Short Papers on Church History — Chapter 36

Protestantism

The Protest of the Reformers at the second Diet of Spires, in 1529, forms a distinct epoch in the history of the Reformation and of the church. At the same time, we must bear in mind that Protestantism is not a novelty. The antiquity of the Roman Catholic religion is one of the vain boasts of her advocates. Popery, they say, is the offspring of antiquity; but Protestantism is the child of yesterday — of Luther and Calvin. The term, we may admit, in its acceptation in the sixteenth century was a novelty, but not that which it represented. The truth of God and its authority over the conscience were what the Protestants contended for. In this sense, Protestantism is as old as Christianity; and has always existed, though overlaid, from the time of Constantine to the sixteenth century, by a mass of error and ever accumulating superstitions.

During this dark and dreary period we have many Protestants. Despotism and error reigning, the faithful and the truth of God existing, necessarily brought out the principles of Protestantism. Besides the Paulicians, the Nestorians, and the Armenians in the East; we have our well-known friends in the West — the Waldenses, the Albigenses, the Wycliffites, and the Bohemians. There were others distinguished by various appellations, such as the Cathari, Leonists, etc.; but these were the four great branches of the noble stock of witnesses for Christ and His gospel; and though called by different names, had one common origin and one common faith.

The Protestantism with which we have now to do, historically, dates from the second Diet of Spires, 1529. Then it drew its first breath. But in a short time it was embodied in the national constitution of Germany, and stood armed in defence, if needed, of religion and liberty. This was Protestantism in its political form, which alas! savoured not of Christianity, or of the church of God, the body of Christ.

But here we must pause for a little, and meditate on the Lord's address to the church in Sardis. The commencement of the Protestant part of Christendom is the right moment to introduce it. There we have the estimate, not of the partial or prejudiced pen of the historian, but of the Lord Himself. This is deeply solemn, but unspeakably precious. May He give us to see His own mind on this great subject!

The Epistle to the Church in Sardis

"And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments, and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment, and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." (Rev. 3:1-6)

We have seen the general state and the active agencies of popery during the middle ages: we have now to contemplate an entirely new period of the history of the church, and a new order of things as the result of the great Reformation. Many of the moral features of the former periods no doubt exist in Sardis, but its character is sufficiently distinct to mark it as a fresh epoch in ecclesiastical and civil history.

The first four churches, which we have looked at, describe the state of things before the Reformation; the last three represent the general aspect of the professing body after the days of Luther. But we must be careful to distinguish between that positive work of the Spirit of God by means of the reformers, and that lifeless formalism which so soon appeared in the Lutheran and reformed churches, and which too plainly corresponds with the sad condition of Sardis. Scarcely had they tasted the blessings of deliverance from the oppression of Rome when they fell into a state of bondage to the governments of the world, and consequently, a state of spiritual deadness. The Lord Jesus touchingly refers to the same state of things in His address, "I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." This is the condition of that which is known as Protestantism, after the days of the first reformers. True Christians, of course, are not dead, their "life is hid with Christ in God," but the systems they are in, the Lord here declares to be without vitality. An orthodox creed, outward correctness, a name to live, the unclean spirit of popery gone out, the house swept and garnished, characterises Protestantism; but that awful word from the lips of Jesus — thou art dead, stamps its real character as seen by Him. The various systems of our national churches, and of the great professing bodies of dissenters, are described by that fatal word, "dead," — the living reality is gone.

But a glance at the different parts of the Epistle to Sardis will enable us to understand more fully the Lord's estimate of the various Protestant systems by which we are surrounded.

1. As usual in these epistles, the character which the Lord takes is divinely suited to the condition of those whom He is addressing. "These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars." Here the Lord presents Himself as having for faith, all the fulness of the Holy Spirit, and all authority in government, seven being the symbol of perfection. And this plenitude of spiritual blessing which is in Christ and at His disposal, remains for ever unaltered by the failure or outward ruin of the church so that both the body corporate, and individual Christians are without excuse if they flee for help to mere human resources.

But alas! this was the very snare into which the reformers fell. It happened in this way, and as we still see around us the effects of that mistake, we shall do well to examine it carefully.

2. The two things — the spiritual and the ecclesiastical — which we here see united in Christ, were separated by the reformers. This was the great error of the Reformation. They never saw or understood this truth. In their anxiety to obtain complete deliverance from the threatening power of the pope, backed by Catholic princes; the reformers placed themselves under the protection of the Protestant princes. This was their failure; and from the first Diet of Spires in 1526, they almost disappear from the notice of history. They overlooked the grand truth, that all needed power for the church, both inward and outward, spiritual and governmental, dwells in the Head, and that neither the tyranny of Rome, nor the feebleness of a few reformers, weaken in the least this blessed reality. "Whatever the failure of the church may be," says one, "however it may have coalesced with the world, this remains always true, that the full divine competency of the Holy Ghost in His various attributes is its portion, under Him who is the Head of the church which He cares for, loves, and watches over."* He has also the seven stars. It is not said here as it is in the address to Ephesus, "He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand;" but "He that hath the seven stars." In Sardis, although the stars are not seen "in His right hand," the blessed Lord had not given them up; this He could never do, He still has them under His hand, we may say, though not in it. "These things saith He that hath the seven stars."

{*Lectures on the addresses to the Seven Churches. J.N.D.}

But it may be necessary, in explanation of the stars, before going farther, to say a few words.

"The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches." Throughout scripture "stars" symbolize subordinate power, just as the sun symbolizes supreme power; and the "angels" give the idea of representation.* "Then said they, It is his angel," or the representative of Peter, whom they believed to be in prison; and surely the angel whom Jacob wrestled with was the angel of Jehovah, for Jacob called the place "the face of God." (Acts 12; Gen. 32) The instruction, then, which we gather from the meaning of these two words, is perfectly plain and most important; namely, that the angel of the church ought to be the display of spiritual power, as representing Christ on the earth. The responsibility of the professing church is thus placed in the most solemn point of view. Whatever may be the condition of things in the professing church, the Lord Jesus is the one who has the seven Spirits of God, and who has the seven stars; or in other words, all the power of the Spirit, and all ecclesiastical authority. This is what Christ is in His own fulness of blessing for the church, and for the individual Christian also; and surely we ought to be a fair expression of Him who is our life, our wisdom, and our power in this world. May we be kept more in the spirit of obedience and dependence — nearer to Him, in His right hand.

{*See "Short Papers," vol. 1, p. 255.}

3. We think it scarcely necessary to add, after what has been said, that the titles "star" and "angel" give no sanction to the idea of clericalism or humanly appointed ministers. The system which has prevailed since the Reformation leaves a wide door for even unconverted men, if intellectual. But how different the divine system is as seen here! The "stars" have a character of authority under Christ, and act in His name, who is the Head of government, and as "angels" are representatives of the churches, and characterize them to the eye of Christ. What a sublime picture, we may exclaim, of moral identification with Christ and the assembly of God, these titles give! And one man was both. "The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches." He was the expression of Christ to the church in subordinate power, and of the church to Christ in its moral condition. To such divinely appointed and divinely qualified ministers, there could be no objection in any age or in any country. For such we should never cease to pray.

Having now seen, as we believe, the mind of Christ as to what He is in Himself for His church in all ages and conditions, we shall be better able to understand the position of the Reformed churches as shadowed forth by the state of things in Sardis.

4. In the old Catholic system, salvation was made a question, not merely of faith in Christ Jesus, but of church privilege. Every blessing was made to depend on connection with the church of Rome. There was no pardon of sin, no peace with God, no eternal life in Christ, no salvation for the soul, outside of her communion. It was this daring blasphemous dogma that gave her such enormous power during the dark ages, and which made her excommunications the most insupportable inflictions that could possibly be laid on either persons or nations. When the church uttered her voice of censure, the victim of her thunders knew no power of resistance There was not a man, from the haughtiest monarch to the meanest subject, that did not tremble where the bolt fell. War, famine, pestilence, were tolerable, being temporal calamities; but the pope's curse blasted the soul for ever, and doomed it to an endless hell. No matter how genuine a man's faith and piety might be, if he did not belong to the holy Catholic church, and enjoy the benefit of her sacraments, salvation was impossible. This fearful doctrine, which was then believed, made the church everything — teacher lawgiver, saviour — and fellowship with her the only way to heaven whatever the individual character might be. She also claimed the privilege of saying who were to be called saints and who were not; who were to go direct to heaven after death, and who were to go to purgatory, and how long they were to be detained there. Every man's place and importance, both in time and in eternity, could only be settled by that which called itself the church, the spouse of Christ.

But this monstrous evil which was concealed for centuries in the most congenial darkness, was brought to light at the Reformation. The ripened mass of corruption could escape the execration of mankind no longer. Many rose up in rebellion against it, declared the whole system of popery to be the lie of Satan, and the protest of Luther to be the truth of God. But the reformers, in place of trusting in Christ who presents Himself to faith as superior to all circumstances and making Him their refuge and strength, fell into the snare of looking to the civil magistrate as a sheltering arm from the persecutions of Rome, and as the one who should regulate the movements of the seven stars. Ecclesiastical authority — the appointment of ministers — passed into the hands of the powers of this world. This was the failure of Protestantism from the beginning. Take the testimony of another.

"Thus Protestantism was always wrong, ecclesiastically, because it looked up to the civil ruler as the one in whose hand ecclesiastical authority was vested; so that if the church had been, under popery, the ruler of the world, the world now became, in Protestantism, the ruler of the church.... Sardis describes what followed the Reformation, when the glow and fervour of truth and the first flush of blessing had passed away, and a cold formalism had set in.... In Protestant lands, there has always been a measure of liberty of conscience. But the object of God is not merely to deliver either from gross evils, or from mere details, but that the soul should be right with God, and should allow the Lord to have His way and glory — liberty for the Lord to work by the Holy Ghost according to His will. When He is allowed His right place, there is the blessed fruit of it in love and holy liberty. It is not a human liberty derived from the power of the world that we want — though God forbid that we should speak a word against the powers that be, in their own sphere — but the liberty of the Holy Ghost. It is the sin of Christians to have put the powers that be in a false position. The Lord Jesus touches the root of the whole matter in the way He presents Himself to the church of Sardis. Whether it is spiritual power or the outward authority flowing from it, the Lord claims it all as belonging to Himself.... When there is faith to look to Him in His place as Head of the church, He will assuredly supply every need. If He listens to the simplest cry of His lambs, does He not enter into the deeper need of His church, which is always His most beloved object? He took His Headship of the church only in heavenly glory, and He went there not merely to be, but to act, as the Head."*

{*Lectures on the Revelation-Sardis, by W.K.}

5. In renouncing the errors of popery with reference to the power of the church, the reformers were drawn into an opposite mistake in attaching too much importance to individual opinion. On the Catholic principle, the church makes the Christian; on the Protestant principle, Christians make the church; and consequently, practically viewed, Christ loses His right place in both. A man, the priest would say, can only receive good to his soul from his present connection with Holy Mother Church; the moment he ceases to belong to her, he is lost, the only means of pardon and salvation being the holy sacraments. To be cast out of the church is like being cast into hell; of course, if there be repentance, or ground of some kind for priestly absolution, the soul may be delivered from its awful doom, and restored to the favour of the church, which is eternal life. But man's place in heaven, on earth, or in hell, must be determined and settled by the church. This is the great foundation principle of Roman Catholicism, and that which gives the priesthood such unlimited power over their deluded votaries. But this kind of influence is not confined to Romanism; it prevails more or less wherever the priestly element is owned: and has done so since the early days of the fathers.

The results of the unhallowed power in the hands of the Romish priesthood became utterly intolerable to all classes of society about the beginning of the sixteenth century. A protest was raised; it soon overspread the whole of Christendom; the Bible was appealed to as of absolute authority justification by faith alone without the deeds of the law became the watchword of the reformers. The galling yoke of Rome was thrown off. This was the work of God's Spirit, and the energy that accomplished the Reformation was all of Him. One result of this great revolution, and that which characterized it, was the transfer of power and importance from the church to the individual. The idea of the church as the dispenser of blessing was rejected, and every man was called upon to read the Bible for himself, examine for himself, believe for himself, be justified for himself, serve God for himself, as he must answer for himself. This was the new-born thought of the Reformation — always right, but it had long been denied by the usurpation of Romanism — individual blessing first, church formation afterwards, was the new order of things; but alas! the true idea of the church of God was then completely lost, and not recovered till the present century, as we shall see by-and-by, the Lord willing.

So far, the reformers were right. The Lord only builds living stones on the rock-foundation; but the Lord's own place and work in the assembly by the Holy Ghost being lost sight of, men began to unite and build churches, so-called, after their own minds. A great variety of churches or religious societies speedily sprang up in many parts of Christendom; but each country carried out its own idea as to how the church should be formed and governed: some thought that church power should be vested in the hands of the civil magistrate; others thought that the church should retain that power within herself; and this difference of opinion resulted in the national and innumerable dissenting bodies which we still see everywhere around us. But the mind of Christ as to the character and constitution of His church, so largely taught in the epistles, seems to have been entirely overlooked by the leaders of the Reformation. Individual faith, as the grand saving principle for the soul, was everywhere insisted on, thank the Lord; and men's souls were saved and God was thereby glorified; but that being secured, men might combine and make churches to suit their own mind. Nothing is more manifest to the student of church history with his New Testament before him than this painful fact.

For example, we read in Ephesians 4, "There is one body, and one spirit," but according to Protestantism we should read, "There are many bodies and one spirit." But there cannot be more than one of divine constitution. Again, we read, "Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit." This plainly means the unity of the Spirit's forming — the Holy Ghost being the formative power of the church which is Christ's body. Christians are the units formed by the Holy Spirit into a perfect unity. This we are to endeavour to "keep," not to make — to endeavour to maintain, exhibit, carry out in practice. "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." (1 Cor. 12:12, 13)*

{*See this subject fully handled in two lectures on Corinthians 12 and 14, by W.K.}

6. Not only are the religious systems represented by Sardis without life, but the works of those who belong to them are incomplete. "I have not found thy works perfect before God," saith the Lord Jesus. He looks for fruit according to the standard given, and the resources placed at the disposal of faith. He presents Himself as the One who has all perfectness in spiritual power and energy for His church, and as looking for fruit which answers to Himself. He cannot lower His standard in dealing with our shortcomings. "Remember therefore," He says, "how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent." He calls their attention in this solemn warning to the grace they had received, and the word they had heard. He looks for works complete, according to the measure of grace received, and the truth communicated. But, alas, under the plea of "there is no perfection" either in the church or in the individual, the idea of obedience according to the word of God has lost its proper place in the minds of Christians generally.

Take an example of what we mean — a common case.

A young man is converted through the visit of an evangelist. He has no associations or friends in one place of worship more than in another; but now he must attend somewhere. He is recommended to visit the different churches within reach of his residence, and settle down where he thinks he will receive the most good. This is the criterion he is to judge by — his own good. Our own blessing is, no doubt, a most important thing, and ought not to be overlooked; but when it is made the chief things, rather than the will of Christ, it must result in darkness of mind and barrenness of soul. Obedience to the word of God would surely be a deeper spring of blessing to our souls than merely seeking our own good, to the neglect of God's mind about the church as revealed in the epistles. But, alas, the common saying is, "There is good in all denominations, but none are all good therefore we must judge for ourselves, and choose the one we think the nearest to scripture — there is no system perfect." But this trite saying, however plausible, can only apply to human systems of religion. God's system must be perfect; and no system will suit Him that is not perfect. The imperfections of those who are in God's system, or endeavouring to carry it out, do not affect its divine perfection.

The distinction between a system and those who are in it, is often lost sight of. Supposing that a few weak or even faulty Christians were gathered to God's centre, that would not make the centre weak or faulty; but supposing, on the other hand, that a company of the best Christians in all Christendom were gathered to a human centre, that would not make it divine. Christ is God's centre, and those who are gathered to that centre by the power of the Holy Ghost are on God's ground, in His presence, and will surely receive His blessing. This should be our chief object — to be where God is, in the full assurance of faith, and trust Him for the good of our souls. "For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt. 18:20; Eph. 4:3, 4)

The difference between the great system of Sardis, and those who were in it, is very manifest in the Lord's message to them. "I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast and repent." The church must be judged, not by a lifeless system, but by the resources which it has in Christ the head. The painful fact that things are not now as they were at the beginning, is no reason why Christians should make churches after their own minds and govern them by their own laws. But this has been the sin and practice of Protestantism until their name is legion. "Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard," is the Lord's most solemn warning to Sardis, and to Protestants generally. The revealed word of God should be our only guide and authority, and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ our only power. He recalls the church to these two grand points — grace received, truth heard. These form the measure of her responsibility, and the standard by which He must judge the great system of Sardis.

7. The coming of the Lord is here spoken of as if the church had fallen to the level of the world. "If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." This is very similar to what is said with regard to the world in 1 Thessalonians 5:2: "The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." The Lord looks for His people to take a distinct path in separation from the world; but in this Sardis failed. "I have not found thy works perfect before God." There was great conformity to the world. Even in Thyatira, the saints of God are commended for their earnestness, notwithstanding the evil and for their last works being more than the first. But the idea of obedience to the word of God and separation from the world is little known in Protestantism. Therefore they must share the world's portion. "I will come on thee as a thief." As such He will come on the mere professing mass, but not so on the true believer.

"Thou hast a few names," He says, "even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy." This is real comfort to those who are walking with the Lord in separation from the world. It is the world as a moral scene that defiles the Christian's garments. The few names here signify individuals. The Lord knows each one by name who is walking faithfully on the earth, and assures them that they will walk with Him in heaven. Blessed are the overcomers; instead of a blotted name, He will confess them by name before His Father and before His angels.

Having thus examined the meaning of the message to Sardis, and its application to what took place after the Reformation, we now return with mingled feelings to its history. Unfeignedly thankful for that great work of God's Spirit; unfeignedly sorry for the failure of man which so soon appeared. But it may be well to refresh the reader's mind with a glance at the successive conditions of the professing church of God on earth, before going further.

In Ephesus, we have the church cooling down in her love to Christ. "Thou hast left thy first love." This is the origin of all the failure that has since followed. In Smyrna, suffering under persecution from Satan. In Pergamos, worldliness; the church dwelling in the world where Satan's throne is. In Thyatira, corruption: suffering the prophetess Jezebel to teach, to seduce the Lord's servants to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. In Sardis, deadness; Jezebel is not here, Sardis had got away from her and her corruptions. A great name to live — a great profession and appearance of Christianity, but no vital power.

The Lutheran Churches

A.D. 1526-1529

In illustration of our exposition of the Epistle to Sardis and in proof of what we have said of the constitution of the Lutheran churches, we will now refer to their original organization. And that the truth on this point may be fairly and fully stated, we will quote from D'Aubigne, who has said all for Luther and the Reformation that can be said.

"The reform needed some years of repose that it might increase and gain in strength: and it could not enjoy peace unless its great enemies were at war with each other. The madness of Clement VII. was as it were the lightning-conductor of the Reformation, and the ruin of Rome built up the gospel. It was not only a few months' gain; from 1526 to 1529 there was a calm in Germany by which the Reformation profited to organize and extend itself.

"The papal yoke having been broken, the ecclesiastical order required to be re-established. It was impossible to restore their ancient jurisdiction to the bishops; for these Continental prelates maintained that they were in an especial manner, the pope's servants. A new set of things was therefore called for, under pain of seeing the church fall into anarchy. Provision was made for it. It was then that the evangelic nations separated definitely from that despotic dominion which had for ages kept all the west in bondage.

"Already on two occasions the Diet had wished to make the reform of the church a national work. The Emperor, the pope, and a few princes were opposed to it. The Diet of Spires had therefore resigned to each state the task that it could not accomplish itself.

"But what constitution were they about to substitute for the papal hierarchy?

"They could, while suppressing the pope, preserve the episcopal order; it was the form most approximate to that which was on the point of being destroyed.

"They might, on the contrary, reconstruct the ecclesiastical order, by having recourse to the sovereignty of God's word, and re-establishing the rights of the christian people. This form was the most remote from the Roman hierarchy. Between these two extremes there were several middle courses.... Evangelical Germany, at the moment in which she began to try her hand on ecclesiastical constitutions, began with that which trenched the deepest on the papal monarchy."*

{*Vol. 4, pp. 26 - 47.}

The reader will plainly see from these few extracts, that the princes of Germany, in re-constituting the church, were guided by expediency, or political principles. Although they may have been sincere in desiring to act in conformity with the word of God, yet it never seems to have crossed their minds that God has given a constitution for His church in the New Testament. He has not given to man the liberty of adding to, or altering a single word of, that divine constitution, any more than He gave to the Jews the liberty of adding to, or altering a single pin in the tabernacle. But as we have gone very fully into the question of the inauguration, constitution, and discipline of the church in the early part of our first volume, we need say nothing more on that subject here. Everything should be tried by the standard of God's word, and whatever has not the sanction of that word should be given up.

The First Planting of the Lutheran Churches

The Reformation in Germany can hardly be said to have begun with the lower classes. In Switzerland the movement was democratic, in Germany it was imperial. The princes stood in the front rank of the battle, and sat on the first bench in the council. "The democratic organization," says D'Aubigne, "was therefore compelled to give way to an organization, conformable to the civil government." This is a full admission that the constitution of the Lutheran churches was purely human, purely political. Christ as the centre, and the Holy Ghost as the gathering power to that centre, are entirely overlooked. Therefore the Lord pronounces all such systems as "dead." Christ, the Holy Spirit, the word of God, are all talked of and believed in, but none of them have their right place in the Lutheran or the reformed churches: consequently, they are without vitality. It was particularly among the higher classes that Luther found his supporters. "He admitted the princes as representatives of the people; and henceforward, the influence of the state became one of the principal elements in the constitution of the evangelical church."

Re-formation, we have to bear in mind, is not formation. The original proclamation of the truth and the formation of the church at Pentecost, should be the Reformer's guide. Re-formation is the turning of our thoughts to the beginning, or to the word and grace of God, and Re-forming the church in accordance with His grace and truth. And surely, if the church was formed in the first century without the princes of this world, could it not be Re-formed without them in the sixteenth or nineteenth? D'Aubigne very naturally asks this question, which shows that he felt there was a serious defect somewhere; for why call in a power to Re-form, which was not required in forming the church at the beginning? The idea of the church, as the assembly of God, or as the body of Christ, was now completely lost. Even the Catholics, though in a wicked and corrupt way, speak of maintaining the unity of the church. The Protestants started wrong on this point, and from that day until now, they have been going farther and farther from the truth as to the "one body."

Philip, Landgrave of Hesse, an enterprising and magnanimous prince, has the reputation of being the first in completing an ecclesiastical constitution for the churches of his hereditary states, and which was set forward as a model for the new churches of Christendom.

The Death of Frederick

In the year 1525, Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, died. He had been the friend and protector of Luther, though not much of a reformer. John, his brother and successor, was of a very different character. He was a thorough Lutheran and reformer. In ecclesiastical matters he assumed an absolute supremacy. He caused the constitution and government of the churches, the form of public worship, the duties and the salaries of the clergy to be drawn up by Luther and Melancthon, and to be promulgated by his deputies in the year 1527. "Being fully satisfied as to the truth of Luther's doctrines, and clearly perceiving the utter impossibility of preserving them, if the pontiff's authority were maintained, he took upon himself an entire jurisdiction in religious matters. He made provision for placing pious and competent teachers over all the churches, and for the removal of unsuitable ones. His example was soon followed by the other princes and states of Germany, that had cast off the dominion of the Roman Pontiff."* Such was the foundation or first planting of the Lutheran and reformed churches.

{*Mosheim, vol. 3, p. 122.}

The effect of such decided measures, as may easily be supposed, was soon manifest. Dissensions among the princes immediately followed. The moderation of Frederick had kept them tolerably united; but the proceedings of John made it obvious, that he was determined to separate the churches of his territory from the church of Rome. This awoke the fears of the Catholic princes, and led them to consult together for the defence of the old religion, and for the punishment of the daring innovators. An alliance was also formed by the Lutheran princes, and it was only the troubled state of Europe that prevented a civil war. The hands of Charles being full with his wars in different places, the Reformers were left undisturbed till the year 1529 — the year so famous in the history of the Reformation, and second only to the one we are now approaching, 1530. But we must notice one or two things which led to its importance. And first of all

The Appeal of the Princes

By the efforts of the popish party at the second Diet of Spires in 1529, the edict issued against Luther at Worms in 1521 was confirmed, and all innovations in religion were forbidden. Against this decision the majority of the evangelical princes entered their solemn and deliberate protest.* But not satisfied with merely expressing their dissent from the decree of the Diet, the protesters re-assembled immediately after its dissolution, and had a document drawn up in due form, in which they review what had passed in the assembly, state their grievances, assign reasons in justification of the step they had taken, and with respectful firmness re-assert the sacred rights of conscience on matters of salvation, and finally appeal to the Emperor and to a future General Council. The document concludes as follows: "We therefore appeal for ourselves, for our subjects, and for all who receive or who shall hereafter receive the word of God, from all past, present, or future vexatious measures, to his imperial majesty, and to a free and universal assembly of holy Christendom. "This document filled twelve sheets of parchment; the signatures and seals, which were nearly the same as had been affixed to the protest, were now affixed to the appeal.**

{*See p. 758.}

{**D'Aubigne, vol. 4, p. 83.}

A copy of this remonstrance was immediately despatched to the Emperor under the charge of three deputies. Charles was then on his way from Spain to Italy. They found him at Placentia, but met with the most discouraging reception. He was much irritated with this freedom and daring opposition to his will. The spirited tone of the memorial wounded his pride, and in a rage he ordered the deputies to be placed under arrest, and commanded them not to leave their apartments, nor to write a line to the Protestant princes, on pain of death. But in a short time he softened down, set them at liberty, and went on his way to Bologna, where he spent several months with the pope, Clement VII.

Meanwhile the Protestant chiefs were not inactive; they were employing the most effectual means for the furtherance of the Reformation and for the strengthening of their own position with the people. On the fifth of May, eleven days after the appeal was drawn up, it was printed and published by the Landgrave, and on the thirteenth, by the Elector. The great question between the Catholics and the Protestants had now taken a definite form, and was fairly before all Christendom.

Meetings of the Protestants

The apprehensions of the princes, as to the intentions of the Emperor, were now confirmed. His violent treatment of the deputies, and his present friendship with the pope, were significant signs of the severe measures he was meditating. The Protestant leaders now thought that it was high time for them to consult for their protection against the offended and indignant Charles. Meetings were held in the summer of 1529, at Rothach, Schwabach, Nuremberg, and Smalcald, but nothing definite was agreed upon, in consequence of the diversity of opinion which prevailed on the subject of the Lord's supper. It was formally decided at one of their meetings, "that unity on the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist was essential to any religious alliance among Christians." But, alas, alas, the Reformers were already two camps by means of the sacramentarian controversy.

The papal party were well acquainted with the bitter pamphlets which had already been written by Luther and Zwingle on this subject, and were artfully using them to widen the breach between their followers. During the sitting of the Diet of Spires, the Reformers were continually taunted by the Catholics on this point: "You boast of your attachment to the pure word of God, and yet you are nevertheless disunited." The Landgrave of Hesse was deeply pained by these public taunts, and determined to use every means possible to accomplish a reconciliation between the Swiss and Saxon Reformers. For this purpose he appointed a Conference to be held at Marburg in 1529, and invited Luther and Zwingle, and some other principal doctors and theologians of both parties.