Luther and the Reformation: eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 145 pages of information about Luther and the Reformation:.

It was now that Maximilian died (Jan. 17, 1519), and Charles V., his grandson, a Spanish prince of nineteen years, succeeded to his place.  The Imperial crown was laid at the feet of the Elector Frederick, Luther’s friend, but he declined it in favor of Charles, only exacting a solemn pledge that he would not disturb the liberties of Germany.  Civil freedom is one of the glorious fruits of the Reformation, and here already it began to raise barricades against despotic power.


[8] A writer of the Roman Church, in a vein of somewhat mingled sarcasm and seriousness, remarks:  “The university had reason to be proud of Luther, whose oral lectures attracted a multitude of strangers; these pilgrims from distant quarters joined their hands and bowed their heads at the sight of the towers of the city, like other travelers before Jerusalem.  Wittenberg was like a new Zion, whence the light of truth expanded to neighboring kingdoms, as of old from the Holy City to pagan nations.”


Up to this time, however, there had been no questioning of the divine rights claimed by the hierarchy.  Luther was still a Papist, and thought to grow his plants of evangelic faith under the shadow of the Upas of ecclesiasticism.  He had not yet been brought to see how his Augustinian theology concerning sin and grace ran afoul of the entire round of the mediaeval system and methods of holiness.  It was only the famous Leipsic Disputation between him and Dr. John Eck that showed him the remoter and deeper relations of his position touching indulgences.

This otherwise fruitless debate had the effect of making the nature and bearings of the controversy clear to both sides.  Eck now distinctly saw that Luther must be forcibly put down or the whole papal system must fall; and Luther was made to realize that he must surrender his doctrine of salvation through simple faith in Christ or break with the pope and the hierarchical system.

Accepting the pontifical doctrines as true, Eck claimed the victory, because he had driven Luther to expressions at variance with those doctrines.  On the other hand, Luther had shown that the pontifical claims were without foundation in primitive Christianity or the Holy Scriptures; that the Papacy was not of divine authority or of the essence of the Church; that the Church existed before and beyond the papal hierarchy, as well as under it; that the only Head of the universal Christian Church is Christ himself; that wherever there is true faith in God’s Word, there the Church is, whatever the form of external organization; that the popes could err and had erred, and councils likewise; and that neither separately nor together could they rightfully decree or ordain contrary to the Scriptures, the only infallible Rule.

To all this Eck could make no answer except that it was Hussism over again, which the Council of Constance had condemned, and that, from the standpoint of the hierarchy, Luther was a heretic and ought to be dealt with accordingly.

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Luther and the Reformation: from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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