« PoprzedniaDalej »
series of attacks on the papacy which issued in the great event usually denominated - The Reformation.” At first, indeed, he thought of nothing less. He was a good subject of Leo X., and would have submitted to his decrees, even after his public opposition to Tetzel, had the pontiff promptly interfered to check his progress, or adopted mild and conciliatory measures.* His mind was solely engaged with the doctrine and abuse of indulgences, and against them all his efforts were directed. Had the Pope yielded to his remonstrances, and either suppressed or modified that nefarious traffic, it is probable that the world would have heard no more of the troublesome monk of Wittemburg. But, by the good providence of God, the “ spirit of slumber” fell upon Leo; he let Luther alone till it was too late to think of crushing him, and when he did interfere, he employed means which rather tended to further than to stop the dreaded reform.
Maximilian I. was then Emperor of Germany; a man of small talent, but firm in his attachment to popery, and fearful of all innovation. He persuaded Leo to cite Luther to Rome; but by the interference of Frederic, Elector of Saxony, the cause was committed to Cajetan, the papal legate, who had come into Germany to attend a diet of the empire at Augsburg, in the autumn of 1518. With him the reformer had three conferences ; it is not surprising that they were entirely unsatisfactory. Unshaken in his opinions, Luther was prevailed on by his friends to leave Augsburg, but not till he had appealed from the Pope, ill-informed as he then was, to the same Pope when he should better understand his cause. Shortly afterwards, understanding that the legate had written to Frederic, soliciting him to withdraw his protection, and suffer him to be given up to the Pope, and hearing also, that he had been already condemned at Rome, he appealed to a general council.+
In this appeal, Luther was doubtless influenced by the pre
* See his Letter to the Pope. The concluding words are truly remarkable: “Quare, beatissime pater, prostratum me pedibus tuæ beatitudinis offero, cum omnibus quæ sum, et habeo. Vivifica, occide, voca, revoca, approba, reproba, ut placueris, vocem tuam, vocem Christi in te presidentis et loquentis agnoscam,” &c. Le Plat, ii. 1-4. Milner, iv. 357.
t Le Plat, ii. p. 37–42.
vailing opinion respecting such assemblies. General councils had long been held in the highest veneration, and the universal church submitted to their decisions. Many causes, probably, conduced to this veneration ; such as the reputation and official dignity of the ecclesiastics who were convened on those occasions, their number, and the presumed infallibility of their decrees, secured by the presence and aid of the Holy Spirit himself! Experience, it is true, was little in their favour; for it was notorious that they were managed by imperial or papal influence, that contention and discord commonly marked their proceedings, and that the decisions of one age were not unfrequently reversed in the next. For instance: a council held at Constantinople, A.D. 754, attended by 338 bishops, issued a decree against the worship of images. Thirty-three years afterwards, A.D. 787, another council was held at Nice, styled “ General,” although only 250 bishops were present, when the decree of the former assembly was reversed, and image-worship re-established. Notwithstanding, when dissensions arose, or supposed heresies appeared, men regarded a council as their dernier resort, the panacea for all their woes, the forlorn hope of the church.*
Leo, engrossed by his pleasures, suffered the year 1519 to pass away without any vigorous endeavours to revive the declining interests of the popedom. Meanwhile, the reformation continued to proceed; Zuinglius was labouring in Switzerland, and Luther daily discovered fresh evidence of the errors and abominations of the papal system, and failed not to announce to the world the results of his inquiries, with his characteristic ardour and ingenuousness.t At length, June 15th, 1520, after some warm discussions in the consistory, a bull was issued, condemning forty-one propositions drawn from the writings of Luther, as heretical, scandalous, and false; ordering all his books to be burned; enjoining him and his
* Grier's “ Epitome of the General Councils of the Church” is a useful book for general readers. (See Appendix, No. iii.)
+ Seckendorf's incomparable volume (“ Historia Lutheranismi") comprises everything important relative to Luther. The best account of the Reformer's religious sentiments, and the gradual progress of his convictions, in our own language, is contained in the last two volumes of Milner's History, and the first of Scott's “ Continuation" of that work.
followers to renounce their errors within a limited time; and threatening, in case of obstinacy, the severest censures and punishments.* But so little effect was produced, and so completely was a large portion of Germany estranged from the Roman see, that Luther ventured to burn the bull, together with the famed decretals of the canon law, in the presence of an immense concourse of people, without the walls of Wittemburg:t at the same time he again appealed to a general council. So bold a measure could not fail to draw upon him the vengeance of Rome; accordingly, another bull was issued, denouncing all the penalties of the greater excommunication on Luther and his adherents, and giving them up to the secular power as incorrigible heretics. I
Maximilian I. died Jan. 13th, 1519, and was succeeded by Charles V., then in the twentieth year of his age. The new Emperor soon perceived that the affairs of Germany required prompt attention. He summoned a diet of the empire, which met at Worms, in April, 1521. The Pope saw the importance of this assembly, and appointed two nuncios, Martin Carracioli and Jerome Aleander, to attend it. Aleander was particularly zealous in carrying into effect the denunciations of the late bull. At Cologne, at Mentz, at Treves, and many other cities and towns, he persuaded the civil authorities to burn the writings of Luther; he even proceeded so far as to take them from private libraries for that purpose.
Luther appeared before the diet, and manfully defended his opinions. The nuncio, on the other hand, in a speech of three hours' length, urged the princes to act as dutiful sons of the church, by proscribing the obstinate reformer. He prevailed: the decree of the diet declared Luther and his adherents to be notorious heretics; forbad any to receive, defend, or support them; ordered them to be seized and imprisoned,
* Le Plat, ii. 60—72.
§ Pallavicini laments the frequent failure of his endeavours, as many noblemen persisted in retaining Luther's publications in their libraries. Even at this early period they were translated into Spanish, and had become a profitable article of trade to the Flemish merchants. Pallav. Hist. lib. i. c. 24. s. 1, 7.
and their goods to be confiscated; and prohibited the printing, vending, or reading any of Luther's books.* It is well known that the reformer was preserved from the effects of the edict by the opportune intervention of the Elector of Saxony, who secreted him in the castle of Wartburg; and that in his retirement he translated the New Testament into the German language, directed the movements of his friends, and wrote several of his useful and valuable works. The edict of Worms was almost wholly a dead letter; for some of the princes and states were unable, and others disinclined, to execute it. In fact, the desire for a council began at this time pretty generally to prevail. It seemed to offer the only means by which existing controversies could be decided, and grievances redressed. Civil governors hoped to set bounds to the overgrown power of the prelates and other ecclesiastics, and to restore the ancient discipline, which was fallen into decay : the sacerdotal order wished to prevent the Pope from usurping their rights; and the middle ranks of the community ardently longed to be relieved from the oppressive burdens of ecclesiastical taxation, which well nigh swallowed up all the fruits of their industry, and served only to administer to the pleasures of an indolent and sensual priesthood.
Affairs were in this state when Leo X. died. His successor, Adrian VI., a well-meaning, honest man, but ill fitted for the intrigues and duplicity of the court of Rome, thought to quell the German rebellion by intermingling concession with severity. He avowed himself favourable to reform; instituted inquiry into alleged abuses ; endeavoured, though ineffectually, to introduce some salutary emendations; and dispatched Cheregate, his nuncio, to attend a diet of the empire at Nuremburg, in November, 1522. The nuncio met the assembled princes, and addressed them at great length. He reproached them for their remissness, in suffering the edict of Worms to be neglected, and strongly urged them to adopt prompt and decisive measures for the punishment of the heretics—as Dathan and Abiram, Ananias and Sapphira, were smitten of God for their disobedience—as the Christian emperors of Rome had in after ages put to death obstinate schismatics—and as John Huss and Jerome of Prague, who seemed to live again in Luther, were punished by the councils of Constance and Basle. He could but confess that the general complaints against corruptions and abuses were not wholly without foundation; the pontiff, he said, saw and lamented them, and was fully resolved on reform: but the evils were of such a kind as required much time for their removal, and none ought to be surprised that the progress of reformation was slow.* In reply, the diet informed the nuncio, that in their opinion the best remedy for existing evils would be the convocation of a free general council in Germany, within a year. Their proceedings were afterwards published, and a long memorial was subjoined, entitled “Centum Gravamina”the hundred grievances. It contained an ample exposition of the grievances suffered from the tyranny and rapaciousness of the priesthood, and the corrupt state of the court of Rome, couched in strong, firm, but respectful language. In the conclusion the Pope was assured, that unless immediate and effective attention was paid to these complaints, they would be compelled, however reluctantly, to take the business of reform into their own hands; for that the people neither would nor could endure such oppressions and abuses any longer.t.
* Le Plat, ii. 84-97, 116--127.
| Le Plat, ii. 140-149.
+ December 2, 1521.
Adrian's public career was short and disturbed; he died Sept. 14th, 1523.Roman-catholic writers speak highly of his personal excellences, but depreciate his official character, and for obvious reasons. Clement VII., his successor, was every way fitted for his office, as the prevailing maxims at Rome required it to be administered. A profound dissembler
-a practised politician-subtle, cautious, evasive—he was admirably qualified for that management which the popedom
* Similar statements were given in a letter to the diet, delivered by the nuncio. Adrian promised reform, but said that it must be “pedetentim" step by step, by slow degrees. “Step by step, indeed !” said Luther, who published the letter, with notes of his own; “ he means that between each step there shall be an interval of centuries !” Sleidan, lib. iv. p. 54. edit. 1559.
† Le Plat, ii. 160—207.
I His epitaph is a striking lesson to the ambitious : “Hadrianus Papa VI. hic situs est, qui nihil sibi infelicius in vitâ duxit, quam quod imperaret. Onuphrius Panvin, in Adrian.