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communicated to them his Holy spirit. And if, as we have reason to believe was the case, they feared God, they are among the hundred forty and four thousand who now stand with the Lamb on Mount Zion.
The Taborites were those Bohemian brothers called piccards and beghards who joined Luther in the reformation. Their descendants and followers are no to be found in the same countries.
The brethren and sisters of the Free Spirit, called in the Flemish, Beggards and Beguins, were a numerous people in Holland and Germany who seemed to turn from the ceremonies and superstitions of popery to something like inward piety and spiritual contemplation, and were most violently persecuted by the magistrates and Roman clergy in the fourteenth century.
Thus have we seen the witnesses hitherto prophecying in sackloth, from the first rise of the papal dominion. We shall now behold them indeed triumplant in the great reformation ; though, wherever the Man of sin rules they will be subjected to oppression, and if possible, death, until his dominion be taken away.
Circumstances in Europe favouring a reformation.-Philip's tri
umph over Boniface. Removal of the Pope to Avignon. Great Western schism. Mendicants unpopular. General demand for a reform. Council of Constance. Discouragements.-Character of the Popes. Their power. Low state of Religion and Learning Immediate causes.-Avarice of the Popes. Sale of Indulgences opposed by Martin Luther. Luther's birth and education. Retires into a monastery. Reads the Scriptures. Made professor at Wittemberg. Opposes Tetzel. Meets with applause. Circumstances favouring his cause.-Summoned to Rome. Appears before Cajetan and Miltitz. Disputes with Eckius. Reformation commences in Switzerland. Erasmus. Melanchton. Frederick the Wise. Luther excommunicated. Burns the Pope's bull, and establishes the Lutheran Church. Summoned to th Diet of W ms. His defence and condemnation. Secreted at Wartburg. Re-appears, and publishes the New Testament in German. Preaches the Gospel with great success.
From what has passed before him, the reader will gain some general view of the deplorable state of the Christian world at the commencement of the sixteenth century. The Papal power was not, perhaps, so great as it once had been. Boniface VIII. may be viewed as having stood, in the fourteenth century, on that proud and guilty eminence of absolute spiritual and temporal dominion, which had been the desire of almost every pontiff through successive ages. Provoked by his haughty and overbearing demeanour, Philip, king of France, hurled him from his seat, and he died in disgrace and anguish. To prevent such almost uncontrollable dominion at Rome, Philip placed a Frenchman in the Papal see, and fixed his residence at Avignon in France. This remained the seat of the Papacy for 70 years ;-a period called, by the Catholics, the Babylonish captivity. But this removal from Rome greatly weakened the power of the Pontiffs. It removed their personal influence, which had been immense, from the eternal city. It gave their enemies in Rome an opportunity to cabal against them, and ravage with impunity, St. Peter's patrimony. Many Italian cities revolted from the Pope. Decrees sent from Avignon, were treated with contempt. Other parts of Europe caught the same feeling ; and, from this time, the thunders of the Pontiffs were heard without much fear or dread: Another circumstance arising out of this, which weakened the Papal power, was the great Western schism. The Romans, wishing to have the Pope reside at Rome, elected one in opposition to the Pope at Avignon. Europe became divided and distracted. For fifty years, the church had two and sometimes three Popes or heads, who did little but hurl anathemas at each other. The distress and scandal of the age baffle description.
The mendicants also, throughout Europe, began to fall under a general odium. Their authority, rapaciousness, filth, and wickedness, provoked the rage of almost all classes. In England, the University made a resolute stand against them by her champion Wickliffe ; and in France many efforts were made to destroy their exorbitant power. Their internal conflicts were many and violent. These the Pontiffs endeavoured to subdue, and always with loss of power.
Besides the opposition of the true and faithful witnesses, the Romish communion found many in her own bosom, who, from time to time, exposed her vices and corruptions. Dante and Petrarch, in the fourteenth century, wrote against the corruptions of Rome; treating her as Babylon and the Pope as Antichrist ; and, by their wit and raillery, did them incredible mischief. In the same age, Peter Fitz Cassiodor addressed a remonstrance to the church of England against the tyranny and wickedness of Rome, urging a secession. Michael Cæsenus and William Occum exposed the various errors and heresies of John XXII. And Marsilius, a lawyer of Padua, wrote a trea-, tise, entitled The Defender of Peace, in which he powerfully contested the Papal claim to Divine authority, or pre-eminence over other bishops. In the year 1436, Thomas Rhedon, a Carmelite friar, saw the corruptions of the papacy, and so boldly exposed them, that he was burned alive. One Jerome Savanarola, an Italian monk, also inveighed against the corruption of the papacy, and preached the doctrine of free justification by faith in Christ. He, with two companions, were imprisoned and burned alive at Florence, A. D. 1499. Thomas a Kempis, the reputed author of the Imitation of Jesus Christ, who died in 1471, did much to enlighten the world in the nature of true piety. John Wesselus, of Groningen, shed much light on the surrounding darkness. Indeed, he has been denominated the light of the world, and the great forerunner of Luther; for he not only exposed the corruptions of popery, but preached many of those doctrines which Luther afterwards proclaimed, and which lay at the basis of the reformation.
These and other witnesses in the bosom of the Papal Church, had excited a general feeling throughout Europe in favour of a reformation. Loud and repeated calls were made upon the ruling powers for a general council, to heal prevailing divisions and abuses. At length the Council of Constance was convened for this purpose.
It was composed of 20 archbishops, 150 bishops, 150 other dignitaries, and 200 doctors. The Emperor Sigismund and the Pope were at its head. But what acts of reformation could be expected from men who were themselves grossly corrupt ;~from men, whose highest interest it was to have things remain just as they were, or rather become more degenerate ? Besides, had they been disposed to do according to their best ability, they could only have effected a partial reformation of a few external corruptions. The source of evil would have remained. This was the doctrine of justification by human merit ; the foundation of indulgences and almost every evil in the Papal world. This could only have been overturned by the true doctrine of justification through faith in the blood of Christ ; and of this probably all in the council were ignorant. They did little, therefore, but condemn the writings of Wickliffe, and burn Huss and Jerom, better reformers than the whole assembly. Other councils were subsequently composed for the like purpose, but were equally ineffectual. The general demand, however, for a reformation of abuses continued, and was very favourable to the interests of religion.
But notwithstanding these circumstances, favourable to a reformation, the condition of Christendom was extremely deplorable. If the Popes swayed not the sceptre which was once in their hands, they still maintained and exercised a most awful despotism over the souls and consciences of men.
At the commencement of the century the chair was filled by Alexander VI., a monster in iniquity, who was continually guilty of the most execrable crimes. He was succeeded first by Pius III.; and then, by Julius II., who was furious for war and bloodshed, and whose pontificate was a scene of military violence. His place was filled, in 1513, by Leo X., of the family of the Medicis; a man of literature and a promoter of learning, but a stranger to vital pietyaccused even of atheism, and a man who spared no pains to uphold the wealth and grandeur of the Roman see.
This immense power, wielded by a thousand dignitaries, and holding in subjection the potentates of the earth, the Waldenses were too feeble to molest; while the Hussites, wearied by long contentions, were glad of the liberty of living and worshipping God, without being further molested or molesting others.
of the low state of religion and of its monstrous perversions, we in this age, can have no adequate conception. It is thus described by Frederic Myconius, a writer of that period. 66 The passion and satisfaction of Christ, were treated as a bare history, like the Odyssey of Homer ; concerning faith, by which the righteousness of the Redeemer and eternal life are apprehended, there was the deepest silence. Christ was described as a severe judge, ready to condemn all who were destitute of the intercession of saints and of pontifical interest. In the room of Christ were substituted as saviours and intercessors, the Virgin Mary, like a Pagan Diana, and other saints who, from time to time had been created by the Popes. Nor were men, it seems, entitled to the benefit of their prayers except they deserved it of them by their works. What sort of works was necessary for this end was distinctly explained ; not the works prescribed in the decalogue, and enjoined on all mankind, but such as enrich the priests and monks. Those who died neglecting these, were consigned to hell, or at least to purgatory, till they were redeemed from it by a satisfaction made either by themselves or their proxies. The frequent pronunciation of the Lord's prayer, and the salutation of the Virgin, and the recitations of the canonical hours, constantly engaged those who undertook to be religious. An incredible mass of ceremonial observances was every where visible, while gross wickedness was practised under the cncouragement of indulgences, by which the guilt of the crime was easily expiated. The preaching of the word was the least part of the episcopal function; rites and processions employed the bishops perpetually when engaged in religious service. The number of clergy was enormous, and their lives were most scandalous.”
From this representation, we may easily perceive that an awful ignorance of religion, accompanied by the vilest superstition, pervaded all classes. The public schools of learning were filled by monks ;-a class of men, who had a barbarous aversion to all mental improvement, and who thought they did God service, if they locked up the faculties of youth.
Scholastic divinity, and the logic of Aristotle, filled the schools. Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas, who lived in the 13th, and Duns Scotus of the 14th century, became the heads of powerful sects, called the Scotists and Thomists, who were ever disputing about the nature of the divine co-operation with the human will, the measure of divine grace essential to salvation, personal identity, and the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary. By them philosophy was carried, it was