Martin Luther

.. nion (a senior friar) set out on foot. The seven-week journey was long and difficult; the two travelers spent their nights in monasteries along the way. When they finally saw the city before them, Luther fell on his face and cried out, Blessed art thou, Rome, Holy Rome, (Luther 48). But he was greatly disappointed when he observed that the life on Rome was very sinful. He was amazed to find that the Italian priests were leading lives of luxury and self-indulgence. Luther said, the Italians mocked us for being pious monks, for they hold Christians fools.

They say six or seven masses on the time it takes me to say one, for they take money for it and I do not, (Luther 48). After visiting a shrine in Rome was when Luther began to doubt that a Christian could save a soul simply by visiting shrines and paying Tithes to the Church. After his return five months later, Luther resumes his teaching at the University of Wittenburg. In the fall of 1512, he began his assignment as professor of Bible studies. Besides teaching at the University, he now also began to preach in the large Castle Church.

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Never before had the people heard the Word of God proclaimed so richly and so powerfully. They flocked in ever increasing numbers to hear him. In his sermons Luther warned his hearers against trying to earn salvation by good works and pleaded with them to accept God’s offer of free salvation in Jesus. Once again in 1515 Luther received another promotion. This time he was appointed as the vicar provincial of the Augustinian Eremites, (Luther 53). In this position he was responsible for the administrative and spiritual supervision of 11 Augustinian cloisters.

During Luther’s study of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans in preparation for his lectures, he came to believe that Christians are saved not through their own efforts but by the gift of God’s grace, which they accept in faith. This event turned him decisively against some of the major tenets of the Catholic Church, (Encarta 1). Thus was the beginning of the Reformation. Common in those days was the practice of selling indulgences for money. Pope Leo X started this practice to get money to be used to finance the construction of St. Peter’s Cathedral on Rome. People who purchased these indulgences were promised freedom from punishment on earth and in purgatory.

John Tetzel, a salesman of indulgences, came into the neighborhood of Wittenburg. He urged people to buy forgiveness for all past, present, and future sins. Some of Luther’s church members purchased these worthless indulgence letters. They boldly refused to repent of their sins. Their impenitence brought Luther to action.

He refused to give such members absolution and Communion unless they showed themselves repentant. Deeply disturbed by the attitude of the people, Luther preached many sermons on repentance. Finally he wrote 95 thesis, sentences in which he condemned the sale of indulgences. On October 31, 1517, he posted these 95 Theses on the University bulletin board, the door of the Castle Church, (Encarta 1). In one of his theses he stated, those preachers of Indulgences are wrong when they say that a man is absolved and saved from every penalty by the Pope’s Indulgences, (Luther 60). Thousands, both in high places and low, were glad that Luther had spoken out.

When Pope Leo X in Rome heard of the affair in Germany, he was furious and threatened Luther with excommunication if he not take back what he did within sixty days. But Luther remained firm, for he felt that he was right and that he had acted for the glory of God. In 1521 Luther was ordered to appear before Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms for trial. At this convention the highest officials of the Church and of the State were present, and Luther was again asked to recant. He refused firmly, asserting that he would have to be convinced by Scripture and clear reason in order to do so and that going against conscience is not safe for anyone, (Encarta 2). Not one opponent could bring forward a word from the Bible to show that Luther was not mistaken. Luther, therefore, refused to change anything that he had said or written.

The emperor then condemned Luther. Luther was now declared an outlaw; anyone might have killed him without fear of punishment. Although his life was in great danger, Luther was unafraid and began the return journey to Wittenburg on April 26, 1521. (Luther 91). While he was riding through a forest on May 4, 1521, a band of masked men rushed upon him, took him prisoner, and brought him to a castle, the Wartburg. (Luther 91).

At midnight a heavy drawbridge was lowered, and Luther disappeared behind the massive castle walls. Only a few persons knew where Luther was, and they kept their secret well. Some people thought that Luther was dead. What they did not know was that some of his friends had secretly kidnapped him and had brought him to a safe place. On May 26, 1521, Charles V issued a singularly violent proclamation to the electors, princes, and people of Germany.

This proclamation, known as the Edict of Worms, called upon the Germans to forsake the dissident whose teachings threatened to divide the nation, (Luther 93). Meanwhile Luther, disguised as a knight, lived at the Wartburg. Here he translated the New Testament into the German language so that the common people might easily read and understand the Word of God. Since printing with movable type had been invented shortly before this time, copies were soon in the hands of many people. Luther remained in seclusion at the Wartburg for almost a year.

Then he returned to Wittenburg and again appeared in his pulpit. He preached eight powerful sermons to clear away certain errors into which many had fallen and to show them what the new way of life was really like. He warned them against using force in their struggle against the Pope and his followers. Their sole weapon, he urged, was to be the powerful Word of God. From Wittenburg Luther went to a number of other towns and communities everywhere counseling to use the liberty from the Papal oppression for only one purpose- to become better Christians.

Luther lived in constant danger of being arrested and killed. But although his friends were worried, no one ever touched him. That he remained alive seems like a miracle. On June 13, 1525, Luther married Katherine von Bora, a former nun. (Luther 114). The wedding ceremony took place in the Black Cloister in Wittenburg, now changed into a dwelling place for Luther. Martin and Katherine were blessed with three boys and three girls. Luther loved home life, and he took time to play with his children, to make music with them, and to write letters to them when he was away from home. He was also interested in gardening and in the problems of running a household.

He had many visitors. Although Luther was a man of modest means, he was very generous. His kindness and generosity to others sometimes worried his wife, especially since Luther was extremely hospitable and would freely give shelter, food, and even gave money to the unfortunate. By 1537 Luther’s health had begun to go downhill. In 1546, Luther was asked to settle a controversy between two young counts who ruled the area of Mansfeld, where he had been born, (Encarta 3).

After he resolved the conflict he died of a heart attack on February 18, 1546, in Eisleben, (Encarta 3).