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

By Martin Brecht; James L. Schaaf | Go to book overview

XII
The Progress of the
Lutheran Reformation in the
German Empire and in Europe

From 1539 onward, a rapid expansion of the Reformation occurred, primarily in central and northern Germany, but also beyond. This was caused by the force of Reformation ideas and the favorable political situation. Although Luther and his colleagues were involved in it in many ways, this development was not planned from Wittenberg. Therefore, circumstances differed from territory to territory. In Wittenberg there was no strategic plan for spreading the Reformation. Had there been one, it would have been difficult to implement because of the differing conditions. The Wittenbergers attempted, as best they could, to help and give advice when they were approached. They supplied pastors and schoolteachers, sought to have them paid adequately, gave opinions on ordinances, encouraged, criticized, and resolved conflicts. Their contribution to the German Reformation—aside from their theology— consisted of numerous campaigns, letters, opinions, and discussions. They were repeatedly confronted by the same problems, not only when the Reformation was introduced, but also with regard to its expansion and preservation. Sometimes in this context they also had to make a statement on major political questions. In addition, the serious controversy over the Lord’s Supper among the evangelicals was still not at an end. In order to present an appropriate and comprehensive picture of Luther as a reformer, the following chapter must deal with broad topics, serious problems, and many small, banal matters. All of them together belong to Luther’s activity.


1. THE REFORMATION IN DUCAL SAXONY

The death of Duke George of Saxony on 17 April 1539 meant that one of Luther’s most vehement opponents no longer existed. The accession of Duke Henry presented the prospect of introducing the Reformation into Ducal Saxony. Luther was well enough acquainted with the situation to know that this would not be an easy venture. The competition between the two Saxon states continued, and it could easily lead to strife between Elector John Fred

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