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Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Date Posted:

Martin Luther

Events Leading To Leipzig

Taken from Wylie’s History of Protestantism, and edited by Dr Clive Gillis
Dr Clive Gillis

At this time Maximilian, Emperor of Germany, seemed even more intent on crushing Luther than was the Pope. Maximilian's letters chided the Pope for inaction.

Elector Frederick, Luther's earthly defender, stood aloof and Luther's exclusion from Wittenberg loomed. So Rome then employed softness. Charles Miltitz the pope's chamberlain, a German by birth, and less haughty than Cajetan, arrived in 1518 with pleasantries, papal briefs and a golden rose for Frederick. Envoy and monk met each other in the house of Spalatin at Altenberg. Miltitz flattered Luther saying his following exceeded those of the Pope. Promising he would not carry the Reformer away he nevertheless pointed to his soldiers. Luther was not taken in.

Tetzel had gone beyond his commission soothed Miltitz. Little wonder Luther had been provoked. Surely the insolvent Archbishop of Mainz was blameworthy excessively pressuring Tetzel. Unmoved, Luther boldly accused the Pope alone for refusing to lower the purchase price for the Archbishop's office. Regarding his theses Luther was firm. "But as for a retraction never expect one from me." After two further interviews the frustrated Miltitz feigned satisfaction. Finally it was agreed neither side should write or act in the question. Luther would revoke upon proof of his errors and the matter should be referred to the judgment of an enlightened bishop. The Archbishop of Treves was the chosen umpire. This was to be a prelude to a shelving of the controversy. The "Theses" will soon be forgotten. The Tetzel scandal will soon fade from public memory. Rome will be more restrained in the sale of indulgences. And later when the storm shall have blown over, things will revert to their old course, and Germany will again lie down in her chains. Happily, there was a Greater than Luther at the head of the movement.

Miltitz happily considered the affair over. He little understood the new life which had come down from the skies which was awakening in the Church. Miltitz invited Luther to supper. At table, he did not conceal the alarm this matter had caused at Rome. Nothing that had fallen out these hundred years had occasioned so much uneasiness in the Vatican. The cardinals would give "ten thousand ducats" to have it settled, and the news that it was now arranged would cause unbounded joy. The repast was a most convivial one; and when it was ended, the envoy rose, took the monk of Wittenberg in his arms, and kissed him - "a Judas kiss," said Luther, writing to Staupitz, "but I would not let him perceive that I saw through his Italian tricks."

There came now a pause in the controversy before the Leipzig Disputation, an affair that made a great noise at the time, and which was followed by vast consequences to the Reformation. Such disputations were common in that age. They were a sort of tournament in which the knights of the schools, like the knights of the Middle Ages, sought to display their prowess and win glory. Doctor John Eccius or Eck, Chancellor of the University of Ingolstadt, was famed as a debater all over Europe. A great champion of the Papacy, always panting for new opportunities of displaying his skill. So when Andrew Bodenstein, better known as Carlstadt, Archdeacon of the Cathedral at Wittenberg, answered the Obelisks of Dr. Eck, taking occasion to defend the opinions of Luther, Eck reposted and Carlstadt again replied. Matters becoming heated the combatants agreed to dispute at Leipzig in the presence of George, Duke of Saxony, uncle of the Elector Frederick, and other princes and illustrious personages.

As the day approached exalted Eck revealed higher ambitions. To vanquish Carlstadt would bring little fame. Eck would rather break a lance with "the little monk who had suddenly grown into a giant." Accordingly, he published thirteen Theses, in which he plainly impugned the opinions of Luther. This violation of the truce with Miltitz on the Roman side released Luther to request permission from Duke George to come to Leipzig and take up Eck's challenge. The fearful duke compromised allowing Luther to come to Leipzig as a spectator. It affords a curious glimpse into the manners of the age, to mark the pomp with which the two parties entered Leipzig. Dr. Eck and his friends came first, arriving on the 21st of June, 1519. Seated in a chariot, arrayed in his sacerdotal garments, he made his entry into the city, at the head of a procession composed of the civic and ecclesiastical dignitaries who had come forth to do him honour. He passed proudly along through streets thronged with the citizens, who rushed from their houses to have a sight of the warrior who had unsheathed his scholastic sword on so many fields and never yet returned it into its scabbard but in victory. He was accompanied by Poliander, whom he had brought with him to be a witness of his triumph, but whom Providence designed, by the instrumentality of Luther, to bind to the chariot of the Reformation.

On the 24th of June the theologians from Wittenberg made their public entry into Leipzig. Heading the procession came Carlstadt, who was to maintain the contest with Eck. Of the distinguished body of men assembled at Wittenberg, Carlstadt was perhaps the most impetuous, but the least profound. He was barely fit to sustain the part which he had chosen to act. He was enjoying the ovation of his entry when, the wheel of his carriage coming off, he suddenly rolled in the mud. The spectators who witnessed his mischance construed it into an omen of a more serious downfall awaiting him, and said that if Eck was to be beaten it was another than Carlstadt who would be the victor. In the carriage after Carlstadt rode the Duke of Pomerania, and, one on each side of him, sat the two theologians of chief note, Luther and Melancthon. Then followed a long train of doctors-in-law, masters of arts, licentiates in theology. Surrounding their carriages came a body of 200 students bearing pikes and halberds whose presence might well be required in guarding their professors from insult and in-jury.

On the morning of the 27th, mass was sung in the Church of St. Thomas. The princes, counts, abbots, councillors, and professors walked to the chapel in procession, marching to the sound of martial music, with banners flying, and accompanied by a guard of nearly 100 citizens, who bore halberds and other weapons. After service they returned in procession in the same order to the ducal castle of Pleisenberg where the great room of which had been fitted up for the disputation. Duke George and the other princes occupied conspicuous seats. Less distinguished members of the audience sat upon benches. At either end of the hall arose a wood pulpit for the disputants. In the middle of the hall were tables for the notaries public to take notes. Mosellanus (Professor Peter Schade of Leipzig - a Christian Humanist favourable towards Luther) ascended the pulpit to deliver an introductory exhortation. He called upon the disputants to bear themselves gallantly , that Truth might be the only victor .The large organ then struck up and they, falling on their knees, sang the Veni Sancte Spiritus . Three times was this exaltation solemnly repeated.

It was now past noon. The opening of the discussion was postponed till after dinner. Duke George had prepared a sumptuous repast for the two disputants and their friends, and they accordingly adjourned to the ducal table. At two o'clock they re-assembled in the hall where the disputation was to take place. The Church now stood on the line that divided the night from the day. The champions of the darkness and the heralds of the light were still at that point in history mingled in one assembly, and still united by the tie of one ecclesiastical communion. Yet a little while and they would be parted, never again to meet; but as yet they assemble under the same roof, they bow their heads in the same prayer, and they raise aloft their voices in the same invocation to the Holy Spirit. That prayer was soon to be answered in decisive reality. The Spirit would descend , the dead draw to the dead and the living to the living. The wars of Greece and Rome were but the world's nursery tales. This war, though Mosellanus knew it not was the real drama of the race -the true conflict of the ages.

Dr. Eck

Wylie labours to make us understand that many, in perfect sincerity, not realising there is a Living God, prayed that the Holy Spirit would come and God's will be done. The atmosphere can be appreciated on www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFH59bW3W3I&feature=related. The Spirit of the Lord vanquished Eck. He was " the ablest and most persistent opponent Luther ever had. From 1517 to 1543 this champion of the (Roman) Church met Luther at every turn and did everything in his power to foil the great heresiarch." There is evidence in Eck's own words that he had already treacherously conspired to influence the outcome of the debate from its outset. When Eck wrote confidentially to a friend on 1st July 1919 referring to the monk as "the other monster Luther" he comments in the margin "I have done Luther a good mischief of which I will tell you orally...." Carlstadt had a safe conduct but Luther did not due to Eck's machinations to draw Luther in. Eck arrived early to lay every possible snare in advance for Luther. Wylie does not exaggerate when he states that the, "true conflict of the ages," was about to unfold.

Taken from Wylie's History of Protestantism, and edited by Dr Clive Gillis

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