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CHAPTER X.

THE BULL OF CONDEMNATION.

Luther's scriptural studies-sermon on the double communion-commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians—“ Protestation" of fidelity— address to Charles V., to the Archbishop of Mayence, and the Bishop of Mersburg-operations of his enemies-universities of Cologne and Louvain-Erasmus to the Archbishop of Mayence-Eck goes to Rome to agitate against Luther-he is successful-and the Bull of Excommunication is composed-substance of the bull-remarks-Eck appointed Nuncio to publish the bull in Germany-Miltitz still perseveres in his expedients-he brings about a deputation of Augustinians to Luther he seems to yield to them, when Eck arrives with the bull-interview between Miltitz and Luther-their agreement— Luther's consequent letter to the Pope-extracts from it-accompanied by his Treatise de Libertate Christiana-substance of it—disgrace and death of Miltitz-remarks on his negotiation.

THOUGH the polemical proceedings of Luther must occupy the foremost place in every history of the Reformation, as being those by which the changes were ostensibly brought about, yet must it never be forgotten that he was engaged, during all this noisy strife, in the production of works of a more strictly spiritual character. He persevered with his original zeal in assiduous application to Holy Scripture, thence deriving, not only nourishment to his piety, but continual additions to his knowledge. Through an impartial comparison of the practices of the church with the commandments of the Gospel, he was led on, step by step, from consideration to suspicion, from suspicion to condemnation. The spirit of inquiry, when once awakened in an earnest mind and animated by unfair opposition, knows no other bounds than the truth after which it searches; and

though, through human infirmity, it should sometimes mistake a shadow for the reality, it will still pursue that shadow with the same vehemence. The objects of his scrutiny multiplied as he advanced. The detection of one abuse led him unavoidably into the examination of another. For indeed those doctrines and practices of the church which he thought unscriptural were all very closely connected by the common motive on which they were founded the aggrandisement of the sacerdotal order. Thus he proceeded about this time from the question of the double communion to express some doubts about the number of the sacraments, about auricular confession, and even about the distinctive office of the priesthood.

In the disputation at Leipzig he signified a blind belief in the existence of purgatory. On the 7th of the succeeding November he wrote to Spalatin on that same subject as follows: "Though I know very well that there is a purgatory among us, yet I am not so sure that all Christians acknowledge it. Thus much is certain, that no man is a heretic for not believing in purgatory. Nor is it an article of faith; since the Greeks, who do not believe in it, have never for that reason been accounted heretics. . .

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In his public lectures and discourses he continued to interpret various portions of the Old and New Testament.* And it was in the autumn of 1519 that he published a work which is by many considered the most valuable, the most replete with evangelical light and truth, of all his compositions, and which was received with the most general admiration by his contemporaries-the Commen

* "Sum accinctus operi enarrandi Epistolas et Evangelia, sane occupatissimus. . . .” Epist. to Spal., Nov. 7, 1519. In another letter to the same, of Feb. 8, Luther mentions the interpretation of the Psalms as another among his manifold occupations.

tary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians. Yet even here he did not altogether abstain from controversial topics; and the high tone, moral and theological, in which this production was written, gave additional weight to the censures which it contained on ecclesiastical corruptions. He expounded therein at great length his doctrine of justification, and took great pains to prove that, whatever value he might set on faith, charity was by no means excluded from his principles-since this grace essentially contributed to the moral perfection of man, which was the end of the law of Christ.

In the allusions that he made to the iniquities of Rome he failed not to reiterate his wonted expressions of obedience. At the same time he insisted strongly on the broad distinction between the church and the court of Rome-the one as being indeed holy and catholic, the other as of this world, both in its origin and its vices.* Doubtless this was a convenient ground to take for the destruction both of the one and the other; because it was not possible, as they then stood, to draw any definite or generally intelligible line between them; and because the Church was in fact the sufferer by all the crimes and scandals imputed to the court.

In the January following he issued a sort of " protestation" of fidelity, in fulfilment of his engagements to Miltitz. Herein he declared his determination to live and die an obedient son of the Catholic church; he repeated his promise to preserve silence if his adversaries would permit him; he expressed his desire to teach only pure Christianity, to engage in public disputation,

* In a letter to Radheimer and Carlstadt on general ecclesiastical matters, written in September 1519 (No. 157), Luther said, "Judicium interim sequar, quo principes Germaniæ in novissimis comitiis recte, sancte et auguste discreverunt inter R. Ecclesiam et R. Curiam." And he followed up this distinction in very strong language.

to submit to the sentence of any impartial universities; to appear, under a safe-conduct, before any judge, secular or spiritual; while he protested against the cry of heresy which had been so slanderously raised against him, and deprecated any hasty and invidious condemnation.* He made these declarations in very guarded language; and, while they compromised him to no positive act of concession, they were intended to retard the crisis of excommunication, and to gain perhaps some few additional months for the still unrepressed diffusion of his principles.

By the side of this document he published, on the 15th of the same month, an address to the recently elected emperor Charles V. That young prince owed his imperial crown to the magnanimous disinterestedness of Frederick of Saxony; and upon that circumstance, and perhaps too upon his age, which seemed to preclude any bigoted adhesion to ancient principles or acknowledged abuses, Luther built some natural hopes of protection. At any rate, it was the part of common prudence to represent to him in a favourable light those acts and doctrines, which had doubtless been painted in far other colours by the papal party, and which could not long escape his official cognisance. Accordingly, in a respectful but not abject strain, Luther implored the imperial protection against the violence of his enemies. Without making any direct allusion to the Pope, he represented how he had been dragged from the obscurity of his monastic occupations into an unwelcome notoriety; how the opinions and practices which he had been compelled to attack were only human opinions and human practices, having their source in avarice. He proceeded to relate what promises he had made of submission and

* Seckendorf, 1. i. sect. 27. § 65.

VOL. I.

R

silence and even of recantation, should he be convicted of any error; but that his enemies still pursued him, bent to destroy, not him only but the whole Gospel along with him. Wherefore, his only remaining hope was now placed in the mercy and justice of the Emperor; and even from him he implored no greater grace than a fair and impartial hearing, before he should consent to his condemnation. In order to add to this supplication some dignity drawn from the more sacred annals of the church, he compared his own condition to that of Athanasius, a holy and persecuted suppliant at the court of Constantius.

About the same time he addressed other letters, in the same strain of elevated moderation, to the Archbishop of Mayence and the Bishop of Mersburg. He received replies from both. The former, after declaring that he had not read his works, on which he left all judgment to his superiors, exhorted him, without any asperity, to refrain from vain and biting controversy, and to employ his talents in more peaceful and reverential methods of advancing the religion of Christ. The latter conveyed the same counsel in terms of more severity, and expressed a strong condemnation both of his doctrine and his style.

* The following passage deserves to be cited: "Editi sunt a me nonnulli libelli quibus multorum et magnorum conflavi mihi invidiam et indignationem. Unde duplici tutus esse præsidio debui; primum, quod invitus in publicum veni, nec nisi aliorum vi et insidiis prodiens scripsi quicquid scripsi, nihil unquam ardentioribus votis expetens, quam ut in angulo meo laterem; deinde, quod teste conscientia mea ac optimorum virorum judicio nonnisi evangelicam veritatem studui evulgare adversus superstitiosas humanæ traditionis opiniones. Propter quam tertius jam finitus prope annus ex quo patior sine fine iras, contumelias, pericula, et quicquid adversarii possunt excogitare mali. Frustra interim veniam peto, frustra silentium offero, frustra pacis conditiones propono, frustra erudiri meliora postulo: unum est quod in me paratur, tantum ut extinguar, cum universo evangelio."

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