The Controversy continued. The Attempts of Mtltttz and of'Eckius.
1 HE condition of Luther after his return to Wittemberg, was peculiarly afflictive. Before himself he saw the total ruin of his worldly circumstances, the hardships of poverty and of exile, and the fear of a violent death from papal vengeance. He was not without hope of the protection of the elector, partly from the well known justice and humanity of that prince's character, and partly from the good offices of his secretary Spalatinus. Moreover, as yet, the interference of Frederic in the ecclesiastical controversy had not
only been firm and discreet, but also as spirited and Friendly, as could reasonably be expected in behalf of one who was looked on by the hierarchy as a turbulent and an abandoned heretic. Still it behooved our reformer not to be over confident in his expectations of future support. He had abundant cause to be thankful for the past exertions of his prince, which had been found so useful and effective; but trying times were coming on apace. Every day the contest grew more and more perilous. Luther himself had a single eye to the prosperity of the kingdom of Christ; but he could not be answerable for the zeal or the perseverance of others: he was well acquainted with the human heart; and he foresaw that political and secular concerns might clash with the interests of the gospel. He would not wonder if the love of many began to wax cold;* even his much esteemed friend Staupitius had already quitted Saxony; and, though the elector had hitherto manfully defended him against the tyrannical machinations of the court of Rome, it might well be doubted whether the chief motives of this magnanimous conduct were a regard for the honour of God and the religion of Jesus.f
It was an excellent part of Luther's character, that in the most critical and difficult situations he could commit his cause to the God, whom he served, with firm and entire reliance on HIS WILL; and at the
* Matth. 12.
f Some account of the religious character of the elector was given in page 280 of this volume. Seckendorf doubts whether his principal reason for supporting Luther, who was then the public teacher of divinity and philosophy in the university of Wittemberg, might not be the ardent desire which that prince always showed for the prosperity of his favourite seminary of learning. Be this as it may, it is certain, that even before the conferences at Augsburg, in a letter to cardinal Raphael, he expressed himself with great coolness and indifference respecting the DocTrines of Luther. " I have never," says he, " taken upon me to defend either the writings or the sermons of Dr. Martin L., ami I proved the same, which I now assert, both to Cajetan the pope's legate, and to Miltitz his nuncio." Some authors consider this, as a confession on the part of Frederic, that he had not so much as read a line of Luther's publications, or heard him deliver his sermons. others suppose that, in his concerns with the papal agents, he might dissemble his regard for the reformer, with a view of supporting him and his cause more effectually in the end. Luth. Op. Witt. vol. i. p. 228.
much restrained; whereas if I leave Germany, I will open my hpart to the world, and offer up my life freely in the service of Christ."
Those who have most considered, how great a trial to a thoughtful mind, a state of suspense is in dangerous and critical seasons, will form the best judgment of Luther's situation towards the end of the year J 518. The foregoing extracts lay open his secret feelings and resolutions, at the same time that they also exhibit his extraordinary faith, patience, and resignation.
In this conjuncture, the elector of Saxony signified his earnest wish that Luther would not leave Wittemberg.* This spirited resolution is to be ascribed, partly to the interference and supplication of the university of that place in behalf of their beloved professor, and partly to the imperious and threatening language of cardinal Cajetan.f Frederic with a calmness and dignity, suitable to his character, declared that he could not expel Luther from Wittemberg, without doing much injury to his university, and further that he should not consider him as an heretic till he had been heard and was convicted. Animated with this favourable determination of the prince, the professor of theology resolved to remain on the spot; and, in a discourse from the pulpit, he requested the people, in case his person should at length become the victim of papal severity, not to harbour the least illwill against the pope or any human being whatever, but to commit the cause to God.
It will be proper to mention here, that besides the literary and controversial employments of the professor at Wittemberg, he had for some time discharged the office of pastor of the same town, as the substitute of Simon Heinsius, the ordinary minister, who then laboured under bodily infirmities; and thus this industrious reformer supported at once the character of a theological teacher and disputant, and also of a popular preacher and a parochial clergyman.
• Melch Adam. f P*Se 323—4.
Luther, desirous of anticipating the papal bull, which he daily expected, renewed his appeal to the pope Better Informed, or in failure of this, to a general council. Fifteen days after, Leo issued a bull, in which, without mentioning the name of Luther, he confirmed the doctrine of indulgences in the most absolute manner. By this step no less improvident than impious, he put it out of the power of the friends of the papacy, to vindicate or even to extenuate its conduct. The grossest venality and contempt of true piety and salutary discipline had prevailed in Germany through the sale of indulgences. To maintain the rectitude of the practice, without the least correction of excesses, at a time when the memory of the transactions was recent, prevented every attempt that might be made to reconcile Luther to the hierarchy. The providence of God was admirable in thus barring up his return to the church of Rome, while, as yet, he was far from being convinced of the totally antichristian state of the popedom.
But the mercenary prostitution of indulgences had not been confined to Germany. In the summer of this same year 1518, Samson a franciscan of Milan, came to Zurich, to prosecute the scandalous traffic. There he was opposed by Huldric Zuinglius, afterwards the famous Swiss reformer.* In the month of September, Samson came to Zug, where a servant seeing the people press in crouds, addressed them: " Be not so importunate, I beseech you; letf those enter first, who are furnished with money; care shall be taken afterwards of the poor." At Bern, the enormities exceeded, if possible, those which had been practised in Germany. When the sale of the indulgences was over, BaptisMal Innocence was restored to all present, who should confess their sins, and thrice recite the Lord's prayer and the angelic salutation. Those also, who thrice went round the great church daily repeating prayers, might free what souls they pleased from pur
* Father Paul, b. i. p. 8- f Page 60- Seckendorf. Hottinger.
the matter contained in it, and also of the effect it produced on the mind of the prince.
The elector, duke of Saxony, to Erasmus. " It gives me the greatest satisfaction to be informed by you, that lutheranism is not disapproved by the learned, and that the writings of doctor Martin are read wjth the greatest avidity. He is a person almost unanimously admired, at home and abroad, both for the integrity of his life and for his solid erudition. That he has remained hitherto in Saxony under our protection is, indeed, owing rather to the just cause he Sefends than to the man himself.
" Nothing can be more contrary to our principles than to suffer a man, who has deserved reward, to be oppressed and punished: nor with the help of Almighty God will we ever allow an innocent person to become a victim to the selfish malice of the wicked."
The court of Rome, finding it impossible to stop the proceedings of Luther by mere authority and threatening, had now recourse to the arts of negotiation. The haughty pontiff had become sensible of his imprudence in having entrusted the management of the controversy to such a commissioner as Cajetan; but we shall soon see, that still he had learnt no lessons of true wisdom and moderation from what happened at Augsburg. He condescended indeed to employ a person of a different stamp; one, who by his insinuating manners and gentle treatment of the reformer, raised considerable expectations of at least a temporary peace; but happily for the reformation, this judicious and temperate policy was presently succeeded by measures most unaccountably imprudent and disgusting. This new legate was Charles Miltitz, a Saxon knight, who, as a lay character, might be supposed less under the dominion of party and prejudice than the dominican cardinal, his predecessor. He was commissioned to present to the elector Frederic the golden consecrated Rose;* and, if possible, to put
• This used to be considered as a peculiar mark of the pope's favour and esteem. i _
an end to all the ecclesiastical disputes which had produced the rupture between Luther and the Roman see. Frederic had formerly solicited the favour of the Rose with much earnestness; but on this occasion, he is said to have received it with a cool and almost contemptuous politeness; and in no wise could he be induced to change his measures respecting his favourite professor of Wittemberg.
Miltitz, thus foiled in his attempts to influence the mind of the prince elector, repaired to Leipsic; and there finding Tetzel, he twice rebuked him with the greatest severity before his own provincial* on account of his iniquitous practices in the business of indulgences. It appears from Miltitz's own letters that, as he passed through Germany, he had obtained perfect intelligence of the frauds and private vices of Tetzel; and probably he was the more desirous of exposing them, because, by abandoning that audacious dominiean, he imagined he should at once gratify the advocates for reformation, and shelter the Roman pontiff from censure. With Luther himself the new legate had several conferences which proved fruitless, as to the essential points: and the only effect of these negotiations in the former part of 1519, seems to have been, that the electors of Saxony and of Treves agreed to defer the complete examination of the matters in dispute to the first German diet of the new emperor Charles V.; and that, in the mean time, Luther should write a submissive letter to the pope. To this our reformer readily consented, for he was by no means disposed to break with the pontiff; and it is not im. probable he would have continued an obedient subject of the Roman see all his days, if he might have been permitted, without molestation, to discharge the office of a faithful pastor of Christ. The learned translator! of Mosheim, seems out of humor with him for having made " weak submissions" on this occasion; and yet he owns that, " properly speaking, there was no retractation of his former tenets, nor the smallest de« gree of respect shown to the infamous traffic of indulgences." If so, every judicious protestant, though he may entirely agree with this excellent writer, that Luther's " views were not, as yet, very extensive, his former prejudices entirely dispelled, or his reforming principles steadily fixed,"* may nevertheless maintain that his submissive conduct at this time, taken with all the circumstances which accompanied it, indicated Strength of mind, not weakness, and a spirit of discrimination rather than of blind acquiescence. We ought not to judge of this great man by the feelings and habits of protestants of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
* Seck. p. 62. t Mosh. vol. ii. chap. ii. sect. ix.
His inimical historian Maimbourgf says, " his letter to the pope ,was rather civil than humble, but that it contained nothing to the purpose." Let the reader judge from the following concise account of it, whether Luther, according to the light which he then possessed, did not take effectual care not to entangle his conscience by any improper concessions.
He said, it was a great grief to him to find himself accused of want of respect to the church of Rome: that his design in all he had done was to maintain the honour of that church; and thar^as his writings were now spread throughout all Germany, he could not retract his assertions without dishonouring the said church; that the persons who really injured the holy see were the very preachers whom he had opposed: they disgraced their saqred office by the most absurd discourses, and by seeking only to gratify their avarice under the protection of his holiness. Lastly, he declared, that he was ready to observe silence in future respecting indulgences, provided his adversaries would also forbear their provocations. In concluding he solemnly protested, that all along he had aimed at nothing but to prevent the mother church from being polluted by the vile imputation of avarice, and the
* ft. f Sect. 24.
people from being seduced by a false notion that the indulgences were preferable to truly benevolent actions.*
Of his personal conferences with Miltitz, the following compressed account is extracted from his own letters and from the Latin edition of his works. "Charles Miltitz saw me at Altenburg, and complained, that I had united the whole world to myself, and drawn it aside from the pope; that he had discovered this at the inns, as he travelled. " Martin," said he, " I took you for some solitary old,theologian; whereas I find you a person in all the vigour of life. Then you are so much favoured with the popular opinion, that I could not expect, with the help of twenty-five thousand soldiers, to force you with me to Rome.*' After this flattery, he intreated me to consult for pacific measures, and promised, that he would endeavour that the pope should do the same. We supped together, and I was treated with the greatest courtesy. I conducted myself in such a manner as if I had not seen through these Italian arts.f I could only promise, that I would do all, which I could do consistently with truth and a good conscience; that I also loved peace, and was driven into these broils by mere necessity. This Charles Miltitz was esteemed a frivolous character, and his advice was frivolous; nevertheless it Is my judgment, that if the friends of the papacy and the pope himself had treated me in this manner at first, matters would never have come to so great a rupture. Instead of that, the pope condemned me unheard, and raged with his Bulls; and the crafty archbishop of Mentz became the dupe of his own cunning. All the blame is at his door; for, his sole object in suppressing my doctrine, was to save his own part of the money, which should be collected by the indulgences. But now all the papal plans and attempts are to no purpose. The Lord hath awaked and stands to judge the people; and though they slay us, they will not gain their point."
* Luth. Op. vOj; t Da Pin, cent. 1^ fltalitates.
Luther was always distinguished by a spirit of respect and obedience towards his superiors, whether in church or state. In this negotiation with Miltitz, and also in his letter to the pope, we discern much of this spirit, joined to great tenderness of conscience and an amiable sensibility of temper on account of the humane treatment he had received. Keep in view, that, as yet, he apprehended the papal power to have just foundations, however it might have been abused; keep in view his own description of his feelings,* penned in moments of the greatest deliberation, and long after the turb lent scenes were passed; keep in view the state of the rest of mankind in christendom, and you will acknowledge the Saxon reformer to have exhibited a rare example of courage and firmness in these memorable transactions. In proposing a compromise of silence on both sides on the affair of indulgences, he may be thought to have acted inconsistently with his former declarations, and to have conceded too much to the hierarchy; but the answer is, he had already manfully resisted the Roman see in that abominable traffic; and he began to hesitate how far it was His proper business to proceed further in a matter of that sort. In a word, his conscience was at present puzzled respecting the Extent of the obedience which he owed to the rulers whose authority he then allowed. Harassed with doubts, and perfectly aware of the danger that threatened him, he would have given the world for a sound and discreet counsellor: of the danger he sought no partner: but alas, his best and wisest friends, when pressed closely concerning the most critical and perilous part of the contest, absolutely stood aloof, f After long and diligent reflection on the best authenticated facts, and the peculiar situation of Luther, the very doubts which arose in his mind, appear to me, I con
- Pages 305—6
f A'er he had conferred with Miltitz, he wrote to his friend Spalatimi9; and he also particularly entreated the elector Frederic, that, for the sake of Almighty God, he would use so. much clemency towards him, as freely to say, what he wished him to do in the present circumstances. Seek. p. 6j. * Page 326—7
fess, to imply both extraordinary integrity of principle, and great vigor of intellect.
But whatever were the secret motives of our reformer in making his concessions, Leo X. disdained to accept the submission, and open the door of reconciliation. The serious reader will not think me troublesome in repeatedly drawing his attention to the kind providence of God, which appeared so remarkably in many particulars of the contest before us. While the Roman pontiff, rejecting counsels of peace, was listening to enraged bigots, greedy dominicans, and ambitious cardinals, the inquisitive spirit of the humble professor of Wittemberg, was enabled, by degrees and a constant study of the scriptures, to acquire a practical conviction that the tyranny of the papal hierarchy was no longer to be endured. Luther's letter to the pope was written in the former part of 1519; and by his two letters to Staupitius, we have seen how much better he understood the true principles of the papal system in 1522 and 1523.* It was undoubtedly this gradual insight into the enormities of the popedom, which cooperating with the infatuation of the pontifical advisers in their unaccountable aversion to healing and pacific measures, raised that general spirit of indignation, and of opposition to the established religion, which at length terminated in rhe blessed reformation. \
While the pope's nuncio was negotiating a reconciliation in Germany, Tetzel, the wretched subaltern, whose scandalous conduct had so much disgraced his employers, met with the reward, which frequently awaits the ministers of iniquity. He found himself deserted by all the world.
Miltitz, in particular, had treated him so roughly, that this daring and boisterous instrument of papal avarice and extortion actually fell sick, wasted away, and at last died of a broken heart. A dreadful lesson! This unhappy man left the world, as far as appears, destitute of* comfort in his own soul after he had administered a false peace to thousands! It became necessary for those whom he had served to discard him, and he had no resources in his own conscience. The pontiff's displeasure is said to have affected him exceedingly; but we have no evidence that he searched the word of God in true penitence and humility. A little before his death, Luther, hearing of his anguish of mind, and sympathizing with him in his distress, wrote to him in the most kind and consolatory strains, and begged him not to be distressed with the recollection of any thing that had passed between them.* If the letter had been extant, we should have found in it, I apprehend, instructions concerning repentance, and warm exhortations to lay hold of the promises of the gospel. If the French historians, Maimbourg and Varillas, had been acquainted with this fact, they would hardly, one would think, have represented Luther, as a man of a vindictive, implacable temper, t
About the middle of the year 1519, Erasmus wrote, from Lovain, an epistle to Luther, which proves with what caution and temper that great man had beheld the progress of the contest. He takes care not to appear a partizan of Luther; he speaks of him with a studied ambiguity; commends him so far as he could consistently with his determined purpose not to expose himself to trouble or rebuke, and recommends to him moderation and mildness in his proceedings. In this last point, he certainly deserved the thanks of Luther; let us remember, however, that timid and artful politicians were never employed, to any good purpose, in the service of Jesus Christ.
No man understood better than Erasmus the art of suggesting advice, in nice and difficult cases, without giving offence. The latter part of his letter to Luther runs thus: " In England you have persons of the greatest distinction, who think highly of your writings. Here also you have advocates, and among them there is one most excellent character. For my part, I keep clear of all party, with a vievv* to be of as much service as I can to the revival of literature. And I think one does more good by civility and moderation than by violence. In that way Christ has brought mankind under his government: in that way St. Paul abrogated the Jewish ritual. It is better to complain of those who abuse the authority of the pontiffs, than of the pontiffs themselves; and I would make the same remark respecting kings. We may argue as strongly as we can against notions that have long prevailed, but we should never contradict them positively. It is more effectual to treat acrimonious abuse with contempt than to confute it. On every occasion we should guard against arrogant and factious Language; nothing can be more opposite to the spirit of christianity. At the same time we should keep a strict watch over our Motives. Anger, hatred, vain glory, lay snares for us, even when we are most piously employed. I do not say these things to you by way of admonition, for you do observe the very rules here recommended. I mention them rather for the purpose of exhorting you to persevere in the same conduct always. Your commentaries on the psalms please me exceedingly; and I hope they will do much good. The prior of the monastery at Antwerp says, he was formerly one of your scholars. He is a man of real primitive christianity, and loves you most cordially. He is almost the only one who preaches Jesus Christ. The rest in general, either aim at lucre, or treat the people with old wives' fables. May the Lord Jesus daily bestow upon you more plentifully His Own Spirit for the glory of his name and the public good! Farewel."*
* Luth. Op. Wit.
t Maimbourg in Seek. p. 18. Varillas, in eod. p. 22. See also p. 28?—8; itf this volume.
• Ep. Erasm. 427- vol. i.
There are many excellent observations interspersed throughout this composition. It is written in Latin, and is a good specimen of that elegant adroitness with
which the accomplished author always conducted himself in affairs of peculiar delicacy.
But it was not only the wary Erasmus and the timid Staupitius, who shrunk from the dangerous contest with the hierarchy in which Luther was involved, even Spalatinus himself was not a little intimidated by the daring measures of his adventurous, friend. Several of the elector's court also were alarmed in a similar way; and thus the Saxon reformer, whose righteous cause was eminently that of mankind in general, and who himself needed encouragement in his perils and anxieties, was called upon to rouse and animate the drooping minds of his best supporters, who began to waver and complain that matters were carried too far. This departure from a steady and consistent conduct in his more enlightened adherents was, no doubt, a trial peculiarly severe and vexatious to Luther. Men expect, from their enemies, reproach, misrepresentation, calumny; they are prepared for these things; they even triumph in them, and are stirred up by them to defence and victory. It is when their friends become tame or treacherous; when they deceive or desert them in critical moments, that the firmest mind, acting on principles merely human, is apt to give way. Conscious of integrity and disinterestedness, and overcome with chagrin and disappointment, a man, in such a case, abandons altogether a dangerous conflict, where his solitary efforts, against a host of adversaries, will prove inevitably abortive. Not so, however, where the cause is that of true religion, and where the gospel of Christ has laid strong hold both of the understanding and the affections. We then look for the operation of other motives besides those of mere human nature. As we then serve a Master, who Must be obeyed, we have promises of help, directions for resignation, and grounds of comfort in the issue of ill success, such as belong to no worldly enterprises whatever. The following extract of a letter to Spalatinus will illustrate these observations.
Luther to Spalatinus,
" Do not give way to fear too much, my dear Spalatinus; neither teaze your mind by filling it with human imaginations. You know, I must have perished long ago in my various struggles with the supporters of papal abominations, unless Christ had taken care of me and my concerns. Was there a single person, who did not expect that my ruin would have taken place before this time? I assure you, I suppress many things, which, if I were elsewhere; I should freely publish concerning the enormities of Rome. But you must never hope that I shall be free from persecution and danger, unless I were entirely to give up the cause of sound divinity. My friends, if they please, may suppose me beside myself; nevertheless I say, if this contest be really of God, it will not be ended, till Truth effectually sare itself by its own right hand; not by mine, nor by yours. From the very first I have been expecting matters to come to the situation in which they are at this moment. However I always told you, that I would quit the country, if my residence in Saxony was attended with any danger to the prince."
From this letter, which plainly implies a previous communication from Spalatinus expressive of much apprehension and uneasiness, a judgment may be formed of the sentiments respecting Luther, which probably prevailed at the elector's court in the former part of the year 1519. Spalatinus resided with Frederic in the capacity both of secretary and domestic chaplain; and therefore would take no step of importance without the secret knowledge and approbation of that prince. Luther was perfectly aware of this; and in his letter to his friend, would, no doubt, consider the fears and anxieties, which he was endeavouring to quiet, as, in reality, the fears and anxieties of the elector himself. Hence he wisely repeats his readiness at all times to quit Saxony, if* his presence there should be judged injurious to the interests of the prince.
On this occasion, however, neither the elector of Saxony nor his court should be accused of down right insincerity. In the main, they certainly favoured the principles of Luther, and rejoiced in his success; but they disliked any material share of the hazard of the controversy. Hence, they became cold, supine, and irresolute; and hence, their communications, which ought to have furnished spirited counsel and encouragement, dwindled into prudential lessons of caution and remonstrance. Modern protestants should know the extreme disadvantages under which the great Champion of christian liberty laboured in the beginning of the reformation.
The immediate circumstance, which seems to have given the alarm at this time* to the friends of Luther, was the bold declarations of this theologian, in his answers to the positions of Eckius respecting the foundation of the pope's authority. He had written to Spalatinus very explicitly on this subject, but seems not completely to have satisfied his scruples. To call in question the origin of the power of the pope, was to tread tender ground; the nations, as yet, secretly revered his majesty, and dreaded his vengeance; though, in regard to ecclesiastical abuses in general, they had indeed begun to open their eyes and were receiving fresh light apace.
The name of Eckius of Ingolstadt has already been mentionedf among the adversaries of Luther. This able and learned doctor of divinity had formerly been the friend of our reformer; but a thirst of fame and a prospect of worldly advantages seduced him from the cause of Truth. The facts we have to produce, indicate but too plainly the motives of Eckius. After his literary defeat in the affair of indulgences, he circulated thirteen propositions, all of them levelled against the heresies of lutheranism. One of these propositions affirmed the grand article of a papist's faith, namely, " That the pontiffs are vicars of Christ, and the successors of St. Peter."* Luther had the sagacity instantly to see through his design; and expressed himself to the following effect. " I never so much as touched upon this subject in any of my dicourses. Eckius now brings it forward to serve several purposes. He thinks, he shall hereby cast an odium upon me, and at the same time flatter the court of Rome, to his own profit, and to the ruin of his brother Martin Luther."
* Viz. about the middle of 1519. f Page 300, of this vol.
It will here be proper to give a brief account of the famous disputation which was carried on publicly at Leipsic, for many days together in the course of this year.
Eckius, relying on the brilliancy of his own talents and the popularity of his cause, earnestly sought for a public exhibition of theological skill; and, with this view, challenged Carolstadt, the colleague and adherent of Luther, and even Luther himself, to try their strength with him in a contest on the points in dispute. Carolstadt was a doctor of divinity, and archdeacon of Wittemberg, and is esteemed one of the first open defenders of Luther. The challenge was accepted; and George, duke of Saxony, uncle of the elector, offered the combatants the city of Leipsic, as the scene of debate, with an engagement for their security and a promise of every convenience. He was himself a strenuous roman catholic, and he expected that great glory would accrue to the papal cause from the well known abilities and attainments of Eckius. Luther obtained leave to be present at the contest as a spectator, but was expressly denied the grant of a safe conduct, if he attempted to appear in the character of a disputant. The assembly was splendid, the expectations of mankind were strongly fixed; and it was vainly imagined that some decision would be made concerning the objects of contention.
The first subject of debate between Eckius and Carolstadt respected the limits of nature and grace. The latter disputant defended the whole doctrine of Augustin concerning grace, which, Luther observes, Eckius did not oppose by argument, or with any real difference of sentiment, but only in mere words and in appearance. He granted that F R E E w i L L without grace, oouldeffect nothing but sin. " It avails then," continues Luther, " not to good but to evil. Where then is its liberty? Moreover, every illiterate person, who hears the expression Freewill, naturally supposes that it implies man to be equally capable of good and evil; whence he will presume on his own strength, and think that he can convert himself to God. Eckius knows very well the impiety of this notion, yet he supports and spreads it. I too admit that man's will is free in a certain sense; not because it is now in the same state as it was in Paradise, but because it was made free originally, and may, through God's grace, become so again.1'
* Propos. Ecc. Lutli. Op. vol. i.
Such were the sentiments of Luther on this difficult subject; and, if due allowance be made for the impropriety of the term freewill, his ideas appear sufficiently in harmony with what the most evangelical persons, in all ages, have maintained. The whole controversy was carried on with much clamour and confusion; the Roman party prevailed in popularity at Leipsic; Eckius delivered what he had to say with prodigious animation, and is allowed to have far exceeded Carolstadt in energetic exertions of voice and action. Luther protests in the most solemn manner, that as long as an appeal to books and written documents were admitted, his friend Carolstadt defended himself with a rich variety of apt and excellent quotations; but, says he, " Eckius made a proposal, that all books should be laid aside, and the dispute go on without them; the multitude gave a shout of approbation; and then, I freely own, that Eckius, who had the better memory and a greater flow of words, supported his side of the question in a more plausible manner than his opponent."*
* Seek. 73.
This disputation continued for six days;* during which time, the superior eloquence and acuteness of Eckius seems to have afforded a temporary triumph to the enemies of the reformation. Flushed with success, and thirsting for glory, this champion of the papal system, came to Luther at his lodgings, and, with an air of confidence, said, " I understand you will not dispute with me in public." " How can I dispute with you," said Luther, " when the duke George refuses me my request of a safe conduct." Eckius replied, " If I am not to combat you, I will spend no more time on Carolstadt. It was on Your account that I came here. Suppose I could obtain the public faith for your safety, would you then meet me and try your strength."f Luther consented; and very soon after he had the duke's leave to take Carolstadt's place in the public debate.
This second theological conflict was carried on for ten days, with uncommon ardor and Without intermission. Among the articles of controversy were the doctrines of purgatory and indulgences, the nature of repentance and remission of sins, and, particularly, the foundation of the supremacy of the Roman pontiffs. It was in this last article of the controversy, that Eckius placed his chief strength and expectation of victory. His numerous audience in general, with the duke of* Saxony at their head, favoured the papal cause: long habits of ignorance, superstition, and prejudice, in religious matters, had established the romish doctrines; and the few, who ventured to inquire for reasons of their faith, were deemed impious and accursed, and worthy of expulsion from the community.
Moreover this question concerning the superiority of the Roman see was well contrived to promote the ambitious designs of Eckius in every way. Luther, it was foreseen, must either shun the main point in debate by disgraceful evasions; or, by a direct avowal of his doctrines, expose himself to the charge of open
• From June 27, 1519, to July 4. t Melch. Ad.
heresy. He must either yield the palm of eloquence and of theological skill to his crafty adversary, or he would inevitably furnish such decisive proofs of rebellion against the hierarchy as would insure his own condemnation at the court of Rome. Thus the troublesome innovator was supposed to be entangled in an inextricable dilemma, while the prudent defender of the established religion, looking forward to nothing but conquest and glory, anticipated the praises and honours of the Roman pontiff. Luther, whom we have observed to have been fully sensible in how nice and critical a situation he was placed,* was much hurt by the ungenerous conduct of Eckius in this business, and severely reproached him afterwards on the account.
To the talents and the artifices of the popish advocate, the Saxon reformer, besides his superior abilities and more intimate knowledge of the scriptures, opposed a good conscience, a firm determination to hazard every thing in the cause of Truth, and a confident expectation of the blessing of the Almighty. In particular, against Eckius's doctrine of the divine right of the popes, he advanced the following proposition. " All the proofs, which can be produced to show that the church of Rome is superior to other churches, are taken out of insipid decretals of the popes themselves, made within these four hundred years; and against this notion of supremacy, there are passages of the holy scriptures, approved histories for eleven hundred years, and the determinations of the council of Nice."
When Eckius contended, that the expressions " Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church," " And I will give unto thee the keys," evinced the supremacy of St. Peter and his successors, that this was the explanation given by the holy fathers, and that the contrary opinion was among the errors of Wickliff and John Huss; Luther in reply said, that he could produce more passages from the fathers in support of his own interpretation of the passages in question than Eckius could of his; but that he had no hesitation to add, that even if all the fathers, without exception, had understood the passages in that sense, he would confute them by the authority of St. Paul, and St. Peter themselves, who say, that Jesus Christ is the only foundation and corner stone of his church. He further observed, that the words, " Thou art Peter,"....if construed strictly, must be confined to the person of Peter, and therefore the authority conveyed by them ceased when that apostle died; and that if their meaning was to be extended to the church and to Peter's successors, no reason could be given, why All the apostles and All their successors should not be understood to be the successors of Peter. Lastly, he intimated that his adversary had been very unfortunate in appealing to the authority of Cyprian. " If," said Luther, " the learned doctor will agree to stand or fall by the authority of Cyprian, we shall quickly put an end to this controversy. For in the first place, Cyprian never addresses Cornelius, the bishop of Rome, in any other manner than ' My dear brother;' and in the second, he expressly says, that every bishop has a distinct jurisdiction of his own, and that bishops ought not to interfere with each other, but wait for the day of judgment by our Lord Jesus Christ."*
* Page 345. of this vol. at the top'.
Eckius was so much struck with the reasonings of Luther, and especially with the neat, and well digested order in which his materials were arranged, that he was compelled to acknowledge, before a splendid audience, the " qualifications and attainments of his reverend opponent." He even besought their illustrious and magnificent mightinesses to pardon himself, who was so much occupied with other concerns, if he should not be able to produce such a mass of accurate testimonies as the learned doctor had laid before them
* Revolut. Lutheri
Vol. IV. 45
-He came to Leipsic, he said, not to write books, but to dispute.
It will be unnecessary to trouble the protestant reader with a minute detail of a multitude of arguments, which were brought forward in this debate with great warmth, eloquence, and dexterity, on both sides. We shall make a few concise observations on several of the controverted points, and also take notice of some instructive facts and circumstances which are connected with this famous disputation at Leipsic, and then dismiss the subject.
Though Luther judged it impious to maintain the Divine Right of the pope in that strict sense, which makes him the successor of St. Peter and vicar of Christ, his extreme reverence for the scriptures, and his tenderness of conscience, disposed him, as yet, to allow the superiority of the Roman see, but on different grounds. It could not be denied that the pontiffs had possessed a decided preeminence from age to age, and therefore, he conceived, it was his duty not to resist " the powers that be." The scriptural argument, which for a long time appeared to his mind in itself unanswerable, was still further strengthened by two powerful reasons. Firstly, the will of God, he thought, might be clearly collected from the facts, independent of scripture. Unless it had been the will of God, the popes could never have attained so great and durable a dominion. Secondly, " The whole body of christians," he said, " own themselves to be under the Roman pontiff: this universal consent is a consideration of the greatest weight: the unity of the church should be preserved in every thing that is not directly contrary to the word of God."*
Intirely agreeable to these sentiments is the declarationof Luther in one of his letters to Spalatinus, who, it should seem, had been directed by the elector of Saxony to admonish him most seriously, in all things to observe a reverential obedience towards the
pope. " To separate myself," says he, " from the apostolical see of Rome is a thing that has never yet entered my mind."* However his next letter to the same friend intimates a further insight into the essence of popery. " That I may be the better qualified," says he, il for the ensuing debate at Leipsic, I am turning over the decretals of the popes; and I would whisper into your ear, that I begin to entertain doubts, whether the Roman pontiff be not the very antichrist of the scriptures, or his messenger; so wretchedly corrupted by him, in the decretals, are the pure doctrines of Christ."f As long-as this new sentiment remained crude and unsettled in the mind of Luther, it certainly behooved him not to act upon it; but it is not difficult to understand how the divulging of so important a secret to Spalatinus must have startled the elector Frederic and his court, who, we have seen, were sufficiently alarmed with the liberties which had already been taken with the pontifical authority. J
How different were the views and motives of the persons who took part in the affairs of religion, about the time of the public controversy at Leipsic, and some months before! Leo X. was indolent and ill advised; perfectly indifferent in regard to religion and piety; only anxious to advance the opulence, grandeur, and dominion of the Roman see. His ostentatious champion Eckius, on the one hand, flattered and misled his lordly master, who pretended to be infallible; and, on the other, menaced and calumniated the augustin monk, while in reality he was seeking only his own aggrandisement. Frederic the Wise, and some of his court, grieved for several of the reigning abuses, which were obvious and undeniable, but still remained in a wretched bondage, confirmed by long habits of superstitious submission. Though friendly to improvements in religion, they dreaded the rude hand of the Saxon reformer, and were in general too much disposed to bow to the majesty of the pope. Lastly, Luther rvas daily approaching, by firm but gradual advances, to that evangelical liberty, of which he became, under God, the principal reviver in Europe. Let these facts and observations be kept in mind, and they will help us to discover, what must have been the feelings of our reformer at Leipsic, while he was disputing with Eckius concerning the pope's supremacy. To have denied the Divine Right of the pontifical jurisdiction, according to the fullest, and most extended interpretation of the words, was sulciently dangerous; but to have dropped the slightest insinuation that the bishop of Rome was actually the antichrist of the new testament, or, that the Roman church was antichristian in principle, would probably have cost him his life.
* Ep. p. 99. t Ep. p. 100. % See p. 343. of this vol.
The more thoroughly we examine the principles of Luther, the more exactly consistent do we find them with his practice, even in the most difficult circumstances. So in the present instance: He seriously believed, that long possession and the consent of the faithful* were solid arguments for the papal supremacy; but some rays of fresh light burst in upon the mind of the honest inquirer at the very time when he was arming for the combat at Leipsic. He was then in no condition either to confirm or to do away his newsuspicions of the antichristian character of the popedom. What was to be done? He determined to dismiss those suspicions for the present, till he should have leisure to weigh them; and in the mean time he adhered to the only principle, by which, in his judgment, the duty of obedience to the existing hierarchy could be supported. He dared openly to assert,f that it was far better the Roman pontiffs should, with fear and trembling, see the foundation of their authority in the permission of God and the consent of their subjects| than that, under a notion of Divine Right, they should feel themselves secure, depend upon force and terror, and by degrees exercise an odious tyranny.
* Lutb. Op. Resol. f Resolut. de pot. Pap*.
This declaration, though it fell greatly short of the creed of a true roman catholic, yet, by containing an actual acknowledgment of the pope's supremacy, manifested a spirit of obedience and reconciliation on the part of the reformer. Nor was it possible for him, without doing the utmost violence to his conscience, to have exhibited a nearer consent to the doctrines of Eckius. There is even some reason to believe that if his friends, namely, the elector of Saxony and his court, had not discovered so excessive an anxiety lest he should offend the pope by disrespectful treatment, he would have conceded less at this time to his opponent, respecting the grand article of roman catholic doctrine; or, at least, would have acted with more reserve on a point where his own faith, though modified and less offensive, was certainly beginning to waver. Before the public disputation at Leipsic, Luther printed and circulated his sentiments on the pope's supremacy, the same in substance as is related in the preceding pages. He took that step, he tells us, because he had great doubts, whether he should be allowed to enter the lists with Eckius as a public disputant. Three times by letters, he says, he put the question to the duke George, but could obtain no answer. * All this is, no doubt, strictly true; yet Whence, it is asked, arose the solicitude of Luther to appear, at all and on any principles, as the public defender of pontifical authority; the public defender of an unscriptural opinion, which he was soon going to abandon with abhorrence and detestation; and which, in his private letters, he was already beginning to reprobate in very significant language?
Seckendorf ascribes these conciliatory measures intirely to the fears and remonstrances of the elector Frederic and his court; and thinks that Luther in this instance acted contrary both to his own judgment and his inclination.f To differ from this very judicious and candid memorialist can never be pleasant, and will, in general, be found unsafe; nevertheless, I cannot but think that, in estimating the motives of the Saxon reformer, his friends as well as his adversaries have, on this and several other occasions, too much overlooked his profound veneration for established authorities. They seem to have scarcely supposed it possible, that a man who was so deeply concerned in the confusions and divisions of the church, should still have been a friend to peace and good order. Whereas, in fact, Luther's spirit of submission to legal establishments is as exemplary and unquestionable, as his courage and resolution in defending christian liberty is truly wonderful and unparalleled. A proper attention to this part of his character will lead the candid inquirer to satisfactory explanations of his conduct in some cases where he has been too hastily accused of inconsistency.*
* Lib. i. ep. f Page 71- Seek.
Luther's*own description of his feelings respecting the matters in dispute between Eckius and himself ought not to be omitted here; as it will, doubtless, be preferred to any conjectures either of roman catholics or of protestants, especially by those, who have observed the integrity and the precision with which this faithful servant of God always lays open his mind on serious occasions. My own case, saysjie, is a notable example of the difficulty with which a man emerges from erroneous notions of long standing. How true is the proverb, custom is a second nature! How true is that saying of Augustin, habit, if not resisted, becomes necessity. I, who, both publicly and privately, had taught divinity with the greatest diligence for seven years, insomuch that I retained in my memory almost every word of my lectures, was in fact at that time only just initiated into the knowledge and faith of ©hrist; I had only just learnt that a man must be justified and saved, not by works, but by the faith of Christ; and lastly, in regard to pontifical authority, though I publicly maintained that the pope was not the head of the church by a Divine Right, yet I stumbled at the very next step, namely, that the whole papal system was a satanic invention. This I did not see, but contended obstinately for the pope's Right, Founded On Human Reasons; so thoroughly deluded was I, by the example of others, by the title of Holy Church, and by my own habits. Hence I have learnt to have more candour for bigoted papists, especially if they are not much acquainted with sacred or, perhaps, even with profane history.*
* The reader will not suppose me to insinuate, that Luther's respect tor the elector of Saxony and his court had No Weight in determining him to treat the papal authority in a reverential manner during his controversy with Eckius. On the contrary, I believe it had Considerable Weight. But why is the consideration of other motives to be omitted; and particularly of such motives as are known to have been congenial with the man >
The victory in the theological contest at Leipsic, as might have been expected, was claimed by both sides. But, instead of repeating many contradictory and positive assertions, that have originated in prejudice and party zeal, it will be better to mention several undeniable facts, which may assist the judgment in discovering what were the real sentiments of mankind at the time of this transaction, so celebrated in ecclesiastical history.
1. George, the duke of Saxony, who, on all occasions, was warmly attached to the papal interests, invited the disputants, after the debate was finished, to a convivial entertainment, and treated them with thegreatest liberality and condescension. During dinner he laid his hands on the shoulders of Luther and Eckius, and gently stroking them said, " Whether the pope exists by Divine or by Human Right, He Is, however, The Pope." " This prince," says Luther, " would never'have made this observation, if he had not felt the force of my arguments."f
2. Luther complains bitterly of the uncivil treatment which he met with in general from the inhabitants and the university of Leipsic; and, he observes on the contrary, what kindnesses and honours they heaped upon his adversary Eckius. Yet notwithstand
* Luth. Op. vol. hprsef. fT'uth- °P- vol i. Melch. Adam. Seek. p. 74 * Mosheim, vol. ii. f Not till the year 1521.
ing both their aversion to the reformer, and their attachment to the popedom, Hoffmann, who was at that time rector of the university, and who had been appointed judge of the arguments alleged on both sides, refused to declare to whom the victory belonged; so that the decision was left to the universities of Erfurt and Paris.* The former of these, in spite of the importunate solicitations of George the duke of Saxony, remained perfectly silent; the latter, also, gave no judgment concerning the controversy at Leipsic, though, sometime afterwards,t contrary to the favourable hopes which Luther had conceived of that learned body, they censured, as heretical, several of his positions or theses, collected from his various writings.
3. The romish advocate Maimbourg allows, " that both the disputants displayed much ingenuity and erudition during their combat in the castle of Leipsic, but with this difference; that The Truth, defended by a man of sound principles, like Eckius, vanquished error, though supported with all the knowledge and subtlety of a fine genius." This testimony of an inimical historian proves the celebrity of the talents of Luther; but the Fact of which I would here particularly take notice, is, the undeniable consequence which the exertion of those talents, in vehement and subtle disputation for ten days together, produced on the mind of Eckius. His bitterness and enmity against his opponent is well known to have suddenly increased, from this period, beyond all bounds. The sequel of our narrative will show, with how much personal malice and resentment he sought the destruction of the Saxon reformer, and also how mischievous his rash counsels proved to the interests of the Roman see. The reader will then judge for himself, whether the furious conduct of the papal champion is best explained, on the supposition of his consciousness of superiority and of victory in the affairs at Leipsic, or a revengeful sense of the humiliation and defeat which he suffered in that memorable contest.*
It was in an accurate acquaintance with the holy scriptures, and with ecclesiastical history, that Luther more particularly manifested his superiority over Eckius. Very full and exact documents are in existence, both of what was said and what was written in the disputation; and no well informed Roman catholic will deny this to be a fair statement of the case. But notwithstanding the increased reputation with which the German theologian departed from the scene of controversy, it was easy to foresee, that the court of Rome would now be more incensed against him than ever. He had indeed almost agreed with his adversary on some of the disputed points; he had even defended the authority of the Roman see, by placing it on the best foundation in his power; in short, he had exhibited a spirit of fidelity, moderation and obedience; but all this could not expiate the unpardonable offence of searching the sacred oracles for himself, of confuting the papal pretensions to divine appointment and infallibility; and (what was deemed perhaps, if not the most heinous, the most dangerous crime of all) of resisting and exposing the flagitious practices of the inferior agents and instruments of ecclesiastical rapine and tyranny. The man,who had proceeded to such extremities, was not to be managed by mild and gentle admonitions; neither was he to be gained over by bribes and flattery; he was an enemy of the holy church, and justly merited all she could inflict in her utmost fury and indignation.
Moreover, popery was not a religion which betrayed only occasional defects and errors. It had long been asysTEM of corruption; all the parts of which were thoroughly connected with each other, and conspired together to deceive, defraud, and domineer over mankind. The members of the system sympathized with their head in a remarkable manner: they
* Mosheim, vol. ii. chap, ii. sect. x. and Mr. Maclaine's note.
saw their very existence in its safety; and flew to its defence on the slightest appearance of danger. In return, the sovereign head of this vast body superintended the respective interests of all the members with exquisite care, and even with paternal solicitude. If, in some instances, the conduct of the Roman pontiffs does not exactly accord with this representation, the deviation will be found to have arisen, never from a relaxation or a change of principle, but from pride, contempt, indolence, and a sense of security. This was the case, we have seen, with Leo X. in the very early stages of lutheranism.
Striking examples of this reciprocal sort of sensibility and mutual protection were furnished, in the latter part of this year, 1519, by the two universities of Louvain and Cologne, and the cardinal de Tortosa. There can be no doubt, but that this dignified ecclesiastic, who himself afterwards succeeded Leo X. in the pontificate, acted, in all he did, by the direction of the court of Rome. Accordingly we find one of his letters, addressed to the principal academics of Louvain, full of hard terms against Luther and his writings, at the same time containing stimulative exhortations and admonitions, that they should give a public testimony of their disapprobation of such mischievous heresies. The divines of Louvain appear to have been of themselves sufficiently disposed to this measure, and even to have consulted the cardinal respecting its propriety. He commended their faithful zeal; and the result of this mutual communication was a public decree of the rulers of the university, in which they condemn many of Luther's propositions and doctrines, and pronounce them false, scandalous, and heretical. These warm advocates for the established faith did not stop here. They sent one of Martin Luther's books to the divines of Cologne, and requested them to censure its heretical contents in a public manner. These presently pronounced it full of errors and heresies, directed it to be suppressed, and declared, that it ought to be burnt, and the author of it obliged to make a
public recantation.* Thus, by management of this sort, the friends of the papacy, very soon after their defeat and disgrace at Leipsic, obtained the sanction of two universities in favour of the reigning corruptions, while those learned seminaries, on their part, failed not to secure to themselves the approbation and applause of the Roman see.
It would be an useless employment to detail the particulars of what passed in the conferences at Leipsic, respecting several romish doctrines, which in our times give not the smallest concern to any intelligent protestant.
On the superstitious notion of Purgatory many arguments and distinctions were produced on both sides. In general, Luther admitted his firm belief of the existence of such a place, and even that some obscure hints of it were to be found in scripture. But he denied that any thing clear and convincing was revealed in any part of the sacred writings, concerning this doctrine, f As the researches of this great man grew deeper, he gradually doubted of several points, which he then held sacred; and, in process of time, he dismissed them from his creed entirely. The roman catholic sentiment of the number of the sacraments, and of the communion under One Kind, might be mentioned here.
It was not by accident that Eckius brought forward several propositions concerning the nature Of Indulgences. This was the grand question which had produced all the present dissensions in the church. It was closely connected with every inquiry that related to pontifical authority: it was, In Practice, the exercise of a very material part of that power, which, in Theory, was pretended to originate in a divine right. To entangle therefore, or crush, the reformer on this point, in a public debate and before a splendid audience, would furnish such a proof of zeal for the faith, of ability to defend it, and of obedience to the hierarchy, as would infallibly insure every reward, which ambition could wish for, or which gratitude could bestow.
* Vol ii. Luth. Op. WH. t Disput. Lips.
Luther extricated himself from the difficulty in which his artful adversary had placed him, with a success which, before the conflict, he had not ventured to expect. Eckius happened to affirm that a sort of medium of opinion ought to be held with respect to indulgences. " On the one hand they ought not to be condemned, and, on the other, they should not be intirely Relied On." To the same effect he taught the people in the most public manner. In fact, he seems not to have foreseen, how great an advantage he gave his adversary by this unwary concession. " I had supposed," says Luther, " that this affair of the indulgences would be by far the most difficult point that 1 should have to manage, and that our disputation would have turned chiefly upon it; whereas it created little or no trouble. I found I could nearly agree to Eckius's explanation. Never on any occasion did papal indulgences receive a more wretched, and unfortunate support. They were treated in a way that almost produced laughter. If the proclaimers of the indulgences had held the same doctrine at the time of vending them, the Name Of Lother would probably have remained unknown. I say, if the people had been informed that the diplomas of indulgence were not to be Relied On, these imaginary pardons would have lost all their reputation, and the commissioners, who conducted the sale of them, would have died of hunger." The acuteness of Luther, as a theological disputant, ready to avail himself of the smallest indiscretion of his adversary, appears very manifest from this instance.
His heart, however, was not in these noisy and contentious scenes. Instruction of youth in divinity, and preaching of the gospel of Christ, he considered as his proper business. He used to lament the peculiar infelicity of the age, by which he was obliged to waste in controversies so many hours, that might have been far better employed in guiding souls into the way of salvation. " How long," cried he, " am I to spend my time and strength in frivolous discussions about indulgences and pontifical authority; subjects, which have not the remotest tendency to benefit the church, or promote practical godliness?"*
That some good might result from the contentions at Leipsic, and that mankind might be less bewildered in the mazes of subtile disputation, this diligent servant of God determined to review carefully all his own positions, which had been the subject of debate in his conference with Eckius, and to publish them with concise explanations, and with arguments in their support, consisting of appeals to scripture and ecclesiastical history. These positions, or, as they were sometimes called, theses or conclusions, amounted, in number, to thirteen, and related chiefly to Roman catholic peculiarities. Several of them, however, gave the author occasion to state and studiously illustrate the scriptural doctrine of Grace, and the nature of indwellingf sin, as described by St. Paul in the seventh chapter of the Romans. In fallen man, he observes, there remains an internal principle of evil, even after he is renewed by the grace of God. Every christian needs daily repentance, because he sins daily; not indeed by daily perpetrating flagrant crimes, but by falling short of perfect obedience. Hence there is not a just man upon earth; because even in actions that are good in themselves there is precisely so much sin as there is repugnance, or difficulty, or want of cheerfulness in the will. He owns, that divines were accustomed to evade the positive testimony of such passages of scripture, as, ' There is not a just man upon earth, * who doeth good and sinneth not;' but, says he, let us , listen to St. Paul, ' The good that I would, I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do.' And again:
* Luther's letter to Emser.
f This word, though not a very common one, has been thought, by excellent divines, to express St. Haul's meaning in Romans vii. verse 20 better than any other...." Sin that dwelletli in me."
'(I delight in the law of God after the inward man, but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind.' Let human reasoning and human authority, whether of the church or of councils, give place and submit. If an angel from heaven should teach the contrary, I would not believe him.
If, continues Luther, the evil principle, called the flesh, prevented the operation of the good principle called the spirit, in a man so holy and full of grace as the apostle Paul, how can our theologians maintain that there is no sin in good works? ' It is not,' say they, * sin; it is defect, it is infirmity.' This is an unscriptural and a dangerous way of speaking. In fact, even■ christian feels a continual conflict between the flesh and the spirit as long as he lives; and therefore in the very best actions there is, in this world, a mixture of the effects of the flesh: but it is not so in heaven. Wherefore, what knowledge other persons may have derived from the scholastic divinity of the times, it is for them to consider. In regard to myself, I am sure I learnt from it nothing of the real nature of sin, of righteousness, of baptism, or of the whole christian life; nor any thing of the excellency of God or his works, his grace, his justice. Faith, hope, charity, were to me words without meaning. In short, I not only learnt nothing right; but I had to Unlearn every thing which I had acquired in that way. I shall be much surprised if others have succeeded better; but should there be any such, I sincerely congratulate them. In the schools I lost Jesus Christ; I have now found him in St. Paul.
" Search the scriptures" is the precept, which of all others seems to have most deeply impressed the anxious, inquisitive, mind of Luther. And further, in his inquiries, he never forgot that he himself was personally interested in the great truths of revealed religion. He studied the bible, not through curiosity, or the love of fame, but from a sense of the importance of its' contents, and of his own dangerous situation. How little have those understood the real character of this reformer, who have looked on him as a turbulent, ambitious, innovator, impelled by selfish and worldly motives. Nothing cart be more affecting than the following account, which he himself gives of his own internal troubles. " However blameless a life I might lead as a monk, I experienced a most unquiet conscience; I perceived myself a sinner before God; I saw that I could do nothing to appease him, and I hated the idea of a just God that punishes sinners. I was well versed in all St. Paul's writings; and, in particular, I had a most wonderful desire to understand the epistle to the Rpmans. But I was puzzled with the expression, ' Therein is the righteousness of God revealed.' My heart rose almost against God with a silent sort of blasphemy: at least in secret I said with great murmur and indignation, Was it not enough that wretched man, already eternally ruined by the curse of original depravity, should be oppressed with every species of misery through the condemning power of the commandment, but that, even through the Gospel, God should threaten us with his anger and justice, and thereby add affliction to affliction? Thus I raged with a troubled conscience. Over and over I turned the above mentioned passage to the Romans most importunately. My thirst to know the apostle's meaning was insatiable. i
" At length, while I was meditating day and night on the words, and their connexion with what immediately follows, namely, " the just shall live by faith," it pleased God to have pity upon me, to open mine eyes, and to show me, that the righteousness of God, which is here said in the gospel to be Revealed from faith to faith, relates to the method by which God, in his mercy, justifies a sinner through faith, agreeably to what is written, " the just shall live by faith." Hence, I felt myself a new man, and all the scriptures appeared to have a new face. I ran quickly through them as my memory enabled me; I collected together the leading terms; and I observed, in their meaning, a strict analogy, according to my new views. Thus, in many instances, the Work of God means that which he works in us; and the power, and wisdom of God, mean the power and wisdom, which his Spirit operates in the minds of the faithful; and in the same manner are to be understood the Patience, the
SALVATION, the_GLORY, of God.
" The expression, " Richteousness of God," now became as sweet to my mind as it had been hateful before; and this very passage of St. Paul proved to me the entrance into paradise."*
This interesting account of the steps by which Luther was led to evangelical light in the important doctrine of justification by faith evidently refers to what passed in his mind about the time of the celebrated disputation at Leipsic; and for that reason may seem not improperly introduced in this place. One of his conclusions in that contest led to a discussion on faith, repentance, and freewill; and we find, in his defence of that conclusion, a similar mode of argumentation. He even produces the very same passage of St. Paul, from the first chapter to the Romans; and blames divines of the stamp of Eckius, for adding to the words, " the just shall live by faith," other words, namely, "but not by faith Only," as necessary to prevent mistakes. He quotes also the tenth chapter of the same epistle, " with the heart man believeth unto righteousness," and takes notice that, likewise in this verse, righteousness is attributed to faith only. " The works of faith," continues he, " don't produce the faith, but the faith produces the works. The meaning of the apostle is not, that justified persons neglect good works, but that justification is prior to good works; and that good works can be performed by justified persons only."
Eckius had maintained that some of the actions of good men, and particularly their last actions in dying, were perfectly free from sin. Luther had too high ideas of the holiness of the divine law, and too deep a sense of the evil of sin, and of the depravity of human nature, to admit this position. Accordingly he opposed it, with all his might, and used strong language in support of the contrary sentiment. " There has not," said he, " for these thousand years been started a more mischievous, pestilential, notion than that God does not demand a perfect fulfilling of all his laws. This is directly to contradict Jesus Christ. God never alters his perfect law; though he pardons us when we break it. Observe, however, he does not pardon those who are asleep, but those who labour, those who fear, and who say with Job, " I know thou wilt not hold me innocent." Never suppose that God does not require an exact regard to every tittle of his law; such a notion will soon ingender pride and make you despise that grace, through which his holy law, as a schoolmaster, should compel you to seek deliverance."
* Luth. Op. prif. vol. i.
One of Eckius's propositions, concerning the natural powers of the human mind since the fall of our first parents, seemed strongly tinctured with pelagian sentiments; and these were diametrically opposite to Luther's views of the gospel. In this matter, therefore, he did not confine himself merely to the defence of his own conclusions, but exposed the doctrines of Eckius with force and animation, terming them impious and heretical in the highest degree, and inconsistent with the apostle Paul, and the whole gospel of Christ. Again he pressed the grand doctrine of christianity, that we are justified, before God, by faith only; he showed, that this article of belief was the test of orthodoxy or heresy according as it was held soundly or corruptly; that all other points were subordinate and centred in this; and that every objection to it, which could possibly be devised, was done away by this single consideration, namely, that a right faith was necessarily productive of good works. " St. Paul," says he, " speaks of a living, not a dead, faith; for a dead faith is merely a speculative opinion. But, observe, how theologians, building on a solitary passage of St. James, in his second chapter, have dared to oppose the whole current of scripture. Mankind are exceedingly prone to place confidence in their own works; hence, Vol. IV. 47
the great danger of pharisaical doctrine. On the contrary, if you do but take care to instruct the people properly concerning the nature of pure christian faith, they will then understand the power of such a faith to produce good works; they will see that good works can be produced in no other way; and lastly, that these works are, in fact, the spontaneous and infallible consequence of a right faith."
The contemplation of the ways of providence, at all times a rational employment, is never more instructive than when we can trace the gradual progress of divine light, as it breaks in upon the mind of honest, industrious, inquirers after religious truth. Let not therefore the modern critic, whose ideas of the justification of a sinner may, Perhaps, be more exact and digested than those of Luther were at the time of his controversy with Eckius, hastily contemn, or treat with disrespect, the sentiments and explanations which have been laid before him on this essential point. Let him rather, first, advert to the prevailing ignorance and errors of the clergy in the days of the reformer; and then, with pleasure and surprise, he will observe the immense strides, towards a complete system of christian principles, which were taken by an augustin monk during the year 1519, in the midst of his persecutions; and moreover, on a strict examination, he may be astonished to find how perfectly evangelical also at that time Luther was, in the particular article of justification by faith, as to the substance and general view of this important doctrine. Afterwards he defended and explained it with probably as much accuracy and precision, as most succeeding divines have done, though the question has now been agitated and debated for several centuries.
The rigorous laws of history oblige us not to omit, that Luther, in the same treatise, which contains the defence of his own conclusions against Eckius, hastily expressed a doubt of the divine authority of the epistle of St. James.* Want of a just insight into the views of the inspired writer may account for this temerity, but will not excuse it; however, he seems not to have insisted on his scruples, much less to have persevered in them. In regard to his misapprehension of the meaning of this part of holy writ, we may the less wonder, when we reflect- that even the very best modern interpreters of the bible do not agree, in their explanation of the second chapter of St. James. Luther conceived that chapter to militate against the doctrine of justification by faith. Truth is seldom seen at once in its full order and proportion of parts: but who cdn doubt that the Saxon reformer was under a divine influence, which daily taught him his natural sinfulness? All men, who know themselves as he did, can never find rest to their consciences but in Christ alone. Necessity, experience, and the word of God, unite in convincing them, that no other way of peace can be found for sinners but through the Redeemer; and, also, that this is the only way by which they can heartily serve God, love their neighbours, and, in general, be fruitful in good works. But more of this important subject hereafter.
* Resol. Lips. disp.
In his literary contest with Eckius, Luther apologizes for the inelegance of his style. He confesses that it was negligent and slovenly, and that he had taken no pains to make it accurate, because he had no expectation of immortal fame, nor a desire for it. I am drawn, says he, by force into this contest. I mean, as soon as I can consistently with my conscience, to retire into a corner. Some other person shall appear on the stage, God willing. Such was the real modesty of Luther; and so little did he apprehend, that the less he sought for glory, the more he should attain it.
In fact, the publications of Luther were circulated throughout Germany, and were read with the greatest avidity by all ranks and orders. Eckius and other advocates of the roman catholic cause answered the heretic with great heat and indignation. Luther replied with the promptitude and precision, and also with the zeal and confidence of a man, who was perfectly master of the arguments on both sides of the questions in dispute, felt deeply interested in the establishment of truth, and had thoroughly examined the foundations of his opposition to the prevailing corruptions. By these means the discussions at Leipsic were detailed with minuteness, and continued with spirit; they every where became topics of common conversation; and, as Luther constantly appealed to plain sense, and the written word of God, the scholastic subtilities of Eckius lost their weight and reputation among the people. It is not difficult to see, that the advantages, which, in this way, the cause of the reformation must have derived from the public contest at Leipsic and its consequences, must have been very considerable.
Particular and important instances might be mentioned.
The elector of Saxony was the only prince who publicly.favoured the reformation; and there is good reason to believe, that both his knowledge of the scriptures and his kindness towards Luther were much increased by what he read, and heard from others, relative to the controversy in 1519. It appears from very authentic memoirs by Spalatinus, that the mind of Frederic had been much exercised about divine things, even before his Wictemberg theologian had dared to expose and withstand the corrupt practices of the Roman see. With much diligence and constant prayer he had read the word of God; and was extremely displeased with the usual modes of interpreting it. And when, through the grace of God and the instrumentality of Luther, some rays of evangelical light began to break forth, he opened himself explicitly to his chaplain, Spalatinus, to this effect. " I have always indulged a secret hope, that in a short time we should be blessed with a purer knowledge of what we ought to believe." Meanwhile he gave attention to practical sermons, and read the scriptures with the greatest delight; especially the four gospels; from which he collected many excellent passages, and so impressed them on his memory, that whenever occasion required, he could readily apply them with great advantage and comfort. He used particularly to insist on that saying of our Lord in the fifteenth chapter of St. John, " Without me ye can do nothing." " He would dwell on this passage," says Spalatinus, " more than any other. He considered it as decisive against the vulgar notion of freewill; and on this very ground he argued against it, long before Erasmus had dared to publish his miserable, unscriptural, performance on the natural liberty of the human mind." " How can it possibly be," said the prince, " that mankind should be perfectly free from all corrupt bias," when Christ himself says, " without me ye can do nothing?"
Such were the reflections, which the disputation at Leipsic, concerning the necessity of Grace, and the natural condition of man, since the fall of Adam, appear to have produced in the pious mind of Frederic the Wise. While they imply considerable insight into several of the essential doctrines of christianity, they also throw much light on the religious character of this prince. Frederic had a deep sense of his own weakness and sinfulness; a never failing preparative this, for the hearty reception of the glad tidings of the gospel! He felt much anxiety that the faith of Christ might be preached among the people in its purity; and this anxiety kept pace with his own progress in practical religion. Another excellent symptom of a divine teaching and of truly spiritual affections! Still this excellent personage remained in bondage to papal authority and papal superstitions; and hence, though his views of the bible were in perfect harmony With those of Luther, and though he further agreed with the reformer, that shameful abuses ought to be corrected, dangerous errors exposed, salutary truths propagated, and mankind put into possession of the words of eternal life, he nevertheless continued to feel most disquieting apprehensions lest, in compassing these important purposes, Offence should be given to the majesty of the Roman pontiffs.
It may deserve notice, that soon after the conferences at Leipsic, the elector of Saxony had a severe ilness; and that the industrious Luther, notwithstanding the multiplicity of his necessary employments, found time to compose a small tract, for the express purpose of comforting this good prince in his afflictions. The wisdom, the sincerity, and the christian affection, which the author exhibited in this little treatise would, no doubt, have a tendency to increase the estimation in which he was already held by Frederic*
The celebrated Philip Melancthon, who is always numbered among the most illustrious and respectable instruments of the reformation, was actually present at the public disputations with Eckius. Some say, that he placed himself near Carolstadt and suggested so many things to him during the combat, that Eckius called out to him, " Philip, hold your tongue, mind your own business; and don't interfere with mine." However, he himself tells us, that he was a mere spectator and hearer; and that he sat among the crowdAs the dispute continued many days, the different accounts might, perhaps, appear sufficiently consistent, were we acquainted with all the circumstances. Melancthon concludes one of his letters to Oecolampadius in the following manner; " Eckius was much admired for his many and striking ingenuities. You know Carolstadt; he is certainly a man of worth and of extraordinary erudition. As to Luther, whom I have long known most intimately, his lively genius, his learning, and eloquence, are the objects of my admiration; and it is impossible not to be in love with his truly sincere and pure christian spirit."
As the reader by this time must be tolerably acquainted with the ecclesiastical combat at Leipsic, it will be unnecessary to detain him any longer with particulars from Melancthon's report of that famous controversy. The name of this great man is here introduced, chiefly for the purpose of showing, how the roman catholic expectations of the effect of the ostentatious challenge of Eckius were frustrated in every way. Melancthon was then only about twenty-three years of age; and as yet, had employed his time principally in the duties of his Greek professorship and in the cultivation of general literature. Already, indeed, he had favoured Luther's intentions of teaching pure Christianity and of delivering it from the reigning darkness and superstition; but his wishes in this respect had hitherto originated in the native candor and benevolence of his temper, and in his abhorrence of all disguise, artifice and tyranny, rather than in any distinct insight which he had acquired into particular instances of the corruption of christian doctrine, or of the shameful practices of the ecclesiastical domi, nation. The conferences at Leipsic seem to have had a mighty effect in first determining this elegent scholar to employ his talents in the study of theology. As Melancthon is said to have possessed the rare faculty of " discerning truth in its most intricate connexions and combinations," it was not probable that such a person should be moved either by the flimsy objections of Eckius, or by his pompous display of scholastic arguments. He was not, however, blind to the dangerous influence of a man, who had some pretensions to learning, who had a strong memory, and who, being constantly impelled by ambitious hopes of advancement, and unrestrained by modesty or conscience, was ever ready to make the most positive assertions. In listening to the sophistry of this papal advocate, Melancthon became better acquainted than before with the argumentative resources of the romish religion; at the same time that the solid reasonings of Luther, supported by constant appeals to the scriptures, effectually convinced his mind of the soundness of the principles of his industrious and persecuted friend, and determined him to embark, in the cause of religious liberty, with zeal and fidelity. From the period of this famous public disputation, he applied himself most intensely to the interpretation of the scriptures, and the defence of pure christian doctrine; and he is justly esteemed by protestants to have been, under divine providence, the most powerful coadjutor of the Saxon reformer. His mild and peaceable temper, his aversion to schismatic contention, his reputation for piety and for knowledge, and above all, his happy art of exposing error and maintaining truth in the most perspicuous language, all these endowments concurred to render him eminently serviceable to the revival of the religion of Christ. Little did Eckius imagine, that the public disputation, in which he had foreseen nothing but victory, and exultation, and the downfal of lutheranism, would give rise to another theological champion, who should contend for christian truth and christian liberty with the primitive spirit of an apostle. At Wittemberg, Melancthon had probably been well acquainted with Luther's lectures on divinity; but it was in the citadel of Leipsic, that he heard the romish tenets defended by all the arguments that ingenuity could devise; there his suspicions were strengthened respecting the evils of the existing hierarchy; and there his righteous spirit was roused to imitate, in the grand object of his future inquiries and exertions, the indefatigable endeavours of his zealous and adventurous friend.
*The opinion, which Erasmus entertained of this little tract, is expressed in a letter, written several years a'er, to the bishop of Basil. " I send you a little book, of which Luther is the author. It is divided into fourteen heads, and is extremely approved, even by those, who, in general, have the greatest possible aversion to his doctrines. He wrote it before matters came to the present extremities. The man has been enraged by hostile treatment; I heartily wish that, by the means of friendly admonitions, he might be brought back to moderate sentiments."
Seckendorf observes on this extract from Erasmus, " The disease of the church at that time was not of such a nature, that it could be cured by any of Erasmus' plasters."
The pious reader will not think this relation tedious. In the event and consequences of the ecclesiastical conflict between the romish and the protestant advocates he will see much cause to adore the wisdom and goodness of that Being, " who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."*
* Eplies. chap. i. verse si,
END OF PART I*