JOHN THE STEADFAST: Elector of Saxony 1525-32, brother of Frederick the Wise (q.v.); b. at Meissen (15 m. n.w. of Dresden) June 30, 1468; d. at Schweinitz (54 m. n.e. of Merseburg) Aug. 16, 1532. He received a scholarly education, was trained in the arts of knighthood, and is said to have distinguished himself in the struggle against the Turks. Luther's writings soon won his heart, and he followed the development of the reformatory movement with ever increasing interest. It was he who, in the absence of the elector, omitted to publish the bull directed against Luther. In his letters to his brother he warmly recommended Luther and admonished the cautious elector to adopt more decidedly the reformer's cause and to influence other princes in the same direction. His influence decided Frederick to protect Luther in the Wartburg. During the printing of his New Testament, Luther sent John the single sheets, and thenceforth he read the Bible daily. In October, 1522, Luther came for the first time, as it seems, on his journey to Erfurt to the court of Weimar and preached several times. His sermons on the limitations of secular authority caused John to dosire further discussion of the subject, and Luther published his treatise Von weltlicher Obrigkeit, the principles of which John conscientiously tried to carry out throughout his life. Too ono-sided emphasis of these principles and his anxiety not to interfere improperly in spiritual matters, seem to have been the reason why he tolerated for a long time the agitation of Münzer and Carlstadt. Similarly he did not interfere with the abolition of the Corpus Christi procession, and allowed the reading of the mass and the celebration of the Lord's Supper after the Protestant fashion.
When he became sole ruler, after the death of Frederick (May 5, 1525), he announced to the clergy that in future the pure word of God should be preached without human addition, and that all useless ceremonies should be abolished. He resolutely refused an agreement with his cousin, George of Saxony, and with the landgrave of Hesse openly confessed the Evangelical doctrine. To be prepared against machinations of his opponents, a treaty was ratified Feb. 27, 1526, between him and Philip of Hesse, which was soon joined by other Evangelical estates, so that John became the leader of the Evangelical party. As such he appeared at the Diet of Speyer in 1526 (see SPEYER, DIETS OF). Difficult problems awaited him at home. Before he had become elector, Nicolaus Hausman, preacher of Zwickau, had called his attention to the miserable condition of the Church and advised him to undertake a general visitation, pointing to Luther as the most suitable man for that purpose. Luther now proposed to institute four or five commissions of visitation for the whole country, and there followed a demand of the visitators that the privilege to install or depose clergymen should belong exclusively to the sovereign. It was a step in the development of the State Church, and the acknowledgment of the secular ruler as the protector of the Church.
Owing to the influence of Luther, John reorganized the University of Wittenberg and checked the greed of the nobility in appropriating the possessions of the Church, which had become a real danger for the country. During this constructive activity of the elector the rumor spread of the formation of a league of Roman Catholic princes at Breslau (1528) for the annihilation of the Evangelical estates and the extirpation of the new heresy. Otto von Pack reported to Landgrave Philip of Hesse that he and the elector were required to reestablish the Roman religion in their countries. Both were convinced of the genuineness of the report and prepared for defense by trying to gain new allies in the north and south. At the advice of Luther and contrary to the wish of Philip, John desisted from assuming the offensive. In full confidence of the justice of his cause he went again to the Diet of Speyer in 1529, and, by openly avowing his Evangelical convictions, incurred the enmity of the majority. He defended the Evangelical interpretation of the Recess of Speyer of 1526, according to which the privilege of ecclesiastical renovation had been granted, and protested against the resolution of the majority, which threatened the further existence of the new Church. At first he was inclined to meet the efforts of the Strasburg Evangelicals who tried to unite the Protestants on the question of the Lord's Supper, but Luther dissuaded him. His acceptance of the Schwabach Article (q.v.), drawn up by Luther, showed his determination to renounce even his league with the landgrave, if the latter would not separate himself from the union efforts of Switzerland and Upper Germany. Although he had sustained many an insult from the emperor, he acknowledged obedience to him, except where it conflicted with the honor of God and his soul's welfare. At the Diet of Augsburg, in 1530, his conduct was heroic. He firmly maintained his Evangelical position, and refused to forbid Evangelical preaching at the demand of the emperor. The great services he rendered to the final success of the Augsburg Confession are well known. On his homeward journey he learned of the warlike preparations of his enemies, but his interpretation of the Word of God withheld him from opposing an attack of his emperor. After some weeks, however, he, as well as Luther, was convinced by jurists that the relation of the emperor to the estates was not strictly monarchical, both parties being bound by law and right, and that the emperor, in attacking the Evangelicals, acted not only against God, but against his own imperial rights; therefore a defense of the Evangelicals would be justified, and in 1531 the Protestants formed a defensive league under the leadership of John. On the question of the election of Ferdinand as Roman king, he took a much firmer stand. At the beginning of the Diet of Augsburg he had been determined to oppose it for legal reasons, and what he heard later of the practises of the emperor and Ferdinand confirmed him in his opposition. Luther advised him, though hesitatingly, to concede the election, but in this point John followed his chancellor, Brück, who asked him to protest against it. The elector was declared disobedient because he did not appear personally at the election, and thus the rupture
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Sources are: Spalatlin's Biographie, in J. B. Mencke, Conspectus script. rer. Germ., ii. 1123 sqq., Leipsic, 1728; C. E. Förstemann, Urkundlenbuch zur Geschichte des Reichstags zu Augsburg, 2 vols., Halle, 1833-35; idem, Archiv für die Geschichte der kirchlichen Reformation, i., part 1, ib. 1833; idem, Neues Urkundenbuch zur Geschichte der . . . Kirchen-Reformation, vol. i., Hamburg, 1842; C. G. Neudecker, Aktenstücke aus dem Zeitalter der Reformation, Nuremberg, 1839-40; and the various editions of Luther's correspondence. C. A. H. Burckhardt, Geschichte der sächsischen Kirchen- und Schulvisitationen, Leipsic, 1879; H. Schwarz, Landgraf Philipp von Hessen und die Packischen-Händel, Leipsic, 1884; O. Winckelmann, Der schmalkaldische Bund und der Marburger Religionsfriede, Strasburg, 1892; L. von Ranke, Deutsche Geschichte, vols. iii.-iv., Leipsic, 1894; Cambridge Modern History, ii. 233-276, New York, 1904; and the literature under LUTHER; REFORMATION.
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