Love Under Fire


Mighty Issues at Stake

If this edict were enforced, “the Reformation could neither be extended ... nor be established on solid foundations ... where it already existed.”2 Liberty would be prohibited. No conversions would be allowed. The hopes of the world seemed about to be extinguished. LF 86.1

The evangelicals looked at each other in blank dismay: “What can we do?” “Should the leaders of the Reformation submit, and accept the edict? ... The Lutheran princes were guaranteed the free exercise of their religion. The same privilege was extended to all of their subjects who had embraced the reformed views before the measure passed. Shouldn’t this satisfy them? ... LF 86.2

“Fortunately, they looked at the principle on which this arrangement was based, and they acted in faith. What was that principle? It was the right of Rome to force the conscience and forbid free inquiry. But weren’t they and their Protestant subjects to enjoy religious freedom? Yes, as a favor specially provided in the arrangement, but not as a right.... If they accepted the proposed arrangement, they would virtually have been admitting that religious liberty ought to be confined to reformed Saxony; and as for all the rest of Christendom, free inquiry and the profession of the reformed faith were crimes and must be punished with the dungeon and the stake. Could they consent to localize religious liberty? ... Could the Reformers have claimed that they were innocent of the blood of those hundreds and thousands who would have to yield up their lives in Catholic lands as a result of this arrangement?”3 LF 86.3

“Let us reject this decree,” the princes said. “In matters of conscience the majority has no power.” To protect liberty of conscience is the duty of the state, and this is the limit of its authority in matters of religion. LF 86.4

The Catholic rulers determined to put down what they termed “daring obstinacy.” The representatives of the free cities were required to declare whether they would accept the terms of the proposition. They pleaded for delay, but were refused. Nearly one half sided with the Reformers, knowing that their position marked them for future condemnation and persecution. One of them said, “We must either deny the word of God, or—be burnt.”4 LF 86.5