Chapter 9: An Account of the Life and Persecutions of Martin Luther (3/4)

About the end of this year, Luther published a book, in which he contended for the Communion being celebrated in both kinds; which was condemned by the bishop of Misnia, January 24, 1520.

While Luther was laboring to excuse himself to the new emperor and the bishops of Germany, Eccius had gone to Rome, to solicit his condemnation; which, it may easily be conceived, was now become not difficult to be attained. Indeed the continual importunities of Luther’s adversaries with Leo, caused him at length to publish a formal condemnation of him, and he did so accordingly, in a bull, dated June 15, 1520. This was carried into Germany, and published there by Eccius, who had solicited it at Rome; and who, together with Jerome Alexander, a person eminent for his learning and eloquence, was intrusted by the pope with the execution of it. In the meantime, Charles V of Spain, after he had set things to rights in the Low Countries, went into Germany, and was crowned emperor, October the twenty-first at Aix-la-Chapelle.

Martin Luther, after he had been first accused at Rome upon Maunday Thursday by the pope’s censure, shortly after Easter speedeth his journey toward Worms, where the said Luther, appearing before the emperor and all the states of Germany, constantly stuck to the truth, defended himself, and answered his adversaries.

Luther was lodged, well entertained, and visited by many earls, barons, knights of the order, gentlemen, priests, and the commonalty, who frequented his lodging until night.

He came, contrary to the expectation of many, as well adversaries as others. His friends deliberated together, and many persuaded him not to adventure himself to such a present danger, considering how these beginnings answered not the faith of promise made. Who, when he had heard their whole persuasion and advice, answered in this wise: “As touching me, since I am sent for, I am resolved and certainly determined to enter Worms, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; yea, although I knew there were as many devils to resist me as there are tiles to cover the houses in Worms.”

The next day, the herald brought him from his lodging to the emperor’s court, where he abode until six o’clock, for that the princes were occupied in grave consultations; abiding there, and being environed with a great number of people, and almost smothered for the press that was there. Then after, when the princes were set, and Luther entered, Eccius, the official, spake in this manner: “Answer now to the Emperor’s demand. Wilt thout maintain all thy books which thou hast acknowledged, or revoke any part of them, and submit thyself?”

Martin Luther answered modestly and lowly, and yet not without some stoutness of stomach, and Christian constancy. “Considering your sovereign majesty, and your honors, require a plain answer; this I say and profess as resolutely as I may, without doubting or sophistication, that if I be not convinced by testimonies of the Scriptures (for I believe not the pope, neither his general Councils, which have erred many times, and have been contrary to themselves), my conscience is so bound and captivated in these Scriptures and the Word of God, that I will not, nor may not revoke any manner of thing; considering it is not godly or lawful to do anything against conscience. Hereupon I stand and rest: I have not what else to say. God have mercy upon me!”

The princes consulted together upon this answer given by Luther; and when they had diligently examined the same, the prolucutor began to repel him thus:

“The Emperor’s majesty requireth of thee a simple answer, either negative or affirmative, whether thou mindest to defend all thy works as Christian, or no?”

Then Luther, turning to the emperor and the nobles, besought them not to force or compel him to yield against his conscience, confirmed with the Holy Scriptures, without manifest arguments alleged to the contrary by his adversaries. “I am tied by the Scriptures.”

Before the Diet of Worms was dissolved, Charves V caused an edict to be drawn up, which was dated the eighth of May, and decreed that Martin Luther be, agreeably to the sentence of the pope, henceforward looked upon as a member separated from the Church, a schismatic, and an obstinate and notorious heretic. While the bull of Leo X executed by Charles V was thundering throughout the empire, Luther was safely shut up in the castle of Wittenberg; but weary at length of his retirement, he appeared publicly again at Wittenberg, March 6, 1522, after he had been absent about ten months.

Luther now made open war with the pope and bishops; and, that he might make the people despise their authority as much as possible, he wrote one book against the pope’s bull, and another against the order falsely called “The Order of Bishops.” He published also a translation of the New Testament in the German tongue, which was afterward corrected by himself and Melancthon.

Affairs were now in great confusion in Germany; and they were not less so in Italy, for a quarrel arose between the pope and the emperor, during which Rome was twice taken, and the pope imprisoned. While the princes were thus employed in quarrelling with each other, Luther persisted in carrying on the work of the Reformation, as well by opposing the papists, as by combating the Anabaptists and other fanatical sects; which, having taken the advantage of his contest with the Church of Rome, had sprung up and established themselves in several places.

Foxe’s Book of the Martyrs, Chapter 9

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