The Protest of the Princes at Spires
In 1526, the Diet (legislative assembly) of Spires granted each state full liberty in matters of religion; however, this freedom was not to be long enjoyed. In 1529, Emperor Charles V called another Diet. At this Diet, the emperor was committed to retract the religious freedom extended to the German states and restore the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.
Those princes who sided with the Reformation banded together and presented a united Protest, which stated, in part:
“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 for our people, neither consent nor adhere in any manner whatsoever to the proposed decree, in anything that is contrary to God, to His holy word, to our right conscience, to the salvation of our souls.” . . .
“This Holy Book is, in all things necessary for the Christian, easy of understanding, and calculated to scatter the darkness. We are resolved, with the grace of God, to maintain the pure and exclusive preaching of His only word, such as it is contained in the biblical books of the Old and New Testaments, without adding anything thereto that may be contrary to it.” . . .
“For this reason we reject the yoke that is imposed on us.”
The Great Controversy, pp. 202-203
Commenting on this protest of the princes, historian James A. Wylie writes,
“The principles contained in this celebrated Protest . . . constitute the very essence of Protestantism. Now this Protest opposes two abuses of man in matters of faith: the first is the intrusion of the civil magistrate, and the second the arbitrary authority of the church. Instead of these abuses, Protestantism sets the power of conscience above the magistrate, and the authority of the word of God above the visible church. In the first place, it rejects the civil power in divine things, and says with the prophets and apostles, ‘We must obey God rather than man.’ In presence of the crown of Charles the Fifth, it uplifts the crown of Jesus Christ. But it goes farther: it lays down the principle that all human teaching should be subordinate to the oracles of God.”—J.A. Wylie, The History of Protestantism, bk. 13, ch. 6. The protesters had moreover affirmed their right to utter freely their convictions of truth. They would not only believe and obey, but teach what the word of God presents, and they denied the right of priest or magistrate to interfere. The Protest of Spires was a solemn witness against religious intolerance, and an assertion of the right of all men to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences.
The Great Controversy, pp. 203-204
About a year later, in 1530, another protest, written by Philip Melanchthon on behalf of the German princes, was presented to His Imperial Majesty Charles V at the Diet of Augsburg, and this protest is now known as the “Augsburg Confession.”
What can we learn from the example that was set by these men of true character?
The experience of these noble Reformers contains a lesson for all succeeding ages. Satan’s manner of working against God and His word has not changed; he is still as much opposed to the Scriptures being made the guide of life as in the sixteenth century. In our time there is a wide departure from their doctrines and precepts, and there is need of a return to the great Protestant principle—the Bible, and the Bible only, as the rule of faith and duty. Satan is still working through every means which he can control to destroy religious liberty. The antichristian power which the protesters of Spires rejected is now with renewed vigor seeking to re-establish its lost supremacy. The same unswerving adherence to the word of God manifested at that crisis of the Reformation is the only hope of reform today.
The Great Controversy, pp. 204-205
Note this principle of Protestantism—that the Scriptures are the rule of the Christian faith. It was this principle that compelled men of various countries of Europe to sacrifice their lives to give others the opportunity to be set free from the shackles of superstition, error, and tradition.
As you read The Great Controversy for yourself, you will read of many other Protestant reformers not mentioned in this short overview—men such as Zwingli in Switzerland, Lefevre and Calvin in France, Columba and John Knox in Scotland, Tyndale, Latimer, and the Wesleys in England, Menno Simons in The Netherlands, Tausen in Denmark, and the Waldenses in Italy.
Of Olaf Petri in Sweden Mrs. White writes:
In the presence of the monarch and the leading men of Sweden, Olaf Petri with great ability defended the doctrines of the reformed faith against the Romish champions. He declared that the teachings of the Fathers are to be received only when in accordance with the Scriptures; that the essential doctrines of the faith are presented in the Bible in a clear and simple manner, so that all men may understand them. Christ said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me” (John 7:16); and Paul declared that should he preach any other gospel than that which he had received, he would be accursed (Galatians 1:8). “How, then,” said the Reformer, “shall others presume to enact dogmas at their pleasure, and impose them as things necessary to salvation?”—Wylie, b. 10, ch. 4. He showed that the decrees of the church are of no authority when in opposition to the commands of God, and maintained the great Protestant principle that “the Bible and the Bible only” is the rule of faith and practice.
The Great Controversy, p. 243
In a few pages, we have given an overview of Ellen White’s record of the principles on which the Protestant Reformation was founded. One might expect that the churches that grew out of the Reformation built on and promoted those same principles. Sadly, their history (and prophetic future) looks more like a descent into apostasy.
All Scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version, including those originally quoted by Ellen White from the King James Version.—Editors