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

The destructive and dangerous impetuosity of Carlstadt


If

this _Instruction_ did finally determine him, it was only one of many things urging Luther to leave his solitude. He cared little for the influence of the Zwickau Prophets,(313) estimating them at their true value, but the weakness of Melanchthon, the destructive and dangerous impetuosity of Carlstadt, the spread of the tumult beyond Wittenberg, the determination of Duke George to make use of these outbursts to destroy the whole movement for reformation, and the interference of the _Reichsregiment_ with its mandates, made him feel that the decisive moment had come when he must be again among his own people.

He started on his lonely journey, most of it through an enemy's country, going by Erfurt, Jena, Borna, and Leipzig. He was dressed as "Junker Georg," with beard on his chin and sword by his side. At Erfurt he had a good-humoured discussion with a priest in the inn; and Kessler, the Swiss student, tells how he met a stranger sitting in the parlour of the "Bear" at Jena with his hand on the hilt of his sword, and reading a small Hebrew Psalter. He got to Wittenberg on Friday, March 7th; spent that afternoon and the next day in discussing the situation with his friends Amsdorf, Melanchthon, and Jerome Schurf.(314)

On Sunday he appeared in the pulpit, and for eight successive days he preached to the people, and the plague was stayed. Many things in the movement set agoing by Carlstadt met with his approval. He

had come to believe in the marriage of the clergy; he disapproved strongly of private Masses; he had grave doubts on the subject of monastic vows; but he disapproved of the violence, of the importance attached to outward details, and of the use of force to advance the Reformation movement:

"The Word created heaven and earth and all things; the same Word will also create now, and not we poor sinners. _Summa summarum_, I will preach it, I will talk about it, I will write about it, but I will not use force or compulsion with anyone; for faith must be of freewill and unconstrained, and must be accepted without compulsion. To marry, to do away with images, to become monks or nuns, or for monks and nuns to leave their convents, to eat meat on Friday or not to eat it, and other like things--all these are open questions, and should not be forbidden by any man. If I employ force, what do I gain? Changes in demeanour, outward shows, grimaces, shams, hypocrisies. But what becomes of the sincerity of the heart, of faith, of Christian love? All is wanting where these are lacking; and for the rest I would not give the stalk of a pear. What we want is the heart, and to win that we must preach the gospel. Then the word will drop into one heart to-day, and to-morrow into another, and so will work that each will forsake the Mass."

He made no personal references; he blamed no individuals; and in the end he was master of the situation.


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