Melanchthon finished the Confession May 11 and sent it to the elector John, who sent it to Luther in Coburg. Luther was not allowed to be in Augsburg. Luther made no changes, but sent it on to all the Protestant states. They unanimously asked that it be presented at the diet in the name of them all.
Melanchthon Calls for a General Council
Melanchthon included in the Confession an appeal to a general council instead of having the emperor pass judgment on religious questions. He pointed out that Moses had assigned the Levites, the priests, as judges. He also quoted from 1 Corinthians 14:29, showing that Paul required a Christian council to decide on spiritual questions in the church. “We pledge, therefore,” said Melancthon, “our obedience to the emperor in all civil matters; but as for the Word of God, we demand liberty.”[i]
Elector John Confesses Christ
On Thursday, June 23, the Protestant princes and theologians met at the elector’s and listened as the Confession was read in German. The elector was going to sign the document but Melanchthon objected, arguing that the theologians should sign and present the document to the emperor. But John insisted on signing, saying, “I desire to confess the Lord. My electoral hat and my ermine are not so precious to me as the cross of Jesus Christ.” After the elector signed, the other Protestant princes and 12 theologians added their signatures.
The Emperor’s Tactics
The emperor had set Friday, June 24th as the day for the Protestants to present the Confession to the Diet. But the emperor and the Roman Church did not want the Confession to be read publicly. They tried to stall the reading.
The diet did not begin until 3 o’clock on Friday afternoon. Rather than beginning the important business of the council immediately, the arrival of the pope’s ambassador, Cardinal Campeggio, was announced and the emperor went out to meet him. Campeggio was given King Ferdinand’s place in a seat in front of the emperor. From there, he delivered a verbal attack against the Protestants and their teachings. He implored the emperor to “get rid of these errors, deliver Germany, and save Christendom.”
The cardinal finished his speech and left the room. The Protestants stood up to request a turn to speak. Instead, the emperor allowed others to speak about other business. Some time later the Protestant Chancellor Bruck stood up and said, “We beg His Majesty will have the goodness to hear what are the doctrines we profess.”
The emperor said it was too late in the day and that reading the Confession would be useless anyway. He told the Protestants to put the Confession in writing. The Protestants felt sure that if they were to hand the written Confession to the emperor, he would just toss it aside. They wanted to make their beliefs known publicly to show how reasonable they were and to show that they were not being treated fairly by the Roman Church or the emperor. The Protestants felt sure that if their Confession of beliefs was made known publicly that reasonable people would stop believing the lies going around that said Protestants were lawless disturbers of the peace.
When the emperor said he didn’t have time to hear the Confession and that the Protestants should just give him a copy, the Protestants objected saying that since they were publicly accused of wrong-doing, they should be given an opportunity to answer the accusations publicly.
King Ferdinand whispered something to Charles. Emperor Charles again told the Protestants he would not hear them.
Elector John cried out, “For the love of God, let us read our Confession!” and he promised that the Protestants had not insulted anyone in it.
Finally, Charles told the Protestants that he would hear their Confession. He told them to give it to him in writing that night and then come to his palace the next day. This was not what the Protestants wanted to hear. They did not want to present their beliefs in the emperor’s private room. They wanted to read their Confession publicly in the town hall where the diet meetings were being held.
The Protestants refused to hand the document over, saying they needed time to revise it before presenting it the next day.
[i] History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, 907.