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The History of Protestantism

by 'James Aitken Wylie'

Book 9 — History of Protestantism From the Diet of Worms, 1521, to the Augsburg Confession, 1530

Chapter 18 — The Emperor, the Turk, and the Reformation

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Charles's great Ambition, the Supremacy of Christendom–Protestantism his great Stumbling-Block–The Edict of Worms is to Remove that Stumbling-Block–Charles Disappointed–The Victory of Pavia Renews the Hope–Again Disappointed–The Diet of Spires, 1526–Again Balked–In the Church, Peace: in the World, War–The Turk before Vienna–Terror in Germany–The Emperor again Laying the Train for Extinction of Protestantism –Charles Lands at Genoa–Protestant Deputies–Interview with Emperor at Piacenza–Charles's stern Reply– Arrest of Deputies–Emperor sets out for Bologna.

WE have traced the steps by which Charles V. climbed to the summit of power. It was his ambition to wield the supremacy of Europe without being under the necessity of consulting any will but his own, or experiencing impediment or restraint in any quarter whatever. The great stumbling-block in his path to this absolue and unfettered exercise of his arbitrary will, was the Protestant movement. It divided with him the government of Christendom, and by its empire of the conscience it set limits to his empire of the sword. In his onward march he thought that it was necessary to sweep Luther and Wittenberg from his path. But ever as he put his hand upon his sword's hilt to carry his purpose into effect, some hindrance or other prevented his drawing it, and made him postpone the execution of his great design. From Aix-la-Chapelle, where the much-coveted imperial diadem was placed on his brow, he went straight to Worms, where in assembled Diet he passed the edict consigning Luther to proscription and the stake. Now, he thought, had come the happy moment he had waited for. Rid of the monk and freed from the annoyance of his heresy, he is now supreme arbiter in Christendom. At that instant a war broke out between him and France. For four years, from 1521 to 1525, the emperor had to leave Luther in peace, translating the Scriptures, and propagating the Reformed doctrines throughout Germany, while he was waging an arduous and dubious contest with Francis I. But the victory of Pavia placed France and Italy at his feet, and left free his sword to do his will, and what does he will but to execute the Edict of Worms? Now he will strike the blow. The emperor's hand is again upon his poniard: Luther is a dead man: the knell of Wittenberg has rung out.

Not yet. Strange to say, at that moment opposition arose in a quarter where Charles was entitled to look for only zealous co-operation. The Pope, Clement VII., was seized with a sudden dread of the Spanish power.

The Italians at the same moment became inflamed with the project of driving out the Spaniards, and raising their country from the vassalage of centuries to the independence and glory of early days. Francis I. was burning with a desire to avenge the humiliation of his captivity, and these concurring causes led to a formidable league of sovereigns against the man who but a few months before had seen all opposition give way before him. The emperor unsheathed his sword, but not to strike where he so fondly hoped to inflict a deadly blow. The puissant Charles must still leave the monk of Wittenberg at peace, and while his doctrines are day by day striking a deeper root, the emperor is compelled to buckle on his armor, and meet the combination which Clement VII., Francis I., and Henry VIII. have entered into against him.

Then come three years (1526-1529) of distracting thought and harassing toil to the emperor. But if compelled to be absent in camps and on tented fields, may he not find others who will execute the edict, and sweep the obnoxious monk from his path? He will try. He convokes (1526) a Diet to meet at Spires, avowedly for the purpose of having the edict executed. It is their edict not less than his, for they had concurred with him in fulminating it; surely the princes will sleep no longer over this affair; they will now send home the bolt! Not yet. The Diet of Spires did exactly the opposite of what Charles meant it should do. The majority of the princes were friendly to Luther, though in 1521 they had been hostile to him; and they enacted that in the matter of religion every State should be at liberty to do as it judged best. The Diet that was to unchain the furies of Persecution, proclaims Toleration.

The war-clouds at this time hang heavy over Christendom, and discharge their lightnings first on one country, then on another; but there is a space of clear sky above Wittenberg, and in the interval of quiet which Saxony enjoys, we see commissioners going forth to set in order the Churches of the German Reformation. All the while this peaceful work of upbuilding is going on, the reverberations of the distant thunder-storm are heard rolling in the firmament. Now it is from the region of the Danube that the hoarse roar of battle is heard to proceed. There the Turk is closing in fierce conflict with the Christian, and the leisure of Ferdinand of Austria, which otherwise might be worse employed, is fully occupied in driving back the hordes of a Tartar invasion. Now it is from beyond the Alps that the terrible echoes of war are heard to roll. On the plains of Italy the legions of the emperor are contending against the arms of his confederate foes, and that land pays the penalty of its beauty and renown by having its soil moistened with the blood and darkened with the smoke of battle. And now comes another terrible peal, louder and more stunning than any that had preceded it, the last of that thunder-storm. It is upon the City of the Seven Hills that this bolt is discharged. How has it happened that the thunders have rolled thither? It was no arrangement of the emperor's that Rome should be smitten; the bolt he hoped would fall elsewhere. But the winds of the

political, like those of the natural firmament, do not wait on the bidding of man. These winds, contrary to the expectation of all men, wafted that terrible war-cloud to where rose in proud magnificence the temples and palaces of the Eternal City, and where stood the throne of her Pontiff. The riches and glory of ages were blighted in an hour.

With this terrific peal the air clears, and peace again returns for a little while to Christendom. The league against the emperor was now at an end; he had cut it in pieces with his sword. Italy was again at his feet; and the Pope, who in an evil hour for himself had so strangely revolted, was once more his ally. There is no king who may now stand up against Charles. It seemed as if, at last, the hour had fully come for which the emperor had waited so long. Now he can strike with the whole force of the Empire. Now he will measure his strength with that mysterious movement, which he beholds, with a hatred not unmingled with dread, rising higher and extending wider every year, and which, having neither exchequer nor army, is yet rearing an empire in the world that threatens to eclipse his own.

Again darkness gathered round, and danger threatened the Protestant Church. Two terrible storms hung lowering in the skies of the world. The one darkened the East, the other was seen rising in the West. It was the Eastern tempest that would be first to burst, men thought, and the inhabitants of Germany turned their eyes in that direction, and watched with alarm and trembling the progress of the cloud that was coming towards them. The gates of Asia had opened, and had poured out the fierce Tartar hordes on a new attempt to submerge the rising Christianity and liberty of the West under a flood of Eastern barbarism. Traversing Hungary, the Ottoman host had sat down before the walls of Vienna a week before the Marburg Conference. The hills around that capital were white with their tents, and the fertile plains beneath its walls, which the hoof of Mussulman horse had never pressed till now, were trodden by their cavalry. The besiegers were opening trenches, were digging mines, were thundering with their cannon, and already a breach had been made in the walls. A few days and Vienna must succumb to the numbers, the impetuosity, and valor of the Ottoman warriors, and a desolate and blood-besprinkled heap would alone remain to mark where it had stood. The door of Germany burst open, the conquerors would pour along the valley of the Danube, and plant the crescent amid the sacked cities and devastated provinces of the Empire. The prospect was a terrible one. A common ruin, like avalanche on brow of Alp, hung suspended above all parties and ranks in Germany, and might at any moment sweep down upon them with resistless fury. "It is you," said the adherents of the old creed addressing the Lutherans, "who have brought this scourge upon us. It is you who have unloosed these angels of evil; they come to chastise you for your heresy. You have cast off the yoke of the Pope, and now you must bear the yoke of the Turk." "Not so," said Luther, "it is God who has unloosed this army, whose king is Abaddon the destroyer. They have been sent to punish us for our sins, our ingratitude for the Gospel, our blasphemies, and above all, our shedding of the blood of the righteous." Nevertheless, it was his opinion that all Germans ought to unite against the sultan for the common defense. It was no question of leagues or offensive war, but of country and of common safety: the Turk was at their hearths, and as neighbor assists neighbor whose house is on fire, so Protestant ought to aid Papist in repelling a foe that was threatening both with a common slaughter.

It was at this time that he preached his "Battle Sermon." Its sound was like the voice of a great trumpet. Did ever general address words more energetic to his soldiers when about to engage in battle? "Mahomet," said he, "exalts Christ as being without sin, but he denies that He is the true God; he is therefore His enemy. Alas! to this hour the world is such that it seems everywhere to rain disciples of Mahomet. Two men ought to oppose the Turks–the first is Christian, that is to say, prayer; the second is Charles, that is to say, the sword... . I know my dear Germans well–fat and well-fed swine as they are; no sooner is the danger removed than they think only of eating and sleeping. Wretched man, if thou dost not take up arms, the Turk will come; he will carry thee away into his Turkey; he will sell thee like a dog; and thou shalt serve him night and day, under the rod and the cudgel, for a glass of water and a morsel of bread. Think on this, be converted, and implore the Lord not to give thee the Turk for thy schoolmaster." [1]

Western freedom had never perhaps been in such extreme peril since the time when Xerxes led his myriad army to invade Greece. But the terrible calamity of Ottoman subjugation was not to befall Europe. The Turk had reached the furthest limits of his progress westward. From this point his slaughtering hordes were to be rolled back. While the cities and provinces of Germany waited in terror the tramp of his war-horses and the gleam of his scimitars, there came the welcome tidings that the Asiatic warriors had sustained a severe repulse before Vienna (16th October, 1529), and were now in full retreat to the Bosphorus. [2] The scarcity of provisions to which the Turkish camp was exposed, and the early approach of winter, with its snow-storms, combined to effect the raising of the siege

and the retreat of the invaders; but Luther recognised in this unexpected deliverance the hand of God, and the answer of prayer. "We Germans are always snoring," he exclaimed, indignant at some whose gratitude was not so lively as he thought it ought to have been, "and there are many traitors among us. Pray," he wrote to Myconius, "against the Turk and the gates of hell, that as the angel could not destroy one little city for the sake of one just soul in it, so we may be spared for the sake of the few righteous that are in Germany."

But if the Eastern cloud had rolled away, and was fast vanishing in the distance, the one in the West had grown bigger than ever, and was coming rapidly onwards. "We have two Caesars," said Luther, "one in the East and one in the West, and both our foes." The emperor is again victorious over the league which his enemies had formed against him. IIe has defeated the King of France; he has taught Henry of England to be careful of falling a second time into the error he committed in the affair of Cognac; he has chastised the Pope, and compelled Clement VII. to sue for peace with a great ransom and the offer of alliance; and now he looks around him and sees no opponent save one, and that one apparently the weakest of all. That opponent swept from his path, he will mount to the pinnacle of power. Surely he who has triumphed over so many kings will not have to lower his sword before a monk. The emperor has left Spain in great wrath, and is on his way to chastise those audacious Protestants, who are now, as he believes, fully in his power. The terror of the Turk was forgotten in the more special and imminent danger that threatened the lives and religion of the Protestants. "The Emperor Charles," said Luther, "has determined to show himself more cruel against us than the Turk himself, and he has already uttered the most horrible threats. Behold the hour of Christ's agony and weakness. Let us pray for all those who will soon have to endure captivity and death." [3]

Meanwhile the work at Wittenberg, despite the gathering clouds and the mutterings of the distant thunder, does not for one moment stand still. Let us visit this quiet retreat of learned men and scholars. In point of size this Saxon town is much inferior to many of the cities of Germany. Neither among its buildings is there palatial edifice, nor in its landscape is there remarkable object to attract the eye, and awaken the admiration of the visitor, yet what a power is it putting forth! Here those mighty forces are at work which are creating the new age. Here is the fountain-head of those ideas which are agitating and governing all classes, from the man who is master of half the kingdoms of the world, to the soldier who fights in the ranks and the serf who tills the soil. In the autumn of 1529, Mathesius, the biographer of Luther, became a student in "the renowned university." The next Sabbath after his admission, at vespers, he heard "the great man Dr. Luther preach" from the words of St. Peter (Acts 2:38), enjoining repentance and baptism. What a sermon from the lips of the man of God" –"for which all the days of his pilgrimage on earth, and throughout eternity, he should have to give God thanks." At that period Melanchthon lectured on Cicero's De Oratoribus, and his oration Pro Archia; and before noon on the Epistle to the Romans, and every Wednesday on Aristotle's Ethics. Bugenhagen lectured on the Epistles to the Corinthians; Jonas on the Psalms; Aurogallus on Hebrew Grammar; Weimar on Greek; Tulich on Cicero's Offices; Bach on Virgil; Volmar on the theory of the planets; Mulich on astronomy; and Cruciger on Terence, for the younger students. There were besides private schools for the youth of the town and its neighborhood, which were in vigorous operation. [4]

Over and above his lectures in the university, and his sermons in the cathedral, the Reformer toiled with his pen to spread the Protestant light over Germany and countries more remote. A boon beyond all price was his German Bible: in style so idiomatic and elegant, and in rendering so faithful, that the Prince of Anhalt said it was as if the original penmen had lived in Gemnany, and used the tongue of the Fatherland. Luther was constantly adding to the obligations his countrymen owed him for this priceless treasure, by issuing new editions carefully revised. He wrote, moreover, expositions on several of the Epistles; commentaries on the prophets; he was at this moment busy on Daniel; he had prefixed an explanatory preface to the Apocalypse; and his commentary on Jeremiah was soon to follow. Nor must we omit the humblest, but not the least useful, of all the works which issued from his study, his Smaller and Larger Catechisms.

When we pause to contemplate these two men–Luther and Charles–can we have the slightest doubt in saying which is immeasurably the greater? The one sitting in his closet sends forth his word, which runs speedily throughout the earth, shaking into ruin ancient systems of superstition to which the ages have done reverence, rending the shackles from conscience, and saying to the slave, "Be thou free," giving sight to the blind, raising up the fallen, and casting down the mighty; leading hearts captive, and plucking up or planting kingdoms. It is a God-like power which he exercises.

When we turn to the emperor in his gorgeous palace, editing his edicts, and dispatching them by liveried couriers to distant nations, we feel that we have made an immense stride downward. We have descended to a lower region, where we find a totally different and far inferior set of forces at work. Before Charles can effect anything he

must get together an army, he must collect millions of treasure, he must blow his trumpets and beat his kettle-drums; and yet how little that is really substantial does he reap from all this noise and expense and blood! Another province or city, it may be, calls him master, but waits the first opportunity to throw off his yoke.

His sword has effaced some of the old landmarks on the earth's surface, and has traced a few new ones; but what truth has he established which may mold the destinies of men, and be a fountain of blessing in ages to come? What fruit does Spain or the world reap today from all the battles of Charles? It is now that we see which of the two men wielded real power, and which of the two was the true monarch.

The emperor was on his way to Germany, where he was expected next spring. He had made peace with Francis, he had renewed his alliance with the Pope, the Turk had gone back to his own land. It was one of those moments in the life of Charles when Fortune shed her golden beams upon his path, and beckoned him onwards with the flattering hope that now he was on the eve of attaining the summit of his ambition. One step more, one little remaining obstruction swept away, and then he would stand on the pinnacle of power. He did not conceaI his opinion that that little obstruction was Wittenberg, and that the object of his jounrey was to make an end of it.

But in consummating his grand design he must observe the constitutional forms to which he had sworn at his coronation as emperor. The cradle of the Reformation was placed precisely in that part of his dominions where he was not absolute master. Had it been placed in Spain, in Flanders– anywhere, in short, except Saxony–how easy would it have been to execute the Edict of Worms! But in Germany he had to consult the will of others, and so he proceeded to convoke another Diet at Augsburg. Charles must next make sure of the Pope. He could not have the crafty Clement tripping him up the moment he turned his back and crossed the Alps on his way to Germany. He must go to Italy and have a personal interview with the Pontiff.

Setting sail from Spain, and coasting along on the waters of the Mediterranean, the imperial fleet cast anchor in the Bay of Genoa. The youthful emperor gazed, doubtless, with admiration and delight on the city of the Dorias, whose superb palaces, spread out in concentric rows on the face of the mountains, embosomed in orange and oleander groves, rise from the blue sea to the summit of the craggy and embattled Apennines. The Italians, on the other hand, trembled at the approach of their new master, whose picture, as drawn by their imaginations, resembled those Gothic conquerors who in former times had sacked the cities and trampled into the dust the fertility of Italy. Their fears were dispelled, however, when on stepping ashore they beheld in Charles not all irate and ferocious conqueror, come to chastise them for their revolt, but a pale-faced prince, of winning address and gentle manners, followed by a train of nobles in the gay costume of Spain, and, like their master, courteous and condescending. [5] This amiable young man, who arrived among the Italians in smiles, could frown sternly enough on occasion, as the Protestant deputies, who were at this moment on their way to meet him, were destined to experience.

The Reformed princes, who gave in the famous protest to the Diet of Spires (1529), followed up their act by an appeal to the emperor. The ArchDuke Ferdinand, the president of the Diet, stormed and left the assembly, but the protesters appealed to a General Council and to posterity. Their ambassadors were now on their way to lay the great Protest before Charles. Three burgesses, marked rather by their weight of character than by their eminence of position, had been selected for this mission. Their names were–John Ehinger, Burgomaster of Memmingen; Michael Caden, Syndic of Nuremberg; and Alexis Frauentrat, secretary to the Margrave of Brandenburg. Their mission was deemed a somewhat dangerous one, and before their departure a pension was secured to their widows in case of misfortune. [6] They met the emperor at Piacenza, for so far had he got on his way to meet the Pope at Bologna, to which city Clement had retired, to benefit, it may be, after his imprisonment, by its healthy breezes, and to forget the devastation inflicted by the Spaniards on Rome, of which the daily sight of its plundered museums and burned palaces reminded him while he resided in the capital. Informed of the arrival of the Protestant deputies, and of the object of their journey, Charles appointed the 12th of September [7] for an audience. The prospect of appearing in the imperial presence was no pleasant one, for they knew that they had come to plead for a cause which Charles had destined to destruction. Their fears were confirmed by receiving an ominous hint to be brief, and not preach a Protestant sermon to the emperor.

Unabashed by the imperial majesty and the brilliant court that waited upon Charles, these three plain ambassadors, when the day of audience came, discharged their mission with fidelity. They gave a precise narrative of all that had taken place in Germany on the matter of religion since the emperor quitted that country, which was in 1521, They specially instanced the edict of toleration promulgated by the Diet of 1526; the virtual repeal of that edict by the Diet of 1529; the Protest of the Reformed princes against that repeal; their challenge of religious freedom for themselves and all who should adhere to them, and their resolution, at whatever cost, never to withdraw from that demand, but to prosecute

their Protest to the utmost of their power. In all matters of the Empire they would most willingly obey the emperor, but in the things of God they would obey no power on earth. [8] So they spoke. It was no pleasant thing, verily, for the victor of kings and the ruler of two hemispheres to be thus plainly taught that there were men in the world whose wills even he, with all his power, could not bend. This thought was the worm at the root of the emperor's glory. Charles deigned no reply; he dismissed the ambassadors with the intimation that the imperial will would be made known to them in writing. [9]

On the 13th October the emperor's answer was sent to the deputies through his secretary, Alexander Schweiss. It was, in brief, that the emperor was well acquainted, through his brother Ferdinand and his colleagues, with all that had taken place in Germany; that he was resolved to maintain the edict of the last Diet of Spires–that, namely, which abolished the toleration inaugurated in 1526, and which laid the train for the extinction of the religious movement–and that he had written to the Duke of Saxony and his associates commanding him to obey the decree of the Diet, upon the allegiance which he owed to him and to the Empire; and that should he disobey, he would be necessitated for the maintenance of his authority, and for example's sake, to punish him. [10]

Guessing too truly what the emperor's answer would be, the ambassadors had prepared an appeal from it beforehand. This document they now presented to the secretary Schweiss in presence of witnesses. They had some difficulty in persuading the official to carry it to his master, but at length he consented to do so. We can imagine how the emperor's brow darkened as he read it. He ordered Schweiss to go and arrest the ambassadors. Till the imperial pleasure should be further made known to them, they were not to stir out of doors, nor write to their friends in Germany, nor permit any of their servants to go abroad, under pain of forfeiture of goods and life. [11]

It chanced that one of the deputies, Caden, was not in the hotel when the emperor's orders, confining the deputies to their lodgings, arrived. His servant slipped out and told him what had happened in his absence. The deputy, sitting down, wrote an account of the affair–their interview with the emperor, and his declared resolution to execute the Edict of Worms– to the Senate at Nuremberg, and dispatching it by a trusty messenger, whom he charged to proceed with all haste on his way, he walked straight to the inn to share the arrest of his colleagues.

Unless the compulsion of conscience comes in, mankind in the mass will be found too selfish and too apathetic to purchase, at the expense of their own toil and blood, the heritage of freedom for their children. Liberty says we may, religion says we must, die rather than submit. It is a noble sentiment of the poet, and finely expressed, that Freedom's battle, "bequeathed from bleeding sire to son," though often lost, is always won in the end, but therewith does not accord the fact. The history of Greece, of Rome, and of other nations, shows us, on a large view of matters, liberty dissociated from religion fighting a losing and not a winning battle. The more prominent instance, though not the only one, in modern times, is France. There we behold a brave nation fighting for "liberty" in contradistinction to, or rather as dissociated from "religion," and, after a conflict of well-nigh a century, liberty is not yet rooted in France. [12] The little Holland is an instance on the other side. It fought a great battle for religion, and in winning it won everything else besides. The only notable examples with which history presents us, of great masses triumphant over established tyrannies, are those of the primitive Christians, and the Reformers of the sixteenth century. Charles V. would have walked at will over Christendom, treading all rights and aspirations into the dust, had any weaker principle than conscience, evoked by Protestantism, confronted him at this epoch. The first to scale the fortress of despotism are ever the champions of religion; the champions of civil liberty, coming after, enter at the breach which the others had opened with their lives.

Setting out from Piacenza on the 23rd October, the emperor went on to meet the Pope at Bologna. He carried with him the three Protestant deputies as his captives. Travelling by slow stages he gave ample time to the Italians to mark the splendor of his retinue, and the number and equipments of his army. The city he was now approaching had already enjoyed two centuries of eminence. Bologna was the seat of the earliest of those universities which arose in Europe when the light of learning began again to visit its sky. The first foundation of this school was in A.D. 425, by Theodosius the younger; it rose to eminence under Charlemagne, and attained its full splendor in the fifteenth century, when the scholastic philosophy began to give place to more rational studies, and the youth of many lands flocked in thousands to study within its walls. It is in respect of this seat of learning that Bologna stamps upon its coin Bononia docet, to which is added, in its coat of arms, libertas. Bologna was the second city in the States of the Church, and was sometimes complimented with the epithet, "Sister of Rome." It rivalled the capital in the number and sumptuousness of its monasteries and churches. One of the latter contains the magnificent tomb of St. Dominic, the founder of the order of Inquisitors. It is remarkable for its two towers, both ancient in even the days of Charles–the Asinelli, and the Garisenda, which lean like the Tower of

Pisa.

Besides its ecclesiastical buildings, the city boasted not a few palatial edifices and monuments. One of these had already received Pope Clement under its roof, another was prepared for the reception of the emperor, whose sumptuous train was on the road. The site of Bologna is a commanding one. It leans against an Apennine, on whose summit rises the superb monastery of St. Michael in Bosco, and at its feet, stretching far to the south, are those fertile plains whose richness has earned for the city the appellation of Bologna Grassa. While the emperor, with an army of 20,000 behind him, advances by slow marches, and is drawing nigh its gates, let us turn to the Protestants of Germany.


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