Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
Worms, (Religious) Colloquies of.
Worms, (Religious) Colloquies Of.
This title applies to two conferences held at Worms, in Germany, in the 16th century, for the purpose of effecting a reconciliation between the Romish and Protestant parties in the German states.
I. The first Colloquy of Worms formed a link in the long series of negotiations by which it was hoped to render an appeal to the sword unnecessary. It is certain that the desire for peace was very sincere, whether the situation be regarded in its religious or its political features. The Augsburg Confession, though the ultimatum of the Protestant party at the time, was yet intended to serve as a new basis upon which the entire Church, rather than a separate part, might stand. The Romanists conceded the need of reforms in the Church, and a spirit of improvement seemed disposed to assert itself even in the immediate vicinage of the pope. The emperor, also, though emphatically rejecting the demands of the evangelical party, evinced an intention to make some concessions in important matters. It was natural, therefore, that the Protestants should indulge the hope of ultimate reconciliation, however strongly a few of the more sagacious minds among them might insist that no solid peace could be thus secured. In its political bearings, the Augsburg Confession led to the formation of the Smalkald League (q.v.), an alliance intended to be wholly defensive in its nature, but nevertheless constituting a powerful influence in favor of peace, by reason of the general complication in which the affairs of the empire were involved. The result of these conditions was an alternation of warlike preparation with efforts to preserve the peace, continued through more than a decade of years.
The Reformation had been able, in about twenty years, to extend its rule over regions previously regarded as the strongholds of Romanism, and seemed likely to obtain control of the whole of North Germany. A majority of the electoral college, too, was on its side. These facts, coupled with the pressure brought to bear by the offensive operations of the Turks on the one hand, and the hostile attitude of France on the other, compelled the emperor to give respectful attention to Protestant grievances and demands, and to arrange for a conference which should attempt a reconciliation upon disputed matters of doctrine, such as had been suggested in 1539. The assembly was appointed to meet at Spires, April 2, 1540, but was compelled by an epidemic to convene at Hagenau instead, in June of that year. A preliminary meeting of Romanists, called by king Ferdinand, had been held in May, however, in which Morone, the papal legate, aided by the emperor and king, who imagined the holding of a national council to be contrary to the interests of the empire, was able to start a train of influences which led to the breaking up of the Hagenau Conference before it had fairly begun.
The emperor's necessities, however, compelled its revivification, and a decree recalled its members to Worms to open the renewed conference, October 28. The actual date of its opening was, however, November 25, the imperial chancellor, Granvella, presiding. As at Hagenau, the princes were represented by their political and theological agents. Rome was represented by Campeggio, brother to the cardinal, and bishop of Feltre, whose diplomatic ability was equal to the task of preventing the success of this renewed attempt to secure a national council. He proposed that the discussions should be in writing, and that each party should have but one vote, instead of being permitted to secure victory by a majority of individual voices, both of which measures were rejected. Granvella's proposition, however, that a single theologian from either party should represent his side, but that any member of the conference should be at liberty to add whatever he might deem proper, was rejected by the nuncio, and afterwards admitted only with the proviso that such additions might be made by a majority of either party only, a minority being allowed to submit their objections in writing to the president and the imperial orator. Discussions respecting such matters of form occupied the whole of December.
The business of the conference began January 2, 1541. Melanchthon and Calvin were prominent on the Protestant side, and the former was opposed to his familiar antagonist, Eck, the disputation beginning with the charge, advanced by Eck, that the alterations made in the Augsburg Confession marked a departure from the original ground of that instrument, and the response by Melanchthon that the changes made had respect merely to matters of form. The question of original sin was again taken in hand, but with no result, as might have been expected from a disputation to which a man like Eck, whose vanity would permit no retraction even if he were defeated, was a party. The conference was thus fruitlessly occupied from January 14 to 17, and on the following day an imperial rescript brought the Conference of Worms to a close, and transferred its business to Ratisbdn, where a diet of the empire had begun to assemble. The result of that congress demonstrated completely the impossibility of a peaceful settlement of existing differences, and left the prospect dark with clouds of strife, which ultimately burst in the Smalkiald war.
Documents relating to the first Colloquy of Worms are quite fully given in Corp. Reform. 3:1132-4:90. See, in addition, Raynald, ad ann. 1540, 47- 59; Seckendorf, Hist. Luth. 3:21, § 79, 80; Salig, Hist. d. Augsburg Conf. I, book 3, 2, § 3, 4; Ranke, Deutsch. Gesch. im Zeitalter d. Reformation, 4:151 sq.; Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.
II. The Colloquy of 1557 was the last in the series of fruitless endeavors to bring together the now completely divided religious parties of the German empire. Its principal importance, however, consists in its bearing upon the internal conditions of the Protestant Church itself. The religious peace of Augsburg had secured the external interests of that Church for a time; but the rise of Flacianism originated most bitter controversy within its own pale, whose subject was the Augustana, the confession upon which the Evangelical Church based its right to recognition itself.
There was consequently no desire among theologians for a religious congress, particularly such a congress as was called for by the recess of the Diet of Ratisbon in 1557, which directed that a colloquy between the adherents of the Roman Catholic faith and of the Augsburg Confession should be held. Statesmen, for their part, had learned by repeated experiences to regard such measures as wholly unsuited to accomplish the end in view and give the desired rest to Church and country. The wish of king Ferdinand, however, decided the case, and the colloquy was fixed for August 1557. A previous diet of Protestant princes was convoked at Frankfort, for the purpose of attempting a reconciliation of parties in the evangelical camp, but without result; and the representatives of Ernestinian Saxony went to Worms instructed to labor that a solid front might be presented to the Roman Catholic foe, but to make the utterance of the Flacian shibboleth the condition of any unity that might be reached.
The arrival of the delegation from' electoral Saxony was delayed, and the Flacianists used the opportunity thus afforded to attempt the proselytizing of the representatives of other governments as they arrived; but in this respect their success was very imperfect. An attack directed against Melanchthon in the assembly of September 4 by the theologians of Weimar was equally without satisfactory result, and even led to threats of excluding the troublesome party from the colloquy, the occasion being marked with great violence and passion. A written condemnation of the corrupters of the Augsburg Confession was finally placed in the hands of the Protestant assessors, with the reservation of liberty to publish the paper if it should become necessary. Melanchthon, against whom,all those efforts were principally directed, endeavored to harmonize the conflicting elements, and even drew up a formula of consensus, which amounted to a retraction of the points offensive to Flacianists, but was thwarted in his purpose to restore peace by the obstinacy of others, particularly the Wuirtembergers. In the absence of the princes king Ferdinand had appointed the bishop of Spires to preside at Worms, and when that prelate became sick he substituted for him the bishop of Naumburg, Julius von Pflug, the only person, perhaps, besides Melanchthon, who cherished a real desire for reconciliation.
Pflug was supported by Seldius, the royal vice-chancellor, and each party had its assessors, adjuncts, auditors, and notaries. The principal collocutors were Melanchthon, Brentius, Morlin, Schnepf, etc., on the Protestant, and the theologian Canisius and the perverts Staphylust and Wicelius (q.v.) on the Romish, side. A preliminary meeting, for agreement on the methods to be observed in the disputation, was held in September, which, however, served only to begin the series of difficulties encountered in the progress of the conference, and to foretell its failure. Melanchthon made a preliminary statement, unequivocally based on the Augsburg Confession, in behalf of the Protestant party; and Sidonius, speaking for the other party, interposed objections, whose effect the president was able to neutralize only by refusing to. receive either statement in documentary form. On September 14 the expectation of ultimate failure to realize the ends hoped for from the conference, which the delegates evidently entertained, found expression in the decision to conduct the disputation in writing — a decision which protracted the debate interminably.
On the following day a question of fundamental importance was discussed, upon which the parties. came to a disagreement so unqualified that no future reconciliation was possible — the question respecting standards of authority by which to test qaestions of doctrine, etc. The Romanists proposed and insisted on the Consensus Patrumn as such a standard, but the Protestants interposed a formal protest against the proposition. The attempt to ignore the fundamental character of this difference, made by introducing and proceeding to discuss the doctrine of original sin, met with failure; and as it was now evident that no agreement could be reached where the opposing principles were so surely destructive of each other, the Romish party adopted the tactics of exciting quarrels among their opponents, which should necessitate the adjournment of the conference. Canisius called attention tc the many alterations made in the A ugustana, and Sidoninis demanded that the evangelicals should declare whether Zwinglians and Calvinists on the sacraments, Osiaiudrians on justification, Flacianists with respect to the De Servo Arbitrio and good works, and the Picards on many points, were judged to be beyond the pale of the Augsburg Conference. The Weimar theologians now submitted their hitherto unpublished protestation to the president and the Romish councillors, despite the opposition of the Protestant assessors and the threat that they should be excluded from the congress.
Duke John Frederic the Intermediate attempted, by personal intervention, to influence Melanchthon to favor the Weimar party, but that theologian could lay the blame for the failure of the colloquy at no other door than that of the Weimar delegation, and was, besides, too closely united with the Wiirtembergers to become the ally of Weimar. The Flacianists thereupon wrote to Pflug to explain their action, and to protest against their exclusion from the congress; and the Romish assessors, etc., voted against the continuation of the colloquy, on the ground that it was no longer possible to determine the party with which the disputation ought, by the terms of the Ratisbon recess, to be held. Both protestations were officially acknowledged by Pflug, October 6. Duke Christopher of Saxony sent other theologians, but the Romanists persisted in their refusal to dispute.
A delegation of French Protestants arrived at this precise juncture to invoke the good offices of their coreligionists with Henry II, who had incarcerated one hundred and thirty-five members of the Evangelical Church in Paris, and their arrival complicated matters by raising the question whether adherents of the Augsburg Confession could properly take action in favor of members of the Reformed churches; and the difficulty was still further aggravated by a violent controversial sermon, with which George Major, at Leipsic, responded to the charges submitted by the Weimarians at Worms. The protest rendered October 21 by the evangelical party, in which they charged the failure of the colloquy upon the Romish opponents, though in some respects authorized, was yet neutralized by the irreconcilable differences which were thus shown to exist among its alleged supporters, and elicited no response. All the papers relating to the colloquy were sent to Ferdinand, and the members of the congress scattered. A royal rescript was received, November 16, ordering, if possible, a renewal of the colloquy, in which the Weimar theologians should be allowed to participate, and in connection with which the Romish party should be satisfied with a general profession of adherence to the Augsburg Confession on the part of its opponents. A long series of protests and responses was the result of this order, whose persistency finally exhausted even the patience of Pflug. He forwarded the whole collection to the king, and reported the impossibility of securing the results desired from a disputation. The last official attempt to unite the two opposing religious parties of Germany was ended.
For documentary sources, see Corp. Reform. volume 9, and Raynald, ad ann. 1557, No. 31-35. The most thorough presentation of the colloquy is that of Salig, Hist. d. Augsbur. Conf. 3:9, 1; see also Planck, Gesch. d. Prot. Lehrbegriffs, 3:8, 8; Bucholtz, Gesch. Ferdinands I, 7:5; Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Worms, (Religious) Colloquies of.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/w/worms-religious-colloquies-of.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.