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The Protestant Reformation

Monday, January 26, 2009

In 1517 Martin Luther launched his famous attack on the sale of indulgences by the Church. He won instant support from a Germany that resented taxes imposed by an Italian Pope and was not protected by a central monarchy. When he went on to defy the Emperor of Worms in 1521, he began to win the support of princes who feared the power of Charles V. The protection of the Elector Saxony saved him after Worms. It was the princess of the League of Schmalkalde who, with French help, eventually forced Charles V to come to terms.

Luther in his turn up held the power of the princess, and strongly condemned te Peasant's Revolt of 1525. But the movement he started was always for him religious rather than political - the duty of the princess was to establish true religion; the source of try religion was the Scriptures; if rightly understood, these made plain that man could gain salvation only by throwing himself upon the mercy of a just and loving God; he could not earn salvation by his own efforts, and needed no priest to stand between him and God; all true believers were priests, and the Church existed wherever the Word of God was truly preached by His ministers. Luther was thus attacking the whole basis of the Catholic Church, which held that man must perform good works to merit salvation, and that a priesthood was necessary boeth to interpret the Scriptures and bring men to God through the sacraments of the Church. Luther's ideas were the foundation of all the Reformed churches.

Luther made no clear and complete statement of his faith, and the Lutheran movement was weakened both by the divisions among his followers and by a feeling that Lutheranism was a faith for rulers rather than commoners.

(The Groiler Society Lmtd.)


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