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"Originally published more than forty years ago, this important collection brings together the works and writings of the revolutionary minds behind the Protestant Reformation - and it remains a major resource for teachers, students, and history buffs alike. Over the decades, however, modern scholarship has shed new light on this tumultuous period, raising probing questions and providing new connections that have radically changed our understanding and outlook." With this newly revised and updated edition of this essential work - now including
"Originally published more than forty years ago, this important collection brings together the works and writings of the revolutionary minds behind the Protestant Reformation - and it remains a major resource for teachers, students, and history buffs alike. Over the decades, however, modern scholarship has shed new light on this tumultuous period, raising probing questions and providing new connections that have radically changed our understanding and outlook." With this newly revised and updated edition of this essential work - now including texts written by women as well as entries dealing with popular religion - modern viewpoints are cogently addressed, while the scholarly integrity that has made this book a revered classic has been scrupulously maintained. Throughout, Hans J. Hillerbrand's basic assumption remains consistent: religion- no matter how dependent on societal forces - must be seen as the pivotal element in the story of the sixteenth century.
The Protestant Reformation
The Grievances (Gravamina) of the German People (1521)
Grievances, or complaints, were part of the late medieval political scene, which vested representative bodies with the power and authority to lodge formal complaints in order to redress abuses.
A first such set of grievances was formulated at the Council of Constance (1414-1418) under eighteen headings. This was done with the endorsement of the German higher clergy, an indication, it would seem, that these grievances were directed not so much against the church as against the papacy and Rome. Subsequently, such "gravamina" were periodically voiced by German diets, or legislatures. In 1510, Emperor Maximilian I instructed the humanist Jakob Wimpfeling to draft a list of grievances. In a list published in 1519, Wimpfeling warned of the German church's widespread unhappiness with the burdens placed on it by Rome. Two years later, when the new emperor, Charles V, sought the concurrence of the German diet to condemn Martin Luther, the diet responded by presenting a new version of Wimpfeling's document. A portion of this document is reprinted here.
13. Concerning Regulations of the Papal Chancery. These regulations are made for the benefit and advantage of Roman courtiers, and often changed or reinterpreted so as to allow the transfer of ecclesiastical benefices, especially in Germany, into Roman hands and to compel us to buy back or lease these benefices from Rome. This is against both statutory law and equity.
18. Concerning the Pope's Prevention of the Elections of Prelates. The pope also seeks to prevent,according to his pleasure, in these cathedral churches the election of bishops, priors, deans, etc. When a bishop is duly elected according to canon law, he replaces him (through confirmation by the consistory) and burdens the elected bishop from Germany with excessive financial charges and taxes.
19. Concerning Papal Dispensation and Absolution. Also, popes and bishops reserve to themselves the absolution from certain sins and cases from which, they say, only they can grant absolution. When such a "case" occurs, the people are not granted absolution unless much money changes hands. No dispensation is issued unless a great amount of money is paid. And if a poor man cannot pay, he will not receive the dispensation. Certain rich individuals, however, will receive letters of indulgence from his holiness the pope dealing with murder, perjury or some like misdeed to be committed at some future date. Any outrageous priest will then grant absolution. Thus money and the love of money becomes the cause of great vice and sin.
20. Concerning the Ravages of Papal Courtiers. Germans also suffer much from the greed of papal courtiers. When ecclesiastical benefices in a principality fall vacant, honorable senior clergy, who have properly occupied their benefices for several years, are cited by these courtiers to appear in Rome. There they are subjected to humiliating chicaneries and are coerced to make annual payments to these courtiers in line with certain statutes, cited by these courtiers, called Chancery Rules, newly revised. In this way, honorable older clerics, ignorant of the bureaucrats' cunning, are deprived of their benefices. They also thereby defraud the donors, for if one dies, his will would not be honored.
21. Many Benefices Are Acquired Under the Pretext of Papal Family Relations. Also, splendid and good benefices frequently come through the doings of officials, relatives, or courtiers of the pope to incompetent, bad, and ignorant individuals. They gain the right to hold offices "provisionally," or through "regression," "reservation," "pension," or "incompatibility." This causes these benefices to become less attractive and decline in importance, more and more remain attached to the papal court, will not soon fall vacant. Worship is made impossible and the will of the donor is inappropriately dishonored.
22. Concerning Indulgences. It is also most objectionable that His Holiness allows so many indulgences to be sold in the German nation. The poor, simple people are thereby misled and cheated out of their savings. When His Holiness sends nuncios and ambassadors to a country, he empowers them to offer indulgences, from which they retain a portion of the income for their expenses and wages. At one time, indulgences were sold for Rome in the hope to make a greater profit, as merchants are wont to do. Bishops and secular authorities, who are astute, also receive a share for their assistance. All this is obtained from poor and simple people with cunning.
28. How Much Reform Is Needed. Thus, the poor Christian believers experience much eternal damnation, and the German nation is financially drained, as is easily seen daily in the spiritual leader. It is highly necessary that, therefore, amelioration and reform of our nation are undertaken in order to prevent further decline and damnation of our land. Therefore, we beseech our imperial majesty most urgently to render support for further reform.The Protestant Reformation
1. Martin Luther: Preface to the first volume of Latin writings (1545)
In the pursuit of his academic responsibilities at Wittenberg Luther formulated a new theology which, since it diverged from the medieval theological consensus, eventually led to the Reformation. The starting point of this new theology was a basic insight into the nature of biblical religion. Though there is some uncertainty about the exact date of this insight, Luther surely had come to it well before the outbreak of the indulgences controversy in 1517. Luther commented on his theological development on several occasions, notably in the year before his death, when he wrote the Preface to the first volumeof his Latin writings then in the process of publication.
The setting of Luther's recollection is a description of the res indulgentiara, the indulgences affair, to point out to the reader how the Reformation began. Luther meant to show both how deeply embedded he was in papal religion and also what brought him theological deliverance. Luther described his own spiritual state at the time, the nature of his problem, and his solution--a new understanding of the notion of "the righteousness of God." Faced with an exegetical problem, he found an exegetical answer.
U. Saarnivaara, Luther Discovers the Gospel (St. Louis, 1950).
Meanwhile, I had already during that year returned to interpret the Psalter anew. I had confidence in the fact that I was more skilful, after I had lectured in the university on St. Paul's epistles to the Romans, to the Galatians,and the one to the Hebrews. I had indeed been captivated with an extraordinary ardor for understanding Paul in the Epistle to the Romans. But up till then it was not the cold blood about the heart, but a single word in chapter 1 [ : 17 ] , "In it the righteousness of God is revealed," that had stood in my way. For I hated that word "righteousness of God," which, according to the use and custom of all the teachers, I had been taught to understand philosophically regarding the formal or active righteousness, as they called it, with which God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner.
Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that He was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, "As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!" Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.
At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, "In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, `He who through faith is righteous shall live.' " There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live." Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me. Thereupon I ran through the Scriptures from memory. I also found in other terms an analogy, as, the work of God, that is, what God does in us, the power of God, with which He, makes us strong, the wisdom of God, with which He makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God.
And I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the hatred with which I had before hated the word "righteousness of God." Thus that place in Paul was for me truly the gate to paradise. Later I read Augustine's The Spirit and the Letter, where contrary to hope I found that he, too, interpreted God's righteousness in a similar way, as the righteousness with which God clothes us when He justifies us. Although this was heretofore said imperfectly and he did not explain all things concerning imputation clearly, it nevertheless was pleasing that God's righteousness with which we are justified was taught.
This pamphlet was one of the three treatises Luther wrote in 1520, the other two being the Babylonian Captivity of the Church and the Open Letter to the Christian Nobility, and is an incisive exposition of his thought. Luther wrote the tract in October of the year when there was great uncertainty about papal action against him. Published in both German and Latin, it quickly became popular and its title offered a slogan that was widely echoed.
Its theme was that of Christian freedom, but in a broader sense it delineated the principles of Luther's program of ecclesiastical reform. The other two tracts of the year had sought to do the same--the Open Letter by demanding a reform in the structure of the church, the Babylonian Captivity by questioning Catholic sacramental teaching. The pamphlet on Christian freedom discussed the principles of the new life in Christ as it grew out of a new understanding of the nature of the Christian gospel. What must a Christian do? On the basis of the "righteousness of faith," the cornerstone of this new gospel, Luther repudiated the rigidity of Catholic morality and offered his own reconstruction. The treatise opened with the assertion that "a Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none," only bound to his 4 neighbor in love. Luther repudiated what might be called the Aristotelian notion that good works make a good man and insisted a good man does good works, and does so freely and without legal regimentation. The burden of Luther's tract was to show how a vibrant and dynamic faith makes this possible. A slightly condensed version of the entire tract is reprinted below.
G. W. Forell, Faith Active in Love (New York, I954). Protestant Reformati. Copyright © by Hans J. Hillerbrand. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted August 1, 2010
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