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OF THE TURKS
The Turk is a crafty and subtle enemy, who wars not only with great power and boldness, but also with stratagem and deceit; he makes his enemies faint and weary, keeping them waking with frequent skirmishes, seldom fighting a complete battle, unless he have tolerable certainty of victory. Otherwise, when a battle is offered him, he trots away, depending on his stratagems.
The power of the Turk is very great; he keeps in his pay, all the year through, hundreds of thousands of soldiers. He must have more than two millions of florins annual revenue. We are far less strong in our bodies, and are divided out among different masters, all opposed the one to the other, yet we might conquer these infidels with only the Lord’s prayer, if our own people did not spill so much blood in religious quarrels, and in persecuting the truths contained in that prayer. God will punish us as he punished Sodom and Gomorrah, but I would fain `twere by the hand of some pious potentate, and not by that of the accursed Turk.
They say the famine in the Turkish camp, before Vienna, was so great that a loaf of bread fetched its weight in gold, whereas Vienna and the archduke’s army had all things in abundance. This victory is evidently the work of God. The Turk had sworn to conquer Germany within the year, and had unfurled a consecrated standard, but he was put to the rout without accomplishing anything of importance.
On the last day of July, 1539, came news that the king of Persia had invaded the states of the Turk, and that the latter had been obliged to withdraw his forces from Wallachia. Dr. Luther said: I greatly admire the power of the king of Persia, who can measure his strength with an enemy so formidable as the Turk. Truly, these are two mighty empires. Yet Germany could well withstand the Turks if she would keep up a standing army of fifty thousand foot, and ten thousand horse, so that the losses by a defeat might be at once repaired. The Romans triumphed over all their enemies, by keeping constantly on foot forty-two legions of six thousand men each, disciplined troops, practiced in war.
News came from Torgau that the Turks had led out into the great square at Constantinople twenty-three Christian prisoners, who, on their refusing to apostatize, were beheaded. Dr. Luther said: Their blood will cry up to heaven against the Turks, as that of John Huss did against the papists. `Tis certain, tyranny and persecution will not avail to stifle the Word of Jesus Christ. It flourishes and grows in blood. Where one Christian is slaughtered, a host of others arise. `Tis not on our walls or our arquebusses I rely for resisting the Turk, but upon the Pater Noster. `Tis that will triumph. The Decalogue is not, of itself, sufficient. I said to the engineers at Wittenberg: Why strengthen your walls—they are trash; the walls with which a Christian should fortify himself are made, not of stone and mortar, but of prayer and faith.
The Turks are the people of the wrath of God. `Tis horrible to see their contempt of marriage. `Twas not so with the Romans.
Let us repent, pray, and await the Lord’s will, for human defense and help is all too weak. Five years since, the emperor was well able to resist the Turks, when he had levied a great army of horse and foot, out of the whole empire, Italians and Germans. But then he would not; therefore, meantime, many good people were butchered by the Turks. Ah, loving God, what is this life, but death! there is nothing but death, from the cradle unto old age. I fear all things go not right; the tyranny and pride of the Spaniards, doubtless, will give us over to the Turks, and make us subject to them. There is great treachery somewhere. I doubt the twenty thousand men, and the costly pieces of double cannon are willfully betrayed to the Turk. It is not usual to carry such great pieces of ordnance into the field. The emperor Maximilian kept them safe at Vienna. It seems to me, as though he had said to the Turk: take these pieces of ordnance as a present; slay and destroy all that cannot escape. This expedition has an aspect of treachery; for while our men slumber, the Turk constantly watches, attempting all he can, both with open power and with secret practices.
If the Turk were to cause proclamation to be made, that every man should be free from taxation and tribute for the space of three years, the common people would joyfully yield to him. But when he had got them into his claws, he would make use of his tyranny, as his custom is, for he takes the third son from every man; he is always father of the third child. Truly, it is a great tyranny, which chiefly concerns the princes of the empire themselves. I ever held the emperor in suspicion, yet he can deeply dissemble. I have almost despaired of him, since he opposed the known truth, which he heard at the Diet at Augsburg. The verse in the second Psalm holds ever good: “Why do the heathen so furiously rage together, and why do the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed,” etc. David complained thereof, Christ felt it, the apostles lamented it; we feel it too. `Twas therefore St Paul said: “Not many wise even after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called.” Let us call upon God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; let us pray, for it is high time.
The admirable great constancy of John, prince elector of Saxony, is worthy of everlasting memory and praise; who personally and steadfastly held over the pure doctrine of the Gospel at the imperial diet at Augsburg, 1530. And, unhappily, Germany is a prey to discord all this time. See how furious a hate the papists bear to the partisans of the Gospel. They have put their faith in the emperor against us, but they will come to confusion. A certain count had a great bonfire lighted in the night, when he learned the arrival of the emperor in Germany; and a popish priest, near Eisenach, said, he would bet all the cows he should have in the year, that Martin Luther and his adherents would be hanged before Michaelmas. These fellows thought it only needed for the emperor to march against the Lutherans, and they cherished horrible projects; but they were finely disappointed.
The emperor of the Turks maintains great pomp in his court. You have to traverse three vestibules before you reach the apartment wherein he sits. In the first vestibule are twelve chained lions; in the second, an equal number of panthers. He has under his rule very rich and populous countries; even within the last ten years, the number of his subjects has greatly increased.
The 21st of December, 1536, George, marquis of Brandenburg came to Wittenberg, and announced that the Turks had obtained a great victory over the Germans, whose fine army had been betrayed and massacred; he said that many princes and brave captains had perished, and that such Christians as remained prisoners, had been treated with extreme cruelty, their noses being slit, and themselves used most scornfully. Luther said: We, Germans, must consider hereupon that God’s anger is at our gates, that we should hasten to repentance while there is yet time; by degrees, he subjugated the Saracens, who before were the lords of Syria, Asia, the Land of Promise, Assyria, Greece, and a portion of Spain. These Solyman utterly overthrew and well nigh annihilated. `Tis thus God plays with kingdoms, as in Isaiah, it is threatened: “I the Lord am a strong God over kingdoms; whoso sinneth I destroy.” The Venetians made no resistance. They are effeminate and pretend not to be warriors. `Tis wonderful what progress the Turk has made in the last hundred years, yet that is nothing in comparison with the progress the Roman empire made in fifty years, though, during twenty-three years of the fifty, it had to maintain a terrible war with Hannibal. Such was its aggrandizement, that Scipio declared it advisable that in the public prayers the petition for extended domination should be omitted, it being his opinion that now they had better see to the taking care of what they had got. Yet God overthrew this mighty empire by the hands of barbarians.
The elector of Saxony wrote to Dr. Luther that the Turks had gained a great victory. Cazianus, Ungnad, Schlick, had all been brided by the enemy, and their names were now placarded all over Vienna, as condemned traitors. These generals led the German army close to the Turkish camp; a Christian who had made his escape from the infidels, cane and warned them to be on their guard, but they treated his counsel with contumely. When the enemy approached, these traitors took to flight, with the cavalry, abandoning the infantry to slaughter. The Turks next feigned a retreat, whereupon the Christian generals ordered the cavalry, eleven hundred in number, to return to the charge, but the Turks surrounding them, cut them in pieces also. Cazianus had received eighteen thousand ducats from the Turks through a Jew, to betray the Christian army, and had promised to deliver the king himself into the enemies hands. Luther, on hearing this news, said: Auri sacra fames, quid non mortalia pectora cogis? This traitor must everlastingly burn in hell. I would not betray a dog. I much fear it will go ill with Ferdinand, who has allowed so great an army to be thrust into the throat of the Turk, by the hands of a perjured Mameluke, who heretofore fell from the Turk to the Christians, and now has fallen again from the Christians to the Turk.
Our princes and rulers ought to march in person against the enemy, and not have him thus encountered; the Turk is not to be condemned. Truly, we Germans are jolly fellows; we eat, and drink, and game at our ease, wholly heedless of the Turk. Germany has been a fine and noble country, but `twill be said of her, as of Troy, fuit Llium. Let us pray to God, that, amidst such calamities, he will preserve our consciences. I dread lest the money and forces of Germany become exhausted, for then, perforce, we must yield to the Turk. They reproach me with all this; me, unhappy Martin Luther. They reproach me, too, with the revolt of the peasants, and with the sacramentarian sects, as though I had been their author. Often have I felt disposed to throw the keys before God’s foot.
The Turks pretend, despite the Holy Scriptures, that they are the chosen people of God, as descendants of Ishmael. They say that Ishmael was the true son of the promise, for that when Issac was about to be sacrificed, he fled from his father, and from the slaughter knife, and, meanwhile, Ishmael came and truly offered himself to be sacrificed, whence he became the child of the promise; as gross a lie as that of the papists concerning one kind in the sacrament. The Turks make a boast of being very religious, and treat all other nations as idolaters. They slanderously accuse the Christians of worshipping three gods. They swear by one only God, creator of heaven and earth, by his angels, by the four evangelists, and by the eighty heaven-descended prophets, of whom Mohammed is the greatest. They reject all images and pictures, and render homage to God alone. They pay the most honorable testimony to Jesus Christ, saying that he was a prophet of preeminent sanctity, born of the Virgin Mary, and an envoy from God, but that Mohammed succeeded him, and that while Mohammed sits, in heaven, on the right hand of the Father, Jesus Christ is seated on his left. The Turks have retained many features of the law of Moses, but, inflated with the insolence of victory, they have adopted a new worship; for the glory of warlike triumphs is, in the opinion of the world, the greatest of all.
Luther complained of the emperor Charles negligence, who, taken up with other wars, suffered the Turk to capture one place after another. `Tis with the Turks as heretofore with the Romans, every subject is a soldier, as long as he is able to bear arms, so they have always a disciplined army ready for the field; whereas we gather together ephemeral bodies of vagabonds, untried wretches, upon whom is no dependence. My fear is, that the papists will unite with the Turks to exterminate us. Please God, my anticipation come not true, but certain it is, that the desperate creatures will do their best to deliver us over to the Turks.
Luther wrote a letter to the emperor’s chief general in Hungary, admonishing him that he had against him four powerful enemies; he had not only to do with flesh and blood, but with the devil, with the Turk, with God’s wrath, with our own sins; therefore he should remember to humble himself and to call upon God to help.
Luther heard that the emperor Charles had sent into Austria eighteen thousand Spaniards against the Turk. Whereupon he sighed, and said: `Tis a sign of the last day when those cruel nations, the Spaniards and Turks, are to be our masters: I would rather have the Turks for enemies than the Spaniards for protectors; for, barbarous tyrants as they are, most of the Spaniards are half Moors, half Jews, fellows who believe nothing at all.
The great hope I have is, that the Turkish empire will be brought to an end by intestine dissensions, as it has been with all the kingdoms of the world, the Persian, the Chaldean, the Alexandrian, the Roman: I hope the four brothers, the son of the great Turk, will dispute the sovereignty among themselves. Whoso climbs high, is in danger to fall; the best swimmer may be drowned. If it be the will of God, though the Turk has climbed high, he may fall to pieces in a moment.
The Turk will go to Rome, as Daniel’s prophecy announces, and then the last day will not be very distant. Germany must be chastised by the Turks. I often reflect with sorrow, how utterly Germany neglects all good counsel. Victory, however, depends not on ourselves. There is a time for conquering the Turks, and a time for being conquered. The king of France long exalted himself in his pride, but in the end he was abased and made captive. The pope long despised God and man, but he too is fallen. They say the pope lately celebrated the circumcision of four of his sons, and invited the great khan, the king of Persia, and the chiefs of the Venetians, to the ceremony. He is extremely venerated by his subjects. He gives the people a passport, called vich, the bearer of which passes safely throughout the Turkish dominions, and is freely lodged wherever he goes.
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