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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 21 — Arrival of the emperor at Augsburg and opening of the Diet

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Arrivals–The Archbishop of Cologne, etc.–Charles–Pleasantries of Luther–Diet of the Crows–An Allegory–Intimation of the Emperor's Coming–The Princes Meet him at the Torrent Lech–Splendor of the Procession –Seckendorf's Description–Enters Augsburg–Accident– Rites in the Cathedral–Charles's Interview with the Protestant Princes– Demands the Silencing of their Preachers–Protestants Refuse–Final Arrangement– Opening of Diet–Procession of Corpus Christi–Shall the Elector Join the Procession?–Sermon of Papal Nuncio –The Turk and Lutherans Compared–Calls on Charles to use the Sword against the Latter.

SCARCELY a day passed in these stirring weeks without some stately procession entering at the gates of Augsburg. On the 17th of May came the Archbishop of Cologne, and on the day following the Archbishop of Mainz. A few days later, George, Margrave of Brandenburg, the ally of the elector, passed through the streets, with an escort of 200 horsemen in green liveries and armor. A German wagon, filled with his learned men and preachers, brought up the rear. At last came the crown and flower of all these grand spectacles. Charles, on whose head were united the crown of Spain, the iron crown of Lombardy, and the imperial diadem, now twice bestowed, made his entry into Augsburg with great pomp on the 15th of June, 1530. It was long past the day (April 8th) for which the Diet had been summoned; but the emperor will journey as his many weighty affairs will permit, and the princes must wait.

While the emperor delayed, and the Diet was not opened, and the courier from Augsburg posted along the highway, which ran close to the foot of the Castle of Coburg, without halting to send in letter or message to its occupant, the anxieties of Luther increased from one day to another. The Reformer, to beguile his thoughts, issued his edict convoking a Diet at Coburg. The summons was instantly obeyed. Quite a crowd of members assembled, and Luther does ample justice to their eloquence. "You are about to go to Augsburg," says he, writing to Spalatin (May 9th), "without having examined the auspices, and not knowing as yet when they will permit you to commence. As for me, I am in the thick of another Diet. Here I see magnanimous kings, dukes, and nobles consult over the affairs of their realm, and with unremitting clang proclaim their decrees and dogmas through the air. They do not meet in caves, or dens of courts called palaces; but the spacious heaven is their roof, verdant grass and foliage their pavement, and their walls are wide as the ends of the earth. They are not arrayed in gold and silk, but all wear a vestment black, have eyes of a grey hue, and speak in the same music, save the diversity of youth and age.Horses and harness they spurn at, and move on the rapid wheels of wings. As far as I understand the herald of their decrees, they have unanimously resolved to wage this whole year a war on barley, oats, and every kind of grain; and great deeds will be done. Here we sit, spectators of this Diet, and, to our great joy and comfort, observe and hear how the princes, lords, and Estates of the Empire are all singing so merrily and living so heartily. But it gives us especial pleasure to remark with what knight-like air they swing their tails, stroke their bills, tilt at one another, and strike and parry; so that we believe they will win great honor over the wheat, and barley."

So far the allegory. It is told with much naive pleasantry. But the Reformer appends a moral, and some who may have enjoyed the story may not quite relish the interpretation. "It seems to me," says he, "that these rooks and jackdaws are after all nothing else but the sophists and Papists, with their preachings and writings, who will fain present themselves in a heap, and make us listen to their lovely voices and beautiful sermons." This correspondence he dates from "the Region of the Birds," or "the Diet of the Jackdaws."

This and other simiilar creations were but a moment's pause in the midst of Herculean labors and of anxious and solemn thoughts. But Luther's humor was irrepressible, and its outburst was never more likely to happen than when he was encompassed by tragic events. These sallies were like the light breaking in golden floods through the dark thunder-clouds. They revealed, moreover, a consciousness on the part of the Reformer of the true grandeur of his position, and that the drama, at the center of which he stood, was far more momentous than that in which Charles was playing his part. From his elevation, he could look down upon the pomp of thrones and the pageantries of empire, and make merry with them. He had but to touch them with his satire, and straightway their glory was gone, and their hollowness laid bare. It was not so with the spiritual forces he was laboring to set in motion in the world. These forces needed not to array themselves in scarlet and gold embroideries to make themselves grand, or to borrow the help of cannon and armed cohorts to give them potentiality.

At last Charles moved from Innspruck, and set out for Augsburg. On the 6th of June he reached Munich, and made his entry through streets hung with tapestry, and thronged with applauding crowds. On the 15th of June a message reached Augsburg that on that day the emperor would make his entrance into the city.

The electors, counts, and knights marshalled early in the afternoon and set out to meet Charles. They halted on the banks of the torrent Lech, which rolls down from the Alps and falls into the Danube. They took up their position on a rising ground, whence they might descry the imperial approach. The aspect of the road told that something extraordinary was going forward. There rolled past the princes all the afternoon, as had been

the case from an early hour in the morning, a continuous stream of horses and baggage trains, of wagons and foot-passengers, of officers of the emperor's household, and strangers hastening to enjoy the spectacle; the crack of whip, the note of horn, and the merry laugh of idle sight-seer enlivening their march. Three hours wore away, still the emperor was not in sight. The sun was now nearing the horizon. At length a cloud of dust was seen in the distance; its dusky volume came nearer and nearer; as it approached the murmur of voices grew louder, and now, close at hand, its opening folds disclosed to view the first ranks of the imperial cavalcade. The princes leaped from their saddles, and awaited Charles's approach. The emperor, on seeing the princes, courteously dismounted and shook hands with them, and the two companies blended into one on the bank of the stream. Apart, on a low eminence, seated on his richly caparisoned mule, was seen the Papal legate, Campeggio. He raised his hands to bestow his benediction on the brilliant multitude. All knelt down, save the Protestants, whose erect figures made them marked objects in that great assembly, which awaited, with bowed heads, the Papal blessing. The mighty emperor had his first intimation that he should not be able to repeat at Augsburg the proud boast of Caesar, whose successor he affected to be–"I came, I saw, I conquered."

The procession now set forward at a slow pace. "Never," says Seckendorf, "had the grandeur and power of the Empire been illustrated by so magnificent a spectacle." [1] There defiled past the spectator, in long and glittering procession, not only the ecclesiastical and civil dignitaries of Spain and Italy, but representatives of nearly all the nationalities which formed the vast Empire of Charles. First came two companies of lansquenets. Next came the six electors, with the noblemen of their courts, in rich dresses of velvet and silk, and their armed retainers in their red doublets, steel helmets and dancing plumes. There were bishops in violet and cardinals in purple. The ecclesiastics were seated on mules, the princes and counts bestrode prancing coursers. The Elector John of Saxony marched immediately before the emperor, bearing the naked imperial sword, an honor to which his rank in the electoral college entitled him.

"Last came the prince," says Seckendorf, "on whom all eyes were fixed. Thirty years of age, of distinguished port and pleasing features, robed in golden garments that glittered all over with precious stones, wearing a small Spanish hat on the crown of his head:, mounted on a beautiful Polish hackney of the most brilliant whiteness, riding beneath a rich canopy of red white and green damask borne by six senators of Augsburg, and casting around him looks in which gentleness was mingled with gravity, Charles excited the liveliest enthusiasm, and every one exclaimed that he was the handsomest man in the Empire, as well as the mightiest prince in the world." [2]

His brother, the King of Austria, accompanied Charles. Ferdinand advanced side by side with the Papal legate, their place being immediately behind the emperor. [3] They were succeeded by an array of cardinals, bishops, and the ambassadors of foreign Powers, in the insignia of their rank and office. The procession was swollen, moreover, by a miscellaneous throng of much lesser personages–pages, heralds, equerries, trumpeters, drummers, and cross-bearers–whose variegated dresses and flaring colors formed a not unimportant though vulgar item in the magnificence of the cavalcade. [4] The Imperial Guards and the Augsburg Militia brought up the rear.

It was nine o'clock in the evening when the gates of Augsburg were reached. The thunder of cannon on the ramparts, and the peals of the city bells, informed the people of Augsburg that the emperor was entering their city. The dusk of a summer evening hid somewhat the glory of the procession, but torches were kindled to light it through the streets, and permit the citizens a sight of its grandeur. The accident of the bridge at Bologna was nearly repeated on this occasion. As the cavalcade was advancing to the sound of clarion and kettledrum, six canons, bearing a huge canopy, beneath which they were to conduct the emperor to the cathedral, approached Charles. His horse, startled at the sight, suddenly reared, and nearly threw him headlong upon the street. [5] He was rescued, however, a second time. At length he entered the minster, which a thousand blazing torches illuminated. After the Te Deum came the chanting of prayers, and Charles, putting aside the cushion offered to him, kneeled on the bare floor during the service. The assembly, following the emperor's example, threw themselves on their knees–all save two persons, the Elector of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse, who remained standing. [6]

Their behavior did not escape the notice of Duke George and the prelates; but they consoled themselves doubtless by thinking that they would make them bow low enough by-and-by.

When the services in the cathedral were ended, the procession re-formed, and again swept along through the streets of Augsburg. The trumpets sounded, and the bells were tolled. The torches were again lighted to illuminate the night. Their rays glittered on the helmets of the guard, flashed on the faces of the motley crowd of sight-seers, and catching the fronts of the houses, lighted them up in a gloomy grandeur, and transformed the street through which the procession was advancing into a long, a picturesque, and a most impressive vista of red lights and black shadows. Through a scene of this sort was Charles conducted to the archiepiscopal Palace of the Palatinate, which he entered about ten o'clock.

This assembly, comprising the pride and puissance of the great Spanish monarchy, were here to be the witnesses of the triumph of Rome–so they imagined. The Pope and the emperor had resolved to tolerate the religious schism no longer. Charles, as both Pallavicino and Sarpi testify,

came to Augburg with the firm purpose of putting forth all the power of the Empire in the Diet, in order to make the revolted princes re-enter the obedience of the Roman See. [7] The Protestants must bow the head–so have two Puissances decreed. There is a head that is destined to bow down, but it is one that for ten centuries has been lifted up in pride, and has not once during all that time been known to bend–Rome.

The emperor's entry into Augsburg took place on Corpus Christi eve. It was so timed in order that a pretext might be had for the attempts which were to be made for corrupting the Protestants. The program of the imperial and ecclesiastical managers was a short one–wiles; but if these did not prosper they were quite prepared to resort to arms. The Protestant princes were specially invited to take their place in the solemn procession of tomorrow, that of Corpus Christi. It would be hard for the Lutheran chiefs to find an excuse for absence. Even on Lutheran principles it was the literal body of Christ that was to be carried through the streets; surely they would not refuse this token of homage to their Savior, this act of courtesy to their emperor. They declined, however, saying that the body of Christ was in the Sacrament not to be worshipped, but fed on by faith. The legate professed to be highly displeased at their contumacy; [8] and even the emperor was not a little chafed. He had nothing for it, however, but to put up with the slight, for attendance on such ceremonies was no part of the duty which they owed him as emperor.

The next assault was directed against the Protestant sermons. The crowds that gathered round the preachers were as great as ever. The emperor was galled by the sight of these enthusiastic multitudes, and all the more so that not more than a hundred of the citizens of Augsburg had joined in the grand procession of the day previous, in which he himself had walked bareheaded, carrying a lighted taper. [9] That the heresy which he had crossed the Alps to extinguish should be proclaimed in a score of churches, and within earshot of him, was more than he could endure. He sent for the Lutheran princes, and charged them to enjoin silence on their preachers. The princes replied that they could not live without the preaching of the Gospel, [10] and that the citizens of Augburg would not willingly consent to have the churches closed. When Charles insisted that it should be so, the Margrave George exclaimed in animated tones, "Rather than let the Word of God be taken from me, and deny my God, I would kneel down and have my head struck off." And suiting the action to the words, he struck his neck with his hand. "Not the head off," replied Charles, evidently moved by the emotion of the margrave, "dear prince, not the head off." These were the only German words Charles was heard to utter. [11] After two days' warm altercation it was concluded on the part of the Protestants– who feared to irritate too greatly the emperor, lest he should forbid the reading of their Confession in the Diet–that during the sitting of the Senate the Protestant sermons should be suspended; and Charles on his part agreed to appoint preachers who should impugn neither creed in their sermons, but steer a middle course between the old and the new faiths. An edict to this effect was next day proclaimed through Augsburg by a herald. [12] The citizens were curious to hear the emperor's preachers. Those who went to witness the promised feat of preaching something that was neither Popery nor Protestantism, were not a little amused by the performances of this new sort of preachers. "Their sermons," said they, "are innocent of theology, but equally innocent of sense."

At length the 20th of June arrived. On this day the Diet was to be opened by a grand procession and a solemn mass. This furnished another pretext for renewing the attempts to corrupt the fidelity, or, as the Papists called it, vanquish the obstinacy of the Protestants. The emperor on that day would go in state to mass. It was the right or duty of the Elector of Saxony, as Grand Marshal of the Empire, to carry the sword before Charles on all occasions of state. "Let your majesty," said Campeggio, "order the elector to perform his office." [13] If John should obey, he would compromise his profession by being present at mass; if he should refuse, he would incur a derogation of dignity, for the emperor would assign the honor to another. The aged elector was in a strait.

He summoned the divines who were present in Augsburg, that he might have their advice. "It is," said they, "in your character of Grand Marshal, and not in your character of Protestant, that you are called to bear the sword before his majesty. You assist at a ceremony of the Empire, and not at a ceremony of religion. You may obey with a safe conscience." And they fortified their opinion by citing the example of Naaman, the prime minister of the King of Damascus, who, though a disciple of Elisha, accompanied his lord when he went to worship in the temple of Baal. [14]

The Zwinglian divines did not concur in the opinion expressed by their Lutheran brethren. They called to mind the instance of the primitive Christians who submitted to martyrdom rather than throw a few grains of incense upon the altar. Any one, they said, might be present at any rite of another religion, as if it were a civil ceremony, whenever the fear of loss, or the hope of advantage, tempted one to institute this very dangerous distinction. The advice of the Lutheran divines, however, swayed the elector, and

he accordingly took his place in the procession, but remained erect before the altar when the host was elevated. [15]

At this mass Vincenzo Pompinello, Archbishop of Rosano, and nuncio of the Pope, made an oration in Latin before the offertory. Three Romish historians–Pallavicino, Sarpi, and Polano–have handed down to us the substance of his sermon. Beginning with the Turk, the archbishop "upbraided Germany for having so meekly borne so many wrongs at the hands of the barbarian. In this craven spirit had not acted the great captains of ancient Rome, who had never failed to inflict signal chastisement upon the enemies of the Republic." At this stage of his address, seized it would seem with a sudden admiration of the Turk, the nuncio set sail on a new tack, and began to extol the Moslem above the German: "The disadvantage of Germany is," he said, "that the Turk obeys one prince only, whereas in Germany many obey not at all; that the Turks live in one religion, and the Germans every day invent a new religion, and mock at the old, as if it were become moldy. Being desirous to change the faith, they had not found out one more holy and more wise." He exhorted them that "imitating Scipio, Cato, the people of Rome and their ancestors, they should observe the Catholic religion, forsake these novelties, and give themselves to the war." [16]

His eloquence reached its climax only when he came to speak of the "new religion" which the Germans had invented. "Why," exclaimed he, "the Senate and people of Rome, though Gentries and the worshippers of false gods, never failed to avenge the insults offered to their rites by fire and sword; but ye, O Germans, who are Christians, and the worshippers of the true and omnipotent God, contemn the rites of holy mother Church by leaving unpunished the great audacity and unheard-of wickedness of enemies. Why do ye rend in pieces the seamless garment of the Savior? why do you abandon the doctrine of Christ, established with the consent of the Fathers, and confirmed by the Holy Ghost, for a devilish belief, which leads to every buffoonery and obscenity?" [17] But the sting of this address was in its tail. "Sharpen thy sword, O magnanimous prince," said he, turning to the emperor, "and smite these opposers. Peace there never will be in Germany till this heresy shall have been utterly extirpated." Rising higher still he invoked the Apostles Peter and Paul to lend their powerful aid at this great crisis of the Church.

The zeal of the Papal nuncio, as was to be expected, was at a white heat. The German princes, however, were more cool. This victory with the sword which the orator promised them was not altogether to their mind, especially when they reflected that whereas the archbishop's share in the enterprise was the easy one of furnishing eloquence for the crusade, to them would remain the more arduous labor of providing arms and money with which to carry it out.

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Saturday, October 31st, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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