In the year 1502, Frederick the Elector founded a new university at Wittenberg. He declared in the charter confirming the privileges of this school that he and his people would look to it as to an oracle. In the providence of God, Augustine was to be the patron of the university and Martin Luther, being an Augustinian monk, was given the position of lecturer on the Bible.
“He began his course by explaining the Psalms, and thence passed to the epistle to the Romans. It was more particularly while meditating on this portion of Scripture that the light of truth penetrated his heart. In the retirement of his quiet cell, he used to consecrate whole hours to the study of the divine Word, this epistle of St. Paul opening before him. On one occasion having reached the seventeenth verse of the first chapter, he read this passage from the prophet Habakkuk, 'The just shall live by faith.' This precept struck him,
‘There is then for the just a life different from that of other men, and this life is the gift of faith.’
This promise, which he received into his heart as if God Himself had placed it there, unveiled to him the mystery of the Christian life and increased this life in him. Years after, in the midst of his numerous occupations, he imagined he still heard these words: “The just shall live by faith.
Luther’s lectures thus prepared had little similarity to what had been heard till then. It was not an eloquent rhetorician or a pedantic schoolman that spoke, but a Christian who had felt the power of revealed truths, who drew them forth from the Bible, poured them out from the treasures of his heart, and presented them all full of life to his astonished hearers. It was not the teaching of a man, but of God.
In the middle of the square at Wittenberg stood an ancient chapel, thirty feet long and twenty wide, whose walls, propped up on all sides, were falling into ruin. An old pulpit, made of planks and three feet high, received the preacher. It was in this wretched place that the preaching of the Reformation began.
‘This building,’ adds Myconius, one of Luther’s contemporaries, who recorded these circumstances, ‘may well be compared to the stable in which Christ was born.’
It was in this wretched enclosure that God willed, so to speak, that His well-beloved Son should be born a second time. Among those thousands of cathedrals and parish churches with which the world is filled, there was not one at that time which God chose for the glorious preaching of eternal life.
Luther preached: everything was striking in the new minister. His expressive countenance, his noble air, his clear and sonorous voice, captivated all his hearers. Before his time, the majority of preachers had sought rather what might amuse their congregations than what would convert them. The great seriousness that pervaded all Luther’s sermons, and the joy with which the knowledge of the gospel filled his heart, imparted to his eloquence an authority, a warmth, and an unction that his predecessors had not possessed. Soon the little chapel could not hold the hearers who crowded to it.”
Jean Henri Merle D’Aubigne The Triumph of Truth pgs. 30 -32. BJU Press