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Worms and The Word

October 31, 2017

 

Martin Luther had his famous debate with Dr. John Eck.  Luther defied Eck and though Eck tried to stand his ground, he was taken back by the reformer's biblical stance and prowess.  

 

Luther brought forth the truth of God and stated "The plough-boy with scripture is mightier than the greatest Pope without."  He was obviously charged with heresy.  

 

Luther was summoned by King Charles and the Bishopric to stand trial.  They beckoned him to appear in the city of Worms to defend himself.  The King and Roman Bishops and priests had his books strewn upon a table in plain view.  Luther was asked two questions, 1) Are these your writings?  Luther conceded they were.   And 2) Will you retract them?  

 

Luther's response was "Most gracious emperor! Gracious princes and Lords.  His majesty asked me two questions.  As to the first, I acknowledge as mine the books that have been just named: I cannot deny them.   As to the second, seeing that it is a question that concerns faith and the salvation of souls, and in which the Word of God, the greatest and most precious treasure either in heaven or earth, I should act imprudently were I to reply without reflection.  I might affirm less than the circumstance demands, or more than truth requires, and so sin against this saying of Christ:--whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father in heaven.  For this reason I entreat your imperial majesty, with all humility, to allow me time, that I may answer without offending against the Word of God." 

 

Luther was given one day to reflect on these things.  That night he prayed this prayer: 

 

“O Almighty and Everlasting God!  How terrible is this world! Behold, it openeth its mouth to swallow me up and I have so little trust in Thee!  How weak is the flesh and how powerful is Satan!  If it is in the strength of this world only that I must put my trust, all is over!  My last hour is come, my condemnation has been pronounced!  O God! O God! O God! Do thou help me against all the wisdom of the world!  Do this; this is not my work, but Thine.  I have nothing to do here, nothing to contend for with these great ones of the world!  I should desire to see my days flow on peaceful and happy.  But the cause is Thine and it is a righteous and eternal cause.  O Lord! Help me!  faithful and unchangeable God!  In no man do I place my trust.  It would be vain! All that is of man is uncertain; all that cometh of man fails O God!  My God, hearest Thou me not?  My God, art thou dead?   No!  Thou canst not die!  Thou hidest thyself only!  Thou hast chosen me for this work.  I know it well!  Act, then, O God stand at my side, for the sake of thy well beloved Jesus Christ, who is my defense, my shield, and my strong tower."  

After a moment of silent struggle, he thus continues:   "Lord!  Where stayest Thou? O my God! Where art Thou? Come! Come! I am ready! I am ready to lay down my life for Thy truth patient as a lamb.  For it is the cause of justice-it is Thine!  I will never separate myself from Thee, neither now nor through eternity!  And though the world should be filled with devils,-though my body, which is till the work of Thy hands, should be slain, be stretched upon the pavement, be cut in pieces, reduced to ashes, my soul is Thine!  Yes! I have the assurance of Thy Word.  My soul belongs to Thee! It shall abide forever with Thee! Amen! O God! Help me! Amen!" 

 

Luther appeared before the Diet once more the next day.  And in conclusion replied in this way to the question of recantation:

 

"Since your most serene majesty and your high mightinesses require from me a clear, simple, and precise answer, I will give you one, and it is this: I cannot submit my faith either to the Pope or to the councils, because it is clear as the day that they have frequently erred and contradicted each other.  Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning,- unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted,-and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience."  And then looking round on this assembly before which he stood, and which held his life in its hands, he said: "Here I stand, I can do no other; may God help me! Amen!" 

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