Humbly, as he had been advised, he prostrated himself before the representative of the Pope, who received him graciously and bade him rise.
Continuing Luther Begins the Reformation in Germany,
with a selection from Life of Luther History of the Life, the Works and the Doctrines of Luther by Julius Koestlin published in 1883. This selection is presented in 9 installments, each one 5 minutes long.
Previously in Luther Begins the Reformation in Germany.
Place: Augsburg, Germany
An anonymous pamphlet was circulated, from the pen of one Fischer, a prebendary of Wuerzburg, 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 afterward when printed, thought it only a hoax, and not really an episcopal remonstrance.
This was reason enough why Cajetan, to avoid increasing the excitement, should not attempt to lay hands on the Wittenberg opponent of indulgences. The elector Frederick, from whose hands Cajetan 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 Cajetan on Luther’s behalf, and Cajetan 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. “My thoughts on the way,” said Luther afterward, “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 Nuremberg 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 7th.
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 favorable 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 Cajetan, 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 mean time a distinguished friend of Cajetan, 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.
On October 11th Luther received the letter of safe-conduct, and the next day he appeared before Cajetan. 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 Cajetan; 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. The Cardinal-legate 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, Cajetan 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 consideration.
Jean-M.-Vincent Audin begins here.
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