After nailing his ninety-five theses on the church door at Wittenberg in 1517, Luther did not answer for his propositions immediately. He had to wait until 1521, when he was summoned to appear before Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor at the Diet of Worms. It was a very dangerous trip to make, as it could have been a trap devised to capture him. However, Luther decided he needed to take the risk and obey the summons.
When he arrived, he was not given any chance to make his defense, but was ordered to recant on the spot. Luther asked for some time to think about it and was given the night. He did some very serious soul searching before he was ready to face the authorities again. He tried to start a formal speech but was cut off with a demand again to simply recant or not. Luther replied:
Since then your serene Majesty and your lordships seek a simple answer, I will give it in this manner, neither horned nor toothed. Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the Pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. May God help me. Amen.
By God’s grace, Luther did not die at Worms, but was permitted to return home. But as soon as he left, Luther was declared an imperial outlaw, making him a target for an arrest. Before he made it back to Wittenberg, his party was beset by a group of armed and masked horsemen, who snatched Luther and led him away. They were agents of Elector Frederick, Luther’s patron, who, seized him secretly and hid him away at the Wartburg castle. Luther remained there in hiding, directing the reform from a distance.
Luther became a witness before the authorities of his day. He knew the truth and even after some struggle, followed through on it. May God give us the courage to be witnesses to the truth of the Gospel, even under the threats of this world today.
Dn. Mervin Lin