תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

crotchet, Luther showed the fierceness, with little or none of the generosity, of the lion. Witness the Marburg Conference, when his Hoc est corpus meum was rather flung in the face of his opponents than calmly weighed, when he refused Zwingle's hand, though held out to him with tears, and when with bitter petulance he commended the magnanimous Zuricher, with Ecolampadius, and the whole Swiss party, to the uncovenanted mercies of God.* As to Melancthon, whose services in the cause of the Reformation can hardly be over-estimated, besides being long under complete bondage to Luther on the subject of the Sacrament-as appears by the early editions of his Loci Communes, and his letters-he had himself strong traditional leanings, as his conduct in reference to the Interim too plainly showed, for years after his soul had been set free on the subject of justification and kindred truths.f Dread of

* Niebuhr makes a strong statement when he says, “Luther took his stand upon tradition. He sketched out no new outline. He only cleansed it from what, according to his own notion of the original, were defacing additions. Hence sprang his doctrine of the Eucharist.—(Life and Letters of B. G. Niebuhr, 1852, vol. ii., p. 124.) But on the sacramental question, at least, beyond all doubt liis original was tradition, and the touches which it received at his hand, instead of improving it, merely substituted an unintelligible figment for a gross contradiction.

+ His Letters-of which the completest and most beautiful collection is that of Bretschneider, in the Corpus Reformatorum, 4to, 1834, &c.—curiously illustrate the injurious influence of Luther over his gentle spirit for many years in regard to the Swiss Reformers and their views. On the 4th May 1527, for example, he wrote to Spalatin, “I have hardly any news to give you, but the arrival of many cartloads of books on the sacrament by Zwingle, Ecolampadius, and Bucer, now filling every library with profane and deadly attacks upon this one doctrine. They urge this single point as if piety depended upon no other doctrine. Zwingle has even written a threatening letter to Luther.”—(No. 440.) From Luther's own description of this letter, charging it with “pride, calumny, doggedness, hatred, and all malice, though couched in the choicest terms," it is easy to see how intense was the prejudice of our two Reformers at that time against the Swiss.-(Compare No. 525.) 'A few months before the Mar. burg Conference, Melancthon wrote to Ecolampadius himself (No. 598), expressing firmly his doctrine of the real presence, but in a style highly respectful. After this, however, when Zwingle was doing his utmost to get liberty from his civil protectors to undertake the dangerous journey to Marburg, Melancthon lent himself to a piece of discreditable finesse, writing to the Elector's son (No. 607), and through him to the Elector himself (No. 608), to urge him to prohibit Luther and himself from going to Marburg. This the Elector very properly declined to do. (See his Letter, No. 612. Bretschneider gives them in the German originals. See also Dr M. D'Aubigné, Hist. of Reform., iv., pp. 72, 73, Oliver & Boyd.) After the conference, Melancthon wrote to the Elector's son, to the Duke of Saxony, and to several of his friends, an account of the proceedings, all in nearly the same terms, not very creditable to his impartiality. (No. 637, &c.) In one of these letters he says, “ Our adversaries seemed milder (leniores) than I had imagined;" but in another, he changes the term into“ much more phlegmatic” (multo frigidiores). And as an illustration of this, he says, “They vehementlyinsisted we should recognise them as brethren. See their stupidity! While condemning us they want nevertheless to be treated as brethren! But this we declined.” Thus, because the Swiss, though they could not swallow Luther's fantastic notion on the sacrament, desired at least the right hand of fellowship from their Wittemberg brethren, the very proposal was construed into indifference about their own views. And in his letters to the princes, Melancthon tries to justify this miserable refusal. His nature, however, was essentially noble, and in January 1530, not long after this, we find a letter beginning ** Viro optimo, Johanni Ecolampadio, patri suo in Christo.”--(No. 658.) Still, the prejudice held on ; for in June of that same year, a humiliating correspondence took place between the Landgrave on the one hand, and Melancthon and Brentius on the other; the Landyrave entreating them, for the sake of the common cause and the love of Christ, to give up their unbrotherly treatment of the Swiss, and quoting Scripture against them with touching force, while they in reply do their poor best to justify their having nothing to do with them (No. 718-720); and until about 1532,

*

leing identified with the Swiss seemed perpetually to haunt both Luther and Melancthon, and to dictate too many of their measures. They boasted to their common enemy how totally they differed from the southern heretics, and how execrable they deemed their views, in the vain hope of propitiating towards their isolated selves the rage of those who sought only to fan their dissensions, the more easily to destroy them both. At the diet of Augsburg, at which Melancthon's Confession was presented as the creed of the Protestants, the noble one drawn up by Bucer, called the Tetrapolitan,* though presented at the same time, was ignored by the high party, and the Swiss deputies themselves were avoided in the city as vipers. In the truce of Nuremberg, by which, when the empire was menaced by the Turks, the free exercise of their religion was conditionally granted to the Protestants, they were required to disclaim all connection with the Sacramentarians, as the opponents of Luther's views came to be styled ; and, by heartily agreeing to this, Luther put all Protestants who could not go into his peculiar notions on this point under the imperial ban. Two years before, he had given his assent to the League of Smalcald, on the express understanding that those states which adhered to the Tetrapolitan Confession, or in other words to the Swiss views, should not be embraced in it; and they were excluded accordingly. The disastrous consequences of this step are sufficiently known; and Melancthon's remark at an after period--that God had kept them from uniting lest the strength they would thereby have acquired should make them forget their dependence upon Himself-reads more like a satire upon their infatuation than à devout reflection. The history of the Church of Scotland, however, a century after that, furnishes a melancholy parallel to this infatuation. It puts on the guise of zeal for God, but it is nothing better than a specious form of human infirmity. Churches are as slow as individual Christians to learn the lesson of the wise man, “Be not righteous overmuch, neither make thyself overwise : why shouldest thou destroy thyself?"

On the death of Luther, who in 1546 fell asleep in Jesus, the lead of course devolved

upon Melancthon ; and began to be seen what sad work the imperfections of these when a change begins to appear, which by degrees issued in a feeling the very opposite, Melancthon's whole correspondence breathes a decidedly hostile tone towards the Swiss

Printed in Niemeyer's “ Collectio" (1840), pp. 740-770. For obvious reasons it was handled much more severely than Melancthon's, by Faber and Eck, who were appointed to refute it.

*** Bucerus et Capito "-writes Brentius, 15th July 1530—“superioribus diebus huc si Angustam venerunt, quibuscum ad aliquot horas de sacramento contuli

. Ambeunt et coloquium cum Philippo. Sed hoc hactenus recusavit, et petit, rem agi literis, ne suo enlloyaio aperto NOSTRAM causom gravet.(No. 777.) Melancthon himself after, wards admitted that this was his reason for avoiding them.

now

her two master-spirits had prepared for Protestant Germany. Those who are honoured to lead great public movements in the kingdom of God have need, especially in the early stages of them, of more than ordinary grace to save them from mistakes, or where these through inevitable imperfection have been committed, to repair them in time to prevent them becoming chronic disorders and ineradicable maladies in the system which comes out of their hands.

About fourteen years

before this, Melancthon's tone had begun to soften towards the Swiss on the subject of the Sacrament. With Bucer's moderate views he was increasingly pleased, and the frequent letters which passed between them tended not only to do away with the shameful prejudice against that body of Reformers which had existed among all Luther's intimate friends, but to draw them closer upon other important points.* By degrees this change appeared in the successive editions of his Loci Communes, and in his other writings; and the weight of the Protestant cause in Germany now lying on his shoulders, he did his best to bring the whole doctrine of the Church into a moderate and consistent form, approximating to that of the Reformed divines, though short of what was soon afterwards termed systematic Calvinism, But this only plunged “a sword into his own bowels," and filled the Church with the bitterest rancour. The pacification of Passau (1552), and the subsequent peace of Augsburg (1555), which ratified the independence of German Protestantism and became the charter of its liberties, embraced only the adherents of the Augsburg Confession, to the exclusion, according to the approved policy, of the Reformed, who for a century thereafter were unrecognised by the empire. The natural consequence was, that every approach to the views of the latter body of Protestants was hotly resented by the partizans of the former, as a blow inflicted not more upon the orthodoxy than upon the liberties and political security of the Church. By his way of treating the Interim, Melancthon raised the ugly question about things indifferent—known as the Adiaphoristic controversy. By endeavouring to soften down some of Luther's statements about the bearing of good works on salvation, he brought a

* The virulence of this prejudice cannot be better illustrated than in the following brief description of Bucer, immediately after the Marburg Conference, by Justus Jonas, in a letter to a friend. “In Bucero calliditas vulpina perverse imitata pruden. tiam et acumen."-(Bretschneider, No. 634). To much the same effect writes Bren. tius, during the sitting of the Diet, 1530 : Hominis (Buceri) dolos et fraudes agnoscit (Lutherus) qui vobiscum simulat, sese a sententia nostra non abesse, absens sparsit, nos in suam sententiam concedere." The next sentence is in the same inex. cusable strain.-(Ib., No. 893). But let any one compare Melancthon's German letter to the Landgrave, in February 1535 (Ib., No. 1248)-observing how he longs for the healing of this sad breach, and expresses his eagerness to do any thing in his power to promote it-with the one we referred to in the note to page 4, and he will at once see how Melancthon's feelings had changed during the few intervening years.

kost of Luther-worshippers about his ears, which issued in the Majorist controversy. His somewhat crude statements about the co-operation of the human will with the grace of God in conversion, meeting with equally rash statements on the other side, produced the Synergistic controversy. And finally, to say nothing of the Osiandrist, Stancarist, and other sad controversies in which he had to take a part, the newly-founded University of Jena-erected by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, the chief protector of the Protestant faith after the desertion of Maurice of Saxony, for the express purpose of upholding the strictest Lutheranism-was filled at once with a batch of able but fierce in Tokarriyes, intense Anti-Philippists, as the enemies of Melancthon were styled, men Luthero lutheraniores, who made it their first business to re-edit the works of Luther, and set themselves to hold up every thing which he had put forth, no matter what marks of haste and looseness it might bear on its face, as what all Lutherans were to be stringently and perpetually bound by, but which Melancthon and his Wittemberg doctors were now treacherously undermining.* Thus were the latter days of Melancthon embittered by every species of abuse. But his noble spirit at length took flight from the region of controversy. His favourite litany—“From contentious divines, good Lord deliver us "—now received a gracious answer in his own case. What he was wont, in his calm musings, to anticipate as one prime ingredient of the heavenly felicity—“Thou shalt be freed from the rage (rabie) of controversialists,"—was now realised. In 1560 he “entered into peace.

entered into peace.” But when they could no longer reach himself, his enemies fell with fury upon his writings and his followers; and so widely did the flame soon spread, and so fiercely did it rage, that all Protestant Germany became involved in it. The unpublished manuscripts of Melancthon were scandalously seized, some of

*

A very different estimate was formed of his works by the great Reformer himself. In the preface to the first volume of them, dated the year before his death, he says he had been dragged into the publication of his collected works by the pertinacity of those who, if he refused, would issue them after his death, in ignorance of the causes azd circumstances of them, that he had much rather they had been buried in perpetual oblivion; that they were a rude and undigested chaos, and that he never could think of burying the labours of antiquity under his novelties, and bindering the study of the former by the obtrusion of the latter, especially as methodical works, and particularly Philip's Common Places, which were abundant for all theological purposes, had given the Reformed doctrine systematic shape. After his death, Melancthon carried the publication through to its close. And yet Flacius, who personally owed every thing to Melancthon during his early studies, not only issued from Jena an edition of his own, but in the face of Luther's dying testimony, in the preface aforesaid, to his unabated confidence in Melancthon, made use of the writings of the former to blacken and blast the reputation of the latter. It is affecting to read his replies to the “Illyrian viper"--for such even the gentle Melancthon scrupled not to call this Ishmaelite -and to observe how, while hurling back upon himself bis calumnious untruths, he could in the same breath acknowledge mistakes, and ask pardon of them from God. That Flacius, in bis furious Lutheran zeal, went himself off the perpendicular at last upon original sin, for which he got himself condemned as a semi-Manichæan, is very well known.

them almost ready for publication, and every means taken to withdraw his works from public view and brand his memory with infamy !* Not content with hunting down every decided Philippist or Crypto-Calvinist, as they were now termed, and watching the movements of all whose leanings even were suspected to lie in that direction, the civil arm was brought down upon them. Strigel was cast into prison, where he lay for three years. Hardenberg, one of Melancthon's most excellent and enlightened friends, was deposed and banished from Bremen for his attachment to the Reformed views, which nevertheless he had so successfully inculcated, that ere that century closed, the republic itself embraced the Genevese platform.f Peucer-Melancthon's son-in-law, and head of the University of Wittemberg, who, though a physician, a professor of natural philosophy, and author of several professional works, took a warm interest in the theological questions of his day, edited his illustrious relative's works, publicly maintained his views, and wrote against “ The Ubiquity of Christ's Human Nature," which the Lutherans found it necessary to hold in defence of their figment on the sacrament—this superior man was imprisoned for ten years with every aggravating circumstance of rigour. But as it was found neither easy nor pleasant to extirpate by physical force these Crypto-Calvinists, and others who were not quite up to the mark of high Lutheranism, the Elector of Saxony got drawn up that famous Form of Concord-or rather, as it turned out, of Discord-(Formula Concordiæ) in 1576, which, by fixing precisely the approved orthodoxy, and condemning specifically whatever was opposed

*“ Ex quibu8 ”-says Pezel, Melancthon's successor at Wittemberg, in his preface to a third volume of his Letters which he issued in 1590—“tanta aliquorum Ü@gis fuit, tantaque odii acerbitas, ut ad nomen Philippi æterna oblivione obruendum, cum reliqua ejus scripta jam ante in lucem edita, ex manibus discentium eripere satagerent, adeoque ne typis quidem imprimi amplius vellent : Tum, quæ manuscripta, necdum edita, inter chartas eruditorum restabant, supprimere ac delere in universum, haud obscure conati fuerint. Cujus rei vel unum hoc exemplum commemorabo. Intellexerant aliqui ex xeroy@w istorum numero, in vasis in quibus supellex libraria M. Wolfgang Crelliit erat, mediocrem acervum latere, cum Epistolarum Melancthonis, tum judiciorum Ejus de variis controversiis. Quæsito ergo vanissimo prætextu, non quieverunt prius, quam vasis jam Witeberga avehendis reclusis atque apertis, pleraque prope parata ad editionem, pro libitu suo eximerent, sibique reservarent."-(Bretschneider, ut supra, vol. i., p. 1., li.),

+ A curious and instructive fact in regard to the trial of Hardenberg is mentioned by Dr Pusey, in a work published five years before he came out as a Puseyite, on his return from Germany full of zeal against those Church-views for which he has since become so conspicuous. We allude to his "Historical Enquiry into the Probable Causes of the Rationalist Character lately predominant in the Theology of Germany" (1828). “In the trial of Hardenberg," he says, “ an edict of 1534 was brought up against him, which directed the immediate expulsion from Bremen of Anabaptists and Sacramentarians.”—(P.16, note 2). Little did Melancthon think, when in the early stages of the sacramental controversy he allowed the advocates of the Swiss views to be classed with the turbulent Anabaptists, that after his death his own followers would be made to suffer the bitter consequences of such injustice. But righteous art thou, o Lord!

+ Chancellor of Christian I. of Saxony, who suffered a ten years' imprisonment on a political pretence, but in reality for his attachment to Melancthon's views.

« הקודםהמשך »