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136
LUTHER, MARTIN


i. An Indulgence is and can only be the remission of a merely ecclesiastical penalty; the church can remit what the church has imposed; it cannot remit what God has imposed. ii. An Indulgence can never remit guilt; the pope himself cannot do such a thing; God has kept that in His own hand. iii. It cannot remit the divine punishment for sin; that also is in the hands of God alone.

iv. It can have no efficacy for souls in Purgatory; penalties imposed by the church can only refer to the living; death dissolves them; what the pope can do for souls in Purgatory is by prayer, not by jurisdiction or the power of the keys. v. The Christian who has true repentance has already received pardon from God altogether apart from an Indulgence, and does not need one; Christ demands this true repentance from every one. vi. The Treasury of Merits has never been properly defined; it is hard to say what it is, and it is not properly understood by the people; it cannot be the merits of Christ and of His saints, because these act of themselves and quite apart from the intervention of the pope; it can mean nothing more than that the pope, having the power of the keys, can remit ecclesiastical penalties imposed by the church; the true Treasure-house of merits is the Holy Ghost of the grace and glory of God.

The unexpected effect of the Theses was that the sale of Indulgences began to decline rapidly, and the archbishop of Mainz, disappointed in his hopes of revenue, sent a copy to Rome. The pope thinking that the whole dispute was a monkish quarrel, contented himself with asking the general of the Augustinian Eremites to keep his monks quiet. This was not easy. Tetzel, in conjunction with a friend, Conrad Wimpina, had published a set of counter-theses. John Mayr of Eck, a noted controversialist and professor of theology in the university of Ingolstadt, scented the Hussite heresy in the Theses, and denounced them in a tract entitled Obelis/es. Luther at once answered in his Asterisks. A controversy raged in Germany. Meanwhile, at Rome, Silvester Mazzolini of Prierio, a Dominican monk and Inquisitor, had been studying the Theses, was profoundly dissatisfied with them, and wrote a Dialogue about the Power of the Pope, against the presumptuous conclusions of Martin Luther. This book reached Germany about the middle of January 1 518, and increased the tumult.

Luther's friends had been provokingly silent about the Theses; but in April 1518, at the annual chapter of the Augustinian Eremites held at Heidelberg, Luther heard his positions temperately discussed, and found somewhat to his astonishment that his views were not acceptable to all his fellow monks. On his return to Wittenberg he began an answer to his opponents. He carefully considered his positions, found them unassailable, and published his Resolutions, the most carefully written of all his works. The book practically discarded all the ideas and practices concerning Indulgences which had come into the medieval church since the beginning of the 13th century, and all the ingenious explanations of the scholastic theologians from Bonaventura and Thomas Aquinas downwards. The effect of the controversy was a great decrease in the sale of Indulgences in Germany, and the Papal Curia saw with alarm a prolific source of revenue decaying. It was felt that Luther must be silenced. He was accordingly summoned to Rome. To obey would have meant death; to refuse in his own name would have been contumacy. But the peremptory summons could be construed as an attack on the university of Wittenberg, and both the elector of Saxony and the emperor Maximilian so regarded it. The result was that Pope Leo cancelled the summons, and it was arranged that Luther should appear before the papal Legate to the German Diet, Thomas de Vio, Cardinal Cajedtan, at Augsburg. The interview was not very successful. At its conclusion Luther wrote two appeals-one from the pope ill informed to the pope well-informed, and the other to a General Council. True to his habit of taking the German people into his confidence, he wrote an account of his interview with the Legate, and published it under the title of the Acta Augustana. The publication greatly increased the sympathy of almost all classes in Germany for Luther. They saw in him a pious man, an esteemed professor, who had done nothing but propose a discussion on the notoriously intricate subject of Indulgences, peremptorily ordered to recant and to remain silent. The elector Frederick shared the common feelings and resolved to defend the man who had made his university so famous. His action compelled the Roman Curia to pause. Germany was on the eve, it was believed, of an election of a king of the Romans; it was possible that an imperial election was not far distant; Frederick was too important a personage to offend. So the condemnation by the Cardinal-Legate was withdrawn for the time, and the pope resolved to deal with the matter otherwise. He selected one of his chamberlains, Charles von Miltitz, the elector's private agent at Rome, and commissioned him to deal with the matter as he best could. Miltitz received the “golden rose ” to give to Frederick, and was furnished with several letters in all of which the pope spoke of Luther as a “ child of the devi1.”' His holiness had probably forgotten the fact when he addressed Luther some months later as “ his dear son.”

When Miltitz arrived in Germany he discovered that the movement was much more important than the Roman Curia had imagined. He had not to deal with the opposition of a recalcitrant monk, but with the awakening of a nation. He resolved to meet with Tetzel and with Luther privately before he produced his credentials. Tetzel he could not see; the man was afraid to leave his convent; but he had lengthy interviews with Luther in the house of Spalatin the chaplain and private secretary of the elector Frederick. There he disowned the sermons of the pardon sellers, let it be seen that he did not approve of the action of the Legate, and so prevailed with Luther that the latter promised to write a submissive letter to the pope, to exhort people to reverence the Roman See, to say that Indulgences were useful to remit canonical penances, and to promise to write no more on the matter unless he happened to be attacked. Luther did all this. A reconciliation might have taken place had the Roman Curia supported Miltitz. But the Curia did not support Miltitz, and placed more faith in Eck, who was eager to extinguish Luther in a public discussion.

Luther had been spending the time between his interview with the Legate at Augsburg (Oct. 1518) and the Leipzig Disputation (June I 5-19) in severe and disquieting studies. He had found that all his opponents had pursued one line of argument: the power to issue an Indulgence is simply one case of the universal papal jurisdiction; Indulgences are what the pope proclaims them to be, and to attack them is to attack the power of the pope; the pope represents the Roman church, which is actually the universal church, and to oppose the pope is to defy the Whole church of Christ; whoever attacks such a long-established system as that of Indulgences is a heretic. Such was the argument. Luther felt himself confronted with the pope's absolute supremacy in all ecclesiastical matters. It was a plea whose full force he felt. The papal supremacy was one of his oldest inherited beliefs. He re-examined his convictions about justifying faith and whether they did lead to his declarations about Indulgences. He could come to no other conclusion. It then became necessary to examine the papal claims. He set himself to study the Decretals, and to his amazement and indignation he found that they were full of frauds. It is hard to say whether the discovery brought him more joy or more grief. His letters show him half-exultant and half-terrified. While he was in this state of mind he received Eck's challenge to dispute with him at Leipzig on the papal supremacy. This Leipzig Disputation was perhaps the most important point in Luther's career. He met Eck in June 1519. It soon appeared that the intention of that practised debater was to force Luther into some admission which would justify opponents in accusing him of holding the opinions of Huss, who had been condemned by the great German Council of Constance. In this he was eminently successful. Eck left Leipzig triumphant, and Luther returned to Wittenberg much depressed. As usual he wrote out and published an account of the Disputation, which was an appeal to his fellow Germans. The result surpassed his expectations. The Disputation made him see that his protest against the abuses of Indulgences was no criticism of an excrescence on the medieval ecclesiastical system, but an attack on its centre of existence. He saw that he stood for the spiritual