Martin Luther, In Life and Death: Part 12: The Emperor Strikes Back

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Martin Luther, In Life and Death: Part 12: The Emperor Strikes Back

In our last presentation of Martin Luther in Life and Death, we saw some of the recorded responses from notable clergymen who were opposed to Luther, notably from Thomas Murner, who expressed the fear that Luther's direction would plunge Germany into a horrible war. This is in spite of the fact that Murner also agreed that the Roman Catholic Church was in need of reform. In one of his writings, Murner had also addressed the new emperor, Charles V, as those of Luther's party had also been doing, and said “The ruling powers... were sunk in indolence: discord and envy reigned among the clergy. But these evils could not be cured by a revolutionary upheaval and by the complete shattering of all existing institutions, which was what the new religious movement must lead to.” With these and other responses to Luther and Hutten and their followers, we see that the writings of the Reformers are not merely academic, but were actually having a great impact on much of the clergy and the common people of Germany, and for many men within the Catholic Church structure Luther truly was a cause of dread.

For the Reformers, the timing was merely fortuitous, that a very young emperor with many external threats and distractions could not effectively handle what would indeed threaten the peace of the empire from within, especially while the threats and developments from without were much more immediate. There seems to be a pattern in history, which is not in every case, but in many, that a great nation or empire is most in danger of being subverted at home, when it is engaged in struggles abroad. We have seen that pattern to a lesser extent throughout recent American history. The media and public are focused on what are presumably struggles abroad, and subversives within the government are able to calmly get away with domestic treachery. While the Roman Catholic Church was evil in many ways, the Reformation was a subversive movement as well, which was a two-edged sword, for it had a good side and a bad side, and over the course of this series we have tried, and we hope to even further elucidate both sides.

To a great extent, the Reformers and the Humanists have been able to conduct themselves up to this point as they have, because of the lack of a strong central authority. With the final years and the death of the emperor Maximilian, it then took some time before the election and coronation of the new emperor Charles V. Almost as soon as Charles was coronated, however, he announced his intent to exterminate the religious uprisings in Europe.

Here we shall continue with our primary source for these presentations, The History of the German People at the Close of the Middle Ages by Johannes Janssen, published in English in London in 1900 in a translation by A.M. Christie, with Volume 3, Book 6. This first chapter is subtitled The Diet of Worms and the Sentence on the New Gospel.

The newly elected Emperor, Charles V., began his rule with the firm determination to maintain peace among Christian nations; to protect Christendom against the ever increasing danger from the Moslem arms, and if possible, by the expulsion of the Turks, to restore the supremacy of Christendom throughout the world. [Note the narrow use of the term “world” here.] In his first manifesto to the Estates and subjects of the Empire, issued from Molino del Rey on October 31, 1519, four weeks before receiving the electoral capitulation, he announced his intention to start from Spain the following March, and come to Germany to be crowned Emperor and to hold a Diet. Further, he intended to nominate an ‘honourable and worthy’ Council of Administration, to be composed of the notables and other excellent and loyal persons of the German nation, for the maintenance of peace, justice, and order in the holy Empire. ‘Moreover,’ he promised in this declaration, ‘we shall attend to all other matters as beseems a Roman king and chief head and protector of Christendom, so that resistance may be opposed to the infidels who now, more than ever before, are extending their dominion and tyranny in an alarming manner, and in order that we ourselves may be worthy of the title of “Perpetual Augmenter of the Empire.”’ His subjects, he says in another proclamation, are to await his arrival with hopefulness and rejoicing, and with pious prayers and solemn processions, to beg of God that his journey to Germany may be prosperous, and that he may be enabled to carry into effect his laudable intentions for the welfare of all Christendom.

It must be noted that Charles V was of the House of Hapsburg. He was Lord of the Netherlands and Duke of Burgundy from September of 1506. From January of 1516 he was the King of Spain (because he held the thrones of both Castile and Aragon, as Spain was not yet united). At this same time, Aragon had also possessed southern Italy and Sicily, and it was Castile that was also recently building a Spanish presence in the newly discovered Americas and in the Pacific. From January of 1519 Charles was the Archduke of Austria. From June of 1519 he was the King of Germany and Italy (which is northern Italy, north of Naples and excluding Venice and the Papal States), and was elected Holy Roman Emperor that same year. He had succeeded on the thrones of his parents, Philip I and Joanna I of Castile, as well as his grandfather, the previous Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian. He was very young when he came to be emperor, having been born in Flanders in February of 1500, and even if he had never been emperor he had inherited holdings which would have made him more powerful than any of his competitors. Much of his reign was dominated by war, with the House of Valois in France, with the Ottomans, and although he at first left the Reformers unmolested by his military power, he later fought against the Protestant princes of Germany in the Schmalkaldic War of 1546 and 1547. He won the battle, but he could not defeat Protestantism, and he was finally forced to relent in 1555, when the Peace of Augsburg granted Lutheranism an official status within the empire. Luther himself did not live to see the victory, dying months before the Schmalkaldic War had begun.

In spite of the propaganda of Ulrich von Hutten, as soon as he became emperor, Charles's bias was already tilted against the Reformers and in a position favorable to the pope and the Roman Catholic tradition. Hutten had long been courting Charles and his brother Ferdinand to the cause of the Reformers, and had given the impression in his many writings that they had been sympathetic to the cause. But it was not at all true, as Hutten has been described as noting privately that Charles and his brother were surrounded by a sea of Roman Catholic legates who were of the utmost influence in keeping them within the Roman Catholic Church.

Continuing from page 157 of our volume:

From the very outset the position of Charles was a most difficult one.

While the Roman Empire had fallen to his lot there was a near prospect of his losing his own hereditary dominions. A revolution was raging in Spain, and threatened to deprive him of the throne; the Castilian insurgents had offered the crown to Don Manuel, King of Portugal. Naples stood in constant fear of attack from a Turkish fleet, and the French king, Francis I., was stirring up discontent in Naples as well as in Castile. In the Austrian hereditary dominions there was no firmly established rule: the struggles for provincial independence seemed to endanger to the utmost the authority of the sovereign power. In the Empire the state of things was almost anarchical. The English ambassador, Richard Pace, remarked in the summer of 1519, while in the Rhine district, that the German nation was in such a state of discord that all the Princes of Christendom would not be able to restore the country to order. In the following spring the Cardinal von Este wrote, concerning the eastern portion of the Empire, that the country was so distracted that everyone could do as he pleased; there were many to rule, but few to obey. The terms of the ‘capitulation’ laid before the new Emperor by the Electors [in the election of the emperor the princes were capitulating in agreement to his rule] represented an almost complete victory of the oligarchical over the monarchical principle. Added to all this the treasury of the young King was quite exhausted; the crown of Germany had cost him nearly a million gold gulden - an enormous sum, according to the then value of money - and the application for a loan from King Henry VIII. of England had been unsuccessful.

The plan of our source history for this series, The History of the German People at the Close of the Middle Ages, presents the history of the Reformation apart from the more general history of Germany in this period. So in Volume 2 of our source, there is a lengthy chapter detailing the process by which Charles V was ultimately elected emperor. While Charles' own grandfather, Maximilian, was still emperor, the king of France, Francis I, had already been soliciting the favor of the Electors to become emperor after Maximilian. There was no assurance that Maximilian's own heir could take his place, and Maximilian feared that a French king may replace him. So Maximilian's first choice was a consideration of abdicating in favor of Henry VIII of England, before he settled upon campaigning in favor of his grandson, Charles. The Electors were Princes, Dukes, Bishops, Counts and others from across the empire. For the election to be won, a prospective emperor had to curry the favor of each with promises of money, the construction of churches, universities, special privileges of autonomy and other favors, including even some of the lands of their neighbors. The process may remind one of the competition for Federal building projects among American congressional districts today. Patriotism was also a factor in the elections, and many of the Germans considered it disgraceful to be ruled by a Frank. However money and power were greater factors, and notable families such as the Hohenzollerns of Prussia would support the French king over the rival Hapsburgs of Austria. The degree to which some German princes went in order to secure something better for themselves can only be described as treason, if they were truly expected to be loyal to their fellow Germans. But then, as now, patriotism was only given lip-service, and there was no real obligation to such loyalty.

The forces behind the Reformers had been just as involved in the resulting political intrigue over the election of the emperor as they were in persuading the German princes and legates to break from the Pope. For example, speaking of Elector Joachim I of Brandenburg, who was the brother of Elector and Bishop Albrecht of Mainz, our historian tells us the following in that 2nd volume, on pages 264 and 265:

On June 26, 1517, the Elector Joachim, through his ambassador, made a proposal to the French King of marriage between a French princess (the sister of the Queen of France) and the Electoral Prince of Brandenburg, promising a dowry of 150,000 thalers (one-ounce silver coins) and a yearly allowance of 4,000 livres. The German Elector further engaged for an annual payment of 8,000 livres to furnish France with troops in case of war with Germany. [As for the value of a livre, in a travel journal from circa 1580 the philosopher Montaigne informs us that a good Swiss inn charged 4 livres a night for a gentleman in the off-season. At the current rate for a four-star hotel in Switzerland, we may estimate that to be about fifty dollars a livre.] In the contract of agreement, drawn up on August 17, Joachim promised the French King, ‘whose renown and humanity were notorious through the whole Empire,’ to use his influence for his election to the imperial throne after the death of Maximilian and, ‘for the honour of God and the good of Germany,’ to give Francis his own vote. A few weeks later Joachim's brother Albrecht sent a secret agent to the French Court with full powers to enter into a treaty with with Francis I. ‘and to arrange several other matters.’ This agent was the so-called ‘true German Knight,’ Ulrich von Hutten. Commissioned by Albrecht, Von Hutten wove the traitorous web, while in public he spoke eloquently against the French conspiracy, expressing great loyalty to Germany. In a circular sent to the princes in 1518, Von Hutten said of Maximilian: ‘For over thirty years the Emperor has spent all the income of his hereditary dominions for the benefit of the Empire, resting neither day nor night, and when, as in duty bound, he punishes an evil-doer we all cry out against oppression. We seem to think that liberty means indifference to the nation, refusal of all assistance to the Emperor, and letting evil go unpunished. Some among us, not indeed the princes, but princely councillors, propose giving the Empire on the death of Maximilian to a stranger - a disgraceful, dishonourable, disloyal proposition; as if the royal blood of Germany were extinct! At the very time that he received a decoration for these loyal words Von Hutten was the bearer of a secret document promising the French King the vote of the Elector Albrecht.

So we see for what reason it was that Ulrich Von Hutten had for so long been in the employ of Bishop Albrecht of Mainz, who was actually also a cardinal in the Church. He and his brother Joachim had long enjoyed the benefaction of Maximilian, but in the end their only allegiance was to themselves, and certainly not to the German people. Later, at the coronation of Charles V, Joachim would be conspicuously absent. Likewise Francis had bribed the Hohenzollerns of Prussia, Richard the Elector of Treres [Trier], and the German dukes of Lorraine, Holstein, Brunswick and elsewhere, along with many barons, counts and lords. On the other side of the election, Charles V had to outspend and out-promise him in order to defeat him. So according to our historian, it cost Charles a million gold gulden of his money to buy out enough of the little noblemen of the empire in order to secure his election. Our translator has a footnote explaining that a gulden of Luther's time is equal to 15 to 20 German marks of the late 19th century, where we can determine that 20 marks were then valued at nearly 8 grams of actual gold. So if a gulden was equal to a quarter-ounce of gold, part way between 15 and 20 marks, the election cost Charles a quarter-million ounces of gold. This sounds even more costly than the major elections of today. Politics in Europe has always been about money, just as it is today, and the leaders of our people have never put Christianity into practice.

Here we shall commence with the role of Charles V in the Reformation, and the first chapter of Book 6 of our source history:

Thus outward circumstances all combined to dictate a policy of peace to the young King. His character and bent of mind, moreover, were also opposed to warlike and revolutionary plans. He only wished to utilise the means at his disposal for the defence of the inheritance that had fallen to him, and he thanked God that such means had been vouchsafed him.

On October 22, 1520, Charles made his entry, with great pomp and magnificence, into the coronation town of Aix-la-Chapelle [Aachen in the Rhineland, near the Belgian border]. The only two Electors who were absent on the occasion were Joachim of Brandenburg and Frederick of Saxony; the latter was detained in Cologne by an attack of gout. In the retinue of the King there stood out prominently ‘four hundred cuirassiers adorned with silver and gold, so that I cannot believe,’ writes an eye-witness, ‘there could ever be seen amongst men more beautiful or more costly apparel. But the royal apparel surpassed all other.’ Charles was mounted on a horse caparisoned with silver, and wore a silver biretta on his head; he was of slight build and middle height; his face was pale and beardless, and ‘he was so calm and serious in his behaviour that no one would have thought he was only just twenty years old.’ He seemed ‘to count as nothing’ the highest earthly good fortune; ‘he showed a dignity and greatness of character as if he had the globe of the earth beneath his feet.’ [Indeed he did, as he was the first European to command an empire upon which the sun never set.]

On October 23 the coronation was solemnised, and Charles took the oaths which formed the basis of the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation and the substance of its constitution. The principal article related to the protection of the Church and the Papal See. ‘Wilt thou,’ said the Archbishop of Cologne, according to the ancient usage, ‘wilt thou hold fast the holy Catholic faith, as it has been handed down from the Apostles, and show it forth in works that are worthy of it? And wilt thou yield due and loyal submission to the Pope and the Holy Roman Church?’ ‘I will,’ answered the Emperor, and laying two fingers of his right hand on the altar to give formal ratification to his oath, he added the words: ‘In reliance on divine protection, and supported by the prayers of the whole body of Christians, I will, to the best of my power, truly perform what I have promised, so help me God and the holy evangel.’

Charles interpreted the word Empire in the full scope of its ancient mediaeval acceptation as the basis and corner-stone of all human right on earth, and as the supreme headship and protectorate of the Christian Church.

Henry VIII, 9 years older than Charles V, was at this point in 1520 already the King of England for 11 years, and had reigned for 38 years, until 1547. He was still counted among the Catholic faithful, and still married to Catherine of Aragon, his first wife, and this Catherine was Charles' aunt. The throne of Aragon had come to Charles V on account of his mother, Joanna I of Castile, the daughter of Ferdinand II of Aragon, was also known as Joanna the Mad. Maximilian I, Charles' grandfather, first considered adopting Henry and making him his heir, before settling on his grandson Charles. The reasons for mentioning this here will become evident as we commence with page 159 of our source volume:

His [Charles'] chief aim and object, he said on August 16, 1519, in a memorandum for his envoy to King Henry VIII. of England, was to use his power for the glory of God and the Apostolic See. ‘The papal and imperial sovereignty’ he believed to have been instituted by God as the highest authority on earth, exalted above all others. On Pope and Emperor, as the two ‘ real heads of Christendom, the duty was imposed of extirpating all errors among Christian peoples, of establishing universal peace, of undertaking a general crusade against the Turks, and of bringing all things into better order and condition. In war and in peace these two powers must be indissolubly bound together, and by their unanimity hold out to all true believers the assurance of a better future.’

Identity Christians should now understand that pope and emperor were two heads of those beasts appointed by God for the punishment of the children of Israel.

After the Emperor had taken his coronation oath the Archbishop put the following question to the Electors, the princes, and the whole assembly of people present: ‘Will you submit yourselves to this Prince and Lord? Will you strengthen and defend his kingdom, build it up loyally, and be obedient to his commands according to the injunction of the apostle, who says: “Let each one be subject to the higher powers? ”’ Whereupon all present, the princes as well as the lowest among the assembled crowd, answered: ‘Yes, we will.’ The coronation oath was mutually binding; it included the whole number of the German princes, the absent ones also, according to ancient custom. That one and all of them would be ready to defend the Church and its head was all the more to be expected as up to that time in Germany the unity of the Church had never yet been loosened by any division among its members. Whatever the force of the movement which the new doctrines and Luther’s incendiary writings had aroused, it had as yet led to no practical results: the ancient church constitution and the old forms of worship remained everywhere unaltered; even in Wittenberg the Holy Mass was still read. There was every reason to expect that the princes and the other notables would continue in the same frame of mind as in the year 1512, when they had declared at the Diet of Cologne that,‘as a Christian body and assembly they were bound to support the Emperor and were pledged towards each other to act in concert and unison for the maintenance of the faith, of the Roman Church, and of the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation, to prevent papal oppression, and to protect the unity of the Church against schismatic separatists.’

When the questions and answers at the coronation were over, the Emperor, kneeling before the altar, was anointed on the head, breast, and hands, and then led into the sacristy and arrayed in the liturgic garments of stole, dalmatica, and pluvial. The sword of Charles the Great was then girt upon him, a gold ring was placed on his finger, the sceptre and the imperial orb were handed to him, and finally the crown of Charles the Great was placed on his head by the Archbishops. He was then led back to the altar, where he repeated his solemn oath, and before the completion of the Mass he received the Holy Communion.

A few days after the coronation the Archbishop of Mayence, in the presence of Charles, read a papal brief to the effect that the Pope had chosen King Charles to be Roman Emperor on the condition that, like the Emperor Maximilian, he would bear the title Roman Emperor Elect.

The behind-the-scenes political intrigue, bribery, even extortion that went into the actual making of the emperor show that the pomp and circumstance of the coronation are actually a mockery. But the oaths and ceremonies, if men take them seriously, perpetuated the appearance of legitimate authority, assured the continuance of tyranny over the common man, and the upheld position of the pope and the Church. They made it very difficult for religious dissent within the Empire, no matter the grounds. But the real ruler is money, and the pope had no real authority except for what the German princes were willing to yield to him and to the emperor on account of money, and on account of security against invasion from whomever sought the favor of the pope and the emperor for their own gain. As the Revelation warned, it is always the dragon which gives power to the beast.

Continuing from page 162 of our history:

From Aix-la-Chapelle Charles proceeded to Cologne, whence he convoked a Diet to be held at Worms. The assembly met on January 27, 1521, and, after a solemn service in the cathedral, was opened in the presence of a numerous gathering of notables.

On the day after the opening of the Diet the Emperor made a proclamation to the notables, informing them that, ‘as a German. by birth, it had seemed to him that if means were not taken to stem the existing turbulence and confusion, the Holy Roman Empire would be disintegrated. He had therefore made up his mind to do all he could for the Empire in this respect, and also for the exaltation of the Christian faith, so that the enemies of the same might be the more easily destroyed. Before everything else, therefore, it was necessary to consider how justice, peace, and order might be re-established, and a Council of Regency formed, which should govern the country during the Emperor’s absence; for it was only under the rule of justice, peace, and order that all necessary and profitable business could be carried on and flourish.’

Also, in accordance with the demands of the Electors. the Emperor would, as soon as possible endeavour to go to Rome to be crowned, and at the same time he would make every effort to regain the principalities and provinces which had been wrested from the Empire. In all these matters he asked for the counsel and sympathy of the notables, but above all in the restoration of peace and justice and in the entire suppression of highway robbery, which was utterly obnoxious and intolerable to him.

Unfortunately the emperor was more troubled by common Germans robbing the merchants than he was by the popes who were forever robbing the German people. The State always stands in defense of Commerce in spite of the people The reference to highway robbery is a literal one, that in diverse places the locals were robbing the merchants as they traveled the roads of the Continent. Throughout medieval history, the Jews who dominated the merchant class had sought this protection. In 1543, Martin Luther had written in chapter 11 of On the Jew and Their Lies that “I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. For they have no business in the countryside, since they are not lords, officials, tradesmen, or the like. Let them stay at home. I have heard it said that a rich Jew is now traveling across the country with twelve horses his ambition is to become a Kokhba devouring princes, lords, lands, and people with his usury, so that the great lords view it with jealous eyes.” In chapter 7 of that same work he had written that “A person who is unacquainted with the devil might wonder why they are so particularly hostile toward Christians. They have no reason to act this way, since we show them every kindness. They live among us, enjoy our shield and protection, they use our country and our highways, our markets and streets. Meanwhile our princes and rulers sit there and snore with mouths hanging open and permit the Jews to take, steal, and rob from their open money bags and treasures whatever they want. That is, they let the Jews, by means of their usury, skin and fleece them and their subjects and make them beggars with their own money. For the Jews, who are exiles, should really have nothing, and whatever they have must surely be our property. They do not work, and they do not earn anything from us, nor do we give or present it to them, and yet they are in possession of our money and goods and are our masters in our own country and in their exile. A thief is condemned to hang for the theft of ten florins, and if he robs anyone on the highway, he forfeits his head. But when a Jew steals and robs ten tons of gold through his usury, he is more highly esteemed than God himself.”

Returning to page 163 of our source volume:

In a later address Charles explained to the notables that he had accepted the crown ‘not for his own profit, or for the sake of extending his dominions and enriching his purse, but out of love for the German nation and the Holy Empire, which in glory, honour, might and majesty, no monarchy in the world can compare with, but which is at present regarded as the shadow of its former self.’ He hoped, ‘with the help of his kingdom of Spain and his allies, to be able to restore the Holy Empire to its former honour and dignity.’ This undertaking, he said, would be advantageous to him not only as secular head of Christendom, and defender and protector of the faith, the Church, and the Pope, but also to the German nation, the common good, and the maintenance of peace and order. It was his will and intention, if only the Estates would loyally help and support him, to set things right again in the Empire; he would devote his life and his fortune to this purpose, and govern justly and usefully with the help of loyal, intelligent, and pious counsels. His imperial honour and dignity were bound up with the honour and dignity of the Estates of the Empire. The latter, in their deliberations, must therefore lay this fact to heart: the dignity, majesty, reputation, and prestige of the Empire would be judged not by them only but by foreign nations also, and he and they must be careful to maintain the reputation of the Empire abroad.

One's historical perspective is crucial to understanding the history and the motivations of men. Where he speaks of the former glory of the Empire, under the rule of Charles V more of Europe was united than ever before under a single ruler, since the division and then the ultimate fall of Imperial Rome. Therefore Charles V must be referring to a restoration of the former glory of Imperial Rome with all of the territories that it had once held as his primary aspiration. The German, who was long a subject of Roman conquest, evidently has a sort of Medieval Stockholm Syndrome, where due to the education he had received by the Roman Church he now identifies himself with his conquerors, and the German people remain subject to the Popes of Rome, who indeed sought to sit as god on earth and appoint Kings over all people. Furthermore, because the Emperor sought the legitimacy of his crown from the Pope, the diminishing of the papacy meant the diminishing of the credibility of the emperor. Charles V, and all of his fellow countrymen, were the victims of an academic shell-game played under a facade of Christianity, but which was never Christian in substance.

Returning to our source volume from the bottom of page 163:

The first matter to be considered was the appointment of a Council of Regency, which, according to the suggestion of the Emperor, should be empowered to act in his absence. With regard to this matter the notables stated, on March 7, that they would submit a memorandum of advice to Charles, from which he would see that their aims and desires were directed towards the exaltation of the Empire and the Imperial prestige, and that they honoured him (Charles) as their true ruler and Emperor, and would rejoice in his glory and welfare. Nothing on earth would be dearer to them than that he should excel all other Christian potentates in splendour and prosperity.

In spite of these assurances, however, the scheme drawn up for the constitution of a Reichsregiment (Council of Regency) seemed almost a mockery of the Imperial Majesty. The oligarchists, who thought that, with this youthful Emperor at the head of affairs, the time had come for them to get the administration into their own hands and to have their way with the other deputies, made demands which were based on the organisation of the Augsburg Council of Regency of 1500. Even during the presence of Charles in his Empire this new Council was to retain the sum and substance of authority, or, as one of the town delegates excellently expressed it, ‘to relieve the Emperor of all responsibility.’ But Charles was equal to them. ‘They appeared to him,’ he informed them in answer to their proposals, ‘to have begun suddenly to think that he was too young to govern, although they had unanimously elected him, and thus testified that they considered him to be of age; it was not customary to place a guardian or regent over a person who had attained his majority. It would not become his dignity, authority, and reputation that the Council of Regency should exercise administrative power while he himself was present in the Empire, or that the power hitherto vested by divine and human law and custom in the Imperial Majesty should be in any way curtailed.

After lengthy discussion it was finally settled that the Reichsregiment should only govern during the absence of the Emperor; that on his return it should only be called a Council, and that within a prescribed circuit the Emperor should have the power to summon it to himself; that in any business that had already been begun this Council should retain the chief power, but that in all matters that arose after the Emperor's return nothing should be done without his consent. During the Emperor's absence the Reichsregiment was to have the power and privileges of a chief central administration for all internal affairs of the Empire; it was to be the highest tribunal and the highest administrative body; and finally - and this last clause had far-reaching results in the following year - it was to exercise ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and to be empowered to proceed against any assailants of the Christian faith. The Reichsregiment was to consist of an Imperial vicegerent and twenty-two assessors, of whom Charles was to nominate four - two in his capacity of Emperor and two by right of his Austrian and Burgundian dominions. The Estates were to have the nomination of the remaining eighteen. The appellation ‘Regents of His Imperial Majesty and the Empire,’ which had been given to the Council of Regency under Maximilian, was, by Charles‘s wish, changed to ‘His Imperial Majesty’s Regency in the Empire;’ and the members were no longer, as formerly, to take their oaths to the ‘Emperor and Empire,’ but to the Emperor alone. The seat of the Reichsregiment for the next eighteen months was to be Nuremberg, and the Kammergericht, or Imperial Chamber, was to meet there also during this period.

This Kammergericht, the highest tribunal in the Empire, had of late fallen into abeyance, and the debate concerning its rehabilitation took up a great deal of time. ‘The Kammergericht,’ wrote home the Frankfort delegate, Philip Fürstenberg, on February 9, ‘is like a wild animal that puzzles everybody. No one knows how to attack it: one advises this way, another that.’ ‘How to get the Kammergericht into good order and smooth working,’ he writes again on February 26, ‘has long been a matter of arduous labour, thought, and trouble, but in truth I have not yet heard of any “Doctor” - and there are many on the bench - who can solve the problem.’ At last, with but slight modifications, the same rules and organisation that had obtained under Maximilian were adopted; but two more assessors, to be appointed by the Emperor, were added to the original number. With the full assent of the notables Charles announced an enlarged and improved scheme for the Landsfriede, or public peace, in which the ancient traditional alliance of the spiritual and secular powers was recognised anew by a decree to the effect that every person who remained year after year under the imperial ban - that is to say, in outlawry - would be put also under the ban of the Church.

The costs of maintenance of the Reichsregiment and the Kammergericht were estimated at 50,000 gulden. The notables had offered to undertake the raising of the necessary funds, and the question now was how this was to be managed.

But every one refused to pay up. ‘We are all in prison,’ they said; ‘nobody goes courting.’ ‘Metz borders on Lorraine, and expects every day the invasion of the French; Nuremberg has not had any peace for the last twenty years; Ulm is pauperised by fines; Cologne has a slender purse; Frankfort is reduced both in the number and the wealth of its burghers, and also by its taxes; Worms has spent more than 100,000 gulden over its feuds; Spires is being ruined by priests and taxation; greater misery and lamentation have never been known.’ The counts, barons, and knights intimated by letter or by speech that ‘if advantageous terms and legitimate privileges were not conceded to them, to the poor as well as to the rich, and to the rich equally with the poor, they would not give their consent to any tax whatever.’ Some of the princes and prelates also, says Fürstenberg in his report, excused themselves from contributing to the costs. ‘Some of them,’ he says, ‘declared that they got nothing from the Empire, and so they hoped not to have to pay anything. Others of the princes proposed that the money should be raised by holding back the annates, or the rents from ecclesiastical fiefs which went to Rome, or by levying a tax on the Jews [who, as Luther describes, were acquiring much wealth by their usury], or a new imperial duty. ‘A general duty might be imposed on all wares that came from England, France, or Italy. Item, on all gold, silver, copper, iron, steel, and other metals, either wrought or crude; item, on horses and other animals which were exported from German lands a duty of twenty gulden must be paid. Such a duty, they said, would not fall heavily on the poor man.’ The town delegates, however, would not consent to an imperial duty. At length it was unanimously agreed that, with a few individual exceptions, every one should contribute towards the maintenance of the Kammergericht and the Reichsregiment five times as much as he had formerly paid for the Kammergericht.

The Germans are actually a pretty sad lot. They gained some autonomy from the emperor, or at least the ability to rule themselves to some degree in his absence, and then nobody wanted to pay for it. In the meantime, we shall see that the establishment of some degree of self-rule in Charles' absence was actually of crucial importance to the German people, as the emperor would be absent quite often, continually engaged in wars in Italy and elsewhere, and especially with the French. This was crucial to the ultimate success of the Reformation, as by the time the emperor truly became serious about checking the spread of Protestantism, the new creeds were so popular that they could not be stopped.

In this regard, we shall continue from page 168 of our source:

With regard to his foreign affairs Charles, who appeared in person at the assembly on March 21, informed the notables that ‘the honour, welfare, glory, and reputation of the Empire still depended on two principal points - namely, that the Imperial Majesty should receive the imperial crown at Rome, and that restitution should be made of all that had been taken from the Empire in Italy. The Emperor on his part, he said, if only the Estates helped him according to their means, would stake life and fortune on the attempt. He offered to provide for this undertaking, at his own expense, 2,000 heavy horse, or more, and a considerable number of lighter horse; also 10,000 federal troops and 6,000 Spaniards. From the Estates he asked, for the space of one year, 20,000 cavalry and 4,000 infantry. A prompt decision was imperative, as every one knew how His Majesty’s enemies were preparing for war.’ For many hundred years there had been no such opportunity as now of helping the Empire to so great an extent; therefore no time must be lost. If the aid was volunteered he (Charles) would set out from Germany on a ‘march of recuperation to Rome;’ if it was refused he would declare himself innocent before God and the world of having been wanting in will to come to the rescue of the Holy Empire. He would then be ‘compelled to provide in some other way, either in war or in peace, for the affairs and business of the Empire, as far as might be necessary to His Majesty and his hereditary kingdom, lands, and subjects.’ At the same time he promised ‘none the less in addition not only to establish and maintain peace, law, and order in the Holy Empire, but to do and undertake whatever else might be of service to the Holy Empire and could promote its honour and prosperity.’

With regard to the Federal States, which he had again endeavoured to bind closely to the Empire, and which he hoped would join him in his march to Rome, the Emperor had already made proposals to the notables a few weeks before. Several foreign countries, he said, were constantly at work forming leagues and treaties with these Federal States (which were after all subjects of the Empire) and inciting them to rebellion and insubordination. A special embassy ought, therefore, to be sent to them and a threefold demand made - first, that as Germans and subjects of the Empire they would promise not to ally themselves with foreign Powers against the Emperor and the Estates; secondly, that they should supply 10,000 men for the Emperor’s expedition to Rome, and should assist him in recovering the dominions that had been wrestled from him; finally, that ‘an understanding be arrived at between the Holy Empire, its Estates and members on the one side and the Federal States on the other, in order that we may live more peacefully side by side, and that war and tumult, which arise from unfriendly neighbours, may be prevented.’ If the Federals agreed to these terms, the Emperor and the Estates would protect and defend them as part and parcel of the Empire.

The states of Germany and elsewhere in the Empire were at this time frequently being corrupted by the French, or even by the Turks, to revolt against the emperor. The references to “what had been taken from the Empire” were references to the intrigues of the French, which were at this time primarily in Italy. Charles' rival, the French king Francis I, had been in Italy subverting the Italian kingdoms inherited by Charles to himself. Long wars were fought as a result, by Charles against both Francis I and his successor, Henry II. These wars, called the Italian Wars, did not end until after Charles' death.

Continuing from page 169:

On May 13, the notables declared themselves ready to furnish the numbers of cavalry and infantry required of them by the Emperor for the ‘expedition to Rome and the reconquest of what had been taken from the Empire.’ But they stipulated that the contingents should not be furnished till the following September twelvemonth, and then only for a term of six months, and that the aid should be contributed in men and not in money, in order that the transaction might not be turned into a financial speculation. The six months, moreover, were to be calculated from the day of departure to the day of return. Furthermore, if peace and order were not restored within the stated time nobody was to be pressed for further levies. By the establishment of a new ‘Matrikel’ [a sort of assessment by roll or register] the contingents of men were apportioned amongst the notables; this ‘Matrikel ’ remained in use till the latest period of the imperial constitution.

At the beginning of the Diet the princes had passed a resolution excluding the town delegates from the debate on the Roman campaign ‘very unfairly,’ so these delegates said, ‘and contrary to time-honoured custom.’ For if they were to yield ‘love and service’ with the other Estates, and to stretch their help even beyond their means, they should not in justice be excluded from the council. In consequence of these remonstrances one town representative was summoned to the committee of deliberation, in order to insure that in cases where the tax imposed had been too small it should be increased, and that it should be lightened where it was too heavy.

‘God grant that some good may come out of it all,’ said the Frankfort delegate on May 20, in a letter reporting on the costs of the ‘Kammergericht’ and the ‘Reichsregiment’ and the establishment of the new ‘Matrikel,’ ‘since it is being done in the name of honour, restitution, peace, and law. But, as the matter appears to me, I much fear that nothing will come of it.

That nothing did come of the many good measures passed at the Diet of Worms must be attributed to the revolutionary movement by which Church and State were harassed.

Luther had been condemned by the papal bull as an heretical teacher, and his writings ordered to be burnt. The Pope had sent the protonotary Marino Caraccioli and Hieronymus Aleander, superintendent of the Vatican, as his Legates to Germany to see that the bull and the imperial ban were enforced.

Aleander was a man of great intellectual distinction - one of the most learned humanists of the time. He had lectured on the Greek language at Paris with conspicuous success. At his lecture on Ausonius, so a German student reported, ‘there was such an immense audience (and among them the most distinguished men) that the ordinary lecture-room was not large enough, and a larger one had to be found. Sometimes Aleander had as many as 2,000 listeners, of all classes. In the year 1511 he determined to go over to Germany and there devote himself to giving instruction in the Greek language and publishing the ancient classics. There were plenty of good brains, he wrote, in France and in Italy, but in those countries people were chiefly interested - and that not without some suspicion of cupidity - in those arts and sciences, from which they might expect direct pecuniary profit. In Germany, on the other hand, men were impelled by pure love of truth to be always attempting something new, not for personal gain, but for renown and for the common good of the nation; they improved and perfected the ancient arts, and they invented new ones.’

At that time it had been Aleander’s belief that no nation was so sincerely devoted to the Church as Germany; but when he returned ten years later as Legate he found the minds of men much altered throughout a large part of the country. Formerly he himself had stood high in the esteem of German humanists, but now that he had taken up the cause of the Church against Luther and Hutten, his former friends and pupils became his bitter opponents; they called him, as he himself wrote to Rome, a traitor to learning, a court sycophant, a champion of preaching friars. ‘Germany,’ he wrote, ‘is brimful of grammarians and poetasters, who think they can have no influence as scholars - especially in Greek - unless they break with the Catholic Church.’ The professors of Roman and Canon law were also, he said, on Luther’s side; the clerics, with the exception of the parochial clergy, were seriously infected; a legion of impoverished nobles under the leadership of Hutten were thirsting for the blood of the clergy and only waiting for the moment of insurrection. [As we have already discussed, the humanists sought to pillage the wealth of the clergy.] ‘All Germany is up in arms against Rome; all the world is clamouring for a Council that shall meet on German ground; papal bulls of excommunication are laughed at; numbers of people have ceased receiving the sacrament of penance.’ A revolt against the Apostolic Chair, such as without being credited the Pope had predicted five years ago, had now broken out in Germany. The disaffection towards Rome was taking deeper and deeper root in all influential circles.

Aleander was of opinion that the burning of Luther’s books, in case the latter should not be induced to recant, would be an admirable method of checking the spread of heresy; for the sentence pronounced in the bull would in this way become generally known in Germany and elsewhere; and such measures, carried out publicly by authority of the Pope and by imperial decree, would also, he thought, have a salutary effect on the laity, who had been misled by thousands of heretical sermons and pamphlets.

So once again we see the real impact of the campaign of Hutten, Luther, and the many humanists who had joined Luther's cause.

In the Emperor’s hereditary dominions of Burgundy and the Netherlands Aleander had repeatedly executed the papal bull. In Cologne also, during the Emperor’s absence, the Lutheran books had been burned outside the cathedral.

In Cologne, however, Aleander met with the first serious difficulties in the execution of the bull, difficulties which were connected with the Elector Frederic of Saxony, then at Cologne, and which were of the greatest consequence for the subsequent course of events.

Aleander and Caraccioli handed over the papal document to the Elector on November 4, 1520, and begged him, according to the instructions of the bull, to have Luther’s books burned, and Luther himself put under restraint, or else sent to Rome. Frederic answered that he would give the matter his consideration, and the next day he asked advice of Erasmus, who was also at Cologne at the time.

Erasmus had already by letter pleaded in favour of Luther to the Elector; every one, he had said, who had religion at heart, read these books with the greatest sympathy. To a Spanish bishop, on the other hand, he had said in March 1520: ‘Every pious person must be on the side of the Pope; Luther stirs up tumult and rebellion, and is everlastingly publishing fresh hateful books and pamphlets.’ To the Pope himself he wrote, on September 13 of the same year, that he had never read more than some ten or twelve pages of Luther’s writings, and these only very hurriedly; that he should not presume to oppose his diocesan in any way, especially as he was the Vicar of Christ. Even when it had still been lawful to befriend Luther he had not, he said, taken him under protection. In his interview with the Elector, however, he openly defended Luther. To Frederic’s question whether he thought that Luther had erred in his preaching and writing Erasmus smiled first and then, as Spalatin relates, gave the following answer: ‘Yes, in two things: that he has attacked the Pope in his crown and the monks in their bellies.’ He spoke so favourably of Luther’s teaching that the electoral councillor and the Court-chaplain, Spalatin, asked him to put down some of his opinions on paper for them. In compliance with this request Erasmus wrote out the following statements amongst others: “That the whole fight against Luther sprang from hatred of the classics and from tyrannical arrogance, that the best and most evangelically minded men were not incensed by Luther’s opinion, but by the Pope’s Bull; Luther was quite justified in demanding that he should be tried by disinterested judges; the world was thirsting for evangelical truth, and the latter ought not to be maliciously opposed, nor should the Emperor on his accession make himself hated by hard measures. He (Erasmus) would like to see Luther’s case decided not by Church authority, but by wise and unprejudiced men. From the Emperor, he was convinced, nothing was to be hoped, for he was surrounded by sophists and papists. Fearing that his written statements might fall into the hands of the Legate Aleander, Erasmus asked Spalatin to let him have them back, and the latter was fully justified in saying from his point of view: ‘So fearfully ready was Erasmus to acknowledge evangelical truth.’ Spalatin gave him back his written opinions, but soon afterwards they appeared in print, to the extreme annoyance of Erasmus, who, a few days after the conversation with the Elector and the episode with Spalatin, had written to a friend: ‘For many reasons I have refrained from connecting myself with the Lutheran cause.’

As we had seen earlier in these presentations, Erasmus was indeed a humanist, and had been the leader and inspiration of a generation of humanists within the church. Note here, that defending Luther, Erasmus makes an appeal to those who hate the Classics, while Luther's papers are based on defense of the Scripture, and not the pagan classics. So while he criticized and kept himself distant from Luther for these many years, he now defends Luther, but he really seems to be defending his own humanism, and the interests of all of his humanist followers and supporters who had joined Luther's cause. Erasmus, defending Luther here, is standing up for what he believes, but not necessarily for what Luther professes.

However if Erasmus had not stood up for Luther here, the Reformation would have taken an entirely different cause, and may have died right here. Apparently Luther would have only had Franz von Sickingen left to turn to. But we have not heard the last of him either.

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