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137
LUTHER, MARTIN


priesthood of all believers and that medieval ism in religion meant that man cannot approach God without a priestly mediator. The people also saw his position and rallied round him; and the Humanists discerned in him a champion against the old intolerance against which they had been revolting in vain. Luther's depression fled. Sermons, pamphlets, letters from his tireless pen flooded the land, and Luther began to be the leader of a German revolt against Rome.

The year 1 520 saw the publication of his three most important works, all written at a time when he was fully convinced that he had broken for ever with Rome. They were, On the Liberty of a Christian M an, An Address to the Nobility of the German N ation, and On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church of Gndthe three primary treatises, as they have been called. Meanwhile at Rome the pope had entrusted Eck and Prierias with the preparation of a bull (Exurge Dornine) against Luthera bull which followed the line of Eck's charges at Leipzig. The reformer had been expecting it ever since the Disputation at Leipzig, and had resolved to answer it by one striking act which would impress the imagination of every man. He posted up a notice inviting the Wittenberg students to witness the burning of the bull (10th of December ISZO). Rome had shot its last ecclesiastical bolt. Nothing remained but an appeal to the secular power, and this was at once prepared. The emperor Maximilian had died suddenly (12th January 1519), and for long Germany was disturbed with intrigues about the succession-the papal policy being specially tortuous. The widely expressed desire for a German emperor secured the unanimous election of Charles, the grandson of Maximilian and the king of Spain. Never were a people more mistaken and disappointed. The veins of Charles were full of German blood, but he was his mother's son. It was the Spaniard, not the German, who faced Luther at Worms. 5

Charles was crowned at Aachen, 23rd of October 1520, and opened his first German diet at Worms, 22nd of January 152I. The pope had selected two envoys to wait on the young emperor, one of them, Jerome Aleander, being specially appointed to secure the outlawry of Luther. The agenda of the diet contained many things seriously affecting all Germany, but the one problem which every one was thinking about was how Luther would be dealt with. The Electoral College was divided. The archbishop of Cologne, the elector of Brandenburg and his brother the archbishop of Mainz were for instant outlawry, while the elector of Saxony, who was resolved to protect Luther, had great influence with the archbishop of Trier and the Count Palatine of the Rhine.

Aleander had no difficulty in persuading Charles, while both were still in the Netherlands, to put Luther under the ban within his hereditary dominions, and the papal nuncio expected that the decree would be extended to the whole German empire. But Charles at first refused to deal summarily with Luther so far as Germany was concerned. The emperor even wrote to the elector of Saxony, asking him to bring Luther with him to the diet for examination. Gradually he came to think that Luther might be condemned without appearing. The members of the dict were slow to come to any conclusion. At last they made up their minds, and presented a memorial to the emperor (19th of February 1521) in which they reminded him that no imperial edict could be published against Luther without their sanction, and proposed that he should be invited to Worms under a safe-conduct and be there examined. They also suggested that Luther should be heard upon the papal claims, and ended by asking the emperor to deliver Germany from the papal tyranny. The emperor agreed to summon Luther under a safe conduct, and that he should be heard; but he refused to mix his case with that of grievances against Rome. He had no sooner made the promise than he seems to have repented it. He saw no need for Luther's appearance. He tried to get him condemned unheard. An edict against Lutherhad been drafted (15th of February) which the diet refused to sanction. Afew days later a second edict was drafted which ordered the burning of Luther's books. The diet again objected. Finally four days after the safe-conduct had been dispatched the emperor revised this second edict, limited it to the seizure of Luther's books, and published it on his own authority without consulting the diet (10th March). After Luther had begun his journey, this edict was posted up along his route in order to intimidate him; other means were taken to make him turn aside from Worms; but he was resolved to go there and nothing daunted him. He reached the town (16th April) and was met by encouraging crowds. He was summoned to appear before the diet on the 17th and measures were taken to prevent him doing more than answering definite questions put to him. He was asked whether certain books had been written by him and whether he was prepared to maintain or to abjure what he had written. He asked time to prepare an answer to the second question. The diet was anxious to hear Luther, if the emperor was not, and his request was granted. He thus defeated the plot to keep him silent. On the r8th he made his second appearance and delivered the speech, which electrified his audience. At the close he was threatened by Spaniards in the diet. The Germans ringed him round, and, with their hands raised high in the fashion of a landsknecht who had struck a successful blow, passed out into the street and escorted him to his lodgings. Next day (April 10th) the emperor proposed to place Luther under the ban of the empire and read to the assembly a brief statement of his own views. The diet objected, and asked for a conference between Luther and some selected members. Conferences were held, but came to nothing. No compromise was possible between the declaration that man's conscience could only be bound by the Word of God and the emperor's belief in the infallibility of a general council. The commission had to report that its efforts had failed. Luther was ordered to leave Worms and to return to Wittenberg. His safe-conduct was to expire twenty-one days after the 16th of April. Then he was liable to be seized and put to death as a pestilent heretic. There only remained to draft and publish the edict containing the ban. Days passed and it did not appear. Suddenly the startling news reached Worms that Luther had disappeared, no one knew where. It was reported that his body had been found in a silver-mine pierced with a dagger. The news flew over Germany and beyond it that he had been slain by papal emissaries. At Worms the indignation of the populace was intense. The public buildings were placarded during the night with an intimation that four hundred knights had sworn not to leave Luther unavenged, and the ominous words Bundschuh, Bundschuh, Bundschuh (the watchword of peasant revolts) were written at the foot. The combination suggested an alliance between the lesser knights and the peasants, dreaded by all the ruling classes. The true story of Luther's disappearance was not known until long afterwards. After the failure of the conference the elector of Saxony had commissioned two of the councillors to convey Luther to a place of safety without telling him where it was. Many weeks elapsed before Frederick himself learned that Luther was safe in his own castle of the Wartburg. The disappearance did not mean that Luther had ceased to be a leader of men; but it marked the beginning of an organized national opposition to Rome.

It was not till the 25th of May that the edict against Luther was presented to a small number of members of the diet, after the elector of Saxony and many important members had left Worms. It threatened all Luther's sympathisers with extermination, and practically proclaimed an Albigensian war in Germany. But few public documents prepared with so much care have proved so futile. The latter half of 1 52r saw the silent spread of Lutheran opinions all over Germany. This was not unaccompanied with dangers. Every movement for reform

carries within it the seeds of revolution, and Luther's was no exception to the rule.

The revolution began in Wittenberg during Luther's seclusion in the Wartburg. Andrew Boden of Carlstadt, a colleague of Luther's in the university of Wittenberg, was strongly impressed with the contradiction which he believed to exist between evangelical teaching and the usages of medieval ecclesiastical