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.
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: Worms, Germany
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 in 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. The friendliness and the visible interest in his cause with which Luther now was urged were more calculated to move him than Eck’s behavior at the diet. He himself bore witness afterward 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 25th, 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 honor, and again at Eisenach, he preached, notwithstanding the Emperor’s prohibition, not daring to let the Word of God be bound.
From Eisenach, while 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 Moehra. Here, after spending the night at the house of his uncle Heinz, he preached the next morning, Saturday, May 4th. 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. Toward 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 afterward related how Luther in the haste of the flight dropped a gray hat he had worn. And now Luther was given a horse to ride. The night was dark, and at 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 toward friend and foe. For many weeks afterward even Frederick’s brother John had no idea of it. Among his friends and followers the terrible news had spread, immediately upon his capture, that he had been made away with by his enemies.
[*] In 1521-1522 Frederick the Wise gave Luther asylum in the Wartburg, where for ten months the reformer remained in disguise as “Junker Georg.” His room, with its furniture, is still preserved.
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 reban; no one was to receive him any longer, or feed him, etc., but wherever he was found he was to be seized and handed over to the Emperor.
Jean-M.-Vincent Audin begins here.
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