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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

The meeting took place at Altenburg in 1519 the Nuncio


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one man, however, dared to come out openly and condemn the Papal trade in sin and crime. This was Dr. Martin Luther, who, on the 31st of October, 1517, nailed upon the door of the Church at Wittenberg a series of ninety-five theses, or theological declarations, the truth of which he offered to prove, against all adversaries. The substance of them was that the pardon of sins came only from God, and could only be purchased by true repentance; that to offer absolutions for sale, as Tetzel was doing, was an unchristian act, contrary to the genuine doctrines of the Church; and that it could not, therefore, have been sanctioned by the Pope. Luther's object, at this time, was not to separate from the Church of Rome, but to reform and purify it.

[Sidenote: 1518.]

The ninety-five theses, which were written in Latin, were immediately translated, printed, and circulated throughout Germany. They were followed by replies, in which the action of the Pope was defended; Luther was styled a heretic, and threatened with the fate of Huss. He defended himself in pamphlets, which were eagerly read by the people; and his followers increased so rapidly that Leo X., who had summoned him to Rome for trial, finally agreed that he should present himself before the Papal Legate, Cardinal Cajetanus, at Augsburg. The latter simply demanded that Luther should retract what he had preached and written, as being contrary to the Papal bulls;

whereupon Luther, for the first time, was compelled to declare that "the command of the Pope can only be respected as the voice of God, when it is not in conflict with the Holy Scriptures." The Cardinal afterwards said: "I will have nothing more to do with that German beast, with the deep eyes and the whimsical speculations in his head!" and Luther said of him: "He knew no more about the Word than a donkey knows of harp-playing."

The Vicar-General of the Augustines was still Luther's friend, and, fearing that he was not safe in Augsburg, he had him let out of the city at daybreak, through a small door in the wall, and then supplied with a horse. Having reached Wittenberg, where he was surrounded with devoted followers, Frederick the Wise was next ordered to give him up. About the same time Leo X. declared that the practices assailed by Luther were doctrines of the Church, and must be accepted as such. Frederick began to waver; but the young Philip Melanchthon, Justus Jonas, and other distinguished men connected with the University exerted their influence, and the Elector finally refused the demand. The Emperor Maximilian, now near his end, sent a letter to the Pope, begging him to arrange the difficulty, and Leo X. commissioned his Nuncio, a Saxon nobleman named Karl von Miltitz, to meet Luther. The meeting took place at Altenburg in 1519: the Nuncio, who afterwards reported that he "would not undertake to remove Luther from Germany with the help of 10,000 soldiers, for he had found ten men for him where one was for the Pope"--was a mild and conciliatory man. He prayed Luther to pause, for he was destroying the peace of the Church, and succeeded, by his persuasions, in inducing him to promise to keep silence, provided his antagonists remained silent also.


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