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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 1 of 2)

Accompanied Carlstadt and Luther


style="text-align: justify;">? 3. The Leipzig Disputation.(167)

Leipzig was an enemies' country, and his Wittenberg friends would not allow Luther to go there unaccompanied. The young Duke Barnim, who was Rector of the University of Wittenberg, accompanied Carlstadt and Luther, to give them the protection of his presence. Melanchthon, who had been a member of the teaching staff of Wittenberg since August 1518, Justus Jonas, and Nicholas Amsdorf went along with them. Two hundred Wittenberg students in helmets and halberts formed a guard, and walked beside the two country carts which carried their professors. An eye-witness of the scenes at Leipzig has left us sketches of what he saw:

"In the inns where the Wittenberg students lodged, the landlord kept a man standing with a halbert near the table to keep the peace while the Leipzig and the Wittenberg students disputed with each other. I have seen the same myself in the house of Herbipolis, a bookseller, where I went to dine ... for there was at table a Master Baumgarten ... who was so hot against the Wittenbergers that the host had to restrain him with a halbert to make him keep the peace so long as the Wittenbergers were in the house and sat and ate at the table with him."

The University buildings at Leipzig did not contain any hall large enough for the audience, and Duke George lent the

use of his great banqueting-room for the occasion. The discussions were preceded by a service in the church.

"When we got to the church ... they sang a Mass with twelve voices which had never been heard before. After Mass we went to the Castle, where we found a great guard of burghers in their armour with their best weapons and their banners; they were ordered to be there twice a day, from seven to nine in the morning and from two to five in the afternoon, to keep the peace while the Disputation lasted."(168)

First, there was a Disputation between Carlstadt and Eck, and then, on the fourth of July, Eck and Luther faced each other--both sons of peasants, met to protect the old or cleave a way for the new.

It was the first time that Luther had ever met a controversialist of European fame. John Eck came to Leipzig fresh from his triumphs at the great debates in Vienna and Bologna, and was and felt himself to be the hero of the occasion.

"He had a huge square body, a full strong voice coming from his chest, fit for a tragic actor or a town crier, more harsh than distinct; his mouth, eyes, and whole aspect gave one the idea of a butcher or a soldier rather than of a theologian. He gave one the idea of a man striving to overcome his opponent rather than of one striving to win a victory for the truth. There was as much sophistry as good reasoning in his arguments; he was continually misquoting his opponents' words or trying to give them a meaning they were not intended to convey."

"Martin," says the same eye-witness,

"is of middle height; his body is slender, emaciated by study and by cares; one can count almost all the bones; he stands in the prime of his age; his voice sounds clear and distinct ... however hard his opponent pressed him he maintained his calmness and his good nature, though in debate he sometimes used bitter words.... He carried a bunch of flowers in his hand, and when the discussion became hot he looked at it and smelt it."(169)

Eck's intention was to force his opponent to make some declaration which would justify him in charging Luther with being a partisan of the mediaeval heretics, and especially of the Hussites. He continually led the debate away to the Waldensians, the followers of Wiclif, and the Bohemians. The audience swayed with a wave of excitement when Luther was gradually forced to admit that there might be some truth in some of the Hussite opinions:


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