List of some of the men of the Reformation Movement:
- Martin Luther, (1483 to 1546)
- Philip Melanchthon, (1479 to 1560)
- John Calvin, (1509 to 1564)
- Henry VIII, (1491 to 1544)
- John Knox, (1505 to 1572)
Martin Luther, (1483 to 1546):
The son of a poor peasant miner he was born in Eisleben, Germany in 1483. He was reared in an atmosphere of simple strict reverence for God. His parents were Catholics, he received instruction in that religion, but had no Biblical instruction in accord with the Bible. His father moved to Mansfield shortly after Luther’s birth so that his son could have a more adequate education. He wanted his son to study law.
Luther entered the University of Erfurt in 1501. His companions knew him as “an earnest, companionable, and music-loving student. The sudden death of a close friend caused him to break off the study of law and enter a monastery of Augustinian hermits in Erfurt in 1505.
In 1507, he was ordained to the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church. The next year he was sent by his superiors to Wittenburg to study in preparation for a future professorship in the University which had been established there by Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, who was to become a staunch friend and protector of Luther.
Luther was awarded the doctor of theology degree in 1512 and began at once to lecture on the Bible,
treating: Psalms, Romans, Galatians, Hebrews and Titus.
Luther had a deep sense of his own sinfulness and his first diversion from the Catholic system was in believing that salvation is a new relation to God, based not on any work of merit on man’s part, but on absolute trust or faith in God.
Luther made a trip to Rome shortly after beginning this professorship, and returned greatly disenchanted by what he had witnessed in the supposably holy city of Rome.
In 1517, Luther spoke out against one of the greatest of abuses, the sale of indulgences. Pope Leo X, sold the diocese, of Mainz Germany to Albrecht upon the condition of payment of a large sum of money. To pay this, Albrecht secured as his share, half the proceeds in his district of the indulgences that the papacy had been issuing since 1506, for the building of the new basilica of Saint Peter’s Cathedral.
Johan Tetzel was commissioned to sell these indulgences. Tetzel has been described as an unscrupulous, supersalesman of indulgences. Luther influenced Frederick III to not allow Tetzel to enter Saxony. He further preached on the abuse of indulgences and on October 31, 1517, nailed to the door of All-Saints church in Wittenberg his famous ninety-five theses against the sale of indulgences.
Tetzel replied at once to Luther and stirred up others to his defense. One of the most formidable opponents of Luther was Johann Maier of Eck, professor of theology in the University of Ingolstadt, who branded Luther as a heretic. By the beginning of 1518, complaints against Luther had been issued at Rome, and the Augustinian Vicar-General was ordered to end the dispute. Luther, however, argued with such skill that he won new friends to his cause and he was ordered to appear in Rome in 1518, but wisely refused.
Johann influenced the pope to issue a bull (a formal papal document) of condemnation, which was published on June 15, 1520. Luther’s reply was to publicly burn the papal bull in the presence of the students and townspeople of Wittenberg.
Luther was requested to the city of Worms and would be protected under the protection of a safe guide. He was well received in every city as as he journeyed from Wittenberg to Worms, and he was a hero of those opposing the paying for of indulgences.
He appeared before the Emperor on April 17, 1521, and was asked to recant. He replied with his famous statement
“That unless shown the unscripturalness of his arguments he could not recant. Here I stand, God help me, Amen.”
Elector Frederick had him seized as he was leaving Worms to return to Wittenberg, by friends and spirited away to Wartburg Castle, near Eisenach. The conspirators were seeking to silence Luther and Fredrick is credited with saving the life of him, and for months Luther remained in hiding there.
His translation of the New Testament into the language of the people in September of 1522. was one of his most lasting accomplishments. Luther is credited with starting the Lutheran church although he did not want to be known for that.
Philip Melanchthon, (1479 to 1560)
He was born at Bretten, Germany to a noble family of that city. His mother was the niece of the famous Hebrew scholar Reuchlin. Reuchlin presented Melanchthon with a Bible at an early age and directed his studies.
Melanchthon Early became famous for literary brilliance. At the age of 17 in 1514 He received his master of Arts degree.
Reuchlin, recommended Melanchthon to the University of Wittenburg. He began teaching there in August 1518, only ten months after Luther had nailed his Theses to the door of All-Saints church in Wittenberg, his famous ninety-five theses. In the same year, Melanchthon published a Greek grammar that enjoyed wide success.
Students came from all over Europe to attend his lectures. His knowledge of the Bible and academic training naturally inclined him to the evangelical movement of Luther. He and Luther became fast friends. He said of Luther: “I would rather die than be separated from him.”” The feeling was mutual, for Luther.
Melanchthon wrote: “I am rough, boisterous, stormy, and altogether warlike. I am born to fight against innumerable monsters and devils. I must remove stumps and stones, cut away thistles and thorns, and clear the wild forests.
THE REFORMATION No doubt, Luther and Melanchthon complimented and completed the work, each of the other. Melanchthon has been acclaimed the “teacher of Germany.” He was the author of a famous document: “The Augsburg Confession,” the doctrinal basis of the Lutheran Church in Germany to this day.
The historian Schaff commented: “Without Luther the Reformation would never have taken hold of the common
people; without Melanchthon it would never have succeeded among the scholars of Germany.
John Calvin, (1509 to 1564), Henry VIII, (1491 to 1544), John Knox, (1505 to 1572) are covered next in Part 3: The Reformation.