Love Under Fire


Chapter 11—The Protest of the Princes

One of the noblest testimonies ever given for the Reformation was the Protest that the Christian princes of Germany made at the Diet of Spires in 1529. The courage and firmness of those men of God resulted in liberty of conscience for succeeding generations and gave the reformed church the name of Protestant. LF 85.1

God's intervention had held back the forces that opposed the truth. Charles V was determined to crush the Reformation, but as often as he raised his hand to strike he had been forced to direct the blow elsewhere. Again and again at the critical moment the Turkish armies appeared on the frontier, or the king of France or even the pope himself made war on him. In this way, amid the strife and turmoil of nations, the Reformation had been left to strengthen and spread. LF 85.2

Finally, however, the Catholic rulers united against the Reformers. The emperor summoned a diet, or council, to convene at Spires in 1529 for the purpose of crushing heresy. If peaceful methods failed, Charles was prepared to use the sword. LF 85.3

Rome's loyalists at Spires openly showed their hostility toward the Reformers. Melanchthon said: “We are what the world hates and tries to sweep away. But Christ will look down on His poor people and preserve them.”1 The people of Spires thirsted for the Word of God, and despite the fact that it was forbidden, thousands flocked to services held in the chapel of the elector of Saxony. This brought on the crisis even sooner. Religious toleration had already been legally established, and the states where the Reformation was strong resolved to oppose any restriction on their rights. In Luther's place stood his coworkers and the princes God had raised up to defend His cause. Frederick of Saxony had died, but Duke John, his successor, had joyfully welcomed the Reformation and displayed great courage. LF 85.4

The priests demanded that the states that had accepted the Reformation submit to Rome's jurisdiction. The Reformers, on the other hand, could not consent for Rome again to control those states that had received the Word of God. LF 85.5

It was finally proposed that where the Reformation had not become established, the Edict of Worms should be enforced; and that “where the people could not conform to it without danger of revolt, they should at least introduce no new reform, ... they should not oppose the celebration of the mass, [and] they should permit no Roman Catholic to embrace Lutheranism.” This measure passed the council, to the great satisfaction of the priests and church officials. LF 85.6