Obrazy na stronie

as his safe conduct should terminate. Frederic, again, anxious for his safety, ordered him to be privately conveyed to the castle of Wirtenberg, where, for ten months, he remained in perfect security from the brutal ferocity of his adversaries.

During Luther's concealment, Carlostadt particularly distinguished himself in accelerating the progress of the Reformation. Having observed, with peculiar satisfaction, the alacrity with which those doctrines had been received, as well as the rapidity of their dissemination, he proceeded directly to the abolition of the mass; the prohibition of worship paid to images; and the suppression of other practical corruptions of the Romish church. But he, and his associates, probably, acted rather inconsiderately, as mankind were not sufficiently prepared for such precipitate alterations. Luther, himself, severely reprehended their procedure: but his animadversions are supposed to have originated principally from envy, lest Carlostadt should supplant him in the accomplishment of that laudable enterprise, in which he had been engaged. Be this, however, as it may, he immediately evacuated the castle of Wirtenberg, firmly resolved to propagate his religious opinions, or lay down his life for the word of God, and the testimony which he held.

The Reformation now advanced under combination of circumstances peculiarly auspicious. The emperor, although decidedly hostile to all innovations in the established religion, having been involved in wars with the king of France, and afterwards with the pope, judged it inexpedient to adopt any coercive measures for its prevention. But, from the commencement of the fourteenth century, the liberal arts had been so successfully cultivated, that literature, during the pontificate of Leo X., was little inferior to that under the second Cæsar. And, in proportion as learning and knowledge increased, so in equal proportion did ignorance, credulity, and superstition, decrease. History, languages, and criticism, all contributed to dispel the darkness in which the human mind had been enveloped, and exhibit, to public view, the abominable fallacies which had been imposed upon them. 6 So much indeed were the sentiments of many of the laity changed, that," as a judicious writer well observes," the spiritual denunciations and curses, (when unaided by the secular arm) which would have made their forefathers tremble, served only to make them smile."*

Meantime Luther's translation of the scriptures circulated through Germany with incredible celerity. The extensive diffusion of literature had aroused men from their lethargy, and prompted them to a serious examination of those inestimable treasures, which, by the invention of printing, were become

Campbell's Lectures on Ecclesiastical History, p. 380.

universally accessible. By this means, that general dissatisfaction which had prevailed against the Romish hierarchy rapidly increased. The Saxons, with the approbation of Frederic, annulled the performance of religious service in an unknown tongue; prohibited the invocation of saints and angels; abolished the canon which enforced celibacy upon the clergy; and suppressed the monasteries, as nurseries of sloth, impurity, and superstition.

But these approximations to the standard of primitive simplicity, excited the vengeance and indignation of all the partisans of Rome. Among these, the unprincipled and tyrannical king of England (Henry VIII.) rendered himself particularly remarkable. He rigorously exercised the punishment by fire, that horrible expedient for extirpating the doctrines of the Reformation, which had been extensively promulgated through that country. And, in order to manifest more conspicuously his superlative attachment to the Catholic faith, he published a work, which is said to have been executed with considerable ingenuity, in opposition to the Lutheran tenets; accompanied with a defence of the Romish communion. This royal production, having been presented to his holiness, was received with such unbounded applause, that he conferred upon Henry the title of Defender of the Faith!

These events were immediately succeeded by Luther's severe reply to the king of England; the death of Leo X.; an the accession of cardinal Adrian of Utrecht to the papacy, under the appellation of Adrian VI.

While our venerable reformers were thus earnestly contending for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints, a controversy unhappily arose among themselves, concerning the eucharist, which greatly retarded the progress of the Reformation. Carlostadt maintained, that the sacramental elements were only signs or symbols of the body and blood of Christ. In this scriptural position, Zuinglius, and Oecolampadius concurred. Luther, who was supported by Melancthon, admitted that the elements remained unchanged, but contended that the body and blood of Christ were actually present, in, with, and under the elements of bread and wine; and were, therefore, literally eaten and drunk by the communicants. Hence it was denominated consubstantiation. This extraordinary hypothesis, totally unworthy of those excellent reformers, was replete with the grossest inconsistencies. It implied the ubiquity, or omnipresence, of the body and human nature of Christ, than which nothing could be more absurd. But even admitting this assumption, it annihilated the eucharist: inasmuch as the body and blood of Christ would accompany, or be present in, with, and under every species of nutriment we daily receive, as well

as the sacramental elements. The Catholics, in defending transubstantiation, or that the elements of bread and wine, after consecration, were transmuted into the body and blood of Christ, had recourse to the literal expression, “this is my body," as a plausible subterfuge; but, on the Lutheran hypothesis, the text can neither be taken according to the literal acceptation, nor according to any rhetorical figure with which we are acquainted.

Meanwhile a diet assembled at Spire, for the purpose of composing the religious controversies which prevailed through Germany. But such was the discrepancy of opinion among the disputants, that it was found impracticable to effect a coalition. The result of their deliberations, therefore, was that every prince should regulate ecclesiastical matters within his own jurisdiction, until a general council should assemble to decide upon the points in dispute.

In connexion with this auspicious event, the cardinal of Medicis, immediately after his elevation to the papal chair, under the name of Clement VII., entered into a formidable alliance against the emperor, to which was given the name of The Holy League. In consequence of which, the Imperialists, under the command of the duke of Bourbon, advanced directly to Rome, plundered the city, and took the pope prisoner, who had fled to the castle of St. Angelo.

Political affairs had hitherto prevented Charles from endeavouring to arrest the progress of the Reformation. But no sooner were preliminaries for pacification adjusted with his holiness, than he appointed a second diet to be held at Spire, being fully resolved to extirpate all diversity of opinion in matters of religion. After violent debate, he caused the decree which had been published against Luther at Worms to be confirmed ; annulled the resolutions which had been unanimously adopted at the preceding diet; and prohibited, under pain of his imperial displeasure, all innovations in the established religion, until they should be sanctioned by a general council. Against this perfidious and arbitrary procedure John, elector of

Saxony (who had succeeded his brother, the celebrated Frederic, in the electorate); George, elector of Brandenburg, for Franconia ; Ernest and Francis, dukes of Lunenburg; the landgrave of Hesse, and the prince of Anhalt, together with the A. D. 1529. deputies of thirteen imperial cities, solemnly pro

tested :* hence they were denominated PROTESTANTS; an appellation now applicable to all Christians who dissent from the principles and discipline of the church of Rome.

* The imperial, or free cities, which opposed the decree of Charles V., were Strasburg, Nuremberg, Ulm, Constance, Rollingen, Windseim, Nortingen, Memmingen, Wissemberg, Lindau, Kempten, Heilbronn and St. Gall.

The astonishing success of our eminent reformers, was an irrefragable demonstration that the work was not of man but of God. Nearly one half of the German princes had already revolted from the jurisdiction of the pope, and established the reformed religion within their own principalities.

In the north of Europe similar occurrences took place : Gustavus Vasa, who was of a bold and independent spirit, which rendered him superior to vulgar prejudices, determined, upon his elevation to the Swedish throne, to emancipate his countrymen from that intellectual vassalage to which they had long been subject. And, as the clergy had been his most violent enemies, inclination and interest concurred in prompting him to abridge that exorbitant power of which they were possessed. He, therefore, commenced his patriotic reign by introducing the reformed opinions into Sweden; and facilitating their diffusion with all the influence of royal patronage. The result corresponded with his most sanguine expectations; for, in a short period, the Lutheran became the dominant religion in that country.

Denmark and Norway, under the execrable tyrant Christian II., received the true evangelical religion. Christian, in order to counteract the predominant power and influence of the ecclesiastics, invited the reformers to visit his realms. There the intrepid Carlostadt, with his disciple Reinard, implanted the principles of the Reformation. Under Christian III., who was a wise and amiable prince, the Protestant religion was firmly established in Denmark and Norway; and in the diet of Odensee, in 1539, the fabric of popery was almost entirely demolished.

Switzerland, through the instrumentality of Zuinglius, as we have already observed, had early received the truth as it is in Jesus. And so unexampled was its success, that nothing but a combination of the temporal and ecclesiastical power, in exercising the most diabolical crueities against its propagators, could have prevented the total extinction of popery.

In France, multitudes of the common people, and many of the nobility, embraced the Protestant religion. Its dissemination, however, through that country, was much obstructed by the unrelenting severity with which the French monarch (Francis I.) frequently punished its adherents. The following specimen of their sufferings will best exemplify the virulent malignity of their persecutor: “ Some Protestant converts had affixed to the gates of the Louvre, and other public places, papers containing indecent reflections on the rites of the Romish church. Six of the persons concerned in this rash action were seized; and the king, pretending to be struck with horror at their blasphemies, appointed a solemn procession, in order to Vol. II.-Presb. Mag.

3 K

avert the wrath of Heaven. The host was carried through the city of Paris in great pomp; Francis walked uncovered before it, bearing a torch in his hand; the princes of the blood supported the canopy over it; the nobles walked behind. In presence of this numerous assembly, the king declared, that if one of his hands were infected with heresy, he would cut it off with the other : and I would sacrifice,' added he, even my own children, if found guilty of that crime. As an awful proof of his sincerity, the six unhappy persons who had been seized, were publicly burnt, before the procession was finished, and in the most cruel manner. They were fixed upon a machine which descended into the flames, and retired alternately until they expired!"* It was the apprehension of a similar punishment that induced the inimitable Calvin to take refuge in Basil, (one of the Swiss cantons) where he published his Christian Institutes, an excellent and elaborate defence of the principal tenets of the reformed religion.

The emperor having returned to Germany, during these revolutions in the religious world, ordered a diet to be immediately convoked at Augsburg. (A. D. 1530.) The elector of Saxony, in order to efface from the emperor's mind the slanderous imputations of their enemies, had requested the reformers to compose a succinct compendium of the Protestant opinions. This ingenious performance, which was faithfully executed by Melancthon, the most learned of all the reformers, and known by the name of the AUGSBURG CONFESSION, was publicly read by Bayer before the emperor and princes. A similar formulary was presented to the diet, by Bucer, from Constance, Strasburg, Meningen, and Lindau.

Eckius, the Romish orator, Faber, and Cochlaeus, were appointed by the Catholics to examine the Protestant confession; they produced a refutation : an animated debate ensued between the popish divines and Melancthon, who was supported by the other reformers. They presented to Charles a rejoinder to the Catholic confutation; but he superciliously refused to receive it. He demanded instantaneous submission. The censurable timidity of Melancthon would have induced him to relinquish some of the cardinal points in dispute ; but as the papists insisted upon an instant and unqualified abjuration, all overtures for reconciliation were contemptuously rejected. A decree was promulgated suppressing the innovations which had been made in the established faith; condemning the opinions of the reformers; and prohibiting henceforth any toleration to those who taught them.

Arguments, and remonstrances, having proved altogether

* Russel's Modern Europe, Vol. II, Letter LIX.

« PoprzedniaDalej »