FROM THE PERSECUTIONS IN 1523 AND 1524,
Death Of The Elector Of Saxony.
Sacramental Controversy. Carolstadt.
War With The Peasants. Munzer.
Luther And Carolstadt.
Death Of The Elector Of Saxony.
WE have already observed, p. 154, that in the year f 1524, there arose among the friends of the Refor- ver>y"' mation a tedious and fatal controversy respecting 1544> the presence of the body and blood of Christ in the A. D. Eucharist. Luther had rejected the doctrine of 1524* transubstantiation, but maintained, nevertheless, that along with the elements of bread and wine the real body and blood of Christ were received by the partakers of the Lord's Supper. It is a memorable instance of human imbecility, that a man who had risen superior to the habits and prejudices of education in so many other respects, and who, through the grace of God and the instruction of the written word, had been more completely emancipated from vulgar and fashionable absurdities than any mere philosopher in any age had ever been, should in this single point remain so unreasonably attached to the opinion which he had imbibed in his youth. Our astonishment is increased by this circumstance, that he could allow the scriptural expressions to be consistent with the admission of the Reality of the elements according to the plain testimony of our
senses, and yet should think that those same expressions do still imply that the partaker of the real bread and wine does also partake at the same time of the material substance of Christ's human body. Thus, however, the advocates for the doctrine of Consubstantiation must argue. And the case before us shows, that great men are not so in all things; and that it is never wise to adhere implicitly to the authority of mere fallible men as teachers.
Carolstadt was, in this point, the open antagonist of Luther. I have spent much time in endeavouring to develop the true history of the origin of the Sacramental controversy, not so much on account of the merits of the argumentation which took place in the course of it, as of the contrary representations of the ecclesiastical writers respecting the motives of these two early reformers. After much reflection, I am convinced that what is certain in this matter is in very little room.
The previous intemperate conduct of Carolstadt
had so lowered his reputation at Wittemberg, that
he found it expedient, if not absolutely necessary, to
leave a situation where all friendly and confidential
intercourse with his former religious connexions was
almost at an end. Accordingly, he retired to Or
lamund, a little town of Thuringia in the electorate
of Saxony, where, without legitimate appointment,
though withthe consent of the inhabitants, he became
their spiritual pastor. Here Carolstadt not only
soon broached his opinion of the Eucharist, but
raised new disturbances by his furious discourses
concerning the abolition of images. He appears
also to have boasted of having been favoured with
supernatural communications ; and was represented
as a partizan of the turbulent fanatic Thomas Mun
zer*. The uersity of Wittemberg summoned him
to return back and discharge in person the ordinary
* Seek. 302. Uu Pin, c. xviii. Melch. Adam. 83. Maimbourg, sect. 2. Comment, de Lutb. II. 11.
duties enjoined him by the statutes in their school and Church. Carolstadt promised to obey, provided he could obtain the leave of his parishioners, the Orlamundians, whom however at the same time he is said to have excited to arrogate to themselves the divine right of appointing their own pastor. The elector of Saxony was so disgusted with the insolent letters which they wrote on this occasion, treating the academical claim as a papistical encroachment, that he peremptorily commanded both them and their teacher to submit to the legal authority of the uersity and the chapter*. He likewise ordered Luther to visit Orlamund, and inquire into the truth of the various reports, and endeavour to appease the people. Accordingly, as he passed through Jene, he preached with great zeal against the enthusiastic spirit of Munzer; and in making a vehement and laboured attack upon the turbulent image-breakers, he was understood to represent Carolstadt and his party as actuated by the same spirit as that of the seditious leader of the anabaptists. Carolstadt who was present at Luther's discourse was so enraged with the invective, which he conceived to be directed principally at himself, that he followed Luther in great heat to his inn, where there soon commenced a long and acrimonious disputation between these two divines; in which Carolstadt disavowed all connexion with Munzer ; and Luther appears to have admitted his apology, at least so far as concerned the charge of any preconcerted association with that enthusiastic incendiary. But he expressed the utmost dislike both of Carolstadt's opinion on the Sacrament, and of his practice in the demolition of images; and then challenged him to support in writing what he had asserted on the former subject, and engaged to refute his arguments. After this, Luther proceeded to Orlamund ; but having previously received from the inhabitants certain fanatical and abusive letters, • Arch. Vin. S. II. 28. VOL. V. O
which he supposed to have been dictated by their teacher, he would gladly have conferred with them Alon E on the subject of the removal of the images; but their pastor Carolstadt took care to be present, ready to assist his flock *. Instantly all prospect of an amicable issue to the conference vanished. Luther grew warm, and the Orlamundians quite furious and abusive. " I saw very clearly," says he, " what sort of seed this fine teacher had been sowing at Orlamund; and I had good reason to congratulate myself that I had fortunately slipped away from among them with my life, and was not covered over with stones and dirt. Some of them as I was going away, uttered the most horrid imprecations against me, and prayed God that I might break my neck before I should be out of the town."
Carolstadt still continued at Orlamund, and wrote letters to the elector full of bitter accusations against Luther; and not content with this, he instigated his hearers to do the same, and likewise taught them in their letters to defend, from the Decalogue, their late conduct in pulling down images. Such violent proceedings appear to have at last exhausted the patience both of the elector and his brother. These princes peremptorily expelled Carolstadt from their territories, and absolutely rejected the intercession of the Orlamundians in his behalf. Carolstadt, after his departure, wrote letters to his people, which were read in full congregation upon the toll of the bell, and were subscribed thus, " Andreas Bodenstenius Carolstadt, Unheard, Unconvicted, Banished, by Martin Luther t-"
" Thus," says Luther, in a letter to Amsdorf, " matters are so changed, that I, who should have been a martyr myself, am making martyrs of others;J:."
Expelled from Thuringia, Carolstadt repaired to Strasburg, and thence to Basle; where, without the • Du Pin. Seek. t Ep- H. 236. J Ibid. 237.
privity of any persons, except the anabaptists of the Cent. place, he procured the printing of several of his . X^L , pamphlets on the Sacrament.
In regard to his banishment, Luther constantly denies himself to have been the cause of it; at the same time he acknowledges that he could wish the charge to be true, for that he should not doubt being able to give good reasons for his conduct. " More- Luther over," says he, in a letter to the Strasburgians, ,"e strM" I really rejoice that he has been banished from burgian*. our part of the country; and I most earnestly wish that he had no opportunity of showing his wild and
seditious spirit among you However, I own,
that if I had been duke of Saxony, Carolstadt would never have been banished, unless, indeed, I had been compelled to yield to the importunate petitions of the people. But, my dear friends, do not ye be influenced by my indiscreet, nay foolish good-nature; do ye Act Like Wise Men. Perhaps I may be imprudent enough to write on the points in dispute, though I am entirely convinced that the devil contrives to sow these seeds of controversy among men, for the express purpose of making them talk and write, and say, What excellent, holy men are these! What -wicked, bad characters are those ! and thus he takes up or deludes the minds of all sides by such novelties, and makes them forget the great articles of faith and practice. Let every one of you for himself sedulously study the true nature of the Law, of the Gospel, of Faith, of Christ's kingdom, of Christian liberty, of charity, and patience ; also the nature of human constitutions, and many things of this kind which are found necessary throughout the whole Christian life;—and then you will not be found blameable or deficient, though you should
have thrown down no images I would that, my
brethren, your preachers would endeavour to draw men as much as possible from Luther, and from Carolstadt, that is, from Men; and lead them to Christ, the gift of God, who is freely made to us wisdom, righteousness, redemption, and sanctification. These mad prophets have never understood, have never experienced this matter. They boast of hearing distinct voices from heaven, and of leading lives most extraordinarily pure; they use pompous and even marvellous expressions, which they themselves do not comprehend; and in this way they disturb restless consciences, and compass their purpose, which is, to be looked up unto, and to excite astonishment; but in the mean time Christ is forgotten or treated with contempt My good
brethren, entreat Almighty God the Father to preserve you from temptation ; and of his inexhaustible mercy, to carry on his own work in your souls. This, through our Saviour Christ, is my own most fervent prayer, and it is the prayer that comforts me. These prophets, I am persuaded, do not pray for the success of their plans. A man cannot pray without some degree of a good conscience; but the system of these men originated in impiety and presumption; and they are still carried away with ambition and enthusiasm, and are not aware of the disgraceful and ignominious end.that awaits them *."
After Carolstadt had been exiled about the space of five months, he appears to have been desirous of a reconciliation with Luther; and for that purpose he wrote a sort of penitential letter to Spalatinus, requesting his interference and good offices. As Luther was of a most placable temper, he did not hesitate to intercede with the elector, and to petition his highness " that he would be pleased to permit Carolstadt to re-enter his dominions, and to have a friendly conference with Luther." Nevertheless, judging from the insolence of his letters, he said he could have very little hope of him. In fact, Luther's principal motive for acceding to this measure seems to have been, that he might thereby do away the * Epist. II. 951.
slanderous reports of having been the cause of Carolstadt's banishment *. The prince rejected the petition; and caused Luther to be informed, that he did not choose to grant safe conducts for such purposes ; they might if they pleased confer together Out of his dominions ; and in so doing he thought they were perhaps more likely to be reconciled.
Carolstadt now wandered from place to place through the higher Germany, and at length made a pause at Rotenburg; where, as usual, he soon raised tumults, and incited the people to pull down the statues and paintings. Luther heard of his proceedings, and, in a letter to a friend, said, " I have not been able to obtain a safe conduct for Carolstadt ; and therefore he will continue to vent his furious declamations against mef." However, when the seditious faction of the peasants, with Munzer their ringleader, was effectually suppressed, we find him in the greatest difficulties, and even in danger of his life from his supposed connexion with the enthusiastic rebels who had spread such devastation through Germany. Many persons in various places were seized, and among them even some of the evangelical clergy of Rotenburg, and were dragged to punishment. Carolstadt narrowly escaped, through being let down by the wall of the town in a basket. Thus reduced to the last extremities, he and his wife incessantly intreated both the elector and Luther, that they might be allowed to return into their own country. He said, he could clear himself of having had any concern in the late rebellion ; and if not, he would cheerfully undergo any punishment that could be inflicted upon him. With this view he wrote a little f Kact, in which he takes much pains to justify himself from the charge of sedition; and he sent A Letter likewise to Luther, in which he earnestly begs his assistance in the publishing of the • Arch. Vin. II. 18. Ep. H. 279. b. t Epist. II. 280. h.
Chap, tract as well as in the more general design of esta~; . blishing his innocence. Luther's judgment was so impressed with a sense of the reasonableness of affording an accused person every opportunity of defence, and his generous feelings so touched with the submissive application of an adversary in distress, that he immediately published Carolstadt's letter, and declared, that though he differed very materially from him in sentiment, yet he would not disappoint the expectations of a man who in confidence had cast himself on his mercy at once, rather than fly for refuge and protection to those who had instigated him to hostilities *. He therefore called on the magistrates, and on the people, to give a fair hearing to an unfortunate fugitive, who pleaded not Guilty, and challenged inquiry f. " Attention to such a requisition," he said, " was no more than what common justice claimed, and the peculiar duties of Christianity enjoined."
Besides the little tract here mentioned, Carolstadt sent another to Luther, in which he professes, that in what he had hitherto published on the Supper of our Lord, he never pretended to have settled the point, but to have written merely for the purpose of argument and investigation. Luther accepted this apology; but at the same time he admonished the people, that as the author himself had openly declared he was in doubt on the subject, they ought to
* Sleidan, 139.
f It is painful to find this part of Luther's conduct, so very moderate and truly Christian, invidiously represented by Maclaine; as though it had proceeded from a conviction of having treated Carolstadt previously in an unworthy manner. Moshcim, p. 166, the note. Beausobre also, without the least ceremony, asserts that Luther had treated Carolstadt in a merciless way, p. 228.—The best answer to all such harsh and inconsiderate censures is the simple production of the transactions themselves, as reported in the ancient authentic documents, and not as they have been variously coloured in their transfer from one partywriter to another.
be most particularly on their guard not to embrace Cent. uncertainties. t .
Moreover, after much importunate entreaty, he succeeded in procuring from the elector John * a Safe Conduct for the return of Carolstadt into the territories from which he had been exiled. " By earnest and constant prayers," says he, " I have at last obtained leave from the prince, contrary to the sentiments of his whole court, that Carolstadt be allowed to live in a little country village about a mile from Wittemberg. May God be pleased to bring this man at length to a right state of mind !".... " Yesterday we baptized one of his children, or rather re-baptized him. The sponsors were Jonas, Melancthon, and my Ketha. Who would have suspected last year, that those who reviled baptism, calling it a bath, fit only for dogs, would now have petitioned to have it administered to themselves by their adversaries ? Whetherthey aresincereor notis only known to God ! Very astonishing things however do happen ; and God's ways are not our ways f."
These and many other circumstances make it sufficiently evident that there was no great cordiality in this reconciliation of parties, nor in the minds of Carolstadt's former associates any high idea of his sincerity, nor, lastly, much hope of his future discretion. In fact, Luther urged with the elector, as the opinion both of Melancthon and himself, that it was much better that Carolstadt should remain in some obscure part of the electorate, and not be allowed either to write or to preach, than that he should travel from one place to another, and spread his erroneous notions.
Carolstadt appears to have been recalled about cwsudt the Autumn of 1525, and to have then made a pub- reca e ' lie recantation of what he had advanced on the Sacra- *' ' ment; and in the succeeding November we find ^ ^'
• Frederic the Wise died in 1525, and his brother John succeeded him. t Amsdorf, 312. Ad Hausman, 317.
him transmitting to the elector a written formula for the same purpose, which, he says, was prescribed to him by the faithful and celebrated divines of Wittemberg *.
Concerning these transactions an excellent annalist, and one by no means partial to Luther, observes, that mankind reasoned in the following manner. " When Carolstadt sent his little tracts to Luther, he was either serious or not. If serious, we must condemn the vehemence with which he had formerly defended a doctrine respecting which he was absolutely in doubt. If not serious, then such levity of spirit is utterly indefensible." The same author tells us that there were some who positively maintained, that before the elector had agreed to the recall of Carolstadt, Luther had ventured to receive him back again, and had shut him up privately in the monastery of Wittemberg f.
Whatever doubts may be entertained of the sincerity of Carolstadt in the Sacramental controversy, every careful student of ecclesiastical history must acquit Luther of using the smallest degree of duplicity or artifice in that unhappy contest. We may lament his obstinacy, his violence, and his want of candour, of which the proofs are too numerous in the course of his opposition to his antagonists ; further, we may also admit that the turbulence, the precipitation, and the vanity of Carolstadt, were in a great measure the occasion both of calling forth and of exasperating these unchristian dispositions in Luther; but still we must take care to discriminate between passion and hypocrisy, between firm conviction and political manoeuvre, between that contempt for an ostentatious and intemperate adversary which is apt to unfit the mind for deliberate investigation, and that intolerable pride of heart which wilfully persists in error, can bear no contradiction, but rather than not appear to dictate to others, is ready to sacrifice * Vin. Arch. II. a8. t Scult. 854.. - .
the strongest impressions of reason and religion.— Cent. It seemed the more necessary to insist on these dis- . XVI' . tinctions, for the sake of guarding the Reader against the misrepresentations of historians, who have never seen, or certainly not digested, the authentic original documents upon which the true character of the great Saxon Reformer depends*.
It appears to me that nothing but motives the most strictly conscientious could have prevented Luther from adopting the tenetof his Sacramentarian opponents. It would have been a new, and, in his hands a most powerful weapon against his grand enemies the papists. Let us hear himself on this point. " I neither can," says he, " nor will deny, that if Carolstadt or any one else could have persuaded me, during the last five years, that in the Sacrament there was nothing but mere bread and wine, he would have conferred on me a great obligation. I have examined this matter with the utmost anxiety, and with persevering diligence; I have stretched every nerve with a view to unravel the mystery; for I most clearly saw that the new tenet would give me a great advantage in my contests with the Papacy. Moreover, I have had a correspondence on this subject with two persons much more acute than Carolstadt, and not at all disposed to twist words from their natural meaning. But the text in the Gospel is so strong and unequivocal, that I have found myself compelled to submit to its decision. Its force can be eluded in no way whatever, much less by the fictitious glosses of a giddy brain.
" Nay, after all, at this very time, if any one could prove to me, by good Scriptural testimony, that there is only bread and wine in the sacrament, he would have no occasion to attack me with any degree
* Maclaine in Mosbeim in various places, particularly p. 641. and Beausobre, Liv. IV. & V. &c.
Chap, of bitterness or animosity. Alas! if I know myself, X1, , I am sufficiently inclined by nature to take that side. But while Carolstadt, instead of producing Scriptural testimony, only rages at me like a madman, such conduct makes me the more positive in the support of my sentiments. If I had not already known that the ground he has taken is untenable, the futile arguments suggested by his wild imagination would have convinced me that the opinion was altogether weak and frivolous. Indeed I am inclined to think Carolstadt himself is not in earnest; for if he be serious, and yet can write in so absurd and trifling a manner, I must conclude him to be under a judicial infatuation of Almighty God. Carolstadt, had he been really in earnest, knows too much of Greek and Hebrew to have produced such a ridiculous mixture of observations dependant on those two languages.
" Further, in the affair of pulling down images, I could easily pass by his excesses, provided the matter ended there: for I suppose that I have already done more by my writings towards the destruction of image-worship, than his intemperate proceedings will ever be able to effect. But the mischief consists in this; he teaches the people, That Unless They
DO THESE THINGS, THEY ARE NOT CHRISTIANS.
This is a language not to be borne. St. Paul says ' We know that an idol is nothing in the world;'— of course it is nothing whether it stand or fall; why then are the consciences of Christians to be tortured by things in which Christianity does not consist ? . . I fear my answer to his publications must contain heavy accusations against him, for his rash and tumultuary spirit. Let every man avoid this malignant, delusive spirit. When I met him at Jene in Thuringia, he almost persuaded me, by quoting a particular Scripture, not to confound his spirit with that deadly, bloody spirit of the Anabaptists: but as soon as I arrived among his flock at Orlamund, I was not at a loss to comprehend what sort of seed Cknt. this fine teacher had been sowing*." „ xy~
THE WAR OF THE PEASANTS.
The more scrupulously we examine the principles of Martin Luther, the more opposite we always find them to a spirit both of enthusiasm and sedition.— The name of Thomas Munzer has already been mentioned'!", as well as the fanatical practices of him and his connexions. The absurd and wicked proceedings of such men would find no place in a History of the Church of Christ, were it not, that, by their delusive arguments, and turbulent actions, they frequently become an occasion for trying the wisdom and the soundness of professing Christians: and so, in the event, they prove a snare to the proud, the ignorant, and unstable; while they exercise the patience of the humble, and increase the understanding of the wise. God bringeth good out of evil: ' let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall!'
Never did the solidity of our Reformer's judgment and the purity of his motives appear more striking than in the case before us.—Soon after the first appearance of the Celestial Prophets, as they were called, when not only the elector and his court, but also the whole uersity of Wittemberg, with Melancthon at their head, were absolutely puzzled and almost confounded by the pretensions of these extraordinary men, the sound sense and almost instinctive discernment of Luther pointed out to him at once the just treatment to which they were entitled. We have seen the wise advice which he gave to Melancthon\. He also exhorted his friend Amsdorf not to be anxious about them. Scripture, he said, would be his infallible guide, provided he and his associates
• See above, p. 194. It was with difficulty Luther escaped with his life. Also Ep. II. 251.
f Page 44. t Page 47, 48.
Chap, were not too much in a hurry, and would but try . ~~ . the Spirits whether they were from God. The prophets boasted of having conversations with the Almighty-—" A circumstance," said Luther, " to my mind, on the very face of it, exceedingly suspicious*."
Munasr. ' Of Thomas Munzer he speaks in the following terms : " I cannot endure his spirit. He affects to commend my doctrines, and yet treats them with contempt, and is constantly aiming at something far beyond them. Then the man uses such absurd, unusual, and unscriptural expressions, that you would conclude him to be either crazy or drunk. He avoids all conference with us. I am endeavouring to procure an interview with him, for the purpose of hearing him explain his tenets: but I do not know that I shall succeed. We have no fears of hearing or of being heard, or of conferring with any Persons> whatever be Their dispositionsf."
Munzer could not be induced to come to Wittemberg, but remained at Alsted, a town on the confines of Thuringia, in the Electorate of Saxony. There he inveighed against both the pope and Luther. " The doctrine of the latter," he said, was not sufficiently spiritual; it was indeed altogether carnal. Divines should exert their utmost endeavours to acquire a spiritof prophecy, otherwise their knowledge of divinity would not be worth one halfpenny. They should consider their God as at hand, and not far off J." Moreover, if men would be saved, they must fast, look grave, talk little, and wear plain clothes, and let their beards grow. This is the cross of Christ, and the true mortification. Then, thus prepared, they should leave the crowd, and think continually of God, and demand a sign from him by which they may know certainly that he has a regard for them, and that Christ died for
* EP. II. 46. t Ep. II. 152.
J Munzer's letter to Melancthon, Scult. 235.
them. If the sign does not appear at the moment, they should persevere, and be instant in prayer; and even expostulate with God as though he did not keep his promises made in Scripture. An angry expostulation of this sort, he said, demonstrated the fervour of the soul, and was highly pleasing to God; and would not fail in the end to produce some very conspicuous and satisfactory declaration of the Divine will. Dreams, he maintained, were a method in which God revealed his will to men, and it was through the means of them that, in general, answers to prayers were to be expected. Then, if any person had had a dream which admitted of an interpretation, instead of preaching to the people, Munzer made a laboured eulogium on the dreamer:—and, in this manner, he by degrees conciliated to himself a number of the inhabitants of Alsted, who entered into a conspiracy with him, subscribed their names and took a solemn oath, for the express purpose of murdering all wicked persons, appointing new princes and magistrates, and organizing the world afresh ; and upon such a plan, that pious ahd good people only should have the upper hand.—The enthusiast declared, that for all this, he had. the positive command of God.
Mildness and moderation were essential parts of the character of Frederic the Wise; and therefore we are not to wonder that, so long as the proceedings of this wicked incendiary were confined to the interpretation of dreams and supposed revelations from God, he should have so far tolerated his extravagant pretensions, as not to drive him into exile. But as soon as his seditious designs became sufficientlyplain,hejudged it necessary to give directions for his removal from the electorate*. Munzer then, retired to Nuremberg, but was not able to form a party there. He was quickly expelled by the inhabitants. Thence he proceeded to Mulhausen, • Arch. Vin. S. 305.
where he had more success. He became the minister of the common people, and stimulated them to degrade the old magistrates and elect new ones; and to turn the monks out of doors, and seize their houses and property. The very best and richest house fell to the share of Munzer himself, who was now become both the first ecclesiastic and first magistrate of the place. He decided all points in a summary way by the Bible or by inspiration, and taught the doctrine of perfect equality, and of a community of goods. The poor ceased to labour, and supplied their wants from the rich by force. The number of this deluded rabble increased in a most astonishing manner; their infatuated leader became every day more insolent, and persuaded himself that the time for carrying his detestable designs into execution was fast advancing.
Luther, it should seem, by his letters to the elector of Saxony, certainly at first promoted that good prince's spirit of patient forbearance toward Munzer. " Your highness," says he, " had better bear with him till he be more ripe. There is a great deal in him which has not shown itself as yet*." In this same letter however he calls Munzer, Satan, and intimates with sufficient plainness that he expected nothing but mischief from him in future. Moreover, afterwards, he became dissatisfied with the elector's dilatory indecision respecting the whole business of the prophets; and at length, when Munzer had unfolded his wicked purposes so as to leave no room for doubt, he presented to the prince Frederic, and to the Duke his brother, a very spirited and elaborate address on the danger with which the country was threatened from this fanatical rebel and his deluded associates.
He begins like an apostle. " Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ;" and then proceeds to observe, that " it is Satan's • Reg. N. III. 194. S. Sleidan. V. 118.
method to attempt to crush every revival of the Divine word, first by force, and, if that does not succeed, then by false spirits, by artful and mischievous teachers. It Was so in the first ages of the propagation of the Gospel: He deluged Christendom with the blood of the Martyrs. But this did not answer his purpose; he therefore sent forth a tribe of false prophets, and filled every corner of the world with heresies, till at length the papacy, that most powerful of all the antichrists, fully completed his designs. It Is so at this very time.— The pope, the emperor, kings, and princes, and wicked bishops, like madmen, rage against the Gospel, and do their utmost to oppress it. Satan however is sufficiently acute to see that they will not prevail, but will bring down the Divine wrath upon themselves; and in the mean time he produces lying spirits and abandoned sectaries to do his business.
" The same Satanic Spirit,—continued Luther—■ after wandering through dry places for almost three years, seeking rest and finding none, has at length taken advantage of the protection afforded by your highness's mild and peaceful government, and hath built his nest in your territories at Alsted, with a view to commence war against us who preach the Gospel.
" Nevertheless, it is my singular satisfaction to find that these madmen openly boast that they do not belong to us; and that they have neither learnt nor received any thing from us, but have been conversing with God for the space of three years. They reckon little of our teaching faith, charity, and the cross at Wittemberg. ' You must hear,' say they, ' the Voice of God itself.' And if Scripture be appealed to, they instantly cry Babel, Babel, Babel!—moreover, these miserable men have such a degree of pride and positiveness as I never heard or read of in my life,
Chap.. " My reason for addressing your highness at . *L , present is this: These enthusiasts hold it right to propagate their doctrines by force. They made no secret of this at Wittemberg: and their declaration sunk deep into my mind. I saw plainly that they intended to overturn the existing governments, though Christ expressly told Pilate that his kingdom was not of this world.
I do therefore, most seriously entreat your highnesses, to employ that authority which God has given you, in preventing the schemes of these seditious persons, who would turn every thing upside down.
" They say they are moved by the Spirit; but I must observe that it is a mark of a very bad spirit, when it exerts itself Only in pulling down temples and monasteries, and burning images. The greatest villains can do such things as these.
" They absolutely decline all enquiry into their principles. They talk pompously in private corners, and inflame the minds of the deluded mob, but will not open their mouths before any persons whom they think disposed to examine the grounds of their pretensions.
" I must tell them, I have augured no good of them since they refused to open their sentiments before our evangelical friends at Wittemberg. They look on me as a lifeless Christian, and as one who never was favoured with hearing a voice from heaven. But, in the name of every thing that is good, suppose I had acted in this manner when I was called before the papists,—What triumphs should I have afforded them ?
" With how much humility I proceeded, how gently, and step by step, in the first attacks upon the papacy, my writings are a testimony. Yet this same lowly spirit has produced effects such as these fanatics have never ventured to aim at or expect. And,— not to boast,—I stood forward, in a very critical and. dangerous moment, as a public disputant at Leipsic, before a numerous audience. At Augsburg I appeared before my enemies without a safe-conduct ; and at Worms [ looked both the emperor and the whole German nobility in the face, though I knew the public faith had been violated on a former not very dissimilar occasion. Yet 1 made no pretence of hearing voices from heaven, or of being possessed of supernatural talents, or of having any thing of that spirit which has appeared at Alsted.
" It is not my wish that any persons, no not even these fanatics, should be hindered from preaching. Let them have free liberty to exhibit the best specimen they can of their erudition. Let them teach, but keep their hands from violence: or, if they will persist in their ferocious, seditious practices, it will then be your duty to restrain them, and, without hesitation, to banish them from your dominions.
" The warfare of an evangelist is of a spiritual nature. He is to preach and to bear the cross. We no where read that either Christor his apostles pulled down churches or images; but that, when the Divine Word had penetrated the hearts of men, the heathen churches and images of themselves came to nothing. We are to act in the same manner. Deliver enslaved consciences from the doctrines of the monasteries, and the buildings will soon be empty ; and then it will be the province of the civil governors to determine what is to be done with them. But what harm can a heap of stones or wood do to us ? Not a particle of any building was ever thrown down or set on fire by me: yet by my tongue and my pen the monasteries almost everywhere have been desolated. Now if I had attempted to bring about this revolution by violence, as these prophets do, I might have had to boast of levelling a few buildings, but the minds of men would have been still enchained in darkness and captivity as before, and the salvation of souls by no means promoted. Vol. v. P
" It is allowed, that the Roman pontiff has suffered more from me than what any monarch, with the whole force of his kingdom, could have made him to suffer. Yet have I not used the least violence in this contest. On the other hand, I ask what signal exploits have these prophets to boast of?—Memorable victories indeed, over wood, stones, statues, and pictures!—Decisive proofs of the nature of the spirit that influences them!
" These insane wretches as yet have performed no miracle in attestation of their commission, except that of collecting mobs, despising the magistrates ordained by divine authority, throwing down statues, and requiring an implicit belief that they are the people of God.
" A just application of the Divine word, in the production of True faith, is the only way to correct all bad practices. The removal of external evils, while the heart is devoid of this principle, is of little service. Such a heart soon invents new ones. The true method of expelling Satan and ruining his devices, is that of the New Testament; namely, the exercise of preaching the word of God. This lays hold of the heart, and cures the evil radically.
" I conclude with humbly imploring your highnesses to resist these madmen effectually. Let the sacred Scriptures have the pre-eminence; and let us, like true Christians, have recourse to no other arms. Let every door and window be shut against sedition, and the occasions of it. The common people are by nature sufficiently prone thereunto. But let it ever be remembered, that, though these enthusiasts boast of being influenced by six hundred spirits, this their constant disposition to fighting, as well as their other acts of violence, is a proof that they are not Christians*.
" May the right hand of Almighty God strengthen and preserve your highnesses !
" Martin Luther."
* Tom. VII. Wittemb. Ep. II. 223.
Here let the learned reader for a moment reflect Cent. on the situation of Germany about the end of 1524, t xy1- , and the beginning of 1525—The several princes situation 0f and states at variance respecting the grand tenets of G^mTMythe whole papal system—Intestine divisions among ' the reformers themselves, concerning the nature of the Eucharist—The almost certain prospect of an immediate civil war, from immense crowds of ignorant and seditious peasants and vassals, associated with multitudes of licentious and dissolute enthusiasts, rendered outrageous and cruel by the harangues of Munzer and other incendiaries of his description.
The conduct of Luther about the period of this memorable conjuncture, has fixed the character of this Reformer beyond dispute.
We have already given ample proof of his wisdom in the affair of the prophets; and we have before observed, that he never did things by halves.
It was not enough therefore that Munzer had been driven out of the elector's dominions. As soon as Luther heard of his approach to Mulhausen, where he was known to have partizans, he gravely admonished the magistrates of the town not to receive him among them; " for he meditated nothing but robbery and murder, and other acts of violence. He was well known at Alsted. He had also emissaries, forming parties in various other places; but would never fully explain his designs. It could not be long before he would be better understood, and they would do well to profit by this friendly warning *."
Luther likewise published, in the beginning of 1525, what he called, A Treatise Against The Celestial Prophets And CAROLSTADTf. That unruly reformer had certainly been familiar with the leaders of the fanatical tribe, and had favoured their sentiments t: he had moreover, in his publications, spoken of Luther in the most offensive terms, had
* Sleidan, V. S. clxxvi. t Alt. III. in S. lib. II. p. 3.
J Melch. Adam. 83 et 129. Scult. 242.
Chap, represented him as akin to Antichrist, and twice'as XL , bad as a papist; and in general had attacked him in every way with so much fury as to displease even his own party*. Our author, in his answer, positively denies that it was through his means that Carolstadt had been banished; though at all times he was neither afraid nor ashamed to own that he had delivered an explicit opinion of the pernicious tendency of the Alstedine Spirit, as he called it, and had instigated princes and governors to be watchful and active in suppressing it. " Although," says he, " it may be true, and candour may require me to believe that Carolstadt does not Intend *f to promote sedition and murder, yet I must say, that so long as he persists in raising headstrong mobs, and exciting them to demolish statues with unauthorized violence, he possesses the same seditious, sanguinary spirit that has shown itself at Alsted. But, you say, he will not Persist in these practices.—My answer • S. Lib. II. IX. Ep. II. 247.
f On what grounds could Beausobre affirm that Luther's treatise against the Prophets seemed to be written only for the purpose of oppressing Carolstadt? This is one of the most uncandid assertions which I ever remember to hive seen. What! were there no laudable motives to which the conduct of Luther might fairly be ascribed in thus warning and exhorting his countrymen, at so critical a juncture, against the seditious and enthusiastic practices of the Anabaptists and their associates? The observations of this historian, III. 228-230, on Luther's sentiments, as also his harsh judgment of the excellent Seckendorf, in p. 123, appear to me uncommonly partial and unwarranted. Some even of the most brilliant parts of Luther's conduct are not relished by Beausobre; witness his remarks on that memorable letter of our Reformer which he wrote to Frederic from Borna, p. 50. of this volume. In that letter Beausobre sees more of pride and presumption than extraordinary piety. On the other hand, he skims dexterously over the excesses of Carolstadt, shelters him as well as he can under the shield of Melancthon, endeavours to excite pity on account of his misfortunes, and says not one word of his seizing the pulpit at Orlamund in contempt of the elector, and of the uersity also in which rested the right of patronage.—It is not easy to account for all this manifest partiality. See Beausobre, II. 214-224, and 207, also III. 228. Comm. Luth. Ep. II. IX.
is, I cannot credit his fine speeches. How often has Melancthon in vain admonished him not to raise tumults respecting ceremonies, and yet has he continued to defend the breakers of the peace to the very last!
" Moreover, I own it weighs very much with me that he is known to keep company with these prophets, who are the very source of this Alstedine spirit. From these he hears lessons, and with these he is closely connected *."
Luther, in the former part of his treatise, most earnestly entreats the magistrates to animadvert severely upon all preachers who should exhort their congregations without warrant to pull down images and churches. The danger, he said, was, lest the common people, actuated by this tumultuary spirit of Carolstadt, should imagine that they had the authority of their Bibles to do the same things which the Israelites were commanded to do. From destroying images, they would easily proceed to destroy men. In regard to the mass and the elevation of the host, he said, if the papists would but give up the idea of the Eucharist being a sacrifice, he should have no dispute with them either about a harmless word or a harmless practice. The latter part f of the work is extremely interesting and instructive ; firstly, as it lays open the way in which Carolstadt appears to have been led into his enthusiastic proceedings ; and secondly, as it describes the argumentation by which the author himself was deluded into a belief of the doctrine of consubstantiation.
1. " God," says he, " deals with his creatures both by external means, as preaching and the outward signs of the Sacraments, and also by internal, as the operation of his Spirit and faith in the heart. Now in the ordinary course of his providence the
* Luth. contra proph. p. 99 in Coc.
t Published Id Feb. 1525. S. II. 27. Beausobre is mistaken in saying it did not appear till Feb. 2, 1526. II. 230.
Chap, external means precede the internal: but Carolstadt . XJ' J perverts this order; he derides the water in baptism, and the bread and wine in the Sacrament; and would begin at once with the spirit of the ordinances. Then if you ask him what he understands by the Spirit, he instantly whirls you away into Utopian regions, tells you to remain perfectly calm and unoccupied, and in that state to expect a celestial voice. In a word, he rejects entirely the use of external means, and has invented a number of strange, barbarous, uncouth words, to express that obscure state of Admiration, Mortification, Suspension, Freedom From Impurity, and such like, in which the soul must be to favour the reception of the Spirit."
2. Luther makes excellent observations on the practical use of the Lord's supper, and on the meaning of eating spiritually the body of Christ. He then proceeds to defend his unfortunate notion of the real presence. " We do not say that Christ is called down from heaven by the word of the officiating priest: for though he be present in the Sacrament, he does not leave heaven any more than he left it when he was in his mother's womb. We are not commanded to scrutinize in what manner Christ is in the bread ; it is sufficient that he himself has said that it is so. Men may exclaim and contend for a thousand years, but they will never be able to take away the expressions, which are as clear as words can make them."
Thus Luther, in defending even an erroneous and obscure proposition, constrains us to recognise the usual vigour of his conceptions, and the precision of his language.
The causes of the Rustic War, or the War Of The Peasants, as it has been called, were purely secular, and are to be sought for in the writings of the proper historians. This rebellion, however, in its consequences, was so far connected Cent. •with religion, that (l) it certainly retarded the pro- . X^J- „ gress of the blessed Reformation ; (2) it also gave occasion to the papists to accuse the Protestants unjustly of holding seditious principles; and (3) lastly, it afforded the sound Protestants themselves an illustrious opportunity of exhibiting in their conduct the practical excellence of Christian doctrines.
In the former part of 1525, a prodigious multi- Riseofihe tude, composed chiefly of furious and enthusiastic Hus"cWar> peasants and vassals, arose suddenly in differentparts A' D' of Germany, who took arms against their lawful J525governors, and were guilty of the most horrid and barbarous actions. Many of these rioters, it is true, had long groaned under heavy oppressive taxes and burthens; and, in their public manifestoes they declare that they intend nothing further than to obtain a relaxation of the severity of their chiefs, and a greater portion of civil liberty. But the enthusiast Munzer availed himself of this troubled state of the empire, put himself at the head of the numerous and discontented rabble, inflamed their passions by his violent and delusive harangues, and, by his relation of visions and inspirations, and a pretended foresight of certain success, rendered them altogether desperate and outrageous.
In this turbulent and extensive agitation of the lower orders of the people, it was probable enough that Some, who professed themselves favourers of Lutheranism, would ignorantly or perversely misconstrue the Reformer's doctrines of Christian liberty, and in that dangerous persuasion flock to the standard of the rebels : bnt the papal adversaries of the Reformation have by no means been content with this concession, or even with exaggerating the effects of this abuse of the Protestant faith; -they have constantly laid the Whole mischief of this intestine dissension at the door of Luther and his disciples, and, in spite of the clearest and most positive coiitrary evidences, continued to represent the licentious and detestable faction of Munzer as originating in that Reformer's tenets and instructions, and deriving its strength and numbers from the prevalence of the novel ecclesiastical system*.
On this account it becomes the more necessary to examine the facts with a scrupulous and even jealous attention. Melancthon has extolled Luther as a strenuous supporter of good government, and a decided enemy to every species of sedition f: nevertheless, let the student of this history carefully observe, whether, as often as opportunities arise, the conduct of this eminent theologian does in all respects confirm the report of his pious friend and biographer.
As soon as Luther found that all his labours in warning and instructing the princes, magistrates, and people, did not avail to repress the rising spirit of tumult and rebellion, but rather that the tempest appeared to thicken and portend a dreadful crisis, he determined, without loss of one moment of time, to address his countrymen of all ranks and orders in language still more explicit and decisive than any which he had hitherto used.
The style of his publication addressed to the Common People is of this kind :
" Let every one beware of sedition, as a very heinous crime ; and this not only in what relates to external actions, but even to words and secret thoughts. I might augur well of your professing yourselves ready to yield to the precepts of Scripture, but that I observe your boasts of a regard for pure evangelical faith and practice are absolutely without foundation. Not one of your propositions has the
* Du Pin—The papal advocates have not hesitated to ascYile this rebellion of the fanatics to Luther himself; exclaiming, " This is the fruit of the new doctrine! this is the fruit of Luther's Gospel!"—Gerdes, II. 136. Scult. 239.
t See the Appendix to Vol. IV. of Luther's life.
least relation to any part of the Gospel; they all tend to promote a merely secular freedom: whereas the Gospel does not treat of these subjects, but describes our passage through this world as attended with afflictions, and as calling for patience, contempt of riches, and even of life itself. What then have ye to do with the Gospel, except that ye use it as a pretext to cover your unchristian purposes?"
Such was the reputation of the Saxon divine, that the rustic insurgents would gladly have obtained his countenance to their proceedings; and for this end they had both requested his advice and appealed to his impartiality respecting the justice of their cause: moreover, that they might the more effectually secure his patronage, they stated their primary requisition to be,—the entire privilege of choosing or removing their ministers, in order that they might have the pure Gospel preached to them without human mixtures and traditions. These artful rioters imagined, that no topic, more than that which concerned the free election of preachers, was likely to interest and rouse the spirit of Luther, who himself had long been struggling for the maintenance of Christian liberty at the hazard of his life.
Nothing but downright plain dealing could have extricated our Reformer and his cause from the snares and dangers of the presentcritical moment.—Deeply sensible of this, Luther proceeds thus:
" I allow that those rulers who oppress their subjects in various ways, and particularly in excluding the preaching of the Gospel from among them, are without excuse; nevertheless it is at the peril of the loss of both your souls and bodies, if ye do not preserve a good conscience in this matter. Satan at this time has raised up a number of seditious, sanguinary teachers; therefore I entreat you not to believe every thing you hear. Ye call yourselves Christians and profess to be obedient to the laws of God. In the first place, it is extremely improbable that true
Chap. Christians should be so numerous as to furnish such , large bodies of men as ye pretend to have on your side. A true Christian is a scarce bird in the world. I would that the major part of men were but sober, and honest moralists ! Secondly, Take care, and do not abuse the name of God; for as easily as he drowned the whole world, and rained fire upon Sodom, he can destroy you. Your actions make it very plain to me that your profession of obedience to the law of God is a pretence. St. Paul orders all men, without exception, to obey the magistrate; whereas ye would snatch the sword from him, and resist the power which is ordained of God. Moreover, the duty of the Christian in general is to suffer, to bear the cross, and not to revenge or have recourse to arms. What appearance is there of this humble spirit in your conduct? Our Lord forbade Peter to resist; and when nailed to the cross, he patiently committed his cause to God the Father, and prayed for his murderers. Do ye imitate his example, or pretend not to the character of a Christian. Ye intend to carry your points by force of arms; but ye will not succeed.
" Permit me to say a word concerning my own conduct. The pope, the emperor, and all the world were in a rage against me; and the more they raged, the greater was the progress of my doctrine. Yet I did not take a single violent step,—never said or wrote a syllable of an inflammatory tendency; much less did I draw the sword.—Ever in my writings I defended all legal authority, even that of persecuting princes. I trusted solely in God; and he has not only prospered my labours abundantly, but, to the great astonishment of many, I myself am alive at this day, very much against the wish of the Roman pontiff and many other enemies. Your warlike modes of proceeding are calculated to produce quite different effects. I pray God to prevent the execution of your designs. I see Satan's meaning, and my own danger: he is aiming to take away my life; he is Cent. aiming to effect by a singuinary faction, what he has . X^L ,, hitherto attempted in vain by the papal agents; but God will continue to preserve me. I say further, Satan, the enemy of mankind, would gladly bring into disgrace the late revival of pure doctrine among the people, by insinuating as though it could not be of God, because the profession of it had caused so much sedition and tumult; and thus your unchristian conduct affords a great handle to the adversary.
" Compel me not, I beseech you, to pray against you; for I doubt not but God will hear my prayers: whereas Ye can have no heart for prayer. Scripture and your own consciences tell you, your attempts are profane and impious. In fact, ye do not pray; your hope is in your numbers and your arms.
" In regard to your first requisition, the privilege of choosing your ministers, it is utterly inadmissible in all cases where the right of patronage belongs to your governors.
" I admit that magistrates do many unreasonable and many wicked things. Some of Your requisitions also are extremely unreasonable and unscriptural; but were they in all respects perfectly unexceptionable, yet this wicked endeavour to extort them by force of arms will, I tell you, if persevered in, bring down upon you the heavy wrath of God both in this world and the next.—The divine rule is express: you must never go beyond Petition and RepreSentation ; and if you are persecuted, you must fly from one place to another*."
Our author then turns to the princes and nobility, and addresses them with the zeal and authority of an apostle.—" It is to you, rulers, and you only, especially the rulers of the church, that the present disturbances are to be ascribed. The bishops, to this very moment, even against their better knowledge, * Matt. x.
Chap, persecute the Gospel; and the civil magistrates think xu , of nothing but draining the wretched poor, to satisfy their own pride and luxury. I have repeatedly warned you of the dreadful evils that threaten you, but to no purpose. The wrath of God is accumulating over you, and will burst on your heads if ye repent not. These false prophets, and this rebellion of the common people, are proofs of the Divine displeasure. To be plain, such is the state of things, that men neither can, nor will, nor indeed should they, bear your government any longer. Listen to the Scriptures, and amend your ways. The insurgents may not succeed at present, and you may kill the greater part of them; but God will raise up others after them. For it is He himself who, for your wickedness, brings these troubles upon you. Some of you have boasted, that you were ready to sacrifice your rank and fortune, if you could but abolish Lutheranism, root and branch: and others, to fill up the measure of their crimes, and bring fresh disgrace upon the Gospel, represent these seditious tumults as the consequence of my doctrine. Thus do you harden your hearts; thus do you calumniate and persecute the word of God.
" Yourselves are my witnesses that I have always detested sedition, and exhorted the people to obedience, and even to patient submission under your tyrannical government. It is not I, therefore, it is these bloody prophets, who are quite as inimical to me as they are to you, who have been the cause of this rebellion, and who have been seducing the people for more than three years, without any one person, except myself, endeavouring to counteract them. Now if, for your wickedness, it should please God to permit Satan, through the instrumentality of these preachers, to raise this impendingstorm to such a pitch as is beyond my power of allaying it, what blame, I pray, can you lay to the charge of the Gospel, or of Luther, who has constantly honoured your authority, exhorted the people to Cent. respect you, poured out his prayers to God for you, . xyx' and himself hitherto patiently endured your cruel persecution ? Were 1 actuated by a spirit of revenge, I might smile in private at these tragical scenes: or I might stimulate the enraged populace, and add fuel to the flames.
" Let me entreat ye then, O ye princes, not to despise my advice. Do not fear the rebels, but fear God. Our crimes are such as ought to alarm us; and if God should purpose to deal with us according to our deserts, we cannot escape His vengeance, however small the number of the rebels should prove. Great moderation is the line of conduct which ye ought to pursue at the present crisis. Lenity and clemency can do no harm, and may prevent matters from being pushed to extremities,—in one word, may prevent a conflagration, which might consume all Germany.
" It is very true that the demands of the malcontents originate in interested motives; nevertheless some of them are so reasonable, that you ought to be ashamed of having reduced your subjects to the necessity of making them. Their first requisition, which respects the legal appointment of evangelical preachers, is so far just in its principles that no ruler has a right to withhold the Gospel from his subjects: and though I grant, that in the application of this principle they manifest a selfish spirit, and set up claims which under the pretence of liberality would annihilate the power of their masters, yet their iniquitous demands will not justify you in refusing them substantial justice. It is the duty of governors not to vex and distress their subjects, but to be the guardians of their fortunes and their comforts; whereas, in truth, the oppression of the poor peasants of this country is become intolerable, the numerous and heavy imposts cramp their industry, and there is but one way left of meliorating their
Chap, condition,—the higher orders must restrain their XL , excessive luxury and extravagance, which is the true cause of the evil."
Lastly, when Luther had finished these distinct harangues both to the higher and lower orders of the people, he thought proper to conclude with a few words of serious advice to the parties in common. He exhorted them not to think of deciding their disputes by arms, for both sides had a bad cause to defend. It was hard to say whether tyranny or sedition produced worse consequences; no man could fight for either with a good conscience ; and those who perished in such a contest would die in their sins. " My advice," says he, " is, that all the disputable points be settled by impartial arbiters chosen on both sides. Let the rulers and nobles concede something of their strict rights, and let the common people in their turn be more moderate in their demands, and listen to the voice of reason; otherwise this civil war will assuredly be the ruin of the country. But if this advice is despised, if the people will wage war against their rulers as so many tyrants and oppressors, and the rulers will treat their subjects as banditti and barbarians, I humbly pray God either to confound the designs of both parties, or in some way to overrule this ferocious obstinacy of men to the re-establishment of peace and harmony."
But these Christian exhortations proved ineffectual. The civil war not only continued, but soon became bloody and destructive. In Suabia, Franconia, and Alsace, the fanatical insurgents pulled down monasteries, castles, and houses, and murdered the nobles and dignitaries, and were guilty of multiplied acts of treason and barbarity. The moment Luther became acquainted with these abominable excesses, he deemed it the duty of a sound Christian to support the lawful government of his country with all his might in an emergency which threatened uersal anarchy and devastation. Accordingly, he changed his language, wrote a short tract Against The Robbers And Murderers, and exhorted all ranks and orders to come forward and help, as they would to extinguish a general conflagration. " The wicked parricides," said he, " must be crushed. They had scandalously broken their oaths, plundered the right owners of their possessions, and committed treason in various ways; and, what very much increased their guilt, they endeavoured to cloke their shameful practices under the name and character of pure Christianity. There could not be greater pests of society. Those indeed among them who had been compelled to join the faction by threats were to be treated with lenity, but those only who repented and surrendered themselves ought to be pardoned. The rest merited the utmost rigour; and whosoever should fall in opposing them, and defending their lawful rulers, ought to be esteemed as martyrs in an excellent cause*."
This publication of Luther was blamed by many as too harsh and violent. But the author, in reply, defended his positions with great spirit and ability. He complained, that whatever he did or said was sure to afford matter for censure to haughty critics. He contended, that those who could excuse the present offenders, must be considered as partakers in their crimes. Lastly, he alleged St. Paul's preremptory judgment of those who resist lawful magistrates f; and strenuously insisted on this rebellion of the rustics as being marked with peculiar circumstances of cruelty and impiety.
To relate all the particulars of the rebellion in 1525 would be foreign to our purpose ; it may be sufficient to add, that the princes of the empire found it absolutely necessary to unite their forces
* Sleidan. Gnodalius. Maimbourg. Comment de X.utfa. f Romans xiii.
and their efforts for the suppression and punishment of the insurgents. The carnage in various parts of Germany was dreadful. A vast multitude of the faction in Thuringia were met by the Saxon and other confederate princes near Mulhausen, where they were defeated in a pitched battle, and Munzer their ringleader was also taken and put to death.
This unfortunate war is supposed to have cost Germany the lives ofmore than fifty thousand men*: but the papal advocates are not to be credited when they assert that one hundred and thirty thousand Lutherans perished from this cause. The fact is, by far the greatest tragedies were exhibited in the Popish part of Germany : moreover, the Lutherans abounded most in the electorate of Saxony, where matters were certainly carried on with greater mildness and moderation, as well by the rebels themselves during the commotions, as by the government in their measures to suppress them. It well deserves notice, that the tumults were the greatest in those districts where the free course of the Gospel had been most completely obstructed. The good elector Frederic adverted to this circumstance in a memorable letter written to his brother and successor on the very day before he died.
" The princes," says he, " have applied to us for our assistance against the peasants; and I could wish to open my mind to them, but I am too ill. Perhaps the principal cause of these commotions is, that these poor creatures have not been allowed to have the word of God preached freely among them."
Luther And Carojlstadt.
With this detail of circumstances in view, the student of the History of the Church of Christ will be much better enabled to trace and to appreciate the * Beausobre.
motives of the conduct of the great German Re- Cent. former, both in the rustic war and in the Sacramental . xy1contest with Carolstadt.
He will be convinced how truly Christian were his notions of submission to magistrates, and how complete his aversion to sedition of every kind.
He will understand also how almost impossible it must have been for Luther to separate entirely the spirit of Carolstadt from that of those rustic insurgents who were headed by Munzer. These appear to have been fanatics of the very worst class ; and there is no denying that Carolstadt was connected with them, and strongly tinctured with their enthusiastic notions: and though nothing could be more unjust than to represent the outrages of the peasants as the genuine fruit of Lutheranism, when before Luther's time there had already been several alarming seditions in Germany, and when many even of the rebels in 1525 made not the least pretensions to religion, yet certainly it became our Reformer, at so critical a conjuncture, to be scrupulously explicit in his advice and his exhortations. He was well aware of the malignity of his adversaries, who were insidiously watching his conduct, and were ready, whatever part he should take, to misrepresent his motives: he saw the handle afforded by the riotous enthusiasts for disgracing the late revival of religion; and he was not a little vexed and irritated to see his old associate Carolstadt give so much countenance to men of romantic and dangerous principles. Further; how Luther, in the former part of the Rustic Rebellion, could have conducted himself with greater moderation, or have given better advice to the parties concerned, it may not be easy to conceive: and the same may be said of the wisdom and firmness with which, toward the conclusion of that melancholy scene, he supported the legitimate institutions and government of his country.
Vol. v. Q
But, in regard to the Sacramentarian contest, we have seen that the best friends of this great man must in some parts of that unhappy dissension be compelled entirely to withhold, and in others very much qualify their commendations. The sentiment of his antagonists in this dispute he very unbecomingly denominates, more than once, the poison of Garolstadt; says it was spreading at a great rate; and expresses much concern, that the people of Strasburg, that Zuingle, Leo Judas, and all the Protestant part of Switzerland, were receiving the new Sacramentarian tenet. Now if Luther had contented himself with retaining his own opinion, which he might have done without the least prejudice to his religious affections,— and if he had cheerfully given the right hand of fellowship to men no less sound in the faith than himself, and who revered his character most sincerely,—the rent of the Protestant churches might have been entirely avoided, and even the difference of judgment itself might have gradually vanished.
Those who would profit by the instructions which history furnishes, will not forget this lamentable instance of heat, error, and obstinacy in Martin Luther.
From what has been said, the intelligent Reader will however be careful not to confound the case of the more solid and judicious Sacramentarians with that of Carolstadt, or any of his fanatical associates among the deluded Anabaptists of those times. By far the greater part of Luther's severe animadversions on the behaviour of Carolstadt appear to have originated in his rooted aversion to the enthusiastic and disorderly spirit of that Reformer, which had produced so much tumult and irregularity among the people.—Several of the ecclesiastical historians seem not to have sufficiently adverted to this -eircumstance. They would represent Luther as having been excessively jealous of the reputation of Carolstadt as a reformer; and their observations Cent. have been repeatedly copied from one another.— „ Xvi In this, as in like cases, the Facts are our surest guides.
1. So early as even the year 1515, the trouble- Conduct of some, contentious temper of this man had begun to parol»«d« show itself; insomuch, that the rector of the uni- "^"n" versity of Wittemberg complained to the Elector, 1515 That every body avoided the conversation of so quarrelsome a person; that the chapter of Wittemberg had decided against him in a question respecting a petty debt of twelve florins, and he had loaded his judges with abuse, and appealed to the
pope;—and lastly, that without leave or providing a deputy, he had gone away, and deserted his academical duties.
2. When by the express command of the Elector, he had returned to Wittemberg, he made himself minister of the parish of Orlamund without any regular appointment *.
3. In 1521, Luther writes thus to his friend: Lntiier'f " There is much genius and learning in the writings caro!»i«df of Carolstadt, but I wish they contained clearer A. n. ' arguments. I would have him confute the papistical 1521. notion of celibacy by such scriptures as are apt and decisive, and not by such as the adversary can easily answer. His cause is excellent, and his attempts laudable; but he should rely on proofs that are unanswerable. To persuade numbers of unmarried persons, by quoting doubtful passages of Scripture,
to enter into the married state, must be very dangerous work, and likely to produce afterwards much uneasiness of conscience. I endeavour to impress these things on his mind, but all to no purposef."
4. How injurious to the infant Reformation had been the turbulence and precipitation of Carolstadt, and with how much wisdom and moderation was peace and good order restored by Luther to the
* Acta Vin. S. 199. t Ep. 240 and 241.
uersity and inhabitants of Wittemberg, has already appeared in the course of this narrative *. But there are not wanting further proofs of the exercise of a truly humble and Christian spirit in Luther, during his controversies with this rash and impetuous sectarian.
Luther was so much afraid of the mischiefs which would arise to the Gospel from a publication of the internal discords existing among the Protestants, that soon after his return to Wittemberg from his Patmos, when he had put a stop to Carolstadt's innovations, he says, " This very day I entreated Carolstadt in the most suppliant manner not to make any public attack upon me ; otherwise I should be compelled, much against my will, to enter the lists with him in good earnest. The man almost called heaven to witness that he had no such intention; yet I learn from other quarters that there are a number of his tracts at this very moment in the hands of the rector of the academy and the other judges. They are endeavouring to make him recant, or at least to suppress his intended publication. This is a point which I do not press, for I neither fear Satan himself, nor an angel from heaven—
much less Carolstadt. Pray that the Gospel may
be glorified—and may Christ preserve our prince a little longer ! This is my daily petition J."
5. The very candid and accurate Seckendorf observes, that the account of Luther's conference with Carolstadt at Jene and Orlamund J is penned with a malignant artifice, to the great disadvantage of the former. The Orlamundians are there represented as having defended Carolstadt's practice of pulling down images, with so much ability, that Luther went away almost confounded by their arguments §. Carolstadt, on the contrary, in the same narrative,
• Pages 33 and 69 of this volume, t Ep. II. 63. This letter to Spalatinus is not given by Seckendorf. I Page 302. § Scultet.
is said to have treated Luther with kindness and Cent. respect; and to have earnestly requested, that, if . xyL mistaken, he might be better informed, and set right on the points in dispute. Those who dislike Luther, and are fond of Carolstadt, lay great stress on this statement *. But Luther's friends will not be sorry to find that he did not always take fire, even when very ill treated. " Martin Reinhard," says he to Amsdorf, " has edited a most iniquitous representation of my conduct at Orlamund, with a view to enhance the credit of Carolstadt, and to disgrace me. Now as the great cause will be in no way benefited by my answering him, I shall remain silent, lest I should endeavour to increase my own reputation, and lessen that of Carolstadt f."
In another letter on the same subject, he says, " This little account of my transactions at Jene and Orlamund diverts me exceedingly ;—and with good reason, because I see that men, who pay no regard to truth, and are without conscience, are full of fears for themselves, and choose to be beforehand with the public, so as to secure their first hearing, and make an impression favourable to themselves, and injurious to me. An anonymous publication in which there is such a mixture of lies with truth, calls for patience, and forbearance, and not for any answer, lest I should seem either to be influenced by a thirst of glory or revenge; or to have given up the grand cause of contention, and to be only anxious for the defence of my own private character J."
One cannot but be astonished, that, with these testimonies before the public, such a writer as Rodolph Hospinian should affirm, that though
* Martin Reinhard, a preacher at Jene, and of Carolstadt's party, first edited this report of what passed at Jene and Orlamund : afterwards the substance of his little work seems to have found its way into the German folios of Luther's works.— Reinhard was ordered to leave the place.
t Ep- 237- t Ib- *34
Chap. Luther himself did not write that account of his
, conference with Carolstadt, which is published in
the German editions of his works, the truth of it nevertheless is not to be doubted. " For," continues he, " on the same principle you may doubt the truth of the Old and New Testament, and of other public records. Moreover, the narrative was inserted in Luther's works while he was alive, and He Never
OBJECTED TO IT*."
Also the learned translator of Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History appears to me to have imbibed, from the same Hospinian, most unwarrantable prejudices against Luther in regard to his unfortunate rupture with Carolstadt. He makes Luther say, " As in red-hot iron two distinct substances, viz. iron and fire, are united, so is the body of Christ joined with the bread in the Eucharist f." Maclaine calls this a miserable comparison ; and is so fond of finding fault with Luther for using it, that in p. 165, he again ridicules him for explaining the " nonsensical doctrine of consubstantiation" by the similitude of a red-hot iron, &c. But he does not refer us to the passage in Luther's voluminous writings. However at length, in the tract called the Babylonish Captivity, I found the following sentence : " Why may not Christ comprehend his own body within the substance of the bread, as is the case with accidents 1 Behold, the two substances, iron and fire, are so mingled in ignited iron, that every part is iron and fire. Why then, much more, may not the glorious body of Christ exist in every part of the substance of the bread ? " Thus Luther puts the question interrogatively and modestly, according to my judgment, and in a manner much less positive and much less exceptionable than it is stated in Maclaine's translation.—Whenever authors find fault with one another, they ought to be very exact in their quotations.
* Hist. Sacram. II. p. 32. t P. 34, 4to Ed.
In Luther's little treatise against Henry VIII.' Cent. king of England, I observe the author again alludes . x**' . to the similitude of ignited iron. " I may," says he, " be allowed to say, the body of Christ is in the Sacrament, as fire is in the iron, without destroying the substance of that metal; and as God is in the man Jesus Christ without destroying the properties of a man. In both these mixtures each substance retains its peculiar nature, and yet do they constitute but One Thing. I may be allowed, I say, to speak in this way, till the papists shall confute me by weighty arguments, and not by contemptuously quotingThomas Aquinas."—However, unprejudiced persons will probably deem this to be quite as intelligible as Beausobre's objections to it, grounded on the abstruse metaphysical doctrine of the penetra-. tion of bodies *. Moreover, they will do well to recollect that this passage of Luther was written in 1522, and the former in 1520; and lastly, that even in much more modern times there is frequently to be observed among the controversial disputations respecting both Con- aad Tran- substantiation, a profusion of rash assertion and inconclusive argument on the Protestant, as well as on the opposite side of those questions.
It may not be amiss to conclude this curious and instructive portion of the history of the Reformation with a Character of Carolstadt, drawn by the impartial pen of the mild and cautious Melancthon.
" Carolstadt," says he, " first raised the tumult Character respecting the Sacrament. He was a man of a tUd"bj savage disposition, and of no genius or learning, or JJ^anc" even of common sense; a man who was so far from having any marks of being influenced by the Holy Spirit, that I could never observe him either to understand or practise even the ordinary duties of
* I. 315
humanity. Nay, he has discovered manifest marks of an unholy turn of mind: all his notions savour of sedition and of Judaism. He rejected every law made by the Gentiles, and contended, that forensic questions ought to be decided by the law of Moses; so little did he comprehend the force and nature of Christian liberty. From the very first, he embraced with his whole might the fanatical doctrine of the Anabaptists, when Nicholas Storck attempted to sow the seeds of it in Germany; and he made a stir respecting the Sacrament, entirely from a dislike to Luther, and not in the least from any pious conviction that he himself was in the right. For when Luther had expressed his disapprobation of Carolstadt's indiscreet zeal in breaking and pulling down the images and statues *, he was so inflamed with a monstrous spirit of revenge, that he began to look out for some plausible plan for ruining the reputation of Luther. A great part of Germany can testify that I speak nothing but the truth. And if there was need of proof, his own publications would be my most decisive witnesses against their author. There is not in them even the specious appearance of a probable argument, that should have induced the man to take up his pen. With how jocose and trifling a spirit does he treat of the Greek word roZro f ? Then, has he thrown any light whatever on a point of so much importance in the
• If this be so, what are we to think of Maclaine, who would represent the removal of the images out of the churches as effected by Carolstadt, in conjunction with Melancthon himself and others? See his note, p. 165, Vol. II. 4to. All this contradiction is set right at once, by considering, that Carolstadt, besides his legal endeavours to reform the Church from popery, in which endeavours Melancthon, Bugenhagius, Jonas, and others certainly concurred, excited the people to sedition and tumult, encouraged them to remove the images by force, and did many other acts of violence.—This was the blamable part of his conduct, and seems entirely forgotten by those who would favour him, to the disparagement of Luther. See p. 38 of this Vol. f This is my body.
history of the ancient Church ? or what testimony has he produced from any celebrated author ? or, lastly, what single expression is there in his whole disputation that indicates a pious way of thinking? He only vociferates, as do the lowest mechanics, who, in their cups, are pleased with nothing but profane tales. Moreover, a great part of his writings are taken up with railing ; and yet the stupid author would pass for a man of wit and humour."
Melancthon concludes this picture with saying, " I have written this for the sake of my neighbours, that, if they have the least regard for my testimony, they may beware of such a character. For though it is not in his power to disguise his real disposition for a long time together, yet he has a surprising fair outside, and possesses the arts of insinuation to a wonderful degree. But his temper is violent and restless, and soon breaks out into acts of ambition, passion, and envy *."
The learned reader, who knows how to appreciate the testimony of Melancthon, and who remembers that that Reformer was an eye-witness of the practices of Carolstadt, will not hesitate to pronounce this evidence as entirely conclusive. He may, however, very much wonder that Maclaine should positively assert f, in contradiction to Mosheim himself, that the true cause of the violent rupture between Luther and Carolstadt was their difference of opinion concerning the Eucharist; whereas Melancthon's account of the origin of the Sacramentarian controversy tallies exactly with the facts. Carolstadt, before that unhappy contest commenced, had shown his proneness to turbulence and fanaticism. He may wonder, likewise, that Beausob re should warn his reader not to confound Carolstadt with the fanatics, and assert, that " Luther • Epist. ad Fred. Mycon. in Hospin. t P« 165, 4to.
Chap, from pure prejudice *, reckons him among that *1- , class." Nothing can be more unjust than this charge. For if the writer only means that Carolstadt is not to be confounded with the rebel fanatics who were headed by Munzer, Luther, as we have seen, makes the very distinction himself f; but if he would have us believe that Carolstadt was not an enthusiast, he contradicts the uersal voice of the contemporary historians. It was with great difficulty that I obtained from the continent a copy of Beausobre's History of the Reformation, and I confess I have been greatly disappointed in the perusal of it. In many instances the author appears to me by no means to have been directed by the original documents.
There runs through all those writers on the Reformation, who would mitigate the irregularities of Carolstadt, and blame the severity of Luther, this palpable inadvertency: they forget that Luther's chief complaints against his coadjutor were not so much on account of his innovations at Wittemberg, as the precipitate, turbulent, and seditious ManNer in which he effected them. The observations of Luther on this subject J as are distinct and rational, as those of Maclaine and Beausobre are frequently irrelevant, and unfounded. Where, one may ask, does Luther find fault with Carolstadt for making any changes which were approved and authorized by the elector and the regular government of the country § ? And, in regard to the invidious charge, so repeatedly insinuated by these and other writers, of Jealousy in Luther, lest any other person besides himself should seem to be the principal reformer, no more need be said, than that those who can think Carolstadt to have been an object capable of exciting Luther's envy, or robbing him of his
* Par pure prevention. + Page 212.
t P. 66. of this Vol. § Maclaine in Mosheim, p. 165.
glory, must be little acquainted with the authentic memoirs of those times. The Leipsic disputation alone, one would think, might have settled this point, even though Melancthon had not recorded in such decisive terms his opinion of the talents and disposition of Carolstadt.
If after this full discussion of the grounds of the dissension between these two early reformers, the inquisitive student should still be perplexed or dissatisfied with the many seemingly contradictory assertions, which he may meet with on this subject, in the writings of some excellent men and useful memorialists, I would briefly suggest several considerations, which may assist in relieving this unpleasant state of mental suspense and uncertainty. 1. The obstinacy of Luther, respecting the Sacramental tenet of Con-substantiation, produced a permanent and lamentable rent among the Protestants. Carolstadt had broached the true doctrine of the Sacrament, but had defended it in the absurd and ridiculous manner represented by Melancthon. By and by, men of great talents, as Zuingle, Bucer, Ecolampadius, and others, appeared on the same side, and supported their system with a rational, perspicuous, and well-digested argumentation. This circumstance laid the foundation of a close connexion between Carolstadt and the Zuinglians. Nothing could be more natural than that Carolstadt should be pleased to have found such able defenders of the tenet which he himself had first advanced, or that the Helvetian divines should gladly receive into their communion an unfortunate sectarian of the same principles with themselves, who was disliked, and almost abandoned by his old associates. In a word, party spirit, absolutely exclusive of what is right or what is wrong, will, in this case, as in many others of a similar kind, account for mild and kind expressions on the one hand, and. also for harsh and severe judgments on the other,
Chap, according to the wishes, prejudices, and connexions . , of the writers.
2. There is good reason to hope that Carolstadt profited by adversity, and became moretruly Christian in his temper, during the latter part of his life *. This single hint will assist us in reconciling some of the most opposite representations of the
Bucer's character of this Reformer. " Carolstadt," says his c«o""uidt°f friend Bucer, writing to Zuingle in the year 1530, A. D. "was formerly inclined to be somewhat savage; 1530. but daily persecutions and heavy misfortunes have so broken his spirit, and the man has now such worthy notions of Christ, that I feel coufident you will admire himf."—At the same time, I cannot but observe a striking instance of party-spirit in this very kind letter itself of Bucer to Zuingle. At the moment when he would represent the savage temper of Carolstadt as then much softened and corrected by adversity, he speaks of his former defect as a habit that was the natural consequence of having lived so much in the company of the most Savage Luther, and of the incredible successes of the first reformers, which might, he thinks, have rendered insolent any modest man whatsoever.
3. Luther also himself, surely, should be allowed, and that without reproach, to have seen several points of doctrine, and some also of practice, in a different light, as he became older, and had had more experience. There is a mass of evidence to prove that this was really so : and some things which have been deemed his greatest and most inexcusable inconsistencies, are instantly and satisfactorily solved by this consideration.
* Carolstadt was certainly a man of reading, and of a lively imagination ; and, as certainly, violent, void of solidity, and prone to enthusiasm. His recantation does no honour to his memory; yet, on the whole, I am very unwilling to withdraw the appellation of " Honest Carolstadt." See p. 33. of this Vol. at the bottom.
t Hotting. Eccl. Hist. Vol. VIII. p. 253.
There is a confused story respecting Luther, which states, that a very little time before his death, he owned to Melancthon that they had gone too far in the Sacramentarian controversy. Melancthon also, from prudential motives, it is said, suppressed this concession during his own lifetime, and intended to have recorded it in his last will; but deferred the doing so, till, from weakness, he was incapable of directing his pen. It is a part of the same story, that when Melancthon proposed to Luther to explain in writing their sentiments on the Sacrament, expressed in temperate language, the latter answered, " he should thereby render all his doctrines suspected *."
This whole account is, in my judgment, supported by very suspicious and insufficient evidence ; and the declarations which are said to have taken place in the conversation, must, in every view of them, be deemed altogether too indefinite and obscure to be the foundation of any solid conclusion whatsoever.
Still it May be true, that expressions, not very unlike those just mentioned, were used ; and I think it very probable, and hope It Is True, that Luther, a man of so vehement a temper, and so much harassed with controversies, did not only Once, but Often, in his cooler moments, acknowledge, " that he had gone too far on various occasions."
It may even be true, that at a time so very near his death, he might allude particularly to some parts of his conduct in the Sacramentarian controversy, which, on a review, he disapproved; and yet, in his present feeble state, he might not think himself capable of furnishing the public with such a full and satisfactory explanation as would sufficiently guard against all dangerous conclusion or misconstruction. But these positions, to whatever height of probability they may rise in the minds of some, will, in the apprehension of others, dwindle * Histor. Sac. pars altera, 202.
into mere conjectures; and ought, therefore, never to be insisted on as grounds of argument. It is well known, that slight alterations of words have often very important effects on the meaning of sentences. Let us be careful how we credit posthumous narratives, especially when brought forward by heated and interested partisans.
As I revere the memory of Luther, I sincerely lament that his strong understanding should have failed to grasp the true Scriptural idea of the Eucharist in all its parts; but I am not disposed to admit, on slight testimony, that he discovered his error of consubstantiation, but was too proud to own it.—A native courage and ingenuousness of temper, ever urginghim, regardless of consequences, to a conscientious avowal of whatever he firmly believed, is an ingredient so thoroughly established in the composition of Luther, that even plausible suppositions and representations, if inconsistent with his general character, and not well substantiated by the unbending rules of historical evidence, will always be rejected by men of dispassionate judgments.
It is astonishing, however, with how much alacrity the story which we have just related has been repeatedly insisted on, to the disparagement of Luther's reputation. Melchior Adam just mentions the thing *, in a very proper manner, without laying any stress on it; thus, " There are who affirm," &c. &c. But Beausobre, with a most unwarrantable positiveness, treats the relation not only as a settled and an allowed truth, but also as altogether conclusive against the candour and ingenuousness of Luther. This author goes even further, and affirms, that Leo Juda? f has proved, in an unanswerable little treatise, that, before the disputes had arisen concerning the Sacrament, both Luther and Erasmus leaned to the sentiments of the Zuinglians. • Vitaiuth, t A Swiss divine.
This rash and unfounded assertion is introduced in such a way as very much to mislead even a cautious reader *. The fact is, both Luther and Erasmus had maintained, that the faithful communicant in the Lord's Supper, is, In A Spiritual Sense, a partaker of the body and blood of Christ; and on this practical doctrine are to be found very excellent observations in Luther's writings f
To press home this fact upon Luther and Erasmus, and to show how nearly they agreed with their adversaries, was the express design of Leo Judge's publication ; and the author, in regard to the spiritual communionof thebodyand blood of Christ, fully proved his point: and for this reason, namely, because the fact was true: but it was impossible he should do more. It was impossible he could prove, because it was not true, that Besides the doctrine of spiritually eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ, Luther and Erasmus did not also hold the gross and unscriptural tenet of the real presence of the human body of Christ in the celebration of the Eucharist.
Erasmus was so much enraged at this charge of heresy, that he calls God to witness, in the most solemn manner, " if ever, even secretly in his heart, he had held any opinion on the Lord's Supper contrary to the judgment of the Roman-catholic church." He says, he is willing to be esteemed the prince of heretics, if a single passage to that effect can be produced from any of his publications ; and he accuses the writer of having quoted and misrepresented some of his expressions, in a most unfair and most impudent manner J.
Leo Judae, and also Conrad Pellican, another Swiss divine, had certainly concluded too hastily, that, because Luther and Erasmus had maintained the necessity of partaking of the body and blood
• Beausobre, p. 125. Note. f Comment. Luth. II. i*. ; Ep. Erasm. p. 935. .. •.
Chap, of Christ in a Spiritual sense, they had therefore XI- t abandoned the more common and literal interpretation of the words of Scripture *.
In a letter of Luther's to Spalatinus f, I find he acknowledges that he had been extremely Tempted to embrace what he calls The Error of his adversaries the Sacramentarians ; and this entirely agrees with what he wrote to the Strasburgians, p. 201. Excessive veneration for the word of God, taken according to its literal meaning," This is my body," was indisputably the chief cause which prevented Luther from successfully exercising his judgment to obtain a rational interpretation of the meaning of Scripture in this instance. This great man, however, seems but ill requited for making such candid concessions respecting the secret struggles of his mind, when these are produced against him, and represented as the effects of pride, obstinacy, and worldly policy J.
This collection and arrangement of facts, respecting, istly, The Civil War of the peasants of Germany ; and 2dly, The Dissensions of Luther and Carolstadt, cannot fail to prove useful to the diligent student of the history of the Reformation. And in regard to the observations which accompany the facts, these are entirely the result of the writers reflection, during the exercise of that care and patience which he found necessary for the exhibition of them in a clear and comprehensive manner. Before he entered on the task, he had neither any strong nor very distinct opinion on the merits of the leading characters in these transactions ; or rather, he per
• See Erasmus's Expostulations with Conrad Pellican, Ep. p. 963, Pellican's answer in Scult. pp. 57 and 61.— It must be owned that Pellican in this controversy was reduced to the necessity of saying, " That in the matter of the Lord's Supper, Erasmus had laid the Chief, if not the Only stress on the Spiritual meaning." Jortin Er. p. 405.
f Ep. 269. J Beausobre, 125.
haps leaned to that common notion, which would represent Luther as proud, wilful, and domineering. In the course of his inquiry, he could not but take notice, that almost always where Carolstadt is either commended by authors, or spoken of with a sort of candid propensity to mitigate his faults, it is but too apparent that this is done with an indirect design to injure Luther's reputation. This circumstance certainly very much excited both the writer's attention and his suspicion. His observations, however, it is scarcely necessary to add, are of no further value than as they are found to agree with the Facts ; and these being now fairly before the reader, he will himself be able to appreciate the justice and propriety of the observations. This he could not so easily have done before, on account of the partial, scattered, and indigested manner in which the historical materials have been transmitted to posterity*.
The Death Of The Elector Of Saxovy.
The good elector of Saxony departed this life on the fifth of May 1525")", about ten days before the defeat of Munzer, the leader of the rustic insurgents. He was too feeble in body, and too deeply concerned in mind, to make any attempt at joining the confederate princes. Only three days before his death, he exhorted, by letter, his brother John, who succeeded him in the. electorate, to do his utmost to compose the disturbances, by choosing arbitrators who were good men and favourites of the people,—to avoid the spilling of blood, to pardon the multitude, and to punish only the ringleaders of the rebellion^. The delusion, he said, would not last long. God,
• I had once intended to have placed this account of Carolstadt in a different part of the History:—See note, p. 69.—but further reflection convinced me, that the perspicuity of the Lutheran transactions would be best consulted by the arrangement here adopted.
t Comment, de Luth. lib. II. $ 11.—4.
t Seek. II. pp. 4, 5, 11. Keausobre, III. 18G.
who had hitherto protected their country, would continue to protect it. This was the last time he should be able to write to him, but he trusted they should meet again in a better world.—The mind of this conscientious prince appears to have been strongly impressed with a belief that the primary cause of the rebellion of the peasants was the just judgment of God, on account of the obstruction which the preaching of the pure Gospel had met with; and, as a secondary cause, he lamented, thatnot onlythe ruling clergy, but also the civil governors, oppressed their poor subjects in a variety of ways. Unable now to direct his pen, he dictated, on the day before his death, to his brother John, the letter alluded to in page 224, in which these pious and compassionate feelings are depicted in the most lively colours. In particular, he tells him he would do well to repeal a late heavy impost on beer and wine*. Such a lenient measure would tend to tranquillize the public mind, and induce the malecontents to return to their duty ; and a kind Providence would, no doubt, abundantly requite him in some other way. Spalatinus informs us, that, a short time before he expired, he addressed his servants and domestics in the following terms. " I entreat you, my dearest children, in the name of God, and for HIS sake, to forgive me, if I have offended any of you in word or deed; and I further entreat you to make in my name this same request for me to others. We princes are apt to treat our poor distressed subjects in a vexatious and unjustifiable manner." The devout and affectionate expressions of the elector drew tears from Spalatinus and all his domestics who were present.—His last words were, " I cannot say any more." " Does any thing," said Spalatinus, " lie heavy on your mind ?" He answered, " No ; but I have much
* So early as the year 1519 we find Luther exhorting the elector of Saxony to avoid taxing the beer. Such a measure, he said, would alienate the minds of his subjects.-—Archiv. Weimar.
bodily pain."—He expired, however, like one falling Cent. asleep. ^ XVL .
Frederic the Wise died of an obstruction in the Frederic, bladder, in the sixty-third year of his age. Before aged 63the Lutheran controversies, he had been a most industrious collector of reliques, and had augmented the number of masses in his Church of All Saints to ten thousand annually. How zealous a Roman- Frederic catholic he was, even in the year 1517, maybe w"«*«
11 * 1 /• * • 1 • 1 • -ii 1 'ous Roman
collected trom certain articles m his will made at Catholic, that time. He joins with the Holy Trinity, theblessed ^TMin Virgin, St. Bartholomew the apostle, and then his tutelar angel and all the saints of God, to whose intercession he commits his soul. He particularly enjoins, that, for a month after his death, there be said no less than fifty masses every day, with a small allowance for each. Lastly, he requests his brother John to examine very carefully whether his ministers might not, for the sake of increasing his revenues, have defrauded his subjects in some instances ; and if so, to rectify what was wrong, without delay*. The Christian Reader will be pleased to see how, in the Last will and testament of this prince, the pure doctrine of the Gospel triumphs over the ancient superstition. Not a word in it of the Virgin Mary, of saints, or apostles, or masses. " I beseech," says he, " Almighty God, through the sacred and unexampled merits of his Son, to pardon all my sins and transgressions ; neither do I doubt but that, by the precious death of my dear Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I shall obtain forgiveness; and therefore into his all-powerful hands, and to his eternal, immeasurable, unsearchable kindness and compassion, I commit my soul, to be preserved for the enjoyment
* The pious Seckendorf takes notice here, that this is a very common article in the last testament of such kings and princes as have had some regard for their salvation; and adds, with great reason, how much better it would be if they took care either to prevent such frauds, or to correct them in their lifetime. P. 23, and 33.
p. of a happy immortality. I freely forgive all who
; , have done me any wrong; and I beseech them, in
the name of God, and for His sake, to pardon, from the heart and with a true Christian charity, me, in whatever I may have offended them, agreeably to what we every day pray for, the mutual forgiveness of trespasses from God, the Father of compassion." By the advice of Luther and Melancthon,
he was buried without pomp, and without superstition. The latter made an oration in Latin; and the former preached in German, from the fourth chapter of the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, verses 13-18. His discourse was short, and his praises of the deceased few, modest, and perfectly consistent with truth. On his monument was inscribed an epitaph in Latin, from the elegant pen of Melancthon.
The history of this elector's conduct affords the best interpretation of his principles; and from this it has sufficiently appeared, that for a long time he had is Secret favoured the progress of Lutheranism. His cautious temper, his superstitious habits, the novel and decisive measures of Luther, and, lastly, the intrigues of the pope, the emperor, and the confederate anti-protestant princes, all these contributed to make him less active in the support of the reformers than might have been expected from his good understandingand respect for the word of God. He had however been long convinced how vain it was to look for any efficient accommodation of the ^ . ecclesiastical dissensions. The archbishop of Mentz, ch- in the year 1523, had conceived a plan of this sort; £of in which it was proposed, that himself, the bishop of Mersburg, Luther, and the two dukes of Saxony, or _ * two other princes, should meet at Zerbst or Naum* burg, for the purpose of an amicable adjustment. But this, like many other similar projects, came to nothing ; and the elector cautioned his brother John against the consequences of undertaking the direction of such heterogeneous assemblies*. Moreover, though we have seen that this good prince, in the course of the same year, had reason to apprehend considerable danger both to himself and his electorate, on account of his known attachment to Luther and his disciples f, yet the wicked machinations of
* Commeut. de Luth. CXLVIH.
+ Besides the just grounds for apprehension of danger to the elector of Saxony, related in pages 123 and 124, it may not be improper to add another not yet mentioned, as it marks, in a very striking manner, the excessive bitterness and animosity of the papal party, and to what lengths of injustice and oppression their hatred of the Reformation could carry them. Francis Sickingen, one of the most powerful noblemen in all the German empire, was a steady patroii of Luther and his doctrine; and he, as well as some others,—see p. 465, vol. iv. —had offered the Reformer a safe asylum in the moment of extreme danger: afterwards, Sickingen, who is allowed to have been more actuated by a factious, warlike and enterprising spirit, than is consistent with the meekness and humility of a Christian, was involved in an unhappy contest with the elector of Treves, in which the parties were joined respectively by allies of great distinction. Whatever was the true cause of this war, whether it arose from the ambitious projects of Sickingen, his hatred of the episcopal tyranny, or from mere points of honour carried by this chief to an improper extreme, it is certain that religion had no concern in it; and, moreover, that Luther constantly, and openly, expressed his entire disapprobation of using force for the purpose of making converts. The courageous efforts of Sickingen terminated in the capture of bis castle, the flight of his allies, and the loss of his life by the bursting of a bomb. And now the attentive reader is to mark the consequences. The victorious confederates would probably have been contented with their triumph over Sickingen and his friends, if he had not been a Lutheran ; but to be a Lutheran was a crime never to be forgiven. They remained therefore under arms, on the pretence of keeping the public peace. The chiefs of the Suabian league, particularly the princes of the House of Austria and Bavaria, acted in concei t with them, to oppress the Lutherans in every quarter. They vowed vengeance against the remains of Sickingen's party, wherever they should find them ; and incessantly menaced even the elector of Saxony, whom, without the least proof, tbey accused of harbouring refugee noblemen in his provinces. All this was levelled against the reformation in religion ; and wc have seen,—page 172,—that, in the opinion uf the chancellor of Treves, matters were ripening so fast for its
his interested, unprincipled neighbours were quickly confounded ; the blessed Reformation proceeded most rapidly, and even the temporal affairs of the elector of Saxony suffered no injury whatever. These lessons were not thrown away on Frederic : he became at last convinced, that he had carried his system of conance and toleration quite far enough ; that a Divine hand had directed the late revival of pure Christianity; and that it was now his duty to be actively instrumental in promoting the same glorious cause among his own subjects.—While meditating deeply, in his last sickness, on these things, and despairing of any useful interference of popes and bishops, he gave directions for an interview with Luther, in the intention of consulting how he should in future more openly support and establish the reformed religion in Saxony. But our Reformer was at that time inThuringia, preaching to the peasants, and endeavouring to appease their rebellious spirit; which prevented him from returning to see the prince, till he was on the point of death. Thus was the elector providentially debarred from holding intercourse with a man whom he certainly revered, but whose company, from motives of policy, he had hitherto shunned during a number of years*. There is however great reason to believe, that he died in the faith, hope, and humility of the Gospel; though it be difficult, or rather impossible, to apologize for his deficiency in the great duty of confessing Christ before all the world f.
* Comment, de Luth. II. VII.
t The elector of Saxony never spoke once to Luther, and never saw him but twice in his life. Seek. Prajloq. Also p. 28.
destruction, that Lutheranism would quickly receive its deathstroke. Comment. Luth. pp. ill. 130. 223, 224. 259. 261. 269. 289. 290. 291 ; also, Beausobre, I. p. 307. II. p. 270, and 315. III. pp. 20. 24. and 110.