Bellarmine, an honored author of the Roman Church, one competent to judge concerning the state of things at that time, and not over-forward to confess it, says: “For some years before the Lutheran and Calvinistic heresies were published there was not (as contemporary authors testify) any rigor in ecclesiastical judicatories, any discipline with regard to morals, any knowledge of sacred literature, any reverence for divine things: THERE WAS ALMOST NO RELIGION REMAINING.”—Bellarm., Concio xviii., Opera, tom. vi. col. 296, edit. Colon., 1617, apud Gerdesii Hist. Evan. Renovati, vol. i. p. 25.
LUTHER AS TOWN-PREACHER.
On his return the Senate of Wittenberg elected him town-preacher. In the cloister, in the castle chapel, and in the collegiate church he alternately exercised his gifts. Romanists admit that “his success was great. He said he would not imitate his predecessors, and he kept his word. For the first time a Christian preacher was seen to abandon the Schoolmen and draw his texts and illustrations from the writings of inspiration. He was the originator and restorer of expository preaching in modern times.”
The Elector heard him, and was filled with admiration. An old professor, whom the people called “the light of the world,” listened to him, and was struck with his wonderful insight, his marvelous imagination, and his massive solidity. And Wittenberg sprang into great renown because of him, for never before had been heard in Saxony such a luminous expositor of God’s holy Word.
LUTHER MADE A DOCTOR.
On all hands it was agreed and insisted that he should be made a doctor of divinity. The costs were heavy, for simony was the order of the day and the pope exacted high prices for all church promotions; but the Elector paid the charges.
On the 18th of October, 1512, the degree was conferred. It was no empty title to Luther. It gave him liberties and rights which his enemies could not gainsay, and it laid on him obligations and duties which he never forgot. The obedience to the canons and the hierarchy which it exacted he afterward found inimical to Christ and the Gospel, and, as in duty bound, he threw it off, with other swaddling-bands of Popery. But there was in it the pledge “to devote his whole life to the study, exposition and defence of the Holy Scriptures.” This he accepted, and ever referred to as his sacred charter and commission. Nor was it without significance that the great bell of Wittenberg was rung when proclamation of this investiture was made. As the ringing of the bell on the old State-house when the Declaration of Independence was passed proclaimed the coming liberties of the American colonies, so this sounding of the great bell of Wittenberg when Luther was made doctor of divinity proclaimed and heralded to the nations of the earth the coming deliverance of the enslaved Church. God’s chosen servant had received his commission, and the better day was soon to dawn.