The Progress of the Controversy concerning Indulgences^ till the Conclusion of the Conferences between Luther and Cajetan.
1 ETZEL the dominican, alarmed at the publication of Luther's theses, opposed to them one hundred and six propositions, in which he attempted to refute the arguments of the augustin monk; and not content with this, by virtue of his inquisitorial authority, he also directed Luther's compositions to be burnt. It appears from very authentic documents,! that this shameless monk was an experienced veteran in the traffic of indulgences. He himself, in the year 1507, that is, ten years before the present dispute with Lu ther, had collected at Friberg two thousand florins in the space of two days by the iniquitous sale of that
* Vid. Erasm. Epis. and Brandt's History of the Reformation. f Moller. Cron. Fribergen.
article. The sale of indulgences, therefore, was no new thing in the papal system; and the instance before us proves, that, occasionally at least, the scandalous practice might be carried to a very great extent. It is, however, a relief to the indignant mind, to find that ecclesiastical history furnishes some few examples of pious christians with enlightened understandings, who had bravely withstood the growing corruption. To mention one: John, bishop of Alisnia^ had effectually discharged from his own diocese the popish proclaimed of indulgences, who, like merchants, had been vending every where their certificates of pardon of sins, as if they were an ordinary commodity.* He had blamed the people for foolishly putting their money into a chest, of which they had not the key; and had declared that, by reading the bible, he had discovered the apostolical religion to be very different from that which prevailed at present. This good prelate, a little before his death, happening to hear that Tetzel was again employed in a similar way, prophesied he would be the last of the dealers in indulgences, on account of his shameless audacity.f Notwithstanding this, and every other warning or remonstrance, the dominican commissioner persevered in the traffic with augmented industry; and so much incensed the minds of Luther's disciples at Wittemberg, that they ventured, by way of retaliation, to burn publicly his propositions, or theses,^ as tney were called, with every mark of
• Chytr. Lib. ii.
■(■ " A soul," said Tetzel in bis theses, " may go to heaven, in the very moments, in which the money is cast into the chest. The man, who buys off his own sins by indulgences, merits more than he who gives alms to the poor, unless it be in extreme necessity." Other extraordinary assertions are likewise contained in his tracts, which demonstrate that protestant writers have not misrepresented the controversy before us. Suffice it to mention two sentences more. " The ministers of the church do not barely declare men's sins forgiven, but do really pardon them by virtue of the sacraments, and by the power of the keys. They may impose a punishment to be suffered After Death; and it is better to send a penitent with a small penance into purgatory, than by refusing him absolution to send him into hell." Du Pin, b. ii. Seek. lib. i.
\ When Tetzel was at I.eipsic, and had scraped together a great deal *f money from all ranks of people, a nobleman, who suspected the imposture, put this question to him, " Can you grant absolution lor a sin, which
disapprobation and ignominy. Luther was much grieved at this rash action; and finding himself to be accused of instigating his followers to commit it, writes thus to a friend: " I wonder, you could believe, that I was the author of the deed. Think you that I am so destitute of common sense, as to stigmatize, in such a manner, a person in so high an office? I knowbetter the rules of ecclesiastical subordination, and have more regard to my own character, both as a monk and as a theologian than to act so." There were also persons, who, pretending to be in possession of court intrigues, were fond of circulating the report, that Luther had published his theses by the secret instigations of the elector Frederic. Luther, with great concern, takes notice of this false surmise. In a letter to his friend Spalatinus he thus expresses his feelings. " I am heartily vexed at the scandalous report, which is diffused with much malignity, namely, that in all I do, I am only the Engine of our illustrious prince, for the purpose of disgracing the archbishop of Mentz. What do you think I ought to do on the occasion? Shall I open the matter to the elector? I am extremely concerned, that the prince should be suspected on my account, and I cannot bear the thought of being the origin of contention among persons of so great dignity."
Luther also published a sermon preached against indulgences, which Tetzel answered; and this produced a reply from Luther. About the same time, Henry, duke of Brunswick, who was afterwards distinguished among the most active enemies of lutheranism, appeared in the contest; and in a public writing accused Frederic of secretly supporting Luther. The well known character of the elector, for caution and prudence, seems however to have prevented the report from gaining much credit. This prince took extraordinary care not to involve himself unnecessarily in the concerns of Luther. Our intrepid reformer, in all his opposition to Tetzel, most certainly had no colleague or assistant; and he himself declared, that he never had conversed with the elector Frederic in his whole life.
a man shall intend to commit in future!" *' Yes," replied the frontless commissioner, " but on condition that the proper sum of money be actually paid down." The nobleman instantly produced the sum demanded; and in return, received a diploma sealed and signed by Tetzel, absolving him from the unexplained crime, which he secretly intended to commit. Not long a'er, when Tetzel was about to leave Leipsic, the nobleman made inquiry respecting the road he would probably travel, waited for him in ambush at a convenient place, attacked and robbed him; then beat him soundly with a stick, sent him back again to Leipsic with his chest empty, and at parting said: " This is the fault I intended to commit, and for which I have your absolution."
This humorous story may seem scarcely worthy of the dignity of history; but it is recorded by the cautious Seckendorf, and may serve to show the almost incredible lengths to which the popish agents proceeded In the detestable traffic so clearly laid open by this anecdote.
Luther never did things by halves. Accordingly, as the affair of selling indulgences had laid firm hold of his mind, he could neither quiet his uneasiness, nor smother his indignation. He still continued to preach and to write on the same subject, till the end of the year 1517. In the next year he went to Heidelberg, and was courteously received by Wolfgang, the brother of the elector Palatine, who was the scholar of Oecolampadius, a name, afterwards renowned among the reformers. Luther had been advised by his friends not to go to Heidelberg on account of the danger to which he might be exposed. But, as A general assembly of the augustinian monks had been called at that place, he thought it right to obey his superiors, whatever might be the event. The official business of the assembly was of no great moment; and therefore we need not be surprized that the zealous and active spirit of Luther was not content with barely discharging the duties of his order. A providential opportunity was offered of propagating divine truth, and it behooved him not to neglect it. While, therefore, he remained at this place, he wrote some propositions, in which he opposed the prevailing notions* concerning justification, faith, and works. His capital object in them was to demonstrate the doctrine of justification, / •••■
* Scckend. 29. from a MS. Hist- of the Valatine Churches by Allrngius.
before God, by faith, and not by our works and deservings. The theses or positions, which he intended to defend, were publicly expqsed to view in writing according to custom; and he called upon Leonard Bejer, a monk of the augustinian order to be his respondent. The professors of the uersity disapproved of the controversy; and therefore it was held in the augustinian monastery. A large concourse of people attended, and a number of the learned bore a part in the disputation. Among the hearers were Martin Bucer, and John Brentius, men, afterwards eminent in the work of reformation. These and other persons, who in process of time became celebrated theologians, admired the acuteness, promptitude, and meekness of Luther; were struck with the truths of the gospel which were new to their ears, and desired further instruction of him in private. This was the seed time of the gospel in the Palatinate; and these were the beginnings of the reformation in that electorate. Luther's disciples cultivated and taught the same doctrines in private, and after a time ventured to teach them publicly in the uersity.
While the cause of evangelical truth was thus making gradual advances in Germany, two celebrated romanists, Eckius of Ingolstadt, and Prierias a dominican, master of the sacred palace at Rome, took up their pens against the theses of Luther, who, by these means was led into a fresh literary contest. Luther published elaborate answers on all the disputed points; and managed this part of the controversy with so much moderation and gentleness, that his inimical historian Maimbourgh, has no way left of reviling the man he dislikes, but by saying, " On this occasion, he acted contrary to his natural disposition." Let the reader infer the real disposition of Luther from authenticated facts, and npt from the insinuations of prejudiced papists. At this time, he wrote also to his own diocesan, and to his vicar general. To his diocesan, the bishop of Brandenburgh, he declared, that he did not DeterMine, but Dispute, using the liberty allowed to scho
but groundless,' assertion of his adversaries, " that he was secretly encouraged and supported in this perilous contest by Staupitius." There is no doubt, that both his diocesan and his vicar general valued him extremely for his talents and piety; nor were either of them destitute of some evangelical light: the latter especially, as we have seen, had been serviceable to the young augustin monk in his early conflicts of temptation. But neither the former, nor the latter, had the knowledge, the courage, the faithfulness of Luther.
His controversial writings, published in the year 1518, in explanation and support of the various doctrines he had advanced, are full of important matter, and very much lay open the real state of his mind at that time. And these writings also, such was his regard for ecclesiastical discipline, he thought proper to transmit both to his ordinary and to- his vicar general. Among many other positions maintained in them, are the following: " That every true christian may become partaker of the grace of Christ without pontifical indulgencesr A christian," says he, " may glory that in Christ he has all things; that all the righteousness and merits of Christ are his own by virtue of that spiritual union with him, which he has by faith: on the other hand, that all his sins are no longer his, but that Christ, through the same union, bears the burden of them. And this is the confidence of christians, this is the refreshment of their consciences, that by faith our sins cease to be ours judicially, because they are laid on him the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world."
" I was compelled," continues Luther, " in my conscience to expose the scandalous sale of indulgences. I saw some seduced by them into mischievous errors, others tempted into an audacious profaneness. In a word, the proclaiming and selling of pardons proceeded to such an unbounded licentiousness, that the holy church and its authorities became subjects of open derision in the public taverns. There was no occasion to excite the hatred of mankind against priests to a greater degree. The avarice and profligacy of the clergy had, for many years past, kindled the indignation of the laity. Alas! they have not a particle of respect or honour for the priesthood, except what solely arises from fear of punishment; and I speak plainly, unless their dislike and their objections be attended to and moderated, not by mere power, but by substantial reasons and reformations, all these evils will grow worse."
From these extracts* the reader will be enabled to from his own judgment of Luther, as a divine, as a statesman, and as an honest man. He wrote a letter to the pope himself, respecting the same transactions, in which he expresses himself in so dutiful and ceremonious a manner, and even in strains of such submissive and prostrate subjection, as sufficiently show, that at that time he was far from meditating a separation from the church of Rome. Maimbourg himself appears to have very much felt the force of Luther's ingenuous declarations and general conduct in these proceedings. He thinks, he probably might have been sincere in his professions of obedience to the Roman see, " because," says he, " it was so contrary to his nature to play the hypocrite for any considerable time together." The same author adds, " whether he was really sincere, or not, his modest and plausible manner of expressing his doubts, procured him the approbation of many. He was looked on as an honest inquirer after truth who had detected the frauds of his adversaries, and, in that way, had unjustly brought upon himself the name of heretic."f
The preceding detail of facts and observations unavoidably lead the mind to this conclusion. Luther was far advanced in evangelical knowledge, and appears to have been an experienced christian some time before he became known to the world. Yet was he still strongly wedded to the habits of superstition; and he slowly admitted the conviction of the antichristian character of the hierarchy. He dreaded the sin of schism: and the impetuous fire of his temper was perpetually checked by the admonitions of conscience, and by the fear of offending his Maker. In this singular character, there was certainly united an assemblage of qualities, rarely found together in the same person; ir\ particular, the greatest caution in conduct with a temper remarkably ardent and choleric. Too often this last betrayed him into a blameable asperity of language, yet seldom does it seem to have influenced his measures or plans of action. The poet's simple, but sublime, description of one of his dramatic heroes,* " he feared God, and he feared none besides," is eminently true of the Saxon theologian.
* The extracts here given are almost literal translations. But every one, who has been used to the making of extracts, knows, that in many cases where a great deal is omitted for the sake of brevity, it is necessary to add a few words to prevent obscurities. This, however, should always be done with the greatest care, so as not to affect the sense.
f Maimb. p. 28. in Seek.
Whoever keeps in view the natural and religious dispositions of Luther, while he contemplates the critical situation of this reformer, during the suspense of his contest with the papal authorities, cannot fail to conclude, that he must have experienced great anxiety and even perturbation of mind in that memorable season. The precise nature of his feelings will be best understood from his own account of them, in a preface to the edition of his Theses, which was published by himself many years after the termination of the dispute. " I permit," says he, " the publication of my propositions against indulgences for this reason, that the greatness of the success may be attributed to God, and that I may not be exalted in mine own eyes. For, by these propositionsf it WJN appear how weak and contemptible I was, and in how fluctuating a state of mind, when I began this business. I found myself involved in it alone, and as it were, by surprise. And
* Racine in his Athaliah. - •
t It is not necessary to enter into a detail of these propositions or
theses, because the cause of indulgences lias now no advocates in this
when it became impossible for me to retreat, I made many concessions to the pope; not, however, in many important points; but, certainly, at that time I adored him in earnest. In fact, how despised, and wretched a monk was I then; more like a lifeless body than a human being! Whereas in regard to the pope, how great was his majesty! The potentates of the earth dreaded his nod. How distressed my heart was in that year, 1517, and the following, how submissive my mind was to the hierarchy, not feigriedly but really; nay, how I was almost driven to despair, through the agitations of care and fear and doubt, those secure spirits little know, who at this day insult the majesty of the pope with much pride and arrogance! But I, who then alone sustained the danger, was not so certain, not so confident. I was ignorant of many things, which now, by the grace of God, I understand. I disputed, and I was open to conviction. Not finding satisfaction in the books of theologians and canonists, I wished to consult the living members of the church itself. There were indeed some godly souls, who intirely approved my propositions, but I did not consider their authority as of weight with me in spiritual concerns. The popes, cardinals, bishops, and monks, were the objects of my confidence. I waited for divine instruction with such ardent and continued eagerness, and was so overloaded with cares, that I became almost stupid, or distracted: I scarcely knew when I was asleep, or when awake. At length, after I became enabled to answer every objection that could be brought against me from the scriptures, one difficulty still remained, and only one; namely, that the Church ought to be obeyed. By the grace of Christ I, at last, overcame this difficuly also. Most certainly I had formerly a much greater veneration for the Roman church than those have, who at this clay, with a perverse spirit of opposition, extol popery so exceedingly against me."
Let us now listen to a few sentences of Luther, written so late as the year 1545, that is, about twentveight years after the beginning of the dispute concerning indulgences.* " Before all things I entreat you, pious reader, for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake, to read my writings with cool consideration, and even with much pity. I wish you to know, that when I began the affair of the indulgences at the very first, I was a monk, and a most mad papist. So intoxicated was I and drenched in papal dogmas that I would have been most ready at all times to murder or assist others in murdering any person, who should have uttered a syllable against the duty of obedience to the pope. I was a complete Saul; and there are many such yet. There were, however, and are now, others, who appear to me to adhere to the pope on the principles of Epicurus; that is, for the sake of indulging their appetites; when secretly they even deride him, and are as cold as ice, if called upon to defend the papacy. I was never one of these: I was always a sincere believer; I was always earnest in defending the doctrines I professed; I went seriously to work, as one who had a horrible dread of the day of judgment, and who, from his inmost soul, was anxious for salvation.
You will find, therefore, in my earlier writings, with how much humility, on many occasions, I gave up very considerable points to the pope, which I now detest as blasphemous and abominable in the highest degree. This Error, my slanderers call InconsisTency: but you, pious reader, will have the kindness to make some allowance on account of the times and my inexperience. I stood absolutely alone at first; and certainly I was very unlearned and very unfit to undertake matters of such vast importance. It was by accident, not willingly or by design, that I fell into these violent disputes: I call God to witness.
In the year 1517, when I was a young preacher, and dissuaded the people from purchasing indulgences, telling them they might employ their time much better than in listening to the greedy proclaimers of that scandalous article of sale, I felt assured I should have the pope on my side; for he himself, in his public decrees, had condemned the excesses of his agents in that business.
' Latin preface to the first volume of I.iitlier's works.
• My next step was to complain to my own ordinary, and also to the archbishop of Mentz; but I knew not at that time that half of the money went to this last mentioned prelate, and the other half to the pope. The remonstrances of a low, mean, poor, brother in Christ had no weight. Thus despised, I published a brief account of the dispute, along with a sermon in the German language on the subject of indulgences; and very soon after I published also explanations of my sentiments, in which, for the honour of the pope, I contended, that the indulgences were not entirely to be condemned, but that real works of charity were of
FAR MORE CONSEQUENCE.
This was to set the world on fire, and disturb the whole order of the uerse. At once and against me single, the whole popedom rose!!"
It will be needless to proceed further with this extract: the account is in entire unison with the preceding one written many years before. The candid and ingenuous acknowledgments and declarations contained in each of them cannot fail to affect the reader's mind, particularly as they were all made by our reformer long after the transactions to which they relate, and at times when disguise and misrepresentation could serve no imaginable purpose. A more complete answer to the unwarrantable censures of those, who accuse Luther of selfish motives in promoting the reformation, can scarcely be conceived. But after all, the best use to be made of the information here given is, to admire and adore the providence and grace of that God, Who is Wonderful In Counsel And
EXcELLENT IN WORKING.*
While the literary contest was carrying on between Luther and his antagonists, there were at Rome those, who blamed the pope for not interesting himself in a controversy, which, by exciting a spirit of resistance, and producing divisions, daily increased in magnitude and importance, and which, in its termination, might prove extremely injurious to the authority of the romish church. With how much indifference and contempt Leo X. at first beheld the ecclesiastical disputes in Germany; how indolent was the disposition of this pontiff, and how improvident he showed himself in defending the papal jurisdiction; all this appears in the strongest light from the absurd and careless answer which he is said to have given to Silvester Prierias,* when that zealous and learned dominican showed him some of Luther's heretical publications concerning indulgences. " Brother Martin," said he, " is A Man Of A Very Fine Genius, and these squabbles are the mere effusions of monastic envy." Prierias, however, undertook the support of the pontifical authority; but, in writing against the reformer, he managed the romish cause with so much heat and imprudence, that the pope himself presently directed him to be silent in future, f This writer, in the event, did much service to lutheranism. In an affair, which required the utmost delicacy, he expressed his sentiments without the least caution or moderation; and exalted the pope's power even far beyond that of all general councils. Luther availed himself of the temerity of his adversary, and publicly exposed, with much severity, the odious doctrines which he had inculcated.
* Isaiah, xxviii.
In the same year, 1518, a rash author of a similar description, attacked Luther with all the virulence of an enraged and bigoted roman catholic. This was Hogostratus, a German dominican inquisitor, who represented the growing heresy as now become incurable by any of the milder methods. Penal and compulsory remedies, he said, were absolutely necessary; and he exhorted the pontiff, by means of the sword and fire, to deliver mankind from the detestable innovator.* Many of the monksf joined in this clamour with incessant vociferation among the people. Scarcely a word came from their mouths, except, Heresy! Blasphemy! Schism! " I relate," says Erasmus, " what I saw with my own eyes; and am convinced that no one thing tended more to dispose the people in Luther's favour, than this imprudent conduct of the clergy. His propositions concerning the indulgences were soberly stated; and if They had but argued the points in dispute in the same cool way, these ruinous consequences would never have taken place."
* Prierias was master of the sacred palace, and general of his order He died of the plague in 1523, t Erasm. Epis.
At length the Roman pontiff was roused from his state of indolence and security. Not only the avaricious venders of indulgences vociferated against Luther, as Demetrius and the silversmiths did against St. Paul when their craft was in danger,! but, from all quarters, complaints of the progress of heresy were sent to Rome. Even the emperor Maximilian I. represented to the pope, how necessary his interference was become. The augustin monk, he said, was disseminating heretical and destructive doctrines; was obstinate in adhering to his opinions, and active in propagating them; and he had made many converts, even among persons of rank and distinction. $
The imprudence of Leo X. at this critical moment, may seem almost the consequence of judicial infatuation. At once he passed from the extremes of neglect and indifference to those of tyrannical violence and blind temerity. He ordered Luther to appear at Rome within sixty days to answer for himself before certain judges, of whom his antagonist Silvester Prierias, was appointed one. Our reformer took the wisest method to protect himself against the impending storm. He instantly sent an account of the pope's citation to his friend Spalatinus, who was then with the elector Frederic at the diet of Augsburg; and in the strongest
* Maimb. p. 3& f Erasm. Epis. f Acts, xix. 24.
§ Maximilian's Letter. Op. Luth. vol. i.
Vol. IV. 40
terras requested that, through the interposition of the prince, his cause might be heard in Germany and not at Rome. Frederic the Wise understood the arts and practice of the court of Rome, and was convinced of the propriety, and even the necessity of seconding Luther's wishes. Accordingly he urged the competency of a German tribunal in an ecclesiastical controversy of that nature; and it seems intirely owing to the address, the penetration, and the firmness of this great prince, that the Roman pontiff at last consented, that cardinal Cajetan, who was then his legate at Augsburg, should take cognisance of the matter. If the delinquent showed proper marks of penitence and submission, he was to be kindly received again into the bosom of the church; but if he refused to appear before his appointed judge, the legate was commissioned then to denounce publicly, against him and his adherents, all the thunders and anathemas of papal indignation.*
Leo X., perceiving how great a favourite Luther was with the elector of Saxony, judged it expedient, by all the means in his power, to secure the support and concurrence of that prince in an affair, which he had now begun to consider as of the greatest moment. For this purpose, he acquainted Frederic, in a polite and affectionate, but very artful epistle, of the measures which he had been compelled to adopt, through the disobedience of an augustin monk, whose very " order and profession should have perpetually reminded him of the duties of humility and obsequiousness." He styles Luther a son of iniquity, a prevaricator, who boasts of the protection of the elector, but, in fact, reverences no superior whatever. I know, says the pope, he has no ground for representing you as one, who encourages and supports him; nevertheless I exhort you in the Lord, and as you would preserve the reputation and dignity of a good catholic prince, to be on your guard, lest the lustre of your highly honoured ancestors should be in any degree tarnished by this calumny. I know of no blame respecting you; but I would wish you to avoid the very suspicion of blame, in which the rashness of this man may involve you. He then proceeds: As many learned and religious persons, and in particular, our beloved son, Prierias, the master of our sacred palace, have informed us of the heretical proceedings of Martin Luther, we have ordered him to be called upon to answer for himself; and for this purpose, we have given ExpliCit Directions to cardinal Cajetan, our legate. Lastly, he concludes with a strong exhortation and injunction, that Frederic, in virtue of the holy obedience which he owed to the Roman church, should contribute his utmost to secure the person of Luther, and deliver him up to the power of the holy see: he declared, however, at the same time, that if he was found innocent, he should be dismissed in peace and in favour; and even if he was guilty, he would exercise clemency towards him largely upon his repentance. *
* The pope's directions to Cajetan, Luther, Op. vol. I.
It is well worthy of notice that, in this epistle, the pope suppresses a very material fact, namely, that Luther had, already and without trial, been condemned at Rome, as a heretic, by the bishop of Ascoli, the auditor of the apostolic chamber. This clearly appears from the pope's own Brief, which he sent to cardinal Cajetan along with the abovementioned directions; and the poor persecuted monk, in his writings, makes several pertinent observations upon the occasion. The pleasantest thing of all, says he, is this. The pope's Brief is dated August the twenty third. I was cited and admonished on the seventh of August, to appear at Rome, within sixty days. Thus it is very plain, that, either before the citation was delivered to me, or at most within sixteen days after, the bishop of Ascoli proceeded against me, judged me, and pronounced me an incorrigible heretic. If I should ask, What are. become of the sixty days mentioned in the citation delivered to me, which are to be reckoned from the seventh of August, and would end about the seventh of October? Is it the usage of the pope's court to cite, admonish, accuse, judge, condemn, and pronounce sentence, all on the same day, and especially, when the supposed culprit is at a considerable distance and totally ignorant of the proceedings? Again, how can they charge me with having abused the pope's kindness, and with persevering obstinately in heresy? Would they be able to give any other answer to these questions than that, when they fabricated the falsehoods respecting me, they had lost their memory, and stood in need of a few doses of hellebore.
* Pope's letter to the elector of Saxony- torn. i. Witt. p. 204.
The condemnation of Luther at Rome, previous to his examination before Cajetan, was so important a fact, and implied so much violence and animosity in Leo and his advisers, that it may well be doubted whether our reformer, intrepid as he was, if he had been acquainted with all the circumstances of his disgrace and danger, would have ventured to have appeared at all at Augsburg. It is clear from one of his letters to Spalatinus,* that on his return from that place, he first learnt at Nuremburg the nature and extent of the papal commission to the cardinal, namely, that already being pronounced a pertinacious heretic, his person was to be secured and kept in safety, till further orders for his removal to Rome.
The elector of Saxony conducted himself throughout this difficult transaction with the most extraordinary discretion. He was determined not to permit Luther to be sent to Rome, where he would be at the mercy of his enraged adversaries; but, for the purpose of carrying this point the more easily, and also in the hope that an accommodation might take place with the Roman see, he promised the pope's legate, that he would take effectual care to place the supposed heretic before him, for examination, at Augsburg. We have observed indeed,* that it was part of the pope's instructions to Cajetan, to show every kindness to Luther provided he came voluntarily to confess his fault and sue for pardon; but, what was to be done in case he should refuse, which was the thing by far the more probable to happen? Luther himself in his account of this matter says, " Every thing, I doubt not, would have been settled in the most peaceable and affectionate manner, if I would but have written down six letters, REVOCO, I RECANT."
* Lib. i. epist.
Frederic provided for the safety of his favourite Luther in the following manner. He gave him letters of recommendation to the senate and principal inhabitants of Augsburg; who, instantly on his arrival, exhorted him not to appear before the cardinal, till he had obtained a promise of safe conduct from the emperor, who was then hunting at some distance from the city. Through the influence of these same persons, this important request of safe conduct was granted; and after three days the emperor's council announced to the cardinal, that the public faith was pledged to Luther, and therefore he must take no violent steps against him. The cardinal answered, " It is very well, nevertheless I shall do my duty."
Luther informs us, that, during those three days, he was constantly pressed by a very troublesome emissary of Cajetan to recant. If I would but recant, he said, all would be right. He further relates a curious conversation which took place between himself and this emissary. He came on the third day and expostulated as follows:
Why will you not go to the cardinal; he is waiting to receive you in the kindest manner?
I must listen to the advice of those excellent persons to whom I am recommended by the elector; and they tell me, I must by no means go to him till I have obtained the public faith.' The moment That is obtained, I am ready to go.
* Page 310.
What, said he, evidently in much agitation, do you think that prince Frederic will take up arms oh your account?
It is very far from my wish.
Where do you mean to stay?
In the open air.
Pray, suppose you had the pope and his cardinals all in your power, what would you do with them?
I would treat them with the greatest respect and honour.
So; said he, waving his hand in the Italian manner, and went away, and returned no more.*
A short time before these transactions at Augsburg, the celebrated Melancthon had been received, as Greek professor at the uersity of Wittemberg, in the twenty-second year of his age. The lectures of this truly learned and good man, together with those of Luther, were attended by crowds of students: and the uersity of Leipsic, a city wholly under Roman influence, on account of the principles of its sovereign, George of Saxony, declined in its lustre. The consequence was, that Luther became still more odious to the hierarchy. Add to this, his defence of his theses, and a sermon, against the abuses of officials in excommunications, just published, had exasperated his adversaries to the highest degree. We learn, from his letters to Staupitius and Spalatinus, what were the feelings and reflections of our hero at this alarming conjuncture. To the former he said, " doubt not but I mean to be free in searching and handling the word of God. These citations and menaces move me not." To the latter he writes thus: " From the bottom of my heart, I wish not to involve the elector in my perils. There is but one thing, which I hope he may be able to do for me, namely to prevent any violence on my person. And if he cannot do even that conveniently, I would have all the danger to be my own. What I have undertaken to defend, I trust, I shall defend effectually. It may be found necessary to pay some regard to selfpreservation, but a regard to truth is paramount to every consideration." This is the language of one who was well instructed in christian principles, and knew the practice of holy men in the purest times.
* Luth. Praf
Certainly, at first, Luther seems to have doubted whether he should not be guilty of an unjustifiable temerity, in stirring a single step towards Augsburg, without the previous grant of a safe conduct. But, his scruples were done away by the generous behaviour of the elector. This excellent prince not only gave him the abovementioned letters of recommendation, but also furnished him with money for his journey; informed him, by Spalatinus, that he might proceed to Augsburg, without need of a safe conduct, such was the legate's benevolent intentions towards him; and encouraged him to believe that, whatever might happen, he would not permit him to be dragged to the papal tribunal at Rome. It is most probable however, that Frederic the Wise, either foresaw the effect which his letters of recommendation would produce at Augsburg, or had otherwise secretly provided that the public faith should be engaged for the persecuted reformer. He was a prince, says Luther,* of incredible capacity and penetration, and was accustomed to take effectual measures for disconcerting the romanists, long before they entertained the least suspicion that he was aware of their designs. It was much against the inclination of Cajetan, that the emperor Maximilian granted a safe conduct on this occasion. That irritated legate wrote to Frederic, and in much anger informed him, that he had expressly told the imperial council he would not have the name of Cajetan mentioned in that part of the transaction."f He is usually called Cajetan, though his real name was Thomas de Vio, of the town of Cajeta. He is allowed by Luther himself to have been naturally a man of a benevolent temper. Yet the choosing of this cardinal for the purpose of reconciling matters must not he produced as an example of discretion in Leo X. Thomas de Vio was excessively superstitious, and also entertained the most lofty ideas of papal authority. He wrote a book on the power of the Roman pontiff, which is said to have procured for him the archbishopric of Palermo and a cardinal's hat. Add to all this, he was a dominican, and consequently the declared enemy of Luther and the friend of Tetzel. Such a person was ill fitted to sit as judge or arbitrator in this nice and perilous controversy.
* Luther. Op. vol. i.
f Epist. Cajet. ad Sax. due. Father Paul, C. Trent, b. 1.
At the first interview, Luther prostrated himself before the cardinal, and was courteously received. But, at the same time, he was required to retract his errors, to avoid them in future, and to abstain from every thing, which might disturb the peace of the church. And these three things were stated expressly to be the order of the most holy pope. Luther desired that he might be permitted to seethe pope's Brief. But this request was peremptorily refused.*
The heaviest charge against him seems to have been, that he had transgressed the bull of Clement VI., which had defined the nature and extent of indulgences; and it may easily be conceived, with how much indignation the cardinal would hear the defence of Luther, namely, that the holy scriptures, which he could produce in support of his own doctrines, had abundantly more weight with him than a pontifical bull, which in fact proved nothing, but merely recited the opinion of Thomas Aquinas. Cajetan, in answer, exalted the authority of the pope above all councils, above the church, and even above the scriptures themselves. To this Luther opposed the appeal of the uersity of Paris, whose reputation had always stood high, as the parent of science, and the defender of the purest christianity. Cajetan, in a rage, declared that the Parisians would meet with due punishment; and that Gerson,* whose writings Luther had quoted, was Damned together with all his followers. So extravagantly high were the ideas of papal power conceived by this cardinal, that even the very moderate contradiction, given in France to the pontiff, appeared in his eyes an unpardonable sin. Little did he then imagine how much more openly his magnificent lord and master was to be opposed within the short space of a few months. .^
* This important circumstance is not taken notice of by the ecclesiastical historians; though I find Luther himself in his celebrated letter to the elector of Saxony, written a'er the conference with Cajetan, uses the words " nam exemplar Brevis petenti denegabat" Dominus Legatus. It is easy enough to understand why the legate, who was affecting to treat Luther with the greatest kindness, should not choose to show him a Brief, in which it appeared, that, at that very moment, he stood condemned as a heretic at Rome, though he had never been heard. On a view of all the circumstances, it seems by no means improbable, that the cardinal, pursuant to his instructions, was intending to make the poor heretic a prisoner, notwithstanding the emperor's promise of safe conduct. But a sight of the Brief could not have failed to alarm and put on bis guard any man in so critical a situation.
Frowns and menaces were by no means adapted to intimidate the determined mind of the Saxon reformer. He continued to insist on the authority of scripture. He owned he might have erred, but he thought it reasonable that his errors should be pointed out, on Scriptural grounds, before he should be required to retract.
When Luther found, that not the smallest progress was made by conversation with the cardinal, and that all his fine promises of kind treatment amounted precisely to this, " you must either recant, or suffer punishment," he wisely determined to commit his answers to writing. In so doing, says he, the oppressed find comfort in two ways: in the first place, what is written, may be submitted to the judgment of others; and in the second, one has a better opportunity of working upon the fears and the conscience of an arrogant despot, who would otherwise overpower one by his imperious language.f
Agreeably to this resolution, he appeared before the
cardinal with a notary and witnesses, repeated his proi
* The reader will remember, that this celebrated chancellor of the uersity of Paris, maintained, at the council of Constance, the superiority of a general council over the pope.
f Luther's letters to Fred.
Vol. IV. 41
testations of general obedience to the church, and his perfect readiness to recant any error of which he could be convicted. Cajetan replied with so much acrimony, that the accused monk had no opportunity of explaining or of vindicating his sentiments. He absolutely refused to dispute with Luther either in public, or in private; he would not even consent that a single word of his own answers should be put down in writing. He continued to press for a recantation.
Staupitius, who was present at the scene, and who hitherto had acted the part of a steady friend of Luther, rose up, and intreated the legate to permit the accused to return his answers at length in writing. To which request, he, with great difficulty, at last acceded.
At the next conference, Luther exhibited his written explanation and defence, which the cardinal treated with the greatest contempt. He told him, he had filled his paper with passages of scripture, which were irrelevant, and in genera!, that his answers were those pf a perfect idiot. He condescended, however, to say, he would send them to Rome. Lastly, he ordered Luther to depart, and to come no more into his sight, unless he was disposed to recant.
Notwithstanding this rough treatment, it was Luther's firm opinion, that it would have given the cardinal great pleasure to have heard him recant. It may be thought some confirmation of this sentiment, that, in the evening of the very day in which this last conference took place, he sent for the vicar general Staupitius, and desired him to persuade his young monk to retract. Staupitius promised to do his utmost. " You must answer his scriptural arguments," said Cajetan. Staupitius replied ingenuously, " That is above my power. I am his inferior both in capacity and in knowledge of the scriptures."
Throughout this whole conference at Augsburg, cardinal Cajetan appears to have been conscious how ill qualified he was to enter the lists with Luther, as a disputant in theological questions. Indeed the doctrines of the gospel, as far as we can judge, gave him little concern. His anxiety was, how he might best insure obedience to the pontifical mandates. He inquired not whether these mandates were reasonable or repugnant to scripture, it was sufficient for him to know that they were the dictates of a pope. The decretal of pope Clement VI., which he urged with so much heat and positiveness against Luther in the dispute respecting indulgences, maintained that, " one drop of Christ's blood being sufficient to redeem the whole human race, the remaining quantity, that was shed in the garden and upon the cross, was left as a legacy to the church; to be A Treasure From Whence IndulGences were to be drawn and administered by the Roman pontiffs."* The augustin monk had, for some time past, been too much enlightened to digest such wild superstitious inventions; and the man, who could call upon him, upon these grounds, to renounce his errors, was not to be reasoned with. Still it required, extraordinary courage to deliver in a formal protest against the belief of tenets, which at that time were both established by the highest authority, and also supposed to have been dictated by an infallible judgment. Some objections were made to Luther's ideas of justification by faith; but Cajetan did not scruple to confess, that, if he would but have retracted his opposition to the indulgences, all other differences might have been composed in an amicable manner; and that his opinions concerning the efficacy of faith in justification and in the sacrament admitted of being modified and interpreted, so as to be inoffensive. When Staupitius was informed of this circumstance, he expressed a wish, that the cardinal had avowed that sentiment in the presence of the notary and the witnesses; because then, said he, there would have been clear proof that, at Rome, Money was held in greater estimation than
Luther, on the contrary, considered the scripture doctrine of justification by faith as of infinite importance. He declared, that he would rather retract every thing which he had said, upon other subjects, than That which he must adhere to with his dying breath. That in regard to indulgences, their intrinsic nature, whatever it might be, could not be altered by ostentatious praises and honours, but that if he gave up the article of justification by faith, he should, in fact, deny Jesus Christ himself. That, though the cardinal had promised to conduct the inquiry according to the sacred scriptures, and the rules of the church, he had not produced a single text of scripture against him, nor any one authority from the holy fathers. Lastly, that he was confident no answer could ever be given to the scriptural arguments and the authorities, which he had produced in support of the doctrine in question.* Our peace, says he, consists in coming to Christ in lively faith. If a man believe not the promise, he may practise confession to all the world, and he may be absolved a thousand thousand times even by the pope himself, but he will never obtain, on good grounds, a quiet conscience.f
* Maclaiiie in Moslicim, vol. ii. rliap. ii
It was on Friday the fourteenth of October 1518, that Luther made his last appearance before the pope's legate. A report was spread that, notwithstanding the engagement of a safe conduct, he was to be seized and confined in irons. He remained, however, at Augsburg till the succeeding Monday. He heard nothing from the cardinal. How great must have been his anxiety! On the Monday, by a letter couched in the most respectful terms, he begged pardon for any irreverent or unbecoming language towards the pontiff, which might have escaped him in the heat and hurry of the debate; he even promised to desist from treating the subject of indulgences any more, provided his antagonists were enjoined to observe a similar silence. But to retract his sentiment or give up the truth, he absolutely refused. He said, his conscience would not permit him to act in that manner. He acknowledged, that his friends, and especially his vicar general, had taken great pains to make him think humbly, submit his own opinion, and form a right judgment: But, said he, neither the favour nor the advice, nor the command of any man ought ever to make me do or say what is contrary to my conscience. To this letter he received no answer.
* Epist. ad Fred. f Resolut. de Indulg.
On the next day he sent another letter to Cajetan, expressed in more spirited language and nearer to his usual strain. " He conceived he had done every thing which became an obedient son of the church. He had undertaken a long and dangerous journey; he was a man of a weak body, and had very little money to spend. He had laid the book, which contained his opinions, at the feet of his holiness the pope; he had appeared before his most reverend father the cardinal; and he was now waiting to be instructed how far he was right in his opinions, and how far wrong. It could no longer serve any good purpose to spend his time there, and be a burden to his friends. He was really in want of money. Besides, the cardinal had told him, viva voce, to come no more into his sight, unless he would recant;" and said Luther, " in my former letter I have distinctly pointed out all the recantation I cay possibly make." He then signified his positive determination to leave the place; but not before he had formally appealed from the pope's legate, nay from the pope himself " ill informed to the same most holy LeoX. that he might be better informed." In prosecuting this appeal he confessed that he acted rather from the judgment of some persons of distinction than from his own. If he had been left entirely to himself, he should have thought an appeal unnecessary in this case. He wished to refer every thing to the determination of the church. ' What could he do more? He was not a contentious adversary, but a tractable scholar. Even the elector Frederic, he knew, would be better pleased with his appeal than his recantation. He therefore besought the cardinal to consider both his departure and his appeal as the effect of necessity and of the authority of his friends. They said, What will you retract? Is Your
retractation to be the rule of Our Faith? If any thing, which you have advanced, is to be condemned, let the church decide and do you obey. This reasoning, in his mind was irresistible.
Luther waited four whole days, reckoning from the day of his dismission by the cardinal, and still received no further orders. The suspense was extremely afflicting; and both himself and his friends began to suspect that this Total Silence portended violence to his person. To prevent being seized and imprisoned, he quitted Augsburg very early in the morning of the nineteenth* of October, 1518. A friendly senator ordered the gates of the city to be opened, and he mounted a horse, which Staupitius had procured for him. He had neither boots nor spurs, nor sword; and he was so fatigued with that day's journey, that when he descended from his horse, he was not able to stand, but fell down instantly among the straw in the stable.f He had, however, taken care before his departure, that every thing relative to his appeal, should be done in a proper manner and in the presence of a notary public.
Such was the conclusion oft he conferences at Augsburg, in which the firmness and plain dealing of Luther was no less conspicuous than the unreasonable and imperious behaviour of the cardinal.
Whatever might be the cause of that Silence for several days, on the part of Cajetan, which our reformer and his friends beheld with so much just suspicion and jealousy; whether the legate still hoped to bring the affair to a happy termination by the milder methods of influence and persuasion; or whether his ambiguous conduct is best explained on the supposi* tion that he was intending to seize the person of Luther, but did not dare to proceed to extremities, in defiance of the imperial grant of safe conduct, without further orders from the Roman see; on almost every imaginable view of his motives, it seems natural to conclude that he must have been much mortified at the sudden departure of Luther. He had neither punished the heretic nor reduced him to submission. The court of Rome would probably be highly displeased when they heard of his escape; and, in their disappointment, would be apt to forget the difficult circumstances under which the cardinal acted, and to attribute both the present and the consequent mischiefs to his bad management. In fact, as soon as the events at Augsburg were known at Rome, the pope's legate was blamed exceedingly for his severe and illiberal treatment of Luther at the very moment, it was said, when he ought to have promised him great riches, a bishopric, or even a cardinal's hat.*
* Some historians say, this happened on the 20th of October, others on the I8th, but I think Luther's own account of the proceedings at Augsburg show that he must have le' that city on the 19th. It is unnecessary to trouble the reader further respecting a matter of so little consequence.
f Tom. i. Altcmli. p. 150.
Paul Sarpi says, what is not at all improbable, that Luther had John Huss's case in his head.
Cajetan, no doubt, understood the disposition of the court of Rome sufficiently to foresee how harsh a construction would be put upon his conduct in a business, which had terminated so unfavourably to their wishes and expectations. In the bitterness of his heart he complained to the elector of Saxony of Luther's insolent and insincere behaviour; and even reproached his highness for supporting such a character. He said, that he had conversed for many hours privately with Staupitius, and one or two more learned friends respecting this business; that his object had been to preserve the dignity of the apostolic see without disgracing Brother Martin, and that when he had put matters into such a train, as to have reasonable hopes of the success of his plan, he had found himself completely deluded. Martin, his several associates, and his vicar general, had suddenly disappeared. Martin, indeed had written letters, in which he pretended to beg pardon, but he had retracted not one word of the scandalous language he had used. Lastly, Cajetan warned the prince to consider, how much he was bound in honour and conscience, either to send brother Martin to Rome or to banish him from his dominions. As to himself, he said, he had washed his hands of so pestilential a business, but his highness might be assured the cause would go on at Rome. It was too important to be passed over in silence;* and he intreated him not to sully the glory of himself and his illustrious house for the sake of a paltry mendicant monk.
* Father Paul.
Every pious reader will lament the effect which these turbulent and contentious scenes produced upon the mind of the venerable Staupitius. It should seem, that partly an apprehension of danger, and partly his private conversation with cardinal Cajetan, influenced this good man to leave his friend, withdraw all further opposition to the popedom, and retire to Saltzburg. Our more determined and adventurous reformer did not hesitate to tell him, that " he stuck fast between Christ and the pope."f Let us hope, however, that this judgment of Luther was of the harsher sort; and that, in passing it, sufficient allowances were not made for the different tempers and ages of men and for inveterate habits.
Two reasons induce me to conclude with certainty that Staupitius acted towards Luther with perfect faithfulness at Augsburg. First, it is beyond all dispute, that he affronted Cajetan by leaving that place suddenly and without taking leave; which he would never have done, if he had betrayed his friend by dishonorably entering into any plans for seizing his person. Secondly, by way of encouraging the persecuted monk in his difficult circumstances he used this language to him, " Remember, my brother, you undertook this business in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Luther himself, three years afterwards, owned these precious words " sunk deep into his mind." The truth is, this reverend vicar general was a man
• Luth. Op. vol. i. The letter is dated Oct- 25, 1518.
t Lib. i. ep.
of a timid temper, and well advanced in years; also his views of the gospel were far from being bright or distinct; and lastly the prospect of peace with the hierarchy, at least at Wittemberg, was extremely gloomy.
Moreover, we cannot doubt but the pope's legate, in his private conversation with Staupitius, would use both conciliatory and threatening language. Each would tend to shake the resolution of such a man. And besides the direct and immediate effect of that conversation on the mind of the timorous vicar general, we may fairly trace some other important consequences to the same origin. While he was agitated with the discussion, and perhaps yielding to the legate's menaces and advice, he exhorted his less pliable monk to exhibit to his superiors some plainer marks of obedience and humility. The firm temper of Luther, which had resisted the imperious dictates of a haughty cardinal, instantly relented under the intreaties of a mild and affectionate friend. Hence that submissive letter, which our reformer wrote to Cajetan* on Monday the seventeenth of October; and hence those apologies and concessions which are contained in it, to the very limit of what his conscience would permit. Probably no part of his own conduct, on a review of the proceedings at Augsburg, would afford him less satisfaction than this; and though Luther never reproached Staupitius for having recommended so extremely injudicious and suppliant a measure, yet the latter might possibly observe in the former some dissatisfaction on that account; and, at any rate, he could not fail to be convinced from many circumstances, that his own disposition was not calculated, like that of his friend, to encounter such difficulties and hazards as were likely to arise in a righteous and determined opposition to the popedom. These considerations may help further to explain, why it might not be disagreeable to Staupitius to remove from
* Page 320
Wittemberg, and thereby avoid the dangerous fellowship, and importunities of a man who, in his opinion, was apt to be impetuous and turbulent in his public conduct.
But perhaps the circumstance, which may be thought most unfavourable to the reputation of Staupitius, is, that, in the year 1523, we find him preferred to an abbacy at Saltsburg. Luther's affectionate regard and veneration for his vicar general, restrained him from saying any thing harsh or severe on this occasion, but he could not dissemble his doubts and anxieties respecting the consequences of this preferment. We will conclude this chapter with two valuable extracts of his letters. The first is dated 1522, and is in answer to a letter received from Staupitius at a time, when Luther had heard an unfounded rumor that his friend was actually made an abbot.
" The report of your being made an abbot is so general, that if I had not received your own letter in contradiction, I must have been compelled to believe it. It is, I suppose, in the same way that you receive Untruths concerning me. May the providence of God attend you! but, I confess my plain understanding does not point out to me, how it can be advisable for you to accept an abbacy at this time. I would not, however, interfere with your judgment. One thing I intreat you, by the bowels of Christ, not readily to believe those who calumniate me. In regard to what you inform me, that my doctrines are the delight of debauchees, and that many scandalous practices have been the consequence of my recent publications, I am neither afraid of such censorious representations, nor surprised to hear of them. Certainly I have laboured,and am labouring, that the pure Word of God may be spread abroad without tumult. But you know that I am not master of events. My object has been to attack, by means of the written Word, that system of impieties, which hath been introduced in opposition to sound doctrine. The abominations, my father, the abominations of the pope with his whole kingdom
must be destroyed. And the Lord does this without hand,* by the Word alone. The subject exceeds all human comprehension; and therefore we need not wonder that great commotions, scandals, and even prodigies should arise. Let not these things disturb you, my father. I cherish the best hopes. The counsel and the stretched out arm of God is plain in this matter. Remember how my cause, from the very first, gave the highest offence to the world, and yet it hath continually prevailed. Satan feels his wound: hence he rages the more, and endeavours to throw all into confusion."
The second letter, dated 1523, is addressed to the reverend abbot of St. Peter's in Saltsburg.
" Reverend father, your silence is unkind. But though I cease to find favour in your eyes, I ought never to forget You, through whose means, the light of the gospel first dawned in my heart. I must tell you the truth. It would have been more agreeable to me, if you had not been appointed an abbot; but since it is so, let neither of us interfere with our respective rights of private judgment. Your best friends are sorry for your leaving us, but still much more sorry that you are so near the infamous cardinal Langius, and that you will be compelled to bear in silence all- his outrageous behaviour. I shall wonder if you are not in
danger of denying Christ We still hope
the best of you, though your long silence disheartens us. If you are become another man, (which may Christ forbid!) I speak plainly, I shall throw away no more words, but have recourse to prayer, that God may be pleased to show mercy upon you, and us all. You observe, reverend father, how doubtfully Iexpress myself. The reason is, your long silence leaves us ignorant of the disposition of your mind; whereas you very well know our most secret thoughts and wishes. Permit mc however to speak positively on one point. We are confident, that we are not really objects of your contempt, even though you should dislike all our proceedings. I shall not cease to pray that you may be as much estranged from the popedom, as I am at this moment, and indeed as you were formerly. May the Lord hear me, and take you and us to himself."
* Dan. viii. 25.
These letters may deserve the reader's diligent consideration. They throw light on the general character both of the writer and of his friend: they intimate an evident progress of knowledge, in Luther's mind, respecting the nature of the papacy, which took place between the years 1518, and 1523: they manifest the strength of divine grace, which enabled him to withstand that threatening storm which alarmed Staupitius, and drove him into a dishonourable shelter; and. lastly, they compel the mind to entertain painful fears and conjectures respecting the perfect uprightness of the new abbot of Saltsburg, however we may be inclined to indulge cheerful hopes, that at the last day he will be found not to have gone the length of actually denying his Lord and Master.
Staupitius enjoyed his abbacy only for a very short time. He died in the year 1524.