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

And at its head was placed the Archbishop of Trier


Nevertheless,

the Diet appointed a Commission (April 22nd) to confer with Luther, and at its head was placed the Archbishop of Trier, who was perhaps the only one among the higher ecclesiastics of Germany whom Luther thoroughly trusted. They had several meetings with the Reformer, the first being on the 24th of April. All the members of the Commission were sincerely anxious to arrange a compromise; but after the Emperor's declaration that was impossible, as Luther himself clearly saw. No set of resolutions, however skilfully framed, could reconcile the Emperor's belief that a General Council was infallible and Luther's phrase, "a conscience bound to the Holy Scriptures." No proposals to leave the final decision to the Emperor and the Pope, to the Emperor alone, to the Emperor and the Estates, to a future General Council (all of which were made), could patch up a compromise between two such contradictory standpoints. Compromise must fail in a fight of faiths, and that was the nature of the opposition between Charles V. and Luther throughout their lives. What divided them was no subordinate question about doctrine or ritual; it was fundamental, amounting to an entirely different conception of the whole round of religion. The moral authority of the individual conscience confronted the legal authority of an ecclesiastical assembly. In after days the monk regretted that he had not spoken out more boldly before the Diet. Shortly before his death, the Emperor expressed his regret that he had not burned
the obstinate heretic. When the Commission had failed, Luther asked leave to reveal his whole innermost thoughts to the Archbishop of Trier, under the seal of confession, and the two had a memorable private interview. Aleander fiercely attacked the Archbishop for refusing to disclose what passed between them; but the prelate was a German bishop with a conscience, and not an unscrupulous dependant on a shameless Curia. No one knew what Luther's confession was. The Commission had to report that its efforts had proved useless. Luther was ordered to leave Worms and return to Wittenberg, without preaching on the journey; his safe conduct was to expire in twenty-one days after the 26th of April. At their expiry he was liable to be seized and put to death as a pestilent heretic. There remained only to draft and publish the edict containing the ban. The days passed, and it did not appear.

Suddenly the startling news reached Worms that Luther had disappeared, no one knew where. Aleander, as usual, had the most exact information, and gives the fullest account of the rumours which were flying about. Cochlaeus, who was at Frankfurt, sent him a man who had been at Eisenach, had seen Luther's uncle, and had been told by him about the capture. Five horsemen had dashed at the travelling waggon, had seized Luther, and had ridden off with him. Who the captors were or by whose authority they had acted, no one could tell. "Some blame me," says Aleander, "others the Archbishop of Mainz: would God it were true!" Some thought that


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