It is very inspiring to me to read about the Reformers and the Reformation. During the time of Martin Luther, the Catholic Church was doing all they could to extinguish the Reformation. “An imperial message announced to the Diet that as the resolution granting liberty of conscience had given rise to great disorders, the emperor declared it to be annulled.” (1)
The Catholic priests demanded that the German States which had accepted the Reformation teachings be brought “back into line” with the Catholic church. But the Reformers refused to give up their new found liberty of conscience and submit to Rome. They wanted to interpret the Bible for themselves and not have Rome do it for them.
…the Diet finally decreed, that where the Reformation had not become established, the edict of Worms should be rigorously enforced; and that in the evangelical States, where there would be danger of revolt, no new reform should be introduced, there should be no preaching upon disputed points, the celebration of the mass should not be opposed, and no Roman Catholic should be permitted to embrace Lutheranism. (2)
In other words the Christians would not be allowed to discuss religion with anyone. They would not be allowed to preach or teach truth or point out the errors of the Catholic Church. And if a Catholic did come to the light of truth and wish to leave Catholicism, he was NOT permitted to do that.
The German Christian Princes were not affected by this decree. They could have turned their backs and gone about their business as usual. But thankfully, they were true Christians. The Princes knew that it was their responsibility to fight for the rights of the common people who lived under their jurisdiction. Determined to enable the common people to follow their own conscience, they made up their minds that they would stand for the right no matter what the consequences might be! Even if it meant loosing their kingdoms, their titles and or their lives! What is more inspiring than that??
King Ferdinand, the Catholics representative at the Diet, at first tried to nicely persuade the Christian Princes to give up their staunch convictions and support the Catholic agenda. But he soon saw that they were strong and that they were not going to compromise their beliefs. So then he showed his true colors by walking out on them. He refused to discuss anything further and told them it was a DONE DEAL, their only option was SUBMISSION.
But the German Christian Princes didn’t accept that as their only option. They had courage and lots of backbone, and they went around King Ferdinand, straight to the National Council and presented to the Diet their objections, striking a deadly blow to Catholicism.
Read About the Reformers…Listen To What They Said…
We protest by these presents, before God, our only Creator, Preserver, Redeemer, and Saviour, and who will one day be our Judge, as well as before all men and all creatures, that we, for us and our people, neither consent nor adhere in any manner whatever to the proposed decree in anything that is contrary to God, to his word, to our right conscience, or to the salvation of our souls…. We cannot assert that when Almighty God calls a man to his knowledge, he dare not embrace that divine knowledge…. There is no true doctrine but that which conforms to the word of God. The Lord forbids the teaching of any other faith. The Holy Scriptures, with one text explained by other and plainer texts, are, in all things necessary for the Christian, easy to be understood, and adapted to enlighten. We are therefore resolved by divine grace to maintain the pure preaching of God’s only word, as it is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, without anything added thereto. This word is the only truth. It is the sure rule of all doctrine and life, and can never fail or deceive us. He who builds on this foundation shall stand against all the powers of hell, whilst all the vanities that are set up against it shall fall before the face of God.” “We therefore reject the yoke that is imposed upon us. (3)
Wow! Such brave men! But it wasn’t over… The Emperor, Charles the 5th determined to quiet all the commotion exposing the Catholic Church for what it was, and he ordered a Diet to be held in Augsburg and commanded the Princes and Reformers to be there. They were more than happy to obey and welcomed the opportunity to lay the TRUTH out for all present.
Before they went to the Diet, the Reformers met and Luther, Melancthon and their friends wrote up a statement supporting from the Bible their beliefs. When it was time to sign the document, the German Christian Princes wanted to sign it, along with the Reformers and at first, the Reformers were reluctant to have them sign because they were representatives of the State and this was a Religious document,
…but those valiant and brave men would have none of that!
The Confession thus prepared was accepted by the Protestants as an exposition of their faith, and they assembled to affix their names to the important document. It was a solemn and trying time, The Reformers were solicitous that their cause should not be confounded with political questions; they felt that the Reformation should exercise no other influence than that which proceeds from the word of God. As the Christian princes advanced to sign the Confession, Melancthon interposed, saying, “It is for the theologians and ministers to propose these things, while the authority of the mighty ones of earth is to be reserved for other matters.” “God forbid,” replied John of Saxony, “that you should exclude me. I am resolved to do my duty without being troubled about my crown. I desire to confess the Lord. My electoral hat and robes are not so precious to me as the cross of Jesus Christ.” Having thus spoken, he wrote down his name. Said another of the princes as he took the pen, “If the honor of my Lord Jesus Christ requires it, I am ready to leave my goods and life behind me.” “Rather would I renounce my subjects and my States, rather would I quit the country of my fathers, staff in hand,” he continued, “than to receive any other doctrine than is contained in this Confession.” Such was the faith and daring of those men of God. (4)
To me, this bit of history is so exciting and inspiring! It should cause us all to be willing to do ANYTHING to preserve the right to follow our conscience and maintain our right to religious liberty.
Sadly, the majority of people today are more concerned about being accepted by the World and Men, than about making Jesus proud of them. These German Christian Princes were men of PRINCIPLE. Their decisions were based on what was the RIGHT THING to do and not on what was the CONVENIENT or EASY thing to do. That’s the kind of people we need to be, that’s the ONLY kind of people who are going to make it through the coming persecution of Christians.
The BIG Question ~
We all need to ask ourselves, “Who has our 1st loyalty?” GOD or THE CHURCH? It’s right to be loyal to the Church, providing the Church is in harmony with God….but when they part ways, our loyalty MUST remain with God. And that includes the Seventh Day Adventist Church, too.
(1) 4 Spirit of Prophecy, pg. 157.1
(2) Ibid pg. 157.3
(3) Ibid pg. 161.3
(4) Ibid pg. 165.2