At Spires in 1529, King Ferdinand had announced that the resolution passed at the Diet of Spires 1526, granting religious liberty to the German states, was to be rejected and that the decision of the Diet of Worms, condemning the Reformation, was to be enforced. The Reformation princes rejected Ferdinand’s high-handed actions and they decided to do something official about it.
The Reformation princes, including the powerful John Elector of Saxony, appeared at the council in Spires April 19, 1529 with their message.
“Dear Lords, Cousins, Uncles, and Friends,” is how they addressed the diet. And then they laid out their grievances. They reminded the council that Ferdinand, in cancelling the decree of the Diet of Spires 1526, was now breaking the promise he’d made when he signed the resolution allowing religious liberty in the German states.
The Reformation princes said they could not accept the annulment of the Diet of Spires 1526, nor accept the commission’s proposal restricting religious liberty for the following reasons:
- King Ferdinand had no right to repeal the decision of the council which he had guaranteed, by signing his name to the document, to maintain.
- Each person must obey God and give Him an account of their decisions, regardless of what the majority voted. To accept the annulment of the resolution of 1526, to restrict religious liberty, would be to deny Christ and reject His holy Word.
- Before accepting the commission’s new proposal to preach the Word of God, explaining it according to the accepted teachings of the “Christian Church” they would first have to agree on a definition of what the “Christian Church” is. And, because the Bible contains God’s Word, they would continue to preach from it, without adding anything to it.
Regarding the Bible, the reform princes stated that:
- True doctrines are those that conform to the Word of God;
- The Lord forbids the teaching of any other doctrine;
- The Bible explains itself; each text should be explained by other clearer texts;
- The Bible is necessary for all Christians and is easy to understand, and calculated to scatter darkness;
- The Bible is the only truth;
- It is the sure rule of all doctrine and of life;
- It can never fail or deceive;
- Those who build upon this foundation shall stand against all the powers of hell, while all the human vanities that are set up against it shall fall before the face of God.
The Reformation princes appealed to the council to accept their request to maintain the resolutions of the Diet of Spires 1526 until a general council was called. Then they added, “If you do not yield to our request, we protest by these presents, before God, our only Creator, Preserver, Redeemer, and Saviour, and who will one day be our judge, as well as before all men and all creatures, that we, for us and our people, neither consent nor adhere in any manner whatsoever to the proposed decree, an any thing that is contrary to God, to His holy Word, to our right conscience, to the salvation of our souls, and to the last decree[i] of Spires.”
A deputation delivered the protest to Ferdinand who accepted it, then pushed it back for the deputies to take. The deputies took it, but then placed the document on a table before leaving.
The protest was published in Germany May 5. It is this document that has given the name “Protestant” to evangelicals, or Christians who follow the Bible’s teachings, to this day.
[i] As quoted in History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, 865.