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 connivance 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.