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the midst of the debate, to whisper useful suggestions, that Eckius was provoked to exclaim at last,“ Hold your tongue, Philip, and mind your own business."
This was the beginning of Melancthon's public agency in the work of the Reformation. It drew him at once into the controversy, and he did not shrink from it. He gives in a letter his opinion of the disputants, allowing erudition and ingenuity to Eckius, but claiming bigher excellence for Luther, who had taken the place of Carlostadt in the discussion, and conducted it with a power, which was overcome only “ by noise and gesture.” This account brought upon Melancthon a violent attack from Eckius, which he answered by a tract, written with such mildness and acuteness, that it proved highly serviceable to the Lutheran cause. All that is here given us of this tract, exhibits its author as frank, intelligent, firm, and charitable, to a far greater degree than was common in the controversies of that day. We see no cowardice or indecision, nor a particle of bitterness or partisan ambition. His meekness and honesty are striking. "He is, believe me, the dearest of all my friends," he writes, “who is most honest and downright in his remarks ; for you know, as it is not my disposition to dissemble, so I always look upon flattering friends as they deserve.
Melancthon was so assiduous in the discharge of his duties in the University, that the omission of his lectures for the single day of his marriage, was a matter of public remark, and thrown into pleasant verse. This was in 1520, and the connexion then formed was of the happiest kind, giving bim, for thirty-seven years, a wife eminent for piety and active benevolence. Their house was free to all, and was crowded with applicants for every kind of aid. None were refused, but all treated with that attention and generosity, which show him to have been more kind than wise ; for it not only made a heavy tax upon his time, but exposed him to great impositions. He seems always to have been perfectly reckless of compensation for his own labors, and foolishly prodigal of his limited means. He had four children, and no press of public engagements ever made him forgetful of parental duties or domestic comforts.
The time had now come to test Melanctbon's courage, and compel bim either to retreat, or stand in the very front of the battle. It was in this year, that Luther was put under the ban of the Church; and though the Pope's bull against him was violently resisted and never fully executed, it had the effect of producing the crisis. His books were burnt. He, on the other hand, declared, that if he did not himself burn the whole pontifical code, it would only be from want of fire. Fire was found, and, in December, 1520, the bull and all similar documents were committed to the flames, and the die was cast. Melancthon was at his post at Wittenberg, but his pen was busy and his spirit strong for the condemned heretics. Martin still lives and prospers, notwithstanding the indignation and fury of Leo, to whom all things have hitherto been supposed possible. Nobody approves the bull which Eckius is enforcing, unless it be those who are more concerned for their own ease and indulgence than for the success of the Gospel.” The Diet at Worms follows; Luther appears before it, but recants nothing; its formidable edict is issued against him, and his danger is such, that his patron, the Elector, seizes him on his return from the Diet, and conceals him in the castle of Wartenberg for safety. This act placed Melancthon virtually at the head of the Reformers. So Luther represented the matter to him from his place of confinement, and so Melancthon himself regarded it. His constitutional melancholy, combining with his humility, made him tremble under the responsibility ; but he did not
He confronted the many opposers who started up in the absence of the heresiarch, at home and abroad. He directed not only his learning, but his powers of sarcasm, against the divines of the Sorbonne in France, who had published a formal condemnation of Luther's writings. He promptly answered them by “ An Apology for Luther, in Opposition to the furious Decree of the Parisian Theologasters.' This pamphlet is fearless and searching. Its tone and power may be judged of by a single sentence : “ You do not accuse, or convince by argument, but, contrary both to divine and human laws, at once condemn, and for no other reason than because you are the Sorbonne divines and lords of our faith to be sure! For shame! For shame! But stay, I must not treat the Sorbonne so irreverently!— The Sorbonne only is to be believed without SCRIPTURE!" This was but one of several able controversial pieces published by Melancthon this first year of the open revolt. Nor pamphlets alone. His great work, “Loci Communes Theologici," appeared about the same time, became at once popular in France and Italy as well as at home, and was spoken of by many in all places as “the best book next to the 30 s. VOL. II. NO. III.
holy Scriptures.” This work treats fully of almost every doctrine and duty, that has ever been drawn into controversy. It is decidedly trinitarian, and sufficiently orthodox for all but the Pope, and his thorough adherents. Its influence, however, must have been altogether in favor of free inquiry, the great hinge of the Reformation, and few works are supposed to have done better service to the cause. The power of calm faith which it manifests, and the spirit of piety and meekness which it breathes, are refreshing in the midst of such denunciations as came from almost every other quarter, not excepting by any means his brothers Luther and Calvin, much as they praised this work. The latter published an edition of it at Geneva in 1551, eulogizing its author in the strongest terms. A better eulogy would have been a slight portion of the same spirit.
During this memorable year, an attempt was made by the Augustinian Friars at Wittenberg to abolish private masses. The Elector, well-disposed but alarmed, remonstrated; wherefore Melancthon was chosen, with five others, to consider and carry it through. In their report to the Elector, they strongly urged him “to put an end to the Popish masses throughout his whole territory, and not to be deterred by the reproaches of those, who would brand him with the name of Heretic or Hussite." Frederic was still in favor of deferring, but they insisted and prevailed; so far as their act and influence could go, the measure was carried, and the Elector connived at innovations which he dared not publicly sanction.
It is well known, that Luther occupied himself, during his singular imprisonment by the Elector, in preparing his German version of the Scriptures for publication, on which he labored indefatigably. He tells us, “I translated not only the Gospel of John, but the whole New Testament, in my Patmos; and Melancthon and I have begun to revise the whole.”. Melanctbon had aided bim in this work before he left his place of concealment; and when, in March, 1522, Luther resolved to face the world again at all hazards, and returned to Wittenberg without consulting even Frederic, Melancthon and four others engaged with him in the work, and published it in separate portions, until the whole was completed in 1530. About this time, Melancthon's Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans was also published; not by its author, but by Luther, who, with his wonted boldness, stole the manuscript, printed it, and then apologized by saying, that he had only done what Melancthon ought to have done, and that he should do the same with his Comments on other parts of the Bible, if he did not send them out himself. The appearance of different portions of the Bible, in this gradual way, and with the authority of such names, gave a prodigious impulse to the Reformation. A counter influence, however, was felt from the mad zeal of a few of the Reformers, especially Carlostadt, — from the general division in their ranks on the Sacramental controversy, one of the most childish and violent, yet one of the most instructive of all controversies, - and from the death, in 1525, of Frederic the Elector, the early friend, and steady though timid defender of the heretical cause. In the controversy just referred to, Melancthon stood with Luther
support of the real presence, against Zuingle, with whom he afterward held a personal public discussion, though to no purpose. Still he labored to effect a reconciliation between the parties, which was repeatedly prevented by the violence of Luther, but was partially accomplished many years later, after the death of Zuingle. There was another controversy, of a less public nature, between Luther and Erasmus, in which the former called Erasmus all manner of hard names, and Melancthon as usual endeavoured to soften his asperity. Dr. Cox tells us, that Melancthon himself received long and artful letters from Erasmus, endeavouring to prejudice bim against Luther and the unpopular side. We incline to think that Dr. Cox makes Erasmus worse than he was; for, though there is evidence of his timidity and duplicity, enough to make one blush and weep for the man, it is not to be forgotten that his writings and early efforts were decidedly for reform, that there was scarcely a corrupt opinion or practice of the Romish Church which he did not assail before Luther, and that he gave some reason for that common saying of the day : “Erasmus laid the egg, and Luther hatched it.” * We have no thought of palliating the shrinking and shuffling policy of Erasmus. He was not made for a Reformer of the age in which he lived, and might never have removed the deeprooted evils of any age. He understood himself better than he undersood the claims of Christianity at such a time, when
Erasmus, however, is reported to have said, in reference to this proverb, “ But I laid a hen's egg, and Luther hath hatched a very different bird.”
he said, “I had no inclination to die for the sake of the truth. Every man hath not the courage requisite to make a martyr; and I am afraid, that, if I were put to the trial, I should imitate St. Peter." * This is melancholy. But neither this, nor any degree of weakness, should prevent our acknowledging the eminent services which he rendered, at different times and in many ways, to the cause of truth and letters. We have thought that the character of Melancthon presents a happy medium between those of Luther and Erasmus; combining enough of the decision of the one with the caution of the other, without the violence or cowardice of either. And we are struck with a fact which Cox relates of Luther, that he was found on one occasion drawing his own and other characters in the following brief sentence: “Res et verba, Philippus; verba sine rebus, Erasmus; res sine verbis, Lutherus; nec res, nec verba, Carolostadius."
A prominent act in the life of Melancthon is the part he took in the great Diet of Augsburg, at which the Emperor Charles the Fifth presided, in 1530. Luther, having been proscribed by the edict of Worms, could not be present, and the Reformers, to whom the occasion was one of most anxious interest, threw the chief labor and responsibility on Melancthon. He was prevailed upon, though his diffidence resisted for some time, to draw up for the Emperor, and the papal delegates, an extended statement of the views of his own party. The result was the celebrated Confession of Augsburg, from the pen of Melancthon. It was presented both in German and Latin, and, when it was read and the Catholics were asked if they could overthrow it out of the Scriptures, even Eckius declared, — “No; by the Holy Scriptures we cannot overthrow it, but we may by the Fathers. This they attempted in the statement offered in reply, which was sustained by Charles in an oration that Melancthon calls infamous. Every attempt was made to awe or win back the Protestants to the infallible church. Melancthon was particularly assailed, in the hope that his gentle nature would yield. It did yield every thing unimportant, and in the final conference, in which the whole matter was left to him and Eckius, the principal points of dispute were reduced to three, mass, vows, and the celibacy of priests. Here neither side would make any
* Jortin's Life of Erasmus, Vol. I. p. 250.