תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

apply for protection to the kings of France, England, and Denmark.

These kings, from enmity to Charles V. favored the Protestants, and Charles, finding trouble accumulating upon him, concluded a peace with the Protestants in 1532, at Nuremberg, which amounted almost to a complete toleration of their religion. This event inspired the friends of the reformation throughout Europe, with new vigor and resolution, and excited them to press forward with great boldness, in the work of liberating mankind from spiritual despotism.

But it is an evil with which the reformers had to contend, that the human mind once roused by grand objects, especially if uninformed, is apt to become wild and irregular. The peasants who, at the beginning of the reformation, had run into such extravagances for religious liberty, were indeed subdued; but their spirit lived and rayed tremendously in 1533, in Westphalia and the Netherlands. A furious rabble came to the city of Munster, pretending to a commission from heaven to destroy and overturn all civil institutions, and to establish a new republic, and committed the most horrible excesses. Their principal leaders were John Mathias, a baker, and John Boccold, a journeyman tailor. Their chief tenets were, that the office of magistracy is unnecessary; that all distinctions among men are contrary to the Gospel; that property should be held in common, and that a plurality of wives is commendable. But their more peculiar doctrine, from which they were named, related to the sacrament of baptism. They declared that it should be administered only to persons grown up to years of understanding, and should be performed not by sprinkling with water, but by immersion. Hence, as the subjects had been once baptized, they were called ANABAPTISTS.

But their reign at Munster was short. The bishop of Munster, assisted by some German princes, came against them with an armed force. In the conflict, Mathias was at first successful; and so elated was he, that he sallied forth with thirty men, declaring that he would go like Gideon, and smite the host of the ungodly. In an instant, they were all destroyed. Boccold then assumed the chief command; pretended to extraordinary revelations; marched through the streets naked, crying with a loud voice, “ That the kingdom of Zion was at hand;" took to himself fourteen wives; levelled to the ground the loftiest buildings; deposed senators, and raised his officers from the lowest ranks. The blood of suspected persons flowed freely. One of his wives, expressing a doubt of his divine mission, had her head cut off with his own hands. But he was not able to maintain his dominion. On the 24th of June, 1535, the royal forces took the city, and slew most of the fanatics. Boccold was taken prisoner, and shown through the cities of Germany. He was then brought back to Munster, and put to death in the most cruel manner. Thus ended the kingdom of Anabaptists in Germany; but their principles relating to baptism took deep root in the Low Countries, and were carried into England.

These scenes were deeply painful to Luther. - Satan," said he, “rages; we have need of your prayers. The new sectarians called Anabaptists, increase in number, and display great external appearances of strictness of life, as also great boldness in death, whether they suffer by fire or water." While he detested their turbulence and pitied their delusion, he knew that the Papists looked upon them as his followers, and upon him as the grand culprit; and that such proceedings, such cries, as “ No tribute, all things in common, no magistrates," must alarm every ruler in Christendom, and make each consider the extinction of Lutheranism as essential to his safety. Luther was no fanatic. He had an enlightened and noble spirit. " We differ,” said he, “ from these fanatics not merely in the article of baptism, but also in the general reason which they give for rejecting the baptism of infants.” “It was,” say they, “ a practice under the Papacy.” “Now we do not argue in that manner. We allow that in the Papacy are many good things, and all those good things we have retained.”

He abhorred persecutions for religious opinions. He did not believe that errors in doctrine were to be extirpated by fire and the sword, but by the word of God. He viewed it right that false teachers should be removed from their stations; but declared that capital punishments should never be inflicted, but for sedition and tumult. He utterly disapproved, therefore, of the sanguinary proceedings against the Anabaptists, and wished that they might be reclaimed and guided by arguments from scripture.

Another class of men arose about the same time, headed by John Agricola, a disciple of Luther, who, because of their peculiar sentiments, have been called ANTINOMIANS. Some of their peculiarities were, that the law ought not to be proposed as a rule of life; that men ought not to doubt' of their faith; that God sees no sin in believers, and they are not bound to confess sin, mourn for it, or pray that it may be forgiven; that Christ became as sinful as we, and we are as completely righteous as Christ; that the new covenant is not properly made with us, but with Christ for us; and that sanctification is not a proper evidence of justification.

But while Luther was disquieted with these things, a most surprising and important event occurred, which filled his heart with joy. This was the overthrow of the Papal power in England.

Henry VIII., a prince of great abilities and violent passions, had come out, at the beginning of the reformation, in opposition to Luther, and obtained from the Pope the title of Defender of the Faith. But, like all wicked men, he cared more for the gratification of his passions than for the Church of God. He was bound in marriage to his brother's widow, Catharine of Arragon, aunt to Charles V. She was a woman of but little loveliness, and by her he had no male issue. Desirous of this, and being captivated by the charms of Ann Boleyn, he applied to the Pope for a divorce, on the ground that Catharine was his brother's widow. The Pope, dreading the anger of Charles, contrived various pretexts to delay an answer to the request, and at length summoned Henry to Rome. Impatient of delay, and enraged at his final summons, Henry followed the advice of Thomas Cranmer, a secret friend of Luther, and referred the subject to the learned universities of Europe. They decided that the marriage was unlawful. Catharine was divorced, and Ann Boleyn became queen, November 14, 1532.

Henry was now completely alienated from the Pope, and was determined to make the court of Rome feel the weight of his anger. He caused himself to be declared Supreme Head of the Church of England; suppressed the monasteries; applied their revenues to new purposes; and entirely overturned the power and authority of the Pope in his realm.

Thus was the reformation effected in England, for the gratification of the passions of a wicked monarch. But it was a very different reformation from that in Germany. That was a reformation in doctrine. This was a transfer of supreme power from the Pope to the King. Most of the monstrous corruptions of Popery still remained, and occasioned for many years much trouble to the friends of true religion.

The eyes of all Europe had long been turned to a general

council, as the only instrument of effecting religious peace on the continent; and the emperor pressed the Roman Pontiff to convene one. Clement at length named Mantua as the place for it, but the Germans refused to have their disputes decided in Italy.

In 1541, Charles V. appointed a conference at Worms, between Eckius, Gropper, and Pflug, on the part of the Catholics; and Melancthon, Bucer, and Pistorius on the part of the Protestants. Here Melancthon and Eckius disputed for three days, but it was all in vain.

In 1545, the Pope with the consent of the emperor, issued letters for the convocation of a council; and Charles endeavored to persuade the Protestants to consent to its meeting at Trent. But they were firm; the patience of the emperor was exhausted; and, in his anger, he detetmined to resort to arms. The Protestants immediately took measures for defence. But while they were standing in this critical condition, and before the storm burst upon them, they were deprived of the man who had been their chief counsellor, supporter, and guide. Luther died in peace at Isleben, the place of his nativity, Feb. 18, 1546, and in the 63d year of his age.

This wonderful man was raised up by Divine Providence, and endowed with suitable capacities, to be the instrument of the greatest and most important revolution ever effected on our globe. If he had faults, he had also natural and moral endowments possessed by no other man, and which qualified him to withstand the whole power of the Papal dominion. His native firmness did not forsake him in his last hours. He conversed freely and fervently with his friends on the happiness reserved for good, men in a future state, and fell asleep. His funeral was attended with great pomp. He left several children. His posterity have been respectable in Germany.

The Papists expressed indecent joy at the news of his decease, and his friends were greatly dispirited; but both parties soon found that Luther was not dead. He lived in the hearts of his followers. He lived in the doctrines which he taught, and which were too firmly established in Europe to be destroyed.

A dark day, however, awaited the Protestants. The emperor and Pope had mutually agreed upon their extirpation. The meeting of the council of Trent was the signal for hostilities. This famous council was convened in 1546,

and was composed of 6 cardinals, 32 archbishops, 228 bishops, and a multitude of clergy. The Protestant princes in the diet at Ratisbon protested against its authority. The emperor proscribed them at once, and marched his army against them. The Protestants defended themselves with great spirit, but were defeated in battle, with much bloodshed, near Muhlberg, April 24, 1547. The elector of Saxony was taken prisoner, and the landgrave of Hesse, the other chief of the Protestant cause, was persuaded to throw himself upon the mercy of Charles.

The ruin of the Protestants seemed at hand. The emperor required the Lutherans to submit their case to the council of Trent. Most of them yielded. A plague, however, dispersed the council and nothing was done. The prospect of reassembling it was distant, and the emperor caused a form of faith and worship to be drawn up, which he imposed upon both parties. This was called the Interim. But it pleased neither party. No sooner was it published at Rome, than the indignation of the ecclesiastics rose to the greatest height. They called the emperor Uzzah, as touching the ark. The Protestants inveighed against it as containing the abominations of Popery, covered over with little art. Such as refused to submit to it were obliged to meet the arms of the emperor; and as their number was considerable, his whole empire was involved in the greatest calamities.

In 1548, the principal reformers assembled at Leipsic, to form rules for the regulation of their conduct. Melancthon, who had taken the place of Luther, gave it as his opinion, that the Interim might be adopted in things that did not relate to the essential points of religion, i. e. in things indisferent. A schism ensued which nearly proved fatal to their cause. Had their opponents seized the opportunity, they might have overthrown them.

In 1552, the council of Trent was again assembled. Many of the Protestants attended. But every step that was taken, tended to the destruction of the Protestants, and the re-establishment of the Papacy in all its terrors. Before its final close in 1563, this famous council had twenty-five sessions. In the view of the Papists, it illustrated and fixed the doctrine of the Roman Church, and restored the vigor of its discipline. Its decrees, with the creed of Pope Pius IV. contain a summary of the doctrines of the Roman Church. It widened and rendered for ever irreparable the breach between her and the Protestants. Among other

« הקודםהמשך »