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Martin Luther was in many senses the greatest of all the Reformers. No soul amongst the galaxy of the great Reformation fathers was loftier, brighter, braver and yet more tender than the German Reformer. His answer at the Diet of Worms should be learned by every true Protestant:

"Since your most serene Majesty and your High Mightinessess, require of me a simple, clear, and direct answer, I will give you one and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the Pope or to the Councils, because it is clear as noonday that they have after fallen into error, and even unto glaring inconsistency with themselves.

"If then, I am not convinced by proof from Holy Scripture, or by cogent reasons. If I am not satisfied by the very texts I have cited, and if my judgement is not in this way brought into subjection to God's Word, I neither can nor will retract anything, for it cannot be right for a Christian to speak against his conscience.

"Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me! Amen."

Here was faithful witness, an over coming of the Devil and the Pope by the word of testimony.

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Saturday 8th October marked another milestone in the history of Trinity Free Presbyterian Church.

Dr. Paisley M.P., M.E.P., M.P.A., Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster officially opened the new 80,000 Sunday School complex.

The service that followed, attended by some 300 people, was conducted by the minister of the church, the Rev. Jim Hartin. Others taking part were: Rev. G. Whyte (Coleraine) who opened in prayer; Rev. J. Douglas (Lisburn) who brought greetings from Presbytery and read a portion of God's Word.

Dr. Bob Jones, Chancellor of Bob Jones University, Greenville, South Carolina, was introduced by Dr. Paisley. Both Dr. Jones and Dr. Paisley brought stirring messages from the Word of God. Dr. Jones, speaking from 1 Cor. 3:22, encouraged the people of God by showing to them the "all things" that were theirs in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Preaching from verse 11 of the same chapter, Dr. Paisley held forth Christ as the only foundation upon which to build; that Foundation which had been laid in the council chambers of eternity.

During the course of his message, Dr. Paisley related the early history of Trinity Free Presbyterian Church, how that it was born and established in the midst of the fires of opposition. Gospel meetings were commenced in Ballyhalbert Orange Hall in 1954, then in 1958 the congregation opened their new church building in Portavogie. The offering that day amounted to 165 which cleared the existing debt!

The Rev. John Douglas, bringing greetings from the Presbytery, congratulated the congregation on their fine achievement of erecting such a fine building with such good facilities.

During the course of the Chairman's remarks Mr. Hartin recalled the background to the opening of the complex. He said that the church committee had long felt the need of individual classrooms for the Sunday School. In 1980 plans were drawn up by Mr. Roy Martin (church Treasurer) and approved by the committee. One great problem faced the committee: how does a church of around 60 communicant members erect a building costing in the region of 80,000?

Taking the problem to the Lord in prayer, attention was drawn to 1 Chron. 28:29 where the preparation for the building of the Temple of the Lord is recorded. David, in exhorting Solomon to take on the task, said, "the work is great," but he also said "be strong and of good courage, and do it: for the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee: He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast furnished all the work for the service of the House of the Lord." [6]

Encouraged by God's Word they set to work. The foundation was well and truly laid on Christmas Eve 1980 and today the congregation see before their eyes the fulfilment of their plans. Truly the Lord hath done great things for us whereof we are glad.

Paying tribute to all who were involved in the building of the complex, Mr. Hartin said that the church committee felt that this great occasion could not go past without recognising the faithful labours of three men. These were Mr. A. Spiers and Mr. D. McMaster, the main contractors, and Mr. Roy Martin, architect. Mr. T. Thompson (Clerk of Session and Sunday School Superintendent) then presented Mr. Spiers and Mr. McMaster with inscribed Bibles and Mr. Martin with a pen.

Expressing his thanks to Dr. Paisley for performing the opening ceremony Mr. Thompson presented Dr. Paisley with a pen as a small token of appreciation.

A presentation was also made to Mr. Hartin by Mr. Cecil Thompson for all his labours. In thanking the committee for the gift, Mr. Hartin said that it was a pleasure for him to help in any way the work of God, and that it was his prayer and heart's desire that God would make the Sunday School complex a 'saving shop' for the souls of boys and girls.

Thanks were expressed to various other people.

After the closing prayer tea was served by the ladies of the congregation. [7]


Mr. Allan was one of seven ministers who preached in Calgary Free Presbyterian Church this summer. The others were DR. Paisley, Revs. Frank McClelland, Michael Patrick, Fred Buick, John Hanna and Ken Elliott.

All the ministers returned home from Calgary impressed with the spirituality of the congregation.

The church in Calgary is an active congregation, active in prayer, active in personal evangelism and active in protest.

The members of the Free Church in Calgary were edified and encouraged through the ministry of our brethren.

The Rev. Allan ministered during the last three weeks of September. He believes that he was the instrument which God used to reap what the other ministers had sown. Our brother states that after the first half night of prayer he was conscious of the Lord's presence in the services and the Lord's power in the preaching. The Lord was working, confirming the Word with signs following.

On the Lord's Day, 18th September, at the morning Bible Class a Roman Catholic woman came to the Saviour. The same evening another dear woman came under conviction and sought counselling. Mr. Allan dealt with souls in their homes and in the hospital. Young people expressed that God was calling them to full time service.

We can say to God be the Glory for great things He hath done and it is marvellous in our eyes.

We rejoice that souls were saved and backsliders were restored and the saints were edified and the Lord got all the glory.

Do pray for our sister congregation in the city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Do pray for the minister, our brother Tom Tice and for his wife Lisa and their daughter.

Mr. Tice is a graduate of the Free Presbyterian Theological Hall, Greenville, South Carolina, U.S.A.


Saturday the 15th October was a remarkable occasion for Newtownards Free Presbyterian Church. The temporary building was filled to capacity to witness this historic occasion, and to hear the preaching of the Word by the Moderator, Dr. Paisley and the minister, Rev. T. A. Dunlop. Rev. Jim Hartin (Portavogie) led in prayer and Rev. R. Stewart (Cookstown) read the Scriptures. The ministers present included Rev. D. Gordon (Larne). Mr. Joe Peden was the guest singer.

Welcoming all those present, including some visiting friends from Australia, Rev. Dunlop addressed the congregation from 1 Corinthians 9:16, the text he had chosen to inscribe upon the stone: "For though I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel."

The text, said Mr. Dunlop, would bear witness to the work that would be carried on in the new building and it declared four things concerning the preacher's duty. First of all there was the TASK of preaching. Paul declared he was a preacher of the Gospel. The Gospel had to be preached. The minister's duty is not to be a socialiser or a leader of community games or worldly pursuits that have been introduced into the churches, such as bowls, Guilds, tea parties, raffles etc. These have no place in true religion. The minister's duty was to preach the whole counsel of God and such preaching demanded careful preparation, study, labour, diligence and courage.

The text also declared the THEME of preaching. Paul said, "I have nothing togiory of." True preaching did not uplift men nor exalt the flesh, it was the King's business, and the King of kings was the sum and substance of it. Christ's power to save and His Blood to cleanse is the only remedy for man's sin, and it is such a message that would continue to be preached in the new building, indeed it was being erected for this purpose.

The third thing the text declared about the preacher's duty was the TERMS. The apostle was constrained to preach, "Necessity is laid upon me." The preacher is not at liberty to modify or change the message or to preach - only at his own whim or fancy. God's man is a man constrained by an irresistible urge, having the call of God to preach. Those who fail in this are false prophets, and "by their fruits ye shall know them."

Finally the text declared the TRUST of the Gospel. "Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel." Rev. Dunlop said that the Gospel is held in trust. We must give account to God for how we use God's Word, let the congregation in Newtownards so labour as to appear before Christ with joy and not with grief, having been obedient to the call of God and the duties of those redeemed by precious Blood. [9]

The main speaker of the occasion was the Moderator, Dr. Paisley, who delivered a stirring address on 1 Corinthians 3:10. "But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon." The theme of his message was the theme of the text, the true foundation of the Church of Christ. "Building," he said, "must be characterised by prayer. The Lord Jesus Christ, the sole King and Head of the Church, began His public ministry by prayer, and ended His public ministry by prayer. Prayer is the power of the church. With prayer all things are possible, without prayer all work is in vain."

Secondly, the church should be characterised by preaching. Preaching the Word was God's appointed means of saving sinners. He said it was the duty of the congregation to bring people in under the sound of God's Word and pray that God would give the pastor messages that would awaken sinners to the need of Christ, and bring them to repentance and faith. It was by faithful preaching that God would add to the church such as should be saved.

The Moderator concluded by saying that praising was something that should not be forgotten in the work of the church. "We have something to praise the Lord for," he said, "the child of God redeemed and bound for Glory had much to be thankful for. If born again Christians were more joyful in the Lord's work, more unconverted would be drawn towards the Saviour and embrace His offer of mercy."

The congregation was moved by the Moderator's encouraging message, and those present will remember the meeting as a milestone in the history of the congregation.

A fine tea was served by the ladies of the congregation and the offerings during that week amounted to 3,965 with a 10,000 interest free loan. Saturday's offering itself came to ,500, of which 1,000 came as a single gift.

To all those who gave we extend a heartfelt thanks and as a congregation we can only say, "To God be the glory, great things He hath done."

MARTIN LUTHER THE 16th CENTURY REFORMER: "The Hammer of the Papacy"

A lecture delivered in the Martyrs Memorial Free Presbyterian Church by Chancellor Dr. Bob Jones of Bob Jones University, Greenville, South Carolina.

Perhaps more than any other period of European history, the sixteenth century was marked by social upheaval, intellectual ferment, and the awaking of the masses of the people (particularly in Britain and Northern Europe). The Dark Ages had given way to the dawn of the Renaissance which, by the sixteenth century, had reached its height. To the historian, the sixteenth century offers amazing contrasts - great art, magnificent architecture, scholarship, literature, the liberation of the mind and the spirit offset by cruelty, persecution, revolution, and oppression.

At the close of the previous century the discovery of America had expanded the horizons of Europe; and during the course of the sixteenth century, the maritime powers of Europe (including the British Isles) fought for the possession of the lands of the New World. The treasures of Central and South America began to pour into Spain, who had seized and laid claim to these southern areas. At the same time, the English privateers were attempting to seize and divert the flow of gold and other treasures to the coffers of the English sovereigns.


In this century, Russia was freed from the domination of the Tartars and was spreading her influence eastward into Siberia. The Turks were moving steadily westward into Europe and were a constant threat to the continent until finally they were totally defeated at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. This was a period in history when women seemed to be in power everywhere:

Catherine de Medici, born in Italy in 1519, Queen and later Regent of France until her death in 1589, was a plump and bloated spider of a woman busy spinning her webs and hatching her plots, rejoicing in the massacre of St. Bartholomew, where Protestant blood was spilt until the gutters of Paris ran red. Yet, in spite of her efforts, less than ten years following her death France granted religious liberty in the Edict of Nantes in 1598.

Another woman for a short time Queen of France was Mary Stuart of Scotland who, upon the death of her dissolute husband, returned, still a young woman, to her own kingdom to be faced by John Knox, who thought it better for a queen to weep than strong men.

Elizabeth, her cousin, the Gloriana and long-lived virgin ruler, succeeded her half-sister, Mary, called the Bloody, who had lighted fires and kept the headsman busy trying to return England to papal sway and deliver it to the Spanish power of her part-time husband, Phillip II. [11]

We cannot fail to mention another woman who has been dealt with almost as cruelly in the legends of her enemies as he was by the circumstances of her birth and life. We refer, of course, to Lucretia Borgia, daughter of Pope Alexander VI and sister of Cesare. Used as a pawn in her father's diplomatic maneuverings, she seems to be in truth the best of a rotten family and finally became, in fact, a respectable duchess through her marriage to the Duke of Este.

It was a century of lavish display on the part of the rulers and the nobility as exemplified by the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520, where Francis I of France and Henry VIII of England each tried to outdo the other in a flaunting of riches, brocades, velvets, and satins, polished armor, and banners.


Church and State, particularly in southern Europe, joined in using the Inquisition to enforce absolute power and control in every aspect of life. Innocent IV had authorised torture as a means of acquiring evidence as early as 1252. Ferdinand and Isabella in 1478 reinstated the Inquisition in Spain; and up until the middle of the nineteenth century, the fires were not extinguished. Nowhere, however, did they burn so brightly as in the sixteenth century. The cries of the tortured and the creaking of the rack were scarcely drowned out by the chanting of the monks and the voice of the choirs.

For a large part of this century, England experienced almost a reign of terror. Tyndale and his followers were ruthlessly pursued, tortured, and slain. Tyndale himself was strangled in 1536. The year 1520 was marked by the bloodbath of Stockholm under Christian II. The Duke of Alva and his torturers ravaged like wolves through the Protestant Netherlands to the glory of God and the honour of the Hapsburgs. During a reign of 54 years, from 1530 to 1584, the madman Ivan the Terrible turned Russia into a charnel house.

There were, however, victories of reason and liberty. William the Silent witnessed the birth of the Dutch Republic before his assassination. Everywhere there was a desire to know. It was the century of Faust, Paracelsus, Tasso, Bruno, and Michaelangelo. Great artists were forced by circumstances and, in the case of some, like Michaelangelo, by threat upon life and limb to pervert their skills to the grandisement of the Papacy and the errors of Romanism while in the North other great artists - Altdorfer, Cranach, Holbein, and Durer- used their pens to illustrate the Scriptures and the stories of classic antiquity while their brushes were busy setting down the features of monarchs, princes, noblemen, and their ladies.


If one desired to set down a parade of evil, pride, and folly, he could do no better than to name the men who occupied the chair of St. Peter [12] during the first half of the sixteenth century. He would begin, of course, with Pope Alexander VI, the Spaniard of the Borgia family, who was elected to the Papacy in the same year that Columbus discovered America, 1492, and who fouled the Vatican and contaminated Europe as far as his influence could be felt until his death in 1503.

He was succeeded by Julian II, Della Rovere, who reigned until 1513. Capable and tyrannical, he was as much at home in armor besieging an Italian city as he was in his robes of state or in his rich vestments celebrating mass. He continued the work that Alexander Borgia had begun in the decoration of the Sistine Chapel. Bramante undertook the restoration of the Vatican and the drawing of the plans for the new St. Peter's. There can be no question of the fact that he had good taste. He employed Raphael and Michaelangelo in his great decorating schemes. He seems to have had every gift except humility, spiritual understanding, and qualification for religious leadership.


Pope Leo X, a Medici who reigned from 1513 to 1521, was literary, cultured, and gifted but greedy, ambitious, unscrupulous, lacking in any sense of spiritual need, and, apparently, unaware of the unrest and ferment of his times. He almost destroyed the Roman Catholic Church.

Adrian VI, a Dutchman, one of the brethren of the Common Life, kept the seat of St. Peter warm from 1521-1523. Seemingly sincere, he urged reforms of the Curia but opposed doctrinal change and urged prosecution of Luther for heresy. He could not have reformed the Curia, in the grip of the corrupt Italians, had he reigned for twenty years instead of two.

Clement II, another Medici, followed him in 1524 - crafty, petty, and least capable of any Pope of his time. He left the task of stopping Lutheranism to Charles V but evaded Charles' demands for a General Council, one thing that might have slowed the advance of the Reformation.

Upon his death in 1534, Paul III (Alexander Farnese) assumed the tiara and reigned until 1549. He was too fond of luxury, too worldly-minded, to face the spiritual need of the church but was determined to stamp out the Protestant Reformation. To this end, he approved the Jesuits (the Society of Jesus) in 1540, introduced the Inquisition into Italy in 1542, established the censorship and notorious Index of forbidden books in 1543, and convened the Council of Trent in 1545.

The moral tone of the secular literature of the century is apparent in the writings of Boccaccio, Rabelais, and Montaigne. In spite of the opposition to freedom of research and scientific studies, at least in the South where the Roman Church remained in power, Copernicus dared to claim that the earth revolved around the sun. [13]

Totalitarianism and rule by trickery and deception, misrepresentation, and cruelty were brazenly advocated by Machiavelli in his book 'The Prince', which became a guide for many of the Italian princes. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, advocated much the same set of principles in upholding the religious authority of the papacy and the Roman Church.


As in the last quarter of the twentieth century, humanism played a large part in shaping the thought-life and, thereby, the mood and accomplishments of the sixteenth century. Unlike the secular humanism of the twentieth century, that of the sixteenth century was distinctly Christian. It was at once the inheritance of Greek and Roman culture, as it had been embedded in Europe through the Church, and an attempt to espouse culture to mold human life. The sixteenth-century humanist reasoned thus: Augustine, through his study of Cicero, was brought to know God; and Augustine influenced Petrarch. Its motto and conviction was that "man is the measure of all things."

At the same time, it did not seek the ultimate in all things but attempted to divert the gaze from Heaven to earth, from God to man. It was averse to metaphysics; therefore, both scholasticism and the "Truths of God" proclaimed by Thomas Aquinas played small part in the humanistic philosophy. The humanist worshipped rhetoric, canonized the classical, and attempted to Christianise the pagan art by using it in combination with Biblical illusions and Scriptural scenes in both palaces and churches.

Let me assure you, if this seems unclear and not readily understood by my hearers, their confusion is shared by the speaker.


It is appropriate at this point to draw your attention to Erasmus, since he is looked upon as the perfect example of the Christian humanist. He was born in Rotterdam in 1466 and died in Basel in 1536, half of his life being lived in the fifteenth and half in the sixteenth centuries. His most famous literary work is 'In Praise Of Folly', but of primary concern to us is his New Testament in original Greek, published in 1516. This, the first Greek New Testament to appear in print, was a compilation of bits and pieces from the earliest Greek manuscripts available to Erasmus.

It must be confessed that certain parts of the Greek text which he brought out were more 'original' than others, since the last few verses of Revelation were written, by Erasmus himself based upon the Latin Vulgate. Since he could lay his hand upon no extant manuscript containing this last portion of the final Book of the New Testament, he created his own - incidentally, using some Greek words which appear nowhere else in the New Testament. [14]

Erasmus' Greek New Testament is of special interest to us since it was used by Luther in making his own German translation. If "the end of all Christian learning is to know Christ," as Erasmus claimed to believe, according to his humanistic reasoning one needed a Christian humanistic interpretation of the Scriptures in order to achieve that end.


Because of his influence upon Luther, I think we might spend a few moments in outlining something of Erasmus' theology and philosophy. The Bible, he declared, documents human experience; Christianity is, in essence, the philosophy of Christ; there was a close kinship, he believed, between Socrates and Christ; the Bible (the Book of Truth) confirms that truth is revealed in the conscience of man, especially in the great moralists; the simple philosophy of Christ is identical to that of Seneca, Cicero, and Plato, who were also divinely inspired. He aspired to a 'Christian humanism' to unite faith and reason.

Called the most cultured man of his age, Erasmus really had no deep religious convictions and seems to have been entirely a stranger to grace and to have had no personal experience with Christ. In contrast to Luther, he had no convictions worth dying for. In a letter to Archbishop Warham, he stated that he was not willing to risk his life for truth:

We have not all strength for martyrdom; and if trouble comes, I shall imitate St. Peter [apparently he means in his denial of Christ]. Popes and emperors must settle the creeds. If they settle them well, so much the better; if ill, I shall keep on the safe side.

In 'A Disquisition Upon Free Will' he wrote, "I hate dissension so much that I fear I should rather abandon a part of truth than disturb harmony." All in all, though a great scholar, he was hardly admirable or courageous; and it is easy to understand why though he approved much of Luther's theology, he died in the Roman Church.

If I have wearied you with an overlong description and analysis of the sixteenth century before coming to a discussion of Martin Luther himself, my apology is that every man is a product of his age, and no man can be understood apart from his age.


The twentieth century's judgment of Luther, therefore, must be one set against the background of his own times. His strengths are seen against the weaknesses of his age; and what may seem to us to be a weakness, in the light of his day may have been no weakness at all but even a strength. When we view him, therefore, as a part of his century, we are forced to recognise his greatness not only as a man of his age but also as a man for all times. [15]

The very fact that 500 years after his birth he is still a controversial figure - praised and attacked, exalted and abused - shows to us in this our twentieth century how great was this man of the sixteenth century and how longlasting has been his effect upon the life of the Western world, not only as it relates to religion but also as it relates to philosophy, government, the secular power, the home, the school, and the very development of our modern age.

Luther was born on November 11, 1483, in Isleben in Thuringa, where he died 63 years later. He was educated in monastery school. Afterwards, he attended the school of The Brethren of the Common Life in Magdeburg (1497). He went then to Eisenach and finally to the University of Erfurt where he was enrolled from 1501-1504.

Already by this date he was known as the philosopher for his dialectic gifts, penetrating analyses, and quick thrusts in debate. Erfurt, which was really a small German town at that time, was, nonetheless, the center of humanism; and it was here at the age of 22 that Luther entered the Augustinian Monastery.

Walking one day along a country road near his boyhood home, he was knocked from his feet by a sudden stroke of lightning; and it seemed that a miracle had spared his life. Tradition has it that from this time on, he felt God was speaking to him and demanding his life and service. Because of this, he decided to become a priest. Whether this story is true or not, he was ordained in 1507.


Almost exactly ten years later on October 31, 1517, his ninety-five theses appeared. Whether nailed to the church door at Wittenburg, as the story has it, or circulated in manuscript for debate by the students and faculty of the University there, we are not sure. What is certain is that these ninety-five theses shook the Church of Rome to its foundation and marked a complete turning point in the life of Martin Luther himself.

The question of the selling of indulgences dealt with in Luther's theses is oftentimes not clearly understood. Originally intended as a form of penance for sins committed and then confessed, they were not originally regarded by the Church or the public as a licence to sin but, rather, as a penance exacted by the Church as an outward evidence of a sincere and genuine repentance within the heart of the sinner. Nobles and princes have built chantries and chapels, monasteries and nunneries as evidence of contrition for their wicked deeds. For lesser sins a confessor would assign to the penitent so many 'Our Fathers,' so many 'Hail Marys'; and it was in that sense that the selling of indulgences was originally instituted, but they had degenerated by the sixteenth century, in the popular mind, to a payment for the privilege of sinning; and heart repentance had been completely overlooked and forgotten. [16]


Badly in need of money for the erection of St. Peter's in Rome, the Pope himself had little concern about how indulgences were understood; and he farmed out to monks (generally to the Dominicans) the privilege of selling indulgences, sometimes on a commission basis. It appears that on occasion the local bishop in whose diocese indulgences were being sold received a commission on those sales also.

Luther was ordered to Rome in 1518 on the charge of heresy to answer for his attack upon indulgences. He simply refused to go. The Elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony permitted Luther instead to defend himself at the Diet of Augsburg in 1518. Since Leo X wanted the favour of Duke Frederick in support of a proposed crusade against the Turks and also to hinder the ascendancy of Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor, he did not make an issue of the matter.

It is noteworthy that Luther professed himself willing to submit and obey the Pope where Scripture was clear. At this time he still regarded himself as a loyal member and supporter of the Roman Church and, as such, was crying out for reform, not schism. In September, 1519, he wrote, "They must know that they err when they say I am not with the Roman Church, I who love her sincerely not only the Roman but the whole Church of Christ." (It is interesting to note here that the terms 'Roman Church' and 'Catholic Church' were not used interchangeably in this period. The term 'Catholic Church' was understood as the Christian Church wherever it was found, of the Eastern right or the Western right.)

In spite of his able presentation and defence at Augsburg, Luther was, nevertheless, excommunicated in 1520.


Luther was the kind of man who is strengthened by opposition. Luther thrived on controversy. His quick mind and his facility in the Latin as well as the German dialects made him a formidable opponent.

There was a great change in Luther following his excommunication and his appearance at the Diet of Augsburg. After his conversion, he came to a proper view of Romanism and the papacy as a satanic system ruled by antichrists.

In Romans 1:17 ("For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith") he found salvation. In 1545 Luther tells how he had hated the words "the righteousness of God."

I wished that God had never revealed the Gospel. For who could love the wrathful, judging God Who condemns? Until finally, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, I carefully considered the passage: 'The just shall live by faith!' Then I felt myself wholly reborn and arrived in Paradise itself through open doors. At once the Scripture assumed a different aspect. [17]


In this passage he found the basic truth of the Reformation - God's love revealed in Christ, God's righteousness satisfied, and God's mercy offered through free grace. To Luther, it was a never-ending source of marvel that the sinner remains a sinner even while he is justified. Sinner and justified at the same time. God reaches but, draws the sinner, and gives him power to overcome the sinful nature.

Luther never claimed perfection. He never indicated that he considered it obtainable by any man. 'Justification' was his word. To him faith was a firm, secure opinion. He defined faith as "man's dependence, man's hanging upon God." Weakness he recognised as sin, but this human weakness could be united with a yearning for God. To the reformer, the basic sin came to be the "not depending upon God." This, he held, is idolatry.

By 1520 he declared that he now "knows the Church of Rome to be the Babylonian Empire and the domain of the mighty hunter Nimrod." In that year, one of his three major pamphlets, 'The Babylonian Captivity of the Church', appeared. He declared that there is no authority in the Scripture for recognising seven sacraments. The Bible, he held, permits but three - the Lord's Supper, baptism, and penance. Three captivities (by which he meant errors) are (1) withholding the cup from the laity at the Lord's Supper; (2) the doctrine of transubstantiation, and (3) the definition of the Mass as a good work and sacrifice.

Contrition is an act of faith, not a merit. A work is good only when faith knows no motive except the glory of God. All work is sacred and holy when so done - no special merit in the 'religious'( that is, the monks and nuns and priests and other clergy) over laity. Faith makes the soul holy, just, truly peaceful, free, and full of all goodness.

In Luther's life and the development of his pilgrimage from the Roman monk to the free and mighty reformer there are, in our opinion, five major crises - milestones, as it were, on the journey. These all occur between 1510 and 1534.


The First Crisis was his visit to Rome, where the prior sent him a year after he first entered the monastery. Luther regarded this journey as a holy pilgrimage. He looked forward with delight of soul to the thought of visiting the Holy City, the tomb of the Apostle Peter, and the throne and center of Western Christendom.

What a shock it was, then, for him to see the pomp and ceremony so lavishly displayed and the extravagance and vain show of wealth on the part of the cardinals with their gilded chariots, armed retinues, and fawning servants. The story is that going on his knees up the holy stairs at St. John Laterat, he was gripped by the thought that "The just shall live by faith." He stood up, walked down, and left Rome and Romanism as well. [18]


However, the Second Crisis of his life, the publication of the ninety-five theses, did not take place until some seven years later. Though not intended as a break with the Roman Church but, rather, as a protest against evils that should be corrected and errors that should be removed from its teaching, this was for Luther the first opening of the windows of ecclesiastical imprisonment and deceit, the initial and unintentional breaking of the chains.


The Third Great Crisis occurred in December of 1520. A Papal Bull issued against Luther in June of that year declared him excommunicated, lost, damned, and outside the pale of grace. That Bull he burned in December. This was, in effect, a declaration of war against organised ecclesiasticism; a defiance of papal threats; a denial of papal power; and a declaration of his, now firm, conviction that salvation was by faith and faith alone.


The Fourth Important Event came four months later on April 18, 1521, with the assembly of the Diet of Worms, which Carlyle has called the "most decisive and most significant day in modern history." The Diet, actually a secular assembly, was called by the young emperor Charles V. The Elector, Frederick the Wise of Saxony, had insisted on Luther's personal appearance before this secular concourse to defend his position and doctrinal stance.

Though advised by his friends not to go to Worms and reminded of the fate that befell Jon Hus at the Council of Konstanz 100 years earlier, Luther was determined to appear. Luther's friends said Hus went to the Council of Konstanz under an emperor's safe conduct; and he was betrayed, tried, and burned.

Just how much faith Luther had in the safe conduct which Charles V had given him, it is hard to determine; but Luther went declaring that if every tile on the roofs of Worms were demons he would not be kept away.

The two opponents at Worms were, really, the Emperor Charles V and Luther, the reformer. Charles V considered himself the supreme secular steward of Christianity and guardian of the Roman Church; and it, apparently, never occurred to him to refuse Luther a hearing. Religion, in Charles' opinion, was the business of the State; and if reformation was needed, it was appropriate that the State be fully aware of that fact. He was, however, determined to preserve the Roman Church.


Luther, on the other hand, was willing to endure evervthing for his [19] emperor and realm but determined not to forfeit the right to free proclamation and confession of the Word of God.

Sentiment throughout most of the German states was in favour of Luther. Indeed, opposition to the papacy was so strong in Germany that the papal nuncio, Alexander, felt his life was in danger while he was en route to Worms. He said, "Nine-tenths of the people cheered to the watchword 'Luther', and the other tenth cried 'Death to the Curia'."

Apparently the emperor and the papal nuncio had agreed that there would be no free and open discussion of church doctrine, and they attempted to compel Luther to answer only two major questions.

The first day Luther did not acquit himself as well as was usual for him. Perhaps the august assembly, the presence of the emperor and so many of the princes of the empire, had an overpowering effect upon the young reformer. But the next day was different. Luther made a firm defence of his position, well substantiated from Scripture.

Charles, however, did about the only thing he could have done in view of his position, and that is, on the day following Luther's fine presentation he issued an imperial declaration condemning all heresy in his land.

No imperial edict could stop the religious revolution now. No threats from the mightiest ruler in Europe could hinder the surging tides of Scriptural truth. At that time the real power in the empire lay in the hands of the various princes - the rulers of the states which made up the empire - and many of these princes favoured Luther and stood firmly with him. Many resented the flow of money from their states to Rome and the papal coffers.

Their support of Luther, coupled with the fact that Charles was absent in Spain for the next nine years, saved Luther from death as a heretic. To be excommunicated from the Roman Church, especially if that excommunication was confirmed and backed by the civil authority, meant that one's life was forfeit, that anyone who killed him was free from guilt - indeed, had served God well.


On his way home from the Diet of Worms, Luther was spirited away by Frederick the Wise and placed in the safety of the Wartburg. He there began the work which was to mark the Fifth Great Crisis in Luther's pilgrimage from spiritual slavery to freedom in Christ, his translation of the Bible into the common German language. The New Testament was finished in 1522 and the Old Testament in 1534.

The "German Interpretation", as Luther called it, had a much more immediate and lasting effect in the German states than the Authorised Version of 1611 produced in the English-speaking world. There were good and acceptable English translations before 1611. Wycliffe had authored an English translation of the Latin Vulgate in the fourteenth century. Tyndale's Bible had wide circulation, as had the Geneva Bible and other English translations. Luther gave the German people the first complete translation of God's Word in their own tongue. [20]

It is imperative that we stop here to consider the fact that what Luther gave was not only the Word of God to be read by any educated layman a translation not like the Vulgate of Jerome in the ecclesiastical Latin but in what was really a new language, not new simply to the Scriptures but new in and of itself. Indeed, the German language began with Luther's Bible translation. He built that language up from the various dialects spoken in the German states of the Holy Roman Empire, combining what was best in each to make a language effective and powerful and which united - if not politically, at least in heart and in understanding -a great people.


Like the Authorised English translation of 1611, Luther's German interpretation made use of the original Greek New Testament of Erasmus, and both these translations drew from this common source.

For the rest of his life, Luther's prolific pen further enriched theological thought, religious understanding, and the personal faith of the German people. His two catechisms and his various tracts, booklets, and treatises were issued to inform common men and princes alike of Scriptural doctrine, the privileges of free grace, the love of Christ for sinners. They were designed to meet head-on conflicts, heresies, and threats (political and religious); to provide truth and guidance for families; and to instruct the nobility of their responsibilities as rulers of the people and the people of their obligations as subjects of the princes.

It is difficult in this generation, when there is so little genuine religious interest prevalent in our society, to understand the effect of Luther's reforms and their revolutionary consequences. An avalanche of tracts, sermons, etc., began to flood Germany.

The Romanists, the followers of Zwingli, as well as the followers of Luther, all had their say; and religious controversy and theological arguments were actually fought over in the streets now and then and frequently debated in the taverns. Monks and nuns renounced their vows. Luther himself set the example of Christian marriage in his union with Katherine von Bora in 1525. This former nun made Luther a perfect wife, bore him six children; and what had begun largely as an example to others and an arrangement of convenience for Luther became a solid and firm union of love and devotion.


Munzer and the Anabaptists along with Carlstadt and others preached some very strange doctrines, some of which were marked by emotional demonstrations, visions, and inner voices, gifts, and prophesyings similar to those which characterise the modern charismatic movement.

Because Luther did not advocate the destruction of images in a nationwide iconoclasm, some of these men felt his reforms were not [21] thorough enough. They pointed out the contradiction of accepting infant baptism as the sacramental foundation of the Christian Church while emphasising that salvation depended upon faith alone. This was, indeed, an inconsistency on the part of Luther; but he was, in fact, a man of many inconsistencies. This was one which, in spite of all his efforts, it seems, he was never able to resolve satisfactorily for himself or for others.


Luther was, basically, against the use of force and violence. During the Peasants' Revolt, which broke out in many of the German states in 1524, he urged moderation and peace in the beginning. In print, and from the pulpit, he admonished the princes to be fair, reasonable, and just, and not to impose undue burdens upon the people. At the same time, he impressed upon the peasants their obligation to demonstrate a Christian faith and manner of life. He stressed the fact that they had no right to take by violence from the princes that which did not belong to the peasants. As the revolution continued to spread, Luther came more and more to side with the princes and to recommend the punishment of those guilty of violence against authority, those who burned and destroyed and killed.

His position on the Mass became unequivocal. When King Henry VIII of England wrote rebuking him for his attack upon the Roman Church, and particularly Luther's outspoken renunciation of the Mass, the reformer replied, "If you can convince me that the Mass is not a promise of God given unto us, then you shall have won. Then I, too, shall say the Mass is a sacrifice."


It is significant that it was largely because of his firm stand against Luther that the Pope gave to Henry VIII the title "Defender of the Faith", one which he continued to hold even after the English Church broke free of Rome and which the sovereigns of England still use.

For a man of strong convictions, Luther could be surprisingly tolerant on some matters, as witness his position on the State. The complex of political and social life is essentially the order and authority of God, according to Luther. He felt the form of government was not important, either for the Bible or for the Reformation. While holding that all government should be Christian (and taking it for granted that such an ideal situation could be realised), he stressed the fact that the ruler should be the servant of the people.

At the same time, he maintained that government has no authority over the Church but should help and protect the Church, which in Luther's definition was "the communion of saints". He urged, however, that the Church should not call on the State for such help except on rare occasions of great need.

Warfare, Luther taught, may be a right and a duty in self-defence, and the Christian must serve in war; but he put limitations upon that [22] obligation: "Whoever joins in a vengeful and quarrelsome cause will be delivered to the judgment of God." He urged a Christian who finds himself involved in such conflict to forsake the field and run.

As they so often are, inconsistency and contradiction are here found in Luther. Not only is there a record of his development and change of ideas noticeable in the contrast of his early writings with those of his latter years but also sometimes in positions he took at the same time. Note the following: "No man has a right to take the law into his hands and slay a ruler; but the people, as a whole, have a right to try and execute an evil prince."

Luther seemed always to prefer peace but allowed for war and warned princes to be prepared to fight the Turks, who were a very real threat to the peace of Europe at that time.


While Luther regarded the Bible as a complete whole, revolving around one center, Jesus Christ, through Whom a merciful God is made accessible, he admitted he could not explain some passages or resolve seeming contradictions. They did not trouble him because the central article of Christian faith was not contradicted.

While Luther did not strongly attack any portion of the Scriptures or deny its divine inspiration, he did not hesitate to criticise portions of the Book. For example, he had strong objections to the Book of the Revelation, which he described as containing "too much threatening". For him, it spoke too much in visions and images. Since Luther was hardly a mystic but rather a down-to-earth theologian, we can understand, perhaps, how this Book was not a favourite of his; and he readily admitted that he had not fathomed its significance.


He did, however, take a position which was not taken so firmly by any of the other reformers of his age - indeed, it is a position almost prophetic - declaring, "It has been the fate of this Book not to have yet come to the usefulness and effectiveness which it is to give to Christianity." Certainly no other Book in the Bible was more misunderstood and misapplied throughout the history of the Church up until the middle of the nineteenth century.

Luther was both unfair and unscriptural in his approach to the Book of James when he declared, "I do not consider it Apostle's writing." Even more illogical and unfair is his claim that James "accords salvation to works" - which, of course, it does not, as should be apparent to any unprejudiced reader. The Apostle, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was stressing the importance of good works as the evidence of the salvation experience; but Luther accused it of "sternly practising God's law." [23]

Perhaps we should not be too harsh on Martin Luther because of his attitude toward this epistle since he himself was so strongly convinced, as indeed every Christian must be, that salvation is not by works but by faith alone. However, the strength of Luther's prejudices is nowhere manifest more clearly than in this attitude toward the epistle of James.

Luther described the Psalms as remarkable, "unlike any other human writing." He was not so enthusiastic about the prophets, and compared Job to Virgil's Aeneas.

Luther preferred some New Testament books to others, as most Christians do. He said there are not really four Gospels but one.

Luther's Protestant and evangelical teaching emphasised the right of every Christian to a personal interpretation of the Scripture - believing that the indwelling Holy Spirit will answer "that every Christian shall know, judge, and obey the one and only truth."

Strong convictions bring forth strong language. We should not, therefore, be surprised that the man who shaped and molded the German tongue should use it powerfully as a weapon against error and, especially, against the Roman Church, which he considered the Great Harlot; but his so-called "vituperative speech" was generally - indeed, almost always - leveled against evils and those who propagated them. It is unfortunate that 500 years later we seldom hear the name "antichrist" applied, as he so often applied it, to the Roman pontiff. Living in a rather outspoken age and a time of blunt speech, things in his writings which may offend us today as being scatological were not so regarded by his contemporaries.

Especially noteworthy is his personal kindness toward his enemies, and we have preserved for us letters expressing most tender sympathy in time of sorrow and suffering to those whom he had attacked strongly on the basis of their doctrine or public positions. For a man who felt so strongly on many points, his tolerance of diverse forms of worship, which he declared "will compose a lovely harmony as of many voices in music," comes as a welcome surprise.

He wrote a gracious Foreword to the Confession of Faith by the Moravian Brethren, which appeared in 1535. He stated, "The Church is the Body of Christ. All true believers are members of this body, wherever they may be found." To Luther, "Love and hate are passionate. Indifference is the great sin in the Lord's sight."

Luther felt a tremendous sense of appreciation toward the Elector Frederick, who had befriended him, even though, apparently, they never actually met face-to-face but twice. Luther wrote apologising to the Elector for all the trouble he had perforce caused that prince in his behalf. To Luther selfishness had no place in the love of a neighbour:

With Christians it is not a question of recompense nor of withholding kindness but rather that they continue and persevere in love, that love be divine, voluntary, without ceasing; indeed that even though it be a lost love among men, there still be a pouring out of kindness and goodness. [24]

Except as we have quoted from Luther's literary works and sought to analyse his positions and convictions from them, we have not discussed his writings in any detail; but we cannot fail to mention his great hymn, "Ein' Feste Burg", the challenging battle anthem of the German Reformation. Both words and music of this hymn (for Luther an ideal man of the Reformation was also a musician) were given by Luther to his and to succeeding generations of Protestants.

As we have mentioned, he is the founder of the German language as well as the founder of Protestantism in Northern Europe. Freedom of thought and (strangely enough) some basic ideas of democracy and the rights of the individual were a heritage of Luther also.

Born for his age, he is, perhaps, more than any other man the molder of his age and the century that follows it. Most amazing of all is the fact that he seems to speak more clearly to our age than any other since his own, even if his was a religiously minded and ours a religiously-indifferent time. Yet the sixteenth and twentieth centuries have much in common humanism, revolution, totalitarianism, violence, cruelty, hatreds, and wars. Luther came through struggle and recurring doubts, inconsistencies and strong convictions, to this assurance expressed in his tract "Concerning the Messiah Whom the Jews Await":

"Had I, however, such a Messiah Who could heal this ill that I no longer feared death, that I were certain of life ever and eternal, and needed no longer tremble before God's wrath: then would my heart leap and become drunk with sheer joy.

"There would be kindled a fire of love to God. Praise and thanksgiving would never cease. Were He to give me after that neither gold nor silver nor other riches, all the world were a paradise, even if I were to live in a prison.

"Such a Messiah we have in Christ, and we thank God, the Father of all mercy, with overflowing joy of heart. Exultantly and gladly we forget all sorrow and woe Satan brought us.

"Indeed we have such a Messiah Who says to us, 'Whosoever believeth on Me shall live, even though he die'."




Moses in Deuteronomy 4:2 says, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it."

But some one will say that Moses speaks only of his word; but to the books of Moses there have also been added many books of the prophets and the entire New Testament. I answer: True; but nothing new has been added: the same things that are found in the books of Moses are found in the others. For the other books do no more than show how in the course of history the word of Moses was kept or not kept. It is indeed stated in different words and the histories are different, but throughout there is one and the same teaching. And here we can challenge them to point out anywhere in all the books added to the books of Moses a single word that is not found earlier in the books of Moses. For it is beyond question that all the Scriptures point to Christ alone. Now Christ says, in John 5:46, "Moses wrote of me." Therefore everything that is in the other books is also in the books of Moses, and these are the original documents.


Isaiah 29:13, which the Lord quotes in Matthew 15:8: "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching the doctrines and commandments of men."

Mark the word of Christ, Who calls it vain worship to serve God after the doctrines of men. For Christ is not drunken or a fool; on His word we must build in all things rather than on all angels and creatures.


The same Christ in the same chapter, Matthew 15:11, says, "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man."

This saying must be well understood, for it is powerful and mightily overthrows all teaching, custom and manner of life that distinguished between foods, and it sets all consciences free from all laws concerning food and drink; so that it is allowable to eat milk, butter, eggs. Cheese and meat every day, whether it be Sunday or Friday, Lent or Advent; and no one needs to pay butter-money or buy butter-letters. For this word stands firm and does not deceive: "That which goeth into the mouth does not defile a man."

From this it follows, first, that it is a lie when they say that St. Peter instituted the fast-days and that the commandment of the Church has made it a mortal sin to eat eggs, butter, milk and meat on fast-days. For neither St. Peter nor the Church institutes or teaches anything contrary to Christ. And if they did, we must not obey them. To do what they ask would indeed not be wicked; but it is wicked to make a necessity and a commandment of that which is free, and to pretend that something does defile and is sin of which Christ Himself says that it is no sin and does not defile.

It follows, secondly, that it is sheer devil's knavery for the Pope to sell letters and grant permission to eat butter, meat, etc; for Christ in this word has already made it a mater of liberty and has permitted it.

In the third place, it is an error and a lie to say that goldfasts,1 banfasts,2 and the fasts on the eve of Apostles' and saints' days must be observed and that their non-observance is sin, because the Church has so commanded. For against everything of the kind stands this word of Christ: "That which goeth into the mouth doth not defile the man." Fasting should be free and voluntary, both as to the day and as to the food, forever.

1 Goldfasts are the ember-fasts, on the three ember-days of each of the four seasons of the year; possibly called "goldfasts" because on these days rents were collected.

2 The fasts enjoined upon a people by a public edict or ban. The term "ban" as here used does not denote the Church's excommunication, but an authoritative proclamation.