The Revolt of Martin Luther

By Robert Herndon Fife | Go to book overview

28
THE FINAL BREAK WITH CHURCH TRADITION

A SPIRIT of haughty self-confidence marks Luther's letters as the summer of 1520 fades. Perhaps it was an echo of the tremendous success of the Address to the Christian Nobility. The revolutionary character of this appeal was evidently well known in advance, and at least two interested hands tried to stop its appearance, as we have seen. But before their intervention reached Martin, the "blast, frightful and fierce," as Luther's friend Lang called it,1 had already started on its way in thousands of copies.2

Papal Commissioner Miltitz felt that the crisis called for a renewal of his efforts. He wrote to the elector that if Luther would delay issuance of the work he hoped to help him out of his "error and disfavor."3 A convention of the Augustinian Eremites had been summoned to meet at Eisleben on August 26, in order that a successor might be chosen to take over the vicarship from the weary hands of Luther's old friend Staupitz. Here Miltitz, who did not consider the affair as black as the priests made it, presented himself and delivered a Latin address "clothed in the Italian pronunciation," as Luther learned.4 Frederick had replied to Miltitz's letter politely, with the usual excuse that he was not in touch with these matters, but added that if he had received his letter earlier he would have done what he could to delay the appearance of Luther's book.5 At Eisleben the Augustinian

____________________
1
"Classicum . . . tam atrox et ferox." Letter from Luther to Lang, Aug. 18, 1520, W AB, II, 167.
2
Otto Clemen, editor of Volumes I and II of Luthers Briefwechsel, supposes that Spalatin, alarmed at the violence of Luther's attack, had informed Lang of its character. See W AB, II, 164, n. 6, and 169, n. 6. It is likely that the nature of the book was known to the whole electoral court before its publication.
3
From Halle. E. S. Cyprian, "Nützliche Urkunden zur Erläuterung der ersten Reformationsgeschichte", in Tentzels Historischer Bericht vom Anfang und ersten Fortgang der Reformation Lutheri, I, 1, 435.
4
Letter from Luther to Spalatin, Sept. 1, 1520, W AB, II, 180.
5
Cyprian, "Nützliche Urkunden", I, 1, 436 f.

-524-

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