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.
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
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 defense. 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 Basel, Freiburg, Louvain, and even Paris upon them. Cajetan with a smile dismissed Luther and his proposals, but consented to receive a more detailed reply in writing to the principal points discussed the previous day.
On the morrow, October 14th, 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. Still he entreated Cajetan 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. Cajetan, to whom he delivered this reply in person, once more tried to persuade him. They fell into a lively and vehement argument; but Cajetan 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 he had refused to yield. 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 16th he submitted it, formally prepared, to a public notary.
Luther even addressed, on October 17th, a letter to Cajetan, 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 answer.
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 Cajetan, 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.
Without waiting for an answer direct from Rome, Luther now abandoned all thoughts of success with Leo X. On November 28th 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 forever, unless she were to surrender her claims and acquisitions of more than a thousand years.
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.
Jean-M.-Vincent Audin begins here.
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