תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

elect might be called out of that sinking Sodom. This must have been the design of the first vial.

Accordingly this scene opened. Martin Luther, a pious Augustine monk, a man of prime natural and acquired abilities, remarkably fitted by Providence for the purpose, and a professor of philosophy in the university at Wittemberg, became disgusted and alarmed at the impious sale of indulgences, and openly preached against it in 1517. This was a few years before Charles V came to the Imperial throne. This most licentious and abominable practice of Pope Leo X, of vending pardons for all past sins, and liberties to commit any sins in future, for certain sums of money, and conveying official diplomas, sealing the pardon and indulgences in the name of Christ, was the occasion of opening that series of evils to the Papal see, which was to issue in its total ruin Luther raised his warning voice against this wickedness; and was led on to discover and expose all the abominations of the Papal system. Others followed him. And their success was astonishing. I cannot in this short work, and need not, give the history of the reformation. I shall only hint some things, in which it will appear, that the man of sin now received a deadly wound, in the exposure of the abominations of his system, which was now presented to the nations as a noisome, grievous ulcer.

Great attention was soon paid to the preaching of Luther. Some of the first characters in Germany had been inwardly vexed, that such vast sums of property were collected from among their people for indulgences; that the people were thus drained of their money at such expense of their morals; and all under the cloak of religion. And the intrigues, oppressions and licentiousness of many of the ecclesiastical German princes, and of the Papal clergy, had been a source of vexa. tion. These things prepared people to listen to the preaching of Luther. And his proselytes became nu

After some fruitless attempts of the Papal party to silence Luther, and to extinguish his light, the Pope published against him a bull of excommunication, and demanded that the law against heretics should be

merous.

The wars,

executed upon him. Upon this Luther declared the Pope to be the man of sin; and publicly burnt the Pope's bull against him, and his own Papal books.' At the diet of German princes at Worms, called to suppress the new religious commotions, the emperor Charles labored to procure the destruction of Luther. Upon this Luther retired for a season from public view, and translated the Bible into the German language; which was of infinite service to the reformation. which soon broke out between the emperor and the king of France, of which Italy was the bloody theatre, for a long course of years, (as will be noted in the next vial) prevented both the Pope and the emperor from being able to crush the reformation. Providence designed that the Pope should have other business to engage his attention; being placed between two fires, warring and intriguing, sometimes on the one side, and soinetimes on the other, of the two great rival champions of Europe, Charles and Francis; and in continual scenes of danger and vexation. The same cause prevented the emperor from being able to oppose the reformation to any effect. So urgent and precarious were the affairs of Charles abroad, that he viewed it bad policy, if not dangerous, to provoke those German princes, who had favored the cause of the reformation. And indeed Charles himself, being often embroiled with the intrigues and power of the Pope uniting with the king of France against him, as often secretly rejoiced to sce the abominations of the Pope exposed and his influence thereby curtailed. And at times Charles himself, (as great a catholic bigot as he was to the last) was not wanting to put a helping hand to expose the Pope's duplicities and wickedness. As an instance of this; upon the Pope's publishing an angry brief against Charles, as a reason why the former had united with the king of France against him, Charles published a long reply, in which he enumerates many instances of the Pope's ingratitude, deceit, and ambition. He at the same time wrote to the college of cardinals, complaining of the Pope's partiality and injustice; and requiring of them, that if the Pope still refused to call a council,

to attend to the affairs of the reformation, (which he had hitherto refused to do, choosing rather to attempt to crush it by dint of power) they should show their concern for the peace of the Christian church, “so shame. fully neglected by its chief Pastor,” by summoning a council in their own names. This manifesto, but little inferior to Luther's charges against the Pope, flew over Germany, and did much toward confirming the charges of the reformers against the Papal corruptions. Many great and free cities of the first rank openly embraced the reformed religion.

Great advantages were on the side of the reformers. Says Dr. Robertson, "Erudition, industry, accuracy of sentiment, purity of composition, even wit and raillery, were almost wholly on the side of the reformers, and triumphed with ease over illiterate monks, whose rude arguments, expressed in a perplexed and barbarous style, were found insufficient for the defence of a system of errors, for which all the arts and ingenuity of later and more learned advocates have not been able to palliate.”* Erasmus of Rotterdam, a great wit, and of the first rate attainments in the literature of that day, was educated for the church. But discovering the abominations of the Papal system, he turned all the torrent of his popular, satirical acumen against those abominations. The landgrave of Hesse, the electors of Saxony and Brandenburg, the dukes of Brunswick and Lunenburg, and the prince of Anhalt, embraced and patronized the reformed religion. The Pope demanded a diet, to destroy Luther, and crush the reforination. But the princes informed him, that they could not comply with his order; for a reformation was absolutely necessary; and so many had embraced the reformed religion, that it would be dangerous to use any violence against them. This diet of the princes assembled at Nuremberg, now drew up a remonstrance of an hundred articles, against the corruptions and abominations of the Papal see. The Pope's nuncio perceiving what the diet were doing, and finding himself unable to prevent it, fed abruptly from the city, even without taking leave of the diet, lest he should have to be the bearer of a message, which would be so painful to the court of Rome. The ecclesiastical princes also withdrew from a business, in which they, as well as their whole system of Papal corruption, were so deeply implicated. The secular princes united in their remonstrance of an hundred charges. They are too long to be enumer, ated. “They complained of the sums exacted for dispensations, absolutions, and indulgences; of the expense arising from law-suits, carried on by appeals to Rome; of the innumerable abuses occasioned by reservations, commendams, and annates; of the exemption from civil jurisdiction, which the clergy had obtained; of the art, by which they brought all secular causes under the cognizance of the ecclesiastical judges; of the indecent and profligate lives, which not a few of the clergy led;"--and of many other particulars, which had long tortured the people of Germany, and had prepared the way for the quick reception and progress of the doctrines of the reformers. And the diet concluded their remonstrance by announcing, "that if the holy see did not speedily deliver them from these intolerable burdens, they had determined to endure them no longer; and would employ the power and authority, with which God had entrusted them, in order to procure relief.”* Thus the Pope was utterly defeated. The diet, instead of destroying Luther, and crushing the reformation, took a most effectual step to widen the sore upon the men who had the mark of the beast, and who worshipped his image, by exposing the intolerable wickedness of their system; and doing it with such authority, as to add an amazing weight to the event.

*Hist. Ch. V, vol. ii, p. 155.

These things opened the eyes of the people with a rapidity, which might be expected in such a case. And hundreds of thousands were astonished to behold the filthy lepravity of the system, which had so long been held in the highest veneration. To add to the grievousness of the sore, and to give the most deadly force to

1

* Hist. Ch. V, vol. ii, p. 273.

the exposure of Papal corruption, Pope Adrian, who succeeded Leo X, most frankly acknowledged and bewailed these corruptions, and engaged to do all in his power to reform them: Upon which his clergy at Rome were highly offended, and complained that he was betraying their interest. Adrian suddenly died. And there was boldly fixed to the door of his chief phy. sician in capitals, "To the deliverer of his country:Thus acknowledging, and rejoicing, that the Pope, who was betraying the corruptions of the Romish see, was hurried out of the world with murderous design! These things added to the horror already excited at Papal corruption. .

Most of the princes of Germany, who had favored the reformation, established that worship of God in their territories, which they approved; and suppressed the rites of the Papal church. Almost half the Germanic body, revolted from the Papal see. And in the cities, which followed not this example, the Papal authority was much weakened. The emperor was troubled at the prevalence of the reformation. He viewed it unfavorable to that plan of dominion over the princes of Germany, which he had secretly in view. And the tolerance, which the urgency of his affairs abroad had obliged him to give to it, had offended the Papal powers. Charles therefore assembled the diet at Spires in 1529, and demanded of them an order, that the innovations of religion should spread no further among those, who were now Papists, till a meeting of a general council. After much debate, a majority of votes was obtained in the diet for this purpose. Upon this, the elector of Saxony, the margrave of Brandenburg, the landgrave of Hesse, the duke of Lunenburg, the prince of Anhalt, with the deputies of fourteen Imperial and free cities, entered their solemn protest against the decree, as unjust and impious; and they hence obtained the name of Protestants.

The Pope and Charles, upon making a temporary peace, agreed to exert themselves to suppress the reformation. The diet of Augsburg was accordingly called. Melancthon there drew up a confession of re.

« הקודםהמשך »