LUTHER’S REFUSAL TO RECANT.
A weak, poor man, arraigned and alone before the assembled powers of the earth, with only the grace of God and his cause on which to lean, had demand made of him whether or not he would retract his books or any part of them, Yes or No. But he did not shrink, neither did he falter. “Since Your Imperial Majesty and Your Excellencies require of me a direct and simple answer, I will give it. To the pope or councils I cannot submit my faith, for it is clear that they have erred and contradicted one another. Therefore, unless I am convinced by proofs from Holy Scripture or by sound reasons, and my judgment by this means is commanded by God’s Word, I cannot and will not retract anything: for a Christian cannot safely go contrary to his conscience.” And, glancing over the august assembly, on whose will his life hung, he added in deep solemnity, those immortal words: “HERE I STAND. I CAN DO NO OTHERWISE. SO HELP ME GOD! AMEN."
Simple were the facts. Luther afterward wrote to a friend: “I expected His Majesty would bring fifty doctors to convict the monk outright; but it was not so. The whole history is this: Are these your books? Yes.—Will you retract them? No.—Well then, begone.”
He said the truth, but he could not then know all that was involved in what he reduced to such a simple colloquy. With that Yes and No the wheel of ages made another revolution. The breath which spoke them turned the balances in which the whole subsequent history of civilization hung. It was the Yes and No which applied the brakes to the Juggernaut of usurpation, whose ponderous wheels had been crushing through the centuries. It was the Yes and No which evidenced the reality of a power above all popes and empires. It was the Yes and No which spoke the supreme obligation of the human soul to obey God and conscience, and started once more the pulsations of liberty in the arteries of man. It was the Yes and No which divided eras, and marked the summit whence the streams began to form and flow to give back to this world a Church without a pope and a State without an Inquisition.
Charles had the happiness at Worms to hear the tidings that Fernando Cortes had added Mexico to his dominions. The emancipated peoples of the earth in the generations since have had the happiness to know that at Worms, through the inflexible steadfastness of Martin Luther, God gave the inspirations of a new and better life for them!