Love Under Fire


Chapter 10—Progress in Germany

Luther's mysterious disappearance upset all of Germany. Wild rumors circulated, and many people believed he had been murdered. There was great mourning, and many took solemn vows to avenge his death. LF 80.1

At first Luther's enemies rejoiced at his supposed death, but they were filled with fear when they learned that he had become a captive. “The only remaining way to save ourselves,” one of them said, “is to light torches and hunt for Luther through the whole world, to restore him to the nation that is calling for him.”1 The news that he was safe, though a prisoner, calmed the people, while they read his writings more eagerly than ever before. Increasing numbers took sides with the heroic man who had defended the Word of God. LF 80.2

The seed Luther had sown sprang up everywhere. His absence accomplished a work that his presence would have failed to do. Now that their great leader was removed, other laborers stepped forward so that the work that had begun so nobly would not be held back. LF 80.3

Satan now tried to deceive and destroy the people by palming off on them a counterfeit in place of the true work. Just as there were false christs in the first century, so there arose false prophets in the sixteenth. LF 80.4

A few men imagined that they had received special revelations from Heaven and that God had commissioned them to carry forward the Reformation which, they claimed, Luther had only feebly begun. Actually, they were undoing the work that he had accomplished. They rejected the principle of the Reformation—that the Word of God is the all-sufficient rule of faith and practice. In place of that unerring guide, they substituted the uncertain standard of their own feelings and impressions. LF 80.5

People who were naturally inclined to fanaticism united with them. The deeds of these extremists created considerable excitement. Luther had stirred the people to feel the need of reform, and now some really honest persons were misled by the false claims of the new “prophets.” LF 80.6

The leaders of the movement urged their claims on Melanchthon: “God has sent us to instruct the people. We have held direct conversations with the Lord; we know what will happen. In a word, we are apostles and prophets, and we appeal to Dr. Luther.” LF 80.7

The Reformers were perplexed. Melanchthon said: “There are indeed extraordinary spirits in these men; but what spirits? ... On the one hand, let us beware of quenching the Spirit of God, and on the other, of being led astray by the spirit of Satan.”2 LF 80.8