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Experience, it is true, was little in their favour; for it was notorious that they were managed by imperial or papal influence, that contention and discord commonly marked their proceedings, and that the decisions of one age were not unfrequently reversed in the next. Notwithstanding, when dissensions arose, or supposed heresies appeared, men regarded a council as their dernier resort, the panacea for all their woes, the forlorn hope of the church.6
Leo, engrossed by his pleasures, suffered the year 1519 to pass away without any vigorous endeavours to revire the declining interests of the popedom. Meanwhile, the reformation continued to proceed; Zuinglius was labouring in Switzerland, and Luther daily discovered fresh evidence of the errors and abominations of the papal system, and failed not to announce to the world the results of his inquiries, with his characteristic ardour and ingenuousness.? At length, June 15, 1520, after some warm discussions in the consistory, a bull was issued, condemning forty-one propositions drawn from the writings of Luther, as heretical, scandalous, and false; ordering all his books to be burned; enjoining him and his followers to renounce their errors within a limited time; and threatening, in case of obstinacy, the severest censures and punishments.8 But so little effect was produced, and so completely was a large portion of Germany estranged from the Roman See, ihat Luther ventured to burn the bull, together with the famed decretals of the canon law, in the presence of an immense concourse of people, without the walls of Wittemberg : 9 at the same time he again appealed to a general council. So bold a measure could not fail to draw upon him the vengeance of Rome; accordingly,
6 Grier's " Epitome of the General Councils of the Church" is a useful book for general readers.
7 Seckendorf's incomparable volume (“Historia Lutheranismi,'') comprises every thing important relative to Luther. The best account of the Reformer's religious sentiments, and the gradual progress of his convictions, in our own language, is contained in the last two volumes of Milner's History, and the first of Scott's “Continuation" of that work.
8 Le Plat, ii. 60—72.
another bull was issued, denouncing all the penalties of the greater excommunication on Luther and his adherents, and giving them up to the secular power as incorrigible heretics. 10
Maximilian I. died Jan. 13, 1519, and was succeeded by Charles V., then in the twentieth year of his age. The new emperor soon perceived that the affairs of Germany required prompt attention. He summoned a diet of the empire, which met at Worms in April, 1521. The Pope saw the importance of this assembly, and appointed two nuncios, Martin Carracioli and Jerome Aleander, to attend it. Aleander was particularly zealous in carrying into effect the denunciations of the late bull. At Cologne, at Mentz, at Treves, and many other cities and towns, he persuaded the civil authorities to burn the writings of Luther; he even proceeded so far as to take them from private libraries for that pur
Luther appeared before the diet, and manfully de. fended his opinions. The nuncio, on the other hand, in a speech of three hours length, urged the princes to act as dutiful sons of the church, by proscribing the obstinate reformer. He prevailed: the decree of the diet declared Luther and his adherents to be notorious heretics; forbade any to receive, defend, or support them; ordered them to be seized and imprisoned, and their goods to be confiscated; and prohibited the printing, vending, or reading any of Luther's books. 12 It is well known that the reformer was preserved from the effects of the edict by the opportune intervention of the Elector of Saxony, and that in his retirement he translated the New Testament into the German language, directed the movements of his friends, and wrote several of his useful and valuable works. The edict of Worms was almost wholly a dead letter; for some of the princes and states were unable, and others disinclined to execute
10 Jan. 3, 1521. Le Plat, ii. 79—83.
11 Pallavicini laments the frequent failure of his endeavours, as many noblemen persisted in retaining Luther's publications in their libraries. Even at this early period they were translated into Spanish, and had become a profitable article of trade to the Flemish mere chants. Pallav. Hist. lib. i. c. 24. s. 1, 7.
12 Le Plat, ü. 84-97, 116-127.
it. In fact, the desire for a council began at this time pretty generally to prevail. It seemed to offer the only means by which existing controversies could be decided, and grievances redressed. Civil governors hoped to set bounds to the overgrown power of the prelates and other ecclesiastics, and to restore the ancient discipline, which was fallen into decay: the sacerdotal order wished to prevent the Pope from usurping their rights; and the middle ranks of the community ardently longed to be relieved from the oppressive burdens of ecclesiastical taxation, which well nigh swallowed up all the fruits of their industry, and served only to administer to the pleasures of an indolent and sensual priesthood.
Affairs were in this state when Leo X. died. 1 3 His successor, Adrian VI., a well-meaning, honest man, but ill fitted for the intrigues and duplicity of the Court of Rome, thought to quell the German rebellion by intermingling concession with severity. He avowed himself favourable to reform; instituted inquiry into alleged abuses; endeavoured, though ineffectually, to introdace some salutary emendations; and despatched Cheregate, his nuncio, to attend a diet of the empire at Nuremburg, in November,
1522.1 The nuncio met the assembled princes, and addressed them at great length. He reproached them for their remissness, in suffering the edict of Worms to be neglected, and strongly urged them to adopt prompt and decisive measures for the punishment of the heretics—as Dathan and Abiram, Ananias and Sapphira, were smitten of God for their disobedience as the Christian emperors of Rome had in after-ages put to death obstinate schismatics—and as John Huss and Jerome of Prague, who seemed to live again in Luther, were punished by the Councils of Constance and Basle. He could but confess that the general complaints against corruptions and abuses were not wholly without foundation: the pontiff, he said, saw and lamented them, and was fully resolved on reform: but the evils were of such a kind as required much time for their removal, and none ought to be surprised that the progress of reformation was slow 15 In reply, the diet informed the nun.
13 Dec. 2, 1521.
14 Le Plat, ii. 140-149. 15 Similar statements were given in a letter to the dict, delivered
cio, that in their opinion the best remedy for existing evils would be the convocation of a free general council in Germany, within a year. Their proceedings were afterwards published, and a long memorial was subjoined, entitled “ Centum Gravamina''—the hundred grievances. It contained an ample exposition of the grievances suffered from the tyranny and rapaciousness of the priesthood, and the corrupt state of the Court of Rome, couched in strong, firm, but respectful language. In the conclusion the Pope was assured, that unless immediate and effective attention was paid to these complaints, they would be compelled, however reluctantly, to take the business of reform into their own hands, for that the people neither would nor could endure such oppressions and abuses any longer. 16
Adrian's public career was short and disturbed : he died Sept. 14, 1523.17 Roman Catholic writers speak highly of his personal excellences, but depreciate his official character, and for obvious reasons. Clement VII. his successor, was every way fitted for his office, as the prevailing maxims at Rome required it to be administered, A profound dissembler--a practised politician-subtle-cautious-evasive-he was admirably qualified for that management which the Popedom needed. He seemed to have an instinctive horror of a council, and the history of his pontificate records little more than repeated attempts on the part of the German States to procure one, and his successful opposition to their wishes. Diets of the Empire were held nearly every year, and they scarcely ever closed without a strong expression of anxiety for the assembling of a council, which the continuer progress of the reformers rendered increasingly necessary. The Emperor, too, became very desirous for the adjustment of the religious differences that agitated Germany, but could obtain nothing from the pontiff except a promise to employ all the machinery of spiritual terror, if he on his part would unsheath the sword, and save himself the trouble of convincing heretics by destroying them. During all this time Luther and his coadjutors were diffusing their opinions with remarkable success, and evangelical religion daily gained new triumphs, in Sweden, Denmark, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, and even in Italy and Spain. 18 At a diet held at Spire in 1529, the reformers acquired the name of “Protestants,” from their protesting against an iniquitous decree which declared unlawful, all changes in doctrine or worship, which should be introduced previous to the decision of a general council. 19
by the nuncio. Adrian promised reform, but said that it must be “ pedetentim”-step by step--by slow degrees. "Step by step, indeed," said Luther, who published the letter, with notes of his own, "he means that between each step there shall be an interval of centuries.” Sleidan, lib. iv. p. 54. edit. 1559.
16 Le Plat, ii. 160—207.
17 His epitaph is a striking lesson to the ambitious: “Hadrianus Papa VI. hic situs est, qui, nihil sibi infelicius in vitâ duxit, quam quod imperaret.” Onuphrius Panvin. in Adrian.
The Emperor left no means untried to restore the Protestants to the church of Rome. At the diet of Augsburg, in 1530, they presented their confession of faith, written by the elegant pen of Melancthon. It was read in the presence of the Emperor and the assembled princes. The Roman Catholic divines replied to it: conferences were held; but it was now evident that a re-union of the parties was no longer to be expected, as the points of difference were held by each to be of vital interest. Charles was enraged at the result. compliance with his opinions and remonstrances, the diet issued a decree, condemning most of the peculiar tenets held by the protestants; forbidding any person to protect or tolerate such as taught them, enjoining a strict observance of the established rites; and prohibiting any further innovation under severe penalties. All
18 See Dr. M'Crie's two interesting volumes, containing the his tory of the progress and suppression of the Reformation in Spain and Italy.
19 Le Plat, ii. 301–321. The princes who entered this protest were John, Elector of Saxony, George, Elector of Brandenburg, Ernest and Francis, Dukes of Lunenburg, the Landgrave of Hesse, and the prince of Anhalt. They were joined by thirteen imperial towns, viz. Strasburg, Ulm, Nuremburg, Constance, Reutlingen, Windsheim, Memmingen, Nortlingen, Lindaw, Kempten, Heilbron, Weissimburg, and St. Gall. Pallavacini remarks that by “Protest
enemies both to the Pope and the Emperor." Hist. lib. ii. c. 18. s. 6. This is a stale calumny: see Amos vii. 10; Johp xix, 12; Acts xvii, 7,