in the spirit of Christ against all intemperate
and passionate language; but he did not wish to admonish Luther what
to do, but only to continue steadfastly what he was doing already.
The chief thought to which he gives expression is the earnest hope
that the movement kindled by Luther's writings would not give
occasion to opponents to accuse and suppress the 'noble arts and
letters.' A regard for these, which indeed were the object of his
own high calling, was always of paramount importance in his eyes.
Not content with attacking by means of ridicule the abuses in the
Church, Erasmus took a genuine interest in the improvement of its
general condition, and in the elevation and refinement of moral and
religious life, as well as of theological science; and the high
esteem he enjoyed made him an influential man among even the
superior clergy and the princes of the Church. But from the first he
recognised, as he says in his letter to Lange, and possibly better
than Luther himself, the difficulties and dangers of attacking the
Church system on the points selected by Luther. And when Luther
boldly anticipated the disturbances which the Word must cause in the
world, and dwelt on Christ's saying that He had come to bring a
sword, Erasmus shrank back in terror at the thought of tumult and
destruction. Conformably with the whole bent of his natural
disposition and character, he adhered anxiously to the peaceful
course of his work and the pursuit of his intellectual pleasures.
Questions involving deep principles, such as those of the Divine
right of the Papacy, the absolute character of Church authority, or
the freedom of Christian judgment, as founded on the Bible, he
regarded from aloof; notwithstanding that silence or concealment
towards either party, when once these principles were publicly put
in question, was bound to be construed as a denial of the truth.

We shall see how this same standpoint, from which this learned man
still retained his inward sympathy with Church matters, dictated
further his attitude towards Luther and the Reformation. For the
present, Luther had to thank the good opinion of Erasmus, cautiously
expressed though it was, for a great advancement of his cause. It
was valuable to Luther in regard to those who had no personal
knowledge of him, as giving them conclusive proof that his character
and conduct were irreproachable. His influence is apparent in the
answer of the Archbishop Albert to Luther, in its tone of gracious
reticence, and its remarks about needless contention. Erasmus had
written some time before to the Archbishop, contrasting the excesses
charged against Luther with those of the Papal party, and denouncing
the corruptions of the Church, and particularly the lack of
preachers of the gospel. Much to the annoyance of Erasmus, this
letter was published, and it worked more in Luther's favour than he

Those hopes which Luther had placed in the young students at Erfurt
were shortly fulfilled by the so-called 'poets' beginning now to
read and expound the New Testament. The theology, which, in its
Scholastic and monastic form, they regarded with contempt, attracted
them as knowledge of the Divine Word. Justus Jonas, Luther's junior
by ten years, a friend of Eoban Hess, and one of the most talented
of the circle of young 'poets,' now exchanged for theology the study
of the law, which he had already begun to teach. To his respect for
Erasmus was now added an enthusiastic admiration for Luther, the
courageous Erfurt champion of this new evangelical doctrine. A close
intimacy sprang up between Jonas and Luther, as also between Jonas
and Luther's friend Lange. Erasmus had persuaded him to take up
theology; Luther, on hearing of it in 1520, congratulated him on
taking refuge from the stormy sea of law in the asylum of the

None of the old Erfurt students, however, had cultivated Luther's
friendship more zealously than Crotus, his former companion at that
university; and this even from Italy, where his sympathies with
Luther had been stirred by the news from Germany, and where he had
learned to realise, from the evidence of his eyes, the full extent
of the scandals and evils against which Luther was waging war. He,
who in the 'Epistolae Virorum Obscurorum,' had failed to exhibit in
his satire the solemn earnestness which recommended itself to
Luther's taste and judgment, now openly declared his concurrence
with Luther's fundamental ideas of religion and theology, and his
high appreciation of Scripture and of the Scriptural doctrine of
salvation. He wrote repeatedly to him, reminding him of their days
together at Erfurt, telling him about the 'Plague-chair' at Rome,
and the intrigues carried on there by Eck, and encouraging him to
persevere in his work. Expressions common to the 'poets' of his
university days were curiously mingled in his letters with others of
a religious kind. He would like to glorify, as a father of their
fatherland, worthy of a golden statue and an annual festival, his
friend Martin, who had been the first to venture to liberate the
people of God, and show them the way to true piety. Not only from
Italy, but also after his return, he employed his characteristic
literary activity, by means of anonymous pamphlets, in the service
of Luther. It was he who, towards the end of 1519, sent from Italy
to Luther and Melancthon at Wittenberg, the Humanist theologian,
John Hess, afterwards the reformer of the Church at Breslau. Crotus
himself returned in the spring of 1520 to Germany.

[Illustration: Fig. 20.--ULRICH VON HUTTEN. (From an old woodcut.)]

Here these Humanist friends of the Lutheran movement had already
been joined by Crotus' personal friend, Ulrich von Hutten, who not
only could wield his pen with more vigour and acuteness than almost
all his associates, but who declared himself ready to take up the
sword for the cause he defended, and to call in powerful allies of
his own class to the fight. He sprang from an old Franconian family,
the heirs, not indeed of much wealth or property, but of an old
knightly spirit of independence. Hatred of monasticism and all that
belonged to it, must have been nursed by him from youth; for having
been placed, when a boy, in a convent, he ran away with the aid of
Crotus, when only sixteen. Sharing the literary tastes of his
friend, he learned to write with proficiency the poetical and
rhetorical Latin of the Humanists of that time. In spite of all his
irregularities, adventures, and unsettlement of habits, he had
preserved an elastic and elevated turn of mind, desirous of serving
the interests of a 'free and noble learning,' and a knightly
courage, which urged him to the fight with a frankness and
straightforwardness not often found among his fellow-Humanists.
Whilst laughing at Luther's controversy as a petty monkish quarrel,
he himself dealt a heavy blow to the traditional pretensions of the
Papacy by the republication of a work by the famous Italian Humanist
Laurentius Valla, long since dead, on the pretended donation of
Constantine, in which the writer exposed the forgery of the edict
purporting to grant the possession of Rome, Italy, and indeed the
entire Western world to the Roman see. This work Hutten actually
dedicated to Pope Leo himself. But what distinguished this knight
and Humanist above all the others who were contending on behalf of
learning and against the oppressions and usurpations of the Church
and monasticism, were his thoroughly German sympathies, and his zeal
for the honour and independence of his nation. He saw her enslaved
in ecclesiastical bondage to the Papal see, and at the mercy of the
avarice and caprice of Rome. He heard with indignation how scornfully
the 'rough and simple Germans' were spoken of in Italy, how even on
German soil the Roman emissaries openly paraded their arrogance, how
some Germans, unworthy of the name, pandered to such scorn and
contempt by a cringing servility which made them crouch before the
Papal chair and sue for favour and office. He warned them to prepare
for a mighty outburst of German liberty, already well-nigh strangled
by Rome. At the same time he denounced the vices of his own countrymen,
particularly that of drunkenness, and the proneness to luxury and
usurious dealing in trade and commerce, all of which, as we have
seen, had been complained of by Luther. Nor less than of the honour
of Germany herself, was he jealous of the honour and power of the
Empire. In all that he did he was guided, perhaps involuntarily, but
in a special degree, by the principles and interests of knighthood.
His order was indebted to the Empire for its chief support, although
the imperial authority no less than that of his own class, had sunk
in a great measure through the increasing power of the different
princes. In the prosperous middle class of Germany he saw the spirit
of trade prevailing to an excess, with its attendant evils. In the
firmly-settled regulations of law and order, which had been established
in Germany with great trouble at the end of the middle ages, he felt
most out of his element: he longed rather to resort to the old method
of force whenever he saw justice trampled on. And in this respect also
Hutten proved true to the traditions of knighthood.

But in the material power required to give effect to his ideas of
reform in the kindred spheres of politics and of the Church in her
external aspect, Hutten was entirely wanting. More than this, we
fail to find in him any clear and positive plans or projects of
reform, nor any such calm and searching insight into the relations
and problems before him as was indispensable for that object. His
call, however rousing and stirring it was, died away in the distance
of time and the dimness of uncertainty.

Hutten found, however, an active and powerful friend, and one versed
in war and politics, in Francis von Sickingen, the 'knight of manly,
noble, and courageous spirit,' as an old chronicler describes him.
He was the owner of fine estates, among them the strong castles of
Landstuhl near Kaiserslautern, and Ebernburg near Kreuznach, and had
already, in a number of battles conducted on his own account and to
redress the wrongs of others, given ample proof of his energy and
skill in raising hosts of rustic soldiery, and leading them with
reckless valour, in pursuit of his objects, to the fray. Hutten won
him over to support the cause of Reuchlin, still entangled in a
prosecution by his old accusers of heresy, Hoogstraten and the
Dominicans at Cologne. A sentence of the Bishop of Spires, rejecting
the charges of his opponents, and mulcting them in the costs of the
suit, had been annulled, at their instance, by the Pope. Against
them and against the Dominican Order in particular, Sickingen now
declared his open enmity, and his sympathy with the 'good old doctor
Reuchlin.' In spite of delay and resistance, they were forced to pay
the sum demanded. Meanwhile, no doubt under the influence of his
friend Crotus, Hutten's eyes were opened about the monk Luther.
During a visit in January 1520 to Sickingen at his castle of
Landstuhl, he consulted with him as to the help to be given to the
man now threatened with excommunication, and Sickingen offered him
his protection. Hutten at the same time proceeded to launch the most
violent controversial diatribes and satires against Rome; one in
particular, called 'The Roman Trinity,' wherein he detailed in
striking triplets the long series of Romish pretensions, trickeries,
and vexatious abuses. At Easter he held a personal interview at
Bamberg with Crotus, on his return from Italy.

For the furtherance of their objects and desires, in respect to the
affairs of Germany and the Church these two knights placed high
hopes in the new young Emperor, who had left Spain, and on the 1st
of July landed on the coast of the Netherlands. Sickingen had earned
merit in his election. He had hoped to find in him a truly German
Emperor, in contrast to King Francis of France, who was a competitor
for the imperial crown. The Pope, as we have seen, had opposed his
election; his chief advocate, on the contrary, was Luther's friend,
the Elector Frederick. Support was also looked for from Charles'
brother Ferdinand, as being a friend of arts and letters. Hutten
even hoped to obtain a place at his court.

[Illustration: Fig. 2l.--FRANCIS VON SICKINGEN. (From an old

On this side, therefore, and from these quarters, Luther was offered
a friendly hand.

We hear Hutten first mentioned by Luther in February 1520, in
connection with his edition of the work of Valla. This work, though
published two years before, had been made known to Luther then, for
the first time, by a friend. It had awakened his keenest interest;
the falsehoods exposed in its pages confirmed him in his opinion
that the Pope was the real Antichrist.

Shortly after, a letter from Hutten reached Melancthon, containing
Sickingen's offer of assistance; a similar communication forwarded
to him some weeks before, had never reached its destination.
Sickingen had charged Hutten to write to Luther, but Hutten was
cautious enough to make Melancthon the medium, in order not to let
his dealings with Luther be known. Sickingen, he wrote, invited
Luther, if menaced with danger, to stay with him, and was willing to
do what he could for him. Hutten added that Sickingen might be able
to do as much for Luther as he had done for Reuchlin; but Melancthon
would see for himself what Sickingen had then written to the monks.
He spoke, with an air of mystery, of negotiations of the highest
importance between Sickingen and himself; he hoped it would fare
badly with the Barbarians, that is, the enemies of learning,--and
all those who sought to bring them under the Romish yoke. With such
objects in view, he had hopes even of Ferdinand's support. Crotus,
meanwhile, after his interview with Hutten at Bamberg, advised
Luther not to despise the kindness of Sickingen, the great leader of
the German nobility. It was rumoured that Luther, if driven from
Wittenberg, would take refuge among the Bohemians. Crotus earnestly
warned him against doing so. His enemies, he said, might force him
to do so, knowing, as they did, how hateful the name of Bohemian was
in Germany. Hutten himself wrote also to Luther, encouraging him, in
pious Scriptural language, to stand firm and persevere in working
with him for the liberation of their fatherland. He repeated to him
the invitation of N., (he did not mention his name,) and assured him
that the latter would defend him with vigour against his enemies of
every kind.

Another invitation, at the same time, and of the same purport, came
to Luther from the knight Silvester von Schauenburg. He too had
heard that Luther was going to the Bohemians. He was willing,
however, to protect him from his enemies, as were also a hundred
other nobles whom with God's help he would bring with him, until his
cause was decided in a right and Christian manner.

Whether Luther really entertained the thought of flying to Bohemia,
we cannot determine with certainty. But we know with what
seriousness, as early as the autumn of 1518, after he had refused to
retract to the Papal legate, he anticipated the duty and necessity
of leaving Wittenberg. How much more forcibly must the thoughts have
recurred to him, when the news arrived of the impending decision at
Rome, of the warning received from there by the Elector, and of the
protest uttered even in Germany, and by such a prince as Duke George
of Saxony, against any further toleration of his proceedings. The
refuge which Luther had previously looked for at Paris was no longer
to be hoped for. Since the Leipzig disputation he had advanced in
his doctrines, and especially in his avowed support of Huss, far
beyond what the university of Paris either liked or would endure.

Such then was Luther's position when he received these invitations.
They must have stirred him as distinct messages from above. The
letters in which he replied to them have not been preserved to us.
We hear, however, that he wrote to Hutten, saying that he placed
greater hopes in Sickingen than in any prince under heaven.
Schauenburg and Sickingen, he says, had freed him from the fear of
man; he would now have to withstand the rage of demons. He wished
that even the Pope would note the fact that he could now find
protection from all his thunderbolts, not indeed in Bohemia, but in
the very heart of Germany; and that, under this protection, he could
break loose against the Romanists in a very different fashion to
what he could now do in his official position.

As he reviewed, in the course of the contest, the proceedings of his
enemies, and was further informed of the conduct of the Papal see,
the picture of corruption and utter worthlessness, nay the
antichristian character of the Church system at Rome, unfolded
itself more and more painfully and fully before his eyes. The
richest materials for this conclusion he found in the pamphlets of
the writers already referred to, and in the descriptions sent from
Italy by men like Hess and others, who shared his own convictions.

All this time, moreover, Luther's feelings as a German were more and
more stirred within him, while thinking of what German Christianity
in particular was compelled to suffer at the hands of Rome. A lively
consciousness of this had been awakened in his mind since the Diet
of Augsburg in 1518, with its protest against the claims of the
Papacy, its statement of the grievances of the German nation, and
the vigorous writings on that subject which were circulated at that
time. He referred in 1519 to that Diet, as having drawn a
distinction between the Romish Church and the Romish Curia, and
repudiated the latter with its demands. As for the Romanists, who
made the two identical, they looked on a German as a simple fool, a
lubberhead, a dolt, a barbarian, a beast, and yet they laughed at
him for letting himself be fleeced and pulled by the nose. Luther's
words were now re-echoed in louder tones by Hutten, whose own wish,
moreover, was to incite his fellow-countrymen, as such, to rise and
betake themselves to battle.

There were certain of the laity who had already brought these German
grievances in Church matters before the Diets, and who now gave vent
in pamphlets to their denunciations of the corruption and tyranny of
the Romish Church. As for Luther, he valued the judgment of a
Christian layman, who had the Bible on his side, as highly, and
higher, than that of a priest and prince of the Church, and ascribed
the true character of a priest to all Christians alike: these
Estates of the Augsburg Diet he speaks of as 'lay theologians.'
Leading laymen of the nobility now came forward and offered to
assist him in his labours on behalf of the German Church. Both he
and Melancthon placed their confidence also gladly in the new German

Several letters of Luther at this time, closely following on each
other, express at once the keenest enthusiasm for the contest, and
the idea of a Reformation proceeding from the laity, represented, as
he understood them, by their established authorities and Estates.

We find in these letters powerful effusions of holy zeal and
language full of Christian instruction, mingled with the most
vehement outbursts of the natural passion which was boiling in
Luther's breast. Compared with them, the cleverest controversial
writings of the Humanists, and even the fiercest satires of Hutten,
sound only like rhetoric and elaborate displays of wit.

Luther, in his Sermon on Good Works, already noticed as so replete
with wholesome doctrine and advice, had already complained that
God's ministry was perverted into a means of supporting the lowest
creatures of the Pope, and had declared that the best and only thing
left was for kings, princes, nobles, towns, and parishes to set to
work themselves, and 'make a breach in the abuse,' so that the
hitherto intimidated clergy might follow. As for excommunication and
threats, such things need not trouble them: they meant as little as
if a mad father were to threaten his son who was guarding him.

The sharpest replies on the part of Luther were next provoked by two
writings which justified and glorified the Divine authority and
power of the Papacy. One was by a Franciscan friar, Augustin von
Alveld; the other by Silvester Prierias, already mentioned, who was
his most active opponent in this matter.

Luther broke out against 'the Alveld Ass' (as he called him in a
letter to Spalatin) in a long reply entitled 'The Popedom at Rome,'
with the object of exposing once and finally the secrets of
Antichrist. 'From Rome' he says 'flow all evil examples of spiritual
and temporal iniquity into the world, as from a sea of wickedness.
Whoever mourns to see it, is called by the Romans a 'good
Christian,' or in their language, a fool. It was a proverb among
them that one ought to wheedle the gold out of the German simpletons
as much as one could.' If the German princes and nobles did not
'make short work of them in good earnest,' Germany would either be
devastated or would have to devour herself.

Prierias' pamphlet provoked him to exclaim, in that same letter to
Spalatin, 'I think that at Rome they are all mad, silly, and raging,
and have become mere fools, sticks and stones, hells and devils.'
His remarks on this pamphlet, written in Latin, contain the
strongest words that we have yet heard from his lips about the 'only
means left,' and the 'short work' to be made of Rome. Emperors,
kings, and princes, he says, would yet have to take up the sword
against the rage and plague of the Romanists. 'When we hang thieves,
and behead murderers, and burn heretics, why do not we lay hands on
these Cardinals and Popes and all the rabble of the Romish Sodom,
and bathe our hands in their blood?' What Luther now in reality
wished to see done, was, as he goes on to say, that the Pope should
be corrected as Christ commands men to deal with their offending
brethren (St. Matth. xviii. 15 sqq.), and, if he neglected to hear,
should be held as an heathen man and a publican.

While these pages of Luther's were in the press, towards the middle
of June, Hutten, full of hope himself, and carrying with him the
hopes of Luther and Melancthon, set off on his journey to the
Emperor's brother in the Netherlands, and, on his way, paid a visit
at Cologne to the learned Agrippa von Nettesheim, accompanied, as
the latter says, by a 'few adherents of the Lutheran party.' There,
as Agrippa relates with terror, they expressed aloud their thoughts.
'What have we to do with Rome and its Bishop?' they asked. 'Have we
no Archbishops and Bishops in Germany, that we must kiss the feet of
this one? Let Germany turn, and turn she will, to her own bishops
and pastors.' Hutten paid the expenses of this journey out of money
given him by the Archbishop Albert; between these two, therefore,
the bonds of friendship were not yet broken. Albert was the first of
the German bishops; Hutten, and very possibly the Archbishop also,
might reasonably suppose that a reform proceeding from the Emperor
and the Empire, might place him at the head of a German National

But Luther had already put his pen to a composition which was to
summon the German laity to the grand work before them, to establish
the foundations of Christian belief, and to set forth in full the
most crying needs and aims of the time. He had resolved to give the
strongest and amplest expression in his power to the truth for which
he was contending.



In a dedication to his friend and colleague Amsdorf, prefixed to the
first of these works, he begins, 'The time of silence is past, and
the time for speaking is come.' He had several points, he tells us,
concerning the improvement of the Christian condition, to lay before
the Christian nobility of Germany; perhaps God would help His Church
through the laity, since the clergy had become entirely careless. If
charged with presumption in venturing to address such high people on
such great matters, so be it, then perhaps he was guilty of a folly
towards his God and the world, and might one day become court-jester.
But inasmuch as he was a sworn doctor of Holy Scripture, he rejoiced
in the opportunity of satisfying his oath in this manner.

He then turns to the 'Most illustrious, Most powerful Imperial
Majesty, and to the Christian nobility of the German nation,' with
the greeting, 'Grace and strength from God first of all, most
illustrious, gracious, and beloved Lords!'

The need and troubles of Christendom, and especially of Germany,
constrained him, as he said, to cry to God that He might inspire
some one to stretch out his hand to the suffering nation. His hopes
were in the noble young blood now given by God as her head. He would
likewise do his part.

The Romanists, in order to prevent their being reformed, had shut
themselves within three walls. Firstly, they said, the temporal
power had no rights over them, the spiritual power, but the
spiritual was above the temporal; secondly, the Scriptures, which
were sought to be employed against them, could only be expounded by
the Pope; thirdly, no one but the Pope could summon a Council.
Against this, Luther calls to God for one of those trumpets which
once blew down the walls of Jericho, in order to blow down also,
these walls of straw and paper.

His assault upon the first wall was decisive for the rest. He
accomplished it with his doctrine of the spiritual and priestly
character of all Christians, who had been baptised and consecrated
by the blood of Christ (1 Peter ii. 9; Rev. v. 10). Thus, according
to Luther, they are all of one character, one rank. The only thing
peculiar to the so-called ecclesiastics or priests, is the special
office or work of 'administering the Word of God and the Sacraments'
to the congregation. The power to do this is given, indeed, by God
to all Christians as priests, but, being so given, cannot be assumed
by an individual without the will and command of the community. The
ordination of priests, as they are called, by a bishop can in
reality only signify that, out of the collective body of Christians,
all possessing equal power, one is selected, and commanded to
exercise this power on behalf of the rest. They hold, therefore,
this peculiar office, like their fellow-members of the community who
are entrusted with temporal authority, namely, to wield the sword
for the punishment of the bad and the protection of the good. They
hold it, as every shoemaker, smith, or builder holds office in his
particular trade, and yet all alike are priests. Moreover, this
temporal magisterial power has the right to exercise its office free
and unhindered in its own sphere of action; no Pope or bishop must
here interfere, no so-called priest must usurp it.

As a consequence of this spiritual character of Christians, the
second wall was also doomed to fall. Christ said of all Christians,
that they shall all be taught of God (St. John vi. 45). Thus any
man, however humble, if he was a true Christian, could have a right
understanding of the Scriptures; and the Pope, if wicked and not a
true Christian, was not taught of God. If the Pope alone were always
in the right, one would have to pray 'I believe in the Pope at Rome,'
and the whole Christian Church would then be centred in one man,
which would be nothing short of devilish and hellish error. After
this the third wall fell by itself. For, says Luther, when the Pope
acts against the Scriptures, it is our duty to stand by the Scriptures
and to punish him as Christ taught us to punish offending brethren
(St. Matthew xviii. 17), when He said, 'Tell it unto the Church.' Now
the Church or Christendom must be gathered together in a Council. And
like as the most famous of the Councils, that of Nice, and others after
it, had been summoned by the Emperor, so must everyone, as a true member
of the whole body, and when necessary, do what he can to make it a
really free Council: 'which nobody can do so well as the temporal
authorities, who meet these as fellow-Christians, fellow-priests.' Just
as if a fire broke out in a city, no one, because he had not the power
of the burgomaster, durst stand still and let it burn, but every
citizen must run and call others together, so was it in the spiritual
city of Christ, if a fire of trouble and affliction should arise. The
question as to the composition of such a Council Luther does not proceed
to discuss. That he wished, however, the laity to be represented, we may
safely assume from the whole context, though it is doubtful how far he
may then have thought of a representation of the temporal authorities as
such, and, above all, of the Christian body collectively, through
its political members. But the main point on which he insisted was,
that the Council should be a free and really Christian one, bound by
no oath to the Pope, fettered by no so-called Canon law, but subject
only to the Word of God in Holy Writ.

Under twenty-six heads Luther then proceeds to enumerate the points
on which such a Council should treat, and which should be urged in
particular in connection with the question of reform.

The whole arrogance of the Papacy, the temporal pride with which the
Pope clothed himself, the idolatry with which he was treated, were
to Luther a scandal and unchristian. Lord of the universe, the Pope
styled himself, and paraded about with a triple crown in all
temporal splendour, and with an endless train of followers and
baggage, whilst claiming to be the vicegerent of the Lord who
wandered about in poverty, and gave Himself up to the Cross, and
declared that His kingdom was not of this world. Clearly and fully
Luther shows the various ways, embracing the whole life of the
Church, in which Romish tyranny had enslaved the Churches of other
countries, especially of Germany, and had turned them to account and
plundered them: by means of fees and taxes of all kinds, by drawing
away the trial of ecclesiastical cases to Rome, by accumulating
benefices in the hands of Papal favourites of the worst description,
by the unprincipled and usurious sale of dispensations, by the oath
which made the bishops mere vassals of the Pope, and effectually
prevented all reform. In this greed for money in particular, and in
the crafty methods of collecting it, Luther saw the genuine
Antichrist, who, as Daniel had foretold, was to gather the treasures
of the earth (Daniel xi. 8, 39, 43).

To confront this oppression and these acts of usurpation, Luther
would not have men wait for a Council. As for these impositions and
taxes, he says that every prince, noble, and town should straightway
repudiate and forbid them. This lawless pillaging of ecclesiastical
benefices and fiefs by Rome should be resisted at once by the
nobility. Anyone coming from the Papal court to Germany with such
claims, must be ordered to desist, or to jump into the nearest piece
of water with his seals and letters and the ban of excommunication.
Luther insists especially on demanding, as Hutten had already
demanded, that the individual Churches, and particularly those of
Germany, should order and conduct their own affairs independently of
Rome. The bishops were not to obtain their confirmation at Rome,
but, as already decreed by the Nicene Council, from a couple of
neighbouring bishops or an archbishop. The German bishops were to be
under their own primate, who might hold a general consistory with
chancellors and counsellors, to receive appeals from the whole of
Germany. The Pope, in other respects, was still to be left a
position of supremacy in the collective Christian Church, and the
adjudication of matters of importance on which the primates could
not agree. One other matter Luther dwells on, as affecting the
entire constitution of the Church. It is not the mere administrative
and judicial functions that constitute the true meaning of office,
whether in a priest, a bishop, or a Pope, but a constant service to
God's Word. Luther therefore is anxious that the Pope should not be
burdened with small matters. He calls to mind how once the Apostles
would not leave the Word of God, and serve tables, but wished to
give themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word (Acts vi.
2, 4). But he would have a clean sweep made of the so-called
ecclesiastical law, contained in the law-books of the Church. The
Scriptures were sufficient. Besides, the Pope himself did not keep
that law, but pretended to carry all law in the shrine of his own

Consistently with all that he has said about the relative positions
of the temporal and spiritual powers, Luther goes on to protest, on
behalf especially of the German Empire, against the 'overbearing and
criminal behaviour' of the Pope, who arrogates to himself power over
the Emperor, and allows the latter to kiss his foot and hold his
stirrup. Granted that he is superior to the Emperor in spiritual
office, in preaching, in administering the Word of grace; in other
matters he is his inferior.

But the most important demand advanced by Luther, while pushing
further his inquiries into the moral and social regulations and
condition of the Church, is the abolition of the celibacy of the
clergy. If Popes and bishops wish to impose upon themselves the
burden of an unmarried life, he has nothing to say to that. He
speaks only of the clergy in general, whom God has appointed, who
are needed by every Christian community for the service of preaching
and the sacraments, and who must live and keep house amongst their
fellow-Christians. Not an angel from Heaven, much less a Pope, dare
bind this man to what God has never bound him, and thereby
precipitate him into danger and, sin. A limit at least must be
imposed on monastic life. Luther would like to see the convents and
cloisters turned into Christian schools, where men might learn the
Scriptures and discipline, and be trained to govern others and to
preach. He would further give full liberty to quit such institutions
at pleasure. He reverts to the question of clerical celibacy, in
lamenting the gross immoralities of the priesthood, and complaining
that marriage was so frequently avoided on account simply of the
responsibilities it entailed, and the restraints it imposed on loose

Luther would abolish all commands to fast, on the ground that these
ordinances of man are opposed to the freedom of the Bible. He would
do away also with the multitude of festivals and holidays, as
leading only to idleness, carousing, and gambling. He would check
the foolish pilgrimages to Rome, on which so much money was wasted,
whilst wife and child, and poor Christian neighbours were left at
home to starve, and which drew people into so much trouble and
temptation. As regards the management of the poor, Luther's
requirements were somewhat stringent. All begging among Christians
was to be forbidden; each town was to provide for its own poor, and
not admit strange beggars. As the universities at that time, no less
than the schools, were in connection with the Church, Luther offers
some suggestions for their reform. He singles out the writings of
the ancients which were read in the philosophical faculty, and
others, which might be done away with as useless or even pernicious.
With regard to the mass of civil law, he agreed with the complaint
often heard among Germans, that it had become a wilderness: each
state should be governed, as far as possible, 'by its own brief
laws.' For children, girls as well as boys, he would like to see a
school in every town. It grieved him to see how, in the very heart
of Christendom, the young folk were neglected and allowed to perish
for lack of timely sustenance with the bread of the gospel.

He reverts again to the question about the Bohemians, with a view to
silencing at length the vile calumniations of his enemies. And in so
doing he remarks of Huss, that even if he had been a heretic,
'heretics must be conquered with the pen and not with fire. If to
conquer them with fire were an art, the executioners would be the
most learned doctors on the earth.'

Lastly he refers briefly to the prevalent evils of worldly and
social life; to wit, the luxury in dress and food, the habits of
excess common among Germans, the practice of usury and taking
interest. He would like to put a bridle into the mouth of the great
commercial firms, especially the rich house of Fugger; for the
amassing of such enormous wealth, during the life of one man, could
never be done by right and godly means. It seemed to him 'far more
godly to promote agriculture and lessen commerce.' Luther speaks in
this as a man of the people, who were already suspicious about this
accumulation of money, from a right feeling really of the moral and
economical dangers thence accruing to the nation, even if ignorant
of the necessary relations of supply and demand. As to this, Luther
adds: 'I leave that to the worldly-wise; I, as a theologian, can
only say, Abstain from all appearance of evil.' (1 Thessalonians v.

So wide a field of subjects did this little book embrace. We have
only here mentioned the chief points. Luther himself acknowledges at
the conclusion: 'I am well aware that I have pitched my note high,
that I have proposed many things which will be looked upon as
impossible, and have attacked many points too sharply. I am bound to
add, that if I could, I would not only talk but act; I would rather
the world were angry with me than God.' But Rome always remained the
chief object of his attacks. 'Well then,' he says of her, 'I know of
another little song of Rome; if her ear itches for it, I will sing
it to her and pitch the notes at their highest.' He concludes, 'God
give us all a Christian understanding, and to the Christian nobility
of the German nation, especially, a true spiritual courage to do
their best for the poor Church. Amen.'

Whilst Luther was working on this treatise, new disquieting rumours
and remonstrances addressed from Rome to the Elector reached him
through Spalatin. But with them came also that promise of protection
from Schauenburg. Luther answered Spalatin, 'The die is cast, I
despise alike the wrath and the favour of Rome; I will have no
reconciliation with her, no fellowship.' Friends who heard of his
new work grew alarmed; Staupitz, even at the eleventh hour, tried to
dissuade him from it. But before August was far advanced, four
thousand copies were already printed and published. A new edition
was immediately called for. Luther now added another section
repudiating the arrogant pretension of the Pope, that through his
means the Roman Empire had been brought to Germany.

Well might Luther's friend Lange call this treatise a war-trumpet.
The Reformer, who at first merely wished to point out and open to
men the right way of salvation, and to fight for it with the sword
of his word, now stepped forward boldly and with determination,
demanding the abolition of all unlawful and unchristian ordinances
of the Romish Church, and calling upon the temporal power to assist
him, if need be, with material force. The groundwork of this resolve
had been laid, as we have seen, in the progress of his moral and
religious convictions; in the inalienable rights which belong to
Christianity in general, and the mission with which God entrusts
also the temporal power or state; in the independence granted by Him
to this power on its own domain, and the duties He has imposed upon
all Christian authorities, even in regard to all moral and religious
needs and dangers. But he denied altogether, and we may well believe
him, that he had any wish to create disorder or disturbance; his
intention was merely to prepare the way for a free Council. Not
indeed that he shrank from the thought of battle and tumult, should
the powers whom he invoked meet with resistance from the adherents
of Rome or Antichrist. As for himself, though forced to make such a
stormy appearance, he had no idea of himself being destined to
become the Reformer, but was content rather to prepare the way for a
greater man, and his thoughts herein turned to Melancthon. Thus he
wrote to Lange these remarkable words: 'It may be that I am the
forerunner of Philip, and like Elias, prepare the way for him in
spirit and in strength, destroying the people of Ahab' (1 Kings
xviii). Melancthon, on the other hand, wrote to Lange just then
about Luther, saying that he did not venture to check the spirit of
Martin in this matter, to which Providence seemed to have appointed

From the Electoral court Luther learned that his treatise was 'not
altogether displeasing.' And just at this time he had to thank his
prince for a present of game.

TREATISE, in a rather smaller size.]

There is no doubt that Luther received also from that quarter the
advice to approach the Emperor, who had just arrived in Germany, and
whom he had wished to address in his treatise, with a direct
personal request for protection, to prevent his being condemned
unheard. He addressed to him a well-considered letter, couched in
dignified language. He issued at the same time a short public
'offer,' appealing therein to the fact, that he had so long begged
in vain for a proper refutation. These two writings were first
examined and corrected by Spalatin, and so appeared only at the end
of August, not, as is generally supposed, in the January of this
year. Luther never received an answer to his letter to the Emperor,
and therefore never heard how it was received.

The dangers which threatened Luther, and through him also the honour
and prosperity of his Order, affected further his companions and
friends who belonged to it. And of this Miltitz took advantage to
renew his attempts at mediation. He induced the brethren, at a
convention of Augustinian friars held at Eisleben, to persuade
Luther once more to write to the Pope, and solemnly assure him that
he had never wished to attack him personally. A deputation of these
monks, with Staupitz and Link at their head, came to Luther at
Wittenberg on the 4th or 5th of September, and received his promise
to comply with their wishes. At this convention, Staupitz, who felt
his strength no longer equal to the difficult questions and
controversies of the time, had resigned his office as Vicar of the
Order, and Link had succeeded him. Luther saw him now at Wittenberg
for the last time. He retired in quiet seclusion to Salzburg, where
the Archbishop was his personal friend.

But Luther's spirit would not let him desist for a moment from
prosecuting his contest with Rome. He had yet 'a little song' to
sing about her. He was in fact at work in August, while rumours were
already afloat that Eck was on his way with the bull, upon a new
tract, and had even begun to have it printed. It was to treat of the
'Babylonian Captivity of the Church,' taking as its subject the
Christian sacraments. Luther knew that in this he cut deeper into
the theological and religious principles of the Church, which had
come under discussion in his quarrel with Rome, than in all his
demands for reform, put forward in his address to the nobility. For
while, in common with the Church herself, he saw in the Sacraments,
instituted by Christ, the most sacred acts of worship, and the
channels through which salvation itself, forgiveness, grace, and
strength are imparted from above, in those principles he saw them
limited by man's caprice in their original scope and meaning, robbed
of their true significance, and made the instruments of Papal and
priestly domination, while other pretended sacraments were joined to
them, never instituted by Christ. On this account he complained of
the tyranny to which these sacraments, and with them the Church,
were subject, of the captivity in which they lay. Against him were
arrayed not only the hierarchy, but the whole forces of Scholastic
learning. He knew that what he now propounded would sound
preposterous to these opponents; he would make, he said, his feeble
revilers feel their blood run cold. But he met them in the armour of
profound erudition, and with learned arguments lucidly and concisely
expressed in Latin. At the same time his language, where he explains
the real essence of the sacraments, shows a clearness and religious
fervour which no layman could fail to understand.

The subject of the deepest importance to Luther in this treatise was
the sacrament of the altar. He dwells on the mutilated form, without
the cup, in which the Lord's Supper was given to the laity; on the
doctrine invented about the change of the bread, instead of keeping
to the simple word of Scripture; and, lastly, on the substitution of
a sacrifice, supposed to be offered to God by the priest, for the
institution ordained by Christ for the nourishment of the faithful.
The withholding of the cup he calls an act of ungodliness and
tyranny, beyond the power of either Pope or Council to prescribe.
Against the sacrifice of the mass he had published just before a
sermon in German. He was well aware that his principles involved, as
indeed he intended, a revolution of the whole service, and an attack
on an ordinance, upon which a number of other abuses, of great
importance to the hierarchy, depended. But he ventured it, because
God's word obliged him to do it. So now he proceeds to describe, in
contrast to this mass, the one of true Christian institution, and
resting wholly, as he conceived it, on the words of Christ, when
instituting the Last Supper, 'Take, and eat,' etc. Christ would here
say, 'See, thou poor sinner, out of pure love I promise to thee,
before thou canst either earn or promise anything, forgiveness of
all thy sins, and eternal life, and to assure thee of this I give
here my Body and shed my Blood; do thou, by my death, rest assured
of this promise, and take as a sign my Body and my Blood.'

For the worthy celebration of this mass, nothing is required but
faith, which shall trust securely in this promise; with this faith
will come the sweetest stirrings of the heart, which will unfold
itself in love, and yearn for the good Saviour, and in Him will
become a new creature.

As regards baptism Luther lamented that it was no longer allowed to
possess the true significance and value it ought to have for a man's
whole life. Whereas in truth the person baptized received a promise
of mercy from God, to which time after time, even from the sins of
his future life, he might and was bound to turn, it was taught, that
in sinning after baptism, the Christian was like a shipwrecked man,
who, instead of the ship, could only reach a plank; this being the
sacrament of penance, with its accompanying outward formalities.
Whereas further, in true baptism he had vowed to dedicate his whole
life and conduct to God, other vows of human invention were now
demanded of him. Whereas he then became a full partaker of Christian
liberty, he was now burdened with ordinances of the Church, devised
by man.

Concerning this sacrament of penance, with confession, absolution,
and its other adjuncts, Luther rates at its full value the word of
forgiveness spoken to the individual, and values also the free
confession made to his Christian brother by the Christian seeking
comfort. But confession, he said, had been perverted into an
institution of compulsion and torture. Instead of leading the
tempted brother to trust in God's mercy, he was ordered to perform
acts of penance, whereby nominally to give satisfaction to God, but
in reality to minister to the ambition and insatiable avarice of the
Roman see.

From all these abuses and perversions Luther seeks to liberate the
sacraments, and restore them in their purity to Christians.
Nevertheless, he takes care to insist on the fact that it is not the
mere external ceremony, the act of the priest in administering, and
the visible partaking of the receiver, that make the latter a sharer
in the promised grace and blessedness. This, he says, depends upon a
hearty faith in the Divine promise. He who believes enjoys the
benefit of the sacrament, even though its outward administration be
denied him.

The mediaeval Church ordained four other sacraments, namely,
confirmation, marriage, consecration of priests, and extreme
unction. But Luther refuses to acknowledge any of these as a
sacrament. Marriage, he says, in its sacramental aspect, was not an
institution of the New Testament, nor was it connected with any
especial promise of grace. It was but a holy moral ordinance of
daily life, existing since the beginning of the world and among
those who were not Christians as well as those who were. At the same
time he takes the opportunity to protest against those human
regulations with which even this ordinance had been invaded by the
Romish Church, especially against the arbitrary obstacles to
marriage she had created. Even these were made a source of revenue
to her, by the granting of dispensations. For the other three
sacraments there was no especial promise. In the Epistle of St.
James (v. 14), where it speaks of anointing the sick with oil, the
allusion is not to extreme unction to the dying, but to the exercise
of that wonderful Apostolic gift of healing the sick through the
power of faith and prayer. With regard to the consecration of
priests, Luther repeats the principles laid down in his address to
the nobility. Ordination consists simply of this, that out of a
community, all of whom are priests, one is chosen for the particular
work of administering God's word. If, as in consecration, the hand
is laid upon him, this is a human custom and not instituted by the
Lord Himself. But in truth, says Luther, the outrageous tyranny of
the clergy, with their priestly bodily anointing, their tonsure, and
their dress, would arrogate a higher position than other Christians
anointed with the Spirit; these are counted almost as unworthy as
dogs to belong to the Church. And most seriously he warns a man not
to strive for that outward anointing, unless he is earnestly intent
on the true service of the gospel, and has disclaimed all pretension
to become, by consecration, better than lay Christians.

In conclusion Luther declares: he hears that Papal excommunication
is prepared for him, to force him to recant. In that case this
little treatise shall form part of his recantation. After that he
will soon publish the rest, the like of which has never been seen or
heard by the Romish see.

In the beginning of October, probably on the 6th of that month, the
book was issued. Luther had heard some ten days before that Eck had
actually arrived with the bull. He had already caused it to be
posted publicly at Meissen on September 21. Early in October he sent
a copy of it also to the university of Wittenberg.



At Rome, the bull, now newly arrived in Germany, had been published
as early as June 16. It had been considered, when at length, under
the pressure of the influences described above, the subject was
taken up in earnest, very carefully in the Papal consistory. The
jurists there were of opinion that Luther should be cited once more,
but their views did not prevail. As for the negotiations, conducted
through Miltitz, for an examination of Luther before the Archbishop
of Treves, no heed was now paid to the affair.

The bull begins with the words, 'Arise, O Lord, and avenge Thy
cause.' It proceeds to invoke St. Peter, St. Paul, the whole body of
the saints, and the Church. A wild boar had broken into the vineyard
of the Lord, a wild beast was there seeking to devour &c. Of the
heresy against which it was directed, the Pope, as he states, had
additional reason to complain, since the Germans, among whom it had
broken out, had always been regarded by him with such tender
affection: he gives them to understand that they owed the Empire to
the Romish Church. Forty-one propositions from Luther's writings are
then rejected and condemned, as heretical or at least scandalous and
corrupting, and his works collectively are sentenced to be burnt. As
to Luther himself, the Pope calls God to witness that he has
neglected no means of fatherly love to bring him into the right way.
Even now he is ready to follow towards him the example of Divine
mercy which wills not the death of a sinner, but that he should be
converted and live; and so once more he calls upon him to repent, in
which case he will receive him graciously like the prodigal son.
Sixty days are given him to recant. But if he and his adherents will
not repent, they are to be regarded as obstinate heretics and
withered branches of the vine of Christ, and must be punished
according to law. No doubt the punishment of burning was meant; the
bull in fact expressly condemns the proposition of Luther which
denounces the burning of heretics.

All this was called then at Rome, and has been called even latterly
by the Papal party, 'the tone rather of fatherly sorrow than of
penal severity.' The means by which the bull had been brought about,
made it fitting that Eck himself should be commissioned with its
circulation throughout Germany, and especially with its publication
in Saxony. More than this, he received the unheard of permission to
denounce any of the adherents of Luther at his pleasure, when he
published the bull.

Accordingly, Eck had the bull publicly posted up in September at
Meissen, Merseburg, and Brandenburg. He was charged, moreover, by a
Papal brief, in the event of Luther's refusing to submit, to call
upon the temporal power to punish the heretic. But at Leipzig, where
the magistrate, by order of Duke George, had to present him with a
goblet full of money, he was so hustled in the streets by his
indignant opponents, that he was forced to take refuge in the
Convent of St. Paul, and hastened to pursue his journey by night,
whilst the city officials rode about the neighbourhood with the
bull. A number of Wittenberg students, adds Miltitz, made their
appearance also at Leipzig, who 'behaved in a good-for-nothing way
towards him.'

At Wittenberg, where the publication of the bull rested with the
university, the latter notified its arrival to the Elector, and
objected for various reasons to publish it, alleging, in particular,
that Eck, its sender, was not furnished with proper authority from
the Pope. Luther for the first time felt himself, as he wrote to
Spalatin, really free, being at length convinced that the Popedom
was Antichrist and the seat of Satan. He was not at all discouraged
by a letter sent at this time by Erasmus from Holland to Wittenberg,
saying that no hopes could be placed in the Emperor Charles, as he
was in the hands of the Mendicant Friars. As for the bull, so
extraordinary were its contents, that he wished to consider it a

Still the promise which Luther had given to his Augustinian
brethren, only a few weeks before, under pressure from Miltitz,
remained as yet unfulfilled. Nor did Miltitz himself wish the
threads of the web then spun to slip from his fingers. Even at this
hour, with the consent and at the wish of the Elector, an interview
had been arranged between Miltitz and Luther at the Castle of
Lichtenberg (now Lichtenburg, in the district of Torgau), where the
monks of St. Antony were then housed. Just as Miltitz, as we have
seen, had thought to be able to avert the bull by getting Luther to
write a letter to the Pope, so now he promised the Elector still to
conciliate the Pope by that means. Only the letter was to be dated
back to the time, before the publication of the bull, when Luther
first gave his consent to write it. Its substance was to be as then
agreed upon; Luther, as Miltitz expressed it, was to 'eulogise the
Pope personally in a manner agreeable to him,' and at the same time
submit to him an historical statement of what he had done. Luther
consented to publish a letter in these terms, in Latin and German,
under date of September 6, and immediately gave effect to his

It is hardly conceivable how Miltitz could still have nurtured such
a hope. Neither his wish to ingratiate himself with the Elector
Frederick, and to checkmate the plans of Eck whom he detested, nor
his personal vanity and flippancy of character, are sufficient to
account for it. He must have learnt from his own previous personal
intercourse with the Pope, and his experiences of the Papal court,
that Leo did not take up Church questions and controversies so
gravely and so seriously as not to remain fully open all the time to
influences and considerations of other kinds, and that around him
were parties and influential personages, arrayed in mutual hostility
and rivalry. He must have been strangely ignorant of the state of
things at Rome. But as to Luther and his cause there was no longer
any hesitation in that quarter.

In what sense Luther himself was willing to comply with the demand
of Miltitz, the contents of his letter suffice to show. He makes it
clear that nothing was further from his intention than to appease
the angry Pontiff by any dexterous artifices or concealments. The
assurance required from him, that he had no wish to attack the Pope
personally, he construes in its literal terms, apart altogether from
the official character and acts of Leo. And in fact against his
personal character and conduct he had never said a word. But he
takes this opportunity, at the same time, of speaking to him plainly,
as a Christian is bound to do to his fellow-Christian; of repeating
to him, face to face, the severest charges yet made by him against
the Romish chair; of excusing Leo's own conduct in this chair simply
and solely on the ground that he regarded him as a victim of the
monstrous corruption which surrounded him, and of warning him once
more against it as a brother. He tells him to his face that he
himself, the Holy Father, must acknowledge that the Papal see was
more wicked and shameful than any Sodom, Gomorrah, or Babylon; that
God's wrath had fallen upon it without ceasing; that Rome, which
had once been the gate of heaven, was now an open jaw of hell. Most
earnestly he warns Leo against his flatterers,--the 'ear-ticklers'
who would make him a God. He assures him that he wishes him all
that is good, and therefore he wishes that he should not be devoured
by these jaws of hell, but on the contrary, should be freed from
this godless idolatry of parasites, and be placed in a position where
he would be able to live on some smaller ecclesiastical preferment,
or on his own patrimony. As for the historical retrospect which
Miltitz wanted, and which Luther briefly appends to this letter, all
that the latter says in vindication of himself is, that it was not
his own fault, but that of his enemies, who had driven him further
and further onward, that 'no small part of the unchristian doings at
Rome had been dragged to light.'

[Illustration: Fig. 23.--TITLE-PAGE, slightly reduced, of the
original Tract 'On the Liberty of a Christian Man.' The Saxon swords
are represented above, and the arms of Wittenberg below.]

Luther sent with this letter, as a present to the Pope, a pamphlet
entitled 'On the Liberty of a Christian Man.' This is no
controversial treatise intended for the great struggle of churchmen
and theologians, but a tract to minister to 'simple men.' For their
benefit he wished to describe compendiously the 'sum of a Christian
life'; to deal thoroughly with the question, 'What was a Christian?
and how he was to use the liberty which Christ had won and given to
him.' He premises as an axiom that a Christian is a free lord over
all things, and subject to nobody. He considers, first of all, the
new, inner, spiritual man, and asks what makes him a good and free
Christian. Nothing external, he says, can make him either good or
free. It does not profit the soul if the body puts on sacred
vestments, or fasts, or prays with the lips. To make the soul live,
and be good and free, there is nothing else in heaven or on earth
but the Holy Scriptures, in other words, God's Word of comfort by
His dear Son Jesus Christ, through Whom our sins are forgiven us. In
this Word the soul has perfect joy, happiness, peace, light, and all
good things in abundance. And to obtain this, nothing more is
required of the soul than what is told us in the Scriptures, namely,
to give itself to Jesus with firm faith and to trust joyfully in
Him. At first, no doubt, God's command must terrify a man, seeing
that it must be fulfilled, or man condemned; but when once he has
been brought thereby to recognise his own worthlessness, then comes
God's promise and the gospel, and says, Have faith in Christ, in
Whom I promise thee all grace; believe in Him, and thou hast Him. A
right faith so blends the soul with God's word, that the virtues of
the latter become her own, as the iron becomes glowing hot from its
union with the fire. And the soul becomes joined to Christ as a
bride to the bridegroom; her wedding-ring is faith. All that Christ,
the rich and noble bridegroom possesses, He makes His bride's; all
that she has, He takes unto Himself. He takes upon Himself her sins,
so that they are swallowed up in Him and in His unconquerable
righteousness. Thus the Christian is exalted above all things, and
becomes a lord; for nothing can injure his salvation; everything
must be subject to him and help towards his salvation; it is a
spiritual kingdom. And thus all Christians are priests; they can all
approach God through Christ, and pray for others. 'Who can
comprehend the honour and dignity of a Christian? Through his
kingship he has power over all things, through his priesthood he has
power over God, for God does what he desires and prays for.'

But the Christian, as Luther states in his second axiom, is not only
this new inner man. He has another will in his flesh, which would
make him captive to sin. Accordingly, he dare not be idle, but must
work hard to drive out evil lusts and mortify his body. He lives,
moreover, among other men on earth, and must labour together with
them. And as Christ, though Himself full of the Kingdom of God, for
our sake stripped Himself of His power and ministered as a servant,
so should we Christians, to whom God through Christ has given the
Kingdom of all goodness and blessedness, and therewith all that is
sufficient to satisfy us, do freely and cheerfully for our heavenly
Father whatever pleases Him, and do unto our neighbours as Christ
has done for us. In particular, we must not despise the weakness and
weak faith of our neighbour, nor vex him with the use of our
liberty, but rather minister with all we have to his improvement.
Thus the Christian, who is a free lord and master, becomes a useful
servant of all and subject to all. But he does these works, not that
he may become thereby good and blessed in the sight of God; he is
already blessed through his faith, and what he does now he does
freely and gratuitously. Luther thus sums up in conclusion: 'A
Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbour;
in Christ through faith, in his neighbour through love. Through
faith he rises above himself in God, from God he descends again
below himself through love; and yet remains always in God and in
godlike love.'

This tract was a remarkable pendant to Luther's remarkable letter to
the Pope. His Holiness, so he wrote to him in his dedication, might
taste from its contents what kind of occupation the author would
rather, and might with more profit, be engaged in, if only the
godless Papal flatterers did not hinder him. And in fact the Pope
could plainly see from it how Luther lived and laboured, with his
inmost being, in these profound but simple ideas of Christian truth,
and how he was inwardly compelled and delighted to represent them in
their noble simplicity. The whole tone and tenor of this dedication,
so tranquil, fervent, and tender, shows further what profound peace
reigned in the soul of this vehement champion of the faith, and what
happiness the excommunicated heretic found in his God. Next to
Luther's Address to the German Nobility and his Babylonian
Captivity, this tract is one of the most important contributions of
his pen to the cause of the Reformation. It is clear from its pages
that when Luther wrote his letter, at the request of Miltitz, to the
Pope, he had no thought of making peace with the Papacy, or of even
a moment's truce in the campaign.

The bull of excommunication he met in the manner intimated to
Spalatin from the first. He launched a short tract against it, 'On
the new Bull and Falsehoods of Eck,' treating it as Eck's forgery.
This he followed up with another tract in German and Latin, 'Against
the Bull of Antichrist.' He was resolved to unmask the blindness and
wickedness of the Roman evil-doers. He saw partly his own real
doctrines perverted, partly the Christian and Scriptural truth that
his doctrines contained, stigmatised as heresy and condemned. He
declared that if the Pope did not retract and condemn this bull, no
one would doubt that he was the enemy of God and the disturber of

He then solemnly renewed, on November 17, the appeal to a Council,
which he had made two years before. But how was his attitude changed
since then! He, the accused and condemned heretic, now himself
proclaims condemnation and ruin to his enemy, the antichristian
power that seeks to domineer the world. Nor is it only from a future
Council, and one constituted as the previous great assemblies of the
Church, that he expects and demands protection for himself and the
Christian truth; again and again he calls upon the Christian laity
to assist him. Thus in his appeal now published, he invites the
Emperor Charles, the Electors and Princes of the Empire, the counts,
barons, and nobles, the town councils, and all Christian authorities
throughout Germany, to support him and his appeal, that so the true
Christian belief and the freedom of a Council might be saved.
Similarly, in the Latin edition of his tract against the bull, he
calls upon the Emperor Charles, on Christian kings and princes and
all who believe in Christ, together with all Christian bishops and
learned doctors, to resist the iniquities of the Popedom. In his
German version he defends himself against the charge of stirring up
the laity against the Pope and priesthood; but he asks if, indeed,
the laity will be reconciled, or the Pope excused, by the command to
burn the truth. The Pope himself, he says, and his bishops, priests,
and monks are wrestling to their own downfall, through this
iniquitous bull, and want to bring upon themselves the hatred of the
laity. 'What wonder were it, should princes, nobles, and laymen beat
them on the head, and hunt them out of the country?'

Hutten now followed with a stormy demand for a general rising of
Germany against the tyranny of Rome, whose hirelings and emissaries
were to be chased away by main force. When two papal legates,
Aleander and Caraccioli, appeared on the Rhine to execute the bull
and work upon the Emperor in person, he was anxious to strike a blow
at them on his own account, little good as, on calm reflection, it
was evident could have come of it. Luther, on hearing of it, could
not refrain remarking in a letter to Spalatin, 'If only he had
caught them!'

Luther however persisted in repeating to himself and his friends the
warning of the Psalmist, 'Put not your trust in princes, nor in any
child of man, for there is no help in them.' Nay, when Spalatin, who
had gone with the Elector to the Emperor, told him how little was to
be hoped for from the latter, he expressed to him his joy at finding
that he too had learned the same lesson. God, he said, would never
have entrusted simple fishermen with the Gospel, if it had needed
worldly potentates to propagate it. It was to the Last Day that he
looked with full confidence for the overthrow of Antichrist. And,
indeed, his idea that Antichrist had long reigned at Rome was
connected in his mind with the belief that the Last Day was close at
hand. Of this, as he wrote to Spalatin, he was convinced, and for
many strong reasons.

And in fact the Emperor Charles, before leaving the Netherlands, on
his journey to Aix-la-Chapelle to be crowned, had already been
induced by Aleander to take his first step against Luther. He had
consented to the execution of the sentence in the bull, condemning
Luther's works to be burnt, and had issued orders to that effect
throughout the Netherlands. They were burnt in public at Louvain,
Cologne, and Mayence. At Cologne this was done while he was staying
there. It was in this town that the two legates approached the
Elector Frederick with the demand to have the same done in his
territory, and to execute due punishment on the heretic himself, or
at least to keep him close prisoner, or deliver him over to the
Pope. Frederick however refused, saying that Luther must first be
heard by impartial judges. Erasmus also, who was then staying at
Cologne, expressed himself to the same effect, in an opinion
obtained from him by Frederick through Spalatin. At an interview
with the Elector he said to him, 'Luther has committed two great
faults; he has touched the Pope on his crown and the monks on their
bellies.' The Archbishop of Mayence, Cardinal Albert, received
directions from the Pope to take more decisive and energetic steps
against Hutten as well. The burning of Luther's books at Mayence was
effected without hindrance, though Hutten was able to inform Luther
that, according to the account received from a friend, Aleander
narrowly escaped stoning, and the multitude were all the more
inflamed in favour of Luther. The legates in triumph proceeded to
carry out their mission elsewhere.

Luther, however, lost no time in following up their execution of the
bull with his reply. On December 10 he posted a public announcement
that the next morning, at nine o'clock, the antichristian decretals,
that is, the Papal law-books, would be burnt, and he invited all the
Wittenberg students to attend. He chose for this purpose a spot in
front of the Elster Gate, to the east of the town, near the
Augustinian convent. A multitude poured forth to the scene. With
Luther appeared a number of other doctors and masters, and among
them Melancthon and Carlstadt. After one of the masters of arts had
built up a pile, Luther laid the decretals upon it, and the former
applied the fire. Luther then threw the Papal bull into the flames,
with the words 'Because thou hast vexed the Holy One of the Lord,
[Footnote: It is obvious that he refers to Christ, who is spoken of
in Scripture as the Holy One of God (St. Mark i. 24, Acts ii. 27),
not, as ignorance and malice have suggested, to himself.] let the
everlasting fire consume thee.' Whilst Luther with the other
teachers returned to the town, some hundreds of students remained
upon the scene, and sang a Te Deum, and a Dirge for the decretals.
After the ten o'clock meal, some of the young students, grotesquely
attired, drove through the town in a large carriage, with a banner
emblazoned with a bull four yards in length, amidst the blowing of
brass trumpets and other absurdities. They collected from all
quarters a mass of Scholastic and Papal writings, and especially
those of Eck, and hastened with them and the bull, to the pile,
which their companions had meanwhile kept alight. Another Te Deum
was then sung, with a requiem, and the hymn 'O du armer Judas.'

Luther at his lecture the next day told his hearers with great
earnestness and emotion what he had done. The Papal chair he said,
would yet have to be burnt. Unless with all their hearts they
abjured the Kingdom of the Pope, they could not obtain salvation.

He next announced and justified his act in a short treatise entitled
'Why the Books of the Pope and his disciples were burnt by Dr.
Martin Luther.' 'I, Martin Luther,' he says, 'doctor of Holy
Scripture, an Augustinian of Wittenberg, make known hereby to
everyone, that by my wish, advice, and act, on Monday after St.
Nicholas' day, in the year 1520, the books of the Pope of Rome, and
of some of his disciples, were burnt. If anyone wonders, as I fully
expect they will, and asks for what reason and by whose command I
did it, let this be his answer.' Luther considers it his bounden
duty, as a baptized Christian, a sworn doctor of Holy Scripture, and
a daily preacher, to root out, on account of his office, all
unchristian doctrines. The example of others, on whom the same duty
devolved, but who shrank from doing as he did, would not deter him.
'I should not,' he says, 'be excused in my own sight; of that my
conscience is assured, and my spirit, by God's grace, has been
roused to the necessary courage.' He then proceeds to cite from the
law-books thirty erroneous doctrines, in glorification of the
Papacy, which deserved to be burnt. The sum total of this Canon law
was as follows: 'The Pope is a God on earth, above all things,
heavenly and earthly, spiritual and temporal, and everything is his,
since no one durst say, What doest thou?' This, says Luther, is the
abomination of desolation (St: Matth. xxiv. 15), or in other words
Antichrist (2 Thess. ii. 4).

Simultaneously with this, he set out in a longer and exhaustive work
the 'ground and reason' of all his own articles which had been
condemned by the bull. He takes his stand upon God's word in
Scripture against the dogmas of the earthly God;--upon the
revelation by God Himself, which, to everyone who studies it deeply
and with devotion, will lighten his understanding, and make clear
its substance and meaning. What though, as he is reminded, he is
only a solitary, humble man, he is sure of this, that God's Word is
with him.

To Staupitz, who felt faint-hearted and desponding about the bull,
Luther wrote, saying that, when burning it, he trembled at first and
prayed; but now he felt more rejoiced than at any other act in all
his life. He now released himself finally from the restraints of
those monastic rules, with which, as we have remarked before, he had
always tormented himself, besides performing the higher duties of
his calling. He was freed now, as he wrote to his friend Lange, by
the authority of the bull, from the commands of his Order and of the
Pope, being now an excommunicated man. Of this he was glad; he
retained merely the garb and lodging of a monk: he had more than
enough of real duties to perform with his daily lectures and
sermons, with his constant writings, educational, edifying, and
polemical, and with his letters, discourses, and the assistance he
was able to give his brethren.

By this bold act, Luther consummated his final rupture with the
Papal system, which for centuries had dominated the Christian world,
and had identified itself with Christianity. The news of it must
also have made the fire which his words had kindled throughout
Germany, blaze out in all its violence. He saw now, as he wrote to
Staupitz, a storm raging, such as only the Last Day could allay; so
fiercely were passions aroused on both sides.

Germany was then, in fact, in a state of excitement and tension more
critical than at any other period of her history. Side by side with
Luther stood Hutten, in the forefront of the battle with Rome. The
bull he published with sarcastic comments: the burning of Luther's
works of devotion he denounced in Latin and German verses. Eberlin
von Günzburg, who shortly after began to wield his pen as a popular
writer on reform, called these two men 'two chosen messengers of
God.' A German Litany, which appeared early in 1521, implored God's
grace and help for Martin Luther, the unshaken pillar of the
Christian faith, and for the brave German knight Ulrich Hutten, his

Hutten also wrote now in German for the German people, both in prose
and verse. During his stay with Sickingen in the winter at his
Castle of Ebernburg, he read to him Luther's works, which roused in
this powerful warrior an active sympathy with the doctrines of the
Reformation, and stirred up projects in his mind, of what his own
strong arm could accomplish for the good cause.

Pamphlets, both anonymous and pseudonymous, were circulated in
increasing numbers among the people. They took the form chiefly of
dialogues, in which laymen, in a simple Christian spirit, and with
their natural understanding, complain of the needs of Christendom,
ask questions and are enlightened. The outward evils of the Papal
system are put clearly before the people:--the scandals among the
priesthood and in the convents, the iniquities of the Romish
courtiers and creatures of the Pope, who pandered with menial
subservience to the magnates at Rome, in order to fatten on German
benefices, and reap their harvest of taxes and extortions of every
kind. The simple Word of God, with its sublime evangelical truths,
must be freed from the sophistries woven round it by man, and be
made accessible to all without distinction. Luther is represented as
its foremost champion, and a true man of the people, whose testimony
penetrated to the heart. His portrait, as painted by Cranach, was
circulated together with his small tracts. In later editions the
Holy Ghost appears in the form of a dove hovering above his head;
his enemies spread the calumny, that Luther intended this emblem to
represent himself.

Satirical pictures also were used as weapons on both sides in this
contest. Cranach pourtrayed the meek and suffering Saviour on one side,
and on the other the arrogant Roman Antichrist, in the twenty-six
woodcuts of his 'Passion of Christ and Antichrist:' Luther added short
texts to these pictures.

Luther's enemies now began, on their side, to write in German and
for the people. The most talented among them, as regards vigorous,
popular German and coarse satire, was the Franciscan Thomas Murner;
but his theology seemed to Luther so weak, that he only favoured him
once with a brief allusion. He entered now into a longer literary
duel with the Dresden theologian Emser, who had challenged him after
the disputation at Leipzig, and who now published a work 'Against
the Unchristian Address of Martin Luther to the German Nobility.'
Luther replied with a tract 'To the Goat at Leipzig,' Emser with
another 'To the Bull at Wittenberg,' Luther with another 'On the
Answer of the Goat at Leipzig,' and Emser with a third, 'On the
furious Answer of the Bull at Wittenberg.' Luther, whose reply to
Emser's original work had been directed to the first sheets that
appeared, met the work, when published in its complete form, with
his 'Answer to the over-Christian, over-priestly, over-artful Book
of the Goat Emser.' Emser followed up with a 'Quadruplica,' to which
Luther rejoined with another treatise entitled 'A Refutation by
Doctor Luther of Emser's error, extorted by the most learned priest
of God, H. Emser.' When later, during Luther's residence at the
Wartburg, Emser published a reply, Luther let him have the last
word. Nothing new was contributed to the great struggle by this
interchange of polemics. The most effective point made by Emser and
the other defenders of the old Church system, was the old charge
that Luther, one man, presumed to oppose the whole of Christendom as
hitherto constituted, and by the overthrow of all foundations and
authorities of the Church, to bring unbelief, distraction, and
disturbance upon Church and State. Thus Emser says once in German
doggrel, that Luther imagined that

  What Church and Fathers teach was nought;
  None lived but Luther;--so he thought.

In threatening Luther with the consequences of his heresy, he never
failed to hold up Huss as a bugbear.

In Germany, as Emser complains, there was already 'such quarrelling,
noise, and uproar, that not a district, town, village, or house was
free from partisans, and one man was against another.' Aleander wrote
to Rome saying that everywhere exasperation and excitement prevailed,
and the Papal bull was laughed at. Among the adherents of the old
Church system one heard rumours of strange and terrible import. A
letter written shortly after the burning of the bull, gave out that
Luther reckoned on thirty-five thousand Bohemians, and as many Saxons
and other North Germans, who were ready, like the Goths and Vandals
of old, to march on Italy and Rome. But it was evident, even at this
stage, that from rancorous words to energetic and self-sacrificing
action was a long step to take. Even in central Germany the bull was
executed without any disturbance breaking out; and that in the
bishoprics of Meissen and Merseburg, which were adjacent to Wittenberg.
Pirkheimer and Spengler at Nüremberg, whose names Eck had included in
the bull, now bowed to the authority of the Pope, represented though
it was by their personal enemy.

Hutten, who saw his hopes in the Emperor's brother deceived, and
believed his own liberty and even his life was menaced by the Papal
bull, burned with impatient ardour to strike a blow. He was anxious
also to see whether a resort to force, after his own meaning of the
term, would meet with any support from the Elector Frederick. He
ventured even, when speaking of Sickingen's lofty mission, to refer
to the precedent of Ziska, the powerful champion of the Hussites,
who had once been the terror and abomination of the Germans. He, a
member of the proud Equestrian order, was willing now to join hands
with the towns and the burghers to do battle with Rome for the
liberty of Germany. But, passionate as were his words, it was by no
means clear what particular end under present circumstances he
sought to achieve by means of arms. Sickingen, who had grasped the
situation in a practical spirit, advised him to moderate his
impatience, and sought, for his own part, to keep on good terms with
the Emperor, in whom Hutten accordingly renewed his hopes. Each, in
short, had overrated the influence which Sickingen really possessed
with the Emperor.

In this posture of affairs, Luther reverted, with increased
conviction, to his original opinion, that the future must be left
with God alone, without trusting to the help of man. Hutten himself
had written to him, during the Diet of Worms, as follows: 'I will
fight manfully with you for Christ; but our counsels differ in this
respect, that mine are human, while you, more perfect than I am,
trust solely in those of God.' And when Hutten seemed really bent on
taking the sword, Luther declared to him and to others, with all
decision of purpose: 'I would not have man fight with force and
bloodshed for the Gospel. By the Word has the world been subdued, by
the Word has the Church been preserved, by the Word will she be
restored. As Antichrist has begun without a blow, so without a blow
will Antichrist be crushed by the Word.' Even against the Romish
hirelings among the German clergy, he would have no acts of violence
committed, such as were committed in Bohemia. He had not laboured
with the German nobility to have such men restrained by the sword,
but by advice and command. He was only afraid that their own rage
would not allow of peaceful means to check them, but would bring
misery and disaster upon their heads.

His expectation--not indeed ungrounded--of the approaching end of
the world, to which, as we have seen, he alluded in a letter to
Spalatin on January 16, 1521, Luther now announced more fully in a
book, written in answer to an attack by the Romish theologian
Ambrosius Catharinus. He based his opinion on the prophecies of the
Old and New Testament, on which Christian men and Christian
communities, sore pressed in the battle with the powers of darkness,
had been wont ere then to rely, in the sure hope of the approaching
victory of God. Luther referred in particular to the vision of
Daniel (chap. viii.), where he states that after the four great
Kingdoms of the World, the last of which Luther takes to be the
Roman Empire, a bold and crafty ruler should rise up, and 'by his
policy should cause craft to prosper in his hand, and should stand
up against the Prince of princes, but should be broken without
hand.' He saw this vision fulfilled in the Popedom; which must,
therefore, be destroyed 'without hand,' or outward force. St. Paul,
in his view, said the same in the passage in which (2 Thess. ii.) he
foreshadowed long before the Roman Antichrist. That 'man of sin' who
set himself up as God in the temple of God, 'the Lord shall consume
with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness
of His coming.' So, said Luther, the Pope and his kingdom would not
be destroyed by the laity, but would be reserved for a heavier
punishment until the coming of Christ. He must fall, as he had
raised himself, not 'with the hand,' but with the spirit of Satan.
The Spirit must kill the spirit; the truth must reveal deceit.

Luther, as we shall see, had all his life held firmly to this belief
that the end was near. As his glowing zeal pictured the loftiest
images and contrasts to his mind, so also this assurance of victory
was already before his eyes. In his hope of the near completion of
the earthly history of Christianity and mankind, he became the
instrument of carving out a new grand chapter in its career.

The announcement of the retractation required from Luther by the
bull, was to have been sent to Rome within 120 days. Luther had
given his answer. The Pope declared that the time of grace had
expired; and on the 3rd of January Leo X. finally pronounced the ban
against Luther and his followers, and an interdict on the places
where they were harboured.



If we consider the powerful influences then at work to further the
ecclesiastical movement in Germany, it seems reasonable to suppose
that they would succeed in accomplishing its ends through the power
of the Word alone, without any such bloodshed and political
convulsions as were feared; and that Germany, therefore, though
vexed with spiritual tempests--the 'tumult and uproar' whose
outburst Luther already discerned--must inevitably rid herself of
the forms and fetters of Romish Churchdom, by the sheer force of her
new religious convictions. And, indeed, even in the short interval
since Luther had commenced, and only with slow steps had advanced
further in the contest, a success had been attained which no one at
the beginning could have ventured to expect, or even hope for.
Frederick the Wise, the Nestor among the great German Princes of the
Empire, had plainly freed himself inwardly from those fetters, and
though, as yet, he did not feel himself called upon to express his
sentiments by decisive action, his conduct, nevertheless, could not
fail to make an impression on those about him. The nobility and
burgher class, among whom the new doctrines had made most progress,
were, politically speaking, powerfully represented at the Diets. The
most important of the spiritual lords, the Archbishop of Magdeburg
and Mayence, who had most cause to resent Luther's onslaught on
indulgences, had hitherto adopted a cautious and expectant attitude,
which left him free to join at some future time a national revolt
against his Romish sovereign. The Diets, indeed, had hitherto
submitted to their old ecclesiastical grievances without any fear of
the wrath or scolding of the Pope. But, as soon as the conviction
prevailed among the Estates, that the pretensions of the Roman see
had no eternal, Divine foundation, they could take in hand at once,
on their own account, the reformation of the Church. As for the
episcopacy, in particular, Luther had never desired, as his Address
to the Nobility sufficiently showed, to interfere with or disturb it
in any way, provided only the bishops would feed their flocks
according to God's Word. An independent German episcopate would then
have been well able to undertake the reforms necessary in the system
of worship. Luther himself, as we shall see, wished and continued to
wish that those reforms should be as few and simple as possible.

In the various German states which afterwards became Protestant, the
work of reform was in fact accomplished, without any serious
agitation, by the Princes themselves, in concert with their Estates;
and in the free towns by the magistrates and representatives of the
burghers, notwithstanding the fact that its opponents were supported
by the majority of the Empire and by the Emperor himself, who was a
staunch adherent of the Romish system. How much easier, in
comparison, must the work of Evangelical reformation have been, had
it been resolved on by the power of the Empire itself, in accord
with the overwhelming voice of the whole nation.

Reference was made, and in significant terms, to the savage and
cruel war of the Hussites. But no one could deny to Luther's
teaching, a clearness, a religious depth, and a freedom from
fanaticism, peculiar to itself, and utterly wanting in the preaching
of the followers of Huss. Again, the wild Hussite wars, which were
still fresh in the sorrowful memory of the Germans, had in the first
instance been provoked by the use of force, on the part of the
Church, against the Bohemians. When Germany revolted, Rome found no
such means of force at her command.

It might fairly be questioned, if the thought were worth pursuing,
whether Luther at that time had sufficient ground for looking for
the triumph of his cause, not indeed to the power of the Word and
the influences then active in his favour, but to the Day of the
Lord, which he believed was near.

It is true that in such great crises of history as this, the final
issue never depends alone on the character and conduct of particular
personages, however eminent they may be. In this antichristian
system of the Papacy, Luther saw Satanic powers at work, which
blinded the human heart, and might indeed succeed, by dint of
suffering and oppression, in overcoming for the moment the Word of
God, but which could never finally extirpate or extinguish it. And
we Protestants must confess that not only did a great mass of the
German people remain bound by the spell of tradition, but that even
to honest and independent-minded adherents of the old system, the
interests of religion and morality might in reality have seemed to
be seriously endangered by the new teaching and by the breach with
the past. But never did the most momentous issue in the fortunes of
the German nation and Church rest so entirely with one man as they
did now with the German Emperor. Everything depended on this,
whether he, as head of the Empire, should take the great work in
hand, or should fling his authority and might into the opposite

Charles had been welcomed in Germany as one whose youthful heart
seemed likely to respond to the newly-awakened life and aspirations;
as the son of an old German princely family, who by his election as
Emperor had won a triumph over the foreign king Francis, supported
though the latter was by the Pope. Rumour now alleged that he was in
the hands of the Mendicant Friars: the Franciscan Glapio was his
confessor and influential adviser, the very man who had instigated
the burning of Luther's works.

[Illustration: Fig. 24.--CHARLES V. (From an engraving by B. Beham,
in 1531.)]

He was, however, by no means so dependent on those about him as
might have been supposed. His counsellors, in the general interests
of his government, pursued an independent line of policy, and
Charles himself, even in these his youthful days, knew to assert his
independence as a monarch and display his cleverness as a statesman.

But a German he was not, in spite of his grandfather Maximilian; he
had not even an ordinary knowledge of the German language. First and
foremost, he was King of Spain and Naples; in his Spanish kingdom he
retained, even after his accession to the imperial dignity, the
chief basis of his power. His religious training and education had
familiarised him only with the strict orthodoxy of the Church and
his duties in respect to her traditional ordinances. To these his
conscience also constrained him to adhere. He never showed any
inclination to investigate the opposite opinions of his German
subjects, at least with any independent or critical exercise of
judgment. A strict regard to his rights and duties as a sovereign
was his sole guide, next to his religious principles, in dictating
his conduct towards the Church. In Spain some reforms were being
then introduced, based essentially on the doctrines and hierarchical
constitution of the mediaeval Church. Stricter discipline, in
particular, was observed with regard to the clergy and monks, who
were admonished to attend more faithfully to their duties of
promoting the moral and religious welfare of the people; and the
result was seen in a revival of popular interest in the forms and
ordinances of religion. Furthermore, the crown enjoyed certain
rights independently of the Roman Curia: an absolute monarchy was
here ingeniously united with Papal absolutism. Such a union,
however, sufficed in itself to make any severance of the German
Church from the Papacy impossible under Charles V. The unity of his
dominions was bound up with the unity of the Catholic Church, to
which his subjects, alike in Spain and Germany, belonged. Added to
this, he had to consider his foreign policy. Provoked as he had been
by Leo X., who had leagued with France to prevent his election,
still, with menaces of war from France, he saw the prudence of
cultivating friendship, and contracting, if possible, an alliance
with the Pope. The pressure desirable for this purpose could now be
supplied by means of the very danger with which the Papacy was
threatened by the great German heresy, and against which Rome so
sorely needed the aid of a temporal power. At the same time, Charles
was far too astute to allow his regard for the Pope, and his desire
for the unity of the Church, to entangle his policy in measures for
which his own power was inadequate, or by which his authority might
be shaken, and possibly destroyed. Strengthened as was his
monarchical power in Spain, in Germany he found it hemmed in and
fettered by the Estates of the Empire and the whole contexture of
political relations.

Such were the main points of view which determined for Charles V.
his conduct towards Luther and his cause. Luther thus was at least a
passive sharer in the game of high policy, ecclesiastical and
temporal, now being played, and had to pursue his own course

The imperial court was quickly enough acquainted with the state of
feeling in Germany. The Emperor showed himself prudent at this
juncture, and accessible to opinions differing from his own, however
small cause his proclamations gave to the friends of Luther to hope
for any positive act of favour on his part.

Whilst Charles was on his way up the Rhine, to hold, at the
beginning of the New Year, a Diet at Worms, the Elector Frederick
approached him with the request that Luther should at least be heard
before the Emperor took any proceedings against him. The Emperor
informed him in reply that he might bring Luther for this purpose to
Worms, promising that the monk should not be molested. The Elector,
however, felt doubts on this point: possibly he thought of the
danger to which Huss had been exposed at Constance. But Luther, to
whom he announced through Spalatin the Emperor's offer, replied
immediately, 'If I am summoned, I will, so far as I am concerned,
come; even if I have to be carried there ill; for no man can doubt
that, if the Emperor calls me, I am called by the Lord.' Violence,
he said, would no doubt be offered him; but God still lived, who had
delivered the three youths from the fiery furnace at Babylon, and if
it was not His will that he should be saved, his head was of little
value. There was one thing only to beseech of God, that the Emperor
might not commence his reign by shedding innocent blood to shield
ungodliness: he would far rather perish by the hands of the
Romanists alone. Some time before, Luther had thought of a place to
fly to, in case it were impossible to stay at Wittenberg; Bohemia
was always open to him. But now he roundly declared, 'I will not
fly, still less can I recant.'

Meanwhile the Emperor began to reflect whether Luther, who lay
already under the ban and interdict, ought to be admitted to the
place of the Diet. As to what proceedings should be taken against
him, if he came, long, wavering, and anxious negotiations now took
place between the Emperor, the Estates, and the legate Aleander, at
Worms, where the Estates assembled in January, and the Diet was
opened on the 28th.

A Papal brief demanded the Emperor to enforce the bull, by which
Luther was now definitely condemned, by an imperial edict. In vain,
he wrote, had God girded him with the sword of supreme earthly
power, if he did not use it against heretics, who were even worse
than infidels. His advisers, however, were agreed in the conviction
that he could not move in this matter without the consent of his
Estates. Aleander sought to gain them over in an elaborate harangue.
He, according to whose principles the appeal to a Council was a
crime, cleverly diverted from himself the comparison and retort
which his present arguments suggested, and insisted all the more on
his complaint, that Luther always despised the authority of Councils
and would take no correction from anyone. Glapio, then the Emperor's
confessor and diplomatist, addressed himself, with expressions of
wonderful friendship, to Frederick's chancellor, Brück. Even he
found much that was good in Luther's writings, but the contents of
his book, the 'Babylonian Captivity,' were detestable. All that need
be done was that Luther should disclaim or retract that offensive
work, so that what was good in his writings might bear fruit for the
Church, and Luther, together with the Emperor, might co-operate in
the work of true reform. He might be invited to meet some learned,
impartial men at a suitable place, and submit himself to their
judgment. This, at all events, would be a happy means of preventing
his having to appear before the Emperor and the Estates of the
Empire, and if he persisted in refusing to recant, of deciding then
and there his fate. We must leave it an open question, how far
Glapio still seriously thought it possible, by dint of threats and
entreaties, to utilise Luther for effecting a reform in the Spanish
sense, and as an instrument against any Pope who should prove
hostile to the Emperor. But the Elector Frederick would undertake no
responsibility in this dark design: he refused flatly to grant to
Glapio the private audience he desired.

The Emperor acceded so far to the urgency of the Pope as to cause a
draft mandate to be laid before the Estates, proposing that Luther
should be arrested, and his protectors punished for high treason.
The Frankfort deputy wrote home: 'The monk makes plenty of work.
Some would gladly crucify him, and I fear he will hardly escape
them; only they must take care that he does not rise again on the
third day.' After seven days' excited debate in the Diet, in which
the Elector took a prominent and lively part, an answer to the
imperial mandate was at length agreed upon, offering for
consideration 'whether, inasmuch as Luther's preaching, doctrines,
and writings had awakened among the common people all kinds of
thoughts, fancies, and desires, any good result or advantage would
accrue from issuing the mandate alone in all its stringency, without
first having cited Luther before them and heard him.' At the same
time, his examination was to be so far restricted, that no
discussion with him should be allowed, but simply the question put
to him, 'whether or not he intended to insist upon the writings he
had published against our holy Christian faith.' If he retracted
them, he should be heard further on other points and matters, and
dealt with in all equity upon them. If, on the contrary, he
persisted in all or any of the articles at variance with the faith,
then all the Estates of the Empire should, without further
disputation, adhere to and help to maintain the faith handed down by
their fathers, and the imperial edict should then go abroad
throughout the land.

The Emperor, accordingly, on March 6, issued a citation to Luther,
summoning him to Worms, to give 'information concerning his
doctrines and books.' An imperial herald was sent to conduct him. In
the event of his disobeying the citation, or refusing to retract,
the Estates declared their consent to treat him as an open heretic.

Luther, therefore, had to renounce at once all hope of having the
truth touching his articles of faith tested fairly at Worms by the
standard of God's word in Scripture. Spalatin indicated to him the
points on which, according to Glapio's statement, he would in any
case be expected to make a public recantation.

It remained still doubtful, however, how far those articles would be
extended, and how far the 'other points' might be stretched, or
possibly be made the subject of further and profitable discussion,
if he submitted in respect to the former. Glapio had made no
reference to the question of the patristic belief in the
infallibility of the Pope, or his absolute power over the Church
collectively and her Councils: even the Papal nuncio himself had not
ventured to touch on these subjects. There was room enough for the
more liberal and independent principles entertained on these points
by the members of the earlier reforming Councils, if only Luther had
not disputed their authority with that of Councils altogether. The
ecclesiastical abuses, against which the Diet had already
remonstrated to the Pope, were just now at Worms the subject of
general and bitter complaint. The imposts levied by Rome on
ecclesiastical benefices and fiefs, mere outward symbols of
supremacy it is true, but highly important to the Pope, swallowed up
enormous sums; while the Empire hardly knew how to scrape together a
miserable subsidy for the newly organised government and the
expenses of justice, and men talked openly of retaining these Papal
tributes, notwithstanding all protests from Rome, for these
purposes. Even faithful adherents of the old Church system, like
Duke George of Saxony, demanded a comprehensive reformation of the
clergy, whose scandals were so destructive of religion, and, as the
best means to effect this reformation, a General Council of the
Church. Aleander had to report to Rome, that all parties were
unanimous in this desire, so hateful to the Pope himself, and that
the Germans wished to have the Council in their own country.

Luther formed his resolve at once on the two points required of him.
He determined to obey the summons to the Diet, and, if there
unconvicted of error, to refuse the recantation demanded.

The Emperor's citation was delivered to him on March 26 by the
imperial herald, Kaspar Sturm, who was to accompany him to Worms.
Within twenty-one days after its receipt, Luther was to appear
before the Emperor; he was due therefore at Worms on April 16, at
the latest.

Up till now he had continued uninterruptedly his arduous and
multifarious labours, and, to use his own expression, like Nehemiah
he carried on at once the work of peace and of war; he built with
one hand, and wielded the sword with the other. His controversy with
Catharinus he brought quickly to a conclusion. During March he
finished the first part of his Exposition of the Gospel as read in
church, which he had undertaken, as a peaceful and edifying work, at
the request of the Elector, to whom he wrote a dedication; and he
was now at work on a fervent and tender practical explanation of the
_Magnificat_, which he had intended for his devoted friend,
Prince John Frederick, the son of Duke John and nephew of the
Elector Frederick. He addressed a short letter to him on March 31,
enclosing the first printed sheets of this treatise; and the next
day sent him the epilogue, addressed to his friend Link, to his
reply to Catharinus, dedicated also to Link. 'I know,' he says here,
'and am certain, that our Lord Jesus Christ still lives and rules.
Upon this knowledge and assurance I rely, and therefore I will not
fear ten thousand Popes; for He Who is with us is greater than he
who is in the world.'

On the following day, April 2, the Tuesday after Easter, he set out
on his way to Worms. His friend Amsdorf and the Pomeranian nobleman
Peter Swaven, who was then studying at Wittenberg, accompanied him.
He took with him also, according to the rules of the Order, a
brother of the Order, John Pezensteiner. The Wittenberg magistracy
provided carriages and horses.

The way led past Leipzig, through Thuringia from Naumburg to
Eisenach, then southward past Berka, Hersfeld, Grünberg, Friedberg,
Frankfort, and Oppenheim. The herald rode on before in his coat of
arms, and announced the man whose word had everywhere so mightily
stirred the minds of people, and for whose future behaviour and fate
friend and foe were alike anxious. Everywhere people collected to
catch a glimpse of him.

On April 6 he was very solemnly received at Erfurt. The large
majority of the university there were by this time full of
enthusiasm for his cause. His friend Crotus, on his return from
Italy, had been chosen Rector. The ban of excommunication had not
been published by the university, and had been thrown into the water
by the students. Justus Jonas was foremost in zeal; and even
Erasmus, his honoured friend, had no longer been able to restrain
him. Lange and others were active in preaching among the people.

Jonas hastened to Weimar to meet Luther on his approach. Forty
members of the university, with the Rector at their head, went on
horseback, accompanied by a number of others on foot, to welcome him
at the boundary of the town. Luther had also a small retinue with
him. Crotus expressed to him the infinite pleasure it was to see
him, the great champion of the faith; whereupon Luther answered,
that he did not deserve such praise, but he thanked them for their
love. The poet Eoban also stammered out, as he said of himself, a
few words; he afterwards described the progress in a set of Latin

The following day, a Sunday, Luther spent at Erfurt. He preached
there, in the church of the Augustine convent, a sermon which has
been preserved. Beginning with the words, of the Gospel of the day,
'Peace be unto you,' he spoke of the peace which we find through
Christ the Redeemer, by faith in whom and in his work of salvation
we are justified, without any works or merit of our own; of the
freedom with which Christians may act in faith and love; and of the
duty of every man, who possessed this peace of God, so to order his
work and conduct, that it shall be useful not only to himself but to
his neighbour. This he said in protest against the justification by
works taught by most preachers, against the system of Papal
commands, and against the wisdom of heathen teachers, of an
Aristotle or a Plato. Of his present personal position and the
difficult path he had now to tread, he took no thought, but only of
the general obligation he was under, whatever other men might teach;
'I will speak the truth and must speak it; for that reason I am
here, and take no money for it.' During the sermon a crash was
suddenly heard in the overweighted balconies of the crowded church,
the doors of which were blocked with multitudes eager to hear him.
The crowd were about to rush out in a panic, when Luther exclaimed,
'I know thy wiles, thou Satan,' and quieted the congregation with
the assurance that no danger threatened, it was only the devil who
was carrying on his wicked sport.

Luther also preached in the Augustine convents at Gotha and
Eisenach. At Gotha the people thought it significant that after the
sermon the devil tore off some stones from the gable of the church.

In the inns Luther liked to refresh himself with music, and often
took up the lute.

At Eisenach, however, he was seized with an attack of illness, and
had to be bled. From Frankfort he writes to Spalatin, who was then
at Worms, that he felt since then a degree of suffering and weakness
unknown to him before.

On the way he found a new imperial edict posted up, which ordered
all his books to be seized, as having been condemned by the Pope and
being contrary to the Christian faith. Charles V. by this edict had
given satisfaction again to the legates, who were annoyed at Luther
being summoned to Worms. Many doubted whether Luther, after this
condemnation of his cause by the Emperor, would venture to present
himself in person at Worms. He himself was alarmed, but travelled

Meanwhile at Worms disquietude and suspense prevailed on both sides.
Hutten from the Castle of Ebernburg sent threatening and angry
letters to the Papal legates, who became really anxious lest a blow
might be struck from that quarter. Aleander complained that
Sickingen now was king in Germany, since he could command a
following whenever and as large as he pleased. But in truth he was
in no case ready for an attack at that moment. He still reckoned on
being able, with his Church sympathies, to remain the Emperor's
friend, and was just now on the point of taking a post of military
command in his service. Some anxious friends of Luther's were afraid
that, according to Papal law, the safe-conduct would not be observed
in the case of a condemned heretic. Spalatin himself sent from Worms
a second warning to Luther after he had left Frankfort, intimating
that he would suffer the fate of Huss.

Meanwhile Glapio, on the other side, no doubt with the knowledge and
consent of his imperial master, made one more attempt in a very
unexpected manner to influence Luther, or at least to prevent him
from going to Worms. He went with the imperial chamberlain, Paul von
Armsdorf, to Sickingen and Hutten at the Castle of Ebernburg, spoke
of Luther as he had formerly done to Brück, in an unconstrained and
friendly manner, and offered to hold a peaceable interview with
Luther in Sickingen's presence. Armsdorf at the same time earnestly
dissuaded Hutten from his attacks and threats against the legates,
and made him the offer of an imperial pension if he would desist.
Had Luther agreed to this proposal and gone to the Ebernburg, he
could not have reached Worms in time; the safe-conduct promised him
would have been no longer valid, and the Emperor would have been
free to act against him. Nevertheless Sickingen entered into the
proposal. The danger threatening Luther at Worms must have appeared
still greater to him, and Luther could then have enjoyed the
protection of his castle, which he had offered him before. Martin
Butzer, the theologian from Schlettstadt, happened then to be with
Sickingen; he had already met Luther at Heidelberg in 1518, had then
learned to know him, and had embraced his opinions. He was now
commissioned to convey this invitation to him at Oppenheim, which
lay on Luther's road.

But Luther continued on his way. He told Butzer that Glapio would be
able to speak with him at Worms. To Spalatin he replied, though Huss
were burnt, yet the truth was not burnt; he would go to Worms,
though there were as many devils there as there were tiles on the
roofs of the houses.

On April 16, at ten o'clock in the morning, Luther entered Worms. He
sat in an open carriage with his three companions from Wittenberg,
clothed in his monk's habit. He was accompanied by a large number of
men on horseback, some of whom, like Jonas, had joined him earlier
in his journey, others, like some gentlemen belonging to the
Elector's court, had ridden out from Worms to receive him. The
imperial herald rode on before. The watchman blew a horn from the
tower of the cathedral on seeing the procession approach the gate.
Thousands streamed hither to see Luther. The gentlemen of the court
escorted him into the house of the Knights of St. John, where he
lodged with two counsellors of the Elector. As he stepped from his
carriage he said, 'God will be with me.' Aleander, writing to Rome,
said that he looked around with the eyes of a demon.

Crowds of distinguished men, ecclesiastics and laymen, who were
anxious to know him personally, flocked daily to see him.

On the evening of the following day he had to appear before the
Diet, which was assembled in the Bishop's palace, the residence of
the Emperor, not far from where Luther was lodging. He was conducted
thither by side streets, it being impossible to get through the
crowds assembled in the main thoroughfare to see him. On his way
into the hall where the Diet was assembled, tradition tells us how
the famous warrior, George von Frundsberg, clapped him on the
shoulder, and said: 'My poor monk! my poor monk! thou art on thy way
to make such a stand as I and many of my knights have never done in
our toughest battles. If thou art sure of the justice of thy cause,
then forward in the name of God, and be of good courage--God will
not forsake thee.' The Elector had given Luther as his advocate the
lawyer Jerome Schurf, his Wittenberg colleague and friend.

[Illustration: FIG. 25.-LUTHER. (From an engraving by Cranach, in

When at length, after waiting two hours, Luther was admitted to the
Diet, Eck, [Footnote: This Eck must not be confused with the other
John Eck, the theologian.] the official of the Archbishop of Treves,
put to him simply, in the name of the Emperor, two questions,
whether he acknowledged the books (pointing to them on a bench
beside him) to be his own, and next, whether he would retract their
contents or persist in them. Schurf here exclaimed, 'Let the titles
of the books be named.' Eck then read them out. Among them there
were some merely edifying writings, such as 'A Commentary on the
Lord's Prayer,' which had never been made the subject of complaint.

Luther was not prepared for this proceeding, and possibly the first
sight of the august assembly made him nervous. He answered in a low
voice, and as if frightened, that the books were his, but that since
the question as to their contents concerned the highest of all
things, the Word of God and the salvation of souls, he must beware
of giving a rash answer, and must therefore humbly entreat further
time for consideration.

After a short deliberation the Emperor instructed Eck to reply that
he would, out of his clemency, grant him a respite till the next

So Luther had again, on April 18, a Thursday, to appear before the
Diet. Again he had to wait two hours, till six o'clock. He stood
there in the hall among the dense crowd, talking unconstrained and
cheerfully with the ambassador of the Diet, Peutinger, his patron at

After he was called in, Eck began by reproaching him for having
wanted time for consideration. He then put the second question to
him in a form more befitting and more conformable with the wishes of
the members of the Diet: 'Wilt thou defend _all_ the books
acknowledged by thee to be thine, or recant some part?' Luther now
answered with firmness and modesty, in a well-considered speech. He
divided his works into three classes. In some of them he had set
forth simple evangelical truths, professed alike by friend and foe.
Those he could on no account retract. In others he had attacked
corrupt laws and doctrines of the Papacy, which no one could deny
had miserably vexed and martyred the consciences of Christians, and
had tyrannically devoured the property of the German nation; if he
were to retract these books, he would make himself a cloak for
wickedness and tyranny. In the third class of his books he had
written against individuals, who endeavoured to shield that tyranny,
and to subvert godly doctrine. Against these he freely confessed
that he had been more violent than was befitting. Yet even these
writings it was impossible for him to retract, without lending a
hand to tyranny and godlessness. But in defence of his books he
could only say in the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, 'If I have
spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou
me?' If anyone could do so, let him produce his evidence and confute
him from the sacred writings, the Old Testament and the Gospel, and
he would be the first to throw his books into the fire. And now, as
in the course of his speech he had sounded a new challenge to the
Papacy, so he concluded by an earnest warning to Emperor and Empire,
lest by endeavouring to promote peace by a condemnation of the
Divine Word, they might; rather bring a dreadful deluge of evils,
and thus give an unhappy and inauspicious beginning to the reign of
the noble young Emperor. He said not these things as if the great
personages who heard him stood in any need of his admonitions, but
because it was a duty that he owed to his native Germany, and he
could not neglect to discharge it.

Luther, like Eck, spoke in Latin, and then, by desire, repeated his
speech with equal firmness in German. Schurf, who was standing by
his side, declared afterwards with pride, 'how Martin had made this
answer with such bravery and modest candour, with eyes upraised to
Heaven, that he and everyone was astonished.'

The princes held a short consultation after this harangue. Then Eck,
commissioned by the Emperor, sharply reproved him for having spoken
impertinently and not really answered the question put to him. He
rejected his demand that evidence from Scripture might be brought
against him, by declaring that his heresies had already been
condemned by the Church, and in particular by the Council of
Constance, and such judgments must suffice if anything were to be
held settled in Christianity. He promised him, however, if he would
retract the offensive articles, that his other writings should be
fairly dealt with, and finally demanded a plain answer 'without
horns' to the question, whether he intended to adhere to all he had
written, or would retract any part of it.

To this Luther replied he would give an answer 'with neither horns
nor teeth.' Unless he were refuted by proofs from Scripture, or by
evident reason, his conscience bound him to adhere to the Word of
God which he had quoted in his defence. Popes and Councils, as was
clear, had often erred and contradicted themselves. He could, not,
therefore, and he would not, retract anything, for it was neither
safe nor honest to act against one's conscience.

Eck exchanged only a few more words with him in reply to his
assertion that Councils had erred. 'You cannot prove that, 'said
Eck. 'I will pledge myself to do it,' was Luther's answer. Pressed
and threatened by his enemy, he concluded with the famous words:
'Here I stand, I can do, no otherwise. God help me. Amen.'

The Emperor reluctantly broke up the Diet, at about eight o'clock in
the evening. Darkness had meanwhile come on; the hall was lighted
with torches, and the audience were in a state of general excitement
and agitation. Luther was led out; whereupon an uproar arose among
the Germans, who thought that he had been taken prisoner. As he
stood among the heated crowd, Duke Erich of Brunswick sent him a
silver tankard of Eimbeck beer, after having first drank of it

On reaching his lodging, 'Luther,' to use the words of a Nüremberger
present there, 'stretched out his hands, and with a joyful
countenance exclaimed, "I am through! I am through!"' Spalatin says:
'He entered the lodging so courageous, comforted and joyful in the
Lord, that he said before others and myself, "if he had a thousand
heads, he would rather have them all cut off than make one
recantation.' He relates also how the Elector Frederick, before his
supper, sent for him from Luther's dwelling, took him into his room
and expressed to him his astonishment, and delight at Luther's
speech. 'How excellently did, Father Martin speak both in Latin and
German before the Emperor and the Orders. He was bold enough, if not
too much so.' The Emperor, on the contrary, had been so little
impressed by Luther's personality, and had understood so little of
it, that he fancied the writings ascribed to him must have been
written by some one else. Many of his Spaniards had pursued Luther,
as he left the Diet, with hisses and shouts of scorn.

Luther, by refusing thus point-blank to retract, effectually
destroyed whatever hopes of mediation or reconciliation had been
entertained by the milder and more moderate adherents of the Church
who still wished for reform. Nor was any union possible with those
who, while looking to a truly representative Council as the best
safeguard against the tyranny of a Pope, were anxious also to obtain
at such a Council a secure and final settlement of all questions of
Christian faith and morals. It was these very Councils about which
Eck purposely called on Luther for a declaration; and Luther's words
on this point might well have been considered by the Elector as 'too
bold.' Aleander, who had used such efforts to prevent Luther's being
heard, was now well satisfied with the result. But Luther remained
faithful to himself. True it was that he had often formerly spoken
of yielding in mere externals, and of the duty of living in love and
harmony, and respecting the weaknesses of others; and his conduct
during the elaboration of his own Church system will show us how
well he knew to accommodate himself to the time, and, where
perfection was impossible, to be content with what was imperfect.
But the question here was not about externals, or whether a given
proceeding were judicious or not for the attainment of an object
admittedly good. It was a question of confessing or denying the
truth--the highest and holiest truths, as he expressed it, relating
to God and the salvation of man. In this matter his conscience was

And the trial thus offered for his endurance was not yet over. On
the morning of the 19th, the Emperor sent word to the Estates, that
he would now send Luther back hi safety to Wittenberg, but treat him
as a heretic. The majority insisted on attempting further
negotiations with him through a Committee specially appointed. These
were conducted accordingly by the Elector of Treves, to whom
Frederick the Wise and Miltitz had once been anxious to submit
Luther's affair. The friendliness, and the visible interest in his
cause, with which Luther now was urged, was more calculated to move
him than Eck's behaviour at the Diet. He himself bore witness
afterwards how the Archbishop had shown himself more than gracious
to him, and would willingly have arranged matters peaceably. Instead
of being urged simply to retract all his propositions condemned by
the Pope, or his writings directed against the Papacy, he was
referred in particular to those articles in which he rejected the
decisions of the Council of Constance. He was desired to submit in
confidence to a verdict of the Emperor and the Empire, when his
books should be submitted to judges beyond suspicion. After that he
should at least accept the decision of a future Council, unfettered
by any acknowledgment of the previous sentence of the Pope. So
freely and independently of the Pope did this Committee of the
German Diet, including several bishops and Duke George of Saxony,
proceed in negotiating with a Papal heretic. But everything was
shipwrecked on Luther's firm reservation that the decision must not
be contrary to the Word of God; and on that question his conscience
would not allow him to renounce the right of judging for himself.
After two days' negotiations, he thus, on April 25, according to
Spalatin, declared himself to the Archbishop: 'Most gracious Lord, I
cannot yield; it must happen with me as God wills;' and continued:
'I beg of your Grace that you will obtain for me the gracious
permission of His Imperial Majesty that I may go home again, for I
have now been here for ten days and nothing yet has been effected.'
Three hours later the Emperor sent word to Luther that he might
return to the place he came from, and should be given a safe-conduct
for twenty-one days, but would not be allowed to preach on the way.

Free residence, however, and protection at Wittenberg, in case
Luther were condemned by the Empire, was more than even Frederick
the Wise would be able to assure him. But he had already laid his
plan for the emergency. Spalatin refers to it in these words: 'Now
was my most gracious, Lord somewhat disheartened; he was certainly
fond of Dr. Martin, and was also most unwilling to act against the
Word of God, or to bring upon himself the displeasure of the
Emperor. Accordingly, he devised means how to get Dr. Martin out of
the way for a time, until matters might be quietly settled, and
caused Luther also to be informed, the evening before he left Worms,
of his scheme for getting him out of the way. At this Dr. Martin,
out of deference to his Elector, was submissively content, though,
certainly, then and at all times he would much rather have gone
courageously to the attack.'

The very next morning, Friday the 26th, Luther departed. The imperial
herald went behind him, so as not to attract notice. They took the
usual road to Eisenach. At Friedberg Luther dismissed the herald,
giving him a letter to the Emperor and the Estates, in which he
defended his conduct at Worms, and his refusal to trust in the
decision of men, by saying that when God's Word and things eternal
were at stake, one's trust and dependence should be placed, not on
one man or many men, but on God alone. At Hersfeld, where Abbot Crato,
in spite of the ban, received him with all marks of honour, and again
at Eisenach, he preached, notwithstanding the Emperor's prohibition,
not daring to let the Word of God be bound. From Eisenach, whilst
Swaven, Schurf, and several other of his companions went straight
on, he struck southward, together with Amsdorf and Brother Pezensteiner,
in order to go and see his relations at Möhra. Here, after spending
the night at the house of his uncle Heinz, he preached the next
morning, Saturday, May 4. Then, accompanied by some of his relations,
he took the road through Schweina, past the Castle of Altenstein, and
then across the back of the Thuringian Forest to Waltershausen and Gotha.
Towards evening, when near Altenstein, he bade leave of his relations.
About half an hour farther on, at a spot where the road enters the
wooded heights, and ascending between hills along a brook, leads to an
old chapel, which even then was in ruins, and has now quite disappeared,
armed horsemen attacked the carriage, ordered it to stop with threats
and curses, pulled Luther out of it, and then hurried him away at full
speed. Pezensteiner had run away as soon as he saw them approach.
Amsdorf and the coachman were allowed to pass on; the former was in the
secret, and pretended to be terrified, to avoid any suspicion on the
part of his companion. The Wartburg lay to the north, about eight miles
distant, and had been the starting-point of the horsemen, as it now was
their goal; but precaution made them ride first in an eastern direction
with Luther. The coachman afterwards related how Luther in the haste of
the flight dropped a grey hat he had worn. And now Luther 'was given a
horse to ride. The night was dark, and about eleven o'clock they arrived
at the stately castle, situated above Eisenach. Here he was to be kept
as a knight-prisoner. The secret was kept as strictly as possible
towards friend and foe. For many weeks afterwards even Frederick's
brother John had no idea of it, on the contrary, he wrote to Frederick
that Luther, he had heard, was residing at one of Sickingen's castles.
Among his friends and followers the terrible news had spread,
immediately upon his capture, that he had been made away with by his

At Worms, however, while the Pope was concluding an alliance with
Charles against France, the Papal legate Aleander, by commission of
the Emperor, prepared the edict against Luther on the 8th of May. It
was not, however, until the 25th, after Frederick, the Elector of
the Palatinate, and a great part of the other members of the Diet
had already left, that it was deemed advisable to have it
communicated to the rest of the Estates; nevertheless it was
antedated the 8th, and issued 'by the unanimous advice of the
Electors and Estates.' It pronounced upon Luther, applying the
customary strong expressions of Papal bulls, the ban and re-ban; no
one was to receive him any longer, or feed him &c., but wherever he
was found, he was to be seized and handed over to the Emperor.





Luther, after being brought to the fortress, had to live there as a
knight-prisoner. He was called Squire George, he grew a stately
beard, and doffed his monk's cowl for the dress of a knight, with a
sword at his side. The governor of the castle, Herr von Berlepsch,
entertained him with all honour, and he was liberally supplied with
food and drink. He was free to go about as he pleased in the
apartments of the castle, and was permitted, in the company of a
trusty servant, to take rides and walks out of doors. Thus, as he
writes to a friend, he sat up aloft, in the region of the birds, as
a curious prisoner, _nolens volens_, whether he willed or no;
willing, because God would have it so, not willing, because he would
far rather have stood up for the Word of God in public, but of such
an honour God had not yet found him worthy.

[Illustration: Fig 26--LUTHER as "Squire George." (From a woodcut by

Care was also taken at once that he should be able to correspond at
least by letter with his friends, and especially with those at
Wittenberg. These letters were sent by messengers of the Elector
through the hands of Spalatin. When Luther afterwards heard that a
rumour had got abroad as to his place of residence, he sent a letter
to Spalatin, in which he said: 'A report, so I hear, is spread that
Luther is staying at the Wartburg near Eisenach; the people suppose
this to be the case, because I was taken prisoner in the wood below;
but while they believe that, I sit here safely hidden. If the books
that I publish betray me, then I shall change my abode; it is very
strange that nobody thinks of Bohemia.' This letter, so Luther
thought, Spalatin might let fall into the hands of some of his
spying opponents, so as to lead them astray in their conjecture.
Spalatin made no use of this naive attempt at trickery. He could
hardly have done much in the matter, and would probably have
directed those who saw through the meaning of the letter straight to
the Wartburg. He succeeded, however, remarkably well in keeping the
spot a secret, even after it was generally guessed and known that
Luther was to be found somewhere in Saxony. As late as 1528,
Luther's friend Agricola remarks that he had hitherto remained
concealed, whilst some even sought to hear of him by questioning of
the devil; and more than twenty years later Luther's opponent
Cochlaeus declares that he was hidden at Alstedt in Thuringia.

There was no imperial power at that time which might have deemed it
necessary or expedient to track out the man who had been condemned
by the Edict of Worms. The Emperor had left Germany again, and was
engaged in a war with France.

In his quiet solitude Luther threw himself again without delay into
the work of his calling, so far as he could here perform it. This
was the study of Scripture and the active exercise of his own pen in
the service of God's Word. He had now more time than before to
investigate the meaning of the Bible in its original languages. 'I
sit here,' he writes to Spalatin ten days after his arrival, 'the
whole day at leisure, and read the Greek and Hebrew Bible.'

His sojourn at the castle began in the festival time between Easter
and Whitsuntide. He wrote at once an exposition of the sixty-eighth
Psalm, with particular reference to the events of Ascension and

For the liberation of the laity from the Papal yoke, he set at once
further to work by composing a treatise 'On Confession, whether the
Pope has power to order it.' He commends confession, when a man
humbles himself and, receives forgiveness of God through the lips of
a Christian brother, but he denounces any compulsion in the matter,
and warns men against priests who pervert it into a means of
increasing their own power. He now expressed his public thanks to
Sickingen, and dedicated the book to him--'To the just and firm
Francis von Sickingen, my especial lord and patron.' In this
dedication he repeats the fears he had long expressed of the
judgment that the clergy would bring upon themselves by their hatred
of improvement and their obstinacy. 'I have,' he says, 'often
offered peace, I have offered them an answer, I have disputed, but
all has been of no avail: I have met with no justice, but only with
vain malice and violence, nothing more. I have been simply called on
to retract, and threatened with every evil if I refused.' Then
speaking of the critical moment at which he was obliged to withdraw,
'I can do no more,' he says, 'I am now out of the game. They have
now time to change that which cannot, and should not, and will not
be tolerated from them any longer. If they refuse to make the
change, another will make it for them, without their thanks, one who
will not teach like Luther with letters and words, but with deeds.
Thank God, the fear and awe of those rogues at Borne is now less
than it was.' And again, speaking of Roman insolence: 'They push on
blindly ahead--there is no listening or reasoning. Well, I have
seen; more water-bubbles than even theirs, and once such an
outrageous smoke that it managed to blot out the sun, but the smoke
never lasted, and the sun still shines. I shall continue to keep the
truth bright and expose it, and am as far from fearing my ungracious
masters as they are ready to despise me.'

Luther now finished his exposition of the _Magnificat_, which,
with loving devotion to the subject, he had intended for Prince John
Frederick. He resumed also his work on the Sunday Gospels and
Epistles. The first part of it he had already published in Latin.
But he gave it now a new, and for the Christian people of Germany, a
most important character, by writing in German his comments on these
passages of Scripture, including those already dealt with in Latin,
which formed the text of the sermon for the day. Thus arose his
first collection of sermons, the 'Church-Postills.' By November he
had already sent the first part to the press, though the work
progressed but slowly. In a simple exposition of the words of the
Bible, without any artificial and rhetorical additions or ornament,
but with a constant and cheerful regard to practical life, with an
unceasing attention to the primary questions of salvation, and in
pithy, clear, and thoroughly popular language, he began to lay
before his readers the sum total of Christian truth, and impress it
on their hearts. The work served as much for the instruction and
support of other preachers of the gospel now newly proclaimed, as
for the direct teaching and edifying of the members of their flocks.
It advanced, however, only by degrees, and Luther after many years
was obliged to have it finished by friends, who collected together
printed or written copies of his various sermons.

For the special comfort and advice of his Wittenberg congregation
Luther wrote an exposition of the thirty-seventh Psalm. Nor with
less energy and force did he wield his pen during June, in a
vigorous and learned polemical reply in Latin to the Louvain
theologian, Latomus.

And yet Luther all this while continued to lament that he had to sit
there so idly in his Patmos: he would rather be burnt in the service
of God's Word than stagnate there alone. The bodily rest which took
the place of his former unwearied activity in the pulpit and the
lecturer's chair, together with the sumptuous fare now substituted
for the simple diet of the convent, were no doubt the cause of the
physical suffering which for a long time had grievously distressed
him and put his patience to the test, and which must have weighed
upon his spirits. In his distress he once thought of going to Erfurt
to consult physicians. Some strong remedies, however, which Spalatin
got for him, gave him temporary relief.

He took exercise in the beautiful woods around the castle, and
there, as he related afterwards, he used to look for strawberries.
In August he had news to give Spalatin of a hunt, at which he had
been present two days. He wished to look on at 'this bitter-sweet
pleasure of heroes.' 'We have,' he says, 'hunted two hares and a few
poor little partridges; truly a worthy occupation for idle people!'
But among the nets and hounds he managed, as he says, to pursue
theology. He saw in it all a picture of the devil, who by cunning
and godless doctrines ensnares poor innocent creatures. Graver
thoughts still were suggested to his mind by the fate of a little
hare, which he had helped to save, and had rolled up in the long
sleeve of his cloak, but which, on his putting it down afterwards
and going away, the dogs caught and killed. 'Thus,' he says, 'do the
Pope and Satan rage together, to destroy, despite my efforts, souls
already saved.'

At that time too he fancied he heard and saw all kinds of devil's
noises and sights, which long afterwards he frequently described to
his friends, but which he took at the time with great calmness.
Such, for instance, were a strange continual rumbling in a chest in
which he kept hazel nuts, nightly noises of falling on the stairs,
and the unaccountable appearance of a black dog in his bed.

Of the well-known ink-stain at the Wartburg we hear nothing either
from those or after-times; and a similar spot was shown in the last
century at the Castle of Coburg, where Luther stayed in 1530.

In the outer world, meanwhile, the great movement that emanated from
Luther continued to advance and grow, in spite of his disappearance.
It was apparent how powerless was his enforced absence to suppress
it. Soon too it was to be seen how much on the other hand it
depended on him that the movement should not bring real danger and

At Wittenberg his friends continued labouring faithfully and
undisturbed. Much as Melancthon troubled himself about Luther and
longed for his return, Luther relied with confidence upon him and
his efforts, as rendering his own presence unnecessary. With joyful
congratulations to his friend he acknowledged his receipt at the
Wartburg of the sheets of his work--the _Loci Communes_--wherein
Melancthon, whilst intending at first only to proclaim the
fundamental principles and doctrines of the Bible, and especially of
the Epistle to the Romans, actually laid the foundation for the
dogma of the Evangelical Church.

Just at this time new forces had stepped in to further the work and the
battle. Shortly before Luther's departure to Worms, John Bugenhagen of
Pomerania had appeared at Wittenberg,--a man only two years younger
than Luther, well trained in theology and humanistic learning, and
already won over to Luther's doctrines by his writings, and more
especially by his work on the Babylonish Captivity. He had made friends
with Luther and Melancthon, and soon began to teach with them at the
university. John Agricola from Eisleben had already taken part in the
biblical lectures at the university, which was then the chief place for
the exposition of evangelical doctrine. This man, born in 1494, had
lived at Wittenberg since 1516. He had from the first been an adherent
of Luther, and had won his confidence, as also that of Melancthon. He
was now their fellow-lecturer at the university, and since the spring
of 1521 had been appointed by the town as catechist at the parish
church, charged with the duty of teaching children religion. Wittenberg
had also gained the services of the learned Justus Jonas, so conspicuous
for his high culture, and a staunch and open friend of Luther. Shortly
after his journey with Luther from Erfurt to the Diet of Worms, he
obtained, by grant of the Elector, the office of provost to the church
of All Saints at Wittenberg, and became a member also of the theological
faculty at the university. The excommunication under which Melancthon
had fallen with Luther did not deter the mass of students from their
cause. The academical youth who had assembled here from the whole of
Germany, and from Switzerland, Poland, and other countries, were
renowned for the exemplary unity in which, unlike their brethren in
most of the universities in those days, they lived together and
devoted themselves to the purest and most elevating studies.
Everywhere students might be seen with Bibles in their hands; the
young nobles and sons of burghers applied themselves diligently to
self-discipline; and the drinking-bouts practised elsewhere, and so
destructive to the muses, were unknown among them.

Luther, by his behaviour at Worms in particular, had fastened upon
himself the eyes of all Germany. The proceedings before the Diet,
made known, as they would be nowadays, by the newspapers, were then
published abroad by means of fugitive pamphlets of a longer or
shorter kind. Luther's speech in particular was circulated from
notes made partly by himself, partly by others. Day after day, and
especially during the sittings of the Diet, a number of other short
tracts and fly-sheets set forth, mainly in the form of a dialogue, a
popular discussion and explanation of his cause. His fate at Worms
was immediately proclaimed in a book called 'The Passion of Dr.
Martin Luther,' the title of which sufficiently indicated the
analogy suggested. Then came the stirring and disquieting news of
his sudden kidnapping by the powers of darkness; rumours which only
served to stimulate him further in his concealment to speak out and
march forwards with undaunted courage and assurance.

As writers who now began to labour for the cause in a similar spirit
to Luther's and in a similarly popular style and manner, we must not
omit to name the following. First and foremost was Eberlin of
Günzburg, formerly a Franciscan at Tübingen; next, the Augustine
monk Michael Stifel of Esslingen, who came himself to Wittenberg and
joined there the circle of friends; and lastly, the Franciscan Henry
von Kettenbach at Ulm. The authors of some other influential works,
such as the dialogue 'Neu Karsthans' (Karsthans being a name for
peasants), are not known with certainty. In these men and their
writings, ideas and thoughts already made their appearance, going
beyond the intentions of Luther, and into a territory which, from
his standpoint of religion, he would rather have seen more exactly
defined, and taking up weapons which he had rejected. Thus
'Karsthans' contains the advice to break off, after the example of
the Hussites in Bohemia, from most of the Churches, as being tainted
with avarice and superstition; and a rising against the clergy is
contemplated, in which the nobles and peasants should combine.
Eberlin, with his extraordinary energy, not content with the most
comprehensive and far-reaching schemes of ecclesiastical reform,
plunged into questions affecting the wants of municipal, social, and
political life, which Luther, in his Address to the German Nobility,
had only briefly alluded to, and had carefully distinguished from
his own particular work in hand. To the dealings of the great
merchants he showed himself more hostile even than Luther; and put
forward such proposals as the establishment by the civil authorities
of a cheaper tariff of prices for provisions, the appointment to
magisterial offices by election, for which peasants also should be
qualified, and free rights of hunting and fishing.

The Edict of Worms, intended to proscribe and suppress throughout
Germany the heretic and his writings, was published in the different
states and towns by the princes and magistrates; but the power, and
partly also the will, was wanting to enforce its execution. At
Erfurt, shortly after Luther's passage through the town upon his way
to Worms, the interference of the clergy against a member of a
religious institution which had taken part in the ovation accorded
to the Reformer, gave the first occasion to violent and repeated
tumults. Students and townspeople attacked upwards of sixty houses
of the priests, and demolished them. Luther told his friends at
once, that he saw in this the work of Satan, who sought by this
means to bring contempt and legitimate reproach upon the gospel.

Elsewhere, and above all at Wittenberg, his followers busied
themselves in his absence with putting into practice what he had
defended with his words. Calmly and with mature deliberation and
courage, Luther took part in their labours from the solitude of his
watch-tower. He had a very lively and, as he himself confesses,
often painful consciousness of his own responsibility, as the one
who had put the first match to the great fire, and whose first
duties lay with his Wittenberg brethren, as their teacher and

Shortly after his arrival at the Wartburg, he received the news that
Bartholomew Bernhardi of Feldkirchen, provost in the little town of
Kemberg near Wittenberg, had publicly, and with the consent of his
congregation, taken a wife. He was not the first priest who had
ventured to break the unchristian prohibition of marriage by the
Romish Church. But he was the most distinguished of such offenders
hitherto, besides being a particular disciple of Luther and a man of
unimpeachable integrity. Luther wrote about it to Melancthon,
saying: 'I admire the newly married man, who in these stormy times
has no fears, and has lost no time about it. May God guide him.'

At Wittenberg it was now demanded, not without violence, that
monasticism should be abolished, and that the mass and the Lord's
Supper should be changed in conformity with the institution of
Christ. It seemed as if here, in the place of Luther, who had gone
before with the simple testimony of the Word and doctrine, two other
men were now to step in as practical and energetic Reformers. One of
them was Luther's old colleague, Carlstadt, who had returned in July
from a short visit to Copenhagen, whither the King of Denmark had
invited him to promote the new evangelical theology at the
university, but had soon again dismissed him, and who now assumed
the lead at Wittenberg with a passionate and ambitious, but
undeterminate zeal. The other was the Augustine monk, Gabriel
Zwilling, who had introduced himself to notice as a fiery preacher
in the convent church, and in spite of his unattractive appearance
and weak voice had drawn together a large congregation from the town
and university, and fascinated them with his eloquence. A young
Silesian wrote home from the university of Wittenberg about him,
saying: 'God has raised up for us another prophet; many call him a
second Luther. Melancthon is never absent when he preaches.'

For the clergy Carlstadt sought, by a perverse interpretation of
Scripture, to make the married state into a law. Only married men
were to be appointed to offices in the Church. For monks and nuns he
claimed the liberty of renouncing their cloistered and celibate
life, if they found its moral requirements insupportable; but the
biblical evidence that he adduced in support of this doctrine was
unhappily chosen; and he still declared the renunciation of vows to
be a sin, though justified by the avoidance thereby of a still
greater sin, that of unchastity in monastic life. Luther had
required that at the Lord's Supper the cup, in accordance with the
original institution of Christ, should be given to the laity.
Carlstadt and Zwilling, however, wished to make it a sin for a
person to partake of the Communion without the cup being given to
the communicants. Other changes also were now demanded in the mode
of administering the elements, conformably with the Holy Supper held
by Jesus Himself with His twelve disciples. Zwilling would have
twelve communicants at a time partake of the bread and wine. It was
further insisted that, like as at ordinary meals, the elements
should be given into the hand of each individual to partake of, and
not put into his mouth by the priest. The sacrifice of the mass
Zwilling would abolish altogether, but Carlstadt thought it
necessary, in dealing with so important a feature of the old form of
worship, to proceed with caution.

Upon these questions and proceedings Luther expressed his opinion
early in August to Melancthon, who was keenly excited about them,
but on many points was unsettled in his mind. The project of
restoring at Wittenberg the celebration of the Lord's Supper, as
originally instituted, with the cup, met with Luther's full
approval; for the tyranny which the Christian congregations had
hitherto endured in this respect had been acknowledged there, and
there was a general wish to resist it. He declared further, with
regard to private masses, that he was resolved never to say any more
while he lived. But compulsion he would not dream of: if any who
still suffered from this tyranny partook of the Communion without
the cup, no man durst account it to him as a sin. As for the
troubles of the monks and nuns, under their self-imposed vows, his
sympathy for them was no less acute than that of his friends at
Wittenberg, but the arguments by which they sought to help them to
liberty he did not consider sound. He gave now this subject a more
searching and deeper consideration, and shortly addressed a series
of theses on celibacy to the bishops and deacons of the church at
Wittenberg. He attacked vows in general, and assailed them at the
very root. Inasmuch, moreover, as the vows of chastity, he said, and
of other monastic observances were commonly made to God with the
intent and purpose of working out one's own salvation by one's own
works and righteousness, these were not vows in accordance with the
will of God, but denials of the faith. And even though a man should
have made a vow in a spirit of piety, he placed himself at all
events, by his own will and act, under a restraint and yoke at
variance with the gospel and the liberty which faith in Christ
bestows. Luther went still farther, and declared that the chastity
enjoined upon the monk was only possible if he possessed the special
gift of continence spoken of by St. Paul. How dare a man make a vow
to God, which God must first endue him with the power to keep? A
man, therefore, in vowing chastity, makes a vow which it is not
really possible for him to keep, whilst true chastity is made
possible for him by God in the married life which he condemns. These
vows, accordingly, are radically vicious and displeasing to God, and
cease to be binding on a Christian who has been made free in faith,
and has recognised the true will of God.

Personally concerned as Luther was, as an Augustine monk himself, in
these questions which he discussed, he treated the liberty, which
inwardly he knew himself to possess, as quietly and coolly as
possible. On receiving the news from Wittenberg, he wrote to
Spalatin, 'Good Heaven! our Wittenbergers will allow even the monks
to have wives, but they shall not force me to take one.' And he asks
Melancthon jokingly, if he was going to revenge himself upon him for
having helped him to get a wife; he would know well enough how to
guard against that.

At Wittenberg there was great excitement, particularly on account of
the mass. In the Augustinian convent there, the majority of the
monks held with Zwilling; they wished to celebrate the sacrament of
the Lord's Supper in strict accordance with the institution of
Christ. Their prior, Conrad Held, took the opposite side, and
adhered to the ancient usage. Justus Jonas, the provost, expressed
his views with equal ardour in the convent church attached to the
university, and met with violent opposition from other members of
the foundation. A committee, composed of deputies from the
university and chapter of canons, from whom the Elector in October
demanded a formal opinion on the subject, expressed by their
majority the same view, and requested the Elector himself to abolish
the abuse of the mass. But Frederick utterly rejected the idea of
decreeing on his own authority innovations which would constitute a
deviation from the great Christian Catholic Church, more especially
as opinions were not agreed on them even at Wittenberg. He would do
no more than give free scope and protection to the new testimony of
biblical truth, until it should be properly sifted by the Church. In
the church of the Augustinian convent, the mass and the Lord's
Supper were now both suspended.

Men set to work now in earnest to give effect to the new principles
applied to monachism. Thirteen Augustine monks, about a third of the
then inmates of the convent at Wittenberg, quitted that convent
early in November, and cast away their cowls. Some of them took up
at once a civil trade or handicraft. This step increased the growing
feeling of hostility to the monks among the students and inhabitants
of the town. All kinds of enormities ensued: monks were mocked at in
the streets; the convents were threatened; and even the service of
the mass was disturbed by rioters who forced their way into the
parish church.

Meanwhile Luther went on, in the quietness of his seclusion, to
teach the Christian truth about vows and masses, to explain and
establish his newly-acquired knowledge and convictions, and to
prepare by that means the way of ultimate reform. He composed a
tract, in Latin and German, 'On the Abuse of Masses,' and another,
in Latin, 'On Monastic Vows.' The latter he dedicated to his father,
taking note of his protest against his entering the convent, and
telling him with joy that he was now a free man, a monk, and yet no
longer a monk. As for his brethren's desertion of the convent,
however, he disapproved the manner of it. They could, and should,
have parted in peace and amity, not as they did, in a tumult. These
two works he completed in November, and sent them to Spalatin, to
have them printed at Wittenberg.

In this manner Luther occupied himself from the summer to the
winter, continuing all the while his biblical studies and the
composition of his Church-Postills. But he was also preparing to
deal a heavy blow at the Cardinal Albert. This prelate had abstained
as yet, with great caution, from taking any stringent measures to
prevent the spread of Lutheran preaching in his diocese. But he was
in want of money. To supply this want, he published a work, giving
news of a precious relic, which he had placed for view at Halle, his
town, and inviting pilgrimages to see it. A multitude of other rich
and wondrous relics had been collected there; not only heaps of
bones and entire corpses of saints, with a portion of the body of
the patriarch Isaac, but also pieces of the manna, as it had fallen
from heaven in the desert, little bits of the burning bush of Moses,
jars from the wedding at Cana, and some of the wine into which Jesus
there had changed the water, thorns from the Saviour's crown, one of
the stones with which Stephen was stoned, and a multitude of other,
in all nearly 9,000, relics. Whoever should attend with devotion at
the exhibition of these sacred treasures in the Collegiate Church at
Halle, and should give a pious alms to the institution, was to
receive a 'surpassing' indulgence. The first exhibition of this kind
took place about the beginning of September. Albert also had not
scrupled to cause one of the priests who wished to marry to be
imprisoned, though it was notorious how he himself made up for his
celibacy by his loose living.

Luther now, as he wrote to Spalatin on October 7, 1521, could not
restrain himself any longer from breaking out, in private and in
public, against his 'Idol of indulgences' and his scandalous
whoredoms. He took no thought of the fact that his own pious
Elector, only a few years before, had arranged a similar, though
less showy exhibition of relics at the convent church at Wittenberg,
and was thus indirectly assailed by reproaches now no longer
deserved. By the end of the month Luther had a pamphlet ready for
publication. But an attack of such a kind on a magnate like Albert,
the great prince of the Empire, Elector of Mayence, and brother of
the Elector of Brandenburg, was not to Frederick's taste, and he
informed Luther, through Spalatin that he forbade it. He would not
sanction anything, he said, which might disturb the public peace.
Luther told Spalatin, in his reply, that he had never read a more
disagreeable letter than Frederick's. 'I will not put up with it,'
he indignantly broke out; 'I will rather lose you and the prince
himself, and every living being. If I have stood up against the
Pope, why should I yield to his creature?' He wished only to show
his pamphlet first to Melancthon, and submit a few alterations in it
to the judgment of his friend. For this purpose he sent it to
Spalatin, requesting him to forward it. Then, on December 1, he
wrote a letter to Albert himself. Its tone and contents indicate
pretty plainly what the pamphlet itself contained. In clear vigorous
German, and without any circumlocution, he submits to the Cardinal
his 'humble request,' to abstain from corrupting the poor people,
and not to show himself a wolf in bishop's clothing. He must surely
know by this time that indulgences were sheer knavery and trickery.
He was not to imagine that Luther was dead: Luther would trust
cheerfully in God, and carry on a game with the Cardinal of Mayence,
of which not many people were yet aware. As for the priests who had
wished to marry, he warned the Archbishop that a cry would be raised
from the gospel about it; and the bishops would learn that they had
better first pluck out the beam from their own eyes, and drive their
own mistresses away. Luther concluded by giving him fourteen days
for a 'proper' answer; otherwise, when that time expired, he would
immediately publish his pamphlet on 'The Idol at Halle.' All this
while, the news from Wittenberg kept Luther in a state of constant
anxiety. The distance and the difficulty of correspondence had
become quite insupportable. A few days after his letter of December
1, he suddenly re-appeared there among his friends. In secret, and
accompanied only by a servant, he had gone thither on horseback in
his knight's dress. He stayed there for three days with Amsdorf.
Only his most intimate friends were allowed to know of his arrival.
His meeting with them again gave him, as he wrote to Spalatin, the
keenest pleasure and enjoyment. But it was a bitter sorrow to hear
that Spalatin would not look at, or listen to, his pamphlet against
Albert, nor his tracts on masses and monastic vows, but had kept
them back. What his friends now told him of their efforts and
labours he approved of, and he wished them strength from above to
persevere. But he had heard already, when on his way, of fresh
outrages committed by some of the townspeople and students against
the priests and monks, and henceforth he deemed it his nearest duty
to warn them publicly against such acts of violence and disorder.



In secret, as he had first gone there, Luther returned to the
Wartburg, and now set to work with his 'True Admonition for all
Christians to abstain from turbulence and rebellion.' He had before
his eyes the danger of an insurrection, involving the lives of all
the priests and monks who opposed reform, and one in which the
common people, in revenge for their many grievances, might fall to
laying about them with clubs and flails, as the 'Karsthans'
threatened. To the princes, magistrates, and nobles, he had already
addressed a demand to put a stop to the corruption of the Church and
the tyranny of the Pope. Of the civil authorities and the nobility,
he says now that 'they ought to do this, in duty to their ordinary
position and power, every prince and lord on his own territory; for
what is brought about by the exercise of ordinary power is not to be
accounted turbulence.' At the same time, to the masses and to
individuals he plainly prohibits a rising by force. Turbulence was
the usurpation of justice, and revenge, which God would not suffer,
for He said, 'Revenge is Mine.' All turbulence, he said, was wrong,
however good might be the cause, and only made bad worse. As for the
magistrates, he would not have them kill the priests, as once Moses
and Elias had done to the worshippers of idols; they were simply to
forbid them from acting contrary to the gospel. Words would do more
than was enough with them, so there was no need of hewing and
stabbing. We have seen how emphatically Luther expressed himself to
the same effect before he went to Worms. The Apostle's words that
the Lord should consume the Antichrist with the Spirit of His Mouth,
were to be fulfilled, according to Luther, in the words of gospel
preaching. It was his own previous experience that had taught him to
rely with such lofty confidence on the simple Word; he had done more
injury with it alone to the Pope, and the priests and monks, than
all the emperors and princes had ever done with all their power. He
still looked forward steadfastly to the approach of the Last Day,
when Christ by His coming should utterly destroy the Pope, whose
iniquity the Word had exposed. As he had done formerly in his
treatise on Christian liberty, and had now good reason to do with
the Wittenbergers, he exhorts men to a loving and merciful regard to
their weaker brethren, whose consciences were still ensnared by the
old ordinances respecting fasting and masses. They ought not to be
taken unawares, but instructed kindly and, if unable to agree at
once, dealt with patiently. 'The wolves,' he says, 'cannot be
treated too severely, nor the tender sheep too gently.'

Luther's works on the mass and monastic vows were now actually in
print. Cardinal Albert, however, gave the answer demanded by Luther,
in a short letter of December 21. He assured him that the subject of
his complaint had been removed; that as to himself, he did not deny
that he was a miserable sinner, the very filth of the earth, as bad
as anyone. Christian chastisement he could well endure; he looked to
God for grace and strength, to live according to His will. So
abjectly did this magnate quail before the Word, with which Luther
threatened to expose his doings. He must no doubt have been ashamed
of his traffic in indulgences before all his Humanist friends, and
especially Erasmus; and must have expected that the other scandals
with which Luther charged him would be laid bare without mercy or
regard. At the same time we see in all this, how perfectly free from
reproach in this matter of morality must Luther have been, not only
in his own conscience, but also in the eyes of Albert. Luther, on
receiving this letter, doubted indeed the sincerity of its
professions, and even abstained from acknowledging it. But he now
finally abandoned, nevertheless, the publication of the pamphlet,
intended to expose him, which had hitherto been hindered by the

But the most important task that Luther now undertook, and in which
he persevered with steadfast devotion during his further stay at the
Wartburg, was one of a peaceful character, the most beautiful fruit
of his seclusion, the noblest gift that he has bequeathed to his
countrymen. This was his translation of the Bible--first of the New
Testament. 'Our brethren demand it of me,' he wrote to Lange shortly
after his return from Wittenberg. And in these words the wish was
evidently expressed, or else laid to heart anew. The Bible, it is
true, had been translated into German before Luther's time, but in a
clumsy idiom that sounded foreign to the people, and not, like
Luther's version, from the original text, but from the Latin
translation used in the churches. Luther declared that no one could
speak German of this outlandish kind, 'but,' he said, 'one has to
ask the mother in her home, the children in the street, the common
man in the market-place, and look at their mouths to see how they
speak, and thence interpret it to oneself, and so make them
understand. I have often laboured to do this, but have not always
succeeded or hit the meaning.' None the less strictly and faithfully
did he seek to adhere to the spirit of the text, and, where
necessary, even to the letter. Such an interpretation, he said,
required a 'truly devout, faithful, diligent, fearful, Christian,
learned, experienced, and practised heart.' Penetrated himself with
the substance and spirit of the Scriptures, he understood how to
combine in his language, as if by intuition, a dignified tone and a
national character. So hard did he work, that he finished the New
Testament at the Wartburg in a few months; he then wished to revise
it with the help of Melancthon.

Meanwhile, affairs at Wittenberg were assuming so serious an aspect
as to make Luther's apprehensions increase from day to day. The
question of monastic vows indeed was settled peaceably, and in a
manner such as Luther would have desired, by some resolutions (so
far as resolutions could settle it), passed by the Augustinian
brethren at a chapter held at Wittenberg by Link, the Vicar of the
Order. It was there resolved that free permission should be given to
leave the convent, but that those who preferred to adhere to the
monastic life should remain there in voluntary but strict
subordination to their superiors and to the established rules; some
of them should be employed in preaching the Word of God, others
should contribute by manual labour to the support of the
institution. Outside, however, among the people of Wittenberg,
Carlstadt, who had shortly before restrained even his own partisans
in regard to the question of the mass, and who was neither a regular
preacher in the town nor in the possession of any other office, now
pressed forward, by his sermons and writings, impetuously in the
van, and made hasty strides towards the furtherance of his misty
projects of reform. Anticipating a prohibition from the Elector, he
celebrated the Lord's Supper at Christmas in the new manner. Even
the usual vestments were discarded as idolatrous: Zwilling performed
the service in a student's gown. The people were enjoined to eat
meat and eggs on fast days; and confession was no longer held before
the Communion. Carlstadt went further, and denounced the pictures
and images in the churches; it was not enough to desist from
worshipping them, nor durst it be hinted that they served as books
for the instruction of laymen. God had plainly forbidden them; their
proper place was in the fire and not in God's house. Whilst the
town-council, at his instance, resolved to have the images removed
from the parish church, some of the populace stormed in, tore them
down, hewed them to pieces, and burned them.

Luther himself, even with regard to rites and ordinances which he
rejected altogether, always counselled moderation and patience
towards the weak. He could not believe that the great body of his
Wittenberg congregation were already ripe for such changes, or that
many conscientious but weaker brethren among them were not in need
of tender consideration. People might say that it was only a
question of time; well, he did not wish to delay genuine reform for
ever, merely to humour the minority. But it was precisely that those
members should have proper time allowed them, and every means taken
for their instruction and edification, that was to Luther a matter
of conscience. External matters, of which the other Reformers made
so much, such as eating on fast days, the taking with one's own
hands the bread and wine at the Communion, and so forth, he regarded
as trifles, the performance or non-performance of which in no way
affected the true liberty of the faithful, while grievous wrong was
done to the souls of the weaker brethren, if they were compelled to
do anything therein against their consciences. 'By acting thus,' he
says, 'you have made many consciences miserable; if they had to give
an account on their death-beds, or when troubled with temptation,
they would not for the life of them know why or how they had
offended.' Nay, he accuses a man of corrupting souls, who 'plunges'
them carelessly into practices that offend their consciences. 'You
wish,' he says, 'to serve God, and you don't know that you are the
forerunners of the devil. He has begun by attempting to dishonour
the Word; he has set you to work at that bit of folly, so that
meanwhile you may forget faith and love.' Thus Luther wrote in a
work intended for the Wittenbergers. Even the innovations with
regard to pictures and images he numbers among the 'trivial matters
which are not worth the sacrifice of faith and love.' Those which
represented truly Christian subjects he would preserve at all times,
and he valued them highly.

These Wittenberg Reformers, however, with all their desire to assert
the higher spiritual character of evangelical Christianity, still
remained devotees, in their peculiar 'spirit,' to the externals of
worship and, in regard to images, to the letter of the Old Testament
law. And yet their conception of the Christian spirit and of
Christian revelation produced results of another and still stranger
kind. Not only did they repudiate all titles and dignities conferred
by the university, on the plea that, in the words of Christ, no man
durst call himself Rabbi or master, but Carlstadt and Zwilling now
openly expressed their contempt of all human theology and biblical
learning. God, they said, has hid these things from the wise and
prudent, and has revealed them unto babes; the Spirit from above
must enlighten a man. Carlstadt went to simple burghers in their
houses, to have passages in the Bible explained to him. He and
Zwilling won over to their side the master of the boys' school in
the town, and the school was broken up. A new municipal
constitution, supported by the magistracy, made strange inroads on
the rights of the citizens and the domain of social life; a common
chest, containing the revenues of the Church, was utilised for
advancing money without interest to needy handicraftsmen, and making
loans to other townsmen at a low rate of interest. Meantime the
spiritual wants of the community were neglected, and in the
hospitals and prisons entirely overlooked.

Such was the direction here taken by the reform for which Luther's
preaching had prepared the way. And just at this time, at Christmas,
three fanatics came to Wittenberg from Zwickau, with the object of
taking part in the movement and furthering the work of God. These were
Nicholas Storch, a weaver, Mark Stübner, a former student at Wittenberg,
and another weaver, who were now zealously joined by the theologian
Martin Cellarius. They boasted of a direct revelation from God, of
prophetic visions, dreams, and familiar conversations with the Deity.
Compared with these pretensions, Scripture was a thing of small
importance in their eyes. They rejected infant baptism, as incapable
of imparting the Spirit. For communion and intercourse with God they
looked not to faith, which, as Luther taught, accepts submissively
what the Word of God reveals to the conscience and the heart, but to
a mystic process of self-abstraction from everything external, sensual,
and finite, until the soul becomes immovably centred in the one Divine
Being. This spirit, seemingly so elevated and pure, broke out
nevertheless into fanaticism of the wildest kind, by proclaiming and
demanding a general revolution, in which all the priests were to be
killed, all godless men destroyed, and the kingdom of God established.

These fanatical displays had begun at Zwickau, no doubt under
Bohemian influence, and were characterised by the ravings common to
the middle ages. Thomas Münzer, from Stolberg in the Harz country,
who was a preacher at one of the churches, took the lead; and he was
certainly the most important and most dangerous personage among
them. He accounted the civil authorities, with their rights, no more
as Christians than he did the clergy and the hierarchy; and began
already to prate of universal equality and communism. This novel and
exciting doctrine soon won adherents, and propagated the 'spirit of
revelation.' Already disturbances were brewing. But the magistrates
took vigorous and timely measures. Storch, Stübner, and Cellarius
fled to Wittenberg, while Münzer roamed about elsewhere in Germany.

Carlstadt went on with his innovations without allying himself
outwardly with these refugees. But the connection of his aims with
theirs could not be mistaken, and as time went on, became more and
more apparent. Melancthon, with all his refinement and purity of
soul, had not sufficient energy and independence to bridle the
passions and forces that had been aroused by Carlstadt. The Zwickau
prophets, with their visions and revelations, haunted him; he seemed
incapable of forming any settled or sober judgment on this strange
and sudden phenomenon.

Luther, on the contrary, received the news with calmness and
composure. He marvelled at the anxiety of his friend, who in
intellect and learning was his superior. He found no difficulty in
testing these enthusiasts by the standard of the New Testament.
There was nothing, he said, in their words and acts, so far as he
had heard anything of them, which the devil might not do or mimic.
As for their so-called ecstasies of devotion, there was nothing in
all that, even though they boasted of being rapt into the third
heaven. The Majesty of God was not wont to hold such familiar
converse with men in old time. The creature must first perish before
his Creator, as before a consuming fire: when God speaks, he must
feel the meaning of the words of Isaiah, 'As a lion, so will he
break all my bones.' And yet Luther would not have them imprisoned
or dealt with by violence; they could be disposed of without
bloodshed and the sword, and be laughed out of their folly.

But his cares for his Wittenberg congregation and the trouble which
Carlstadt's doings there were giving him, left him no peace. He
could not justify those acts before God and the world: they lay upon
his own shoulders, and above all, they brought discredit on the
gospel. In January he went back to Wittenberg. He was entreated to
do so by the magistrates. In vain did the Elector attempt to detain
him, and so prevent his risking an appearance in public. Moreover,
the Council of Regency at Nüremberg, which represented the Emperor
in his absence, had just demanded of Frederick a strict suppression
of the innovations at Wittenberg.

Luther quitted the Wartburg, without leave, on March 1. About his
journey thence we only know that he passed through Jena and the town
of Borna, lying south of Leipzig. A young Swiss, John Kessler from
St. Gallen, who was then on his way with a companion to the
university at Wittenberg, has left us an interesting account of
their meeting with Luther at the inn of the 'Black Bear,' just
outside Jena. They found there a solitary horseman sitting at the
table, 'dressed after the fashion of the country in a red
_schlepli_ (or slouched hat), plain hose and doublet--he had
thrown aside his tabard--with a sword at his side, his right hand
resting on the pommel, and the other grasping the hilt.' Before him
lay a little book. He invited them in a friendly manner, bashful as
they were, to take a seat by him, and spoke to them about the
Wittenberg studies, about Melancthon and other men of learning, and
as to what people thought of Luther in Switzerland. Discoursing
thus, he made them feel so much at ease, that Kessler's companion
took up the little book lying before him, and opened it: it was a
Hebrew Psalter. At supper, where they were joined by two merchants,
he paid for Kessler and his friend, and fascinated them all by his
'agreeable and godly discourse.' Afterwards he drank with his young
friends 'one more friendly glass for a blessing,' gave them his hand
at parting, and charged them to greet the jurist Schurf at
Wittenberg, who was a fellow-countryman of theirs by birth, with the
words 'He who is coming, salutes you.' The host had recognised
Luther, and told his guests who he was. Early next morning the
merchants found him in the stable: he mounted his horse, and rode
forward on his way.

At Borna, where he lodged with an official of the Elector, he wrote
in haste a long answer to the warning instructions of his prince,
conveyed to him by the governor of Eisenach on the eve of his
departure. He did not seek to excuse himself, or to beg forgiveness,
but to quiet his 'most gracious Highness,' and confirm him in the
faith. He had never spoken with greater certainty about what he had
to do, nor with a calmer and more joyful, bold, and proud assurance,
in view of what lay before him, than now, when he had to encounter,
on two contrary sides, opposition and danger. In his resolve and his
hopes he threw himself entirely on his God. 'I go to Wittenberg,' he
writes to Frederick, 'under a far higher protection than yours. Nay,
I hold that I can offer your Highness more protection than your
Highness can offer me.... God alone must be the worker here, without
any human care or help; therefore, he who has the most faith will be
able to give the most protection.' To the question what the Elector
should do in his cause, he answered, 'nothing at all.' The Elector
must allow the Imperial authorities to exercise their powers in his
territory without let or hindrance, even if they chose to seize him
or put him to death. The Elector would surely not be called on to be
his executioner. Should he leave the door open and give safe-conduct
to those who sought to capture him, he would have done his duty
quite enough.

Luther rode on undaunted, even through the territory of Duke George,
who was now violently exasperated with him and the people of
Wittenberg; and on the evening of March 6 he reached his destination
and his friends, safe in body and happy in his mind.

On the morning of the following Saturday, Kessler and his companion,
on visiting Schurf, found Luther sitting at his house with
Melancthon, Jonas, and Amsdorf, and telling them about his doings.
Kessler thus describes his appearance. 'When I saw Martin in 1522,
he was somewhat stout, but upright, bending backwards rather than
stooping; with a face upturned to heaven; with deep, dark eyes and
eyebrows, twinkling and sparkling like stars, so that one could
hardly look steadily at them.'



It was on a Thursday that Luther arrived again at Wittenberg. The
very next Sunday he re-appeared in his old pulpit among his town
congregation. In clear, simple, earnest, and Scriptural language he
endeavoured to explain to them their errors, and to lead them again
into the right way. For eight successive days he preached in this
manner. The truths and principles he propounded were the same that
he uttered from the Wartburg, and, indeed, ever since his career of
reformation began. Above all things he exhorted them to charity, and
to deal with their faithful fellow-Christians as God had dealt with
them in His love, whereof through faith they were partakers. 'In
this, dear friends,' he said, 'you are almost entirely wanting, and
not a trace of charity can I see in you, but perceive rather that
you have not been thankful to God. I see, indeed, that you can
discourse well enough on the doctrines of faith and love which have
been preached to you, and no wonder: cannot even a donkey sing his
lesson? and should you not then speak and teach the doctrine or the
little Word? But the kingdom of God does not consist in talk or
words, but in deeds, in works and practice.' He taught them to
distinguish between what was obligatory and what was free, between
what was to be observed or what was not. Charity must be practised,
he said, even in essentials, since no man must compel his brother by
force, but must let the Word operate on the hearts of the weak and
erring, and pray for them. Whatever is free must be left free, so as
not to cause vexation to the weak; but against unchristian tyrants a
stand must be made for freedom.

Thus, with the sheer power and fervour of his eloquence, Luther
prevailed with his congregation, and soon had the conduct of the
Church movement again in his hands. Zwilling allowed himself to be
reproved. Carlstadt shrank back silently, though sullenly; Luther
earnestly begged him not to publish anything hostile and thus compel
him to a battle. In his sermons he refrained from all personal
references. Of the recent innovations, only one was retained, the
omission from the mass of the words relating to the sacrifice of the
Body of Christ by the priests. Luther considered them downright
objectionable and unchristian; and important as they were in
themselves, they were scarcely noticed by the weak and simple, being
uttered in Latin, and in a low voice. The sacrament was again
administered to the majority in one kind; and only those who
expressly desired it could receive it with the lay-cup at an altar
set aside for the purpose. The latter form of celebration, however,
soon became the general custom, to the exclusion of the former. As
regards the vestments to be worn during service, the taking the
elements into one's own hand, and such-like matters, Luther
maintained that they were too trifling to make a fuss about, or to
be allowed to be a stumbling-block to the weak adherents of the old
system. Luther himself returned to live at the convent, resumed his
cowl, and observed again the customary ordinance of fasting. It was
only after two years, when his frock was quite worn out, and he had
a new suit made of some good cloth which the Elector had given him,
that he laid aside altogether his monk's dress.

The prophets of Zwickau were away from Wittenberg at the moment when
Luther returned there. A few weeks after Stübner and Cellarius
appeared before Luther. Their real character and spirit were now
fully shown him by the arrogance and violence with which they
demanded belief in their superior authority, and by their outburst
of rage when he ventured to contradict them. He writes thus to
Spalatin: 'I have caught them even in open lying; when they tried to
evade me with miserable smooth words, I at last bade them prove
their teaching by miracles, of which they boasted against the
Scriptures. This they refused, but threatened that I should have to
believe them some day. Thereupon I told them that their God could
work no miracle against the will of my God. Thus we separated.' They
then left the town for ever, without having gained any ground there.

Thus Luther, who was accused by his enemies of subverting all
ordinances of the Church, began his practical labours of reform by
checking, through the firmness and clearness of his principles, the
violence of others, and concentrating all his thoughts on the
spiritual welfare of his congregation. The preacher of free and
saving faith was the foremost to insist, in the practical conduct of
the Church, upon the active exercise of brotherly love in the
service of true freedom. The great man of the people opposed
himself, regardless of popular favour or dislike, to the current
which had now become national. Under the influence of his preaching
the Elector could now quietly allow matters in Wittenberg and the
neighbourhood to shape their further course in quiet. Nevertheless,
he permitted the neighbouring bishops to work against the new
doctrines by visitations in his country; he only denied them the
assistance of magisterial compulsion and temporal penalties. The
truth should make its own way.

Luther, immediately on his return to Wittenberg, was impatient to
explain in full to German Christendom his position, without the
restraints imposed on his words during his residence at the
Wartburg. This he did in a letter to the knight Hartmuth von
Kronberg, near Frankfort-on-the-Main, which he intended for
publication. The latter, son-in-law to Sickingen, a man of upright,
honourable, Christian character, had published a couple of little
tracts in Luther's spirit. Luther, by his letter wished to 'visit
him in spirit and make known to him his joy.' He took the
opportunity, at the same time, of speaking his mind plainly, both
about the contest he had to wage at Wittenberg, and the hostility to
the gospel displayed by Romanists in Germany. But harder yet for the
faith than the snares of such enemies, appeared to him 'the cunning
game' devised by Satan at Wittenberg, to bring reproach upon the
gospel. 'Not all my enemies,' he said, 'have hit me as I now am hit
by our people, and I must confess that the smoke makes my eyes smart
and almost tickles my heart. "Hereby," thought the Evil One, "I will
take the heart out of Luther and weary the tough spirit; this attack
he will neither understand nor conquer!"' Fearlessly also, and in a
manner which would have been impossible to him at the Wartburg, he
spoke out against the grievous 'sin at Worms, when the truth of God
was so childishly despised, so publicly, defiantly, wilfully
condemned;' it was a sin of the whole German nation, because the
heads had done this, and no one at the godless Diet had opposed
them. He reproached himself with having, in order to please good
friends there, and not to appear too obstinate, smothered his
feelings and not spoken out his belief with more vigour and decision
before the tyrants, however much the unbelieving heathens might have
abused him for answering haughtily. Of one of his 'miserable
enemies' he says: 'The chief one is the water-bladder N., who defies
Heaven with his high stomach, and has renounced the gospel. He would
like to devour Christ, as the wolf does a gnat.' This was an
unmistakable allusion to Duke George, who, in his bigoted devotion
to the Church, was especially excited by the dangerous influences
which threatened his country from the neighbouring Wittenberg, and
who shortly before had made violent complaints on that account to
the Elector Frederick. Indeed, in a copy of this letter, he was
mentioned by name. Duke George afterwards demanded satisfaction, but
the matter was prolonged without any result. Luther informs Hartmuth
of his return to Wittenberg, but adds that he does not know how long
he will remain there. He announces to him the portion of his
Postills which had just been published, and states that he had made
up his mind to translate the Bible into German. This, he said, was
necessary for him, for it would show him his mistake in fancying he
was a learned man.

Luther now threw himself into his work in all its branches. He
resumed his academical lectures as well as the regular preaching in
the town church, and he also preached on week days on the different
books of the Bible. These sermons he continued when, in the
following year, after the death of the old pastor Heins, for whom he
had hitherto acted as deputy, his friend Bugenhagen was appointed to
the living. He and Bugenhagen remained from now until the latter
died, united by personal friendship and common theological views,
and laboured faithfully together in the service of their parochial
congregation. Bugenhagen, as town pastor, appears as one of the most
prominent figures in the history of Wittenberg at this time. Luther
assisted him and his congregation with unselfish affection and
friendship, and in turn made confidential use of his services as
pastor and father-confessor.

[Illustration: Fig. 27.--Bugenuagen. From a picture by Cranach in
his album, (at Berlin,) 1543.]

During the busy times of Lent and Easter, 1522, Luther had again
undertaken duty among the Wittenberg congregation, and immediately
after Easter he visited Borna, Altenburg, Zwickau, and Eilenburg,
where the people were longing to hear his preaching, and where he
exerted himself to have an evangelical preacher appointed. His eyes
indeed were chiefly fixed on Zwickau, where he was resolved to
counteract finally by his words the consequences of the recent
infatuation. According to a report, made by a state official, 25,000
people assembled to hear Luther, who preached from a balcony of the
town-hall to the multitude gathered below. At Borna he preached
immediately before a visitation held there by the Bishop of
Merseburg, and again on the day after it. During the following
autumn he also preached several times at Weimar, whither he had been
invited by John, the brother of the Elector Frederick; and likewise
before the congregation at Erfurt, to whom during the summer he had
addressed an instructive exhortation in writing on the subject of
the innovations.

Even at Wittenberg his literary labours, as we have seen from his
letter to Kronberg, were still mainly devoted to the Bible. In
concert with Melancthon, and with the assistance of other friends,
he set about a revision of his translation of the New Testament. He
sent the first sheets when printed to Spalatin, on May 10, as a
'foretaste of our new Bible.' With the aid of three presses the
printing progressed so rapidly, that already in September the work
was ready for publication. September 21, dedicated to St. Matthew,
is distinguished as the birthday of the German New Testament. In
December already a second edition was called for, though the price
of the book, a florin and a half, was a high one at that time.

The work was greedily and thankfully pounced upon by many thousands
in all parts of Germany, who had learnt from Luther to distinguish
the 'pure Word of God' from the dogmas of the Church, and to honour
it accordingly. Nor could any means more powerful than this be found
of spreading the doctrine thus founded on the Word of God, and
making it the real property of hearers and readers. All the greater
was the danger recognised herein by those who adhered to
ecclesiastical authority and traditions. Of great significance for
both sides are the words of one of the most violent of Luther's
contemporary opponents, the theologian Cochlaeus: 'Luther's New
Testament was multiplied by the printers in a most wonderful degree,
so that even shoemakers and women, and every and any lay person
acquainted with the German type, read it greedily as the fountain of
all truth, and by repeatedly, reading it, impressed it on their
memory. By this means they acquired in a few months so much
knowledge, that they ventured to dispute, not only with Catholic
laymen, but even with masters and doctors of theology, about faith
and the gospel. Luther himself, indeed, had long before taught that
even Christian women, and everyone who had been baptized, were in
truth priests, as much as pope, bishop, and priests. The crowd of
Lutherans gave themselves far more trouble in learning the
translation of the Bible than did the Catholics, where the laity
left such matters chiefly to the priests and monks.' The Catholic
authorities immediately issued orders forbidding the book, and
directing it to be delivered up and confiscated. They hastened also
to accuse the translation of a number of pretended errors and
falsifications, which were mostly corrections of passages
mistranslated in the established Latin version from the words of the
original Greek text. Cochlaeus brought one particular charge against
Luther's translation, that he had ventured to alter the beginning of
the Lord's Prayer in contradiction to the Universal, including the
German Church, and likewise to the original text, by substituting
'Unser Vater in dem Himmel' for 'Vater unser, der du bist im
Himmel.' ('Our Father in Heaven,' for 'Our Father which art in
Heaven'). When, some years later, Emser published a rival
translation of the New Testament, it was found to be in great part a
transcript of Luther's, with only a few corrections according to the
old Latin.

Whilst the New Testament was still in the press, Luther set
zealously to work on the Old. Here he encountered more difficulties,
on account of the language; but he had long been studying Hebrew
with devotion and zeal, and moreover he could now get the assistance
of his new colleague, Aurogallus, who was especially famous for
teaching Hebrew. Before Christmas the five Books of Moses were ready
for press; these were to be published by themselves. In 1524 they
were followed by two other parts, containing the biblical books
(according to the present German order) up to the Song of Solomon.
His translation of the prophets, interrupted by other work, was
delayed for several years.

Nor was Luther's sharp pen long idle against Rome, as indeed might
have been anticipated from his letter to Kronberg. He found his
chief occasion for attack in a series of new edicts and other
measures of the German bishops against the innovations--the
abolition of clerical celibacy, the transgression of the laws of
fasting, and so on. For this purpose ecclesiastical visitations were
undertaken by the Bishops of Meissen and Merseburg, such as have
already been alluded to when Luther went to Zwickau.

Luther's sermons against the abuse of Christian liberty were
followed by a small tract entitled 'On the necessity of avoiding
human doctrine.' He did not mean it, as he said, for those 'bold,
intemperate heads;' but he wished to preach Christian liberty to the
poor, humble consciences, enslaved by monkish vows and ordinances,
that they might be instructed how, by God's help and without danger,
to escape and to use their liberty discreetly. Against the existing
Romish episcopacy he declared war to the knife in a treatise
'Against the Order, falsely called Spiritual, of Pope and Bishops.'
He who had been robbed of his title of priest and doctor by the
displeasure of Pope and Emperor, and from whom, by Papal bulls, the
'mark of the beast' (Rev. xiii. 16) was washed off, confronts the
'popish bishops' now, as 'by God's grace, preacher at Wittenberg.'

Luther's further writings against the Romish Churchdom and dogma do
not possess the same interest for us as his earlier ones, inasmuch
as they no longer show the progress and development of his own views
on the Church. In the violent language he now employs he vents his
chief anger in complaining that he, and the truth he represented,
'had been condemned unheard--an unexampled proceeding--unrefuted,
and in headlong and criminal haste.'

With reference to the attack he had made on the 'episcopal
masqueraders' in the tract above mentioned, Luther remarked in a
letter to Spalatin on July 26 that he had purposely been so sharp in
it, because he saw how vainly he had humbled himself, yielded,
prayed and complained. And he added that he would just as little
flatter, the King of England.

King Henry VIII., who later on, for other reasons, broke so entirely
with the Church of Rome and began reforms after his own fashion, had
at that time gained for himself from the Pope the title of 'Defender
of the Faith,' on account of a learned scholastic treatise against
Luther's 'Babylonish Captivity.' This treatise had made such a stir,
that Luther thought it expedient to answer it in one of his own. The
latter, originally written in Latin, gives a carefully considered
explanation of the points of doctrine at issue, and proceeds to
prove the propositions he had previously advanced. He points out
fundamental, and, indeed, irreconcilable variance between his
principles and those of the King, by showing how he, Luther, fought
for freedom and established it, while the King, on the contrary,
took up the cudgels for captivity, without even attempting to
justify it by argument, but simply kept talking of what it consists
of, and how people must be content to remain in it. In fact, the
whole book was a mere reiteration of the dogmas of ecclesiastical
authorities, of the Councils, and of tradition, always taking it for
granted that these dare not be disputed. 'I do not need,' says
Luther,' the King to teach me this.' But the personal tone adopted
by Luther against Henry went beyond anything that his expressions to
Spalatin might have led one to expect, and was even more marked in a
German edition of his treatise, which he published after the royal
one had been translated into German. The King had, moreover, set the
example of abuse, as coarse and defiant as that of his opponent.
Luther did not shrink from an incidental remark at the expense of
other princes. 'King Henry,' he says, 'must help to prove the truth
of the proverb, that there are no greater fools than kings and

But the most important among the works which Luther was now led to
undertake by his opposition to the Romish Church and her teaching,
and by her hostile proceedings against himself, was a treatise on
the secular power, which he began in December, as soon as he had
finished the translation of the five Books of Moses. It appeared
under the title of 'On the Secular Power, and how far obedience is
due to it.'

How far obedience is due to it? This was the question provoked by
the commands and threats of punishment with which Catholic princes
were now endeavouring to aid the spiritual power in suppressing the
gospel, the writings on reform, and especially the new translation
of the Bible. The question was, how far a Christian was bound to

Nor had Luther to step forward less decisively as the champion of
the rights, the Divine authority, and the dignity of the civil
power, against the pretensions of the Catholic Church. Words of
Jesus such as these lay before him: 'But I say unto you, that ye
resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek,
turn to him the other also.' How could these words be reconciled
with the fact that the secular arm resisted wrong with force, and
raised the sword against the evil-doer? The Church of the middle
ages and the School theology maintained that these words were not
general moral commands for all Christians, but merely advice for
those among them who wished to attain a higher degree of perfection.
Hereby the whole civil government with its authorities was assigned
a lower grade of ordinary morality, whilst higher morality or true
perfection was to be represented in the priestly office and
monasticism. On the other hand, friends of Luther, ere now, while
taking note that Christ had spoken these words direct to all his
disciples, and therefore to all Christians, had been troubled to
know how to establish, with regard to Christians, the rights and
duties of temporal power.

With respect to this second point in particular Luther now gives his
explanation. Those words of Christ were unquestionably commands for
all Christians. They demand of every Christian that he should never
on his own account grasp the sword and employ force; and if only the
world were full of good Christians there would be no need of the,
sword of secular authority. But it is necessary to wield it against
evil for the general welfare, to punish sin and to preserve the
peace; and therefore the true Christian, in order thereby to serve
his neighbour, must willingly submit to the rule of this sword, and,
if God assigns him an office, must wield this sword himself. This
command of Scripture is confirmed by other passages, as for instance
by the words of the Apostle: 'Let every soul be subject unto the
higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be
are ordained of God. For he is the minister of God to thee for good
... for he beareth not the sword in vain.' (Romans xiii.). Luther
thus ranks the vocation of civil government together with the other
vocations of moral life in the world. They are all, he said,
instituted by God, and all of them, no less than the so-called
priestly office, are intended and able to serve God and one's
neighbour. These were ideas which laid the foundation for a new
Christian estimate of political, civic, and temporal life in
general. Thus, later on, the Augsburg Confession rejected the
doctrine that to attain evangelical perfection, a man must renounce
his worldly calling, as also the theory of the Anabaptists, who
would allow no Christian to hold civil office or to wield the sword.

But Luther, while thus determining the province of secular
authority, took care to impose limits on its jurisdiction, and to
guard against those limits being invaded. The true spiritual
government, as instituted by Christ, was intended to make men good,
by working upon the soul by the Word, in the power of the Spirit.
The temporal government, whose duty it was to secure external peace
and order, and to protect men against evil-doers, extends only to
what is external upon earth,'--over person and property. 'For God
cannot and will not allow anyone but Himself alone to rule the
soul.'--'No one can or shall force another to believe.'--'True is
the proverb: "Thoughts are free of taxes."' We must 'obey God rather
than man,' as St. Peter says: these words impose a limit on temporal
power. Luther is aware of the objection, that the temporal power
does not force a man to believe, but only outwardly guards against
heretics, to prevent them from leading the people astray with false
doctrines. But he answers: 'Such an office belongs to bishops, and
not to princes. God's Word must here contend for mastery. Heresy is
something spiritual, that cannot be hewn with steel nor burned with
fire.' And among these invasions of the province and office of the
Word, Luther includes the edict to confiscate books. Herein must
subjects obey God rather than such tyrannical princes. They are to
leave the exercise of outward power, even in this matter, to the
civil authorities, they must never venture to oppose them by force;
they must suffer it, if men invade their houses, and take away their
books or property. But if they attempt to rob them of their Bible,
they must not surrender a page or a letter.

These are the most powerful and comprehensive utterances which we
possess from the mouth of the Reformer, about the demarcation of
these provinces of authority, the independent operation of the Word
and the Spirit, and liberty of conscience. It is doubtful, indeed,
how far they are consonant with those measures which he afterwards
found admissible and advisable for the protection of evangelical
communities and evangelical truth against those who attempted to
lead them astray.

Amidst such active labours the year of Luther's return to Wittenberg
passed away.



Luther, as we have seen, was able to prosecute his labours at
Wittenberg, undisturbed by the act of the Diet. In other parts of
Germany as well, the imperial power left wide scope for the spread
of his teaching. At the next approaching Diet at Nüremberg no
majority could be looked for again, to give effect to the
consequences demanded by the Edict of Worms. Any such expectation
was the more futile, from the results, already experienced, of
Luther's reappearance in public.

The new Pope, Hadrian VI., whilst adhering strictly to the doctrines
of mediæval Scholasticism and of Church authority, nevertheless, by
his honest avowal of ecclesiastical abuses, and the firmness and
earnestness of his personal character, led men to expect a new era
of energetic reform for the Romish Church, at least in regard to the
discipline of the clergy and monks, and to a conscientious restraint
of Church ordinances, so that even men like Erasmus might rest
content. And yet, he was the very one who sought now to stamp out
with all severity the Lutheran heresy and its innovations. With this
object he broke out into low abuse and slander against Luther
personally, as a drunkard and a debauchee. Libels of this kind were
perpetually repeated by the Romanists, and no doubt Hadrian believed
them, though Luther did not trouble himself much about such personal
attacks, but in his letters to Spalatin, simply called the Pope an
ass. Hadrian also, like so many Romish Churchmen after him, was
extremely zealous to impress upon princes that he who despises the
sacred decrees and the heads of the Church, would cease to respect a
temporal throne.

But the Diet which assembled at Nüremberg in the winter of 1522-23,
replied to the demands of the Pope by renewing the old grievances of
the German nation, and insisting on a free Christian Council, to be
held in Germany.

Nor did even an unfortunate military enterprise, undertaken at this
time against the Archbishop of Treves by Sickingen, who, while
fighting for his own power and the interests of the German nobles,
announced his wish also to break road for the Gospel, produce those
disastrous results for the evangelical cause in Germany which its
enemies had anticipated and hoped for. Sickingen, indeed, after
being defeated by the superior forces of the allied princes, died of
the wounds he received, but it was as clear as noonday that
Frederick the Wise and his evangelical theologians had had nothing
to do with his act of violence. Luther, on hearing of Sickingen's
enterprise, remarked that it would be 'a very bad business,' and
added, on learning the issue, 'God is a just, but a marvellous

The next meeting of the Diet, from whom, after Hadrian's early
death, his successor, Clement VII.--another modern Pope of Leo's way
of thinking--demanded anew the execution of the Edict of Worms,
resulted in the imperial decree of April 18, 1524. By this, the
states of the Empire agreed to execute that edict 'as far as
possible,' but stipulated that the Lutheran and the other new
doctrines should first be 'examined with the utmost diligence,' and,
together with the grievances presented by the princes against the
Pope and the hierarchy, should be made the subject of a
representation to the Council now demanded. But the inconsistency
that lurked in this decree caught Luther's eye and aroused his
suspicion. It was scandalous, he declared in a paper upon it, that
the Emperor and the princes should issue 'contradictory orders.'
They were going to deal with him according to the Edict of Worms,
and proclaim him a condemned man, and persecute him, and at the same
moment wait to decide what was good or bad in his doctrines. But the
decree was, in fact, a subterfuge, by which they resigned the idea
of executing that edict. The Lord's Supper could be celebrated at
Nüremberg in the new way before the eyes of the whole Diet. Well
might Frederick the Wise hope that men would still, at least in
Germany, come gradually to agree in peace about the truth contained
in Luther's preaching.

The absent Emperor, indeed, remained insensible to all such
influences. In the Netherlands strict penal laws were in force. In a
letter addressed to the German Empire he condemned the decree of
Nüremberg, and, like Hadrian, compared Luther to Mahomet. Further, a
minority of the German princes, including, in particular, Ferdinand
of Austria, and the Dukes William and Louis of Bavaria, entered into
a league at Ratisbon to execute the Edict of Worms, while agreeing
to certain reforms in the Church, according to a Papal scheme
proposed by his nuncio Campeggio. They too began to persecute and
punish the heretics.

Thus, then, the seed sown by Luther began to germinate throughout
the whole of Germany. The number of Lutheran preachers increased,
and requests were made in many places for their services. Even
Cochlaeus had to confess that, however bad were their ultimate
objects, they showed a remarkable unselfishness and industry in
their calling, and that they avoided even the appearance of pushing
themselves forward in an irregular and arbitrary manner, waiting
rather for their appointment in due course by the nobles or the
various congregations. Among the treatises and other writings on
ecclesiastical and religious questions which inundated Germany at
that time, at least ten were written on the Lutheran, one on the
Romish side. The complaint was that there were not more numerous and
better qualified printers for the work.

Among the nobles who espoused the cause of Luther, the support of
Albert of Mansfeld, one of the Counts of Luther's native place, was
particularly grateful. It was mainly by the nobles that the movement
was represented in Austria.

But the gospel gained most ground in German towns, especially among
the burgher class in the free cities of the Empire. Preachers were
invited hither, where none already existed, and the mass was publicly
abolished. This took place during 1523 and 1524 at Magdeburg,
Frankfort-on-the-Main, Schwäbish Hall, Nüremberg, Ulm, Strasburg,
Breslau, and Bremen. On Saxon territory also, Lutheran congregations
were formed in various towns, such as Zwickau, Altenburg, and Eisenach.
In many cases Luther's personal friends took part in the movement, and
thus cemented more closely their friendship with the Reformer. He had
already some trusted fellow-labourers at Nüremberg. At Magdeburg his
friend Amsdorf was pastor. Hess, the first evangelical pastor of
Breslau, had formed some years earlier a warm friendship with him and
Melancthon. Link, his old friend, and the successor of Staupitz as
Vicar-General of the Augustines, held office as a preacher at Altenburg,
whence he was recalled, for the same purpose, in 1525, to Nüremberg,
his former place of residence. Wherever Luther heard of evangelical
communities who seemed to need especial help for their strengthening or
consolation under trouble, he addressed to them letters, which were
afterwards circulated in print. These were sent, for instance, to
Esslingen, Augsburg, Worms; also to his 'beloved friends in Christ'
at Wittenberg, who had been harassed by the Romanists, and whose
cause he pleaded to the Archbishop Albert. With particular joy he
sent greetings to the 'chosen and dear friends in God' in the
distant towns of Riga, Reval, and Dorpat; and he sent them also an
exposition of the 127th Psalm.

The Word, rejected and condemned as it had been by bishops and
priests in Germany, met with singular success beyond the eastern
boundary of the Empire, among the Order of Teutonic Knights in
Prussia. The Grand Master of the Order, Albert of Brandenburg,
brother of the Elector of Brandenburg, and cousin of Albert, the
Archbishop and Cardinal, had kept up communication with Luther, both
orally and by letter, and had been advised by him and Melancthon to
make himself familiar with the gospel and the principles of the
Evangelical Church. And, above all, there were here two bishops who
espoused the new teaching, and who were anxious to tend the flocks
committed to their charge as true evangelical bishops or overseers,
in the sense insisted on by Luther, and particularly to minister to
the Word by preaching and by the care of souls. These were George of
Polenz, Bishop of Samland since 1523, and Erhard of Queiss, Bishop
of Pomerania since 1524. The members of the Order, almost without
exception, were on their side: they resolved to establish a temporal
princedom in Prussia and to renounce their vows of 'false chastity
and spirituality.' The King of Poland, under whose suzerainty the
country had long been, solemnly invested the hitherto Grand Master
on April 10, 1525, as hereditary Duke of Prussia. Thus Prussia
became the first territory that collectively embraced the
Reformation, whilst as yet, even in the Electorate of Saxony, no
general measures had been taken in its support. It became, in short,
the first Protestant country. Luther wrote to the new Duke: 'I am
greatly rejoiced that Almighty God has so graciously and wondrously
helped your princely Grace to attain such an eminent position, and
further my wish is that the same merciful God may continue His
blessing to your Grace through life, for the benefit and godly
welfare of the whole country.' And to the Archbishop Albert he held
the new Duke up as a shining example, in saying of him, 'How
graciously has God sent such a change, as, ten years ago, could not
have been hoped for or believed in, even had ten Isaiahs and Pauls
announced it. But because he gave room and honour to the gospel, the
gospel in return has given him far more room and honour--more than
he could have dared to wish for.'

The gospel now received its first testimony in blood. With joyful
confidence Luther beheld what God had done, but could not refrain
from lamenting, with sorrowful humility, that he himself had not
been found worthy of martyrdom. In the Imperial hereditary lands,
where for some years missionaries, chiefly members of Luther's own
Augustine Order, had been actively labouring in the strength of the
convictions derived from Wittenberg, two young Augustine monks,
Henry Voes and John Esch, were publicly burnt, on July 1, 1523, as
heretics. Luther thereupon addressed a letter to 'the beloved
Christians in Holland, Brabant, and Flanders,' praising God for His
wondrous light, that He had caused again to dawn. He spoke out even
stronger in some verses in which he celebrated the young martyrs;
they were published no doubt originally as a broadsheet:

  A new song will we raise to Him
  Who ruleth, God our Lord;
  And we will sing what God hath done,
  In honour of His Word.
  At Brussels in the Netherlands,
  It was through two young lads,
  He hath made known His Wonders, &c.

They conclude as follows:--

  So let us thank our God to see
  His Word returned at last.
  The Summer now is at the door,
  The Winter is forepast,
  The tender flowerets bloom anew,
  And He, who hath begun,
  Will give His work a happy end.

He was, later on, deeply grieved by the death of his brother-Augustine
and friend Henry Moller of Zütphen, who, after having been forced to
fly from the Netherlands, had begun a blessed work at Bremen, and was
now murdered in the most brutal manner on December 11, 1524, by a mob
instigated by monks, near Meldorf, whither he had gone in response to
an invitation from some of his companions in the faith. Luther informed
his Christian brethren in a circular of the end of this 'blessed
brother' and 'Evangelist.' He mentions, with him, the two martyrs of
Brussels, as well as other disciples of the new doctrine; one Caspar
Tauber, who was executed at Vienna, a bookseller named Georg, who was
burnt at Pesth, and one who had been recently burnt at Prague. 'These
and such as these,' he adds, 'are they whose blood will drown the
popedom, together with its god, the devil.'

With regard to his work of reformation, which had now spread so
widely and found so many coadjutors, Luther at present thought as
little about the outward constitution of a new Church as he had
thought about any outward organisation of the war itself, or an
external alliance of his adherents, or of a cleverly devised
propaganda. Just as here the simple Word was to achieve the victory,
so his whole efforts were devoted solely to restoring to the
congregations the possession and enjoyment of that Word in all its
purity, that they might gather round it, and be thereby further
edified, sustained, and guided.

Wherever this privilege was denied to Christians, Luther claimed for
them the right, by virtue of their universal priesthood, to ordain a
priest for themselves, and to reject the ensnaring deceits of mere
human doctrine. He declared himself to this effect, in a treatise
written in 1523, and intended in the first instance for the
Bohemians--that is to say, for the so-called Utraquists who were
then the leading party in Bohemia. These sectaries, whose only
ground of estrangement from Rome was the question of administering
the cup to the laity, and who had never thought of separating
themselves from the so-called Apostolical succession of the
episcopate in the Catholic Church, Luther then hoped, albeit in
vain, to win over to a genuine evangelical belief and practice of
religion. In this treatise he went a step beyond the election of
pastors by their congregations, by maintaining that a whole
district, composed of such evangelical communities, might appoint
their own overseer, who should exercise control over them, until the
final establishment of a supreme bishopric, of an evangelical
character, for the entire national Church. But of any such
ecclesiastical edifice for Germany, wholly absorbed as he was in her
immediate needs, he had not yet said a word. Congregations of such a
kind, and suitable for such a purpose, could only be created by
preaching the Word; nor had Luther yet abandoned the hope that the
existing German episcopate, as already had been the case in Prussia,
would accept an evangelical reconstruction on a much larger scale.
With regard to individual congregations, moreover, it was the
opinion of Luther and his friends that, where the local magistrates
and patrons of the Church were inclined to the gospel, the
appointment of pastors might be made by them in a regular way. A
separation of civil communities, each represented by their own
magistrate, from the ecclesiastical or religious units, was an idea
wholly foreign to that time.

That the word of God should be preached to the various congregations
in a pure and earnest manner, that those congregations themselves
should be entrusted with the work, should make it their own, and, in
reliance thereon, should lift up their hearts to God with prayer,
supplication, and thanksgiving,--this was the fixed object which
Luther held in view in all the regulations which he made at
Wittenberg, and wished to institute in other places. In this spirit
he advanced cautiously and by degrees in the changes introduced in
public worship,--changes which, as he admits, he had commenced with
fear and hesitation. 'That the Word itself,' he says, 'should
advance mightily among Christians, is shown by the whole of
Scripture, and Christ Himself says (Luke x.) that "one thing is
needful," namely, that Mary should sit at the feet of Christ, and
hear His Word daily. His Word endures for ever, and all else must
melt away before it, however much Martha may have to do.' He points
out as one of the great abuses of the old system of worship, that
the people had to keep silence about the Word, while all the time
they had to accept unchristian fables and falsehoods in what was
read, and sung, and preached in the churches, and to perform public
worship as a work which should entitle them to the grace of God. He
now set vigorously about separating the mere furniture of worship.
As to the Word itself, on the contrary, he was anxious to have it
preached to the congregation, wherever possible, every Sunday
morning and evening, and on week-days, at least to the students and
others, who desired to hear it: this was actually done at
Wittenberg. Innovations, not apparently required by his principles,
he shunned himself, and warned others to do so likewise. Nor was he
less diligent to guard against the danger of having the new forms of
worship, now practised at Wittenberg, made into a law for all
evangelical brethren without distinction. He gave an account and
estimate of them in the form of a letter to his friend Hausmann, the
priest at Zwickau, 'conjuring' his readers 'from his very heart, for
Christ's sake,' that if anyone saw plainly a better way in these
matters, he should make it known. No one, he declared, durst condemn
or despise different forms practised by others. Outward customs and
ceremonies were, indeed, indispensable, but they served as little to
commend us to God, as meat or drink (1 Cor. viii. 8) served to make
us well pleasing before Him.

In order to enable the congregations themselves to take an active
part in the service, he now longed for genuine Church hymns, that is
to say, songs composed in the noble popular language, verse, and
melody. He invited friends to paraphrase the Psalms for this
purpose; he had not sufficient confidence in himself for the work.
And yet he was the first to attempt it. With fresh impulse and with
the exuberance of true poetical genius, his verses on the Brussels
martyrs had flowed forth spontaneously from his inmost soul. They
were the first, so far as we know, that Luther had ever written,
though he was now forty years of age. With the same poetic impulse
he composed, probably shortly after, a hymn in praise of the
'highest blessing' that God had shown towards us in the sacrifice of
His beloved Son.

  Rejoice ye now, dear Christians all,
  And let us leap for joy,
  And dare with trustful, loving hearts,
  Our praises to employ,
  And sing what God hath shown to man,
  His sweet and wondrous deed,
  And tell how dearly He hath won. etc.

The full tone of a powerful, fresh, often uncouth, but very tender
popular ballad no other writer of the time displayed like Luther.
And whilst seeking to compose or re-arrange hymns for congregational
use in church, he now busied himself with the Psalter, paraphrasing
its contents in an evangelical spirit and in German metre.

Thus now, early in 1524, there appeared at Wittenberg the first
German hymn-book, consisting at first, of only eight hymns, about
half of them, such as that beginning _Nun freut euch_, being
original compositions of Luther, and three others adapted from the
Psalms. In the course of the same year he brought out a further
collection of twenty hymns, written by himself for the evangelical
congregation there: among these is the one on the Brussels martyrs.
It was, in fact, the year in which German hymnody was born. Luther
soon found the coadjutors he had wished for.

These twenty-four hymns by Luther were followed in after years by
only twelve more from his own pen, among the latter being his grand
hymn, _Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott_, written probably in
1527. Of these later compositions, comparatively few expressed
entirely his own ideas; most of them had reference to subjects
already in the possession and use of the Christian world, and of
German Christians in particular; that is to say, some referred to
the Psalms and other portions of the Bible, others to parts of the
Catechism, others again to short German ballads, sung by the people,
and even to old Latin hymns. In all of them he was governed by a
strict regard to what was both purely evangelical, and also suitable
for the common worship of God. And yet they differ widely, one from
another, in the poetical form and manner in which he now gives
utterance to the longings of the heart for God, now seeks to clothe
in verse suited for congregational singing words of belief and
doctrine, now keeps closely to his immediate subject, now vents his
emotions freely in Christian sentiments and poetical form, as for
example in _Ein' feste Burg_, the most sublime and powerful
production of them all.

The new hymns went forth in town and country, in churches and homes,
throughout the land. Often, far more than any sermons could have
done, they brought home to ears and hearts the Word of evangelical
truth. They became weapons of war, as well as means of edification
and comfort.

In his preface to a small collection of songs, which Luther had
published in the same year, he remarks: 'I am not of opinion that
the gospel should be employed to strike down and destroy all the
arts, as certain high ecclesiastics would have it. I would rather
that all the arts, and especially music, should be employed in the
service of Him who has created them and given them to man.' What he
says here about music and poetry, he applied equally to all
departments of knowledge. He saw art and learning now menaced by
wrong-minded enthusiasts. For this reason he was particularly
anxious that they should be cultivated in the schools.

With great zeal he directed his counsels to the general duty of
caring for the good education and instruction of the young, as
indeed he had done some time before in his address to the German
Nobility. These, above all, he said, must be rescued from the
clutches of Satan. He had again in his mind schools for girls. Thus
in 1523 he recommended the conversion of the cloisters of the
Mendicant Orders into schools 'for boys and girls.' The same advice
was offered by Eberlin, already mentioned, who was then living at
Wittenberg, and who made the suggestion to the magistrates of Ulm.

But Luther's chief advice was directed to the requirements of the
Church and the State, or 'temporal government,' which assuredly were
then in need of educated and well-cultured servants. For the
training here required, the ancient languages, Latin and Greek, were
indispensable, and for the ministers of the Church, Greek and Hebrew
in particular, as the languages in which the Word of God was
originally conveyed to man. 'Languages,' he says, 'are the sheaths
which enclose the sword of the Spirit, the shrine in which this
treasure is carried, the vessel which contains this drink.' He
insisted further on the study of history, and especially of that of
Germany. It was a matter of regret to him that so little had been
done towards writing the history of Germany, whilst the Greeks, the
Romans, and the Hebrews had compiled theirs with such industry. 'O!
how many histories and sayings,' he remarked, 'we ought to have in
our possession, of all that has been done and said in different
parts of Germany, and of which we know nothing. That is why, in
other countries, people know nothing about us Germans, and all the
world calls us German beasts, who can do nothing but fight, and
guzzle, and drink.' Such were his opinions, as given in 1524, in a
public letter 'To the Councillors of all the States of Germany; an
appeal to institute and maintain Christian schools.'

The enthusiasm which had recently inspired young men of talent and
ambition to study and imitate the ancient classics, and had banded
together the leading teachers of Humanism, very quickly died away.
The universities everywhere were less frequented. Enemies of Luther
ascribed this to the influence of his doctrines, though matters were
little better where his doctrines were repudiated. It is not,
indeed, surprising that the Humanist movement, with its regard for
formal culture and aesthetic enjoyment, and its aristocracy of
intellect, should retire perforce before the supreme struggle,
involving the highest issues and interests of life, which was now
being waged by the German people and the Church. A further cause of
this decline of academical studies was to be found, no doubt, in the
vigorous, and somewhat giddy bound taken by trade and commerce in
those days of increased communication and extensive geographical
discovery, and in the striving after material gain and enjoyment,
which seemed to find satisfaction in other ways more easily and
rapidly than by learned industry and the pursuit of culture. It was
from these quarters that came the complaints against the great
merchants' houses, the usury, the rise in prices, the luxury and
extravagance of the age,--complaints which were re-echoed alike by
the friends and foes of the Reformation. The Reformers themselves
fully recognised the thanks they owed to those Humanistic studies,
and their permanent value for Church and State. In the new church
regulations introduced in the towns and districts which accepted the
evangelical teaching, the school system then played a prominent
part. Nüremberg, some years after, was among the most active to
establish a good high school. Luther himself went in April 1525 with
Melancthon to his native place Eisleben, to assist in promoting a
school, founded there by Count Albert of Mansfeld: his friend
Agricola was the head master.

Thus we see that the work of planting and building occupied Luther
at this time more than the contest with his old opponents. Well
might he, as he says in his hymn, rejoice to see the spring-tide and
the flowers, and hope for a rich summer.

On the other hand, not only did the adherents of the old system knit
their ranks together more closely, and, like the confederates of
Ratisbon in 1524, profess their desire to do something at least to
satisfy the general complaint of the corruption of the Church; but
men even, who from their undeniably deep and earnest striving for
religion, seemed originally called to take part in the work and war,
now separated themselves from Luther and his associates, not venturing
to break free from the bonds of old ecclesiastical tradition. Still
more was this the case with men of Humanistic culture, whose temporary
alliance with Luther had been dictated more by the interest they felt
in the arts and letters threatened by the old monastic spirit, and by
the open scandal caused by the outrageous abuses of the clergy and
monachism, than by any sympathy with his religious principles and
ideas. And to those who wavered in so momentous a decision, and shrank
back from it and the contests it involved, there was plenty in what
they observed among Luther's adherents, to give them occasion for
still further reflection. It was not to be denied that, sharply as
Luther had reproved the conduct of the Wittenberg innovators, the
new preaching gave rise among excited multitudes, in many places, to
disturbance, disorder, and acts of violence against obstinate monks
and priests; and all this was held up as a proof of what the
consequences must be of a general dissolution of religious ties.
The desertion of their convents by monks and nuns, ostensibly on the
ground of their newly-proclaimed liberty, but in reality, for the
most part, as was alleged against them by the Catholics, for the
sake of carnal freedom, was denounced with no small severity by
Luther himself; but, in so doing, he recalled to mind the fact,
that equally low interests had led them into the convents, and
that the cloisters also, after their fashion, indulged in the
'worship of the belly.' Luther was just as indignant that the
great majority of those who refused to be robbed any longer of
their money and goods at the demand and by the deceits of the
Papal Church, now withheld them both from serving the objects of
Christian love and benevolence, which they were all the more called
on to promote. The enemies of the new doctrine began already to charge
against it that the faith, which was supposed to make men so blessed,
bore so little good fruit. Lastly, there were many honest-minded men,
and many, also, who looked about for an excuse for abstaining from the
battle, whom Luther's personal participation in the din and clamour of
the fray served to scandalise, if not to alienate from his cause. Thus
among those who had formerly been united by a common endeavour to
improve the condition of the Church and repel the tyranny of Rome, a
crisis had now begun.

Of all who drew back from Luther's work of reformation, none had
been more intimately attached to him than his spiritual father,
Staupitz. And this intimacy he retained as Abbot of Salzburg. In his
view, nothing of all the external matters to which the Reformation
was directed, seemed so important as to warrant the endangerment of
religious concord and unity in the Church. Luther expressed to him
the sorrow he felt at his estrangement, while renewing, at the same
time, his assurance of unalterable affection and gratitude. Staupitz
himself felt unhappy in his attitude and position. But even as
abbot, and in the proximity of the Archbishop of Salzburg, a man of
very different views and temperament to himself, he remained true to
his doctrine of Faith, as being the only means of salvation and the
root of all goodness. And the very last year of his life, in a
letter to Luther, recommending to him a young theologian who was
about to further his education at Wittenberg, he assured him of his
unchanging love, 'passing the love of women' (2 Sam. i. 26), and
gratefully acknowledged how his beloved Martin had first led him
away 'to the living pastures from the husks for the pigs.' Luther
gave a friendly welcome to the young man recommended to his care,
and assisted him in gaining the desired degree of Master of
Philosophy. This is the last that we hear of the intercourse between
these two friends. On December 28, 1524, Staupitz died from a fit of

The earlier acquaintance between the Reformer and the great
Humanist, Erasmus, had now developed into an irreconcilable enmity.
The latter had long been unable to refrain from venting, in private
and public utterances, his dissatisfaction and bitterness at the
storm aroused by Luther, which was distracting the Church and
disturbing quiet study. Patrons of his in high places--above all,
King Henry VIII. of England--urged him to take up the cause of the
Church against Luther in a pamphlet; and, difficult as he felt it to
take a prominent part in such a contest, he was the less able to
decline their overtures, since other Churchmen were reproaching him
with having furthered by his earlier writings the pernicious
movement. He chose a subject which would enable him, at any rate,
while attacking Luther, to represent his own personal convictions,
and to reckon on the concurrence not only of Romish zealots but also
of a number of his Humanist friends, and even many men of deeply
moral and religious disposition. Luther, it will be remembered, had
told him plainly from the first that he knew too little of the grace
of God, which alone could give salvation to sinners, and strength
and ability to the good. Erasmus now retorted by his diatribe 'On
Free Will,' by virtue whereof, he said, man was able and was bound
to procure his own blessing and final happiness.

Luther, on perusing this treatise, in September 1524, was struck
with the feebleness of its contents. So far, indeed, from defining
the operation of the human will, Erasmus floated vaguely about in
loose and incoherent propositions, evidently not from want of
extreme care and circumspection, but from the fact that, in this
province of antiquarian research, he failed in the necessary
acuteness and depth of observation and thought. He declared himself
ready to yield obedience to all decisions of the Church, but without
expressing any opinion as to the real infallibility of an
ecclesiastical tribunal. Throughout his whole treatise, however,
there were personal thrusts at his enemy.

Luther, as he said, only wished to answer this diatribe out of
regard to the position enjoyed by its author, and, from his sheer
aversion to the book, for a long while postponed his reply. We shall
see moreover, very shortly, what other pressing duties and events
engrossed his attention for some time after. It was not until a year
had elapsed, that his reply appeared, entitled 'On the Bondage of
the Will.' Herein he pushes the propositions to which Erasmus took
exception to their logical conclusion. Free Will, as it is called,
has always been subject to the supremacy of a higher Power; with
unredeemed sinners to the power of the devil; with the redeemed, to
the saving, sanctifying, and sheltering Hand of God. For the latter,
salvation is assured by His Almighty and grace-conferring Will. The
fact that in other sinners no such conversion to God and to a
redeeming faith in His Word is effected, can only be ascribed to the
inscrutable Will of God Himself, nor durst man dispute thereon with
his Maker. Luther in this went further than did afterwards the
Evangelical Church that bears his name. And even he, later on,
abstained himself and warned others to abstain from discussing such
Divine mysteries and questions connected with them. But as for
Erasmus, he never ceased to regard him as one who, from his
superficial worldliness, was blind to the highest truth of

In respect to the battle against Catholic Churchdom and dogma, the
controversy between Luther and Erasmus presents no new issue or
further development. But in company with their old master, other
Humanists also, the leading champions of the general culture of the
age, dissociated themselves from Luther, and returned, as his
enemies, to their allegiance to the traditional system of the
Church. Next to Erasmus, the most important of these men was
Pirkheimer of Nüremberg, to whom we have already referred.



In his new as in his old contests, Luther's experiences remained
such as he described them to Hartmuth of Kronberg, on his return to
Wittenberg. 'All my enemies, near as they have reached me, have not
hit me as hard as I have now been hit by our own people.'

At first, indeed, Carlstadt kept silent, and continued quietly, till
Easter 1523, his lectures at the university. But inwardly he was
inclined to a mysticism resembling that of the Zwickau fanatics, and
imbibed, like theirs, from mediæval writings; and he too, soon
turned, with these views, to new and practical projects of reform.

He now began to unfold in writing his ideas of a true union of the
soul with God. He too explained how the souls of all creatures
should empty themselves, so to speak, and prepare themselves in
absolute passiveness, in 'inaction and lassitude,' for a glorified
state. His profession of learning, and his academical and clerical
dignities he resigned, as ministering to vanity. He bought a small
property near Wittenberg, and repaired thither to live as a layman
and peasant. He wore a peasant's coat, and mixed with the other
peasants as 'Neighbour Andrew.' Luther saw him there, standing with
bare feet amid heaps of manure, and loading it on a cart.

He found a place for the exercise of his new work in the church at
Orlamünde on the Saale, above Jena. This parish, like several
others, had been incorporated with the university at Wittenberg, and
its revenues formed part of its endowment, being specially attached
to the archdeaconry of the Convent Church, which was united with
Carlstadt's professorship. The living there, with most of its
emoluments, had passed accordingly to Carlstadt, but the office of
pastor could only be performed by vicars, as they were called,
regularly nominated, and appointed by the Elector. Carlstadt now
took advantage of a vacancy in the office, to go on his own
authority as pastor to Orlamünde, without wishing to resign his
appointment and its pay at Wittenberg. By his preaching and personal
influence he soon won over the local congregation to his side, and
ended by gaining as great an influence here as he had done at
Wittenberg. Here also the images were abolished and destroyed,
crucifixes and other representations of Christ no less than images
of the saints. Carlstadt now openly declared that no respect was to
be paid to any local authority, nor any regard to other
congregations; they were to execute freely the commands of God, and
whatever was contrary to God, they were to cast down and hew to
pieces. And in interpreting and applying these commands of God he
went to more extravagant lengths than ever. Must not the letter of
the Old Testament be the law for other things as well as images?
Acting on this idea, he demanded that Sunday should be observed with
rest in all the Mosaic rigour of the term; this rest he identified
with that 'inaction,' which formed his idea of true union with God.
He proceeded then to advocate polygamy, as permitted to the Jews in
the Old Testament: he actually advised an inhabitant of Orlamünde to
take a second wife, in addition to the one then living. He began, at
the same time, to dispute the real presence of the Body and Blood of
Christ in the Sacrament--a doctrine which Luther steadfastly
insisted on in his contest with the Catholic doctrine of
Transubstantiation. By an extraordinary perversion, as is evident at
a glance, of the meaning of Christ's words of institution, he
maintained that when our Saviour said 'This is My Body,'--alluding,
of course, to the bread which He was then distributing, He was not
referring to the bread at all, but only to His own body, as He stood

The inhabitants of the neighbouring town of Kahla were seized with
the same spirit. These mystical ideas and phrases assumed strange
forms of expression among the common people, who jumbled together in
wild confusion the supernatural and the material. Carlstadt kept up
also a secret correspondence with Münzer.

The question of the authority of the Old Testament soon took a wider
range. It seemed to be one of the authority of Scripture in general,
which was contended for against the Papists. If the authority of
God's Word in the Old Testament applied to the whole domain of civil
life, should it not equally apply, as against particular regulations
established by civil society? On these principles, for example, all
taking of interest, as well as usury, was declared to be forbidden,
just as it had been forbidden to God's people of old. A restoration
of the Mosaic year of Jubilee was even talked of, when after fifty
years all land which had passed into other hands should revert to
its original owners. With eagerness the people took up these new
ideas of social reform, so specious and so full of promises. The
evangelical and earnest preacher, Strauss at Eisenach, worked
zealously with word and pen in this direction. Even a court-preacher
of Duke John, Wolfgang Stein at Weimar, espoused the movement.

Meanwhile Münzer came again to Central Germany. He had succeeded, at
Easter 1523, in obtaining the office of pastor at Allstedt, a small
town in a lateral valley of the Unstrut. In him, more than in any
other, the spirit of the Zwickau prophets fermented with full force,
and was preparing for a violent outburst. Alone, in the room of a
church tower, he held secret intercourse with his God, and boasted
of his answers and revelations. He affected the appearance and
demeanour of a man whose soul was absorbed in tranquillity, devoid
of all finite ideas or aspirations, and open and free to receive
God's Spirit and inner Word. More violently than even the champions
of Catholic asceticism, he reproached Luther for leading a
comfortable, carnal life. But his whole energies were directed to
establishing a Kingdom of the Saints,--an external one, with
external power and splendour. His preaching dwelt incessantly on the
duty of destroying and killing the ungodly, and especially all
tyrants. He wished to see a practical application given to the words
of the Mosaic dispensation, commanding God's people to destroy the
heathen nations from out of the promised land, to overthrow their
altars, and burn their graven images with fire. Community of
property was to be a particular institution of the Kingdom of God,
the property being distributed to each man according to his need:
whatever prince or lord refused to do this, was to be hanged or
beheaded. Meanwhile, Münzer sought by means of secret emissaries in
all directions to enlist the saints into a secret confederacy. His
chief associate was the former monk, Pfeifer at Mühlhausen, not far
from Allstedt. The Orlamündians, however, whom also he endeavoured
to seduce to his policy of violence, would have nothing to say to
such overtures.

The Elector Frederick even now came only tardily to the resolve, to
interpose, in these ecclesiastical matters and disputes, his
authority as sovereign, nor did Luther himself desire his
intervention so long as the struggle was one of minds about the
truth. Duke John had been strongly influenced by the ideas of his
court-preacher. The princes still hoped to be able to restore peace
between Luther and his colleague, Carlstadt, who, with all his misty
projects, was still of importance as a theologian.

Carlstadt consented, indeed, at Easter in 1524, to resume quietly
his duties at Wittenberg university. But he soon returned to
Orlamünde, to re-assert his position there as head and reformer of
the Church.

With regard to the question of Mosaic and civil law, Luther was now
invited by John Frederick, the son of Duke John, to express his
opinion. It is easy to conceive how this question might present,
even to upright and calm-judging adherents of the evangelical
preaching, considerations of difficulty and much inward doubt. It
had cropped up as a novelty, and, as it seemed, in necessary
connection with this preaching: moreover, on its answer depended a
revolution of all ordinances of State and society, in accordance
with the command of God.

Luther's views on this subject, however, were perfectly clear, and
he expressed himself accordingly. In his opinion, the answer had
been given by the keynote of evangelical teaching. It lay in the
distinction between spiritual and temporal government, the essential
features of which he had already explained in 1523 in his treatise
'On the Secular Power.' The life of the soul in God, its
reconciliation and redemption, its relations and duty to God and
fellow-man in faith and love--these are the subjects dealt with in
the gospel message of salvation, or the biblical revelation in its
completeness. God has left to the practical understanding and needs
of man, and to the historical development of peoples and states
under His overruling providence, the arrangement of forms of law for
social life, without the necessity of any special revelation for
that purpose. It is the duty of the secular power to administer the
existing laws, and to make new ones in a proper and legal manner,
according as they may think fit. That God prescribed to the people
of Israel external, civil ordinances by the mouth of Moses, was part
of His scheme of education. Christians are not bound by these
ordinances,--no more, indeed, than is their inner life and right
conduct made conditional on outward rules and forms. Moral commands
alone belong to that part of the Mosaic law whereof the sanction is
eternal; and to the fulfilment of these commands, written, as St.
Paul says, from the beginning on the hearts of men, the Spirit of
God now urges His redeemed people. No doubt the law of Moses, in
regard to civil life, might contain much that would be useful for
other peoples also in that respect. But it would, in that case, be
the business of the powers that be to examine and borrow from it,
just as Germany borrowed her civil law from the Romans.

Such, briefly stated, are the views which Luther enunciated with
clearness and consistency, in his writings and sermons. He guards
the civil power as jealously now against an irregular assertion of
religious principles and biblical authority, as he had formerly done
against the aggressions of an ecclesiastical hierarchy, while at the
same time he defends the religious life of Christians against the
dangers and afflictions which that hierarchy threatened. Thus he
answered the prince, on June 18, 1524, to this effect: Temporal laws
are something external, like eating and drinking, house and
clothing. At present the laws of the Empire have to be maintained,
and faith and love can coexist with them very well. If ever the
zealots of the Mosaic law become Emperors, and govern the world as
their own, they may choose, if they please, the law of Moses; but
Christians at all times are bound to support the law which the civil
authority imposes.

In Münzer Luther looked for a near outbreak of the Evil Spirit. He
alluded to him in his letter of June 18, as the 'Satan of Allstedt,'
adding that he thought he was not yet quite fledged. He soon heard
more about him, namely, that 'his Spirit was going to strike out
with the fist.' On this subject he wrote the next month to the
Elector Frederick and Duke John, and published his letter. Against
Münzer's mere words--his preaching and his personal revilements--he
was not now concerned to defend himself. 'Let them boldly preach,'
he says, 'what they can.... Let the Spirits rend and tear each
other. A few, perhaps, may be seduced; but that happens in every
war. Wherever there is a battle and fighting, some one must fall and
be wounded.' He repeats here, what he had said before, that
Antichrist should be destroyed 'without hands,' and that Christ
contended with the Spirit of His Word. But if they really meant to
strike out with the fist, then Luther would have the prince say to
them, 'Keep your fists quiet, for that is our office, or else leave
the country.'

In August Luther came himself to Weimar, in obedience to a wish
expressed by the two princes. With the court-preacher he had come to
a friendly understanding. Münzer had just left Allstedt, an official
report of his dangerous proceedings having been forwarded from there
to Weimar, whither he was summoned for an examination and inquiry.
On August 14 Luther wrote from this town to the magistrate of
Mühlhausen, where Münzer, as he heard, had taken refuge and had
already mustered a party. He warned the people of Mühlhausen to wait
at least before receiving Münzer, until they had heard 'what sort of
children he and his followers were.' They would not remain long in
the dark about him. He was a tree, as he had shown at Zwickau and
Allstedt, which bore no fruit but murder and rebellion.

From Weimar Luther travelled on to Orlamünde. On August 21 he
arrived at Jena, where a preacher named Reinhard was staying with
Carlstadt. Luther here preached against the 'Spirit of Allstedt,'
which destroyed images, despised the sacrament, and incited to
rebellion. Carlstadt, who was present and heard the sermon, waited
on him afterwards at his lodging, to defend himself against these
charges. Luther insisted, notwithstanding, that Carlstadt was 'an
associate of the new prophets.' He challenged him finally to abandon
his intrigues and confute him openly in writing, and the heated
interview ended by Carlstadt promising to do so, and by Luther
giving him a florin as a pledge and token of the bargain.

From Jena Luther went through Kahla, where also he preached, to
Orlamünde. The people here had been anxious for a personal
discussion with him, but in writing to him for that purpose, had
addressed him in words as follows: 'You despise all those who, by
God's command, destroy dumb idols, against which you trump up feeble
evidence out of your own head, and not grounded on Scripture. Your
venturing thus publicly to slander us, members of Christ, shows that
you are no member of the real Christ.' The discussion he held with
them led to no success, and he gave up any further attempt to
convince them; for, as he said, they burned like a fire, as if they
longed to devour him. On his departure they pursued him with savage
shouts of execration.

Carlstadt, a few weeks later, was deprived of his professorship, and
had to leave the country. Luther put in a word for the people of
Orlamünde as 'good simple folk,' who had been seduced by a stronger
will. But against Carlstadt's whole conduct and teaching he launched
an elaborate attack in a pamphlet, published in two parts, at the
close of 1524 and the beginning of the following year. It was
entitled 'Against the Celestial Prophets, concerning Images and the
Sacrament, &c.,' with the motto 'Their folly shall be manifest unto
all men' (2 Timothy iii. 9). For in Carlstadt he sought to expose
and combat the same spirit that dwelt in the Zwickau prophets and in
Münzer, and that threatened to produce still worse results. If
Carlstadt, like Moses, was right in teaching people to break down
images, and in calling in for this purpose the aid of the disorderly
rabble, instead of the proper authorities, then the mob had the
power and right to execute in like manner all the commands of God.
And the consequence and sequel of this would be, what was soon shown
by Münzer. 'It will come to this length,' says Luther, 'that they
will have to put all ungodly people to death; for so Moses (Deut.
vii.), when he told the people to break down the images, commanded
them also to kill without mercy all those who had made them in the
land of Canaan.'

The great storm, announced and prepared by the 'Spirit of Allstedt,'
broke loose even sooner than could have been expected.

Münzer had really appeared at Mühlhausen. The town-council, however,
were still able to insist on his leaving the place, together with
his friend Pfeifer. He then wandered about for several weeks in the
south-west of Germany, exciting disturbance wherever he went. But on
September 13 he returned with Pfeifer to Mühlhausen, where he
preached in his wonted manner, propounded to the people in the
streets his doctrines and revelations, and attracted the mob to his
side, while respectable citizens and members of the magistracy left
the town from fear of the mischief that was threatening. Towards the
end of February he was offered a regular post as pastor, and soon
after all the old magistrates were turned out and others more
favourable to him elected in their place. The multitude raged
against images and convents. The peasants from the neighbourhood
flocked in, anxious for the general equality which was promised
them. Luther wrote to a friend, 'Münzer is King and Emperor at

Meanwhile, in Southern Germany peasant insurrections had broken out
in various places since the summer of this year. In itself, there
was nothing novel in this. Repeatedly during the latter part of the
previous century, the poor peasantry had risen and erected their
banner, the 'Shoe of the League' (_Bundschuh_), so called from
the rustic shoes which the insurgents wore. Their grievances were
the intolerable and ever-growing burdens, laid upon them by the lay
and clerical magnates, the taxes of all kinds squeezed from them by
every ingenious device, and the feudal service which they were
forced to perform. The nobles had, in fact, towards the close of the
middle ages, usurped a much larger exercise of their ancient
privileges against them, by means partly of a dexterous manipulation
of the old Roman law, and partly of the ignorance of that law which
prevailed among their vassals. On the other side, complaints were
heard at that time of the insolence shown by the wealthier peasants;
of the luxury, in which they tried to rival their masters; and of
the arrogance and defiant demeanour of the peasantry in general. The
oppression endured by any particular class of the civil community
does not usually lead to violent disturbances and outbreaks, unless
and until that class is awakened to a higher sense of its own
importance and has acquired an increase of power. The peasants
found, moreover, discontented spirits like themselves among the
lower orders in the towns, who were avowed enemies of the upper
classes, and who complained bitterly of the hardships and
oppressions suffered by small people at the hands of the great
merchants and commercial companies,--in a word, from the power of
capital. Furthermore, when once the peasants rose in rebellion
against their masters, the latter also, including the nobility,
showed an inclination here and there to favour a general revolution,
if only to remedy the defects of their own position. And, in truth,
throughout the German Empire at that time there was a general
movement pressing for a readjustment of the relations of the various
classes to each other and to the Imperial power. Ideas of a total
reconstruction of society and the State had penetrated the mass of
the people, to an extent never known before.

Thus the way was paved, and incentives already supplied for a
powerful popular movement, apart altogether from the question of
Church Reform. And indeed this question Luther was anxious, as we
have seen, to restrict to the domain of spiritual, as distinguished
from secular, that is to say, political and civil action. It was
impossible, however, but that the accusations of lying, tyranny, and
hostility to evangelical truth, now freely levelled against the
dominant priesthood and the secular lords who were persecuting the
gospel, should serve to intensify to the utmost the prevailing
bitterness against external oppression. With the same firmness and
decision with which Luther condemned all disorderly and violent
proceedings in support of the gospel, he had also long been warning
its persecutors of the inevitable storm which they would bring upon
themselves. Other evangelical preachers, however, as for instance,
Eberlin and Strauss, mingled with their popular preaching all sorts
of suggestions of social reform. At last men went about among the
people, with open or disguised activity, whose principles were
directly opposed to those of Luther, but who proclaimed themselves,
nevertheless, enthusiasts for the gospel which he had brought again
to light, or which, as they pretended, they had been the first to
reveal, together with true evangelical liberty. They appealed to
God's Word in support of the claims and grievances of the oppressed
classes; they grasped their weapons by virtue of the Divine law.
Hence the peculiar ardour and energy that marked the insurrection,
although the enthusiasm, thus kindled, was united with the utmost
barbarity and licentiousness. Never has Germany been threatened with
a revolution so vast and violent, or so immeasurable in its possible
results. On no single man's word did so much depend as on that of
Luther, the genuine man of the people.

The movement began late in the summer of 1524 in the Black Forest
and Hegau. After the beginning of the next year it continued rapidly
to spread, and the different groups of insurgents who were fighting
here and there, combined in a common plan of action. Like a flood
the movement forced its way eastwards into Austria, westwards into
Alsatia, northwards into Franconia, and even as far as Thuringia. At
Rothenburg on the Tauber, Carlstadt had prepared the way for it by
inciting the people to destroy the images. The demands in which the
peasants were unanimous, were now drawn up in twelve articles. These
still preserved a very moderate aspect. They claimed above all the
right of each parish to choose its own minister. Tithes were only to
be abolished in part. The peasants were determined to be regarded no
longer as the 'property of others,' for Christ had redeemed all
alike with his blood. They demanded for everyone the right to hunt
and fish, because God had given to all men alike power over the
animal creation. They based their demands upon the Word of God;
trusting to His promises they would venture the battle. 'If we are
wrong,' they said, 'let Luther set us right by the Scriptures.' God,
who had freed the children of Israel from the hand of Pharaoh, would
now shortly deliver His people. In these articles, and in other
proclamations of the peasantry, there were none of the wild
imaginations of Münzer and his prophets, nor their ideas of a
kingdom and schemes of murder. They burned down, it is true, both
convents and cities, and had done so from the outset. Still in some
places a more peaceable understanding was arrived at with the upper
classes, although neither party placed any real confidence in the

When now the articles arrived at Wittenberg, and Luther heard how
the insurgents appealed to him, he prepared early in April to make a
public declaration, in which he arraigned their proceedings, but at
the same time exhorted the princes to moderation. He was just then
called away by Count Albert of Mansfeld to Eisleben, to assist, as
we have seen, in the establishment of a new school in that town. He
set off thither on Easter Sunday, April 16, after preaching in the
morning. There he wrote his 'Exhortation to peace: On the Twelve
Articles of the Peasantry in Swabia.

In this manifesto he sharply rebukes those princes and nobles,
bishops and priests, who cease not to rage against the gospel, and
in their temporal government 'tax and fleece their subjects, for the
advancement of their own pomp and pride, until the common people can
endure it no longer.' If God for their punishment allowed the devil
to stir up tumult against them, He and his gospel were not to blame;
but he counselled them to try by gentle means to soften, if
possible, God's wrath against them. As for the peasants, he had
never from the first concealed from them his suspicions, that many
of them only pretended to appeal to Scripture, and offered for mere
appearance' sake to be further instructed therein. But he wished to
speak to them affectionately, like a friend and a brother, and he
admitted also that godless lords often laid intolerable burdens upon
the people. But however much in their articles might be just and
reasonable, the gospel, he said, had nothing to do with their
demands, and by their conduct they showed that they had forgotten
the law of Christ. For by the Divine law it was forbidden to extort
anything from the authorities by force: the badness of the latter
was no excuse for violence and rebellion. Respecting the substance
of their demands, their first article, claiming to elect their own
pastor, if the civil authority refused to provide one, was right
enough and Christian; but in that case they must maintain him at
their own expense, and on no account protect him by force against
the civil power. As for the remaining articles, they had nothing
whatever to do with the gospel. He tells the peasants plainly, that
if they persist in their rebellion, they are worse enemies to the
gospel than the Pope and Emperor, for they act against the gospel in
the gospel's own name. He is bound to speak thus to them, although
some among them, poisoned by fanatics, hate him and call him a
hypocrite, and the devil, who was not able to kill him through the
Pope, would now like to destroy and devour him. He is content if
only he can save some at least of the good-hearted among them from
the danger of God's indignation. In conclusion, he gives to both
sides, the nobles and the peasants, his 'faithful counsel and
advice, that a few counts and lords should be chosen from the
nobility, and a few councillors from the towns, and that matters
should be adjusted and composed in an amicable manner--that so the
affair, if it cannot be arranged in a Christian spirit, may at least
be settled according to human laws and agreements.'

Thus spoke Luther, with all his accustomed frankness, fervency,
power, and bluntness, equally indifferent to the favour of the
people or of their rulers. But what fruit, indeed, could be looked
for from his words, uttered evidently with violent inward emotion,
when popular passion was so excited? Was it not rather to be feared
that the peasants would greedily fasten on the first portion of his
pamphlet, which was directed against the nobles, and then shut their
ears all the more closely against the second, which concerned their
own misconduct? The pamphlet could hardly have been written, and
much less published, before new rumours and forebodings crowded upon
Luther, such as made him think its contents and language no longer
applicable to the emergency, but that now it was his duty to sound
aloud the call to battle against the enemies of peace and order. 'In
my former tract,' he said, 'I did not venture to condemn the
peasants, because they offered themselves to reason and better
instruction. But before I could look about me, forth they rush, and
fight and plunder and rage like mad dogs.... The worst is at
Mühlhausen, where the arch-devil himself presides.'

In South Germany, on that very Easter Sunday when Luther set out for
Eisleben, the scene of horror was enacted at Weinsberg, where the
peasants, amid the sound of pipes and merriment, drove the unhappy
Count of Helfenstein upon their spears, before the eyes of his wife
and child. Luther's ignorance of this and similar atrocities, at the
time when he was writing his pamphlet at Eisleben, is easily
intelligible from the slow means of communication then existing.
Soon the news came, however, of bands of rioters in Thuringia, busy
with the work of pillage, incendiarism, and massacre, and of a
rising of the peasantry in the immediate neighbourhood. Towards the
end of April they achieved a crowning triumph by their victorious
entry into Erfurt, where the preacher, Eberlin of Günzburg, with
true loyalty and courage, but all in vain, had striven, with words
of exhortation and warning, to pacify the armed multitude encamped
outside the town, and their sympathisers and associates inside.

On April 26 Münzer advanced to Mühlhausen, the 'arch-devil, 'as
Luther called him, but as he described himself, the 'champion of the
Lord.' He came with four hundred followers, and was joined by large
masses of the peasants. His 'only fear,' as he said in his summons
to the miners of Mansfeld, 'was that the foolish men would fall into
the snare of a delusive peace.' He promised them a better result.
'Wherever there are only three among you who trust in God and seek
nothing but His honour and glory, you need not fear a hundred
thousand.... Forward now!' he cried; 'to work! to work! It is time
that the villains were chased away like dogs.... To work! relent not
if Esau gives you fair words. Give no heed to the wailings of the
ungodly; they will beg, weep, and entreat you for pity, like
children. Show them no mercy, as God commanded Moses (Deut. vii.)
and has declared the same to us.... To work! while the fire is hot;
let not the blood cool upon your swords.... To work! while it is
day. God is with you; follow Him!' Of Luther he spoke in terms of
peculiar hatred and contempt. In a letter which he addressed to
'Brother Albert of Mansfeld,' with the object of converting the
Count, he alluded to him in expressions of the coarsest possible

In Thuringia, in the Harz, and elsewhere, numbers of convents, and
even castles, were reduced to ashes. The princes were everywhere
unprepared with the necessary troops, while the insurgents in
Thuringia and Saxony counted more than 30,000 men. The former,
therefore, endeavoured to strengthen themselves by coalition. Duke
John, at Weimar, prepared himself for the worst: his brother, the
Elector Frederick, was lying seriously ill at his Castle at Lochau
(now Annaburg) in the district of Torgau.

At this crisis Luther, having left Eisleben, appeared in person
among the excited population. He preached at Stolberg, Nordhausen,
and Wallhausen. In his subsequent writings he could bear witness of
himself, how he had been himself among the peasants, and how, more
than once, he had imperilled life and limb. On May 3 we find him at
Weimar; and a few days afterwards in the county of Mansfeld. Here he
wrote to his friend, the councillor Rühel of Mansfeld, advising him
not to persuade Count Albert to be 'lenient in this affair'--that
is, against the insurgents; for the civil power must assert its
rights and duties, however God might rule the issue. 'Be firm,' he
entreats Rühel, 'that his Grace may go boldly on his way. Leave the
matter to God, and fulfil His commands to wield the sword as long as
strength endures. Our consciences are clear, even if we are doomed
to be defeated.... It is but a short time, and the righteous Judge
will come.'

Luther now hastened back to his Elector, having received a summons
from him at Lochau. But before he could arrive there, Frederick had
peacefully breathed his last, on May 5. Faithfully and discreetly,
and in the honest conviction that truth would prevail, he had
accorded Luther his favour and protection, whilst purposely
abstaining to employ his power as ruler for infringing or invading
the old-established ordinances of the Church. He allowed full
liberty of action to the bishops, and carefully avoided any personal
intercourse with Luther. But in the face of death, he confessed the
truth of the gospel, as preached by Luther, by partaking of the
communion in both kinds, and refusing the sacrament of extreme

When his corpse was brought in state to Wittenberg, and buried in
the Convent Church, Luther, who had to preach twice on the occasion,
spoke of the universal grief and lamentation that 'our head is
fallen, a peaceful man and ruler, a calm head.' And he pointed out
as the 'most grievous sorrow of all,' how this loss had happened
just in those difficult and wondrous times when, unless God
interposed His arm, destruction threatened the whole of Germany. He
exhorted his hearers to confess to God their own ingratitude for His
mercy in having given them such a noble vessel of His grace. But of
those who set themselves against authorities, he declared, in the
words of the Apostle (Rom. xiii. 2), that 'they shall receive to
themselves damnation.' 'This text,' he said, 'will do more than all
the guns and spears.'

Quite in the same spirit that dictated his letter sent to Rühel only
a few days before at Mansfeld, Luther now sent forth a public
summons 'Against the murderous and plundering bands of peasants.' He
began it with the words already quoted, 'Before I could look about
me, forth they rush ... and rage like mad dogs.'

Thus he wrote when he saw the danger was at its highest. He even
suggested the possibility 'that the peasants might get the upper
hand (which God forbid!);' and that 'God perhaps willed that, in
preparation for the Last Day, the devil should be allowed to destroy
all order and authority, and the world turned into a howling
wilderness.' But he called upon the Christian authorities, with all
the more urgency and vehemence, to use the sword against the
devilish villains, as God had given them command. They should leave
the issue to God, acknowledge to Him that they had well deserved His
judgments, and thus with a good conscience and confidence 'fight as
long as they could move a muscle.' Whosoever should fall on their
side would be a true martyr in God's eyes, if he had fought with
such a conscience. Then, thinking of the many better people who had
been forced by the bloodthirsty peasants and murderous prophets to
join the devilish confederacy, he broke out by exclaiming, 'Dear
lords, help them, save them, take pity upon these poor men; but as
to the rest, stab, crush, strangle whom you can.'

These words of Luther were speedily fulfilled by the events. The
Saxon princes, the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, the Duke of Brunswick,
and the Counts of Mansfeld combined together before the mass of the
peasants in Thuringia and Saxony had collected into a large army. On
May 15 the forces of Münzer, numbering about 8,000 men, were
defeated in the battle of Frankenhausen. Münzer himself was taken
prisoner, and, crushed in mind and spirit, was executed like a
criminal. A few days before, the main army of the Swabian peasants
had been routed, and during the following weeks, one stronghold of
the rebellion after another was reduced, and the horrors perpetrated
by the peasants were repaid with fearful vengeance on their heads.
The Landgrave Philip, and John, the new Elector of Saxony,
distinguished themselves by their clemency in dismissing unpunished
to their homes, after the victory, a number of the insurgent

But Luther's violent denunciations now gave offence even to some of
his friends. His Catholic opponents, and those even who saw no harm
in burning heretics wholesale for no other reason than their faith,
reproached him then, and do so even now, with horrible cruelty for
this language. Luther replied to the 'complaints and questions about
his pamphlet,' with a public 'Epistle on the harsh pamphlet against
the peasants.' His excitement and irritation was increased by what
he heard talked about his conduct. He maintained what he had said.
But he also reminded his readers, that he had never, as his
calumniators accused him, spoken of acting against the conquered and
humbled, but solely of smiting those actually engaged in rebellion.
He declared further, at the close of his new and forcible remarks on
the use of the sword, that Christian authorities, at any rate were
bound, if victorious, to 'show mercy not only to the innocent, but
also to the guilty.' As for the 'furious raging and senseless
tyrants, who even after the battle cannot satiate themselves with
blood, and throughout their life never trouble themselves about
Christ'--with these he will have nothing whatever to do. Similarly,
in a small tract on Münzer, containing characteristic extracts from
the writings of this 'bloodthirsty prophet,' as a warning to the
people, Luther entreated the lords and civil authorities 'to be
merciful to the prisoners and those who surrendered, ... so that the
tables should not be turned upon the victors.' If we have now to
lament, as we must, that after the rebellion was put down, nothing
was done to remedy the real evils that caused it; nay, that those
very evils were rather increased as a punishment for the vanquished,
this reproach at least applies just as much to the Catholic lords,
both spiritual and temporal, as to the Evangelical authorities or

In addition also to his alleged harshness and severity to the
insurgents, Luther was accused, both then and since, by his
ecclesiastical opponents, of having given rise to the rebellion by
his preaching and writings. When the danger and anxiety were over,
Emser had the effrontery to say of him in some popular doggrel, 'Now
that he has lit the fire, he washes his hands like Pilate, and turns
his cloak to the wind;' and again, 'He himself cannot deny that he
exhorted you to rebellion, and called all of you dear children of
God, who gave up to it your lives and property, and washed your
hands in blood. Thus did he write in public, and thereto has he

[Illustration: Fig. 28.--Münzer (his execution in the background.)
From an old woodcut.]

In answer to this charge, Luther referred to his treatise 'On the
Secular Power,' and to other of his writings. 'I know well,' he was
able to say with truth, 'that no teacher before me has written so
strongly about secular authority; my very enemies ought to thank me
for this. Who ever made a stronger stand against the peasants, with
writing and preaching, than myself?' Among the Estates of the
Empire, not even the most violent enemies of evangelical doctrine
could venture now to turn their victorious weapons against their
associates in arms who espoused that doctrine, with whom they had
achieved the common conquest, and from whose midst had sounded the
most vigorous call to battle and to victory. Luther, on the
contrary, was not afraid at this moment to exhort the Archbishop,
Cardinal Albert, of whose friendly disposition to himself, his
friend Rühel had recently informed him, to follow the example of his
cousin, the Grand Master in Prussia, by converting his bishopric
into a temporal princedom, and entering the state of matrimony, and
to name, as the chief motive for so doing, the 'hateful and horrible
rebellion,' wherewith God's wrath had visited the sins of the

Thus did Luther, in these stormy times, whatever might be thought of
the violence of his utterances, take up his position clearly and
resolutely from the first, and maintain it to the end;--sure of his
cause, and safe against the new attack which he saw now the devil
was making; unyielding and defiant towards his old Papal enemies and
their new calumniations. And in this frame of mind he took just now
a step, calculated to sharpen all the tongues of slander, but one in
which he saw the fulfilment of his calling. Freed from unchristian
monastic vows, he entered into the holy state of matrimony ordained
by God. We first hear him speaking decidedly on this subject in a
letter to Rühel of May 4. After referring to the devil as the
instigator of the insurgent peasants, and of the murderous deeds
which made him anxious to prepare himself for death, he continues
with the following remarkable words: 'And if I can, in spite of him,
I will take my Kate in marriage before I die. I hope they will not
take from me my courage and my joy.'



Our readers will recall to mind those words of Luther at the
Wartburg, on hearing that his teaching was making the clergy marry
and monks renounce the obligation of their vows. No wife, he
declared, should be forced upon him. He remained in his convent;
looked on quietly, as one friend and fellow-labourer after the other
took advantage of their liberty; wished them happiness in the
enjoyment of it, and advised others to do the same; but never
changed his views about himself.

His enemies reproached him with living a worldly life, with drinking
beer in company with his friends, with playing the lute, and so on.
Nor was it merely his Catholic opponents who sought in such charges
material for vile slander, but also jealous ranters like Münzer gave
vent to their hatred in this manner. All the more remarkable it is
that no slanderous reports of immoral conduct were ever launched at
this time, even by his bitterest enemies, against the man who was
denouncing so openly and sternly offences of that description among
the superior, no less than the inferior, clergy. Calumnies of this
kind were reserved for the occasion of his marriage.

In truth, his life was one of the most arduous labour, anxiety, and
excitement; and as regards his bodily needs, he was satisfied with
the plainest and most sparing diet and the simplest enjoyments. The
Augustinian convent, whence he received his support, being gradually
denuded of its inmates by their abandonment of monastic life, its
revenues accordingly were stopped. Luther informed Spalatin in 1524
of the poverty to which they were reduced; not indeed, as Spalatin
well knew, that he concerned himself much about it, or wished to
make it a subject of complaint; if he had no meat or wine, he could
live well enough on bread and water. Melancthon describes how once,
before his marriage, Luther's bed had not been made for a whole
year, and was mildewed with perspiration. 'I was tired out,' says
Luther, 'and worked myself nearly to death, so that I fell into the
bed and knew nothing about it.'

When, moreover, he exchanged, as we have seen, in the autumn of
1524, the monastic cowl for the garb of a professor; and when he and
the prior Brisger were the only ones of all the former monks left in
the convent, he remained quietly where he was, and never entertained
the idea of marriage. A noble lady, Argula von Staufen, wife of the
Ritter von Grumbach, formerly in the Bavarian army, who had written
publicly for the cause of the gospel, and thereby incurred, with her
husband, the displeasure of the Duke of Bavaria, and who was now in
active correspondence with the Wittenbergers and Spalatin, expressed
to the latter her surprise that Luther did not marry. Luther
thereupon wrote to Spalatin on November 30, 1524, saying, 'I am not
surprised that folks gossip thus about me, as they gossip about many
other things. But please thank the lady in my name, and tell her
that I am in the hands of the Lord, as a creature whose heart He can
change and re-change, destroy or revive, at any hour or moment; but
as my heart has hitherto been, and is now, it will never come to
pass that I shall take a wife. Not that I am insensible to my I
flesh or sex, ... but because my mind is averse to wedlock, because
I daily expect the death and the well-merited punishment of a

Shortly afterwards Luther wrote to his friend Link: 'Suddenly, and
while I was occupied with far other thoughts, the Lord has plunged
me into marriage.' It was in the spring of 1525 that he had formed
this resolve, which speedily ripened to its fulfilment.

In a letter of March 12, 1525, he complained to his friend Amsdorf,
who had gone to Magdeburg, of depression of spirits and temptation,
and besought him to pay him a friendly visit to cheer him. It was,
as we see from the contents of the letter, a temptation, which
caused Luther to feel that, in the words of Scripture, it was 'not
good for man to be alone,' but that he ought to have a help-meet to
be with him. As to the choice of such a help-meet he may have
already talked with Amsdorf, and very possibly they may have spoken
of a lady of Magdeburg of the family of Alemann, who were
conspicuous there for their devotion to the evangelical cause.

But Luther's own choice turned on Catharine von Bora, a former nun.
Sprung from an ancient, though poor family of noble blood, she had
been brought up from childhood in the convent of Nimtzch near
Grimma. We find her there as early as 1509; she was born on January
29, 1499, and was consecrated as a nun at the age of sixteen. When
the evangelical doctrine became known at Nimtzch, Catharine
endeavoured with other nuns to break the bonds, which she had taken
upon herself without any real free-will or knowledge of her own. In
vain she entreated her relatives to release her. At length one
Leonhard Koppe, a burgher and councillor of Torgau, took her part.
Assisted by him and two of his friends, nine nuns escaped secretly
from the convent on Easter Eve, April 5, 1523. Luther justified
their escape in a public letter addressed to Koppe, and collected
funds for their support, until they could be further provided for.
They fled first to Wittenberg, and here Catharine stayed at the
house of the town clerk and future burgomaster, Philip Reichenbach.

She was now in her twenty-sixth year, when Luther turned his thoughts
towards her. He told afterwards his friends and Catharine herself,
with perfect frankness, that he had not been in love with her before,
for he had his suspicions, and they were not unfounded, that she was
proud. He had even thought, shortly before, of arranging a marriage
between her and a minister named Glatz, who later on, however, proved
himself unworthy of his office. Catharine, on the other hand, is said
to have gone to Amsdorf, as the trusted friend of Luther, and to have
told him frankly that she did not wish to marry Glatz, but was ready
to form an honourable alliance with himself or with Luther. If
Cranach's portrait of her is to be trusted, she was not remarkable
for beauty or any outward attraction. But she was a healthy, strong,
frank and true German woman. Luther might reasonably expect to have
in her a loyal, fresh-hearted, and staunch help-meet for his life,
whose own cares or requirements would cause him little anxiety,
while she would be just such a companion as, with his physical
ailments and mental troubles, he required. In the event of her
haughty disposition asserting itself unduly, he was the very man
to correct it with quiet firmness and affection.

What further considerations induced him to marry, appear from his
letters, in which he urged his friends to do likewise. Thus he wrote
on March 27 to Wolfgang Reissenbusch, preceptor of the convent at
Lichtenberg, saying that man was created by God for marriage. God
had so made man that he could not well do without it; whoever was
ashamed of marrying, must also be ashamed of his manhood, or must
pretend to be wiser than God. The devil had slandered the married
state by letting people who lived in immorality be held in high
honour. Luther, in thus frankly stating the natural disposition of
man to married life, spoke from his own experience. 'To remain
righteous unmarried,' he said once later on, 'is not the least of
trials, as those know well who have made the attempt.' In referring
as he did to the devil, he probably had in his mind the scandal
which threatened him if he should decide on marrying. He then goes
on to say to Reissenbusch that if he honoured the Word and work of
God, the scandal would be only a matter of a moment, to be followed
by years of honour. To Spalatin he writes on April 10: 'I find so
many reasons for urging others to marry, that I shall soon be
brought to it myself, notwithstanding that enemies never cease to
condemn the married state, and our little wiseacres ridicule it
every day.' The 'wiseacres' he was thinking of were professors and
theologians of his circle at Wittenberg. Not only was he resolved,
however, to obey the will of his Creator, despite all condemnation
and ridicule, but he deemed it his duty to testify to the rightness
of the step by his example as well as by his words. His enemies, in
fact, were taunting him that he did not venture to practise himself
what he preached to others. A few days after, immediately before his
departure for Eisleben, he wrote again to Spalatin, recommending his
friend, who had been so utterly averse to matrimony, to take care
that he was not anticipated in the step.

Amidst all the terrors of the Peasants' War, which had now broken
out in all its violence, and in earnest contemplation of a near end
possibly threatening himself, he had formed the fixed resolve, as
his letter of May 4 to Rühel shows, to 'take his Kate to wife, in
spite of the devil.' This is the first letter in which he mentions
her name to a friend. And to this resolve he steadily adhered during
the troublous weeks that followed, when he was called on to pay the
last honours to his Elector, to rouse men to the sanguinary contest
with the peasants, and to hear contumely and reproach heaped upon
his stirring words. Besides writing to the Cardinal Albert himself,
recommending him to marry, he sent a letter also on June 3 to his
friend Rühel, who held office as one of his advisers, saying, 'If my
marrying might serve in any way to strengthen his Grace to do the
same, I should be very willing to set his Grace the example; for I
have a mind, before leaving this world, to enter the married state,
to which I believe God has called me.' He had thoughts of this kind,
he added, even if it should end only in a betrothal, and not an
actual marriage.

He speedily gave effect to his final resolve, in order to cut short
all the loose and idle gossip which threatened him as soon as his
intentions were known with regard to Catharine von Bora. He took
none of his friends into his confidence, but acted, as he afterwards
advised others to act. 'It is not good,' he said, 'to talk much
about such matters. A man must ask God for counsel, and pray, and
then act accordingly.'

As to how he finally came to terms with Catharine we have no account
to show. But on the evening of June 13, on the Tuesday after the
feast of the Trinity, he invited to his house his friends
Bugenhagen, the parish priest of the town, Jonas, the professor and
provost of the church of All Saints, Lucas Cranach with his wife,
and the juristic professor Apel, formerly a dean of the Cathedral at
Bamberg, who himself had married a nun, and in their presence was
married to Catharine. The marriage was solemnised in the customary
way. The pair were asked, by the priest present, Bugenhagen,
according to the custom prevailing in Germany, and which Luther
afterwards followed in his tract on Marriage, whether they would
take one another for husband and wife; their right hands were then
joined together, and thus, in the name of the Trinity, they were
'joined together in matrimony.' The ceremony was therewith
concluded, and Catharine remained thenceforth with Luther as his
wife. Some days after Luther gave a little breakfast to his friends;
and the magistracy, of whom Cranach was a member, sent him their
congratulations, together with a present of wine. A fortnight later,
on June 27, Luther celebrated his wedding in grander style, by a
nuptial feast, in order to gather his distant friends around him. He
wrote to them saying that they were to 'seal and ratify' his
marriage, and 'help to pronounce the benediction.' Above all he
rejoiced to be able to see his 'dear father and mother' at the
feast. Among the motives for his marrying he especially mentioned
that he had felt himself bound to fulfil an old duty, in accordance
with his father's wishes.

Great as was the surprise which Luther occasioned by his speedy
marriage, it was no greater than the talk and sensation that
immediately ensued.

Among even his adherents and friends--especially the 'wiseacres' of
whom he had spoken--there was much astonishment and shaking of
heads. It was considered that the great man had lowered himself, and
gossip was busy in asking what reasons could have induced him to
take the step. Melancthon, his devoted friend, lost for the moment,
as is shown by his letter of June 16 to the philologist Camerarius,
his accustomed self-possession. He admitted that married life was a
holy state, and one well-pleasing to God, and that its results might
be beneficial to Luther's nature and character; but he was of
opinion that Luther's lowering himself to this condition was a
lamentable act of weakness, and injurious to his reputation--and
that, too, at a time when Germany was more than ever in need of all
his spirit and his energy. Luther had not invited him to be present
on the 13th, from a suspicion that Melancthon would scarcely approve
of what he was doing. A few days afterwards, however, he warmly
besought Link, their common friend, to be sure and attend their
nuptial feast on the 27th. That Luther, in this respect also, had
acted as a man of strong character and determination, would soon be
evident to them all.

His enemies seized the occasion of his marriage to spread vulgar
falsehoods about him, which soon were further exaggerated, and have
been raked up shamelessly again, even in our own time, or at least
repeated in veiled and scandalous inuendoes.

[Illustration: Fig. 29.--LUTHER. (From a Portrait by Cranach in
1525.) At Wittenberg.]

As for Luther himself, he at first felt strange in the new mode of
life which he had entered at the age of forty-one, so suddenly, and
in the midst of his arduous labours, and the stirring public events
and struggles of the time. At the same time he could not but be
aware of the unfavourable reception which his step would encounter,
even with his friends at Wittenberg. Melancthon found him, during
the early days of his married life, in a restless and uncertain
mood. But he remained firm in his conviction that God had called him
to the married state. The same day that Melancthon wrote so
anxiously to Camerarius about his marriage, Luther himself wrote to
Spalatin, saying, 'I have made myself so vile and contemptible
forsooth, that all the angels, I hope, will laugh, and all the
devils weep.' In his letter of invitation to his friends for June
27, friendly humour is mingled with words of deep earnestness; nay,
even with thoughts of death, and a longing for release from this
infatuated world. Later on Luther preached, on the ground of his own
experiences, about the blessings, the joys, and the purifying
burdens of the state ordained and sanctified by God, and never
without an expression of gratitude to God for having brought him to
enter into it. Seventeen years after his marriage he bore testimony
to Catharine in his will, that she had been to him a 'pious,
faithful, and devoted wife, always loving, worthy, and beautiful.'

[Illustration: Fig. 30.--CATHARINE VON BORA, LUTHER'S WIFE. (From a
Portrait by Cranach about 1525.) At Berlin.]

Of the wedding feast of June 27 we have no further details. It was,
so far as concerns the repast, a very simple one, as compared with
the elaborate nuptial entertainments then in fashion. The university
presented Luther with a beautifully chased goblet of silver, bearing
round its base the words: 'The honourable University of the
Electoral town of Wittenberg presents this wedding gift to Doctor
Martin Luther and his wife Kethe von Bora. [Footnote: The goblet is
now in the possession of the University of Greifswald.]

[Illustration: Fig. 3l.--LUTHER'S RING FROM CATHARINE.]

Apartments in the convent, which Brisger also quitted shortly after to
become a minister, were appointed by the Elector as the dwelling-place
of Luther. Here, therefore, Catharine had to manage her household.

[Illustration: Fig. 82.--LUTHER'S DOUBLE RING.]

Protestant posterity has been anxious to retain a memorial of this
marriage in the wedding rings of the newly-married couple. These,
however, were probably not used at the marriage itself, since Luther
wished to have it solemnised so quickly and without the knowledge of
others. But a ring has been preserved, which Luther, to judge from
the inscription (D. Martino Luthero Catharina v. Boren 13 Jun.
1525), received at any rate from his Kate as a supplementary
reminiscence of the day. In recent times--about 1817--it has been
multiplied by several copies. It bears the figure of the crucified
Saviour and the instruments of His death; in perfect keeping with
the spirit of the Reformer, whose marriage, like the other acts of
his life, was concluded in the name of Christ crucified. There
exists also, in the Ducal Museum at Brunswick, a double ring,
consisting of two interfastened in the middle, of which one bears a
diamond with his initials M. L. D., and the other a ruby with the
initials of his wife, C. v. B. The inner surface of the first ring
is engraved with the words: 'WAS. GOT. ZUSAMEN. FIEGT,' (Those whom
God hath joined together), and the second, 'SOL. KEIN. MENSCH.
SCHEIDEN,' (Shall no man put asunder). This double ring was probably
given by some friend to Luther, or, as others suppose, to his wife.


RELIGIOUS PEACE_. 1525-1532.



The year 1525 marks in the life of Luther and the history of the
Reformation an epoch and a departure of general importance.

Luther's preaching had originally forced its way among the German
people and its various classes, with an energy and strength never
counted on by its opponents. It seemed impossible to calculate how
far the ferment would extend, and what would be its ultimate
results. It was the idea of the Elector Frederick the Wise, now
dead, that by simply letting the word of the gospel unfold itself
quietly and work its way without hindrance, the truth could not fail
eventually to penetrate all Christendom, or at least the Christian
world of Germany, and thus accomplish a peaceful victory. This hope
had guided him during his lifetime in his relations with Luther, and
no one appreciated and responded to it more loyally than Luther
himself. But now, as we have seen, those German princes who adhered
to the old Church system had begun to form a close alliance, and
were meditating means of remedying, albeit in their own fashion,
certain evils in the Church. Erasmus, still the representative of a
powerful modern movement of the intellect, had at length broken
finally with Luther, and renewed his former allegiance to the Romish
Church. From the German nobility, whose sympathy and co-operation
Luther had once so boldly and hopefully invoked in his contest with
the Papacy, it was vain, since the fatal enterprise of Sickingen,
which Luther himself had been forced to condemn, to expect any
material assistance in furtherance of the Evangelical cause. True,
there was the extensive rising of another class, the peasantry, who
likewise appealed to the gospel. But genuine disciples of the gospel
could not fail to see in this movement, with terror, how a perverse
conception of the sacred text led to errors and crimes which even
Luther wished to see suppressed in blood. And the Catholic nobles
took advantage of this rising to persecute with the greater rigour
all evangelical preaching, and to extend, without further inquiry,
their denunciation of the insurgents to those of evangelical
sympathies who held entirely aloof from the insurrection. Luther, in
his dealings with the nobles and peasants, failed to preserve that
boldness and confidence of mind and language which he had previously
displayed towards his fellow-countrymen. That his cause, indeed, was
the cause of God, he remained unshakenly convinced; but in a sadder
spirit than he had ever shown before, he left God's will to
determine what amount of visible success that cause should attain to
in the present evil world, or how far the decision should depend
upon His last great Judgment.

[Illustration: Fig. 33.--The Saxon Electors, FREDERICK THE WISE,
JOHN, and JOHN FREDERICK. (From a Picture by Cranach.) At

[Illustration: Fig. 34.--Facsimile of FREDERICK's signature.]

Even before the Peasants' War broke out, the proceedings of the
fanatics had begun to hamper and disturb his labours in the field of
reformation, and had prepared for him much pain and tribulation. He
had to grow distrustful of so many whom he had regarded as brothers,
and of their manner of proclaiming the Word of God, Whom they
pretended to serve. He already heard of men among them, who not only
rejected infant baptism, and openly attacked his own, no less than
the Catholic doctrine of the Sacrament, but who impugned the
universal belief of Christendom in the Triune God and the Divinity
of the Saviour. Early in 1525 news reached him of such a man at
Nüremberg, John Denk, the Rector of the school there, who was
expelled on that account by the magistrates. Luther's own doctrine
of the presence of Christ's Body in the Lord's Supper, which he had
previously to defend against Carlstadt, his former colleague and
fellow-combatant, now found a far more formidable opponent in the
Zurich Reformer, Ulrich Zwingli. The latter, in a letter of November
16, 1524, to Alber, a preacher at Reutlingen, had already disputed
the Real Presence, by interpreting the words 'This _is_ my
body' to mean 'This _signifies_ my body.' In March 1525 he made
known this interpretation to the world by publishing his letter,
together with a pamphlet 'On the True and False Religion.' He was
joined at Basle by Oecolampadius, whom Luther had welcomed formerly
as a fellow-labourer, and who published his own interpretation of
the words of Christ. Butzer and Capito, the evangelical preachers at
Strasburg, inclined to the same view, which threatened to spread
rapidly over the South of Germany. The opposition now encountered by
Luther was far more dangerous for his teaching than the theories and
agitations of a Carlstadt, since whatever judgment may be formed
about its merits, it proceeded at any rate from men of far more
thoughtful minds, more solid theological acquirements, and more
honest reverence for the Word of God. Herewith then began that
division of opinion among the ranks of the Evangelical Reformers,
which served more than anything else to retard the fresh and
vigorous progress of the Reformation, and infected even Luther's
spirit with the bitterness of the controversy it entailed.

At the same time, however, Luther had now won firm ground for the
Evangelical cause upon a fixed and extensive territory. Within these
limits it was possible to construct a new Church system, upon stable
foundations and with a new constitution. John, the new Elector of
Saxony, did not enjoy, it is true, the same high consideration
throughout the Empire as his brother Frederick, Luther's great
protector, and he was also his inferior as a statesman. But with
Luther himself both he and his son John Frederick had already
maintained a friendly personal intercourse, such as his predecessor
had carefully avoided. Nor did his disposition lead him, like
Frederick, to pay any such regard to the possible preservation of
Church unity in the German Empire and Western Christendom; on the
contrary, he soon showed his readiness to undertake independently,
as sovereign of his country, the establishment of a new Evangelical
Church. Prussia had just preceded him in a reform embracing the
whole country, under the former Grand Master of the Teutonic
Knights, their present Duke. The Elector now found a further ally
for the work in the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, the most active and
politically the most important of all. As a young man of only twenty
years of age, in the beginning of 1525, he had rendered valuable
service by his energy, resolution, and warlike ability, in the
defeat of Sickingen, and again when opposed to the seditious
peasants. Already before the Peasants' War commenced, he had
acquired, mainly through Melancthon, whom he had met when
travelling, a knowledge and love of the evangelical doctrines. His
father-in-law, Duke George of Saxony, had vainly endeavoured, after
their common victory over the insurgents, to alienate him from the
cause of the hateful Luther, who he said was the author of so much
mischief. But the menaces hurled against that cause by the Catholic
States of the Empire served only to attach him more closely and
loyally to John and John Frederick, and thence resulted in the
following spring the League of Torgau, which was joined also by the
princes of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Anhalt, and Mecklenburg, and the town
of Magdeburg. The co-operation of the territorial princes made it
possible to procure for the Reformation and its Church system a firm
position in the German Empire against the Emperor and the hostile
Catholic States. And, at the same time, it offered means for
establishing on the ground newly occupied by the Reformation itself,
firm and generally recognised regulations of Church polity, and
defending them from being disturbed by the proceedings of fanatics.

[Illustration: Fig. 35.--PHILIP OF HESSE. (From a woodcut of

Under these new conditions and circumstances, Luther's work became
limited, as was natural, to a narrower field, and bore no longer the
same character of boldness and independence which had marked it in
his original contest with Rome. But it required, on this account,
all the more perseverance and patience, faithfulness and
circumspection in minor matters, and an adequate regard to what was
actually required and practicable, while clinging firmly to the
lofty aims and objects with which the work of the Reformation had

To the portrait of Luther as the Reformer we have to add henceforth
that of the married man and head of the household, whose single
desire is to fulfil, as a man and a Christian, the duties belonging
to this state of life, and to enjoy with a quiet conscience the
blessings of God. In his letters to intimate friends we find happy
home news alternating with the most profound and serious reflections
on the conduct and duties of the Evangelical Church, and on abstruse
questions of theology. His language as a Reformer deals now no
longer, as in his Address to the German Nobility, in particular,
with the problems and interests of political and social life; it is
mainly to religious and spiritual matters, and to the kindred
questions affecting the active work and constitution of the Church,
that his mission is now directed. But his personal relations with
his countrymen became all the more close and intimate in consequence
of this change of life; and that which by many of his friends was
regretted as a lowering of his reputation and influence, becomes a
valuable and essential feature in the historical portrait now
presented to our eyes.

In single dramatic incidents and changes, so to speak, Luther's life
henceforth, as was only natural, is no longer so rich as during the
earlier years of development and struggle. We shall no longer meet
with crises of such a kind as mark a momentous epoch.



Among the particular labours which occupied Luther during the
further course of the year 1525, apart from his persevering industry
as a professor and preacher, we have already had occasion to mention
one, namely, his reply to Erasmus. We find him towards the end of
September entirely engrossed in this work. Not a single proposition
in Erasmus' book, so he wrote to Spalatin, would he admit.

The reckless severity with which he assailed that distinguished
opponent appears all the more remarkable when contrasted with the
conciliatory tone whereby he was then hoping to appease the wrath of
his two bitterest enemies in high places, King Henry VIII. of
England and Duke George of Saxony.

On September 1, 1525, he addressed a humble letter to Henry. King
Christian II. of Denmark, who, after forfeiting his throne by his
arbitrary and despotic rule, had taken refuge with the Elector
Frederick, showed an inclination to favour the new doctrine, and
even came in person to Wittenberg. By him Luther was induced to
believe--for what reason it does not appear--that Henry VIII. had
entirely changed his Church principles; and to hope that, if only he
could make amends for the personal offence he had given him, Henry
might be won over still further for the Evangelical cause. Luther
refers to this hope as follows: 'My Most Gracious Sire the King gave
me good cause to hope for the King of England ... and ceased not to
urge me by speech and letter, giving me so many good words, and
telling me that I ought to write humbly, and that it would be useful
to do so, and so forth, until I am fairly intoxicated with the
idea.' He then cast himself in his letter at the feet of his
Majesty, and besought him to pardon him for the offence he had given
by his earlier pamphlet, 'because from good witnesses he had learned
that the Royal treatise which he had attacked, was not indeed the
work of the King himself, but a concoction of the miserable Cardinal
of York' (Edward Lee). He promised to make a public retractation, in
another pamphlet, for the sake of the King's honour. At the same
time, he wished that the grace of God might assist his Majesty, and
enable him to turn wholly to the gospel, and shut his ears against
the siren voices of its enemies.

With regard to Duke George of Saxony, all that Luther had as yet
heard about him was that he was incessantly bringing fresh
complaints about him to the Elector, that he rigorously excluded the
new teaching from his own territory, and, what was more, that, he
was anxious to go on from the conquest of the peasants to the
suppression of Lutheranism, which had been the cause, he declared,
of all the mischief. Now, however, Luther learned from certain Saxon
nobles, that the Duke himself was not so unfavourably disposed to
the cause, and was willing to treat with mildness and toleration
those who preached or confessed the gospel; that it was with Luther
personally that he was so offended and irritated. Luther wrote to
him on December 22 of this year. 'I have been advised,' he says,
'once more to entreat your Grace in this letter, with all humility
and friendship, for it almost seems to me as if God, our Lord, would
soon take some of us from hence, and the fear is that Duke George
and Luther may also have to go.' He then entreats, with all
submission, his pardon for whatever wrong he had done the Duke by
writing or in speech; but of his doctrine he could, for conscience'
sake, retract nothing. Luther, however, did not humble himself to
George as he had done to King Henry, and his letter bears his
characteristic sharpness of tone. He assured the Duke, however,
that, with all his former severity of language towards him, he was a
better friend to him than all his sycophants and parasites, and that
the Duke had no need to pray to God against him.

Luther undoubtedly wrote the two letters, as he himself says of the
one to Henry, with a simple and honest heart. They show, indeed, how
much genuine good-nature, and at the same time how strange an
ignorance of the world and of men, was combined in him together with
a passionate zeal for combat. George answered him at once with
ferocity, and, as Luther says, with the coarseness of a peasant. The
prince, otherwise not ignoble, was so embittered by hatred against
the heretic as to reproach him with the vulgarest motives of
avarice, ambition, and the lust of the flesh. Never had Luther, even
with his worst enemies, stooped to such personal slander. Concerning
the answer which came afterwards from King Henry, as well as the
reply of Erasmus, we shall speak further on.

Meanwhile, Luther and his friends were directing their attention to
the newly published doctrine of the Last Supper. At first Luther
left others to contest it: Bugenhagen addressed a public letter
against it to his friend Hess at Breslau; Brenz at Schwäbish Hall,
together with other Swabian preachers, published tracts against
Oecolampadius. Luther himself, after February 1525, referred
repeatedly to Zwingli's theory in sermons to the congregation at
Wittenberg which were printed at the time. But beyond this he
confined himself to sending warnings by letter, on November 5, 1525,
and January 4, 1526, to Strasburg and Reutlingen, whence he had been
appealed to on the subject, against the false doctrines which had
been put forward concerning the Sacrament, and particularly against
the fanatics. We shall follow later on the further course of the

All these polemics, however, were only an adjunct to his positive
labours and activity. His chief task now was to carry out the work
he had begun in his own Church. For this he could rely with
certainty on the inward sympathy of the new Elector, and he hastened
to turn it actively to account as soon as possible, for the
furtherance of his Church objects. During his communications with
the late Elector Frederick, Spalatin had always acted as
intermediary; but to John he addressed himself direct, and, whenever
occasion offered, by word of mouth, and this at times with much
urgency. Spalatin was now the pastor of a parish, as had been his
wish some time before. He was the successor at Altenburg of Link,
who had removed to Nüremberg, and he enjoyed the especial confidence
of John.

In his official capacity Luther was, and always remained, before all
things, a member of the university. He cherished at all times a
lively appreciation of its importance to the cause of evangelical
truth, the Church, and the common welfare of society. He began by
pleading on its behalf to the new Elector, to remedy the defects and
grievances which had crept in during the latter years of the old and
ailing Elector Frederick. The requisite salary, in particular, was
wanting for several of the professorships, and the customary
lectures on many branches of study had been dropped. Luther, as he
himself afterwards told the Elector in a tone of apology, had
'worried him sorely to put the university in order,' so much so that
'his urgency wellnigh surprised the Elector, as though he had not
much faith in his promises.' In September the necessary reforms at
Wittenberg were provided for by a commission specially appointed by
the prince. The interest the latter took in theology made him double
Melancthon's salary, in order to attach him the more closely to the
theological lectures, which originally were not part of his duty.

Luther next devoted all his energies towards the requirements of the
new Church system.

At Wittenberg, and from thence in other places, regulations for the
performance of public worship had already been established, with the
object of giving full and free expression to evangelical truth. The
congregation had the Word of God read aloud to them, and joined in
the singing of German hymns. The portions of the Liturgy, however,
which were sung partly by the priests and partly by the choir, were
still conducted in Latin. Luther now introduced a complete service
in German, changing here and there the old form. To assist him in
the musical alterations required, the Elector sent him two musicians
from Torgau. With one of these in particular, John Walter, Luther
worked with diligence, and continued afterwards on terms of friendly
intercourse. He himself composed a few pieces for the work.

Of these, as of the earlier regulations at Wittenberg, Luther
published a formal account. It appeared at the beginning of the next
year (1526), under the title of 'The German Mass and Order of Divine
Worship at Wittenberg.' But he guarded himself in this publication,
from the outset, against the new Service being construed into a law
of necessary obligation, or made a means of disquieting the
conscience. In this matter, as in others, he wished above all things
that regard should be paid to the weak and simple brethren--to those
who had still to be trained and built up into Christians. Nay, he
had meant it for a people among whom, as he said, many were not
Christians at all, but the majority stood and stared, for the mere
sake of seeing something new, just as though a Christian Service
were being performed among Turks and heathens. The first question
with these was how to attract them publicly to a confession of
belief and Christianity. He thought also, at this time, of another
and, as he termed it, a true kind of Evangelical Service, for which,
however, the people were not yet prepared. His idea in this was that
all individuals who were Christians in earnest, and were willing to
confess the gospel, should enrol themselves by name, and meet
together for prayer, for reading the Word of God, for administering
the Sacraments, and exercising works of Christian piety. For an
assembly of this kind, and for their worship of God, he contemplated
no elaborate form of Liturgy, but, on the contrary, simply a 'short
and proper' means of 'directing all in common to the Word and prayer
and charity,' and in addition thereto, a regular exercise of
congregational discipline and a Christian care of the poor, after
the example of the Apostles. But for the present, he said, he must
resign this idea of a congregation simply from the want of proper
persons to compose it. He would wait 'until Christians were found
sufficiently earnest about the Word to offer themselves for the
purpose, and adhere to it;' otherwise it might serve only to
generate a 'spirit of faction,' if he attempted to carry it through
by himself; for the Germans, he said, were a wild people, and very
difficult to deal with, unless extreme necessity compelled them. The
Elector, however, readily assented to this project, and purposed to
propose it as a model for other churches in his dominions.

At this point, however, a wider field of action opened out, the
details of which could not be comprehended at a single glance, and
which seemed to require a higher care, and the guidance and support
of higher powers and authorities. In many places, nothing as yet, or
at all events nothing of a stable and well-ordered kind, had been
done towards a reconstruction of the Church and the satisfaction of
spiritual requirements in an evangelical sense. There was no
collective Church, and no ecclesiastical office existing by whose
influence and authority reforms might have been made, and a new
organisation established. This was a grievous state of need where,
perhaps, the existing clergy and the majority or the flower of their
congregations were already unanimous and decided in their confession
of evangelical doctrine. And in a number of congregations, indeed,
among the great mass of the country people, there prevailed to a
peculiar degree, that want of understanding, of ripe thought, and of
inward sympathy, which Luther noticed even among many of his
Wittenbergers. The bishops, in their visitations in Saxony under the
Elector Frederick, had been unable to check any longer the progress
of the new teaching, and did not venture on any further
interference. And yet this teaching, as Luther knew better than
anyone, had not yet succeeded, in spite of all its popularity, in
penetrating the souls of men. To a large extent, the masses seemed
to be still stolid and indifferent. Even among the clergy, many were
so unstable, so obscure, and so incompetent, that they failed to
make any progress with their congregations. There were even some
among them who were ready, according to circumstances, to adopt
either the old or the new Church usages. In some places the new
practices were opposed as innovations, especially by various nobles,
and by the priests, who were dependent on the nobles: if such
opposition was to be broken, it could only be done by the authority
and power of the local sovereign. Lastly, and apart from all this,
the new Church system was threatened with imminent disturbance and
dissolution from the insufficiency or misuse of the funds required
for its support. The customary revenues were falling off; payments
were no longer made for private masses; and many of the nobles,
including even those who remained attached to the old system, began
to secularise the property of the Church. 'Unless measures are
taken,' said Luther, 'to secure a suitable disposition and proper
maintenance for ministers and preachers, there will shortly be
neither parsonages nor schools worth speaking of, and Divine Worship
and the Word of God will come utterly to an end.'

The first question was to establish the principles on which a new
organisation of the Church should be based.

The earlier opinions expressed by Luther, especially in his Address
to the German Nobility, might have led one to expect that the new
Church system conformably to his ideas would have to be built up, to
use a modern expression, from below, that is to say, on the basis of
the universal priesthood of all baptized Christians, who should now
therefore, after hearing and receiving the Word of the Gospel, have
proceeded to organise and embody themselves into a new community.
Luther had also, in that treatise, as we have seen, allotted certain
duties to the civil authorities in regard even to ecclesiastical
matters; and it was now from profound and painful conviction that he
confessed that the great bulk of the people were as yet not genuine
Christians, but needed public means of attraction to draw them to
Christianity. Later on we met with his idea of a 'German Mass,'
involving a voluntary union and assembly of genuine Christians, as
explained by him three years before in a sermon. There were elements
here at least, one might have thought, sufficient to constitute an
independent system of congregations. Shortly afterwards, in October
1526, a Hessian synod, convoked by the Landgrave Philip at Homberg,
actually adopted the draft of a constitution, which provided that
those Christians who acknowledged the Word of God should voluntarily
enrol themselves as members of a Christian Evangelical Brotherhood
or congregation, who should elect in assembly their pastors and
bishops, and that the latter, together with other deputies, should
constitute a general synod for the national Church. But Luther, true
to his conviction, previously expressed, that there were not the men
fitted for such an institution, stated now his opinion to Philip,
that he had not the boldness to carry out such a heap of
regulations, and that people were not as fit for them as those who
sat and made the regulations imagined. Moreover he could not
tolerate the idea that the mass of those who remained outside this
community, and who were looked upon, according to the Homberg
scheme, as heathens, should be left to their fate, without preachers
of the Word, and above all, without either baptism or the Christian
education of their children. Added to this, he adhered strenuously
to his belief, which we have noticed long before, that certain
duties with reference to religion and the Church were incumbent on
the civil authorities, the princes and magistrates, in common with
all the rest of Christendom. It was their duty, he declared in those
earlier writings of his, to prohibit, by force if necessary, the
proceedings of those priests who were hostile to the gospel. He now
applied the idea and definition of external, idolatrous practices to
the Papal system of public worship and the sacrifice of the mass. To
suppress these practices, he said, was the duty of those authorities
who watched over the external relations of life: such was his demand
against the Catholics at Altenburg. On the other hand, this province
of external life and external regulations embraced also the material
means required for the external maintenance of the Church. And it
was only a step further for those authorities to forbid any public
exposition of doctrines which they found to be at variance with the
Word of God, and to appoint also preachers of that Word; nay, to
undertake, in short, the establishment and preservation of the
constitution of the Church, so far as the same was external, and
necessary, and incapable of being established by any other power.
The Elector John himself had already, on August 16, 1525, announced
at his palace of Weimar to the assembled clergy of the district,
'that the gospel should be preached, pure and simple, without any
additions by man.'

Under such circumstances, and starting with such views, Luther now
urged the Elector to take in hand a comprehensive regulation of the
Church. As soon as he had discharged his duties at the university
and completed his new Church Service in German, he turned his
efforts to a general 'Reform of parishes.' This, as he said in a
letter at the end of September, was now the stumbling-block before
him. On October 31, 1525, the anniversary of his ninety-five theses,
he represented to the Elector that, now that the reorganisation of
the university and the regulation of public worship had been
completed, there still remained two points which demanded the
attention and care of his Highness, as the supreme temporal
authority in his country. One of these was the miserable condition
of the parishes in general; the other was the proposal that the
Elector, as Luther had already advised him at Wittenberg, should
institute an inspection also of the civil administration of his
councillors and officials, about which there were everywhere
complaints both in the towns and country districts. With regard to
the first point, he went on to explain, on receiving a gracious
reply from the Elector, that the people who wished to have an
evangelical preacher should themselves be made to contribute the
additional income required; and he proposed that the country should
be divided into four or five districts, each of which should be
visited by two commissioners appointed by the prince. He then
proceeded to consider the external maintenance of the parochial
clergy, and the means necessary for that purpose. He suggested
further that ministers advanced in years, or unfit to preach, but
otherwise of pious life and conduct, should be instructed to read
aloud, in person or by deputy, the Gospel, together with the
Postills or short homilies. With regard to those parishes where the
appointment of an evangelical preacher was a matter of indifference
or of actual repugnance, he expressed at present no opinion; but in
his later proposals he assumed the establishment of evangelical
preachers throughout the country. He expresses his conviction that
the Elector will give his services to God in these reforms of the
Church, as a faithful instrument in His hands, 'because,' as he
says, 'your Highness is entreated and demanded to do so by us, and
by the pressing need itself, and, therefore, assuredly by God.'

Readily as the Elector John listened to Luther's words and
exhortations, he found it difficult, nevertheless, to initiate at
once so vast an undertaking as was imposed upon him. Luther was well
aware, as he himself told John, that matters of importance might
easily be delayed at court, 'through the overwhelming press of
business;' and that princely households had much to do, and it was
necessary to importune them perseveringly. He knew his prince--that
with the best will possible, he was not energetic enough with those
about him; and among the latter he suspected that many were
indifferent and selfish with regard to matters of religion and the
Church. The task, however, that now lay before him, was even more
difficult and involved than Luther himself had imagined when first
shaping and propounding his idea.

A whole year went by before the project was taken up
comprehensively. Only in the district of Borna, in January 1526, was
an inspection of parishes effected by Spalatin and a civil official
of the prince; and another one was held during Lent in the
Thuringian district of Tenneberg, in which Luther's friend Myconius
of Gotha, afterwards one of the most prominent Reformers in
Thuringia, took an active part. Meantime, however, the clergy in
general received directions from the Elector to perform public
worship in the manner prescribed by Luther's 'German Mass.'

In the course of the summer the development of the general affairs
of the Empire enabled the desired co-operation of the civil
authorities in the work of Reformation to be established on a basis
of law. And yet, just now, the situation, as regards the Evangelical
cause, had become more critical than at any previous time since the
Diet of Worms. For the Emperor Charles had terminated, by a
brilliant victory, the war with France, which had compelled him to
let his Edict remain dormant; and the peace concluded with the
captured King Francis, in January 1526, at Madrid, was designated by
the two monarchs as being intended to enable them to take up their
Christian arms in common for the expulsion of the infidels and the
extirpation the Lutheran and other heresies. The Emperor issued an
admonition to certain princes of Germany, bidding them take measures
accordingly, and a number of them held a conference together on the
subject. Against the danger thus threatening, the Evangelical party
formed the League of Torgau. But no sooner was King Francis at
liberty and back in France, than he broke the peace so solemnly
contracted. Pope Clement, to whom this peace had offered such a
splendid prospect of purifying and uniting Christendom, set more
store by his political interests and temporal possessions in Italy,
which formed a subject of such jealous rivalry and contention
between himself, the Emperor, and the King. Terrified at the
overwhelming power of the Emperor, the Holy Father made use of his
Divine credentials to absolve the French king from his oath, and
himself concluded a warlike alliance with him against Charles, which
went by the name of the 'Holy League.' Myconius remarked of this
compact that 'whatever Popes do must be called most holy, for so
holy are they that even God, the Gospel, and all the world, must lie
at their feet.' Meanwhile, the Turks from the East were advancing on
Germany. Thus it came to pass that a Diet at Spires, which seemed
originally to have been summoned for the final execution of the
Edict of Worms, led to the Imperial Recess of August 27, 1526,
wherein it was declared that until the General, or at least National
Council of the Church, which was prayed for, should be convoked,
each State should, in all matters appertaining to the Edict of
Worms, 'so live, rule, and bear itself as it thought it could answer
it to God and the Emperor.'

Luther now turned again, on November 22, 1526, to John, 'not having
laid for a long while any supplication before his Electoral
Highness.' The peasants, he said, were so unruly, and so ungrateful
for the Word of God, that he had almost a mind to let them go on
living like pigs, without a preacher, only their poor young
children, at any rate, must be cared for. He laid down in this
letter some important principles concerning the duty of the civil
power and the State. The prince, he declared, was the supreme
guardian of the young, and of all who required his protection. All
towns and villages that could afford the means, should be compelled
to keep schools and preachers, just as they were compelled to pay
taxes for bridges, roads, and other local requirements. In support
of this demand, he appealed to the direct command of God, and to the
universal state of destitution prevailing. If that duty were
neglected, the country would be full of vagrant savages. With regard
to the convents and other religious foundations, he stated that, as
soon as the Papal yoke had been removed from the land, they would
pass over to the prince as the supreme head; and it would then
become his duty, however onerous, to regulate such matters, since no
one else would have the power to do so. He particularly warned the
Elector not to allow the nobles to appropriate the property of the
convents, 'as is talked of already, and as some of them are actually
doing.' They were founded, he said, for the service of God: whatever
was superfluous might be applied by the Elector to the exigencies of
the state or the relief of the poor. To his friends Luther
complained with grief and bitterness of some courtiers of the
Elector, who after having always shut their ears to religion and the
gospel, were now chuckling over the rich spoils in prospect, and
laughing at evangelical liberty.

The work now commenced in real earnest. The Elector had the
necessary regulations prepared at Wittenberg, at a conference
between his chancellor Brück, Luther, and others. In February 1527
visitors were appointed, and among them was Melancthon. They began
their labours at once in the district to which Wittenberg belonged,
but of their proceedings here nothing further is known. In July the
first visitation on a large scale took place in Thuringia.

Just at this time, however, Luther was overtaken by severe bodily
suffering and also by troubles at home, while the visitation and the
academical life at Wittenberg had to experience an interruption.

Luther's first year of married life had been one of happiness.
Symptoms of a physical disorder, the stone, had appeared, however,
even then, and in after years became extremely painful and

On June 7, 1526, as he announced to his friend Rühel, his 'dear Kate
brought him, by the great mercy of God, a little Hans Luther,'--her
firstborn. With joy and thankfulness, as he says in another letter,
they now reaped the fruit and blessings of married life, whereof the
Pope and his creatures were not worthy.

Amidst all his various labours in theology and for the Church, and
in preparing for the visitation, he took his share in the cares of
his household, laid out the garden attached to his quarters at the
convent, had a well made, and ordered seeds from Nüremberg through
his friend Link, and radishes from Erfurt. He wrote at the same time
to Link for tools for turning, which he wished to practise with his
servant Wolf or Wolfgang Sieberger, as the 'Wittenberg barbarians'
were too much behind in the art; and he was anxious, in case the
world should no longer care to maintain him as a minister of the
Word, to learn how to gain a livelihood by his handiwork.

Early in January 1527 he was seized with a sudden rush of blood to
the heart. It nearly proved fatal at the moment, but fortunately
soon passed away. An attack of illness, accompanied by deep
oppression and anxiety of mind, and the effects of which long
remained, followed on July 6. On the morning of that day, being
seized with anguish of the soul, he sent for his faithful friend and
confessor Bugenhagen, listened to his words of comfort from the
Bible, and with persevering prayer commended himself and his beloved
ones to God. At Bugenhagen's advice, he then went to a breakfast, to
which the Elector's hereditary marshal, Hans Löser, had invited him.
He ate little at the meal, but was as cheerful as possible to his
companions. After it was over, he sought to refresh himself with
conversation with Jonas in his garden, and invited him and his wife
to spend the evening at his home. On their arrival, however, he
complained of a rushing and singing noise, like the waves of the
sea, in his left ear, and which afterwards shot through his head
with intolerable pain, like a tremendous gust of wind. He wished to
go to bed, but fainted away by the door of his bedroom, after
calling aloud for water. Cold water having been poured upon him, he
revived. He began to pray aloud, and talked earnestly of spiritual
things, although a short swoon came over him in the interval. The
physician Augustin Schurf, who was called in, ordered his body, now
quite cold, to be warmed. Bugenhagen too was sent for again. Luther
thanked the Lord for having vouchsafed to him the knowledge of His
holy Name; God's will be done, whether He would let him die, which
would be a gain to himself, or allow him to live on still longer in
the flesh, and work. He called his friends to witness that up to his
end he was certain of having taught the truth according to the
command of God. He assured his wife, with words of comfort, that in
spite of all the gossip of the blind world she was his wife, and he
exhorted her to rest solely on God's Word. He then asked, 'Where is
my darling little Hans?' The child smiled at his father, who
commended him with his mother to the God who is the Father of the
fatherless and judges the cause of the widow. He pointed to some
silver cups which had been given him, and which he wished to leave
his wife. 'You know,' he added, 'we have nothing else.' After a
profuse perspiration he grew better, and the next day he was able to
get up to meals. He said afterwards that he thought he was dying, in
the hands of his wife and his friends, but that the spiritual
paroxysm which had preceded had been something far more difficult
for him to bear.

Luther, after recovering from this attack, still complained of
weakness in the head, and his inward oppression and spiritual
anguish was renewed and became intensified. On August 2 he told
Melancthon, who was then busy with his visitation in Thuringia, that
he had been tossed about for more than a week in the agonies of
death and hell, and that his limbs still trembled in consequence.

Whilst he was still in this state of suffering, news came that the
plague was approaching Wittenberg, nay, had actually broken out in
the town. It is well known how this fearful scourge had repeatedly
raged in Germany, and how ruinous it had been, from the panic which
preceded and accompanied it. The university, from fear of the
epidemic, was now removed to Jena.

Luther resolved, however, together with Bugenhagen, whom he was
assisting as preacher, to remain loyally with the congregation, who
now more than ever required his spiritual aid; although his Elector
wrote in person to him saying, 'We should for many reasons, as well
as for your own good, be loth to see you separated from the
university.... Do us then the favour.' He wrote to a friend, 'We are
not alone here; but Christ, and your prayers, and the prayers of all
the saints, together with the holy angels, are with us.'

The plague had really broken out, though not with that violence
which the universal panic would have led one to suppose. Luther soon
counted eighteen corpses, which were buried near his house at the
Elster Gate. The epidemic advanced from the Fishers' suburb into the
centre of the town: here the first victim carried off by it, died
almost in Luther's arms--the wife of the burgomaster Tilo Denes. To
his friends elsewhere Luther sent comforting reports, and repressed
all exaggerated accounts. His friend Hess at Breslau asked him 'if
it was befitting a Christian man to fly when death threatened him.'
Luther answered him in a public letter, setting forth the whole duty
of Christians in this respect. Of the students, a few at any rate
remained at Wittenberg. For these he now began a new course of

Luther's spiritual sufferings continued to afflict him for several
months, and until the close of the year. Though he had known them,
he said, from his youth, he could never have expected that they
would prove so severe. He found them very similar to those attacks
and struggles which he had had to endure in early life. The invasion
of the plague, and the parting from all his intimate friends except
Bugenhagen, must have contributed to increase them.

He was just now deeply shocked and agitated by the news of the death of
a faithful companion in the faith, the Bavarian minister Leonard Käser
or Kaiser, who was publicly burnt on August 16, 1527, in the town of
Scherding. Luther broke out, as he had done after Henry of Zütphen's
martyrdom, into a lamentation of his own unworthiness compared with
such heroes. He published an account of Leonard and his end, which had
been sent him by Michael Stiefel, adding a preface and conclusion of
his own. About the same time he composed a consolatory tract for the
Evangelical congregation at Halle-on-the-Saale, whose minister Winkler
had been murdered in the previous April.

In the autumn a new controversial treatise was published against him
by Erasmus, which he rightly described as a product of snakes; and
he now stood in the midst of the contest between Zwingli and
Oecolampadius. He exclaimed once in a letter to Jonas, 'O that
Erasmus and the Sacramentarians (Zwingli and his friends) could only
for a quarter of an hour know the misery of my heart. I am certain
that they would then honestly be converted. Now my enemies live, and
are mighty, and heap sorrow on sorrow upon me, whom God has already
crushed to the earth.'

The pestilence soon reached his friends. The wife of the physician
Schurf, who was then living in the same house with him, was attacked
by it, and only recovered slowly towards the beginning of November.
At the parsonage the wife of the chaplain or deacon George Rörer
succumbed to it on November 2, whereupon Luther took Bugenhagen and
his family from the panic-stricken house into his own dwelling. But
soon after dangerous symptoms showed themselves with a friend,
Margaret Mocha, who was then staying with Luther's family, and she
was actually ill unto death. His own wife was then near her
confinement. Luther was the more concerned about her, as Rörer's
wife, when in the same condition, had sickened and died. But Frau
Luther remained, as he says, firm in the faith, and retained her
health. Finally, towards the end of October his little son Hans fell
ill, and for twelve whole days would not eat. When the anniversary
of the ninety-five theses came round again, Luther wrote to Amsdorf
telling him of these troubles and anxieties, and concluded with the
words: 'So now there are struggles without and terror within.... It
is a comfort which we must set against the malice of Satan, that we
have the Word of God, whereby to save the souls of the faithful,
even though the devil devour their bodies.... Pray for us, that we
may endure bravely the hand of the Lord, and overcome the power and
craft of the devil, whether it be through death or life. Amen.
Wittenberg: All Saints' Day, the tenth anniversary of the death-blow
to indulgences, in thankful remembrance whereof we are now drinking
a toast.'

[Illustration: Fig. 36.--LUTHER. (From a Portrait by Cranach in
1528, at Berlin.)]

A short time afterwards Luther was able to send Jonas somewhat
better news about the sickness at home, though he was still sighing
with deep inward oppression; 'I suffer,' he said, 'the wrath of God,
because I have sinned in His sight. Pope, Emperor, princes, bishops,
and all the world hate me, and, as if that were not enough, my
brethren too (he means the Sacramentarians) must needs afflict me.
My sins, death, Satan with all his angels--all rage unceasingly;
and what could comfort me if Christ were to forsake me, for Whose
sake they hate me? But He will never forsake the poor sinner.' Then
follow the words above quoted about Erasmus and the Sacramentarians.

[Illustration: Fig. 37.--LUTHER'S WIFE. (From a Portrait by Cranach
in 1528, at Berlin.)]

Towards the middle of December the plague gradually abated. Luther
writes from home on the tenth of that month: 'My little boy is well
and happy again. Schurf's wife has recovered, Margaret has escaped
death in a marvellous manner. We have offered up five pigs, which
have died, on behalf of the sick.' And on his return home this day
to dinner from his lecture, his wife was safely delivered of a
little daughter, who received the name of Elizabeth.

To his own inward sufferings Luther rose superior by the
strengthening power of the conviction that even in these his Lord
and Saviour was with him, and that God had sent them for his own
good and that of others; that is to say, for his own discipline and
humbling. He applied to himself the words of St. Paul, 'As dying,
and behold we live;' nay, he wished not to be freed of his burden,
should his God and Saviour be glorified thereby.

Luther's famous hymn, _Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott_,
appeared for the first time, as has been recently proved, in a
little hymn-book, about the beginning of the following year. We can
see in it indeed a proof how anxious was that time for Luther. It
corresponds with his words, already quoted, on the anniversary of
the Reformation.

With the cessation of the pestilence and the return of his friends,
the new year seems to have brought him also a salutary change in his
physical condition; for his sufferings, which were caused by impeded
circulation, became sensibly diminished.

Since the outbreak, and during the continuance of the plague, the
work of Church visitation had been suspended. Melancthon, however,
who had followed the university to Jena, was commissioned meanwhile
to prepare provisionally some regulations and instructions for
further action in this matter, and in August Luther received the
articles which he had drafted for his examination and approval.

These articles or instructions comprised the fundamental principles
of Evangelical doctrine, as they were henceforth to be accepted by
the congregations. They were drawn up with especial regard to the
'rough common man,' who too often seemed deficient in the first
rudiments of Christian faith and life, and with regard also to many
of those confessing the new teaching, who, as Melancthon perceived,
were not unfairly accused of allowing the word of saving faith to be
made a 'cloak of maliciousness,' and who filled their sermons rather
with attacks against the Pope than with words of edifying purport.
Melancthon said on this point, 'those who fancy they have conquered
the Pope, have not really conquered the Pope.' And whilst teaching
that those who were troubled about their sins had only to have faith
in their forgiveness for the merits of Christ, to be justified in
the sight of God and to find comfort and peace, nevertheless, he
would have the people earnestly and specially reminded that this
faith could not exist without true repentance and the fear of God;
that such comfort could only be felt where such fear was present,
and that to achieve this end God's law, with its demands and threats
of punishment, would effectually operate upon the soul.

Luther himself had taught very explicitly, and in accordance with
his own experience of life, that the faith which saves through God's
joyful message of grace could only arise in a heart already bowed
and humbled by the law of God, and, having arisen, was bound to
employ itself actively in fruits of repentance; although, in stating
this doctrine, he had not perhaps so equally adjusted the
conditions, as Melancthon had here done. An outcry, however, now
arose from among the Romanists, that Melancthon no longer ventured
to uphold the Lutheran doctrine; of course it suited their interests
to fling a stone in this manner at Luther and his teaching. But what
was far more important, an attack was raised against Melancthon from
the circle of his immediate friends. Agricola of Eisleben, for
instance, would not hear of a repentance growing out of such
impressions produced by the Law and the fear of punishment. The
conversion of the sinner, he declared, must proceed solely and
entirely from the comforting knowledge of God's love and grace, as
revealed in His message to man: thence, further, and thence alone,
came the proper fear of God, a fear, not of His punishment, but of
Himself. This distinction he had failed to find in Melancthon's
Instructions. It was the first time that a dogmatic dispute
threatened to break out among those who had hitherto stood really
united on the common ground of Lutheran doctrine.

Luther, on the contrary, approved Melancthon's draft, and found
little to alter in it. What his opponents said did not disturb him;
he quieted the doubts of the Elector on that score. Whoever
undertook anything in God's cause, he said, must leave the devil his
tongue to babble and tell lies against it. He was particularly
pleased that Melancthon had 'set forth all in such a simple manner
for the common people.' Fine distinctions and niceties of doctrine
were out of place in such a work. Even Agricola, who wished to be
more Lutheran than Luther himself, was silenced.

Melancthon's work, after having been subjected by the Elector to
full scrutiny and criticism in several quarters, was published by
his command in March 1528, with a preface written by Luther, as
'Instructions of the Visitors to the parish priests in the
Electorate of Saxony.' In this preface Luther pointed out how
important and necessary for the Church was such a supervision and
visitation. He explained, as the reason why the Elector undertook
this office and sent out visitors, that since the bishops and
archbishops had proved faithless to their duty, no one else had been
found whose special business it was, or who had any orders to attend
to such matters. Accordingly, the local sovereign, as the temporal
authority ordained by God, had been requested to render this service
to the gospel, out of Christian charity, since, in his capacity as
civil ruler, he was under no obligation to do so. In like manner,
Luther afterwards described the Evangelical sovereigns as
'Makeshift-bishops' (_Nothbischöfe_). At the same time the
instructions for visitation introduced now in the smaller districts
the office of superintendent as one of permanent supervision.

In the course of the summer preparations were made for a visitation
on a large scale, embracing the whole country. The original
intention had been to deal, by means of one commission, with the
various districts in rotation. Such a course would have necessarily
entailed, as was admitted, much delay and other inconveniences. A
more comprehensive method was accordingly adopted, of letting
different commissions work simultaneously in the different
districts. Each of these commissions consisted of a theologian and a
few laymen, jurists, and councillors of state, or other officials.
Luther was appointed head of the commission for the Electoral
district. The work was commenced earlier in some districts than in
others. Luther's commission was the first to begin, on October 22,
and apparently in the diocese of Wittenberg.

Luther had already, since May 12, voluntarily undertaken a new and
onerous labour. Bugenhagen had left Wittenberg that day for the town
of Brunswick, where, at the desire of the local magistracy, he
carried out the work of reform in the Church, until his departure in
October for the same purpose to Hamburg, where he remained until the
following June. Luther undertook his pastoral duties in his absence,
and preached regularly three or four times in the week.
Nevertheless, he took his share also in the work of visitation; the
district assigned to him did not take him very far away from
Wittenberg. He remained there, actively engaged in this work, during
the following months, and with some few intervals, up to the spring.
From the end of January 1529 he again suffered for some weeks from
giddiness and a rushing noise in his head; he knew not whether it
was exhaustion or the buffeting of Satan, and entreated his friends
for their prayers on his behalf, that he might continue steadfast in
the faith.

The shortcomings and requirements brought to light by the visitation
corresponded to what Luther had expected. In his own district the
state of things was comparatively favourable; happily, a third of
the parishes had the Elector for their patron, and in the towns the
magistrates had, to some extent at least, fulfilled their duties
satisfactorily. The clergy, for the most part, were good enough for
the slender demands with which, under existing circumstances, their
parishioners had to be content. But things were worse in many other
parts of the country. A gross example of the rude ignorance then
prevailing, not only among the country people, but even among the
clergy, was found in a village near Torgau, where the old priest was
hardly able to repeat the Lord's Prayer and the Creed, but was in
high reputation far and near as an exorcist, and did a brisk
business in that line. Priests had frequently to be ejected for
gross immorality, drunkenness, irregular marriages, and such like
offences; many of them had to be forbidden to keep beer-houses, and
otherwise to practise worldly callings. On the other hand, we hear
of scarcely any priests so addicted to the Romish system as to put
difficulties in the way of the visitors. Poverty and destitution, so
Luther reports, were found everywhere. The worst feature was the
primitive ignorance of the common people, not only in the country
but partly also in the towns. We are told of one place where the
peasants did not know a single prayer; and of another, where they
refused to learn the Lord's Prayer, because it was too long. Village
schools were universally rare. The visitors had to be satisfied if
the children were taught the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten
Commandments by the clerk. A knowledge of these at least was
required for admission to the Communion.

Luther in the course of his visitations mixed freely with the
people, in the practical, energetic, and hearty manner so peculiar
to himself.

For the clergy, who needed a model for their preaching, and for the
congregations to whom their pastors, owing to their own incompetence,
had to preach the sermons of others, nothing more suitable for this
purpose could be offered than Luther's Church-Postills. Its use,
where necessary, was recommended. It had shortly before been
completed; that is to say, after Luther in 1525 had finished the
portion for the winter half-year, his friend Roth, of Zwickau,
brought out in 1527 a complete edition of sermons for the Sundays
of the summer half-year, and all the feast-days and holidays,
compiled from printed copies and manuscripts of detached sermons.

The most urgent task, however, that Luther now felt himself bound to
perform, was the compilation of a Catechism suitable for the people,
and, above all, for the young. Four years before, he had endeavoured
to encourage friends to write one. His 'German Mass' of 1526 said:
'The first thing wanted for German public worship is a rough,
simple, good Catechism;' and further on in that treatise he declared
that he knew of no better way of imparting such Christian
instruction, than by means of the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and
the Lord's Prayer, for they summed up, briefly and simply, almost
all that was necessary for a Christian to know.

He now took in hand at once, early in 1529, and amidst all the
business of the visitations, a larger work, which was intended to
instruct the clergy how to understand and explain those three main
articles of the faith, and also the doctrines of Baptism and the
Lord's Supper. This work is his so-called 'Greater Catechism,'
originally entitled simply the 'German Catechism.'

Shortly afterwards followed the 'Little Catechism,'--called also the
'Enchiridion'--which contains in an abbreviated form, adapted to
children and simple understandings, the contents of his larger work,
set out here in the form of question and answer. 'I have been
induced and compelled,' says Luther in his introduction, 'to
compress this Catechism, or Christian teaching, into this modest and
simple form, by the wretched and lamentable state of spiritual
destitution which I have recently in my visitations found to prevail
among the people. God help me! how much misery have I seen! The
common folk, especially the villagers, know absolutely nothing of
Christian doctrine, and alas, many of the parish priests are almost
too ignorant or incapable to teach them!' He entreats therefore his
brother clergymen to take pity on the people, to assist in bringing
home the Catechism to them, and more particularly to the young; and
to this end, if no better way commended itself, to take these forms
before them, and explain them word by word.

For the use of the pastors, he added to this Catechism a short tract
on Marriage, and in the second edition, which followed immediately
after, he subjoined a reprint of his treatise on Baptism, which he
had published three years before.

The Catechism met the requirements of simple minds and of a
Christian's ordinary daily life, by providing also forms of prayer
for rising, going to bed, and eating, and lastly a manual for
households, with Scriptural texts for all classes. This ends with
the words--

  Let each his lesson learn to spell,
  And then his house will prosper well.

To the clergy, in particular, Luther addressed himself, that they
might imbue the people in this manner with Christian truth. But he
wished also, as he said, to instruct every head of a household how
to 'set forth that truth simply and clearly to his servants,' and
teach them to pray, and to thank God for His blessings.

The contents of the Catechism were carefully confined to the
highest, simplest, and thoroughly practical truths of Christian
teaching, without any trace or feature of polemics. In its
composition, as for instance, in his exposition of the Lord's
Prayer, and in his small prayers above mentioned, he availed himself
of old materials. How excellently this Catechism, with its
originality and clearness, its depth and simplicity, responded to
the wants not only of his own time, but of after generations, has
been proved by its having remained in use for centuries, and amid so
many different ranks of life and such various degrees of culture.
Except his translation of the Bible, this little book of Luther is
the most important and practically useful legacy which he has
bequeathed to his people.

The visitations were over when the two Catechisms appeared, although
they had not yet been held in all the parishes. Events of another
kind and dangers threatening elsewhere now demanded the first
attention of the Elector and the Reformers.


UP TO 1528.

Luther's controversy with Erasmus, the most important of the
champions of Catholic Churchdom, had terminated, it will be
remembered, so far as Luther was concerned, with his treatise 'On
the Bondage of the Will.' To the new tract which Erasmus published
against him, in two parts, in 1526 and 1527, and which, though
insignificant in substance, was violent and insulting enough in
tone, Luther made no reply. Erasmus, nevertheless, to the pleasure
of himself and his patrons in high places, continued his virulent
attacks on the Reformation, which was bringing ruin, he declared, on
the noble arts and letters, and carrying anarchy into the Church,
while he himself, in his own mediating manner, and in the sense and
with the help of the temporal rulers, was doing his best to promote
certain reforms in the Church, within the pale of the ancient
system, and on its proper hierarchical basis. On what principles,
however, that basis was established, and the Divine rights of the
hierarchy reposed, he wisely abstained, now as he had done before,
from explaining. In Luther's eyes he was merely a refined Epicurean,
who had inward doubts about religion and Christianity, and treated
both with disdain.

Luther's letter to Henry VIII., which we have noticed in an earlier
chapter, took a long time before it reached the King, and before the
latter could send an answer to it. The writing of that answer must
have given his royal adversary much satisfaction; it turned out a
good deal coarser than even the one from Duke George; Luther's
marriage in particular afforded Henry an occasion for insulting
language. Emser published it in German early in 1527, adding some
vituperations and falsehoods of his own. Luther's only object in
replying was to dissipate any impression that he had ever declared
to Henry his readiness to recant. His reply consisted of a few but
powerfully written pages. He pointed out that in his letter he had
expressly excepted his doctrines from any offer of retractation;
upon these doctrines he took his stand, let kings and the devil do
their worst. Beyond these he had nothing which so encouraged his
heart, and gave him such strength and joy. To the personal insults
and imputations of sensuality and so forth, which Henry VIII., this
man of unbridled passions, had poured upon him, he replied that he
was well aware that, in regard to his personal life, he was a poor
sinner, and that he was glad his enemies were all saints and angels.
He added, however, that though he knew himself to be a sinner before
God and his dear Christian brethren, he wished at the same time to
be virtuous before the world, and that virtuous he was--so much so
that his enemies were not worthy to unloose the latchet of his
shoes. With regard to his letter to Henry he acknowledged that in
this, as in his letter to Duke George, and others, he had been
tempted to make a foolish trial of humility. 'I am a fool, and
remain a fool, for putting faith so lightly in others.'

Luther reverts in this reply to enemies of a different sort, who
make his heart still heavier. These are to him his 'tender
children,' his 'little brothers,' his 'golden little friends, the
spirits of faction and the fanatics,' who would not have known
anything worth knowing either of Christ or of the gospel, if Luther
had not previously written about it. He alluded, in particular, to
the new 'Sacramentarians,' and to Zwingli their leader.

Although this is the first time that Zwingli makes his appearance in
the history of Luther, and was never treated by him otherwise than
as a new offshoot of fanaticism, it is important, in order to
understand and appreciate him aright, to bear in mind the fact that,
himself only a few months younger than Luther, he had been working
since 1519 among the community at Zurich as an independent and
progressive Evangelical Reformer, and had extended his active
influence over Switzerland, however little noticed he had been at

His career hitherto had been made easier for him than was the case
with Luther. The Grand Council of the city of Zurich not only
afforded him their protection, but in 1520 decreed full liberty to
preach the Gospels and Epistles of the Apostles in the sense he
ascribed to them, and in 1523 formally declared their acceptance of
his doctrines, and abolished all idolatrous practices. No Recess of
a Diet was here to disturb or threaten him. The Pope, for political
reasons, behaved with unwonted caution and discretion: he delayed in
this case for several years the ban of excommunication which he had
pronounced so readily against Luther. Even Hadrian, the man of firm
character, to whom Luther was an object of abhorrence, had only
gracious and insinuating words for the Zurich Reformer. The Zurich
authorities, at the same time, acting in concert with Zwingli,
adopted severe measures against any intrusion of fanatics and
Anabaptists, nor did the entire population of the small republic
contain any great number of persons so thoroughly neglected, and so
difficult of influence by preachers, as was the case with the
country people in Germany. Well might Zwingli press forward with a
lighter heart than Luther's in his work.

[Illustration: Fig. 38.--ZWINGLI. (From an old engraving.)]

Personally, moreover, he had never passed through such severe inward
struggles as Luther, nor had ever wrestled with such spiritual
anguish and distress. The thought of reconciliation with God, and
the comforting of conscience by the assurance of His forgiving
mercy, were not with Zwingli, as with Luther, the centre and focus
of his aspirations and religious interests. He knew not that fervour
and intenseness which made Luther grasp at every means for bringing
home God's grace to congregations of believers, or to each individual
Christian according to his spiritual need. His view, from the very
first, extended rather to the totality of religious truth, as revealed
by God in Scripture, but sadly disfigured in the creeds of the Church
by man's additions and misinterpretations; and he aimed, far more than
Luther, at a reconstruction of moral, and especially of communal life,
in conformity with what the Word of God appeared to demand. It was
easier for him, therefore, to break with the past: critical scruples
against tradition did not weigh so heavily on his conscience. His
critical faculties, no doubt, were sharpened by the humanistic culture
he had acquired. Compared with Luther's peculiar meditative mood, and
his half-choleric, half-melancholic temperament, Zwingli evinced, in
all his conduct and demeanour, a more clear and sober intelligence,
and a far calmer and more easy disposition. His practical policy and
conduct was allied with a tendency to judicial severity, in contrast
to the free spirit which animated Luther. So rigorous and narrow-minded
was his zeal against the toleration of images, that the Wittenberg
theologians could not help detecting in him a spirit akin to that
of Carlstadt and the other fanatics. In renouncing the Catholic
doctrine of transubstantiation and the idea of a sacrifice, Zwingli
had rejected altogether the supposition of a Real Presence of Christ's
Body at the Sacrament; nay, as he declared later on, he had never truly
believed in it. He quoted the words of Christ, 'The flesh profiteth
nothing' (St. John vi. 63). He would understand by the Sacrament
simply a spiritual feeding of the faithful, who, by the Word of God
and His Spirit, are enabled to enjoy in faith the salvation
purchased by the death of Christ. He saw no particular necessity for
offering this salvation to them by an administration of Christ's
Body, which had been given for them, through the visible medium of
the bread; nor did he see how by so doing their faith could be
strengthened. In Luther's view the practical significance of the
Real Presence lay in this, that in this special manner the
Christian, who felt his need of salvation, was assured, and became a
partaker, of forgiveness and communion with his Saviour. With
Zwingli, such a visible communication of the Divine gift of
salvation was opposed to his conception of God and the Divine
Nature; just as this conception was opposed to that kind of union of
the Divine and human nature in Christ Himself, by virtue of which,
according to Luther, Christ was able and willing to be actually
present everywhere in the Sacrament with His human, transfigured
body. Inasmuch, said Zwingli, as this spiritual feeding took place
in faith everywhere, and not only at the Sacrament, it was no
essential part of the Sacrament; the real essence whereof consisted
in this, that the faithful here confessed by that act their common
belief in the commemoration of Christ's death, and, as members of
His Body, pledged themselves to such belief: he called the Sacrament
the symbol of a pledge. Luther himself, as we have seen, had taught
from the first that the Sacrament or Communion should represent the
union of Christians with the spiritual Body, or their communion of
the spirit, of faith, and of love. But with him this communion was a
secondary condition; it was the feeding on the Body of Christ
Himself which was to promote such communion with one another and,
above all, with Christ. Zwingli explained the word 'is' of our Lord,
in His institution of the Sacrament, to mean 'signifies.'
Oecolampadius preferred the explanation that the bread was not the
Body in the proper sense of the word, but a symbol of the Body. In
point of fact, this was a distinction without a difference.

Such, briefly stated, was the doctrinal controversy in which the two
Reformers, the German and the Swiss, now engaged, and which had
first brought them into contact.

About the same time Luther made the acquaintance of another opponent
of his doctrine of the Lord's Supper, the Silesian Kaspar
Schwenkfeld. He also, like his friend Valentin Krautwald, denied the
Real Presence; but sought to interpret the words of institution in
yet another manner, connecting with his theory of their meaning
deeper mystical ideas of the means of salvation in general, which at
least in some quarters and to a small extent, have still survived.

In all of them, however--in Carlstadt, Zwingli, Schwenkfeld, and the
rest--Luther, as he wrote to his friends at Reutlingen, perceived
only one and the same puffed up, carnal mind, twisting about and
struggling, to avoid having to remain subject to the Word of God.

His first public declaration against Zwingli's new doctrine was in
1526, in his preface to the Syngramma or treatise of the fourteen
Swabian ministers, written, as his opening words express it,
'against the new fanatics, who put forth novel dreams about the
Sacrament, and confuse the world.'

Blow upon blow followed in the battle thus commenced. While
Oecolampadius was busy composing a reply to the treatise and its
preface, by which he in particular had been assailed, Luther
proceeded to follow up the attack. The same year he published a
'Sermon on the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, against
the Fanatics;' and in the following spring a larger work with the
title 'A Proof that Christ's Words of Institution, "This is My
Body," &c., still stand, against the Fanatics.' He concludes the
latter with the wish, 'God grant that they may be converted to the
truth; if not, that they may twist cords of vanity wherewith to
catch themselves, and fall into my hands.' Just then, however,
Zwingli had written against him, and to him, and the missive arrived
at the moment when he had issued the last-named work. Zwingli wrote
in Latin, entitling his tract, 'A Friendly Exposition of the matter
concerning the Sacrament,' and sent it with a letter to Luther.
These were followed almost immediately by a reply, in German, to
Luther's Sermon, under the title of 'A Friendly Criticism of the
Sermon of the Excellent Martin Luther against the Fanatics.' Zwingli
had scarcely had Luther's last written work in his hands when he
replied to it in a new treatise: 'A proof that Christ's words, "This
is My Body which is given for you," will for all ages retain the
ancient and only meaning, and that Martin Luther in his last book
has neither taught nor proved his own and the Pope's meaning;' the
title thus indicating that Luther's and the Pope's meaning were one
and the same. Oecolampadius at the same time published 'A fair
Reply' to Luther's work. These were the writings of the
Sacramentarians which reached Luther during the troublous time of
the plague at Wittenberg, and filled him with the pain of which we
heard him then complain.

Zwingli's doctrine, from the time of its first announcement, had
seemed to Luther nothing but a visionary--nay, 'devilish' perversion
of the truth and the Word of God. The progress of the controversy,
so far from healing the difference between them, tended only to
sharpen and intensify it. From the first hour the two Reformers met
in opposition, the gulf was already fixed which henceforth divided
Evangelical Protestantism into two separate Confessions and Church

This is not the place to pass judgment on the matter in controversy,
or to trace minutely the leading points of dogma involved in the
dispute. Regarding it, however, by the light of history, it must be
acknowledged and avowed that this was no mere passionate quarrel
about words alone or propositions of dogmatic and metaphysical
interest, but devoid of any religious importance. Even in the
attempts to establish points of detail, reference was constantly
made, on both sides, to deep questions and views of Christian

Not only did Zwingli and Oecolampadius, in their anti-literal and
figurative interpretation of the words of institution, endeavour to
support it by Scriptural analogies, more or less appropriate, but
in the practical objections they raised, which Luther treated as
over-curious subtleties of human reason, they were actuated in reality
by motives of a religious character. In their view, a pure and
reverential conception of God was inconsistent with the idea of such
an offertory of Divine gifts, consisting of material elements and
for mere bodily nourishment. Not indeed that Luther, in accepting
the words in their literal sense, had become a slave to the letter,
in contradiction to the free and lofty spirit in which he had
elsewhere accepted the contents of Holy Scripture. The question with
him here was about a word of unique importance--a word used by
Christ on the threshold, so to speak, of His death for our
redemption; and we have already remarked what value he attached to
the actual bodily presence indicated by that word, as assuring and
imparting salvation to those who partook at His table in faith. No
analogies to the contrary, derived from other figurative
expressions, would content him, though of course he never denied
that such expressions could and did occur throughout the Bible. The
text, 'The flesh profiteth nothing,' on which Zwingli primarily
relied, Luther understood as referring not to the flesh of Christ,
but to the carnal mind of man; though he was careful to declare that
it was not the fleshly presence, as such, of our Saviour which gave
the Sacrament its value and importance; nor must the feeding of the
communicants be a mere bodily feeding, but that the word and promise
of Christ were there present, and that faith alone in that word and
promise could make the feeding bring salvation. God's glory was
therein exalted to the highest, that from His pitying love he made
Himself equal with the lowest.

In the doctrine concerning the person of the Redeemer, a point to
which the controversy further led, the Church had hitherto affirmed
simply a union of the Divine and human natures, each retaining the
attributes and qualities peculiar to itself. Luther wished to see in
the Man Jesus, the Divine nature, which stooped to share humanity,
conceived and realised with deeper and more active fervour. As the
Son of God He died for us, and as the Son of Man He was exalted,
with His body, to sit at the right hand of God, which is not limited
to any place, and is at once nowhere and everywhere. It is true,
Luther does not proceed to explain how this body is still a human
body, or indeed a body at all. Zwingli, in keeping the two natures
distinct, wished to preserve the sublimity of his God and the
genuine humanity of the Redeemer; but in so doing, he ended by
making the two natures run parallel, so to speak, in a mere stiff,
dogmatic formulary, and by an artificial interpretation and analysis
of the words of Scripture touching the One Jesus, the Son of God and

The manner, however, in which this controversy was conducted on both
sides betrays an utter failure on the part of either combatant to
apprehend and do justice to the religious and Christian motives,
which, with all their antagonism, never ceased to animate the
opposite party. Luther's attitude towards Zwingli we have already
noticed. We have seen how his zeal, in particular, prompted him too
often to see in the conduct of individual opponents simply and
solely the dominating influence of that spirit, from which certain
pernicious tendencies, according to his own convictions, proceeded
and had to be combated. Thus it was in this instance. It was all
visionary nonsense, nay, sheer devilry, and be attacked it in language
of proportionate violence. From Zwingli a different attitude was to
be expected, from the amicable titles of his treatises and the
personal correspondence with Luther which he himself invited. He
adopted here for the most part, as in other matters, a calm and
courteous tone, and exercised a power of self-restraint to which
Luther was a stranger. But with a lofty mien, though in the same
tone, he rejected Luther's propositions, as the fruit of ludicrous
obstinacy and narrowness of mind, nay, as a retrograde step into
Popery. His letter, moreover, embittered the contest by importing
into it extraneous matter of reproach, such as, in particular,
Luther's conduct in the Peasants' War. Luther had reason to say of him,
'He rages against me, and threatens me with the utmost moderation and
modesty.' Zwingli's later replies evince a straightforwardness we miss
in the earlier ones, but they are marred by much rudeness and coarseness
of language, and display throughout a lofty self-consciousness and a
triumphant assurance of victory.

Luther, after reading the last-mentioned treatises of Zwingli and
Oecolampadius, resolved to publish one answer more, the last; for
Satan, he said, must not be suffered to hinder him further in the
prosecution of other and more important matters. At this time he was
particularly anxious to complete his translation of the Bible, being
now hard at work with the books of the Prophets. His answer to
Zwingli grew ultimately into the most exhaustive of all his
contributions to the dispute. It appeared in March 1528 under the
title of 'Confession concerning the Lord's Supper.' He went over
once more all the most important questions and arguments which had
formed the subject of contention, expounded his ideas more fully on
the Person and Presence of Christ, and explained calmly and
impressively the passages of Scripture relating thereto. He
concluded with a short summary of his own confession of Christian
faith, that men might know, both then and after his death, how
carefully and diligently he had thought over everything, and that
future teachers of error might not pretend that Luther would have
taught many things otherwise at another time and after further

Zwingli and Oecolampadius hastened at once to prepare new pamphlets
in reply, and to publish them with a dedication to the Elector John
and the Landgrave Philip. But Luther adhered to his resolve. He let
them have the last word, as he had done with Erasmus. They had not
contributed anything new to the dispute.

While Luther was writing his last treatise against the
Sacramentarians, he found himself obliged to issue a fresh protest
against the Anabaptists. This was a tract entitled 'On Anabaptism;
to two pastors.' But while denouncing these sectaries, he protested
strongly against the manner in which the civil authorities were
dealing with them, by the infliction of punishment and even death on
account of their principles, even when no seditious conduct could be
alleged against them. Everyone, he said, should be allowed to
believe what he liked. Similarly he wrote to Nüremberg shortly
after, where as we have already mentioned, the new errors were
spreading, saying that he could in no wise admit the right to
execute false prophets or teachers; it was quite enough to expel
them. Luther in this distinguished himself above most of the men of
the Reformation. At Zurich, while Zwingli was accusing Luther of
cruelty, Anabaptists were being drowned in public.

The foreground is now occupied again by the struggle with
Catholicism--in other words, by the contest with the German princes
who were hostile to the Reformation, and with the Emperor himself
and the majority of the Diet.


MARBURG, 1529.

In the war against the Pope and France an imperial army in 1527 had
stormed and plundered Borne. God, as Luther said, had so ordained,
that the Emperor, who persecuted Luther for the Pope, had to destroy
the Pope for Luther. But Charles V. was not then in a position to
break with the Head of the Church. In the treaty concluded with the
Pope in November, mention was again made of extirpating the Lutheran
heresy. And whilst in Italy the war with France was still going on,
the Emperor in the spring of 1528 sent an ambassador to the German
Courts, to rouse fresh zeal for the Church in this matter.

But before the threatened danger actually reached the Evangelical
party, it was preceded by disquieting rumours and false alarms.

In March 1528 a new Diet was to assemble at Ratisbon. Luther heard
in February of strange designs being meditated there by the Papists.
His wish was that Charles's brother Ferdinand might be detained in
Hungary, where he was occupied in fighting the Turks and their
_protégé,_ Prince John Zapolya of Transylvania, and that the
Diet should be prevented from meeting. Luther's adversaries, on the
other hand, feared an unfavourable decision from the Estates, and
the Emperor at length peremptorily forbade their meeting.

Just about this time, John Pack, a steward of the chancery who had
been dismissed by Duke George of Saxony, came to the Landgrave
Philip and informed him of a league concluded with King Ferdinand by
the Dukes of Saxony and Bavaria, the Electors of Mayence and
Brandenburg, and several Bishops, to attack the Evangelical princes.
The Electorate of Saxony, where John was just then engaged in
completing the re-organisation of the Church, was to be partitioned
among them, and Hesse was to be allotted to Duke George. John and
Philip quickly formed an offensive and defensive alliance, and
called out their troops. The whole scheme, as was shortly proved
beyond dispute, was an invention, and the pretended treaty a
forgery, of Pack, who had been paid a large sum for his revelations.
Luther himself had no doubt of the genuineness of the document, and
persisted even afterwards in his belief. But while the Landgrave,
with his habitual vehemence, was impatient to strike quickly, before
their enemies were prepared, both Luther and the other Wittenberg
theologians did their utmost to restrain their sovereign from any
act of violence. Luther earnestly bade him remember the words:
'Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth' (St. Matt.
v. 5),--'As much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men' (Rom.
xii. 18),--'Those that take the sword, shall perish with the sword'
(St. Matt. xxvi. 52). He warned them that 'one durst not paint the
devil over one's door, nor ask him to stand godfather.' He feared a
civil war among the princes, which would be worse than a rising of
the peasants, and utterly ruinous to Germany. Philip accordingly
stayed his hand, until the reply of his supposed enemies, from whom
he demanded an explanation, puzzled him as to the meaning of Pack's

A private letter sent by Luther to Link, in which he spoke of George
as a fool, and said he mistrusted his promises, led afterwards, on
George's learning its contents, to a new and bitter quarrel between
the two. The Duke made a violent attack on Luther in a pamphlet,
which appeared early in 1521, to which the latter replied with equal
violence, denouncing the abuse of 'secret (_i.e._ private) and
stolen letters.' George retorted in the same strain, and persuaded
his cousin John, to whom he addressed a formal complaint, to
prohibit Luther from printing anything more against him without
Electoral permission;--a step which effectually silenced his

On November 30, 1528, the Emperor summoned a Diet to meet at Spires
on February 21 of the following year, in order that decisive and
energetic measures should be taken--as recommended once more by the
Pope--to secure the unity and sole supremacy of the Catholic Church.
The chief subjects named for deliberation were, the armament against
the Turks, and the innovations in matters of religion.

As regards the war against the Turks, Luther, who had previously let
fall some occasional remarks about certain wholesome effects it
would have in checking the designs of the Papacy, let his voice be
heard, notwithstanding, in summoning the whole nation to do battle
against the fearful and horrible enemy, whom they had hitherto
suffered so shamefully to oppress them. Since the latter part of the
summer of 1528 he had been engaged upon a pamphlet 'On the War
against the Turks,' the publication of which was accidentally
delayed till March, when he was busy with his Catechism.

In this pamphlet he spoke to his fellow-Germans, with the noblest
fire and in the fulness of his strength, as a Christian, a citizen,
and a patriot, and with a clearness and decision derived from
convictions and principles of his own. He had no wish to preach a
new crusade; for the sword had nothing to do with religion, but only
with bodily and temporal things. But he exhorted and encouraged the
authority, whom God had entrusted with temporal power, to take up
the sword against the all-devouring enemy, with sure trust in God
and certain confidence in his mission. By the 'authority' he meant
the Emperor, in whom he recognised the head of Germany. He it was
who must fight against the Turks; under his banner they must march,
and upon that banner should be seen the command of God, which said
'Protect the righteous, but punish the wicked.' 'But,' asked Luther,
'how many are there who can read those words on the Emperor's
banner, or who seriously believe in them?' He complained that
neither Emperor nor princes properly believed that they were Emperor
and princes, and therefore thought little about the protection they
owed to their subjects. Further on he rebuked the princes for
letting matters go on as if they had no concern in them, instead of
advising and assisting the Emperor with all the means in their
power. He knew well the pride of some of the princes, who would like
to see the Emperor a nonentity and themselves the heroes and
masters. Rebellion, he said, was punished in the case of the
peasants; but if rebellion were punished also among princes and
nobles, he fancied there would be very few of them left. He feared
that the Turk would bring some such punishment upon them, and he
prayed God to avert it. Finally, he bade them remember not to buckle
on their armour too loosely, and underrate their enemies, as Germans
were too prone to do. He warned them not to tempt God by inadequate
preparation, and sacrifice the poor Germans at the shambles, nor as
soon as the victory was won to 'sit down again and carouse until the
hour of need returned.'

At Spires, however, the whole zeal of the imperial commissaries and
of the Catholic Estates was directed, not against the common enemy
of Germany and Christendom, but to the internal affairs of the
Church. They succeeded in passing a resolution or article, declaring
that those States which had held to the Edict of Worms should
continue to impose its execution on their subjects; the other States
should abstain at least from further innovations. The celebration of
the mass was not to be obstructed, nor was anyone to be prevented
from hearing it. The subjects of one State were never to be
protected by another State against their own. By these means, not
only was the Reformation prevented from spreading farther, but it
was cut off at a blow in those places where it had already been in
full swing. By the decision respecting the mass, room was given for
attempts to reinstate it on Evangelical territory; by the other
decision respecting the subjects of different States, power was
given to the bishops of the German Empire to coerce, if they chose,
the local clergy, as their subordinates. Further steps in the
exercise of this power could easily be anticipated.

This resolution of the majority was answered on April 19 by the
Evangelical party with a formal protest, from which they received
the name their descendants still bear--Protestants. They insisted
that the Imperial Recess unanimously agreed on at the first Diet of
Spires in 1526 could only be altered by the unanimous consent of the
States; and they declared 'that, even apart from that, in matters
relating to the honour of God and the salvation of our souls, every
man must stand alone before God and give account for himself.' In
these matters, therefore, "they could not submit to the resolution
of the majority."

The majority, however, as well as Ferdinand, the Emperor's brother
and representative, refused to admit their right of opposition. The
minority must prepare to submit to coercion and the exercise of
force. Against this the Elector and Landgrave concluded, on April
22, a 'secret agreement' with the cities of Nüremberg, Strasburg,
and Ulm. The Landgrave was eager that this alliance should be
strengthened by the admission of Zurich and the other Evangelical
towns in Switzerland. And a similar proposal was made to him by
Zwingli, who, in connection with his ecclesiastical labours, was
carrying on a bold and high policy, in striving to effect an
alliance with the republic of Venice and the King of France against
the Emperor, He certainly far overrated the importance of his town
in the great affairs of the world, and placed a strangely naive
confidence in the French monarch.

Luther, on the contrary, set his face as resolutely now as in the
affair of Pack, against any appeal to the sword in support of the
gospel. He would have his friends rely on God and not on the wit of
man; and, with regard to the last Diet, he was quite content that
God had not allowed their enemies to rage even more. He was willing
even to trust to the Emperor for relief; the Evangelical party, he
said, should represent to his Majesty how their sole concern was for
the gospel and for the removal of abuses which no one could deny to
exist; how, at the same time, they had resisted the iconoclasts and
other riotous fanatics, nay, how the suppression of the Anabaptists
and the peasants was pre-eminently due to them, and how they had
been the first to bring to light and vindicate the rights and
majesty of authority. A representation of this kind, he hoped, must
surely have an influence on the Emperor. He flatly rejected any
alliance with those,--namely, the Swiss,--who 'strive thus against
God and the Sacrament;' such an alliance would disgrace the gospel
and draw down their sins upon their heads. This opinion, in which
the other Wittenberg theologians, and especially Melancthon,
concurred, determined that of the Elector.

The Landgrave did his utmost to remove this obstacle to an alliance
with the Swiss. He urged a personal conference between the rival
theologians on the question of the Sacrament. Luther and Melancthon
were strongly opposed to such a step, inasmuch as the course of the
controversy hitherto had not revealed a single point which offered
any hope of reconciliation or mutual approach. Luther reminded him
how, ten years before, the Leipzig disputation served only to make
bad worse. Intrigues, moreover, were apprehended from the other
side, lest the Lutherans should be held up to odium as the enemies
of unity and obstacles to an alliance, and the Landgrave be
alienated from them. Melancthon, indeed, had brought with him from
Spires, where he had been staying with Philip, a suspicion that the
latter inclined to the Zwinglians, and was right in his conjecture
at least so far, that their doctrine did not appear to him nearly so
questionable as to the Wittenbergers. But the simple fear of
consequences made Luther unwilling and unable to refuse the
Landgrave's urgent invitation, backed as it was with the concurrence
of the Elector. He wrote to him on June 23, declaring his readiness
to 'render him this useless service with all diligence,' and only
entreated him to consider once more whether it would do more good
than harm. The conference was to take place at the Castle of Marburg
on Michaelmas day (1529).

Luther's sentiments in the interval are expressed in a letter which
he wrote on August 2 to a distant friend, the pastor Brismann at
Eiga. 'Philip (Melancthon) and myself,' he says, 'after many
refusals and much vain resistance, have been at length compelled to
give our consent, because of the Landgrave's importunity; but I know
not yet whether our going will come to anything. We have no hopes of
any good result, but suspect artifice on all sides, that our enemies
may be able to boast of having gained the victory.... I am pretty
well in body, but inwardly weak, suffering like Peter from want of
faith; but the prayers of my brethren support me.... That youth of
Hesse is restless, and boiling over with projects.... Thus
everywhere we are threatened with more danger from our own people
than from our enemies. Satan rests not, in his bloodthirstiness,
from the work of murder and bloodshed.'

In the same letter Luther tells of the panic caused by a new
pestilence--the Sweating Sickness--which had appeared in Germany and
at Wittenberg itself. It was a plague, known already many years
before, which used to attack its victims with fever, sweat, thirst,
intense pain and exhaustion, and snatch them off with fearful
rapidity. Luther knew well the danger of it when once it actually
appeared. But he watched without terror the supposed symptoms of its
appearance at Wittenberg, and remarked that the sickness there was
mainly caused by fright. On the 27th he told another friend how the
night before he had awoke bathed in sweat, and tormented with
anxious thoughts, so much so, that had he given way to them he might
very likely have fallen ill like so many others. He named also
several of his acquaintances, whom he had driven out of bed, when
they lay there fancying themselves ill, and who were now laughing at
their own fancies.

The Emperor, meanwhile, concluded a final treaty with the Pope on
June 29, and on August 5 made peace with King Francis. By this
treaty of Barcelona he pledged himself to provide a suitable
antidote to the poisonous infection of the new opinions. By the
peace of Cambray he renewed the promise, given in the treaty of
Madrid, of a mutual cooperation of the two monarchs for the
extirpation of heresy.

At Marburg the meeting now actually took place between the
theological champions of that great religious movement which strove
to set up the gospel against the domination of Rome, and was
therefore condemned by Rome as heretical. It was now to be decided
whether the anti-Romanists could not become united among themselves;
whether the two hostile parties in this movement could not, at least
in face of the common danger, join to make a powerful united Church.
Zwingli's political conduct, and the cheerful and submissive
readiness with which he had complied with the Landgrave's proposal,
afforded ground for expecting that, while steadfastly adhering to
his own doctrine, he would embrace such an alliance, notwithstanding
their doctrinal differences. Everything now really depended upon

Zwingli and Oecolampadius met the Strasburg theologians, Butzer and
Hedio, and Jacob Sturm, the leading citizen of that town, on
September 29, at Marburg. The next day they were joined by Luther
and Melancthon, together with Jonas and Cruciger from Wittenberg and
Myeonius from Gotha; and afterwards came the preachers Osiander from
Nüremberg, Brenz from Schwäbish Hall, and Stephen Agricola from
Augsburg. The Landgrave entertained them in a friendly and sumptuous
manner at his castle.

On October 1, the day after his arrival, Luther was summoned by the
Landgrave to a private conference with Oecolampadius, towards whom
he had always felt more confidence, and whom he had greeted in a
friendly manner when they met. Melancthon, being of a calmer
temperament, was left to confer with Zwingli. As regards the main
subject of the controversy, the question of the Sacrament, no
practical result was arrived at between the parties. But on certain
other points, in which Zwingli had been suspected by the
Wittenbergers, and in which he partly differed from them--for
instance, concerning the Church doctrine of the Trinity in Unity,
and the Godhead of Christ, and the doctrine of original sin--he
offered explanations to Melancthon, the result of which was that
the two came to an agreement.

The general debate began on Sunday, October 2, at six o'clock in the
morning. The theologians assembled for that purpose in an apartment
in the east wing of the castle, before the Landgrave himself, and a
number of nobles and guests of the court, including the exiled Duke
Ulrich of Würtemberg. Out of deference to the audience, the language
used was to be German. Zwingli had wished, instead, that anyone who
desired it might be admitted to hear, but that the discussion should
be held in Latin, which he could speak with greater fluency. The
four theologians last mentioned, who were to conduct the debate, sat
together at a table. Luther, however, assumed the lead of his side;
Melancthon only put in a few remarks here and there. The Landgrave's
chancellor, Feige, opened the proceedings with a formal address.

Luther at the outset requested that his opponents should first
express their opinions upon other points of doctrine which seemed to
him doubtful; but he waived this request on Oecolampadius's replying
that he was not aware that such doubts involved any contradiction to
Luther's doctrine, and on Zwingli's appealing to his agreement
recently effected with Melancthon. All he himself had to do, said
Luther, was to declare publicly, that with regard to those doubts he
disagreed entirely with certain expressions contained in their
earlier writings. The chief question was then taken in hand.

The arguments and counter-arguments, set forth by the combatants at
various times in their writings, were now succinctly but
exhaustively recapitulated. But they were neither strengthened
further nor enlarged. The disputants were constrained to listen
during this debate to the oral utterances of their opponents with
more deference than they had done for the most part in their
literary controversy, with its hasty and passionate expressions on
each side.

Luther from the outset took his stand, as he had done before, on the
simple words of institution, 'This is my Body.' He had chalked them
down before him on the table. His opponents, he maintained, ought to
give to God the honour due to Him, by believing His 'pure and
unadorned Word.'

Zwingli and Oecolampadius, on the contrary, relied mainly, as
heretofore, on the words of Christ in the sixth chapter of St. John,
where He evidently alluded to a spiritual feeding, and declared that
'the flesh profiteth nothing.' Honour must be given to God, he said,
by accepting from Him this clear interpretation of His Word. Luther
agreed with them, as previously, that Jesus there spoke only of the
spiritual partaking by the faithful, but maintained that in the
Sacrament He had, in his words of institution, superadded the offer
of His Body for the strengthening of faith and that these words were
not useless or unmeaning, but of potent efficacy through the Word of
God. 'I would eat even crab-apples,' said Luther, without asking
why, if the Lord put them before me, and said "Take and eat."' He
fired up when Zwingli answered that the passage in St. John 'broke
Luther's neck,' the expression not being as familiar to him as to
the Swiss: the Landgrave himself had to step in as a mediator and
quiet them.

In the afternoon Luther's opponents proceeded to argue 'that Christ
could not be present with His Body at the Sacrament, because His
Body was in heaven, and the body, as such, was confined within
circumscribed limits, and could only be present in one place at a
time. Luther then asked, with reference to the objection that Christ
was in heaven and at the right hand of God, why Zwingli insisted on
taking those words in such a nakedly literal sense. He declined to
enter upon explanations as to the locality of the Body, though he
could well have disputed for a long time on that subject: for the
omnipotence of God, he said, by virtue whereof that Body was present
everywhere at the Sacrament, stood above all mathematics. Of greater
weight to him must have been the argument of Zwingli, which at any
rate had a Christian and biblical aspect, that Christ with His flesh
became like his human brethren, while they again at the last day are
to be fashioned like unto his glorified Body, though incapable,
nevertheless, of being in different places at the same time. Luther
rejected this argument, however, on the ground of the distinction he
was careful to draw between the actual attributes which Christ
possessed in common with all Christians, and those which He did not
so possess at all, or possessed in a manner peculiar to Himself, and
exalting him far above mankind. For example, Christ had no wife, as
men have.

The next day, Sunday, Luther preached the early morning sermon. He
connected his remarks with the Gospel for the day, and dwelt with
freshness and power, but without any reference to the controversy
then pending, on forgiveness of sin and justification by faith.

The disputation, however, was resumed later on in the morning. The
subject of discussion was still the presence of Christ's Body in the
Sacrament. Luther persisted in refusing to regard that Body as one
involving the idea of limits: the Body here was not local or
circumscribed by bounds. The Swiss, on the other hand, did not deny
the possibility of a miracle, whereby God might permit a body to be
in more than one place at the same time; but then they demanded
proof that such a miracle was really; effected with the Body of
Christ. Luther again appealed to the words before him: 'This is My
Body.' He said: 'I cannot slur over the words of our Lord. I cannot
but acknowledge that the Body of Christ is there.' Here Zwingli
quickly interrupted him with the remark that Luther himself
restricted Christ's Body to a place, for the adverb 'there' was an
adverb of place. Luther, however, refused to have his off-hand
expression so interpreted, and again deprecated the mathematical
argument. The same day, the second of the debate, Zwingli and
Oecolampadius sought to fortify their theory by evidence adduced
from Christian antiquity. On some points at least they were able to
appeal to Augustine. But Luther put a different construction on the
passages they quoted, and refused altogether to accept him as an
authority against Scripture. That evening the disputation was
concluded by each party protesting that their doctrine remained
unrefuted by Scripture, and leaving their opponents to the judgment
of God, by whom they might still be converted. Zwingli broke into

Philip in vain endeavoured to bring the contending parties to a
closer understanding. Just then the news came that the fearful
pestilence, the Sweating Sickness, had broken out in the town. All
further proceedings were stopped at once, and everyone hurried away
with his guests. The Landgrave only hastily arranged that in regard
to the points of Christian belief in which it was doubtful how far
the Swiss agreed with the Evangelical faith, a series of
propositions should be drawn up by Luther, and signed by the
theologians on both sides. This was done on the Monday. They are the
fifteen 'Articles of Marburg.' They expressed unity in all other
doctrines, and in the Sacrament also, in so far as they declared
that the Sacrament of the Altar is a Sacrament of the true Body and
Blood of Christ, and that the 'spiritual eating' of that Body is the
primary condition required. The only point left in dispute was
'whether the true Body and Blood of Christ are present bodily in the
bread and wine.'


If we compare the manner in which this disputation at Marburg was
conducted with the previous character of the contest, in which the
one party had denounced their opponents as diabolical fanatics, and
the other as reactionary Papists and worshippers of 'a god made of
bread,' it will be evident that some results of importance at least
had been attained by the discussion itself and the mode in which it
had been held. The tone here, from first to last, was more
courteous, nay, even friendly in comparison. And the moderation now
used by these frank, outspoken men, so passionately excited hitherto,
could not have resulted solely from self-imposed restraint. Luther,
when he wished to speak very emphatically, addressed his opponents
as 'my dearest sirs.' Brenz, who was an eye-witness, tells us one
might have thought Luther and Zwingli were brothers. And, in fact,
on all the main doctrines but that one they agreed. Finer distinctions
of theory, which might have furnished food for argument, were mutually
waived. But the essential divergence between them on the one great
point of the Sacrament, and the spirit manifested in regard to it,
made it impossible for Luther to hold out to Zwingli the right hand
of fellowship, which the latter and his party so earnestly desired.
Luther held to his opinion: 'Yours is a different spirit from ours.'
His companions unanimously agreed with him that though they might
entertain sentiments of friendship and Christian love towards them,
they dared not acknowledge them as brethren in Christ. In the 'Articles'
the only mention made of this matter was that although they had not yet
agreed on that point, still 'each party should treat the other with
Christian charity, so far as each one's conscience would permit.'

On Tuesday afternoon Luther left Marburg, and set out on his journey
homeward. At the wish of the Elector he travelled by way of Schleiz,
where John was then consulting with the Margrave George of
Brandenburg about the Protestant alliance. They desired of Luther a
short and comprehensive confession of evangelical faith, as members
of which they wished to enrol themselves. Luther immediately
compiled one accordingly, upon the basis of the Marburg Articles,
making some additions and strengthening some expressions in
accordance with his own views. About October 18 he returned to

This confession was submitted without delay to a meeting of
Protestants at Schwabach. The result was, that Ulm and Strasburg
declined to subscribe a compact from which the Swiss were excluded.

Within the league itself, the question was now seriously considered,
how far the Protestant States might go, in the event of the Emperor
really seeking to coerce them to submission--whether, in a word,
they could venture to oppose force to force. Luther's opinion,
however, on this point remained unshaken. Whatever civil law and
counsellors might say, it was conclusive for them as Christians, in
his opinion, that civil authority was ordained by God, and that the
Emperor, as the lord paramount of Germany, was the supreme civil
authority in the nation. His first consideration was the imperial
dignity, as he conceived it, and the relative position and duties of
the princes of the Empire. As subjects of the Emperor, he regarded
these princes in the same light as he regarded their own territorial
subjects, the burgomasters of the towns and the various other
magnates and nobles, to whom they themselves had never conceded any
right to oppose, either by protest or force, their own regulations,
as territorial sovereigns, in matters affecting the Church. Not,
indeed, that he required a simply passive obedience, however badly
the authorities and the Emperor might behave; on the contrary, he
admitted the possibility of having to depose the Emperor. 'Sin
itself,' he said, 'does not destroy authority and obedience; but the
punishment of sin destroys them, as, for instance, if the Empire and
the Electors were unanimously to dethrone the Emperor, and make him
cease to be one. But so long as he remains unpunished and Emperor,
no one should refuse him obedience.' Nothing, therefore, in his
opinion, short of a common act of the Estates could provide a remedy
against an unjust, tyrannical, and law-breaking Emperor, while at
present it was apparent that Charles and the majority of the Diet
were agreed. Hence he refused to recognise the right of individual
States to an appeal to force, for his theory of the German Empire
involved the idea of a firm and united community or State, and not
in any way that of a league or federation, the independent members
of which might take up arms against a breach of their articles of
agreement. This theory was shared by his Elector and the
Nürembergers. Just as these Protestants for conscience sake had
refused obedience to the resolution of the Diet at Spires, so they
felt themselves bound by conscience to submit to the consequences of
that refusal. Luther's opinion, therefore, as to the proper attitude
for the Protestant States was the same as he had expressed to the
Elector Frederick on his return from the Wartburg. It was their
duty, he said, if God should permit matters to go so far, to allow
the Emperor to enter their territory and act against their subjects,
without, however, giving their assent or assisting him. But he
added: 'It is sheer want of faith not to trust to God to protect us,
without any wit or power of man.... "In quietness and confidence
shall be your strength."'

Meanwhile Luther was anxious to respond still further to the call of
duty against the Turks. Their multitudinous hosts had advanced as
far as Vienna, and had severely harassed that city, which, though
defended with heroic valour, was but badly fortified. A general
assault was made in force while Luther was on his homeward journey.
The news stirred him to his inmost soul. He ascribed to it, and to
their god, the devil, the violent temptations and anguish of soul
from which he was then suffering again. Immediately after his
return, he undertook to write a 'War sermon against the Turks.' On
October 26 he received the tidings that they were compelled to
retreat. This was a 'heavensent miracle' to him. But though his
former exhortations and warnings had seemed to many exaggerated, he
was right in perceiving that the danger was only averted. He
published his sermon, a new edition of which had to be issued with
the new year.

He saw in the Turks the fulfilment of the prophecy of Ezekiel and
the Revelation of St. John about Gog and Magog, and therewith a
judgment of God for the punishment of corrupt Christendom. But just
as in his first pamphlet he had called on the authorities, in virtue
of their appointment by God, to protect their own people against the
enemy, so he now wished further to make all German Christians strong
in conscience and full of courage, to take the field under their
banner, according to God's command. He set before them the example
of the 'beloved St. Maurice and his companions,' and of many other
saints, who had served in arms their Emperor as knights or citizens.
He would, if danger came in earnest, 'fain have, whoever could,
defend themselves,--young and old, husband and wife, man-servant and
maid-servant,' just as, according to ancient Roman writers, the
German wives and maidens fought together with the men. He looked on
no house as so mean that it might not do something to repel the foe.
Was it not better to be slain at home, in obedience to God, than to
be taken prisoners and dragged away like cattle to be sold? At the
same time he exhorted and encouraged those whom this misfortune
befell, that, as Jeremiah admonished the Jews in Babylon, they
should be patient in prison, and cling firmly to the faith, and
neither through their misery nor through the hypocritical worship of
the Turks, allow themselves to be seduced into becoming renegades.

Such is what he preached to the people, while he had to complain in
his letters to friends that 'the Emperor Charles threatens us even
still more dreadfully than does the Turk; so that on both sides we
have an Emperor as our enemy, an Eastern and a Western one.' And in
those days also he expressed his opinion that those who confessed
the gospel should keep their hands 'unsoiled by blood and crime' as
regards their Emperor, and, even though his behaviour might be a
'very threat of the devil,' should keep steadfastly to their God,
with prayer, supplication, and hope,--to that God Whose manifest
help had hitherto been so abundantly vouchsafed to them.



A proclamation of the Emperor, convoking a new Diet at Augsburg for
April 8, 1530, seemed now to indicate a more pacific demeanour. For
in assigning to this Diet the task of consulting 'how best to deal
with and determine the differences and division in the holy faith
and the Christian religion,' it desired, for this object, that
'every man's opinions, thoughts, and notions should be heard in love
and charity, and carefully weighed, and that men should thus be
brought in common to Christian truth, and be reconciled.' The
Emperor by no means meant, as might be inferred from this
proclamation, that the two opposing parties should treat and arrange
with each other on an equal footing; the rights of the Romish Church
remained, as before, unalterably fixed. He only wished to avoid, if
possible, the dangers of internal warfare. Even the Papal legate
Campeggio, agreed that conciliatory measures might first be tried;
the arrangements for the visitation of the Saxon Electorate were
already construed at Rome, as indeed by many German Catholics, into
a sign that people there were frightened at the so-called freedom of
the gospel, and were inclined to return to the old system. But
Luther at this moment displayed again the confidence which he always
so gladly reposed in his Emperor. He announced on March 14 to Jonas,
then absent on the business of the visitation: 'The Emperor Charles
writes that he will come in person to Augsburg, to settle everything
peaceably.' The Elector John immediately instructed his theologians
to draw up for him articles in view of the proceedings at the Diet,
embodying a statement of their own opinions. They were also required
to hold themselves in readiness to accompany him on his journey to
Augsburg. There was, however, no hurry about arriving there; for the
Emperor came thither so slowly from Italy, that it was found
impossible to meet on the day originally appointed.

On April 3 Luther, Melancthon, and Jonas went to the Elector at
Torgau, in order to start with him from there. He took Spalatin also
with him, and Agricola as preacher. The 10th, Palm Sunday, they
spent at Weimar, where the prince wished to partake of the
sacrament. At Coburg, where they arrived on the 15th, they expected
to receive further news as to the day fixed for the actual opening
of the Diet. Luther preached here on Easter Day, and on the
following Monday and Thursday, upon the Easter texts and the grand
acts of Redemption.

On Friday, the 22nd, the Elector received an intimation from the
Emperor to appear at Augsburg at the end of the month. The next
morning he set off at once with his companions. Luther, however, was
to remain behind. The man on whom lay the ban of the Empire and
Church could not possibly, however favourably inclined the Emperor
might be towards him, have appeared before the Emperor, the Estates,
and the delegates of the Pope; moreover, no safe-conduct would have
availed him. Luther seems, nevertheless, to have been ingenuous
enough to think the contrary. At least, he wrote to a friend that
the Elector had bidden him remain at Coburg; why, he knew not. To
another friend, however, he alleged as a reason, that his going
would not have been safe. But his prince was anxious to keep him at
any rate as close by as possible, at a safe place on the borders of
his territory in the direction of Augsburg, so that he might be able
to obtain advice from him in case of need. Moreover, he contemplated
the possibility of his being summoned later on to Augsburg. A
message from the one place to the other took, at that time, four
days as a rule.

Accordingly, on the night of the 22nd, Luther was conveyed to the
fortress overlooking the town of Coburg. This was the residence
assigned to him.

His first day here passed by unoccupied. A box which he had brought,
containing papers and other things, had not yet been delivered to
him. He did not even see any governor of the castle. So he looked
around him leisurely from the height, which offered a wide and
varied prospect, and examined the apartments now opened for his use.
The principal part of the castle, the so-called Prince's Building,
had been assigned him, and he was given at once the keys of all the
rooms it contained. The one which he chose as his sitting-room is
still shown. He was told that over thirty people took their meals at
the castle.

But his thoughts were still with his distant friends. He wrote that
afternoon to Melancthon, Jonas, and Spalatin. 'Dearest Philip,' he
begins to Melancthon, 'we have at last reached our Sinai, but we
will make a Sion of this Sinai, and here will I build three
tabernacles, one to the Psalms, one to the Prophets, and one to
Æsop.... It is a very attractive place, and just made for study;
only your absence grieves me. My whole heart and soul are stirred
and incensed against the Turks and Mahomet, when I see this
intolerable raging of the devil. Therefore I shall pray and cry to
God, nor rest until I know that my cry is heard in heaven. The sad
condition of our German Empire distresses you more.' Then, after
expressing a wish that the Lord might send his friend refreshing
sleep, and free his heart from care, he told him about his residence
at the castle, in the 'empire of the birds.' In his letters to Jonas
and Spalatin he indulged in humorous descriptions of the cries of
the ravens and jackdaws which he had heard since four o'clock in the
morning. A whole troop, he said, of sophists and schoolmen were
gathered around him. Here he had also his Diet, composed of very
proud kings, dukes, and grandees, who busied themselves about the
empire and sent out incessantly their mandates through the air. This
year, he heard, they had arranged a crusade against the wheat,
barley, and other kinds of corn, and these fathers of the Fatherland
already hoped for grand victories and heroic deeds. This, said
Luther, he wrote in fun, but in serious fun, to chase away if
possible the heavy thoughts which crowded on his mind. A few days
later he enlarged further on this sportive simile in a letter to his
Wittenberg table-companions, _i.e._ the young men of the
university who, according to custom, boarded with him. He was
delighted to see how valiantly these knights of the Diet strutted
about and wiped their bills, and he hoped they might some day or
other be spitted on a hedge-stake. He fancied he could hear all the
sophists and papists with their lovely voices around him, and he saw
what a right useful folk they were, who ate up everything on the
earth and 'whiled away the heavy time with chattering.' He was glad,
however, to have heard the first nightingale, who did not often
venture to come in April.

As companions he had his amanuensis, Veit Dietrich from Nüremberg,
and his nephew Cyriac Kaufmann from Mansfeld, a young student. The
former, born in 1506, had been at the university of Wittenberg since
1523; he soon became preacher in his native town, where he
distinguished himself by his loyalty and courage. They were all
hospitably entertained at the castle. Luther, in these comfortable
quarters, let his beard grow again, as he had formerly done at the

[Illustration: Fig. 40.--VEIT DIETRICH, as Pastor of Nüremberg.
(From an old woodcut.)]

In that same letter to Melancthon, Luther mentioned several writings
which he had in prospect. His chief work was a public 'Admonition to
the Clergy assembled at the Diet at Augsburg.' He wished, as he said
in the introduction, since he could not personally appear at the
Diet, at least to be among them in writing with this his 'dumb and
weak message;' which he had expressed, however, in the strongest and
most forcible language at his command. As for his own cause, he
declared that for it no Diet was necessary. It had been brought thus
far by the true Helper and Adviser, and there it would remain. He
reminded them once more of the chief scandals and iniquities against
which he had been forced to contend; he warned them not to strain
the strings too tightly, lest perhaps a new rebellion might arise;
and he promised them that if only they would leave the gospel free,
they should be left in undisturbed possession of their
principalities, their privileges, and their property, which in fact
was all they cared for. This tract was already printed in May.

He now took up in earnest the labours he had spoken of to
Melancthon. His chief work was the continuation of his German Bible,
namely the translation of the Prophets. He had long complained of
the difficulties presented by these Books, and he now hoped to have
the leisure they required. Such was his zeal that, when he came to
Jeremiah, he looked forward to finishing all the Prophets by
Whitsuntide, but he soon saw that this was impossible. He published
the prophecy of Ezekiel about Gog and Magog by itself. His wish was
to treat of various portions of the Psalms, his own constant book of
comfort and prayer, for the benefit of his congregation; and he
began, accordingly, with a Commentary on the 118th Psalm. He
expounded to Dietrich whilst at Coburg the first twenty-five Psalms;
and the transcript of his commentary on these, which Dietrich left
behind him, was afterwards printed.

And to these works he wished to add the fables of Æsop. His desire
was to adapt them for youth and common men, that they should be of
some profit to the Germans.' For among them, he said, were to be
found, set forth in simple words, the most beautiful lessons and
warnings, to show men how to live wisely and peacefully among bad
people in the false and wicked world. Truth which none would endure,
but which no man could do without, was clothed there in pleasing
colours of fiction. For this work, however, Luther had very little
time; we possess only thirteen fables of his version. He has
rendered them in the simplest popular language, and expressed the
morals in many appropriate German proverbs.

Luther thought at first that, with these occupations, he had better
have remained at Wittenberg, where, as professor, he would have been
of more service.

Soon his bodily sufferings--the singing and noise in the head, and
the tendency to faintness,--began again to attack him; so that for
several days he could neither read nor write, and for several weeks
could not work continuously for any length of time. He did not know
whether it was the effect of Coburg hospitality, or whether Satan
was at fault. Dietrich thought his illness must be caused by Satan,
since Luther had been particularly careful about his diet. He told
also of a fiery, serpent-like apparition, which he and Luther had
seen one evening in June at the foot of the Castle Hill. The same
night Luther fainted away, and the next day was very ill; and this
fact confirmed Dietrich in his belief.

On June 5 Luther received the news of the death of his aged father,
who breathed his last at Mansfeld, on Sunday, May 29, after long
suffering, and in the firm belief in the gospel preached by his son.
Luther was deeply moved by this intelligence. He had never ceased to
treat him with the same high filial veneration that had formerly
prompted him to dedicate to his parent his treatise on Monastic
Vows, and to invite him to the celebration of his marriage, made, as
we have seen, in accordance with his father's wish. Since his
marriage, indeed, his parents had come to visit him at Wittenberg;
and the town accounts for 1527 contain an item of expense for a
gallon of wine, given as a _vin d'honneur_ to old Luther on
that occasion. It was then that Cranach painted the portraits of
Luther's parents which are now to be seen at the Wartburg. Luther
had heard from his brother James in February 1530, that their father
was dangerously ill. He sent a letter to him thereupon, on the 15th
of that month, by the hands of his nephew Cyriac. He wrote: 'It
would be a great joy to me if only you and my mother could come to
us here. My Kate and all pray for it with tears. I should hope we
would do our best to make you comfortable.' Meanwhile he prayed
earnestly to his Heavenly Father to strengthen and enlighten with
His Holy Spirit this father whom He had given him on earth. He would
leave it in the hands of his dear Lord and Saviour whether they
should meet one another again on earth or in heaven; 'for,' said he,
'we' doubt not but that we shall shortly see each other again in the
presence of Christ, since the departure from this life is a far
smaller matter with God, than if I were to come hither from you at
Mansfeld, or you were to go to Mansfeld from me at Wittenberg.'
After he had opened the letter with the news of his father's death,
he said to Dietrich, 'So then, my father too is dead,' and then took
his Psalter at once, and went to his room, to give vent to his
tears. He expressed his grief and emotion the same day in a letter
to Melancthon. Everything, he said, that he was or had, he had
received through his Creator from this beloved father.

He kept up his intimacy with his friends at Wittenberg through his
letters to his wife, and by a correspondence with his friend Jerome
Weller, who had come to live in his house, and who assisted in the
education of his son, little Hans. Weller, formerly a jurist, and
already thirty years old, was then studying theology at Wittenberg.
He suffered from low spirits, and Luther repeatedly sent him from
Coburg comfort and good advice. The little Hans had now begun his
lessons, and Weller praised him as a painstaking pupil. Luther's
well-known letter to him was dated from Coburg, June 19. Written in
the midst of the most serious studies and the most important events
and reflections, it must on no account be omitted in a survey of
Luther's life and character. It runs as follows:--

'Grace and peace in Christ, my dear little son. I am pleased to see
that thou learnest thy lessons well, and prayest diligently. Do
thus, my little son, and persevere; when I come home I will bring
thee a fine "fairing." I know of a pretty garden where merry
children run about that wear little golden coats, and gather nice
apples and pears, and cherries, and plums under the trees, and sing
and dance, and ride on pretty horses with gold bridles and silver
saddles. I asked the man of the place, whose the garden was, and
whose the children were. He said, "These are the children who pray
and learn, and are good." Then I answered, "Dear sir, I also have a
son who is called Hans Luther. May he not also come into this
garden, and eat these nice pears and apples, and ride a little horse
and play with these children?" The man said, "If he says his
prayers, and learns, and is good, he too may come into the garden;
and Lippus and Jost may come, [Footnote: Melancthon's son Philip,
and Jonas's son Jodocus.] and when they all come back, they shall
have pipes and drums and lutes and all sorts of stringed instruments,
and they shall dance and shoot with little crossbows." Then he
showed me a smooth lawn in the garden laid out for dancing, where
hung pipes of pure gold, and drums and beautiful silver crossbows.
But it was still early, and the children had not dined. So I could
not wait for the dance, and said to the man, "Dear sir, I will go
straight home and write all this to my dear little son Hans, that he
may pray diligently and learn well and be good, and so come into this
garden; but he has an aunt, Lene, [Footnote: Hans's great-aunt,
Magdalen, mentioned in Part VI. Ch. vii.] whom he must bring with
him." And the man answered, "So it shall be; go home and write as you
say." Therefore, dear little son Hans, learn and pray with a
good heart, and tell Lippus and Jost to do the same, and then you
will all come to the beautiful garden together. Almighty God guard
you. Give my love to aunt Lene, and give her a kiss for me. In the
year 1530.--Your loving father, MARTIN LUTHER.'

The intercourse between Coburg and Augsburg was, as may be imagined,
well kept up by letters and messengers.

But the crisis of importance arrived when now the great decision
approached, or at least seemed to approach, for it was most
unexpectedly delayed.

Though the Elector had entered Augsburg on May 2, the Emperor did
not arrive there till June 15. He had stopped on the way at
Innspruck, where Duke George and other princes hostile to the
Reformation hastened to present themselves before him.

In the meanwhile, Melancthon worked with great industry and anxious
labour at the Apology and Confession which the Elector of Saxony was
to lay before the Diet. Luther warned him, by his own example,
against ruining his head by immoderate exertion. He wrote to him on
May 12: 'I command you and all your company, that they compel you,
under pain of excommunication, to keep your poor body by rule and
order, so that you may not kill yourself and imagine that you do so
from obedience to God. We serve God also by taking holiday and
resting; yes, indeed, in no other way better.' Melancthon had begun
this work at Coburg, while there with Luther, and based his most
important propositions of dogma on the articles which Luther had
drawn up in the previous autumn at Schwabach. His chief efforts,
however, in accordance with his own inclination and line of thought,
were directed to representing the evangelical doctrines as agreeing
with the traditional doctrines of the universal Christian Church;
and the Protestant Reformation as simply the abolition of certain
practical abuses. Never would Luther have consented to submit to the
Diet, and the Papists and enemies of the gospel there present, a
Confession which marked so faintly the gulf of difference between
himself and them. Nevertheless he gladly approved of this
composition of his peace-making friend, which was sent to him for
his opinion by the Elector immediately on its completion, on May 11.
His verdict was: 'I like it well enough, and see nothing to alter or
improve; indeed, I could not do so if I would, for I cannot tread so
softly and gently. May Christ, our Lord, help that it may bring
forth much fruit, as we hope and pray it will.' He encouraged the
Elector, in a letter full of tender words of comfort, to keep his
heart firm and patient, even if he had to stay in a tedious place.
He pointed out to him God's great token of His love, in granting so
freely to him and to his people the word of grace, and especially in
allowing the tender youth, the boys and girls who were his subjects,
to grow up in his country as in a pleasant Paradise of God.

News now reached them of the Emperor, that he blamed the Elector for
the non-execution of the Edict of Worms, and forbade the clergymen
whom the Protestant princes had brought to Augsburg, to preach
there,--a prohibition against which even Luther admitted they were
powerless. On the other side, Melancthon was particularly troubled
and annoyed that the Landgrave Philip would not admit a repudiation
of Zwingli's doctrine in the Confession, to which Melancthon
attached the utmost importance, not only on account of the intrinsic
objections to that doctrine, but chiefly in the interests of
bringing about a reconciliation with the Catholics. He begged
Luther, on May 22, to try and influence Philip by letter on this

Luther appears to have shown but little inclination to accede to the
request. Melancthon, waiting for his assent, stopped writing to him.
Meanwhile Luther's friends at Augsburg were looking with anxiety for
the arrival and first appearance of the Emperor. Three whole weeks
passed by before Luther again received a letter from them; it was
just at this time that he was mourning the death of his father.

Luther was exceedingly indignant at this silence. On receiving
another letter, on June 13, from Melancthon, who said he was
impatiently waiting for the letter to the Landgrave, Luther sent
back the messenger without an answer, and at first was unwilling
even to read the letter. He did, however, now, what was asked of
him. He earnestly but calmly entreated Philip not to espouse their
opponents' doctrine of the Sacrament, or allow himself to be moved
by their 'sweet good' words. And when now Melancthon, whom he had
seriously frightened by his anger, grew restless and desponding and
sleepless with increasing disquietude, through the difficulties at
Augsburg, the threats of his embittered Catholic opponents, and the
anxiety as to submitting the Confession to the Elector, and the
consequences of so doing, and news also reached Luther of the
troubles and distress of his other friends, he repeatedly sent to
them at Augsburg fresh words of encouragement, comfort, and counsel,
which remain to attest, more than anything else, the nobleness of
his mind and character. He speaks, as from a height of confident,
clear, and proud conviction, to those who are struggling in the
whirl and vortex of earthly schemes and counsels. He has gained this
height, and maintains it in the implicit faith with which he clings
to the invisible God, as if he saw Him; and, raised above the world,
he enjoys filial communion with his Heavenly Father.

In answering another anxious letter from Melancthon on the 27th, he
reproved his friend for the cares which he allowed to consume him,
and which were the result, he said, not of the magnitude of the task
before him, but of his own want of faith. 'Let the matter be ever so
great,' he said, 'great also is He who has begun and who conducts
it; for it is not our work.... "Cast thy burthen upon the Lord; the
Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him." Does He say that to
the wind, or does He throw his words before animals?... It is your
worldly wisdom that torments you, and not theology. As if you, with
your useless cares, could accomplish anything. What more can the
devil do than strangle us? I conjure you, who in all other matters
are so ready to fight, to fight against yourself as your greatest

Two days after, he had already another letter from his friend to
answer. He saw from it, he said, the labour and trouble, the
distress and tears of his friends. He received also the Confession,
now completed, and had to give his opinion whether it would be
possible to make still more concessions to the Romanists. Upon this
point he wrote: 'Day and night I am occupied with it, I turn it over
every way in my mind, I meditate and argue, and examine the
Scriptures on the subject, and more and more convinced do I become
of the truth of our doctrine, and more resolved never, if God will,
to allow another letter to be torn from us, be the consequence what
it may.' But he objected to the others speaking of 'following his
authority;' the cause was theirs as much as his, and he himself
would defend it, even if he stood alone. He then referred the
anxious Melancthon again to that Faith which had certainly no place
in his rhetoric or philosophy. For faith, he said, must recognise
the Supernatural and the Invisible, and he who attempts to see and
understand it receives only cares and tears for his reward, as
Melancthon did now. 'The Lord said that He would dwell in the thick
darkness,' 'and make darkness His secret place' (1 Kings viii. 12;
Psalm xviii. 11). 'He who wishes, let him do differently; had Moses
wished first to "understand" what the end of Pharaoh's army would
be, then Israel would still be in Egypt. May the Lord increase faith
in you and all of us; if we have that, what in all the world shall
the devil do with us?'

He hastened to send off this letter, and wrote more again on the
same subject the next day, June 30, to Jonas, who had informed him
of Melancthon's afflictions and of the fierce hatred of their
Catholic opponents; also to Spalatin, Agricola, and Brenz, and to
the young Duke John Frederick. He sought to calm the latter about
the 'poisonous, wicked talons' of his nearest blood-relations,
especially the Duke George. He entreated all those theological
friends to bring a wholesome influence to bear on their companion
Melancthon, and for each of them he had particular words of
affection. Melancthon, he wrote, must be dissuaded from wishing to
direct the world and thus crucifying himself. The news that 'the
princes and nations rage against the Lord's anointed,' he accepted
as a good sign; for the Psalmist's words that immediately follow
(Ps. ii. 4) were: 'He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the
Lord shall have them in derision.' He did not understand how men
could be troubled since God still lives: 'He who has created me will
be father to my son and husband to my wife; He will guide the
community and be preacher to the congregation better than I can
myself.' His letter to Melancthon shows in an interesting manner the
contrast between himself and his friend with regard to cares and
temptations. 'In private contests which concern one's own self, I am
the weaker, you the stronger combatant; but in public ones, it is
just the reverse (if, indeed, any contest can be called private
which is waged between me and Satan); for you take but small account
of your life, while you tremble for the public cause; whereas I am
easy and hopeful about the latter, knowing as I do for certain that
it is just and true, and the cause of God Himself, which has no
consciousness of sin to make it blanch, as I must about myself.
Hence, in the latter case, I am as a careless spectator.' Moreover
he felt himself just now less visited by his old spiritual
temptations, although the devil still made his body weary.

How Luther used to converse with God as his Father and Friend,
Melancthon learned that day from Dietrich. The latter heard him pray
aloud: 'I know that Thou art our Father and our God.... The danger
is Thine as well as ours; the whole cause is Thine, we have put our
hands to it because we were obliged to; do Thou protect it.' Luther
daily devoted at least three hours to prayer. He liked all his
family to do the same. He wrote home to his wife thus: 'Pray with
confidence, for all is well arranged, and God will aid us.' Two
years later he said in a sermon about the fulfilment of prayer: 'I
have tried it, and many people with me, especially when the devil
wanted to devour us at the Diet at Augsburg, and everything looked
black, and people were so excited that everyone expected things
would go to ruin, as some had defiantly threatened, and already
knives were drawn and guns were loaded; but God, in answer to our
prayers, so helped us, that those bawlers, with their clamour and
menaces, were put thoroughly to shame, and a favourable peace and a
good year granted to us.'

Just about this time, as Jonas announced to Luther, Duke John
Frederick had the arms of the Reformer cut in stone for a signet
ring, and Luther was requested, through his friend Spengler of
Nüremberg, to explain their meaning. They were peculiarly
appropriate to the times. Luther, as long ago, to our knowledge, as
the year 1517, instead of his father's arms, which were a crossbow
with two roses, had taken as his own one rose, having in its centre
a heart with a cross upon it. This, he now explained, should be a
black cross on a red heart; for, in order to be saved, it is
necessary to believe with our whole heart in our crucified Lord, and
the cross, though bringing pain and self-mortification, does not
corrupt the nature, but rather keeps the heart alive. The heart
should be placed in a white rose, to show that faith gives joy,
comfort, and peace, and because white is the colour of the spirits
and angels, and the joy is not an earthly joy. The rose itself
should be set in an azure field; just as this joy is already the
beginning of heavenly joy and set in heavenly hope, and outside,
round the field, there should be a golden ring, because heavenly
happiness was eternal and precious above all possessions.

[Illustration: FIG. 41.--LUTHER'S SEAL. (Taken from letters written
in 1517.)]

[Illustration: FIG. 42.--LUTHER'S COAT OF ARMS. (From old prints.)]

Shortly after this, Luther received the great news that the summary
of belief of German Protestants, or Augsburg Confession, had been
submitted on June 25 to the Emperor and the Estates, in the German
language. The Emperor, only the day before, had been anxious that it
should not be read aloud, but only received in writing. Publicly,
and in clear and solemn tones, the Saxon chancellor read the
statement of that evangelical faith, which, only nine years before,
at Worms, Luther had been required to retract. Luther was highly
rejoiced. He saw fulfilled the words of the Psalmist, 'I will speak
of Thy testimonies also before kings,' and he felt sure that the
remainder of the verse, 'and will not be ashamed' (Ps. cxix. 46),
would likewise be accomplished. He wrote to his Elector, saying it
was, forsooth, a clever trick of their enemies to seal the lips of
the princes' preachers at Augsburg. The consequence was, that the
Elector and the other nobles 'now preached freely under the very
noses of his Imperial Majesty and the whole Empire, who were obliged
to hear them, and could not offer any opposition.' How sorry he felt
not to have been present there himself! But he rejoiced to have seen
the day when such men stood up in such an assembly, and so bravely
bore witness to the truth of Christ.

Tidings also now arrived of a certain clemency and generosity even
on the part of the Emperor, and of the peaceful disposition of some
of the princes, such as Duke Henry of Brunswick, who invited
Melancthon to dinner, and especially of Cardinal Albert, the
Archbishop and Elector of Mayence. Luther, unlike Melancthon, was
clear and certain on one point, that an agreement with their
opponents on the questions of belief and religion was absolutely out
of the question. But he now spoke out his opinion most decidedly as
to a 'political agreement,' in spite of their differences of
belief,--an agreement, in other words, that the two Confessions and
Churches should peacefully exist together in the German Empire. This
he wished, and almost hoped, might come to pass. In the Emperor
Charles he recognised--he, the loyal-minded German--a good heart and
noble blood, worthy of all honour and esteem. He did not dare to
hope that the Emperor, surrounded as he was by evil advisers, should
actually favour the Evangelical cause, but he believed at any rate
so far in his clemency. In that spirit he once more by letter
approached the Archbishop. Since there was no hope, he wrote, of
their becoming one in doctrine, he begged him at least to use his
influence that peace might be granted to the Evangelicals. For no
one could be, or dared be, forced to accept a belief, and the new
doctrine did no harm, but taught peace and preserved peace. He
endeavoured further to appeal to the Archbishop's conscience as a
German. 'We Germans do not give up believing in the Pope and his
Italians until they bring us, not into a bath of sweat, but a bath
of blood. If German princes fell upon one another, that would make
the Pope, the little fruit of Florence, happy; he would laugh in his
sleeve and say: "There, you German beasts, you would not have me as
Pope, so have that."... I cannot hold my hands; I must strive to
help poor Germany, miserable, forsaken, despised, betrayed, and
sold--to whom indeed I wish no harm, but everything that is good, as
my duty to my dear Fatherland commands me.'

Luther then would not only not hear of surrender, but looked upon as
useless any further negotiations in matters of belief. He could not
understand why his friends were detained any longer at Augsburg,
where they had nothing to expect but menace and bravado on the part
of their opponents. On July 15 he wrote to them: 'You have rendered
unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that
are God's.... May Christ confess us, as you have confessed Him....
Thus I absolve you from this assembly in the Name of the Lord. Now
go home again--go home!'

But they had still to wait for a Refutation, which the Emperor
caused to be drawn up by some strict Catholic theologians, among
whom were Eck, the old and ever violent and active enemy of Luther,
and John Cochlaeus, originally a champion of Humanism, but who had,
since the beginning of the great contest in the Church,
distinguished himself by petty but bitter polemics against Luther,
and now assisted Duke George in the place of the deceased Emser.
Meanwhile the spiritual and temporal lords caused the Protestants to
fear the worst. For Melancthon, these were his worst and weakest
hours. He even sought to pacify the Papal legate, by representing
that there was no dogma in which they differed from the Roman
Church. He thought it possible that even large concessions might be
made, so far at least as regarded the rites and services of the
Church. For these were external things, and the bishops belonged to
the authorities whom God had placed over the externals of life.

Luther therefore had still to wait with patience. He continued his
encouraging letters, nor did even menaces disturb him. He remembered
that too sharp an edge gets only full of notches, and that, as he
had already been told by Staupitz, God first shuts the eyes of those
He wishes to plague. To begin a war now would be dangerous even to
their enemies; the beginning would lead to no progress, the war to
no victory. To Melancthon he spoke, using a coarse German proverb,
about a man who 'died of threatening.'

He drew his richest and most powerful utterances from his one
highest source, the Scriptures. In his own peculiar manner he
expressed himself once to Brück, the chancellor of the Saxon
Elector, his temporal adviser at Augsburg, and a man who did much to
further the Reformation. 'I have lately,' he wrote, 'on looking out
of the window, seen two wonders: the first, the glorious vault of
heaven, with the stars, supported by no pillar and yet firmly fixed;
the second, great thick clouds hanging over us, and yet no ground
upon which they rested, or vessel in which they were contained; and
then, after they had greeted us with a gloomy countenance and passed
away, came the luminous rainbow, which like a frail thin roof
nevertheless bore the great weight of water.' If anyone amidst the
present troubles was not satisfied with the power of faith, Luther
would compare him to a man who should seek for pillars to prevent
the heavens from falling, and tremble and shake because he could not
find them. He was willing, as he wrote in this letter, to rest
content, even if the Emperor would not grant the political peace
they hoped for; for God's thoughts are far above men's thoughts, and
God, and not the Emperor, must have the honour. In a letter to
Melancthon he explained calmly and clearly the duty of
distinguishing between the bishops as temporal princes or
authorities, and the bishops as spiritual shepherds, and how, in
this latter capacity, they must never be allowed the right of
burdening Christ's flock with arbitrary rites and ordinances.

He now published a series of small tracts, one after the other, in
which, with inflexible determination, he again asserted the
evangelical principles against Catholic errors. In this spirit he
wrote about the Church and Church authority; against purgatory;
about the keys of the Church, or how Christ dispenses real
forgiveness of sins to His community; against the worship of the
saints; about the right celebration of the Sacrament, and so forth.
Regardless of the pending questions of dispute, his thoughts
reverted likewise to the needy condition of the schools: he wrote a
special tract, 'On the duty of keeping Children at school.' His
Commentary on the 118th Psalm was now followed by one upon the
117th. He also worked indefatigably at the translation of the
Prophets. Thus steadily he persevered in his labours, suffering more
or less in his head, always weak and 'capricious.' At the conclusion
of his stay at Coburg he told a friend that, on account of the
'buzzing and dizziness' in his head, he had been obliged, with all
his regularity of habits, to make a holiday of more than half the

On August 3 the Catholic Refutation was at length submitted to the
Diet. It showed indeed, as did the imperial proclamation convoking
the Diet, that it was far from the Emperor's intention to have the
opinions of both sides fairly heard and judged in a friendly and
impartial spirit: on the contrary, he demanded that the Protestants
should declare themselves convinced by it, and therefore conquered.
The Landgrave Philip replied to this demand by quitting Augsburg on
August 6, without the leave and contrary to the command of the
Emperor, and hastening home, openly resolved, in case of need, to
meet force by force. But the Emperor, though urged by Rome to take
violent measures, was not prepared, as indeed Luther had guessed,
for such a sudden stroke. He preferred to adopt a more peaceful and
mediating course, and to attempt once more to settle the differences
by a mixed commission of fourteen, and afterwards by a new and
smaller committee, in which Melancthon alone represented the
Evangelical theologians.

The Protestants had now to consider seriously the question of a
possible submission which Melancthon had hitherto been anxiously
pondering with himself. Luther's view of the entire standpoint and
interests of the Romish Church was now confirmed by the fact that
her representatives attached less importance to the more profound
differences of doctrine in regard to the inward means of salvation,
than to the restoration of episcopal rights and forms of worship,
such as, in particular, the mass and the Sacrament in both kinds,
which formed the principal difficulties during the negotiations. On
the other hand, no one had taught more clearly than Luther the
freedom which belongs to Christians in outward forms of constitution
and worship, and which enables them to yield to and serve each other
on these very points. But he had none the less earnestly cautioned
against making concessions to ecclesiastical tyrants, who might make
use of them to enslave and mislead souls. In this respect Melancthon
now showed himself entirely resolved. He longed for a restoration of
the Catholic episcopacy for the Evangelicals, not only for the sake
of peace, but because he despaired of securing otherwise a genuine
regulation of the Church in the face of arbitrary princes and
undisciplined multitudes. In fact the Protestants on this commission
were willing to promise lawful obedience to the bishops, if only the
questions of service and doctrine were left to a free Council. As
regarded the service of the mass the point at issue was whether the
Protestants could not and ought not to accept it with its whole act
of priestly sacrifice, if only an explanation were added as to the
difference between this sacrifice and the sacrifice of Christ upon
the Cross. Other Protestants, on the contrary, especially the
representatives of Nüremberg, became suspicious and angry at such a
way of settling matters, and especially at the behaviour of
Melancthon. Spengler at Nüremberg wrote accordingly to Luther. The
situation was all the more critical, since the negotiations,
according to the wish of the Emperor, were to proceed uninterruptedly,
and there was no time to obtain an opinion from Coburg.

Luther now, to whom the Elector submitted the Articles which were to
bring about an agreement, sent a very calm, clear answer, entering
into all the particulars. He gave a purely practical judgment,
though resting upon the highest principles. Thus, with regard to the
mass, he says that the Catholic liturgy contained the inadmissible
idea that we must pray to God to accept the Body of His Son as a
sacrifice; if this were to be explained in a gloss, either the words
of the liturgy would have to be falsified by the gloss, or the gloss
by the words of the liturgy. It would be wrong and foolish to run
into danger unnecessarily about so troublesome a word. He warned
Melancthon especially against the power of the bishops. He knew well
that obedience to them meant a restriction of the freedom of the
gospel; but the bishops would not consider themselves equally bound,
and would declare it a breach of faith if everything that they
wished were not observed. He then quietly expressed his conviction
that the whole attempt at negotiation was a vain delusion. It was
wished to make the Pope and Luther agree together, but the Pope was
unwilling and Luther begged to be excused. Firmly and calmly he
relied on the consciousness, whatever happened, of his own
independence and strength. Thus he wrote to Spengler: 'I have
commended the matter to God, and I think also I have kept it so well
in hand that nobody can find me defenceless on any point so long as
Christ and I are united.' To Spalatin he wrote: 'Free is Luther, and
free also is the Macedonian (Philip of Hesse).... Only be brave and
behave like men!' We have taken this from letters rich in similar
thoughts, addressed by Luther on August 26 to the Elector John,
Melancthon, Spalatin, and Jonas, and from other letters written two
days after to the three last-named friends and to Spengler. He
likewise wrote for Brenz on the 26th a preface to his Exposition of
the Prophet Amos. This preface shows us how Luther himself judged
his own words which he sent forth with such power. His own speech,
he says, is a wild wood, compared with the clear, pure flow of
Brenz's language; it was, to compare small things with great, as if
his was the strong spirit of Elijah, the wind tearing up the rocks,
and the earthquake and fire, whereas Brenz's was the 'still, small
voice.' Yet God needs also rough wedges for rough logs, and together
with the fruitful rain He sends the storm of thunder and lightning
to purify the air.

If, however, Protestantism was then threatened by danger from
mistaken concessions, the danger was soon averted by the demands of
its opponents, who went too far even for a Melancthon. The
proceedings of the smaller committee had likewise to be closed
without any result. On September 8 Luther was able at last to tell
his wife that he hoped soon to return home; to his little Hans he
promised to bring a 'beautiful large book of sugar,' which his
cousin Cyriac, who had travelled with Luther to Augsburg and
Nüremberg, had brought for him out of that 'beautiful garden.' On
the 14th he received a visit from Duke John Frederick and Count
Albert of Mansfeld upon their return from the Diet. The former
brought him the signet ring, which, however, was too large even for
his thumb; he remarked that lead, not gold, was fitting for him. He
only wished he could see his other friends also escaped from
Augsburg; and although the Duke was ready to take him away with him,
he preferred to remain behind at Coburg, in order, as he wrote to
Melancthon, to receive them there and wipe off their perspiration
after their hot bath.

At Augsburg negotiations were re-opened with Melancthon and Brück;
the Nüremberg deputy even thought it necessary to complain in the
strongest terms of an 'underhand unchristian stratagem' against
which Melancthon would no longer listen to a word of remonstrance;
and Luther, who heard of these complaints through Spengler and Link,
expressed indeed his full confidence to his Saxon theologians, and
was particularly anxious not to wound Melancthon, but earnestly and
pressingly begged him and Jonas, on the 20th of the month, to inform
him about the matter, to be on their guard against the crafty
attacks of their enemies, and to renounce finally all idea of a
compromise. While, however, these letters were on their way past
Nüremberg through Spengler's hands, it was already known there that
the new attempt, especially that against the constancy of Jonas and
Spalatin, had shipwrecked, and Spengler consequently did not forward
them to their address. The Evangelical States adhered to their
Protest of 1529 and to the Imperial Recess of 1526.

The Emperor made known his displeasure at this result, but found
that even those princes who were most zealous against the
innovations, were not equally zealous to plunge into at least a
doubtful war for the extirpation of heresy, and the aggrandisement,
moreover, of the Emperor's authority and power, and accordingly he
resolved to put off the decision. On the 22nd he announced a Recess,
which gave the Protestants, whose Confession, it was stated, had
been publicly heard and refuted, time till the 15th of the following
April for consideration whether, in the matter of the articles in
dispute, they would return to unity with the Church, Pope, and
Empire. The Emperor, meanwhile, engaged to bring about the meeting
of a Council within a year, for the removal of real ecclesiastical
grievances, but reserved until that period the consideration of what
further steps should eventually be taken. The Evangelicals protested
that their Confession had never been refuted, and proceeded to lay
before the Emperor an apology for it, drawn up by Melancthon. They
accepted the time offered for consideration. So far then the promise
was given of the political peace which Luther had wished and hoped
for. Referring to the other dangers and menaces before them, he said
to Spengler: 'We are cleared and have done enough; the blood be upon
their own head.'

Yet another attempt at union came to Luther at Coburg from quite a
different quarter. Strasburg, and three other South German towns,
Constance, Memmingen, and Lindau, differing as they did from the
Lutherans in the Sacramental controversy, had laid before the Diet a
Confession of their own--the so-called Tetrapolitana. They too, like
Zwingli, refused to recognise any partaking of the Body of Christ by
the mouth and body of the receiver, but at the same time, unlike
him, they based their whole view of the Eucharist on the assumption
of a real Divine gift and a spiritual enjoyment of the 'real Body'
of Christ. On the strength of this view, Butzer, the theological
representative of Strasburg, sought to make further overtures to the
Wittenbergers. He was not deterred by Melancthon's mistrustful
opposition or by Luther's leaving a letter of his unanswered. He now
appeared in person at the Castle of Coburg, and on September 25 had
a confidential and friendly interview with Luther. The latter still
refused to content himself with a mere 'spiritual partaking,' and,
though demanding above all things entire frankness, did not himself
conceal a constant suspicion. However, he himself began to hope for
good results, and assured Butzer he would willingly sacrifice his
life three times over, if thereby this division might be put an end
to. This fortunate beginning encouraged Butzer to further attempts,
which he made afterwards in private.

The day after the reading of the Recess, the Elector John was able
at length to leave the Diet and set forward on his journey home. The
Emperor took leave of him with these words: 'Uncle, Uncle, I did not
look for this from you.' The Elector, with tears in his eyes, went
away in silence. After staying a short time at Nüremberg, he paid a
visit, with his theologians, to Luther. They left Coburg together on
October 5, and travelled by Altenburg, where Luther preached on
Sunday, the 9th, to the royal residence at Torgau. After Luther had
also preached here on the following Sunday, he returned to his home.



No sooner had Luther resumed his official duties at Wittenberg, than
he again undertook extra and very arduous work. Bugenhagen went in
October to Lübeck, as he had previously gone to Brunswick and Hamburg.
The most important advance made by the Reformation during those years
when its champions had to fight so stoutly at the Diets for their
rights, was in the North German cities. Luther, soon after his arrival
at Coburg, had received news that Lübeck and Lüneburg had accepted the
Reformation. The citizens of Lübeck refused to allow any but Evangelical
preachers, and abolished all non-evangelical usages, though an
opposition party appealed to the Emperor, and actually induced him
to issue a mandate prohibiting the innovations. To organise the new
Church, the Lübeckers would have preferred the assistance of Luther
himself; but failing him, their delegates begged the Elector John,
when at Augsburg, to send them at least Bugenhagen. Under these
circumstances Luther agreed that Bugenhagen should be allowed to
go, although the Wittenberg congregation and university could
hardly spare him. His friend was wanted at Wittenberg, said Luther,
all the more because he himself could not be of any use much longer;
for what with his failing years and his bad health, so weary was he
of life that this accursed world would soon have seen and suffered
the last of him.

Nevertheless, he again undertook at once, so far as his health
permitted, the official duties of the town pastor, who this time was
absent from Wittenberg for a year and a half, until April 1532;
Luther, accordingly, not only preached the weekly sermons on
Wednesdays and Saturdays, on the Gospels of St. Matthew and St.
John, but attended continuously to the care of souls and the
ordinary business of his office. He would reproach himself with the
fact that under his administration the poor-box of the church was
neglected, and that he was often too tired and too lazy to do
anything. The pains in his head, the giddiness, and the affections
of his heart now recurred, and grew worse in March and June 1531,
while the next year they developed symptoms of the utmost gravity
and alarm.

All this time he worked with indefatigable industry to finish his
translation of the Prophets; in the autumn of 1531 he told Spalatin
that he devoted two hours daily to the task of correction. He
brought out a new and revised edition of the Psalms, and published
some of them with a practical exposition.

In addition to these literary labours, which ever remained his first
delight, Luther's chief task was to advise his Elector upon the
salient questions, transactions, and dangers of Church politics,
which, with the Recess of the Diet and the period thereby allotted
for their consideration, had become matters of real urgency. And, in
fact, it was to his valuable and conscientious advice that the
Protestants in general throughout the Empire looked for guidance.

On November 19 the Recess of the Diet, passed in defiance of the
Protestants, was published at Augsburg. They accepted the time
allowed them for consideration, but the Emperor and the Empire
insisted on maintaining the old ordinances of the Church, and the
Protestants were now required to surrender the ecclesiastical and
monastic property in their hands. The latter observed, moreover,
that the Recess contained no actual promise of peace on the part of
the Emperor, but that the States only were commanded to keep peace.
In fact, the Emperor had already promised the Pope on October 4 to
employ all his force to suppress the Protestants. He immediately
subjected the Supreme Court of the Empire--the so-called Imperial
Chamber--to a visitation, and instructed it to enforce strictly the
contents of the Recess in ecclesiastical and religious matters. Thus
the campaign against the Protestants was to begin with the
institution of processes at law, with reference particularly to the
question of Church property. Furthermore, to secure the authority
and continue the policy of the Emperor during his absence, his
brother Ferdinand was to be elected King of the Romans. John of
Saxony, the only Protestant among the Electors, opposed the
election. He appealed to the fact that the nomination was a direct
violation of a decision of imperial law, the Golden Bull, which
declared that the proposal for such an election, during the lifetime
of the Emperor, must first be unanimously resolved on by the
Electors. The Emperor had a Papal brief in his hands which empowered
him to exclude John, as a heretic, from electing, but he did not
find it prudent to make use of it. The election actually took place
on January 5, 1531.

The Protestants now sought for protection in a firm, well-organised
union among themselves. They assembled for this purpose at
Schmalkald at Christmas 1530.

The more imminent, however, the danger to be encountered, the more
necessary it became to determine the question whether it was lawful
to resist the Emperor. The jurists who advised in favour of
resistance, adduced certain arguments, without, however, stating any
very clear or forcible reasons of law. They quoted principles of
civil law, to show that a judge, whose sentence is appealed against
to a higher court, has no right to execute it by force, and that if
he does so, resistance may lawfully be offered him; and they
proceeded to apply this analogy to the appeal of the Protestants to
a future Council, and the action taken against them, while their
appeal was still pending, by the Emperor. They were nearer the mark
when they argued that, according to the constitution of the Empire
and the imperial laws themselves, the sovereignty of the Emperor was
in no sense unlimited or incapable of being resisted; but then the
difficulty here was, that the right of individual States to oppose
decrees, passed at a regular Diet by the Emperor and the majority of
the members present, was not yet proved. There was a general want of
clearness and precision connected with the theories then being
developed of the relations of the different States and the
interpretation of their rights. Upon this matter, then, Luther was
called on again, with the other Wittenberg theologians, to give an
opinion. The jurists also, especially the chancellor Brück, were
associated with them in their deliberations.

On the question about Ferdinand's election as King of Rome, Luther
strongly advised his Elector to give way. The danger which, in the
event of his refusal, menaced both himself and the whole of Germany
appeared to Luther far too serious to justify it. The occasion would
be used to deprive him of the Electorship, and perhaps give it to
Duke George; and Germany would be rent asunder and plunged into war
and misery. This, said Luther, was his advice; adding, however, that
as he held such a humble position in the world, he did not
understand to give much advice in such important matters, nay, he
was 'too much like a child in these worldly affairs.'

But a change had now come in his views about the right of
resistance; a change which, though in reality but an advance upon
his earlier principles, led to an opposite result. He taught that
civil authorities and their ordinances were distinctly of God, and
by these ordinances he understood, according to the Apostle's words,
the different laws of different States, so far as they had anywhere
acquired stability. With regard to Germany, as we have seen, his
good monarchical principles did not as yet prevent his holding the
opinion that the collective body of the princes of the Empire could
dethrone an unworthy Emperor. The determining question with him now
was what the law of the Empire or the edict of the Emperor himself
would decide, in the event of resistance being offered by individual
States of the Empire, which found themselves and their subjects
injured in their rights and impeded in the fulfilment of their
duties. The answer to this, however, he conceived to be a matter no
longer for theologians, but for men versed in the law, and for
politicians. Theologians could only tell him that though, indeed, a
Christian, simply as a Christian, must willingly suffer wrong, yet
the secular authorities, and therefore every German prince having
authority, were bound to uphold their office given them by God, and
protect their subjects from wrong. As to what were the established
ordinances and laws of each individual State, that was a matter for
jurists to decide, and for the princes to seek their counsel.
Accordingly, the Wittenberg theologians declared as their opinion
that if those versed in the law could prove that in certain cases,
according to the law of the Empire, the supreme authority could be
resisted, and that the present case was one of that description, not
even theologians could controvert them from Scripture. In condemning
previously all resistance, they said, they 'had not known that the
sovereign power itself was subject to the law.' The net result was
that the allies really considered themselves justified in offering
resistance to the Emperor, and prepared to do so. The responsibility,
as Luther warned them, must rest with the princes and politicians,
inasmuch as it was their duty to see that they had right on their
side. 'That is a question,' he said, 'which we neither know nor
assert: I leave them to act.'

Luther gave open vent to his indignation at the Recess of the Diet
and the violent attacks of the Catholics in two publications, early
in 1531, one entitled 'Gloss on the supposed Edict of the Emperor,'
and the other, 'Warning to his beloved Germans.' In the former he
reviewed the contents of the Edict and the calumnies it heaped upon
the Evangelical doctrines, not intending, as he said, to attack his
Imperial Majesty, but only the traitors and villains, be they
princes or bishops, who sought to work their own wicked will, and
chief of all the arch-rogue, the so-called Vicegerent of God, and
his legates. The other treatise contemplates the 'very worst evil'
of all that then threatened them, namely, a war resulting from the
coercive measures of the Emperor and the resistance of the
Protestants. As a spiritual pastor and preacher he wished to counsel
not war, but peace, as all the world must testify he had always been
the most diligent in doing. But he now openly declared that if,
which God forbid, it came to war, he would not have those who
defended themselves against the bloodthirsty Papists censured as
rebellious, but would have it called an act of necessary defence,
and justify it by referring to the law and the lawyers.

These publications occasioned fresh dealings with Duke George, who
again complained to the Elector about them, and also about certain
letters falsely ascribed to Luther, and then published a reply,
under an assumed name, to his first pamphlet. Luther answered this
'libel' with a tract entitled 'Against the Assassin at Dresden,' not
intended, as many have supposed, to impute murderous designs to the
Duke, but referring to the calumnies and anonymous attacks in his
book. The tone employed by Luther in this tract reminds us of his
saying that 'a rough wedge is wanted for a rough log.' It brought
down upon him a fresh admonition from his prince, in reply to which
he simply begged that George might for the future leave him in

The imminence of the common danger favoured the attempts of the
South German States to effect an agreement with the German
Protestants, and the efforts of Butzer in that direction. Luther
himself acknowledged in a letter to Butzer, how very necessary a
union with them was, and what a scandal was caused to the gospel by
their rupture hitherto, nay, that if only they were united, the
Papacy, the Turks, the whole world, and the very gates of hell would
never be able to work the gospel harm. Nevertheless, his conscience
forbade him to overlook the existing differences of doctrine; nor
could he imagine why his former opponents, if they now acknowledged
the Real Presence of the Body at the Sacrament, could not plainly
admit that presence for the mouth and body of all partakers, whether
worthy or unworthy. He deemed it sufficient at present, that each
party should desist from writing against the other, and wait until
'perhaps God, if they ceased from strife, should vouchsafe further
grace.' The new explanations, however, were enough to make the
Schmalkaldic allies abandon their scruples to admitting the South
Germans, and they were accordingly received into the league.

Thus then, at the end of March 1531, a mutual defensive alliance for
six years of the members of the Schmalkaldic League was concluded
between the Elector John, the Landgrave Philip, three Dukes of
Brunswick Lüneburg, Prince Wolfgang of Anhalt, Counts Albert and
Gebhard of Mansfeld, the North German towns of Magdeburg, Bremen,
and Lübeck, and the South German towns of Strasburg, Constance,
Memmingen, and Lindau, and also Ulm, Reutlingen, Bibrach, and Isny.
Even Luther no longer raised any objections.

By this alliance the Protestants presented a firm and powerful front
among the constituent portions of the German Empire. Their
adversaries were not so agreed in their interests. Between the Dukes
of Bavaria, and between the Emperor and Ferdinand, political
jealousy prevailed to an extent sufficient to induce the former to
combine with the heretics against the newly-elected King. Outside
Germany, Denmark reached the hand of fellowship to the Schmalkaldic
League; for the exiled King of Denmark, Christian II., who had
previously turned to the Saxon Elector and been friendly to Luther,
now sought, after returning in all humility to the orthodox Church,
to regain his lost sovereignty with the help of his brother-in-law,
the Emperor. The King of France also was equally ready to make
common cause with the Protestant German princes against the growing
power of Charles V.

As for Luther, we find no notice on his part of the schemes and
negotiations connected with these political events, much less any
active participation in them. There was just then a rupture pending
between Henry VIII. of England and the Emperor, and the former was
preparing to secede from the Church of Rome. Henry was anxious for a
divorce from his wife Katharine of Arragon, an aunt of the Emperor,
on the ground of her previous marriage with his deceased brother,
which, as he alleged, made his own marriage with her illegal; and
since the Pope, in spite of long negotiations, refused, out of
regard for the Emperor, to accede to his request, Henry had an
opinion prepared by a number of European universities and men of
learning, on the legality and validity of his marriage, which in
fact for the most part declared against it. A secret commissioner of
the former 'Protector of the Faith' was then sent to the
Wittenbergers, and to Luther, whom he had so grossly insulted.
Luther, however, pronounced (Sept. 5, 1531) against the divorce, on
the ground that the marriage, though not contrary to the law of God
as set forth in Scripture, was prohibited by the human law of the
Church. The political side of the question he disregarded
altogether. He expressed himself to Spalatin, in a certain tone of
sadness, about the Pope's evil disposition towards the Emperor, the
intrigues he seemed to be promoting against him in France, and the
animosity of Henry VIII. towards him on account of his decision on
the marriage; and added, 'Such is the way of this wicked world; may
God take our Emperor under His protection!'

With Charles V. and Ferdinand the question of peace or war was, of
necessity, largely governed by the menacing attitude of the Turks;
in fact it determined their policy in the matter. Luther kept this
danger steadily in view; after the publication of the Recess he
promised the wrath of God upon those madmen who would enter upon a
war while they had the Turks before their very eyes. Ferdinand in
vain sought to conclude a treaty of peace with the Sultan, who
demanded him to surrender all the fortresses he still possessed in a
part of Hungary, and reserved the right of making further conquests.
He was even induced, in March 1581, to advise his brother to effect
a peaceful arrangement with the Protestants, in order to ensure
their assistance in arms. Attempts at reconciliation were
accordingly made through the intervention of the Electors of the
Palatinate and Mayence. The term allowed by the Diet (April 15)
passed by unnoticed. The Emperor also directed the 'suspension of
the proceedings, which he had been authorised by the Recess of
Augsburg to set on foot in religious matters, till the approaching

The negotiations were languidly protracted through the summer,
without effecting any definite result. An opinion, drawn up jointly
by Luther, Melancthon, and Bugenhagen, advised against an absolute
rejection of the proposed restoration of episcopal power; the only
thing necessary to insist upon being that the clergy and
congregations should be allowed by the bishops the pure preaching of
the gospel which had hitherto been refused them.

About this time Luther had the grief of losing his mother. She died
on June 30, after receiving from her son a consolatory letter in her
last illness. Of his own physical suffering in this month we have
already spoken. On the 26th, he wrote to Link that Satan had sent
all his messengers to buffet him (2 Cor. xii. 7), so that he could
only rarely write or do anything: the devil would probably soon kill
him outright. And yet not his will would be done, but the will of
Him who had already overthrown Satan and all his kingdom.

Soon afterwards, the desire of the Catholics for coercive measures
was stimulated afresh by the news of a defeat which the Reformed
cities in Switzerland had sustained at the hands of the five
Catholic Cantons, notwithstanding that the balance of force inclined
there far more than in Germany to the side of the Evangelicals. The
struggle which Luther was perpetually endeavouring to avert from
Germany, culminated in Switzerland in a bloody outbreak, mainly at
Zwingli's instigation. Zwingli himself fell on October 11 in the
battle of Cappel, a victim of the patriotic schemes by which he had
laboured to achieve for his country a grand reform of politics,
morality, and the Church, but for which he had failed to enlist any
intelligent or unanimous co-operation on the part of his companions
in faith. Ferdinand triumphed over this first great victory for the
Catholic cause. He was now ready to renounce humbly his claim upon
Hungary, so that, by making peace with the Sultan, he might leave
his own and the Emperor's hands free in Germany. Luther saw in the
fate of Zwingli another judgment of God against the spirit of
Münzer, and in the whole course of the war a solemn warning for the
members of the Schmalkaldic League not to boast of any human
alliance, and to do their utmost to preserve peace.

But the events in Switzerland gave no handle against those who had
not joined the Zwinglians, nor were even the latter weakened thereby
in power and organisation. The South Germans had now to cling all
the more firmly to their alliance with the Lutheran princes and
cities; the Zwinglian movement suffered shortly afterwards (Dec. 1)
a severe loss in the death of Oecolampadius. Finally the Sultan was
not satisfied with Ferdinand's repeated offers, but prepared for a
new campaign against Austria in the spring of 1532, and towards the
end of April he set out for it.

This checked the feverous desire of Germans for war against their
fellow-countrymen, and brought to a practical result the
negotiations for a treaty which had been conducted early in 1582 at
Schweinfurt, and later on at Nüremberg. They amounted to this: that
all idea of an agreement on the religious and ecclesiastical
questions in dispute was abandoned until the hoped-for Council
should take place, and that, as had long been Luther's opinion, they
should rest content with a political peace or _modus vivendi_,
which should recognise both parties in the position they then
occupied. The main dispute was on the further question, how far this
recognition should extend;--whether only to the Schmalkaldic allies,
the immediate parties to the present agreement, or to such other
States of the Empire as might go over to the new doctrine from the
old Church--which still remained the established Church of the
Emperor and the Empire in general--and, perhaps further, to
Protestant subjects of Catholic princes of the Empire. There was
also still the question as to the validity of Ferdinand's election
as King of Rome. Luther was again and again asked for his opinion on
this subject.

He was just then suffering from an unusually severe attack, which
incessantly reminded him of his approaching end. In addition, he was
deeply concerned about the health of his beloved Elector. Early in
the morning of January 22 he was seized again, as his friend
Dietrich, who lived with him, informs us, with another violent
attack in his head and heart. His friends who had come to him began
to speak of the effect his death would have on the Papists, when he
exclaimed, 'But I shall not die yet, I am certain. God will never
strengthen the Papal abominations by letting me die now that Zwingli
and Oecolampadius are just gone. Satan would no doubt like to have
it so: he dogs my heels every moment; but not his will will be done,
but the Lord's.' The physician thought that apoplexy was imminent,
and that if so, Luther could hardly recover. The attack however
seems to have quickly passed away, but Luther's head remained racked
with pain. A few weeks later, towards the end of February, he had to
visit the Elector at Torgau, who was lying there in great suffering,
and had been compelled to have the great toe of his left foot
amputated. Luther writes thence about himself to Dietrich, saying
that he was thinking about the preface to his translation of the
Prophets, but suffered so severely from giddiness and the torments
of Satan, that he well-nigh despaired of living and returning to
Wittenberg. 'My head,' he says, 'will do no more: so remember that,
if I die, your talents and eloquence will be wanted for the
preface.' For a whole month, as he remarked at the beginning of
April, he was prevented from reading, writing, and lecturing. He
informed Spalatin, in a letter of May 20, which Bugenhagen wrote for
him, that at present, God willing, he must take a holiday. And on
June 13 he told Amsdorf that his head was gradually recovering
through the intercessions of his friends, but that he despaired of
regaining his natural powers.

Notwithstanding this condition and frame of mind, Luther continued
to send cordial, calm, and encouraging words of peace, concerning
the negotiations then pending, both to the Elector John and his son
John Frederick.

Concerning Ferdinand's election Luther declared to these two princes
on February 12, and again afterwards, that it must not be allowed to
embarrass or prevent a treaty of peace. If it violated a trifling
article of the Golden Bull, that was no sin against the Holy Ghost,
and God could show the Protestants, for a mote like this in the eyes
of their enemies, whole beams in their own. It must needs be an
intolerable burden to the Elector's conscience if war were to arise
in consequence,--a war which might 'well end in rending the Empire
asunder and letting in the Turks, to the ruin of the Gospel and
everything else.'

An opinion, drawn up on May 16 by Luther and Bugenhagen, was equally
decided in counselling submission on the question as to the
extension of the truce, if peace itself depended upon it. For if the
Emperor, he said, was now pleased to grant security to the now
existing Protestant States, he did so as a favour and a personal
privilege. They could not coerce him into showing the same favour to
others. Others must make the venture by the grace of God, and hope
to gain security in like manner. Everyone must accept the gospel at
his own peril.

Luther began already to hear the reproach that to adopt such a
course would be to renounce brotherly love, for Christians should
seek the salvation and welfare of others besides themselves. He was
reproached again with disowning by his conduct the Protestant ideal
of religious freedom and the equal rights of Confessions. Very
differently will he be judged by those who realise the legal and
constitutional relations then existing in Germany, and the
ecclesiastico-political views shared in common by Protestants and
Catholics, and who then ask what was to be gained by a course
contrary to that which he advised in the way of peace and positive
law. That the sovereigns of Catholic States should secure toleration
to the Evangelical worship in their own territories was opposed to
those general principles by virtue of which the Protestant rulers
took proceedings against their Catholic subjects. According to those
principles, nothing was left for subjects who resisted the
established religion of the country but to claim free and unmolested
departure. Luther observed with justice, 'What thou wilt not have
done to thee, do not thou to others.' With regard to the further
question as to the princes who should hereafter join the
Protestants, it certainly sounds naive to hear Luther speak of a
present mere act of favour on the part of the Emperor. But he was
strictly right in his idea, that a concession, involving the
separation of some of the States of the Empire from the one Church
system hitherto established indivisibly throughout the Empire, and
their organisation of a separate Church, had no foundation whatever
in imperial law as existing before and up to the Reformation, and
could in so far be regarded simply as a free concession of the
Emperor and Empire to individual members of the general body; who,
therefore, had no right to compel the extension of this concession
to others, and thereby hazard the peace of the Empire. Something had
already been gained by the fact that at least no limitation was
expressed. A door was thus left open for extension at a future time;
and for those who wished to profit by this fact, the danger, if only
peace could be assured, was at any rate diminished. If we may see
any merit in the fact that the German nation at that time was spared
a bloody war, unbounded in its destructive results, and that a
peaceful solution was secured for a number of years, that merit is
due in the first place to the great Reformer. He acted throughout
like a true patriot and child of his Fatherland, no less than like a
true Christian teacher and adviser of conscience.

The negotiations above described involved the further question about
a Council, pending which a peaceful agreement was now effected. In
the article providing for the convocation of a 'free Christian
Council,' the Protestants demanded the addition of the words, 'in
which questions should be determined according to the pure Word of
God.' On this point, however, Luther was unwilling to prolong the
dispute. He remarked with practical wisdom that the addition would
be of no service; their opponents would in any case wish to have the
credit of having spoken according to the pure Word of God.

In June bad news came again from Nüremberg, tending to the belief
that the Papists had thwarted the work of peace. Luther again
exclaimed, as he had done after the Diet of Augsburg, 'Well, well!
your blood be upon your own heads; we have done enough.'

Towards the end of the month, when the Elector again invited his
opinion, he repeated, with even more urgency than before, his
warnings to those Protestants also who were 'far too clever and
confident, and who, as their language seemed to show, wished to have
a peace not open to dispute.' He begged the Elector, in all humility,
to 'write in earnest a good, stern letter to our brethren,' that they
might see how much the Emperor had graciously conceded to them which
could be accepted with a good conscience, and not refuse such a
gracious peace for the sake of some paltry, far-fetched point of
detail. God would surely heal and provide for such trifling defects.

On July 23 the peace was actually concluded at Nüremberg, and signed
by the Emperor on August 2. Both parties were mutually to practise
Christian toleration until the Council was held; one of these
parties being expressly designated as the Schmalkaldic allies. The
value of this treaty for the maintenance of Protestantism in Germany
was shown by the indignation displayed by the Papal legates from the
first at the Emperor's concessions.

The Elector John was permitted to survive the conclusion of the
peace, which he had been foremost among the princes in promoting.
Shortly after, on August 15, he was seized with apoplexy when out
hunting, and on the following day he breathed his last. Luther and
Melancthon, who were summoned to him at Schweinitz, found him
unconscious. Luther said his beloved prince, on awakening, would be
conscious of everlasting life; just as when he came from hunting on
the Lochau heath, he would not know what had happened to him; as
said the prophet (Isaiah lvii. 1, 2), 'The righteous is taken away
from the evil to come. He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in
their beds.' Luther preached at his funeral at Wittenberg, as he had
done seven years before at his brother's, and Spalatin tells us how
he wept like a child.

John had, throughout his reign, laboured conscientiously to follow
the Word of God, as taught by Luther, and to encounter all dangers
and difficulties by the strength of faith. He has rightly earned the
surname of 'the Steadfast.' Luther especially praises his conduct at
the Diet of Augsburg in this respect; he frequently said to his
councillors on that occasion, 'Tell my men of learning that they are
to do what is right, to the praise and glory of God, without regard
to me, or to my country and people.' Luther distinguished piety and
benevolence as the two most prominent features of his character, as
wisdom and understanding had been those of the Elector Frederick's.
'Had the two princes,' he said, 'been one, that man would have been
a marvel.'





Political peace had been the blessing which Luther hoped to see
obtained for his countrymen and his Church, during the anxious time
of the Augsburg Diet. Such a peace had now been gained by the
development of political relations, in which he himself had only so
far co-operated as to exhort the Protestant States to practise all
the moderation in their power. He saw in this result the
dispensation of a higher power, for which he could never be thankful
enough to God. For the remainder of his life he was permitted to
enjoy this peace, and, so far as he could, to assist in its
preservation. In the enjoyment of it he continued to build on the
foundations prepared for him under the protecting patronage of
Frederick the Wise, and on which the first stone of the new Church
edifice had been laid under the Elector John.

A longer time was given him for this work than he had anticipated.
We have had occasion frequently to refer not only to his thoughts of
approaching death, but also to the severe attacks of illness which
actually threatened to prove fatal. Although these attacks did not
recur with such dangerous severity in the later years of his life,
still a sense of weakness and premature old age invariably remained
behind them. Exhaustion, caused by his work and the struggles he had
undergone, debarred him from exertion for which he had all the will.
He constantly complained of weakness in the head and giddiness,
which totally unfitted him for work, especially in the morning. He
would break out to his friends with the exclamation, 'I waste my
life so uselessly, that I have come to bear a marvellous hatred
towards myself. I don't know how it is that the time passes away so
quickly, and I do so little. I shall not die of years, but of sheer
want of strength.' In begging one of his friends at a distance to
visit him once more, he reminds him that, in his present state of
health, he must not forget that it might be for the last time. No
wonder then if his natural excitability was often morbidly
increased. He always looked forward with joy to his leaving this
'wicked world,' but as long as he had to work in it, he exerted all
his powers no less for his own immediate task than for the general
affairs of the Church, which incessantly demanded his attention.

The mutual trust and friendship subsisting between the Reformer and
his sovereign continued unbroken with John's son and successor, John
Frederick. This Elector, born in 1503, had, while yet a youth,
embraced Luther's teaching with enthusiasm, and leaned upon him as
his spiritual father. Luther, on his side, treated him with a
confidential, easy intimacy, but never forgot to address him as 'Most
illustrious Prince' and 'Most gracious Lord.' When the young man
assumed the Electorship, and appeared at Wittenberg a few days after
his father's death, he at once invited Luther to preach at the castle
and to dine at his table. Luther expressed indeed to friends his fear
that the many councillors who surrounded the young Elector might try
to exert evil influences upon him, and that he might have to pay dearly
for his experience. It might be, he said, that so many dogs barking
round him would make him deaf to anyone else. For instance, they might
take a grudge against the clergy and cry out, if admonished by them,
what can a mere clerk know about it? But his relations with his prince
remained undisturbed. He saw with joy how the latter was beginning to
gather up the reins which his gentle-minded father had allowed to grow
too slack, and he hoped that if God would grant a few years of peace,
John Frederick would take in hand real and important reforms in his
government, and not merely command them but see them executed.

The Elector's wife, Sybil, a princess of Juliers, shared her
husband's friendship for Luther. The Elector had married her in
1526, after taking Luther into his confidence, and being warned by
him against needlessly delaying the blessing which God had willed to
grant him. On what a footing of cordial intimacy she stood with both
Luther and his wife, is shown by a letter she wrote to him in
January 1529, while her husband was away on a journey. She says that
she will not conceal from him, as her 'good friend and lover of the
comforting Word of God,' that she finds the time very tedious now
that her most beloved lord and husband is away, and that therefore
she would gladly have a word of comfort from Luther, and be a little
cheerful with him; but that this is impossible at Weimar, so far off
as it is, and so she commends all, and Luther and his dear wife, to
the loving God, and will put her trust in Him. She begs him in
conclusion: 'You will greet your dear wife very kindly from us, and
wish her many thousand good-nights, and if it is God's will, we
shall be very glad to be with her some day, and with you also, as
well as with her: this you may believe of us at all times.' In the
last years of his life Luther had to thank her for similar greetings
and inquiries after his own health and that of his family.

In the tenth year of the new Elector's reign Luther was able
publicly and confidently to bear witness against the calumnies
brought against his government. 'There is now,' he said 'thank God,
a chaste and honourable manner of life, truthful lips, and a
generous hand stretched out to help the Church, the schools, and the
poor; an earnest, constant, faithful heart to honour the Word of
God, to punish the bad, to protect the good, and to maintain peace
and order. So pure also and praiseworthy is his married life, that
it can well serve as a beautiful example for all, princes, nobles,
and everyone--a Christian home as peaceful as a convent, which men
are so wont to praise. God's Word is now heard daily, and sermons
are well attended, and prayer and praise are given to God, to say
nothing of how much the Elector himself reads and writes every day.'
Only one thing Luther could not and would not justify, namely, that
at times the Elector, especially when he had company, drank too much
at table. Unhappily the vice of intemperance prevailed then not only
at court but throughout Germany. Still John Frederick could stand a
big drink better than many others, and, with the exception of this
failing, even his enemies must allow him to have been endued with
great gifts from God, and all manner of virtues becoming a
praiseworthy prince and a chaste husband. Luther's personal
relations with the Elector never made him scruple to express to him
freely, in his letters, words of censure as well as of praise.

In his academical lectures Luther devoted his chief labours for
several terms after 1531 to St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians. He
had already commenced this task before and during the contest about
indulgences, his object having been to expound to and impress upon
his hearers and readers the great truth of justification by faith,
set forth in that Epistle with such conciseness and power. This
doctrine he always regarded as a fundamental verity and the
groundwork of religion. In all its fulness and clearness, and with
all his old freshness, vigour, and intensity of fervour, he now
exhaustively discussed this doctrine. His lectures, published, with
a preface of his, by the Wittenberg chaplain Rörer in 1535, contain
the most complete and classical exposition of his Pauline doctrine
of salvation. In the introduction to these lectures he declared that
it was no new thing that he was offering to men, for by the grace of
God the whole teaching of St. Paul was now made known; but the
greatest danger was, lest the devil should again filch away that
doctrine of faith and smuggle in once more his own doctrine of human
works and dogmas. It could never be sufficiently impressed on man,
that if the doctrine of faith perished, all knowledge of the truth
would perish with it, but that if it flourished, all good things
would also flourish, namely, true religion, and the true worship and
glory of God. In his preface he says: 'One article--the only solid
rock--rules in my heart, namely, faith in Christ: out of which,
through which, and to which all my theological opinions ebb and flow
day and night.' To his friends he says of the Epistle to the
Galatians: 'That is my Epistle, which I have espoused: it is my
Katie von Bora.'

His sermons to his congregation were now much hindered by the state
of his health. It was his practice, however, after the spring of
1532, to preach every Sunday at home to his family, his servants,
and his friends.

But his greatest theological work, which he intended for the service
of all his countrymen, was the continuation and final conclusion of
his translation of the Bible. After publishing in 1532 his
translation of the Prophets, which had cost him immense pains and
industry, the Apocrypha alone remained to be done;--the books which,
in bringing out his edition of the Bible, he designated as inferior
in value to the Holy Scriptures, but useful and good to read. Well
might he sigh at times over the work. In November 1532, being then
wholly engrossed with the book of Sirach, he wrote to his friend
Amsdorf saying that he hoped to escape from this treadmill in three
weeks, but no one can discover any trace of weariness or vexation in
the German idiom in which he clothed the proverbs and apophthegms of
this book. Notwithstanding the length of time which his task
occupied, and his constant interruptions, it has turned out a work
of one mould and casting, and shows from the first page to the last
how completely the translator was absorbed in his theme, and yet how
closely his life and thoughts were interwoven with those of his
fellow countrymen, for whom he wrote and whose language he spoke. In
1534 the whole of his German Bible was at length in print, and the
next year a new edition was called for. Of the New Testament, with
which Luther had commenced the work, as many as sixteen original
editions, and more than fifty different reimpressions, had appeared
up to 1533.

With regard to the wants of the Church, Luther looked to the energy
of the new Elector for a vigorous prosecution of the work of
visitation. A reorganisation of the Church had been effected by
these means, but many more evils had been exposed than cured, nor
had the visitations been yet extended to all the parishes. The
Elector John had already called on Luther, together with Jonas and
Melancthon, for their opinion as to the propriety of resuming them,
and only four days before his death he gave instructions on the
subject to his chancellor Brück. John Frederick, in the first year
of his rule, did actually put the new visitation into operation, in
concert with his Landtag. The main object sought at present was to
bring about better discipline among the members of the various
congregations, and to put down the sins of drunkenness, unchastity,
frivolous swearing, and witchcraft. Luther and even Melancthon were
no longer required to give their services as visitors: Luther's
place on the commission for Electoral Saxony was filled by
Bugenhagen. His own views and prospects in regard to the condition
of the people remained gloomy. He complains that the Gospel bore so
little fruit against the powers of the flesh and the world; he did
not expect any great and general change through measures of
ecclesiastical law, but trusted rather to the faithful preaching of
the Divine Word, leaving the issue to God. It was particularly the
nobles and peasants whom he had to rebuke for open or secret
resistance against this Word. He exclaims in a letter to Spalatin,
written in 1533: '0 how shamefully ungrateful are our times!
Everywhere nobles and peasants are conspiring in our country against
the Gospel, and meanwhile enjoy the freedom of it as insolently as
they can; God will judge in the matter!' He had to complain besides
of indifference and immorality in his immediate neighbourhood, among
his Wittenbergers. Thus he addressed, on Midsummer Day 1534, after
his sermon, a severe rebuke to drunkards who rioted in taverns
during the time of Divine service, and he exhorted the magistrates
to do their duty by proceeding against them, so as not to incur the
punishment of the Elector or of God.

The territories of Anhalt, immediately adjoining the dominions of
the Saxon Elector, now openly joined the Evangelical Confession, of
which their prince, Wolfgang of Kothen, had long been a faithful
adherent; and Luther contracted in this quarter new and close
friendships, like that which subsisted between himself and his own
Elector. Anhalt Dessau was under the government of three nephews of
Wolfgang, namely, John, Joachim, and George. They had lost their
father in early life. One of them had for his guardian the strictly
Catholic Elector of Brandenburg, the second, Duke George of Saxony,
and the third, the Cardinal Archbishop Albert. George, born in 1507,
was made in 1518 canon at Merseburg, and afterwards prebendary of
Magdeburg cathedral. The Cardinal had taken peculiar interest in him
ever since his boyhood, on account of his excellent abilities, and
he did honour to his office by his fidelity, zeal, and purity of
life. The new teaching caused him severe internal struggles. His
theological studies showed him how rotten were the foundations of
the Romish system, but, on the other hand, the new doctrine awakened
suspicions on his part lest, with its advocacy of gospel liberty and
justification by faith, it might tempt to sedition and immorality.
But it finally won his heart, when he learned to know it in its pure
form through the Augsburg Confession and the Apology of Melancthon,
while the Catholic Refutation drawn up for the Diet of Augsburg
excited his disgust. His two brothers, whose devoutness of character
their enemies could no more dispute than his own, became converts
also to Protestantism. In 1532 they appointed Luther's friend
Nicholas Hausmann their court-preacher, and invited Luther and
Melancthon to stay with them at Worlitz. George, in virtue of his
office as archdeacon and prebendary of Magdeburg, himself undertook
the visitation, and had the candidates for the office of preacher
examined at Wittenberg. Luther eulogised the two brothers as
'upright princes, of a princely and Christian disposition,' adding
that they had been brought up by worthy and Godfearing parents. He
kept up a close and intimate friendship with them, both personally
and by letter. A disposition to melancholy on the part of Joachim
gave Luther an opportunity of corresponding with him. While cheering
him with spiritual consolation, he recommended him to seek for
mental refreshment in conversation, singing, music, and cracking
jokes. Thus he wrote to him in 1534 as follows: 'A merry heart and
good courage, in honour and discipline, are the best medicine for a
young man--aye, for all men. I, who have spent my life in sorrow and
weariness, now seek for pleasure and take it wherever I can....
Pleasure in sin is the devil, but pleasure shared with good people
in the fear of God, in discipline and honour, is well-pleasing to
God. May your princely Highness be always cheerful and blessed, both
inwardly in Christ, and outwardly in His gifts and good things. He
wills it so, and for that reason He gives us His good things to make
use of, that we may be happy and praise Him for ever.'

During these years, the negotiations concerning the general affairs
of the Church, the restoration of harmony in the Christian Church of
the West, and the internal union of the Protestants, still
proceeded, though languidly and with little spirit.

With the promise, and pending the assembly, of a Council, the
Religious Peace had been at length concluded. Before the close of
1532 the Emperor actually succeeded in inducing Pope Clement, at a
personal interview with him at Bologna, to announce his intention to
convoke a Council forthwith. He urged him to do so by frightening
him with the prospect of a German national synod, such as even the
orthodox States of the Empire might resolve on, in the event of the
Pope obstinately opposing a Council, and in that case, of a possible
combination of the entire German nation against the Papal see. He
knew, indeed, well enough, that the Holy Father, in making this
promise, had no intention whatever of keeping it. The Pope now sent
a nuncio to the German princes, to make preparations for giving
effect to his promise; the Emperor sent with him an ambassador of
his own, as well for his control as his support.

When the nuncio and ambassador reached John Frederick at Weimar, the
Elector consulted with Luther, Bugenhagen, Jonas, and Melancthon
about the object of their coming, and for that purpose, on June 15,
1533, he came in person to Wittenberg, and had an opinion drawn up in
writing. The Papal invitation to the Council stated that, agreeably
with the demands of the Germans, it should be a free Christian Council,
and also that it should be held in accordance with ancient usage as
from the beginning. Luther declared that this was merely a 'muttering
in the dark,' half angel-like, half devil-like. For if by the words
'from the beginning' were meant the primitive Christian assemblies,
such as those of the Apostles (Acts xv.), then the Council now intended
was bound to act according to the Word of God, freely, and without
regard to any future Councils; a Council on the other hand, held
according to previous usage, as, for example, that of Constance, was
a Council contrary to the Word of God, and held in mere human blindness
and wantonness. The Pope, in describing the Council proposed by himself
as a free one, was making sport of the Emperor, the request of the
Evangelicals, and the decrees of the Diet. How could the Pope possibly
tolerate a free Christian Council when he must be quite aware how
disadvantageous such a Council would be to himself? Luther's advice
was briefly summed up in this: to restrict themselves to the bare
formalities of speech required, and to wait for further events. 'I
think it is best,' he said, 'not to busy ourselves at present with
anything more than what is necessary and moderate, and that can give
no handle to the Pope or the Emperor to accuse us of intemperate
conduct. Whether there be a Council or not, the time will come for
action and advice.' And it soon became clear enough, that Clement at any
rate would not convene a Council. He now entered into an understanding
with King Francis, who was again meditating an attack against the
power of Charles V., listened to his proposal that the Council might
be abandoned, and in March 1534 announced to the German princes
that, agreeably to the King's wish, he had resolved to adjourn its

How firmly Luther persisted--Council or no Council--in his
uncompromising opposition to the Romish system, was now shown by
several of his new writings, more especially by his treatise 'On
private Masses and the Consecration of Priests.' Concerning private
masses, and the sacrifice of Christ's Body supposed to be there
offered, he now declared that, where the ordinance of Christ was so
utterly perverted, Christ's Body was assuredly not present at all,
but simple bread and simple wine was worshipped by the priest in
vain idolatry, and offered for others to worship in like manner. He
knew how they would 'come rolling up to him with the words, "Church,
Church; custom, custom," just as they had answered him once before
in his attack on indulgences; but neither the Church nor custom had
been able to preserve indulgences from their fate.' In the Church,
even under the Popedom, he recognised a holy place, for in it was
baptism, the reading of the Gospel, prayer, the Apostles' Creed, &c.
But he repeats now, what he had said in his most pungent writings
during the earlier struggles of the Reformation, namely, that
devilish abominations had entered into this place, and so penetrated
it with their presence, that only the light of the Holy Spirit would
enable one to distinguish between the place itself and these
abominations. He contrasts the mass-holding priests and their
stinking oil of consecration with the universal Christian priesthood
and the evangelical office of preacher. To the principle of this
priesthood he still firmly adhered, faithless though he saw the
large mass of the congregations to the priestly character with which
baptism had invested them, and strictly as he had to guide his
action, in the appointment and outward constitution of that office,
by existing circumstances and historical requirements. Thus he
repeats what he had said before, 'We are all born simple priests and
pastors in baptism; and out of such born priests, certain are chosen
or called to certain offices, and it is their duty to perform the
various functions of those offices for us all.' This universal
priesthood he would assert and utilise in the celebration of Divine
service and in the true Christian mass; and he appeals for that
purpose to the true worship of God by an Evangelical congregation.
'There,' he says, 'our priest or minister stands before the altar,
having been duly and publicly called to his priestly office; he
repeats publicly and distinctly Christ's words of institution; he
takes the Bread and Wine, and distributes it according to Christ's
words; and we all kneel beside and around him, men and women, young
and old, master and servant, mistress and maid, all holy priests
together, sanctified by the Blood of Christ. And in such our
priestly dignity are we there, and (as pictured in Revelations iv.)
we have our crowns of gold on our heads, harps in our hands, and
golden censers; and we do not let our priest proclaim for himself
the ordinance of Christ, but he is the mouthpiece of us all, and we
all say it with him from our hearts, and with sincere faith in the
Lamb of God, Who feeds us with His Body and Blood.'

In 1533 Erasmus published a work wherein he endeavoured to effect in
his own way the restoration of unity in the Church, by exhorting men
to abolish practical abuses and show submission in doctrinal
disputes, professing for his own part unvarying subjection to the
Church. In opposition to him, Luther hit the right point in a
preface he wrote to the reply of the Marburg theologian Corvinus.
Erasmus, he said, only strengthened the Papists, who cared nothing
about a safe truth for their consciences, but only kept on crying
out 'Church, Church, Church.' For he too kept on simply repeating
that he wished to follow the Church, whilst leaving everything
doubtful and undetermined until the Church had settled it. 'What,'
asks Luther, 'is to be done with those good souls, who, bound in
conscience by the word of Divine truth, cannot believe doctrines
evidently contrary to Scripture? Shall we tell them that the Pope
must be obeyed so that peace and unity may be preserved?' When,
therefore, Erasmus sought to obtain unity of faith by mutual
concession and compromise, Luther answered by declaring such unity
to be impossible, for the simple reason that the Catholics, by their
very boasting of the authority of the Church, absolutely refused on
their part to make any concession at all. But so far as 'unity of
charity' was concerned, he held that on that point the Evangelicals
needed no admonishment, for they were ready to do and suffer all
things, provided nothing was imposed upon them contrary to the
faith. They had never thirsted for the blood of their enemies,
though the latter would gladly persecute them with fire and sword.
As for Erasmus himself, Luther, as already stated, simply regarded
him as a sceptic, who with his attitude of subjection to the Church,
sought only for peace and safety for himself and his studies and
intellectual enjoyments. Acting on this view, Luther, in a letter to
Amsdorf, written in 1534, and intended for publication, heaped
reproaches on Erasmus which undoubtedly he uttered in honest zeal,
but in which his zeal did not allow him to form an impartial
estimate of his opponent or his writings. He saw the bad spirit of
Erasmus reflected in other men, who, like him, had seen the true
character of the Romish Church, but, like him also, rejoined her
communion. Instances of this were found in his old friend Crotus,
who had now entered the service of Cardinal Albert, and as his
'plate-licker,' as Luther called him, abused the Reformation; and in
the theologian George Witzel, a pupil of Erasmus and student at
Wittenberg, who formerly had been suspected even of sympathising
with the peasants in their rebellion, and of rejecting the doctrine
of the Trinity, but who now wished for a Reformation after Erasmus'
ideas, and was one of the foremost literary opponents of the
Lutheran Reformation. Luther, however, deemed it superfluous, after
all that he had said against the master, to turn also against his
subordinates, and the mere mouthpieces of his teaching.

In addition to Luther's polemics against Catholicism in general,
must be mentioned a fresh quarrel with Duke George. The latter, in
1532, had expelled from Saxony some evangelically disposed
inhabitants of Leipzig and Oschatz, decreed that everyone should
appear once a year at church for confession, and ordered some
seventy or eighty families of Leipzig, who had refused to do so, to
quit his dominions. Luther sent letters, which were afterwards
published, of comfort to the exiled, and of exhortation and advice
to those who were threatened. Duke George thereupon complained to
the Elector that Luther was exciting his subjects to sedition.
Luther, in reply, spoke out again with double vehemence in a public
vindication, whilst George made Cochlaeus write against him. Further
quarrelling was ended by the two princes agreeing, in November 1533,
to settle certain matters in dispute, and their theologians also
were commanded to keep at peace. With regard to the future, however,
Luther had spoken words of significance and weight to his persecuted
brethren at Leipzig, when he reminded them what great and unexpected
things God had done since the Diet of Worms, and how many
bloodthirsty persecutors He had since then snatched away. 'Let us
wait a little while,' he said, 'and see what God will bring to pass.
Who knows what God will do after the Diet of Augsburg, even before
ten years have gone by?'

Firmly, however, as Luther refused to listen to any surrender in
matters of faith, or to any subjection to a Catholic Council of the
old sort, he desired no less to adhere loyally to the 'political
concord.' His whole heart and sympathies, as a fellow-Christian and
a good German, went out with the German troops in their march
against the Turks, who he hoped might be well routed by the Emperor.
He never reflected how perilous the consequences of a decisive
victory by Charles V. over his foreign enemies would be for the
Protestants of Germany, and how divided, therefore, these must feel,
at least in their hopes and wishes, during the progress of the war.
He only saw in him again the 'dear good Emperor.' He wished him like
success against his evil-minded French enemy. The Pope especially he
reproached for his persistent ill-will to the Emperor. The Popes, he
said, had always been hostile to the Emperors, and had betrayed the
best of them and wantonly thwarted their desires.

Early in 1534 Philip of Hesse set in earnest about his scheme, so
momentous for Protestantism, of forcibly expelling King Ferdinand
from Würtemberg, and restoring it to the exiled Duke Ulrich. The
latter, whom the Swabian League in 1519, upon a decision of the
Emperor and Empire, had deprived of his territory, and transferred
it to the House of Austria, was staying with the Landgrave in 1529,
with whom he attended the conference at Marburg, and shared his
views on Church matters. Since then the Swabian League was
dissolved, and Philip seized this favourable opportunity to
interfere on behalf of his friend. The King of France promised his
aid, and in Germany, especially among the Catholic Bavarians, a
strong desire prevailed to weaken the power of Austria. Luther's
public judgment being of such weight, and his counsels so
influential with the Elector Frederick, Philip informed him, through
pastor Ottinger of Cassel, of his preparations for war, lest he
might otherwise be wrongly given to understand that he was
meditating a step against the Emperor. His intention, he declared,
was merely to 'restore and reinstate Duke Ulrich to his rights in
all fairness,' in the sight of God and of his Imperial Majesty. He
'belonged to no faction or sect:'--this, wrote Ottinger, he was
'instructed by his princely Highness not to conceal from Luther.'
The latter, however, at a conference with his Elector and the
Landgrave at Weimar, protested against a breach of the public peace,
as tending to bring disgrace upon the gospel; and the Elector, in
consequence, kept aloof from the enterprise. Philip, however,
persisted, and carried it through with rapidity and success.
Ferdinand, being helpless in the absence of the Emperor, consented,
in the treaty of Cadan, to the restoration of Ulrich, who
immediately set about a reformation of the Church in Würtemberg.
Luther recognised in this result the evident hand of God, in that,
contrary to all expectation, nothing was destroyed and peace was
happily restored. God would bring the work to an end.

Meanwhile the Schmalkaldic allies clung tenaciously to their league,
and were intent on still further strengthening their position and
preparing themselves for all emergencies. No scruples as to whether,
if the Emperor should break the peace, they could venture to turn
their arms against him, any longer disturbed them. The terms
extorted from King Ferdinand by the Landgrave's victorious campaign,
were also in their favour. Ferdinand, in the treaty of Cadan,
promised to secure them against the suits which the Imperial
Chamber, notwithstanding the Religious Peace, still continued to
institute against them, in return for which John Frederick and his
allies consented to recognise his election as King of the Romans.

And in the interests and for the objects represented by the league,
namely, to oppose a sufficiently strong and compact power to Roman
Catholicism and its menaces, those further attempts were now made to
promote internal union among the Protestants, to which Butzer had so
unremittingly devoted his labours, and which the Landgrave Philip
among the princes considered of the utmost value.

Luther, although he admitted having formed a more favourable opinion
of Zwingli as a man, since their personal interview at Marburg, in
no way altered his opinion of Zwinglianism or of the general
tendency of his doctrines. Thus in a letter of warning sent by him
in December 1532 to the burgomaster and town-council of Münster, he
classed Zwingli with Münzer and other heads of the Anabaptists, as a
band of fanatics whom God had judged, and pointed out that whoever
once followed Zwingli, Münzer, or the Anabaptists, would very easily
be seduced into rebellion and attacks on civil government. At the
beginning of the next year he published a 'Letter to those at
Frankfort-on-the-Main,' in order to counteract the Zwinglian
doctrines and agitations there prevailing. He also warned the people
of Augsburg against their preachers, inasmuch as they pretended to
accept the Lutheran doctrine of the Sacrament, but in reality did
nothing of the kind. He abstained from entering into any further
controversy against the substance of doctrines opposed to his own.
He was concerned not so much about the victory of his own doctrine,
which he left with confidence in God's hands, but lest, under the
guise of agreement with him, error should creep in and deceit be
practised in a matter so sacred and important. He always felt
suspicious of Butzer on this point.

He now saw the evil and terrible fruits of that spirit which had
possessed Münzer and the Anabaptists,--such fruits as he had always
expected from it. In Münster, where his warning had passed
unregarded, the Anabaptists had been masters since February 1584. As
the pretended possessors of Christianity in its intellectual and
spiritual purity, they established there a kingdom of the saints,
with a mad, sensual fanaticism, a coarse worship of the flesh, and a
wild thirst for blood. This kingdom was demolished the next year by
the combined forces of the Emperor and the bishop, but a further
consequence of their defeat was the exclusion of Protestantism from
the city, which submitted again to episcopal authority. About the
Zwinglian 'Sacramentarianism' Luther wrote at that time, 'God will
mercifully do away with this scandal, so that it may not, like that
of Münster, have to be done away with by force.'

Butzer, however, did not allow himself to be deterred or wearied.
His wish was that the agreement in doctrine which had already been
arrived at between Luther and the South Germans admitted to the
Swabian League, should be publicly and emphatically acknowledged and
expressed. He laboured and hoped to convince even the people of
Zurich and the other Swiss that they attached--as, in fact, they
did--too harsh a meaning to Luther's doctrines, and so to induce
them to reconcile them as nearly as they could with their own. But
they could not be persuaded further than to admit that Christ's Body
was really present in the Sacrament, as food for the souls of those
who partook in faith. They were as suspicious, from their
standpoint, of his attempts at mediation, as Luther was from his.
Butzer represented to the Landgrave that the South German towns, his
allies, were united in doctrine, and that the only objection raised
by the Swiss was to the notion that Christ and His Body became
actual 'food for the stomach,'--a notion which Luther also refused
wholly to entertain. For when the latter said that Christ's Body was
eaten with the mouth, he explained at the same time that the mouth
indeed only touched the bread and did not reach this Body, and that
his doctrine was simply a declaration of a sacramental unity, in so
far as the mouth eats the bread which is united with the body in the
Sacrament. The matter, said Butzer, was a mere dispute about words,
and was only so difficult to settle because they had 'abused and
sent each other to the devil too much.'

[Illustration: PIG. 43.--BUTZER. (From the old original woodcut of

The Landgrave Philip wrote to Luther, and Luther now repeated with
warmth his own desire for a 'well-established union,' which would
enable the Protestants to oppose a common front to the immoderate
arrogance of the Papists. He only warned him again lest the matter
should remain 'rotten and unstable in its foundations.' The
Landgrave then arranged, with Luther's approval, a conference
between Melancthon and Butzer at Cassel for December 27, 1534.
Luther sent to them a 'Consideration, whether unity is possible or
not.' He repeated in this tract, with studied precision and
emphasis, those tenets of his doctrine to which Butzer had referred.
The matter, he said, ought not to remain uncertain or ambiguous. But
when Butzer now agreed with Luther's own opinion, and sent to him at
Wittenberg an explanation that Christ's Body was truly present, but
not as food for the stomach, Luther, in January 1535, declared as
his judgment, that, since the South German preachers were willing to
teach in accordance with the Augsburg Confession, he, for his part,
neither could nor would refuse such concord; and since they
distinctly confessed that Christ's Body was really and substantially
presented and eaten, he could not, if their hearts agreed with their
words, find fault with these words. He would only prefer, as there
was still too much mistrust among his own brethren, that the act of
concord should not be concluded quite so suddenly, but that time
should be allowed for a general quieting down. 'Thus,' he said, 'our
people will be able to moderate their suspicion or ill-will, and
finally let it drop; and if thus the troubled waters are calmed on
both sides, a real and permanent union can be ultimately brought
about.' Of the Swiss no notice was taken in these negotiations.

Meanwhile Butzer and Philip had to rest content with this; and was
it not an important step forwards? This work of union, together with
the Council which was to help in uniting the whole Church, took a
prominent place during the next few years of Luther's life and



Pope Paul III., who succeeded Clement VII. in October 1534, seemed
at once determined to bring about in reality the promised Council.
And in fact he was quite earnest in the matter. He was not so
indifferent as his predecessor to the real interests of the Church
and the need of certain reforms, and he hoped, like a clever
politician, to turn the Council, which could now no longer be
evaded, to the advantage of the Papacy. With this object, and with a
view in particular of arranging the place where the Council should
be held, which he proposed should be Mantua, he sent a nuncio, the
Cardinal Vergerius, to Germany.

In August 1535 Luther was desired by his Elector to submit an
opinion on the proposals of the Pope. He thought it sufficient to
repeat the answer he had given two years before, namely, that the
prince had then fully expressed his zeal for the restoration of
Church unity by means of a Council, but at the same time had
required that its decisions should be strictly according to God's
Word, and declared that he could not give any definite consent
without his allies. Luther still declined, moreover, to believe that
the project of a Council was sincere.

The university of Wittenberg had been removed during the summer to
Jena, on account of a fresh outbreak of the plague, or at all events
an alarm of it, and there they remained till the following February.
Luther, however, would not listen to the idea of leaving Wittenberg.
This time he could stay there in all rest and cheerfulness with
Bugenhagen, and make merry with the idle fears of others. To the
Elector, who was full of anxiety about him, Luther wrote on July 9,
saying that only one or two cases of the disease had appeared; the
air was not yet poisoned. The dog-days being at hand, and the young
people frightened, they might as well be allowed to walk about, to
calm their thoughts, until it was seen what would happen. He noticed,
however, that some had 'caught ulcers in their pockets, others colic
in their books, and others gout in their papers;' some, too, had no
doubt eaten their mother's letters, and hence got heart-ache and
homesickness. The Christian authorities, he said, must provide some
strong medicine against such a disease, lest mortality might arise
in consequence,--a medicine that would defy Satan, the enemy of all
arts and discipline. He was astonished to find how much more was
known of the great plague at Wittenberg in other parts than in the
town itself, where in truth it did not exist, and how much bigger
and fatter lies grew the farther they travelled. He assured his
friend Jonas, who had gone away with the university, that, thanks
to God, he was living there in solitude, in perfect health and
comfort; only there was a dearth of beer in the town, though he had
enough in his own cellar. Nor did Luther afterwards give way to
fear when compelled to acknowledge several fatal cases of the
plague, and when his own coachman once seemed to be stricken with
it. He himself was a sufferer, throughout the winter, from a cough
and other catarrhic affections. 'But my greatest illness,' he wrote
to a friend, 'is, that the sun has so long shone upon me,--a plague
which, as you know well, is very common, and many die of it.'

The Papal nuncio now arrived at Wittenberg, and desired to speak to
Luther in person. After an interview at Halle with the Archbishop
Albert, he had taken the road through Wittenberg on his way to visit
the Elector of Brandenburg at Berlin. On the afternoon of November
6, a Saturday, he entered Wittenberg in state, with twenty-one
horses and an ass, intending to take up his quarters there for the
night, and was received with all due honour at the Elector's castle
by the governor Metzsch. Luther was invited, at the nuncio's
request, to sup with him that evening, but as the former declined
the invitation, he was asked with Bugenhagen to take breakfast with
him the next morning. It was the first time, since his summons by
Caietan at Augsburg in 1518, that Luther had to speak with a Papal
legate--Luther, who had long since been condemned by the Pope as an
abominable child of corruption, and who in turn had declared the
Pope to be Antichrist. So important must Vergerius have thought it,
to attempt to influence, if even only partially, the powerful
adviser of the Protestant princes, and thereby to prevent him from
check-mating his plans in regard to a Council. And in this respect
Vergerius must have had considerable confidence in himself.

The next morning Luther ordered his barber to come at an unusually
early hour. Upon the latter expressing his surprise, Luther said
jokingly, 'I have to go to the Papal nuncio; if only I look young
when he sees me, he may think "Fie, the devil, if Luther has played
us such tricks before he is an old man, what won't he do when he is
one?"' Then, in his best clothes and with a gold chain round his
neck, he drove to the castle with the town-priest Bugenhagen
(Pomeranus). 'Here go,' he said, as he stepped into the carriage,
'the Pope of Germany and Cardinal Pomeranus, the instruments of

Before the legate he 'acted,' as he expressed it, 'the complete
Luther.' He employed towards him only the most indispensable forms
of civility, and made use of the most ill-humoured language. Thus he
asked him whether he was looked upon in Italy as a drunken German.
When they came to speak about the settlement of the Church questions
in dispute by a Council, Vergerius reminded him that one individual
fallible man had no right to consider himself wiser than the
Councils, the ancient Fathers, and other theologians of Christendom.
To this Luther replied that the Papists were not really in earnest
about a Council, and, if it were held, they would only care to treat
about such trifles as monks' cowls, priests' tonsures, rules of
diet, and so forth; whereupon the legate turned to one of his
attendants, who was sitting by, with the words 'he has hit the right
nail on the head.' Luther went on to assert that they, the
Evangelicals, had no need of a Council, being already fully assured
about their own doctrine, though other poor souls might need one,
who were led astray by the tyranny of the Popedom. Nevertheless he
promised to attend the proposed Council, even though he should be
burned by it. It was the same to him, he said, whether it was held
at Mantua, Padua, or Florence, or anywhere else. 'Would you come to
Bologna?' said Vergerius. Luther asked, thereupon, to whom Bologna
belonged, and on being told 'to the Pope,' 'Gracious heavens,' he
exclaimed, 'has the Pope seized that town too?--Very well, I will
come to you even there.' Vergerius politely hinted that the Pope
himself, would not refuse to come to Wittenberg. 'Let him come,'
said Luther; 'we shall be very glad to see him.' 'But,' said
Vergerius, 'would you have him come with arms or without?' 'As he
pleases,' replied Luther; 'we shall be ready to receive him in
either way.' When the legate, after their meal, was mounting his
horse to depart, he said to Luther, 'Be sure to hold yourself in
readiness for the Council.' 'Yes, sir,' was the reply, 'with this my
very neck and head.'

Vergerius afterwards related that he had found Luther to be coarse
in conversation, and his Latin bad, and had answered him as far as
possible in monosyllables. The excuse he urged for his interview was
that Luther and Bugenhagen were the only men of learning at
Wittenberg, with whom he could converse in Latin. He evidently felt
himself unpleasantly deceived in the expectations and projects he
had formed before the meeting. Ten years later, when his conflict
with Evangelical doctrine had taught him thoroughly its real meaning
and value, this high dignitary himself became a convert to it.

In the meantime, while the eyes of all were fixed upon the
approaching Council, the state of affairs in Germany was eminently
favourable to the Evangelicals.

The Emperor, during the summer of 1535, was detained abroad by his
operations against the corsair Chaireddin Barbarossa in Tunis, and
Luther rejoiced over the victory with which God blessed his arms.
The King of France was threatening with fresh claims on Italian
territory. The jealousy between Austria and Bavaria still continued.
With regard to the Church, King Ferdinand learned to value
Lutheranism at any rate as a barrier against the progress of the
more dangerous doctrines of Zwingli. John Frederick journeyed in
November 1535 to Vienna, to receive from him at length, in the name
of the Emperor, the investiture of the Electorship, and met with a
friendly reception.

Under these circumstances the Schmalkaldic League resolved, at a
convention at Schmalkald in December 1535, to invite other States of
the Empire, which were not yet recognised in the Religious Peace as
members of the Augsburg Confession, to join them. The Dukes Barnim
and Philip of Pomerania had now accepted this Confession. Philip
also married a sister of John Frederick. Luther performed the
marriage service on the evening of February 27 at Torgau, and
Bugenhagen pronounced, the next morning, the customary benediction
on the young couple, Luther being prevented from doing so by a fresh
attack of giddiness. The following spring a convention of the allies
at Frankfort-on-the-Main received the Duke of Würtemberg, the Dukes
of Pomerania, the princes of Anhalt, and several towns into their

Outside Germany, the Kings of France and England sought fellowship
with the allies. Ecclesiastical and religious questions, of course,
had first to be considered; and Luther with others was called on for
his advice.

King Francis, so many of whose Evangelical subjects were complaining
of oppression and persecution, was anxious, as he was now meditating
a new campaign in Italy, to secure an alliance with the German
Protestants against the Emperor, and accordingly pretended with
great solicitude that he had in view important reforms in the
Church, and would be glad of their assistance. They were invited to
send Melancthon and Luther to him for that purpose. With these he
negotiated also in person. Melancthon felt himself much attracted by
the prospect thus opened to him of rendering important and useful
service. The Elector, however, refused him permission to go, and
rebuked him for having already entangled himself so far in the
affair. Melancthon's expectations were certainly very vain: the King
only cared for his political interests, and in no case would he
grant to any of his subjects the right to entertain or act upon
religious convictions which ran counter to his own theory of the
Church. Moreover, John Frederick's relations with King Ferdinand had
by this time become so peaceful, that the Elector was anxious not to
disturb them by an alliance with the enemy of the Emperor.
Melancthon, however, was much excited by his refusal and reproof; he
suspected that others had maliciously intrigued against him with his
prince. Luther, at first moved by Melancthon's wish and the
entreaties of French Evangelicals, had earnestly begged the Elector
to permit Melancthon 'in the name of God to go to France.' 'Who
knows,' he said, 'what God may wish to do?' He was afterwards
startled on his friend's account by the severe letter of the
Elector, but was obliged to acknowledge that the latter was right in
his distrust of the affair.

An alliance with England would have promised greater security,
inasmuch as with Henry VIII. there was no longer any fear of his
return to the Papacy, and with regard to the proceedings about his
marriage, a reconciliation with the Emperor was scarcely to be
expected. Envoys from him appeared in 1535 in Saxony and at the
meeting at Schmalkald. Henry also wished for Melancthon, in order to
discuss with him matters of orthodoxy and Church government, and
Luther again begged permission of the Elector for him to go. But it
was clearly seen from the negotiations conducted with the English
envoys in Germany, how slender were the hopes of effecting any
agreement with Henry VIII. on the chief points, such as the doctrine
of Justification or of the mass, since the English monarch insisted
every whit as strictly upon that Catholic orthodoxy, to which he
still adhered, as he did upon his opposition to Papal power. Luther
had already in January grown sick to loathing of the futile
negotiations with England: 'professing themselves to be wise, they
became fools' (Rom. i. 22). He advised therefore, in his opinion
submitted to the Elector, that they should have patience with
respect to England and the proper reforms in that quarter, but
guarded himself against deviating on that account from the
fundamental doctrines of belief, or conceding more to the King of
England than they would to the Emperor and the Pope. As to
contracting a political alliance with Henry, he left that question,
as a temporal matter, for the prince and his advisers to decide; but
it seemed to him dangerous, where no real sympathy prevailed. How
hazardous it was to have anything to do with Henry VIII. was shown
immediately after by his conduct towards his second wife Anna
Boleyn, whom he had executed on May 19, 1536. Luther called this act
a monstrous tragedy.

Among the German Protestants, however, the negotiations respecting
the Sacramental doctrine were happily brought to maturity in a duly
formulated 'Concord.' Peace also was secured with the Swiss, and
therewith the possibility of an eventual alliance.

Now that Luther had once felt confidence in these attempts at union,
he took the work in hand himself and proceeded steadily with it. In
the autumn of 1535 he sent letters to a number of South German
towns, addressed to preachers and magistrates--to Augsburg,
Strasburg, Ulm, and Esslingen. He proposed a meeting or conference,
at which they might learn to know each other better, and see what
was to be borne with, what complied with, and what winked at. He
wished nothing more ardently than to be permitted to end his life,
now near its close, in peace, charity, and unity of spirit with his
brethren in the faith. They also should 'continue thus, helping,
praying, and striving that such unity might be firm and lasting, and
that the devil's jaws might be stopped, who had gloried hugely in
their want of unity, crying out "Ha! ha! I have won."' These letters
plainly show how glad was Luther now to see the good cause so
advanced, and to be able to further it yet more. Both in them and in
his correspondence with the Elector about the proposed meeting, he
advised not to enlist too many associates, that there might be no
restless, obstinate heads among them, to spoil the affair. He knew
of such among his own adherents--men who went too far for him in the
zeal of dogma.

The conference was appointed to be held at Eisenach in the following
spring, on May 14, the fourth Sunday after Easter. Luther's state of
health would not permit him to undertake a journey to any distant
place or in the winter. Just at this time, moreover, in March 1536,
he had been tormented for weeks by a new malady, an intolerable pain
in the left hip. Later on, he told one of his friends that he had
with Christ risen from the dead at Easter (April 16), for he had
been so ill at that time, that he firmly believed that his time had
come to depart and be with Christ, for which he longed.

The South Germans readily accepted the invitation. The Strasburgers
passed it on to the Swiss, and specially desired that Bullinger from
Zurich might take part in the conference. The Swiss, however, who
had received no direct invitation from Wittenberg, declined the
proposal; they wished to adhere simply to their own articles of
faith, which they had just formulated anew in the so-called 'First
Helvetian Confession,' and which had expressly acknowledged at least
a spiritual nutriment to be offered in the Sacramental symbols. They
could not see anything to be gained by personal discussion. But they
requested that their Confession might be kindly shown to Luther, and
Bullinger sent him special greetings from himself and the
Evangelical Churches of Switzerland. The preachers who were sent as
deputies to Eisenach from the various South German towns, journeyed
by way of Frankfort-on-the-Main, where just then the Schmalkaldic
allies were assembled. On May 10 they went on, eleven in number, to
Eisenach; they represented the communities of Strasburg, Augsburg,
Memmingen, Ulm, Esslingen, Reutlingen, Furfeld, and Frankfort.

At the last moment the whole success, nay even the very plan of the
conference, was imperilled. Melancthon had already been anxious and
despondent, fearing a fresh and violent outburst of the controversy
as a consequence of the impending discussion. Luther had just been
freshly excited against the Zwinglians by a writing found among the
papers Zwingli left behind him, and which Bullinger had published
with high eulogiums upon the author, and also by a correspondence
that had just appeared between Zwingli and Oecolampadius. Butzer,
however, and his friends still wished to maintain their intimacy
with these Zwinglians, and this correspondence was prefaced by an
introduction 'from his own pen. Furthermore, letters had reached
Luther, representing that the people in the South German towns were
not really taught the true Bodily Presence in the Sacrament. In
addition to this, severe after-effects of his old illness again
attacked him, rendering him unfit to travel to Eisenach.
Accordingly, on May 12 he wrote to the deputies begging them to
journey as far as Grimma, where he would either appear in person,
or, if too weak, could at all events more easily communicate by
writing to them and his friends.

The deputies, however, came straight to him at Wittenberg. In
Thuringia they were joined by the pastors Menius of Eisenach and
Myconius of Gotha, two of Luther's friends who with him were
honestly desirous of unity. The constant personal intercourse kept
up during the journey served greatly to promote a mutual

Thus on Sunday, May 21, they arrived at length at Wittenberg.

The next day, the two Strasburgers, Capito and Butzer, held a
preliminary interview with Luther, whose physical weakness made any
lengthy negotiations very difficult. He expressed to them candidly
and emphatically his desire, repeated again and again, that they
should declare themselves at one with him. He would rather, however,
leave matters as they had been, than enter into a union which might
be only feigned or artificial, and must make bad worse. With regard
to the Zwinglian publications, Butzer answered that he and his
friends were in no way responsible for them, and that the preface,
which consisted of a letter from himself, had been printed without
his knowledge and consent. With regard to the doctrine of the
Sacrament, the only question now left to decide was whether the
unworthy and godless communicants verily partook of the Lord's Body.
Luther maintained that they did: it was to him the necessary
consequence of a Bodily Presence, such as took place simply by
virtue of the institution and sure promise of Christ, by which faith
must abide in full trust and belief. Butzer expressed his decided
assent to the doctrine of objective Presence and presentation; but
the actual reception of the Lord's Body, as offered from above, he
could only concede to those communicants who, at least through some
faith, placed themselves in an inward spiritual relation to that
Body and accepted the institution of Christ, not to those who were
simply there with their bodies and bodily mouths. To enable one to
speak of a partaking of the Body, he was satisfied with that faith
which was not exactly the right faith of the heart, and was
connected with moral unworthiness, so that such guests ate to their
own condemnation. He thus acknowledged that the unworthy, but not
the man wholly devoid of faith, could partake of the Body and Blood
of Christ. Luther, therefore, could feel assured that Butzer agreed
with him in rejecting every view which held that, in the Sacrament,
the Body of Christ was present only in the subjective representation
and the imagination, or that faith there rose up out of itself, so
to speak, to the Lord, instead of merely grasping at what was
offered, and thereby being quickened and made strong. But it is
unmistakable, that Luther and Butzer conceived in different ways
both the manner of the Presence and the manner of partaking,--each
of these, indeed, in a mysterious sense and one very difficult to be
defined. Luther could scarcely have failed to observe the
difference, which still remained between them, and the defect from
which, according to his own convictions, the doctrine of the South
Germans still suffered. The question was, whether he could look
beyond this, and whether in the doctrine for which he had fought so
keenly, he should be able and willing to distinguish between what
was essential on the one hand, and what was non-essential or less
essential on the other.

On the Tuesday all the deputies assembled at his house, together
with his Wittenberg friends, and Menius and Myconius. Butzer having
spoken on the deputies' behalf, Luther conferred with them
separately, and after they had declared their unanimous concurrence
with Butzer, he withdrew with his friends into another room for a
private consultation. On his return, he declared, on behalf of
himself and his friends, that, after having heard from all present
their answers and statement of belief, they were agreed with them,
and welcomed them as beloved brethren in the Lord. As to the
objection they had about the godless partakers, if they confessed
that the unworthy received with the other communicants the Body of
Christ, they would not quarrel on that point. Luther, so Myconius
tells us, spoke these words with great spirit and animation, as was
apparent from his eyes and his whole countenance. Capito and Butzer
could not refrain from tears. All stood with folded hands and gave
thanks to God.

On the following days other points were discussed, such as the
significance of infant baptism, and the practice of confession and
absolution, as to which an understanding was necessary, and was
arrived at without any difficulty. The South Germans had also to be
reassured about some individual forms of worship, unimportant in
themselves, and which they found to have been retained from Catholic
usage in the Saxon churches.

On the Thursday the proceedings were interrupted by the festival of
the Ascension. Luther preached the evening sermon of that day on the
text, 'Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every
creature.' Myconius relates of this sermon, 'I have often heard
Luther before, but it seemed to me then as if not he alone were
speaking, but heaven was thundering in the name of Christ.'

On Saturday Butzer and Capito delivered themselves of their
commissions on behalf of the Swiss. Luther declared after reading
the Confession which they brought, that certain expressions in it
were objectionable, but added a wish that the Strasburgers would
treat with them further the subject, and the latter led him to hope
that the communities in Switzerland, weary of dispute, desired

The spirit of brotherly union received a touching and beautiful
expression on the Sunday in the common celebration of the Sacrament,
and in sermons preached by Alber of Reutlingen in the early morning,
and by Butzer in the middle of the day.

The next morning, May 29, the meeting concluded with the signing of
the articles which Melancthon had been commissioned to draw up. They
recognised the receiving of Christ's Body at the Sacrament by those
who 'ate unworthily,' without saying anything about the faithless.
The deputies who signed their names declared their common acceptance
of the Augsburg Confession and the Apology. This formula, however,
was only to be published after it had received the assent of the
communities whom it concerned, together with their pastors and civil
authorities. 'We must be careful,' said Luther, 'not to raise the
song of victory prematurely, nor give others an occasion for
complaining that the matter was settled without their knowledge and
in a corner.' Luther himself began on the same Monday to write
letters, inviting assent from different quarters to their
proceedings. Among his own associates, at any rate, his intimate
friend Amsdorf at Magdeburg had not been so conciliatory as himself:
Luther waited eight days before informing him of the result of the

Thus, then, unity of confession was established for the German
Protestants, apart from the Swiss, for none of the Churches which
had been represented at the meeting refused their assent. Luther now
advanced a step towards the Swiss by writing to the burgomaster
Meyer at Basle, who was particularly anxious for union, and who
returned him a very friendly and hopeful answer. Butzer sought to
work with them further in the same direction. But they could not
reconcile themselves to the Wittenberg articles. They--that is to
say, the magistrates and clergy of Zurich, Berne, Basle, and some
other towns--were content to express their joy at Luther's present
friendly state of mind, together with a hope of future unity, and
besought Butzer to inform Luther further about their own Confession
and their objections to his own. Butzer was anxious to do this at a
convention which the Schmalkaldic allies appointed to meet at
Schmalkald, in view of the Council having been announced to be held
in February 1537.



A few days after the Protestants had effected an agreement at
Wittenberg the announcement was issued from Rome of a Council, to be
held at Mantua in the following year. The Pope already indicated
with sufficient clearness the action he intended to take at it. He
declared in plain terms that the Council was to extirpate the
Lutheran pestilence, and did not even wish that the corrupt Lutheran
books should be laid before it, but only extracts from them, and
these with a Catholic refutation. Luther, therefore, had now to turn
his energies at once in this direction.

He agreed, nevertheless, with Melancthon that the invitation should
be accepted, although the Elector John Frederick was opposed to such
a Council from the very first. It would be better, Luther thought,
to protest at the Council itself against any unlawful or unjust
proceeding. He hoped to be able to speak before the assembly at
least like a Christian and a man.

The Elector thereupon commissioned him to compile and set forth the
propositions or articles of faith, which, according to his
conviction, it would be necessary to insist on at the Council, and
directed him to call in for this purpose other theologians to his
assistance. Luther accordingly drew up a statement. A few days after
Christmas he laid it before his Wittenberg colleagues, and likewise
before Amsdorf of Magdeburg, Spalatin of Altenburg, and Agricola of
Eisleben. The last named was endeavouring to exchange his post at
the high school at Eisleben, under the Count of Mansfeld, with whom
he had fallen out, for a professor's chair at Wittenberg, which had
been promised him by the Elector; and now, on receiving his
invitation to the conference, he left Eisleben for good without
permission, taking his wife and child with him. Luther welcomed him
as an old friend and invited him to his house as a guest. Luther's
statement was unanimously approved, and sent to the Elector on
January 3.

Even in this summary of belief, intended as it was for common
acceptance and for submission to a Council, Luther emphasised, with
all the fulness and keenness peculiar to himself throughout the
struggle, his antagonism to Roman Catholic dogma and Churchdom.
Fondly as he clung at that time to reconciliation among the
Protestants, he saw no possibility of peace with Rome.

As the first and main article he declared plainly that faith alone
in Jesus could justify a man; on that point they dared not yield,
though heaven and earth should fall. The mass he denounced as the
greatest and most horrible abomination, inasmuch as it was
'downright destructive of the first article,' and as the chiefest of
Papal idolatries; moreover, this dragon's tail had begotten many
other kinds of vermin and abominations of idolatry. With regard to
the Papacy itself, the Augsburg Confession had been content to
condemn it by silence, not having taken any notice of it in its
articles on the essence and nature of the Christian Church. Luther
now would have it acknowledged, 'that the Pope was not by divine
right (_jure divino_) or by warrant of God's Word the head of
all Christendom,' that position belonging to One alone, by name
Jesus Christ; and, furthermore, 'that the Pope was the true
Antichrist, who sets himself up and exalts himself above and against
Christ.' As for the Council, he expected that the Evangelicals there
present would have to stand before the Pope himself and the devil,
who would listen to nothing, but consider simply how to condemn and
kill them. They should, therefore, not kiss the feet of their enemy,
but say to him, 'The Lord rebuke thee, Satan!' (Zach. iii. 2).

The allies accordingly were anxious to consult together and
determine at Schmalkald what conduct to pursue at the Council. An
imperial envoy and a Papal nuncio wished also to attend their
meeting. The princes and representatives of the towns brought their
theologians with them to the number of about forty in all. The
Elector John Frederick brought Luther, Melancthon, Bugenhagen, and

On January 29 the Wittenberg theologians were summoned by their
prince to Torgau. From thence they travelled slowly by Grimma and
Altenburg, where they were entertained with splendour at the
prince's castles, then by Weimar, where, on Sunday, February 4,
Luther preached a sermon, and so on to the place of meeting. Luther
had left his family and house in the care of his guest Agricola. On
February 7 they arrived at Schmalkald.

The theologians at first were left unemployed. The members of the
convention only gradually assembled. The envoy of the Emperor came
on the 14th. Luther made up his mind for a stay there of four weeks.
He preached on the 9th in the town church before the prince himself.
The church he found, as he wrote to Jonas, so large and lofty, that
his voice sounded to him like that of a mouse. During the first few
days he enjoyed the leisure and rejoiced in the healthy air and
situation of the place.

He was already suffering, however, from the stone, which had once
before attacked him. A medical friend ascribed it partly to the
dampness of the inns and the sheets he slept in. However, the attack
passed off easily this time, and on the 14th he was able to tell
Jonas that he was better. But he grew very tired of the idle time at
Schmalkald. He said jokingly about the good entertainment there,
that he and his friends were living with the Landgrave Philip and
the Duke of Würtemberg like beggars, who had the best bakers, ate
bread and drank wine with the Nürembergers, and received their meat
and fish from the Elector's court. They had the best trout in the
world, but they were cooked in a sauce with the other fish; and so

The Elector soon applied to him for an opinion as to taking part in
the Council, which Luther again recommended should not be bluntly
refused. A refusal, he said, would exactly please the Pope, who
wished for nothing so much as obstacles to the Council; it was for
this reason that, in speaking of the extirpation of heresy, he held
up the Evangelicals as a 'bugbear,' in order to frighten them from
the project. Good people might likewise object, on the ground that
the troubles with the Turks and the Emperor's engagement in the war
with France, were made use of by the Evangelicals to refuse the
Council, whilst in reality the knaves at Borne were reckoning on the
Turkish and French wars to prevent the Council from coming to pass.

Luther now received through Butzer the communications from
Switzerland, together with a letter from Meyer, the burgomaster of
Basle. To the latter he sent on the 17th of the month a cheerful and
friendly reply. He did not wish to induce him to make any further
explanations and promises, but his whole mind was bent upon mutual
forgiveness, and bearing with one another in patience and
gentleness. In this spirit he earnestly entreated Meyer to work with
him. 'Will you faithfully exhort your people,' he said, 'that they
may all help to quiet, soften, and promote the matter to the best of
their power, that they may not scare the birds at roost.' He
promised also, for his part, 'to do his utmost in the same

This same day, however, Luther's malady returned; he concluded his
letter with the words, 'I cannot write now all I would, for I have
been a useless man all day, owing to this painful stone.' The next
day, Sunday, when he preached a powerful sermon before a large
congregation, the malady became much worse, and a week followed of
violent pain, during which his body swelled, he was constantly sick,
and his weakness generally increased. Several doctors, including one
called in from Erfurt, did their utmost to relieve him. 'They gave
me physic,' he said afterwards, 'as if I were a great ox.'
Mechanical contrivances were employed, but without effect.' I was
obliged,' he said, 'to obey them, that it might not look as if I
neglected my body.'

His condition appeared desperate. With death before his eyes, he
thought of his arch-enemy the Pope, who might triumph over this, but
over whom he felt certain of victory even in death. 'Behold,' he
cried to God, 'I die an enemy of Thy enemies, cursed and banned by
Thy foe, the Pope. May he, too, die under Thy ban, and both of us
stand at Thy judgment bar on that day.' The Elector, deeply moved,
stood by his bed, and expressed his anxiety lest God might take away
with Luther His beloved Word. Luther comforted him by saying that
there were many faithful men who, by God's help, would become a wall
of strength; nevertheless, he could not conceal from the prince his
apprehension that, after he was gone, discord would arise even among
his colleagues at Wittenberg. The Elector promised him to care for
his wife and children as his own. Luther's natural love for them, as
he afterwards remarked, made the prospect of parting very hard for
him to bear. To his sorrowing friends he still was able to be
humorous. When Melancthon, on seeing him, began to cry bitterly, he
reminded him of a saying of their friend, the hereditary marshal,
Hans Löser, that to drink good beer was no art, but to drink sour
beer, and then continued, in the words of Job, 'What, shall we
receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?' And
again: 'The wicked Jews,' he said, 'stoned Stephen; my stone, the
villain! is stoning me.' But not for an instant did he lose his
trust in God and resignation to His will. When afraid of going mad
with the pain, he comforted himself with the thought that Christ was
his wisdom, and that God's wisdom remained immutable. Seeing, as he
did, the devil at work in his torture, he felt confident that even
if the devil tore him to pieces Christ would revenge His servant,
and God would tear the devil to pieces in return. Only one thing he
would fain have prayed his God to grant--that he might die in the
country of his Elector; but he was willing and ready to depart
whenever God might summon him. Upon being seized with a fit of
vomiting he sighed, 'Alas, dear Father, take the little soul into
Thy hand; I will be grateful to Thee for it. Go hence, thou dear
little soul, go, in God's name!'

At length an attempt was actually made to remove him to Gotha, the
necessary medical appliances being not procurable at Schmalkald. On
the 26th of the month the Erfurt physician, Sturz, drove him
thither, together with Bugenhagen, Spalatin, and Myconius, in one of
the Elector's carriages. Another carriage followed them, with
instruments and a pan of charcoal, for warming cloths. On driving
off, Luther said to his friends about him,' The Lord fill you with
His blessing, and with hatred of the Pope.'

The first day they could not venture farther than Tambach, a few
miles distant, the road over the mountains being very rough. The
jolting of the carriage caused him intolerable torture. But it
effected what the doctors could not. The following night the pain
was terminated, and the feeling of relief and recovery made him full
of joy and thankfulness. A messenger was sent at once, at two
o'clock in the morning, with the news to Schmalkald, and Luther
himself wrote a letter to his 'dearly-loved' Melancthon. To his wife
he wrote saying, 'I have been a dead man, and had commended you and
the little ones to God and to our good Lord Jesus.... I grieved very
much for your sakes.' But God, he went on to say, had worked a
miracle with him; he felt like one newly-born; she must thank God,
therefore, and let the little ones thank their heavenly Father,
without whom they would assuredly have lost their earthly one.

But on the 28th already, after his safe arrival at Gotha, he
suffered so severe a relapse that during that night he thought, from
his extreme weakness, that his end was near. He then gave to
Bugenhagen some last directions, which the latter afterwards
committed to writing, as the 'Confession and Last Testament of the
Venerable Father.' Herein Luther expressed his cheerful conviction
that he had done rightly in attacking the Papacy with the Word of
God. He begged his 'dearest Philip' (Melancthon) and other
colleagues to forgive anything in which he might have offended them.
To his faithful Kate he sent words of thanks and comfort, saying
that now for the twelve years of happiness which they had spent
together, she must accept this sorrow. Once more he sent greetings
to the preachers and burghers of Wittenberg. He begged his Elector
and the Landgrave not to be disturbed by the charges made against
them by the Papists of having robbed the property of the Church, and
recommended them to trust to God in their labours on behalf of the

The next morning, however, he was again better and stronger. Butzer,
who in regard to unity of confession and his relations with the
Swiss had not been able to have any further conversation with Luther
at Schmalkald, had at once, on receiving the good news from Tambach,
gone straight to Luther at Gotha, accompanied by the preacher
Wolfhart from Augsburg. Luther, notwithstanding his suffering, now
discussed with them this matter, so important in his eyes. As an
honest man, to whom nothing was so distasteful as 'dissimulation,'
he earnestly warned them against all 'crooked ways.' The Swiss, in
case he died, should be referred to his letter to Meyer; should God
allow him to live and become strong, he would send them a written
statement himself.

While, however, he was still at Gotha, the crisis of his illness
passed, and he was relieved entirely of the cause of his suffering.
The journey was continued cautiously and slowly, and a good halt was
made at Weimar. From Wittenberg there came to nurse him a niece, who
lived in his house: probably Lene Kaufmann, the daughter of his
sister. To his wife he wrote from Tambach, telling her that she need
not accept the Elector's offer to drive her to him, it being now
unnecessary. On March 14 he arrived again at his home. His recovery
had made good progress, though, as he wrote to Spalatin, even eight
days afterwards his legs could hardly support him.

Meanwhile the conference of the allies at Schmalkald resulted in
their deciding to decline the Papal invitation to the Council. They
informed the Emperor, in reply, that the Council which the Pope had
in view was something very different to the one so long demanded by
the German Diets; what they wanted was a free Council, and one on
German, not Italian territory.

With regard to Luther's articles, which he had drawn up in view of a
Council, they saw no occasion to occupy themselves with their
consideration. To their official Confession of Augsburg, which had
formed among other things the groundwork and charter of the
Religious Peace, and to the Apology, drawn up by Melancthon in reply
to the Catholic 'Refutation,' they desired, however, now to add a
protest against the authority and the Divine right of the Papacy.
Melancthon prepared it in the true spirit of Luther, though in a
calmer and more moderate tone than was usual with his friend. The
majority of the theologians present at Schmalkald testified their
assent to Luther's articles by subscribing their names. Luther had
his statement printed the following year. The Emperor, on account of
the war with the Turks and the renewal of hostilities with France,
had no time to think of compelling the allies to take part in a
Council, and was quite content that no Council should be held at
all. Whether the Pope himself, as Luther supposed, counted secretly
on this result, and was glad to see it happen, may remain a matter
of uncertainty.

At Schmalkald the seal was now set upon the Concord, which had been
concluded the previous year at Wittenberg, and then submitted for
ratification to the different German princes and towns, the formula
there adopted being now signed by all the theologians present, and
the agreement of the princes to abide by it being duly announced.
Towards the Swiss, who declined to waive their objections to the
Wittenberg articles, Luther maintained firmly the standpoint
indicated in his letter to Meyer. Thus, in the following December he
wrote himself to those evangelical centres in Switzerland from which
Butzer had brought him the communication to Gotha; while the next
year, in May 1538, he sent a friendly reply to a message from
Bullinger, and again in June he wrote once more to the Swiss, on
receiving an answer from them to his first letter. His constant wish
and entreaty was that they should at least be friendly to, and
expect the best of one another, until the troubled waters were
calmed. He fully acknowledged that the Swiss were a very pious
people, who earnestly wished to do what was right and proper. He
rejoiced at this, and hoped that God, even if only a hedge
obstructed, would help in time to remove all errors. But he could
not ignore or disregard that on which no agreement had yet been
arrived at; and he was right in supposing, and said so openly to the
Swiss, that upon their side, as well as upon his own, there were
many who looked upon unity not only with displeasure but even with
suspicion. He himself had constantly to explain misinterpretations
of his doctrine, and he did so with composure. He had never, he
said, taught that Christ, in order to be present at the Sacrament,
comes down from heaven; but he left to Divine omnipotence the manner
in which His Body is verily given to the guests at His table. But he
must guard himself, on the other hand, against the notion that, with
the attitude he now adopted, he had renounced his former doctrine.
And with this doctrine he held firmly to the conception of a
Presence of Christ's Body in the Sacrament different to and apart
from that Presence for purely spiritual nourishment on which the
Swiss now insisted. When Bullinger expressed his surprise that he
should still talk of a difference in doctrine, he gave up offering
any more explanations on the subject; and the Swiss, for their part,
after his second letter, made no further attempt to effect a more
perfect agreement. Luther's desire was to keep on terms of peace and
friendship with them, notwithstanding the difference still
notoriously existing between both parties. On this very account he
was loth to rake up the difference again by further explanations. By
acting thus he believed he should best promote an ultimate
understanding and unity, which was still the object of his hopes.

So far, therefore, during the years immediately following the death
of Zwingli, success had attended the efforts to heal the fatal
division which separated from Luther and the great Lutheran
community those of evangelical sympathies in Switzerland and the
South Germans, who were more or less subject to their influence, and
which had excited the minds on both sides with such violence and
passion. So far Luther himself had laboured to promote this result
with uprightness and zeal; he had conquered much suspicion once
directed against himself, he had sought means of peace; he had
restrained the disturbing zeal of his own friends and followers,
such as Amsdorf or Osiander at Nüremberg.

We must not omit finally to mention, as an important event of these
years and a testimony to Luther's disposition and sentiments, the
friendly relations now formed between himself and the so-called
Bohemian and Moravian Brethren. We have already had occasion to
notice, after the Leipzig disputation in 1519, and again, in
particular, after Luther's return from the Wartburg, an approach,
which promised much but was only transitory, between Luther and the
large and powerful brotherhood of the Bohemian Utraquists, who, as
admirers of Huss and advocates for giving the cup to the laity, had
freed themselves from the dominion of Rome. Quietly and modestly,
but with a far more penetrating endeavour to restore the purity of
Christian life, the small communities of the Moravian Brethren had
multiplied by the side of the Hussites, and had patiently endured
oppression and persecution. Luther afterwards declared of them, how
he had found to his astonishment--a thing unheard of under the
Papacy--that, discarding the doctrines of men, they meditated day
and night, to the best of their ability, on the laws of God, and
were well versed in the Scriptures. It was principally, however, as
Luther himself seems to indicate, the commands of Scripture, in the
strict and faithful fulfilment of which they sought for true
Christianity--with special reference to the commands of Jesus, as
expressed by Him in particular in the Sermon on the Mount, and to
those precepts which they found in their patterns, the oldest
Apostolic communities--that engrossed their attention. With strict
discipline, in conformity with these commands, they sought to order
and sanctify their congregational life. But of Luther's doctrine of
salvation, announced by him mainly on the testimony of St. Paul, or
of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, they had as yet no
knowledge. They taught of the righteousness to which Christians
should attain, as did Augustine and the pious, practical theologians
of the middle ages. Hence they were wanting also in freedom in their
conception of moral life, and of those worldly duties and blessings
to which, according to Luther, the Christian spirit rose by the
power of faith. They shunned rather all worldly business in a manner
that caused Luther to ascribe to them a certain monastic character.
Their priests lived, like Catholics, in celibacy. Another
peculiarity of their teaching was, that in striving after a more
spiritual conception of life, and under the influence of the
writings of the great Englishman Wicliffe, which were largely
disseminated among them, they repudiated the Catholic doctrine of
Transubstantiation, nor would even allow such a Presence of Christ's
Body as was insisted on by Luther. They maintained simply a
sacramental, spiritual, effectual presence of Christ, and
distinguished from it a substantial Presence, which His Body, they
declared, had in heaven alone.

With these, too, as with the Utraquists, Luther became more closely
acquainted soon after his return from the Wartburg. The evangelical
preacher, Paul Speratus, who was then temporarily working in
Moravia, wrote to him about these zealous friends of the gospel,
among whom, however, he found much that was objectionable,
especially their doctrine of the Sacrament. They themselves sent
Luther messages, letters, and writings. Luther, who, in addition to
the Catholic theory, had also to combat doubts as to the Real
Presence of Christ's Body at the Sacrament, turned in 1523, in a
treatise 'On the Adoration of the Sacrament, &c.,' to oppose the
declarations of the Brethren on this subject, and then proceeded to
draw their attention to other points on which he was unable to agree
with them, in the mildest form and with warm acknowledgments of
their good qualities, such as, in particular, their strict
requirements of Christian moral conduct, which in his own circle he
could not possibly expect to see as yet fulfilled. They and Lucas,
their elder, however, took umbrage at his remarks; Lucas published a
reply, whereupon Luther quietly left them to go their own way.

While Butzer now was prosecuting with success his attempts at union,
the Brethren renewed their overtures to Luther. They offered him
fresh explanations about the doctrines in dispute, and these
explanations he was content to treat as consistent with the truth
which he himself maintained, though they differed even from his own
actual statements, not only in form but in substance. For example,
they distinguished between the Presence of Christ's Body in the
Sacrament and His existence in heaven, by describing only the latter
as a Bodily existence. Practically, the theory of the Brethren,
which, however, was by no means clearly defined, agreed most with
that represented afterwards by Calvin. But Luther saw in it nothing
more that was essential, such as would necessitate further
controversy, or deter him from friendly intercourse with these
pious-minded people. At their desire he published two of their
statements of belief in 1533 and 1538 with prefaces from his own
pen. In these prefaces he dwelt particularly on the striking
differences, as regards Church usages and regulations, between their
congregations and his own. But these differences, he said, ought in
no way to prevent their fellowship; a difference of usages had
always existed among Christian Churches, and with the difference of
times and circumstances, was unavoidable. Nor did he withhold a
certain sanction and approbation of the dignity with which the
Brethren continued to invest the state of celibacy, while refusing,
however, to give that sanction the force of a law.

Among the Brethren their gifted and energetic elder John Augusta
laboured to promote an alliance with Luther and the German
Reformation. He repeatedly appeared (and again in 1540) in person at

Thus on all sides, wherever the Evangelical word prevailed, Luther
saw the bonds of union being firmly tied.



Amidst these important and general affairs of the Church, bringing
daily fresh labours and fresh anxieties for Luther--labours,
however, which, in spite of his bodily sufferings, he undertook with
his old accustomed energy--his strength, as in previous years we
have observed with reference to his preaching, now no longer
sufficed as before for the regular work of his calling. In his
official duties at the university the Elector himself, anxiously
concerned as he was for its progress, would have spared him as much
as possible. For these he arranged, in 1536, an ample stipend. In
his announcement of this step he solemnly declared: 'The merciful
God has plenteously and graciously vouchsafed to let His holy,
redeeming Word, through the teaching of the reverend and most
learned, our beloved and good Martin Luther, doctor of Holy
Scripture, be made known to all men in these latter days of the
world with true Christian understanding, for their comfort and
salvation, for which we give Him praise and thanks for ever; and has
made known also, in addition to other arts, the Latin, Greek, and
Hebrew languages, through the conspicuous and rare ability and
industry of the learned Philip Melancthon, for the furtherance of
the right and Christian comprehension of Holy Scripture.' To each of
these two men he now gave a hundred gulden as an addition to his
salary as professor, which in Luther's case had hitherto amounted to
two hundred gulden. At the same time he released Luther from the
obligation of lecturing, and, indeed, from all his other duties at
the university.

Luther began, however, this year a new and important course of
lectures--the exposition of the Book of Genesis, which, according to
his wont, he illustrated with a copious and valuable commentary on
the chief points of Christian doctrine and Christian life. They
progressed, however, but slowly and with many interruptions;
sometimes a whole year was occupied with only a few chapters. The
work was not completed until 1545. They were the last lectures he

In the office of preacher, which he continued to fill voluntarily
and without emolument, he undertook again, after he had returned
from Schmalkald, and had gained fresh strength and, at least, a
temporary recovery from his recent illness, labours at once beyond
and more arduous than his ordinary duties. He resumed, in short, the
duties of Bugenhagen, who was given leave of absence till 1539 to
visit Denmark, for the purpose of organising there, under the new
king Christian III., the new Evangelical Church. He preached
regularly on week-days, in addition to his Sunday sermons;
continuing his discourses, as Bugenhagen had done, though with many
interruptions, on the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. John. The
chancellor Brück wrote to the Elector from Wittenberg on August 27:
'Doctor Martin preaches in the parish church thrice a week; and such
mightily good sermons are they, that it seems to me, as everyone is
saying, there has never been such powerful preaching here before. He
points out in particular the errors of the Popedom, and multitudes
come to hear him. He closes his sermons with a prayer against the
Pope, his Cardinals and Bishops, and for our Emperor, that God may
give him victory and deliver him from the Popedom.'

Among his literary labours he again took in hand in 1539 his German
translation of the Bible--the most important work, in its way, of
all his life--and persevered with intense and unremitting industry,
in order to revise it thoroughly for a new edition, which was
published at the end of two years. For this work he assembled around
him a circle of learned colleagues, whose assistance he succeeded in
obtaining and whom he regularly consulted. These were Melancthon,
Jonas, Bugenhagen, Cruciger, Matthew Aurogallus, professor of
Hebrew, and afterwards the chaplain Rörer, who attended to the
corrections. From outside also some joined them, such as Ziegler,
the Leipzig theologian, a man learned in Hebrew. Luther's younger
friend Mathesius, who had been Luther's guest in 1540, relates of
these meetings how 'Doctor Luther came to them with his old Bible in
Latin and his new one in German, and besides these he had always the
Hebrew text with him. Philip (Melancthon) brought with him the Greek
text, Dr. Kreuziger (Cruciger) besides the Hebrew, the Chaldaic
Bible (the translation or paraphrase in use among the ancient Jews);
the professors had with them their Rabbis (the Rabbinical writings
of the Old Testament). Each one had previously armed himself with a
knowledge of the text, and compared the Greek and Latin with the
Jewish version. The president then propounded a text, and let the
opinions go round;--speeches of wondrous truth and beauty are said
to have been made at these sittings.'

In other respects Luther's literary activity was chiefly devoted to
the great questions remaining to be dealt with at a Council. In
1539, the year after his publication of the Schmalkaldic Articles,
appeared a larger treatise from his pen 'On Councils and Churches,'
one of the most exhaustive of his writings, and important to us as
showing how firmly and confidently his idea of the Christian Church,
as a community of the faithful, was maintained amidst all the
practical difficulties which events prepared. He complains of the
substitution of the blind, unmeaning word 'Church'--and that even in
the Catechism for the young--for the Greek word in the New Testament
'Ecclesia,' as the name of the community or assembly of Christian
people. Much misery, he said, had crept in under that word Church,
from its being understood as consisting of the Pope and the bishops,
priests, and monks. The Christian Church was simply the mass of
pious Christian people, who believed in Christ and were endowed with
the Holy Spirit, Who daily sanctified them by the forgiveness of
sins, and by absolving and purifying them therefrom.

Of Luther's love for his German mother-language, and of the services
he rendered it, so conspicuously shown by these his writings, and
especially by his persevering industry in his translation of the
Bible, we are further reminded by a request he made in a letter of
March 1535, to his friend Wenzeslaus Link at Nüremberg. He suddenly
in that letter breaks off from the Latin--which was still the
customary language of correspondence between theologians--and
continues in German, with the words, 'I will speak German, my dear
Herr Wenzel,' and then begs his friend to make his servant collect
for him all the German pictures, rhymes, books, and ballads that had
recently been published at Nüremberg, as he wished to familiarise
himself more with the genuine language of the people. Luther himself
made a goodly collection of German proverbs. His original manuscript
which contained them was inherited by a German family, but
unfortunately it was bought about twenty years ago in England. There
was published also at Wittenberg, in 1537, a small anonymous book on
German names, written (unquestionably by Luther) in Latin, and
therefore intended for students. It contains, it is true, many
strange mistakes, but it is, nevertheless, a proof of the interest
he took in such studies, and is interesting as a maiden effort in
this field of national learning.

In the regular government and legal administration of his Saxon
Church, Luther did not occupy any post of office. When in 1539 a
Consistory was established at Wittenberg for the Electoral district,
and afterwards, indeed, for the regulation of marriage and
discipline, he did not become a member; he was certainly never
called upon or qualified to take part in the exercise of such a
jurisdiction. And yet this also was done with his concurrence, and
in cases of difficulty he was resorted to for his advice. All Church
questions of public interest continued, with this exception, to
occupy his independent and influential discussion. And even the
moral evils on the domain of civil, municipal and social life, to
which Luther at the beginning of the Reformation appeared desirous
of extending his preaching of reform, so far, at least, as that
preaching represented a general call and exhortation, but which he
afterwards seemed to discard altogether as something foreign to his
mission, never wholly faded from his purview, or ceased to enlist
his active interest. He wrote again in 1539 against usury, much as
he had written at an earlier period, remarking to his friends that
his book would prick the consciences of petty usurers, but that the
big swindlers would only laugh at him in their sleeves. And in
publishing his Schmalkaldic Articles he briefly refers again in his
preface to the 'countless matters of importance' which a genuine
Christian Council would have to mend in the temporal condition of
mankind--such as the disunion of princes and states, the usury and
avarice, which had spread like a deluge and had become the law, and
the sins of unchastity, gluttony, gambling, vanity in dress,
disobedience on the part of subjects, servants, and workmen of all
trades; as also the removal of peasants, &c. Nor at the same time
was he less prompt to interfere on behalf of individuals who were
suffering from want and injustice, either by his humble intercession
with their lords, or with the sharp sword of his denunciation.

It was Luther's indignation and zeal on such an occasion that caused
now his irremediable rupture with the Archbishop, Cardinal Albert,
and induced him to attack that magnate as recklessly as he did; for
the Cardinal had hitherto been always disposed to treat him with a
certain respect; and Luther, on his side, had refrained at least
from any open exhibition of hostility. The immediate cause of this
rupture was a judicial murder, perpetrated against one John Schönitz
(or Schanz) of Halle, on the river Saale. This man had for years had
the charge, as the confidential servant of the Archbishop, of the
public and even the private funds which his master required for his
stately palaces, his luxury, and his sensual enjoyments, refined or
coarse, legitimate or illegitimate; and had actually lent him large
sums. The Estates of the Archbishopric complained of the demands
made on them for money, and rightly suspected that the funds
supplied were improperly and dishonestly misappropriated. Schönitz
grew alarmed on account of the clandestine 'practices' which he was
carrying on for his master. The latter, however, assured him of his
protection. But when the Estates refused to grant any more subsidies
until a proper account was laid before them, he basely sacrificed
his servant in order to extricate himself from his embarrassment.
For deceptions alleged to have been practised against himself, he
had Schönitz arrested, and confined, in September 1534, in the
Castle of Giebichenstein. In vain Schönitz demanded a public trial
by impartial judges; in vain did the Imperial Court of Justice give
judgment in his favour. A second judgment of the court was answered
by Albert's directing the prisoner, who was a citizen of Halle and
sprung from an old local family, to be tried on June 21, 1535, at
Giebichenstein, by a peasant tribunal hastily summoned from the
surrounding villages, for the trial merely, as the rumour ran in
Halle, of a horse-stealer. The unhappy prisoner was allowed no
regular defence, and no counsel. An admission of guilt was extorted
from him by the rack, and he was summarily sentenced to death. Time
was only allowed him to say to the bystanders that he confessed
himself a sinner in the sight of God, but that he had not deserved
this fate. He was quickly strung up on the gallows, where his corpse
remained hanging till the wind blew it down in February 1537. Albert
took possession of his property. And this was done by the supreme
prince of the Roman Church in Germany, who played the part of a
modern Mæcenas with regard to art and science.

Whilst now the justices of the town of Halle were protesting against
this treatment of their fellow-townsman to the Archbishop, who
turned a deaf ear to their remonstrance, and Antony, the brother of
the murdered man, exerted himself in vain to vindicate his honour
and the rights of their family, Luther was drawn into the affair by
the fact that one of his guests, Ludwig Rabe, was threatened with
punishment by Albert, for expressions he let fall soon after the
deed was committed. Luther thereupon wrote several times to Albert
himself, and told him openly he was a murderer, and, for his
squandering of Church property, deserved a gallows ten times higher
than the Castle of Giebichenstein. He was restrained, however, from
taking further steps by the Elector of Brandenburg and other of
Albert's influential relatives, who appealed to John Frederick on
his behalf, whilst Albert sought to make a cheap compensation to the
family of the murdered man, or at least pretended to do so.

When, however, a young Humanist poetaster at Wittenberg, named
Lemnius--properly Lemchen--actually glorified the Archbishop in
verse, or, as Luther put it, 'made a saint of the devil,' and at the
same time vilified some men and women at Wittenberg, Luther read
aloud from the pulpit, in 1538, a short indictment, couched in the
plainest possible terms, against the shameless libeller, as also
against the Archbishop whom he glorified; and this indictment soon
appeared in print. And now he no longer refrained from taking up the
cause of Schönitz in a pamphlet of some length. When the Duke of
Prussia endeavoured once more in a friendly way to dissuade him from
his purpose, for the honour of the house of Brandenburg, he replied,
'Wicked sons have sprung from the noble race of David, and princes
ought not to disgrace themselves by unprincely vices.' In the
pamphlet to his opening he declared that a stone was lying upon his
heart which was called 'Deliver them that are drawn unto death, and
those that are ready to be slain' (Prov. xxiv. 11). He denounced the
contempt and denial of justice of which the Archbishop was guilty,
and at the same time boldly exposed the real objects of those
private expenses which the Archbishop, together with his servant,
had incurred, and of which the latter was naturally unable to give
an account--least of all, those that ministered to his carnal
appetites, such as his establishment at Morizburg in Halle. He
himself, says Luther, does not judge the Cardinal; he is simply the
bearer of the sentence pronounced by the great Judge in heaven. To
those who might perhaps have taken exception to his words he says,
'I sit here at Wittenberg, and ask my most gracious lord the Elector
for no further favour or protection than what is given to all
alike.' Albert found it more prudent to keep silent.

But what disturbed and grieved Luther more than anything else during
this, the closing chapter of his life, was the bitter experience he
had yet to make in his own religious community, nay, amidst his most
intimate companions and friends.

The way of life--in other words, the way of saving faith--was now
rediscovered and clearly brought to light; and, as Luther said, a
truly moral life should be the consequence. And great pains were
taken to stamp this new truth clearly and distinctly on doctrine,
and to guard against new errors and perversions. Differences,
however, now arose among those who had hitherto worked so loyally
together for the establishment of the faith--a beginning of those
doctrinal disputes which after Luther's death became so disastrous
to his Church. Again and again Luther bitterly complained of the
moral wrongs and scandals which proved that the faith, however
widely its confession had spread through Germany, was far from
living in its purity and strength in the hearts of men, and bearing
the expected fruit. Only his own conviction, his own faith was never
shaken by this result. It must needs be, as Christ Himself had said,
that offences must come; and, in the words of St. Paul (1 Cor. xi.
19), 'there must be also heresies,' and false teachers and deceivers
must arise.

[Illustration: Fig. 44.--AGRICOLA. (From a miniature portrait by
Cranach, in the University Album at Wittenberg, 1531.)]

We have seen above how cordially Luther welcomed Agricola back at
Wittenberg after throwing up his appointment at Eisleben. He
obtained for him from the Elector in 1537 an ample salary, to enable
him to fill the long-coveted office of teacher at the university,
and be a preacher as well. It soon became known that Agricola
persisted in maintaining that doctrine of repentance in defence of
which he had attacked Melancthon at the first visitation of churches
in the Saxon Electorate. He had been accused of this at Eisleben,
and Count Albert of Mansfeld, whose service he had quitted with
rudeness and discontent, denounced him as a restless and dangerous
fellow. And now at Wittenberg also Agricola had some sermons
printed, and some theses circulated, embodying a statement of his
peculiar doctrine. Luther considered it his duty to refute these,
and he did so from the pulpit, but without naming their author.

The proclamation of God's law, so Agricola now taught, was no
necessary part of Christianity, as such, nor of the way of salvation
prepared and revealed by Christ. The Gospel of the Son of God, our
Saviour, this alone should be proclaimed, and operate in touching
the hearts of men and exposing the true character of their sins as
sinfulness against the Son of God. In this way he sought to give
full effect to the fundamental evangelical doctrine, that the grace
of God alone had power to save through the joyful message of Christ.
The personal vanity, however, which was the chief weakness of this
gifted, intellectual, and fairly eloquent man, and which was now
increased by the dissatisfaction it had caused at Eisleben,
displayed itself further in the assertion of his eccentricities of
dogma. Moreover, he was far from clear in his first principles, and
while maintaining his tenets he was unwilling to stake too much on
his own account, and yet refused actually to abandon them.

He came at first to an understanding with Luther by offering an
explanation which the latter deemed satisfactory, but he then
proceeded to revert to his peculiar tenets in a new publication.
Luther now launched a sharp reply against these antinomian theses,
as well as against others, which went much further, and whose origin
is unknown. He found wanting in Agricola that earnest moral
appreciation of the law, and of the moral demands made of us by God,
whereby the heart of the sinner, as he himself had experienced, must
first be bruised and broken, and thus opened to receive the word of
grace, before that word can truly renew, revive, and sanctify it.
But together with Agricola's tenets he then placed the others,
betraying an equally frivolous estimate of the real nature of those
demands and of the duties they entailed, as evidence of one tendency
and one character, since Agricola, indeed, taught like them, that
the good willed by God in His Commandments was fulfilled in
Christians by the simple fact of their belief in Christ, and as the
fruit of His word of grace. Thus it came about that this tendency
which Luther found represented in Agricola, stood out before him in
all its compass and with its extremest and most alarming
consequences, and called forth the boldest exercise of his zeal. It
grieved him sorely, nevertheless, to have to enter into this dispute
with his old friend. 'God knows,' he said, 'what trials this
business has prepared for me; I shall have died of sheer anxiety
before I have brought my theses against him (Agricola) to the

At the instance, however, of the Elector, who valued Agricola,
another reconciliation was brought about. Agricola humbled himself;
he even authorised his great opponent to draw up a retractation in
his name, and Luther did this in a manner very damaging to Agricola,
in a letter to his former colleague and opponent at Eisleben, Caspar
Güttel. Agricola thereupon received a place in the newly-formed
consistory. But even now he could not refrain from fresh utterances
which betrayed his old opinions. Luther's confidence in him was thus
destroyed for ever: he spoke with indignation, pain, and scorn of
'Grikel (Agricola), the false man.' The latter at length complained
to the Elector against Luther for having unjustly aspersed him. The
Elector testified to him his displeasure; Luther gave a sharp answer
to the charge, and his prince made further inquiries into the matter
of complaint. Agricola finally snatched at a means of escape offered
by his summons to Berlin, whither he had been called as a preacher
of distinction by the Elector Joachim II., who was a convert to the
Reformation. In August 1540 he left Wittenberg. He sent thither from
Berlin another and fully satisfactory retractation in order to
retain his official appointment. But Luther's friendship with him
was broken for ever.

In another quarter also Melancthon had been charged with deviating
in certain statements from the path of right doctrine.

We know already how his anxiety about the dangers caused by the
separation from the great Catholic Church seemed to tempt him to
indulge in questionable concessions, and how it was Luther himself,
with a disposition so different to Melancthon's, who nevertheless
held firmly to his trust in his friend and fellow-labourer,
particularly during the Diet of Augsburg. And, indeed, subsequent
events brought this tendency to concession more fully into notice.

Certain peculiarities now asserted themselves in Melancthon's
independent opinions, with regard both to theology and practical
life, which distinguished his mode of teaching from that of Luther.
He who, again and again, in the Augsburg Confession and the Apology,
as also in the system of evangelical theology which in his 'Loci
Communes' he was the first to elaborate, had expounded with full and
active conviction the fundamental evangelical truth of a justifying
and saving Faith, was anxious also--more so, even, than many strict
confessors of that doctrine--to have the whole field of moral
improvement and the fruits of morality which were necessary to
preserve that faith, estimated at their proper value. And further,
with respect to God's will and the operation of His grace, whereby
alone the sinner could obtain inward conversion and faith, he wished
to make this depend entirely on man's own will and choice, so that
the blame might not appear to lie with God if the call to salvation
remained fruitless, and a temptation thereby be offered to many to
indulge in carelessness or despondency. In addition to this, he
differed unmistakably from Luther in his doctrine of the Sacrament.
For, though it was he who at Augsburg in 1530 had flatly rejected
the Zwinglians, still his historical researches impressed him with
the belief, that, in reality, as indeed the Zwinglians maintained,
not Augustine himself, among the ancients, had taught the Real
Bodily Presence after the manner of Luther, or even of Roman
Catholicism; and his own theological opinion induced him at least to
satisfy himself with more or less obscure propositions about the
communion of the Saviour Who died for us with the guests at His
table, without any fixed or clear declarations about the
substantiality of the Body. This appears, for instance, in his 'Loci
Communes,' although in the formula of the Wittenberg Concord of 1536
he went farther, together with Luther.

On the first point above-mentioned, a priest named Cordatus, a
strict adherent of Luther, had raised a protest against him in 1536.
But the opponent whom Melancthon chiefly feared in this respect was
the theologian Amsdorf, who was not only an old familiar friend of
Luther, but the especial guardian, both then and still more after
Luther's death, of Lutheran orthodoxy. But Luther himself was
anxious to avoid, even in this matter, any rupture or discord with
Melancthon. He took great pains to reconcile the difference, and
knew also how to keep silence, though without deviating from his own
strict standpoint, or being able to overlook the peculiarity of his
friend's teaching, conspicuously apparent as it was in the new
edition of his book.

We are reminded by this, moreover, how Luther, during his illness at
Schmalkald in 1537, made no secret of his fear of a division
breaking out at Wittenberg after his death.



In the great affairs of the Church, amid the threats of his enemies
and in all his dealings with them, Luther continued from day to day
to trust quietly in God, as the Guider of events, Who suffers none
to forestall His designs, and puts to shame and rebuke the
inventions of man. His hope of external peace had hitherto been
fulfilled beyond all expectation. And it had been permitted him to
see the Reformation gain strength and make further progress in the
German Empire. Indeed, it seemed possible that a union might be
effected with those Catholics who had been impressed with the
evangelical doctrine of salvation. These were results accomplished
by the inward power of God's Word, as hitherto preached to the
people, under a Divine and marvellously favourable dispensation of
outer relations and events--fruits as unexpected as they were
gratifying to Luther. Great plans or projects of his own, however,
were still far from his thoughts; nor even did the details of this
historical development demand such activity on his part as he had
shown in the earlier years of the movement. And yet there was no
lack of discord, difficulty, and trouble within the pale of the new
Church and amongst its members; prospects of further, and possibly
much more serious dangers to be encountered; thoughts of sadness and
disquietude to vex the soul of the Reformer, now aged, suffering,
and weary. The goal of his hopes had ever been, and still remained,
not indeed a victory to be gradually achieved for his cause, perhaps
even in his own lifetime, by the course of ecclesiastical and
political changes and events, but the end which the Lord Himself,
according to His promises, would make of the whole wicked world, and
the Hereafter whither he was ever waiting to be summoned.

Since the Schmalkaldic allies had rejected the Emperor with his
invitation to a Council, the Romish zealots might well hope that
Charles at length would prepare to use force against them. He was
not yet able to bring his quarrel with King Francis to a final
termination; but, nevertheless, he concluded a truce with him in
1538 for ten years, while at the same time his vice-chancellor Held
contrived to effect a union of Roman Catholic princes in Germany in
opposition to the Schmalkaldic League. This union was joined, in
addition to Austria, Bavaria, and George of Saxony, by Duke Henry of
Brunswick, the bitter enemy of the Landgrave Philip. Already in the
spring of that year people at Wittenberg talked of operations on a
large scale ostensibly directed against the Turks, but in reality
against the Protestants. Or at least it was feared that the imperial
army, in the event of its defeating the Turks, might, as Luther
expressed it, turn their spears against the Evangelical party. In
this respect Luther had no fears; he did not believe in a victory
over the Turks, and, even in that case, his opinion was that the
imperial troops would no more submit to be made the instruments of
such a policy than they had done some years before, after their
victory at Vienna. Most earnestly he exhorted the Elector, for his
part at least, to do his duty again in the war against the Turks,
for the sake of his Fatherland and the poor oppressed people. On the
other hand, the right of the Protestant States to resist the
Emperor, if it came to a war of religion, was one which he now
asserted without scruple or hesitation. The Emperor, he said, in
such a war would not be Emperor at all, but merely a soldier of the
Pope. He appealed to the fact that once among the people of Israel
pious and godly men had risen up against their sovereign; and the
German princes had additional rights over their Emperor, by virtue
of their constitution. Finally, he reasoned from the law of nature
itself, that a father was bound to protect his wife and children
from open murder; and he likened the Emperor, who usurped a power
notoriously illegal, to a murderer. For the rest, he declared, in a
publication exhorting the Evangelical clergy to pray for peace, that
as to whether the Papists chose to carry out their designs or not he
was perfectly indifferent, in case God did not will to work a
miracle. His only fear was lest a war might arise, if they did so,
which would never end, and would be the total ruin of Germany.

But the Emperor was less zealous and more cautious than his
vice-chancellor. He sent another representative to Germany, with
instructions to prevent an outbreak of hostilities. This envoy, in
the course of some negotiations conducted at Frankfort in April
1539, agreed to an understanding by which the ecclesiastical
law-suits hitherto instituted in the Imperial Chamber against the
Protestants were suspended, and a number of chosen theologians of
piety and laymen were to 'arrange a praiseworthy union of
Christians' at an assembly of the German Estates.

On April 17, in the midst of these transactions, Duke George of
Saxony died after a short illness. His country passed to his brother
Henry, who in his own smaller territory of Freiburg had for some
years, much to the grief of George, established the Evangelical form
of worship, and given shelter to the heretics banished by his
brother. The latter had left no male issue to succeed him. He had
lost two sons in boyhood; and his son John, who held the same
opinions as himself, had died two years ago, when quite a young man,
without leaving any children. His last remaining son Frederick was
of weak intellect, but had nevertheless been married after his
brother's death, and died a few weeks later. He was soon followed by
his unhappy father and sovereign. Luther said of him that he had
gone to everlasting fire, though he would have wished him life and
conversion. To us his end appears the more tragic because we cannot
but acknowledge the honest zeal with which, from his own point of
view, he endeavoured to serve God, and would willingly even have
effected a reform in the Church; whilst, in spite of all his
severity against heretics, he never suffered himself to be hurried
into deeds of coarse violence and cruelty. There are extant prayers
and religious discourses, composed and written down by himself. He
read the Bible, and expressed a wish, when Luther's translation
appeared, that 'the monk would put the whole Bible into German, and
then go about his business.'

Thus the old and constantly revived quarrel between Luther and the
Duke came at length to an end. The Reformation was immediately
introduced throughout the duchy by the appointment of Evangelical
clergy, by changes in public worship, and by a visitation of
churches after the example of the one in Electoral Saxony. When
Henry was solemnly acknowledged sovereign at Leipzig, he invited
Luther and Jonas to be present. On the afternoon of Whitsunday, May
24, 1539, Luther preached a sermon in the court chapel of that
Castle of Pleissenburg, where he had once disputed before George
with Eck, and on the following afternoon he preached in one of the
churches of the town, not venturing to do so in the morning on
account of his weak state of health. He now proclaimed aloud, in his
sermon on the Gospel for Whitsunday, that the Church of Christ was
not there, where men were madly crying 'Church! Church!' without the
Word of God, nor was it with the Pope, the cardinals, and the
bishops; but there, and there only, where Christ was loved and His
Word was kept, and where accordingly He dwelt in the souls of men.
He refrained from any special reference to the state of things
hitherto existing at Leipzig and in the duchy, or to the change
brought about by God. But we call to mind the words he had spoken in
1532, 'Who knows what God will do before ten years are over?' Very
soon, indeed, the magnates of the Saxon court and the nobility,
though accepting the reformed faith of their new sovereign, gave
occasion to Luther for bitter complaints of their rapacity, their
indifference to religion, and their improper and tyrannical
usurpations on the territory of the Church.

In addition to the Saxon duchy, the Electorate of Brandenburg was
also about to go over to Protestantism. The Elector Joachim I.
adhered so strictly to the ancient Church, that his wife Elizabeth,
who was evangelically inclined, had fled to Saxony, where she became
an intimate friend of Luther's household. But on his death in 1535,
his younger son John, together with his territory, the 'Neumark,'
joined at once the Schmalkaldic allies. And now, after longer
consideration, his elder brother also, Joachim II.--a man of quieter
disposition and more attached to ancient ways--took the decisive
step, after an agreement with his Estates and the territorial
bishop, Jagow. On November 1, 1539, he received from the latter
publicly the Sacrament in both kinds.

Under these circumstances the Emperor resolved to give effect to the
essential part of the Frankfort agreement. He summoned a meeting at
Spire 'for the purpose of so arranging matters that the wearisome
dissension in religion might be reconciled in a Christian manner.'
In consequence of a pestilence which appeared at Spire, the assembly
was removed to Hagenau. Here it was actually held in June 1540.

Meanwhile, the most vigorous champion of Protestantism, the
Landgrave Philip, took a step which was calculated to damage the
position of the Evangelical Church and to embarrass its adherents
more than anything which their enemies could possibly attempt.
Philip, in his youth (1523) had taken to wife a daughter of Duke
George of Saxony, but soon repented of his ill-considered resolve,
on the ground that she was of an unamiable disposition and was
afflicted with bodily infirmities, and accordingly proceeded to look
elsewhere for a mistress, after the fashion only too common at that
time with emperors and princes, but scarcely commented upon in their
case. The earnest remonstrances made to him on religious grounds
against this step had the effect of causing him certain prickings of
conscience; he had not ventured on that account, as he now
complained, to present himself at the Lord's table, with one single
exception, since the Peasants' War. But his conscience was not
strong enough to make him give up his evil ways. At last the Bible,
which he read industriously, seemed to him to provide a means of
outlet from his difficulty. He sheltered himself, as the Anabaptist
fanatics had done before him, behind the Old Testament precedent of
Abraham and other godly men, to whom it had been permitted to have
more than one wife, and pleaded, moreover, that the New Testament
contained no prohibition of polygamy. With all the energy and
stubbornness of his nature, he fastened on these notions and clung
to them, when, at the house of his sister, the Duchess Elizabeth, at
Rochlitz, he chanced to meet and fall in love with a lady named
Margaret von der Saal. She refused to be his except by marriage. Her
mother even demanded of him that Luther, Butzer, and Melancthon, or
at least two of them, together with an envoy of the Elector and the
Duke of Saxony, should be present as witnesses at the marriage.
Philip himself found the consent of these divines and of his most
distinguished ally, John Frederick, indispensable. He succeeded
first of all in gaining over the versatile Butzer, and sent him in
December 1539, on this errand, to Wittenberg.

He appealed to the strait that he was in, no longer able with a good
conscience to go to war or to punish crime, and also to the
testimony of Scripture, adding, very truly, that the Emperor and the
world were quite willing to permit both him and anyone else to live
in open immorality. Thus, he said, they were forbidding what God
allowed, and winking at what He prohibited. In other respects,
indeed, a double marriage was not a thing unheard of even by the
Christendom of those days. It was said, for instance, of the
Christian Emperor of Rome, Valentinian II., to whose case Philip
himself appealed, that he had been permitted to contract a marriage
of that kind. To the Pope was ascribed the power to grant the
necessary dispensation.

On December 10 Butzer brought back to the Landgrave from Wittenberg
an opinion of Luther and Melancthon. They told him in decided terms
that it was in accordance with creation itself, and recognised as
such by Jesus, 'that a man was not to have more than one wife;' and
they, the preachers of God's Word, were commanded to regulate
marriage and all human things 'in accordance with their original and
Divine institution, and to adhere thereto as closely as possible,
while at the same time avoiding to their utmost all cause of pain or
annoyance.' They urgently exhorted him not to regard incontinence,
as did the world, in the light of a trifling offence, and
represented to him plainly that if he refused to resist his evil
inclinations, he would not mend matters by taking a second wife. But
with all this exhortation and warning, they confessed themselves
bound to admit that 'what was allowed in respect of marriage by the
law of Moses was not actually forbidden in the gospel;' thereby
maintaining, in point of fact, that an original ordinance in the
Church must be adhered to as the rule, but nevertheless admitting
the possibility of a dispensation under very strong and exceptional
circumstances. They did not say that such a dispensation was
applicable to the case of Philip; they only wished him earnestly to
reconsider the matter with his own conscience. In the event,
however, of his keeping to his resolve, they would not refuse him
the benefit of a dispensation, and only required that the matter
should be kept private, on account of the scandal and possible abuse
it would occasion if generally known.

Luther himself abandoned afterwards the conclusions he drew from the
Old Testament in this respect, and, as a consequence, rejected the
admissibility of a double marriage for Christians. Friends of the
evangelical and Lutheran belief can only lament the decision he
pronounced in this matter. With that belief itself it has nothing
whatever to do. Instead of drawing his conclusions from the moral
aspect of marriage, as amply attested by the spirit of the New
Testament, though not indeed exactly expressed, Luther on this
occasion clung to the letter, and failed, of course, to find any
written declaration on the point. At the same time he mistook, in
common with all the theologians of his time, the difference, in
point of matured morality and knowledge, between the New Covenant
and the standpoint of the Old, which was that also of his best

The simple Christian common sense of the Elector John Frederick, and
his practical view of the position, preserved him this time from the
error into which the theologians had fallen. He lamented that they
should have given an answer, and would have nothing to do with the

Philip, however, rejoiced at the decision, and obtained, moreover,
his wife's consent to take a second one.

In the following March the Protestants held another conference at
Schmalkald, with a view of coming to an agreement as to their
conduct in the attempts at unity in the Church. The Elector summoned
Melancthon thither, but excused Luther, at his own request. Philip
then invited the former, under some pretext or other, to the
neighbouring Castle of Rothenburg on the Fulda. Arrived there, he
was obliged to be a witness with Butzer, on March 4, 1540, to the
marriage of the Landgrave with Margaret. Philip thanked Luther some
weeks after for the 'remedy' allowed him, without which he should
have become 'quite desperate.' He had kept the name of his second
wife a secret from the Wittenbergers; he now told Luther that she
was a virtuous maiden, a relative of Luther's own wife, and that he
rejoiced to have honourably become his kinsman.

Very soon, however, the news of this unheard of event got wind. The
Evangelicals were not less scandalised than their enemies, who in
other respects were glad to see the mischief. The first to demand an
explanation was the Ducal Court of Saxony, the Duke being so nearly
related to Philip's first wife, and on the eve of a quarrel with
Philip about a claim of inheritance. The Landgrave's whole position
was in jeopardy; for bigamy, by the law of the Empire, was a serious
offence. Luther heard now with indignation that the 'necessity' to
which Philip had thought himself justified in yielding had been
exaggerated. The latter, on the other hand, finding concealment no
longer possible, wished to announce his marriage publicly, and
defend it. He went so far as to imagine that even if the allies
should renounce him he might still procure the favour and
consideration of the Emperor. Unpleasant and very painful
discussions arose between him, John Frederick, and Duke Henry of

Meanwhile, the day was now approaching for the conference at
Hagenau. Melancthon was sent there too by the Elector. But on
reaching Weimar on June 13, where the prince was then staying, he
suddenly fell ill, and it seemed as if his end was close at hand. He
was oppressed with trouble and anxiety about the wrongdoing of the
Landgrave. The Elector himself wrote reproachfully to Philip, saying
that 'Philip Melancthon was disturbed with miserable thoughts about
him,' and he now lay between life and death. Luther was sent for by
the Elector from Wittenberg. He found the sick man lying in a state
of unconsciousness and seemingly quite dead to the world. Shocked at
the sight, he exclaimed, 'God help us! how has Satan marred this
vessel of Thy grace!' Then the faithful, manly friend fell to
praying God for his precious companion, casting, as he said, all his
heart's request before Him, and reminding Him of all the promises
contained in His own Word. He exhorted and bade Melancthon to be of
good courage, for that God willed not the death of a sinner, and he
would yet live to serve Him. He assured him he would rather now
depart himself. On Melancthon's gradually showing more signs of
life, he had some food prepared for him, and on his refusing it
said, 'You really must eat, or I will excommunicate you.' By degrees
the patient revived in body and soul. Luther was able to inform
another friend, 'We found him dead, and by an evident miracle he

Luther, after this, was taken to Eisenach by his prince, to advise
him on the news which he expected to receive there from Hagenau. At
Eisenach he and the chancellor Brück had an earnest consultation
with envoys from Hesse. Against these, both Luther and Brück
insisted that the proceedings which had taken place between Philip
and the theologians in respect to his marriage should be kept as
secret as a confession, and that Philip must be content to have his
second marriage regarded, in the eyes of the world and according to
the law, as concubinage. He must make up his mind, therefore, to
parry, as best he could, the questions which were being noised
abroad about him, with vague statements or equivocations. He would
then incur no further personal danger. But any attempt to brazen it
out would inevitably land him in confusion and embarrassment, and
only increase and continue the damage done to the Evangelical cause
by this affair.

The Diet at Hagenau made no further demand on Luther's activity. It
was there resolved to take in hand again, at another meeting to be
held at Worms late in the autumn, and after further preparation, the
religious and ecclesiastical questions at issue. Peaceably-disposed
and competent men were to be appointed on both sides for this
purpose. Thus Luther was now at liberty to leave Eisenach towards
the end of July, and return home, dissatisfied, as he wrote to his
wife, with the Diet at Hagenau, where labour and expense had been
wasted, but happy in the thought that Melancthon had been restored
from death to life.

At Worms the proceedings, in which Melancthon and Eck took a
prominent part, were further adjourned to a Diet which the Emperor
purposed to hold in person at Ratisbon early in 1541. Here, on April
27, a debate was opened on religion.

Luther entertained very slender expectations from all these
conferences, considering the long-ascertained opinions of his
opponents. He pointed to the innocent blood which had long stained
the hands of the Emperor Charles and King Ferdinand. Still, during
the Diet at Worms, the thought arose in his mind that, if only the
Emperor were rightly disposed, a German Council might actually
result from that assembly. He saw his enemies busy with their secret
schemes of mischief, and feared lest many of his comrades in the
faith, such as the Landgrave Philip, might treat too lightly the
matter, which was no mere comedy among men, but a tragedy in which
God and Satan were the actors. He rejoiced again, however, that the
falsehood and cunning of his enemies must be brought to nought by
their own folly, and that God Himself would consummate the great
catastrophe of the drama. And in regard to the fear we have just
mentioned, he declared that he, at any rate, would not suffer
himself to be dragged into anything against his own conviction.
'Rather,' said he, 'would I take the matter again on my own
shoulders, and stand alone, as at the beginning. We know that it is
the cause of God, and He will carry it through to the end; whoever
will not go with it, must remain behind.'

Between the Diets of Worms and Ratisbon he entered in 1541, with all
his old severity, and with a violence even beyond his wont, into a
bitter correspondence which had just then begun between Duke Henry
of Brunswick--Wolfenbüttel, a zealous Catholic, and morally of ill
repute with friend and foe, on the one side, and John Frederick and
the Landgrave Philip, the heads of the Schmalkaldic League, on the
other. He published against Duke Henry a pamphlet 'Against Hans
Worst.' The Duke had taunted him with having allowed himself to call
his own sovereign Hans Wurst. Luther assured him, in reply, that he
had never given this name to a single man, whether friend or foe;
but now applied it to the Duke, because he found it meant a stupid
blockhead who wished to be thought clever and all the time spoke and
acted like a simpleton. But he was not content with calling him a
blockhead; he represented him as a profligate man, who, while
libelling the princes and pretending to be the champion of God's
ordinances, himself practised open adultery, committed acts of
violence and insolent tyranny, and incited men to incendiarism in
his opponents' territories. He would let the Duke scream himself
hoarse or dead with his calumnies against John Frederick and the
Evangelicals, and simply answer him by saying, 'Devil, thou liest!
Hans Worst, how thou liest! O, Henry Wolfenbüttel, what a shameless
liar thou art! Thou spittest forth much, and namest nothing; thou
libellest, and provest nothing.' At the same time this pamphlet of
Luther was a literary vindication of the Reformation and
Protestantism; here, said he, and not in the popedom, was the true,
ancient, and original Christian Church. Luther himself, on reading
over his pamphlet after it was printed, thought its tone against
Henry was too mild; a headache, he said, must have suppressed his

Just at this time he had to encounter a fresh and violent attack of
illness. He described it, in a letter to Melancthon, who was then at
Ratisbon, as a 'cold in the head;' it was accompanied not only with
alarming giddiness, from which he was now a frequent sufferer, but
also with deafness and intolerable pains, forcing tears from his
eyes, something unusual with him, and making him call on God to put
an end to his pain or to his life. A copious discharge of matter
from his ear, which occurred in Passion Week, gave him relief; but
for a long while he continued very weak and suffering. To his
prince, who sent his private physician to attend him, he wrote on
April 25, thanking him, and adding, 'I should have been well content
if the dear Lord Jesus had taken me in His mercy from hence, as I am
now of little more use on earth.' He attributed his recovery to the
intercessions which Bugenhagen had made for him in the Church.

Whilst he was still feeling his head thus full of pain and unfit for
work, he was called upon to give his opinion on the preparations for
the religious conference at Ratisbon, and afterwards upon its

Bright prospects seemed now to be opening for the victory of the
Gospel. Men of understanding and really desirous of peace had for
once been commissioned, by the Catholics as well as by the
Protestants, to conduct the debate. The chief actors were no longer
an Eck, though he, too, was one of the collocutors, but the pious,
gentle, and refined theologian Julius von Pflug, and the electoral
counsellor of Cologne, Gropper, who vied with him in an earnest
desire for reform and unity. Contarini also was there, as the Papal
legate--a man influenced by purely religious motives, and a convert
to the deeper Evangelical doctrine of salvation. Melancthon and
Butzer were also there. The questions of most importance from the
Evangelical point of view were first dealt with--namely, those which
related, not to the external system and authority of the Church, but
to man's need of, and the way to obtain, salvation, to sin, grace,
and justification. And it was now unanimously confessed that the
faithful soul is sustained solely by the righteousness given by
Christ; and for His sake alone, and not for any worthiness or works
of its own, is justified and accepted by God.

Never before, and never since, have Protestant and Catholic
theologians approached each other so nearly, nay, been so unanimous,
on these fundamental doctrines, as on that memorable day. And the
Catholics, in this, distinctly left the ground of mediæval
scholasticism, and went over to that of the Evangelicals. How
distinctly this was done will be apparent to any one who compares
the propositions accepted at the Conference of Ratisbon with the
Catholic reply to the Augsburg Confession of 1530.

Nevertheless, we do not find that Luther felt particularly elated by
the news from Ratisbon. The formula which embodied their agreement
seemed to him a 'roundabout and patched affair.' In connection with
faith, as the only means of justification, too much, he thought, was
said of the works which must spring from it; in connection with the
justification given to the faithful through Christ, too much was
said of the righteousness which each Christian must strive to
attain. He, too, had always taught and demanded both works and
righteousness. But the present arrangement of clauses seemed to him
calculated to lessen and obscure again the primary importance of
Christ and of Faith, as the sole means of salvation. And we see what
objection was uppermost in his mind, in his allusion to Eck, who
also was obliged to subscribe the formula. Eck, said Luther, would
never confess to having once taught differently to now, and would
know well enough how to adopt the new tenets to his old way of
thinking. They were putting a patch of new cloth upon an old
garment, and the rent would be made worse. (Matt. ix. 16.)

Luther was spared, however, a decision as to the acceptance or
non-acceptance of an agreement. For among the Catholic Estates of
the Empire he found, so far as he had followed the debate of the
Diet, too strong an opposition to hope for real union. Moreover,
the collocutors themselves were unable to agree when they came to
further questions, as, for example, the Mass and Transubstantiation;
they still shipwrecked, therefore, on those points which were of the
most vital importance for the external glorification of the
priesthood and the Church, and the surrender of which would have
meant the sacrifice of a dogma already ratified by a Conciliar

On June 11 an embassy from Ratisbon appeared before Luther in the
name of those Protestant states which were most zealous for unity.
Prince John of Anhalt was at their head. Luther was requested to
declare his concurrence with what had been done, and assist them in
giving permanent effect to the articles agreed to at the Conference,
and arranging some peaceful and tolerant compromise with regard to
those points on which agreement had been impossible. Luther was
quite prepared to acquiesce in such toleration, provided only the
Emperor would permit the preaching of the articles referring to the
doctrine of salvation, leaving it open to the Protestants to
continue their warfare of the Word on the points still remaining in
dispute. The Emperor, however, would only sanction those articles on
the understanding that a Council should finally decide upon them,
and that, in the meantime, all controversial writings on matters of
religion should cease. By the Catholic Estates at the Diet they were
strenuously opposed. Luther's own opinion remained substantially the
same as before--namely, that any trust or hopes were vain, unless
their enemies gave God the honour due to Him, and openly confessed
that they had changed their teaching. The Emperor must see and
acknowledge that within the last twenty years his Edict had been the
murder of many pious people.

The Conference accordingly remained fruitless. The Diet, however,
did not close without achieving an important result for the
Protestants; for the Emperor granted them, at their request, the
Religious Peace of Nüremberg.

The main reason that induced Charles so far to toleration and
leniency was the trouble with the Turks. With regard to these,
Luther now addressed himself once more to his countrymen with words
of earnestness and weight. He published an 'Exhortation to prayer
against the Turks,' teaching and warning his readers to regard them
as a scourge of God, and make war against them as God commanded.
From this time also dates his hymn

  Lord, shield us with Thy Word, our Hope,
  And smite the Moslem and the Pope.

When a tax was levied for the war with the Turks, Luther himself
begged the Elector not to exempt him with his scanty goods. He would
gladly, he said, if not too old and too infirm, 'be one of the army
himself.' In 1542 he brought out for his countrymen a refutation of
the Koran, written in earlier days, that they might learn what a
shameful faith was Mahomed's, and not suffer themselves to be
perverted, in case by God's decree they should see the Turks
victorious, or even fall into their hands.



The Reformation, against which the Emperor had so repeatedly to
promise his interference, and with which he was compelled to seek
for a peaceful understanding, continued meanwhile to gain ground in
various parts of Germany.

[Illustration: Fig. 45.--JONAS. (From a portrait by Cranach, in his
Album at Berlin, 1543.)]

Luther hailed with especial joy its victory in the town of Halle,
which had formerly been a favourite seat of the Cardinal Albert and
the chief scene of his wanton extravagances, and where now one of
Luther's most intimate and most learned friends from Wittenberg,
Justus Jonas, was installed as reformer and Evangelical pastor. Here
the final impetus was given to the movement, among the mass of the
population, of whom the large majority had long espoused the cause
of Luther, by those money difficulties which played such a serious
and grievous part in the life of Albert. When, in the spring of
1541, the town was called on to pay taxes to the amount of 22,000
gulden, to defray the Cardinal's debts, the citizens made the
payment conditional on their Council appointing an Evangelical
preacher. Jonas was accordingly invited to the town, and received at
once, on his arrival, a regular appointment through the magistracy
and a committee of the congregation. In Passion Week, when Luther
was recovering from his illness and Albert had to attend the Diet at
Ratisbon, Jonas for the first time took his place in the principal
church in the town, then recently rebuilt, in the pulpit which the
Archbishop had had erected with elaborate carvings in stone. Soon
after the two other churches in the town received Evangelical
preachers. The general regulation of Church matters was entrusted to
Jonas, and remained under his control. Luther, however, supported
his friend with his advice, and continued on terms of trusted
intimacy with him till his death. He did not conceal his joy that
the 'wicked old rogue,' Albert, should have had to live to see this,
and praised God for upholding His judgment upon earth. The
collection of countless and wonderful relics with which the
Cardinal, twenty years before, had sought to carry on the traffic in
indulgences, so hateful to Luther, he now wished to exhibit in like
manner at Mayence, his town of residence. Thereupon Luther, in 1542,
published anonymously, but with the evident intention of being
recognised as its author, a 'New Paper from the Rhine,' which
announced to German Christendom a series of new, unheard-of relics,
collected by his Highness the Elector, such as a piece of the left
horn of Moses, three tongues of flame from his burning bush, &c.,
and lastly a whole drachm of his own true heart and half an ounce of
his own truthful tongue, which his Highness had added as a legacy by
his last will and testament. The Pope, said Luther, had promised to
anyone who should give a gulden in honour of the relics, a remission
for ten years of whatever sins he pleased. Contempt of this kind was
all that Luther found the exhibition deserved. Albert remained

About the same time the Elector John Frederick undertook a novel,
important, though a dangerous, and to Luther an objectionable step,
in connection with a bishopric then vacant. The Bishop of Naumburg
had died. The Chapter of the Cathedral, with whom lay the election
of his successor, were accustomed to guide their choice by the wish
of the Elector, as their territorial sovereign. They now elected,
without waiting to hear from John Frederick, who had seceded from
Catholicism, the distinguished Julius von Pflug. The Elector, on the
contrary, was anxious, as his privilege was hurt by this neglect, to
nominate a bishop of his own choice, and, moreover, a member of the
Augsburg Confession. His Chancellor, Brück, protested earnestly
against this step, and Luther could not refrain from endorsing his
remonstrance. If the common herd of Papists, he said, had been
content to look on and see what had been done to priests and monks,
they and the Emperor would not care to see the same things done with
the Episcopate. The Elector thought this pusillanimous; he wished to
be bolder and more spirited than Luther. It was a pity only that his
pious zeal lacked the more circumspect judgment of his advisers, and
that the interests of his own authority were also concerned. He
declined even to accept the advice of the Wittenberg theologians,
who suggested that, at all events, the bishopric should be given to
the eminent prince of the Empire, George of Anhalt, but chose
Nicholas von Amsdorf--a man of better promise, not, indeed, solely
from his theological principles, but as being likely to be more
dependent on his territorial sovereign, though perhaps, as an
unmarried man and a member of the nobility, less repugnant than any
other Protestant theologian to the Catholics. On January 18, 1542,
the Elector brought him in solemn state to Naumburg before the
chapter there assembled.

Luther was glad, nevertheless, to see an Evangelical bishop. He took
care to introduce him in Evangelical manner. According to the
Catholic doctrine, as is well known, the Episcopate is transmitted
from the Apostles by the act of consecration, with the laying on of
hands and anointing, which can only be done by one bishop to
another, and only a bishop can then consecrate priests or the
clergy. The Reformers would easily have been able to continue this
so-called Apostolical succession through the Prussian bishops who
went over to them. But, as they never acknowledged the necessity of
this with regard to the inferior clergy, neither did they with
regard to the new bishop. Luther himself consecrated Amsdorf on
January 20, together with two Evangelical superintendents of the
neighbourhood, and the principal pastor and superintendent of the
Evangelical congregation at Naumburg, with prayer and the laying on
of hands, in the presence of the various orders and a multitude of
people from the town and district assembled in the Cathedral. The
congregation were first informed that an honest, upright bishop had
now been nominated for them by their sovereign and his estates in
concert with the clergy, and they were called upon to express their
own approval by an Amen, which was thereupon given loudly in
response. In this manner at least it was sought to comply with a
rule especially enjoined by Cyprian: namely, that a bishop should be
elected in an assembly of neighbouring bishops and with the consent
of his own congregation. Luther gave an account of the ceremony in a
tract, entitled 'Example of the way to consecrate a true Christian

[Illustration: FIG. 4e.-AMSDORF. (From an old woodcut.)]

Brück's apprehensions meantime were only too well founded. The
complaints raised against this consecration weighed heavily with
even the more moderate opponents of the Reformation, and especially
with the Emperor. It was at the same time very evident that, as we
have elsewhere observed, the Elector, good Churchman as he was by
disposition, frequently displayed too little energy in regard to the
general relations and interests of his Church. Thus the arrangements
required for the bishopric remained neglected, and the new bishop
was furnished with a most inadequate maintenance. Luther complained
that the Electoral Court undertook great things, and then left them
sticking in the mire. Moreover, among many of the temporal lords,
even on the Protestant side, there were signs of spiteful jealousy
and suspicion against the honours and advantages enjoyed by their
theologians. Luther himself proceeded therefore with the utmost
possible caution. He even declined once a present of venison from
his friend Amsdorf, in order not to give occasion for calumny by the
'Centaurs at Court;' though, as he said, they themselves had
devoured everything, without any prickings of conscience. 'Let
them,' he wrote to Amsdorf, 'guzzle in God's name or in any other.'

Scarcely had the Elector's instalment of the bishop (1542) awakened
these bitter feelings of resentment, when a war threatened to break
out between the Elector and his cousin and fellow-Protestant, Duke
Maurice of Saxony, the successor of his late father Henry--a war
which would have imperilled more than anything else the position of
the Protestants in the Empire, and which stirred and disquieted
Luther to his inmost soul.

Between the ducal, or Albertine, and the Electoral, or Ernestine
lines of the princely house of Saxony, various rights were in
dispute, and among them, in particular, those of supreme
jurisdiction over the little town of Wurzen, belonging to the
bishopric of Meissen. When now the Bishop of Meissen refused to let
the subsidy, levied at Wurzen for the war against the Turks, be
forwarded to the Elector, the latter, in March 1542, quickly sent
thither his troops. Maurice at once called out his own troops
against him. Both continued to arm, and prepared to fight. Luther
thereupon, in a letter of April 7, intended for publication,
appealed to them and their Estates in terms of heartfelt Christian
fervour and perfect frankness. He reminded them of the Scriptural
admonition to keep peace; of the close relationship of the two
princes as the sons of two sisters; of their noble birth; of their
subjects, the burghers and peasants, who were so closely
intermingled by marriage that the war would be no war, but a mere
family brawl; furthermore, of the petty ground of their fierce
contention, just as if two drunken rustics were fighting in a tavern
about a glass of beer, or two idiots about a bit of bread; of the
shame and scandal for the Gospel; and of the triumph of their
enemies and the devil, who would rejoice to see this little spark
kindle into a conflagration. If either of the two, instead of using
force, would declare himself content with what was just and right,
whether it were his own Elector or the Duke, Luther for his part
would assist him with his prayers, and he might then trust himself
with confidence against aggression, and leave spear and musket to
the children of discontent. He told the others that they had
incurred the ban and the vengeance of God; nay, he advised all who
had to fight under such an unpeaceful prince to run from the field
as fast as they could.

The Landgrave Philip, who had hitherto, on account of his second
marriage, continued somewhat on strained terms with John Frederick,
brought about at this critical moment a peaceful understanding
between him and Maurice. The young duke, however, burned with an
ambition which longed to satisfy itself, even at the expense of his
cousin and other Protestant princes, and his power, moreover, was
far superior to the Elector's. Luther augured evil for the future.

The Reformation was now accepted in the territory also of Duke Henry
of Brunswick. The Landgrave Philip and John Frederick had taken the
field together against him, on account of his having attacked the
Evangelical town of Goslar and sought defiantly to execute against
it a sentence, in connection with ecclesiastical matters, which had
threatened it from the Imperial Chamber, but was suspended by the
Emperor. This war against 'Henry the Incendiary' Luther considered
just and necessary, the question being one of protecting the
oppressed. Wolfenbüttel, whose fortress the Duke boasted to be
impregnable, speedily succumbed on August 13, 1542, to the fate of
war and the boldness of Philip. Luther saw with triumph how the
fortress which, it was reputed, could stand a six years' siege, had
fallen in three days by the help of God. He hoped only that the
conquerors would be humble and give the glory of the exploit to God.
They then occupied the land, the prince of which fled, and proceeded
to establish the Evangelical Church, in accordance with the general
wish of the population.

Maurice of Saxony, who still strenuously adhered to the Evangelical
confession and to his rights as protector of the Church, not only
continued the reformation commenced in the Duchy by his father, but
succeeded in extending it peacefully to the bishopric of Merseburg.
The chapter there decided, in 1544, on his nomination, to elect to
the vacant see his young brother Augustus, who, not being himself an
ecclesiastic, delegated at once his episcopal functions to George of
Anhalt, Luther's pious-minded friend. Luther in the summer of the
following year consecrated him, in the same manner as Amsdorf,
together with several superintendents, and with Bugenhagen,
Cruciger, and Jonas.

Events far greater and more important were occurring in the
archbishopric of Cologne. Here an Archbishop at once and Elector,
the aged, worthy Hermann of Wied, had resolved, from his own free
conviction, to undertake a reformation on the basis of the Gospel.
In 1543 he invited Melancthon for this purpose from Wittenberg.
Melancthon's fellow-labourer was Butzer, who had the reputation of
always allowing himself to be carried too far by his zeal for
general unity in the Church, and at the same time, in regard to the
doctrine of the Sacrament, even as accepted by the Wittenberg
Concord, of preferring a more vague conception of his own. Luther,
however, promoted the undertaking with thanks to God, himself
furthered Melancthon's going, assured him of his entire confidence,
and learned from him with joy of the Archbishop's uprightness,
penetration, and constancy. In like manner, the Bishop of Münster
also began to attempt a reformation, in conformity with the wishes
of his Estates.

The Emperor at length, who since 1542 had been again at war with
France, and who needed therefore all the assistance that his German
Estates could give him, displayed at a new Diet at Spires, in 1544,
more gracious consideration to the Protestants than he had ever done
before. In the Imperial Recess he promised not only to endeavour to
bring about a general Council, to be assembled in Germany, but
undertook, since the meeting of such a Council was still uncertain,
to convoke another Diet, which should itself deal with the religion
in dispute. In the meantime, he and the various Estates of the
Empire would consider and prepare a scheme for Christian unity and a
general Christian reformation. The Archbishop Albert, now wholly
embittered against the Reformation, had issued a warning, after the
Diet of 1541, against any agreement to hold a Council on German
soil, as the Protestant poison would here have too powerful an
influence; in a national German Council he foresaw the threatening
danger of a schism. The resolutions passed at Spires brought down
severe reproaches from the Pope against the Emperor. What particularly
scandalised his Christian Holiness was that laymen--aye, laymen, who
supported the condemned heretics--were to sit as judges in matters
concerning the Church and the priesthood.

Protestantism, both in its extent and power, had now reached a point
of progress in the German Empire which seemed to offer a possibility
of its becoming the religion of the great majority of the nation,
and even of this majority being united. Charles V., nevertheless,
kept his eyes steadily fixed on his original goal--nay, he probably
felt himself nearer to it than ever. By his concessions he obtained
an army, which enabled him in the September of that year to conclude
a durable peace with King Francis, stipulating, as before, but
secretly, for mutual co-operation for the restoration of Catholic
unity in the Church. The next thing to be done was to persuade the
Pope at length to convene a Council, which should serve this object
in the sense intended by the Emperor, and then to enforce by its
authority the final subjection of the Protestants.

This possibility of a final triumph of Protestantism might have been
counted on with hope, if only that breath of the Spirit which had
once been stirred by the Reformer and had already responded to his
efforts had remained in full force and vigour in the hearts of the
German people; and if the new Spirit, thus awakened, had really
penetrated the masses, or, at least, the influential classes and
high personages who espoused the new faith, and had purified and
strengthened them to fight, to work, and to suffer. But Luther
complained from the very first, and more and more as time went on,
how sadly this Spirit was wanting to assist him in proclaiming the
Gospel and combating the anti-Christian system of Rome. Thus he
again complained, when hearing of what had happened at Cologne, at
Münster, and at Brunswick, that 'much evil and little good happens
to us;' he adapted to his own Church community the proverb, 'The
nearer Rome, the worse, the Christian,' as well as the words of the
prophets, lamenting the iniquity of Jerusalem, the holy city. In his
zeal he reproached the Evangelical congregations even more severely
than his Catholic and Popish opponents would ever have ventured to
reproach them, inasmuch as their own moral position, to say the
least, was not a whit better. But against the former, his own
brethren, Luther had to complain of base ingratitude to God for the
signal benefits He had vouchsafed them. Thus the peasantry, in
particular, he taxed again and again with their old selfish and
obstinate indifference and stupidity; the burghers with their luxury
and service of Mammon; and his fellow-countrymen in general with
their gluttony and their coarse and carnal appetites. It pained him
most to see these sins prevail among his nearest fellow-townsmen and
followers, his Wittenbergers; and he lashed out with all his force
against the students whom, as a class, he saw addicted to unchastity
and to 'swinish vices,' as he called them. The authorities, in his
opinion, were far too unmindful of their high appointment by God, of
which he had taken such pains to assure them. When Church discipline
came to be really introduced and made more stringent, he foresaw
quite well that it would only touch the peasants, and not reach the
upper classes. Among the great nobles at Court, especially at
Dresden, but also at that of the Elector, he found 'violent Centaurs
and greedy Harpies,' who preyed upon the Reformation and disgraced
it, and in whose midst it was difficult--nay, impossible--even for
an honest, right-minded ruler to govern as a true Christian. He had
already, and especially in these latter years, been in conflict with
lawyers, including some of well-recognised conscientiousness, such
as his colleague and friend Schurf, about many questions in which
they declared themselves unable to deviate from theories of the
canon or even the Roman law, which he considered unchristian and
immoral. He declared it, for example, to be an insult to the law of
God that they should insist so strongly on the obligation of vows of
marriage, made by young people in secret and against their parents'
will. So far from anticipating the triumph of the Evangelical
religion, while such was the condition of Germans and German
Protestants, he predicted with anxiety heavy punishment for his
country, and declared that God would assuredly cause the confessors
of the Gospel to be purged and sifted by calamity.

Just at that time, when a decisive moment was approaching for the
great ecclesiastical contest in Germany, Luther felt himself
constrained to rend asunder once more the bond of peace and mutual
toleration which had been established with such trouble between
himself and the Swiss Evangelicals. In doing so, he had seen no
reason either to change or conceal his old opinion about Zwingli.
The Swiss, on the other hand, offended by Luther's utterances, took,
in a manner, their honoured teacher and reformer under their
protection; from which Luther concluded that they still clung to all
his errors. A lurking distrust of Luther had never been wholly
dispelled among them. Luther heard, moreover, of corrupting
influences still exercised by the Sacramentarians outside
Switzerland. A letter reached him to that effect from some of his
adherents at Venice, whose complaints of the mischievous results of
the Sacramental controversy among their fellow-worshippers ascribed
that controversy to the continued influence of Zwinglianism. In
August 1543 he wrote to the Zurich printer Froschauer, who had
presented him with a translation of the Bible made by the preacher
of that town, saying briefly and frankly that he could have no
fellowship with them, and that he had no desire to share the blame
of their pernicious doctrine; he was sorry 'that they should have
laboured in vain, and should after all be lost.' Even in a scheme of
reformation which Butzer, with Melancthon, had prepared for Cologne,
he now discovered some suspicious articles about the Sacrament, to
which a criticism of Amsdorf had drawn his notice; they passed over,
it appeared, Luther's declaration, already agreed on, about the
substantial presence of Christ's Body in the Sacrament, or merely
'mumbled it,' as was Luther's expression. Nay, he heard it said that
even Wittenberg and himself would not adhere to his doctrine on this
point. Occasion, indeed, was given for this remark by the
circumstance that the ancient usage of the Elevation of the Host,
which, though connected with the Catholic idea of sacrifice, had
nevertheless been hitherto retained, though interpreted in another
sense, was now at length abolished at Wittenberg. After much anger
and discontent, Luther broke out, in September 1544, with the tract,
'Short Confession of the Holy Sacrament.' He had nothing to do with
any new refutation of false teachers--these, he said, had already
been frequently convicted by him as open blasphemers--but simply to
testify once more against the 'fanatics and enemies of the
Sacrament, Carlstadt, Zwingli, Oecolampadius, Schwenkfeld, and their
disciples,' and once and for all to renounce all fellowship with
these lost souls.

Alarming reports were spread about attacks being also meditated by
Luther against Butzer and Melancthon. Melancthon himself trembled;
he seriously feared he should be compelled to retire into exile. But
not a word did Luther say against Butzer, beyond calling him, as he
did now, a chatterbox. Against Melancthon we find nowhere, not even
in Luther's letters to his intimate friends, a single harsh or
menacing expression from his lips. He maintained his confidence in
him, even in respect to the later proceedings in the Church. When
urged to publish a collection of his Latin writings, he long refused
to do so, as he says in the preface to his edition of 1545, because
there were already such excellent works on Christian doctrine, such
as, in particular, the 'Loci Communes' of Melancthon, which its
author had recently revised. It must be regretted that Melancthon,
at moments like these, which must have caused him pain, did not open
his heart with more freedom and courage to the friend whose heart
still beat with such warm and unchanging affection for himself.

Luther never, till the day of his death, bestowed much care or
calculation on the immediate consequences of his acts and of the
work to which he felt himself called and urged by God, and which
certainly brought out in strong relief the individuality of his
nature. While committing, as he did, the cause to God alone, he kept
steadily in view the ultimate goal to which God was surely guiding
it--nay, that goal was immediately before his eyes. His confident
belief in the near approach of the last day, when the Lord would
solve all these earthly doubts and difficulties, and manifest
Himself in the perfect glory and bliss of His kingdom, remained in
him unaltered from the beginning of his struggle to the end of his
labours. We recognise in this belief the intensity of his own
longings, wrestlings, and strivings for this end, as also the
sincerity of his own conviction, little as the days of which we are
now speaking, so busy with events of every kind, corresponded with
the time ordained by God. Luther stretched out his view and
aspirations beyond this world, all the time that he was teaching
Christians again how to honour the world in the moral duties
assigned to them, and to enjoy its blessings and benefits with
thankfulness to God. 'No man knoweth the day or the hour'--of this
he constantly reminded them, and warned them against idle
speculations. But his hopes, nevertheless, he still rested on the
nearness of the end. These hopes he expressed with peculiar
assurance in a small Latin tract, written during these later years
of his life, in which he treats of Biblical chronology, and further
of the epochal years in the history of the world. In referring, for
example, to the wide-spread theory, originating with the Jews, of a
great Week of six thousand years, to be followed by the final and
everlasting Day of Rest, he sought with much ingenuity of reasoning
to prove that of those six thousand years probably only half would
be accomplished. Since now, according to his chronology, the year
1,540 was the 5,500th year of the world, the end was bound to be at
hand--nay, was already overdue--when his little book appeared in
1541. Yet, whatever were his views on this point, he never, like so
many others, allowed himself to be drawn by such hopes and desires
into illusions dangerous in practice.

This year passed by without any further or greater literary labour
on his part.

In addition to this continued polemic against the popedom and false
teachers, we must not omit to mention some characteristic
controversial writings, provoked from him by his indignation at the
attacks on Christianity by Jews, nay, by their seduction of many
Christians. As early as 1538, a strange rumour of a 'Jewish rabble'
in Moravia--a country rich in sectaries--having induced Christians
to accept the Mosaic law, had called forth from him a public 'Letter
against the Sabbathers.' He launched out with vehemence against them
in 1543 in some further tracts, inveighing mainly against the dirty
insults and savage blasphemies which the brazen-faced Jews dared to
employ towards Christ and Christians, and also against the usurers,
in whose toils the Christians were ensnared. He declared even that
their synagogues, the scene of their blasphemies and calumnies,
should be burnt, and they themselves compelled to take to honest
handicraft, or be hunted from the country.

In the grand and beautiful labour of his life, the German
translation of the Bible, he was busily occupied until his death.
After the second chief edition had appeared, in 1541, he endeavoured
to improve, at least in some points, those which followed in 1543
and 1545. He meditated also revising and further improving the most
important of his sermons, which have been left to posterity. After
having undertaken this task in 1540 with a number of them, he caused
three years later the 'Summer-Postills,' which Roth had previously
edited and brought out, to be published in a new form by his
colleague Cruciger. This work was now completed by the addition of
his sermons on the Epistles.

We have already seen how earnestly, even before the great end should
come, Luther longed for his eternal rest, and for release from the
struggles and labours of his earthly life, and the burden of his
bodily suffering. He spoke of his death with calmness but with deep
earnestness, and, indeed, with a touch of humour which pained those
who heard him speak, or read his writings. Thus, when in March 1544
the Elector's wife, Sybil, asked him 'anxiously and diligently'
about his own health and that of his wife and children, he answered:
'Thank God, we are well, and better than we deserve of God. But no
wonder, if I am sometimes shaky in the head. Old age is creeping on
me, which in itself is cold and unsightly, and I am ill and weak.
The pitcher goes to the well until it breaks. I have lived long
enough; God grant me a happy end, that this useless body may reach
His people beneath the earth, and go to feed the worms. Consider
that I have seen the best that I shall ever see on earth. For it
looks as if evil times were coming. God help his own. Amen.'



Frequently as Luther complained of his old age and ever-increasing
weakness, lassitude, and uselessness, his writings and letters give
evidence not only of an indomitable power and unquenchable ardour,
but also, and often enough, of those cheerful, merry moods, which
rose superior to all his sufferings, disappointments, and anger. He
himself declared that his many enemies, especially the sectaries,
who were always attacking him, always made him young again. The true
source of his strength he found in his Lord and Saviour, Whose
strength is made perfect in weakness, and to Whom he clung with a
firm and tranquil faith. To this, indeed, we must add one
particularly favourable influence, in regard to his life and
calling, which had been awakened since his marriage. In speaking of
his family, his wife, and his children, he is always full of thanks
to God; his heart swells with emotion, and he breathes amid his
heated labours and struggles a fresh and bracing air. Just as,
during the Diet of Augsburg, he had pointed out encouragingly to the
Elector the happy Paradise which God had allowed to bloom for him in
his little boys and girls, so he himself was permitted to experience
and enjoy this Paradise at home. In his domestic no less than in his
public life he saw a vocation marked out for him by God; not,
indeed, as if he, the Reformer, had here any peculiar path of life,
or exceptional duties to perform, but so that in that holy estate
ordained for all men, however despised by arrogant monks and
priests, and dishonoured by the sensual, he felt himself called on
to serve God, as was the duty of all men and all Christians alike,
and to enjoy the blessings which God had given him.

[Illustration: Fig. 47.--LUTHER. (From a portrait by Cranach, in his
Album, at Berlin.)]

Five children were now growing up. The eldest, John, or Hanschen
(Jack), was followed, during the troublous days of 1527, by his
first little daughter, Elizabeth. Eight months after, as he told a
friend, she already said good-bye to him, to go to Christ, through
death to life; and he was forced to marvel how sick at heart, nay,
almost womanish, he felt at her departure. In May 1529 he was
comforted to some extent by the birth of a little Magdalene or
Lenchen (Lena). Then followed the boys: Martin in 1531, and Paul
in 1533. The former was born only a few days--if not the very
day--before the feast of St. Martin, and the birthday of his father;
hence he received the same name. His son Paul he named in memory of
the great Apostle, to whom he owed so much. At his baptism he
expressed the hope that 'perhaps the Lord God might train up in him
a new enemy of the Pope or the Turks.' The youngest child was a
little daughter, Margaret, who was born in 1534.

His family included also an aunt of his wife, Magdalene von Bora.
She had been formerly a nun in the same cloister as her niece, where
she had filled the post of head-nurse. She lived among Luther's
children like a beloved grandmother. It was she whom Luther meant by
the 'Aunt Lena,' of whom he wrote to his little Hans in 1530 saying,
'Give her a kiss from me;' and when in 1537 he was able to travel
homewards from Schmalkald, where he had been in such imminent peril
of death, he wrote to his wife: 'Let the dear little children,
together with Aunt Lena, thank their true Father in Heaven.' She
died, probably, shortly afterwards. Luther comforted her with the
words: 'You will not die, but sleep away as in a cradle, and when
the morning dawns, you will rise and live for ever.'

[Illustration: Fig. 48.--WITTENBERG. (From an old engraving.)]

At this time Luther had two orphan nieces living with him, Lene and
Else Kaufmann of Mansfeld, sisters of Cyriac, whom we found with him
at Coburg, and also a young relative, of whom we know nothing
further than that her name was Anna. Lene was betrothed in 1538 to
the worthy treasurer of the University of Wittenberg, Ambrosius
Berndt, and Luther gave the wedding. He used also from time to time
to have some young student nephews at his house.

[Illustration: Fig. 49.--THE "_LUTHER-HOUSE_" (previously the
Convent), before its recent restoration.]

When his boys grew up and the time came for them to learn, he had a
resident tutor for them. For his own assistance he engaged a young
man as amanuensis; thus we find Veit Dietrich with him at Coburg in
this capacity. We hear afterwards of a young pupil--indeed, of two
or more--who lived with Dietrich at Luther's house. This seems,
however, to have somewhat overtaxed his wife; in the autumn of 1534
Dietrich left his house on that account.

[Illustration: Fig. 50.--LUTHER'S ROOM.]

Luther, like other professors, used to take several students for
payment to his table. Among these there were men of riper years who
were eager, nevertheless, to share in the studies at Wittenberg,
and, above all things, to make his acquaintance. Besides this, his
house was open to a number of guests, theologians and others, of
high or low degree, who called on him in passing through the town.

The dwelling-place of this large and growing household was a portion
of the former Convent. The Elector John Frederick had assigned it to
Luther for his own. The house, which had not been completed when the
Reformation began, was still unfinished when Luther went there, and
it needed many improvements. The present richer architectural
features of the building date from a very recent restoration. It
stood against the town wall, and was protected by the Elbe. His own
small study looked out in this direction, and formed a gable above
the water of the moat; though, as he complained in 1530, it was
threatened with alterations for military purposes, and perhaps
during his lifetime fell a prey to them. Only one of the larger
rooms of the house, situated in front, has been preserved in the
recollection of posterity, and is now called Luther's room. It was
probably the chief sitting-room of the family.

The young couple possessed at first a very slender maintenance.
Neither of them had any private means. When, in 1527, Luther was
lying apparently on his deathbed, he had nothing to leave his wife
but the cups which had been given him as presents, and it happened
that he was obliged to pawn even these to find money for their
immediate wants.

By degrees, however, his income and property increased. His salary
as professor at the University (he received no honorarium for his
lectures) was raised on his marriage by the Elector John from 100 to
200 gulden, and John Frederick added 100 gulden more--the value of a
gulden at that time being equal to about 16 marks of the present
German money. He received, also, regular payments in kind. Now and
then he had a special present from the Elector, such as a fine piece
of cloth, a cask of wine, or some venison, with greetings from his
Highness. In 1536 John Frederick sent him two casks of wine, saying
that it was that year's growth of his vineyards, and that Luther
would find how good it was when he tasted it. Luther's share of his
father's property was 250 gulden, which he was to be paid later in
small instalments by his brother James, who was heir to the real
estate. In 1539 Bugenhagen brought him from Denmark an offering of
100 gulden, and two years afterwards the Danish king gave him and
his children an allowance of 50 gulden a year. Luther never troubled
himself much about his expenses, and gave with generous liberality
what he earned. His wife kept things together for the household,
managed it with business-like energy and talent, and tried to add to
their income.

They enlarged their garden by buying some more strips adjoining it,
as well as a field. In 1540 Luther purchased for 610 gulden from a
brother of his wife, who was in needy circumstances, the small farm
of Zülsdorf or Zulsdorf, between Leipzig and Borna--it must not be
confounded with another village of the same name. The market at
Wittenberg being usually very poorly furnished, his wife sought to
supply their domestic wants by her own economy. She planted the
garden with all sorts of trees, among these even mulberry-trees and
fig-trees, and she cultivated also hops; and there was a small
fish-pond. This little property she loved to manage and superintend
in person. At Wittenberg she brewed, as was then the custom, their
own beer, the Convent being privileged in that respect. We hear of
her keeping a number of pigs, and arranging for their sale. Luther
incidentally makes mention of a coachman among his other servants.
Finally, in 1541, Luther purchased a small house near his residence
at the Convent, fearing that he would have to give up the latter
entirely for the work of fortification, and thus be prevented from
leaving it to his wife. He was only obliged in ten years to pay off
a portion of the purchase money.

In this happy married life and home the great Reformer found his
peace and refreshment; in it he found his vocation as a man, a
husband, and a father. Speaking from his own experience he said:
'Next to God's Word, the world has no more precious treasure than
holy matrimony. God's best gift is a pious, cheerful, God-fearing,
home-keeping wife, with whom you may live peacefully, to whom you
can entrust your goods, and body, and life.' He speaks of the
married state, moreover, as a life which, if rightly led, is full to
overflowing of good works. He knows, on the other hand, of many
'stubborn and strange couples, who neither care for their children,
nor love each other from their hearts.' Such people, he said, were
not human beings; they made their homes a hell.

In his language about this life and his own conduct in it, there is
no trace of sentimentality, exaggerated emotion, or artificial
idealism. It is a strong, sturdy, and, as many have thought, a
somewhat rough genuineness of nature, but at the same time full of
tenderness, purity, and fervour; and with it is combined that
heartfelt and loyal devotion to his Heavenly Creator and Lord, and
to His Will and His commands, which marked the character of Luther
to the last.

With regard to his children, Luther had resolved from the moment of
their birth to consecrate them to God, and wean them from a wicked,
corrupt, and accursed world. In several of his letters he entreats
his friends with great earnestness to stand godfather to one of his
children, and to help the poor little heathen to become a Christian,
and pass from the death of sin to a holy and blessed regeneration.
In making this request of a young Bohemian nobleman, then staying in
his house, on behalf of his son Martin, he grew so earnest that, to
the surprise of all present, his voice trembled; this, he said, was
caused by the Holy Spirit of God, for the cause he was pleading was
God's, and it demanded reverence. And yet, in the simple, natural,
innocent, and happy ways of children he recognised the precious
handiwork of God and His protecting Hand. He loved to watch the
games and pleasures of his little ones; all they did was so
spontaneous and so natural. Children, he said, believe so simply and
undoubtedly that God is in Heaven and is their God and their dear
Father, and that there is everlasting life. On hearing one day one
of his children prattling about this life and of the great joy in
Heaven with eating, and dancing, and so forth, he said, 'Their life
is the most blessed and the best; they have none but pure thoughts
and happy imaginations.' At the sight of his little children seated
round the table, he called to mind the exhortation of Jesus, that we
must 'become as little children;' and added, 'Ah! dear God! Thou
hast done clumsily in exalting children--such poor little
simpletons--so high. Is it just and right that Thou shouldst reject
the wise, and receive the foolish? But God our Lord has purer
thoughts than we have; He must, therefore, refine us, as said the
fanatics; He must hew great boughs and chips from us, before He
makes such children and little simpletons of us.'

In what a childlike spirit Luther understood to talk to his children
is shown by his letter from Coburg to his little Hans, then fourteen
years old. He himself taught them to pray, to sing, and to repeat
the Catechism. Of his little daughter Margaret he could tell one of
her godfathers how she had learnt to sing hymns when only four years
old. His hymn 'From the highest Heaven I come,' the freshest, most
joyful, most childlike song that has ever been heard from children's
lips at Christmas, he composed as a father who celebrated that
joyous festival with his own children. It appeared first in the year
1535. He might well, after the manner of old Festival plays, have
let an angel step in among them, who in the opening verses should
bring them the good tidings in the Gospel, to which they should
answer with 'Therefore let us all be joyful.' The words 'Therefore I
am always joyful, Free to dance and free to sing,' call to mind an
old custom of accompanying the Christmas Hymn with a dance.

Luther warned against all outbursts of passion and undue severity
towards children, and carefully guarded himself against such errors,
remembering the bitter experiences of his own childhood in that
respect. But he could be angry and strict enough when occasion
required; he used to say he would rather have a dead son than a bad

There was no really good school at Wittenberg for his boys, and
Luther himself could not devote as much time to them as they
required. He took a resident tutor for them, a young theologian. His
boy John nevertheless gave some trouble with his teaching and
bringing up. His father, contrary to his own wishes, seems to have
been too weak, and his mother's fondness for her first-born seems to
have somewhat spoilt him. Luther gave the boy over afterwards to his
friend Mark Crodel, the Rector of the school at Torgau, whom he held
in high respect as a grammarian, and as a pedagogue of grave and
strict morals.

[Illustration: Fig. 51.--LUTHER'S DAUGHTER 'LENE.' (From Cranach's

His favourite child was little Lena, a pious, gentle, affectionate
little girl, and devoted to him with her whole heart. A charming
picture of her remains, by Cranach, a friend of the family. But she
died in the bloom of early youth, on September 20, 1542, after a
long and severe illness. The grief he had felt at the loss of his
daughter Elizabeth was now renewed and intensified. When she was
lying on her sick-bed, he said, 'I love her very much indeed; but,
dear God, if it is Thy will to take her hence, I would gladly she
were with Thee.' To Magdalene herself he said, 'Lena, dear, my
little daughter, thou wouldst love to remain here with thy father;
art thou willing to go to that other Father?' 'Yes, dear father,'
she answered; 'just as God wills.' And when she was dying, he fell
on his knees beside her bed, wept bitterly, and prayed for her
redemption, and she fell asleep in his arms. As she lay in her
coffin, he looked at her and exclaimed, 'Ah! my darling Lena, thou
wilt rise again and shine like a star--yea, as the sun;' and added,
'I am happy in the spirit, but in the flesh I am very sorrowful. The
flesh will not be subdued: parting troubles one above measure; it is
a wonderful thing to think that she is assuredly in peace, and that
all is well with her, and yet to be so sad.' To the mourners he
said, 'I have sent a saint to Heaven: could mine be such a death as
hers, I would welcome such a death this moment.' He expressed the
same sorrow, and the same exultation in his letters to his friends.
To Jonas he wrote: 'You will have heard that my dearest daughter
Magdalene is born again in the everlasting kingdom of Christ.
Although I and my wife ought only to thank God with joy for her
happy departure, whereby she has escaped the power of the world, the
flesh, the Turks and the devil, yet so strong is natural love that
we cannot bear it without sobs and sighs from the heart, without a
bitter sense of death in ourselves. So deeply printed on our hearts
are her ways, her words, her gestures, whether alive or dying, that
even Christ's death cannot drive away this agony.' His little Hans,
whom his sick sister longed to see once more, he had sent for from
Torgau a fortnight before she died: he wrote for that purpose to
Crodel, saying 'I would not have my conscience reproach me
afterwards for having neglected anything.' But when several weeks
later, about Christmas-time, under the influence of grief and the
tender words which his mother had spoken to him, a desire came over
the boy to leave Torgau and live at home, his father exhorted him to
conquer his sorrow like a man, not to increase by his own the grief
of his mother, and to obey God, who had appointed him, through his
parents' direction, to live at Torgau.

The care of the children and of the whole household fell to the
share of Frau Luther, and her husband could trust her with it in
perfect confidence. She was a woman of strong, ruling, practical
nature, who enjoyed hard work and plenty of it. She served her
husband at all times, after her own manner, with faithful and
affectionate devotion. He must often have felt grateful, amidst his
physical and mental sufferings, and the violent storms and
temptations that vexed his soul, that a helpmate of such a sound
constitution, such strong nerves, and such a clever, sensible mind
should have fallen to his share.

Luther lived with her in thankful love and harmony; nor have even the
calumnies of malicious enemies been able to cast a shadow of doubt
upon the perfect concord of his married life. In his 'Table Talk' he
says of her: 'I am, thank God, very well, for I have a pious, faithful
wife, on whom a man may safely rest his heart.' And again he said once
to her, 'Katie, you have a pious husband, who loves you; you are an
empress.' In words now grave, now humorous, he told her of his tender
love for her; and how trustful and open-hearted were their relations
to each other we gather from the way in which he mocks and occasionally
teases her for her little weaknesses. In later life and in his last
letters he calls her his 'heartily beloved housewife' and his 'darling,'
and he often signs himself 'your love' and 'your old love,' and again
'your dear lord.' Still he said frankly and quietly that his original
suspicion that Catharine was proud was well-founded. In some of his
letters he speaks of her as his 'lord Katie' and his 'gracious wife,'
and of himself as her 'willing servant.' Once he declared that if he
had to marry again, he would carve an obedient wife out of stone, as he
despaired of finding obedience in wives. He spoke also of the
talkativeness of his Katie. Referring to her loving but over-anxious
care for him on his last journey, he called her a holy, careful
woman. From her thrift and energy she gained from him the nicknames
of Lady Zulsdorf, and Lady of the Pigmarket; thus one of his last
letters is addressed to 'my heartily beloved housewife, Catharine,
Lady Luther, Lady Doctor, Lady Zulsdorf, Lady of the Pigmarket, and
whatever else she may be.'

The 'careful' Catharine was not permitted to check the kind
liberality of her husband. His friend Mathesius tells us, of their
early married life, 'A poor man made him a pitiful tale of distress,
and having no cash with him, Luther came to his wife--she being then
confined--for the god-parents' money, and brought it to the poor
man, saying, 'God is rich, He will supply what is wanted.'
Afterwards, however, he grew more careful, seeing how often he was
imposed upon. 'Rogues,' he said, 'have sharpened my wits.' An
example of how particular, nay anxious, he was never even to let it
seem that he sought for presents or other profit for himself, was
given in his letter to Amsdorf, declining a gift of venison. He
wrote once to the Elector John, who had sent him an offering: 'I
have unfortunately more, especially from your Highness, than I can
conscientiously keep. As a preacher, it is not fitting for me to
enjoy a superfluity, nor do I covet it; ... therefore I beseech your
Highness to wait until I ask of you.' In 1539, when Bugenhagen
brought to him the hundred gulden from the King of Denmark, he
wished to give him half of it, for the service Bugenhagen had
rendered him during his absence. For his office of preacher in the
town church he never received any payment; the town from time to
time made him a present of wine from the council-cellar, and lime
and stones for building his house. For his writings he received
nothing from the publishers. Against over-anxious cares and
troubles, and setting her heart too much on worldly possessions, he
earnestly cautioned his wife, and insisted that amid the numerous
household matters she should not neglect to read the Bible. Once in
1535 he promised her fifty gulden if she would read the Bible
through, whereupon, as he told a friend, it became a 'very serious
matter to her.'

Luther frequently assisted his wife in her household. He was very
fond of gardening and agriculture, and we have seen how he sent
commissions to friends for stocking his garden at Wittenberg. On one
occasion, when going to fish with his wife in their little pond, he
noticed with joy how she took more pleasure in her few fish than
many a nobleman did in his great lakes with many hundred draughts of
fishes. In 1539 he had to order a chest at Torgau for his 'lord
Katie,' for their store of house-linen. Of the handsome and
elaborate way in which Catharine thought of ornamenting the exterior
of their house--the home of her illustrious husband--a fine specimen
remains in the door of the Luther-haus at Wittenberg. Luther wrote,
by her wish, to a friend at Pirna in 1539, pastor Lauterbach, about
a 'carved house-door,' for the width of which she sent the
measurement. The door, carved in sandstone, and bearing the date
1540, has on one side Luther's bust and on the other his crest, and
below are two small seats, built there according to the custom of
the times.

[Illustration: Fig. 52.--Door of Luther's House at Wittenberg.]

In view of his approaching death, Luther wished, in 1542, to provide
for his devoted wife by a will. He left her for her lifetime and
absolute property the little farm of Zulsdorf, the small house at
Wittenberg (already mentioned), and his goblets and other treasures,
such as rings, chains, &c, which he valued at about 1,000 gulden. In
doing so, he thanked her for having been to him a 'pious, true wife
at all times, full of loving, tender care towards him, and for
having borne to him and trained, by God's blessing, five children
surviving.' And he wished to provide therewith that she 'must not
receive from the children, but the children from her; that they must
honour and obey her, as God hath commanded.' He further bade her pay
off the debt which was still owing (probably for the house),
amounting to about 450 gulden, because, with the exception of his
few treasures, he had no money to leave her. In making this
provision he no doubt considered that, according to the law, the
inheritance of a married woman who had formerly been a nun might be
disputed, together with the legitimacy of her marriage. Luther did
not wish to bind himself in his will to legal forms. He besought the
Elector graciously to protect his bequest, and concluded his will
with these proud words:

'Finally, seeing I do not use legal forms, for which I have my own
reasons, I desire all men to take these words as mine--a man known
openly in heaven, on earth, and in hell also, who has enough
reputation or authority to be trusted and believed better than any
notary. To me, a poor, unworthy, miserable sinner, God, the Father
of all mercy, has entrusted the Gospel of His dear Son, and has made
me true and faithful therein, and has so preserved and found me
hitherto, that through me many in this world have received the
Gospel, and hold me as a teacher of the truth, despite of the Pope's
ban, of emperor, king, princes, priests, and all the wrath of the
devil. Let them believe me also in this small matter, especially as
this is my hand, not altogether unknown. In hope that it will be
enough for men to say and prove that this is the earnest, deliberate
meaning of Dr. Martin Luther, God's notary and witness in his
Gospel, confirmed by his own hand and seal.'

The will is dated the day of the Epiphany, January 6, 1542, and was
witnessed by Melancthon, Cruciger, and Bugenhagen, whose
attestations and signatures appear below. After Luther's death, John
Frederick immediately ratified it.

As regards his servants, Luther was particularly careful that they
should have nothing to complain of against him, for the devil, he
said, had a sharp eye upon him, to be able to cast a slur upon his
teaching. To those who served him faithfully, he was ever gentle,
grateful, and even indulgent. There was a certain Wolfgang, or Wolf
Sieberger, whom he had taken as early as 1517 into his service at
the convent--an honest but weak man, who knew of no other means of
livelihood. Him Luther retained in his service throughout his life,
and tried to make some provision for his future. He once sought, as
we have seen, to practise turning with him, but of this nothing
further is related. He loved, too, to joke with him in his own
hearty manner. When, in 1534, Wolf built a fowling-floor or place
for catching birds, he reprimanded him for it in a written
indictment, making the 'good, honourable' birds themselves lodge a
complaint against him. They pray Luther to prevent his servant, or
at least to insist upon Wolf (who was a sleepy fellow), strewing
grain for them in the evening, and then not rising before eight
o'clock in the morning; else, they would pray to God to make him
catch in the day-time frogs and snails in their stead, and let fleas
and other insects crawl over him at night; for why should not Wolf
rather employ his wrath and vindictiveness against the sparrows,
daws, mice, and such like? When a servant named Rischmann parted
from him, in 1532, after several years of hard work, Luther sent
word to his wife from Torgau, where he was then staying with the
Elector, to dismiss him 'honourably,' and with a suitable present.
'Think,' he wrote, 'how often we have given to bad men, when all has
been lost; so be liberal, and do not let such a good, fellow
want..... Do not fail; for a goblet is there. Think from whom you
got it. God will give us another, I know.'

His guests valued highly his company and conversation, especially
those men who came from far and near to visit him. Several of them
have recorded sayings from his lips on these occasions. Luther's
'Table Talk,' which we possess now in print, is founded for the most
part on records given by Viet Dietrich and Lauterbach just
mentioned, who before his call to Pirna in 1539, when deacon at
Wittenberg, was one of Luther's closest friends and his daily guest.
These memorials, however, have been elaborated and recast many
times, by a strange hand, in an arbitrary and unfortunate manner. A
publication of the original text, from which recently a diary of
Lauterbach, of the year 1538, has already appeared, may now be
looked for. Last, but not least, we have to mention John Mathesius,
who, after having been a student at Wittenberg in 1529, and then
rector of the school at Joachimsthal, returned to study at
Wittenberg from 1540 to 1542, and obtained the honour which he
sought for, of being a guest at Luther's table. Deeply impressed as
he was by his intercourse with the Reformer, he described his
impressions to his congregation at Joachimsthal, when afterwards
their pastor, in addresses from the pulpit, which were printed, and
gave them a sketch of Luther's life, with numerous anecdotes about
him. He thus became Luther's first biographer, and, from his
personal intimacy with his friend, and his own true-heartedness,
fervour, and genuineness of nature, he must ever remain endeared to
the followers and admirers of the great Reformer.

[Illustration: Fig.53.--Mathesius. (From an old woodcut.)]

Mathesius tells us, indeed, how Luther used often to sit at table
wrapt in deep and anxious thought, and would sometimes keep a
cloister-like silence throughout the meal. At times even he would
work between the courses, or at meals or immediately after, dictate
sermons to friends who had to preach, but who wanted practice in the
art. But when once conversation was opened, it flowed with ease and
freedom, and, as Mathesius says, even merrily. The friends used to
call Luther's speeches their 'table-spice.' His topics varied
according to circumstances and the occasion--things spiritual and
temporal; questions of faith and conduct; the works of God and the
deeds of man; events past and present; hints and short practical
suggestions for ecclesiastical life and office; and apophthegms of
worldly wisdom; all enriched with proverbs of every kind and German
rhymes, which Luther had a great aptitude in composing. Jocular
moods were mingled with deep gravity and even indignation. But in
all he said, as in all he did, he was guided constantly by the
loftiest principles, by the highest considerations of morality and
religious truth, and that in the simple and straightforward manner
which was his nature, utterly free from affectation or artificial

In these his discourses, it is true, as in his writings and letters,
nay, sometimes in his addresses from the pulpit, expressions and
remarks fell occasionally from his lips which sound to modern ears
extremely coarse. His was a frank, rugged nature, with nothing
slippery, nothing secretly impure about it. His friends and guests
spoke of the 'chaste lips' of Luther: 'He was,' says Mathesius, 'a
foe to unchastity and loose talk. As long as I have been with him I
have never heard a shameful word fall from his lips.' It was a great
contrast to the coarse indecencies which he denounced with such
fierce indignation in the monks, his former brethren, as also to the
more subtle indelicacies which were practised in those days by so
many elegant Humanists of modern culture, both ecclesiastics and

Luther's conversation was also remarkable for its freedom from any
spiteful or frivolous gossip, of which even at Wittenberg there was
then no lack. Of such scandal-mongers, who sought to pry out evil in
their neighbours, Luther used frequently to say, 'They are regular
pigs, who care nothing about the roses and violets in the garden,
but only stick their snouts into the dirt.'

After dinner there was usually music with the guests and children;
sacred and secular songs were sung, together with German and
sometimes old Latin hymns.

Luther also had a bowling-alley made for his young friends, where
they would disport themselves with running and jumping. He liked to
throw the first ball himself, and was heartily laughed at when he
missed the mark. He would turn then to the young folk, and remind
them in his pleasant way that many a one who thought he would do
better, and knock down all the pins at once, would very likely miss
them all, as they would often have to find in future their life and

In his own personal relations towards God, Luther followed
persistently the road which he saw revealed by Christ, and which he
pointed out to others. He never lost the consciousness of his own
unworthiness, and therefore unholiness. In this consciousness he
sought refuge, with simple and childlike faith, in God's love and
mercy, which thus assured him of forgiveness and salvation, of
victory over the world and the devil, and of the freedom wherewith a
child of God may use the things of this world. He clung fondly to
simple, childlike forms of faith, and to common rites and
ordinances. Every morning he used to repeat with his children the
Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and a psalm. 'I do
this,' he says in one of his sermons, 'in order to keep up the
habit, and not let the mildew grow upon me.' He took part faithfully
in the church services; he who was wont to pray so unceasingly and
fervently in his own chamber declared that praying in company with
others soothed him far more than private prayer at home.

Lofty, nay proud as was the self-assurance he expressed in his
mission, and though possessed, as Mathesius says, of all the heart
and courage of a true man, yet he was personally of a very plain and
unasserting manner: Mathesius calls him the most humble of men,
always willing to follow good advice from others. Like a brother he
dealt with the lowliest of his brethren, while mixing at the same
time with the highest in the land with the most perfect and
unconscious simplicity. Troubled souls, who complained to him how
hard they found it to possess the faith he preached, he comforted
with the assurance that it was no easier matter for himself, and
that he had to pray God daily to increase his faith. His saying, 'A
great doctor must always remain a pupil,' was meant especially for
himself. The modesty which made him willing, even in the early days
of his reforming labours, to yield the first place to his younger
friend Melancthon, he displayed to the end, as we have seen in
reference to Melancthon's principal work, the 'Loci Communes.'
Whenever he was asked for a really good book for theological studies
and the pure exposition of the gospel, he named the Bible first and
then Melancthon's book. During the Diet at Augsburg we heard how
highly he esteemed the words even of a Brenz, in comparison with his
own. Touching Melancthon, we must add an earlier public utterance of
Luther's, dating from 1529: 'I must root out,' he said, 'the trunks
and stems.... I am the rough woodman who has to make a path, but
Philip goes quietly and peacefully along it, builds and plants, sows
and waters at his pleasure.' He said nothing of how much others
depended on his own power and independence of mind, not only as
regarded the task of making the path, but in the whole business of
planting and working, and how Melancthon only stamped the gold which
Luther had dug up and melted in the furnace. The later years of his
life were embittered by the conviction, gradually forced upon him,
that his former strength and energy had deserted him. His remarks on
this subject seem often exaggerated, but they were certainly meant
in all seriousness: he felt as he did, because the urgent need of
completing his task remained so vividly impressed upon his mind. He
wished and hoped that God would suffer him--the now useless
instrument of His Word--to stand at least behind the doors of His
kingdom. He wrote to Myconius, when the latter was dangerously ill,
saying that his friend must really survive him: 'I beg this; I will
it, and let my will be done, for it seeks not my own pleasure, but
the glory of God.'

With childlike joy he recognised God's gifts in nature, in garden
and field, plants and cattle. This joy finds constant expression in
his 'Table Talk,' and even in his sermons. It was chiefly awakened
by the beauties of spring. With sorrow he declares it to be the
well-earned penalty of his past sins that in his old age he should
not be able, as he might do and had need of doing, on account of the
burdens of business, to enjoy the gardens, the bud and bloom of tree
and flower, and the song of the birds. 'We should be so happy in
such a Paradise, if only there were no sin and death.' But he looks
beyond this to another and a heavenly world, where all would be
still more beautiful, and where an everlasting spring would reign
and abide.

Among all the gifts which God has bestowed upon us for our use and
enjoyment, music was to him the most precious; he even assigned to
it the highest honour next to theology. He himself had considerable
talent for the art, and not only played the lute, and sang
melodiously with his seemingly weak but penetrating voice, but was
able even to compose. He valued music particularly as the means of
driving away the devil and his temptations, as well as for its
softening and refining influence. 'The heart,' he said, 'grows
satisfied, refreshed, and strengthened by music.' He noticed, as a
wonder wrought by God, how the air was able to give forth, by a
slight movement of the tongue and throat, guided by the mind, such
sweet and powerful sounds; and what an infinite variety there was of
voice and language among the many thousand birds, and still more so
among men. Luther's best and most valued means of natural
refreshment, and the recreation of his mind and body, remained
always his intercourse and friendship with others--with wife and
children, with his friends and neighbours. Such was his own
experience, and so he would advise the sorrowful who sought his
counsel in like manner to come out of their solitude. He saw in this
intercourse also an ordinance of Divine wisdom and love. A friendly
talk and a good merry song he often declared to be the best weapon
against evil and sorrowful thoughts.

About his own bodily care and enjoyment, even with all his
conviction of Christian liberty and his hostility to monkish
scruples and sanctity, he cared very little. He was content with
simple fare, and he would forget to eat and drink for days amid the
press of work. His friends wondered how such a portly frame could be
consistent with such a very meagre diet, and not one of his hostile
contemporaries has ever been able to allege against him that he had
belied by his own conduct the zeal with which he inveighed against
the immoderate eating and drinking of his fellow-Germans; but he
preserved his Christian liberty in this matter. In the evenings he
would say to his pupils at the supper-table, 'You young fellows, you
must drink the Elector's health and mine, the old man's, in a
bumper. We must look for our pillows and bolsters in the tankard.'
And in his lively and merry entertainments with his friends the 'cup
that cheers' was always there. He could even call for a toast when
he heard bad news, for next to a fervent Lord's Prayer and a good
heart, there was no better antidote, he used to say, to care.

His physical sufferings were chiefly confined to the pains in his
head, which never wholly left him, and which increased from time to
time, with fresh attacks of giddiness and fainting. The morning was
always his worst time. His old enemy, moreover--the stone--returned
in 1548 with alarming severity. Some time since an abscess had
appeared on his left leg, which seemed at the time to have healed.
Finding that a fresh breaking out of it seemed to relieve his head,
his friend Ratzeberger, the Elector's physician, induced him to have
a seton applied, and the issue thus kept open. His hair became
white. He had long been speaking of himself as a prematurely old
man, and quite worn out.

In spite of his sufferings he retained his peculiar bearing with
head thrown back and upturned face. His features, especially the
mouth, now showed more plainly even than in earlier life the calm
strength acquired by struggles and suffering. The pathos which later
portraits have often given to his countenance is not apparent in the
earlier ones, but rather an expression of melancholy. The deep glow
and energy of his spirit, which even Cranach's pencil has failed
wholly to represent, seems to have found chief expression in his
dark eyes. These evidently struck the old rector of Wittenberg,
Pollich, and the legate Caietan at Augsburg; it was with these that,
on his arrival at Worms, the legate Aleander saw him look around him
'like a demon'; it was these that 'sparkled like stars' on the young
Swiss Kessler, so that he could 'hardly endure their gaze.' After
his death, another acquaintance of his called them 'falcon's eyes';
and Melancthon saw in the brown pupils, encircled by a yellow ring,
the keen, courageous eye of a lion.

This fire in Luther never died. Under the pressure of suffering and
weakness, it only burst forth when stirred by opposition into new
and fiercer flames. It became, indeed, more easily provoked in later
life, and produced in him an irritation and restless impatience with
the world and all its doings. His full and clear gaze was fixed on
the Hereafter.



The Emperor Charles, after concluding the peace of Crespy with King
Francis, turned his policy entirely to ecclesiastical affairs. The
Pope could no longer resist his urgent demand for a Council, and
accordingly a bull, of November 1544, summoned one to assemble at
Trent in the following March. With regard to the Turks, the Emperor
sought to liberate his hands by means of a peaceful settlement and
concessions. He entered into negotiations with them in 1545, in
which he was supported by an ambassador from France. These led
ultimately to the result that the Turks left him in possession, on
payment of a tribute, of those frontier fortresses which he still
occupied, and which they had previously demanded from him, and
agreed to a truce for a year and a half. 'This is the way,'
exclaimed Luther, 'in which war is now waged against those who have
been denounced so many years as enemies to the name of Christ, and
against whom the Romish Satan has amassed such heaps of gold by
indulgences and other innumerable means of plunder.'

Meanwhile the Elector John had commissioned his theologians to
prepare the scheme of reformation which was to be submitted
according to the decree of the Diet at Spires. On January 14,1545,
they sent him a draft compiled by Melancthon. Luther headed with his
own the list of signatures. It was a last great message of peace
from his hand. The draft set forth clearly and distinctly the
principles of the Evangelical Church; but expressed a hope that the
bishops of the Catholic Church would fulfil the duties of their
office, and promised them obedience if they accepted and furthered
the preaching of the gospel in its purity. This was too moderate for
the Elector. His chancellor Brück, however, assured him that Luther
and the others were agreed with Melancthon, though the document bore
no evidence of 'Doctor Martin's restless spirit.'

Nor did Luther even here insist on that strong expression of opinion
with regard to the Lord's Supper which he himself gave to the
doctrine of Christ's Bodily Presence in the Sacrament. They only
spoke briefly of the 'receiving the true Body and Blood of Christ,'
and of the object and benefit of this reception for the soul and for

But Luther now unburdened his heart with redoubled energy and
passion against the Pope and the Popedom, of which no mention had
been made in the draft. In January 1545 he learned of that Papal
letter in which the Holy Father had protested to his son the
Emperor, with pathetic indignation, against the decrees of the Diet
at Spires. Luther at first took it seriously for a forgery--a mere
pasquinade--until he was assured by the Elector of the genuineness
of this and another and similar letter, and thus provoked to take
public steps against it. He thought that, if the brief was genuine,
the Pope would sooner worship the Turks--nay, the devil himself--than
ever dream of consenting to a reform in accordance with God's Word.
Accordingly, he composed his pamphlet 'Against the Popedom at Rome,
instituted by the Devil.' In this his 'restless spirit' spoke out
once more with all its strength; he poured out the vials of his wrath
in the plainest and most violent language--more violent than in any
of his earlier writings--against the Antichrist of Rome. The very
first word gives the Pope the title of 'the most hellish Father.'
Luther is not surprised that to him and his Curia the words 'free
Christian German Council' are sheer poison, death, and hell. But he
asks him, what is the use of a Council at all if the Pope arrogates
to himself beforehand, as his decrees fulminate, the right of altering
and tearing up its decisions. Far better to spare the expense and
trouble of such a farce, and say, 'We will believe and worship your
hellship without any Councils.' The piece of arch-knavery practised
by the Pope in himself announcing a Council against Emperor and Empire
was, in fact, nothing new. The Popes from the very first had practised
all kinds of devilish wickedness, treachery, and murder against the
German Emperors. Luther recalls to mind how a Pope had caused the
noble Conradin to be executed with the sword. Paul III., in his
admonition to his 'son' the Emperor Charles, referred in pious strain
to the example of Eli, the high-priest, who had been punished for not
rebuking his sons for their sins. Luther now points him to his own,
the Pope's natural son, whom the Pope was so anxious to enrich; he
asks if Father Paul then had nothing to punish in him. It was well
known what tricks Paul himself, with his insatiable maw, was playing
together with his son with the property of the Church. Further, he
puts before the Pope his cardinals and followers, who forsooth needed
no admonition for their detestable iniquities. But his dear son
Charles, it seemed, had wished to procure for the German Fatherland
a happy peace and unity in religion, and to have a Christian Council,
and, finding he had been made a fool of by the Pope for four-and-twenty
years, sat last to convene a national Council. This was his sin in the
eyes of the Pope, who would like to see all Germany drowned in her own
blood: the Pope could not forgive the Emperor for thwarting his
horrible design. Luther dwells at length on such reflections in his
introduction, and then says 'I must now stop, for my head is too
weak, and I have not yet come to what I meant to say in this
treatise.' This was the three points, as follow: Whether, indeed, it
was true that the Pope was the head of Christendom; that none could
judge and depose him; and that he had brought the Holy Roman Empire
to the Germans, as he boasted so arrogantly he had done. On these
points he then proceeds to enlarge once more with a wealth of
searching proof. On the last point we hear him speak once more as a
true German. He wished that the Emperor had left the Pope his
anointing and coronation, for what made him truly Emperor was not
these ceremonies, but the election of the princes. The Pope had
never yielded a hairsbreadth to the Empire, but, on the contrary,
had plundered it immoderately by his lying and deceit and idolatry.
The book concludes thus: 'This devilish Popery is the supreme evil
on earth, and the one that touches us most closely; it is one in
which all the devils combine together. God help us! Amen.'

Cranach published a series of sketches or caricatures, controversial
and satirical, against the Popedom, some of which are cynically
coarse, one of them representing to his countrymen the murder of
Conradin, the Pope himself beheading him, and another a German
Emperor with the Pope standing on his neck. Luther added short
verses to these pictures. But he disapproved of one of Cranach's
caricatures, as insulting to woman.

We have seen already what degree of importance Luther attached to a
Council appointed by the Pope. The Protestants could not, of course,
consent to submit to the one at Trent. On the other hand, their demand
that the Council must be a 'free' and a 'Christian' one in their sense
of the terms was an impossibility for the Emperor and the Catholics;
for it meant not only their independence of the Pope--which he could
never assent to--but also a free reversion to the single rule and
standard of Holy Scripture, with a possible rejection of tradition
and the decrees of previous Councils. The Emperor thereupon granted
something for appearance sake to the Protestant States by arranging
another conference on religion to be held at Ratisbon in January
1546. He told the Pope, in June 1545, that he could not engage to
make war on the Protestants for at least another year. The Council
was opened in December 1545, without the Protestants taking any part
in it.

While all this was going on, the newly-opened rupture between Luther
and the Swiss remained unhealed. In the spring of 1545 Bullinger
published a clever reply to his 'Short Confession.' It could,
however, effect no reconciliation, for, mild as was its language in
comparison with the violence of Luther's, it made too much merit of
this mildness, while, as Calvin, for example, accused the author, it
imputed more to Luther than common fairness justified, took him to
task for his manner of speaking, and contributed nothing to an
understanding in point of dogma. From the impression produced by
this letter upon Luther, fears were entertained again for
Melancthon, who had continued to maintain a friendly correspondence
with Bullinger; and Melancthon himself felt very anxious about the
result. But not one harsh or suspicious or unkind word was uttered
by Luther. He only wished to answer the Zurichers briefly and to the
point, for he had written, he said, quite enough on the subject
against Zwingli and Oecolampadius, and did not want to spoil the
last years of his life with arrogant and idle chatter. He only
inserted afterwards in a series of theses, with which he replied in
the late summer of that year to a fresh condemnation pronounced
against him by the theologians of Louvain, an article against the
Zwinglians, declaring that they and all those who disgraced the
Sacrament by denying the actual bodily reception of the true Body of
Christ were undoubtedly heretics and schismatics from the Christian
Church. This doctrinal antagonism was sufficient even now, when the
test of actual war was imminent, to keep the Swiss excluded from the
League of Schmalkald.

Luther still continued, in the face of menaces, to trust in God, his
Helper hitherto, and he found in the latest signs of the times still
more convincing proof of the End, which seemed to be at hand. In the
miserable oppression of the Germano-Roman Empire by the Turks he saw
a sign of its approaching downfall, as also in the impotence
displayed by the Imperial Government even in small matters of
administration. There was no longer any justice, any government; it
was an Empire without an Empire; and he rejoiced to believe that
with the end of this Empire the last day--the day of salvation--was

But more painful and harassing to him than even the threats of the
Romanists and the attacks upon his teaching, which his own words, he
was convinced, had long since refuted, was the condition of
Wittenberg and the university. It was a favourite reproach against
him of the Catholics that his doctrine yielded no fruits of strict
morality. Notwithstanding all the rebukes which he had uttered for
years, we hear of the old vices still rampant at Wittenberg--the
vices of gluttony, of increasing intemperance and luxury, especially
at baptisms and weddings; of pride in dress and the low-cut bodices
of ladies; of rioting in