“As soon as the coin in the coffer rings,
The soul from purgatory springs.”
…Luther, in an angry response to the sale of indulgences, posted a notice consisting of ninety-five theses upon the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church.
When a copy of Luther’s theses reached Rome, the pope, according to some accounts, said: “Luther is a drunken German. He will feel different when he is sober.”
Rome, however, was worried about Martin Luther. On June 15, 1520, Pope Leo X, in the papal bull Exsurge Domine, warned Luther that he will be excommunicated unless he recanted within the next sixty days. The bull opened with a paragraph that compared Luther to a wild boar:
“Arise, O Lord, and judge your own cause… The wild boar from the forest seeks to destroy it and every wild beast feeds upon it.”
The day after receiving a copy of the pope’s bull, Luther wrote to a friend, “This bull condemns Christ himself” and that he was now “certain the pope is the Antichrist.” His tone was defiant.
Although describing himself as “physically fearful and trembling,” Luther and a small band of supporters entered Worms on the early evening of April 16 in a two-wheeled cart. A crowd of two thousand people helped escort Luther to his lodging.
As Luther was passing to the assembly-room of the Diet, he was clapped on the shoulder by a famous knight and general of the empire, Georg von Frundsberg, who said, “Monk, monk, you are in a strait the like of which myself and many leaders, in the most desperate battles, have never known. But if thy thoughts are just, and thou art sure of thy cause, go on, in God’s name; and be of good cheer; He will not forsake thee.”
But though Luther’s body was weak, his mind was strong, and it is said that, “his air quickly became calm and dignified.”
When Luther, at the Diet, was asked to recant his works, he instead described some of his writings as particularly those “in which I attack the papacy and the belief of the papists, as monstrosities, involving the ruin of sound doctrine and of men’s souls.”
But rather than receiving the direct, “yes or no” answer he was looking for, Eck found that Luther’s answer was evasive. He asked again, “Martin–answer candidly and without horns (as in meaning the “horns of a dilemma” or, I want a straight answer) –do you or do you not repudiate your books and the errors which they contain?”
Luther refused to disavow these writings, because to do so would allow “Rome would make use of the disavowal, to extend her kingdom and oppress men’s souls.” After, repeating his answer in Latin as requested, (he had spoken in German) a sweating and tired Luther threw up his arms in victory and left the hall to a chorus of hisses from the Spaniards present.
Luther would not compromise on his principles.
The disputation between Eck and Luther lasted till July 13. Luther concluded his argument with the words: ’I am sorry that the learned doctor only dips into Scripture as deep as the water-spider into the water–nay, that he seems to ﬂy from it as the devil from the Cross. I prefer, with all deference to the Fathers, the authority of Scripture, which I herewith recommend to the arbiters of our cause.
Finally, the Emperor, on May 26, called Luther a “reviver of the old and condemned heresies” and an “inventor of new ones” and condemned him.
When we think about the great men of past ages, men who have changed the world, men who have made history, men who brought truth to the forefront, Martin Luther’s name will always be there as a shining example. However, would it have been the case if it were not for the encouragement shown to him by a few people at just the right time? God alone knows that, but what we do know is that God used those people to strengthen his servants when they needed it most.
My prayer is that God will use each of us to encourage those who need it.