|IIIM Magazine Online, Volume 1, Number 4, March 22 to March 28, 1999|
“And if some persons cry out that I am a heretic (for the truth I preach is very injurious to their cash-box), I am not much disturbed by their yellings. They are men of diseased and clouded brains - men who have never felt the Bible, never read the Christian doctrine, never understood their own doctors, and who rot beneath the rags of their idle opinions . . . God grant them and us a true sense! Amen.”It was not the Roman Church or the pope Luther was attacking, but these impudent monks who were abusing the practice of indulgences. Luther felt the Pope was on his side in this matter, and never dreamed that this would bring a reformation in the Church that would overthrow the pope in Germany.
“In fifteen days they were spread over the whole of Germany, and in four weeks they had overrun almost all Christendom, as if the angels themselves had been their messengers, and had borne them to the eyes of men. No one would believe the noise they made.”Luther was thirty-four years old when this event happened, proving that God can use the young to spark reformation.
“I began this affair in great fear and trembling. What was I, a poor, miserable, contemptible friar, more like a corpse than a man - who was I, to set myself up against the majesty of the Pope, before whom trembled not only the kings of the earth, and the whole world, but also, if I may so say, heaven and hell, constrained to obey the look of his eye? No one can know what my heart suffered in those first two years, and into what dejection I have often been plunged . . . However, after having gained the victory, by the Scriptures, over all contrary arguments, I at last surmounted, by the grace of Christ, with much anguish and labour, and with great difficulty, the only argument, which still stopped me, namely - 'It is necessary to hear the Church,' for I honoured the Pope’s Church from the bottom of my heart."When Luther posted his Theses, he unconsciously took the first step that led eventually to the Protestant Reformation, and to the formation of a new church, the Protestant Church. Luther himself a few years later declared,
“The Church has need of a Reformation. And this cannot be the work of a single man, such as the Pope, or of many men, such as the cardinals and the Fathers of the Councils, but it must be that of the whole world; or rather, it is a work which pertains to God alone. . . The dyke is broken, and it is no longer in our power to restrain the rushing and rolling floods.”
“Are you athirst for murder? I assure you, you will not frighten me either by your rhodomontades or by the threatening din of your words. Though I be killed, Christ lives, Christ my Lord and the Lord of all, blessed forever more. Amen!”
“I appear before you as a submissive and obedient son of the holy Christian Church; and I admit that it was I who published the propositions and theses in question. I am ready to hear, in all obedience, what I am accused of, and, if I am deceived, to suffer myself to be instructed according to the truth”;
“As for indulgences, if it is proved to me that I am wrong, I am ready to be set right; one may pass over that, without being a bad Christian. But, as to the article of faith, if I gave way in the least, I should be denying Jesus Christ. On this head, therefore, I will not and cannot yield; by the grace of God, I never will”;
“I declare that I honour the holy Roman Church, and that I will continue to honour it. I have sought the truth in public disputes; and all that I have said, I regard, to this very hour, as just, true, and Christian. Yet I am a man, and I may be deceived. I am, therefore, ready to be instructed and corrected in those things in which I may have erred.”
“Hold my peace! I am willing to do so, if they will make others quid. If any one envies my post, let him take it. I am quite ready to rest, provided they do not require the Gospel to rest. There is nothing in the world that may not be obtained of me, provided they do not shut Christians out of the way of salvation. I am not frightened at any of their threats. I am not to be led away by their promises.”Luther soon recovered his warrior-spirit, declaring,
“My resolution is taken. I despise Rome’s fury, and I despise her favour. No more reconciliation, no more communication with her forever! Let her condemn and burn my writings. I, in my turn, will condemn and publicly burn the Pontifical Law, that nest of all heresies. The moderation I have shown, to this hour, has been useless; I renounce it!”Luther, being a man of passion, wanted to show his contempt for the papacy and the bull of excommunication. Having arranged a bonfire outside Wittenberg, he went arrayed in the robes of his Order, amid a crowd of sympathizers from the University and the town, and publically flung the bull of excommunication into the fire, burning the pope’s words. He then stated, “The pope’s decretals are the devil’s excretals!” When the bull was burning, they sang “We Praise Thee, 0 God.” It then got a little out of hand when the youth began to sing funeral dirges in honor of the burnt papal decretals and bull. By these actions Luther announced to the world that there was only death between him and the pope.
"As to the second - this being a question which concerns the faith and the salvation of souls, involving the Word of God, the greatest and most precious treasure on earth and in heaven - I should act imprudently if I replied without reflection. I might affirm less than the matter demands, or more than truth requires, and so incur guilt, according to the declaration of Christ: ‘Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.’ I therefore, with all submission, beseech his Imperial Majesty to grant me time, that I may answer without prejudicing the Word of God.”
“Almighty God! Eternal God! How terrible is the world! How it gapes to swallow me, and how little confidence I have in thee! . . . How weak is the flesh, and how strong is Satan! If it is in what the world thinks powerful that I most place my hope, I am undone! . . . The bell is cast; the judgment is pronounced! . . . O God! O God! . . . O thou my God, aid me against all the wisdom of the world! Do this - thou must do it . . . Thou only . . . for it is not my work but thine. I have nothing to do in this: I have nothing to strive about with these great ones of the world. I, too, would fain pass happy, tranquil days. But the cause is thine; it is just and eternal! O Lord, be thou my aid! Faithful God! Unchanging God! I rely on no man. It is in vain. Everything human is tottering and reeling; all that proceeds from man fades away. O God! O God! . . . hearest thou not? . . . My God, art thou dead? . . . No, thou canst not die; thou only hidest thyself. Thou hast chosen me for this work. I know it. Act, then, O God! . . . Keep thee by my side, for the name of thy well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ, who is my defense, my buckler and my fortress. Lord, where art thou? O my God, where art thou? . . . Come, come! I am ready! . . . I am ready to give up my life for thy truth . . . patient as a lamb, for the cause is just, and it is thine. I will not withdraw from thee, now or in all eternity. . . and though the world should be filled with demons, though my body, which is the work of thy hands, must bite the dust, be stretched on the ground, cut in pieces . . . reduced to powder . . . my soul is thine! Yes, I have thy Word for warrant of this. My soul is thine; it will dwell for ever near thee . . . Amen! . . . O God, aid me! . . . Amen!
“If the emperor desires a plain answer, I will give it to him. It is impossible for me to recant unless I am proved to be wrong by the testimony of Scripture. My conscience is bound to the Word of God. It is neither safe nor honest to act against one’s conscience. Here I stand. God help me. I cannot do otherwise.”Luther was placed under the ban of the empire and condemned, but he was guaranteed safe conduct back to Wittenberg. However, everyone knew that Luther would soon be killed. To save his life, the Elector of Saxony secretly carried Luther off to the castle of Wartburg, and his enemies thought that he had perished.