The Revolt of Martin Luther

By Robert Herndon Fife | Go to book overview

8
STUDENT OF THEOLOGY

MARTIN was now a priest, qualified for the service of the Mass and soon to be charged with the duties of a confessor of souls. If we may trust estatements made after he had broken with the Church, he plunged into the new duties at the altar with ardent enthusiasm and performed them with more than usual zeal, becoming, he declares, a"slave of the Mass."1 Thus he ministered at the chapels served by the Eremites in the country around Erfurt and in the convent church, and his heart swelled with pride when he had carried through the service to his satisfaction.2 Still other duties of an absorbing nature came to fill the long convent day to overflowing. Even during the preparation for his ordination he may have entered on studies in theology; at any event, these must have begun no later than the fall of 1507. The statutes of the order required that the prior of the convent should constrain the brothers so far as possible to such studies.3 The story of Martin's marvelous conversion had shed an unusual light on him; indeed, brothers from the convent carried reports of it to distant seats of the order.4 Furthermore, his reputation as a gifted student at the university marked him as one who might well become a successful teacher among the Augustinians. Under such circumstances the prior can hardly have failed to enlist Martin for the study of theology at the earliest moment that accorded with cloister practice. In this case there could have been no necessity to "constrain" the candidate.

The convent at Erfurt was well equipped for theological training. The rules of the Observant Augustinians declared that "the order was founded

____________________
1
Ein Ertzpapist und viel hefftiger Messe knecht (one of Luther pet expressions, Von seinem Buch der Winkelmessen, W A, XXXVIII, 267 ( 1534).
2
Lecture on Isaiah, perhaps Nov. 1528, W A, XXXI, 11, 154.
3
Const., para. 36.
4
At least as far as the Rhine. See the report which his teacher of theology, Johann Nathin, took to the cloister at Méhlenhausen, in Dungersheim von Ochsenfurt Dadelung des obgesatzten bekenntnus oder untuchtigen Lutherischen Testaments (1530), cited by BÖhmer, Romfahrt, p. 57, n. 2.

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