Illustrations of the life of Martin Luther - THE DIET OF WORMS

(Scene : Hall of the Diet.) 13th APRIL, 1521.
Autor: Labouchere, P. H. (?-?), Erscheinungsjahr: 1862
Enthaltene Themen: Reformation, Reformationszeit, Reformatoren, Martin Luther, Melanchthon, Wittenberg, Wartburg, Eisenach,
LUTHER had been summoned by Charles V. to appear before the Imperial Diet. All his friends were alarmed, apprehending that the fate of John Huss would be his; but the Reformer, who was then in weak health, courageously exclaimed: "Caesar commands; I must obey. If I cannot go to Worms in health, I will be carried there in sickness."

He set out, and all along the road he heard nothing but fears and gloomy forebodings. Everybody wanted to stop him. "If they were to make a fire from Worms to Wittemberg, and the flames thereof rose to the heavens; still", he said, "I would appear before the Emperor, and confess Jesus Christ."

When he reached Worms, a great multitude of the townspeople and strangers immediately surrounded the inn at which he had stopped, for they were all curious to see him. "He is a monster of iniquity!" said one group. "He is a prodigy of virtue", said another. "It is quite unprecedented", said a courtier, "for a little monk to resist the Pope, the king, and the whole world!" "Perhaps so; but the weaker the man", answered a pious bystander, "the more the power of God shines forth in him." A few persons went in to speak with Luther, and then he was left alone.

At the moment of appearing before the mighty men of the earth his soul was troubled. Alone in his room at the inn, he grew alarmed; he felt terrified; his faith forsook him; God's face was veiled from him. A mortal sadness fell upon him. He drank the cup of Gethsemane with a soul all in tumult; he prostrated himself to the earth, and gave utterance to his anguish in broken exclamations. "Lord! my God! how terrible is the world! Its jaws are open to devour me. Alas! I have no power of myself to contend with these great men of the earth. It is not mine own work I am about, but thine! My God! hearest thou me not ? God, art thou dead?"

The agonized Luther fell helpless on the floor. At last he slowly raised his head, looked towards heaven, and committed his cause to the Lord, by making a sacrifice of his life. "O my God!" exclaimed he, "I am ready, meek as a lamb; for the cause is just and it is thine." After a moment's silence, he exclaimed again: "O God! I know that thou hast elected me for this work! For the sake of thy dearly-beloved son, Jesus Christ, keep by my side! Though my body should be cut in pieces, my soul is thine! O God, thou art my deliverance! "

Luther rose from his knees, and no longer felt afraid. He drew near the Bible which lay open on his table, and placing his left hand on it, he raised the right towards heaven, and said: "I swear to confess the Gospel freely, even should I seal that confession with my blood."

Just as it struck four on Thursday, the 18th of April, the marshal of the empire appeared to conduct Luther before the Diet. Luther followed him. In front went the herald, next came the marshal, and after him the Reformer. An immense crowd filled the streets. Luther was collected, his walk modest, but firm; his look peaceful, and even joyful: everything about him showed an imposing sublimity and enthusiasm. "God is in him", exclaimed many. "No", replied the Pope's friends; "it is a devil that drives him!" Luther had to wait some time in the courtyard of the Diet, in the midst of a crowd pressing round him from all sides.

The night had come: within the torches were lighted, and the glare reached into the court through the antique windows. All wore a solemn aspect. "God or Caesar?" murmured Luther to himself. "I said No to Tetzel; I said No to the Roman legate at Augsburg; I said No to the doctors in the hall at Leipsic; I have said No to the Pope, and have burnt his Bull. I have yet to say No to the Emperor."

When the princes met, Modo, chancellor of Flanders and bishop of Palermo, proposed a fiendish resolution: " No one is bound", he said, "to observe a safe-conduct given to a heretic. Let your Imperial Majesty seize this man, and put him to death." The Emperor, who exclaimed, some years later: "Why did I not crush this serpent in the egg?" made answer now: "What has been promised must be observed." The doors of the hall were thrown open, and Luther was led in.

For the first minute the poor monk was dazzled by the brilliancy which surrounded him, and he was deeply moved. If, at this supreme hour, he stumbles, the Reformation falls with him. Accordingly, he sought to strengthen himself in God, for never had man appeared before so formidable an assembly. The Emperor Charles Y. was on his throne, bearing the sceptre and the crown; at his right hand was his brother Ferdinand; near them, six electors, dukes, archbishops, marquises, bishops, ambassadors, princes, counts, and nuncios. There were two hundred and four persons in all.

Charles V., impatient to see a man about whom all Europe was talking, fixed on him an inquiring glance; and seeing only a puny monk, wasted by prayer and fasting, he turned towards one of his attendants, and said, disdainfully: "Certes, that man will never make a heretic of me!" The elector of Saxony kept his anxieties and his fears to himself. The duke of Alva turned on him a hard and cruel glance. The young landgrave of Hesse, then a youth' of seventeen, who wore a plumed hat, and thought of little besides hunting and feasting, felt an interest for the poor friar, for which he could not account. He rose, and went and placed himself at his right hand.

The chancellor of the elector of Treves spoke first, and said: "Martin Luther, do you maintain your writings, or are you willing to retract?" Luther had regained all his firmness and courage. He replied: "Most serene emperor, illustrious princes, gracious lords, how can I retract writings in which I have treated of faith in the purest manner? others, wherein I have combated doctrines by whose help the popes vex the consciences of the faithful? others, finally, in which I have attacked (a little violently, perhaps) certain persons who put forth blasphemies and oppress the people of God? If I retracted, woe is me! what should I do?"

Luther had spoken in German, modestly, but with warmth and firmness: he repeated his answer in Latin. The orator of the Diet then said to him with indignation: "I ask for a clear and precise answer. Will you retract,' or will you not?" Luther replied: "This is my answer. Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, I cannot and I will not retract." Then casting his eyes around the assembly, who held his life in their hands:" Here I am. I CAN DO NO MORE. MAY GOD HELP ME. AMEN!"

Thus spoke a plain monk before the emperor and the great men of his nation; and this weak man, as he stood there alone, but supported by grace from on high, was greater and stronger than them all. The Empire and the Church, persuasion and cruelty, all were shattered against that immovable will, animated by the liveliest faith. God had gathered together these kings and priests of the earth, publicly to humble their wisdom and their power. Even Charles could not contain himself, but exclaimed: “The monk speaks with an intrepid heart and unshakeable courage."

Such was the day of Worms. It was there, by his heroic boldness, that Luther confessed that Jesus Christ is King of the Church; that if the Christian owes obedience to his prince in things of the earth, he must, as a citizen of the heavenly kingdom, reject stoutly every order contrary to God's Word, and obey only the King of kings.

Luther, der Reichstag zu Worms

Luther, der Reichstag zu Worms