Short Papers on Church History — Chapter 35

Luther at Wartburg

The sudden and mysterious disappearance of Luther caused no small anxiety to his friends and triumph to his foes. The most extraordinary rumours were circulated throughout the provinces, so that Luther's name, and character, and works, were more eagerly talked of now than ever. But as secrecy was necessary to his safety, friends as well as enemies were kept for some months uncertain as to the place of his concealment.

Wartburg castle, the place of his captivity, and which he called his "Patmos," had been the ancient and impregnable residence of the landgraves of Thuringia, and overlooked, from its mountain situation, the neighbourhood of Eisenach, the place of his mother's nativity, and the scene of his own early education. That no suspicion might be excited as to his real character, he was obliged to throw off his frock and cowl, allow his beard and hair to grow, and assume the attire and the title of a country gentleman — Squire George. For the rigid monk, the active Reformer, the daring antagonist of Rome, the change was extreme. He was frequently visited with severe attacks of bodily illness and mental distress. In some of his letters, dated from the Isle of Patmos, he complains bitterly of the indolent habits he was contracting, and the consequences of his sumptuous fare. But though he was cut off from his public labours in the university and the pulpit, he was most diligent with his pen. His enemies thought him a great deal too active in his retreat. He laboured with indefatigable industry, and published many new books. It was in this retirement that he commenced the greatest and the most useful of all his works — the translation of the Bible into the German language. During his solitude, in the summer months of 1521, he actually finished the New Testament; and he also took great pains to improve his knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew languages, for the purpose of rendering his intended version of the whole Bible more complete.

Reflections on Luther's Captivity

Here we may pause a moment, and learn a useful lesson. Like a chained eagle, Luther sits all day in the midst of the dark forests of Thuringia, gloomily brooding over the degraded state of the church and clergy, and violently agitated as to the results of the diet of Worms, the welfare of his friends, and the progress of truth. The chain galls him; he has not accepted it from the Lord, his health suffers; he passes whole nights without sleep, the melancholy tendencies of his mind increase, and he imagines that he is incessantly assaulted by Satan. "Believe me," he writes, "I am delivered over to a thousand imps of Satan in this solitude; and it is much easier to contend with incarnate fiends — that is, men — than with wicked spirits in high places." He longs to be at liberty, and to stand in the front of the battle; and, fearing lest he should be accused of deserting the field, he exclaimed, "I would rather be stretched on coals of fire than lie here half dead." And all mankind would say, "a crisis has come, the active efforts, the resistless appeals of Luther are more needful now than ever, for if the leader of this mighty movement be constrained to retire at such a moment, the cause of truth must suffer, and its enemies triumph. But in spite of all human reasoning, the Master says, No. My ways are not as your ways, nor My thoughts as your thoughts. The captivity of My servant shall be the liberty of millions." And so it proved. No event in his history tended so much to enrich his mind, or mature his views as to the nature and extent of the reform which the condition of things around required, besides the books which he wrote, and the scriptures which he translated. May we learn to bow, well-pleased, when the Master's orders are to be quiet, as well as when He says, Go forth and serve in the field to which I have called you, and for which I have fitted you. Moses in Midian, Paul in Arabia, and John in Patmos, are divine lessons for all the Lord's servants.

Luther Returns to Wittemberg

During his absence at the Wartburg there was found no one among his followers who was properly qualified to maintain the reformed doctrines or direct the reformed community. The mild and peaceful scholar, Philip Melancthon, had a gentle and fruitful mind well fitted to enrich others but unsuited for the tumult and the storm of republican notions, combined with religious fanaticism. Andrew Carlstadt, a doctor of Wittemberg, an early friend of Luther, and by no means ignorant of the truth, was induced to head a few fanatical persons who fancied they were in immediate communication with deity, and arrogated to themselves the title of prophets and apostles. Their numbers increased; youths from the university joined them. They denounced Luther's attempt at Reformation to be neither sufficiently extensive, nor thorough. In their extravagant enthusiasm they proclaimed, "Woe! woe! woe!" to the false church and corrupt bishops. They entered churches, broke and burnt images, and proceeded to other excesses, which endangered the dawn of liberty and the peace of the commonwealth. The civil authorities interfered, and several of the zealots were cast into prison.

The cry for Luther was universal. He heard it at Wartburg. Without the consent of the Elector, and with much danger to his life, he hastened to the scene of confusion. Among the names who have obtained a memorial in history by this folly, we are most familiar with Nicholas Stork Mark Stubner, Martin Cellary, and Thomas Munzer. The latter Munzer — appears again in 1525, at the head of a rebellion of the peasants, which was called the peasants' war.

Luther returned from his Patmos to Wittemberg in the month of March, 1522. He was received by doctors, students and citizens, with sincere demonstrations of joy and affection. His triumph was easy, but all by moral power. "I will preach," he said, "I will speak, I will write; but I will constrain none, for faith is a voluntary act. I stood up against the pope, indulgences, and papists, but without violence or tumult. I put forward God's word, I preached and wrote this was all I did." He ascended the pulpit, and his powerful voice resounded once more through the agitated multitudes. On seven following days he delivered seven sermons. "They were followed by the most complete success," says the historian. "Every symptom of disorder immediately disappeared; the city was restored to its former tranquillity, the university to its legitimate studies and rational principles and Carlstadt, the unfortunate author of the confusion, overwhelmed by the predominance of a superior genius withdrew not long afterwards from the field of his disgrace." Luther was greatly opposed to violence. His fine principle was — before you can advantageously remove the objects of idolatry, such as images, you must first remove the errors from the minds of the worshippers. And this he sincerely believed could only be done by the word of God, which he longed to present to his nation in their own forcible tongue.

Luther and the German Bible

When peace was established he turned to his favourite object — the translation of the New Testament, and after it had undergone the more critical revision of Melancthon, he published it in the September of 1522. The appearance of such a work, and at a time when the minds of all men were in a most excited condition, produced, as might be supposed the most extraordinary effects. As if carried on the wings of the wind, it spread from one end of Germany to the other, and to many other countries. "It was written," according to D'Aubigné, "in the very tone of the holy writings, in a language yet in its youthful vigour, and which for the first time displayed its great beauties, it interested, charmed, and moved the lowest as well as the highest ranks." Even the papal historian, Maimbourg, confesses that "Luther's translation was remarkably elegant, and in general so much approved, that it was read by almost everybody throughout Germany. Women of the first distinction studied it with the most industrious and persevering attention, and obstinately defended the tenets of the Reformer against bishops, monks, and Catholic doctors." It was a national book. It was the book of the people — the book of God. This work served more than all Luther's writings to the spread and consolidation of the reformed doctrines. The Reformation was now placed on its own proper foundation — the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever.

The following statistics show the wonderful success of the work: "A second edition appeared in the month of December; and by 1533 seventeen editions had been printed at Wittemberg, thirteen at Augsburg, twelve at Basle, one at Erfurt, one at Grimma, one at Leipsic, and thirteen at Strasburg."

Meanwhile Luther proceeded in the accomplishment of his great work — the translation of the Old Testament. With the assistance of Melancthon and other friends, the work was published in parts as they were finished, and wholly completed in the year 1530. Luther's great work was now done. Hitherto he had spoken, but now God Himself was to speak to the hearts and consciences of men. Vast, wonderful, mighty thought! The divine testimonies of truth presented to a great nation, which had hitherto been "perishing for lack of knowledge." The divine word no longer to be concealed under an unknown tongue; the way of peace no longer to be obscured by the traditions of men; and the testimony of God Himself concerning Christ and salvation rescued from the superstitions of the Romish system.

The General Progress of the Reformation

The mighty movement on which we have now entered knew no limit, no end. The awakening in the German empire, the revival of the gospel, and the rising interests of the Reformation, had deeply affected the general state of Europe. Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Spain, France, and the British isles, were drawn into the stream of the great religious revolution. It soon ceased to be a merely local, or even a national, question; it became the great overwhelming topic of the time. Every government found that the Reformation formed part of its scheme and policy, willingly or unwillingly, and that the constitutions of the most ancient kingdoms were shaken by this new contest about religion.

Men were passing to and fro, and ever carrying fresh tidings of the wonderful things that were being done. Vessels were arriving at all harbours, and secretly discharging packages of new translations, and of the pamphlets and sermons of the Reformers. The interest became universal. But it was not to be expected that the old church, when backed up by the civil power, would allow the new opinions to grow up in her very bosom without a struggle to crush them. Nevertheless, earnest-minded men, seeing that a Reformation was needed, and quite unable to stifle their convictions, preached Christ boldly. Some true, honest hearts were found in those sifting times beneath the monkish gown, men who dared to preach Christ as the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth — that God only could forgive sins through faith in the precious blood of Christ. The clergy, perceiving that such doctrines were destructive of their power, their privileges, their very existence, raised the loud cry of "Heresy! Heresy!" Church excommunications were followed by royal edicts; persecution was waged against the preachers, apprehensions became frequent, the torture was applied, the flames were kindled, and from this time the thrilling stories of Protestant martyrs and martyrdoms begin. For a time bigotry triumphs, the godly suffer, but the power of the Lord and His truth mightily prevail.

But out on these troubled waters we cannot venture at present. We must return for a short time to Germany, and witness the rise of Protestantism, which gave a new direction to the spiritual history of mankind.

The Reformation and Henry the Eighth

The rapid diffusion of Luther's New Testament, and the immense effect which it produced in the homes of the people, awakened the deepest apprehensions of the papal party. The temporal powers, influenced by the ecclesiastics, prohibited, under the most severe penalties, the circulation of the condemned book. One of the greatest kings of Christendom now rose up against the audacious monk of Wittemberg. The gallant Henry VIII. of England, who had been destined by his father for the church, thought the present a good opportunity to show his talent, and wrote a book on the seven sacraments, in answer to Luther's treatise on the "Babylonish Captivity." None of the Reformer's compositions so excited the indignation of the papists as his "Babylonish Captivity." Need we wonder, then, that such an advocate was flattered and caressed by the pope, and complimented with the name, "Defender of the Faith," which is still one of the titles of the English crown? In reply to his royal assailant, Luther was not remarkable for his moderation, but betrayed by his irritable temper to use an abusive style of language which would have been better repressed.

Towards the close of the year 1521, an important change took place in the policy of the Vatican. Pope Leo died. Yes the brilliant but notoriously immoral Leo died — died, no longer to judge, but to be judged; no longer to roll out his thunders against heretics, but to be himself measured by the standard of eternal truth, and weighed in the balances of the sanctuary. He died denouncing the doctrine of justification by faith, as destructive of all moral obligations, while he and his dissolute cardinals were dissipating their time and health in prodigal and luxurious pleasures, and in promoting expensive and licentious spectacles at the theatre. He was succeeded by Adrian VI., a man more rigid in his morals than Leo, but no less opposed to the truth of the gospel.

Lutheran Churches

Soon after Luther's return from Wartburg, the States of the empire assembled in Diet at Nuremberg. The bishops, who formed a numerous portion of the assembly, called loudly for the execution of the sentence which had been given against the arch-heretic. But after some altercation and without coming to any agreement, the diet was adjourned till the autumn following.

Meanwhile the Reformer, in open defiance of the papal excommunication and the imperial edict, was going on steadily with his own proper work, preaching and writing, and Melancthon with his theology. It may be justly said of this period that "the word of God mightily grew and prevailed." Monks left their monasteries, and became active instruments in propagating the gospel; and Luther mentions, in a letter to Spalatin, the escape of nine nuns from their convents, among whom he speaks of Catherine von Bora, who afterwards became his wife. New services of worship were being gradually introduced into what were now termed Lutheran churches, but with great delicacy and tenderness. As a wise man, Luther exercised great patience towards those who were but creeping slowly out of the old system into the new. After his noble stand at Worms, he appears very little in what we may call the outworks of the Reformation. There he witnessed for God and His truth as few men have ever done. There is a grandeur and a moral sublimity in his position on that occasion which stands alone in his history. The true moral glory of the Reformation declines from that moment. The political element enters, and soon predominates. The outward aggressive action and the protection of the reformed churches fall into the hands of the temporal princes. This was the failure, the sad failure, the original sin, of the Reformers. But we shall see it more fully when we examine the epistle to Sardis.

The attention of the new pope, Adrian VI., had been turned to the affair of Luther, and to the restoration of the peace of the church. He professed to lament the great abuses of the papal See under his predecessor, and decided on adopting a different line of policy. On the 25th of November, 1522, he addressed a "Brief" to the diet re-assembled at Nuremberg. He deplored the ravages of the church through the perversity of a heretic, whom neither the paternal admonition of Leo nor his condemnation, confirmed by the edict of Worms, had been able to silence. He entreated the sovereigns to have recourse to the sword, he reminded them how God had punished Dathan and Abiram for their resistance to the high priest, and pressed upon them the noble example of their pious ancestors, who had, by an act of perfect justice, delivered the world from the heretics, Huss and Jerome, who were even at this moment revived in Luther.

"The Hundred Grievances"

The papal party rose up in a body, and shouted for vengeance on Luther; but the great body of the temporal princes judged rather that the moment had arrived when they might shake off the burden and the bondage of Rome under which they had so long groaned, and of which they had so often complained, but to no good purpose. Thus it was that, while contending for the doctrines of the Reformation, they prepared the memorial of "The Hundred Grievances," so celebrated in the annals of Germany.

The contrast between the temporal and the spiritual elements now became manifest in the great Reformation movement, though acting together for the humiliation and overthrow of the universal oppressor. It was no longer the friendless, the single-handed, monk meeting, in the power of God and His truth, the Goliath of popery, or the peaceful triumphs of Worms, but angry, political strife, and military enterprise. The light and truth of God in connection with the Reformation seem to have been arrested at this period of its history. We fail to discover any advancement in the farther apprehension of truth by the Reformers from the time that the princes came forward to extend it by the sword. Though Luther was a man of the most genuine faith, he failed to see the effects of the co-operation of the princes for their own selfish ends. But it wrought a spiritual blight on the results and triumphs of faith.

The "Grievances" need not be enumerated here; they were chiefly of an ecclesiastical character, and such as all other nations in Christendom groaned under. Oppressive taxation, perpetual levies of tenths under false pretences, the intrusion of cardinals into the best benefices, the ignorance and entire incapacity of the resident pastors, the pernicious superabundance of festivals, the profusion of absolutions and indulgences, the exactions of the clergy for the administration of the sacraments; indeed the universal venality of things sacred, and the general immorality of the spiritual order. "But though the object of the princes," says Waddington "was no more than to reform the externals of the church while that of Luther was to regenerate the religion at any peril to the church, yet the diversity of their views might not at the moment be perceptible to either, through the ardour of a common hatred, and, to a certain extent, a common cause."* Nevertheless, we may add, the results were ruinous to the progress of light and truth.

{*Dean Waddington, vol. 2, pp. 43-45.}

Events Adverse to the Reformation

While the Reformation, through the instrumentality of Luther, was gathering strength, and spreading rapidly in all parts of Europe, several evils arose to retard its progress and disgrace its character.

In the autumn of 1524 the German peasants, long oppressed by the exhausting, consuming, system of popery, rose in rebellion against their ecclesiastical tyrants. Besides the pomp and luxury of the higher clergy, the whole swarm of inferior clergy was likewise to be supported. But this was not all; new orders were perpetually rising up, and the old mendicants spread like locusts over the whole surface of the country, and devoured with impunity the substance of the people. There had long been deep murmurings and partial outbreaks, but the universal excitement of the moment seemed to give the signal for a general rising. Nearly all the provinces in Upper Germany were in a state of insurrection. Like some sudden tornado, they fell on the religious houses, plundered monasteries, demolished images, and were guilty of other similar excesses. As was usual in those times, the spiritual nobles and the locust friars had given the greatest provocation to revolt, so they were the first against whom the torrent of popular indignation was directed.

The greatest part of this furious rabble consisted of peasants, and hence the calamity has been called the war of the peasants. The sedition, at its commencement, was altogether of a civil nature, for these poor peasants only wished to be relieved from some part of their burdens, and to enjoy greater freedom. But some pernicious fanatics joined them, and turned it into a religious and holy war. The storm raged violently for some time, but, as usual, it passed off in the defeat and slaughter of the insurgents. In the unfortunate battle of the peasants with the army of the German princes, at Mulhausen, 1525, Thomas Munzer, their principal leader, was taken prisoner and publicly executed.

The papists and the enemies of the Reformation endeavoured to identify these wild tumults with the principles of Luther, but entirely without ground. They were unconnected with his followers, and not directly occasioned by his writings.

The Anabaptists

After the death of Munzer and the destruction or dispersion of the peasants, another sect arose, usually called Anabaptists, because they immersed all their converts after they had been already christened. This sect greatly troubled and perplexed the Reformers. What the Gnostics were to the Fathers, what the Manicheans were to the Catholics, such were the Anabaptists to the Reformers. They were purely fanatical. "The leaders claimed the gift of immediate inspiration, the privilege of direct and frequent intercourse with the Deity; and their deluded followers believed them. They had their visions and revelations of the past and the future; their numbers increased with great rapidity, and they followed everywhere in the train of the Reformation." Everywhere it was the cry of these enthusiasts, "No tribute, no tithes, all things in common, no magistrates, the kingdom of Christ is at hand, the baptism of infants is an invention of the devil." They sorely tried the spirit of Luther, as they spoke of themselves as the true and thorough Reformers. He observes concerning them: "Satan rages; the new sectarians called Anabaptists increase in numbers, and display great external appearances of strictness of life, as also great boldness in death, whether they suffer by fire or by water."

In the course of two years these fanatics had spread in considerable numbers over Silesia, Bavaria, Swabia, and Switzerland. But as some of their principles tended to the overthrow of social order, political decrees were issued against them. Persecution began; and as both the Saxon and the Swiss Reformers were opposed to them, they were everywhere visited by the civil power with the greatest severities. But they bore their sufferings with unconquerable fortitude. Neither sword, nor fire, nor gibbet, moved them to retractation of the show of fear. With the capture and the execution of their leaders at Munster, in 1536, the sect seems to have been suppressed.

The Sacramentarian Question

In the same year that the Anabaptists made their appearance (1524), a long and pernicious controversy arose among those who had withdrawn from the Romish communion, respecting the manner in which the body and blood of Christ are present in the sacred supper. Luther and his adherents, while they renounced the papal error of transubstantiation — that the bread and wine after consecration remained no longer, but were transmuted into the body and blood of Christ — yet did maintain that persons coming to the sacred supper participated truly of the body and blood of Christ, together with the bread and wine. This doctrine gave rise to the term, consubstantiation. Ulric Zwingle, the Swiss Reformer, and his adherents were much more simple, being more fully delivered from the traditions of Rome. They maintained that the body and blood of the Lord are not present in the holy supper, but that the bread and the wine are merely symbols or emblems by which people should be moved to remember the death of Christ, and the blessing flowing therefrom.

As nearly all the Swiss divines, and not a few in Upper Germany, followed the teaching of Zwingle, and Luther and his friends contended strenuously for his doctrine, great disunion was created among the true friends of the Reformation, which was artfully fomented by the papists. But more of this afterwards, if the Lord will. We now turn to the

Political Chiefs of the Reformation

The troubled state of the European nations, the frequent wars between Charles V. and Francis I., and the threatening attitude of the Turks, so occupied and perplexed the Emperor, that during several years he could not give much attention to the concerns of Germany and especially to the difficult subject, the new heresy. In all this the hand of the Lord is most manifest. While Charles was keeping vigilant watch over his French, Spanish, and Italian affairs, Luther and his associates, by their writings, lectures, and admonitions, were spreading the truth, and deepening its hold on the hearts of the common people; and the political chiefs, or evangelical princes, were drawing closer and closer together for the defence of their faith and their political liberty.

The perfidious pope, Clement VI., and his able nuncio, Campeggio, were determined to have the edict of Worms enforced and the complete extirpation of the Lutheran heresy. But this could not be done without the co-operation of powerful sovereigns. Charles had been slow in obeying papal orders. But a variety of circumstances seemed to combine at this moment which favoured the policy of the Vatican, and threatened to extinguish the infant Reformation. But God is above all. "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take council together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision." (Ps. 2:2-4) The sword of the Emperor that was whetted for the slaughter of the Reformers, was turned through the treachery of the pope against Rome itself. Thus it happened: -

At the battle of Pavia, in 1526, Francis I. was vanquished by Charles V. and made his prisoner. As the captive King of France could be of no further service to the pope, he immediately transferred his friendship to his conqueror. An alliance was formed with the Emperor the King of England, and the Archduke Ferdinand. The principal article of this treaty was — "That all parties should unite their forces and march in arms against the disturbers of the Catholic religion and the insulters of the pope, and avenge every outrage committed against the See of Rome." By the craft of Satan, the same spirit prevailed in other negotiations of the great powers at this same moment. The treaty of Madrid, which restored Francis to liberty, provided that he should join the alliance. The three most powerful princes of Europe were now in association with the pope for the express purpose of executing the decrees of Worms, and for the extermination by fire and sword of the Lutheran confederacy.

The First Diet of Spires

The Diet of Spires, which opened in June 1526, was to strike the decisive blow. Ferdinand, the Emperor's brother, presided. The oft-repeated imperial message to the diet was read. It demanded that all contentions respecting religious subjects should cease; that the church customs should be maintained entire; that the edict of Worms should be speedily executed, and that the Lutherans should be forcibly destroyed. The princes of Germany, from not only a common object but a common danger, drew closer together. The chief of these were — John, Elector of Saxony; Philip, Landgrave of Hesse, the Archduke of Prussia; George and Casimir, Margraves of Brandenburg; the Elector Palatine; the Dukes of Lunenburg, Pomerania, and Mecklenburg; and the Princes of Anhalt and Henneberg. They met in conference and passed the following resolution: -

"That they would use their utmost exertions to advance the glory of God, and to maintain a doctrine in conformity with His word, rendering thanks to Him for having revived in their time the true doctrine of justification by faith, which had been long buried under a mass of superstition; and that they would not permit the extinction of the truth, which God had so lately revealed to them."

This is the virgin resolution of the princes, and the simplest and the purest they ever promulgated. There is nothing political, social, or financial here. The firmness of the evangelical party, their refusing to obey the edict of the Emperor, astonished the papists. But a voice from Him who is above all and over all, brought the discussions of the diet to a speedy termination. Ambassadors arrived from the King of Hungary, representing the calamities with which that country was overwhelmed, and the danger which threatened all Europe from the triumphant progress of the Turks. This drew the attention of Ferdinand off Luther, and hurried him to his own dominions which lay in that quarter.

What the victorious arms of Solyman accomplished in the case of Ferdinand, the treachery of Clement did in the case of Charles. Scarcely had Francis I. escaped from his captivity, when the pope, dreading the power of Charles in Italy, entered into an alliance with the French, the Duke of Milan, and the Venetians, against Charles. At the same time he absolved Francis from his oath, and authorized the violation of the treaty of Madrid. This so inflamed the resentment of the Emperor, that he abolished the pontifical authority throughout Spain, made war upon the pope in Italy, captured the city by his general, Charles of Bourbon; which was given up to all the horrors of a sack. The life and property of Rome were in the hands of the infuriated German and Spanish soldiers. The pope himself was treated with much personal abuse and indignity. There are few passages in history in which the overruling hand of a retributive Providence is more plainly manifested.

In the midst of these perplexities, a resolution was duly passed, which turned out most favourable for the Reformers. It was to this effect: "That a petition should be presented to the Emperor, urging him to call a free council without delay; and that in the meantime every one should be at liberty to manage the religious concerns of his own territory, in the manner he saw fit, yet under a due sense of his accountability to God and to the Emperor."

The Reformers, returning home, diligently improved this opportunity for strengthening and extending the cause of reform. Great changes were effected in their forms of worship and in the regulation of their religious affairs; and many inveterate superstitions were expelled. The princes and the people became more and more declared; and the foundation of the future division into Catholic and Protestant States, was laid in the history of the Reformation from 1526 to 1529.

The Second Diet of Spires

In the early spring of 1529, the Emperor called the famous Second Diet of Spires. The states of the empire assembled with great readiness. "The papal party especially mustered all their forces and assumed a warlike and insulting attitude. Never on any like occasion had there appeared so large an assemblage of spiritual nobles; and these more than any betrayed by their looks and manners the malignity of their designs. One or two princes, who had hitherto been considered neutral or even favourable to the Reformation, now declared against it. Others came, attended by considerable escorts of cavalry, breathing hatred and defiance. Nothing less was meditated than the immediate extinction of the heresy by the sword."

The imperial message assumed a high and despotic tone. The Emperor complained of the changes in religion, and the disrespect which had been shown to his own authority: for he claimed to be the chief of the christian world, and demanded unreserved obedience to his decrees. He observed that the religious innovations which he had proscribed were daily increasing in numbers, and that too under the pretext of the edict of Spires in 1526, which edict, by virtue of his absolute power, he abrogated as in direct opposition to his orders.

The decree of the Emperor was highly offensive and grievous to the German nobles. It struck at the very root of their privileges and their independence. The evangelical princes and the deputies of the free cities took up a strong but a just position. They affirmed that the edict of Spires had been drawn up according to the usual forms; that the commissioners to the Emperor had consented to it in his name; that it was the legal act of the whole body of the Republic; and that it was beyond the imperial power to annul it.

The Protest

The discussions which arose on this subject were long and often furious. The Catholics had their most able and artful disputants present, such as the celebrated Eck. To the oft repeated cry, "The execution of the edict of Worms," was now added, "The abrogation of the edict of Spires." But the Reformers were firm and united, and they reasoned with great justice. At length, Ferdinand, who presided in the diet demanded with an imperious tone, the unconditional submission of the German princes to the decision of the Assembly. The Reformers protested. This was on the 19th of April, 1529. That simple act being disregarded by the papists, the Reformers presented on the following day, in writing, a second and more elaborate remonstrance, and appealed to the Emperor and a future council. On that account the Reformers received the designation of The Protestants. This is the origin of the term which is now used to denote all those numerous churches and sects which protest on principle against the doctrines, rites, and ceremonies of the church of Rome.

This noble manifesto, which no doubt perplexed the papal party by its firmness and its justice, was signed by John, Elector of Saxony, Philip, Landgrave of Hesse, George of Brandenburg, Ernest and Francis of Lunenberg, Wolffgang of Anhalt, and by the deputies of fourteen imperial cities. But the signatures of no theologians, no doctors of divinity, no university professors, appear. The great Reformation, or religious revolution, has passed into the hands of the powers of this world. There was no Luther at Spires as at Worms. Still both he and his friends were labouring in their studies their pulpits, their universities, for the peaceful progress of the word of God, and the triumphs of the gospel of His grace. And the Lord knows how to estimate and reward the labours of His servants. "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God." (1 Cor. 4:5)

Here papal Christianity receives its deadly wound. The reign of Jezebel, as to her absolute authority, is now judged an intolerable tyranny. The Teutonic mind, which never entirely threw off its native independence, now throws off the galling yoke of Rome. Historically the Thyatiran period closes here. The Protestant period commences, as shadowed forth in the epistles to Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, though all four run on to the end. Then every true Christian in all the different systems in Christendom will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and in due time come with Him in full manifested glory; when divine judgment will be executed on a ripened apostasy.