The Revolt of Martin Luther

By Robert Herndon Fife | Go to book overview

16
THE HEARING AT AUGSBURG

"LET the will of the Lord be done. In Augsburg, even in the midst of his enemies, Jesus Christ rules. May Christ live even though Martin and every sinner perish."1 To the Wittenberg friends, many of whom had tried to dissuade him from the journey, the professor sends this solemn greeting from the road, perhaps from Nuremberg. He was facing a great crisis in a career rich in dramatic moments. The appearance before Cajetan lacks, to be sure, the theatrical interest of the climax attained three years later in his appearance before the emperor and the Diet at Worms. In some ways also it does not awaken the deep psychological interest of his memorable journey to South Germany in 1530, when, forbidden as a public outlaw to approach Augsburg, he dwelt for months among the jackdaws on the eerie heights of Castle Coburg and followed with tense anxiety the efforts of the Wittenberg group to consolidate Church reform in conference with representatives of the old faith and the reformers from southern and eastern Germany. Nevertheless, the interview with Cardinal Cajetan opened the rift with the authority of Rome and thus put to a more severe test than any later occasion his resolution to accept no compromise affecting his theological position.

The interview with the papal legate was, in another respect as well, a great milestone in his career. Here, in an imperial city, the friar and cloister teacher made his entry on the world stage. A little more than seven years earlier he had paused in Augsburg, an unknown young monk returning from his journey to Rome, his mind filled with veneration for the Church, its traditions, and its hierarchy. Now, a widely known scholar, supported by a powerful prince and bearing the sympathies and hopes of many hearts, but suspected or hated by many others, he saw himself an object of universal attention. He knew that emperor and Pope had made him the subject of

____________________
1
Letter from Luther to Wittenberg friends, Oct. 3 or 4, 1518, W AB, I, 208.

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