TO GEORGE SPALATIN
The Emperor wrote to the Elector, asking him to bring Luther with him to Worms, to be judged by learned men. On 10th December Luther burned the Pope’s Bull at the Elster gate, Wittenberg, in presence of hundreds of students, who flung Eck and Emser’s works into the flames, and then sang the “Te Deum.”
December 21, 1520.
You ask what I shall do if the Emperor demands my presence. If I am summoned, I declare I shall be borne thither sick, if I am not well enough to go, for if the Emperor call me, doubtless it is God’s call. But if they use force towards me, which is probable, for they will not summon me in order to be enlightened, then the cause must be committed to God, who still reigns — to Him who upheld the three youths in the king of Babylon’s fiery furnace. But if He will not deliver me, then my head is of no importance compared to the shameful death which was meted out to Christ. For, in a matter such as this, neither danger nor prosperity must be considered, — for we must only see that the gospel is not turned into ridicule by the godless through our conduct — or that our opponents should be able to boast that we had not the heart to confess, nor the courage to shed our blood, for the doctrines we taught. May the merciful Jesus guard us from such cowardice, and them from such boasting.
We cannot know whether our life or death may be most beneficial to the gospel. You know that the truth of God is a rock of offense set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel. We have only to pray God that Charles’s reign may not be desecrated through the shedding of my blood, or any one else’s, and as I have often said, I would rather perish in Papal hands than have him and his entangled in this matter. I know the misfortunes that befell the Emperor Sigismund through Huss’s murder. He
never after had any prosperity — dying without children — and his name blotted out, while his consort Barbara became a reproach among queens. But if it be decreed that I am to be delivered, not only to the high priests, but to the heathen, the will of the Lord be done. Amen.
This is my opinion and counsel. You can fancy anything of me but flight or recantation. I shall not flee, and much less recant, if the Lord Jesus give me the power thereto. For I could do neither without danger to holiness and the welfare of many souls. Farewell, and be strong in the Lord. Wittenberg, on St. Thomas the Martyr’s day, as many believe. MARTIN LUTHER .
This is the year of Luther’s grand appearance at Worms, after which the Elector had him spirited away to the Wartburg, where he began his greatest work, the translation of the Bible.