Short Papers on Church History — Chapter 38

The Council of Bologna

When we last parted with the Emperor and the pope, they were spending the winter months together at Bologna. Charles arrived in great state on the 5th of November, 1529. When the news of his approach reached Rome, Clement hastened, in full ecclesiastical pomp, to meet his majesty. The Emperor was escorted by five-and-twenty cardinals who received him on the frontiers — besides crowds of nobles, Spanish and Italian, with their brilliant equipages. The pope, overcome by the presence of his dutiful son, saluted him three times; and the Emperor, affecting the reverence due to his "holy father," fell on his knees, kissing his feet, then his hands and his face.

Such was the meeting of the two chiefs of Romish Christendom, whose main object was to consult as to the most effectual means of rooting out the heresies which had sprung up in Germany. The lips of the priest, true to his character urged the immediate adoption of the most violent measures, but the soldier, though backed by a powerful army, recommended some further delay, and suggested that there should be an opportunity given for free deliberation in council on the present aspect of affairs in the church. Clement, who dreaded above all things the public discussion of such questions, employed every argument to dissuade the Emperor from his purpose. He assured him that his forbearance would only make the heretics more presumptuous that the state of things in Germany was desperate and called for force and chastisement. But the policy of the soldier led him to milder measures. He may have cared as little in heart for the Reformation as Clement, but he became daily more convinced that menaces would not subdue the spirit of the Protestants, and he was not prepared for actual warfare. He endeavoured to persuade the pope to call a general council, but the angry pontiff thought of nothing but crushing by military power the stubborn enemies of the catholic faith.

To those who have become familiar with the principles of the papacy, the character of these consultations will be no surprise, however humiliating to contemplate. Impartial history has been careful to record the sad contrast. "On the one side was the prince and the soldier, the natural advocate of arbitrary and coercive proceedings; on the other the peaceful ecclesiastic, the representative of the religion of the God of mercy; and yet, whatever piety or virtue may be found in the above dialogue, whatever justice or pretence to justice, whatever principle of sound morality, whatever generosity of political sentiment, whatever regard for the rights or for the happiness of man, whatever respect for the trite and manifest precepts of Christ — whatever, in short, ought to have proceeded from the minister of concord and charity, was uttered by the secular despot; while the direct recommendation of violence and bloodshed issued from the lips of the spiritual priest."*

{*Waddington, vol. 3, p. 39.}

The crafty pope was well aware that the reformers were then weak and divided, and therefore pressed Charles to carry into execution without delay the sentence of Leo, together with the decree of the Diet of Worms. But Charles was not the man to give up his own will, even to his holy father. He now instructed his chancellor, Gattinara, to explain his views and intentions to the conference; who spoke to the following effect: -

The Emperor had regarded with deep affliction the dissensions which had arisen in his day, and of which the violence appeared to be increasing rather than abating; and that, among all the duties which providence had imposed upon him, none was nearer his heart than that of restoring the tranquillity of the church, that there was no expedient more salutary to the church, or more worthy of the sovereign pontiff and of a christian prince, than to convoke a general and free council for the scriptural determination of all controversies, that this council should be assembled immediately, and composed of the most eminent doctors of all nations, that perfect freedom of debate should be allowed; and that the articles there recommended, after receiving the sanction of the pope, should become the established doctrine of the christian world, and be supported, if necessary, by the interference of the civil powers.

Clement viewed the proposed convocation with great aversion. The proceedings of the councils of Pisa and Constance, which had deposed the popes Benedict XIII., Gregory XII., and John XXIII., excited his fears. He had many personal motives for dreading an assembly of Christendom. "Large congregations," he replied, "serve only to introduce popular opinions. It is not with the decrees of councils, but with the edge of the sword that we should decide controversies." He promised, however, to reflect on what had been said.

The Diet of Augsburg

The Emperor at length came to the conclusion that it would be unjust to follow the Council of the Vatican, and a violation of the imperial laws of Germany, to condemn worthy citizens unheard, and to make war against them. He, accordingly, in the month of January, 1530, sent his mandatory letters into Germany, summoning a diet of the empire to be held at Augsburg in the following April.

In the meantime, during his stay at Bologna, Charles expressed his desire to be crowned by the Pope as many of his ancestors had been. 'He appointed the 22nd of February for receiving the iron crown as King of Lombardy, and resolved to assume the golden crown as Emperor of the Romans, on the 24th of the same month — his birthday and the anniversary of the battle of Pavia. " We notice this fact because Charles was a different man after he sealed by a false oath his coronation vows. The pontiff having anointed him with oil, and given him the sceptre, presented him with a naked sword, saying, "Make use of this sword in defence of the church against the enemies of the faith." Next, taking the golden orb, studded with jewels, he said, "Govern the world with piety and firmness. " Then came the golden crown enriched with diamonds. Charles bent down, and Clement put the diadem on his head, saying, "Charles, Emperor invincible, receive this crown which we place on your head, as a sign to all the earth of the authority that is conferred upon you. "

The Emperor then kissed the white cross embroidered on the pope's red slipper, and exclaimed, "I swear ever to employ all my strength to defend the pontifical dignity, and the Church of Rome." But Charles at this time, was neither inclined, nor able if he had been inclined, to carry matters with that high hand against the reformers, which the pope so earnestly desired. For thirteen years the Lord had so overruled the councils of kings and pontiffs, and all agents and events, that the Reformation had been sheltered from outward violence, and so nourished it by His grace, that it gradually acquired that root and establishment which no human power could subvert. Most distinctly do we see the gracious hand of a good providence at this moment in protecting the reformers from the cruelty of the pope and the power of the Emperor.

The rivalry long existing between Charles V. and Francis I., the intrigues of the popes with these princes, and the threatening advances of the Turks, have been frequently used of God for the peace and prosperity of the Reformation. The work was His and He watched over it.

The Confession of Augsburg

When the Emperor's reasons for the convocation of the diet were known, the elector instructed the divines of Wittemberg to prepare a formula of confession. Up to this time no standard of the faith of the reformers had been published; and as the Emperor was surrounded by all the prejudices and misrepresentations of the papacy, the only hope of removing these prejudices, and of obtaining justice, was by a public and straightforward proclamation of the real principles of the Reformation, and the real objects of the reformers. Luther, with the assistance of Jonas, Pomeranus, and Melancthon, re-examined the seventeen articles which had been drawn up and signed by the Lutheran party at Schwabach in 1529, and thinking them sufficient, presented them to the Elector at Torgau, whence they are called the articles of Torgau. From these articles as a basis, Melancthon, by order and authority of the princes, prepared a more orderly and elaborate statement of their doctrines and observances, and also assigned reasons for their opposition to the Roman pontiffs. This document has ever since been well known as "The Confession of Augsburg."

But as religious concord was the Emperor's professed object in convening the assembly, it was necessary to have the confession drawn up in terms as little offensive to the papists as faithfulness to God and His truth would permit. The pious Elector had recommended the theologians to distinguish between such articles as must, at any cost, be maintained, and such as might, if it were necessary, be modified or conceded. While this celebrated confession was to speak the truth as believed by all Protestants, it was, at the same time, the lowest statement they could consent to make for the sake of peace, rather than the highest they were prepared to give on the authority of the word of God.

As the time drew near for the assembling of the diet, considerable anxiety was manifested by some of the princes as to the real intentions of the Emperor, and the safety of the Elector. He stood first among the princes in Germany, and first as to his faith in God, his love for the Reformation, his opposition to popery, and his avowed protection of Luther against papal and imperial vengeance. But John pursued the wiser and bolder course, and was the first prince who arrived in Augsburg.

The assembling of the diet was postponed till the 1st of May, and the Elector appeared on the 2nd, accompanied by a military train or suite of one hundred and sixty horsemen, and several of his most eminent divines. Luther was left at Coburg. The Elector feared that Luther's presence at the diet would exasperate the papists and drive Charles to extreme measures. He had been excommunicated by the pope, condemned by the Emperor, and viewed as the author of all those dissensions which were now so difficult to compose. But at the same time John was determined to keep Luther within reach, that he might be able to consult him.

It was about this time that Luther published his catechisms, Greater and Lesser, which are of authority in the Lutheran churches, even until this day; and in his castle at Coburg he was made acquainted with all that was going on, and gave his opinions and directions by his numerous letters. He also published just before the opening of the diet, "A remonstrance to the Spirituals assembled at the Diet of Augsburg." The object of this composition was to vindicate the position of the reformers, deny the false charges brought against them, and point out the abuses of the papacy as the ground of their persistent opposition.

On the 12th of May, Philip of Hesse arrived with an escort of one hundred and ninety horsemen, and just about the same time the Emperor reached Innsbruck, in the Tyrol, accompanied by his papal court of princes, cardinals, legates, and nobles of Germany, Spain, and Italy. We learn from Dr. Robertson, the able biographer of Charles, that he was deeply thoughtful when on his journey towards Augsburg. "He had many opportunities of observing the disposition of the Germans with regard to the points in dispute, and found their minds everywhere so much irritated and inflamed, as convinced him that nothing tending to severity or rigour ought to be attempted until all other measures proved ineffectual." It appears that he remained some considerable time at Innsbruck, for the purpose of studying the situation of Germany, and how he might best ensure the success of his schemes.

Meantime, large parties were finding their way to Augsburg from all quarters. "Princes, bishops, deputies, gentlemen, cavaliers, soldiers in rich uniforms, entered by every gate, and thronged the streets, the public inns, churches, and palaces. All that was most magnificent in Germany was about to be collected there. The critical circumstances in which the empire and Christendom were placed, the presence of Charles V. and his kindly manners, the love of novelty, of grand shows, and of lively emotions, tore the Germans from their homes."*

{*D'Aubigné, vol. 4, p. 161.}

It is interesting to notice here, that at this moment, when the leading reformers were assembled at Augsburg, and the enemy close at hand, and while the storm was thus actually impending, the noble and generous Landgrave made one final effort to reconcile the two grand divisions of the reformers. But though Luther was absent, his spirit was there, and burnt with equal ardour among his disciples. They assured the Landgrave that they could never acknowledge as brothers those-who persisted obstinately in error; and that by an alliance with Zwinglians, they should expose themselves to all the hatred that attached to the latter, and thus endanger the success of the Reformation. The Landgrave could not understand how a single error, admitting it to be one, or an obscure question, should be a sufficient reason for exclusion from communion. But his reasoning with the Lutherans was all in vain. No fear of danger, no hope of success could induce them to have any fellowship with the Zwinglians.*

{*Waddington, vol. 3, p. 48.}

As the Emperor did not arrive till June 15th, and the city of Augsburg was crowded with inquirers, the Protestant princes resolved to place their preachers in the pulpits of some of the principal churches. This step was taken in expectation of the Emperor's opposition; but the Elector and the Landgrave thought the opportunity for confessing Christ was too favourable to be neglected. John instructed one of his theologians to preach daily with open doors in the church of the Dominicans, and of St. Catherine. Philip of Hesse appointed his chaplain Snepff to preach the gospel in the cathedral. Every day, through the mercy of God, salvation by grace without works of law, was preached in these places to immense and attentive crowds. The greater part of the population were already Lutherans.

This was a bold step, it was a grand means of converting those whom the Emperor had drawn together. The Catholics were astonished. They had expected to see the Protestants looking like criminals, and afraid to lift up their heads when the saviour of Catholicism was at the gates of the city. But what was to be done? The bishop of Augsburg ordered his preachers to ascend the pulpits and address the people. But the Romish priests were not good preachers — they never were. They understood better how to say mass than to preach the gospel. The Romanists were angry; they hastened to acquaint Charles of what was going on. He immediately sent orders from Innsbruck, that the offensive sermons should cease. The Elector replied, that it was impossible for him to impose silence on the word of God, or refuse himself the consolation of hearing it, nothing is proclaimed in the sermons but the glorious truth of God and never was it so necessary to us. We cannot therefore do without it.

The Protestants very naturally thought that such a reply would hasten the arrival of the Emperor. Melancthon was still at work on the confession. Timid and alarmed, he weighed every expression, softening it down, changing it with such minute anxiety, that his bodily strength was nearly exhausted. Luther thought all this superfluous, and enjoined Philip, under pain of anathema, to take measures for the preservation of "his little body," and not "to commit suicide for the love of God."

While the friends of the Reformation were preparing for the struggle at Augsburg, Luther was not idle at Coburg. Numerous letters and pamphlets issued from his stronghold, his second Wartburg. The castle stood on the summit of a hill, and his apartments were in the upper story, so that he sometimes dated his letters from the region of birds. Impatient at seeing the diet put off from day to day, he wrote to his friends that he had resolved to convoke one at Coburg. "We are already in full assembly," he says, in his own playful style, "you might here see kings, dukes, and other grandees, deliberating on the affairs of their kingdom, and with indefatigable voice, publishing their dogmas and decrees in the air. They dwell not in those caverns which you designate with the name of palaces. The heavens are their canopy; the leafy trees form a floor of a thousand colors, and their walls are the ends of the earth. They have a horror of all the unmeaning luxury of silk and gold; they ask neither coursers nor armour, and have all the same clothing. I have neither seen nor heard their Emperor, but if I can understand them, they have determined this year to make a pitiless war upon the most excellent fruits of the earth.... But enough of jesting — jesting, which is, however, necessary to dispel the gloomy thoughts that prey upon me." For many months he maintained a struggle, full of darkness and mental agony, such as he passed through at the Wartburg.

The Arrival of Charles at Augsburg

Gattinara, the Emperor's chancellor, died at Innsbruck. This was considered a great loss to the reformers. He was a man of good sense and moderation, and decidedly opposed to the sanguinary views of the papal party. He possessed great influence over the mind of the Emperor, and was the only man who dared to resist the pope. The timid Melancthon exclaimed on hearing of his death, "With him all the human hopes of the Protestants vanish."

Two days after Gattinara's death, Charles quitted Innsbruck. He arrived at Munich on the 10th of June, and at Augsburg on the 15th. He made his public entry into the city with extraordinary pomp. Never, according to the historians, had anything so magnificent been seen in the empire.* We only notice that which shows the firmness of the Protestants. The Elector, the princes, and their councillors left the city at three in the afternoon to meet Charles on his way. When he had come within fifty paces of the German princes, they all alighted. Perceiving the Emperor preparing to do the same, some of them advanced and begged him to remain on horseback; but Charles dismounted without hesitating, and approaching the princes with an amicable smile, shook hands with them cordially. The Roman legate remained proudly seated on his mule; but seeing the graciousness of Charles, he raised his hands and blessed the great personages thus assembled on the road. Immediately, the Emperor, the king, the princes, the Spaniards, Italians, and all who submitted to the pope, fell on their knees; but the Protestants, like Mordecai, bowed not. They remained standing in the midst of this prostrate crowd. How galling it must have been to the papal party! But Charles did not appear to notice it, though he must have understood well what it meant. After the usual formalities, the great procession moved on — two thousand imperial guards leading the way.

{*See a full account in D'Aubigné, vol. 4.}

The Emperor was now thirty years of age: of distinguished bearing and pleasing features; pale and delicate-looking with a weak voice, but winning manners, having the air of a courtier more than of a warrior. He marched straight to the cathedral as a humble worshipper, amidst the gorgeous parade of ecclesiastical wealth and display, and the military pride and warlike show of many nations and many crowned heads. When he reached the altar, he fell on his knees, and raised his hands to heaven, as if all he cared for were there and himself a pilgrim and a stranger on the earth. A gold embroidered cushion was offered him, but he refused it, and knelt on the bare stones of the church. All the assembly knelt with him; the Elector and the Landgrave alone remained standing. They required to be present officially, but they acted according to their faith in God and His word.

The Chiefs of the Augsburg Diet

Before the business of the diet commences, it may be well to place in order the principal leaders on both sides. On that of the papists there were the Emperor, his brother Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria and King of Hungary and Bohemia, the pope's legate Campeggio, two nuncios Pimpinella and Vergerio, Joachim Elector of Brandenburg, George Duke of Saxony, and William of Bavaria. These were all vehement Roman Catholics, and took an active part in the diet. Their principal divines were Faber, Eck, Cochlaeus, and de Wimpina.

On the side of the Protestants were John, Elector of Saxony, and his son, John Frederick; Philip Landgrave of Hesse, George Margrave of Brandenburg, Anspach, Ernest, and Francis, Dukes of Lunenburg, Wolfgang Prince of Anhalt, Albert Count Mansfeld, and Count Philip of Hanover, besides the deputies of several imperial cities. Their chief divines were Melancthon, Justus, Jonas, Spalatin, Snepff, and Agricola. There were also several of the Swiss divines, and Bucer, Hedio, and Capito from Strasburg. *

{*History of the Church, by John Scott, M.A., vol. 1, p. 6.}

The firmness and principle of the Protestants were now to be thoroughly tested. The Emperor, on his arrival at Augsburg, repeated his order for the removal of the preachers. "We cannot," said the Landgrave, "deprive ourselves of the food of the word of God, and deny His gospel; and we entreat your majesty to withdraw your order, for our ministers preach only the pure word of God." Charles being much displeased and getting angry, said, in a positive tone, that he could not desist from his demand. "Your conscience," replied the Landgrave, "has no right to command ours." The Margrave, who had been silent until then, having received a sharp answer from Ferdinand, placed his hand on his neck, and said with deep emotion, "Rather would I instantly kneel down, and in the Emperor's presence, submit my neck to the executioner, than prove unfaithful to God, and receive or sanction antichristian error." Charles was moved and surprised, but replied with mildness and address, "that there was no intention to take any man's life." The Emperor then proposed that the preachers on both sides should be silenced, and that the selection of others during the diet should be left to him. The matter in debate was then deferred till another opportunity, but D'Aubigné and others speak as if the Protestant divines continued to preach, though, in all probability, with less provoking publicity.

Ferdinand, who had frequently tried his strength with the princes at former diets, set another snare for their feet, or rather for their necks. The day following that of the Emperor's entrance into Augsburg was the festival of the Holy Sacrament — Corpus Christi. The king was well aware that the Protestants had discontinued, as idolatrous, the ceremonies observed by the church on this occasion, and that their refusal to attend would irritate and inflame the mind of the Emperor. The snare was thus skilfully laid: of victory there can be no doubt, thought the legate. Besides, late in the evening, the Emperor sent for the Protestant princes, and signified to them his pleasure that they should attend him in the procession of the ensuing day. The princes begged to be excused. "Christ," they said, "did not institute this sacrament to be worshipped." Charles persevered in his demand, but gave them till the following morning to prepare their reply.

At the hour appointed the princes appeared before the Emperor. He repeated his demands, and they repeated their refusal. He even used entreaties, but to the same effect. Charles, who had not expected such resistance, was greatly agitated, and the legate endeavoured to exasperate him. The Margrave of Brandenburg again took speech in hand. "You know," he said, "how at the risk of our lives my ancestors and myself have supported the house of Austria, but in the present cause, which pertains to God, I am compelled to resist all impositions of this kind, whatever may be the consequence; since it is written, We ought to obey God rather than man. For the confession, therefore, of the doctrine, which I know to be the word of Christ, and eternal truth, I decline no danger — not even that of life itself, which, I hear, is threatened by some." The wisdom of God again appears, in making the wrath of man to praise Him. The Emperor, his brother, the legate, and others must hear the truth. The sacrament of the supper, the princes answered, was for spiritual blessing to Christians; "not to be paraded in pompous pageantry about the streets, as an object of adoration to the vulgar. They maintained that the festival had no authority in the word of God, and that they deplored any indecent degradation of so holy an institution."

It was already beyond the time appointed for the procession, and the Emperor and his party left the room, but the princes returned full of hope and joy to their palaces, and the festival was celebrated without them.

The defeat of the Emperor and the triumph of the Protestants were as gall and wormwood to the heart of the papal legate. But he had yet another net to spread and determined if possible, that they should be caught. The opening of the diet was fixed for the 20th of June, and the occasion was to be solemnised by the celebration of mass.

The Elector of Saxony was Grand Marshal of the empire and in virtue of his office, he was bound to carry the sword before the Emperor on such occasions. "Order him, therefore," said Campeggio to Charles, "to perform his duty at the mass of the Holy Ghost, which is to open the sittings." This, the legate thought, would not only be attending, but assisting at popish ceremonies. The Elector was requested to attend. His first impulse was to refuse, but on the representation of his theologians, that in this case, he was called to the discharge of a civil office, not to the performance of a religious duty, he consented to attend. But he was careful to inform the Emperor that in so doing he was making no religious concession.

By an overruling providence, he was once more to be a witness for the truth of God, and against the superstitions of popery, and that in its very citadel. The Grand Marshal of the empire, bearing the sword, standing near the altar, remained upright, together with his friend the Margrave, while all the rest of the congregation fell down on their knees at the elevation of the host. Two men dared to stand in that vast assembly at the moment of adoration, and that in the presence of a hostile power, both papal and imperial.

"These mere skirmishes," says one, "though followed by no personal consequences, are very deserving of the notice of the historian, not only as indicating the resolution with which the reformers approached the conflict, but as unquestionably productive of some effect on the mind of Charles. He was unacquainted with their principles and their character. It was a new thing for him to be resisted, and resisted by princes, and in his presence, on the ground of religious conscience." Whatever Charles may have thought or felt of this third resistance to his orders, he left the church immediately mass was over, entered his carriage, and repaired to the town-hall, where the sittings of the diet were to take place.

The Opening of the Diet of Augsburg

The great religious controversy, which commenced with an obscure humble monk on Saxony, now gathered around the avowed defender of the faith forty-two sovereign princes, besides many ambassadors, counts, nobles, bishops, deputies from the cities, etc., etc., forming a most illustrious assembly.

The diet was opened with a long speech, in the Emperor's name, read by the Count Palatine. It turned principally upon two subjects — war with the Turks, and the religious dissensions. Under their Sultan Solyman the Turks had taken Belgrade, conquered Rhodes, besieged Vienna, and threatened all Europe. Hence the necessity of adopting vigorous measures to arrest their progress. But the unhappy religious differences in Germany formed the important point in the Emperor's speech. It was observed that the language in his address was more hostile to the Protestants than his letters of convocation led them to expect. But Charles had been crowned since he wrote those letters; he had sworn to defend the pontiff and the Church of Rome, and his many private interviews with Clement at Bologna, would not improve his spirit towards the reformers. His tone was greatly changed. He referred to the old and oft-repeated story of the Diet of Worms. "He deplored the non-execution of that edict, and the inefficacy of all subsequent exertions for the same purpose during his absence in Spain. He was now returned to his German dominions, to institute a personal investigation, and to attend to the complaints and arguments of all parties, when they should be duly delivered to him in writing."

It was now proposed that the immediate attention of the diet should be directed to the subject of religion. The Emperor, therefore, gave notice to the Elector and his friends, that at the next session, to be held on the twenty-fourth, they should deliver to him a summary of their faith, of the ecclesiastical abuses of which they complained, and of the reformation which they demanded.

This arrangement gave the princes an interval of two days. They met at the Elector's on the twenty-third, to reconsider the Confession, or, as it was then called, The Apology; and also to commit their whole way unto the Lord. It was a time of much anxiety and prayer. The following day the diet met; but it was evidently planned by the papists that no opportunity should be given for the reading of the Apology. It was three o'clock in the afternoon before business commenced. Then much time was spent by Campeggio in presenting his credentials, and delivering his master's message. The Ambassadors of Austria and the adjoining provinces were also introduced, who occupied some time in representing the calamities which they had suffered from the Turks, and in urging the adoption of measures for the protection of these provinces. The length of these preliminary matters gave the Emperor a plausible pretext for objecting to hear the Apology read; he said it was too late. The legate, no doubt, thought he had gained his point; the Catholics, from the pope downwards, dreaded the public reading of the Protestants' Confession. The princes, however, were firm, and equally determined that it should be read aloud in a full diet, that it might have all possible publicity.

A violent struggle now took place between the two parties or rather, we should say between the powers of light and of darkness. The father of lies used every means to quench the light, to stifle this manifestation of the truth, if he could not accomplish the death of the witnesses. But a handful of faithful men, by the grace of God, nobly withstood the powers of darkness in the persons of the great Emperor, the cardinals, prelates, and catholic princes, and triumphed over them. "Deliver your Confession to the appointed officers," said Charles, "and rest assured that it shall be duly considered and answered." "Our honour is at stake," said the princes; "our souls are endangered; we are publicly accused, and we ought publicly to answer." On the continued resistance of Charles to hear the Confession, the princes became bolder and firmer. They assured the Emperor that they had no other motive in attending the diet than this, and that they must retain their papers in their own hands until they had permission to read them publicly.

Charles was surprised at the respectful but unyielding constancy of the Protestants, and saw that some concession was necessary. "Tomorrow," said the Emperor, "I will hear your summary — not in this hall, but in the chapel of the Palatine Palace." The princes agreed to this, and returned to their hotels, full of thankfulness to the Lord, while the legate and his friends now saw, to their sorrow, that the public reading of the Confession was inevitable.

The chapel where the Emperor agreed to hear the Apology was much smaller than the town-hall, and would contain only about two hundred persons. This was the enemy's device to exclude numbers from hearing it; but it was not very successful. All those whom it was most important to undeceive and enlighten on the principles of the Reformation were accommodated in the chapel, and the adjacent chambers were crowded with anxious listeners.

On the 25th of June, 1530 — a day of great interest in the history of the Reformation, of Christianity, and of mankind the Protestant chiefs stood before the Emperor. Christopher Beyer, the Elector's chancellor, held in his hand a German copy, and Pontanus, his late chancellor, held a Latin copy of the Confession. The Emperor wished the Latin copy to be read, but the Elector most respectfully reminded the Emperor that, as they were in Germany, they should be allowed to speak in German. The Emperor consented. The Elector and his companions proposed to stand during the reading, but the Emperor desired them to take their seats. The chancellor, Beyer, then read the Confession. It is said that he read slowly, clearly, distinctly, and with a voice so loud and sonorous, that he was heard in all the adjoining places. Two hours were occupied in reading all the papers, but the most profound attention prevailed during the whole time.

The two copies of this celebrated Confession, being duly signed by the princes and the deputies of the imperial cities, were handed to the Emperor's secretary by Pontanus, who said, in an audible voice, "With the grace of God, who will defend His own cause, this Confession will triumph over the gates of hell." Charles took the Latin copy for himself, and assured the Elector and his allies that he would carefully deliberate on its contents.

The effect produced by the public reading of this document was such as might have been expected. The less prejudiced portion of the listeners were astonished to find the doctrines of the Protestants so moderate, and "many eminently wise and prudent persons," says Seckendorf, "pronounced a favourable judgment of what they had heard, and declared they would not have missed hearing it for a great sum." Father Paul also observes, "that the archbishop of Salzburg, after hearing the Confession, told everyone that the reformation of the mass was needed, the liberty of meats proper, and the demand to be disburdened of so many commandments of men just: but that a poor monk should reform all was not to be tolerated — he would not have reform by means of a poor monk." Such is the pride and prejudice of the human heart. The archbishop might have remembered that God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; that no flesh should glory in His presence. But who is completely above the attractions of personal influence? It matters little to some what may be said, unless spoken by the teacher who is in favour for the time. This is a serious evil in the professing church, and has been the origin of many factions and schisms, besides, it takes multitudes off the ground of faith in the word of God and leads them to trust in the word of man. The great work of God's Spirit was acknowledged by the archbishop to be needed and good, but he rejected it because it was accomplished by means of a poor monk.

But many consciences were touched and many hearts were exercised by means of the Confession. The Lord caused the truth to be felt. For the moment it seemed to have triumphed. "All that the Lutherans have said is true," exclaimed the bishop of Augsburg, "we cannot deny it." The Duke of Bavaria, the great upholder of the papacy in Germany, after hearing the Confession, said to Eck; "Well, doctor, you had given me a very different idea of this doctrine and of this affair: but, after all, can you refute by sound reasons the Confession made by the Elector and his friends?" "No," replied the popish advocate, "by the writings of the apostles we cannot; but by the writings of the Fathers and the canons of councils we can." "I understand," replied the duke in a reproachful tone, "according to you, the Lutherans have their doctrine out of scripture, and we have our doctrine without scripture."

The joy of Luther was boundless when he heard of the Lord's goodness to his friends. "I thrill with joy," he wrote, "that my life is cast in an epoch in which Christ is publicly exalted by such illustrious confessors and in so glorious an assembly. Our adversaries thought they had succeeded to admiration when the preachers were silenced by an imperial prohibition; but they do not perceive that more is done by our public Confession than perhaps ten preachers could have accomplished. Truly Christ is not silent in the diet. The word of God is not bound. No: if it is prohibited in the pulpits, it shall be heard in the palaces of kings."

The day following the reading of the Confession, Charles convoked the states faithful to Rome. "What reply should be made to the Confession?" said he to the senate around him. Three different opinions were proposed by his advisers. 1. The men of the papacy — the pure churchmen — in accordance with the customs and views of the age, and with the violent counsels of the Romish church, had nothing to propose but immediate vengeance. "Let us not discuss our adversaries' reasons," said they, "but let us be content with executing the Edict of Worms against the Lutherans, and with constraining them by force of arms to give up their errors and return to the communion of the church of Rome." 2. Another party — called the men of the empire — proposed that the Confession should be submitted to the consideration of moderate and impartial men, and that the final decision should be given by the Emperor. 3. The men of tradition, so called, advised, that the Confession should first receive a public refutation, and that the Protestants should be compelled to conform to the established doctrines and ceremonies, until a council should decide otherwise. The last proposal was adopted with the Emperor's consent. Faber, Eck, and Cochlaeus, the old champions of Rome and the bitter enemies of the Reformation, were appointed to draw up a confutation of the Protestant Confession, and to have it ready for the diet within the period of six weeks. Meanwhile the secret emissaries of Rome were actively employed in Germany to practice her usual arts of bribery and corruption; which she frequently found to succeed after the defeat of her public exertions.

Since the Confession of Augsburg is the most celebrated document in the history of the Reformation, and has been adopted as a public standard of faith by the general body of Protestants, it may be well just to give the subjects of which it treats. The entire Confession is composed in twenty-eight articles, or chapters. In the first twenty-one is comprehended the profession of their faith. The other seven recount the errors and offensive abuses of the church of Rome, on account of which they had withdrawn from her communion.

The Articles of Faith

The Trinity — Original sin — The Person and work of Christ Justification — The Holy Spirit and the word of God — Works their necessity and acceptance — The Church — Unworthy members — Baptism — The Lord's supper — Repentance Confession — Sacraments — Ministering in the church Ceremonies — Civil institutions — Judgment and the future state — Free will — The causes of sin — Faith and good works Prayer and the invocation of saints.

The Articles Concerning Abuses

The Mass — The Communion in both kinds — Auricular Confession — The distinction of Meats and Traditions — The Marriage of Priests — Monastic vows — The Ecclesiastical Power.

In chapter 10 the Lutherans plainly assert that the real body and blood of Christ are truly present in the Eucharist, under the elements of the bread and wine, and distributed and received. In consequence of this plain assertion of the dogma of Consubstantiation, the Reformed, or Zwinglian party refused to subscribe the Augsburg Confession. Hence the imperial cities of Strasburg, Constance, Lindau, and Memmingen, offered a separate confession, called the Confession of the Four Cities — Confessio Tetrapolitana. It agreed substantially with the Augsburg Confession, except in regard to the corporeal presence; but the Emperor would not allow it to be read in public.*

{*Scott's Continuation of Milner, vol. 1, p. 30; Dean Waddington, vol. 3, p. 57; D'Aubigné, vol. 4; Faiths of the World, vol. 1, p. 258. For a Summary of the Whole Confession, see Mosheim, vol. 3, p. 139.}

The Perplexities of the Protestants

As six weeks must elapse before we can hear the refutation of the Confession, we may turn our attention to the proceedings of the contending parties during that period.

It was indeed a time of trial and suspense to the Protestants. They were perplexed and harassed on every side and in every way. Rome's system of promises and threatenings was immediately put in practice. Favours were offered and threatenings were applied to different individuals in a way most likely to gain their deceitful ends. Even the great Emperor condescended to a policy of meanness and cruelty towards the Elector of Saxony, and the Margrave of Brandenburg, with the view of separating them from the interests of reform. And the Landgrave of Hesse he endeavoured to seduce by the tempting offer of a crown. "What would you say if I elevated you to the regal dignity?" said Charles to Philip; "but," he added, "if you show yourself rebellious to my orders, then I shall behave as becomes a Roman Emperor."

On the Emperor's conduct at this moment, his biographer, Dr. Robertson, makes the following just observations. "From the divines, among whom his endeavours had been so unsuccessful, Charles turned to the princes. Nor did he find them, how desirous soever of accommodation, or willing to oblige the Emperor, more disposed to renounce their opinions. At that time, zeal for religion took possession of the minds of men, to a degree which can scarcely be conceived by those who live in an age when the passions excited by the first manifestation of the truth, and the first recovery of liberty, have in a great measure ceased to operate. This zeal was then of such strength as to overcome attachment to their political interests, which is commonly the predominant motive among princes. The Elector of Saxony, the Landgrave of Hesse, and other chiefs of the Protestants — though solicited separately by the Emperor, and allured by the promise or prospect of those advantages which it was known they were more solicitous to attain — refused, with a fortitude highly worthy of imitation, to abandon what they deemed the cause of God for the sake of any earthly acquisition."*

{*Robertson's Charles the Fifth, vol. 2, p. 383.}

The Sorrows and Fears of Melancthon

The Emperor having failed to draw away the leading princes from the Evangelical Confession, the legate and his deputies used every exertion to gain over some of the leading divines, especially Philip Melancthon. He had manifested great uneasiness at the secret conferences between the Emperor and the princes, and proposed to reduce the demands of the Confession, with the view of accomplishing a reconciliation. Flattered by the attentions of the legate, alarmed by the threats of war and the general appearance of affairs, he lost his balance for a moment and was driven to the very borders of recantation. Even D'Aubigné observes that "he thought it his duty to purchase peace at any cost, and resolved in consequence to descend in his propositions as low as possible." But we must bear in mind that the position of Melancthon was one of extreme difficulty. The responsibility of drawing up the Confession rested almost entirely with himself. It was no easy task to show sufficient causes for the secession of the reformers, and yet to avoid all unnecessary grounds of offence to the papists. He was thus exposed to the insults of his enemies, and to the reproaches of his friends. He had to deal with the princes on the one side, the theologians on the other, and the crafty emissaries of Rome.

The mild and tender spirit of Melancthon was in every way unfitted to contend against all these anxieties. He had neither the inflexible nature nor the religious enthusiasm, of his master Luther. Historians vie with each other in their praise of his great talents, his extensive learning, and his characteristic modesty. "Melancthon," says Dr. Robertson, "seldom suffered the rancour of controversy to envenom his style, even in writings purely polemical." But that which chiefly troubled his soul during those wearisome six weeks was an intense desire to make further concessions to conciliate the Roman Catholics, without the compromise of truth or the violation of conscience. The following letter to the legate shows Melancthon in his lowest state of despondency. Here he ventures to affirm that the Protestants were prepared to refuse no conditions on which peace and concord might be secured to them.

The Letters of Melancthon and Luther

"There is no doctrine," writes Melancthon to Campeggio, "in which we differ from the Roman Catholic Church; we venerate the universal authority of the Roman pontiff, and we are ready to obey him, provided he does not reject us, and that of his clemency, which he is accustomed to show towards all nations, he will kindly pardon or approve certain little things that it is no longer possible for us to change.... Now then, will you reject those who appear as suppliants before you? Will you pursue them with fire and sword? .... Alas! nothing draws upon us in Germany so much hatred, as the unshaken firmness with which we maintain the doctrines of the Roman church. But with the aid of God, we will remain faithful, even unto death, to Christ and to the Roman church, although you should reject us." Thus did Melancthon the head of the evangelical theologians, lower himself in the presence of Rome and of all mankind. But there was one who was watching over the interests of the Reformation, and overruling His servant's failure for the accomplishment of His own purposes and the glory of His holy name.

Melancthon had come down so low, as to entreat the Elector to demand only the two kinds in the Eucharist and the marriage of priests. Had these two things been granted, the Reformation, humanly speaking, would have been arrested, and a reconciliation with Rome accomplished. But the legate would grant nothing. The papists now accused the reformers of having dissembled their heresy in the Apology. Melancthon, filled with shame at the advances he had made to the legate, by whom he was deceived, found a place, we doubt not, of repentance and restoration.

Luther was still at Coburg, but he was constantly hearing of all that was going on, and constantly writing to his friends, especially to the Elector and Melancthon. His letters about this time breathe a very different spirit from those of Melancthon. But as Waddington justly observes, "The wild and lofty solitudes of Coburg were far more favourable to those exclusive spiritual impressions than the crowded halls and courts of Augsburg: and that perpetual contact with the weaknesses and disquietudes of friends, that unwearied wariness necessary against an ever-plotting enemy, would have shaken a firmer resolution than Melancthon's, and had Luther himself been as long exposed to those trials, they would have disturbed his equanimity, though they might not have broken his courage."*

{*Church History, vol. 3, p. 72.}

The following extracts from the letters of Luther during this crisis will give the reader some idea of his christian principles and the soundness of his judgment.

"It is your philosophy, my Philip, which vexes you so, not your theology.... Self is your greatest foe, and it is you who supply Satan with arms against you.... I, for my part, am not very much disturbed respecting our common cause. God has power to raise up the dead, He has power then to support His cause while falling, to restore it when fallen, to advance it while standing upright. If we are not worthy to be His instruments, let the work be done by others; but if we are not to find comfort and courage in His promises, who are there now on earth to whom they more properly pertain?"

Two days afterwards he wrote, "What displeases me in your letter is this, that you describe yourselves as having followed my authority in this affair. I do not choose to be, or to be said to be, your mover in this cause. If it be not also and equally your cause, I do not at least choose that it should be called mine and be imposed upon you. If the cause is mine alone, I alone will act in it.... Assuredly I am faithful to you, and present with you in my groans and prayers, and I would I were also present in body.... But it is in vain I write thus; because you, following the rules of your philosophy, persist in directing these things by reason, that is, in being rationally mad, and so you wear yourself to death, without perceiving that this cause is placed altogether beyond your reach and counsel."

Again on the 13th of July he writes to his son in the faith, "I think that you must be this time have had enough and more than enough of experience not to see, that Belial can by no devices be reconciled to Christ, and that there is not any hope of concord from a council, so far as doctrine is concerned.... Assuredly, I, for my part, will neither yield, nor suffer to be restored, so much as a hair's breadth. I will rather endure every extremity. Concede so much the less, as your adversaries require so much the more. God will not aid us until we are abandoned by all. If it were not tempting God, you would long ago have seen me at your side."

On the 21st he thus wrote to Justus Jonas: "I am delighted that Philip is beginning to find out by experience the character of Campeggio and the Italians. That philosophy of his believes nothing except from experience. I, for my part, would not trust the least, either to the Emperor's confessor, or to any other Italian. For my friend Cajetan was so fond of me, that he was ready to shed blood for me — to wit, my own blood. An Italian, when he is good, is of all men the best; but such is a prodigy as rare as a black swan.... I could wish to be the victim of this council, as Huss was the victim of that of Constance, which was the latest papal triumph."

From these extracts the reader will plainly see that Luther was not a party to the humiliating letter of Melancthon. It is also plain from all history that Luther's letters were used of God for strengthening and confirming his friends at Augsburg during that very critical interval. Though all the resources of papal diplomacy had been brought into action, the papists could not boast of a single apostate. The Elector had been especially tampered with by the Emperor, believing that, if he fell, the Confession would fall with him. But the Lord enabled his servant to triumph. "I must either renounce God or the world," said John. "Well! my choice is not doubtful. I fling myself into His arms, and let Him do with me what shall seem good to Him.... I desire to confess my Saviour." Noble resolution! Invincible warrior of light against the powers of darkness! No weapon of carnal temper could prevail against those which are spiritual and wielded by faith. Here the Elector and his friends were victorious. Would to God they had ever maintained this moral elevation! But alas! for the day when they stepped down to the world's arena of strife and conflict; then all was defeat and degradation. We shall see the mighty contrast between the two classes of weapons by-and-by.