Sketches in the Life of the Man Who Shook the World - 8

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LUTHER had a wearisome journey, for he travelled mostly afoot, but at length he caught sight of the city. His heart beat with strong emotion. Throwing himself on the ground, he exclaimed, “Holy Rome, I salute thee!” The Rome of the Caesars was represented by numerous ruins, which indicated its former splendor. But it had many attractive edifices. Besides, it was the Rome where Paul wrote some of his matchless epistles, the Rome of myriad martyrs to the faith of Jesus. Julius II. was now reigning Pope, a man as far from holiness as a man could well be, a man of depraved tastes and habits, and addicted to cursing and blasphemy.
Luther made the circuit of all the churches and chapels, and believed all the lying tales told there: and he devoutly acquitted himself of all the religious practices that were required of him.
In his quality of envoy from the Augustine monks of Germany, Luther received many invitations to meetings of distinguished ecclesiastics. One day he found himself seated at table with several prelates, who showed themselves off to him in their true character, as men of ribald manners and impious conversation. Among other stories repeated in his hearing was one told with much laughter and coarse merriment. In saying mass, instead of using the sacramental words which were to change the bread and the wine into the Saviour’s body and blood, they pronounced over the elements the following words in derision: “Panis es et panis manebis vinum es et vinum manebis” (“Bread thou art, and bread thou shalt remain: wine thou art, and wine thou shalt remain”). “Then,” continued they, “we raise the ostensory, and all the people worship.” But this was blasphemy, not a joke. Many of the things that Luther heard and saw and the legends of the ecclesiastics were too gross to be repeated here.
There is an old adage, sometimes repeated now-a-days, “The nearer the Church, the further from God.” It is too often true, though not always. But Luther found, as a rule, that as he ascended higher and higher in the scale of Church dignitaries, the more there was of vice, ignorance of divine truth and the Word of God, and the more ungodliness of life, the Pope himself setting the rest a shameful example. An historical record of the time, quoted by D’Aubigne, says: “The city is full of disorders and murders: whereas, wherever the Word of God is faithfully and honestly preached, order and peace are found to reign.” And again: “One must see and hear for himself if he would believe what infamous actions are committed in Rome.” He was wont to say: “If there be a hell, Rome is built over it: it is an abyss whence all sins proceed.”