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    Chapter 5

    Shall Luther have a Safe-conduct—The Safe-conduct—Will Luther come—Holy Thursday at Rome—The Pope and Luther

    At last the emperor made up his mind. Luther’s appearance before the diet seemed theHRSCV2 229.6

    only means calculated to terminate an affair which engaged the attention of all the empire. Charles V resolved to summon him, but without granting him a safe-conduct. Here Frederick was again compelled to assume the character of a protector. The dangers by which the reformer was threatened were apparent to all. Luther’s friends, says Cochloeus, feared that he would be delivered into the pope’s hands, or that the emperor himself would put him to death, as undeserving, on account of his heresy, that any faith should be kept with him. On this question there was a long and violent debate between the princes. Struck at last be the extensive agitation then stirring up the people in every part of Germany, and fearing that during Luther’s journey some unexpected tumult or dangerous commotion might burst forth in favor of the reformer, the princes thought the wisest course would be to tranquilize the public feelings on this subject; and not only the emperor, but also the Elector of Saxony, Duke George, and the Landgrave of Hesse, through whose territories he would have to pass, gave him each a safe-conduct.HRSCV2 230.1

    On the 6th of March 1521, Charles V signed the following summons addressed to Luther:—HRSCV2 230.2

    “Charles, by the grace of God Emperor elect of the Romans, always August, &c. &c.HRSCV2 230.3

    “Honorable, well-beloved, and pious! We had the States of the Holy Empire here assembled, having resolved to institute an inquiry touching the doctrine and the books that thou hast lately published, have issued, for thy coming hither, and thy return to a place of security, our safe-conduct and that of the empire, which we send thee herewith. Our sincere desire is, that thou shouldst prepare immediately for this journey, in order that within the space of the twenty-one days fixed by our safe-conduct, thou mayst without fail be present before us. Fear neither injustice nor violence. We will firmly abide by our aforesaid safe-conduct, and expect that thou wilt comply with our summons. In so doing, thou wilt obey our earnest wishes.HRSCV2 230.4

    “Given in our imperial city of Worms, this sixth day of March, in the year of our Lord 1521, and the second of our reign.HRSCV2 230.5

    Charles.HRSCV2 230.6

    “By order of my Lord the Emperor, witness my hand, Albert, Cardinal of Mentz, High-chancellor.HRSCV2 230.7

    “Nicholas Zwil.”HRSCV2 230.8

    The safe-conduct contained in the letter was directed: “To the honorable, our well-beloved and pious Doctor Martin Luther, of the order of the Augustines.”HRSCV2 230.9

    It began thus:HRSCV2 230.10

    “We, Charles, the fifth of that name, by the grace of God Emperor elect of the Romans, always August, King of Spain, of the Two Sicilies, of Jerusalem, of Hungary, of Dalmatia, of Croatia, &c., Archduke of Austria, Duke of Burgundy, Count of Hapsburg, of Flanders, of the Tyrol,” &c. &c.HRSCV2 230.11

    Then the king of so many states, intimating that he had cited before him an Augustine monk name Luther, enjoined all princes, lords, magistrates, and others, to respect the safe-conduct which had been given him, under pain of the displeasure of the emperor and the empire.HRSCV2 230.12

    Thus did the emperor confer the titles of “well-beloved, honorable, and pious,” on a man whom the head of the Church had excommunicated. This document had been thus drawn up, purposely to remove all distrust from the mind of Luther and his friends. Gaspard Sturm was commissioned to bear this message to the reformer, and accompany him to Worms. The elector, apprehending some outburst of public indignation, wrote on the 12th of March to the magistrates of Wittenberg to provide for the security of the emperor’s officer, and to give him a guard, if it was judged necessary. The herald departed.HRSCV2 230.13

    Thus were God’s designs fulfilled. It was His will that this light, which he had kindled in the world, should be set upon a hill; and emperor, kings, and princes, immediately began to carry out His purpose without knowing it. It cost Him little to elevate what is lowest. A single act of His power suffices to raise the humble native of Mansfeldt from an obscure cottage to the palaces in which kings were assembled. In His sight there is neither small nor great, and, in His good time, Charles and Luther meet.HRSCV2 230.14

    But will Luther comply with this citation? His best friends were doubtful about it. “Doctor Martin has been summoned here,” wrote the elector to his brother on the 25th March; “but I do not know whether he will come. I cannot augur any good from it.” Three weeks later (on the 16th of April), this excellent prince, seeing the danger increase, wrote again to Duke John: “Orders against Luther are placarded on the walls. The cardinals and bishops are attacking him very harshly: God grant that all may turn out well! Would to God that I could procure him a favorable hearing!”HRSCV2 230.15

    While these events were taking place at Worms and Wittenberg, the Papacy redoubled its attacks. On the 28th of March (which was the Thursday before Easter), Rome re-echoed with a solemn excommunication. It was the custom to publish at that season the terrible bull In Coena Domini, which is a long series of maledictions. On that day the approaches to the temple in which the sovereign pontiff was to officiate were early occupied with the papal guards, and by a crowd of people that had flocked together from all parts of Italy to receive the benediction of the holy father. Branches of laurel and myrtle decorated the open space in front of the cathedral; tapers were lighted on the balcony of the temple, and there the remonstrance was elevated. On a sudden the air re-echoes with the loud pealing of bells; the pope, wearing his pontifical robes, and borne in an arm-chair, appears on the balcony; the people kneel down, all heads are uncovered, the colors are lowered, the soldiers ground their arms, and a solemn silence prevails. A few moments after, the pope slowly stretches out his hands, raises them towards heaven, and then as slowly bends them towards the earth, making the sign of the cross. Thrice he repeats this movement. Again the noise of bells reverberates through the air, proclaiming far and wide the benediction of the pontiff; some priests now hastily step forward, each holding a lighted taper in his hand; these they reverse, and after tossing them violently, dash them away, as if they were the flames of hell; the people are moved and agitated; and the words of malediction are hurled down from the roof of the temple.HRSCV2 230.16

    As soon as Luther was informed of this excommunication, he published its tenor, with a few remarks written in that cutting style of which he was so great a master. Although this publication did not appear till later, we will insert in this place a few of its most striking features. We shall hear the high-priest of Christendom on the balcony of the cathedral, and the Wittenberg monk answering him from the farthest part of Germany.HRSCV2 231.1

    There is something characteristic in the contrast of these two voices.HRSCV2 231.2

    The Pope.—“Leo, bishop”HRSCV2 231.3

    Luther.—“Bishop! yes, as the wolf is a shepherd: for the bishop should exhort according to the doctrine of salvation and not vomit forth imprecations and maledictions.”HRSCV2 231.4

    The Pope.—Servant of all the servants of God”HRSCV2 231.5

    Luther.—“At night, when we are drunk; but in the morning, our name is Leo, lord of all lords.”HRSCV2 231.6

    The Pope.—“The Roman bishops, our predecessors, have been accustomed on this festival to employ the arms of righteousness”HRSCV2 231.7

    Luther.—“Which, according to your account, are excommunication and anathema; but according to Saint Paul, long-suffering, kindness, and love.” (2 Corinthians 6:6, 7.)HRSCV2 231.8

    The Pope.—“According to the duties of the apostolic office, and to maintain the purity of the christian faith”HRSCV2 231.9

    Luther.—“That is to say, the temporal possessions of the pope.”HRSCV2 231.10

    The Pope.—“And its unity, which consists in the union of the members with Christ, their head, and with his vicar”HRSCV2 231.11

    Luther.—“For Christ is not sufficient: we must have another besides.”HRSCV2 231.12

    The Pope.—“To preserve the holy communion of believers, we follow the ancient custom, and excommunicate and curse, in the name of Almighty God, the Father”HRSCV2 231.13

    Luther.—“Of whom it is said: God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world.” (John 3:17.)HRSCV2 231.14

    The Pope.—“The Son, and the Holy Ghost, and according to the power of the apostles Peter and Paul and our own”HRSCV2 231.15

    Luther.—“Our own! says the ravenous wolf, as if the power of God was too weak without him.”HRSCV2 231.16

    The Pope.—“We curse all heretics,—Garasi, Patarins, Poor Men of Lyons, Arnoldists, Speronists, Passageni, Wickliffites, Hussites, Fratricelli”HRSCV2 231.17

    Luther.—“For they desired to possess the Holy Scriptures, and required the pope to be sober and preach the Word of God.”HRSCV2 231.18

    The Pope.—“And Martin Luther, recently condemned by us for a similar heresy, as well as all his adherents, and all those, whomsoever they may be, who show him any countenance.”HRSCV2 231.19

    Luther.—“I thank thee, most gracious pontiff, for condemning me along with all these Christians! It is very honorable for me to have my name proclaimed at Rome on a day of festival, in so glorious a manner, that it may run through the world in conjunction with the names of these humble confessors of Jesus Christ.”HRSCV2 231.20

    The Pope.—“In like manner, we excommunicate and curse all pirates and corsairs”HRSCV2 231.21

    Luther.—“Who can be a greater corsair and pirate than he that robs souls, imprisons them, and puts them to death?”HRSCV2 231.22

    The Pope.—“Particularly those who navigate our seas”HRSCV2 231.23

    Luther.—“Our seas! Saint Peter, our predecessor, said: Silver and gold have I none (Acts 3:6); and Jesus Christ said: The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; but ye shall not be so (Luke 22:25). But if a wagon filled with hay must give place on the road to a drunken man, how much more must a Saint Peter and Christ himself give way to the pope!”HRSCV2 231.24

    The Pope.—“In like manner we excommunicate and curse all those who falsify our bulls and our apostolical letters”HRSCV2 231.25

    Luther.—“But God’s letters, the Holy Scriptures, all the world may condemn and burn.”HRSCV2 231.26

    The Pope.—“In like manner we excommunicate and curse all those who intercept the provisions that are coming to the court of Rome”HRSCV2 232.1

    Luther.—“He snarls and snaps, like a dog that fears his bone will be taken from him.”HRSCV2 232.2

    The Pope.—“In like manner we condemn and curse all those who withhold any judiciary dues, fruits, tithes, or revenues, belonging to the clergy”HRSCV2 232.3

    Luther.—“For Christ has said: If any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also (Matthew 5:40), and this is our commentary.”HRSCV2 232.4

    The Pope.—“Whatever be their station, dignity, order, power, or rank; were they even bishops or kings”HRSCV2 232.5

    Luther.—“For there shall be false teachers among you, who despise dominion and speak evil of dignities, says Scripture.” (Jude 8.)HRSCV2 232.6

    The Pope.—“In like manner we condemn and curse all those who, in any manner whatsoever, do prejudice to the city of Rome, the kingdom of Sicily, the islands of Sardinia and Corsica, the patrimony of St. Peter in Tuscany, the duchy of Spoleto, the marquisate of Ancona, the Campagna, the cities of Ferrara and Benevento, and all other cities or countries belonging to the Church of Rome.”HRSCV2 232.7

    Luther.—“O Peter! thou poor fisherman! whence didst thou get Rome and all these kingdoms? all hail, Peter! king of Sicily! and fisherman at Bethsaida!”HRSCV2 232.8

    The Pope.—“We excommunicate and curse all chancellors, councilors, parliaments, procurators, governors, officials, bishops, and others, who oppose our letters of exhortation, invitation, prohibition, mediation, execution.”HRSCV2 232.9

    Luther.—“For the holy see desires only to live in idleness, in magnificence, and debauchery; to command, to intimidate, to deceive, to lie, to dishonor, to seduce, and commit every kind of wickedness in peace and securityHRSCV2 232.10

    “O Lord, arise! it is not as the papists pretend; thou hast not forsaken us; thou hast not turned away thine eyes from us!”HRSCV2 232.11

    Thus spoke Leo at Rome and Luther at Wittenberg.HRSCV2 232.12

    The pontiff having ended these maledictions, the parchment on which they were written was torn in pieces, and the fragments scattered among the people. Immediately the crowd began to be violently agitated, each one rushing forward and endeavouring to seize a scrap of this terrible bull. These were the holy relics that the Papacy offered to its faithful adherents on the eve of the great day of grace and expiation. The multitude soon dispersed, and the neighborhood of the cathedral became deserted and silent as before. Let us now return to Wittenberg.HRSCV2 232.13

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