« AnteriorContinuar »
friend Staupitius had already quitted Saxony; and, though the elector had hitherto manfully defended him against the tyrannicaļ machinations of the court of Rome, it might well be doubted whether the chief motives of this magnanimous conduct were a regard for the honor of God and the religion of Jelus*.
It was an excellent part of Luther's character, that in the most critical and difficult situations he could commit his cause to the God, whom he served, with firm and entire reliance on HIS WILL, and at the same time be as active and indefatigable in ufing all prudential means, as if the events depended solely on human exertions. In his present danger and perplexity, he cast his eyes on Frasce, where formerly some opposition had been made to the fulness of papal domination ; and where he hoped that he might profess and preach divine truth with greater security than in Germany. “ Not,” said he, in a letter to Spalatinus, “ that I care much
Some account of the religious character of the elector was given in page 302 of this Volume. Seckendorf doubts whether his principal reason for fupporting Luther, who was then the public teacher of divinity and philofophy in the university of Wittemberg, might not be the ardent defire which that prince always showed for the prosperity of his favourite feminary of learning. Be this as it may, it is certain, that even before the conferences at Augfburg, in a letter to cardinal Raphael, he expressed himself with great coolnefs and indifferençe respecting the doctrines of Luther.
" I have never, says he, “ taken upon me to defend either the writings or the ferinons of Dr. Martin L., and I proved the fame, which I now affert, both to Cajetan the pope's Legate and to Miltitz his Nuncio.” Some authors consider this, as a confession on the part of Frederic, that he had not so much as read a line of Luther's publications, or heard him deliver his fermons: Others Suppose that, in his concerns with the papal agents, he might diffemble his regard for the reformer, with a view of supporting him and his cause more effectually in the end. Luth. op, Witt. Vol. d. p. 228.
on my own account; for in fact, I am concerned, that I should not be thought worthy to suffer for the truth; especially, as by going to Augsburg, I exposed myself to many dangers, and almost tempted God to bring evil upon me. It grieves me, however, to see the fair prospect of our rising seminary thus suddenly clouded; and the studies of the young men at Wittemberg, who are wonderfully zealous for the acquisition of sacred literature, blasted in the bud." In another letter to the same friend, he faid, “ Every day I expect from Rome the arrival of the ecclesiastical anathemas; and I am, therefore, disposing my affairs in such a manner, that when those curses shall arrive, I may be ready, like Abraham, to depart, not knowing whither. Yet, in another sense, I do know whither I shall go, for God is every where. However I leave with you this farewell-letter. See that you have the courage to read the letter of a man excommunicated and accursed !” In a third letter he declared, he was ready either to go or stay. “Some friends,” said he, “ advise me to deliver myself up to the elector, who will protect me in some safe place and at the same time inform the pope's legate, that my person is under confinement, and that I am ready to give answers to such questions as shall be proposed to me. I commit this plan to your prudence. I am in the hands of God and of my friends. It vexes me to think, that it should be lo com monly believed, that the prince in secret supports me. This report, if any thing can, will drive me hence, that I may not involve him in my dangers. To be brief, while I remain here, my liberty both of writing and of speaking is very inuch restrained; whereas if I leave Germany, I will open my heart to the world, and offer up my life freely in the service of Christ.”
Those who have most considered, how great a trial to a thoughtful mind, a state of suspense is in dangerous and critical seasons, will form the best
judgment of Luther's situation towards the end of A. D. the year 1518. The foregoing extracts lay open 1518. his secret feelings and resolutions, at the same time
that they also exhibit his extraordinary faith, pa: tience, and resignation.
In this conjuncture, the elector of Saxony fig. nified his earnest wish that Luther would not leave Wittemberg *. This fpirited resolution is to be ascribed, partly to the interference and supplication of the university of that place in behalf of their beloved profeffor, and partly to the imperious and threatening language of cardinal Cajetan, Fre. deric with a calmness and dignity, suitable to
his character, declared, that he could not expel Luther from Wittemberg without doing much injury to his university, and further that he should not consider him as an heretic till he had been heard and was convicted. Animated with this favoura ble determination of the prince, the professor of th cology resolved to remain on the spot; and, in a discourse from the pulpit, he requested the people in case his person should at length become the vic: tim of papal severity,—not to harbour the least ill-will against the pope or any human being whatever, but to commit the cause to God.
It will be proper to mention here, that besides the literary and controversial employments of che professor at Wittemberg, he had for some time discharged the office of paftor of the same town, as the fubftitute of Simon Heinsius, the ordinary minister, who then labored under bodily infirini, ties; and thus this industrious reformer supported at once the character of a theological teacher and
disputant, Melch. Adam. + Page 352-3.
disputant, and also of a popular preacher and parochial clergyman.
Luther, desirous of anticipating the papal bull, which he daily expected, renewed his appeal to the pope BETTER INFORMED, or in failure of this, to a general council. Fifteen days after, Leo issued a bull, in which, without mentioning the name of Luther, he confirmed the doctrine of indulgences in the most absolute manner. By this step no less improvident than impious, he put it out of the power of the friends of the papacy, to vindicate or even to extenuate its conduct. The groffest venality and contempt of true piety and falutary discipline had prevailed in Germany through the fale of indulgences. To maintain the rectitude of the practice, without the least correction of excesses, at a time when the memory of the transactions was recent, prevented every attempt that might be made to reconcile Luther to the hierarchy. The Providence of God was admirable in thus barring up his return to the church of Rome, while, as yet, be was far from being convinced of the totally antichristian state of the popedom.
But the mercenary prostitution of indulgences had not been confined to Germany. In the summer of this same year 1518, Samson a Franciscan of Milan, A. D. came to Zurich, to prosecute the scandalous traffic. 1518 There he was opposed by Huldric Zuinglius, afterwards the famous Swiss reformer *. In the month of September, Samson came to. Zug, where a servant seeing the people press in crowds, addressed them: “ Be not so importunate, I befeech you; let up those enter first, who are furnished with money ; care shall be taken afterwards of the poor.” At Bern, the enormities exceeded, if pof
fible, • Father Paul, B. I. p. 8. + Page 6o. Seckendorf. Hottinger.
fible, those which had been practised in Germany. When the sale of the indulgences was over, BAPTISMAL INNOCENCE was restored to all present, who should confess their fins, and thrice recite the Lord's prayer and the Angelic falutation : Those also, who thrice went round the great church daily repeating prayers, might free what souls they pleased from purgatory. Still groffer corruptions than these were practised. But the infatuation of the hierarchy was incurable. Evangelical light and liberty were fast advancing to the relief both of Germany and Switzerland, -yet the rulers of the church shut their eyes, and hardened their hearts. Scarcely roused from a state of shameful floth and sensuality, they seem to have instantly fallen into the opposite extreme of blind presumption and impetuous rage. Pride, rashness, and a most tyrannical ambition appeared in all their counsels.
During the whole progress of the reformation, the pious reader has to admire the Providential circumstances, which, both in succession and in concurrence, favored the happy deliverance of the nations from papal captivity. We have just seen how the late haughty conduct of Cajetan tended to fix the mind of Frederic more steadily in the interests of the reformer; and this was a consequence which proved extremely influential upon the subsequent events. Immediately this wise prince solicited the emperor to exert all his authority at Rome, that the present ecclesiasțical controversy might be settled in Germany by impartial judges. What would have been the ultimate effect of this prudent
step, we are unable to say, Maximilian died in the a. d. beginning of the year 1519; and during the in1519.
TERREGNUM, the prince elector, duke of Saxony, as Vicar of the empire, poffeffed sufficient power to protect and cherish Lutheranism in its infancy.