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 Emperor.
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.
While 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, amid the blowing of brass trumpets and other absurdities. They collected from all quarters a mass of scholastic and papal writings, 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 burned. Unless with all their hearts they abjured the kingdom of the pope, they could not obtain salvation.
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.
The announcement of the retractation required from Luther by the bull was to have been sent to Rome within one hundred twenty days. Luther had given his answer. The Pope declared that the time of grace had expired; and on January 3d Leo X finally pronounced the ban against Luther and his followers, and an interdict on the places where they were harbored.
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 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 scale. 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. Rumor 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.
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. 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 toward 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 accordingly.
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 favor on his part.
While 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 Emperor, on March 6th, 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 he would in any case be expected to make a public recantation.
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 26th 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 16th at the latest.
Jean-M.-Vincent Audin begins here.
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