Luther, Martin

Luther, Martin

Luther, Martin, 1483-1546, German leader of the Protestant Reformation, b. Eisleben, Saxony, of a family of small, but free, landholders.

Early Life and Spiritual Crisis

Luther was educated at the cathedral school at Eisenach and at the Univ. of Erfurt (1501-5). In 1505 he completed his master's examination and began the study of law. Several months later, after what seems to have been a sudden religious experience, he entered a monastery of the Augustinian friars at Erfurt. There, devoutly attentive to the rigid discipline of the order, he began an intensive study of Scripture and was ordained a priest in 1507. In 1508 he was sent to the Univ. of Wittenberg to study and to lecture on Aristotle. In 1510, Luther was sent to Rome on business for his order, and there he was shocked by the spiritual laxity apparent in high ecclesiastical places.

Upon his return he completed the work for his theological doctorate and became a professor at Wittenberg. This period was the beginning of the intimacy between Luther and John von Staupitz, whose influence led Luther to say in 1531, "I have received everything from Staupitz." For Luther these years were times of profound spiritual and physical torment. Obsessed with anxieties about his own salvation, he sought relief in frequent confession and extreme asceticism. His search for peace of mind led him, under the guidance of Staupitz, to further study of the Scriptures.

In preparation for his university lectures in 1513, especially on the letters of Paul, Luther resolved his turmoil. In the Scriptures Luther found a loving God who bestowed upon sinful humans the free gift of salvation, to be received through faith, against which all good works were as nothing. Luther devoted himself with increasing vigor to the work of the church, and in 1515 he became district vicar.

The 95 Theses

From 1516 on, as a consequence of his new convictions, Luther felt compelled to protest the dispensation of indulgences (see indulgence). The arrival of Johann Tetzel in Saxony in 1517 to proclaim the indulgence granted by Leo X prompted Luther to post his historic 95 theses on the door of the castle church. The abuse of indulgences had been condemned by many Catholic theologians, but it had had great financial success, and ecclesiastical authorities had not halted it. Luther's theses were widely distributed and read, finding sympathy among the exploited peasantry and among the civil authorities, who deplored the drainage of funds to Rome. The propositions were brought to the attention of the pope, who ordered the head of the Augustinians to keep peace in his order. Meanwhile Tetzel was committed to the struggle against Luther, and he found an able colleague in Johann Eck.

Although Luther still considered his activities as directed toward reforms within the church, his opponents found his ideas heretical. In the following years several attempts were made to reconcile Luther to the church, but the basis of compromise was lacking on both sides. At a meeting with the papal legate at Augsburg in 1518, Luther refused to recant, and in 1519 in a public disputation with Eck in Leipzig he was forced to declare his stand as one at variance with some of the doctrines of the church.

Break with the Church

As the break with Rome became inevitable, Luther broadened his position to include widespread reforms. In his Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation (1520) he supported the new nationalism by advocating German control of German ecclesiastical matters and appealed to the German princes to help effect the reformation in Germany. He attacked the claim of the papacy of authority over secular rulers and denied that the pope was the final interpreter of Scripture, enunciating the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. He assailed the corruption of the church and attacked usury and commercialism, recommending a return to a primitive agrarian society.

Catholic theologians were further aroused with the publication of The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, in which Luther, in an uncompromising attack on the papacy, denied the authority of the priesthood to mediate between the individual and God and rejected the sacraments except as aids to faith. He followed this work with a tract entitled The Freedom of a Christian Man. in which he reiterated his doctrine of justification by faith alone and presented a new ideal of piety—that of the Christian man, free in conscience by virtue of faith and charged with the duty of conducting himself properly in a Christian brotherhood.

By the time the papal bull Exsurge Domine, condemning his views and threatening excommunication, reached Germany, Luther's position was well understood and widely supported. In a dramatic renunciation of papal authority, Luther held a public burning of the bull and of the canon law. In 1521 formal excommunication was pronounced. In the same year Luther was given a safe-conduct and was summoned before the Diet of Worms (see Worms, Diet of). The opinions at the diet were divided, but when an edict of the diet called for Luther's seizure, his friends placed him for safekeeping in the Wartburg, the castle of Elector Frederick III of Saxony. There Luther translated the New Testament into German and began the translation of the entire Bible, a work not completed until 10 years later.

Growth of Lutheranism and His Last Years

At Wittenberg the iconoclasts under Carlstadt had instituted radical changes that Luther greatly deplored. Fearing that his movement was endangered, Luther disregarded his personal safety and returned to Wittenberg, where he spent most of the remainder of his life organizing and spreading the new gospel. Luther suffered a loss of popular appeal when he stoutly opposed (1524-25) the Peasants' War, a revolt that his own spirit of independence had helped to foster. His position was further weakened by a break with the humanists brought about by Erasmus's work, Freedom of the Will (1524), in which Erasmus attacked Luther's doctrine of the enslaved will. Nevertheless, through his forceful writings and preaching his doctrines spread to many towns and free cities, strengthened by the support of many German nobles.

He married (1525) a former nun, Katharina von Bora, and raised six children. His closest friends and associates, Philip Melanchthon and Justus Jonas, helped carry forward his endeavors, and after the death of Frederick III he enjoyed the active support of John Frederick I, who succeeded to the electorate. Luther worked actively to build a competent educational system; his extensive writing on church matters included the composition of hymns, a liturgy, and two catechisms that are basic statements of the Lutheran faith.

His attitude hardened toward various sects, especially the Anabaptists, whose growth presented a serious challenge to his conception of the church. His uncompromising attitude in doctrinal matters helped break up the unity of the Reformation that he was anxious to preserve; the controversy with Huldreich Zwingli and later with Calvin over the Lord's Supper divided Protestants into the Lutheran Church and the Reformed Churches. After attempts at union, the Lutherans drew up their own articles of faith in the Augsburg Confession (see creed 4), which was written by Melanchthon at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 with the sanction of Luther, who was not permitted to attend. About this time the control of the Lutheran Church had passed further into the hands of the Protestant princes.

During the last years of Luther's life he was troubled with ill health of increasing severity and the plagues of political and religious disunion within the nation. He died in Eisleben and was buried at Wittenberg, leaving behind an evangelical doctrine that spread throughout the Western world and marked the first break in the unity of the Catholic Church. In Germany his socio-religious concepts laid a new basis for German society. His writings, in forceful idiomatic language, helped fix the standards of modern German.

Bibliography

Luther's works have been published frequently and in many languages; the first attempt at an edition of them was in 1539-58. See H. Grisar, Martin Luther, His Life and Work (tr. 1930, repr. 1971); H. Boehmer, Luther and the Reformation in the Light of Modern Research (tr. 1930) and The Road to Reformation (tr. 1946, repr. 1957); R. H. Fife, The Revolt of Martin Luther (1957); J. MacKinnon, Luther and the Reformation (4 vol., 1962); V. H. H. Green, Luther and the Reformation (1964, repr. 1969); P. Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther (tr. 1966); J. Atkinson, Martin Luther and the Birth of Protestantism (1968); E. G. Rupp, comp., Martin Luther (1970); H. G. Koenigsberger, comp., Luther: A Profile (1973); A. G. Dickens, Martin Luther and the Reformation (1976); H. A. Oberman, Luther: Man between God and the Devil (1982); G. Brendler, Martin Luther: Theology and Revolution (1989).

(born Nov. 10, 1483, Eisleben, Saxony—died Feb. 18, 1546, Eisleben) German priest who sparked the Reformation. The son of a miner, he studied philosophy and law before entering an Augustinian monastery in 1505. He was ordained two years later and continued his theological studies at the University of Wittenberg, where he became a professor of biblical studies. He was shocked by the corruption of the clergy on a trip to Rome in 1510 and was later troubled by doubts centring on fear of divine retributive justice. His spiritual crisis was resolved when he hit on the idea of justification by faith, the doctrine that salvation is granted as a gift through God's grace. He urged reform of the Roman Catholic church, protesting the sale of indulgences and other abuses, and in 1517 he distributed to the archbishop of Mainz and several friends his Ninety-Five Theses (according to legend, Luther nailed the theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg); the theses questioned Roman Catholic teaching and called for reform. In 1521 he was excommunicated by Pope Leo IX and declared an outlaw at the Diet of Worms (see Worms, Diet of). Under the protection of the elector of Saxony, Luther took refuge in Wartburg. There he translated the Bible into German; his superbly vigorous translation has long been regarded as the greatest landmark in the history of the German language. He later returned to Wittenberg, and in 1525 he married the former nun Katherina von Bora, with whom he raised six children. Though his preaching was the principal spark that set off the Peasants' War (1524–25), his vehement denunciation of the peasants contributed to their defeat. His break with Rome led to the founding of the Lutheran Church (see Lutheranism); the Lutheran confession of faith or, Augsburg Confession, was produced with Luther's sanction by Philipp Melanchthon in 1530. Luther's writings included hymns, a liturgy, and many theological works.

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Luther Martin (February 9, 1748July 8, 1826) was a politician and one of United States' Founding Fathers, who refused to sign the Constitution because he felt it violated states' rights. He was a leading Anti-Federalist, along with Patrick Henry and George Mason, whose actions helped passage of the Bill of Rights.

Early life

Like many of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, Martin attended the College of New Jersey (later Princeton), from which he graduated first in his class of 35 in 1766. Born in Metuchen, New Jersey, in 1748, Martin moved to North Carolina after receiving his degree and taught there for three years. He then began to study the law and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1771.

Martin played the violin and this was the single most important part of his childhood.

Political activity

Martin was an early advocate of American independence from Great Britain. In the fall of 1771, he served on the patriot committee of Somerset County, New Jersey, and in December attended a convention of the Province of Maryland in Annapolis, which had been called to consider the recommendations of the Continental Congress.

Maryland appointed Martin its attorney general in early 1778. In that capacity, he vigorously prosecuted Loyalists, whose numbers were strong in many areas of the state. Tensions had even led to insurrection and open warfare in some counties. While still attorney general, Martin joined the Baltimore Light Dragoons. In July 1781, his unit joined General Lafayette's forces near Fredericksburg, Virginia; but the unit apparently saw no action, and Martin may have been recalled by the governor to prosecute a treason trial.

From 1778 to 1805, he was Attorney General of Maryland; in 1814-1816 he was chief judge of the court of Oyer and Terminer for the city of Baltimore; and in 1818 to 1822 he was again Attorney General of Maryland.

Constitutional convention

In 1785, he was elected to the Confederation Congress by the Maryland General Assembly, but his numerous public and private duties prevented him from traveling to Philadelphia.

Martin was elected as a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia. When he arrived on June 9, he expressed suspicion of the secrecy rule imposed on the proceedings. Opposing the creation of a government in which the large states would dominate the small ones, he consistently sided with the small states, helping to formulate the New Jersey Plan and voting against the Virginia Plan. On June 27 Martin spoke for more than three hours in opposition to the Virginia Plan's proposal for proportionate representation in both houses of the legislature. Martin served on the committee formed to seek a compromise on representation, where he supported the case for equal numbers of delegates in at least one house. Before the convention closed, he became convinced that the new government would have too much power over state governments and would threaten individual rights. Failing to find any support for a bill of rights, Martin and another Maryland delegate, John Francis Mercer, walked out of the convention.

Ratification fight

In November 1787, in a speech to the Maryland House of Delegates, he assailed the Constitutional Convention not only for what it was attempting to do but for how it was going about the job. He broke the pledge to secrecy under which the convention had met and informed the Maryland legislators that the Framers -- already regarded with reverence -- had wantonly violated their instructions to meet "for the sole and express purpose of revising" the Articles of Confederation.

Instead, convention delegates had taken it upon themselves to make a fresh start by creating an entirely new system of government. To Martin, such an effort was akin to launching a coup d'état. George Washington and Benjamin Franklin had backed the change of direction of the convention, but, Martin said, we should not "suffer our eyes to be so far dazzled by the splendor of names, as to run blindfolded into what may be our destruction."

In an address to the Maryland House of Delegates in November of 1787 and in numerous newspaper articles, Martin attacked the proposed new form of government and continued to fight ratification of the Constitution through 1788. He lamented the ascension of the national government over the states and condemned what he saw as unequal representation in Congress. He owned six slaves of his own and opposed including slaves in determining representation and believed that the absence of a jury in the U.S. Supreme Court gravely endangered freedom. At the convention, Martin complained, the aggrandizement of particular states and individuals often had been pursued more avidly than the welfare of the country. The assumption of the term "federal" by those who favored a national government also irritated Martin.

Maryland largely ignored Martin's warnings. In April 1788, it voted to ratify the Constitution, the seventh state to do so, though on condition that a Bill of Rights be added. In June, when New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify, the required threshold had been reached, and the new Constitution took effect. Three years later, the first 10 amendments were added.

Around 1791, however, Martin turned to the Federalist party because of his animosity toward Thomas Jefferson, who in 1807 spoke of him as the Federal Bull-Dog.

Legal career

Martin's postwar law practice grew to become one of the largest and most successful in the country.

The first years of the 1800s saw Martin as defense counsel in two controversial national cases. In the first, Martin won an acquittal for his close friend Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase in his impeachment trial in 1805. Two years, later Martin was one of Aaron Burr's defense lawyers when Burr stood trial for treason in 1807.

After a record 28 consecutive years as state attorney general, Martin resigned in December 1805. In 1813, he became chief judge of the court of oyer and terminer for the City and County of Baltimore. He was reappointed attorney general of Maryland in 1818, and in 1819 he argued Maryland's position in the landmark Supreme Court case McCulloch v. Maryland. The plaintiffs were represented by Daniel Webster, William Pinkney and William Wirt.

Martin's fortunes declined dramatically in his last years. He also continued to drink heavily, sinking into bankruptcy and madness. By the mid-1820s he was subsisting on a special tax imposed on Maryland lawyers solely for his personal support. Eventually, he was taken in by Aaron Burr, whom he had defended at the disgraced ex-vice president's 1807 trial for treason. By this time, an irrational detestation of Thomas Jefferson, his one-time decentralist ally, led Martin to embrace the Federalist Party, in apparent repudiation of everything he had argued for so strenuously. Paralysis, which had struck in 1819, forced him to retire as Maryland's attorney general in 1822.

On July 8, 1826, at the age of 78, Luther Martin died in Aaron Burr's home in New York City and was buried in an unmarked grave in St. John's churchyard. His death came four days after the deaths on July 4 of Jefferson and John Adams.

Martin married Maria Cresap (daughter of Captain Michael Cresap) on Christmas Day 1783. Of their five children, three daughters lived to adulthood.

References

He Luther Martain was important to the signing of the declaration of imdependce!

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