S H A R E W A R E 

The Story of Martin Luther

This is a modern revision of that classic work

Merle D'Aubigne's HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION published in

1835. This magnificent Work occupies many megabites of

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Angela Pitts

P.O. Box 459

Experiment, Georgia 30212







President of the Theological School of Geneva, and

Vice President of the Societe Evangelique.












Luther's Descent--His Parents--His Birth--His Poverty--Paternal

Home--Severity--First Knowledge--School of Magdeburg--Hardships--

Eisenach--The Shunamite--House of Cotta--Arts--Recollections of

these Times--His Studies--Trebonius--The University.


The University--Scholastic Divinity and the Classics--Luther's

Piety--Discovery of the Bible--Illness--Luther admitted M.A.--

Conscience--Death of Alexis--The Thunder Storm--Providence--

Farewell--Luther enters a Convent.



His Father's Anger--Pardon--Humiliation--The Sack and the Cell--

Endurance--Luther's Studies--St. Augustine--Peter d'Ailly--Occam-

-Gerson--The Chained Bible--Lyra--Hebrew and Greek--Daily

Prayers--Asceticism--Mental Struggles--Luther during Mass--

Useless Observances--Luther in a Fainting-fit.


Pious Monks--Staupitz--His Piety--Visitation--Conversations--The

Grace of Christ--Repentance--Power of Sin--Sweetness of

Repentance--Election--Providence--The Bible--The aged Monk--

Forgiveness of Sins--Ordination--The Dinner--Festival of Corpus

Christi--Luther made Professor at Wittemberg.


The University of Wittemberg--First Instructions--Biblical

Lectures--Sensation--Luther Preaches at Wittemberg--The Old

Chapel--Impression produced by his Sermons.





Journey to Rome--Convent on the Po--Sickness at Bologna--

Recollections of Rome--Julius II--Superstitious Devotion--

Profanity of the Clergy--Conversations--Roman Scandals--Biblical

Studies--Pilate's Staircase--Effects on Luther's Faith and on the

Reformation--Gate of Paradise--Luther's Confession.


Luther returns to Wittemberg--Made Doctor of Divinity--Carlstadt-

-Luther's Oath--Principle of the Reformation--Luther's Courage--

Early Views of Reformation--The Schoolmen--Spalatin--Reuchlin's

Quarrel with the Monks.


Faith--Popular Declamations--Academic Teaching--Luther's Purity

of Life--German Theology or Mysticism--The Monk Spenlein--

Justification by Faith--Luther on Erasmus--Faith and Works--

Erasmus--Necessity of Works--Luther's Charity.





Luther's First Theses--The Old Adam and Grace--Visitaton of the

Convents--Luther at Dresden and Erfurth--Tornator--Peace and the

Cross--Results of Luther's Journey--His Labors--The Plague.


The Relics--Relations of Luther with the Elector--Advice to the

Chaplain--Duke George--His Character--Luther's Sermon before the

Court--Dinner at Court--Evening with Emser.


Return to Wittemberg--Theses--Free Will--Nature of Man--

Rationalism--Proposal to the University at Erfurth--Eck--Urban

Regius--Luther's Modesty--Effect of the Theses.









All was ready. God who prepares his work through ages,

accomplishes it by the weakest instruments, when His time is

come. To effect great results by the smallest means--such is the

law of God. This law, which prevails everywhere in nature, is

found also in history. God selected the reformers of the Church

from the same class whence he had taken the apostles. He chose

them from among that lower rank, which, although not the meanest,

does not reach the level of the middle classes. Everything was

thus intended to manifest to the world that the work was not of

man but of God. The reformer Zuingle emerged from an Alpine

shepherd's hut; Melancthon, the theologian of the Reformation,

from an armorer's shop; and Luther from the cottage of a poor


The first period in man's life--that in which he is formed

and molded under the hand of God--is always important. It is

eminently so in the career of Luther. The whole of the

Reformation is included in it. The different phases of this work

succeeded one another in the soul of him who was to be the

instrument for effecting it, before they were accomplished in the

world. The knowledge of the change that took place in Luther's

heart can alone furnish the key to the reformation of the Church.

It is only by studying the particulars that we can understand the

general work. Those who neglect the former will be ignorant of

the latter except in its outward appearance. They may acquire a

knowledge of certain events and certain results, but they will

never comprehend the intrinsic nature of that revival, because

the principle of life, that was its very soul, remains unknown to

them. Let us therefore study the Reformation in Luther himself,

before we proceed to the events that changed the face of


In the village of Mora, near the Thuringian forests, and not

far from the spot where Boniface, the apostle of Germany, began

to proclaim the Gospel, had dwelt, doubtless for many centuries,

an ancient and numerous family of the name of Luther. As was

customary with the Thuringian peasants, the eldest son always

inherited the dwelling and the paternal fields, while the other

children departed elsewhere in quest of a livelihood. One of

these, by name John Luther, married Margaret Lindemann, the

daughter of an inhabitant of Neustadt in the see of Wurzburg.

The married pair quitted the plains of Eisenach, and went to

settle in the little town of Eisleben in Saxony, to earn their

bread by the sweat of their brows.

Seckendorf relates, on the testimony of Rebhan,

superintendent at Eisenach in 1601, that Luther's mother,

thinking her time still distant, had gone to the fair of

Eisleben, and that contrary to her expectation she there gave

birth to a son. Notwithstanding the credit that is due to

Seckendorf, this account does not appear to be correct: in fact,

none of the oldest of Luther's historians mention it; and

besides, it is about twenty-four leagues from Mora to Eisleben,

and in the condition of Luther's mother at that time, people do

not readily make up their minds to travel such a distance to see

a fair; and, lastly, the evidence of Luther himself appears in

direct opposition to this assertion.

John Luther was an upright man, diligent in business, frank,

and carrying the firmness of his character even to obstinacy.

With a more cultivated mind than that of most men of his class,

he used to read much. Books were then rare; but John omitted no

opportunity of procuring them. They formed his relaxation in the

intervals of repose, snatched from his severe and constant

labors. Margaret possessed all the virtues that can adorn a good

and pious woman. Her modesty, her fear of God, and her prayerful

spirit, were particularly remarked. She was looked upon by the

matrons of the neighborhood as a model whom they should strive to


It is not precisely known how long the married pair had been

living at Eisleben, when, on the 10th of November, one hour

before midnight, Margaret gave birth to a son. Melancthon often

questioned his friend's mother as to the period of his birth. "I

well remember the day and the hour," replied she, "but I am not

certain about the year." But Luther's brother James, an honest

and upright man, has recorded, that in the opinion of the whole

family the future reformer was born on St. Martin's eve, 10th

November, 1483. And Luther himself wrote on a Hebrew Psalter

which is still in existence: "I was born in the year 1483." The

first thought of his pious parents was to dedicate to God,

according to the faith they professed, the child that he had

given them. On the morrow, which happened to be Tuesday, the

father carried his son to St. Peter's church, where he received

the rite of Infant Baptism and was called Martin in commemoration

of the day.

The child was not six months old, when his parents quitted

Eisleben to repair to Mansfeldt, which is only five leagues

distant. The mines of that neighborhood were then very

celebrated. John Luther, who was a hard-working man, feeling

that perhaps he would be called upon to bring up a numerous

family, hoped to gain a better livelihood for himself and his

children in that town. It was here that the understanding and

strength of young Luther received their first development; here

his activity began to display itself, and here his character was

declared in his words and in his actions. The plains of

Mansfeldt, the banks of the Wipper, were the theater of his first

sports with the children of the neighborhood.

The first period of their abode at Mansfeldt was full of

difficulty to the worthy John and his wife. At first they lived

in great poverty. "My parents," said the Reformer, "were very

poor. My father was a poor wood-cutter, and my mother has often

carried wood upon her back, that she might procure the means of

bringing up her children. They endured the severest labor for

our sakes." The example of the parents whom he revered, the

habits they inspired in him, early accustomed Luther to labor and

frugality. How many times, doubtless, he accompanied his mother

to the wood, there to gather up his little faggot!

There are promises of blessing on the labor of the

righteous, and John Luther experienced their realization. Having

attained somewhat easier circumstances, he established two

smelting furnaces at Mansfeldt. Beside these furnaces little

Martin grew in strength, and with the produce of this labor his

father afterwards provided for his studies. "It was from a

miner's family," says the good Mathesius, "that the spiritual

founder of Christendom was to go forth: an image of what God

would do in purifying the sons of Levi through him, and refining

them like gold in his furnaces." Respected by all for his

integrity, for his spotless life, and good sense, John Luther was

made councillor of Mansfeldt, capital of the earldom of that

name. Excessive misery might have crushed the child's spirit:

the competence of his paternal home expanded his heart and

elevated his character.

John took advantage of his new position to court the society

which he preferred. He had a great esteem for learned men, and

often invited to his table the clergy and schoolmasters of the

place. His house offered a picture of those social meeting of

his fellow-citizens, which did honor to Germany at the

commencement of the sixteenth century. It was a mirror in which

were reflected the numerous images that followed one another in

the agitated scene of the times. The child profited by them. No

doubt the sight of these men, to whom so much respect was shown

in his father's house, excited more than once in little Martin's

heart the ambitious desire of becoming himself one day a

schoolmaster or a learned man.

As soon as he was old enough to receive instructions, his

parents endeavoured to impart to him the knowledge of God, to

train him up in His fear, and to mold him to christian virtues.

They exerted all their care in this earliest domestic education.

The father would often kneel at the child's bedside, and

fervently pray aloud, begging the Lord that his son might

remember His name and one day contribute to the propagation of

the truth. The parent's prayer was most graciously listened to.

And yet his tender solicitude was not confined to this.

His father, anxious to see him acquire the elements of that

learning for which he himself had so much esteem, invoked God's

blessing upon him, and sent him to school. Martin was still very

young. His father, or Nicholas Emler, a young man of Mansfeldt,

often carried him in their arms to the house of George Emilius,

and afterwards returned to fetch him home. Emler in after-years

married one of Luther's sisters.

His parents' piety, their activity and austere virtue, gave

the boy a happy impulse, and formed in him an attentive and

serious disposition. The system of education which then

prevailed made use of chastisement and fear as the principal

incentives to study. Margaret, although sometimes approving to

too great severity of her husband, frequently opened her maternal

arms to her son to console him in his tears. Yet even she

herself overstept the limits of that wise precept: He that

loveth his son, chasteneth him betimes. Martin's impetuous

character gave frequent occasion for punishment and reprimand.

"My parents," said Luther in after-life, "treated my harshly, so

that I became very timid. My mother one day chastised me so

severely about a nut, that the blood came. They seriously

thought that they were doing right; but they could not

distinguish character, which however is very necessary in order

to know when, or where, or how chastisement should be inflicted.

It is necessary to punish; but the apple should be placed beside

the rod."

At school the poor child met with treatment no less severe.

His master flogged him fifteen times successively on one morning.

"We must," said Luther, when relating this circumstance--"we must

whip children, but we must at the same time love them." With

such an education Luther learnt early to despise the charms of a

merely sensual life. "What is to become great, should begin

small," justly observes one of his oldest biographers; "and if

children are brought up too delicately and with too much kindness

from their youth, they are injured for life."

Martin learnt something at school. He was taught the heads

of his Catechism, the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, the

Lord's Prayer, some hymns, some forms of prayer, and a Latin

grammar written in the fourth century by Donatus who was St.

Jeromes's master, and which, improved in the eleventh century by

one Remigius, a French monk, was long held in great repute in

every school. He further studied the calendar of Cisio Janus, a

very singular work, composed in the tenth or eleventh century:

in fine, he learnt all that could be taught in the Latin school

of Mansfeldt.

But the child's thoughts do not appear to have been there

directed to God. The only religious sentiment that could then be

discovered in him was fear. Every time he heard Jesus Christ

spoken of, he turned pale with affright; for the Saviour had only

been represented to him as an offended judge. This servile fear-

-so alien to true religion--may perhaps have prepared him for the

glad tidings of the Gospel, and for that joy which he afterwards

felt, when he learnt to know Him who is meek and lowly in heart.

John Luther wished to make his son a scholar. The day that

was everywhere beginning to dawn, had penetrated even into the

house of the Mansfeldt miner, and there awakened ambitious

thoughts. The remarkable disposition, the persevering

application of his son, made John conceive the liveliest

expectations. Accordingly, in 1497, when Martin had attained the

age of fourteen years, his father resolved to part with him, and

send him to the Franciscan school at Magdeburg. His mother was

forced to consent, and Martin prepared to quit the paternal roof.

Magdeburg was like a new world to Martin. In the midst of

numerous privations, for he scarcely had enough to live upon, he

inquired--he listened. Andrew Proles, provincial of the

Augustine order, was at that time warmly advocating the necessity

of reforming religion and the Church. It was not he, however,

who deposited in the young man's heart the first germ of the

ideas that were afterwards developed there.

This was a rude apprenticeship for Luther. Thrown upon the

world at the age of fourteen, without friends or protectors, he

trembled in the presence of his masters, and in the hours of

recreation he painfully begged his bread in company with children

poorer than himself. "I used to beg with my companions for a

little food," said he, "that we might have the means of providing

for our wants. One day, at the time the Church celebrates the

festival of Christ's nativity, we were wandering together through

the neighboring villages, going from house to house, and singing

in four parts the usual carols on the infant Jesus, born at

Bethlehem. We stopped before a peasant's house that stood by

itself at the extremity of the village. The farmer, hearing us

sing our Christmas hymns, came out with some victuals which he

intended to give us, and called out in a high voice and with a

harsh tone, Boys, where are you? Frightened at these words, we

ran off as fast as our legs would carry us. We had no reason to

be alarmed, for the farmer offered us assistance with great

kindness; but our hearts, no doubt, were rendered timorous by the

menaces and tyranny with which the teachers were then accustomed

to rule over their pupils, so that a sudden panic had seized us.

At last, however, as the farmer continued calling after us, we

stopped, forgot our fears, ran back to him, and received from his

hands the food intended for us. It is thus," adds Luther, "that

we are accustomed to tremble and flee, when our conscience is

guilty and alarmed. In such a case we are afraid even of the

assistance that is offered us, and of those who are our friends,

and who would willingly do us every good."

A year had scarcely passed away, when John and Margaret,

hearing what difficulty their son found in supporting himself at

Magdeburg, sent him to Eisenach, where there was a celebrated

school, and in which town they had many relatives. They had

other children; and although their means had increased, they

could not maintain their son in a place where he was unknown.

The furnaces and the industry of John Luther did little more than

provide for the support of his family. He hoped that when Martin

arrived at Eisenach, he would more easily find the means of

subsistence; but he was not more fortunate in this town. His

relations who dwelt there took no care about him, or perhaps,

being very poor themselves, they could not give him any


When the young scholar was pinched by hunger, he was

compelled, as at Madgeburg, to join with his schoolfellows in

singing from door to door to obtain a morsel of bread. This

custom of Luther's days is still preserved in many German cities:

sometimes the voices of the youths form an harmonious concert.

Often, instead of food, the poor and modest Martin received

nothing but harsh words. Then, overwhelmed with sorrow, he shed

many tears in secret, and thought with anxiety of the future.

One day, in particular, he had already been repulsed from

three houses, and was preparing to return fasting to his

lodgings, when, having reached the square of St. George, he

stopped motionless, plunged in melancholy reflections, before the

house of a worthy citizen. Must he for want of bread renounce

his studies, and return to labor with his father in the mines of

Mansfeldt?......Suddenly a door opens--a woman appears on the

threshold: it is Ursula, the wife of Conrad Cotta, and daughter

of the burgomaster of Ilfeld. The Eisenach chronicles style her

"the pious Shunamite," in remembrance of her who so earnestly

constrained the prophet Elisha to stay and eat bread with her.

The christian Shunamite had already more than once remarked the

youthful Martin in the assemblies of the faithful; she had been

affected by the sweetness of his voice and by his devotion. She

had heard the harsh words that had been addressed to the poor

scholar, and seeing him stand thus sadly before her door, she

came to his aid, beckoned him to enter, and gave him food to

appease his hunger.

Conrad approved of his wife's benevolence: he even found so

much pleasure in the boy's society, that a few days after he took

him to live entirely with him. Henceforward his studies were

secured. He is not obliged to return to the mines of Mansfeldt,

and bury the talents that God has intrusted to him. At a time

when he knew not what would become of him, God opened the heart

and the house of a christian family. This event disposed his

soul to that confidence in God which the severest trials could

not afterwards shake.

Luther passed in Cotta's house a very different kind of life

from that which he had hitherto known. His existence glided away

calmly, exempt from want and care: his mind became more serene,

his character more cheerful, and his heart more open. All his

faculties awoke at the mild rays of charity, and he began to

exult with life, joy, and happiness. His prayers were more

fervent, his thirst for knowledge greater, and his progress in

study more rapid.

To literature and science he added the charms of the fine

arts; for they also were advancing in Germany. The men whom God

destines to act upon their contemporaries, are themselves at

first influenced and carried away by all the tendencies of the

age in which they live. Luther learned to play on the flute and

on the lute. With this latter instrument he used often to

accompany his fine alto voice, and thus cheered his heart in the

hours of sadness. He took delight in testifying by his melody

his lively gratitude towards his adoptive mother, who was

passionately fond of music. He himself loved the art even to old

age, and composed the words and airs of some of the finest hymns

that Germany possesses. Many have even passed into our language.

These were happy times for young Luther: he could never

think of them without emotion. One of Conrad's sons coming many

years after to study at Wittemberg, when the poor scholar of

Eisenach had become the first doctor of the age, was received

with joy at his table and under his roof. He wished to make some

return to the son for the kindness he had received from the

parents. It was in remembrance of this christian woman who had

fed him when all the world repulsed him, that he gave utterance

to this beautiful thought: "There is nothing sweeter on earth

than the heart of a woman in which piety dwells."

Luther was never ashamed of these days in which, oppressed

by hunger, he used in sadness to beg the bread necessary for his

studies and his livelihood. Far from that, he used to reflect

with gratitude on the extreme poverty of his youth. He looked

upon it as one of the means that God had employed to make him

what he afterwards became, and he accordingly thanked him for it.

The poor children who were obliged to follow the same kind of

life, touched his heart. "Do not despise," said he, "the boys

who go singing through the streets, begging a little bread for

the love of God (panem propter Deum): I also have done the same.

It is true that somewhat later my father supported me with much

love and kindness at the university of Erfurth, maintaining me by

the sweat of his brow; yet I have been a poor beggar. And now,

by means of my pen, I have risen so high, that I would not change

lots with the Grand Turk himself. Nay more, should all the

riches of the earth be heaped one upon another, I would not take

them in exchange for what I possess. And yet I should not be

where I am, if I had not gone to school--if I had not learnt to

write."--Thus did this great man see in these his first humble

beginnings the origin of all his glory. He feared not to recall

to mind that the voice whose accents thrilled the empire and the

world, once used to beg for a morsel of bread in the streets of a

small town. The Christian finds a pleasure in such

recollections, because they remind him that it is in God alone he

should glory.

The strength of his understanding, the liveliness of his

imagination, the excellence of his memory, soon carried him

beyond all his schoolfellows. He made rapid progress especially

in Latin, in eloquence, and in poetry. He wrote speeches and

composed verses. As he was cheerful, obliging, and had what is

called "a good heart," he was beloved by his masters and by his


Among the professors he attaches himself particularly to

John Trebonius, a learned man, of an agreeable address, and who

had all that regard for youth which is so well calculated to

encourage them. Martin had noticed that whenever Trebonius

entered the schoolroom, he raised his cap to salute the pupils.

A great condescension in those pedantic times! This had

delighted the young man. He saw that he was something. The

respect of the master had elevated the scholar in his own

estimation. The colleagues of Trebonius, who did not adopt the

same custom, having one day expressed their astonishment at his

extreme condescension, he replied (and his answer did not the

less strike the youthful Luther): "There are among these boys

men of whom God will one day make burgomasters, chancellors,

doctors, and magistrates. Although you do not yet see them with

the badges of their dignity, it is right that you should treat

them with respect." Doubtless the young scholar listened with

pleasure to these words, and perhaps imagined himself already

with the doctor's cap upon his head!














The University--Scholastic Divinity and the Classics--Luther's

Piety--Discovery of the Bible--Illness--Luther admitted M.A.--

Conscience--Death of Alexis--The Thunder-Storm--Providence--

Farewell--Luther enters a Convent.

Luther had now reached his eighteenth year. He had tasted

the sweets of literature; he burnt with a desire of knowledge; he

sighed for a university education, and wished to repair to one of

those fountains of learning where he could slake his thirst for

letters. His father required him to study the law. Full of hope

in the talents of his son, he wished that he should cultivate

them and make them generally known. He already pictured him

discharging the most honorable functions among his fellow-

citizens, gaining the favor of princes, and shining on the

theatre of the world. It was determined that the young man

should go to Erfurth.

Luther arrived at this university in 1501. Jodocus,

surnamed the Doctor of Eisenach, was teaching there the

scholastic philosophy with great success. Melancthon regrets

that at that time nothing was taught at Erfurth but a system of

dialectics bristling with difficulties. He thinks that if Luther

had met with other professors, if they had taught him the milder

and calmer discipline of true philosophy, the violence of his

nature might have been moderated and softened. The new disciple

applied himself to study the philosophy of the Middle Ages in the

works of Occam, Scotus, Bonaventure, and Thomas Aquinas. In

later times all this scholastic divinity was his aversion. He

trembled with indignation whenever Aristotle's name was

pronounced in his presence, and he went so far as to say that if

Aristotle had not been a man, he should not have hesitated to

take him for the devil. But a mind so eager for learning as his

required other aliments; he began to study the masterpieces of

antiquity, the writings of Cicero, Virgil, and other classic

authors. He was not content, like the majority of students, with

learning their productions by heart: he endeavoured to fathom

their thoughts, to imbibe the spirit which animated them, to

appropriate their wisdom to himself, to comprehend the object of

their writings, and to enrich his mind with their pregnant

sentences and brilliant images. He often addressed questions to

his professors, and soon outstripped all his fellow-students.

Blessed with a retentive memory and a strong imagination, all

that he read or heard remained constantly present to his mind; it

was as if he had seen it himself. "Thus shone Luther in his

early years. The whole university," says Melancthon, "admired

his genius."

But even at this period the young man of eighteen did not

study merely to cultivate his intellect: he had those serious

thoughts, that heart directed heavenwards, which God gives to

those of whom he resolves to make his most zealous ministers.

Luther was sensible of his entire dependence upon God,--simple

and powerful conviction, which is at once the cause of deep

humility and of great actions! He fervently invoked the divine

blessing upon his labors. Every morning he began the day with

prayer; he then went to church, and afterwards applied to his

studies, losing not a moment in the whole course of the day. "To

pray well," he was in the habit of saying, "is the better half of


The young student passed in the university library all the

time he could snatch from his academical pursuits. Books were as

yet rare, and it was a great privilege for him to profit by the

treasures brought together in this vast collection. One day--he

had then been two years at Erfurth, and was twenty years old--he

opens many books in the library one after another, to learn their

writers' names. One volume that he comes to attracts his

attention. He has never until this hour seen its like. He reads

the title--it is a Bible! a rare book, unknown in those times.

His interest is greatly excited: he is filled with astonishment

at finding other matters than those fragments of the gospels and

epistles that the Church has selected to be read to the people

during public worship every Sunday throughout the year. Until

this day he had imagined that they composed the whole Word of

God. And now he sees so many pages, so many chapters, so many

books of which he had had no idea! His heart beats, as he holds

the divinely inspired volume in his hand. With eagerness and

with indescribable emotion he turns over these leaves from God.

The first page on which he fixes his attention narrates the story

of Hannah and of the young Samuel. He reads--and his soul can

hardly contain the joy it feels. This child, whom his parents

lend to the Lord as long as he liveth; the song of Hannah, in

which she declares that Jehovah "raiseth up the poor out of the

dust, and lifteth the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among

princes;" this child who grew up in the temple in the presence of

the Lord; those sacrificers, the sons of Eli, who are wicked men,

who live in debauchery, and "make the Lord's people to

transgress;"--all this history, all this revelation that he has

just discovered, excites feelings till then unknown. He returns

home with a full heart. "Oh! that God would give me such a book

for myself," thought he. Luther was as yet ignorant both of

Greek and Hebrew. It is scarcely probable that he had studied

these languages during the first two or three years of his

residence at the university. The Bible that had filled him with

such transports was in Latin. He soon returned to the library to

pore over his treasure. He read it again and again, and then, in

his astonishment and joy, he returned to read it once more. The

first glimmerings of a new truth were then beginning to dawn upon

his mind.

Thus had God led him to the discovery of his Word--of that

book of which he was one day to give his fellow countrymen that

admirable translation in which Germany has for three centuries

perused the oracles of God. Perhaps for the first time his

precious volume has now been taken down from the place it

occupied in the library of Erfurth. This book, deposited upon

the unknown shelves of a gloomy hall, is about to become the book

of life to a whole nation. In that Bible the Reformation lay


It was in the same year that Luther took his first

academical degree--that of bachelor.

The excessive labor to which he had devoted himself in order

to pass his examination, occasioned a dangerous illness. Death

seemed approaching him: serious reflections occupied his mind.

He thought that his earthly existence was drawing to an end. The

young man excited general interest. "It is a pity," they

thought, "to see so many expectations so early blighted." Many

friends came to visit him on his bed of sickness. Among their

number was a venerable and ages priest, who had watched with

interest the student of Mansfeldt in his labors and in his

academic career. Luther could not conceal the thoughts that

occupied his mind. "Soon," said he, "I shall be called away from

this world." But the old man kindly replied, "My dear bachelor,

take courage; you will not die of this illness. Our God will yet

make of you a man who, in turn, shall console many. For God

layeth his cross upon those whom he loveth, and they who bear it

patiently acquire much wisdom." These words struck the young

invalid. It was when he was so near death that he heard the

voice of a priest remind him that God, as Samuel's mother said,

raiseth up the miserable. The old man had poured sweet

consolation into his heart, had revived his spirits; never will

he forget it. "This was the first prediction that the worthy

doctor heard," says Mathesius, Luther's friend, who records the

fact, "and he often used to call it to mind." We may easily

comprehend in what sense Mathesius calls these words a


When Luther recovered, there was a great change in him. The

Bible, his illness, the words of the aged priest, seem to have

made a new appeal to him: but as yet there was nothing decided

in his mind. Another circumstance awakened serious thoughts

within him. It was the festival of Easter, probably in the year

1503. Luther was going to pass a short time with his family, and

wore a sword according to the custom of the age. He struck

against it with his foot, the blade fell out, and cut one of the

principal arteries. Luther, whose only companion had run off in

haste to seek for assistance, finding himself alone, and seeing

the blood flowing copiously without being able to check it, lay

down on his back, and put his finger on the wound; but the blood

escaped in despite of his exertions, and Luther, feeling the

approach of death, cried out, "O Mary, help me!" At last a

surgeon arrived from Erfurth, who bound up the cut. The wound

opened in the night, and Luther fainted, again calling loudly

upon the Virgin. "At that time," said he in after-years, "I

should have died relying upon Mary." Erelong he abandoned that

superstition, and invoked a more powerful Saviour. He continued

his studies. In 1505 he was admitted M.A. and doctor of

philosophy. The university of Erfurth was then the most

celebrated in all Germany. The others were but inferior schools

in comparison with it. The ceremony was conducted, as usual,

with great pomp. A procession by torchlight came to pay honor to

Luther. The festival was magnificent. It was a general

rejoicing. Luther, encouraged perhaps by these honors, felt

disposed to apply himself entirely to the law, in conformity with

his father's wishes.

But the will of God was different. While Luther was

occupied with various studies, and beginning to teach the physics

and ethics of Aristotle, with other branches of philosophy, his

heart ceased not from crying to him that religion was the one

thing needful, and that above all things he should secure his

salvation. He knew the displeasure that God manifests against

sin; he called to mind the penalties that his Word denounces

against the sinner; and he asked himself, with apprehension,

whether he was sure of possessing the divine favor. His

conscience answered, No! His character was prompt and decided:

he resolved to do all that might ensure him a firm hope of

immortality. Two events occurred, one after the other, to

disturb his soul, and to hasten his resolution.

Among his university friends was one named Alexis, with whom

he lived in the closest intimacy. One morning a report was

spread in Erfurth that Alexis had been assassinated. Luther

hastens to ascertain the truth of this rumor. This sudden loss

of his friend agitated him, and the question he asked himself,

What would become of me, if I were thus called away without

warning? fills his mind with the keenest terrors.

It was in the summer of the year 1505 that Luther, whom the

ordinary university vacations left at liberty, resolved to go to

Mansfeldt, to revisit the dear scenes of his childhood and to

embrace his parents. Perhaps also he wished to open his heart to

his father, to sound him on the plan that he was forming in his

mind, and obtain his permission to engage in another profession.

He foresaw all the difficulties that awaited him. The idle life

of the majority of priests was displeasing to the active miner of

Mansfeldt. Besides, the ecclesiastics were but little esteemed

in the world; for the most part their revenues were scanty; and

the father, who had made great sacrifices to maintain his son at

the university, and who now saw him teaching publicly in a

celebrated school, although only in his twentieth year, was not

likely to renounce the proud hopes he had cherished.

We are ignorant of what passed during Luther's stay at

Mansfeldt. Perhaps the decided wish of his father made him fear

to open his heart to him. He again quitted his father's house to

take his seat on the benches of the academy. He was already

within a short distance of Erfurth, when he was overtaken by a

violent storm, such as often occurs in these mountains. The

lightning flashed--the bolt fell at his feet. Luther threw

himself upon his knees. His hour, perhaps, is come. Death, the

judgment, and eternity summon him with all their terrors, and he

hears a voice that he can no longer resist. "Encompassed with

the anguish and terror of death," as he says himself, he made a

vow, if the Lord delivers him from this danger, to abandon the

world, and devote himself entirely to God. After rising from the

ground, having still present to him that death which must one day

overtake him, he examines himself seriously, and asks what he

ought to do. The thoughts that once agitated him now return with

greater force. He has endeavoured, it is true, to fulfil all his

duties, but what is the state of his soul? Can he appear before

the tribunal of a terrible God with an impure heart? He must

become holy. He has now as great a thirst for holiness, as he

had formerly for knowledge. But where can he find it, or where

can he attain it? The university provided him with the means of

satisfying his first desires. Who shall calm that anguish--who

shall quench the fire that now consumes him? To what school of

holiness shall he direct his steps? He will enter a cloister:

the monastic life will save him. Oftentimes has he heard speak

of its power to transform the heart, to sanctify the sinner, to

make man perfect! He will enter a monastic order. He will there

become holy: thus will he secure eternal life.

Such was the event that changed the calling, the whole

destiny of Luther. In this we perceive the finger of God. It

was his powerful hand that on the highway cast down the young

master of arts, the candidate for the bar, the future lawyer, to

give an entirely new direction to his life. Rubianus, one of

Luther's friends at the university of Erfurth, wrote thus to him

in after-life: "Divine Providence looked at what you were one

day to become, when on your return from your parents, the fire

from heaven threw you to the ground, like another Paul, near the

city of Erfurth, and withdrawing you from our society, drove you

into the Augustine order." Analogous circumstances have marked

the conversion of the two greatest instruments that Divine

Providence has made use of in the two greatest revolutions that

have been effected upon the earth: Saint Paul and Luther.

Luther re-enters Erfurth. His resolution in unalterable.

Still it is not without a pang that he prepares to break the ties

so dear to him. He communicates his intention to no one. But

one evening he invites his university friends to a cheerful but

frugal supper. Music once more enlivens their social meeting.

It is Luther's farewell to the world. Henceforth, instead of

these amiable companions of his pleasures and his studies, he

will have monks; instead of this gay and witty conversation--the

silence of the cloister; and for these merry songs--the solemn

strains of the quiet chapel. God calls him, and he must

sacrifice everything. Still, for the last time, let him share in

the joys of his youth! The repast excites his friends: Luther

himself is the soul of the party. But at the very moment that

they are giving way without restraint to their gaiety, the young

man can no longer control the serious thoughts that fill his

mind. He speaks--he makes known his intention to his astonished

friends. They endeavour to shake it, but in vain. And that very

night Luther, fearful perhaps of their importunate solicitations,

quits his lodgings. He leaves behind him all his clothes and

books, taking with him only Virgil and Plautus; he had no Bible

as yet. Virgil and Plautus! an epic poem and comedies!

striking picture of Luther's mind! There had in effect taken

place in him a whole epic--a beautiful, grand, and sublime poem;

but as he had a disposition inclined to gaiety, wit, and humor,

he combined more than one familiar feature with the serious and

stately groundwork of his life.

Provided with these two books, he repairs alone, in the

darkness of night, to the convent of the hermits of St.

Augustine. He asks admittance. The gate opens and closes again.

Behold him separated for ever from his parents, from the

companions of his studies, and from the world! It was the 17th

August 1505: Luther was then twenty-one years and nine months





His Father's Anger--Pardon--Humiliations--The Sack and the Cell--

Endurance--Luther's Studies--St. Augustine--Peter d'Ailly--Occam-

-Gerson--The chained Bible--Lyra--Hebrew and Greek--Daily

Prayers--Asceticism--Mental Struggles--Luther during Mass--

Useless Observances--Luther in a Fainting-fit.

Luther was with God at last. His soul was in safety. He

was now about to find that holiness which he so much desired.

The monks were astonished at the sight of the youthful doctor,

and extolled his courage and his contempt of the world. He did

not, however, forget his friends. He wrote to them, bidding

farewell to them and to the world; and on the next day he sent

these letters, with the clothes he had worn till then, and

returned to the university his ring of master of arts, that

nothing might remind him of the world he had renounced.

His friends at Erfurth were struck with astonishment. Must

so eminent a genius go and hide himself in that monastic state,

which is a partial death? Filled with the liveliest sorrow, they

hastily repair to the convent, in the hope of inducing Luther to

retrace so afflicting a step; but all was useless. For two whole

days they surrounded the convent and almost besieged it, in the

hope of seeing Luther come forth. But the gates remained closely

shut and barred. A month elapsed without anyone being able to

see or speak to the new monk.

Luther had also hastened to communicate to his parents the

great change that had taken place in his life. His father was

amazed. He trembled for his son, as Luther himself tells us in

the dedication of his work on monastic vows addressed to his

father. His weakness, his youth, the violence of his passions,

all led John Luther to fear that when the first moment of

enthusiasm was over, the idle habits of the cloister would make

the young man fall either into despair or into some great sin.

He knew that this kind of life had already been the destruction

of many. Besides, the councillor-miner of Mansfeldt had formed

very different plans for his son. He had hoped that he would

contract a rich and honorable marriage. And now all his

ambitious projects are overthrown in one night by this imprudent


John wrote a very angry letter to his son, in which he spoke

to him in a contemptuous tone, as Luther informs us, while he had

addressed him always in a friendly manner after he had taken his

master-of-arts degree. He withdrew all his favor, and declared

him disinherited from his paternal affection. In vain did his

father's friends, and doubtless his wife, endeavour to soften

him; in vain did they say: "If you would offer a sacrifice to

God, let it be what you hold best and dearest,--even your son,

your Isaac." The inexorable councillor of Mansfeldt would listen

to nothing.

Not long after, however (as Luther tells us in a sermon

preached at Wittemberg, 20th January 1544), the plague appeared,

and deprived John Luther of two of his sons. About this time

some one came and told the bereaved father the monk of Erfurth is

dead also!......His friends seized the opportunity of reconciling

the father to the young novice. "If it should be a false alarm,"

said they to him, "at least sanctify your affliction by cordially

consenting to your son's becoming a monk!"--"Well! so be it!"

replied John Luther, with a heart bruised, yet still half

rebellious, "and God grant he may prosper!" Some time after

this, when Luther, who had been reconciled to his father, related

to him the event that had induced him to enter a monastic order:

"God grant," replied the worthy miner, "that you may not have

taken for a sign from heaven what was merely a delusion of the


There was not then in Luther that which was afterwards to

make him the reformer of the Church. Of this his entrance into

the convent is a strong proof. It was a proceeding in conformity

with the tendencies of the age from which he was soon to

contribute his endeavours to liberate the Church. He who was

destined to become the great teacher of the world, was as yet its

slavish imitator. A new stone had been added to the edifice of

superstition by the very man who was erelong to destroy it.

Luther looked to himself for salvation, to human works and

observances. He knew not that salvation cometh wholly from God.

He sought after his own glory and righteousness, unmindful of the

righteousness and glory of the Lord. But what he was ignorant of

as yet, he learnt soon after. It was in the cloister of Erfurth

that this immense transformation was brought about, which

substituted in his heart God and his wisdom for the world and its

traditions, and that prepared the mighty revolution of which he

was to be the most illustrious instrument.

When Martin Luther entered the convent, he changed his name,

and assumed that of Augustine.

The monks had received him with joy. It was no slight

gratification to their vanity to see one of the most esteemed

doctors of the age abandon the university for a house belonging

to their order. Nevertheless they treated him harshly, and

imposed on him the meanest occupations. They wished to humble

the doctor of philosophy, and to teach him that his learning did

not raise him above his brethren. They imagined, besides, by

this means to prevent him from devoting himself so much to his

studies, from which the convent could reap no advantage. The

former master of arts had to perform the offices of porter, to

open and shut the gates, to wind up the clock, to sweep the

church, and to clean out the cells. Then, when the poor monk,

who was at once doorkeeper, sexton, and menial servant of the

cloister, had finished his work: Cum sacco per civitatem! Away

with your wallet through the town! cried the friars; and laden

with his bread-bag, he wandered through all the streets of

Erfurth, begging from house to house, obliged perhaps to present

himself at the doors of those who had once been his friends or

his inferiors. On his return, he had either to shut himself up

in a low and narrow cell, whence he could see nothing but a small

garden a few feet square, or recommence his humble tasks. But he

put up with all. Naturally disposed to devote himself entirely

to whatever he undertook, he had become a monk with all his soul.

Besides, how could he have a thought of sparing his body, or have

had any regard for what might please the flesh? It was not thus

that he could acquire the humility, the sanctity which he had

come to seek within the walls of the cloister.

The poor monk, oppressed with toil hastened to employ in

study all the moments that he could steal from these mean

occupations. He voluntarily withdrew from the society of the

brethren to give himself up to his beloved pursuits; but they

soon found it out, and surrounding him with murmurs, tore him

from his books, exclaiming, "Come, come! It is not by studying,

but by begging bread, corn, eggs, fish, meat, and money that a

monk renders himself useful to the cloister." Luther submitted:

he laid aside his books, and took up his bag again. Far from

repenting at having taken upon himself such a yoke, he is willing

to go through with his task. It was then that the inflexible

perseverance with which he always carried out the resolutions he

had once formed, began to be developed in his mind. The

resistance he made to these rude assaults gave a stronger temper

to his will. God tried him in small things, that he might learn

to remain unshaken in great ones. Besides, to be able to deliver

his age from the miserable superstitions under which it groaned,

it was necessary for him first to feel their weight. To drain

the cup, he must drink it to the very dregs.

This severe apprenticeship did not however last so long as

Luther might have feared. The prior of the convent, at the

intercession of the university to which Luther belonged, freed

him from the humiliating duties that had been laid upon him. The

youthful monk then returned to his studies with new zeal. The

works of the Fathers of the Church, especially of St. Augustine,

attracted his attention. The exposition of the Psalms by this

illustrious doctor, and his book On the letter and the Spirit,

were his favorite study. Nothing struck him more than the

sentiments of this Father on the corruption of man's will and on

Diving Grace. He felt by his own experience the reality of that

corruption and the necessity for that grace. The words of St.

Augustine corresponded with the sentiments of his heart. If he

could have belonged to any other school than that of Jesus

Christ, it would undoubtedly have been to that of the doctor of

Hippo. He almost knew by rote the works of Peter d'Ailly and of

Gabriel Biel. He was much taken with a saying of the former,

that, if the Church had not decided to the contrary, it would

have been preferable to concede that the bread and wine were

really taken in the Lord's supper, and not mere accidents.

He also carefully studied the theologians Occam and Gerson,

who both express themselves so freely on the authority of the

popes. To this course of reading he added other exercises. He

was heard in the public discussions unravelling the most

complicated trains of reasoning, and extricating himself from a

labyrinth whence none but he could have found an outlet. All his

auditors were filled with astonishment.

But he had not entered the cloister to acquire the

reputation of a great genius: it was to seek food for his piety.

He therefore regarded these labors as mere digressions.

He loved above all things to draw wisdom from the pure

source of the Word of God. He found in the convent a Bible

fastened by a chain, and to this chained Bible he was continually

returning. He had but little understanding of the Word, yet was

it his most pleasing study. It sometimes happened that he passed

a whole day meditating upon a single passage. At other times he

learned fragments of the Prophets by heart. He especially

desired to acquire from the writings of the Prophets and of the

Apostles a perfect knowledge of God's will; to grow up in greater

fear of His name; and to nourish his faith by the sure testimony

of the Word.

It would appear that about this time he began to study the

Scriptures in their original languages, and to lay the foundation

of the most perfect and most useful of his labors--the

translation of the Bible. He made use of Reuchlin's Hebrew

Lexicon, that had just appeared. John Lange, one of the friars

of the convent, a man skilled in Greek and Hebrew, and with whom

he always remained closely connected, probably was his first

instructor. He also made much use of the learned commentaries of

Nicholas Lyra, who died in 1340. It was from this circumstance

that Pflug, afterwards bishop of Naumburg, said: Si Lyra non

lyrasset, Lutherus non saltasset.

The young monk studied with such industry and zeal that it

often happened that he did not repeat the daily prayers for three

or four weeks together. But he soon grew alarmed at the thought

that he had transgressed the rules of his order. He then shut

himself up to repair his negligence, and began to repeat

conscientiously all the prayers he had omitted, without a thought

of either eating or drinking. Once even, for seven weeks

together, he scarcely closed his eyes in sleep.

Burning with desire to attain that holiness in quest of

which he had entered the cloister, Luther gave way to all the

rigor of an ascetic life. He endeavoured to crucify the flesh by

fasting, mortifications, and watching. Shut up in his cell, as

in a prison, he struggled unceasingly against the deceitful

thoughts and the evil inclinations of his heart. A little bread

and a small herring were often his only food. Besides he was

naturally of very abstemious habits. Thus he was frequently seen

by his friends. Long after he had ceased to think of purchasing

heaven by his abstinence, content himself with the poorest

viands, and remain even four days in succession without eating or

drinking. This we have on the testimony of Melancthon, a witness

in every respect worthy of credit. We may judge from this

circumstance of the little value we ought to attach to the fables

that ignorance and prejudice have circulated as to Luther's

intemperance. At the period of which we are speaking, nothing

was too great a sacrifice that might enable him to become a

saint,--to acquire heaven. Never did the Romish church possess a

more pious monk. Never did cloister witness more severe or

indefatigable exertions to purchase eternal happiness. When

Luther had become a reformer, and had declared that heaven was

not to be obtained by such means as these, he knew very well what

he was saying. "I was indeed a pious monk," wrote he to Duke

George of Saxony, "and followed the rules of my order more

strictly than I can express. If ever monk could obtain heaven by

his monkish works, I should certainly have been entitled to it.

Of this all the friars who have known me can testify. If it had

continued much longer, I should have carried my mortifications

even to death, by means of my watching, prayers, reading, and

other labors."

We are approaching the epoch which made Luther a new man,

and which, by revealing to him the infinity of God's love, put

him in a condition to declare it to the world.

Luther did not find in the tranquillity of the cloister and

in monkish perfection that peace of mind which he had looked for

there. He wished to have the assurance of his salvation: this

was the great want of his soul. Without it, there was no repose

for him. But the fears that had agitated him in the world pursue

him to his cell. Nay, they were increased. The faintest cry of

his heart re-echoed loud beneath the silent arches of the

cloister. God had led him thither, that he might learn to know

himself, and to despair of his own strength and virtue. His

conscience, enlightened by the Divine Word, told him what it was

to be holy; but he was filled with terror at finding, neither in

his heart nor in his life, that image of holiness which he had

contemplated with admiration in the Word of God. A sad

discovery, and one that is made by every sincere man! No

righteousness within, no righteousness without! all was

omission, sin, impurity!......The more ardent the character of

Luther, the stronger was that secret and constant resistance

which man's nature opposes to good; and it plunged him into


The monks and divines of the day encouraged him to satisfy

the divine righteousness by meritorious works. But what works,

thought he, can come from a heart like mine? How can I stand

before the holiness of my judge with works polluted in their very

source? "I saw that I was a great sinner in the eyes of God,"

said he, "and I did not think it possible for me to propitiate

him by my own merits."

He was agitated and yet dejected, avoiding the trifling and

stupid conversation of the monks. The latter, unable to

comprehend the storms that tosses his soul, looked upon him with

surprise, and reproached him for his silence and his gloomy air.

One day, Cochloeus tells us, as they were saying mass in the

chapel, Luther had carried thither all his anxiety, and was in

the choir in the midst of the brethren, sad and heart-stricken.

Already the priest had prostrated himself, the incense had been

burnt before the altar, the Gloria sung, and they were reading

the Gospel, when the poor monk, unable any longer to repress his

anguish, cried out in a mournful tone, as he fell on his knees,

"It is not I--it is not I." All were thunderstruck: and the

ceremony was interrupted for a moment. Perhaps Luther thought he

heard some reproach of which he knew himself innocent; perhaps he

declared his unworthiness of being one of those to whom Christ's

death had brought the gift of eternal life. Chochloeus says,

they were then reading the story of the dumb man's cry from whom

Christ expelled a devil. It is possible that this cry of Luther,

if the account be true, had reference to this circumstance, and

that, although speechless like the dumb man, he protested by such

an exclamation, that his silence came from other causes than

demoniacal possession. Indeed, Cochloeus tells us that the monks

sometimes attributed the sufferings of their brother to a secret

intercourse with the devil, and this writer himself entertained

that opinion.

A tender conscience inclined Luther to regard the slightest

fault as a great sin. He had hardly discovered it, before he

endeavoured to expiate it by the severest mortifications which

only served to point out to him the inutility of all human

remedies. "I tortured myself almost to death," said he, "in

order to procure peace with God for my troubled heart and

agitated conscience; but surrounded with thick darkness, I found

peace nowhere."

The practices of monastic holiness, which had lulled so many

consciences to sleep, and to which Luther himself had had

recourse in his distress, soon appeared to him the unavailing

remedies of an empirical and deceptive religion. "While I was

yet a monk, I no sooner felt assailed by any temptation than I

cried out--I am lost! Immediately I had recourse to a thousand

methods to stifle the cries of my conscience. I went every day

to confession, but that was of no use to me. Then bowed down by

sorrow, I tortured myself by the multitude of my thoughts.--Look!

exclaimed I, thou art still envious, impatient, passionate!...It

profiteth thee nothing, O wretched man, to have entered this

sacred order."

And yet Luther, imbued with the prejudices of his time, had

from early youth considered the observances, whose worthlessness

he had now discovered, as a certain remedy for diseased souls.

What can he think of the strange discovery he has just made in

the solitude of the cloister? It is possible, then, to dwell

within the sanctuary, and yet bear in one's bosom a man of

sin!......He has received another garment, but not another heart.

His expectations are disappointed. Where can he stop? Can all

these rules and observances be mere human inventions? Such a

supposition appears to him, at one time, a temptation of the

devil, and at another, an irresistible truth. By turns

contending with the holy voice that spake to his heart, and with

the venerable institutions that time had sanctioned, Luther

passed his life in a continual struggle. The young monk crept

like a shadow through the long galleries of the cloister, that

re-echoed with his sorrowful moanings. His body wasted away; his

strength began to fail him; it sometimes happened that he

remained like one dead.

On one occasion, overwhelmed with sorrow, he shut himself up

in his cell, and for several days and nights allowed no one to

approach him. One of his friends, Lucas Edemberger, feeling

anxious about the unhappy monk, and having a presentiment of the

condition in which he was, took with him some boys who were in

the habit of singing in the choirs, and knocked at the door of

the cell. No one opens--no one answers. The good Edemberger,

still more alarmed, breaks open the door. Luther lies insensible

upon the floor, and giving no sign of life. His friend strives

in vain to recall him to his senses: he is still motionless.

Then the choristers begin to sing a sweet hymn. Their clear

voices act like a charm on the poor monk, to whom music was ever

one of his greatest pleasures: gradually he recovers his

strength, his consciousness, and life. But if music could restore

his serenity for a few moments, he requires another and a

stronger remedy to heal him thoroughly: he needs that mild and

subtle sound of the Gospel, which is the voice of God himself.

He knew it well. And therefore his troubles and his terrors led

him to study with fresh zeal the writings of the prophets and of

the apostles.


















Pious Monks--Staupitz--His Piety--Visitation--Conversations--The

Grace of Christ--Repentance--Power of Sin--Sweetness of

Repentance--Election--Providence--The Bible--The aged Monk--

Forgiveness of Sins--Ordination--The Dinner--Festival of Corpus

Christi--Luther made Professor at Wittemberg.

Luther was not the first monk who had undergone such trials.

The gloomy walls of the cloister often concealed the most

abominable vices, that would have made every upright mind

shudder, had they been revealed; but often also, they hid

christian virtues that expanded there in silence, and which, had

they been exposed to the eyes of the world, would have excited

universal admiration. The possessors of these virtues, living

only with themselves and with God, attracted no attention, and

were often unknown to the modest convent in which they were

enclosed: their lives were known only to God. Sometimes these

humble solitaries fell into that mystic theology,--sad disease of

the noblest minds! which in earlier ages had been the delight of

the first monks on the banks of the Nile, and which unprofitably

consumes the souls of those who become its victims.

Yet if one of these men was called to some high station, he

there displayed virtues whose salutary influence was long and

widely felt. The candle was set on a candlestick, and it

illumined the whole house. Many were awakened by this light.

Thus from generation to generation were these pious souls

propagated; they were seen shining like isolated torches at the

very times when the cloisters were often little other than impure

receptacles of the deepest darkness.

A young man had been thus distinguished in one of the German

convents. His name was John Staupitz, and he was descended from

a noble Misnian family. From his tenderest youth he had had a

taste for knowledge and a love of virtue. He felt the need of

retirement to devote himself to letters. He soon discovered that

philosophy and the study of nature could not do much towards

eternal salvation. He therefore began to learn divinity; but

especially endeavoured to unite practice with knowledge. "For,"

says one of his biographers, "it is in vain that we assume the

name of divine, if we do not confirm that noble title by our

lives." The study of the Bible and of the Augustine theology,

the knowledge of himself, the battles that he, like Luther, had

had to fight against the deceits and lusts of his heart, led him

to the Redeemer. He found peace to his soul in faith in Christ.

The doctrine of election by grace had taken strong hold of his

mind. The integrity of his life, the extent of his knowledge,

the eloquence of his speech, not less than a striking exterior

and dignified manners, recommended him to his contemporaries.

Frederick the Wise, elector of Saxony, made him his friend,

employed him in various embassies, and founded the university of

Wittemberg under his direction. This disciple of St. Paul and

St. Augustine was the first dean of the theological faculty of

that school whence the light was one day to issue to illumine the

schools and churches of so many nations. He was present at the

Lateran council, as proxy of the Archbishop of Saltzburg, became

provincial of his order in Thuringia and Saxony, and afterwards

vicar-general of the Augustines for all Germany.

Staupitz was grieved at the corruption of morals and the

errors of doctrine that were devastating the Church. His

writings on the love of God, on christian faith, and on

conformity with the death of Christ, and the testimony of Luther,

confirm this. But he considered the former evil of more

importance than the latter. Besides the mildness and indecision

of his character, his desire not to go beyond the sphere of

action he thought assigned to him, made him fitter to be the

restorer of a convent than the reformer of the Church. He would

have wished to raise none but distinguished men to important

offices: but not finding them, he submitted to employ others.

"We must plough," said he, "with such horses as we can find; and

with oxen, if there are no horses."

We have witnessed the anguish and the internal struggles to

which Luther was a prey in the convent of Erfurth. At this

period a visitation of the vicar-general was announced. In fact

Staupitz came to make his usual inspection. The friend of

Frederick, the founder of the university of Wittemberg, and chief

of the Augustines, exhibited much kindness to those monks who

were under his authority. One of these brothers soon attracted

his attention. He was a young man of middle height, whom study,

fasting, and prolonged vigils had so wasted away that all his

bones might be counted. His eyes, that in after-years were

compared to a falcon's, were sunken; his manner was dejected; his

countenance betrayed an agitated mind, the prey of a thousand

struggles, but yet strong and resolute. His whole appearance was

grave, melancholy, and solemn. Staupitz, whose discernment had

been exercised by long experience, easily discovered what was

passing in his mind, and distinguished the youthful monk above

all who surrounded him. He felt drawn towards him, had a

presentiment of his great destiny, and entertained quite a

paternal interest for his inferior. He had had to struggle, like

Luther, and therefore he could understand him. Above all, he

could point out to him the road to peace, which he himself had

found. What he learnt of the circumstances that had brought the

young Augustine into the convent, still more increased his

sympathy. He requested the prior to treat him with greater

mildness, and took advantage of the opportunities afforded by his

station to win the confidence of the youthful brother.

Approaching him with affection, he endeavoured by every means to

dispel his timidity, which was increased by the respect and fear

that a man of such exalted rank as Staupitz must necessarily


Luther's heart, which harsh treatment had closed till then,

opened at last and expanded under the mild beams of charity. "As

in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man."

Luther's heart found an echo in that of Staupitz. The vicar-

general understood him, and the monk felt a confidence towards

him, that he had as yet experienced for none. He unbosomed to

him the cause of his dejection, described the horrible thoughts

that perplexed him, and then began in the cloister of Erfurth

those conversations so full of wisdom and of instruction. Up to

this time no one had understood Luther. One day, when at table

in the refectory, the young monk, dejected and silent, scarcely

touched his food. Staupitz, who looked earnestly at him, said at

last, "Why are you so sad, brother Martin?"--"Ah!" replied he,

with a deep sigh, "I do not know what will become of me!"--"These

temptations," resumed Staupitz, "are more necessary to you than

eating and drinking." These two men did not stop there; and

erelong in the silence of the cloister took place that intimate

intercourse, which powerfully contributed to lead forth the

future reformer from his state of darkness.

"It is in vain," said Luther despondingly to Staupitz, "that

I make promises to God: sin is ever the strongest."

"O my friend!" replied the vicar-general, looking back on

his own experience; "more than a thousand times have I sworn to

our holy God to live piously, and I have never kept my vows. Now

I swear no longer, for I know I cannot keep my solemn promises.

If God will not be merciful towards me for the love of Christ,

and grant me a happy departure, when I must quit this world, I

shall never, with the aid of all my vows and all my good works,

stand before him. I must perish."

The young monk is terrified at the thought of divine

justice. He lays open all his fears to the vicar-general. He is

alarmed at the unspeakable holiness of God and his sovereign

majesty. "Who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall

stand when he appeareth?" (Mal. iii. 2.)

Staupitz resumes: he knows where he had found peace, and he

will point it out to the young man. "Why," said he, "do you

torment yourself with all these speculations and these high

thoughts?......Look at the wounds of Jesus Christ, to the blood

that he has shed for you: it is there that the grace of God will

appear to you. Instead of torturing yourself on account of your

sins, throw yourself into the Redeemer's arms. Trust in him--in

the righteousness of his life--in the atonement of his death. Do

not shrink back; God is not angry with you, it is you who are

angry with God. Listen to the Son of God. He became man to give

you the assurance of divine favor. He says to you, You are my

sheep; you hear my voice; no man shall pluck you out of my hand."

But Luther does not find in himself the repentance which he

thinks necessary for salvation: he replies, and it is the usual

answer of distressed and timid minds: "How can I dare believe in

the favor of God, so long as there is no real conversion in me?

I must be changed, before he will accept me."

His venerable guide shows him that there can be no real

conversion, so long as man fears God as a severe judge. "What

will you say then," asks Luther "to so many consciences to which

a thousand insupportable tasks are prescribed in order that they

may gain heaven?"

Then he hears this reply of the vicar-general, or rather he

does not believe that it comes from man: it seems to him like a

voice from heaven. "There is no real repentance except that

which begins with the love of God and of righteousness. What

others imagine to be the end and accomplishment of repentance, is

on the contrary only its beginning. In order that you may be

filled with the love for God. If you desire to be converted, do

not be curious about all these mortifications and all these

tortures. Love him who first loved you!"

Luther listens--he listens again. These consolations fill

him with joy till then unknown, and impart new light. "It is

Jesus Christ," thinks he in his heart; "yes, it is Jesus Christ

himself who so wonderfully consoles me by these sweet and healing


These words, indeed, penetrated to the bottom of the young

monk's heart, like the sharp arrow of a strong man. In order to

repent, we must love God. Guided by this new light, he begins to

compare the Scriptures. He looks out all the passages that treat

of repentance and conversion. These words, till then so dreaded,

to use his own expression, "are become to him an agreeable

pastime and the sweetest of recreations. All the passages of

Scripture that used to alarm him, seem now to run to him from

every part,--to smile and sport around him."

"Hitherto," exclaims he, "although I carefully dissembled

the state of my soul before God, and endeavoured to express

towards him a love which was a mere constraint and a fiction,

there was no expression in Scripture so bitter to me as that of

repentance. But now there is none so sweet or more acceptable.

Oh! how delightful are all God's precepts when we read them not

only in books, but also in our Saviour's precious wounds!"

Although Luther had been consoled by Staupitz' words, he

nevertheless fell sometimes into despondency. Sin was again felt

in his timid conscience, and then all his previous despair

banished the joy of salvation. "O my sin! my sin! my sin!"

cried the young monk one day in the presence of the vicar-

general, with a tone of profound anguish. "Well! would you only

be a sinner in appearance," replied the latter, "and have also a

Saviour only in appearance? Then," added Staupitz with

authority, "Know that Jesus Christ is the Saviour even of those

who are great, real sinners, and deserving of utter


It was not alone the sin he discovered in his heart that

agitated Luther; the troubles of his conscience were augmented by

those of reason. If the holy precepts of the Bible alarmed him,

some of the doctrines of that divine book still more increased

his tortures. The Truth, which is the great medium by which God

confers peace on man, must necessarily begin by taking away from

him the false security that destroys him. The doctrine of

Election particularly disturbed the young man, and launched him

into a boundless field of inquiry. Must be believe that it was

man who first chose God for his portion, or that God first

elected man? The Bible, history, daily experience, the works of

Augustine,--all had shown him that we must always and in every

case ascend to that first cause, to that sovereign will by which

everything exists, and on which everything depends. But his

ardent spirit would have desired to go still further; he would

have wished to penetrate into the secret counsels of God,

unveiled his mysteries, seen the invisible, and comprehended the

incomprehensible. Staupitz checked him. He told him not to

presume to fathom the hidden God, but to confine himself to what

he has manifested to us in Jesus Christ. "Look at Christ's

wounds," said he, "and then will you see God's counsel towards

man shine brightly forth. We cannot understand God out of Jesus

Christ. In him, the Lord has said, you will find what I am, and

what I require. Nowhere else, neither in heaven nor in earth,

will you discover it."

The vicar-general did still more. He showed Luther the

paternal designs of Providence in permitting these temptations

and these various struggles that his soul was to undergo. He

made him view them in a light well calculated to revive his

courage. By such trials God prepares for himself the souls that

he destines for some important work. We must prove the vessel

before we launch it into the wide sea. If there is an eduction

necessary for every man, there is a particular one for those who

are destined to act upon their generation. This is what Staupitz

represented to the monk of Erfurth. "It is not in vain," said he

to him, "that God exercises you in so many conflicts: you will

see that he will employ you, as his servant, for great purposes."

These words, to which Luther listened with astonishment and

humility, inspired him with courage, and led him to discover

strength in himself which he had not even suspected. The wisdom

and prudence of an enlightened friend gradually revealed the

strong man to himself. Staupitz went further: he gave him many

valuable directions for his studies, exhorting him, henceforward,

to derive all his theology from the Bible, and to put away the

systems of the schools. "Let the study of the Scriptures," said

he, "be your favorite occupation." Never was good advice better

followed out. What particularly delighted Luther, was the

present Staupitz made him of a Bible: but it was not that Latin

one, bound in red leather, the property of the convent, and which

it was all his desire to possess, and to be able to carry about

with him, because he was so familiar with its pages, and knew

where to find each passage. Nevertheless, at length he is master

of the treasure of God. Henceforward he studies the Scriptures,

and especially the epistles of St. Paul, with ever-increasing

zeal. To these he adds the works of St. Augustine alone. All

that he reads is imprinted deeply in his mind. His struggles

have prepared his heart to understand the Word. The soil has

been ploughed deep: the incorruptible seed sinks into it with

power. When Staupitz quitted Erfurth, a new dawn had risen upon


But the work was not yet finished. The vicar-general had

prepared the way: God reserved its accomplishment for an humbler

instrument. The conscience of the young Augustine had not yet

found repose. His body gave way at last under the conflict and

the tension of his soul. He was attacked by an illness that

brought him to the brink of the grave. This was in the second

year of his abode in the convent. All his distresses and all his

fears were aroused at the approach of death. His own impurity

and the holiness of God again disturbed his mind. One day, as he

lay overwhelmed with despair, an aged monk entered his cell, and

addressed a few words of comfort to him. Luther opened his heart

to him, and made known the fears by which he was tormented. The

venerable old man was incapable of following up that soul in all

its doubts, as Staupitz had done; but he knew his Credo, and had

found in it much consolation to his heart. He will therefore

apply the same remedy to his young brother. Leading him back to

that Apostles' creed which Luther had learnt in early childhood

at the school of Mansfeldt, the aged monk repeated this article

with kind good-nature: I believe in the forgiveness of sins.

These simple words, which the pious brother pronounced with

sincerity in this decisive moment, diffused great consolation in

Luther's heart. "I believe," he repeated to himself erelong on

his bed of sickness, "I believe in the forgiveness of sins!"--

"Ah!" said the monk, "you must believe not only in the

forgiveness of David's and of Peter's sins, for this even the

devils believe. It is God's command that we believe our own sins

are forgiven us." How delightful did this commandment seem to

poor Luther! "Hear what St. Bernard says in his discourse on the

Annunciation," added the aged brother: "The testimony of the

Holy Ghost in thy heart is this: Thy sins are forgiven thee."

From this moment light sprung up in the heart of the young

monk of Erfurth. The word of grace had been pronounced: he had

believed in it. He disclaims all merit of salvation, and resigns

himself confidingly to the grace of God in Jesus Christ. He does

not at first perceive the consequences of the principle he has

admitted; he is still sincere in his attachment to the Church,

and yet he has no further need of her; for he has received

salvation immediately from God himself, and henceforth Roman-

catholicism is virtually destroyed in him. He advances,--he

seeks in the writings of the apostles and prophets for all that

can strengthen the hope which fills his heart. Each day he

invokes support from on high, and each day also the light

increases in his soul.

Luther's mental health restored that of his body, and he

soon rose from his bed of sickness. He had received a new life

in a twofold scene. The festival of Christmas, that soon came,

gave him an opportunity abundantly tasting all the consolations

of faith. He took part in these holy solemnities with sweet

emotion; and when in the ceremonial of the day he had to chant

these words: O beata culpa, quae talem meruisti Redemptorem!

his whole being responded Amen, and thrilled with joy.

Luther had been two years in the cloister, and was to be

ordained priest. He had received much, and saw with delight the

prospect afforded by the sacerdotal office of freely distributing

what he had freely received. He wished to take advantage of the

ceremony that was about to take place to become thoroughly

reconciled with his father. He invited him to be present, and

even requested him to fix the day. John Luther, who was not yet

entirely pacified with regard to his son, nevertheless accepted

the invitation, and named Sunday, 2d May, 1507.

Among the number of Luther's friends was the vicar of

Eisenach, John Braun, who had been a faithful counsellor to him

during his residence in that city. Luther wrote to him on the

22d April. This is the oldest letter of the reformer, and it

bears the following address: "To John Braun, holy and venerable

priest of Christ and Mary." It is only in Luther's two earliest

letters that the name of Mary is found.

"God, who is glorious and holy in all his works," says the

candidate for the priesthood, "having most graciously

condescended to raise me up--me, a wretched and in all respects

unworthy sinner, and to call me by his sole and most free mercy

to his sublime ministry; I ought, in order to testify my

gratitude for such divine and magnificent goodness (as far at

least as mere dust and ashes can do it) to fulfil with my whole

heart the duties of the office intrusted to me."

At last the day arrived. The miner of Mansfeldt did not

fail to be present at his son's ordination. He gave him indeed

no unequivocal mark of his affection and of his generosity by

presenting him on this occasion with twenty florins.

The ceremony took place. Hieronymus, bishop of Brandenburg,

officiated. At the moment of conferring on Luther the power of

celebrating mass, he placed the chalice in his hands, and uttered

these solemn words, "Accipe potestatem sacrificandi pro vivis et

mortuis: receive the power of sacrificing for the quick and the

dead." Luther at that time listened calmly to these words, which

conferred on him the power of doing the work of the Son of God;

but he shuddered at them in after-years. "If the earth did not

then open and swallow us both up," said he, "it was owing to the

great patience and long-suffering of the Lord."

The father afterwards dined at the convent with his son, the

young priest's friends, and the monks, The conversation fell on

Martin's entrance into the monastery. The brothers loudly

extolled it as a most meritorious work; upon which the inflexible

John, turning to his son, asked him: "Have you not read in

Scripture, that you should obey your father and mother?" These

words struck Luther; they presented in quite a new aspect the

action that had brought him into the bosom of the convent, and

they long re-echoed in his heart.

Shortly after his ordination, Luther, by the advice of

Staupitz, made little excursions on foot into the neighboring

parishes and convents, either to divert his mind and give his

body the necessary exercise, or to accustom him to preaching.

The festival of Corpus Christi was to be celebrated with

great pomp at Eisleben. The vicar-general would be present, and

Luther repaired there also. He had still need of Staupitz, and

sought every opportunity of meeting this enlightened guide who

directed his soul into the path of life. The procession was

numerous and brilliant. Staupitz himself bore the consecrated

host, Luther following in his sacerdotal robes. The thought that

it was Jesus Christ himself whom the vicar-general carried, the

idea that the Saviour was there in person before him, suddenly

struck Luther's imagination, and filled him with such terror that

he could scarcely proceed. The perspiration fell drop by drop

from his face; he staggered, and thought he should die of anguish

and affright. At length the procession was over; the host, that

had awakened all the fears of the monk, was solemnly deposited in

the sanctuary; and Luther, finding himself alone with Staupitz,

fell into his arms and confessed his dread. Then the good vicar-

general, who had long known that gentle Saviour, who does not

break the bruised reed, said to him mildly: "It was not Jesus

Christ, my brother; he does not alarm; he gives consolation


Luther was not destined to remain hidden in an obscure

convent. The time was come for his removal to a wider stage.

Staupitz, with whom he always remained in close communication,

saw clearly that the young monk's disposition was too active to

be confined with so narrow a circle. He spoke of him to the

Elector Frederick of Saxony: and this enlightened prince invited

Luther in 1508, probably about the end of the year, to become

professor at the university of Wittemberg. This was the field on

which he was to fight many hard battles. Luther felt that his

true vocation was there. He was requested to repair to his new

post with all speed: he replied to the call without delay, and

in the hurry of his removal he had not time to write to him whom

he styled his master and well-beloved father,--John Braun, curate

of Eisenach. He did so however a few months later. "My

departure was so hasty," said he, "that those with whom I was

living were almost ignorant of it. I am farther away, I confess:

but the better part of me remains with you." Luther had been

three years in the cloister at Erfurth.




The University of Wittemberg--First Instructions--Biblical

Lectures--Sensation--Luther preaches at Wittemberg--The Old

Chapel--Impression produced by his Sermons.

In the year 1502, Frederick the Elector founded a new

university at Wittemberg. He declared in the charter confirming

the privileges of this high school, that he and his people would

look to it as to an oracle. At that time he had little thought

in how remarkable a manner this language would be verified. Two

men belonging to the opposition that had been formed against the

scholastic system,--Pollich of Mellerstadt, doctor of medicine,

law, and philosophy, and Staupitz--had had great influence in the

establishment of this academy. The university declared that it

selected St. Augustine for its patron,--a choice that was very

significant. This new institution, which possessed great

liberty, and which was considered as a court of final appeal in

all cases of difficulty, was admirably fitted to become the

cradle of the Reformation, and it powerfully contributed to the

development of Luther and of Luther's work.


On his arrival at Wittemberg, he repaired to the Augustine

convent, where a cell was allotted to him; for though a

professor, he did not cease to be a monk. He had been called to

teach physics and dialectics. In assigning him this duty, regard

had probably been paid to the philosophical studies he had

pursued at Erfurth, and to the degree of Master of Arts which he

had taken. Thus Luther, who hungered and thirsted after the Word

of God, was compelled to devote himself almost exclusively to the

study of the Aristotelian scholastic philosophy. He had need of

that bread of life which God gives to the world, and yet he must

occupy himself with human subtleties. What a restraint! and

what signs it called forth! "By God's grace, I am well," wrote

he to Braun, "except that I have to study philosophy with all my

might. From the first moment of my arrival at Wittemberg, I was

earnestly desirous of exchanging it for that of theology; but,"

added he, lest it should be supposed he meant the theology of the

day, "it is of a theology which seeks the kernel in the nut, the

wheat in the husk, the marrow in the bones, that I am speaking.

Be that as it may, God is God," continues he with that confidence

which was the soul of his life; "man is almost always mistaken in

his judgments; but this is our God. He will lead us with

goodness for ever and ever." The studies that Luther was then

obliged to pursue were of great service to him, in enabling him

in after-years to combat the errors of the schoolmen.

But he could not stop there. The desire of his heart was

about to be accomplished. That same power, which some years

before had driven Luther from the bar into a monastic life, was

now impelling him from philosophy towards the Bible. He

zealously applied himself to the acquisition of the ancient

languages, and particularly of Greek and Hebrew, in order to draw

knowledge and learning from the very springs whence they gushed

forth. He was all his life indefatigable in labor. A few months

after his arrival at the university, he solicited the degree of

bachelor of divinity. He obtained it at the end of March 1509,

with the particular summons to devote himself to biblical

theology,--ad Biblia.

Every day, at one in the afternoon, Luther was called to

lecture on the Bible: a precious hour both for the professor and

his pupils, and which led them deeper and deeper into the divine

meaning of those revelations so long lost to the people and to

the schools!

He began his course by explaining the Psalms, and thence

passed to the Epistle to the Romans. It was more particularly

while meditating on this portion of Scripture, that the light of

truth penetrated his heart. In the retirement of his quiet cell,

he used to consecrate whole hours to the study of the Divine

Word, this epistle of St. Paul lying open before him. On one

occasion, having reached the seventeenth verse of the first

chapter, he read this passage from the prophet Habakkuk: The

just shall live by faith. This precept struck him. There is

then for the just a life different from that of other men: and

this life is the gift of faith. This promise, which he received

into his heart, as if God himself had placed it there, unveils to

him the mystery of the christian life, and increases this life in

him. Years after, in the midst of his numerous occupations, he

imagined he still heard these words: The just shall live by


Luther's lectures thus prepared had little similarity with

what had been heard till then. It was not an eloquent

rhetorician or a pedantic schoolman that spoke; but a Christian

who had felt the power of revealed truths,--who drew them forth

from the Bible,--poured them out from the treasures of his heart,

--and presented them all full of life to his astonished hearers.

It was not the teaching of a man, but of God.

This entirely new method of expounding the truth made a

great noise; the news of it spread far and wide, and attracted to

the newly established university a crowd of youthful foreign

students. Even many professors attended Luther's lectures, and

among others Mellerstadt, frequently styled the light of the

world, first rector of the university, who already at Leipsic,

where he had been previously, had earnestly combated the

ridiculous instructions of scholasticism, had denied that "the

light created on the first day was Theology," and had maintained

that the study of literature should be the foundation of that

science. "This monk," said he, "will put all the doctors to

shame; he will bring in a new doctrine, and reform the whole

church; for he builds upon the Word of Christ, and no one in the

world can either resist or overthrow that Word, even should he

attack it will all the arms of philosophy, of the sophists,

Scotists, Albertists, Thomists, and with all the Tartaretus."

Staupitz, who was the instrument of God to develop all the

gifts and treasures hidden in Luther, requested him to preach in

the church of the Augustines. The young professor shrunk from

this proposal. He desired to confine himself to his academical

duties, he trembled at the thought of increasing them by those of

the ministry. In vain did Staupitz say solicit him: "No! no!"

replied he, "it is no slight thing to speak before men in the

place of God." What affecting humility in this great reformer of

the Church! Staupitz persisted; but the ingenious Luther, says

one of his biographers, found fifteen arguments, pretexts, and

evasions to defend himself against this invitation. At length,

the chief of the Augustines persevering in his attack, Luther

said: "Ah, doctor, by doing this you deprive me of life. I

shall not be able to hold out three months."--"Well! so be it in

God's name," replied the vicar-general, "for our Lord God has

also need on high of devoted and skilful men." Luther was forced

to yield.

In the middle of the square at Wittemberg stood an ancient

wooden chapel, thirty feet long and twenty wide, whose walls

propped up on all sides were falling into ruin. An old pulpit

made of planks, and three feet high, received the preacher. It

was in this wretched place that the preaching of the Reformation

began. It was God's will that that which was to restore his

glory should have the humblest beginnings. The foundations of

the new Augustine Church had just been laid, and in the meanwhile

this miserable place of worship was made use of. "This

building," adds Myconius, one of Luther's contemporaries, who

records these circumstances, "may well be compared to the stable

in which Christ was born. It was in this wretched enclosure that

God willed, so to speak, that his well-beloved Son should be born

a second time. Among those thousands of cathedrals and parish

churches with which the world is filled, there was not one at

that time which God chose for the glorious preaching of eternal


Luther preaches: everything is striking in the new

minister. His expressive countenance, his noble air, his clear

and sonorous voice, captivate all his hearers. Before his time,

the majority of preachers had sought rather what might amuse

their congregation, than what would convert them. The great

seriousness that pervaded all Luther's sermons, and the joy with

which the knowledge of the Gospel had filled his heart, imparted

to his eloquence an authority, a warmth, and an unction that his

predecessors had not possessed. "Endowed with a ready and lively

genius," says one of his opponents, "with a good memory, and

employing his mother tongue with wonderful facility, Luther was

inferior to none of his contemporaries in eloquence. Speaking

from the pulpit, as if he were agitated by some violent emotion,

suiting the action to his words, he affected his hearers' minds

in a surprising manner, and carried them like a torrent wherever

he pleased. So much strength, grace, and eloquence are rarely

found in these children of the North."--"He had," says Bossuet,

"a lively and impetuous eloquence that charmed and led away the


Soon the little chapel could not hold the hearers who

crowded to it. The council of Wittemberg then nominated Luther

their chaplain, and invited him to preach in the city church.

The impression he there produced was greater still. The energy

of his genius, the eloquence of his style, and the excellency of

the doctrines that he proclaimed, equally astonished his hearers.

His reputation extended far and wide, and Frederick the Wise

himself came once to Wittemberg to hear him.

This was the beginning of a new life for Luther. The

slothfulness of the cloister had been succeeded by great

activity. Freedom, labor, the earnest and constant action to

which he could now devote himself at Wittemberg, succeeded in re-

establishing harmony and peace within him. Now he was in his

place, and the work of God was soon to display its majestic






Journey to Rome--Convent on the Po--Sickness at Bologna--

Recollections of Rome--Julius II--Superstitious Devotion--

Profanity of the Clergy--Conversations--Roman Scandals--Biblical

Studies--Pilate's Staircase--Effects on Luther's Faith and on the

Reformation--Gate of Paradise--Luther's Confession.

Luther was teaching both in the academical hall and in the

church, when he was interrupted in his labors. In 1510, or

according to others in 1511 or 1512, he was sent to Rome. Seven

convents of his order were at variance on certain points with the

vicar-general. The acuteness of Luther's mind, his powerful

language, and his talents for discussion, were the cause of his

selection as agent for these seven monasteries before the pope.

This divine dispensation was necessary for Luther. It was

requisite that he should know Rome. Full of the prejudices and

delusions of the cloister, he had always imagined it to be the

abode of sanctity.

He set out and crossed the Alps. But he had scarcely

descended into the plains of the rich and voluptuous Italy,

before he found at every step subjects of astonishment and

scandal. The poor German monk was entertained in a wealthy

convent of the Benedictines on the banks of the Po, in Lombardy.

The revenues of this monastery amounted to 36,000 ducats; 12,000

were devoted to the table, 12,000 were set apart for the

buildings, and the remainder for the wants of the monks. The

splendor of the apartments, the richness of their dress, and the

delicacy of their food, confounded Luther. Marble, silk, luxury

in all its forms--what a novel sight for the humble brother of

the poor convent of Wittemberg! He was astonished and was

silent; but when Friday came, what was his surprise at seeing the

Benedictine table groaning under a load of meat. Upon this he

resolved to speak. "The Church and the pope," said he, "forbid

such things." The Benedictines were irritated at this reprimand

of the unpolished German. But Luther having persisted, and

perhaps threatened to make their irregularities known, some

thought the simplest course would be to get rid of their

importunate guest. The porter of the convent forewarned him of

the danger he incurred by a longer stay. He accordingly quitted

this epicurean monastery, and reached Bologna, where he fell

dangerously ill. Some have attributed this to the effects of

poison; but it is more reasonable to suppose that the change of

diet affected the frugal monk of Wittemberg, whose usual food was

bread and herrings. This sickness was not to be unto death, but

to the glory of God. He again relapsed into the sorrow and

dejection so natural to him. To die thus, far from Germany,

under this burning sky, and in a foreign land--what a sad fate.

The distress of mind that he had felt at Erfurth returned with

fresh force. The sense of his sinfulness troubled him; the

prospect of Gods judgment filled him with dread. But at the very

moment that these terrors had reached their highest pitch, the

words of St. Paul, that had already struck him at Wittemberg, The

just shall live by faith, recurred forcibly to his memory, and

enlightened his soul like a ray from heaven. Thus restored and

comforted, he soon regained his health, and resumed his journey

towards Rome, expecting to find there a very different manner of

life from that of the Lombard convents, and impatient of efface,

by the sight of Roman holiness, the melancholy impressions left

on his mind by his sojourn on the banks of the Po.

At length, after a toilsome journey under a burning Italian

sun, at the beginning of summer, he drew near the seven-hilled

city. His heart was moved within him: his eyes sought after the

queen of the world and of the Church. As soon as he discovered

the eternal city in the distance,--the city of St. Peter and St.

Paul,--the metropolis of Catholicism,--he fell on his knees,

exclaiming, "Holy Rome, I salute thee!"

Luther is in Rome: the Wittemberg professor stands in the

midst of the eloquent ruins of consular and imperial Rome--of the

Rome of so many martyrs and confessors of Jesus Christ. Here had

lived that Plautus and that Virgil whose works he had carried

with him into the cloister, and all those great men at whose

history his heart had so often beat with emotion. He beholds

their statues,--the ruins of the monuments that bear witness to

their glory. But all that glory--all that power has fled: his

feet trample on their dust. At each step he calls to mind the

sad presentiments of Scipio shedding tears as he looked upon the

ruins--the burning palaces and tottering walls of Carthage, and

exclaimed, "Thus will it one day be with Rome!" "And in truth,"

said Luther, "the Rome of the Scipios and Caesars has become a

corpse. There are such heaps of rubbish that the foundations of

the houses are now where once stood the roofs. It is there,"

added he, as he threw a melancholy glance over these ruins, "it

is there that once the riches and the treasures of the world were

gathered together." All these fragments, against which his feet

stumble at every step, proclaim to Luther within the very walls

of Rome, that what is strongest in the eyes of man may be easily

destroyed by the breath of the Lord.

But with these profane ashes are mingled other and holier

ones: he recalls them to mind. The burial-place of the martyrs

is not far from that of the generals of Rome and of her

conquerors. Christian Rome with its sufferings has more power

over the heart of the Saxon monk than pagan Rome with all its

glory. Here that letter arrived in which Paul wrote, The just

shall live by faith. He is not far from Appii Forum and the

Three Taverns. Here is the house of Narcissus--there the palace

of Caesar, where the Lord delivered the Apostle from the jaws of

the lion. Oh, how these recollections strengthen the heart of

the monk of Wittemberg!

But Rome at this time presented a very different aspect.

The warlike Julius II filled the papal chair, and not Leo X, as

some distinguished German historians have said, doubtless through

inattention. Luther has often related a trait in the character

of this pope. When the news reached him that his army had been

defeated by the French before Ravenna, he was repeating his daily

prayers: he flung away the book, exclaiming with a terrible

oath: "And thou too art become a Frenchman......It is thus thou

dost protect thy Church?......" Then turning in the direction of

the country to whose arms he thought to have recourse, he added:

"Saint Switzer, pray for us!" Ignorance, levity, and dissolute

manners, a profane spirit, a contempt for all that is sacred, a

scandalous traffic in divine things--such was the spectacle

afforded by this unhappy city. Yet the pious monk remained for

some time longer in his delusions.

Having arrived about the period of the feast of St. John, he

heard the Romans repeating around him a proverb current among

them: "Happy the mother whose son performs mass on St. John's

eve!"--"Oh, how should I rejoice to render my mother happy!" said

Luther to himself. Margaret's pious son endeavoured to repeat a

mass on that day; but he could not, the throng was too great.

Fervent and meek, he visited all the churches and chapels;

he believed in all the falsehoods that were told him; he devoutly

performed all the holy practices that were required there, happy

in being able to execute so many good works from which his

fellow-countrymen were debarred. "Oh! how I regret," said the

pious German to himself, "that my father and mother are still

alive! What pleasure I should have in delivering them from the

fire of purgatory by my masses, my prayers, and by so many other

admirable works!" He had found the light; but the darkness was

far from being entirely expelled from his understanding. His

heart was converted; his mind was not yet enlightened: he had

faith and love, but he wanted knowledge. It was no trifling

matter to emerge from that thick night which had covered the

earth for so many centuries.

Luther several times repeated mass at Rome. He officiated

with all the unction and dignity that such an action appeared to

him to require. But what affliction seized the heart of the

Saxon monk at witnessing the sad and profane mechanism of the

Roman priests, as they celebrated the sacrament of the altar!

These on their part laughed at his simplicity. On day when he

was officiating he found that the priests at an adjoining altar

had already repeated seven masses before he had finished one.

"Quick, quick!" cried one of them, "send our Lady back her Son;"

making an impious allusion to the transubstantiation of the bread

into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. At another time Luther

had only just reached the Gospel, when the priest at his side had

already terminated the mass. "Passa, passa!" cried the latter

to him, "make haste! have done with it at once."

His astonishment was still greater, when he found in the

dignitaries of the papacy what he had already observed in the

inferior clergy. He had hoped better things of them.

It was the fashion at the papal court to attack

Christianity, and you could not pass for a well-bred man, unless

you entertained some erroneous or heretical opinion on the

doctrines of the Church. They had endeavoured to convince

Erasmus, by means of certain extracts from Pliny, that there was

no difference between the souls of men and of beasts; and some of

the pope's youthful courtiers maintained that the orthodox faith

was the result of the crafty devices of a few saints.

Luther's quality of envoy from the German Augustines

procured him invitations to numerous meetings of distinguished

ecclesiastics. One day, in particular, he was at table with

several prelates, who displayed openly before him their

buffoonery and impious conversation, and did not scruple to utter

in his presence a thousand mockeries, thinking, no doubt, that he

was of the same mind as themselves. Among other things, they

related before the monk, laughing and priding themselves upon it,

how, when they were repeating mass at the altar, instead of the

sacramental words that were to transform the bread and wine into

the flesh and blood of our Saviour, they pronounced over the

elements this derisive expression: Panis es, et panis manebis;

vinum es, et vinum manebis. Then, continued they, we elevate the

host, and all the people bow down and worship it. Luther could

hardly believe his ears. His disposition, although full of

animation and even gaiety in the society of friends, was

remarkably serious whenever sacred matters were concerned. The

mockeries of Rome were a stumbling block to him. "I was," said

he, "a thoughtful and pious young monk. Such language grieved me

bitterly. If 'tis thus they speak at Rome, freely and publicly

at the dinner table, thought I to myself, what would it be if

their actions corresponded to their words, and if all--pope,

cardinals, and courtiers--thus repeat the mass! And how they

must have deceived me, who have heard them read devoutly so great

a number!"

Luther often mixed with the monks and citizens of Rome. If

some few extolled the pope and his party, the majority gave a

free course to their complaints and to their sarcasms. What

stories had they not to tell about the reigning pope, or

Alexander VI, or about so many others! One day his Roman friends

related how Caesar Borgia, having fled from Rome, was taken in

Spain. As they were going to try him, he called for arc, and

asked for a confessor to visit him in his prison. A monk was

sent to him, whom he slew, put on his hood, and escaped. "I

heard that at Rome; and it is a positive fact," says Luther.

Another day, passing down a wide street leading to St. Peter's,

he halted in astonishment before a stone statue, representing a

pope under the figure of a woman, holding a sceptre, clothed in

the papal mantle, and carrying a child in her arms. It is a

young woman of Mentz, he was told, whom the cardinals elected

pope, and who was delivered of a child opposite this place. No

pope, therefore, passes along that street. "I am surprised,"

says Luther, that the popes allow such a statue to remain."

Luther had thought to find the edifice of the Church

encompassed with splendor and strength, but its doors were broken

down, and the walls damaged by fire. He witnessed the desolation

of the sanctuary, and drew back with horror. All his dreams had

been of holiness,--he had discovered nought but profanation.

The disorders without the churches were not less shocking to

him. "The police of Rome is very strict and severe," said he.

"The judge or captain patrols the city every night on horseback

with three hundred followers; he arrests every one that is found

in the streets: if they meet an armed man, he is hung, or thrown

into the Tiber. And yet the city is filled with disorder and

murder; whilst in those places where the Word of God is preached

uprightly and in purity, peace and order prevail, without calling

for the severity of the law."--"No one can imagine what sins and

infamous actions are committed in Rome," said he at another time;

"they must be seen and heard to be believed. Thus, they are in

the habit of saying, If there is a hell, Rome is built over it:

it is an abyss whence issues every kind of sin."

This spectacle made a deep impression even then upon

Luther's mind; it was increased erelong. "The nearer we approach

Rome, the greater number of bad Christians we meet with," said

he, many years after. "There is a vulgar proverb, that he who

goes to Rome the first time, looks out for a knave; the second

time, he finds him; and the third, he brings him away with him.

But people are now become so clever, that they make these three

journeys in one." Machiavelli, one of the most profound geniuses

of Italy, but also one of unenviable notoriety, who was living at

Florence when Luther passed through that city on his way to Rome,

has made the same remark: "The strongest symptom," said he, "of

the approaching ruin of Christianity (by which he means Roman-

catholicism) is, that the nearer people approach the capital of

Christendom, the less christian spirit is found in them. The

scandalous examples and the crimes of the court of Rome are the

cause why Italy has lost every principle of piety and all

religious feeling. We Italians," continues this great historian,

"are indebted principally to the Church and the priests for

having become impious and immoral." Luther, somewhat later, was

sensible of the very great importance of this journey. "If they

would give me one hundred thousand florins," said he, "I would

not have missed seeing Rome!"

This visit was also very advantageous to him in regard to

learning. Like Reuchlin, Luther took advantage of his residence

in Italy to penetrate deeper into the meaning of the Holy

Scriptures. He took lessons in Hebrew from a celebrated rabbi,

named Elias Levita. It was at Rome that he partly acquired that

knowledge of the Divine Word, under the attacks of which Rome was

destined to fall.

But this journey was most important to Luther in another

respect. Not only was the veil withdrawn, and the sardonic

sneer, the mocking incredulity which lay concealed behind the

Romish superstitions revealed to the future reformer, but the

living faith that God had implanted in him was there powerfully


We have seen how he at first gave himself up to all the vain

observances which the Church enjoined for the expiation of sin.

One day, among others, wishing to obtain an indulgence promised

by the pope to all who should ascend on their knees what is

called Pilate's Staircase, the poor Saxon monk was humbly

creeping up those steps, which he was told had been miraculously

transported from Jerusalem to Rome. But while he was performing

this meritorious act, he thought he heard a voice of thunder

crying from the bottom of his heart, as at Wittemberg and

Bologna, The just shall live by faith. These words, that twice

before had struck him like the voice of an angel from God,

resounded unceasingly and powerfully within him. He rises in

amazement from the steps up which he was dragging his body: he

shudders at himself; he is ashamed of seeing to what a depth

superstition had plunged him. He flies far from the scene of his


This powerful text has a mysterious influence on the life of

Luther. It was a creative sentence both for the reformer and for

the Reformation. It was in these words God then said, Let there

be light! and there was light.

It is frequently necessary for a truth to be presented many

times to our minds in order that it may produce the due effect.

Luther had profoundly studied the Epistle to the Romans, and yet

the doctrine of justification by faith there taught had never

appeared so clear to him. Now he comprehends that righteousness

which alone can stand before God; now he receives for himself

from the hand of Christ that obedience which God of his free gift

imputes to the sinner, as soon as he raises his eyes with

humility to the crucified Son of Man. This was the decisive

epoch of Luther's inner life. That faith which had saved him

from the terrors of death, became the very soul of his theology,

his stronghold in every danger; the principle which gave energy

to his preaching and strength to his charity; the foundation of

his peace, the encouragement to his labors, his comfort in the

life and in the death.

But this great doctrine of a salvation proceeding from God

and not from man, was not only the power of God to save Luther's

soul; it became in a still greater degree the power of God to

reform the Church:--an effectual weapon wielded by the apostles,-

-a weapon too long neglected, but taken at last, in all its

primitive brightness, from the arsenal of the omnipotent God. At

the very moment when Luther uprose from his knees on Pilate's

Staircase, in agitation and amazement at those words which Paul

had addressed fifteen centuries before to the inhabitants of that

metropolis,--Truth, till then a melancholy captive, and fettered

in the Church, uprose also to fall no more.

We should here listen to what Luther himself says on the

matter. "Although I was a holy and blameless monk, my conscience

was nevertheless full of trouble and anguish. I could not endure

those words--the righteousness of God. I had no love for that

holy and just God who punishes sinners. I was filled with secret

anger against him: I hated him, because, not content with

frightening by the law and the miseries of life us wretched

sinners, already ruined by original sin, he still further

increased our tortures by the Gospel......But when, by the Spirit

of God, I understood these words,--when I learnt how the

justification of the sinner proceeds from the free mercy of our

Lord through faith,......then I felt born again like a new man; I

entered through the open doors into the very paradise of God.

Henceforward, also, I saw the beloved and Holy Scriptures with

other eyes. I perused the Bible,--I brought together a great

number of passages that taught me the nature of God's work. And

as previously I had detested with all my heart these words,--The

righteousness of God, I began from that hour to value them and to

love them, as the sweetest and most consoling words in the Bible.

In very truth, this language of St. Paul was to me the true gate

of Paradise."

Thus when he was called on solemn occasions to confess this

doctrine, Luther always recovered his enthusiasm and rough

energy. "I see," observed he at an important moment, "that the

devil is continually attacking this fundamental article by means

of his doctors, and that in this respect he can never cease or

take any repose. Well then, I, Doctor Martin Luther, unworthy

herald of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, confess this

article, that faith alone without works justifies before God; and

I declare that it shall stand and remain for ever in despite of

the emperor of the Tartars, the emperor of the Persians,--in

spite of the pope and all the cardinals, with the bishops,

priests, monks, and nuns,--in spite of kings, princes, and

nobles,--and in spite of all the world and of the devils

themselves; and that if they endeavour to fight against this

truth, they will draw the fires of hell upon their heads. This

is the true and holy Gospel, and the declaration of me, Doctor

Luther, according to the teaching of the Holy Ghost......There is

no one," continues he, "who has died for our sins, if not Jesus

Christ the Son of God. I say it once again, should all the world

and all the devils tear each other to pieces and burst with rage,

that it is not the less true. And if it is He alone that taketh

away our sins, it cannot be ourselves and our own works. But

good works follow redemption, as the fruit grows on the tree.

That is our doctrine--that is what is taught by the Holy Ghost

and by all the communion of saints. We hold fast to it in the

name of God. Amen!"

It was thus Luther found what had been overlooked, at least

to a certain degree, by all doctors and reformers, even by the

most illustrious of them. It was in Rome that God gave him this

clear view of the fundamental doctrine of Christianity. He had

gone to the city of the pontiffs for the solution of certain

difficulties concerning a monastic order: he brought away from

it in his heart the salvation of the Church.





















Luther Returns to Wittemberg--Made Doctor of Divinity--Carlstadt-

-Luther's Oath--Principle of the Reformation--Luther's Courage--

Early Views of Reformation--The Schoolmen--Spalatin--Reuchlin's

Quarrel with the Monks.

Luther quitted Rome, and returned to Wittemberg: his heart

was full of sorrow and indignation. Turning his eyes with

disgust from the pontifical city, he directed them with hope to

the Holy Scriptures--to that new life which the Word of God

seemed then to promise to the world. This Word increased in his

heart by all that the Church lost. He separated from the one to

cling to the other. The whole of the Reformation was in that one

movement. It set God in the place of the priest.

Staupitz and the elector did not lose sight of the monk whom

they had called to the university of Wittemberg. It appears as

if the vicar-general had a presentiment of the work that was to

be done in the world, and that, finding it too difficult for

himself, he wished to urge Luther towards it. There is nothing

more remarkable,--nothing, perhaps, more mysterious than this

person, who is seen everywhere urging forward Luther in the path

where God calls him, and then going to end his days sadly in a

cloister. The preaching of the young professor had made a deep

impression on the prince; he had admired the strength of his

understanding, the forcibleness of his eloquence, and the

excellency of the matters that he expounded. The elector and his

friend, desirous of advancing a man of such great promise,

resolved that he should take the high degree of doctor of

divinity. Staupitz repaired to the convent, and took Luther into

the garden, where, alone with him under a tree that Luther in

after-years delighted to point out to his disciples, the

venerable father said to him: "My friend, you must now become

Doctor of the Holy Scriptures." Luther shrunk at the very

thought: this eminent honor startled him. "Seek a more worthy

person," replied he. "As for me, I cannot consent to it." The

vicar-general persisted: "Our Lord God has much to do in the

Church: he has need at this time of young and vigorous doctors."

These words, adds Melancthon, were perhaps said playfully, yet

the event corresponded with them; for generally many omens

precede all great revolutions. It is not necessary to suppose

that Melancthon here speaks of miraculous prophecies. The most

incredulous age--that which preceded the present one--saw an

exemplification of this remark. How many presages, without there

being any thing miraculous in them, announced the revolution in

which it closed!

"But I am weak and sickly," replied Luther. "I have not

long to live. Look out for some strong man."--"The Lord has work

in heaven as well as on earth," replied the vicar-general: "dead

or alive, He has need of you in his council."

"It is the Holy Ghost alone that can make a doctor of

divinity," then urged the monk still more alarmed.--"Do what your

convent requires," said Staupitz, "and what I, your vicar-

general, command; for you have promised to obey us."--"But my

poverty," resumed the brother: "I have no means of defraying the

expenses incidental to such a promotion."--"Do not be uneasy

about that," replied his friend: "the prince has done you the

favour to take all the charges upon himself." Pressed on every

side, Luther thought it his duty to give way.

It was about the end of the summer of 1512 that Luther set

out for Leipsic to receive from the elector's treasurers the

money necessary for his promotion. But according to court

custom, the money did not arrive. The brother growing impatient

wished to depart, but monastic obedience detained him. At

length, on the 4th October, he received fifty florins from

Pfeffinger and John Doltzig. In the receipt which he gave them,

he employs no other title than that of monk. "I, Martin," wrote

he, "brother of the order of Hermits." Luther hastened to return

to Wittemberg.

Andrew Bodenstein of the city of Carlstadt was at that time

dean of the theological faculty, and it is by the name of

Carlstadt that this doctor is generally known. He was also

called the A.B.C. Melancthon first gave him this designation on

account of the three initials of his name. Bodenstein acquired

in his native country the first elements of learning. He was of

a serious and gloomy character, perhaps inclined to jealousy, and

of a restless temper, but full of desire for knowledge, and of

great capacity. He frequented several universities to augment

his stores of learning, and studied theology at Rome. On his

return from Italy, he settled at Wittemberg, and became doctor of

divinity. "At this time," he said afterwards, "I had not yet

read the Holy Scriptures." This remark gives us a very correct

idea of what theology then was. Carlstadt, besides his functions

of professor, was canon and archdeacon. Such was the man who in

after-years was destined to create a schism in the Reformation.

At this time he saw in Luther only an inferior; but the Augustine

erelong became an object of jealousy to him. "I will not be less

great than Luther," said he one day. Very far from anticipating

at that period the great destinies of the young professor,

Carlstadt conferred on his future rival the highest dignity of

the university.

On the 18th October 1512, Luther was received licentiate in

divinity, and took the following oath: "I swear to defend the

evangelical truth with all my might." On the day following,

Bodenstein solemnly conferred on him, in the presence of a

numerous assembly, the insignia of doctor of divinity. He was

made a biblical doctor, and not a doctor of sentences; and was

thus called to devote himself to the study of the Bible, and not

to that of human traditions. He then pledged himself by an oath,

as he himself related, to his well-beloved and Holy Scriptures.

He promised to preach them faithfully, to teach them with purity,

to study them all his life, and to defend them, both in

disputation and in writing, against all false teachers, so far as

God should give him ability.

This solemn oath was Luther's call to the Reformation. By

imposing on his conscience the holy obligation of searching

freely and boldly proclaiming the Christian truth, this oath

raised the new doctor above the narrow limits to which his

monastic vow would perhaps have confined him. Called by the

university, by his sovereign, in the name of the imperial majesty

and of the see of Rome itself, and bound before God by the most

solemn oath, he became from that hour the most intrepid herald of

the Word of Life. On that memorable day Luther was armed

champion of the Bible.

We may accordingly look upon this oath, sworn to the Holy

Scriptures, as one of the causes of the revival of the Church.

The sole and infallible authority of the Word of God was the

primary and fundamental principle of the Reformation. Every

reform in detail that was afterwards carried out in the doctrine,

morals, or government of the Church, and in its worship, was but

a consequence of this first principle. In these days we can

scarcely imagine the sensation produced by this elementary and

simple but long-neglected truth. A few men of more enlarged

views than the common, alone foresaw its immense consequences.

Erelong the courageous voices of all the Reformers proclaimed

this mighty principle, at the sound of which Rome shall crumble

into dust: "The Christians receive no other doctrines than those

founded on the express words of Jesus Christ, of the Apostles,

and of the Prophets. No man, no assembly of doctors, has a right

to prescribe new ones."

Luther's position was changed. The summons that he had

received became to the reformer as one of those extraordinary

calls which the Lord addressed to the prophets under the Old

Covenant, and to the apostles under the New. The solemn

engagement that he made produced so deep an impression upon his

soul that the recollection of this oath was sufficient, in after-

years, to console him in the midst of the greatest dangers and of

the fiercest conflicts. And when he saw all Europe agitated and

shaken by the Word that he had proclaimed; when the accusations

of Rome, the reproaches of many pious men, the doubts and fears

of his own too sensible heart, seemed likely to make him

hesitate, fear, and fall into despair,--he called to mind the

oath that he had taken, and remained steadfast, calm, and full of

joy. "I have gone forward in the Lord's name," said he in a

critical moment, "and I have placed myself in his hands. His

will be done! Who prayed him to make me a doctor?..If it was He

who created me such, let him support me; or else if he repent of

what he has done, let him deprive me of my office......This

tribulation, therefore, alarms me not. I seek one thing only,

which is to preserve the favor of God in all that he has called

me to do with him." At another time he said: "He who undertakes

any thing without a Divine call, seeks his own glory. But I,

Doctor Martin Luther, was forced to become a doctor. Popery

desired to stop me in the performance of my duty: but you see

what has happened to it, and worse still will befall it. They

cannot defend themselves against me. I am determined, in God's

name, to tread upon the lions, to trample dragons and serpents

under foot. This will begin during my life, and will be

accomplished after my death.

From the period of his oath, Luther no longer sought the

truth for himself alone: he sought it also for the Church.

Still full of the recollections of Rome, he saw confusedly before

him a path in which he had promised to walk with all the energy

of his soul. The spiritual life that had hitherto been

manifested only within him, now extended itself without. This

was the third epoch of his development. His entrance into the

cloister had turned his thoughts towards God; the knowledge of

the remission of sins and of the righteousness of faith had

emancipated his soul; his doctor's oath gave him that baptism of

fire by which he became a reformer of the Church.

His ideas were soon directed in a general manner towards the

Reformation. In an address that he had written, as it would

seem, to be delivered by the provost of Lietzkau at the Lateran

council, he declared that the corruption of the world originated

in the priests' teaching so many fables and traditions, instead

of preaching the pure Word of God. The Word of Life, in his

view, alone had the power of effecting the spiritual regeneration

of man. Thus then already he made the salvation of the world

depend upon the re-establishment of sound doctrine, and not upon

a mere reformation of manners. Yet Luther was not entirely

consistent with himself; he still entertained contradictory

opinions: but a spirit of power beamed from all his writings; he

courageously broke the bonds with which the systems of the

schools had fettered the thoughts of men; he everywhere passed

beyond the limits within which previous ages had so closely

confined him, and opened up new paths. God was with him.

The first adversaries that he attacked were those famous

schoolmen, whom he had himself so much studied, and who then

reigned supreme in all the academies. He accused them of

Pelagianism, and forcibly inveighing against Aristotle, the

father of the schools, and against Thomas Aquinas, he undertook

to hurl them both from the throne whence they governed, the one

philosophy, and the other theology.

"Aristotle, Porphyry, the sententiary divines (the

schoolmen)," he wrote to Lange, "are useless studies in our days.

I desire nothing more earnestly than to unveil to the world that

comedian who has deceived the Church by assuming a Greek mask,

and to show his deformity to all." In every public discussion he

was heard repeating: "The writings of the apostles and prophets

are surer and more sublime than all the sophisms and all the

divinity of the schools." Such language was new, but men

gradually became used to it. About a year after he was able to

write with exultation: "God is at work. Our theology and St.

Augustine advance admirably and prevail in our university.

Aristotle is declining: he is tottering towards his eternal ruin

that is near at hand. The lectures on the Sentences produce

nothing but weariness. No one can hope for hearers, unless he

professes the Biblical theology." Happy the university of which

such testimony can be given!

At the same time that Luther was attacking Aristotle, he

took the side of Erasmus and Reuchlin against their enemies. He

entered into communication with these great men and with other

scholars, such as Pirckheimer, Mutianus, and Hutten, who belonged

more or less to the same party. He also, about this period,

formed another friendship that was of great importance through

the whole course of his life.

There was at that time at the elector's court a person

remarkable for his wisdom and his candour: this was George

Spalatin. He was born at Spalatus or Spalt in the bishopric of

Eichstadt, and had been originally curate of the village of

Hohenkirch, near the Thuringian forests. He was afterwards

chosen by Frederick the Wise to be his secretary, chaplain, and

tutor to his nephew, John Frederick, who was one day to wear the

electoral crown. Spalatin was a simple-hearted man in the midst

of the court: he appeared timid in the presence of great events;

circumspect and prudent, like his master, before the ardent

Luther, with whom he corresponded daily. Like Staupitz, he was

better suited for peaceful times. Such men are necessary: they

are like those delicate substances in which jewels and crystal

are wrapped to secure them from the injuries of transport. They

seem useless; and yet without them all these precious objects

would be broken and lost. Spalatin was not a man to effect great

undertakings; but he faithfully and noiselessly performed the

task imposed upon him. He was at first one of the principal aids

of his master in collecting those relics of saints, of which

Frederick was so long a great admirer. But he, as well as the

prince, turned by degrees towards the truth. The faith, which

then reappeared in the Church, did not lay such violent hold upon

him as upon Luther: it guided him by slower methods. He became

Luther's friend at court; the minister through whom passed all

matters between the Church and the State. The elector honored

Spalatin with great intimacy: they always travelled together in

the same carriage. Nevertheless the atmosphere of the court

oppressed the good chaplain: he was affected by profound

melancholy; he could have desired to quit all these honors, and

become once more a simple pastor in the forests of Thuringia.

But Luther consoled him, and exhorted him to remain firm at his

post. Spalatin acquired general esteem: princes and learned men

showed him the most sincere regard. Erasmus used to say, "I

inscribe Spalatin's name not only among those of my principal

friends, but still further among those of my most honored

protectors; and that, not upon paper, but on my heart."

Reuchlin's quarrel with the monks was then making a great

noise in Germany. The most pious men were often undecided what

part they should take; for the monks were eager to destroy the

Hebrew books in which blasphemies against Christ were to be

found. The elector commissioned his chaplain to consult the

doctor of Wittemberg on this matter, as his reputation was

already great. Here is Luther's answer: it is the first letter

he addressed to the court-preacher:--

"What shall I say? These monks pretend to cast out

Beelzebub, but it is not by the finger of God. I cease not from

groaning and lamenting over it. We Christians are beginning to

be wise outwardly, and mad inwardly. There are in every part of

our Jerusalem blasphemies a hundred times worse than those of the

Jews, and all there are filled with spiritual idols. It is our

duty with holy zeal to carry out and destroy these internal

enemies. But we neglect that which is most urgent; and the devil

himself persuades us to abandon what belongs to us, at the same

time that he prevents us from correcting what belongs to others."






Faith--Popular Declamations--Academic Teaching--Luther's Purity

of Life--German Theology or Mysticism--The Monk Spenlein--

Justification by Faith--Luther on Erasmus--Faith and Works--

Erasmus--Necessity of Works--Luther's Charity.

Luther did not lose himself in this quarrel. A living faith

in Christ filled his heart and his life. "Within my heart," said

he, "reigns alone (and it ought thus to reign alone) faith in my

Lord Jesus Christ, who is the beginning, middle, and end of all

the thoughts that occupy my mind by day and night."

All his hearers listened with admiration as he spoke,

whether from the professor's chair or from the pulpit, of that

faith in Jesus Christ. His teaching diffused great light. Men

were astonished that they had not earlier acknowledged truths

that appeared so evident in his mouth. "The desire of self-

justification," said he, "is the cause of all the distresses of

the heart, But he who receives Jesus Christ as a Saviour, enjoys

peace; and not only peace, but purity of heart. All

sanctification of the heart is a fruit of faith. For faith is a

divine work in us, which changes us and gives us a new birth,

emanating from God himself. It kills the old Adam in us; and, by

the Holy Ghost which is communicated to us, it gives us a new

heart and makes us new men. It is not by empty speculations," he

again exclaimed, "but by this practical method, that we can

obtain a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ."

It was at this time that Luther preached those discourses on

the Ten Commandments that have come down to us under the title of

Popular Declamations. They contain errors no doubt; Luther

became enlightened only be degrees. "The path of the just is as

the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect

day." But what truth, simplicity, and eloquence are found in

these discourses! How well can we understand the effect that the

new preacher must have produced upon his audience and upon his

age! We will quote but one passage taken from the beginning.

Luther ascends the pulpit of Wittemberg, and reads these

words: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Exod. xx. 3).

Then turning to the people who crowded the sanctuary, he says,

"All the sons of Adam are idolaters, and have sinned against this

first commandment."

Doubtless this strange assertion startled his hearers. He

proceeds to justify it, and the speaker continues: "There are

two kinds of idolatry--one external, the other internal.

"The external, in which man bows down to wood and stone, to

beasts, and to the heavenly host.

"The internal, in which man, fearful of punishment or

seeking his own pleasure, does not worship the creature, but

loves him in his heart, and trusts in him......

"What kind of religion is this? You do not bend the knee

before riches and honors, but you offer them your heart, the

noblest portion of yourselves......Alas! you worship God in

body, but the creature in spirit.

"This idolatry prevails in every man until he is healed by

the free gift of the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

"And how shall this cure be accomplished?

"Listen. Faith in Christ takes away from you all trust in

your own wisdom, righteousness, and strength; it teaches you that

if Christ had not died for you, and had not thus saved you,

neither you nor any other creature would have been able to do it.

Then you learn to despise all those things that are unavailing to


"Nothing now remains to you but Jesus Christ--Christ alone,-

-Christ all-sufficient for your soul. Hoping for nothing from

any creature, you have only Christ, from whom you hope for

everything, and whom you love above everything.

"Now Christ is the one, sole, and true God. When you have

him for you God, you have no other gods."

It is in this manner Luther shows how the soul is brought

back to God, his sovereign good, by the Gospel, according to the

words of Jesus Christ: I am the way; no man cometh unto the

Father but by me. The man who speaks thus to his age aims at

something more than the correction of a few abuses; he is earnest

above all things to establish true religion. His work is not

merely negative; it is primarily positive.

Luther afterwards turns his discourse against the

superstitions which then filled Christendom;--the signs and

mysterious characters, the observance of certain days and months,

familiar spirits, phantoms, the influence of the stars,

witchcraft, metamorphoses, incubi and succubi, the patronage of

saints, &c. &c. &c.; one after another he attacks these idols,

and with vigorous arm overthrows all these false gods.

But it was particularly in his lecture-room, before an

enlightened and youthful audience, hungering for the truth, that

he displays all the treasures of God's Word. "He explained

Scripture in such a manner," says his illustrious friend

Melancthon, "that, in the judgment of all pious and well-informed

men, it was as if a new morn had risen upon the doctrine after a

long night of darkness. He showed the difference that existed

between the Law and the Gospel. He refuted the then prevalent

error of the churches and of the schools, that men by their works

merit the remission of sins, and become righteous before God by

an outward discipline. He thus led men's hearts back to the Son

of God. Like John the Baptist, he pointed to the Lamb of God

that has taken away the sins of the world; he explained how sin

is freely pardoned on account of the Son of God, and that man

receives this blessing through faith. He made no change in the

ceremonies. On the contrary, the established discipline had not

in his order a more faithful observer and defender. But he

endeavoured more and more to make all understand these grand and

essential doctrines of conversion, of the remission of sins, of

faith, and of the true consolation that is to be found in the

cross. Pious minds were struck and penetrated by the sweetness

of this doctrine; the learned received it with joy. One might

have said that Christ, the apostles, and the prophets were now

issuing from the obscurity of some impure dungeon."

The firmness with which Luther relied on the Holy Scriptures

imparted great authority to his teaching. But other

circumstances added still more to his strength. In him every

action of his life corresponded with his words. It was known

that these discourses did not proceed merely from his lips: they

had their source in his heart, and were practiced in all his

works. And when, somewhat later, the Reformation burst forth,

many influential men, who saw with regret these divisions in the

Church, won over beforehand by the holiness of the reformer's

life and by the beauty of his genius, not only did not oppose

him, but, further still, embraced that doctrine to which he gave

testimony by his works. The more men loved christian virtues,

the more they inclined to the reformer. All honest divines were

in his favor. This is what was said by those who knew him, and

particularly by the wisest man of his age, Melancthon, and by

Erasmus, the illustrious opponent of Luther. Envy and prejudice

have dared to speak of his disorderly life. Wittemberg was

changed by this preaching of faith, and that city became the

focus of a light that was soon to illumine all Germany, and to

shine on all the Church.

It was in 1516 that Luther published the work of an

anonymous mystic theologian (probably Ebland, priest at

Frankfort), entitled German Theology, in which the author shows

how man may attain perfection by the three methods of

purification, illumination, and communion. Luther never gave

himself up to the mystic theology, but he received from it a

salutary impression. It confirmed him in his disgust for the dry

teaching of the schoolmen, in his contempt for the works and

observances so much trumpeted by the Church, and in the

conviction that he felt of man's spiritual helplessness and of

the necessity of grace, and in his attachment to the Bible. "I

prefer," wrote he to Staupitz, "the mystics and the Bible to all

the schoolmen;" thus placing the former teachers in the next rank

to the sacred writers. Perhaps, also, the German Theology aided

him in forming a sounder idea on the sacraments, and above all on

the mass; for the author maintains that the eucharist gives

Christ to man, and does not offer up Christ to God. Luther

accompanied this publication by a preface, in which he declared

that, next to the Bible and St. Augustine, he had never met with

a book in which he had learnt more of God, Christ, man, and of

all things. Already many doctors began to speak ill of the

Wittemberg professors, and accused them of innovation. "One

would say," continues Luther, "that there had never lived men

before us who taught as we teach. Yes, in truth, there have been

many. But the anger of God, which our sins have deserved, has

prevented us from seeing and hearing them. For a long time the

universities have banished the Word of God into a corner. Let

them read this book, and then let them say whether our theology

is new, for this is not a new book."

But if Luther derived from the mystic divinity whatever good

it contained, he did not take the bad also. The great error of

mysticism is to overlook the free gift of salvation. We are

about to notice a remarkable example of the purity of his faith.

Luther had an affectionate and tender heart, and desired to

see those whom he loved in possession of that light which had

guided him into the paths of peace. He took advantage of every

opportunity that occurred, as professor, preacher, or monk, as

well as of his extensive correspondence, to communicate his

treasure to others. One of his former brethren in the convent of

Erfurth, the monk George Spenlein, was then residing in the

convent of Memmingen, perhaps after having spent a short time at

Wittemberg. Spenlein had commissioned the doctor to sell various

articles that he had left with him--a tunic of Brussels cloth, a

work by an Eisenach doctor, and a hood. Luther carefully

discharged this commission. He received, says he in a letter to

Spenlein, dated the 7th April 1516, one florin for the tunic,

half a florin for the book, and a florin for the hood, and had

remitted the amount to the father-vicar, to whom Spenlein owed

three florins. But Luther quickly passes from this account of a

monk's wardrobe to a more important subject.

"I should be very glad to know," wrote he to friar George,

"what is the state of your soul. Is it not tired of its own

righteousness? does it not breathe freely at last, and does it

not confide in the righteousness of Christ? In our days, pride

seduces many, and especially those who labor with all their might

to become righteous. Not understanding the righteousness of God

that is given to us freely in Christ Jesus, they wish to stand

before Him on their own merits. But that cannot be. When you

were living with me, you were in that error, and so was I. I am

yet struggling unceasingly against it, and I have not yet

entirely triumphed over it.

"Oh, my dear brother, learn to know Christ, and him

crucified. Learn to sing unto him a new song, to despair of

yourself, and to say to him: Thou, Lord Jesus Christ, art my

righteousness, and I am thy sin. Thou hast taken what was mine,

and hast given me what was thine. What thou wast not, thou didst

become, in order that I might become what I was not!--Beware, my

dear George, of pretending to such purity as no longer to confess

yourself a sinner: for Christ dwells only with sinners. He came

down from heaven, where he was living among the righteous, in

order to live also among sinners. Meditate carefully upon this

love of Christ, and you will taste all its unspeakable

consolation. If our labors and afflictions could give peace to

the conscience, why should Christ have died? You will not find

peace, save in him, by despairing of yourself and of your works,

and in learning with what love he opens his arms to you, taking

all your sins upon himself, and giving thee all his


Thus the powerful doctrine that had already saved the world

in the apostolic age, and which was destined to save it a second

time in the days of the Reformation, was clearly and forcibly

explained by Luther. Passing over the many ages of ignorance and

superstition that had intervened, in this he gave his hand to

Saint Paul.

Spenlein was not the only man whom he ought to instruct in

this fundamental doctrine. The little truth that he found in

this respect in the writings of Erasmus, made him uneasy. It was

of great importance to enlighten a man whose authority was so

great, and whose genius was so admirable. But how was he to do

it? His court-friend, the Elector's chaplain, was much respected

by Erasmus: it is to him that Luther applies. "What displeases

me in Erasmus, who is a man of such extensive learning, is, my

dear Spalatin," wrote Luther, "that by the righteousness of works

and of the law, of which the apostle speaks, he understands the

fulfilling of the ceremonial law. The righteousness of the law

consists not only in ceremonies, but in all the works of the

decalogue. Even if these works should be accomplished without

faith in Christ, they may, it is true, produce a Fabricius a

Regulus, and other men perfectly upright in the eyes of the

world; but they then deserve as little to be styled

righteousness, as the fruit of the medlar to be called a fig.

For we do not become righteous, as Aristotle maintains, by

performing righteous works; but when we are become righteous,

then we perform such works. The man must first be changed, and

afterwards the works. Abel was first accepted by God, and then

his sacrifice." Luther continues: "Fulfil, I beseech you, the

duty of a friend and of a Christian by communicating these

matters to Erasmus." This letter is thus dated: "In haste, from

the corner of our convent, 19th October 1516." It places in its

true light the relation between Luther and Erasmus. It shows the

sincere interest he felt in what he thought would be really

beneficial to this illustrious writer. Undoubtedly, the

opposition shown by Erasmus to the truth compelled Luther

somewhat later to combat him openly; but he did not do so until

he had sought him to enlighten his antagonist.

At last then were heard explained ideas at once clear and

deep on the nature of goodness. Then was declared the principle,

that what constitutes the real goodness of an action is not its

outward appearance, but the spirit in which it is performed.

This was aiming a deadly blow at all those superstitious

observances which for ages had oppressed the Church, and

prevented christian virtues from growing up and flourishing

within it.

"I am reading Erasmus," says Luther on another occasion,

"but he daily loses his credit with me. I like to see him rebuke

with so much firmness and learning the grovelling ignorance of

the priests and monks; but I fear that he does not render great

service to the doctrine of Jesus Christ. What is of man is

dearer to him than what is of God. We are living in dangerous

times. A man is not a good and judicious Christian because he

understands Greek and Hebrew. Jerome who knew five languages, is

inferior to Augustine who understood but one; although Erasmus

thinks the contrary. I very carefully conceal my opinions

concerning Erasmus, through fear of giving advantage to his

adversaries. Perhaps the Lord will give him understanding in His


The helplessness of man--the omnipotence of God, were the

two truths that Luther desired to re-establish. That is but a

sad religion and a wretched philosophy by which man is directed

to his own natural strength. Ages have tried in vain this so

much boasted strength; and while man has, by his own natural

powers, arrived at great excellence in all that concerns his

earthly existence, he has never been able to scatter the darkness

that conceals from his soul the knowledge of the true God, or to

change a single inclination of his heart. The highest degree of

wisdom attained by ambitious minds, or by souls thirsting with

the desire of perfection, has been to despair of themselves. It

is therefore a generous, a comforting, and supremely true

doctrine which unveils our own impotency in order to proclaim a

power from God by which we can do all things. That truly is a

great reformation which vindicates on earth the glory of heaven,

and which pleads before man the rights of the Almighty God.

No one knew better than Luther the intimate and indissoluble

bond that unites the gratuitous salvation of God with the free

works of man. No one showed more plainly than he, that it is

only by receiving all from Christ, that man can impart much to

his brethren. He always represented these two actions--that of

God and that of man--in the same picture. And thus it is, that

after explaining to the friar Spenlein what is meant by saving

righteousness, he adds, "If thou firmly believest those things,

as is thy duty (for cursed is he who does not believe them),

receive thy brethren who are still ignorant and in error, as

Jesus Christ has received thee. Bear with them patiently. Make

their sins thine own; and if thou hast any good thing, impart it

to them. 'Receive ye one another,' says the apostle, 'as Christ

also received us, to the glory of God.' (Rom. xv. 7.) It is a

deplorable righteousness that cannot bear with others because it

finds them wicked, and which thinks only of seeking the solitude

of the desert, instead of doing them good by long-suffering,

prayer, and example. If thou art the lily and the rose of

Christ, know that thy dwelling-place is among thorns. Only take

care lest by thy impatience, by thy rash judgments, and thy

secret pride, thou dost to thyself become a thorn. Christ reigns

in the midst of his enemies. If he had desired to live only

among the good, and to die for those only who loved him, for

whom, I pray, would he have died, and among whom would he have


It is affecting to see how Luther practiced these charitable

precepts. An Augustine monk of Erfurth, George Leiffer, was

exposed to many trials. Luther became informed of this, and

within a week after writing the preceding letter to Spenlein, he

came to him with words of comfort. "I learn that you are

agitated by many tempests, and that your soul is tossed to and

fro by the waves......The cross of Christ is divided among all

the world, and each man has his share. You should not,

therefore, reject that which has fallen to you. Receive it

rather as a holy relic, not in the vessel of silver or of gold,

but in what is far better--in a heart of gold,--in a heart full

of meekness. If the wood of the cross has been so sanctified by

the body and blood of Christ, that we consider it as the most

venerable relic, how much more should the wrongs, persecutions,

sufferings, and hatred of men, be holy relics unto us, since they

have not only been touched by Christ's flesh, but have been

embraced, kissed, and blessed by his infinite charity."





Luther's first Theses--The Old Adam and Grace--Visitation of the

Convents--Luther at Dresden and Erfurth--Tornator--Peace and the

Cross--Results of Luther's Journey--His Labors--The Plague.

Luther's teaching produced its natural fruits. Many of his

disciples already felt themselves impelled to profess publicly

the truths which their master's lessons had revealed to them.

Among his hearers was a young scholar, Bernard of Feldkirchen,

professor of Aristotle's physics in the university, and who five

years later was the first of the evangelical ecclesiastics who

entered into the bonds of matrimony.

It was Luther's wish that Feldkirchen should maintain, under

his presidence, certain theses or propositions in which his

principles were laid down. The doctrines professed by Luther

thus gained additional publicity. The disputation took place in


This was Luther's first attack upon the dominion of the

sophists and upon the papacy, as he himself characterizes it.

Weak as it was, it caused him some uneasiness. "I allow these

propositions to be printed," said he many years after, when

publishing them in his works, "principally that the greatness of

my cause, and the success with which God has crowned it, may not

make me vain. For they fully manifest my humiliation, that is to

say, the infirmity and ignorance, the fear and trembling with

which I began this conflict. I was alone: I had thrown myself

imprudently into this business. Unable to retract, I conceded

many important points to the pope, and I even adored him."

Some of the propositions were as follows:

"The old Adam is the vanity of vanities; he is the universal

vanity; and he renders all other creatures vain, however good

they may be.

"The old Adam is called the flesh, not only because he is

led by the lusts of the flesh, but further, because should he be

chaste, prudent, and righteous, he is not born again of God by

the Holy Ghost.

"A man who has no part in the grace of God, cannot keep the

commandments of God, or prepare himself, either wholly or in

part, to receive grace; but he rests of necessity under the power

of sin.

"The will of man without grace is not free, but is enslaved,

and that too with its own consent.

"Jesus Christ, our strength and our righteousness, he who

trieth the heart and reins, is the only discerner and judge of

our merits.

"Since all is possible, by Christ, to the believer, it is

superstitious to seek for other help, either in man's will or in

the saints."

This disputation made a great noise, and it has been

considered as the beginning of the Reformation.

The hour drew nigh in which the Reformation was to burst

forth. God hastened to prepare the instrument that he had

determined to employ. The elector, having built a new church at

Wittemberg, to which he gave the name of All Saints, sent

Staupitz into the Low Countries to collect relics for the

ornament of the new edifice. The vicar-general commissioned

Luther to replace him during his absence, and in particular to

make a visitation of the forty monasteries of Misnia and


Luther repaired first to Grimma, and thence to Dresden.

Everywhere he endeavoured to establish the truths that he had

discovered, and to enlighten the members of his order.--"Do not

bind yourselves to Aristotle or to any other teacher of a

deceitful philosophy," said he to the monks, "but read the Word

of God with diligence. Do not look for salvation in your own

strength or in your good works, but in the merits of Christ and

in God's grace."

An Augustine monk of Dresden had fled from his convent, and

was at Mentz, where the prior of the Augustines had received him.

Luther wrote to the latter, begging him to send back the stray

sheep, and added these words so full of charity and truth: "I

know that offences must needs come. It is no marvel that man

falls; but it is so that he rises again and stands upright.

Peter fell that he might know he was but a man. Even in our days

the cedars of Lebanon are seen to fall. The very angels--a thing

that exceeds all imagination!--have fallen in heaven, and Adam in

paradise. Why then should we be surprised if a reed is shaken by

the whirlwind, or if a smoking taper is extinguished?"

From Dresden Luther proceeded to Erfurth, and reappeared to

discharge the functions of vicar-general in that very convent

where, eleven years before, he had wound up the clock, opened the

gates, and swept out the church. He nominated to the priorship

of the convent his friend the bachelor John Lange, a learned and

pious but severe man: he exhorted him to affability and

patience. "Put on," wrote he to him shortly after, "put on a

spirit of meekness towards the prior of Nuremberg: this is but

proper, seeing that he has assumed a spirit of bitterness and

harshness. Bitterness is not expelled by bitterness, that is to

say, the devil by the devil; but sweetness dispels bitterness,

that is to say the finger of God casts out the evil spirit." We

must, perhaps, regret that Luther did not on various occasions

remember this excellent advice.

At Neustadt on the Orla there was nothing but disunion.

Dissensions and quarrels reigned in the convent, and all the

monks were at war with their prior. They assailed Luther with

their complaints. The prior Michael Dressel, or Tornator, as

Luther calls him, translating his name into Latin, on his side

laid all his troubles before the doctor. "Peace, peace!" said

he. "You seek peace," replied Luther; "but it is the peace of

the world, and not the peace of Christ that you seek. Do you not

know that our God has set his peace in the midst of war? He whom

no one disturbs has not peace. But he who, troubled by all men

and by the things of this life, bears all with tranquillity and

joy--he possesses the true peace. Say rather with Christ: The

cross, the cross! and there will be no cross. For the cross

ceases to be a cross, as soon as we can say with love: O blessed

cross, there is no wood like thine!" On his return to

Wittemberg, Luther, desiring to put an end to these dissensions,

permitted the monks to elect another prior.

Luther returned to Wittemberg after an absence of six weeks.

He was afflicted at all that he had seen; but the journey gave

him a better knowledge of the Church and of the world, increased

his confidence in his intercourse with society, and afforded him

many opportunities of founding schools, of pressing this

fundamental truth that "Holy Scripture alone shows us the way to

heaven," and of exhorting the brethren to live together in

holiness, chastity, and peace. There is no doubt that much good

seed was sown in the different Augustine convents during this

journey of the reformer. The monastic orders, which had long

been the support of Rome, did perhaps more for the Reformation

than against it. This is true in particular of the Augustines.

Almost all the pious men of liberal and elevated mind, who were

living in the cloisters, turned towards the Gospel. A new and

generous blood erelong circulated through these orders, which

were, so to speak, the arteries of the German church. As yet

nothing was known in the world of the new ideas of the Wittemberg

Augustine, while they were already the chief topic of

conversation in the chapters and monasteries. Many a cloister

thus became a nursery of reformers. As soon as the great

struggle took place, pious and able men issued from their

obscurity, and abandoned the seclusion of a monastic life for the

active career of ministers of God's Word. At the period of this

inspection of 1516 Luther awakened many drowsy souls by his

words. Hence this year has been named "the morning star of the


Luther resumed his usual occupation. He was at this period

overwhelmed with labor: it was not enough that he was professor,

preacher, and confessor; he was burdened still further by many

temporal occupations having reference to his order and his

convent. "I have need almost continually," writes he, "of two

secretaries; for I do nothing else all the day long but write

letters. I am preacher to the convent, I read the prayers at

table, I am pastor and parish minister, director of studies, the

prior's vicar (that is to say, prior eleven times over!),

inspector of the fish-ponds at Litzkau, counsel to the inns of

Herzberg at Torgau, lecturer on Saint Paul, and commentator on

the Psalms......I have rarely time to repeat the daily prayers

and to sing a hymn; without speaking of my struggles with flesh

and blood, with the devil and the world......Learn from this what

an idle man I am!"

About this time the plague broke out in Wittemberg. A great

number of the students and teachers quitted the city. Luther

remained. "I am not certain," wrote he to his friend at Erfurth,

"if the plague will let me finish the Epistle to the Galatians.

Its attacks are sudden and violent: it is making great ravages

among the young in particular. You advise me to fly. Whither

shall I fly? I hope that the world will not come to an end, if

Brother Martin dies. If the pestilence spreads, I shall disperse

the brothers in every direction; but as for me, my place is here;

duty does not permit me to desert my post, until He who has

called me shall summon me away. Not that I have no fear of death

(for I am not Paul, I am only his commentator); but I hope that

the Lord will deliver me from fear." Such was the resolution of

the Wittemberg doctor. Shall he whom the pestilence could not

force to retire a single step, shrink before Rome? Shall he

yield through fear of the scaffold?







The Relics--Relations of Luther with the Elector--Advice to the

Chaplain--Duke George--His Character--Luther's Sermon before the

Court--Dinner at Court--Evening with Emser.

Luther displayed the same courage before the mighty of this

world, that he had shown amidst the most formidable evils. The

elector was much pleased with the vicar-general, who had made a

rich harvest of relics in the Low Countries. Luther gives an

account of them to Spalatin; and this affair of the relics,

occurring at the moment when the Reformation is about to begin,

is a singular circumstance. Most certainly, the reformers had

little idea to what point they were tending. A bishopric

appeared to the elector the only recompense worthy the services

of the vicar-general. Luther, to whom Spalatin wrote on the

subject, strongly disapproved of such an idea. "There are many

things which please your prince," replied he, "and which,

nevertheless, are displeasing to God. I do not deny that he is

skilful in the matters of this world; but in what concerns God

and the salvation of souls, I account him, as well as his

councillor Pfeffinger, sevenfold blind. I do not say this behind

their backs, like a slanderer; do not conceal it from them, for I

am ready myself, and on all occasions, to tell it them both to

their faces. Why would you," continues he, "surround this man

(Staupitz) with all the whirlwinds and tempests of episcopal


The elector was not offended with Luther's frankness. "The

prince," wrote Spalatin, "often speaks of you, and in honorable

terms." Frederick sent the monk some very fine cloth for a gown.

"It would be too fine," said Luther, "if it were not a prince's

gift. I am not worthy that any man should think of me, much less

a prince, and so great a prince as he. Those are my best friends

who think the worst of me. Thank our prince for his kindness to

me; but I cannot allow myself to be praised either by you or by

any man; for all praise of man is vain, and only that which comes

from God is true."

The excellent chaplain was unwilling to confine himself to

his court functions. He wished to make himself useful to the

people; but like many individuals in every age, he desired to do

it without offence and without irritation, by conciliating the

general favor. "Point out," wrote he to Luther, "some work that

I may translate into our mother tongue; one that shall give

general satisfaction, and at the same time be useful." Agreeable

and useful!" replied Luther; "such a question is beyond my

ability. The better things are, the less they please. What is

more salutary than Jesus Christ? and yet he is to the majority a

savour of death. You will tell me that you wish to be useful

only to those who love what is good. In that case make them hear

the voice of Jesus Christ: you will be useful and agreeable,

depend upon it, to a very small number only; for the sheep are

rare in this region of wolves."

Luther, however, recommended to his friend the sermons of

the Dominican Tauler. "I have never read," said he, "either in

Latin or in our own language, a theology sounder, or more in

conformity with the Gospel. Taste, then, and see how sweet the

Lord is, but not till after you have first tasted and felt how

bitter is everything that we are ourselves."

It was in the course of the year 1517 that Luther entered

into communication with Duke George of Saxony. The house of

Saxony had at that time two chiefs. Two princes, Ernest and

Albert, carried off in their youth from the castle at Altenburg

by Kunz of Kaufungen, had, by the treaty of Leipsic, become the

founders of the two houses which still bear their names. The

Elector Frederick, son of Ernest, was, at the period we are

describing, the head of the Ernestine branch; and his cousin Duke

George, of the Albertine. Dresden and Leipsic were both situated

in the states of this duke, whose residence was in the former of

these cities. His mother, Sidonia, was daughter of George

Podiebrad, king of Bohemia. The long struggle that Bohemia had

maintained with Rome, since the time of John Huss, had not been

without influence on the prince of Saxony. He had often

manifested a desire for a Reformation. "He has imbibed it with

his mother's milk," said the priests; "he is by birth an enemy of

the clergy." He annoyed the bishops, abbots, canons, and monks

in many ways; and his cousin, the Elector Frederick, was

compelled more than once to interfere in their behalf. It seemed

that Duke George would be one of the warmest partisans of a

Reformation. The devout Frederick, on the other hand, who had in

former years worn the spurs of Godfrey in the Holy Sepulchre, and

girding himself with the long and heavy sword of the conqueror of

Jerusalem, had made oath to fight for the Church, like that

ancient and valiant knight, appeared destined to be the most

ardent champion of Rome. But in all that concerns the Gospel,

the anticipations of human wisdom are frequently disappointed.

The reverse of what we might have supposed took place. The duke

would have been delighted to humiliate the Church and the clergy,

to humble the bishops, whose princely retinue far surpassed his

own; but it was another thing to receive into his heart the

evangelical doctrine that would humble it, to acknowledge himself

a guilty sinner, incapable of being saved, except by grace alone.

He would willingly have reformed others, but he cared not to

reform himself. He would perhaps have set his hand to the task

of compelling the bishop of Mentz to be contented with a single

bishopric, and to keep no more than fourteen horses in his

stables, as he said more than once; but when he saw another than

himself step forward as a reformer,--when he beheld a simple monk

undertake this work, and the Reformation gaining numerous

partisans among the people, the haughty grandson of the Hussite

king became the most violent adversary of the reform to which he

had before shown himself favorable.

In the month of July 1517, Duke George requested Staupitz to

send him an eloquent and learned preacher. Luther was

recommended to him as a man of extensive learning and

irreproachable conduct. The prince invited him to preach at

Dresden in the castle-chapel, on the feast of St. James the


The day arrived. The duke and his court repaired to the

chapel to hear the Wittemberg preacher. Luther joyfully seized

this opportunity of testifying to the truth before such an

assemblage. He selected his text from the gospel of the day:

Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons,

&c. (Matt. xx. 20-23). He preached on the unreasonable desire

and prayers of men; and then spoke emphatically on the assurance

of salvation. He established it on this foundation, that those

who receive the Word of God with faith are the true disciples of

Jesus Christ, elected to eternal life. He next treated of

gratuitous election, and showed that this doctrine, if presented

in union with the work of Christ, has great power to dispel the

terrors of conscience; so that men, instead of flying far from

the righteous God, at the sight of their own unworthiness, are

gently led to seek their refuge in Him. In conclusion, he

related an allegory to three virgins, from which he deduced

edifying instructions.

The word of truth made a deep impression on his hearers.

Two of them in particular seemed to pay very great attention to

the sermon of the Wittemberg monk. The first was a lady of

respectable appearance, who was seated on the court benches, and

on whose features a profound emotion might be traced. It was

Madame de la Sale, first lady to the duchess. The other was a

licentiate in canon law, Jerome Emser, councillor and secretary

to the duke. Emser possessed great talents and extensive

information. A courtier and skilful politician, he would have

desired to be on good terms with the two contending parties--to

pass at Rome for a defender of the papacy, and at the same time

shine in Germany among the learned men of the age. But under

this pliant mind was concealed a violent character. It was in

the palace-chapel at Dresden that Luther and Emser first met;

they were afterwards to break more than one lance together.

The dinner hour arrived for the inhabitants of the palace,

and in a short time the ducal family and the persons attached to

the court were assembled at table. The conversation naturally

fell on the preacher of the morning. "How were you pleased with

the sermon?" said the duke to the Madame de la Sale.--"If I could

hear but one more like it," replied she, "I should die in

peace."--"And I," replied George angrily, "would rather give a

large sum not to have heard it; for such discourses are only

calculated to make people sin with assurance."

The master having thus made known his opinion, the courtiers

gave way uncontrolled to their dissatisfaction. Each one had his

censure ready. Some maintained that in his allegory of the three

virgins, Luther had in view three ladies of the court; on which

there arose interminable babbling. They rallied the three ladies

whom the monk of Wittemberg had thus, they said publicly pointed

out. He is an ignorant fellow, said some; he is a proud monk,

said others. Each one made his comment on the sermon, and put

what he pleased into the preacher's mouth. The truth had fallen

into the midst of a court that was little prepared to receive it.

Every one mangled it after his own fashion. But while the Word of

God was thus an occasion of stumbling to many, it was for the

first lady a stone of uprising. Falling sick a month after, she

confidently embraced the grace of the Saviour, and died with joy.

As for the duke, it was not perhaps in vain that he heard

this testimony to the truth. Whatever may have been his

opposition to the Reformation during his life, we know that at

his death he declared that he had no hope save in the merits of

Jesus Christ.

It was natural that Emser should do the honors to Luther in

his master's name. He invited him to supper. Luther refused;

but Emser persisted, and prevailed on him to come. Luther

thought he should only meet a few friends; but he soon perceived

that a trap had been laid for him. A master of arts from Leipsic

and several Dominicans were with the prince's secretary. The

master of arts, having no mean opinion of himself, and full of

hatred towards Luther, addressed him in a friendly and honied

manner; but he soon got into a passion, and began to shout with

all his might. The combat began. The dispute turned, says

Luther, on the trumpery of Aristotle and St. Thomas. At last

Luther defied the master of arts to define with all the learning

of the Thomists what is the fulfilling of God's commandments.

The embarrassed disputant put a good face on the matter. "Pay me

my fee," said he holding out his hand, "da pastum." One would

have said that he wished to give a regular lesson, taking his

fellow-guests for his pupils. "At this foolish reply," adds the

reformer, "we all burst into laughter, and then we parted."

During this conversation a Dominican was listening at the

door. He longed to enter and spit on Luther's face: but he

checked himself, and boasted of it afterwards. Emser, charmed at

seeing his guests disputing, and appearing himself to preserve a

due moderation, was earnest in excuses to Luther for the manner

in which the evening had passed. The latter returned to










Return to Wittemberg--Theses--Free Will--Nature of Man--

Rationalism--Proposal to the University of Erfurth--Eck--Urban

Regius--Luther's Modesty--Effect of the Theses.

Luther returned zealously to work. He was preparing six or

seven young theologians who were shortly to undergo an

examination for a license to teach. What rejoiced him most of

all was, that their promotion would tend to the discredit of

Aristotle. "I could desire to multiply the number of his enemies

as soon as possible," said he. With this intent he published

certain theses about that time which merit our attention.

Free-will was the great subject treated of. He had already

touched upon it in the Feldkirchen theses; he now went deeper

into the question. There had been from the very commencement of

Christianity, a struggle more or less keen between the two

doctrines of man's liberty and his enslavement. Some schoolmen

had taught, like Pelagius and other doctors, that man possessed

of himself the liberty or the power of loving God and or

performing good works. Luther denied this liberty; not to

deprive man of it, but in order that he might obtain it. The

struggle in this great question is not therefore, as is generally

said, between liberty and slavery: it is between a liberty

proceeding from man, and one that comes from God. Those who

style themselves the partisans of liberty say to man: "Thou hast

the power of performing good works; thou hast no need of greater

liberty." The others, who are called the partisans of servitude,

say on the contrary: "True liberty is what thou needest, and God

offers it thee in his Gospel." On the one side, they speak of

liberty to perpetuate slavery; on the other, they speak of

slavery to give liberty. Such was the contest in the times of

St. Paul, of St. Augustine, and of Luther. Those who say,

"Change nothing," are the champions of slavery: the others who

say, "Let your fetters fall off," are the champions of liberty.

But we should deceive ourselves were we to sum up all the

Reformation in that particular question. It is one of the

numerous doctrines maintained by the Wittemberg doctor, and that

is all. It would be indulging in a strange delusion to pretend

that the Reformation was a fatalism,--an opposition to liberty.

It was a noble emancipation of the human mind. Snapping the

numerous bonds with which the hierarchy had bound men's minds,--

restoring the ideas of liberty, of right, of free examination, it

set free its own age, ourselves, and the remotest posterity. But

let it not be said that the Reformation delivered man from every

human despotism, but made him a slave by proclaiming the

sovereignty of Grace. It desired, no doubt, to lead back the

human will, to confound it with and render it entirely subject to

the Divine will; but what kind of philosophy is that which does

not know that an entire conformity with the will of God is the

sole, supreme, and perfect liberty; and that man will be really

free, only when sovereign righteousness and eternal truth alone

have dominion over him?

The following are some of the ninety-nine propositions that

Luther put forth in the Church against the Pelagian rationalism

of the scholastic theology:--

"It is true that man, who has become a corrupt tree, can

will or do naught but evil.

"It is false that the will, left to itself, can do good as

well as evil; for it is not free, but in bondage.

"It is not in the power of man's will to choose or reject

whatever is offered to it.

"Man cannot of his own nature will God to be God. He would

prefer to be God himself, and that God were not God.

"The excellent, infallible, and sole preparation for grace,

is the eternal election and predestination of God.

"It is false to say that if man does all that he can, he

removes the obstacles to grace.

"In a word, nature possesses neither a pure reason nor a

good will.

"On the side of man there is nothing that goes before grace,

unless it be impotency and even rebellion.

"There is no moral virtue without pride or without sorrow,

that is to say, without sin.

"From beginning to end, we are not masters of our actions,

but their slaves.

"We do not become righteous by doing what is righteous; but

having become righteous, we do what is righteous.

"He who says that a divine, who is not a logician, is a

heretic and an empiric, maintains an empirical and heretical


"There is no form of reasoning (of syllogism) that holds

with the things of God.

"If the form of the syllogism could be applied to Divine

things, we should have knowledge and not belief of the article of

the Holy Trinity.

"In a word, Aristotle is to divinity, as darkness to light."

"Man is a greater enemy to the grace of God than he is to

the law itself.

"He who is without God's grace sins continually, even should

he neither rob, murder, nor commit adultery.

"He sins, in that he does not fulfil the law spiritually.

"Not to kill, not to commit adultery, externally only and

with regard to the actions, is the righteousness of hypocrites.

"The law of God and the will of man are two adversaries,

that without the grace of God can never be reconciled.

"What the law commands, the will never wished, unless

through fear or love it puts on the appearance of willing.

"The law is the task-master of the will, who is not overcome

but by the Child that is born unto us. (Isaiah ix. 6.)

"The law makes sin abound, for it exasperates and repels the


"But the grace of God makes righteousness abound through

Jesus Christ, who causes us to love the law.

"Every work of the law appears good outwardly, but inwardly

it is sin.

"The will, when it turns towards the law without the grace

of God, does so in its own interest alone.

"Cursed are all those who perform the works of the law.

"Blessed are all those who perform the works of God's grace.

"The law which is good, and in which we have life, is the

love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. (Rom.

v. 5.)

"Grace is not given in order that the work may be done more

frequently and more easily, but because without grace there can

be no work of love.

"To love God is to hate oneself and to know nothing out of


Thus Luther ascribes to God all the good that man can do.

There is no question of repairing, of patching up, if we may use

the expression, man's will: an entirely new one must be given

him. God only has been able to say this, because God alone can

accomplish it. This is one of the greatest and most important

truths that the human mind can conceive.

But while Luther proclaimed the powerlessness of man, he did

not fall into the other extreme. He says in the eighth thesis:

"It does not hence follow that the will is naturally depraved;

that is to say, that its nature is that of evil itself, as the

Manichees have taught." Originally man's nature was essentially

good: it has turned away from the good, which is God, and

inclined towards evil. Yet its holy and glorious origin still

remains; and it is capable, by the power of God, of recovering

this origin. It is the business of Christianity to restore it to

him. It is true that the Gospel displays man in a state of

humiliation and impotency, but between the two glories and two

grandeurs: a past glory from which he has been precipitated, and

a future glory to which he is called. There lies the truth: man

is aware of it, and if he reflects ever so little, he easily

discovers that all which is told him of his present purity,

power, and glory is but a fiction with which to lull and sooth

his pride.

Luther in his theses protested not only against the

pretended goodness of man's will, but still more against the

pretended light of his understanding in respect to Divine things.

In truth, scholasticism had exalted his reason as well as his

will. This theology, as some of its doctors have represented it,

was at bottom nothing but a kind of rationalism. This is

indicated by the propositions we have cited. One might fancy

them directed against the rationalism of our days. In the theses

that were the signal of the Reformation, Luther censured the

Church and the popular superstitions which had added indulgences,

purgatory, and so many other abuses to the Gospel. In those we

have just quoted, he assailed the schools and rationalism, which

had taken away from that very Gospel the doctrine of the

sovereignty of God, of his revelation, and of his grace. The

Reformation attacked rationalism before it turned against

superstition. It proclaimed the rights of God, before it cut off

the excrescenes of man. It was positive before it became

negative. This has not been sufficiently observed; an yet if we

do not notice it, we cannot justly appreciate that religious

revolution and its true nature.

However this may be, the truths that Luther had just

enunciated with so much energy were very novel. It would have

been an easy matter to support these propositions at Wittemberg;

for there his influence predominated. But it might have been

said that he had chosen a field where he knew that no combatant

would dare appear. By offering battle in another university, he

would give them greater publicity; and it was by publicity that

the Reformation was effected. He turned his eyes to Erfurth,

whose theologians had shown themselves so irritated against him.

He therefore transmitted these propositions to John Lange,

prior of Erfurth, and wrote to him: "My suspense as to your

decision upon these paradoxes is great, extreme, too great

perhaps, and full of anxiety. I strongly suspect that your

theologians will consider as paradoxical, and even as

kakodoxical, what is in my opinion very orthodox. Pray inform

me, as soon as possible, of your sentiments upon them. Have the

goodness to declare to the faculty of theology, and to all, that

I am prepared to visit you, and to maintain these propositions

publicly, either in the university or in the monastery." It does

not appear that Luther's challenge was accepted. The monks of

Erfurth were contented to let him know that these propositions

had greatly displeased them.

But he desired to send them also into another quarter of

Germany. For this purpose he turned his eyes on an individual

who plays a great part in the history of the Reformation, and

whom we must learn to know.

A distinguished professor, by name John Meyer, was then

teaching at the university of Ingolstadt in Bavaria. He was born

at Eck, a village in Swabia, and was commonly styled Doctor Eck.

He was a friend of Luther, who esteemed his talents and his

information. He was full of intelligence, had read much, and

possessed an excellent memory. He united learning with

eloquence. His gestures and his voice expressed the vivacity of

his genius. Eck, as regards talent, was in the south of Germany

what Luther was in the north. They were the two most remarkable

theologians of that epoch, although having very different

tendencies. Ingolstadt was almost the rival of Wittemberg. The

reputation of these two doctors attracted from every quarter, to

the universities where they taught, a crowd of students eager to

listen to their teaching. Their personal qualities, not less

than their learning, endeared them to their disciples. The

character of Dr. Eck had been attacked; but one trait of his life

will show that, at this period at least, his heart was not closed

against generous impulses.

Among the students whom his reputation had attracted to

Ingolstadt, was a young man named Urban Regius, born on the

shores of an Alpine lake. He had studied first at the university

of Friburg in Brisgau. On his arrival at Ingolstadt, Urban

followed the philosophical courses, and gained the professor's

favor. Compelled to provide for his own wants, he was obliged to

undertake the charge of some young noblemen. He had not only to

watch over their conduct and their studies, but even to provide

with his own money the books and clothing that they stood in need

of. These youths dressed with elegance, and were fond of good

living. Regius, in his embarrassed condition, entreated the

parents to withdraw their sons.--"Take courage," was their reply.

His debts increased; his creditors became pressing: he knew not

what to do. The emperor was at that time collecting an army

against the Turks. Recruiting parties arrived at Ingolstadt, and

in his despair Urban enlisted. Dressed in his military uniform,

he appeared in the ranks at their final review previous to

leaving the town. At that moment Dr. Eck came into the square

with several of his colleagues. To his great surprise he

recognized his pupil among the recruits. "Urban Regius!" said

he, fixing on him a piercing glance. "Here!" replied the young

soldier. "Pray, what is the cause of this change?" The young

man told his story. "I will take the matter upon myself,"

replied Eck, who then took away his halberd, and bought him off.

The parents, threatened by the doctor with their prince's

displeasure, sent the money necessary to pay their children's

expenses. Urban Regius was saved, and became somewhat later one

of the bulwarks of the Reformation.

It was through Dr. Eck that Luther thought of making his

propositions on Pelagianism and scholastic rationalism known in

the south of the empire. He did not, however, send them direct

to the Ingolstadt professor, but forwarded them to a common

friend, the excellent Christopher Scheurl, secretary to the city

of Nuremberg, begging him to transmit them to Eck at Ingolstadt,

which was not far from Nuremberg. "I forward you," said he, "my

propositions, which are altogether paradoxical, and even

kakistodoxical, as it would appear to many. Communicate them to

our dear Eck, that most learned and ingenious man, in order that

I may see and hear what he thinks of them." It was thus Luther

spoke at that time of Dr. Eck: such was the friendship that

united them. It was not Luther that broke if off.

But it was not on this field that the battle was to be

fought. These propositions turned on doctrines of perhaps

greater importance than those which two months later set the

Church in flames; and yet, in despite of Luther's challenges,

they passed unnoticed. At most, they were read within the walls

of the schools, and created no sensation beyond them. It was

because they were only university propositions, or theological

doctrines; while the theses which followed had reference to an

evil that had grown up among the people, and which was then

breaking bounds on every side throughout Germany. So long as

Luther was content to revive forgotten doctrines, men were

silent; but when he pointed out abuses that injured all the

world, everybody listened.

And yet in neither case did Luther propose more than to

excite one of those theological discussions so frequent in the

universities. This was the circle to which his thoughts were

restricted. He had no idea of becoming a reformer. He was

humble, and his humility bordered on distrust and anxiety.

"Considering my ignorance," said he, "I deserve only to be hidden

in some corner, without being known to any one under the sun."

But a mighty hand drew him from this corner in which he would

have desired to remain unknown to the world. A circumstance,

independent of Luther's will, threw him into the field of battle,

and the war began. It is this providential circumstance which

the course of events now calls upon us to relate.

Index of Preacher's Help and Notes      

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