§ 117. The Diet of Augsburg.


I. Sources. Collection in Walch, XVI. 747–2142. Luther’s Letters of the year 1530, in De Wette, vol. IV. Melanchthon’s Letters in the "Corpus Reformatorum," ed. Bretschneider and Bindseil, vol. II., and documents relating to the Augsb. Conf. in vol. XXVI. Spalatin, Annal., ed. by Cyprian, 131–289. The Roman Cath. representation: Pro Religione Christiana Res Gestae in Comitiis Augustae Vindelicorum habitis, 1530, reprinted in Cyprian’s Historie der Augsb. Conf. Brück wrote a refutation published by Förstemann, "Archiv für Ref. Gesch.," 1831. Collection of documents by Förstemann: Urkundenbuch zu der Gesch. des Reichstages zu Augsburg in J. 1530. Halle, 1833, ’35, 2 vols. By the same: Neues Urkundenbuch, Hamburg, 1842. Schirrmacher: Briefs und Acten zur Gesch. des Religionsgesprächs zu Marburg, 1529, und des Reichstages zu Augsburg, 1530, nach der Handschrift des Aurifaber, Gotha, 1876.

II. Histories of the Augsburg Diet and Confession. See list in "Corp. Ref." XXVI. 101–112. D. Chytræus (Kochhafe): Historie der Augsb. Conf., Rostock, 1576, Frcf. 1577, 1578, 1600. G. Coelestin: Hist. Comitiorum a. 1530 Augustae celebratorum, Frcf. 1577, 4 vols. fol. E. Sal. Cyprian: Hist. der Augsb. Conf., Gotha, 1730. Cur. A. Salig: Historie der Augsb. Conf. und derselben Apologie, Halle, 1730–35, in 3 parts. Weber: Vollständige Gesch. der Augsb. Conf., Frcf. 1783–84, 2 vols. Planck: Gesch. des protest. Lehrbegriff’s (Leipz. 1792), vol. III. I. 1–178. Fickenscher: Gesch. des Reichstages zu Augsb. 1530, Nürnb. 1830. Pfaff: Gesch. des Reichstags zu Augsburg, 1530, Stuttg. 1830. Add special works on the Augsb. Conf. mentioned in § 119.

III. The relevant sections in the general Church Histories of Schroeckh, Mosheim, Gieseler, etc.; in the Histories of the Reformation by Marheineke, Hagenbach, Merle D’aub., Fisher; in the general Histories of Germany by Ranke (Prot.), vol. III. 162–215, and Janssen (Rom. Cath.), vol. III. 165–211. Also the numerous Lives of Luther (e.g., Köstlin, Book VI., chs. XI. and XII., vol. II. 198 sqq.), and Melanchthon (e.g., C. Schmidt, 190–250).

IV. Special points. H. Virk: Melanchthon’s Politische Stellung auf dem Reichstag zu Augsburg, in Brieger’s "Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte," 1887, pp. 67 and 293 sqq.


The situation of Protestantism in 1530 was critical. The Diet of Speier had forbidden the further progress of the Reformation: the Edict of Worms was in full legal force; the Emperor had made peace with the Pope, and received from him the imperial crown at Bologna; the Protestants were divided among themselves, and the Conference at Marburg had failed to unite them against the common foe. At the same time the whole empire was menaced by a foreign power. The Turks under Suleiman "the Magnificent," who called himself, Lord of all rulers, Dispenser of crowns to the monarchs of the earth, the Shadow of God over the world," had reached the summit of their military power, and approached the gates of Vienna in September, 1529. They swore by the beard of Mohammed not to rest till the prayers of the prophet of Mecca should be heard from the tower of St. Stephen. They were indeed forced to retire with a loss of eighty thousand men, but threatened a second attempt, and in the mean time laid waste a great part of Hungary.

Under these circumstances the Diet of Augsburg convened, April 8, 1530. Its object was to settle the religious question, and to prepare for war against the Turks. The invitation dated Jan. 21, 1530, from Bologna, carefully avoids, all irritating allusions, sets forth in strong language the danger of foreign invasion, and expresses the hope that all would co-operate for the restoration of the unity of the holy empire of the German nation in the one true Christian religion and church.

But there was little prospect for such co-operation. The Roman majority meant war against the Protestants and the Turks as enemies of church and state; the Protestant minority meant defense against the Papists and the Turks as the enemies of the gospel. In the eyes of the former, Luther was worse than Mohammed; in the eyes of the Lutherans, the Pope was at least as bad as Mohammed. Their motto was, —


Erhalt uns Herr bei Deinem Wort

Und steur’ des Papsts und Türken Mord."


The Emperor stood by the Pope and the Edict of Worms, but was more moderate than his fanatical surroundings, and treated the Lutherans during the Diet with courteous consideration, while he refused to give the Zwinglians even a hearing. The Lutherans on their part praised him beyond his merits, and were deceived into false hopes; while they would have nothing to do with the Swiss and Strassburgers, although they agreed with them in fourteen out of fifteen articles of faith.956

The Saxon Elector, as soon as he received the summons to the Diet, ordered the Wittenberg theologians, at the advice of Chancellor Brück, to draw up a confession of faith for possible use at Augsburg, and to meet him at Torgau. He started on the 3d of April with his son, several noblemen, Luther, Melanchthon, Jonas, Spalatin, and Agricola, stopped a few days at Coburg on the Saxon frontier, where Luther was left behind, and entered Augsburg on the 2d of May.

The Emperor was delayed on the journey through the Tyrol, and did not arrive till the 15th of June. On the following day he took a devout part in the celebration of the Corpus Christi festival. He walked in solemn procession under the most scorching heat, with uncovered head, heavy purple cloak, and a burning wax-candle. The Protestant princes absented themselves from what they regarded an idolatrous ceremony. They also declined to obey the Emperor’s prohibition of evangelical preaching during the Diet. Margrave George of Brandenburg declared that he would rather lose his head than deny God. The Emperor replied: "Dear prince, not head off, not head off."957  He imposed silence upon the preachers of both parties, except those whom he should select. The Protestant princes held service in private houses.

The Diet was opened on Monday, June 20, with high mass by the Cardinal Archbishop of Mainz, and a long sermon by Archbishop Pimpinelli of Rossano, the papal nuncio at the court of Ferdinand. He described, in elegant Latin, the tyranny of the Turks, reproved the Germans for their sleepiness and divisions, and commended the heathen Romans and Mohammedans for their religious unity, obedience, and devotion to the past. A few days afterwards (June 24) the papal nuncio at the Diet, Laurentius Campegius (Campeggi) warned the Estates not to separate from the holy Catholic church, but to follow the example of other Christian kings and powers.

The Emperor desired first to secure help against the Turks, but the Protestants insisted on the priority of the church question. He accordingly commanded them to have their confession ready within four days, and to hand it to him in writing. He did not wish it to be read before the Diet, but the Protestants insisted upon this. He then granted the reading in Latin, but the Elector of Saxony pressed the rights of the German vernacular. "We are on German soil," said he, "and therefore I hope your Majesty will allow the German language." The Emperor yielded this point, but refused the request to have the Confession read in the city hall where the Diet met.

On the twenty-fifth day of June—the most memorable day in the history of Lutheranism, next to the 31st of October -the Augsburg Confession was read, with a loud and firm voice, by Dr. Baier, vice-chancellor of Electoral Saxony, in the German language, before the Diet in the private chapel of the episcopal palace. The reading occupied nearly two hours. The Emperor, who knew little German and less theology, soon fell asleep.958   But the majority listened attentively. The Papists were surprised at the moderation of the Confession, and would have wished it more polemical and anti-catholic. The bishop of Augsburg, Christoph von Stadion, is reported to have remarked privately that it contained the pure truth. Duke William of Bavaria censured Eck for misrepresenting to him the Lutheran opinions; and when the doctor said he could refute them, not with the Scriptures, but with the fathers, he replied: "I am to understand, then, that the Lutherans are within the Scriptures, and we Catholics on the outside?"

Dr. Brück, the Saxon chancellor who composed the preface and epilogue, handed to the Emperor a German and a Latin copy of the Confession. The Emperor kept the former, and gave the latter to the Elector of Mainz for safe-keeping. The Latin copy (in Melanchthon’s own handwriting) was deposited in the archives of Brussels, and disappeared under the reign of Duke Alba. The German original, as read before the Diet, was sent, with the acts of the Diet, to the Council of Trent, and never returned. But unauthorized editions soon appeared in different places (six German, one Latin) during the Diet; and Melanchthon himself issued the Confession in both languages at Wittenberg, 1531.

Both documents were signed by seven princes; namely, the Elector John of Saxony, Landgrave Philip of Hesse, Margrave George of Brandenburg, Duke Ernest of Lüneburg, Duke John Frederick of Saxony, Duke Francis of Lüneburg, Prince Wolfgang of Anhalt; and by two representatives of free cities, Nürnberg and Reutlingen.

The signing required considerable courage, for it involved the risk of the crown. When warned by Melanchthon of the possible consequences, the Saxon Elector nobly replied: "I will do what is right, unconcerned about my Electoral dignity. I will confess my Lord, whose cross I esteem more highly than all the power on earth."

This act and testimony gave great significance to the Diet of Augsburg, and immortal glory to the confessors. Luther gave eloquent expression to his joy, when he wrote to Melanchthon, Sept. 15, 1530:959 You have confessed Christ, you have offered peace, you have obeyed the Emperor, you have endured injuries, you have been drenched in their revilings, you have not returned evil for evil. In brief, you have worthily done God’s holy work as becometh saints. Be glad, then, in the Lord, and exult, ye righteous. Long enough have ye been mourning in the world; look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh. I will canonize you as a faithful member of Christ. And what greater glory can you desire?  Is it a small thing to have yielded Christ faithful service, and shown yourself a member worthy of Him?"

The only blot on the fame of the Lutheran confessors of Augsburg is their intolerant conduct towards the Reformed, which weakened their own cause. The four German cities which sympathized with the Zwinglian view on the Lord’s Supper wished to sign the Confession, with the exception of the tenth article, which rejects their view; but they were excluded, and forced to hand in a separate confession of faith.


 § 118. The Negotiations, the Recess, the Peace of Nürnberg.


The remaining transactions during this Diet were discouraging and unfruitful, and the result was a complete, but short-lived, victory of the Roman Catholic party.

Melanchthon during all this time was in a state of nervous trepidation and despondency.960  Before the delivery of the Confession he thought it too mild and pacific; after the delivery, he thought it too severe and polemic. So far was he carried away by his desire for reunion, and fears of the disastrous results of a split, that he made a most humiliating approach to the papal legate, Campeggi, who had advised the Emperor to crush the Protestant heresy by fire and sword, to put Wittenberg under the ban, and to introduce the Spanish Inquisition into Germany. Two weeks after the delivery of the Confession, he assured him that the Lutherans did not differ in any doctrine from the Roman Church, and were willing to obey her if she only would charitably overlook a few minor changes of discipline and ceremonies, which they could not undo.961  And, to conciliate such a power, Melanchthon kept aloof as far as possible from the Zwinglians and Strassburgers. On the 8th of July he had a personal interview with Campeggi, and Aug. 4 he submitted to him a few mild conditions of peace. The cardinal expressed his great satisfaction at these concessions, but prudently reserved his answer till he should hear from Rome.

All these approaches failed. Rome would listen to nothing but absolute submission.

Melanchthon soon found out that the papal divines, especially Eck, were full of pharisaical pride and malice. He was severely censured by the Nürnbergers and by Philip of Hesse for his weakness, and even charged by some with treason to the evangelical cause. His conduct must be judged in the light of the fact that the Roman Church allowed a certain freedom on the controverted points of anthropology and soteriology, and did not formally condemn the evangelical doctrines till several years afterwards, in the Council of Trent. The Augsburg Confession itself takes this view of the matter, by declaring at the close of the doctrinal articles: "This is the sum of doctrine among us, in which can be seen nothing which is discrepant with Scripture, nor with the Catholic or even with the Roman Church, so far as that Church is known from the writings of the Fathers." Melanchthon may be charged with moral weakness and mistake of judgment, but not with unfaithfulness. Luther remained true to his invaluable friend, who was indispensable to the evangelical cause, and did it the greatest service at Augsburg. He comforted him in his letters from Coburg.962

The Lutheran Confession was referred for answer, i.e., for refutation, to a commission of twenty Roman theologians, who were present at the Diet, including Eck, Faber, Cochlaeus, Wimpina, and Dittenberger. Their answer was ready July 13, but declined by the Emperor on account of its length and bitter tone. After undergoing five revisions, it was approved and publicly read on the 3d of August before the Diet, in the same chapel in which the Protestant Confession had been read. The Emperor pronounced the answer "Christian and well-considered." He was willing to hand a copy to the Protestants, on condition to keep it private; but Melanchthon prepared a refutation, at the request of the Lutheran princes.

The Emperor, in his desire for a peaceful result, arranged a conference between the theological leaders of the two parties. Eck, Wimpina, and Cochlaeus represented the Roman Catholics; Melanchthon, Brenz, and Schnepf, the Lutherans. The discussion began Aug. 16, but proved a failure. A smaller committee conferred from the 24th to the 29th of August, but with no better result. Melanchthon hoped against hope, and made concession after concession, to conciliate the bishops and the Emperor. But the Roman divines insisted on a recognition of an infallible church, a perpetual sacrifice, and a true priesthood. They would not even give up clerical celibacy, and the withdrawal of the cup from the laity; and demanded a restoration of the episcopal jurisdiction, of church property, and of the convents.

Luther, writing from Coburg, urged the hesitating theologians and princes to stand by their colors. He, too, was willing to restore innocent ceremonies, and even to consent to the restoration of episcopacy, but only on condition of the free preaching of the gospel. He deemed a reconciliation in doctrine impossible, unless the Pope gave up popery.963

On the 22d of September the Emperor announced the Recess of the Diet; that, after having heard and refuted the Confession of the Protestants, and vainly conferred with them, another term for consideration till April 15, 1531, be granted to them, as a special favor, and that in the mean time they should make no new innovations, nor disturb the

Catholics in their faith and worship, and assist the Emperor in the suppression of the Anabaptists and those who despised the holy sacrament. The Emperor promised to bring about a general council within a year for the removal of ecclesiastical grievances.

The signers of the Augsburg Confession, the cities of Frankfurt, Ulm, Schwäbisch Hall, Strassburg, Memmingen, Constance, Lindau, refused the recess. The Lutherans protested that their Confession had never been refuted, and offered Melanchthon’s Apology of the same, which was rejected. They accepted the proposed term for consideration.

The day after the announcement of the Recess, the Elector of Saxony returned home with his theologians. The Emperor took leave of him with these words: "Uncle, uncle, I did not look for this from you."  The Elector with tears in his eyes went away in silence. He stopped on the journey at Nürnberg and Coburg, and reached Torgau the 9th of October. The Landgrave of Hesse had left Augsburg in disgust several weeks earlier (Aug. 6), without permission, and created fears of an open revolt.

Luther was very indignant at the Recess, which was in fact a re-affirmation of the Edict of Worms. To stop the progress of the gospel, he declared, is to crucify the Lord afresh; the Augsburg Confession must remain as the pure word of God to the judgment day; the mass cannot be tolerated, as it is the greatest abomination; nor can it be left optional to commune in one or both kinds. Let peace be condemned to the lowest hell, if it hinder and injure the gospel and faith. They say, if popery falls, Germany will go to ruin. It is terrible, but I cannot help it. It is the fault of the papists.964  He published early in 1531 a book against the Edict of Augsburg, which he ascribes to Pope Clement "the arch-villain," and Campeggi, rather than to the Emperor, and closes with the wish that "blasphemous popery may perish in hell as John prophesies in Revelation (14:8; 18:2; 22:20); let every Christian say, Amen."965  In the same year he warned the Germans to be ready for defense, although it did not become him as a minister to stir up war.966

The Recess of the Diet was finally published Nov. 19; but its execution threatened to bring on civil war, and to give victory to the Turks. The Emperor shrank from such consequences and was seriously embarrassed. Only two of the secular princes, Elector Joachim of Brandenburg and Duke George of Saxony, were ready to assist him in severe measures. The Duke of Bavaria was dissatisfied with the Emperor’s efforts to have, his brother Ferdinand elected Roman king. The archbishops of Mayence and Cologne, and the bishop of Augsburg, half sympathized with the Protestants.967  But the Emperor had promised the Pope to use all his power for the suppression of heresy, and was bound to execute as best he could the edict of the Diet after the expiration of the term of grace, April 15, 1531.

The Lutheran princes therefore formed in December, 1530, at Smalcald, a defensive alliance under the name of the Smalcaldian League. The immediate object was to protect themselves against the lawsuits of the imperial chamber of justice for the recovery of church property and the restoration of the episcopal jurisdiction. Opinions were divided on the question whether the allies in case of necessity should take up arms against the Emperor; the theologians were opposed to it, but the lawyers triumphed over the theological scruples, and the Elector of Saxony pledged the members for defensive measures against any and every aggressor, even the Emperor. At a new convent at Smalcald in March, 1531, the League was concluded in due form for six years. It embraced Electoral Saxony, Hesse, Lüneburg, Anhalt, Mansfeld, and eleven cities. Out of this League ultimately arose the Smalcaldian war, which ended so disastrously for the Protestant princes, especially the Elector of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse (1547).

But for the present, war was prevented by the peace at Nürnberg, 1532. A renewed invasion of Sultan Suleiman with an army of three hundred thousand, in April, 1532, made conciliation a political and patriotic duty. The Emperor convened a Diet at Regensburg, April 17, which was transferred to Nürnberg; and there, on July 23, 1532, a temporary truce was concluded, and vigorous measures taken against the Turks, who were defeated by land and sea, and forced to retreat. The victorious Emperor went to Italy, and urged the Pope to convene the council; but the Pope was not yet ready, and found excuses for indefinite postponement.968

John the Constant died in the same year, of a stroke of apoplexy (Aug. 16, 1532), and was followed by his son John Frederick the Magnanimous, who in the Smalcaldian war lost his electoral dignity, but saved his evangelical faith.


 § 119. The Augsburg Confession.


I. Editions of the Augsb. Conf.: The best critical edition in the 26th vol. of the "Corpus Reformatorum," ed. Bretschneider und Bindseil (1858), 776 pages. It gives the Invariata and the Variata, in Latin and German, with critical apparatus, list of MSS. and early editions, and the preceding documents: viz., the Articles of Visitation, the Marburg, the Schwabach, and the Torgau Articles.

The Confession in Latin or German, or both, Is embodied in all the collections of Lutheran symbols by Rechenberg, Walch, Weber, Hase, Meyer, Francke, Müller.

Separate modem editions by Twesten, Tittmann, Weber, Wiggers, Förstemann, Harter, etc.

English translation, with Latin text, in Schaff, Creeds, III. 3–73; in English alone, in Henkel, Book of Concord, 1854, and Jacobs, Book of Concord, Philad., 1882. The first English translation was made by Richard Taverner, London, 1536, the last, on the basis of this, by Charles P. Krauth. (See B. M. Schmucker: English Translations of the Augsb. Conf., Philad., 1887, 34 pp.)

On the literature compare Köllner: Symbolik der Lutherischen Kirche, Hamburg, 1837, pp. 150–152, with a full history of the Conf., pp. 153–396.

II. Histories and monographs: the works of Chytraeus, Coelestin, Cyprian, Salig, Pfaff, Fickenscher, Forstemann, etc., quoted in § 117. Recent works: Köllner, 1837 (see above). Rudelbach: Die Augsb. Conf. nach den Quellen, Dresden, 1841. G. Plitt: Einleitung in die Augustana, Erlangen, 1867–68 2 Parts; Die Apologie der Augustana, Erl., 1873. W. J. Mann: A Plea for the Augsburg Confession, Philadelphia, 1856. Stuckenberg: The History of the Augsb. Confession, Philad., 1869. Zöckler: Die Augsb. Conf., Frkf. -a.-M., 1870. Vilmar: Die Augsb. Confession erklärt, Gütersloh, 1870. A brief account in Schaff: Creeds (4th ed. 1884), I. 225–242. On the Roman Catholic side see Janssen, III. 165–211, and L. Pastor: Die kirchlichen Reunionsbest-rebungen während der Regierung Karls V., Freiburg, 1879, 22 sqq.

III. On special points: Luther’s relation to the Augsb. Conf. is discussed by Rückert, Jena, 1854; Calinich, Leipz., 1861; Knaake, Berlin, 1863. The relation of the A. C. to the Marburg, Schwabach, and Torgau Articles is treated by Ed. Engelhardt in the "Zeitschrift für Hist. Theol.," 1865, pp. 515–529; and by Th. Brieger in "Kirchengesch. Studien," Leipzig, 1888, pp. 265–320.


The Augsburg Confession is the first and the most famous of evangelical confessions. It gave clear, full, systematic expression to the chief articles of faith for which Luther and his friends had been contending for thirteen years, since he raised his protest against the traffic in indulgences. By its intrinsic merits and historic connections, it has become the chief doctrinal standard of the Lutheran Church, which also bears the name of the "Church of the Augsburg Confession."  It retains this position to this day, notwithstanding the theological and ecclesiastical dissensions in that communion. It furnished the keynote to similar public testimonies of faith, and strengthened the cause of the Reformation everywhere. It had a marked influence upon the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England.969  In the final revision by the author, and with the necessary change in the tenth article, it has also been frequently adopted by Reformed divines and congregations. But it was never intended, least of all by Melanchthon, who mended it to the last moment and even after its adoption, as an infallible and ultimate standard, even of the Lutheran Church. It was at first modestly called an, "Apology," after the manner of the Christian Apologies in the ante-Nicene age, and meant to be simply a dispassionate statement in vindication of the Lutheran faith before the Roman Catholic world.

It is purely apologetic, and much more irenic than polemic. It aims to be, if possible, a Formula of Concord, instead of Discord. It is animated by a desire for reconciliation with Rome. Hence it is remarkably mild in tone, adheres closely to the historic faith, and avoids all that could justly offend the Catholics. It passes by, in silence, the supremacy of the Scriptures as the only rule of faith and practice, and some of the most objectionable features in the Roman system,—as indulgences, purgatory, and the papal primacy (which Melanchthon was willing to tolerate on an impossible condition). In short, it is the most churchly, the most catholic, the most conservative creed of Protestantism. It failed to conciliate Rome, but became the strongest bond of union among Lutherans.

The Confession is the ripe fruit of a gradual growth. It is based chiefly upon three previous confessional documents—the fifteen Articles of Marburg, Oct. 4, 1529, the seventeen Articles of Schwabach (a modification and expansion of the former by Luther, with the insertion of his view of the real presence), adopted by the Lutheran princes in a convent at Schwabach, near Nürnberg, Oct. 16, 1529, and several Articles of Torgau against certain abuses of the Roman Church, drawn up by Luther, Melanchthon, Jonas, and Bugenhagen, by order of the Elector, at his residence in Torgau, March 20, 1530.970  The first two documents furnished the material for the first or positive part of the Augsburg Confession; the last, for its second or polemical part.

Melanchthon used this material in a free way, and made a new and far better work, which bears the stamp of his scholarship and moderation, his power of condensation, and felicity of expression. He began the preparation at Coburg, with the aid of Luther, in April, and finished it at Augsburg, June 24. He labored on it day and night, so that Luther had to warn him against over-exertion. "I command you," he wrote to him May 12, "and all your company that they compel you, under pain of excommunication, to take care of your poor body, and not to kill yourself from imaginary obedience to God. We serve God also by taking holiday and rest."

If we look at the contents, Luther is the primary, Melanchthon the secondary, author; but the form, the method, style, and temper are altogether Melanchthon’s. Nobody else could produce such a work. Luther would have made it more aggressive and polemic, but less effective for the occasion. He himself was conscious of the superior qualification of his friend for the task, and expressed his entire satisfaction with the execution. "It pleases me very well," he wrote of the Confession, "and I could not change or improve it; nor would it be becoming to do so, since I cannot tread so softly and gently."971  He would have made the tenth article on the real presence still stronger than it is; would have inserted his sola in the doctrine of justification by faith, as he did in his German Bible; and rejected purgatory, and the tyranny of popery, among the abuses in the second part. He would have changed the whole tone, and made the document a trumpet of war.

The Augsburg Confession proper (exclusive of preface and epilogue) consists of two parts,—one positive and dogmatic, the other negative and mildly polemic or rather apologetic. The first refers chiefly to doctrines, the second to ceremonies and institutions. The order of subjects is not strictly systematic, though considerably improved upon the arrangement of the Schwabach and Torgau Articles. In the manuscript copies and oldest editions, the articles are only numbered; the titles were subsequently added.

I. The first part presents in twenty-one articles—beginning with the Triune God, and ending with the worship of saints—a clear, calm, and condensed statement of the doctrines held by the evangelical Lutherans: (1) in common with the Roman Church; (2) in common with the Augustinian school in that church; (3) in opposition to Rome; and (4) in distinction from Zwinglians and Anabaptists.

(1) In theology and Christology, i.e., the doctrines of God’s unity and trinity (Art. I.), and of Christ’s divine-human personality (III.), the Confession strongly re-affirms the ancient catholic faith as laid down in the oecumenical creeds, and condemns (damnamus) the old and new forms of Unitarianism and Arianism as heresies.

(2) In anthropology, i.e., in the articles on the fall and original sin (II.), the slavery of the natural will and necessity of divine grace (XVIII.), the cause and nature of sin (XIX.), the Confession is substantially Augustinian, in opposition to the Pelagian and semi-Pelagian heresies. The Donatists are also condemned (damnant, VIII.) for denying the objective virtue of the ministry and the sacraments, which Augustin defended against them.

(3) The general evangelical views more or less distinct from those of Rome appear in the articles on justification by faith (IV.), the Gospel ministry (V.), new obedience (VI.), the Church (VII., VIII.), repentance (XII.), ordination (XIV.), ecclesiastical rites (XV.), civil government (XVI.), good works (XIX.), the worship of saints, and the exclusive mediatorship of Christ (XX.).

These articles are so guardedly and skillfully worded as to disarm the papal opponents. Even the doctrine of justification by faith (Art. IV.), which Luther declared to be the article of the standing or falling church, is briefly and mildly stated, without the sola so strongly insisted on by Luther, and so objectionable to the Catholics, who charged him with willful perversion of the Scriptures, for inserting it in the Epistle to the Romans (3:28).972

(4) The distinctively Lutheran views—mostly retained from prevailing catholic tradition, and differing in part from those of other Protestant churches—are contained in the articles on the sacraments (IX., X., XIII.), on confession and absolution (XI.), and the millennium (XVII.). The tenth article plainly asserts the doctrine of a real bodily presence and distribution of Christ in the eucharist to all communicants, and disapproves (improbant) of those who teach differently (the Zwinglians).973  The Anabaptists are not only disapproved, but condemned (damnamus) as heretics three times: for their views on infant baptism and infant salvation (IX.),974  Civil offices (XVI.), the millennium and final restoration (XVII.).

These anti-Zwinglian and anti-Baptist articles, however, have long since lost their force in the Lutheran Church. Melanchthon himself changed the wording of the tenth Article in the edition of 1540, and omitted the clause of disapproval. The damnation of unbaptized infants dying in infancy, which is indirectly indorsed by condemning the opposite, is a fossil relic of a barbarous orthodoxy, and was justly denied by the Baptists, as also by Zwingli and Bullinger, who on this point were ahead of their age. The first official deliverance against this dogma was raised by the Reformed Church of Scotland, in the Second Scotch Confession (1581), which condemns among the errors of "the Roman Antichrist" "his Cruel judgment against infants departing without the sacrament, and his absolute necessity of baptism."975

The doctrine of the second advent and millennium (rejected in Art. XVII.), if we except the dreams of the radical wing of the Anabaptists, has found advocates among sound and orthodox Lutherans, especially of the school of Bengel, and must be regarded as an open question.

The last Article of the doctrinal part expresses the assurance that the Lutherans hold no doctrine which is contrary to the Scriptures, or to the Catholic or even the Roman Church, as far as known from the fathers, and differ from her only on certain traditions and ceremonies. Luther knew better, and so did the Romanists. Only Melanchthon, in his desire for union and peace, could have thus deceived himself; but he was undeceived before he left Augsburg, and in the Apology of the Confession be assumed a very different tone.

II. The second part of the Confession rejects, in seven articles, those abuses of Rome which were deemed most objectionable, and had been actually corrected in the Lutheran churches; namely, the withdrawal of the communion cup from the laity (I.), the celibacy of the clergy (II.), the sacrifice of the mass (III.), obligatory auricular confession (IV.), ceremonial feasts and fasts (V.), monastic vows (VI.), and the secular power of the bishops as far as it interferes with the purity and spirituality of the church (VII.). This last Article is virtually a protest against the principle of Erastianism or Caesaro-papacy, and would favor in its legitimate consequences a separation of church and state. "The ecclesiastical and civil powers," says the Confession, "are not to be confounded. The ecclesiastical power has its own commandment to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments. Let it not by force enter into the office of another, let it not transfer worldly kingdoms," etc. And as to the civil power, it is occupied only with worldly matters, not with the gospel, and "defends not the minds, but the bodies and bodily things, against manifest injuries."  This protest has been utterly disregarded by the Protestant rulers in Germany. The same Article favors the restoration of the episcopal jurisdiction with purely spiritual and ecclesiastical authority. This also was wholly disregarded by the signers, who were unwilling to give up their summepiscopate which they had claimed and exercised since 1526 with the consent of the Reformers.

The Confession concludes with these words: "Peter forbids bishops to be lords, and to be imperious over the churches (1 Pet. 5:3). Now, our meaning is not to take the rule from the bishops, but this one thing only is requested at their hands, that they would suffer the gospel to be purely taught, and that they would relax a few observances which cannot be held without sin. But if they will remit none, let them look how they will give account to God for this, that by their obstinacy they afford cause of division and schism."976  Thus the responsibility of schism in the Latin Church was thrown upon Rome. But even if Rome and the Diet had accepted the Augsburg Confession, the schism would still have occurred by the further progress of the Protestant spirit, which no power on earth, not even Luther and Melanchthon, could arrest.

The style of the Latin edition is such as may be expected from the rare classic culture and good taste of Melanchthon; while the order and arrangement might be considerably improved.

The diplomatic preface to the Emperor, from the pen of a lawyer, Chancellor Brück, is clumsy, tortuous, dragging, extremely obsequious, and has no other merit than to introduce the reader into the historical situation. The brief conclusion (Epilogus) is from the same source, and is followed by the signatures of seven princes and two magistrates. Several manuscript copies omit both preface and epilogue, as not properly belonging to the Confession.

Space forbids us to discuss the questions of the text, and the important variations of the Unaltered Confession of 1530, and the Altered Confession of 1540, which embodies the last improvements of its author, but has only a semi-official character and weight within the Lutheran Church.977


 § 120. The Roman Confutation and the Protestant Apology.


I. Corpus Reformatorum (Melanchthonis Opera), ed. by Bretschneider and Bindseil, vol. XXVII. (1859), 646 columns, and vol. XXVIII. 1–326. These volumes contain the Confutatio Confessionis Augustanae, and the two editions of Melanchthon’s Apologia Conf. Aug., in Latin and German, with Prolegomena and critical apparatus. The best and most complete edition. There are few separate editions of the Apology, but it Is incorporated in all editions of the Lutheran Symbols; see Lit. in § 119. The Latin text of the Confutatio was first published by A. Fabricius Leodius in Harmonia Confess. Augustanae, 1573; the German, by C. G. Müller, 1808, from a copy of the original in the archives of Mainz, which Weber had previously inspected (Krit. gesch. der Augsb. Conf., II. 439 sqq.).

II. K. Kieser (R. Cath.). Die Augsburger Confession und ihre Widerlegung, Regensburg, 1845. Hugo Lämmer: Die vor-tridentinisch-katholische Theologie des Reformations-Zeitalters, Berlin, 1858, pp. 33–46. By the same: De Confessonis Augustanae Confutatione Pontificia, in Neidner’s "Zeitschrift für Hist. Theol.," 1858. (Lämmer, a Lutheran, soon afterwards joined the Roman Church, and was ordained a priest, 1859, and appointed missionarius apostolicus, 1861.) G. Plitt (Luth.):Die Apologie der Augustana geschichtlich erklärt, Erlangen, 1873. Schaff: Creeds, etc., I. 243. The history and literature of the Apology are usually combined with that of the Confession, as in J. G. Walch, Feuerlin-Riederer, and Köllner.


The Roman "Catholic Confutation," so called, of the Augsburg Confession, was prepared in Augsburg by order of the Emperor Charles, by the most eminent Roman divines of Germany, and bitterest opponents of Luther, especially Drs. Eck, Faber, Cochlaeus, in Latin and German.978  The final revision, as translated into German, was publicly read before the Emperor and the Diet, in the chapel of the episcopal palace, Aug. 3, and adopted as the expression of the views of the majority.

The document follows the order of the Augsburg Confession. It approves eighteen doctrinal articles of the first part, either in full or with some restrictions and qualifications. Even the fourth article, on justification, escapes censure, and Pelagianism is strongly condemned.979  The tenth article, on the Lord’s Supper, is likewise approved as far as it goes, provided only that the presence of the whole Christ in either of the substances be admitted.980  But Article VII., on the Church, is rejected;981 also Art. XX., on faith and good works, and Art. XXI., on the worship of saints.982

The second part of the Confession, on abuses, is wholly rejected; but at the close, the existence of various abuses, especially among the clergy, is acknowledged, and a reformation of discipline is promised and expected from a general council.983

The tone of the Confutation is moderate, owing to the express direction of the Emperor; but it makes no concession on the points under dispute. It abounds in biblical and patristic quotations crudely selected. As to talent and style, it is far inferior to the work of Melanchthon. The Roman Church was not yet prepared to cope with the Protestant divines.

The publication of the Confutation as well as the Confession was prohibited, and it did not appear in print till many years afterwards; but its chief contents became known from notes taken by hearers and from manuscript copies.

The Lutheran members of the Diet urged Melanchthon to prepare at once a Protestant refutation of the Roman refutation, and offered the first draught of it to the Diet, Sept. 22, through Chancellor Brück; but it was refused.

On the following day Melanchthon left Augsburg in company with the Elector of Saxony, re-wrote the Apology on the journey,984  and completed it leisurely at Wittenberg, with the help of a manuscript copy of the Confutation, in April, 1531.

The Apology of the Augsburg Confession is a scholarly vindication of the Confession. It far excels the Confutation in theological and literary merit. It differs from the apologetic Confession by its polemic and protestant tone. It is written with equal learning and ability, but with less moderation and more boldness. It even uses some harsh terms against the papal opponents, and calls them liars and hypocrites (especially in the German edition). It is the most learned of the Lutheran symbols, and seven times larger than the Confession, but for this very reason not adapted to be a symbolical book. It contains many antiquated arguments, and errors in exegesis and patristic quotations. But in its day it greatly strengthened the confidence of scholars in the cause of Protestantism. Its chief and permanent value is historical, and consists in its being the oldest and most authentic interpretation of the Augsburg Confession, by the author himself.

The Apology, though not signed by the Lutheran princes at Augsburg, was recognized first in 1532, at a convent in Schweinfurt, as a public confession; it was signed by Lutheran divines at Smalcald, 1537; it was used at the religious conference at Worms, 1540, and embodied in the various editions of the Confession, and at last in the Book of Concord, 1580.

The text of the Apology has, like that of the Confession, gone through various transformations, which are used by Bossuet and other Romanists as proofs of the changeableness of Protestantism. The original draught made at Augsburg has no authority, as it was based on fragmentary notes of Camerarius and others who heard the Confutation read on the 3d of August.985  The first Latin edition was much enlarged and improved; the German translation was prepared by Justus Jonas, assisted by Melanchthon, but differs widely from the Latin.986  Both were published together with the Augsburg Confession in October, 1531. Changes were made in subsequent editions, both of the Latin original and the German translation, especially in the edition of 1540. Hence there is an Apologia invariata and an Apologia variata, as well as a Confessio invariata and a Confessio variata. The Book of Concord took both texts from the first edition.987


 § 121. The Tetrapolitan Confession.


I. Editions. The Latin text was first printed at Strassburg (Argentoratum), a.d. 1531, Sept. (21 leaves); then in the Corpus et Syntagma Confess. (1612 and 1654); in Augustis Corpus libr. symb. (1827), p. 327 sqq.; and in Niemeyer’s Collect. Confess. (1840), p. 740–770; Comp. Proleg., p. LXXXIII.

The German text appeared first at Strassburg, Aug. 1531 (together with the Apology, 72 leaves); then again, 1579, ed. by John Sturm, but was suppressed by the magistrate, 1580; at Zweibrücken, 1604; in Beck’s Symbol. Bücher, vol. I., p. 401 sq.; in Böckel’s Bekenntniss-Schriften der evang. reform. Kirche (1847), p. 363 sq.

II. Gottl. Wernsdorff: Historia Confessionis Tetrapolitanae, Wittenb. 1694, ed. IV. 1721. Schelhorn: Amaenitates Litter., Tom. VI., Francf. 1727. J. H. FELS: Dissert. de varia Confess. Tetrapolitanae fortuna praesertim in civitate Lindaviensi, Götting. 1755. Planck: Geschichte des protest. Lehrbegriffs, vol. III., Part I. (second ed. 1796), pp. 68–94. J. W. Röhrich: Geschichte der evangel. Kirche des Elsasses. Strassburg, 1855, 3 vols. J. W. Baum: Capito und Butzer (Elberf. 1860), p. 466 sqq. and 595. Schaff: Creeds, I. 524–529.


The Tetrapolitan Confession, also called the Strassburg and the Swabian Confession, is the oldest confession of the Reformed Church in Germany, and represented the faith of four imperial cities, Strassburg, Constance, Memmingen, and Lindau, which at that time sympathized with Zwingli and the Swiss, rather than Luther, on the doctrine of the sacraments.

It was prepared in great haste, during the sessions of the Diet of Augsburg, by Bucer, with the aid of Capito and Hedio, in the name of those four cities (hence the name) which were excluded by the Lutherans from their political and theological conferences, and from the Protestant League. They would greatly have preferred to unite with them, and to sign the Augsburg Confession, with the exception of the tenth article on the eucharist, but were forbidden. The Landgrave Philip of Hesse was the only one who, from a broad, statesmanlike view of the critical situation, favored a solid union of the Protestants against the common foe, but in vain.

Hence, after the Lutherans had presented their Confession June 25, and Zwingli his own July 8, the four cities handed theirs, July 11, to the Emperor in German and Latin. It was received very ungraciously, and not allowed to be read before the Diet; but a confutation full of misrepresentations was prepared by Faber, Eck, and Cochlaeus, and read Oct. 24 (or 17). The Strassburg divines were not even favored with a copy of this confutation, but procured one secretly, and answered it by a "Vindication and Defense" in the autumn of 1531.

The Tetrapolitan Confession consists of twenty-three chapters, besides preface and conclusion. It is in doctrine and arrangement closely conformed to the Lutheran Confession, and breathes the same spirit of moderation, but is more distinctly Protestant. This appears at once in the first chapter (On the Matter of Preaching), in the declaration that nothing should be taught in the pulpit but what was either expressly contained in the Holy Scriptures, or fairly deduced therefrom. (The Lutheran Confession is silent on the supreme authority of the Scriptures.)  The evangelical doctrine of justification is stated in the third and fourth chapters more clearly than by Melanchthon; namely, that we are justified not by works of our own, but solely by the grace of God and the merits of Christ, through a living faith, which is active in love, and productive of good works. Images are rejected in Chap. XXII.

The doctrine of the Lord’s Supper (Chap. XVIII.) is couched in dubious language, which was intended to comprehend in substance the Lutheran and the Zwinglian theories, and accords with the union tendency of Bucer. But it contains the germ of the Calvinistic view. In this ordinance, it is said, Christ offers to his followers, as truly now as at the institution, his very body and blood as spiritual food and drink, whereby their souls are nourished to everlasting life. Nothing is said of the oral manducation and the participation of unbelievers, which are the distinctive features of the Lutheran view. Bucer, who had attended the Conference at Marburg in 1529, labored with great zeal afterwards to bring about a doctrinal compromise between the contending theories, but without effect.

The Tetrapolitan Confession was soon superseded by the clearer and more logical confessions of the Calvinistic type. The four cities afterwards signed the Lutheran Confession to join the Smalcald League. But Bucer himself remained true to his union creed, and reconfessed it in his last will and testament (1548) and on his death-bed.


 § 122. Zwingli’s Confession to the Emperor Charles.


Ad Carolum Boni. Imperatorem, Germaniae comitia Augustae celebrantem Fidei Huldrychi Zwinglii Ratio (Rechenschaft). Anno MDXXX. Mense Julio. Vincat veritas. In the same year a German translation appeared in Zürich, and in 1543 an English translation. See Niemeyer, Collect. Conf., p. XXVI. and 16 sqq. Böckel: Bekenntnissschriften der reform. Kirche, p. 40. sqq. Mörikofer: U. Zwingli, vol. II. p. 297 sqq. Christoffel: U. Z., vol. II. p. 237 sqq. Schaff: Creeds, I. 366 sqq.


Zwingli took advantage of the meeting of the Diet of Augsburg, to send a confession of his faith, addressed to the German Emperor, Charles V., shortly after the Lutheran princes had presented theirs. It is dated Zürich, July 3, 1530, and was delivered by his messenger at Augsburg on the 8th of the same month; but it shared the same fate as the "Tetrapolitan Confession."  It was treated with contempt, and never laid before the Diet. Dr. Eck wrote in three days a refutation, charging Zwingli that for ten years he had labored to root out from the people of Switzerland all faith and all religion, and to stir them up against the magistrate; that he had caused greater devastation among them than the Turks, Tartars, and Huns; that he had turned the churches and convents founded by the Habsburgers (the Emperor’s ancestors) into temples of Venus and Bacchus; and that he now completed his criminal career by daring to appear before the Emperor with such an impudent piece of writing.

The Lutherans (with the exception of Philip of Hesse) were scarcely less indignant, and much more anxious to conciliate the Catholics than to appear in league with Zwinglians and Anabaptists. They felt especially offended that the Swiss Reformer took strong ground against the corporal presence, and incidentally alluded to them as persons who "were looking back to the flesh-pots of Egypt."  Melanchthon judged him insane.

Zwingli, having had no time to consult with his confederates, offered the Confession in his own name, and submitted it to the judgment of the whole church of Christ, under the guidance of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit.

In the first sections he declares, as clearly as and even more explicitly than the Lutheran Confession, his faith in the orthodox doctrines of the Trinity and the Person of Christ, as laid down in the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds (which are expressly named). He teaches the election by free grace, the sole and sufficient satisfaction by Christ, and justification by faith, in opposition to all human mediators and meritorious works. He distinguishes between the internal or invisible, and the external or visible, church. The former is the company of the elect believers and their children, and is the bride of Christ; the latter embraces all nominal Christians and their children, and is beautifully described in the parable of the ten virgins, of whom five were foolish. The word "church" may also designate a single congregation, as the church in Rome, in Augsburg, in Leyden. The true church can never err in the foundation of faith. Purgatory he rejects as an injurious fiction, which sets Christ’s merits at naught. On original sin, the salvation of unbaptized infants, and the sacraments, he departs much farther from the traditional theology than the Lutherans. He goes into a lengthy argument against the corporal presence in the eucharist. On the other hand, however, he protests against being confounded with the Anabaptists, and rejects their views on infant baptism, civil offices, the sleep of the soul, and universal salvation.

The document is frank and bold, yet dignified and courteous, and concludes thus: "Hinder not, ye children of men, the spread and growth of the Word of God. Ye can not forbid the grass to grow. Ye must see that this plant is richly blessed from heaven. Consider not your own wishes, but the demands of the age concerning the free course of the gospel. Take these words kindly, and show by your deeds that you are children of God."


 § 123. Luther at the Coburg.


Luther’s Letters from Coburg, April 18 to Oct. 4, 1530, in De Wette, IV. 1–182. Melanchthon’s Letters to Luther from Augsburg, in the second volume of the "Corpus Reform."

Zitzlaff (Archidiaconus in Wittenberg): Luther auf der Koburg, Wittenberg, 1882 (175 pages). Köstlin, M. L., II. 198 sqq.


During the Diet of Augsburg, from April till October, 1530, Luther was an honorable prisoner in the electoral castle of Coburg.988  From that watch-tower on the frontier of Saxony and Bavaria, he exerted a powerful influence, by his letters, upon Melanchthon and the Lutheran confessors at the Diet. His sojourn there is a striking parallel to his ten months’ sojourn at the Wartburg, and forms the last romantic chapter in his eventful life. He was still under the anathema of the Pope and the ban of the empire, and could not safely appear at Augsburg. Moreover, his prince had reason to fear that by his uncompromising attitude he might hinder rather than promote the work of reconciliation and peace. But he wished to keep him near enough for consultation and advice. A message from Augsburg reached Coburg in about four days.

Luther arrived at Coburg, with the Elector and the Wittenberg divines, on April 15, 1530. In the night of the 22d he was conveyed to the fortified castle on the hill, and ordered to remain there for an indefinite time. No reason was given, but he could easily suspect it. He spent the first day in enjoying the prospect of the country, and examining the prince’s building (Fürstenbau) which was assigned him. His sitting-room is still shown. "I have the largest apartment, which overlooks the whole fortress, and I have the keys to all the rooms."  He had with him his amanuensis Veit Dietrich, a favorite student, and his nephew Cyriac Kaufmann, a young student from Mansfeld. He let his beard grow again, as he had done on the Wartburg. He was well taken care of at the expense of the Elector, and enjoyed the vacation as well as he could with a heavy load of work and care on his mind. He received more visitors than he liked. About thirty persons were stationed in the castle.

"Dearest Philip," he wrote to Melanchthon, April 23, "we have at last reached our Sinai; but we shall make a Sion of this Sinai, and here I shall build three tabernacles, one to the Psalms, one to the Prophets, and one to Aesop .... It is a very attractive place, and just made for study; only your absence grieves me. My whole heart and soul are stirred and incensed against the Turks and Mohammed, when I see this intolerable raging of the Devil. Therefore I shall pray and cry to God, nor rest until I know that my cry is heard in heaven. The sad condition of our German empire distresses you more."  Then he describes to him his residence in the "empire of birds."  In other letters he humorously speaks of the cries of the ravens and jackdaws in the forest, and compares them to a troop of kings and grandees, schoolmen and sophists, holding Diet, sending their mandates through the air, and arranging a crusade against the fields of wheat and barley, hoping for heroic deeds and grand victories. He could hear all the sophists and papists chattering around him from early morning, and was delighted to see how valiantly these knights of the Diet strutted about and wiped their bills, but he hoped that before long they would be spitted on a hedge-stake. He was glad to hear the first nightingale, even as early as April. With such innocent sports of his fancy he tried to chase away the anxious cares which weighed upon him. It is from this retreat that he wrote that charming letter to his boy Hans, describing a beautiful garden full of goodly apples, pears, and plums, and merry children on little horses with golden bridles and silver saddles, and promising him and his playmates a fine fairing if he prayed, and learned his lessons.989

Joy and grief, life and death, are closely joined in this changing world. On the 5th of June, Luther received the sad news of the pious death of his father, which occurred at Mansfeld, May 29. When he first heard of his sickness, he wrote to him from Wittenberg, Feb. 15, 1530: "It would be a great joy to me if only you and my mother could come to us. My Kate, and all, pray for it with tears. We would do our best to make you comfortable."  At the report of his end he said to Dietrich, "So my father, too, is dead," took his Psalter, and retired to his room. On the same day he wrote to Melanchthon that all he was, or possessed, he had received from God through his beloved father.

He suffered much from "buzzing and dizziness" in his head, and a tendency to fainting, so as to be prevented for several weeks from reading and writing. He did not know whether to attribute the illness to the Coburg hospitality, or to his old enemy. He had the same experience at the Wartburg. Dietrich traced it to Satan, since Luther was very careful of his diet.

Nevertheless, he accomplished a great deal of work. As soon as his box of books arrived, he resumed his translation of the Bible, begun on the Wartburg, hoping to finish the Prophets, and dictated to Dietrich a commentary on the first twenty-five Psalms. He also explained his favorite 118th Psalm, and wrote 118:17 on the wall of his room, with the tune for chanting, —


"Non moriar, sed vivam, et narrabo opera Domini."


By way of mental recreation he translated thirteen of Aesop’s fables, to adapt them for youth and common people, since "they set forth in pleasing colors of fiction excellent lessons of wise and peaceful living among bad people in this wicked world."  He rendered them in the simplest language, and expressed the morals in apt German proverbs.990

The Diet at Augsburg occupied his constant attention. He was the power behind the throne. He wrote in May a public "Admonition to the Clergy assembled at the Diet," reminding them of the chief scandals, warning them against severe measures, lest they provoke a new rebellion, and promising the quiet possession of all their worldly possessions and dignities, if they would only leave the gospel free. He published a series of tracts, as so many rounds of musketry, against Romish errors and abuses.

He kept up a lively correspondence with Melanchthon, Jonas, Spalatin, Link, Hausmann, Brenz, Agricola, Weller, Chancellor Brück, Cardinal Albrecht, the Elector John, the Landgrave Philip, and others, not forgetting his "liebe Kethe, Herr Frau Katherin Lutherin zu Wittenberg."  He dated his letters "from the region of the birds" (ex volucrum regno), "from the Diet of the jackdaws" (ex comitiis Monedu, larum seu Monedulanensibus), or "from the desert" (ex eremo, aus der Einöde). Melanchthon and the Elector kept him informed of the proceedings at Augsburg, asked his advice about every important step, and submitted to him the draught of the Confession. He approved of it, though he would have liked it much stronger. He opposed every compromise in doctrine, and exhorted the confessors to stand by the gospel, without fear of consequences.

His heroic faith, the moving power and crowning glory of his life, shines with wonderful luster in these letters. The greater the danger, the stronger his courage. He devoted his best hours to prayer. His "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott," was written before this time,991 but fitly expresses his fearless trust in God at this important crisis, when Melanchthon trembled. "Let the matter be ever so great," he wrote to him (June 27), "great also is He who has begun and who conducts it; for it is not our work .... ’Cast thy burthen upon the Lord; the Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him.’ Does He say that to the wind, or does He throw his words before beasts? ... It is your worldly wisdom that torments you, and not theology. As if you, with your useless cares, could accomplish any thing!  What more can the Devil do than strangle us? I conjure you, who in all other matters are so ready to fight, to fight against yourself as your greatest enemy." In another letter he well describes the difference between himself and his friend in regard to cares and temptations. "In private affairs I am the weaker, you the stronger combatant; but in public affairs it is just the reverse (if, indeed, any contest can be called private which is waged between me and Satan): for you take but small account of your life, while you tremble for the public cause; whereas I am easy and hopeful about the latter, knowing as I do for certain that it is just and true, and the cause of Christ and God Himself. Hence I am as a careless spectator, and unmindful of these threatening and furious papists. If we fall, Christ falls with us, the Ruler of the world. I would rather fall with Christ than stand with the Emperor. Therefore I exhort you, in the name of Christ, not to despise the promises and the comfort of God, who says, ’Cast all your cares upon the Lord. Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’  I know the weakness of our faith; but all the more let us pray, ’Lord, increase our faith.’ "

In a remarkable letter to Chancellor Brück (Aug. 5), he expresses his confidence that God can not and will not forsake the cause of the evangelicals, since it is His own cause. "It is His doctrine, it is His Word. Therefore it is certain that He will hear our prayers, yea, He has already prepared His help, for he says, ’Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?  Yea, these may forget, yet will not I forget thee" (Isa. 49:15). In the same letter he says, "I have lately seen two wonders: the first, when looking out of the window, I saw the stars of heaven and the whole beautiful vault of God, but no pillars, and yet the heavens did not collapse, and the vault still stands fast. The second wonder: I saw great thick clouds hanging over us, so heavy as to be like unto a great lake, but no ground on which they rested; yet they did not fall on us, but, after greeting us with a gloomy countenance, they passed away, and over them appeared the luminous rainbow .... Comfort Master Philip and all the rest. May Christ comfort and sustain our gracious Elector. To Christ be all the praise and thanks forever. Amen."

Urbanus Rhegius, the Reformer of Braunschweig-Lüneburg, on his way from Augsburg to Celle, called on Luther, for the first and last time, and spent a day with him at Coburg. It was "the happiest day" of his life, and made a lasting impression on him, which he thus expressed in a letter: "I judge, no one can hate Luther who knows him. His books reveal his genius; but if you would see him face to face, and hear him speak on divine things with apostolic spirit, you would say, the living reality surpasses the fame. Luther is too great to be judged by every wiseacre. I, too, have written books, but compared with him I am a mere pupil. He is an elect instrument of the Holy Ghost. He is a theologus for the whole world."

Bucer also paid him a visit at Coburg (Sept. 25), and sought to induce him, if possible, to a more friendly attitude towards the Zwinglians and Strassburgers. He succeeded at least so far as to make him hopeful of a future reconciliation. It was the beginning of those union efforts which resulted in the Wittenburg Concordia, but failed at last. Bucer received the impression from this visit, that Luther was a man "who truly feared God, and sought sincerely the glory of God."

There can be no doubt about this. Luther feared God, and nothing else. He sought the glory of Christ, and cared nothing for the riches and pleasures of the world. At Coburg, Luther was in the full vigor of manhood,—forty-six years of age,—and at the height of his fame and power. With the Augsburg Confession his work was substantially completed. His followers were now an organized church with a confession of faith, a form of worship and government, and no longer dependent upon his personal efforts. He lived and labored fifteen years longer, completing the translation of the Bible,—the greatest work of his life, preaching, teaching, and writing; but his physical strength began to decline, his infirmities increased, he often complained of lassitude and uselessness, and longed for rest after his herculean labors. Some of his later acts, as the unfortunate complicity with the bigamy affair of Philip of Hesse, and his furious attacks upon Papists and Sacramentarians, obscured his fame, and only remind us of the imperfections which adhere to the greatest and best of men.

Here, therefore, is the proper place to attempt an estimate of his public character, and services to the church and the world.


 § 124. Luther’s Public Character, and Position in History.


In 1883 the four hundredth anniversary of Luther’s birth was celebrated with enthusiasm throughout Protestant Christendom by innumerable addresses and sermons setting forth his various merits as a man and a German, as a husband and father, as a preacher, catechist, and hymnist, as a Bible translator and expositor, as a reformer and founder of a church, as a champion of the sacred rights of conscience, and originator of a mighty movement of religious and civil liberty which spread over Europe and across the Atlantic to the shores of the Pacific. The story of his life was repeated in learned and popular biographies, in different tongues, and enacted on the stage in the principal cities of Germany.992  Not only Lutherans, but Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, Unitarians, united in these tributes to the Reformer. The Academy of Music in New York could not hold the thousands who crowded the building to attend the Luther-celebration arranged by the Evangelical Alliance in behalf of the leading Protestant denominations of America.993

Such testimony has never been borne to a mortal man. The Zwingli-celebration of the year 1884 had a similar character, and extended over many countries in both hemispheres, but would probably not have been thought of without the preceding Luther-celebration.

And indeed Luther has exerted, and still exerts, a spiritual power inferior only to that of the sacred writers. St. Angustin’s influence extends wider, embracing the Roman Catholic church as well as the Protestant; but he never reached the heart of the common people. Luther is the only one among the Reformers whose name was adopted, though against his protest, as the designation and watchword by the church which he founded. He gave to his people, in their own vernacular, what no man did before or since, three fundamental books of religion,—the Bible, a hymn-book, and a catechism. He forced even his German enemies to imitate his language in poetry and prose. So strong is the hold which his Bible version has upon the church of his name, that it is next to impossible to change and adapt it to modern learning and taste, although he himself kept revising and improving it as long as he lived.994

Luther was the German of the Germans, and the most vigorous type of the faults as well as the virtues of his nation.995  He is the apostle of Protestant Germany, fully as much as Boniface is the apostle of Roman Catholic Germany, and surpasses him vastly in genius and learning. Boniface, though an Anglo-Saxon by birth, was more a Roman than a German; while in Luther the Christian and the German were one, and joined in opposition to papal Rome. All schools of Lutheran divines appeal to his authority: the extreme orthodox, who out-Luther Luther in devotion to the letter; the moderate or middle party, who adhere only to the substance of his teaching; and the rationalists, who reject his creed, but regard him as the standard-bearer of the freedom of private judgment and dissent from all authority.996

His real strength lies in his German writings, which created the modern High-German book-language, and went right to the heart of the people. His greatest production is a translation,—the German Bible. Italians, Spaniards, and Frenchmen, who knew him only from his Latin books, received a very feeble idea of his power, and could not understand the secret of his influence.997  The contemptuous judgments of Pope Leo, Cardinal Cajetan, Aleander, and Emperor Charles, echo the sentiments of their nations, and re-appear again and again among modern writers of the Latin races and the Romish faith.

Nevertheless, Martin Luther’s influence extends far beyond the limits of his native land. He belongs to the church and the world.

Luther has written his own biography, as well as the early history of the German Reformation, in his numerous letters, without a thought of their publication. He lays himself open before the world without reservation. He was the frankest and most outspoken of men, and swayed by the impulse of the moment, without regard to logical consistency or fear of consequences. His faults as well as his virtues lay on the surface of his German works. He infused into them his intense personality to a degree which hardly finds a parallel except in the Epistles of the Apostle Paul.

He knew himself very well. A high sense of his calling and a deep sense of personal unworthiness are inseparably combined in his self-estimate. He was conscious of his prophetic and apostolic mission in republishing the primitive gospel for the German people; and yet he wrote to his wife not to be concerned about him, for God could make a dozen Luthers at any time. In his last will and testament (Jan. 6, 1542) he calls himself "a man well known in heaven, on earth, and in hell," but also "a poor, miserable, unworthy sinner," to whom "God, the Father of all mercies, has intrusted the gospel of His dear Son, and made him a teacher of His truth in spite of the Pope, the Emperor, and the Devil."  He signs himself, in that characteristic document, "God’s notary and witness in His gospel."  One of his last words was, "We are beggars."  And in the preface of the first collected edition of his works, he expresses a wish that they might all perish, and God’s Word alone be read.

Luther was a genuine man of the people, rooted and grounded in rustic soil, but looking boldly and trustingly to heaven with the everlasting gospel in his hand. He was a plebeian, without a drop of patrician blood, and never ashamed of his lowly origin. But what king or emperor or pope of his age could compare with him in intellectual and moral force?  He was endowed with an overwhelming genius and indomitable energy, with fiery temper and strong passions, with irresistible eloquence, native wit, and harmless humor, absolutely honest and disinterested, strong in faith, fervent in prayer, and wholly devoted to Christ and His gospel. Many of his wise, quaint, and witty sayings have passed into popular proverbs; and no German writer is more frequently named and quoted than Luther.

Like all great men, he harbored in his mind colossal contrasts, and burst through the trammels of logic. He was a giant in public, and a child in his family; the boldest reformer, yet a conservative churchman; the eulogist of reason as the handmaid of religion, and the abuser of reason as the mistress of the Devil; the champion of the freedom of the spirit, and yet a slave of the letter; an intense hater of popery to the last, and yet an admirer of the Catholic Church, and himself a pope within his own church.998

Yet there was a unity in this apparent contradiction. He was a seeker of the righteousness of works and peace of conscience as a Catholic monk, and he was a finder of the righteousness of faith as an evangelical reformer; just as the idea and pursuit of righteousness is the connecting link between the Jewish Saul and the Christian Paul. It was the same engine, but reversed. In separating from papal catholicism, Luther remained attached to Christian catholicism; and his churchly instincts were never suppressed, but only suspended to re-assert themselves with new and greater force after the revolutionary excesses of the Reformation.

His history naturally divides itself into three periods: the Roman-Catholic and monastic period, till 1517; the Protestant and progressive period, till 1525; the churchly, conservative, and reactionary period, till 1546. But he never gave up his devotion to the free gospel, and his hatred of the Pope as the veritable Antichrist.999

Luther’s greatness is not that of a polished work of art, but of an Alpine mountain with towering peaks, rough granite blocks, bracing air, fresh fountains, and green meadows. His polemical books rush along like thunderstorms or turbid mountain torrents. He knew his violent temper, but never took the trouble to restrain it; and his last books against the Papists, the Zwinglians, and the Jews, are his worst, and exceed any thing that is known in the history of theological polemics. In his little tract against the Romish Duke Henry of Brunswick,1000  the word Devil occurs no less than a hundred and forty-six times.1001  At last he could not pray without cursing, as he confessed himself.1002  He calls his mastery of the vocabulary of abuse his rhetoric. "Do not think," he wrote to Spalatin, "that the gospel can he advanced without tumult, trouble, and uproar. You cannot make a pen of a sword. The Word of God is a sword; it is war, overthrow, trouble, destruction, poison; it meets the children of Ephraim, as Amos says, like a bear on the road, or like a lioness in the wood."1003  We may admit that the club and sledge-hammer of this Protestant Hercules were necessary for the semi-barbarous Germans of his day. Providence used his violent temper as an instrument for the destruction of the greatest spiritual tyranny which the world ever saw. Yet his best friends were shocked and grieved at his rude personalities, and condemnatory judgments of such men as Erasmus, Zwingli, and Oecolampadius, not to speak of his Romish adversaries. Nothing shows more clearly the great distance which separates him from the apostles and evangelists.

But, with all his faults, he is the greatest man that Germany produced, and one of the very greatest in history. Melanchthon, who knew him best, and suffered most from his imperious temper, called him the Elijah of Protestantism, and compared him to the Apostle Paul.1004  And indeed, in his religious experience and theological standpoint, he strongly resembles the Apostle of the Gentiles,—though at a considerable distance,—more strongly than any schoolman or father. He roused by his trumpet voice the church from her slumber; he broke the yoke of papal tyranny; he reconquered Christian freedom; he re-opened the fountain of God’s holy Word to all the people, and directed the Christians to Christ, their only Master.

This is his crowning merit and his enduring monument.


Augustin, Luther, Calvin.


The men who, next to the Apostles, have exerted and still exert through their writings the greatest influence in the Christian Church, as leaders of theological thought, are St. Augustin, Martin Luther, and John Calvin: all pupils of Paul, inspired by his doctrines of sin and grace, filled with the idea that God alone is great, equally eminent for purity of character, abundance in labors, and whole-souled consecration to the service of Christ, their common Lord and Saviour; and yet as different from each other as an African, a German, and a Frenchman can be. Next to them I would place an Englishman, John Wesley, who, as to abundance of useful labor in winning souls to Christ, is the most apostolic man that Great Britain has produced.

Augustin commands the respect and gratitude of the Catholic as well as the Protestant world. He is, among the three the profoundest in thought, and the sweetest in spirit; free from bitterness and coarseness, even in his severest polemics; yet advocating a system of exclusiveness which justifies coercion and persecution of heretics and schismatics. He identified the visible catholic church of his day with the kingdom of God on earth, and furnished the program of mediaeval Catholicism, though he has little to say about the papacy, and protested, in the Pelagian controversy, against the position of one Pope, while he accepted the decision of another. All three were fighters, but against different foes and with different weapons. Augustin contended for the catholic church against heretical sects, and for authority against false freedom; Luther and Calvin fought for evangelical dissent from the overwhelming power of Rome, and for rational freedom against tyrannical authority. Luther was the fiercest and roughest fighter of the three; but he alone had the Teutonic gift of humor which is always associated with a kindly nature, and extracts the sting out of his irony and sarcasm. His bark was far worse than his bite. He advised to drown the Pope and his cardinals in the Tiber; and yet he would have helped to save their lives after the destruction of their office. He wrote a letter of comfort to Tetzel on his death-bed, and protested against the burning of heretics.

Luther and Calvin learned much from Augustin, and esteemed him higher than any human teacher since the Apostles; but they had a different mission, and assumed a polemic attitude towards the traditional church. Augustin struggled from the Manichaean heresy into catholic orthodoxy, from the freedom of error into the authority of truth; the Reformers came out of the corruptions and tyranny of the papacy into the freedom of the gospel. Augustin put the church above the Word, and established the principle of catholic tradition; the Reformers put the Word above the church, and secured a progressive understanding of the Scriptures by the right of free investigation.

Luther and Calvin are confined in their influence to Protestantism, and can never be appreciated by the Roman Church; yet, by the law of re-action, they forced the papacy into a moral reform, which enabled it to recover its strength, and to enter upon a new career of conquest. Romanism has far more vitality and strength in Protestant than in papal countries, and owes a great debt of gratitude to the Reformation.

Of the two Reformers, Luther is the more original, forcible, genial, and popular; Calvin, the more theological, logical, and systematic, besides being an organizer and disciplinarian. Luther controls the Protestant churches of Germany and Scandinavia; Calvin’s genius shaped the confessions and constitutions of the Reformed churches in Switzerland, France, Holland, and Great Britain; he had a marked influence upon the development of civil liberty, and is still the chief molder of theological opinion in the Presbyterian and Congregational churches of Scotland and North America. Luther inspires by his genius, and attracts by his personality; Calvin commands admiration by his intellect and the force of moral self-government, which is the secret of true freedom in church and state.

Great and enduring are the merits of the three; but neither Augustin, nor Luther, nor Calvin has spoken the last word in Christendom. The best is yet to come.




Remarkable Judgments on Luther.


Luther, like other great men, has been the subject of extravagant praise and equally extravagant censure.

We select a few impartial and weighty testimonies from four distinguished writers of very different character and position,—an Anglican divine, two secular poets, and a Catholic historian.


I. Archdeacon Charles Julius Hare (1795–1855) has written the best work in the English language in vindication of Luther. It appeared first as a note of 222 pages in the second volume of his The Mission of the Comforter, 1846 (3d ed. 1876), and afterwards as a separate book shortly before his death, 2d ed. 1855.

Luther has been assailed by English writers on literary, theological, and moral grounds: 1, for violence and coarseness in polemics (by Henry Hallam, the historian); 2, for unsoundness in the doctrine of justification, and disregard of church authority (by the Oxford Tractarians and Anglo-Catholics); 3, for lax views on monogamy in conniving at the bigamy of Philip of Hesse (by the same, and by Sir William Hamilton).

These charges are discussed, refuted, or reduced to a minimum, by Hare (who had the largest Luther library and the fullest Luther knowledge in England), with ample learning, marked ability, and in the best Christian spirit. He concludes his vindication with these words: —


"To some readers it may seem that I have spoken with exaggerated admiration of Luther. No man ever lived whose whole heart and soul and life have been laid bare as his have been to the eyes of mankind. Open as the sky, bold and fearless as the storm, he gave utterance to all his feelings, all his thoughts. He knew nothing of reserve; and the impression he produced on his hearers and friends was such, that they were anxious to treasure up every word that dropped from his pen or from his lips. No man, therefore, has ever been exposed to so severe a trial; perhaps no man was ever placed in such difficult circumstances, or assailed by such manifold temptations. And how has he come out of the trial?  Through the power of faith, under the guardian care of his Heavenly Master, he was enabled to stand through life; and still he stands, and will continue to stand, firmly rooted in the love of all who really know him."


II. Goethe, the greatest poet and literary genius of Germany, when he was eighty-two years of age, March 11, 1832 (a few days before his death), paid this tribute to Luther and the Reformation, as reported by Eckermann, in the third or supplemental volume of the Conversations of that extraordinary man: —


"We scarcely know what we owe to Luther, and the Reformation In general. We are freed from the fetters of spiritual narrow-mindedness; we have, in consequence of our increasing culture, become capable of turning back to the fountain-head, and of comprehending Christianity in its purity. We have again the courage to stand with firm feet upon God’s earth, and to feel ourselves in our divinely endowed human nature. Let mental culture go on advancing, let the natural sciences go on gaining in depth and breadth, and the human mind expand as it may, it will never go beyond the elevation and moral culture of Christianity, as it glistens and shines forth in the Gospels.

"But the better we Protestants advance in our noble development, so much the more rapidly will the Catholics follow us. As soon as they feel themselves caught up by the ever-extending enlightenment of the time, they must go on, do what they will, till at last the point is reached where all is but one."


III. Heinrich Heine, of Jewish descent, poet, critic, and humorist, the Franco-German Voltaire, who, like Voltaire, ridiculed with irreverent audacity the most sacred things, and yet, unlike him, could pass from smiles to tears, and appreciate the grandeur of Moses and the beauty of the Bible, pays this striking tribute to the Reformer: —


"Luther was not only the greatest, but also the most German man of our history; and in his character all the virtues and vices of the Germans are united in the grandest manner. He had also attributes which are rarely found together, and are usually regarded as hostile contradictions. He was at once a dreamy mystic, and a practical man of action. His thoughts had not only wings, but also hands; he spoke and he acted. He was not only the tongue, but also the sword of his age. He was both a cold scholastic stickler for words, and an inspired, divinely intoxicated prophet. After working his mind weary with his dogmatic distinctions during the day, he took his flute in the evening, looked up to the stars, and melted into melody and devotion. The same man who would scold like a fishwoman could also be as soft as a tender virgin. He was at times wild as the storm which uproots the oaks, and again as gentle as the zephyr which kisses the violets. He was full of the most awful fear of God, full of consecration to the Holy Spirit; he would be all absorbed in pure spirituality, and yet he knew very well the glories of the earth, and appreciated them, and from his mouth blossomed the famous motto: Who does not love wine, wife, and song, remains a fool his whole life long."1005  He was a complete man,—I might say, an absolute man,—in whom spirit and matter are not separated ....

"Honor to Luther!  Eternal honor to the dear man, to whom we owe the recovery of our dearest rights, and by whose benefit we live to-day!  It becomes us little to complain about the narrowness of his views. The dwarf who stands on the shoulders of the giant can indeed see farther than the giant himself, especially if he puts on spectacles; but for that lofty point of intuition we want the lofty feeling, the giant heart, which we cannot make our own. It becomes us still less to pass a harsh judgment upon his failings: these failings have been of more use to us than the virtues of a thousand others. The polish of Erasmus, the gentleness of Melanchthon, would never have brought us so far as the divine brutality of Brother Martin. From the imperial Diet, where Luther denied the authority of the Pope, and openly declared ’that his doctrine must be refuted by the authority of the Bible, or by the arguments of reason,’ new age has begun in Germany. The chain wherewith the holy Boniface bound the German church to Rome has been hewn asunder .... Through Luther we attained the greatest freedom of thought; but this Martin Luther gave us not only liberty to move, but also the means of moving, for to the spirit he gave also a body. He created the word for the thought,—he created the German language. He did this by his translation of the Bible. The Divine author of this book himself chose him his translator, and gave him the marvellous power to translate from a dead language which was already buried into another language which did not yet live. How Luther came to the language into which he translated the Bible I cannot conceive to this day .... This old book is a perennial fountain for the renewal of the German language."—Zur Geschichte der Religion und Philosophie in Deutschland, 2nd ed. 1852, in Heine’s Sämmtl. Werke, vol. III. 29 sqq.


IV. J. Döllinger, the most learned Catholic historian of the nineteenth century, in his Lectures on the Reunion of Christendom (Ueber die Wiedervereinigung der christlichen Kirchen, Nördlingen, 1888, p. 53), makes the following incidental remark on Luther and the Reformation: —


"The force and strength of the Reformation was only in part due to the personality of the man who was its author and spokesman in Germany. It was indeed Luther’s overpowering mental greatness and wonderful manysidedness (überwältigende Geistesgrösse und wunderbare Vielseitigkeit) that made him the man of his age and his people. Nor was there ever a German who had such an intuitive knowledge of his countrymen, and was again so completely possessed, not to say absorbed, by the national sentiment, as the Augustinian monk of Wittenberg. The mind and spirit of the Germans was in his hand as the lyre is in the hand of a skillful musician. He had given them more than any man in Christian days ever gave his people,—language, Bible, church hymn. All his opponents could offer in place of it, and all the reply they could make to him, was insipid, colorless, and feeble, by the side of his transporting eloquence. They stammered, he spoke. He alone has impressed the indelible stamp of his mind on the German language and the German intellect; and even those among us who hold him in religious detestation, as the great heresiarch and seducer of the nation, are constrained, in spite of themselves, to speak with his words and think with his thoughts.

"And yet still more powerful than this Titan of the world of mind was the yearning of the German people for deliverance from the bonds of a corrupted church system. Had no Luther arisen, a reformation would still have come, and Germany would not have remained Catholic."


Dr. Döllinger delivered the lectures from which this extract is taken, after his quarrel with Vatican Romanism, in the museum at Munich, February, 1872. They were stenographically reported in the "Köllner-Zeitung," translated into English by Oxenham (London, 1872), and from English into French by Madame Hyacinthe-Loyson (La réunion des églises, Paris, 1880), and at last published by the author (1888).

This testimony is of special importance, owing to the acknowledged learning and ability of Döllinger as a Roman Catholic historian, and author of an elaborate work against the Reformation (1848, 3 vols.), consisting mostly of contemporaneous testimonies. He is thoroughly at home in the writings of the Reformers, and prepared a biographical sketch of Luther,1006  in which he severely criticises him for his opinions and conduct towards the Catholic Church, but does full justice to his intellectual greatness. He says, p. 51, "If we justly call him a great man, who, endowed with mighty powers and gifts, accomplishes great things, who, as a bold legislator in the realm of mind, makes millions subservient to his system, then the peasant’s son of Möhra must be counted among the great, yea, the greatest men. This also is true, that he was a sympathizing friend, free of avarice and love of money, and ready to help others."

Döllinger was excommunicated for his opposition to the Vatican decree of infallibility (1870), but still remains a Catholic, and could not become a Protestant without retracting his work on the Reformation. He would, however, write a very different work now, and present the Reformation as a blessing rather than a calamity to Germany, in the light of the events which have passed since 1870. In one of his Akademische Vorträge, the first volume of which has just reached me (Nördlingen, 1888, p. 76), he makes the significant confession, that for many years the events In Germany from 1517 to 1552 were to him an unsolved riddle, and an object of sorrow and grief, seeing then only the result of division of the church and the nation into hostile camps; but that a closer study of the mediaeval history of Rome and Germany, and the events of the last years, have given him a better understanding and more hopeful view of the renewed and reunited German nation as a noble instrument in the hands of Providence. This is as far as he can go from his standpoint.


§ 125. Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott.


I conclude this volume with Luther’s immortal hymn, which is the best expression of his character, and reveals the secret of his strength as well as the moving power of the Reformation.1007


A tower of strength1008 our God is still,

A good defense1009 and weapon;

He helps us free from all the ill

That us hath overtaken.

Our old, mortal foe1010

Now aims his fell blow,

Great might and deep guile

His horrid coat-of-mail;1011

On earth is no one like him.1012


Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott,

Ein’ gute Wehr und Waffen.

Er hilft uns frei aus aller Noth,

Die uns jetzt hat betroffen.

Der alt’ böse Feind,

Mit Ernst er’s jetzt meint;

Gross’ Macht und viel List,

Sein grausam Rüstung ist,

Auf Erd’ ist nicht sein’s Gleichen.


By might of ours can naught be done:1013

Our fate were soon decided.

But for us fights the champion,1014

By God himself provided.

Who Is this, ask ye?

Jesus Christ!  ÕTis he!

Lord of Sabaoth,

True God and Saviour both,

Omnipotent in battle.1015


Mit unsrer Macht ist nichts gethan,

Wir sind gar bald verloren:

Es streit’t für uns der rechte Mann,

Den Gott hat selbst erkoren.

Fragst du, wer Der ist?

Er heisst Jesus Christ,

Der Herr Zebaoth,

Und ist kein andrer Gott;

Das Feld muss Er behalten.


Did devils fill the earth and air,1016

All eager to devour us,

Our steadfast hearts need feel no care,

Lest they should overpower us.

The grim Prince of hell,

With rage though he swell,

Hurts us not a whit,

Because his doom is writ:

A little word can rout1017 him.


Und wenn die Welt voll Teufel wär’

Und wollt uns gar verschlingen,

So fürchten wir uns nicht zu sehr,

Es soll uns doch gelingen.

Der Fürst dieser Welt,

Wie sau’r er sich stellt,

Thut er uns doch nichts;

Das macht, er ist gericht’t;

Ein Wörtlein kann ihn fällen.


The word of God will never yield

To any creature living;

He stands with us upon the field,

His grace and Spirit giving.

Take they child and wife,

Goods, name, fame, and life,

Though all this be done,

Yet have they nothing won:

The kingdom still remaineth.


Das Wort sie sollen lassen stan1018

Und keinÕn Dank dazu haben.

Er ist bei uns wohl auf dem Plan1019

Mit seinem Geist und Gaben.

Nehmen sie den Leib,

Gut, Ehr, Kind und Weib;

Lass fahren dahin,

Sie haben’s kein’n Gewinn;

Das Reich muss uns doch bleiben




* Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1997. This material has been carefully compared, corrected¸ and emended (according to the 1910 edition of Charles Scribner's Sons) by The Electronic Bible Society, Dallas, TX, 1998.

956  Luther wrote to Hausmann, July 6, 1530: "Mirum est quam omnes ardeant amore et favore Caesaris." In De Wette-Seidemann, VI. 116. Melanchthon praised the virtues of the Emperor extravagantly, even after the Diet. "Corp. Ref." II. 430 sq., 361; Virck, l.c., 338sq.

957  "Lieber Fürst, nicht Kopf abhauen, nicht Kopf ab." Andreas Osiander understood him to say, "mehr Kopf abhauen," and so reported to Luther, June 21, 1530; adding, "neque enim recte Germanice autLatine novit." Krafft, Briefe und Documente, 67; Janssen, III. 166. Charles usually spoke in French; but he declared that he would sacrifice any other language, even Spanish or French, yea, one of his states, for a better knowledge of German.

958  Brentius: "cum confessio legeretur, obdormivit." The Emperor was equally sleepy on the 3d of August during the reading of the papal confutation.

959  In De Wette, IV. 165.

960  He spent his time "in lacrymis ac luctu," was exhausted and emaciated. See his letters, and those of Jonas and Osiander, in "Corp. Ref.," II. 125 sq., 157, l63.

961  He wrote two letters to Campeggi, July 6, and two to his secretary, July 7 and Aug. 5. See "Corp. Reform.," II. 168-174, and 240. In the first letter, after a quotation from Plato and some words of flattery, he makes this astounding concession (fol. 170): "Dogma nullum habemus diversum ab ecclesia Romana. ... Parati sumus obedire ecclesiae Romana, modo ut illa pro sua clementia, qua semper erga omnes gentes usa est, pauca quaedamvel dissimulet, vel relaxet quae jam mutare nequidem si velimus queamus. ... Ad haec Romani pontificis auctoritatem et universam politiam ecclesiasticam reverenter colimus, modo nos non abjiciat Rom. pontifex. ... Nullam ob rem aliam plus odii sustinemus in Germania, quam quia ecclesiae Romanae dogmata summa constantia defendimus. Hanc fidem Christo et Romanae ecclesiae ad extremum spiritum, Deo volente, praestabimus. Levis quaedam dissimilitudo rituum est quae videtur obstare concordiae."Of similar import are the propositions he sent to Campeggi, Aug. 4 (fol. 246).

962  See letter of Sept. 11, 1530, in De Wette, IV. 163.

963  Summa, mihi in totum displicet tractatus de doctrinae concordia, ut quae plane sit impossibilis, nisi papa velit papatum suum aboleri."Letter to Melanchthon, Aug. 26, in De Wette, IV. 147.

964  See his Exposition of John 6–8 (1530-32), Erl. ed. XLVIII. 342 sq.

965  "Glossen auf das vermeintliche kaiserliche Edict," in Walch, XVI. 2017 sqq.; Erl. ed. XXV. 51-88.

966  Warnung an seine lieben Deutschen, Erl. ed. XXV. 1-51. The Romanists regarded this as an incendiary call to open rebellion. He defended himself against this charge, in Wider den Meuchler in Dresden, 1531 (Erl. ed. 89-109).

967  Albrecht accepted from Melanchthon the dedication of his commentary on the Romans and sent him a cup with thirty gold guilders (1532). He also sent to Luther’s wife a present of twenty guilders, which Luther declined. Köstlin, II. 427; Janssen, III. 203. Hermann of Cologne afterwards professed Protestantism, and made an abortive attempt to reform his diocese with the aid of Bucer and Melanchthon.

968  Luther chastised the Pope with all his power of irony and sarcasm for his conduct in regard to a council, in his book Von den Conciliis und Kirchen, 1539 (Erl. ed. XXV. 219-388).

969  See the proof in Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, I. 624 sqq.

970  The Articuli Torgavienses were formerly confounded with the Articuli Suobacences till Förstemann discovered the former in the archives at Weimar (1833).

971  "Denn ich so sanft und leise nicht treten kann." Letter to Elector John, May 15, 1530. In De Wette, IV. 17. He calls the Augustana die Leisetreterin, the softly stepping Confession. Letter to Jonas, July 2l, 1530.

972  In a letter to Brenz, May, 1531 (Corp. Ref., II. 502), Melanchthon remarks that he did not speak more plainly on this point, "propter adversariorum calumnias." In the Apology of the Confession (Art. IV.), he is more explicit, and declares this doctrine incidentally to be "the chief point of Christian doctrine (praecipuus locus doctrinae Christianae) in this controversy." Müller, Symb. Bücher, p. 87. Döllinger charges Melanchthon, in his varying statements of this doctrine, with sophistry, Die Reformation, III. 279 sqq. The revisers of the Luther Bible retained the insertion allein in Rom. 3:28.

973  That the Zwinglians are meant by the secus docentes (in the German ed., Gegenlehr), must be inferred from the preceding Conference at Marburg, and the whole conduct of the Lutherans during the Diet. The omission of Zwingli’s name was due, probably, to respect for his friend the Landgrave of Hesse, one of the signers of the Confession.

974  "They condemn the Anabaptists, who disallow the baptism of children, and affirm that children are saved without baptism." The edition of 1540 adds after "sine baptismo" the words "et extra ecclesiam Christi." The Romish Confutation fully approves of the condemnation of the Anabaptists, and calls them "hominum genus seditiosissimum, procul a finibus Romani imperii eliminandum." Corp. Reform., XXVII. 105.

975  Schaff, Creeds, i. 687, iii. 482.

976  It was Melanchthon’s wish (which Köllner chose as motto for his Symb. d. luth. Kirche): "Utinam utinam possim non quidem dominationem confirmare, sed administrationem restituere episcoporum. Video enim, qualem habituri simus ecclesiam, dissoluta politeiva ecclesiastica." Occasionally lonely voices are heard for the restoration of episcopacy in the Lutheran Church, but without effect. See F. Haupt, Der Episcopat der deutschen Reformation, oder Artikel 28 der Augsburg Conf., Frankf., 1866; Luther und der Episcopat, 1866.

977  See on these questions Schaff, Creeds, I. 237 sqq., and especially Köllner, Symbolik der luth. Kirche, p. 236 sqq. and 267 sqq.

978  The full title is Catholica et quasi-extemporanea Responsio Pontificia seu Confutatio Augustanae Confessionis. The first draught was verbose and bitter ("verbosior et acrior"); the second, third, fourth, and fifth were briefer and milder.

979  The first draught, however, had a lengthy attack upon Luther’s sola fide.

980  "Decimus articulus in verbis nihil offendit si modo credant [principes, the Lutheran signers] sub qualibet specie integrum Christum adesse."

981  Because it is defined as a congregatio sanctorum, without including mali et peccatores.

982  Because it rejects the invocation of saints."Hic articulus confessionis toties damnatus penitus rejiciendus est et cum tota universali ecclesia reprobandus."

983  "Quod autem de abusibus adstruxerunt, haud dubie norunt Principes omnes et status imperii, neque a Caes. Maiestate, neque ullis a Principibus et christiano aliquo homine vel minimum abusum probari, sed optare tum Principes, tum status imperii, ut communi consilio ac consensu adnitantur, ut, sublatis abusibus et emendatis, utriusque status excessus aut penitus aboleantur, aut in melius reformentur, ac tandem ecclesiasticus status multis modis labefactatus, ac christiana religio, quae in nonnullis refriguit et remissa est, ad pristinum decus et ornamentumrestituatur et redintegretur. Qua in re Caes. Maiestas, ut omnibus constat, hactenus plurimum et laboris et curae insumsit, et in reliquum ad hoc negotii omnem suam operam ac studium serio collocaturam benigne pollicetur." Corp. Ref., XXVII. 182 sq.

984  He worked so hard at it at Altenburg, even on Sunday, that Luther reminded him to observe the Fourth Commandment.

985  Corp. Ref., XXVII. 267 sqq. Melanchthon himself did not hear it.

986  Ibid., 379 sqq.; XXVIII. 1 sqq.

987  See on the different editions the "Corp. Ref.," XXVI. 697 sqq. and XXVII. 379 sqq.; the Latin text of 1531, p. 419 sqq.; the German translation with the variations of ed. II. (1533), ed. III. and IV. (1540), ed. V. 1550), ed. VI. (1556), in vol. XXVIII. 37-326.

988  Coburg is the residence, alternately with Gotha, of the Duke, and capital of the duchy, of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, 185 m. S. S. W. of Berlin, nearly midway between Wittenberg and Augsburg, and has now (1888) about sixteen thousand inhabitants. The castle is situated on an eminence overhanging the town, and has been in part converted into a prison and house of correction; but some chambers remain in their original condition, chiefly those occupied by Luther, with his bedstead and pulpit.

989  See above, p. 464.

990  The MS. of his translation and adaptation of these fables has recently been re-discovered in the Vatican Library by Dr. Reitzenstein, and published, with an interesting facsimile, by E. Thiele: "Luthers Fabeln nach seiner wiedergefundenen Handschrift, " etc. Halle (M. Niemeyer), 1888 (19 pages).

991  See above, 468, 502 sq., 741 sq.

992  See the Lit. on p. 104. The martyr-Emperor, Frederick III., as crown prince, representing his venerable father, Emperor William I. of Germany, was the leading figure in the celebration at Wittenberg, Sept. 12-14, 1883, and gave it a national significance. The Luther-celebration produced several Luther-dramas, by Henzen (1883), Devrient (7th ed. 1888), Herrig (9th ed. 1888), and Trümpelmann (2nd ed. 1888). Comp. G. A. Erdmann, Die Lutherfestspiele, Wittenberg, 1889.

993  The meeting of the Evangelical Alliance of the U. S., then under the management of Drs. Prime and Schaff (Presbyterians), was the most representative and impressive Luther celebration in America; it was addressed by Hon. John Jay (Episcopalian), Dr. Phillips Brooks (Episcopalian), Dr. Wm. M. Taylor (Congregationalist), Bishop Simpson (Methodist), Dr. Krotel (Lutheran), Dr. Crosby (Presbyterian). The music was furnished by the New York Oratorio Society. The Evangelical Alliance issued also an invitation to the Protestant churches in the United States to celebrate Luther’s birthday by sermons on the Reformation.

994  The Probebibel, so-called, of 1883, though prepared by a company of able scholars appointed by various German States, is a timidly conservative revision, does not touch the Erasmian text, and allows innumerable inaccuracies to stand from respect to Luther’s memory; and yet even this revision revises too much for the Lutherans of strict orthodoxy. His popularity is a hinderance to progress.

995  See H. v. Treitschke’s eloquent address, Luther und die deutsche Nation, Berlin, 1883 (29 pages).

996  Professor Ad. Harnack (Martin Luther, Giessen, 1883, p. 4) well says: Fast jede Partei unter uns hat ihren Luther und meint den wahren zu haben. Die Verehrung für Luther vereinigt mehr als die Hälfte unserer Nation und die Auffassung Luther’s trennt sie. Von Luther’s Namen lässt so leicht kein Deutscher. Ein unvergleichlicher Mann ist er Allen, ob man ihm nun aufpasst, um ihn anzugreifen, oder ob man ihn rühmt und hoch preist." The Germans, if we may say so, worship Luther, Frederick the Great, Goethe, and Bismarck. Of these, Luther is most worthy, and was least desirous, of praise.

997  Hallam also, ignoring Luther’s German writings, calls his polemical books "bellowing in bad Latin," " scandalous," and " disgusting." (Literature of Europe in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, II. 306, N. Y. ed.)

998  Comp. the admirable description of Luther by Hase in his Kirchengesch. (11th ed., p. 400), and at the close of his Prot. Polemik. The Roman Catholic Möhler (Kirchengesch., III. 148) thinks that out of Luther’s writings might be drawn "the most glorious apology of the Catholic Church." Harnack (l.c., p. 5) calls him "a sage without prudence; a statesman without politics; an artist without art; a man free from the world, in the midst of the world; of vigorous sensuality, yet pure; obstinately unjust (rechthaberisch ungerecht), yet concerned for the cause; defying authority, yet bound by authority; at once blaspheming and emancipating, reason."

999  An interesting parallel in this and other respects may be drawn by some future historian, between Luther and Bismarck, whose political influence upon Germany in the nineteenth century is as powerful as Luther’s ecclesiastical influence was in the sixteenth. Bismarck was originally an intense aristocrat, but became the boldest liberal, and ended as a conservative statesman, though without surrendering the creations of his genius. He defeated Catholic Austria and France, and protested that he would never go to Canossa; yet he met Pope Leo XIII. half way, and repealed the unjust May-laws in the interest of patriotism, without surrendering any religious principle. With all his faults, he is the greatest statesman and diplomatist of the century, and the chief founder of the Protestant German Empire.

1000  He calls him Hanswurst, Jack Sausage.

1001  So says Döllinger (Die Reform., III. 265, note), who counted the number. He adds, that in Luther’s book on the Councils, the devils are mentioned fifteen times in four lines.

1002  See the passages above, p. 657 sq., note 3.

1003  Comp. the comparison between Luther and Melanchthon, p. 193 sq.

1004  He announced the death of Luther to his students with the words: "Ah! obiit auriga et currus Israel, qui rexit ecclesiam in hac ultima senecta mundi. ... Amemus igitur hujus viri memoriam."

1005  This is a mistake; see p. 466 sq.

1006  Luther, eine Skizze, Freiburg-i.-B., 1851. I have a copy with notes, which the old Catholic Bishop Reinkens, a pupil of Döllinger, kindly gave me in Bonn, 1886. It appeared in the first edition of Wetzer and Welte’s Kirchen-Lexikon, vol. VI. 651 spp.

1007  The translation was made by my esteemed friend, Professor Thomas Conrad Porter, D. D., of Easton, Penn., several years ago, but finished in February, 1888, and is almost equal to that of Thomas Carlyle in its reproduction of the rugged force of the original, and surpasses it in rhythmic accuracy. Comp. 468, 502, sq.

1008  Carlyle: "A safe stronghold."

1009  "A trusty shield."—C.

1010  "The ancient prince of hell."—C.

1011  Strong mail of craft and power He weareth in this hour."—C.

"In grim armor dight,

 Much guile and great might."—Longfellow.

1012  "On earth is not his fellow."—C.

1013  "By force of arms we nothing can."—C.

1014  "The proper man."—C.

1015  "Shall conquer in the battle."—C.

1016  "And were this world all devils over."—C.

1017  "slay."—C.

1018  stehen.

1019 ·Kampfplatz.