’As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him. Rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith.’
What an objection some people have to strong measures! They see around them, amongst those under their influence, a great deal going on which is downright evil. You call upon them to put a stop to it, and to do all in their power to prevent it.
But what do they say? They tell you they will go gently and quietly to work; but they do not like to hurt other people’s feelings, or to tread upon their prejudices. They have no objection to try gradually, quietly, and gently, to turn the tide of evil into a good and holy channel, but they hate and abominate anything in the shape of strong measures.
And yet there are cases where nothing short of strong measures will be of any avail. Here is a man who has a diseased hand. For some time the doctor has been trying gentle remedies: the poultice, the plaster, the fomentation, have all been tried. But now the doctor sees a change in the appearance of the hand. He sees very clearly that mortification is setting in. No poultice, no plaster, no fomentation will be of any avail now, nothing but the knife, nothing but cutting off the limb will save the man’s life. What a foolish doctor he would be, who should refuse in such a case to take strong measures!
The great reformer, Martin Luther, looked around him, and what did he see? The whole civilized world a slave at the feet of one man, the Pope of Rome, obeying that man as if he were God; believing every word that came from his mouth, following carefully in his footsteps as he led them astray.
Luther feels nothing will do but strong measures. He will not go gently and quietly to work in his reform, for he feels that would be of no use; the case is so serious that nothing but a strong and decided step will answer the purpose. His strong step consisted in the making of a bonfire. On December 10, 1520, as the students of the great University at Wittenburg came to the college, they found fastened to the walls a notice inviting them and the professors, and all who liked to come, to meet Martin Luther at the east gate of the college at nine o’clock the following morning.
Full of curiosity, they assembled in great numbers to find a bonfire, and Luther standing by it with a paper in his hand. That paper was a letter from the Pope to Luther, telling him that if he did not recant from all he was teaching in less than sixty days, the Pope would give him over to Satan. After reading the letter to the assembled crowd, Luther solemnly threw it into the flames and watched it burn to ashes, that all might see how little he cared for the Pope or his threats. From that time there could be no more peace between Luther and Rome.
It was certainly a strong measure, and Luther owns that he had to make a great effort to force himself to take it. He says: ’When I burnt the bull, it was with inward fear and trembling, but I look upon that act with more pleasure than upon any passage of my life.’ For Luther felt, and felt rightly, that the glorious Reformation would never have been brought about unless he had used strong measures.