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    Chapter 3

    Arrival of Eck and of the Wittenbergers—Amsdorff—The Students—Carlstadt’s Accident—Placard—Eck and Luther—The Pleissenburg—Judges proposed—Luther objects—He consents at last

    While the electors were meeting at Frankfort to choose an emperor (June 1519), the theologians assembled at Leipsic for an act unnoticed by the world at large, but whose importance was destined to be quite as great for posterity.HRSCV2 164.4

    Eck came first to the rendezvous. On the 21st of June he entered Leipsic with Poliander, a young man whom he had brought from Ingolstadt to write an account of the disputation. Every mark of respect was paid to the scholastic doctor. Robed in his sacerdotal garments, and at the head of a numerous procession, he paraded the streets of the city on the festival of Corpus Christi. All were eager to see him: the inhabitants were on his side, he tells us himself; “yet,” adds he, “a report was current in the town that I should be beaten in this combat.”HRSCV2 164.5

    On the day succeeding the festival (Friday, 24th June), which was the feast of Saint John, the Wittenbergers arrived, Carlstadt, who was to contend with Doctor Eck, sat alone in his carriage, and preceded all the rest. Duke Barnim of Pomerania, who was then studying at Wittenberg, and who had been named honorary rector of the university, came next in an open carriage: at each side were seated the two great divines—the fathers of the Reformation—Luther and Melancthon. The latter would not quit his friend. “Martin, the soldier of the Lord,” he had said to Spalatin, “has stirred up this fetid pool. My spirit is vexed when I think of the disgraceful conduct of the papal theologians. Be firm, and abide with us!” Luther himself had wished that his Achates, as he called him, should accompany him.HRSCV2 164.6

    John Lange, vicar of the Augustines, many doctors in law, several masters of arts, two licentiates in theology, and other ecclesiastics, among whom was Nicholas Amsdorff, closed the procession. Amsdorff, sprung from a noble family, valuing little the brilliant career to which his illustrious birth might have called him, had dedicated himself to theology. The theses on indulgences had brought him to a knowledge of the truth. He had immediately made a bold confession of faith. Possessing a strong mind and an ardent character, Amsdorff frequently excited Luther, who was naturally vehement enough, to acts that were perhaps imprudent. Born in exalted rank, he had no fear of the great, and he sometimes spoke to them with a freedom bordering on rudeness. “The Gospel of Jesus Christ,” said he one day before an assembly of nobles, “belongs to the poor and afflicted—not to you, princes, lords, and courtiers, who live continually in luxury and pleasures.”HRSCV2 164.7

    But these persons alone did not form the procession from Wittenberg. A great number of students followed their teachers: Eck affirms that they amounted to two hundred. Armed with pikes and halberds, they surrounded the carriages of the doctors, ready to defend them, and proud of their cause.HRSCV2 165.1

    Such was the order in which the cortege of the reformers arrived in Leipsic. They had already entered by the Grimma gate, and advanced as far as St. Paul’s cemetery, when one of the wheels of Carlstadt’s carriage gave way. The archdeacon, whose vanity was delighted at so solemn an entry, rolled into the mud. He was not hurt, but he was compelled to proceed to his lodgings on foot. Luther’s carriage, which followed next, rapidly outstripped him, and bore the reformer in safety to his quarters. The inhabitants of Leipsic, who had assembled to witness the entry of the Wittenberg champions, looked upon this accident as an evil omen to Carlstadt: and erelong the whole city was of opinion that he would be vanquished in the combat, but that Luther would come off victorious.HRSCV2 165.2

    Adolphus of Merseburg was not idle. As soon as he heard of the approach of Luther and Carlstadt, and even before they had alighted from their carriages, he ordered placards to be posted upon the doors of all the churches, forbidding the opening of the disputation under pain of excommunication. Duke George, astonished at this audacity, commanded the town-council to tear down the placards, and committed to prison the bold agent who had ventured to execute the bishop’s order. George has repaired to Leipsic, attended by all his court, among whom was that Jerome Emser at whose house in Dresden Luther had passed a remarkable evening. George made the customary presents to the respective combatants. “The duke,” observed Eck with vanity, “gave me a fine deer; but he only gave a fawn to Carlstadt.”HRSCV2 165.3

    Immediately on hearing of Luther’s arrival, Eck went to visit the Wittenberg doctor. “What is this!” asked he; “I am told that you refuse to dispute with me!”HRSCV2 165.4

    Luther.—“How can I, since the duke has forbidden me?”HRSCV2 165.5

    Eck.—“If I cannot dispute with you, I care little about meeting Carlstadt. It was on your account I came here.” Then after a moment’s silence he added: “If I can procure you the duke’s permission, will you enter the lists with me?”HRSCV2 165.6

    Luther, joyfully.—“Procure it for me, and we will fight.”HRSCV2 165.7

    Eck immediately waited on the duke, and endeavoured to remove his fears. He represented to him that he was certain of victory, and that the papal authority, far from suffering in the dispute, would come forth covered with glory. The ringleader must be attacked: if Luther remains standing, all stands with him; if he falls, everything will fall with him. George granted the required permission.HRSCV2 165.8

    The duke had caused a large hall to be prepared in his palace of the Pleissenburg. Two pulpits had been erected opposite each other; tables were placed for the notaries commissioned to take down the discussion, and benches had been arranged for the spectators. The pulpits and benches were covered with handsome hangings. Over the pulpit of the Wittenberg doctor was suspended the portrait of Saint Martin, whose name he bore; over that of Doctor Eck, a representation of Saint George the champion. “We shall see,” said the presumptuous Eck, as he looked at this emblem, “whether I shall not ride over my enemies.” Every thing announced the importance that was attached to this contest.HRSCV2 165.9

    On the 25th June, both parties met at the palace to hear the regulations that were to be observed during the disputation. Eck, who had more confidence in his declamations and gestures than in his arguments, exclaimed, “We will dispute freely and extemporaneously; and the notaries shall not take down our words in writing.”HRSCV2 165.10

    Carlstadt.—“It has been agreed that the disputation should be reported, published, and submitted to the judgment of all men.”HRSCV2 165.11

    Eck.—“To take down every thing that is said is dispiriting to the combatants, and prolongs the battle. There is an end to that animation which such a discussion requires. Do not check the flow of eloquence.”HRSCV2 165.12

    The friends of Doctor Eck supported his proposition, but Carlstadt persisted in his objections. The champion of Rome was obliged to give way.HRSCV2 165.13

    Eck.—“Be it so; it shall be taken down. But do not let the notes be published before they have been submitted to the examination of chosen judges.”HRSCV2 165.14

    Luther.—“Does then the truth of Doctor Eck and his followers dread the light?”HRSCV2 165.15

    Eck.—“We must have judges.”HRSCV2 165.16

    Luther.—“What judges?”HRSCV2 165.17

    Eck.—“When the disputation is finished, we will arrange about selecting them.”HRSCV2 165.18

    The object of the partisans of Rome was evident. If the Wittenberg divines accepted judges, they were lost; for their adversaries were sure beforehand of those who would be applied to. If they refused these judges, they would be covered with shame, for their opponents would circulate the report that they were afraid to submit their opinions to impartial arbitrators.HRSCV2 165.19

    The judges whom the reformers demanded were, not any particular individual, whose opinion had been previously formed, but all Christendom. They appealed to this universal suffrage. Besides, it was a slight matter to them if they were condemned, if, while pleading their cause before the whole world, they brought a few souls to the knowledge of the truth. “Luther,” says a Romanist historian, “required all men for his judges; that is, such a tribunal that no urn could have been vast enough to contain the votes.”HRSCV2 166.1

    They separated. “See what artifices they employ,” said Luther and his friends one to another. “They desire no doubt to have the pope or the universities for judges.”HRSCV2 166.2

    In fact, on the next morning the Romanist divines sent one of their number to Luther, who was commissioned to propose that their judge should be—the pope! “The pope!” said Luther; “how can I possibly agree to this?”HRSCV2 166.3

    “Beware,” exclaimed all his friends, “of acceding to conditions so unjust.” Eck and his party held another council. They gave up the pope, and proposed certain universities. “Do not deprive us of the liberty which you had previously granted,” answered Luther.—“We cannot give way on this point,” replied they.—“Well then!” exclaimed Luther, “I will take no part in the discussion!”HRSCV2 166.4

    Again the parties separated, and this matter was a general topic of conversation throughout the city. “Luther,” everywhere exclaimed the Romanists, “Luther will not dispute! He will not acknowledge any judge!” His words were commented on and misrepresented, and his adversaries endeavoured to place them in the most unfavorable light. “What! does he really decline the discussion?” said the reformer’s best friends. They went to him and expressed their alarm. “You refuse to take any part in the discussion!” cried they. “Your refusal will bring everlasting disgrace on your university and on your cause.” This was attacking Luther on his weakest side.—“Well then!” replied he, his heart overflowing with indignation, “I accept the conditions imposed upon me; but I reserve the right of appeal, and except against the court of Rome.HRSCV2 166.5

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