Protestant Persecutions: Luther

Martin Luther


While nearly everyone is familiar with the Catholic persecutions during the Inquisition, many are unaware of the persecutions by the early Protestants.

As one raised Roman Catholic, I was aware of the fact that the Protestants were involved in persecuting Catholics, but did not realize until much later the extent of Protestant persecutions.

Here is a 19th century account of some of this:

Catholics have persecuted Protestants: Protestants have pursued Catholics: Lutherans have hunted Anabaptists; Episcopalians have burned Puritans ; Puritans have hanged Quakers; Calvinists have tortured Unitarians, and all have united in persecuting the heroic Infidels who have refused to believe in any of the multifarious and conflicting creeds. (Bennett RM.  The champions of the church: their crimes and persecutions. D.M. Bennett, 1878, p. 832)

Now I would like to point out that there is no evidence that there ever was any organized persecution by the Church of God.  Those truly in the COG were often persecuted and never the persecutors.

Regarding peasants opposed to him and the leaders that favored him, notice what Martin Luther advised:

Pure devilry is urging on the peasants…Therefore let all who are able, mow them down, slaughter and stab them, openly or in secret, and remember that there is nothing more poisonous, noxious and utterly devilish than a rebel. You must kill him as you would a mad dog…

The authorities must resolve to chastise and slay as long as they can raise a finger…It may be that those who are killed on the side of the authorities is really a martyr in God’s cause. A happier death no man could die. The present time is so strange that a prince can gain Heaven easier by spilling blood than by praying (Luther M. Against the Murderous and Rapacious Hordes of the Peasants, May 4, 1525-Erl, 24, 287, ff. As cited in O’Hare PF. The Facts About Luther, p. 232).

Notice what Martin Luther admitted:

I, Martin Luther, slew all the peasants in the rebellion, for I said that they should be slain; all their blood is upon my head. But I cast it on the Lord God, who commanded me to speak this way (Werke, Erl. Edition, lix, p. 284 ‘Table Talk’ as quoted in Stoddard JL. Rebuilding a Lost Faith, 1922, p.96).

It is reported that 100,000 perished at that time.

Also notice the following:

The persecution of the Anabaptists by the “Reformed ” Church is another dark stain upon the character of the Reformation…but no mere belief ever deserved torture. They had one redeeming trait, however—the rejection of Lutheranism and the authority of Luther. This was their chief crime, although their rejection of infant baptism, and their protest against any other form of baptism but by immersion, was an argument which weighed heavily against them with the Lutherans, and one to be suitably answered only by extermination.

Lutherans hated the Anabaptists and condemned them for believing that Jesus would return and reign on the earth for 1,000 years (Revelation 20) and for holding other biblical doctrines.  Notice the following:

Article IX: Of Baptism. Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God, and that children are to be baptized who, being offered to God through Baptism are received into God’s grace. They condemn the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children…

Article XII:…They condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that those once justified can lose the Holy Ghost…

Article XVI: Of Civil Affairs. Of Civil Affairs they teach that lawful civil ordinances are good works of God, and that it is right for Christians to bear civil office, to sit as judges, to judge matters by the Imperial and other existing laws, to award just punishments, to engage in just wars, to serve as soldiers, to make legal contracts, to hold property, to make oath when required by the magistrates, to marry a wife, to be given in marriage. They condemn the Anabaptists who forbid these civil offices to Christians.

Article XVII: Of Christ’s Return to Judgment. Also they teach that at the Consummation of the World Christ will appear for judgment and will raise up all the dead; He will give to the godly and elect eternal life and everlasting joys, but ungodly men and the devils He will condemn to be tormented without end. They condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an end to the punishments of condemned men and devils. They condemn also others who are now spreading certain Jewish opinions, that before the resurrection of the dead the godly shall take possession of the kingdom of the world, the ungodly being everywhere suppressed. (The Confession of Faith: Which Was Submitted to His Imperial Majesty Charles V. At the Diet of Augsburg in the Year 1530. by Philip Melanchthon, 1497-1560. Translated by F. Bente and W. H. T. Dau. Published in: Triglot Concordia: The Symbolical Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, pp. 37-95.)

Lutherans especially hated the position that Christians were not supposed to be soldiers in this age and have written various documents opposing that biblical position (for the biblical position, please see Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare?).  Also notice what happened afterward the condemnations of 1530:

But Luther did not stop here. On the seventh of August, 1536, a synod was convened at Hamburg to devise the best means of exterminating the Anabaptists…Not one voice among all the delegates was raised in favor of the Anabaptists. Even Melancthon voted to put all those to death who should remain, obstinate in their errors…The ministers of Ulm demanded that heresy should be extinguished by fire and sword. Those of Augsburg said: ‘ If we have not yet sent any Anabaptists to the gibbet, we have at least branded their cheeks with red iron!’ …

From this exceedingly tolerant council emanated the following exceedingly liberal decree…

“”Whoever rejects infant baptism…shall be punished with death,…As for the simple people, who have not preached or administered baptism, but who were seduced to permit themselves to frequent the assemblies of the heretics, if they do not wish to renounce Anabaptism, they shall be scourged, punished with perpetual exile, and even with death if they return three times to the place whence they have been expelled.” (Bennett, pp. 843-845)

Thus, intolerance and persecution came from the followers of Martin Luther.

Here is another observation from a 19th century account:

” If matters of fact can establish any certainty,” says a Christian writer of half a century ago, ” then it is certain that the two principal pillars of the Reformation, Martin Luther and John Calvin, and their confederate reformers, were influenced by the self-same spirit of cruelty and injustice which had influenced the ecclesiastical tyrants of every age from Diotrephes and the Alexandrian priesthood down to the same Luther and Calvin.” (Bennett, p. 835)

These “pillars of the Reformation” did not act like the pillars of the New Testament Church.

Those interested in learning more should consider studying the following articles:

Persecutions by Church and State This article documents some that have occurred against those associated with the COGs and some prophesied to occur. Will those with the cross be the persecutors or the persecuted–this article has the shocking answer.
The Similarities and Dissimilarities between Martin Luther and Herbert W. Armstrong This article clearly shows some of the doctrinal differences between in the two. At this time of doctrinal variety and a tendency by many to accept certain aspects of Protestantism, the article should help clarify why the Living Church of God is NOT Protestant. Do you really know what the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther taught and should you follow his doctrinal example?
John Calvin, Calvinism, TULIP, and What is Predestination? Who was John Calvin? Did he believe in sola Scriptura or did he hold to unbiblical doctines? TULIP analyzed.
Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis Do you believe what the Bible actually teaches on this? Will all good things be restored? Does God’s plan of salvation take rebellion and spiritual blindness into account?
Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther? What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible? Though he is known for his public sola Scriptura teaching, did Martin Luther’s writings about the Bible suggest he felt that prima Luther was his ultimate authority? Statements from him changing and/or discounting 18 books of the Bible are included. Do you really want to know the truth?
Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism? Was the millennium (sometimes called chiliasm) taught by early Christians? Who condemned it. Will Jesus literally reign for 1000 years on the earth? Is this time near?
Hope of Salvation: How the Living Church of God differ from most Protestants How the Living Church of God differs from mainstream/traditional Protestants, is perhaps the question I am asked most by those without a Church of God background.

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