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The History of Protestantism

by 'James Aitken Wylie'

Book 10 — Rise and Establishment of Protestantism in Sweden and Denmark

Chapter 4 — Conference at Upsala

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Programme of Debate — Twelve Points — Authority of the Fathers — Power of the Clergy — Can Ecclesiastical Decrees Bind the Conscience? — Power of Excommunication — The Pope's Primacy — Works or Grace, which saves? — Has Monkery warrant in Scripture? — Question of the Institution of the Lord's Supper — Purgatory — Intercession of the Saints — Lessons of the Conference — Conscience Quickened by the Bible produced the Reformation.

THAT the ends of the conference might be gained, the king ordered a list to be made out beforehand of the main points in which the Protestant Confession differed from the Pontifical religion, and that in the discussion point after point should be debated till the whole programme was exhausted. Twelve main points of difference were noted down, and the discussion came off at Upsala in 1526. A full report has been transmitted to us by Johannes Baazius, in the eighth book of his History of the Church of Sweden, [1] which we follow, being, so far as we are aware the only original account extant. We shall give the history of the discussion with some fullness, because it was a discussion on new ground, by new men, and also because it formed the turning-point in the Reformation of Sweden.

The first question was touching the ancient religion and the ecclesiastical rites: was the religion abolished, and did the rites retain their authority, or had they ever any?

With reference to the religion, the Popish champion contended that it was to be gathered, not from Scripture but from the interpretations of the Fathers. "Scripture," he said, "was obscure; and no one would follow an obscure writing without an interpreter; and sure guides had been given us in the holy Fathers." As regarded ceremonies and constitutions, "we know," he said, "that many had been orally given by the apostles, and that the Fathers, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, and others, had the Holy Spirit, and therefore were to be believed in defining dogmas and enacting institutions. Such dogmas and constitutions were, in fact, apostolic."

Olaf replied that Protestants did not deny that the Fathers had the Spirit, and that their interpretations of Scripture were to be received when in accordance with Holy Writ. They only put the Fathers in their right place, which was below, not above Scripture. He denied that the Word of God was obscure when laying down the fundamental doctrines of the faith. He adduced the Bible's own testimony to its simplicity and clearness, and instanced the case of the Ethiopian eunuch whose difficulties were removed simply by the reading and hearing of he Scriptures. "A blind man," he added, "cannot see the splendor of the midday sun, but that is not because the sun is dark, but because himself is blind. Even Christ said, 'My doctrine is not mine, but the Father's who sent me,' and St. Paul declared that should he preach any other gospel than that which he had received, he would be anathema. How then shall others presume to enact dogmas at their pleasure, and impose them as things necessary to salvation?" [2]

Question Second had reference to the Pope and the bishops: whether Christ had given to them lordship or other dominion save the power of preaching the Word and administering the Sacraments? and whether those ought to be called ministers of the Church who neglected to perform these duties?

In maintaining the affirmative Gallus adduced the eighteenth chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel, where it is written, "But if he will not hear thee, tell it to the princes of the Church;" "from which we infer," he said, "that to the Pope and prelates of the Church has been given power to adjudicate in causes ecclesiastical, to enact necessary canons, and to punish the disobedient, even as St. Paul excommunicated the incestuous member in the Corinthian Church."

Olaf in reply said

"that we do indeed read that Christ has given authority to the apostles and ministers, but not to govern the kingdoms of the world, but to convert sinners and to announce pardon to the penitent."

In proof he quoted Christ's words, "My kingdom is not of this world."

"Even Christ," he said, "was subject to the magistrate, and gave tribute; from which it might be surely inferred that he wished his ministers also to be subject to kings, and not to rule over them; that St. Paul had commanded all men to be subject to the powers that be, and that Christ had indicated with sufficient distinctness the work of his ministers when he said to St. Peter, 'Feed my flock.'" As we call no one a workman who does not fabricate utensils, so no one is to be accounted a minister of the Church who does not preach the Rule of the Church, the Word of God.

Christ said not, "Tell it to the princes of the Church," but, "Tell it to the Church." The prelates are not the Church. The apostles had no temporal power, he argued, why give greater power to bishops now than the apostles had? The spiritual office could not stand with temporal lordship; nor in the list of Church officers, given in the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, is there one that can be called political or magisterial. Everywhere in the Bible spiritual men are seen performing spiritual duties only. [3]

The next point raised was whether the decrees of man had power to bind the conscience so that he who shirked [4] them was guilty of notorious sin?

The Romish doctor, in supporting the affirmative, argued that the commands of the prelates were holy, having for their object the salvation of men: that they were, in fact, the commands of God, as appeared from the eighth chapter of the Book of Proverbs, "By me princes decree righteousness." The prelates were illuminated with a singular grace; they knew how to repair, enlarge, and beautify the Church. They

sit in Moses' seat; "hence I conclude," said Gallus, "that the decrees of the Fathers were given by the Holy Ghost, and are to be obeyed."

The Protestant doctor replied that this confounded all distinction between the commands of God and the commands of man; that it put the latter on the same footing in point of authority with the former; that the Church was upheld by the promise of Christ, and not by the power of the Pope; and that she was fed and nourished by the Word and Sacraments, and not by the decrees of the prelates. Otherwise the Church was now more perfect, and. enjoyed clearer institutions, than at her first planting by the apostles; and it also followed that her early doctrine was incomplete, and had been perfected by the greater teachers whom modern times had produced; that Christ and his apostles had, in that case, spoken foolishly [5] when they foretold the coming of false prophets and of Antichrist in the latter times. He could not understand how decrees and constitutions in which there reigned so much confusion and contradiction should have emanated from the Holy Ghost. It rather seemed to him as if they had arrived at the times foretold by the apostle in his farewell words to the elders of Ephesus, "After my departure there shall enter in grievous wolves not sparing the flock."

The discussion turned next on whether the Pope and bishops have power to excommunicate whom they please? [6] The only ground on which Doctor Gallus rested his affirmative was the eighteenth chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel, which speaks of the gift of the power of binding and loosing given to St. Peter, and which the doctor had already adduced in proof of the power of the prelates.

Olaf, in reply, argued that the Church was the body of Christ, and that believers were the members of that body. The question was not touching those outside the Church; the question was, whether the Pope and prelates had the power of casting out of the Church those who were its living members, and in whose hearts dwelt the Holy Ghost by faith? This he simply denied. To God alone it belonged to save the believing, and to condemn the unbelieving. The bishops could neither give nor take away the Holy Ghost. They could not change those who were the sons of God into sons of Gehenna. The power conferred in the eighteenth chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel, he maintained, was simply declaratory; what the minister had power to do, was to announce the solace or loosing of the Gospel to the penitent, and its correction or cutting off to the impenitent. He who persists in his impenitence is excommunicate, not by man, but by the Word of God, which shows him to be bound in his sin, till he repent. The power of binding and loosing was, moreover, given to the Church, and not to any individual man, or body of men. Ministers exercise, he argued, their office for the Church, and in the name of the Church; and without the Church's consent and approval, expressed or implied, they have no power of loosing or binding any one. Much less, he maintained, was this power of excommunication secular; it was simply a power of doing, by the Church and for the Church, the necessary work of purging out notorious offenders from the body of the faithful.

The discussion next passed to the power and office of the Pope personally viewed.

The Popish champion interpreted the words of Christ (Luke 22), "Whosoever will be first among you," as meaning that it was lawful for one to hold the primacy. It was, he said, not primacy but pride that was here forbidden. It was not denied to the apostles, he argued, or their, successors, to hold the principality in the government of the Church, but to govern tyrannically, after the fashion of heathen kings; that history showed that since the times of Pope Sylvester — i.e., for twelve hundred years — the Pope had held, with the consent of emperors and kings, the primacy in the Church, and that he had always lived in the bonds of charity with Christian kings, calling them his dear sons; how then could his state of dominancy be displeasing to Christ?

Doctor Olaf reminded his opponent that he had already proved that the power conferred by Christ on the apostles and ministers of the Church was spiritual, the power even to preach the Gospel and convert sinners. Christ had warned them that they should meet, in the exercise of their office, bitter opposition and cruel persecutions: how could that be if they were princes and had servants to fight for them? Even Christ himself came not to be a ruler, but a servant. St. Paul designated the office of a bishop, "work" and not "dominion;" implying that there would be more onus than honor attending it. [7] The Roman dominancy, he affirmed, had not flourished for twelve hundred years, as his opponent maintained; it was more recent than the age of Gregory, who had stoutly opposed it. But the question was not touching its antiquity, but touching its utility. If we should make antiquity the test or measure of benignity, what strange mistakes should we commit! The power of Satan was most ancient, it would hardly be maintained that it was in an equal degree beneficent. Pious emperors had nourished this Papal power with their gifts; it had grown most rapidly in the times of greatest ignorance; it had taken at last the whole Christian world under its control; when consummated it presented a perfect contrast to the gift of Christ to St. Peter expressed in these words, "Feed my sheep." The many secular affairs of the Pope did not permit him to feed the sheep. He compelled them to give him not only their milk and wool, but even the fat and

the blood. May God have mercy upon his own Church. [8]

They came at length to the great question touching works and grace, "Whether is man saved 'by his own merits, or solely by the grace of God?"

Doctor Gallus came as near to the Reformed doctrine on this point as it was possible to do without surrendering the corner-stone of Popery. It must be borne in mind that the one most comprehensive distinction between the two Churches is Salvation of God and Salvation of man: the first being the motto on the Protestant banner, the last the watchword of Rome. Whichever of the two Churches surrenders its peculiar tenet, surrenders all. Dr. Gallus made appear as if he had surrendered the Popish dogma, but he took good care all the while, as did the Council of Trent afterwards, that, amid all his admissions and explanations, he should preserve inviolate to man his power of saving himself. "The disposition of the pious man," said the doctor, "in virtue of which he does good works, comes from God, who gives to the renewed man the grace of acting well, so that, his free will co-operating, he earns the reward promised; as the apostle says, 'By grace are we saved,' and, 'Eternal life is the gift of God;' for," continued the doctor, "the quality of doing good, and of possessing eternal life, does not flow to the pious man otherwise than from the grace of God." Human merit is here pretty well concealed under an appearance of ascribing a great deal to Divine grace. Still, it is present — man by working earns the promised reward.

Doctor Olaf in reply laid bare the mystification: he showed that his opponent, while granting salvation to be the gift of God, taught that it is a gift to be obtained only by the sinner's working. This doctrine the Protestant disputant assailed by quoting those numerous passages of Scripture in which it is expressly said that we are saved by faith, and not by works; that the reward is not of works, but of grace; that ground of glorying is left to no one; and that human merit is entirely excluded in the matter of salvation; from which, he said, this conclusion inevitably followed, that it was a vain dream to think of obtaining heaven by purchasing indulgences, wearing a monk's cowl, keeping painful vigils, or going wearisome journeys to holy places, or by good works of any sort.

The next, point to be discussed was whether the monastic life had any foundation in the Word of God?

It became, of course, the duty of Doctor Gallus to maintain the affirmative here, though he felt his task a difficult one. He made the best he could of such doubtful arguments as were suggested to him by "the sons of the prophets," mentioned in the history of Samuel; and the flight at times of Elijah and Elisha to Mount Carmel. He thought, too, that he could discover some germs of the monastic life in the New Testament, in the company of converts in the Temple (Acts 2); in the command given to the young man, "Sell all that thou hast;" and in the "eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake." But for genuine examples of monks and monasteries he found himself under the necessity of coming down to the Middle Ages, and there he found no lack of what he sought.

It was not difficult to demolish so unsubstantial a structure as this. "Neither in the Old Testament nor in the New," Doctor Olaf affirmed, "is proof or instance of the monastic life to be found. In the times of the apostles there were no monks. Chrysostom, in his homily on the Epistle to the Hebrews, says, 'Plain it is that the Church for the first 200 years knew nothing of the monastic life. It began with Paulus and Antoniius, who chose such a life, and had many solitaries as followers, who, however, lived without 'order' or 'vow,' till certain arose who, about A.D. 350, framed regulations for these recluses, as Jerome and Cassian testify." After a rapid sketch of their growth both in numbers and wealth, he concluded with some observations which had in them a touch of satire. The words of Scripture, "Sell all that thou hast," etc., were not, he said, verified in the monks of the present day, unless in the obverse. Instead of forsaking all they clutched all, and carried it to their monastery; instead of bearing the cross in their hearts they embroidered it on their cloaks; instead of fleeing from the temptations and delights of the world, they shirked its labors, eschewed all acquaintanceship with the plough and the loom, and found refuge behind bolted doors amid the silken couches, the groaning boards, and other pleasures of the convent. The Popish champion was doubtless very willing that this head of the discussion should now be departed from.

The next point was whether the institution of the Lord's Supper had been changed, and lawfully so?

The disputant on the Popish side admitted that Christ had instituted all the Sacraments, and imparted to them their virtue and efficacy, which virtue and efficacy were the justifying grace of man. [9] The essentials of the Sacrament came from Christ, but there were accessories of words and gestures and ceremonies necessary to excite due reverence for the Sacrament, both on the part of him who dispenses and of him who receives it. These, Doctor Gallus affirmed, had their source either from the apostles or from the primitive Church, and were to be observed by all Christians. Thus the mass remains as instituted by the Church, with significant rites and decent dresses.

"The Word of God," replied Olaf, "endures for ever; but," he added, "we are forbidden either to add to it or take away from it. Hence it follows that the Lord's Supper having been, as Doctor Gallus has admitted, instituted by Christ,

is to be observed not otherwise than as he has appointed. The whole Sacrament — as well its mode of celebration as its essentials — is of Christ and not to be changed." He quoted the words of institution, "This is my body" — "take eat;" "This cup is the New Testament in my blood" — "drink ye all of it," etc. "Seeing," said he, "Doctor Gallus concedes that the essentials of a Sacrament are not to be changed, and seeing in these words we have the essentials of the Lord's Supper, why has the Pope changed them? Who gave him power to separate the cup from the bread? If he should say the blood is in the body, I reply, this violates the institution of Christ, who is wiser than all Popes and bishops.

Did Christ command the Lord's Supper to be dispensed differently to the clergy and to the laity? Besides, by what authority has the Pope changed the Sacrament into a sacrifice? Christ does not say, 'Take and sacrifice,' but, 'Take and eat.' The offering of Christ's sacrifice once for all made a full propitiation. The Popish priestling, [10] when he professes to offer the body of Christ in the Lord's Supper, pours contempt upon the sacrifice of Christ, offered upon the altar of the cross. He crucifies Christ afresh. He commits the impiety denounced in the sixth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. He not only changes the essentials of the Lord's Supper, but he does so for the basest end, even that of raking together [11] wealth and filling his coffers, for this is the only use of his tribe of priestlings, and his everlasting masses."

From masses the discussion passed naturally to that which makes masses saleable, namely, purgatory.

Doctor Gallus held that to raise a question respecting the existence of purgatory was to stumble upon plain ground, for no religious people had ever doubted it. The Church had affirmed the doctrine of purgatory by a stream of decisions which can be traced up to the primitive Fathers. It is said in the twelfth chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel, argued Doctor Gallus, that the sin against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven, "neither in this world, neither in the world to come;" whence it may be inferred that certain sins will be forgiven in the future world. Not in heaven, for sinners shall not be admitted into it; not in hell, for from it there is no redemption: it follows that this forgiveness is to be obtained in purgatory; and so it is a holy work to pray for the dead. With this single quotation the doctor took leave of the inspired writers, and turned to the Greek and Latin Fathers. There he found more show of support for his doctrine, but it was somewhat suspicious that it was the darkest ages that furnished him with his strongest proofs.

Doctor Olaf in reply maintained that in all Scripture there was not so much as one proof to be found of purgatory. He exploded the fiction of venial sins on which the doctrine is founded; and, taking his stand on the all-sufficiency of Christ's expiation, and the full and free pardon which God gives to sinners, he scouted utterly a theory founded on the notion that Christ's perfect expiation needs to be supplemented, and that God's free pardon needs the sufferings of the sinner to make it available. "But," argued Doctor Gallus, "the sinner must be purified by these sufferings and made fit for heaven." "No," replied Doctor Olaf, "it is faith that purifies the heart; it is the blood of Christ that cleanses the soul; not the flames of purgatory."

The last point to be debated was "whether the saints are to be invocated, and whether they are our defenders, patrons, and mediators with God?" On this head, too, Doctor Gallus could appeal to a very ancient and venerable practice, which only lacked one thing to give it value, the authority of Scripture. His attempt to give it this sanction was certainly not a success. "God," he said, "was pleased to mitigate the punishment of the Jews, at the intercession of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then shut up in limbo, and on the express footing of their merits." The doctor forgot to explain how it happened that the merits which could procure remission of punishment for others, could not procure for themselves deliverance from purgatory. But, passing this, the Protestant respondent easily disposed of the whole case by referring to the profound silence of Scripture touching the intercession of the saints, on the one hand, and its very emphatic teaching, on the other, that there is but one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. [12]

The conference was now at an end. The stage on which this conference was conducted was an obscure one compared with that of Wittemberg and Augsburg, and the parties engaged in it were but of secondary rank compared with the great chiefs between whom previous contests of a similar kind had been waged; but the obscurity of the stage, and the secondary rank of the combatants, are the very reasons why we have given it so prominent a place in our history of the movement. It shows us the sort of men that formed the rank and the of the army of the Reformers. They were not illiterate, sectarian, noisy controversialists — far from it; they were men who had studied the Word of God, and knew well how to wield the weapons with which the armory of the Bible supplied them. In respect of erudition they were ahead of their age. When we confine our attention to such brilliant centers as Wittemberg and Zurich, and to such illustrious names as those of Luther and Melancthon, of Zwingle and Ecolampadius, we are apt to be told, these were the leaders of the movement, and we should naturally expect

in them prodigious power, and vast acquisitions; but the subordinates were not like these. Well, we turn to the obscure theater of Sweden, and the humble names of Olaf and Lawrence Patersen — from the masters to the disciples - what do we find? Sciolists and tame imitators? No: scholars and theologians; men who have thoroughly mastered the whole system of Gospel truth, and who win an easy victory over the sophists of the schools, and the dignitaries of Rome.

This shows us, moreover, the real instrumentality that overthrew the Papacy. Ordinary historians dwell much upon the vices of the clergy, the ambition of princes, and the ignorance and brutishness of the age. All these are true as facts, but they are not true as causes of the great moral revolution which they are often adduced to explain. The vice and brutishness of all ranks of that age were in truth a protective force around the Papacy. It was a state of society which favored the continuance of such a system as the Church of Rome, which provided an easy pardon for sin, furnished opiates for the conscience, and instead of checking, encouraged vice. On the other hand, it deprived the Reformers of a fulcrum of enlightened moral sentiment on which to rest their lever for elevating the world. We freely admit the causes that were operating towards a change, but left to themselves these causes never would have produced such a change as the Reformation. They would but have hastened and perfected the destruction of the putrid and putrifying mass, they never could have evoked from it a new and renovated order of things. What was needed was a force able to restore conscience. The Word of God alone could do this.

Protestantism — in other words, evangelical Christianity — came down, and Ithuriel-like put forth its spear, touched the various forces at work in society, quickened them, and drawing them into a beneficent channel, converted what would most surely have been a process of destruction into a process of Reformation.


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