CHAPTER II. THE RELIGIOUS REVOLUTION
The reception accorded to the papal document varied according to the views of the local authorities and the state of public feeling in the different cities and provinces. Thus, while its publication was welcomed in Cologne, Mainz, Halberstadt, and Freising, it was received with very mixed feelings at Leipzig and at Erfurt. Frederick of Saxony, to whom Leo X. had addressed a personal appeal, refused to abandon Luther's cause unless it were proved from the Scriptures that he was wrong. He did, indeed, suggest that Luther should write a respectful letter to the Pope, but his suggestion passed unheeded. At first Luther pretended that the Bull was a forgery brought forward by Eck to discredit him, but when this line of defence proved useless, he boldly attacked the papal pronouncement in his pamphlet, Against the Bull of Anti-Christ, in which he denounced Leo X. as a heretic and apostate, an enemy of the Holy Scriptures, a tyrant, and a calumniator. Lest, however, the courage of his supporters might be overcome by the terrors of excommunication, he issued an appeal from the sentence of the Pope to the judgment of a future General Council. Finally, on the 10th December, 1520, in the presence of an immense concourse of the citizens and students of Wittenberg, he burned publicly the papal Bull and the writings of his political opponents. On this occasion he proclaimed his intention of overthrowing the ecclesiastical organisation, and of introducing a new theological system. For the future it was to be war to the knife against the Pope and the Church, and he called upon German patriots and all true friends of personal liberty to take their stand by his side in the conflict that had been begun.
Charles V. was apparently in a very strong position. Not since the days of Charlemagne had any ruler claimed jurisdiction over so wide a territory as his, comprising, as it did, Germany and Austria, the kingdom of the two Sicilies, Spain, and the Netherlands. But in reality the very extent of his dominions made him much less powerful than he might have been as the sovereign of a smaller but more compact region. It served to awaken the suspicions of his subjects, who feared that he might abolish their distinctive national constitutions and weld his scattered territories into one great empire, and to excite the jealousy of the other rulers of Europe, who imagined that he might declare himself dictator of the western world. The German princes, having resisted successfully all the efforts made by his grandfather, Maximilian I., to convert the loose confederation of the German States into a united and centralised nation, were on their guard lest his successor should attempt a similar policy with the aid of Spanish troops and Spanish gold; the Spaniards resented the absence of the king from Spain, where many of the lower classes were in a state bordering on rebellion; Francis I. of France, trembling for the very existence of his country, was willing to do all things, even to agree to an alliance with the sons of Mohammed, if he could only lessen the influence of his powerful rival. The Turks under Soliman I. were determined to realise the dreams of their race by extending their territories from the Bosphorus to the Atlantic; while even the Pope had good reason to suspect that Charles V., unmindful of the example of his great namesake, might seek to become the master rather than the protector of the Church.
On account of the troubles in Spain it was only late in the year 1520 that Charles V. could come to Germany to meet the electors, and to take over formally the administration of the Empire (23 Oct.). Less than two weeks had elapsed when the papal representative, Aleandro, himself a distinguished Humanist, sought an interview with the new ruler, and besought him to enforce the papal Bull against Luther with the full weight of his imperial authority. But the wavering attitude of many of the princes and the determined opposition of Frederick of Saxony made the Emperor hesitate to condemn Luther without giving him an opportunity for explanation and defence. The Diet was soon to open at Worms, and Charles V. issued an invitation to Luther to attend, guaranteeing at the same time his personal safety on the way to and from Worms and during his sojourn in the city.
The Diet met in January 1521, but despite the efforts of Aleandro the majority of the princes still failed to realise the gravity of the situation. Feeling against Rome was running very high in Germany at the time. Many of the princes insisted on presenting a document embodying the grievances of Germany ('Centum Gravamina) to the papal ambassador, while even such an orthodox supporter of the Church as Duke George of Saxony, brought forward very serious complaints against the clergy, accompanied by a demand that a General Council should be summoned to restore peace to the Church. Luther, strengthened by the safe conduct of the Emperor and by a secret understanding with some of the princes and knights, set out from Wittenberg for Worms, where he arrived in April 1521. On presenting himself before the Diet he was invited to state if he were really the author of the works published under his name, copies of which were presented to him, and, if so, was he willing to retract the doctrines contained in them. In reply to the former of these questions he admitted the authorship of the volumes, but asked for time to consider what answer he should make in regard to the latter. A day was allowed him for consideration. When he appeared again, all traces of the hesitation and nervousness that marked his attitude at the previous session had disappeared. He refused to retract his opinions, and made it clear that he no longer acknowledged the authority of the Pope or of General Councils as a safe guide in matters religious.