Martin Luther: The Preservation of the Church, 1532-1546

By Martin Brecht; James L. Schaaf | Go to book overview
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III
Renewed Strife with
Old Opponents

1. DUKE GEORGE AND THE
REPRESSION OF THE REFORMATION
IN DUCAL SAXONY (1532–39)

The Reformation also continued to spread in territories that were governed by Catholic rulers. In them the usual practice of communion, giving only bread and not the cup, could become a matter of conscience for the evangelicals. In August 1532 Luther unmistakably informed the councilman and mine owner Martin Lodinger in Gastein, Austria, that he dare not take part in this sort of sacramental practice. Either he had to refrain from communing or he would have no choice but to emigrate.1 Lodinger was not the only one confronted by this problem.


Comfort and Protest in the Face of Persecution

Despite considerable pressure from the government, the number of adherents to the Reformation in Ducal Saxony also grew. Residents of Leipzig went to listen to sermons and receive the Lord’s Supper in the nearby villages of Electoral Saxony. On orders from Duke George they were placed under surveillance and interrogated by the Leipzig council. Fourteen citizens who were unwilling to return to the old faith were expelled in September 1532. An additional nasty trick was to refuse them a certificate of dismissal with its testimonial of good conduct, which was important in order for them to resettle in another location. Luther comforted the exiles in this situation with a letter. He presumed that the reason for this increased persecution was Duke George’s anger over the recently concluded Religious Peace of Nuremberg. This was incorrect; the measures had already been initiated during Lent. The circumstances convinced Luther: “There will be no peace until the Lord himself comes and topples the enemy of peace.” He was convinced that God was the God of those who were oppressed and suffering, not of the proud. He thought that the duke’s heart was hopelessly hardened.2 When the Leipzig preacher Johann Koss suffered a stroke in the pulpit on 29 December 1532 while attacking Luther and shortly thereafter died, Luther viewed it as a manifest sign of God’s judgment.3

-65-

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