IN the year 1502, Frederic, Elector of Saxony, founded at Wittenberg, Germany, the celebrated university in, which the Reformation may be said to have been born. The universities of that day were usually connected with some of the various monastic orders, and the monks were the instructors of the students who resorted to them. Frederic had selected St. Augustine as the patron saint of this new Wittenberg school, and it was there- fore under the care of the Augustinian brotherhood.

Luther, the man destined to be the father of the Reformation, who, in the midst of his university course at Erfurt, had suddenly decided to leave all and enter the Augustinian monastery, was now one of the most devoted of the brotherhood. He had, however, never given up the studious habits acquired at the university, and during the three years spent in the dreamy quiet of the cloister, had made rapid progress in his study of divinity as well as of the Greek and Hebrew languages. Thus by his studious and consistent course he won the universal esteem of the brotherhood. Accordingly, in 1508, the quiet monk was, much to his surprise, called to leave Erfurt and go to Wittenberg to accept a professorship in the new university. In 1509, he was, at his own choice, elected to the chair of Biblical theology. This he filled with honor to himself and the university. Of his steady growth in learning, eloquence, and power, as well as in the respect and esteem of the people, space forbids more than a mere mention.

In 1512 Luther, then but twenty-nine years old, was made doctor of divinity. The words of the oath, which he was at that time required to take, 

"I swear vigorously to defend evangelical truth," became the watchword of his life. This he determined to do, though it be at the cost of life itself. 

Crowds flocked to hear his lectures and sermons (he now frequently preached in the city church); for there was something in his broad, whole-SOULED doctrines different from the senseless mummery of the priests, to which the people had so long been bound. But we cannot follow the Reformation step by step. A few years sufficed to make Luther the great man of Wittenberg, and a few more, of Germany itself.

The university grew in favor and popularity, and Wittenberg was fast becoming the center of learning and scholarship as well as of religious interest, in Germany. Little by little Luther had been letting go of the darkness of papal error; and as fast as he saw the new light, he did not hesitate to give it to the common people as well as to the university students. By thus exposing the corruption of the Romish Church he of course roused the anger of the pope and his cardinals; and time after time was the brave man summoned to answer before kings and prelates for the truths, which he so boldly proclaimed. Again and again was he entreated and commanded to recant, and threatened with imprisonment, banishment, excommunication, and even death, if he did not do so; but he swerved not from his principles. Many times both he and his friends felt that he was surely going to death, but through it all he walked unharmed, even as did the Hebrews in the midst of the fiery furnace; and by his eloquence and power silenced emperors and cardinals. The character and purpose of his life are well expressed in his words when called to answer before the emperor, "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise; God help me. Amen!"

At last, in 1520, the pope, Leo X, issued against Luther the bull of excommunication so long threatened, which was a decree shutting him off from all the rights and privileges of the Church, and venting against him the extreme wrath and abhorrence of the pope as the head of that Church. 

Copies of the documents were posted in the towns and by the roadsides. Luther received it all very calmly, for he had long lost all confidence in the Romish Church; and in this he had the sympathies of the larger part of the common people of Germany, as well as of many of the students and university men.

Notwithstanding the sacredness which had always been attached to the papal bull by the adherents of the Romish Church, Luther boldly declared his intention of burning this document; and, finally, on the morning of the 10th of December, 1520, in one of the market-places of Wittenberg, occurred the scene represented in our picture, such a bonfire as is kindled but once in centuries. Crowds of people gathered to witness the strange spectacle, men, women, and children from the town; and students, professors, and learned doctors from the university. A master of arts of some reputation lighted the pile of fagots, and then threw on it the decretals and other false epistles of the Romish Church, which for centuries had propped up the edifice of lies. 

And when the flames which consumed them had passed away, Dr. Luther himself, stepping forward, solemnly laid the pope's bull of excommunication on the fire, saying amidst the breathless silence: "As thou hast troubled the Lord's saints, may the eternal fire destroy thee." Not a word broke the silence until the crackle and gleam of those symbolical flames had ceased, and then gravely but joyfully the crowd returned to their homes. 

Yet the light of that fire went not out with the dying embers, but has shone on and on, and still shines, growing brighter and brighter with each succeeding century. 

E. B.