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THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY.
HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION.
1. The history of the reformation is too ample and extensive to be comprehended without a certain the divi degree of confusion, in the uninterrupted narra- the first section. tion of one section; we shall therefore divide it into four parts.
The first will contain, “ An account of the state of Christianity before the commencement of the reformation." · The second, “ The history of the reformation, from its first beginnings until the date of the confession drawn up at Augsburg."
The third will exhibit, “ A view of the same history, from this latter period to the commencement of the war of Smalcald.” And,
The fourth will carry it down to “the peace that was entered into with the abettors of the reformation in the year 1555." This division is natural; it arises spontataneously from the events themselves.
toNCERNING THE STATE OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH BEFORE THE RE
1. ABOUT the commencement of this century the Roman pontiffs lived in the utmost tranquillity ; nor had things are in a they, as things appeared to be situated, the least gar ning of this reason to apprehend any opposition to their century. pretensions, or rebellion against their authority; since those dreadful commotions which had been excited in the preceding ages by the Waldenses, Albigenses, and Beghards, and lately by the Bohemians, were entirely sunpressed, and had yielded to the united powers of counsel and the sword. Such of the Waldenses as yet remained, lived contented under the difficulties of extreme poverty, in the valleys of Piedmont, and proposed to themselves no higher earthly felicity, than that of leaving to their descendants that wretched and obscure corner of Europe, which separates the Alps from the Pyrenean mountains ; while the handful of Bohemians, that survived the ruin of their faction, and still persevered in their opposition to the Roman yoke, had neither strength nor knowļedge adequate to any new attempt, and therefore, instead of inspiring terror, became objects of contempt. ii. We must not however conclude from this apparent
quiet state at the beginning of this
a The writers of the History of the Reformation, of every rank and order, are enumerated by the very learned Philip. Frid. Hane, who himsell deserves a most eminent rank in this class, in his Historia Sacrorum a Luthero Emenulatorum, part i. cap. i. p. 1, and by Jo. Alb. Fabricius, in his Centifolium Lutheranum, part ii. cap. clxxxvii. p. 863. The greatest part, or at least the most eminent, of this list of authors must be consnited
inis tranquillity and security of the pontiffs and againse the popes their adherents, that their measures were ap
plauded, or their chains worn without reluctance. This was far from being the case. Not only private persons, but also the most powerful princes and sovereign states, exclaimed loudly against the despotic dominion of the pontiffs, the fraud, violence, avarice, and injustice that prevailed in their counsels, the arrogance, tyranny, and extortion of their legates, the unbridled licentiousness and enormous crimes of the clergy and monks of all denominations, the unrighteous severity and partiality of the Roman laws, and demanded publicly, as their ancestors had done before them, a reformation of the church, in its head, and in its members, and a general council to accomplish that necessary and happy purpose. But these complaints and demands were not carried so far as to produce any good effect; since they came from per
and cler: y inellectual.
by such as desire a farther confirmation or illustration of the matters which I propose to relate briefly in the course of this history. The illustrious names of Sleidan and Seckendorff, and others, who have distinguished themselves in this kind of erudition, are too well known to render it necessary to recommend their works to thc perusal of the curious reader.
b These complaints and accusations have been largely enumerated by several wri. ters. Sce, among many others, Val. Ern. Loescherus, in Actis et documentis Reformationis, tom. i. cap. v. p. 105; cap. ix. p. 181, and Ern. Salom. Cyprian. Præfat. ad Wilk. Ern, Tenzelii Historiam Reformat. published at Leipsic, in 8vo. in the year 1717. The grievances, complained of by the Germans in particular, are amply mentioned by J. F. Georgius, in his Gravamina Imperator. et Nationis German. adversus sedem Roman. cap. vii. p. 261. Nor do the wiser and more learned among the modern Romanists pretend to deny that the church and clergy, before the time of Luther, vcre corrupted in a very high degree.
sons who never presumed to entertain the least doubt about the supreme authority of the pope in religious matters, and who, of consequence, instead of attempting themselves to bring about that reformation that was so ardently desired, remained entirely inactive, and looked for redress to the court of Rome, or to a general council. As long as the authority of the Roman pontiff was held sacred, and his jurisdiction supreme, there could be no reason to expect any considerable reformation either of the corruptions of the church or of the manners of thclergy.
II. If any thing seemed proper to destroy the gloomy empire of superstition, and to alarm the security of the lordly pontiffs, it was the restoration of the restoralearning in Europe, and the number of men of ing. genius that arose of a sudden under the benign influence of that auspicious revolution. But even this new scene of things was insufficient to terrify the lords of the church, or to make them apprehend the decline of their power. It is true, indeed, this happy revolution in the republic of letters dispelled the gloom of ignorance, and kindled in the minds of many the love of truth and sacred liberty. Nay, it is also certain that many of these great men, such as Erasmus and others, pointed the delicacy of their wit, or levelled the fury of their indignation, at the superstitions of the times, the corruptions of the priesthood, the abuses that reigned in the court of Rome, and the brutish manners of the monastic orders. But this was not sufficient, since none had the courage to strike at the root of the evil, to attack the papal jurisdiction and statutes, which were absurdly, yet artfully, sanctified by the title of canon law, or to call in question that ancient and most pernicious opinion, that Christ had established a vicegerent at Rome, clothed with his supreme and unlimited authority. Intrenched therefore within these strong holds, the pontiffs looked upon their own authority and the peace of the church as beyond the reach of danger, and treated with indifference the threats and invectives of their enemies. Armed moreover with power to punish, and abundantly furnished with the means of rewarding in the most alluring manner, they were ready, on every commotion, to crush the obstinate, and to gain over the mercenary to their cause; and this indeed could not but contribute considerably to the stability of their dominion.
The Popes Alexander VI. Pius III.
IV. Hence it was, that the bishops of Rome lived in
the utmost security and ease, and being entirely A The People. free from apprehensions and cares of every kind,
followed without reluctance, and gratified without any limitation or restraint, the various demands of their lusts and passions. Alexander VI. whom humanity disowns, and who is rather to be considered as a monster than as a man, whose deeds excite horror, and whose enormities place him among the most execrable tyrants of ancient times, stained the commencement of this century by the most tremendous crimes. The world was delivered from this papal fiend in the year 1503, by the poisonous draught which he had prepared for others, as is generally believed; though there are historians that attribute his death to sickness and old age. He was succeeded in the pontificate by Pius III. who, in less than a month, was deprived by death of that high dignity. The vacant chair was obtained by fraud and bribery by Julian de la Rovere, who assumed the denomination of Julius II. y. To the odious list of vices with which Julius II. dis
honoured the pontificate, we may add the most Julius II. savage ferocity, the most audacious arrogance, the most despotic vehemence of temper, and the most extravagant and frenetic passion for war and bloodshed. He began his military enterprises by entering into a war with the Venetians, after having strengthened his cause by an alliance with the emperor and the king of France. He afterward laid siege to Ferrara ; and at length turned his arms against his former ally, the French monarch, in conjunction with the Venetians, Spaniards, and Swiss, whom he had drawn into this war, and engaged in his cause by an offensive league. His whole pontificate, in short, was one continued scene of military tumult ; nor did he suffer Europe to enjoy a moment's tranquillity as long as he lived. We may easily imagine the miserable condition of the church under a vicar of Christ, who lived in camps, amidst the din of arms, and who was ambitious of no other fame than that which arose from battles won and cities laid desolate. Under such a pontiff, all things must have gone to ruin ; the laws must have been subverted, the discipline of the church destroyed, and the genuine lustre of true religion entirely effaced.
c See the Life of Alexander VI. in two vols. 8vo. by Alex. Gordon, Esq. As also another life of the same pontiff, written with more moderation, and subjoined, along with that of Leo X. to the first volume of the learned and ingenious work, entitled Histoire du Droit publique Ecclesiastique Francois, par M. D. B. published in 4to, at London, in 1752.
d See du Bos, Histoire de la Ligue de Cambrar, published at the Hague, in tiro James, 8vo. in the year 1710.
vi. Nevertheless, from this dreadful cloud that hung over Europe, some rays of light seemed to break the cour forth, that promised a better state of things, and of Pisa. gave some reason to expect that reformation in the church that was so ardently and so universally desired. Lewis XII, king of France, provoked by the insults he had received from this arrogant pontiff, meditated revenge, and even caused a medal to be struck with a menacing inscription, expressing his resolution to overturn the power of Rome, which was represented by the title of Babylon on this coin. Several cardinals also, encouraged by the protection of this monarch and the emperor Maximilian I. assembled, in the year 1511, a council at Pisa, with an intention to set bounds to the tyranny of this furious pontiff, and to correct and reform the errors and corruptions of a superstitious church. Julius, on the other hand, relying on his own strength, and on the power of his allies, beheld these threatening appearances without the least concern, nay, treated them with mockery and laughter. He did not however neglect the methods of rendering ineffectual the efforts of his enemies, that prudence dictated, and therefore gave orders for a council to meet in the palace of the Lateran, in the year 1512, in which the decrees of the council of Pisa were condemned and annulled in the most injurious and insulting terms. This condemnation would, undoubtedly, have been followed with the most dire and formidable anathemas against Lewis and other princes, had not death snatched away this audacious pontiff, in the year 1512, in the midst of his ambitious and vindictive projects.
VII. He was succeeded, in the year 1513, by Leo X. of the family of Medicis, who, though of a milder disposition than his predecessor, was nevertheless Leo X. equally indifferent about the interests of religion and the
the methokery and laut the leasts
e See B. Christ. Sigismund. Liebii Conmentatio de nummis Ludovici XII. Epigraphe, Perdam Babylonis nomen, insignibus ; Leipsic, 1717. See also Thesaurus Epistolicus Crozianus, tom. i. p. 235, 243. Colonia, Histoire Liter, de la Ville de Lyon, tom. ii. p. 443. The authenticity and occasion of this medal have been much disputed, and, as is well known, have afforded matter of keen debate.
1 Hardini Concilia, tom. ix. p. 1559.