Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Frederick the Wise, Christian Ruler

Commemoration of Frederick the Wise, Christian Ruler
May 5, 2010

The Lord be with you

Frederick the Wise, elector of Saxony from 1486 to 1525, was Martin Luther’s sovereign in the early years of the Reformation. Were it not for Frederick, there might not have been a Lutheran Reformation. Born in Torgau, Germany, in 1463, Frederick became so well known for his skill in political diplomacy and his sense of justice and fairness that he was called “the Wise” by his subjects. Although he never met Luther, Frederick repeatedly protected and provided for him. In all likelihood, he saved the reformer from a martyr’s fate when he refused the pope’s demand to extradite Luther to Rome for a heresy trial in 1518. When Emperor Charles V declared Luther an outlaw in 1521 at the Diet of Worms, Frederick provided sanctuary for Luther at Wartburg Castle. On his deathbed, Frederick received the Lord’s Supper in both kinds—a clear confession of the evangelical faith.

Because Frederick never met Luther, and because he was so good at political maneuvering, some might think that Frederick’s protection of Luther was just another political maneuver. Nothing could be further from the truth. What follows is a handwritten letter from Frederick the Wise to his brother, Duke John, dated August 25, 1520. In it you will see that Frederick was “wise,” not only politically but also in reference to trusting in Christ.
    High-born Prince, kind, dear brother and kinsman. Herewith I send you a book written by Dr. Martin Luther, in which you will find many wonderful things. God Almighty grant that it turn out well, for truly things are coming to light which many people conceal; may God Almighty vouchsafe to us poor sinners that we be improved and not made worse thereby. I would not keep this from you, since you asked me to send you whatever Dr. Luther writes, and I am always willing to serve you. I am glad the books I sent pleased you and my [nephew]. Please tell the dear boy [Johann Frederick] that I am informed that the cardinals and Romanists with their followers are taking counsel against Dr. Luther to put him under the ban of the empire and persecute him to the uttermost. But there are many other people who wish him well. God grant graciously that it bed for our good.
(Treasury of Daily Prayer, CPH, page 1294, slightly altered)

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickdert

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