“Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.” Martin Luther
When the day final dawned, Luther was ready to give his answer. However, the delay caused even more people to attend the diet and so a larger assembly hall was used.
Eck, the council’s interrogator once again asked Luther if the books and pamphlets on display before Martin were his. He replied that they were. Eck then said, “I ask you, Martin – answer candidly and without horns – do you or do you not repudiate your books and the errors which they contain?”
Luther’s answer was as follows:
Since then Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.
The following words were added: “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.”
The council’s decision was to honor the safe passage they had given Martin, allow him to return to Wittenberg, where he would then be arrested and executed for heresy. As Luther was returning to Wittenberg following the hearing, he was captured by friends who took him, for his own protection, to the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach. He would remain there in seclusion for ten months.
Pastor Erwin Lutzer writes, “It was here in isolation that Luther had one of the most productive periods of his life. Amid his doubts, depression, confusion and insomnia, he feverishly wrote books and pamphlets, and most astoundingly of all, translated the New Testament into German in just eleven weeks.”
Luther’s life parallels those mentioned in Hebrews 11:36-38: “36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”
Luther did not recant a single item of what he had written. Because of this, he would spend the rest of his life as a fugitive.
Luther was willing to evaluate and count the cost for his commitment to biblical truth. Are we so willing? We recognize Martin Luther’s legacy. What will be your legacy?
Soli deo Gloria!