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

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

XIV
The Final Journey

1. THE UNITY NEGOTIATIONS
IN EISLEBEN

Luther never lost contact with his homeland of Mansfeld or his interest in it. In addition to connections with the families of his brothers and sisters in Mansfeld there were also contacts with the counts of Mansfeld. He had close relationships with the evangelical Count Albrecht until 1536, when Albrecht, because of his increased need for funds, sought to bring the copper mining industry, which owed him taxes, under his own control. Up to then the smelters had been run by smeltermasters who had hereditary or term leases. The ruler’s efforts at concentrating this in his own hands posed a threat to Luther’s brother James and his brother-in-law Paul Mackenrot, and this caused Luther concern. Several times in 1538 he criticized Albrecht’s greed at the expense of his subjects.1 In order to accomplish his objective, the count was endeavoring to convert the inherited smelters into ones that were leased for a period of time and consequently would be subject to additional taxes. When Paul Mackenrot was affected by this effort in 1540, Luther appealed to Albrecht. He told Albrecht that because of this action toward his subjects he would not receive God’s blessing. Anyone who showed no mercy to others could not hope for God’s grace. A year later he asked the Mansfeld preacher Michael Coelius to admonish the count in the same way.2 In a pastoral letter to Albrecht, probably written in February 1542, Luther related Albrecht’s Anfechtungen over predestination to the economic oppression of his Mansfeld subjects. As one who knew that he was approaching the grave, Luther spoke to the count’s conscience. The letter is said to have made Albrecht so angry that he threw it to the floor and trampled it underfoot.3

Luther later asked Duke Maurice of Saxony to intercede with Count Albrecht on behalf of Bartholomew Drachstedt, an Eisleben mining entrepreneur. He argued on the principle of fairness, which did not permit the nobility to act like tyrants and oppress their fellow Christians. He was willing personally to take the chance of incurring Albrecht’s displeasure and likewise appeal to him on Drachstedt’s behalf. Moreover, it was as a native of Mansfeld and because of his responsibility as a preacher that Luther was writing to Counts Philip and John George, asking them to convince Albrecht to discontinue his unjust economic policies. This had no results; instead, Philip and John George joined in support of Albrecht’s action.4

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