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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Life and Deeds of Luther: Regensburg–Justification (Pt 2 of 5)

This continues from Part 1 where I introduced Pastor Hermann Fick's Life and Deeds of Dr. Martin Luther.  Pastor Fick was a faithful steward of the history of Luther's life... unlike most other modern church historians.  As I went through this book again, I came across a portion that stood out among the many events that strengthen the Christian faith.  It was the account of Luther's response to the Diet of Regensburg and the Regensburg Interim, on pages 163 – 165.  Pastor Fick brought out...

Luther's use of the Doctrine of Justification 

... and so I am reproducing this section here.  It is in his "Chapter XXIX. – The Last Years Of Luther's Life", pgs 163-165:
...until the approaching Diet at Regensburg in the year 1541. There the Papists presented a document, generally called the Regensburg Interim, which was intended to serve as a basis for consultation and also, if possible, for union. But Luther clearly proved, his advice having been asked upon the matter, that the purpose of the opponents, especially in regard to the article of Justification, was nothing else than to put a new piece of cloth upon
- 164 -
an old garment, whereby the rent would merely be made worse. Matt. ix, 16. A number of foreign princes however, resolved, with the knowledge of the emperor, to send a respectable embassy to Luther, in the hope that he might still be prevailed upon to form an agreement. This resolution was carried into effect, and to the oral address of the ambassadors Luther immediately gave an oral answer, which he subsequently reduced to writing and the import of which was that if the first four articles, especially that concerning Justification, should in all respects be preached purely and be received as Christian, the poison of the other ten would be neutralized, and the clear teachings of these articles and their application by means of correct preaching would soon lead to an agreement in regard to the last ten. Seckendorf, in his excellent History of Lutheranism, praises the answer of Luther in this transaction, which is one of the most important in the Reformation, both for the modesty of its style and the firmness which it evinced. For as Luther before could not be intimidated by the menaces of Cajetan at Augsburg and of the emperor at Worms, neither could he now be lured to a sinful compliance by the flatteries of such an imposing embassy. But the opponents took no notice of this answer, and again referred the whole matter to a general Council. If the princes and theologians had taken this answer of Luther as their model in the negotiations respecting the Interim, which
- 165 -
was, shortly after Luther's death, fabricated from that of Regensburg, the Lutheran Church would not have been so sorely troubled.
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This account so impressed me that I had to reacquaint myself with the details of the Diet of Regensburg and Luther's part in it.  What were the "Four Articles" and the "Ten Articles" that Luther spoke about?  Unfortunately, there are very few letters of Luther translated into English during that time (April - June, 1541) pertaining to Regensburg – see my Letters of Luther document for reference.  Even the New Series - Luther's Works CPH publication of Luther's letters will not have any of these letters translated (see page 36 of their Prospectus).

So I decided to search for the "writing" that Luther gave to the "respectable embassy" from the Diet that wanted to coerce him into agreeing with the Papists.  I discovered that this is letter #2798 in the St. Louis Edition, vol. 17, columns 678 - 682.  It is dated June 12, 1541.  Because Pastor Fick called this writing "one of the most important in the Reformation", I am publishing it in this series of blog posts as a tribute not only to Martin Luther, but also to the memory of Pastor Hermann Fick and Veit Ludwig von Seckendorff,  both excellent Lutheran historians who understood the spiritual essence of church history.

This translation is not professional quality but I feel that if the reader has a question on Luther's meaning at a certain place, it will be answered in another place.

Dr. Martin Luther's Answer 
to the Princes John and George von Anhalt 
on Previous Advertisement.
June 12, 1541 (St. L. v. 17, pgs 678-682)
Translated by BackToLuther w/ Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, PROMT

   1. Grace and peace. Serene Highness, highborn Princes, gracious lords! As of yesterday I heard from my gracious lords [E.F.G.] the pronouncements of my gracious and merciful lords, Joachim, Elector 2c, and George, Margrave of Brandenburg, cousins etc, and verbally given my speedy reply in haste: so I have to further concerns amassed written form, that I retain so much of, and send for gracious lords [E.F.G.], what they wanted, so the same herewith in writing:
   2.  In the first place, that I gladly and with joy heard that His Imperial Majesty [Charles], our most gracious Lord, so welcomes me, both with the comparative religion, and peace in the Kingdom. May the LORD God reign in his Imperial Majesty's heart to his praise and honor and welfare of the kingdom, Amen.  So I also know [col 679] to boast before God and my conscience, that I also am highly inclined to both such parts and direct my earnest and poor prayer daily; there can also be no doubt that this party of Princes and States are similarly minded, as the same are not in word but in deed to prove plenty as they are afflicted much, endure much and suffer at last arson, and yet sit still and not avenge themselves.
   3.  Secondly, that the four articles should be settled, I heard also gladly; but I have not seen any of formulas, without the one on justification, only what I hear happens.  But I told your gracious lords yesterday that it is impossible for us to stand with that side, and also stands not in the power of the imperial majesty.  For though his Imperial Majesty is again supremely and graciously serious and good concerning me, yet at least that side is not serious about God and in agreement for the truth; but well might his Imperial Majesty want to turn up his nose.  Since if they were serious, so they would not allow the other ten articles to be unsettled – as they well know and understand that all ten articles are powerfully and in sound inference [bona consequentia] condemned compared with the first four articles, particularly from the article of Justification. But they have reserved out all these ten articles, where they so violently argue and condemn against compared to the other four articles; well I can understand that that side is not serious, that they want to leave the same articles their right understanding.
-----  to be continued in Part 3  ----------------

Luther speaks about the "Ten Articles" and the first "Four Articles" along with the article of Justification.  What were these articles about?  In the next Part 3, I will give some details of these and then publish (in Part 4) the balance of this pivotal letter of Luther... a writing that sets the Article of Justification, the diamond of Christian doctrine, on its pedestal.

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