From Here to Forever


Chapter 8—A Champion of Truth

A new emperor, Charles V, ascended the throne of Germany. The elector of Saxony to whom Charles was in great degree indebted for his crown, entreated him to take no step against Luther until he should have granted him a hearing. The emperor was thus placed in a position of great perplexity and embarrassment. The papists 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 HF 92.1

The assembly convened at Worms. For the first time the princes of Germany were to meet their youthful monarch in assembly. Dignitaries of church and state and ambassadors from foreign lands all gathered at Worms. Yet the subject that excited the deepest interest was the Reformer. Charles had directed the elector to bring Luther with him, assuring protection and promising free discussion of the questions in dispute. Luther wrote the elector: “If the emperor calls me, I cannot doubt that it is the call of God Himself. If they desire 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 consequence. ... You may expect everything from me ... except flight and recantation. Fly I cannot, and still less retract.”2 HF 92.2

As the news was circulated that Luther was to appear before the diet, a general excitement was created. Aleander, the papal legate, was alarmed and enraged. To inquire into a case in which the pope had already pronounced sentence of condemnation would cast contempt upon the authority of the pontiff. Furthermore, the powerful arguments of this man might turn many of the princes from the pope. He remonstrated with Charles against Luther's appearance at Worms and induced the emperor to yield. HF 92.3

Not content with this victory, Aleander labored to secure Luther's condemnation, accusing the Reformer of “sedition, rebellion, impiety, and blasphemy.” But his vehemence revealed the spirit by which he was actuated. “He is moved by hatred and vengeance,” was the general remark.3 HF 93.1

With redoubled zeal Aleander urged the emperor to execute the papal edicts. Overcome by the legate's importunity Charles bade him present his case to the diet. With misgivings those who favored the Reformer looked forward to Aleander's speech. The elector of Saxony was not present, but some of his councilors took notes of the nuncio's address. HF 93.2