Love Under Fire


Chapter 8—A Champion of Truth

A new emperor, Charles V, came to the throne of Germany. The elector of Saxony, who was largely responsible for putting Charles on the throne, urged him to take no action against Luther before granting him a hearing. This placed the emperor in a perplexing and embarrassing position. The pope's followers would be satisfied with nothing short of Luther's death. The elector had declared “that Dr. Luther should be furnished with a safe-conduct, so that he might appear before a tribunal of learned, pious, and impartial judges.”1 LF 64.1

The assembly met at the city of Worms. For the first time the princes of Germany were to meet their young monarch in assembly. Officials of church and state and ambassadors from foreign lands all gathered at Worms. Yet the subject that stirred the deepest interest was the Reformer. Charles had instructed the elector to bring Luther with him, assuring protection and promising free discussion of the disputed questions. Luther wrote the elector: “If the emperor calls me, I cannot doubt that it is the call of God Himself. If they intend to use violence against me, ... I place the matter in the Lord's hands.... If He will not save me, my life is of little importance.... You may expect everything from me ... except to run away or to recant. Flee I cannot, and still less retract.”2 LF 64.2

As the news circulated that Luther would appear before the assembly, a general excitement arose. Aleander, the pope's representative, was alarmed and enraged. To take up a case in which the pope had already pronounced sentence of condemnation would show contempt for the pope's authority. Furthermore, the powerful arguments of this man might turn many of the princes from the pope. Aleander urged Charles not to allow Luther to appear at Worms, and he persuaded the emperor to yield. LF 64.3

Not content with this victory, Aleander worked to have Luther condemned, accusing the Reformer of “sedition, rebellion, impiety, and blasphemy.” But his strong language revealed the spirit driving him. “He is moved by hatred and vengeance,” was the general opinion.3 LF 64.4

With fresh zeal Aleander urged the emperor to carry out the pope's rulings. Worn down by this insistence, Charles invited him to present his case to the assembly. Those who favored the Reformer were uneasy about what Aleander would say. The elector of Saxony was not present, but some of his councilors took notes of Aleander's speech. LF 64.5