TO THE ELECTOR FREDERICK
Luther left Augsburg October 20, and on November 28 appealed from the Pontiff to a General Council.
Even Luther’s opponents admit this letter to be a masterpiece of eloquence. November 29, 1518.
Most Serene and Gracious Lord! I have received with great joy a pamphlet from my dear friend, George Spalatin, along with a copy of the esteemed Cardinal’s letter to you, which gives me an opportunity of explaining all the details of my case to your Electoral Highness. I merely humbly plead that your Grace would graciously listen to an insignificant, despised mendicant brother, and take my uncouth relation in good part. (Here follows a particular account of his dealings with the Legate in Augsburg.) Therefore I once more beseech your Electoral Highness not to believe those who declare that Brother Martin said what was not right, and taught what was wrong, without definite proof that this was the case. St. Peter erred even after he had received the Holy Ghost, so a cardinal can also err no matter how learned he may be. Therefore your Grace will, I hope, make it a point of conscience
and honor that they do not send me to Rome, for this your Electoral Highness could not insist upon, let the man be what he may, for I would not be safe in Rome. If your Grace did this it would be betraying an innocent Christian’s blood, and becoming my murderer. Even the Pope is not sure of his life for an hour. They have paper, pen, and ink in Rome, and notaries enough, so it would be easy to write down in what I have erred. It would cost much less to instruct me at a distance than to demand my presence, and make an end of me through their cunning and wiles. One thing vexes me greatly, and that is, that the Legate should sneeringly insinuate that I have acted as I have in reliance upon your Electoral Highness; and some liars among ourselves falsely assert that I undertook the disputation on the Indulgences by your Grace’s advice, when the fact is, that not even my dearest friends were aware of it, except the Cardinal of Mayence and the Bishop of Brandenburg.
For I admonished these two, whose office it was to prohibit the scandal, most humbly and respectfully in writing, before I let the disputation come to the light of day.
But now that the Legate is trying to stain your Grace’s honour and that of the noble house of Saxony, and bring it into bad repute with His Holiness, I will explain how they go about it. People nowadays believe firmly that Christ is buried, and cannot now speak even through an ass; hence they imagine that His disciples and their followers will also be obliged to be silent, even should the stones cry out. Therefore, that no evil may befall your Serene Highness, which I do not wish, I shall leave your Grace’s land in God’s name, and will go wherever the everlasting and merciful God directs, and shall submit to His divine will, letting Him do with me as He will. Herewith I bless and greet your Electoral Grace, in deep humility, committing you to the merciful God, and thanking you with all my heart for the benefits you have bestowed upon me. And wherever my dwelling-place may be, I shall never to all eternity forget your Grace’s goodness to me, or cease to pray earnestly for your Highness’s
salvation and prosperity. At present I am full of joy and gratitude to God, that His dear Son counted a poor sinner like me worthy to suffer tribulation and persecution for His good and sacred cause. May
He maintain your Electoral Grace to all eternity. Amen.
Your Grace’s unworthy chaplain, MARTIN LUTHER. Wittenberg.