From Here to Forever


Chapter 11—The Protest of the Princes

One of the noblest testimonies ever uttered for the Reformation was the Protest offered by the Christian princes of Germany at the Diet of Spires in 1529. The courage and firmness of those men of God gained for succeeding ages liberty of conscience, and gave to the reformed church the name of Protestant. HF 125.1

God's providence had held in check the forces that opposed the truth. Charles V was bent on crushing the Reformation, but as often as he raised his hand to strike he had been forced to turn aside the blow. Again and again at the critical moment the armies of the Turk appeared on the frontier, or the king of France or even the pope himself made war upon him. Thus amid the strife and tumult of nations, the Reformation had been left to strengthen and extend. HF 125.2

At last, however, the papal sovereigns made common cause against the Reformers. The emperor summoned a diet to convene at Spires in 1529 for the purpose of crushing heresy. If peaceable means failed, Charles was prepared to resort to the sword. HF 125.3

The papists at Spires openly manifested their hostility toward the Reformers. Said Melanchthon: “We are the execration and the sweepings of the world; but Christ will look down on His poor people, and will preserve them.”1 The people of Spires thirsted for the Word of God, and, notwithstanding prohibition, thousands flocked to services held in the chapel of the elector of Saxony. This hastened the crisis. Religious toleration had been legally established, and the evangelical states were resolved to oppose the infringement of their rights. Luther's place was supplied by his colaborers and the princes whom God had raised up to defend His cause. Frederick of Saxony had been removed by death, but Duke John, his successor, had joyfully welcomed the Reformation and displayed great courage. HF 125.4

The priests demanded that the states which had accepted the Reformation submit to Romish jurisdiction. The Reformers, on the other hand, could not consent that Rome should again bring under her control those states that had received the Word of God. HF 126.1

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 effect no new reform, ... they should not oppose the celebration of the mass, they should permit no Roman Catholic to embrace Lutheranism.” This measure passed the diet, to the great satisfaction of the priests and prelates. HF 126.2