תמונות בעמוד

sentations; and 4thly, that though the avarice of Albert, archbishop of Mentz, had set on Tetzel, yet that this rapacious tax gatherer had exceeded by far the bounds of his commission.” These proposals were accompanied with many soothing words, with pompous encomiums on Luther's character, capacity, and talents, and with the softest and most pathetic expostulations in favour of union and concord in an afflicted and divided church; all which Miltitz joined together with the greatest dexterity and address, in order to touch and disarm the Saxon reformer. Nor were his mild and insinuating methods of negotiating without effect; and it was upon this occasion that Luther made submissions which showed that his views were not, as yet, very extensive, his former prejudices entirely expelled, or his reforming principles steadily fixed. For he not only offered to observe a profound silence for the future with respect to indulgences, provided the same condition were imposed on his adversaries; he went much farther ; he proposed writing an humble and submissive letter to the pope, acknowledging that he had carried his zeal and animosity too far; and such a letter he wrote some time after the conference at Altenburg. He even consented to publish a circular letter, exhorting all his disciples and followers to reverence and obey the dictates of the Holy Roman church. He declared, that his only intention, in the writings he had composed, was to brand · with infamy those emissaries who abused its authority, and employed its protection as a mask to cover their abominable and impious frauds. It is true, indeed, that amidst those weak submissions which the impartial demands of historical truth oblige us to relate, there was, properly speaking, no retraction of his former tenets, nor the smallest degree of respect shown to the infamous traffic of indulgences. Nevertheless, the pretended majesty of the Roman church, and the authority of the Roman pontiff, were treated by Luther in this transaction, and in his letter to Leo, in a manner that could not naturally have been expected from a man who had already appealed from the pope to a general council.

Had the court of Rome been prudent enough to have accepted of the submission made by Luther, they would

z This letter was dated the 13th of March, 1519, about two months after the con. ference of Altenburg.

Leipsic in the

[ocr errors]

have almost nipped in the bud the cause of the reformation, or would, at least, have considerably retarded its growth and progress. Having gained over the head, the members would, with greater fecility, have been reduced to obedience. But the flaming and excessive zeal of some inconsiderate bigots renewed, happily for the truth, the divisions, which were so near being healed, and by animating both Luther and his followers to look deeper into the enormities that prevailed in the papal hierarchy, promoted the principles, and augmented the spirit, which produced, at length, the blessed" reformation.

X. One of the circumstances that contributed principally, at least, by its consequences, to render the embassy of Miltitz ineffectual for the restoration The disputes ar of peace, was a famous controversy of an inci- year to be dental nature that was carried on at Leipsic, some and Carlustadt. weeks successively, in the year 1519. A doctor named Eckius, who was one of the most eminent and zealous champions in the papal cause, happened to differ widely from Carlostadt, the colleague and companion of Luther, in his sentiments concerning free will. The result of this variety in opinion was easy to be foreseen. The military genius of our ancestors had so far infected the schools of learning, that differences in points of religion or literature, when they grew to a certain degree of warmth and animosity, were decided, like the quarrels of valiant knights, by single combat. Some famous university was pitched upon as the field of battle, while the rector and professors beheld the contest and proclaimed the victory. Eckius therefore, in compliance with the spirit of this fighting age, challenged Carlostadt, and even Luther himself, against whom he had already drawn his pen, to try the force of his theological arms. The challenge was accepted, the

sity; le combat. Battle, while ted the victory inting age,

I a See, for an ample account of Luther's conferences with Miltitz, the incomparable work of Seckendorff, entitled Commentar. Hislor. Apologet de Lutheranisma, sive de Reformatione Religionis, &c. in which the facts relating to Luther and the reformation are deduced from the most precious and authentic manuscripts and records, contained in the library of Saxe Gotha, and in other learned and princely collections, and in which the frauds and falsehoods of Maimbourg's History of Lutheranism are fully detected and refuted. As to Miltitz, his fate was unhappy. His moderation, which nothing but the blind zeal of some furious monks could have hindered from being emineatly serviceable to the cause of Rome, was represented by Eckius, and something worse than indifference about the success of his commission; and after several marks of neglect received from the pontiff, he had the misfortune to lose his life in passing the Rhine at Mentz.

b These disputes commenced on the 25th of June, and ended on the 15th of July foko lowing.

day appointed, and the three champions appeared in the field. The first conflict was between Carlostadt and Eckius concerning the powers and freedom of the human will ;' it was carried on in the castle of Pleissenburg, in presence of a numerous and splendid audience, and was followed by a dispute between Luther and Eckius concerning the authority and supremacy of the Roman pontiff. This latter controversy, which the present situation of affairs rendered singularly nice and critical, was left undecided. Hoffman, at that time rector of the university of Leipsic, and who had been also appointed judge of the arguments alleged on both sides, refused to declare to whom the victory belonged; so that the decision of this matter was referred to the universities of Paris and Erfurt.d In the mean time, one of the immediate effects of this dispute was a visible increase of the bitterness and enmity which Eckius had conceived against Luther; for from this very period he breathed nothing but fury against the Saxon reformer, whom he marked out as a victim to his vengeance, without considering, that the measures he took for the destruction of Luther, must have a most pernicious influence upon the cause of the Roman pontiff, by fomenting the present divisions, and thus contributing to the progress of the reformation, as was really the case.

p c This controversy turned upon liberty, considered not in a philosophical, but in a theological sense. It was rather a dispute concerning power than concerning liberty. Carlostadt maintained, that, since the fall of man, our natural liberty is not strong enough to conduct us to what is good, without the intervention of divine grace. Eckius asserted, on the contrary, that our natural liberty co-operated with divine grace, and that it was in the power of man to consent to the divine impulse, or to resist it. The former attributed all to God; the latter divided the merit of virtue between God and the creature. The modern Lutherans have almost universally abandoned the sentiments of Carlostadt.

. There is an ample account of this dispute at Leipsic given by Val. Ern. Locherus, in his Acta et Documenta Reformationis, tom. iii. c. vii. p. 203.

e This was one proof that the issue of the controversy was no: in his favour. The victor, in any combat, is generally too full of satisfaction and self-complacency, to feel the emotions of fury and vengeance, which seldom arise but from disappointment and defeat. There is even an insolent kind of clemency that arises from an eminent and palpable superiority. This indeed Eckius had no opportunity of exercising. Luther demonstrated, in this conference, that the church of Rome, in the earlier ages, had never been acknowledged as superior to other churches, and combated the pretensions of that church and its bishops, from the testimony of Scripture, the authority of the fathers, and the best ecclesiastical historians, and even from the decrees of the council of Nice; while all the arguments of Eckius were derived from the spurious and insipid decretals, which were scarcely of four hundred years standing. See Seckendorit's Hist. of Lutheranism.

or e It may be observed here, tbat before Luther's attack upon the store-house of indulgences, Eckius was his intimate friend. Eckius must certainly have been uncommonly unworthy, since even the mild and gentle Melancthon represents him

X1. Among the spectators of this ecclesiastical combat was Philip Melancthon, at that time professor of Philips Greek at Wittemberg, who had not as yet been lancıbon. involved in these divisions, as indeed the mildness of his temper, and his elegant taste for polite literature, rendered him averse from disputes of this nature, though he was the intimate friend of Luther, and approved his design of delivering the pure and primitive science of theology from the darkness and subtilty of scholastic jargon. As this eminent man was one of those, whom this dispute with Eckius convinced of the excellence of Luther's cause: as he was, moreover, one of the illustrious and respectable instruments of the reformation; it may not be improper to give some account here of the talents and virtues that have rendered his name immortal. His greatest enemies have borne testimony to his merit. They have been forced to acknowledge that the annals of antiquity exhibit very few worthies that may be compared with him; whether we consider the extent of his knowledge in things human and divine, the fertility and elegance of his genius, the facility and quickness of his comprehension, or the uninterrupted industry that attended his learned and theological labours. He rendered to philosophy and the liberal arts the same eminent service that Luther had done to religion, by purging them from the dross with which they had been corrupted, and by recommending them, in a powerful and persuasive manner, to the study of the Germans. He had the rare talent of discerning truth in all its most intricate connexions and combinations, of comprehending at once the most abstract notions, and expressing them with the utmost perspicuity and ease. And he applied this happy talent in religious disquisitions with such unparalleled success, that it may safely be affirmed, that the cause of true Christianity derived from the learning and genius of Melancthon more signal advantages, and a more effectual support than it received from any of the other doctors of the age. His love of peace and concord, which was partly owing to the sweetness of his natural temper, made him desire with ardour that a reformation might be effected without producing a schism in the church, and that the external communion of the contending parties might be preserved uninterrupted and entire. This spirit of mildness and charity, carried perhaps too far, led him sometimes to make concessions that were neither consistent with prudence, nor advantageous to the cause in which he was engaged. It is, however, certain, that he gave no quarter to those more dangerous and momentous errors that reigned in the church of Rome; but maintained, on the contrary, that their extirpation was essentially necessary in order to the restoration of true religion. In the natural complexion of this great man there was something soft, timorous, and yielding. Hence arose a certain diffidence of himself, that not only made him examine things with the greatest attention and care, before he resolved upon any measure, but also filled him with uneasy apprehensions where there was no danger, and made him fear even things, that, in reality, could never happen. And yet, on the other hand, when the hour of real danger approached, when things bore a formidable aspect, and the cause of religion was in imminent peril, then this timorous man was converted, all at once, into an intrepid hero, looked danger in the face with unshaken constancy, and opposed his adversaries with invincible fortitude. All this shows, that the force of truth and the power of principle had diminished the weaknesses -and defects of Melancthon's natural character without entirely removing them. Had his fortitude been more uniform and steady, his desire of reconciling all interests and pleasing all parties less vehement and excessive, his triumph over the superstitions imbibed in his infancy more complete, he must deservedly have been considered as one of the greatest among men." XII. While the credit and authority of the Roman pongin tiff were thus upon the decline in Germany, they


as an inhuman persecutor, a sophist, and knave, who maintained doctrines contrary to his belief and against his conscience. See the learned Dr. Jortin's Life of Erasmus, vol. ii. p. 713, see also Vitus's account of the death of Eckius, in Seckendorff, lib. iji. p. 468. and in the Scholia ad indicem 1 Hist. of the same book, No. xxiii.

f See Melancthon's letter concerning the conference of Leipsic, in Loscher's Acta et Documenta Reformationis, tom. iii. cap. vilj. p. 215; as also in the Wittemberg edition of Luther's Works, vol. i. p. 336.

received a mortal wound in Switzerland from UIod ric Zuingle, a canon of Zurich, whose extensive

The origin of the reformation in Switzerland.

IT g By this, no doubt, Dr. Mosheim means the credulity this great man discovered, with respect to prodigies and dreams, and his having been somewhat addicted to the pretended science of astrology. See Schelhornii Amenit. Hist. Eccles. et Lit. vol. ii. p. 609.

h We have a life of Malancthon, written by Joachim Camerius, which has already gone through several editions. But a more accurate account of this illustrious reformer,

« הקודםהמשך »