Sketches in the Life of the Man Who Shook the World - 9

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 10
BUT it was chiefly in another respect that Luther’s journey to Rome was of importance to him. For not only was the veil withdrawn so as to reveal to him the sneering laugh, the ribald infidelity, that lay concealed behind the Roman superstitions; but the living faith which God had implanted within him was greatly strengthened.
We have seen that at the commencement of his visit to Rome he yielded to many of the superstitions considered incumbent on him, and it so happened that one day he wanted to gain an indulgence which had been promised by the Pope to whosoever should go up Pilate’s Staircase (the Sancta Scala) on his knees. Luther was meekly crawling up the steps, which he was told had been transported from Jerusalem to Rome by a miracle, when he thought he heard a voice loud as thunder in his inmost soul, the same as at Wittenberg and Bologna, “The just shall live by faith.” It resounded incessantly and powerfully within him. He rose in great alarm from the stairs up which he had been dragging his body. He was horrified at himself, and mortified to see to what a pitch superstition had degraded him, and fled to a distance from the scene of his folly. This was a decisive epoch in the life of Luther, and, we may add, of the Reformation.
Luther left Rome and returned to Wittenberg with a heart swelling with grief and indignation. Turning with disgust from the pontifical city, he looked with hope to the Holy Scriptures and to the promise of eternal life through Christ, which the Scriptures so plainly reveal. The Word gained in his heart all that Rome had lost.
Luther received, but with reluctance, the title of Doctor in Divinity, and his fame grew rapidly and his usefulness extended in the University and in the Church. The doctrine of justification by faith without works was his prominent theme, and students came in great numbers from far and near, and hearers of all ranks, including the Elector himself, and rich and poor alike. Luther was kept humble, and yet remained bold and fearless; and he had need of courage, for a great work lay before him, constantly opening in new developments, and his sense of his own weakness, sinfulness, and unworthiness, and his conflict with Satan, led him to trust in God’s help.
On his return from Rome he visited many of the Augustinian monasteries, and found m my divisions and contentions, which he endeavored to compose. He also met with several young monks, such as Myconius, the future historian of the Reformation. He had been absent six months on this tour. He had been afflicted in his soul by all he had seen: but his journey increased his knowledge of the Church and the world. It gave him more confidence in his dealings with men at large, and it gave him occasions for founding schools, and for urging the fundamental truths of Protestantism, that the Holy Scriptures alone point out the way to heaven, and for exhorting the friars to live together in holiness, peaceableness, and chastity,