Obrazy na stronie

Melancthon. The former, in a letter, under the name of "the ignorant Lutheran Canons," satirised the vain hypocritical ostentation of Eck in language deeply offensive to the object of his ridicule; the latter repelled an attack of that polemic with great spirit, and vindicated a narrative which he had written of the proceedings at Leipzig with sense and judgment.*

The most dangerous enemy roused by the disputation of Leipzig was Jerome Emser, a Swede, professor of canon law in that university. He was the most dangerous, because the most insidious enemy. The method he took was to pursue the malignant course of warfare suggested by Eck, and, by persuading men that a friendly understanding subsisted between Luther and the Bohemians, to involve him and his doctrines in the

general obloquy which attached to theirs. It is true that the latter received letters of approbation and encouragement about this period from certain of the doctors of Prague; for they beheld with a natural interest the progress of principles which, whether identical with their own or not, were at least in avowed opposition to the despotism of Rome. No doubt they regarded Luther as a second Huss, destined to incur, through the same evangelical virtues, the same persecution. Emser smoothed his venomous insinuations by many personal compliments to Luther. The latter, indignant both at the charge itself and the duplicity of the accuser, rejected his flattery and confuted his reasoning;† and after boasting that

* I shall not now interrupt the narrative with any particular account of this distinguished pair, who will presently take so prominent a position among the heroes of this history.

+ "De disputatione Lipsicensi, quantum ad Boemos obiter deflexa est, Epistola Hieronimi Emser"-addressed to the head of the Catholic church at Prague. The reply was entitled "Ad Egocerotem Emserianum M. Lutheri Additio." 'Primum, mi Emser, omitto blandi

[ocr errors]


he was receiving communications day by day from the ablest men in many countries, exhorting him to persevere in the truth, he broke out into the apostrophe"What hapless and worthless theologians must you be, idols of this world, who, in your ignorance of Holy Writ, can defend the opinions of the church by no other arms than this that you are fearful and angry and suspicious, like women and children, lest my doctrines should prove agreeable to heretics!" Emser had asserted that the Bohemians offered up sacrifices for Luther; but even this, he replied, was no argument that he loved them; since there were none for whom he himself offered more frequent and fervent prayers than for Eck and Emser, and even for the unhappy Tetzel: cujus anima sit in pace!

Notwithstanding this reply, the clamour was continued and inflamed with falsehood and calumny. It was carefully spread abroad by the doctors of Leipzig that Luther was born in Bohemia, educated at Prague, and imbued in his infancy with the doctrines of Wiclif. These inventions, frequently and confidently repeated, found for the moment some partial credit; and a sermon respecting the Eucharist, which he published towards the end of the year, afforded them some shadow of countenance. For in this he expressed a modest wish for a decree of a general council to the effect, "That the sacrament should be administered in both kinds to the people, as well as to the priests." The cry was then redoubled.

loquentiam tuam, qua me virum judicas rara eruditione. Oscula Ischariotica dissimulo, quibus sub Boemorum persona mordes, me esse unum qui Sacras Literas vel solus attingam." He concluded however with some rather peaceful expressions: "Silere cum pacificis sæpius optavi; verum contra damnosos et furiosos satis adhuc mihi vivax est fiducia, largitore Christo. Amare volo omnes, formidare neminem. would have peace with the peaceful; but against the wild and wicked I have still, by Christ's bounty, confidence abundantly lively. I would love all men-yet in such manner as to fear no man.”


The Bishop of Misnia, by a public edict, censured the expression. Duke George complained to the Elector (Dec. 27, 1519) of the dangerous consequence of the doctrine and its close connexion with the heresies of Prague; while he insinuated that an intercourse was secretly maintained between the preacher and those spiritual rebels.

The Elector replied with his usual moderation. But the wrath of Luther broke out with unmeasured violence. And when the court of Saxony commanded him to suppress the reply which he had composed to the proclamation of the bishop, he addressed Spalatin* in a tone of lofty confidence which he had never yet assumed towards the friend of Frederick: "If I am to continue my lectures at all, I do not understand the counsel given me by you and others when you say that I am to lecture without giving offence to the Pope. The Scripture altogether condemns the abuse of holy things-but the Popes will never bear to hear of this. I have delivered and offered myself up in the name of God. His will be done! . . . What is it then that they will do with me? Take away my life? They can do this but once. Defame


* On Jan. 14, 1520. Four days before, he had written to the same on the subject of the Bohemian calumnies: “Quid in aliis causis sint hac una facile cognoscitur. Lege quæso et reliqua de mysteriis monstrantiarum, item nativitatis, educationis, parentelæ meæ. Spero adhunc fingent, me uxorem et filios in Boemia habere. There is extant (Autographa Reformatorum, Ann. 1521) an oration of one John Anthony Modestus addressed to Charles against Luther, containing similar slanders: "Martinus quidam Luterus homo, ut ejus vitæ institutum potest demonstrare non in Germania, sed in media Boemia natus, et educatus, impietatem sibi innatam non contentus, &c. The author then dwells at great length on the evils which befel Bohemia through the heresy of Huss, and warns the Emperor against the revival of such horrors in Germany. Feb. 10, 1521.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

me as a heretic? But was not Jesus Christ executed in the society of malefactors? Every time that I meditate on the passion of the Lord I feel profoundly afflicted that the temptation which I am now suffering seems to many so grievous. This can only be because we are unaccustomed to suffer that is, to live like disciples of Christ. However, let them do what they will. The greater efforts they make against me, the more securely I laugh at their power. I am resolved to dread nothing in this matter, but to despise everything. And if I did not fear to compromise our prince, I would publish an apology full of confidence, to provoke those furies more and more and to insult the insensate rage that they bear against me."

In the beginning of this letter he expressed his delight, however, that his enemies had so far shifted their ground of attack as to have now descended to a subject comparatively insignificant: "I vehemently rejoice and render thanks to God that my cause has made thus much progress and that my enemies have dismissed the other questions and descended to the double communion and my family connexions. I trust, through Christ's mercy on my unworthiness, that I shall not perish for any opinion of dignity and consequence, such as free will, grace, the keys of the church-for, in seeking out those ridiculous charges against me, they seem to despair of their power to contend on higher subjects. As Christ was crucified under the title of the 'King of the Jews,' so may my cross be inscribed with the double communion-though I have neither commanded nor prohibited that practice, but only reasoned on it just as the scholastics themselves have reasoned before me."

Luther wrote this in the spirit of an earnest Christian -but to his high church antagonists, whose views were

confined to the single object of working his destruction, it mattered little what weapon they turned against him, so the wound were mortal. And it happened at that moment, for reasons already alluded to, that no cry or slander was so likely to prove fatal to a religious innovator as that which should associate him with the name and crime of the Bohemians.

« PoprzedniaDalej »