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haps over moderate in their demands. They did not extend their views so far as a change in the form of ecclesiastical government, a suppression of those doctrines, which, however absurd, had acquired a high degree of credit by their antiquity, nor even to the abrogation of those rights and ceremonies, which had been multiplied in such an extravagant manner, to the great detriment of true religion and rational piety. All they aimed at was, to set limits to the overgrown power of the pontiffs, to reform the corrupt manners of the clergy, and to prevent the frauds that were too commonly practised by that order of men; to dispel the ignorance and correct the errors of the blinded multitude, and to deliver them from the heavy and unsupportable burdens that were imposed upon them under religious pretexts. But as it was impossible to obtain any of these salutary purposes without the suppression of various absurd and impious opinions, from whence the grievances complained of sprung, and indeed, without a general reformation of the religion that was publicly professed; so was this reformation supposed to be ardently, though silently, wished for, by all those who publicly demanded the reformation of the church in its head and in its members. xix. If any sparks of real piety subsisted under this des
potic empire of superstition, they were only to be The mystics. found among the mystics. For this sect, renouncing the subtilty of the schools, the vain contentions of the learned, with all the acts and ceremonies of external worship, exhorted their followers to aim at nothing but internal sanctity of heart, and communion with God, the centre and source of holiness and perfection. Hence the mystics were loved and respected by many persons, who had a serious sense of religion, and were of a tender and devotional complexion. But as they were not entirely free from the reigning superstitions, but associated many vulgar errors with their practical precepts and directions; and as their excessive passion for contemplation led them into many chimerical notions, and sometimes into a degree of fanaticism that approached to madness; more effectual succours than theirs were necessary to combat the inveterate errors of the times, and to bring about the reformation that was expected with such impatience.
THE HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION FROM ITS FIRST BEGINNINGS TO THE
CONFESSION GIVEN IN AT AUGSBURG.
Pious professors of; and while the but tranquil
1. While the Roman pontiff slumbered in security at the head of the church, and saw nothing through- The dawu or out the vast extent of his dominion but tranquil- reformation lity and submission; and while the worthy and pectedly. pious professors of genuine Christianity almost despaired of seeing that reformation on which their most ardent desires and expectations were bent ; an obscure and inconsiderable person arose, on a sudden, in the year 1517, and laid the foundation of this long-expected change, by opposing, with undaunted resolution, his single force to the torrent of papal ambition and despotism. This extraordinary man was Martin Luther, a native of Aisleben in Saxony, a monk of the Augustinian Eremites, who were one of the mendicant orders, and, at the same time, professor of divinity in the academy that had been erected at Wittemberg, a few years before this period, by Frederic the Wise. The papal chair was at this time filled by Leo X. Maximilian I. a prince of the house of Austria, was king of the Romans, and emperor of Germany; and Frederic, already mentioned, elector of Saxony. The bold efforts of this new adversary of the pontiffs were honoured with the applauses of many, but few or none entertained hopes of their success. It seemed scarcely possible that this puny David could hurt a Goliah, whom so many heroes had opposed in vain.
II. None of the qualities or talents that distinguished Luther were of a common or ordinary kind. His genius was truly great and unparalleled; his me- tam mory vast and tenacious; his patience in supporting trials, difficulties, and labour, incredible ; his magnanimity invincible, and independent on the vicissitudes of human affairs; and his learning most extensive, considering the age in which he lived. All this will be acknowledged even by his enemies, at least by such of them as are not totally blinded by a spirit of partiality and faction. He was deeply versed in the theology and philosophy that were in vogue in the schools during this century, and he taught them both
Creaclied op by John Tel.
with the greatest reputation and success in the academy of Wittemberg. As a philosopher he embraced the doctrine of the nominalists, which was the system adopted by his order; while in divinity he followed chiefly the sentiments of Augustin; but in both, he preferred the decisions of Scripture, and the dictates of right reason before the authority and opinions of fallible men. It would be equally rash and absurdito represent this great man as exempt from error, and free from infirmities and defects; yet, if we except the contagious effects of the age in which he lived, and of the religion in which he had been brought up, we shall perhaps find but a few things in his character that render him liable to reproach."
JII. The first opportunity that this great man had of un
olgences folding to the view of a blinded and deluded age, Firenceli the truth, which had struck his astonished sight, zel in 1517. was offered by a Dominican, whose name was John Tetzel." This bold and enterprising'monk had been chosen, on account of his uncommon impudence, by Albert, archbishop of Mentz and Magdeburg, to preach and proclaim in Germany those famous indulgences of Leo X. which administered the remission of all sins, past, present, and to come, however enormous their nature, to those who were rich enough to purchase them. The frontless monk executed this iniquitous commission not only with matchless insolence, indecency," and fraud, but even carried his impiety so far as to derogate from the all-sufficient power and influence of the merits of Christ. At this, Luther, unable to smother his just indignation, raised his warning voice, and in ninety-five propositions, maintained publicly at Wittemberg, on the 30th of September, in the year 1517, censured the extravagant extortion of these questors, and plainly pointed out the Roman pontiff as a partaker of their guilt, since he suffered the people to be seduced, by
which admini nany those famsmeburg, to preach
m The writers who have given any circumstantial account of Luther and his transac. tions, are accurately enumerated by Jo. Alb. Fabricius, in bis Centifolium Lutheranum ; the first part of which was published at Hamburg, in the year 1725, and the second in 1730, in 8vo.
n The historians who have particularly mentioned Tetzel, and his odious methods of deluding the multitude, are enumerated in the work quoted into the preceding note, part i. p. 47, part ii. p. 530. What is said of this vile deceiver by Ecbard and Quetif, in the Scriptores Ordin. Prædicator. tom. ii. p. 46, discovers the blindest zeal and the meanest partiality.
bo'o In describing the efficacy of these indulgences, Tetzel said, among other enormitics, that "even had any one ravished the mother of God, he, Tetzel, bad wherewithal to etrace his guilt.” He also boasted, that “ he had saved more souls from hell by these ndulgences, than St. Peter had converted to Christianity by his preaching."
such delusions, from placing their principal confidence in Christ, the only proper object of their trust. This was the commencement and foundation of that memorable rupture and revolution in the church, which humbled the grandeur of the lordly pontiffs, and eclipsed so great a part of their
isap Dr. Mosheim bas taken no notice of the calumnies invented and propagated by some late authors, in order to make Luther's zealous opposition to the publication of induigences appear to be the effect of selfish and ignoble molives. It may not, therefore, be improper to set that in a true light ; not that the cause of the reformation, which must stand by its own intrinsic dignity, and is in no way affected by the views or characters of its instruments, can derive any strength from this inquiry ; but as it may tend to vindicate the personal character of a man, who has done eminent service to the cause of
Mr. Hume, in his History of the Reign of Heory VIII. bas thought proper to repeat what the enemies of the reformation, and some of its dubious or ill-informed friends, kave advanced, with respect to the motives that engaged Luther to oppose the doctrine of indulgences. This elegant and persuasive bistorian tells us, that the “ Austin friars had usually been employed in Saxony to preach indulgences, and from this trust had derived both profit and consideration; that Arcemboidi gave this occupation to the Dominicans ;* that Martin Luther, an Austin friar, professor in the university of Wittemberg, resenting the affront put upon his order, began to preach against the abuses that were committed in the sale of indulgences, and, being provoked by opposition, proeeeded even to decry indulgences themselves.”T It were to be wished, that Mr. Hume's candour had engaged him to examine this accusation better before he had ventured to repeat it. Fur, in the first place, it is not true, that the Austin friars had been usually employed in Saxony to preach indulgences. It is well known, that the commission had been offered alternately, and sometimes jointly, to all the mendicants, whether Austin triars, Dominicans, Franciscans, or Carmelites. Nay, from the year 1229, that lucrative commission was principally intrusted with the Dominicans, I and, in the records which relate to indulgences, we rarely meet with the naine of an Austin friar, and not one single act, by which it appears that the Roman pontiff ever named the friars of that order to the office under consideration. More particularly, it is remarkable, that for half a century before Luther, i. e from 1450 to 1517, during which period indulgences wero sold with the most scandalous marks of avaricious extortion and impudence, we scarcely meet with the pame of an Austin friar employed in that service ; if we except a monk, named Pelzius, who was no more than an underling of the papal questor Raymond Peraldus ; so far is it from being true, that the Augustine order were exclusively, or even resually employed in that service. Mr. Hume has built his assertion upon the solo authority of a single expression of Paul Sarpi, which has been abundantly refuted by Do Priero, Pallavicini, and Graweson, the mortal enemies of Luther. But it may be alleged, that, even supposing it was not usual to employ the Augustine friars alone in the propagation of indulgences, yet Luther might be offended at seeing such an important commission given to the Dominicans exclusively, and that, consequently, this was his motive in opposing the propagation of indulgences. To show the injustice of this allegation, I observe,
Secondly, That, in the time of Luther, the preaching of indulgences was become suck an odious and unpopular matter, that it is far from being probable, that Luther would have been solicitous about obtaining such a commission, either for himself or for his order. Tho princes of Europe, with many bishops and multitudes of learned and pious men, had opened their eyes upon the turpitude of this infamous traffic ; and even the Franciscans and Dominicans, toward the conclusion of the fifteenth century, opposed it publicly, both in their discourses and in their writings. |Nay more, the very commission which is supposed to have excited the envy of Luther, was offered by Leo to the general of the
* Hume's History of England, under the House of Tudor, vol. i. p. 119. | Id. ib. 120.
See Weismanni, Memorabilia Historiæ Sacræ N. T. p. 1051, 1115.
See Happii Diss. de Nonnullis Indulgentiarum, Só xiv. et xv. Quæsitoribus, p. 384, 387.
li See Walch. Opp. Luther, tom, xv. p. 114, 283, 312, 119. Serkendorf. Hist, Lutherum18mi lib. i. sect. vi. p. 13.
! See Walch. loc. cit. p. 371.
The true state of the debate between Luiber and Telzel.
cerning in of sin. with the po
iy. This debate between Luther and Tetzel was, at first,
a matter of no great moment, and might have The true state been terminated with the utmost facility, had Leo
iber X, been disposed to follow the healing method
which common prudence must have naturally pointed out on such an occasion. For, after all, this was no more than a private dispute between two monks, concerning the extent of the pope's power with respect to the remission of sin. Luther confessed that the Roman pontiff was clothed with the power of remitting the human punishments inflicted upon transgressors, i. e. the punishments denounced by the church and its visible head the bishop of Rome; but he strenuously denied that his power extended to the remission of the divine punishments allotted to offenders, either in this present, or in a future. state; affirming, on the contrary, that these punishments could be removed by the merits of Christ, or by voluntary acts of mortification and penance undertaken and perform
Franciscans, and was refused both by him and his order, who gave it over entirely to Albert, bishop of Meutz and Magdebourg. Is it then to be imagined, that either Luther or the other Austin friars aspired after a commission of which the Franciscans were ashamed ? Beside, it is a mistake to affirm, that this office was given to the Dominicans in general; since it was given to "Tetzel alone, an individual member of that order, who had been notorious for his profligacy, barbarity, and extortion.
But that neither resentment nor envy were the motives that led Luther to oppose the doctrine and publication of indulgences, will appear with the utmost evidence, if we consider, in the third place, that he was never accused of any such motives, either in the edicts of the pontiffs of his time, or amidst the other reproaches of the contemporary writers, who defended the cause of Rome, and who were far from being sparing of their invectives and calumnies. All the contemporary adversaries of Luther are absolutely silent on this head. From the year 1517 to 1546, when the dispute about indulgences was carried on with the greatest warmth and animosity, not one writer ever ventured to reproach Luther with these ignoble motives of opposition now under consideration. I speak not of Erasmus, Sleidan, De Thou, Guicciardini, and others, whose testimony might be perhaps suspected of partiality in his favour; but I speak of Cajetan, Hogstrat, De Priero, Emser, and even the infamous John Tetzel, whom Luther opposed with such vehemence and bitterness. Even Cochlæus was silent on this head during the life of Luther ; though, after the death of that great reformer, he broached the calumny I am here resuting. But such was the scandalous character of this man, wbo was notorious for fraud, calumny, lying, and their sister vices,* that Pallavicini, Bossuet, and other cnemies of Luther, were ashamed to make use either of his name or testimony. Now, inay it not be fairly presumed, that the contemporaries of Luther were better judges of his character, and the principles from which he acted, than those who lived in after times? Can it be imagined, that motives to action, which escaped the prying eyes of Luther's contemporaries, should have discovered themselves to us, who live at such a distance of time from the scene of action, to M. Bossuet, to Mr. Hume, and to other abettors of this ill-contrived and foolish story. Either there are no rules of moral eridence, or Mr. Hume's assertion is entirely groundless.
I might add many other considerations to show the unreasonableness of supposing that Luther exposed hiinsell to the rage of the Roman pontifi, to the persecutions of an exasperated clergy, to the severity of such a potent and despotic prince as Charles V. to death itself, and that from a principle of avarice and ambition. But I have said enough to satisfy every candid mind.
*Sleidin De Slatu Rel. et Reip. in Dedic. Epist. ad Augusta Elector,