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THE

CHRISTIAN GUARDIAN,

AND

Church of England Magazine.

MAY 1, 1823.

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MEMOIRS OF THE REFORMERS.

LUTHER.

[Continued from Page 127.]

THOUGH the subtilty of Miltitz, during his continuance in Germany, failed in its design on the cautious Elector, the fair and gentle means to which he resorted in his interviews with the honest Professor, were not altogether without effect on a mind disposed to peace and conciliation. Luther was aware of his Italian artifice, and the plausibility of his profession; yet the emissary of Leo was one who knew by good words and fair speeches to deceive the hearts of the simple." The courteousness of his manner, the testimony he bore to the learning and zeal of the Augustinian, his condemnation of the practices of Tetzel, his affected disposition to make concessions, and his representations of the benefit of concord among Christians, so far prevailed on Luther, that he wrote a submissive letter to the Pope, of fering to abstain from further mention of the odiousness of indulgences, provided his adversaries were enjoined to cease from their recommendation, and to distribute a circular among his friends exhorting them to reverence the holy Roman church. Such conduct from a theologian who had already appealed to a general council, and who knew that the Papal advocate, at the very time he used such soothing speeches, had in his possession

MAY 1823.

seventy briefs against him, which only awaited leave from the Prince to be affixed to as many churches, argues a desire of ecclesiastical peace, and a suppression of vindictive feeling, very honourable to one who could play the warm disputant under protection of high authority.

"Martin," said the Knight when he met him at Altenburg, "I thought you were some old dotard, who sat disputing with himself in a chimney-corner; but I see you are sound and hearty, and attracting universal attention. If I had an army at my command, I could not force you to Rome. I sifted the people," added he, smiling, "as I came along, to find out what they thought of you; and where one was for the Pope there were three for you!" He insisted on Luther's supping with him, and spent the evening in entreating him to cultivate pacific measures, engaging to persuade Leo to meet him half way. The Reformer assured him, that he would take every step to promote tranquillity, that was not inconsistent with the sacredness of truth.

Miltitz was so mortified at the handle which had been afforded for censure by the imprudences and harangues of the low and vulgar Dominican, that he summoned him into his presence, and threatened him so roughly, that the wretched man, who had conceived

Y

himself entitled to praise for his in-
dustry, went home, sickened, and
died: a remarkable end of one of
the most awful characters on re-
cord! It ought to be mentioned
to the credit of Luther, that as
soon as he heard of his illness, he
wrote him a kind letter, and re-
quested him not to fear that he
would show any resentment against
him. It is, however, to be re-
gretted, that this generous conduct
in the Reformer should be so little
appreciated by the elegant bio-
grapher of Leo X. that, on a no-
tice of the letter, he observes,
"Whether this was really intended
as a consolation, the reader will
judge." Was it, then, intended
as an insult over a fallen enemy?
Surely, nothing but a study of Lu-
ther's character through such jaun-
diced media as a Maimbourg or a
Varillas, could have drawn this in-
sinuation from so respectable a
writer. It is an act of common
justice, to stop the thread of the
narration for a moment, to vindi-
cate the memory of a great man
from such an aspersion; and to re-
mark, that it is too much in unison
with the tone of feeling and expres-
sion in a work of considerable in-
terest, but in which the author is
so jealous for the dignity of his
hero, as to consider that it would
have been a degradation in the
Pope to have submitted his quarrel
with Luther to the test of reason
and Scripture; and who intimates,
that if Luther" had been Pope in-
stead of Leo X. he would have de-
fended the church against a much
more formidable adversary than the
monk of Wittemberg." Voltaire
had observed before, in a similar
spirit, that the Pope "should, as
he was advised, have given him a
cardinal's hat to make him alter his
opinion." Those who know any
thing of the sensibility, conscien-
tiousness, self-devotion, and su-
periority to secular motives, which
marked the proceedings of the il-
lustrious Saxon, will not be mis-

led by such representations; and
the student in church matters will
look to other sources for informa-
tion on the character of the Re-
formers, than the philosophic histo-
rians of Liverpool and of Ferney *

The hour in which the Professor
was induced to write his submis-
sive letter to the Pope has been
regarded by reformed writers as a
perilous one for the cause of Pro-
testantism. His feelings had cer-
tainly been so far wrought on, that
though he would not compromise
any essential principle, he endea-
voured to preserve unity by con-
cessions which he could scarcely
approve in their full extent. Ger-
desius, whose research, talent, and
impartiality as an ecclesiastical au-
thority is equalled by few and sur-
passed by none, considers him as
having allowed himself in too great
latitude of expression, in speaking
of the power of the Roman see.
He says, the epistle was not revo-
catory but deprecatory, yet thinks
it must have gone against his con-
science, because a few months be-
fore he had written to a friend, “ I
send you some of my trifles, that
you may see whether I have right-
ly guessed, that the true Antichrist,
of whom Paul speaks, is now
reigning at Rome, and whom I
think I could show to be worse
than the Mahometan power." But
with deference to the Groningen
Professor, it may be pleaded, that
the mind of Luther was yet in such
a twilight state on some material
points, as to which he was after-
wards at issue with so large a por-
tion of Christendom, that his lan-
guage must not be subjected to too
severe a scrutiny. Doubting, as
he did, the pretensions set up by
the Italian Pontiff, he yet would
naturally want confirmation from
the judgment of others. He was
subsequently convinced of their

*Roscoe's Life of Leo X. vol. iv. p. 7; et vol. iii. p. 179. Voltaire, Hist. Gen. de l'Europe, p. 4. c. 8.

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anti-scriptural nature, and it would have been criminal to have uttered in 1522 what it was venial to speak in 1519. At this period he was holding on his course; a majestic orb, exciting admiration from its attendant rings of genius, learning, and piety, but failing, from partial obscuration, to present so steady and certain an appearance as its disk afterwards assumed in a clearer atmosphere.

Miltitz might boast that Luther was in his power; and the latter might hint, that if all the Papal advocates had conducted themselves like the former, his dispute with Rome might never have risen to so great a height; but the time was arrived, fixed by divine ordination, announced by divine prophecy, and signalized by divine favour, when the sword of the Spirit should wound the apocalyptic beast. It is miserable criticism, and worse theology, to argue (as some writers have), that because Miltitz was artful, and Luther submissive, the cause of Reformation was in danger of extinction. No; it was of celestial implantation, and could not be nipt in the bud!

"Jam nova progenies cœlo demittitur alto".

Pomerania, honorary Rector of the academy of Wittenberg *. The contest commenced on the 27th of June, before a numerous and splendid auditory, and continued till the 4th of July, with great skill and dexterity on both sides; Eccius maintaining the Semipelagian and Papistical notions concerning, the freedom of the will, and the grace of congruity; and endeavouring with much plausibility to combat the tenet of the Augustinians, that in whatever man does by preventing and helping grace, he must be considered as a passive and undeserving agent, and that the consent of his will or his co-operation is not to be reckoned among the causes of goodness, God working in him both to will and to do from first to last. The dispute was conducted with much clamour; and because Carlostadt made some happy appeals to books and written documents, it was settled, that all authorities should be laid aside; when Eccius, possessing the better memory and a greater flow of words, seemed to have the advantage of his opponent. As he could not, however, entirely disprove his assertions, he granted, that there is not in man a natural ability to do a good work, but an acquired power. A spectator informs us,

Occidet et serpens."

The zeal of certain bigots in behalf of the reigning superstitions, and their confidence in their rea sonings on the side of error, would not suffer the Professor to sleep at

his post. Eccius challenged Car

Early in the morning a grand mass was celebrated, at which were present many abbots, counts, knights, and burgesses, the Duke engaging a choice musical band for the occasion. The visiting doctors were then brought with great pomp to the citadel, where a space had been pre

lostadt, a known defender of Luther, to a public disputation, to be held at Leipsic, which city Duke George had readily granted for the purpose, in hope that the Papal interest would be well supported by the practised dialectic of the golstadt divine, but contrary to the wishes of the Academy and the diocesan. Eccius appeared on the appointed day with a train of followers, and was met by his antagonist, attended by Luther, Me- Epist. ad Pirckheym. Scult. Ann. Dec. 1. lancthon, and Barnim, Duke of

pared for the disputation, and fitted up with

guard of armed citizens appointed to keep tapestry, pulpits, and benches, and a order. Mosellan, Greek Professor of Leipsic, a friend to the Reformation, but patronized by the Duke, welcomed the asIn-sembly in the name of his sovereign, and

discoursed on the mode of conducting theological controversy. At the conclusion of this harangue, the pipes and clarionets sounded, and the choir sung thrice the hymn to the Holy Ghost.

After which the company adjourned to dinner, and the dispute began in the afternoon.-Mosellani

p. 37.

with respect to the disputants, that the appearance, tone, and manner of Carlostadt, were those of a man who argued, not for the display of ability, but the investigation of truth; whereas Eccius used every aid that could be borrowed from impetuosity in argument or grimace in action.

At the termination of the dispute, Eccius, affecting the air of a conqueror, and wishing to distinguish himself still further as a champion for the Holy See, signified his readiness to break a lance with Luther, as a more noble adversary, who accepted the challenge, on condition that the public faith was engaged for his safety. At the instance of Barnim, he was permitted to preach on St. Peter's day in the chapel of the citadel, the privilege of performing this ministerial office in the principal church being reserved for Eccius; but though his space was more circumscribed, he had a crowded congregation, whom he addressed on some of the principal points on which the Reformers and Papists were at issue.

The questions discussed were, the doctrines of purgatory, indulgences, penances, pardons, and the supremacy of the Roman Pontiff. The main controversy was on the latter. Eccius declared, that they who affirmed that the Roman church was not chief of all other, before Pope Sylvester, were in error; for he who obtained the seat and trust of Peter, the prince of the Apostles, had always been acknowledged as his successor, and Christ's vicar upon earth. Luther answered, that they who attributed primacy to the church of Rome, had no other foundation than the bare and insipid decretals of Popes made four hundred years before; and that these decretals were opposed, not only to all history of a thousand years' standing, but also to Scripture, and the Council of Nice, the most esteemed

of all. Eccius then wished to press the debate on the point of the authority of the Pope; but Luther gave him to understand, that it was invidious in him, under all circumstances, to give such prominency to this particular; and that there were many adversaries, who had denied his positions, who ought to have met him at this time, and given him an opportunity of defending himself, but that he believed they shunned the light. Eccius protested that he had not raised this stir, but Luther himself, who in the explication of his theses had denied, that before the age of Sylvester the Roman Pontiff had any precedence, and had averred before Cajetan, that Pope Pelagius had wrested many passages of the word of God, and originated the mischievous doctrine.

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"When in the course of their argument," says Mosellanus, "they came to that maxim, Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, &c.' Martin interpreted the rock to mean a sound confession of faith; or the whole body of the church with Origen, or Christ himself with Augustine. Eccius, with the more recent fathers, explained it of Peter and his successors, and confirmed his exposition by quotations from Bernard and Jerome. All which Martin admirably parried, observing, that the church on this supposition was without a head, as often as a Roman bishop died. For as to the College of Cardinals, who administered till a successor was elected, it was idle to consider it in the light of a substitute; both because cardinals themselves were the product of a later age in the church, and in any case were to be regarded rather as many heads than one; and also because a divine institution, as such, could not be hindered by the death of man, or even by the passing away heaven itself."

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This second dispute lasted for

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ten days; and when the assembly broke up, Hoffman, Rector of the University, refused to declare to which side the victory belonged; so that the decision was left to the doctors of Paris and Erfurt *. Luther, however, was anxious that the public mind should not be misled by the representations of the Papists, and published a tract, entitled, "Resolutions of the Propositions disputed at Leipsic," and addressed to Spalatinus, in which he said, that Eccius had no cause to boast of the contest, as he had been brought to acknowledge that no trust ought to be put in indulgences. In truth, the Ingoldstadt Professor had been driven to many evasions in the course of the dispute, not only on the subject of indulgences, but on every other question which came before them; and though he was constrained, with a show of candour, to bear testimony to the abilities and attainments of his opponent, yet malice rankled in his heart, and he resolved to leave no means untried to stir up the Pontiff, who, being distant from the scene of action, and engrossed by other occupations, was less alarmed at the progress of the new opinions, to take active measures against the Reformer.

While, therefore, some censures issued by the Academies of Cologne and Louvain only served to call forth an animated reply in defence of his sentiments and conduct from Luther; while he was engaged in addressing a letter to the new Emperor Charles V. imploring his assistance and protection, and declaring that his sole object was the propagation of evangelical truth, in opposition to human inventions and traditions; while, moreover, he deemed it necessary to represent to the states of the Empire his pacific desires, the provocations which he had received, and the calumnies

* The former declined judgment; the

latter sent out a censure of Luther in 1521.

which were circulated against him in every direction; and while he despatched epistles to the same effect to the Archbishop of Mentz, and the diocesan of Mersburg; Eccius repairing to Italy, concerted plans for his overthrow with Cajetan, Prierias, and the leading Dominicans.

The Professor was not ignorant of their machinations, which were aided by addresses against him from the German bishops. He was enabled, however, to possess his soul in peace, and to rely with full confidence upon his God. He spent much of his time in prayer, meditation, and the study of Scripture; and, from suspecting the Pope to be Antichrist, was confirmed from day to day in those sentiments which were soon to assume the more decided form of Protestantism. Among other particulars, he held, that the communion ought to be received in both kinds; and, early in the year 1520, published a Sermon on the Nature of the Sacrament, in the German language, containing explicit views of his convictions on this subject. On the doctrine of justification by faith likewise, he spoke decidedly in some of his positions. fallen man," he observed, "there remains an inward principle of evil, even after he is renewed by the grace of God. Every Christian needs daily repentance, because he sins daily; not, indeed, by daily committing scandalous offences, but by falling short of perfect obedience. Hence there is not a just man upon earth; because, even in actions that are good in themselves there is precisely so much sin as there is repugnance, or difficulty, or disinclination." This was the conflict of which he understood St. Paul to speak in the seventh chapter to the Romans. He asked, moreover," If the evil principle, called the flesh, prevented the operation of the good principle, called the spirit, in a man so holy and

"In

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