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    Chapter 7

    Departure for the Diet of Worms—Luther’s Farewell—His Condemnation is posted up—Cavalcade near Erfurth—Meeting between Jonas and Luther—Luther in his former Convent—Luther preaches at Erfurth—Incident—Faith and Works—Concourse of People and Luther’s Courage—Luther’s Letter to Spalatin—Stay at Frankfort—Fears at Worms—Plan of the Imperialists—Luther’s Firmness

    It was now the 2nd of April, and Luther had to take leave of his friends. After apprizing Lange, by a note, that he would spend the Thursday or Friday following at Erfurth, he bade farewell to his colleagues. Turning to Melancthon, he said with an agitated voice, “My dear brother, if I do not return, and my enemies put me to death, continue to teach, and stand fast in the truth. Labor in my stead, since I shall no longer be able to labor for myself. If you survive, my death will be of little consequence.” Then, committing his soul to the hands of Him who is faithful, Luther got into the car and quitted Wittenberg. The town-council had provided him with a modest conveyance, covered with an awning, which the travellers could set up or remove at pleasure. The imperial herald, wearing his robe of office, and carrying the imperial eagle, rode on horseback in front, attended by his servant. Next came Luther, Schurff, Amsdorff, and Suaven, in the car. The friends of the Gospel and the citizens of Wittenberg were deeply agitated,—and, invoking God’s aid, burst into tears. Thus Luther began his journey.HRSCV2 234.5

    He soon discovered that gloomy presentiments filled the hearts of all he met. At Leipsic no respect was shown him, and the magistrates merely presented him with the customary cup of wine. At Naumburg he met a priest, probably J. Langer, a man of stern zeal, who carefully preserved in his study a portrait of the famous Jerome Savonarola (who was burnt at Florence in 1498 by order of Pope Alexander VI), as a martyr to freedom and morality, as well as a confessor of the evangelical truth. Having taken down the portrait of the Italian martyr, the priest approached Luther, and held it out to him in silence. The latter understood what this mute representation was intended to announce, but his intrepid soul remained firm. “It is Satan,” said he, “that would prevent, by these terrors, the confession of the truth in the assembly of princes, for he foresees the blow it would inflict upon his kingdom.” “Stand firm in the truth thou hast proclaimed,” said the priest solemnly, “and God will as firmly stand by thee!”HRSCV2 234.6

    After passing the night at Naumburg, where he had been hospitably entertained by the burgomaster, Luther arrived the next evening at Weimar. He had hardly been a minute in the town, when he heard loud cries in every direction: it was the publication of his condemnation. “Look there!” said the herald. He turned his eyes, and with astonishment saw the imperial messengers going from street to street, everywhere posting up the emperor’s edict commanding his writings to be deposited with the magistrates. Luther doubted not that this unseasonable display of severity was intended to frighten him from undertaking the journey, so that he might be condemned as having refused to appear. “Well, doctor! will you proceed?” asked the imperial herald in alarm. “Yes!” replied Luther; “although interdicted in every city, I shall go on! I rely upon the emperor’s safe-conduct.”HRSCV2 234.7

    At Weimar, Luther had an audience with Duke John, brother to the Elector of Saxony, who resided there. The prince invited him to preach, and the reformer consented. Words of life flowed from the doctor’s agitated heart. A Franciscan monk, who heard him, by name of John Voit, the friend of Frederick Myconius, was then converted to the evangelical doctrine. He left his convent two years after, and somewhat later became professor of theology at Wittenberg. The duke furnished Luther with the money necessary for his journey.HRSCV2 235.1

    From Weimar the reformer proceeded to Erfurth. This was the city of his youth. Here he hoped to meet his friend Lange, if, as he had written to him, he might enter the city without danger. When about three or four leagues from the city, near the village of Nora, he perceived a troop of horsemen approaching in the distance. Were they friends or enemies? In a short time Crotus, rector of the university, Eobanus Hesse, the friend of Melancthon, and whom Luther styled the prince of poets, Euricius Cordus, John Draco, and others, to the number of forty, all members of the senate, the university, or of the burghers, greeted him with acclamations. A multitude of the inhabitants of Erfurth thronged the road, and gave utterance to their joy. All were eager to see the man who had dared to declare war against the pope.HRSCV2 235.2

    A man about twenty-eight years old, by name Justus Jonas, had outstripped the cavalcade. Jonas, after studying the law at Erfurth, had been appointed rector of that university in 1519. Receiving the light of the Gospel, which was shining forth in every direction, he had entertained the desire of becoming a theologian. “I think,” wrote Erasmus to him, “that God has elected you as an instrument to make known the glory of his son Jesus.” All his thoughts were turned towards Wittenberg and Luther. Some years before, when he was as yet a law-student, Jonas, who was a man of active and enterprising spirit, had set out on foot in company with a few friends, and had crossed forests infested with robbers, and cities devastated by the plague, in order to visit Erasmus, who was then at Brussels. Shall he now hesitate to confront other dangers by accompanying the reformer to Worms? He earnestly begged the favor to be granted him, and Luther consented. Thus met these two doctors, who were to labor together all their lives in the task of renovating the Church. Divine Providence gathered round Luther men who were destined to be the light of Germany: Melancthon, Amsdorff, Bugenhagen, and Jonas. On his return from Worms, Jonas was elected provost of the Church of Wittenberg, and doctor of divinity. “Jonas,” said Luther, “is a man whose life is worth purchasing at a large price, in order to retain him on earth.” No preacher ever surpassed him in his power of captivating his hearers.—“Pomeranus is a critic,” said Melancthon; “I am a dialectician, Jonas is an orator. Words flow from his lips with admirable beauty, and his eloquence is full of energy. But Luther surpasses us all.” It appears that about this time a friend of Luther’s childhood, and also one of his brothers, increased the number of his escort.HRSCV2 235.3

    The deputation from Erfurth had turned their horses’ heads. Luther’s carriage entered within the walls of the city, surrounded by horsemen and pedestrians. At the gate, in the public places, in the streets where the poor monk had so often begged his bread, the crowd of spectators was immense. Luther alighted at the convent of the Augustines, where the Gospel had first given consolation to his heart. Lange joyfully received him; Usingen, and some of the elder fathers, showed him much coldness. There was a great desire to hear him preach; the pulpit had been forbidden him, but the herald, sharing the enthusiasm of those about him, gave his consent.HRSCV2 235.4

    On the Sunday after Easter the church of the Augustines of Erfurth was filled to overflowing. This friar, who had been accustomed to former times to unclose the doors and sweep out the church, went up into the pulpit, and opening the Bible, read these words:—Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and side (John 20:19, 20). “Philosophers, doctors, and writers,” said he, “have endeavoured to teach men the way to obtain everlasting life, and they have not succeeded. I will now tell it to you.”HRSCV2 235.5

    This has been the great question in every age; accordingly Luther’s hearers redoubled their attention.HRSCV2 235.6

    “There are two kinds of works,” continued the reformer: “works not of ourselves, and these are good; our own works, and they are of little worth. One man builds a church; another goes on a pilgrimage to St. Jago of Compostella or St. Peter’s; a third fasts, prays, takes the cowl, and goes barefoot; another does something else. All these works are nothingness and will come to nought; for our own works have no virtue in them. But I am now going to tell you what is the true work. God has raised one man from the dead, the Lord Jesus Christ, that He might destroy death, extirpate sin, and shut the gates of hell. This is the work of salvation. The devil thought he had the Lord in his power, when he saw Him hanging between two thieves, suffering the most disgraceful martyrdom, accursed of God and of men But the Godhead displayed its power, and destroyed death, sin, and hellHRSCV2 235.7

    “Christ has vanquished! this is the joyful news! and we are saved by his work, and not by our own. The pope says differently: but I affirm that the holy mother of God herself was saved, neither by her virginity, nor by her maternity, nor by her purity, nor by her works, but solely by the instrumentality of faith and the works of God.”HRSCV2 236.1

    While Luther was speaking, a sudden noise was heard; one of the galleries cracked, and it was feared that it would break down under the pressure of the crowd. This incident occasioned a great disturbance in the congregation. Some ran out from their places; others stood motionless through fright. The preacher stopped a moment, and then stretching out his hand, exclaimed with a loud voice: “Fear nothing! there is no danger: it is thus the devil seeks to hinder me from proclaiming the Gospel, but he will not succeed.” At these words, those who were flying halted in astonishment and surprise; the assembly again became calm, and Luther, undisturbed by these efforts of the devil, continued thus: “You say a great deal about faith (you may perhaps reply to me): show us how we may obtain it. Well, I will teach you. Our Lord Jesus Christ said: Peace be unto you! behold my hands, that is to say, Behold, O man! it is I, I alone, who have taken away thy sin, and ransomed thee; and now thou hast peace, saith the Lord.HRSCV2 236.2

    “I have not eaten of the fruit of the forbidden tree,” resumed Luther, “nor have you; but we have all partaken of the sin that Adam has transmitted to us, and have gone astray. In like manner, I have not suffered on the cross, neither have you; but Christ has suffered for us; we are justified by God’s work, and not by our own… I am (saith the Lord) thy righteousness and thy redemption.HRSCV2 236.3

    “Let us believe in the Gospel and in the epistles of St. Paul, and not in the letters and decretals of the popes.”HRSCV2 236.4

    After proclaiming faith as the cause of the sinner’s justification, Luther proclaims works as the consequence and manifestation of salvation.HRSCV2 236.5

    “Since God has saved us,” continues he, “let us so order our works that they may be acceptable to him. Art thou rich? let thy goods administer to the necessities of the poor! Art thou poor? let thy services be acceptable to the rich! If thy labor is useful to thyself alone, the service that thou pretendest to render unto God is a lie.”HRSCV2 236.6

    In the whole of this sermon there is not a word about himself; not a single allusion to the circumstances in which he is placed: nothing about Worms, or Charles, or the nuncios; he preaches Christ, and Christ only. At this moment, when the eyes of all the world are upon him, he has no thought of himself: this stamps him as a true servant of God.HRSCV2 236.7

    Luther departed from Erfurth, and passed through Gotha, where he preached another sermon. Myconius adds, that as the people were leaving the church, the devil threw down from the pediment some stones that had not moved for two hundred years. The doctor slept at the convent of the Benedictines at Reinhardsbrunn, and from thence proceeded to Eisenach, where he felt indisposed. Amsdorff, Jonas, Schurff, and all his friends were alarmed. He was bled; they tended him with the most affectionate anxiety, and John Oswald, the schultheiss of the town, brought him a cordial. Luther having drunk a portion fell asleep, and, reinvigorated by this repose, he was enabled to continue his journey on the following morning.HRSCV2 236.8

    His progress resembled that of a victorious general. The people gazed with emotion on the daring man, who was going to lay his head at the feet of the emperor and the empire. An immense crowd flocked eagerly around him. “Ah!” said some, “there are so many bishops and cardinals at Worms! They will burn you, and reduce your body to ashes, as they did with John Huss.” But nothing frightened the monk. “Though they should kindle a fire,” said he, “all the way from Worms to Wittenberg, the flames of which reached to heaven, I would walk through it in the name of the Lord,—I would appear before them,—I would enter the jaws of this Behemoth, and break his teeth, confessing the Lord Jesus Christ.”HRSCV2 236.9

    One day, just as he had entered an inn, and the crowd was pressing around him as usual, an officer advanced and said: “Are you the man that has undertaken to reform the papacy? How can you hope to succeed?”—“Yes,” replied Luther, “I am the man. I trust in God Almighty, whose Word and commandment I have before me.” The officer was touched, and looking at him with a milder air, said: “My dear friend, what you say is a great matter. I am the servant of Charles, but your Master is greater than mine. He will aid and preserve you.” Such was the impression produced by Luther.HRSCV2 236.10

    Even his enemies were struck at the sight of the multitudes that thronged around him; but they depicted his journey in far different colors. The doctor arrived at Frankfort on Sunday the 14th of April.HRSCV2 237.1

    Already the news of Luther’s journey had reached Worms. The friends of the pope had thought that he would not obey the emperor’s summons. Albert, cardinal-archbishop of Mentz, would have given any thing to stop him on the road. New intrigues were put in motion at attain this result.HRSCV2 237.2

    As soon as Luther arrived in Frankfort, he took some repose, and afterwards gave intelligence of his approach to Spalatin, who was then at Worms with the elector. This was the only letter he wrote during his journey. “I am coming,” said he, “although Satan endeavoured to stop me on the road by sickness. Since I left Eisenach I have been in a feeble state, and am still as I never was before. I learn that Charles has published an edict to frighten me. But Christ lives, and I shall enter Worms in despite of all the gates of hell, and of the powers of the air. Have the goodness, therefore, to prepare a lodging for me.”HRSCV2 237.3

    The next day Luther went to visit the school of the learned William Nesse, a celebrated geographer of that period. “Apply to the study of the Bible, and to the investigation of the truth,” said he to the pupils. And then, putting his right hand on one of the children, and his left upon another, he pronounced a benediction on the whole school.HRSCV2 237.4

    If Luther blessed the young, he was also the hope of the aged. Catherine of Holzhausen, a widow far advanced in years, and who served God, approached him and said: “My parents told me that God would raise up a man who should oppose the papal vanities and preserve His Word. I hope thou art that man, and I pray for the grace and Holy Spirit of God upon thy work.”HRSCV2 237.5

    These were far from being the general sentiments in Frankfort. John Cochloeus, dean of the church of Our Lady, was one of the most devoted partisans of the papacy. He could not repress his apprehensions when he saw Luther pass through Frankfort on his road to Worms. He thought that the Church had need of devoted champions. It is true no one had summoned him; but that mattered not. Luther had scarcely quitted the city, when Cochloeus followed him, ready (said he) to sacrifice his life in defense of the honor of the Church.HRSCV2 237.6

    The alarm was universal in the camp of the pope’s friends. The heresiarch was arriving; every day and every hour brought him nearer to Worms. If he entered, all might perhaps be lost. Archbishop Albert, the confessor Glapio, and the politicians who surrounded the emperor, were confounded. How could they hinder this monk from coming? To carry him off by force was impossible, for he had Charles’s safe-conduct. Stratagem alone could stop him. These artful men immediately conceived the following plan. The emperor’s confessor and his head chamberlain, Paul of Amsdorff, hastily quitted Worms. They directed their course towards the castle of Ebernburg, about ten leagues from the city, the residence of Francis of Sickingen,—that knight who had offered an asylum to Luther. Bucer, a youthful Dominican, chaplain to the elector-palatine, and converted to the evangelical doctrine by the disputation at Heidelberg, had taken refuge in this “resting-place of the righteous.” The knight, who did not understand much about religious matters, was easily deceived, and the character of the palatine chaplain facilitated the confessor’s designs. In fact, Bucer was a man of pacific character. Making a distinction between fundamental and secondary points, he thought that the latter might be given up for the sake of unity and peace.HRSCV2 237.7

    The chamberlain and Charles’s confessor began their attack. They gave Sickingen and Bucer to understand, that Luther was lost if he entered Worms. They declared that the emperor was ready to send a few learned men to Ebernburg to confer with the doctor. “Both parties,” said they to the knight, “will place themselves under your protection.” “We agree with Luther on all essential points,” said they to Bucer; “it is now a question of merely secondary matters, and you shall mediate between us.” The knight and the doctor were staggered. The confessor and the chamberlain continued: “Luther’s invitation must proceed from you,” said they to Sickingen, “and Bucer shall carry it to him.” Everything was arranged according to their wishes. Only let the too credulous Luther go to Ebernburg, his safe-conduct will soon have expired, and then who shall defend him?HRSCV2 237.8

    Luther had arrived at Oppenheim. His safe-conduct was available for only three days more. He saw a troop of horsemen approaching him, and at their head soon recognized Bucer, with whom he had held such intimate conversations at Heidelberg.HRSCV2 237.9

    “These cavaliers belong to Francis of Sickingen,” said Bucer, after the first interchange of friendship; “he has sent me to conduct you to his castle. The emperor’s confessor desires to have an interview with you. His influence over Charles is unlimited; everything may yet be arranged. But beware of Aleander!” Jonas, Schurff, and Amsdorff knew not what to think. Bucer was pressing; but Luther felt no hesitation. “I shall continue my journey,” replied he to Bucer; “and if the emperor’s confessor has anything to say to me, he will find me at Worms. I go whither I am summoned.”HRSCV2 238.1

    In the mean while, Spalatin himself began to be anxious and to fear. Surrounded at Worms by the enemies of the Reformation, he heard it said that the safe-conduct of a heretic ought not to be respected. He grew alarmed for his friend. At the moment when the latter was approaching the city, a messenger appeared before him, with this advice from the chaplain: “Do not enter Worms!” And thus from his best friend—the elector’s confident—From Spalatin himself! But Luther, undismayed, turned his eyes on the messenger, and replied: “Go and tell your master, that even should there be as many devils in Worms as tiles on the house-tops, still I would enter it!” Never, perhaps, has Luther been so sublime! The messenger returned to Worms with this astounding answer. “I was then undaunted,” said Luther, a few days before his death; “I feared nothing. God can indeed render a man intrepid at any time; but I know not whether I should now have so much liberty and joy.”—“When our cause is good,” adds his disciple Mathesius, “the heart expands, and gives courage and energy to evangelists as well as to soldiers.”HRSCV2 238.2

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