Martin Luther's Contribution to
the Failure of the Protestant Reformation
the Protestant Reformation Failed!
"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast
rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to
me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy
children." (Hosea 4:6).
"… here are they keep the commandments of God,
and have the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12).
It seems that most mainstream Christians cannot fully grasp the tremendously
important role God's Holy Sabbath has played in church history. For instance,
what part did the Sabbath play in the Reformation? The reformers paid a
terrible price for their rejection of the seventh day Sabbath and for their
refusal to accept it as an article of revolt against the Catholic Church.
They flatly rejected the Sabbath rest of the Scriptures. They claimed to
follow the written word only (the Bible as we now call it), and to refuse the
traditions of the Church. (Sunday is a tradition of the Roman Church that has
not one text word of divine authority).
Martin Luther was not the staunch advocate of truth that many
suppose. He is highly praised for claiming to follow the Scriptures only. He
stated that he was discarding all tradition. He and the reformers (so-called)
were challenged at the termination of the Council of Trent by the Archbishop
of Reggio. He said all their claims of discarding tradition were false as
long as they retained Sunday. This rejection of the Seventh day Sabbath was
also a tradition instituted by the Catholic Church. This change in the day of
worship is nowhere to be found in the Scriptures.
Truth Presented, But Rejected by Luther
Almost unknown to most Christian literature is the name of Andreas Rudolph B.
Carlstadt, the great apostle of the seventh day Sabbath. He was born in
Carlstadt, Bavaris, in 1480 and died in Basel,
Switzerland, on December 25, 1541, at the age of 61 years. Carlstadt was a
personal friend and co-worker with Martin Luther but strenuously opposed him
on the Sabbath issue. Carlstadt observed the seventh day Sabbath and taught
its observance. D'Aubigne
says that Luther himself admitted that Carlstadt was his superior in learning
(Fifield's History, Reference book ten, page
The rejection of the Sabbath at the Council of Trent at once
crippled the advance of the Reformation. Protestants and Protestant reformers
will be held responsible on Judgment Day for their unfaithfulness at a time
when the entire Roman Church pivoted toward discarding all tradition.
At this point let us refer to the eminent Doctor Dowling. In his
History of Romanism, book two, chapter one, he says: "The Bible, and the Bible only, is the religion of
Protestants." It is, further, of no ". . .account
in the estimation of a genuine Protestant how early a doctrine originated if
it is not found in the Bible. . ." Hence if a doctrine be propounded for
his acceptance, he asks, "Is it found in the inspired word? Was it
taught by the Lord Jesus Christ or His apostles?" It did not matter to
him whether it had been discovered in the musty folio of some ancient
visionary of the third or fourth century or whether it emerged from the
fertile brain of some modern
visionary of the nineteenth. If it was not found in the sacred
Scriptures it presented no valid claim to be received as an article of his
religious creed. He who receives a single doctrine from the mere authority of
tradition, by so doing steps down from the Protestant Rock, passes over the
line that separates Protestantism from Popery and give no reason why he
should not receive all the earlier doctrines and ceremonies of Romanism.
Again, the Italian historian Gavassi says. "A
pagan flood flowing into the church, carried with it its customs, practices
and idols" (Gavassi's Lectures, page 290).
To quote another authority, Dr. White, Bishop of Ely: "the
observance of the seventh day was being revived in Luther's time by
Carlstadt" (Treatise of the Sabbath, page 8). And from Sears Life of Luther, page 402:
"Carlstadt held to the Divine authority of the Sabbath from the Old
Indeed Luther says (in his book Against the Celestial
Prophets): "Indeed, if Carlstadt were to write further about the
Sabbath, Sunday would have to give way, and Sabbaththat
is to say, Saturdaymust be kept holy."
Carlstadt said: "In regard to the ceremonies of the Church all are to be
rejected which have not a warrant in the Bible."
Luther asserted on the contrary, "Whatever is not against the
Scripture is for it."
"Not so," said Carlstadt. "We are bound to the Bible, and no
one may decide after the thoughts of his own heart" (Sears' Life of Luther, pages 401, 402).
"It cannot be denied that in many respects Carlstadt was in advance of
Luther, and doubtless the Reformation owes him much good for which he has not
the credit" (McClintok and Strong's Cyclopedia,
Volume 2, page 123). References in the following paragraph are taken
from, History of the Sabbath by
Andrews. See third edition, 1887:
"From the Catholic (Roman) teaching of justification by works of
penance, etc., Luther went to the opposite extreme of justification without
works. This idea caused him to deny that the Epistle of James was inspired,
because James said, `Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.' This attitude made Luther spurn the true Christian
Read what Draper says: "Toward the close of Luther's life it
seemed as if there were no other prospects for papal power than total ruin.
Yet at this date, 1930, out of three hundred millions of Christians, more
than half owe allegiance to Rome (1967: Moslems 500 million, Roman Catholics
550 Million, at least). Almost as by enchantment the Reformation ceased to
advance. Rome was not only able to check its spread but even to gain back a
portion of what she had lost" (Intellectual
Development, Volume 2, page 216).
Victory Almost Won, But Lost, Why?
Now in dealing with the Council of Trent (held in northeast Italy, and
lasting from 1545 to 1563 A. D.), we must quote another well-versed writer,
G.E. Fifield, D.D., in his incomparable tract, Origin of Sunday as a Christian (?)
Festival (Published by American Sabbath Tract Society, Seventh Day Baptist
Church). To quote Dr. Fifield: "At the
council of Trent, called by the Roman Church to deal with questions arising
out of the reformation, it was at first an apparent possibility that the
Council would declare in favor of
the reformed doctrines instead of against them, so profound was the
impression made thus far by the teachings of Luther and other
The Pope's legate actually wrote to him that there was "strong
tendency to set aside tradition altogether, and to make the
Scriptures the sole standard of appeal." The question was debated day by
day, until it was fairly brought to a standstill. Finally the Archbishop of
Reggio turned the Council against the Reformation by the following argument:
"The Protestants claim to stand upon the written word only: they profess
to hold the Scriptures alone as the standard of faith. They justify their
revolt by the plea that the Church has apostatized from the written word and
follows tradition. Now the Protestant's claim that they stand upon the
written word alone is not true."
Luther's Claim Was Not True
"Their profession of holding the Scriptures alone as the standard of
faith is false. Proof: The written word explicitly enjoins the observance of
the seventh day as the Sabbath. They do not observe the seventh day, but
reject it. If they truly hold the Scriptures alone as the standard, they
would be observing the seventh day as it is enjoined in the Scripture
throughout. Yet they not only reject the observance of the Sabbath as
enjoined in the written word, but they have adopted, and do practice, the
observance of Sunday, for which they have only the tradition of the
"Consequently, the claim of Scripture alone as the standard fails and
the doctrine of `Scripture and tradition as essential' is
fully established., the Protestants themselves being
judges. "See the Proceedings of the Council of Trent, Augsburg
confession, and Encyclopedia Britannica, article
"Trent, Council of." At this argument, the party that had stood for
the Scripture alone surrendered, and the Council at once unanimously
condemned Protestantism, and the whole Reformation. It at once proceeded to
enact stringent decrees to arrest its progress.
of the Reformation
Now what were the results of the Reformation? Let us hear what Myers says:
"The outcome of the revolt, very broadly stated, was the separation from
the Roman Catholic Church of the Northern, or Teutonic nations, that is to
say, of Northern Germany, parts of Switzerland and the Netherlands, and of
Denmark, Norway, Sweden, England and Scotland. The Romance Nations, namely,
Italy, France and Spain, together with Celtic Ireland, adhered to the old
Church." Of the spiritual results of the revolt the same writer says:
spiritual or religious point of view, this severance of the Northern nations
of the bonds that formerly united them to the ecclesiastic empire of Rome
meant a transfer of their allegiance. . ." And he finally sums up:
"Thus one half of Western Christendom was lost to the Roman
From this we see that the Roman Church, attacked by the Reformers, had at one
time faced utter defeat. But she recovered! The reformers had dealt a death
blow to the Papacy. Unfortunately, the reformers themselves bound up the
wound by clinging to Sunday, Rome's day, and to other Papal traditions. They
rejected the Sabbath of the Scriptures. --By Frank M. Walker, Compiled from
a tract by Raymond Clark, DD.
"Come out of her, My people. . ." (Revelation 18:4-8)
God is giving a last solemn warning today to come out of those same
traditions that most early Protestant leaders carried over from the Roman
Catholic Church. The attempted change of the Sabbath command (Exodus
20:18-11) is only part of the list. Tradition is vain worship. See Mark
7:6-13. Our eternal destiny is at stake in our decisions, friends.
Comment by Ron: God takes His people where
they are and works with them. None but the 144,000 will overcome all sin.
Luther will not be among the 144,000, but he will be saved. He was not tested
on the Sabbath question. He had enough on his plate!