Luther has committed two great faults: he has touched the Pope on his crown and the monks on their bellies.” — Erasmus
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.
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.
He was really prepared for exile or flight at any moment. At Wittenberg his friends were alarmed by rumors 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 resolve.
At Rome the bull of excommunication was published as early as June 16th. It had been considered 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. 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, etc. 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 Roman 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 burned. 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 toward 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 emperor Charles V, before leaving the Netherlands on his journey to Aix-la-Chapelle to be crowned (1520), had already been induced 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 burned, and had issued orders to that effect throughout the Netherlands. They were burned in public at Louvain, Cologne, and Mainz. 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 to 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 burning of Luther’s books at Mainz was effected without hindrance, and 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 10th he posted a public announcement that the next morning, at nine o’clock, the anti-Christian decretals, that is, the papal law-books, would be burned, 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 Melanchthon and Carlstadt. After one of the masters of art 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, let the everlasting fire consume thee.”
 Charles, the grandson of Maximilian I, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, succeeded him 1519. At the time of his coronation Charles was but twenty years old. He was also King of Spain.–ED.
 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.
Jean-M.-Vincent Audin begins here.
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