Portions relevant for today’s northern catholic have been italicized and placed in bold. A couple things to quickly point out: The Lutheran princes first pledge themselves and their descendants to the Holy Roman Emperor. But the Edict of Worms is counted ‘null and void’ since it contradicts the unanimous consent at Speyer and God’s word. In upholding Speyer, the German Princes honored the Emperor. The Princes also placed themselves at his mercy, accepting whatever judgment or punishment that may befall for their obedience to Speyer.
The articles at Speyer were: 1. the faith of the prince is the faith of his people. Notice the repeated arguments for ‘good conscience’. This is not a private kind, but belonged exclusively to the Prince and the privileges behind their ancient sovereignties, also described as including proper courts and rights of property versus other enormities or intrusions. 2. the Princes pledge to reform the papal to evangelical Mass. Most commonly this meant the sacrament distributed in two kinds with readings in in the vernacular. In some cases private masses, vestments, certain sentences in latin, and often elevation of host continued (these still counting as ‘evangelical’). 3. the expectation of a free general council, or national assembly/convocation in lieu. This highlights the strong concilar basis of northern catholicism which modern day protestants have forgotten while rejecting simultaneously confessionalism. 4. a voluntary promise to enforce the Edict with respect to the suppression of Anabaptism.
Sadly, most current day protestants can’t even uphold these four points as they have given themselves to various forms and fraternization with anabaptism. Any rehabilitation of true Protestant identity would sharply eject anabaptist polity and doctrine from standards and practice. See footnote at bottom.
Most illustrious King, most venerable, right honorable, noble, esesteemed, gracious Lords, uncles, cousins, friends, and especially esteemed ones!
According as we ourselves urged upon his Roman imperial Majesty, our most gracious Lord, and wrote in a friendly manner to your royal Highness,—in most submissive obedience to his imperial Majesty and in friendly and humble obedience to your royal Highness, as well as for the good of general Christendom and the holy Empire, we have come hither to this Diet, and have now heard read the instructions, together with the authoritative letter in his imperial Majesty’s name. Moreover, we have also examined with diligence the Summons of this Diet in [the name of] his imperial Majesty, and we find that the affair has been settled by an embarrassing device, that the article in the decree of the previously held Diet concerning our holy Christian faith has been annulled, and another very troublesome article is to be set forth instead;
And whereas your royal Highness, and your other colleagues (having authority as his imperial Majesty), governors and commissioners, with the estates of the Empire, at the Diet formerly held at Speyer unanimously agreed that pending a general Council or national assembly, each one should live, rule and act regarding the clauses of the Edict of Worms as every one hopes and trusts to give account for his conduct before God and his imperial Majesty. Moreover, your royal Highness, together with the fellow-commissioners in the stead of his imperial Majesty, at the adoption of the aforesaid decree promised to hold all and sundry (so it stands written in the said decree and his imperial Majesty may examine) as fixed and inviolable, to execute it, to give prompt and unquestioning compliance, to do and permit nothing contrary to it, to live by it, and not permit anyone to do otherwise save at all perils;
And moreover, your lieges, we and other estates of the Empire, publicly proclaimed in the decree that each and every point was carried with our entire knowledge, consent and advice; also that we all and severally acquiesced in the same, and in right, good, true and faithful manner spoke and pledged ourselves to hold every point and article in the decree as true, fixed, sound, upright and inviolable, to execute it, to comply with it to the best of our ability, and to live by it, without perils—all of which is contained in the aforesaid decree in clear, explicit words;
Therefore, in consideration of this previously settled, written and sealed decree, as well as for the following well-founded reasons (which in part were sent in writing to your royal Highness and the esteemed ones on the 12th day of this month of April), we cannot and may not consent to the annulment of the aforesaid articles, to which we unanimously agreed and which we are pledged to uphold, nor even to the supposed or intended moderation of the same, which yet is nothing of the sort.
For the first of our well-founded reasons, we therefore think it beyond question that his imperial Majesty—as an honorable, upright and Christian Emperor, our most gracious Lord—and the majority also of you, the other princes, having once agreed in mind and will, pledged, written and sealed, would no less than we hold [the decree] to the letter as perpetual, fixed and inviolable, execute it and not scruple at anything therein, neither be nor act against it. Therein we desire and seek honor, praise, forbearance and justice, not only our own but first of all his imperial Majesty’s, and for all of us.
As to others, we do not know in what way to answer such with a good conscience toward Almighty God as the sole Lord, Ruler and Upholder of our holy Christian saving faith, as well as toward his imperial Majesty as a Christian Emperor.
For although we know that our ancestors, brothers and we, all that we ourselves were in duty bound to do, in due obedience to the deceased and now reigning Roman imperial Majesties, all that might ever have promoted the honor, welfare and interests of his imperial Majesty and the Empire—that, with all true, ready and willing submission we have always done, in such manner as we, without boasting and without disparagement of others, never knew anybody before to give. As moreover, without sparing body or goods, we will willingly and obediently do henceforth till our end and grave, with the help of divine grace, in all due and practicable things toward Roman imperial Majesty, as our most gracious Lord,—also toward your royal Highness and lieges, as our dear and gracious lords, uncles, cousins, friends and other Estates of the holy Roman Empire, have kindly, graciously and impartially willed and inclined to do.
Yet there are nevertheless such things as concern the glory of God and the welfare and salvation of the souls of every one of us; as to these, by the command of God, for the sake of our consciences, we are in baptism and moreover in his holy divine word, pledged and bound to hold before all our Lord and God as highest King and Lord of lords. Our undoubting confidence is that your royal Highness and princes will therefore kindly hold us excused in respect to the things in which we are not at one with your Highness, princes and others. Nor in such things will we obey the majority, for the reason that we hold them in conformity to the former imperial decree at Speyer, which by a unanimous consent (and not by a majority only) was then decided. Wherefore also, such a unanimous vote cannot and may not be altered with honor, reason and justice, except by unanimous consent. Besides also, in matters concerning the honor of God, the welfare and salvation of our souls, each stand for himself and must give account before God. Therefore in this sphere no one can make it another’s duty to do or decide less or more, which one is not bound to do for other honest, well-founded and good reasons.
So that your Highness, princes and others, each and all whom this transaction might affect, have our complaint to hear once more and exactly, so that it is open as the day and not to be questioned: that, concerning the doctrine of our Christian religion there has been for a long time hitherto discord over many points and articles. Whence such discord proceeded, that God knows first of all, to whose judgment we commit all things. But it confessedly arose in part at the Diet of Niirnberg , through the papal legate, in consequence of his solicitation and orders then made and delivered; likewise besides through many electors, princes and other estates of the Empire, who at least in part are of your party. So then, at the aforesaid Diet of Niirnberg, all our grievances were set forth by the temporal estates of the Empire in eighty articles, and delivered to the said papal legate, and likewise afterward appeared in print. Nevertheless the same grievances are not yet abolished, and yet many more of them are before our eyes.
And it has always been considered at all Diets, that a fitting limit for this matter could not be found, unless a free ecumenical, Christian council, or at least national assembly, should be held as soon as possible. And this we now declare, in order that your Highness, princes, and the others, each and every one, may judge from this and may yourselves appoint when it seems right or proper for one party to seek before a free, Christian, general Council approval or condemnation of the doctrine which it holds as Christian. These matters cannot be so fully and formally discussed and treated by presidents, commissioners, orators, appointed by his imperial Majesty, or by electors, princes and other estates of the Empire, as by the said Council. Nor could the discordant and doubtful doctrines and practices, of which they themselves are now not certain, be heard and decided.
Moreover that such things would now be imposed on us, not silently but openly, it is easy to understand from the following account:
For thus have several in Committee first proposed to you, and on the 10th day of this month of April it was read a second time; likewise in several other points have they set forth changed ideas, that the electors themselves, princes and other estates (among whom we equally, dear princes and others, were included and intended) now had decided here with one another: that those who thus far abide by the formerly established imperial Edict now henceforth continue by the self-same Edict until the next Council, and their subjects ought to propose to hold thereto, etc. That does not hold us, as it does them, to such Edict in all points with good conscience, nor may we execute it, [for this would be] in the highest degree burdensome. And we should have nothing to answer before God, should anybody, of high or lower rank, through our mutual decision separate from the doctrine which from the fundamental counsel of the eternal word of God we consider without doubt to be godly and Christian, and against our own conscience, as we have said above, should come under the said Edict.
But we understand ourselves not at all to call in question what your Highness, or any of you princes and the others, outside of our announced joint agreement or resolution, in conformity with the Edict or otherwise, shall hold each for himself and with his [subjects]. But we shall daily and heartily beseech God that he will give divine grace to each and all of us, that he may enlighten us with right, true knowledge, that he will give his Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth; through which we may come with unanimity to a just, true, life-attaining, saving Christian faith, through Christ, our only Mercy-seat, Mediator, Advocate and Saviour. Amen.
For according as discord is evident before our eyes, and through the opposition of parties it is known that it has sprung from that cause, also by the aforementioned opposition it has become established so that doctrines are contested among us in many articles touched upon in the imperial Edict, each and all may easily conclude, if we should agree with your Highness, princes and the rest in the belief comprised [in the Edict], as a result it would be enjoined on us that, against our own consciences, we ourselves should now condemn as unjust the doctrines that we have thus far held to be unquestionably Christian and still think to be such, as long as we agree that the imperial Edict against them shall have force.
Which then besides will be more clearly perceived from the appended clause to be a contradiction; which also reads: “And again, in the other states, in which the other doctrines arose, and in part might not be suppressed without noticeable disturbances, complaints and perils, yet henceforth all further innovations shall be prevented, so far as is humanly possible, until the coming Council,” etc. So then each and all might therefrom argue, if we had known through such an Edict that our Christian doctrine, belief and attitude were so erroneous, though they might be established without marked disturbance, complaints and perils, that it should seem reasonable for us at least implicitly to admit that we have articles in our faith either not well grounded, or else unnecessary. But the one (though we shall be otherwise instructed at the coming Council or in some other way by the holy, pure, divine, biblical Scripture) at the present time we do not at all know how to say or do. As to the other, if not only implicitly but openly we deny our Lord and Saviour Christ and his holy Word, which beyond all doubt we hold to be pure, clear, clean and right, and do not confess that he has redeemed us from sin, death, the devil and hell, it will give the Lord Christ ground also to deny us before his Heavenly Father, as he terribly threatens in the Gospel all who do not openly and freely confess before men him and his holy Word. Thus the true confession consists not in empty words alone, but in deed, as may be further proved without difficulty.
Every Christian gentleman can without difficulty think and understand to what damnable vexation and ruin such a course would lead, not only among our own Christian good-hearted subjects, but among those of the opposite party, if they heard that we had agreed with you that you should abide by the Edict and your subjects also bold thereto. So, though Almighty God should illumine anyone by the knowledge of his only saving Word, we should not dare to accept the same. As also some magistrates of your party might understand, by that to make excuse for their subjects, that had we made such an agreement with you, so therefore they must hold and do.
Should we also agree with you, that those who up to this time have stood by the Edict should henceforth abide by it until the coming Council, etc., we should acknowledge not only that the opinion of your party is right, but also that the Edict is still in existence. Nevertheless, it was suspended and annulled by the decree of the former Diet of Speyer; so that every State in the Empire, in such matters as concern the Edict, may live and rule for itself and its people as it hopes to answer for itself, first of all before God and his imperial Majesty. Therefore we cannot let ourselves be longer burdened with such an unmerited yoke of the Edict.
We have no doubt also, should this not be the will of his imperial Majesty, that we shall, as we hope and trust, give a true, sound answer for our doctrines, lives, governments, conduct and actions regarding such matters, before Almighty God and his imperial Majesty, as a Christian Emperor.
So with reference to the articles touching the masses, there is the same and much more trouble. For we have no doubt that you have heard how our ministers attacked and completely refuted the papal with holy, divine, invincible, constant Scripture; how also, on the other hand, they have justified the noble, precious Supper of our dear Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ (as the evangelical mass is called) according to the appointment and example of Christ, our only Master, and the usage of his holy Apostles. Should we now uphold or consent to such a resolution as has been arranged in the Committee concerning the Mass, it might again be understood as nothing else than that we helped to condemn the teaching of our ministers as erroneous in this particular, as well as in the preceding matter, which, however, through the bestowal of the grace of God, is not at all in our mind, and cannot take place with good conscience. Your Highness, princes, and the others, yes, each and every one, should likewise well consider that, if we be allowed to hold in our provinces different, opposing masses, even though the papal mass were not contrary to God and to his holy Word (which nevertheless may never more be maintained), still, such a state of things would bring about contention, tumult, revolt and every misfortune among people in general, and especially among those who have a proper zeal for the honor and name of God, and would not at all promote peace or unity.
But as to what the aforesaid papal masses mean, and how the report concerning the same must be understood, we have easily perceived that the said report is intended only for the places where the other doctrines arose, and not at all for your magistrates and districts. And therefore it not unreasonably surprises us that you propose that we and others adhering to this doctrine (that is, the clear, pure word of God) should set up a standard in behalf of our subjects and establish order and regulation in our cities, towns and provinces. This you would not be at all willing to suffer, as we think, if the conditions were reversed. And you should be much less opposed to this—that we and our subjects in our provinces unanimously make use of the Supper of Christ, as the evangelical mass, alone founded on divine Scripture, according to the institution of our Saviour, Jesus Christ—than that you should against your will be required to suppress in your states and towns the papal masses or any similar thing, that is contrary to the divine appointment and the usage of the holy Apostles, and is founded only on the fables and devices of men.
On that account and because the doctrine of our party has been established in our dominions with divine, invincible Scripture, directed against the papal masses in the aforementioned ways, and such an article is not the least that it will be necessary to treat in a Christian Council; (moreover, seeing that neither the Summons to this Diet, which is later in date than the aforementioned official letter and the Instruction, nor the Instruction as read, mention anything of this or other similar articles) we have therefore been not at all mistaken in holding fast to the same, in accordance with our hitherto oft-announced declaration and our Christian remonstrance.
Although it is plainly manifest what we permit to be preached in our dominions concerning the holy sacrament of the body and blood of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ; nevertheless, for manifold considerations and good Christian reasons, we hold it to be improper and unprofitable that such an ordinance in behalf of the doctrine (or against it) as the report contemplates, should be passed by this Diet, since his imperial Majesty’s Summons makes no mention of it, nor were those to whom these clauses apply either summoned or heard. And it will indeed be well to consider, if such an important article be undertaken independently of the Council, to what forbearance and injustice such a course might bring his imperial Majesty your royal highness, princes and other Estates of the Empire.
Likewise, as it was further set forth in the Committee’s report, that the minister should preach and teach the holy Gospel according to the interpretation of Scripture approved and received by the holy Christian Church,—that would pass very well if all parties were agreed as to what is the true, holy Christian Church. But so long as there is great contention about this, and there is no certain preaching of doctrine, then [we purpose] to abide by the word of God alone, since indeed according to the command of God nothing else shall be preached, and to make clear and explain one text of holy, divine Scripture by another, as indeed this same holy, divine Scripture, in all things needful for Christian men to know, will be found in itself clear and bright enough to illumine all darkness. Therefore we purpose, with the grace and help of God, to abide by it to the end, that only the word of God and the holy Gospel of the Old and New Testaments, as contained in the biblical books, shall be preached clearly and purely, and nothing that is against it. For with that, as the one truth and the correct rule of all Christian doctrine and life, no one can err or fail, and whoso builds on it and endures shall prevail against all the gates of hell. Nevertheless, on the other hand, all human additions and trifles shall fail, and cannot stand before God.
But that the aforementioned report is not conducive to the maintenance of peace and unity in the Empire pending the coming Council, but is directly opposed to it, is clearly to be perceived from this, that in the first clause it had been arranged that those who up to this time abide by the imperial Edict, now henceforth also shall and will so continue; and no distinction was made therein as to what and how far such obligation to the penalties of the said Edict should extend—for it cannot otherwise be understood in the ordinary meaning of the words.
As then, it already happens to some of our clergy from other magistrates, under color of said Edict—because they for the sake of their consciences, founded on the word of God, do not hold in conformity with the Edict—that they [these magistrates] have ventured, in spite of the decree of the former Diet of Speyer, to bring these our own subjects under the jurisdiction of other courts, and apart from and contrary to justice, forcibly to take and withhold their tithes, rent, interest, tribute, debt, inheritance and other things. And it is well to take heed, what other acts of a similar character might be undertaken under the same assumed pretext, and give reason for retaliation; which in any case would contribute little or nothing to the maintenance of peace and unity.—to say nothing of anyone of your party venturing, under pretext of the Edict and the ban and double-ban intended as the penalty of the same, to act violently against us or any of our party, and attempting to compel us to do that which is against God, his holy Word, our souls and good conscience.
But every one can well consider what a Christian magistrate will be bound to do in such a case, for the maintenance of God’s Word, and for the souls, bodies, lives and property of himself and his subjects, for freedom, defence and protection. Therefore it is always reasonable in such a case to stand fast by the article in the former decree of the Diet of Speyer; which, for the sake of peace and unity, as well as for other good Christian reasons, suspends and annuls the Edict [of Worms).
And from all of this, it will now be clearly enough perceived and openly proved, that the decree of the former Diet of Speyer was of more service to peace and unity than the report of the aforementioned article, as such decree was regarded by the electors, princes and all other Estates of the Empire. Yet, in spite of such a former, clear decree, wherein the imperial Edict is suspended, under the assumed pretext of the same, some have not scrupled forcibly to take and detain the property of our subjects. What then may we now expect from our opponents, or part of them at any rate, but ill-will, dispute, strife, and no peace, if the door of the Edict should again be opened to them, as the aforesaid report contemplates, and the former decree of Speyer be abandoned?
Likewise your royal Highness, princes and the others, if the aforementioned article becomes established, cannot maintain that through it the former decree of the imperial Diet is not annulled but only made clear. For it is plainly an entire annulment of the former article, and it could no longer be granted to all the Christian states of the Empire that they might conduct themselves in all cases according to the word of God and their right good consciences, as for such things they hope and trust to answer well before God and his imperial Majesty. And with no grounds may it be said that there are such words as shall permit every one, pending a Council, to do everything according to his own good pleasure and choice, as some say of it who doubtless do not think or know much of the just and severe judgment of God, to which such answer first of all belongs.
We desire also to say to every one who thinks to silence us, if the oftenmentioned imperial decree should be misused by us, we hereby fully submit ourselves to all deaths by which it commonly belongs to us to suffer justice and equity. And we likewise have no objection, if at any time one is apprehensive that the aforesaid article might be made a cover for a new, unchristian doctrine, that he should explain it—just as we with the permission of your Grace and the others, have set forth an impartial Christian explanation and given it to the Committee. But it should not, as your first draft contemplated, be entirely annulled in its true substance, but remain according to the letter, in honor and force.
And since we have in his Roman imperial Majesty, as a Christian Emperor and our most gracious Lord, entire, unfailing and comforting confidence, if the business were reported with good grounds to his imperial Majesty, his imperial Majesty would have permitted nothing to be set in motion in addition to what is contemplated in the Instruction, as well as his imperial Majesty’s Summons and official letter; since we know clearly enough nothing else can be found that could be treated in all ways so that peace and unity may be maintained in the Empire. Moreover, in all our aforementioned transactions with you, and in all our conduct, we have sought nothing except the honor of God before all things, as well as our soul’s salvation, Christian peace and unity. That we can and will testify before Almighty God, the sole Searcher and Knower of all hearts. On that account and if there had been the intention in respect to the aforesaid article, to abide in the proper way by the Instruction as read, there had been no necessity for the failure of the Committee, or for such deliberation and action; but you and your party have abandoned the submitted Instruction, as well as the Summons of his imperial Majesty.
After all, we expect from your royal Highness, princes, and others, as our dear and gracious uncles, cousins, friends and especially esteemed ones, as we also once more kindly request and humbly pray, that you become willing again to bring to mind the occasion of this action, and our complaint, and consider with diligence the ground and reason of the same, and allow yourselves to be moved by nothing against the former decree, unanimously concluded, pledged, written and sealed; and not act as nobody has justice, power and right to do, for reasons mentioned and others well-founded, which it is best now not to repeat.
And if this third announcement of our evident grievances shall not be allowed by your imperial Highness, princes and others, then we herewith PROTEST and testify openly before God, our sole Creator, Preserver, Redeemer and Saviour (who, as we mentioned before, alone searches and knows all hearts, and therefore will judge justly) likewise before all men and creatures, that we for ourselves, our subjects and in behalf of all, each and every one, consider null and void the entire transaction and the intended decree, which in the aforementioned or in other cases, is undertaken, agreed and passed, against God, his holy word, all our soul’s salvation and good conscience, likewise against the formerly announced decree of the Diet of Speyer—[and we protest] not secretly, nor willingly, but for reasons above stated and others good and wellfounded. This protest we are compelled to issue and to make a more thorough and true report to his imperial Majesty, our gracious Lord. To the same effect yesterday, with reference to the rendered, intended decree, we thereupon through our Protest (made in haste, which we also herewith repeat) let our mind be plainly known; and besides we offered nevertheless, until the aforementioned general and free Christian Council or national assembly, by divine help and in conformity with the contents of the aforesaid decree of the former Diet of Speyer, in our jurisdictions, and among and with our subjects and kindred, that we will so hold, live and rule as we hope and trust to answer for ourselves before Almighty God and his Roman imperial Majesty, as a Christian Emperor. Whatever also concerns the rent, interest, revenue, and peace of the clergy, we in that also will maintain and prove ourselves to be incorruptible. And likewise, in respect to the subsequent articles, concerning anabaptism * and printing, as we completely agreed in the Diet, we desire to be in accord with his imperial Highness, the princes, and the others; also we consider the contents of the same articles to be in every respect proper.1 We also bind ourselves to extend further our aforesaid complaints and Protest, and whatever besides our further necessity demands with regard to everything. And above all we desire, unquestionably expect and are satisfied that his Roman imperial Majesty will graciously hold and manifest himself toward us as a gracious Christian Emperor, loving God above all things, and our gracious Lord, in consideration of our Christian, honorable, honest and immutable minds and due obedience. Wherein we hereupon may also render friendly and voluntary service and may show kind and gracious inclinations to your royal Highness, princes, and the others, as our dear and gracious uncles, cousins, friends and especially esteemed ones. That we are willing and inclined to do out of friendship, also from voluntary obedience, goodwill and Christian love and duty.
Done at Speyer on the twentieth day of April, and in the 1529th year after the birth of Christ, our dear Lord and Saviour.
(Signed) John, Duke of Saxony, Elector. George, Margrave of Brandenburg. Ernest, Duke of Luneberg. Philip, Landgrave of Hesse. Wolf [gang], Prince of Anhalt.
1 »The article against the Anabaptists, which the Protest approves as “in every respect proper,” was: “All Anabaptists and rebaptized persons, male or female, of mature age, shall be judged and brought from natural life to death, by fire or sword or otherwise, as may befit the persons, without preceding trial by spiritual judges. . . . Such persons as of themselves, or after instruction, at once confess their error, and are willing to undergo penances and chastisement therefor, and pray for clemency—these may be pardoned by their government, as may befit their standing, conduct, youth and general circumstances. We will also that all of their children, according to Christian order, usage and rite, shall be baptized in their youth. Whoever shall despise this, and will not do it, shall, if he persists in that course, be held to be an Anabaptist, and shall be subjected to our above-named ordinance.”