From Luther's Letter To The Duke Of
Savot, To The Persecutions In
1523 AND 1524.
New Pope, Clement VII.
Another Diet At Nuremberg.
Recess Of The Diet.
Confederacy At Ratisbon.
Reformation In Prussia.
Persecutions In 1523 And 1524.
x. ' IN November 1523, Julius de Medicis, who had iiZPf^'. failed of success at the preceding election of Adrian, Clement was placed in the papal chair by very uncanonical % ' means ; and this circumstance, besides the aversion which popes usually have for councils, made him dread the scrutiny of an assembly, which might terminate in the annihilation of his authority. He determined therefore to elude the demands of the Germans by every possible means. He was himself much superior to Adrian in the arts of government; and moreover, to effect his purposes the better, he made choice of cardinal Campeggio, an able and artful negotiator, as his nuncio to the diet of the Dirta" empire assembled again at Nuremberg in the latter
Nuremberg, part of 1.523
The emperor was hindered by other concerns from being present at this diet. The elector Frederic appeared early in the sittings, but, on account of his infirmities, and also the violence, confusion, and turbulence of the proceedings, left Nuremberg before any material business was concluded, and even Cent. before the arrival of the pope's legate. <—^J.1!The arrival of Campeggio was announced about Arrival of the beginning of March 1524, when the princes, n^5^e5 after mature deliberation, advised him by no means A. u. to enter Nuremberg with the accustomed pomp and 1524. ceremony, nor to bestow upon the inhabitants of the city his benedictions as he passed along; for lately, in going through Augsburg, the people had treated his dignity and his spiritual favours with the utmost irreverence, and had pointed at the mule on which he rode in so ridiculous and insulting a manner, that even his own retinue could not abstain from laughter. The emperor's brother Ferdinand, on the arrival of the legate, reproached the senate of Nuremberg for their attachment to Lutheranism, and exhorted them to adhere to the ancient religious system: but they replied with firmness that they must not desert the truth. One of the preachers was bold enough to affirm publicly in his sermon, that Antichrist entered Rome on the very day that the emperor Constantine left it;—an assertion which gave great offence to the legate, who however declared that he was more anxious on account of the Italians than the Germans. The latter, he said, were fickle in their dispositions, and would as easily lay aside novel doctrines as they were apt to imbibe them hastily: but not so the Italians, who usually adhered with obstinacy to what they had once received. It caused him therefore much painful anxiety to hear that Luther's publications were then read at Venice by great numbers.
From these incidents we may infer the actual progress of Lutheranism, much better than from numerous assertions and conjectures of historians, which, however elegantly expressed, are often by no means the result of a patient examination of authentic documents, but rather have their origin in party spirit or a lively imagination.
vo L. v. M
The reception of Campeggio at Nuremberg was not calculated to put a cardinal legate of the pope into good humour. The elector palatine, under the pretence of being let blood that day, was not present among the princes who went to meet him ; and the representative of his holiness was conducted to his lodging in the habit of a traveller, by a different road from what had been usual.
The new pontiff however had been nowise deficient in paying due attentions to conciliate the German diet. Already he had dispatched his trusty ehamberlain, Jerome Rorarius, to announce his election to the popedom, and to signify his intention of sending to them soon after a dignified apostolic nuncio with full credentials. Rorarius was commissioned to deliver from the pope to the elector Frederic a letter full of complimentary expressions, in which not so much as the name of Luther was mentioned; the prince was only exhorted to preserve the honour of his illustrious family, which had supplied the church with so many sovereign pontiffs, and Germany also with so many emperors, faithful to the Roman See. Campeggio also brought another letter from the pope of like import, in which he earnestly entreated the elector to confer with his legate for the public good. " The cardinal," said he, " is a man of uncommon virtue and discretion, and the case is urgent beyond example. If you have any gratitude to God, any regard for your own salvation or that of your country, use all their powers to compose the disturbances in Germany, and especially to restore the degraded dignities there to their former situation. Apply yourself with vigour to this most sacred work, and we promise to be ever mindful of your great merits in this very important concern*."
Frederic the Wise was not to be imposed on by
* Both these letters of Julius de Medicis were signed Clement VII. the name which he assumed upon being declared pope.
such language as this. Before he withdrew from Cent.
« . vvr
Nuremberg, it is plain he had penetrated the de- . ^ , signs of the pope and his advocates ; because he left it in strict charge with his representative Feilitch, not only to have no conferences with Campeggio, but also to protest against any concessions which might be made by others to that artful legate*. Moreover, this good prince probably concluded that, in the existing circumstances, more advantages would accrue to the cause of Christianity from his absence than his presence f.
Campeggio himself, there is no doubt, considered the departure of Frederic as an event most unfavourable to the object of his negotiations with the diet. In a letter to the prince he thus expresses his disappointment : " I have been much vexed and mortified to find your highness unexpectedly gone. My master's letters to you are concise; but he has directed me to communicate in his name a great deal of matter, which had it been of such a nature as to admit either of delay, or of effectual discussion by letter, this my laborious and troublesome journey had better have been spared.
" There are frequent reports that your highness appears to favour the novel heresies of the present times: but neither the pope nor myself can give the least credit to them. As for my part, on the very day when I was first introduced into your highness's presence, I was particularly struck, among your many excellent and princely endowments, with one which sparkled like a star of extraordinary brightness and magnitude; I mean, your extreme regard for Christian piety, and your affection toward the Apostolic See. The impression then made on my mind
* Comm. de Luth. 289.
t The adversaries of the Reformation, well aware of the weight which the name of the elector of Saxony would give to any measure, forged his signature in the register of the Recesses, in spite of the protest of Feilitch.—Weimar Arch.
was such as absolutely forbids me to entertain the smallest suspicion of the soundness of the religious principles of your highness,—whatever may be said to the contrary.
" The scandalous and impious innovations which I have observed in some parts of Germany, by no means affect my opinion of the princes, and persons of distinction.
" It is however notorious that the influence of your highness is great and extensive; and therefore his holiness conjures you to imitate the zeal and virtue of your ancestors in the present conjuncture. He calls upon you to exert yourself with a becoming religious spirit, and to restrain and punish the refractory and seditious. Many parts of your dominions are said to require speedy animadversions of this kind. The disease is spreading apace, and taking deep root. If the common people are permitted to take into their own hands the management of religion, what are the magistrates, what are sovereigns to expect, who, as such, are already very much the objects of their aversion ? Let those who are so mightily pleased with these rebellions against the church and its rulers, consider where these impieties and distractions are likely to terminate.
" The supreme pontiff, like a provident pilot, foresees the storm, and by me admonishes the German princes of their imminent danger, and would gladly animate them to restrain the madness of the populace. This is not the cause of the Roman See, it is your own, it is the cause of all Germany, and of Christendom. I can have no wish but to promote the peace of the country, the glory of its governors, and the dignity of the church : and for the attainment of these objects, I would raise up the fallen, direct the mistaken into the right way, and retain the penitent in the bosom of Christian charity. I have no doubt of your highness's attachment to the Apostolic See; nevertheless, feeling myself unequal to the task 1 have undertaken, I most ardently entreat you Cent. to favour the purpose of my negotiations, and to . X^L , inform me in writing what you think best to be done."
A man who could write such a letter as this, was well qualified to execute the private instructions of Clement VII. in the present juncture. What those iustructions were, we learn from the grand papal advocate himself*. 1. They breathed nothing but severity and violence against Luther. The legate was directed to use his utmost endeavours to procure the execution of the edict of Worms: And, 2. He was to counteract every measure which tended to the appointment of a general council, and the redress of the Centum gravamina. This pope, even in Adrian's time, used to say, that councils were good when the subjects of which they treated were any thing but the pope's authority f- Agreeably to his maxims, Clement instructed his legate to Pretend, that, in consequence of the decease of the late pope, and the sudden departure of his nuncio from Nuremberg the catalogue of the German grievances had never been regularly received at Rome; and thus to decline making any definitive answer to such indecent and unreasonable demands.
Campeggio, both before and during his confer, ences with the diet, laboured incessantly in Private with the members of that assembly, to effectuate the purposes of his commission. In the public meetings he harangued in a most plausible strain concerning the paternal compassion of the pope for the present situation of the country, and his own inclinations to peace and moderation; at the same time he expressed astonishment that so many great princes could tolerate the late mischievous innovations in religion, and the abolition of those rights and ceremonies in which themselves and their ancestors had been educated.
* Pallav. II. 10. f Paul Saryi. J Page in.
Chap. The diet, after listening to a number of unmean, ing promises and declarations, desired to know the pope's intentions respecting the methods which in the preceding year they had proposed to Cheregato for restoring the peace of the church; and also, whether the legate was charged with any satisfactory answer to the Memorial of grievances which they had sent to Rome ?
Campeggio replied, that he knew of no plan devised by them for composing the religious differences, except the edict of Worms. That edict, though approved by the emperor, and sanctioned by the general consent, had not been obeyed; and the execution of it ought, in his judgment, to be the first object of their deliberations. As to the memorial of grievances, he allowed that three copies of it had found their way to private persons, and that one of them had fallen into his own hands; but that the pope and cardinals considered it as the production of a private person, and by no means of the German princes. He had no instructions about it. There were articles in it which even bordered upon heresy; and the publication of them was highly disrespectful to the Roman See.
Charles V. was at this time very solicitous to gain the pope to his interests; and therefore both his own ambassador and his brother Ferdinand warmly seconded Campeggio in his complaints againstthe German princes for their lenity towards the disciples of Rectssof Luther. Yet such was the complexion of this diet the Diet. jn general, that their Recess* was in fact as favourable to the Reformation as the former. They promised to observe the edict of Worms As Ear As They Could, renewed their demands of a general council, and appointed the eleventh of November next for a new assembly of the states of the empire, who should meet at Spires, and make temporary regulations of all matters in dispute, until the council could be summoned. The words, As Far As They Could,
* Ap. 18. 1524. Golditst. ii. 152.
were highly displeasing to the papal party. " They were inserted," says Maiinbourg, " that men might be at full liberty to do nothing in obedience to the edict of Worms; and so it actually turned out."
The proceedings of this diet were attended with many disputes and dissatisfactions. Ferdinand, with the consent of the pope, insisted on one-third of the annual income of the bishops in support of the war against the Turks; but several of them, who had possessions in Austria, protested against so enormous a contribution. The bishop of Gurk declared that the extirpation of the Lutherans was become more necessary than that of the Turks; and that he would contribute more cheerfully to effectuate the former than the latter. Ferdinand reminded the bishops, that the success of either would prove fatal both to the ecclesiastical dignities and revenues. There was much contest in thediet respecting the terms in which the decree should be expressed; but though the majority of votes were against the execution of the edict of Worms, yet such were the clamours of the prelates, and the menaces of the emperor's ambassador, that they carried along with them the princes, and prevailed by authority where they had failed in numbers. The lower orders and states of the empire protested publicly against these irregularities; which were likewise withstood with great spirit by the envoy of the elector of Saxony, who was instructed to complain—that the edict of Worms was obtained by a manoeuvre of the bishops against the sense of the diet, and that it had never yet been communicated to himself and his brother John; whereas that important resolution at Nuremberg, which enjoined the preaching of the Gospel in its purity, was the result of the most mature deliberation, and had been published every where. " His master," he said, " could not approve of the present silence in regard to two points on which the former diet had distinctly explained themselves to Cheregato, namely, how dangerous it
Chap, would be to the public peace to attempt to execute *• i by force the edict of Worms, and how earnestly they wished for the free propagation of Christian truth."
Planitz, who represented the elector of Saxony in the council of regency, expressed the elector's sentiments on the subject of the war with the Turks in the following terms:—" My most kind master is of opinion that all our enterprizes will fail of success while we continue to be such characters as we now are : That, before all other things, we ought to beg for the grace of God and his divine help, that he would be pleased to bestow on us, miserable sinners, A sincere desire to promote, through a spirit of true Christian faith, His honour, and the salvation of our neighbour: that if we would fight the infidels with any prospect of a prosperous issue, we ought first to get the better of our own infidelity and want of dependence on God, also of our attachment to private interests, and our disposition to revenge, envy, and malice; and that then we might, with a good hope of victory, commit the contest to an overruling Providence."
A declaration of this sort was enough to bring upon a man the reproach of Lutheranism.
Never perhaps were the resolutions of any assembly received with less approbation than those of this diet of Nuremberg. The emperor, in letters to his brother Ferdinand and the princes, expressed the utmost indignation at what had passed. Yet conscious of his inability to enforce obedience to his commands, he sent all the letters to his brother, with secret instructions by no means to disperse them among those hard audacious German potentates, if he foresaw they were likely to treat them with contempt. Ferdinand, however, imprudently divulged the sentiments of the emperor, and thereby greatly weakened the sovereign authority. The independent spirit of the princes, not used to the imperious language of Charles V. began to mutiny against this encroachment on their liberties : the greater part of Cent. Germany opposed insuperable obstacles to the exe- , XVI- , cution of the edict of Worms; and nothing was gained to the papal party by this offensive activity of the emperor, except the prevention of the assembly of the States at Spires in the succeeding November.
In writing on this subject*, even to the venerable elector of Saxony, Charles could not abstain from intemperate and acrimonious language. It belonged to himself and the pope, he said, to call councils, and to fix on the place where they should meet. He absolutely forbad the princes to assemble at Spires, and enjoined the strictest observance to the edict of Worms. He called Luther a Profane Savage, who, like Mahomet, was aiming at great power by poisoning men's minds with the contagion of his agreeable doctrines.
Frederic, by returning a modest and respectful answer, together with a copy of the protest made by his envoy, warded theviolence of Charles, who must have found it difficult to blame this prince for protesting against a decree which he himself so much disapproved, though for very different reasons.
At Rome, the news of the edict of Nuremberg Eir«ct of produced both alarm and astonishment. Clement ^r^' VII. regarding the intended assembly at Spires as a new ecclesiastical tribunal erected in opposition to the legitimate authority of the pope, instantly summoned his cardinals to deliberate on the measures which should be judged most fit to prevent so dangerous an innovation. The conclave soon showed their capacity for the management of intrigues and secular politics. They directed Campeggio to collect together in Germany all the princes, bishops, and others who adhered to the cause of Rome; and to give them fair promises respecting a future council, but at the same time to represent to them the great difficulty of calling one in time of warf. * From Brliges. Seek. 290. t Pallav.
Their grievances, he might say, would be redressed at Rome; and he was to conjure them above all things to prevent, if possible, the discussion of any articles of religion in the assembly at Spires : and lastly, he would do well to endeavour, through the influence of the emperor, to retard the meeting of that assembly, or hinder it altogether if he could.
The pope, for the same purpose, resolved to apply to the kings of England and Portugal; and as the virtuous elector of Saxony was not to be gained either by Romish menace or Romish flattery, he appears to have meditated his degradation from the electoral dignity, by pronouncing him a heretic. This was the explicit advice of Alexander.
As no man that ever lived was a greater enemy than Martin Luther to sedition and riot, or contended more strenuously than he did for the duty of subjects to preserve the public peace, his friends at the diet of Nuremberg opposed with all their might the inserting of his name in the decree as one who had been the cause of tumults and disturbances on account of religion; and they carried their point; nevertheless, through the dishonest zeal of those who disliked Luther, his name, though not in the original decree, appeared in many of the copies of it which were dispersed throughout the German empire.
Luther himself was as little satisfied as the pope with the determinations of the diet; and his inimical historian * admits that he had very good reason for discontent. " For if the edict of Worms, which had pronounced him a heretic, was to be enforced, why had the diet directed the merits of his writings to be inquired into in the future assembly at Spires ? Again, if an inquiry of this kind was in itself a proper measure, why was he to be condemned and punished previously to the trial which was to determine his guilt or innocence ?
Our undaunted Reformer had no sooner received
a copy of the decree of the diet, than he caused it to Cent. be printed along with the edict of Worms, and added , x^1- , many vehement and severe observations of his own. He treated those who thought of executing the edict of Worms, as men who had lost their senses, and were as outrageous and absurd as the giants who made war against heaven. He exhorted his Christian countrymen to pray for the infatuated unhappy princes, and not to think of undertaking any expedition against the Turks. " The Turks," said he, " exceed our great men both in council and moderation. With us, you see, a poor fragile body *, ■already on the very borders of putridity, which can never be sure of living till the evening, boasting itself to be the true, the great defender of the catholic faith. No success is to be expected under the auspices of men who tempt God in this dreadful manner. I call upon you, my beloved princes and masters, in the name of that God who governs the world and judges your secret thoughts, to review and to amend your conduct. I have no doubt but some dreadful storm of the divine indignation threatens Germany, and will most assuredly burst upon you, if you thus continue to provoke Almighty God. These two decrees, promulged nearly at the same time, are impudent and disgraceful instances of fraud, falsehood, and contradiction. Alas ! that princes of the Christian name should have recourse to such detestable measures ! Unhappy Germans, who have endured for so many years the abominable haughty yoke of insulting pontiffs, and yet take no pains to shake it from your necks ! What! after having been pillaged so often, and exhausted of the very marrow of your bones, will no prayers, admonitions, or remonstrances move you to take care of yourselves, but you must employ all your vengeance upon such a poor wretch as Luther! Go on, if it must be so : here am I; I shall not run away. I shall resign my * Meaning that of ths emperor.
life most willingly, and migrate to my eternal inhe^ , ritance whenever it shall please God to pronounce my hour to be come. However, the same Omnipotent Being who, against hope, has preserved my life, during the space of almost three years, from the cruelty of my enemies, can still preserve it; though indeed I have no great desire to live.
" Through the divine goodness I am less alarmed at the thought of death than I used to be ; but let those who would destroy me, reflect, whether my blood may not leave a stain, which neither they nor their children shall be able to wash away. God will not be mocked; and ye know not but he may be pleased to ordain that the murder of Luther should be followed by the heaviest national calamities *."
In a letter to Spalatinus, then at the diet of Nuremberg, Luther writes thus : " I am not very anxious concerning this Imperial diet, for I am well aware of Satan's devices. May Christ preserve his church,
and triumph over the enemy ! Amen I wish
our simple princes and bishops would at length open their eyes, and see that the present revolution in religion is not brought about by Luther,—who is really nobody,— but by the omnipotence of Christ himself; and may they have grace afforded them to see also that they have hitherto done their utmost to oppose and resist His Will f! "
In another letter, written to his friend N. Hausman after the elector had left the diet, he says," Our prince is returned, and nothing as yet is decreed against me. But the Lord has been pleased to remove from this world, by means of a most lamentable apoplexy, the chancellor of Treves, who only two days before his death had boasted, in a convivial meeting, that before the feast of St. Martin
* Maimbourg observes, that Luther knew very well that the harsh expressions which he made use of in this publication, would be applied to his Roman-catholic adversaries ExcluSively.
t Ep. II. 183.
the sword would put an end to all this business of reformation in religion."
Cardinal Campeggio, for the purpose of eluding the remonstrances of the Germans and their demands of redress of grievances, brought forward, duringthe conferences at Nuremberg, certain constitutions for the amendment of some disorders and abuses which prevailed among the inferior clergy; but they were rejected by the diet, as tending on the whole to effect no substantial reform, and rather to increase the ecclesiastical dominion, and pave the way for greater extortions of money. This active legate, however, did not abandon the cause he had to support. Having failed to influence the votes of the diet as he had hoped, his next object was to secure, if possible, a determined confederacy of the friends of the pope. With this view he collected together, in July 1524, at Ratisbon, the emperor's brother Ferdinand and the two dukes of Bavaria, the archbishop of Saltzburg, and several other prelates or their representatives. These, at the instance of the cardinal, bound themselves by a new declaration to execute rigorously the edict of Worms against Luther and his followers; to adhere to the ancient usages in administering the sacraments; to punish the apostate monks and married priests ; to recall from Wittemberg, under heavy penalties for disobedience, all such students as were their own subjects; and lastly, among other resolutions, they determined to afford no asylum to banished Lutherans; and in case of rebellion, to protect and assist one another with all their force. At the same time the confederates agreed to receive and publish the legate's constitutions before mentioned for the reformation of the clergy. They consisted of thirty-five articles, two of which were levelled against clergymen who should use enchantments and divinations. This partial
Chap, reform was intended to amuse and sooth the t *• , people, but produced little effect. The Germans were oppressed, and could be satisfied only by the removal of their burdens.
The confederacy at Ratisbon, considered as a political manoeuvre of the papal government, was managed by Campeggio, no doubt, with much ability and. address. It was, however, an event of which neither that artful legate, nor his more artful master in the Romish conclave, seems to have foreseen the consequences. In fact, while they were flattering themselves with having cemented a league of the most powerful supporters of the ancient ecclesiastical system, they forgot that they were giving the signal for an avowed and permanent disunion among the various potentates and orders of Germany. The seceders comprehended but a small part of the Imperial states; and their proceedings were altogether irregular. The few had not only unjustly assumed the right of making general orders for the many, but had neglected matters of the greatest importance to the community; they had done nothing to remove the real and principal grievances so long complained of, neither had they applied to the lesser abuses their true remedies.
It was this view of the proceedings at Ratisbon which roused the much more numerous Imperial deputies who favoured Lutheranism, and who had dissented from Campeggio in the late diet, to form soon Convention after a similar convention at Spires. There, in the Bt Sp,r"' same month of July, they assembled, and, in concert with one another, and in opposition to their papal adversaries, explained the decrees of Nuremberg in favour of growing Protestantism.
The Ratisbon party, it is well known, were far from being influenced by what are sometimes called motives of pure and honest bigotry. For example, the dignity and authority of the popedom were manifestly at stake. The ambitious schemes of Charles V. required him to purchase the concurrence of the pope, as a temporal prince, at Any Price. Ferdinand was then secretly using every art to secure his election as king of the Romans. The two dukes of Bavaria, who had hitherto permitted the public sale of Luther's books in their dominions, were now bribed to proscribe them, and to obstruct the further progress of his doctrine, by a subsidy from their higher clergy of one-fifth of all their revenues during the space of five years: and in return for this ample contribution, the rich ecclesiastical dignitaries were further gratified by not only being allowed to escape all reformation themselves, but also by the enacting of Campeggio's new and rigorous laws against the inferior parochial preachers,—a shameful partiality this, by which the domineering authority of the hierarchy was augmented, and the condition of the indigent laborious ministers was rendered more humiliating and dependant!
Though the motives which produced the opposite convention at Spires, it is to be feared, were in some instances not altogether Christian and disinterested, yet were they in general truly laudable and patriotic, and favourable to national liberty; and, in regard to many of the states of the empire, proceeded from a
This division of Germany into two parties, though it certainly weakened the force of the empire, and laid the foundation of many incurable suspicions and jealousies, was nevertheless, under Providence, extremely favourable to the progress of the Reformation. The same reflection is suggested by the history of the contentions between the emperor and the French king, which prevented that union of the Romish princes which was necessary to consolidate a system of uersal persecution.
The pious and modest student of history often discovers such a comfortable and satisfactory evi
desire of establishin;
and reformed religion.
dence of a divine hand in the direction of human affairs, as entirely escapes both the profane sceptic and the conceited philosopher.
Luther had now reason to consider his personal security at Wittemberg as abundantly meliorated. Both the Roman pontiff and the emperor had made two vain attempts at Nuremberg to effectuate the execution of the edict of Worms. The evasive decree of the last diet, " that they would observe that edict, As Far As They Could*," was soon interpreted to mean That They Could Not ; and this answer, in explicit terms, was returned to the archduke Ferdinand by the princes who favoured the Lutheran reformation, after that they had received the indignant letters of Charles V f
However, as our great Reformer never counted even his life dear to him, so that he might finish his course with joy and the ministry which he had received J, any satisfaction afforded to him from considerations of the safety of his person, was very little compared with that which he derived from hearing multiplied delightful accounts of the success of the Gospel in various parts, during the disputes and divisions in Germany.
It was about the middle of this same year that the landgrave of Hesse began to profess a decided approbation of the reformed religion. Enlightened by Luther's writings, he enjoined his preachers, in •a public proclamation, to confine themselves to the clear simple doctrine of our Saviour and his Apostles; upon which, a Franciscan monk, named Nicolaus Ferber, undertook to reclaim him to the catholic faith, by putting into his hands what he called an approved treatise on religion, and by exhorting him to imitate the kings and princes in Italy, France, and Spain,
* Maimb. in Seek. p. '287. See also page 166 of this Volume. + Page 168. I Acts xx.
who had agreed to inflict exemplary punishment on Cent,' the Lutherans. The Landgrave replied, That he ., fi^l ' had read the book, but found little in it that accorded with the charitable spirit of a true Christian ; That he had no design to leave ancient customs which were founded in Scripture; that he could not agree with the monk in denying the doctrine of justification by faith alone, because the words of Scripture were express on that head : Moreover, that he highly disapproved of his representing the Virgin Mary as a Mediator between God and man, and the Gospel as a thing that ought not to be preached to the common people; both which points, he said, were directly contrary to the written word.
Albert, Marquis of Brandenburg, brother of the AUo A!b(.rt Marquis George, whom we have before mentioned*
as a zealous promoter of the Reformation in Silesia, bufgr.'",de,l" was at the late diet at Nuremberg, where, in the right of Grand-master of the Teutonic Order, he ranked next to the German archbishops.—Political emergencies were the immediate cause of his presence. During his stay, however, he took the advantage of often hearing Osiander f preach; and as he had already conversed with Luther, and read his books with attention, he now became an open and avowed defender of the Reformation; more especially after Luther, in an elaborate epistle, had resolved certain doubts which the marquis had proposed to him respecting the pontifical jurisdiction. Prussia soon felt the happiest effects from the operation of Albert's religious sentiments. Long ago the pagans of that country had been compelled by the sanguinary Teutonic knights to become at least Nominal Christians, but, under the protection and encouragement of Albert, a Substantial change, both in doctrine and practice, commenced among them, and gained ground with vast rapidity. Lutheran • divines laboured in the Prussian territories with great • Page 143. t See Appendix, Osiander. VOL. V. N
success; and George de Polentz, bishop of Samland, so much distinguished himself by his evangelical exertions, that be may truly be called the father of the Reformation in that country. George seems to have been the first prelate who ventured to recommend to his clergy the study of Luther's writings* " Read," says he, " with a pious and diligent spirit, the translation of the Old and New Testament by that most famous divine Dr. Martin Luther. Read his tracts on Christian liberty, and on good works, also his explanations of the Epistles and Gospels, and of the Magnificat and the Psalms."
In the same public advice to his clergy, he laments the excessive ignorance of the people, that many were grown old and decrepit, who knew not a particle of their baptismal obligations, nor any thing of Christianity in general, beyond the mere name. He then exhorts them to perform the baptismal service no longer in Lati n, but in the langu age of the country: " It was the will of God that the promises of the Gospel should be explained in intelligibl e language."
Maurice, bishop of Ermland, a province of Prussia, published in the same month a most violent and abusive declaration against Luther and his disciples. With the most horrid imprecations he devotes to the divine vengeance all those, who shall continue to divide the church of Christ by adhering to what he calls the cause of those pernicious schismatics.
During this turbulent season, and amidst many private afflictions, Luther appears to have stood constantly at the helm of the infant protestant churches, and to have directed their course with a most watchful eye. In 1523, he sent into Prussia the excellent Brisman afore-mentioned * ; and also, in less than a year after, Paul Sperat, who for preaching the Gospel in Moravia had been condemned to a noisome dungeon at Olmutz, by the persecuting bishop of
• Page 155. *
that city. Paul providentially escaped, and came Cent. to Wittemberg,—his evangelical zeal not the least <^LV1" impaired. Recommended by Luther to Albert and Brisman, he repaired to Prussia, was made bishop of Pomesane, and continued a zealous labourer in the vineyard of Christ for about twenty-six years. John Poliander, who had been the amanuensis of Eckius in the disputation at Leipsic, became an useful coadjutor of Brisman and Sperat; and it was through the instructions of these three evangelical instruments of the Divine will, that the good bishop of Samland was enabled to effect so wonderful a change in religion in a very short time. Luther, in his letters, speaks of the Reformation in Prussia with a sort of triumphant satisfaction and delight. " At length," says he to Spalatinus, " one bishop is come forward, and, with a single eye, given himself up to the cause of Christ and his Gospel in Prussia. I mean the bishop of Samland, who listens to the fostering instruction of Brisman, whom we sent there after that he had cast off the monkish habit. The kingdom of Satan declines fast in that country."
It would lengthen our narrative too much to give Lntiier the whole of an excellent letter, which Luther wrote ^- "h" t00lj" in the following year to the bishop of Samland h im- Samland, self. A summary of it cannot fail to be both pleasant A- Dand instructive. After addressing this prelate as his 15'*5' most reverend father, and respected master in Christ, he proceeds to say:
" At the request of my brethren, I have determined to publish my familiar exposition of the book of Deuteronomy, and to dedicate it to you as a dignified ecclesiastic. The majestic authority indeed of Moses might well have deterred me or any one from such an undertaking,—agreeably to that divine declaration, ' Unto the ungodly, said God, Why dost thou preach my laws, whereas ihou hatest to be reformed * ? '—but that the circumstances of the times, and • Psalm 50. ver. 16 & 17.
the salvation of men's souls require every effort to be made which may promote religious instruction. My feeble attempts to explain the most excellent of the sacred writers cannot be worthy the notice of so great a personage ; nevertheless they afford me an opportunity, which I gladly embrace, of publicly testifying my affectionate regard for you, on account of your sincere faith in Christ, and your labour of love towards his disciples. Thus we think, that if it do but please God, by your new and extraordinary example, to inflame the minds of some other princes and prelates with the same holy zeal, they would soon spread the pure word of God, and make the true church rejoice in a most astonishing manner. We do not flatter you, when we speak highly of the divine gifts bestowed upon you ; no, we only extol the miraculous grace of God, and rejoice to hear that it reigns triumphant in your soul. In fact, from among all the bishops of the world, God hath selected you alone, and delivered you out of the jaws of Satan, which have opened wide as hell, and are devouring all around. As to other bishops, I say,— though I hope there maybe some Nicodemus's,—we can discover nothing but an insane outrageous conspiracy with kings and princes, against therisinglight of the Gospel; and thus do they fulfil the second Psalm, ' The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against his Anointed.' Truly wonderful is the grace of God in your case; so that you not only receive and believe in the Word, but publicly confess it, and teach it with episcopal authority throughout your diocese, and also defend and liberally provide for those who labour in the same ; and all this to the great grief and mortification of the enemies of the Gospel. These are things not to be passed by in silence, but made as public as possible, to the glory of God, the furtherance of the doctrine of Christ, the increase of faith, the comfort of the weak and the
persecuted, and, lastly, to the terror and disgrace of Cent. the adversaries, and of those tyrannical idols, who . x*1, . sit in the pontifical chair, and do no good to the miserable people. Neither am I to be deterred from making this public declaration through any apprehension lest I should thereby excite against you the odium of priests, kings, and princes, or even bring your life into danger. It is very true, indeed, that at this day a man can commit no crime which is deemed so flagitious a sacrilege as to confess the Gospel of God. Several have already shed their blood in this cause with the greatest constancy. Neither can we foresee what trials await us. Jf, however, we shall be thought worthy to suffer, we must patiently submit to every disgrace for the name of the Lord : and I am most assuredly persuaded, that he who has already honoured you with the Word of his cross, will strengthen you in the spirit of the same, and through your sufferings in the flesh, will ultimately cause you to triumph over the blasphemous opposition of the great and powerful in this world, and also over the violent attacks of Satan and his whole kingdom.
" Moreover, that the Divine beneficence might appear the more conspicuous and abundant, your country is blessed with a truly Christian governor, viz. the famous Albert, Marquis of Brandenburg, whom God, by his spirit, is pleased so to influence, that he does his utmost to promote the Gospel, and in all things judges and determines as becomes a good prince. And thus, by the united efforts and support of the prince and the bishop, and through the wonderful and inexpressible goodness of God, the pure Gospel moves in full sail through Prussia, where it was neither sought nor called for: and on the contrary, in Germany, where it has been pressed on the inhabitants with much zealous invitation and intreaty, it is by them repelled and blasphemed with the most outrageous insanity. Here again is fulfilled, ' I was
Chap, found of them that sought me not; I was made . *' . manifest to them that asked not after me : But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched out my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.'
" Be pleased, then, good bishop, to accept this little comment on the book of Deuteronomy, with this declaration of your own character prefixed to it. May it prove an occasion to you of glorifying your Redeemer! and may it, through your patronage, prove useful to those who perhaps may not have seen so much into the meaning of this book of Moses as it has pleased God to give me to see ! For there are many characters, and those teachers too, who are much disposed to set aside Moses, and indeed all the Old Testament, and affect to be content with the Gospels ; but I am convinced this is far from a right Christian way of thinking: for as learned men call Homer the father of the poets, and the fountain of eloquence and erudition, so Moses is the father of all the prophets, and the true source of heavenly wisdom and heavenly language. It is a very pleasant employment, and it is moreover very improving both to the understanding and the memory, to trace in Moses the vestiges of the later prophets, and to observe how they read his writings, how they learnt them, how they taught them, how they studied them day and night; in a word, how from his fulness they all collected their riches 'I He himself seems to have foreseen and predicted this, when he says, ' My doctrine shall drop as the rain; my speech shall distil as the dew*.'
" In explaining this book of Moses, I have aimed at simplicity throughout, and have avoided mystical expositions. Piety and faith are the first points with Moses ; and these he teaches at considerable length. He then passes on to the regulation of civil polity, and the preservation of mutual charity; and here you find nothing that is not directly to the purpose, and in the strictest sense useful and necessary. Even * Deut. xxxii. 2.
in regard to the ceremonies, peculiar care is con- Cent. stantly taken to render them grave and interesting, x^1through the divine injunctions accompanying them, which gave to them a weight and a substance. It is the want of these injunctions that renders the popish ceremonial devices so trifling and ridiculous.
" Toward the end of each chapter I have generally subjoined a short allegory; not that I have any great liking for such things, but ratherfor thepurpose of improving the bad taste of some persons in the management of allegories. Jerome and Origen did not succeed in this part of their writings, because they had only mere morals in view, whereas the great stress should always be laid on the operation of Faith and the Written Word. I have therefore endeavoured to show, that, in the use of allegories, the progress of the Gospel should always be the principal object. All the figures and types to be found in the writings of Moses have this tendency. May our Lord, who has begun his own good work in your soul, and without whose operation nothing can be done, preserve you, and increase your usefulness ! May you in this life become a prelate truly powerful in the word of God ! And when the Prince of prelates shall appear, you shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. To HIS protection, I beg you to recommend me with your holy prayers *.
" Martin Luther."
What a contrast is the conduct of Luther to that Persccuof his papal antagonist Campeggio ! The decision Uon,' of this legate, while he remained at Nuremberg, upon a case which was brought before him from Strasburg, deserves to be recorded, as it demonstrates at once the licentiousness ofthe Romish clergy of those times, as well as the corrupt maxims which influenced the ecclesiastical judges.—The unscripEP. II 285.
Chap, tural doctrineof the celibacy of the clergy was giving , way in various places to the enlightened principles of the reformers ; and accordingly at Strasburg it happened that several of the sacerdotal order had lately married wives, and had thereby exposed themselves to the censures of their indignant superiors ia the Church. The bishop of that city had issued his citation to the culprits, by which they were summoned to appear before him at Saverne, and to hear his sentence against them for having contracted matrimony, not only in defiance of the laws of the Church, holy fathers, popes, and the emperor, but also in traitorous disobedience to the Divine Majesty and their own sacred order. Upon the receipt of the bishop's citation, the married clergy intreated the senate of Strasburg to interfere on their behalf, and to procure them a fair hearing. They were willing, they said, even to suffer death, if they should be found to have broken the commands of God in this matter. The senate complied with the request of the clergy ; and informed the bishop, that the accused did by no means decline an equitable inquiry into their conduct, but that any attempt to punish them in the summary way now proposed, could not be carried into execution without the utmost danger of a tumult, especially as many others of the clergy were known to live openly with harlots, and yet had incurred no ecclesiastical censures. It was in this state of the contest that the bishop complained to the legate of being hindered by the senate of Strasburg from exercising his just authority, in punishing those clergy who, in contempt of the sacred laws, had lately become husbands. The deputies of the city replied, that it was not the senate, but the bishop himself that obstructed the course of justice, in not adhering to the compact made with them; namely, that all causes of this sort should be heard by his official in the City, and that sentence should not be pronounced against a clergyman in a private way,
at a distance from Strasburg, and without examination into the merits of the case. The deputies concluded with warning the legate, as they had before warned the bishop, of the imminent danger or rather certainty there would be of tumults among the populace, if the senate, to whose justice the married clergy had appealed, should permit them to be delivered up to punishment, without previous benefit of trial. The legate however declared, that the bishop had not exceeded his authority, and that the senate ought to assist him in carrying his sentence into execution: upon which a warm and memorable altercation ensued between Campeggio and the Strasburg deputies. " A great part of the Strasburg clergy," said the latter, " cohabit with harlots in their own houses in the most shameful manner. In so doing, they give great offence to the people, and also set the very worst examples; yet they proceed in this manner with the most entire impunity. There is not a single instance of any one of them being punished by the bishop on this account. If therefore the senate should enforce severe sentences against those who have only broken certain regulations of the popes, and at the same time should take no notice of others who have, by many shameful practices, and particularly by their habitual intercourse with strumpets, violated the precepts of God, who, continued the deputies, can answer for the safety of such partial magistrates?"—To this very just representation Campeggio only replied, that the guilt of the married clergy was beyond dispute, and that their crimes were not the less because others did wrong; neither was the bishop who coned at the irregularities of the clergy to be defended. He admitted that it was an usual thing for the German bishops to receive money from the ecclesiastics of their dioceses as the price of being allowed to keep harlots, and they would, he said, at some time be called to an account for this practice; but it did not thence follow that it was lawful for a priest to marry. Nay, it was a much greater fault in a priest to become a husband of a woman, than to keep many concubines in his house: for the married priest defends his conduct as right, whereas the other, who lives with a concubine, knows and admits that he is doing wrong: moreover, continued the legate, it is not every one that has the gift of continency, like John the Baptist.—The deputies of the senate dryly answered this unexampled effrontery in the following manner: " When the bishop shall begin to punish the whoremongers, then the senate may be able to support him with more advantage in his lawful animadversions upon others*."
Such infatuated conduct of the Roman hierarchy could not fail to promote the progress of the Reformation. The senate of Strasburg soon after this transaction completed the Protestant system in that large and populous city, where Hedio, Bucer,Capito, and other godly pastors, were labouring with great success: and such was the reputation of the Strasburg theologians, that James Faber, who has been mentioned before, and Gerard Roussel, were sent privately from France by Margaret of Navarre, the sister of the French king, for the express purpose of conversing on the grand points of divinity with Bucer and Capito. The issue of the conference was, that these pious divines gave to one another the right hand of fellowship; and thus, says an excellent annalistf, some shoots of the evangelical vine were transmitted from the city of Strasburg, and took root among the churches of France. Dr. Meyer Doctor Sebastian Meyer, who was a celebrated renounce/8 preacher in the Franciscan Church at Strasburg, popery, made a public retractation of his papistical tenets in A* D* the year 1524; and this event very much strength's 24- ened the faith of the converts to the new system of sound doctrine. Meyer enumerated ten articles " Sleidan. lib. iv. t Abraham Scultetus.
of the Romish corruptions, renounced them all, and Cent. boldly published, at Berne, in Switzerland, his con- . xvl'-< futation of them from Scripture*.
To relate the particulars of the triumphs of evangelical doctrine in Westphalia, in the duchy of Mecklenburg, in Pomerania and Livonia, and at Magdeburg and Bremen, would carry us beyond the limits of the plan of this history. The Reformation gained ground even at Brunswic and Leipsic, notwithstanding the persevering enmity of their respective sovereigns.
But this blessed revolution was not brought about without much persecution. In places, however, where the enmity of the rulers of the people, whether ecclesiastical or civil, was overawed by numbers of converts to the new system, the sufferings of the godly were slight, compared with what took place where the friends of Reformation were few and had little authority, and were exposed to the merciless rage either of a blind prejudiced populace, or of domineering bishops and bigoted magistrates.
Luther has recorded the martyrdom of Henry of Martyrdom Zutphen, with much Christian feeling. This man z'uipbea! had been one of his disciples, and was prior of the Augustine friars at Antwerp, where, on account of his zeal in the cause of religion, he was cast into prison. Some spirited, pious women effected his release; and when he was purposing to visit his religious friends at Wittemberg, he received so pressing an invitation from the senate and inhabitants of Bremen, that he complied with it, and preached the Gospel there for the space of two years f. Luther describes the hearts of the people of this city as being in a most astonishing state of preparation for the reception of the Gospel, notwithstanding the opposition of their bishop J. His account of this
* Scultet. 216.
f This is the same man called Henry Mnller, p. 132. J Miro desiderio et voto populus afficitur. Ep. II. 98.
Chap, pious and patient sufferer well deserves a place in the Appendix*. Our Reformer sent it to his evangelical friends at Bremen, along with an animated comment on the tenth Psalm, composed on the occasion, and also an epistle full of consolatory and encouraging reflections, " Such," says he, " is the energy of the Divine Spirit, that there is now almost every where a numerous communion of holy men, both preachers and hearers. It is true some of them are killed, others imprisoned, or driven into banishment, and, to be short, all are afflicted and suffer disgrace for the cross of Christ. But what is this but a revival of the true Christian life; of which the dreadful persecutions and sufferings appear to the world intolerable? Nevertheless, according to the Psalmist the blood of his saints is dear in the sight of the Lord.— Without doubt Henry of Zutphen, lately murdered by the Ditmarsians, was eminently one of these. He hath freely sealed with his blood his testimony to the Christian truth. Before him John Voes and Henry Esch obtained the crown of martyrdom at Brussels f. Henry of Zutphen is a third beautiful and bright example. I may add to the catalogue Casper Tauber, who was lately burnt at Vienna, and a bookseller named George, whom the Hungarians put to death; and lastly, I am informed that at Prague, in Bohemia, a person has been deprived of life for no other fault, than having forsaken the licentious pretensions to celibacy, and contracted a truly honourable Christian marriage. These and similar instances are the sacrifices, which in a short time will extinguish with their blood every remaining spark of the Papacy. Thus it was that the holy martyrs of old proved the truth of their doctrines by shedding their blood in the glorious cause of the Gospel.
" To boast of such instances as these is not in the
* See Appen. Henry of Zutphen : also Luth Eji. II. 253.
t Page 148.
power of men who have seduced the world with an hypocritical dependence on free-will, good works, and human righteousness. Satan persecutes unto death no one for these doctrines. They rather lead to dignity, and power, and wealth, and a luxurious life. Wherefore, my good people of Bremen, I have judged it expedient to write and publish a circumstantial narrative of the martyrdom of Henry, and to exhort you neither to be overwhelmed with sorrow, nor exasperated with anger; but rather that you should praise and thank God for having discovered to you the wonderful ways of his gracious providence. In his great mercy he has sent his Gospel among you, and most manifestly bestowed a large portion of his spirit upon your teacher, the deceased Henry, so that you ought to have no doubt of his good-will toward you. Lament not the death of this excellent man, but pity his murderers, and pray for them ; and not only for them, but their countrymen, who I hope by this sad event will be led to the knowledge of the truth. Many of them are said to have a love for the Gospel; and God will, I doubt not, overrule the loss of their preacher to their everlasting benefit, as he will severely punish those among them who remain impenitent.
" I entreat you to read and sing the tenth Psalm: it is peculiarly suitable to your circumstances. Afflict not yourselves for the loss of the martyrs who suffer for the glory of Christ; but rather give praise to God for his inestimable mercy in causing so much good to be brought out of evil."
How little of the real spirit of Luther appears in our ordinary histories of these times ! By many this pious reformer is thought not only to have been bold and enterprising, but also headstrong, seditious, and revengeful. Whereas this letter to the inhabitants of Bremen, as well as a former one to his Christian converts at Miltenberg*, are no more than fair
• Page 147.
specimens of his profound humility, sober confidence in the providence of God, and unfeigned resignation to his will. Fervent prayer, faith and hope in the divine promises, with a forgiving of injuries and a contemplation of select passages of Scripture, were the constant materials recommended by Luther for the consolation of his Christian friends in their afflictions.
All the accounts agree that in the years 1523 and 1524 the persecutions were excessively severe. A single well-authenticated instance will often demonstrate both the temper of the rulers, and the prevailing sentiments of the people. For example, at Antwerp, a certain person had been in the habit of explaining the Gospel, on Sundays, to a vast concourse of people. An express order was issued to forbid the practice. The people however met in the dockyards ; and, as their usual preacher or expositor did not make his appearance, a zealous youth, named Nicolaus, placed himself in a boat near the shore, and addressed the. audience in a very pious manner from the chapter concerning the five loaves and two fishes : but the very next day he was ordered to be seized, and put into a sack lest he should be known by the people; and in that state he was suddenly thrown into the river *.
In Bavaria, Luther informs us, that though the good seed could scarcely be said to be yet sown, the cross and persecution of the word prevailed : " The wild beasts rage," says he, " but the blood which they shed will soon stifle their fury 7."