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his hearers. Multitudes attended his ministrations, and became converts to his doctrines.
Not satisfied with enlightening his country men from the pulpit, Luther proceeded to bolder exertions in the cause of Christian truth. He wrote to the Elector Albert, expostulating with him on the corrupt opinions and wicked conduct of those, whom he employed in the distribution of indulgences, and in pathetick language beseeching him to put an end to their abominable traffick, and to adopt efficient measures to reclaim the clergy from their profligate lives. But the love of gain was predominant in the mind of Albert, and he was unmoved by the remonstrances of Luther. Not succeeding with the Archbishop, Luther wrote ninetyfive theses, on the points in controversy, which he proposed as subjects of inquiry and disputation; these he posted up in a Church in Wittemburg, and challenged the learned publickly to appear on a given day, as his opponents, either in person or by writing. No person appearing at the appointed time, Luther transmitted the theses to Pope Leo, with a letter, expressing his profound veneration for his holiness, and solemnly protesting his readi. ness to submit implicitly to the authority of the apostolick see.
It does not appear that Luther at this period en. tertained the thought of separating himself from the Papal Church, or of denying the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome. Thus far the dispute rested with Tetzel and Luther, respecting the power of the pontiff to pardon the sins of men. Luther acknowl. edged that the Roman pontiff possessed power to
remit all the punishments inflicted by the Church against transgressors; but he denied that the Pope was clothed with authority to remit the punishments which God had denounced against the sinner. On the other side, Tetzel asserted that all punishments, present and future, human and divine, were within the power of the Pope to absolve, as vicegerent of Christ. Questions of this nature had before been canvassed in the Church, but the sove. reign pontiffs had possessed so much discernment and policy as to leave them unsettled by any deeree of the conclave. Had Leo, on this occasion, observed the same caution, restrained the scanda. lous abuses of Tetzel, and enjoined silence on the monks respecting Papal power, it is probable that Luther would have acquiesced, remained a member of the Romish Church, and that his name would not have been transmitted to posterity as a reform
But Leo, in his imagined security, viewed Luther as an object of insignificance, and took no notice of him.
Luther's theses, in the mean time, were published and spread through Germany; and they every where attracted attention, and were by many applauded.
At length, numerous advocates for the holy Church appeared, and with the utmost asperity at. tacked the writings and the person of Luther. Sup. ported by Frederick, his sovereign, he undaunted. ly defended his cause and his character ; and now proceeded so far as to declare, " that if the Pope and cardinals entertained the same opinions with his opponents, and set up any authority against that of scripture, there could be no doubt but that Rome
was itself the very seat of Antichrist, and that it would be happy for those countries which should separate themselves from her."
By the urgent representations of the emperor, and other distinguished characters, of the dangerous tendency of Luther's opinions, Pope Leo was induced to issue an order for his appearing at Rome, to justify himself. Men known to be hostile were appointed as his judges. By the influence of Fred. erick the wise, the petition of the reformer, that he might be heard at Augsburg, was granted ; but his avowed enemy, cardinal Cajetan, was empowered to try the merits of the controversy. In October, 1518, Luther arrived at Augsburg, and was admitted into the presence of Cajetan; but the car. dinal refused to hold debate with a man so much his inferiour in rank, and peremptorily demanded of Luther to retract, in an unqualified manner, the heretical opinions he had advanced, and to submit unreservedly to the judgment of the Pope. Luther replied that he could not with a safe conscience renounce opinions which he verily believed to be true ; and that no earthly consideration should induce him to do what would be base in itself, and offensive to his God. But he declared himself ready to submit to the lawful determinations of the Church. And further, he offered to submit the whole subject in controversy to certain universities; and promised in the mean time neither to write nor preach on indulgences, on condition that the same silence was enjoined on his adversaries. The cardinal scornfully rejected all his proposals, insisted on a full recantation, and forbid Luther his presence, unless he came prepared to comply with this requirement. Luther was not disposed to yield to this demand, and privately retired from Augsburg, leaving “a solemn appeal from the Pope, who was then ignorant of his cause, to the Pope, at a time when he should have received a more full and ex. plicit information with respect to it.”
Leo, learning the issue of this interview, issued a bull, by which he attempted, on Papal authority, to settle the controversy. In this publick instrument, he fully asserted the efficacy of indulgences, and imperiously demanded of all Christians to assent to his decisions, as the true doctrine of the holy Catholick Church.
Luther, seeing the storm that was gathering around him, gave a challenge to all the inquisitors to come to Wittemburg, and hold a publick dispu. tation with him ; offering them, in the name of Frederick, Elector of Saxony, a safe conduct, and promising them liberal entertainment during their residence with him. And as the only remedy for Papal censure, he appealed from the Pope to a general council, which he maintained was superior in authority to the pontiff.
The Roman pontiff, learning the indiscretion of cardinal Cajetan, and fearing that his own measures were too rash, constituted Miltitz, a Saxon knight, to be his legate, and under his authority, to hold a conference with Luther. Miltitz, a member of the court of Leo, a man of deep penetration, of mild temper, and persuasive address, was indefatigable in his endeavours to bring the reformer to submission. By remonstrance, flattery, and persuasion,
he greatly softened Luther, who not only promised to observe a profound silence in future, on the subject of indulgences, on condition that the same silence was imposed on his adversaries, but also en. gaged to write an humble letter to his holiness, acknowledging that his zeal and opposition had been intemperate and blameable. A letter of this import he actually wrote. At the same time, Lu. ther proposed publishing a circular letter, exhorting his followers to reverence and obey the mandates of the holy Roman Church.
This was greater condescension than could have been expected from a man of Luther's resolute mind and obstinate temper ; and it furnished the Papal court with a second opportunity to have silenced their formidable adversary. But before Miltitz could bring this conference to a favourable issue, a zealot of the Romish Church commenced an attack on the reformer, in such a violent manner as roused his indignation, drove him to more bold assaults against the Papal throne, and put an end to the reasonable prospect of healing the breach in the Church, but by the destruction of Luther.
A providential event at this period favoured Luther. The Emperor Maximilian died. The Elector of Saxony, by the Germanic constitution, was vicariat in that country during an interregnum ; and under his auspices, the reformer enjoyed safety.
During the year 1518, Luther publickly disputed at Leipsic, with the celebrated controversialist, Eckius. In the course of this famous disputation, Luther affirmed, that in the earlier ages of