תמונות בעמוד

concessions, and Melancthon, unyielding in principle but dreading the consequences, writes — “We expect violent measures, for no moderation can satisfy the Popish faction. They, in fact, seek our destruction. Pray that God may preserve us.' A decree was at length issued, the Diet having been in session from June to November, condemning the new doctrines utterly, and putting all who refused to disown them under the ban of the empire. The Protestant princes and divines retired dissatisfied and disappointed, but not dismayed. They immediately took defensive measures for the preservation of their liberties. The following description of one of their conferences is pleasant, and exhibits some of Melancthon's most remarkable traits.

“Soon after these transactions, Melancthon, Luther, and other divines met together to consult on the best measures to be adopted in the present exigency. After having spent some time in prayer to God, from whom alone they could expect adequate assistance, Melancthon was called suddenly out of the room, from which he retired under great depression of spirits. He saw during his absence some of the elders of the reformed churches with their parishioners and families. Several children were also brought hanging at the breast, while others a little older were engaged in prayer. This reminded him, he said, of the prophetic language, * Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.' Animated by this interesting scene, he returned to his friends with a disencumbered mind and a cheerful countenance. Luther, astonished at this sudden change, said, • What now! what has happened to you, Philip, that you are become so cheerful?' 'O sirs,' replied Melancthon, let us 'not be discouraged, for I have seen our noble protectors, and such as I will venture to say will prove invincible against every foe!' * And pray,' returned Luther, thrilling with surprise and pleasure, who and where are these powerful heroes ?' – 'Oh!' said Melancthon, they are the wives of our parishioners and their little children, whose prayers I have just witnessed, prayers which I am satisfied our God will hear : for as our heavenly Father and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has never despised nor rejected our supplications, we have reason to trust that he will not in the present alarming crisis.'

Melancthon's services at this time were in great demand. There seems to have been a peculiar confidence reposed both in his learning and discretion. Almost all important transac

-p: 187.

tions, especially in writing, were intrusted to him. A Directory was to be composed for the use of the reformed churches. It was committed to Melancthon, under the immediate sanction of the Elector John, who had succeeded his brother Frederic, and, being of a more decided character, was a still more powerful patron of the Reformers. The Directory, which was thus prepared, was called “Libellus Visitatorius," and is worthy of mention because great use was made of it by the Papists, to prove the defection of Melancthon from the principles of Luther. In this they exulted, and renewed their attempts to gain the yielding dissenter. He thus speaks of it. — “I am applied to from Bohemia to desert the reformed cause, and promised any remuneration from King Ferdinand. Indeed my defection is publicly reported as a fact, because, in the little book written for the reformed churches, I have shown an increased degree of moderation ; and yet you perceive, I have really inserted nothing different from what Luther constantly maintains. But because I have employed no asperity of language, these very acute men judge, that I necessarily differ from Luther.” He was now strongly importuned, by special messengers from Francis the First, to visit France to appease the disputes of the Church there; and soon after a similar invitation came from Henry the Eighth, to visit England. It is evident, however, that these solicitations proceeded more from political than religious considerations; and it was probably well that Melancthon was prevented by the Elector from complying with thein, though himself inclined to do so. The public execution of six Lutherans at Paris, about the same time, shows what reliance could be placed upon the professions of Francis ; and every one knows that Henry was more interested then in divorces than in reformations. He renewed the attempt more than once to prevail on Melancthon to visit him ; but it resulted only in a correspondence, in which the reformer did all in his power to turn the influence of the monarch to the benefit of true religion.

It is an index to the state of the times and to the conduct of most of the Reformers, that the only one of them, who seems to have been distinguished for a mild and conciliating temper, was continually suspected of deserting their cause. Melancthon could not even take a journey for his health, to which he was several times compelled, without being charged with having quarrelled with Luther and separated from his adherents.


And yet there was hardly a council on any occasion of importance, at which tlie burden of the Protestant efforts was not thrown upon him, and manfully sustained. Another instance of this occurred in 1537, in the general council held at Smalcald, which Luther was prevented from attending by severe illness. The great question there was, how much might be conceded to the Catholics for peace and harmony without yielding principle. And to this question Melancthon was employed to prepare the

He did it in a manner, that satisfied many, and should have satisfied all his calumniators, that his principles were uncompromising, and his courage fully equal to his mildness. The paper was of signal use in strengthening the hands of the Protestants, and many events soon followed which gave them new encouragement and success, their cause being openly espoused by several powerful princes. But the happiness of Melancthon himself was greatly abated by his own hypochondriacal temperament, by the misconduct of a son-in-law, by sickness which reduced him to the last degree, and from which, he afterward said, nothing but the arrival of his friend Luther could have revived him; and not least, by the extravagance of the Sacramentarians, and the bitterness of Luther in that controversy. The friends appear to have come nearer a separation on this last point, than on any other, such was the vehemence of the one, and the forbearance of the other. From one declaration of Melancthon, we infer that his mind was not entirely satisfied with the doctrine of the real presence, though he adhered to it. "I commit the affair to Christ, that his divine wisdom may best consult his own glory. I have hitherto always entertained the hope, that he could, by some means, make it plain what is the true doctrine of the sacrament.

The period from 1545 to 1550 was marked by the most desperate attempts on the part of the Pope, aided by the insidious Emperor Charles, to subdue the Reformers, though by the edge of the sword. At this crisis, in 1546, Luther died; and Melancthon, after twenty-eight years of uninterrupted intimacy

with one who did much to animate and nerve his courage, was compelled to stand alone. Having pronounced the funeral oration, which Dr. Cox gives at length, he returned in sorrow, but not dismay, to the arduous, and, at that moment, perilous work of leading the Reformation, at least in all written declarations. He attended seven conferences, and wrote all the pieces that were presented, and this without abandoning his

[ocr errors]

duties as Professor ; for, although the commotions of the day had at one time driven him and his family from Wittenberg and scattered the students, within a year he again collected them and went on calmly with his lectures. Again the University was driven from Wittenberg by the plague, and again reassembled by Melancthon, at Torgau, no cares nor fears being able to turn him from his love of literature and efforts to promote it. His devotion to this is remarkable, when we look at the character of the times, and the press of public, exciting, and responsible duties always devolving upon him. He describes himself just at this time as “tormented upon the rack of incessant engagement, and absolutely distracted with writing disputations, rules and regulations, prefaces, and letters."

We are pleased to see Dr. Cox's independent and unqualified testimony in regard to the death of Servetus, which took place in 1553. But we are grieved and exceedingly surprised to see Melancthon approving of that death, and praising the piety and judgment of those who caused it. “And yet we are constantly taught, by the past and the present, not to expect to find any man entirely free from the corruptions of his own age, either in doctrine or conduct. The gross inconsistency of the Reformers of that day, and of some Protestants and Puritans of a later day, read wholesome lessons to those who would study the human heart. It is time, that all biographers expressed themselves as fearlessly, as the one before us, in reprobation of the part which Calvin acted in the dark tragedy now referred to. And the time may come, it will come as surely as “knowledge shall be increased," when few names will stand higher among those to be honored for the Reformation, than the name of Michael Servetus. The principle, for which he contended and died, was the very principle advocated by Melancthon in his last conference with the opposite party, at Worms, in 1557. The subject of dispute was, the rule of judgment in religious concerns; a subject in which he was decided and uncompromising. He seemed to regard it in its true light, as the one great question of the Reformation. He aimed, more directly and honestly than some who have followed him in the Protestant ranks, to merge all other questions in this,- Whether the Church or the Bible be supreme? And if he did not always see as clearly, that the same individual and independent mind, which decides for

itself that question, must be allowed also to decide for itself what the Bible teaches and demands, - we must remember, that there are thousands still, who cannot see, or will not own, that principle of the Reformation, though they appropriate to themselves the doctrines, and glory in the success, of the Reformers. The true doctrine of the Reformation itself, and of Christianity, is well expressed by Dr. Cox in these words: “ It is the birth-right of every human being to think for himsell; be is amenable alone to conscience and to God for bis religious sentiments, and whoever attempts to legislate for the free-born soul, and coerce the faith of another, is perpetrating one of the most detestable of crimes, robbing man of his liberty, and God of his authority.

While Melanchon was engaged in the conference at Worms, he heard of the death of his wife. This with other domestic trials preyed upon bis health, and made him sensible that bis race was nearly run. Suill be continued his labors incessantly, and issued the next year, the first part of his great work, the Chronicon, comprising a general history of leading events, from the creation to the period of the Reformation. On this work, and in the duties of his professorship, he labored alınost to the last day of bis life. Nothing could prevent bis going to meet his students, after he was so weak that he could scarcely stand. His mind retained all its vigor to the last, and bis serenity of spirit and words of parting, were those of an apostle who has finished his course and kept the faith. He died in April, 1560, at the age of sixty-three.

It would not be a wise use of our own time, or that of our readers, to attempt a formal delineation of the character of Melancthon. If we have given any thing like a faithful sketch of his life, every one can best read the character there for himself. Dr. Cox seems to us to have performed the office of a biographer, - a far more difficult and responsible office, than is thought by many who venture upon it, - with industry and impartiality, though not with the highest degree of ability. He has not claimed for the subject of his notice, all excellence, entire freedom from error or failings; but be has vindicated him successfully from every charge of pusillanimity and time-serving. He has shown that he possessed the very opposite qualities in no ordinary measure. He has shown it by facts, more than by assertions or reasonings; facts, which require the inference, and attest the character, expressed by

- 3D S. VOL. II. NO. III. 37


« הקודםהמשך »