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1520. Previous to his excommunication he had appealed to the pope, and promised submission to his judgment: but when he found himself condemned, and his opinions proscribed, he no longer observed any bounds. Nor did the condemnation of many celebrated universities make the least impression on his haughty mind.
When first this innovator declaimed againt the abuse of indulgences, it is probable he was not himself aware how far the impetuosity of his character would impel him ; else, we presume, his mind would have recoiled with horror from the view of that chaos of errors and false doctrines, into which he was about to plunge. He began with censuring the abuse of indulgences, next maintained their inefficacy, then denied to the church the power of absolving sinners, the necessity or utility of contrition for sin, and of whatever we term satisfactory works of penance; --fasting, repentance, celibacy, corporal austerities, almis-giving, and the like. Luther did not hesitate to pronounce them all absolutely useless, and thus to condemn of folly, at least, the saints of every preceding age, together with St Paul and all his fellow-apostles. Monastic vows he also reprobated, and the continency of priests ; and proved he was in earnest by taking to wife a nun.
So unaccountable was the perversity of his maxims, that he taught on one side, that all human actions were sins, and still with inconceivable infatuation insisted, that a man justified by faith, could never sin at all ; because, according to him, God will not impute sin to one thus justified. Mons. Bossuet has placed this absurdity in its most glaring light. (Hist. Variat. I. 1, n. 9, &c.) Luther moreover rejects free-will
, which he terms a slave; and says, that God operates alike in man both sin and virtue! He pretends that the sacraments possess no other efficacy than that of exciting us to faith, and maintains only two sacraments-baptism and the eucharist, as exclusively producing this effect: the confession of Augsbourg indeed, added penance; although the Lutherans seem in practice not to have insisted much upon this article of their confession. The Anabaptists and Socinians infer from Luther's sacramental system, that infants are incapable of baptism, because incapable of actual faith Transubstantiation Luther also discarded, though he defended with invincible obstinacy against the Sacramentarians -the real presence of the body and blood of our Saviour Christ in the eycharistio Carlostad, his colleague in the university of Wittenburg, maintained that if the real presence was to be defended,--transubstantiation must equally be admitted. He and his adherents in the doctrine of a figurative presence only, were nick-named Sacramentarians, and excommunicated by Luther ; although it was embraced by Zuinglius and Calvin, the other two great Fathers of the reformation: nor could he ever be in
da. duced to mitigate the sentence. After his decease, when deshen sired to explain-how the body of Jesus Christ could be in the
consecrated host together with the bread, some Lutherans replied -by impanation ; others-by ubiquity; others again-by concomitance or a sacramental union. Whence it appears, they did not rightly comprehend the meaning of their master in respect of this important article.
Luther moreover denied the sacrifice of the mass, purgatory,
and the utility of praying for the dead : he rejected the invocathat tion and intercession of the saints; and maintained that ordina
tion conferred upon the ministers of God neither any character
nor supernatural power ; consequently, according to Luther's in the principles, there is no hierarchy, --no true priesthood: this contion sequence too, he did not disavow. With regard to the indissoluice;
bility of matrimony his scruples were but trifling; and he granted ing to the Landgrave of Hesse the extraordinary privilege of having
two wives: nor were his sentiments extremely delicate with refe, the
rence to the very pardonable crime of adultery-of which himself This was more than once, perhaps wrongfully, suspected ; although
his singular method of explaining the ten commandments, particularly the sixth (or as some arrange them, the seventh in the catalogue) may well account for such a rude suspicion. Enraged that the pope should have presumed to condemn his doctrine and excommunicate his person, Luther in revenge proclaimed him antichrist, denied that the church had any right to inflict censures or to proscribe errors, and defined Holy Scripture
alone to be the rule of faith to christians. But, by the most re1. $ volting inconsistency, he himself condemned the Sacramentarians are;
and the Anabaptists; exercised among his followers all the au
thority of a sovereign pontiff; excommunicated, and would wil. par lingly
have exterminated, had it been in his power, all that differed with him in opinion. In his new version of the scripture, which he compelled his sectarists exclusively to adopt, he thought fit to retrench the epistle of St James, because it taught too clearly--the necessity of good works. In this however, his disciples and our English protestants have not imitated their daring patriarch; they have restored it to its rank in the sacred canon, as well as the Apocalypse of St John which is not admitted by the Calvinists.
The principle by which Luther repudiated all the ordinances
and institutions of the church, as inventions merely human, led d him to maintain, that in virtue of that liberty of the children of
God which christians had acquired in baptism, none were subject to any human law. No sooner had he published his treatise upon Christian Liberty, than a part of the German peasantry took up arms against their lawful princes, and committed the most atrocious acts of insubordination and rebellion. But such disorders, it would seem, did not alarm the piety of Luther :
they were what he expected, and endeavoured to promote; for it was a maxim with him, that the gospel must be promulgated through torrents of blood. Consistently with this evangelical principle, he passed his life in the midst of tumult,-actuated with the most furious passions of hatred and vengeance against -all that ventured to oppose him. It was the character given him by his most intimate friends and confidents; and to be convinced of its correctness, we have only to consult his own writings.
Such was the boasted hero of the reformation; and such, originally, were the prominent features of Protestantism; which with astonishing rapidity was soon diffused over a great part of Germany, Prussia, Pomerania, and partially, of Poland: so early as the year 1525 two of Luther's disciples travelled into Sweden. Gustavus Vasa had newly mounted the Swedish throne, and through motives of self interest and ambition, himself became a Lutheran. This prince soon made Lutheranism the established religion of that kingdom-zin order to reduce the power of the clergy, and to vest at once all ecclesiastic property as well as influence, in his own person. Christiern III. king of Denmark, entered into similar views; and, aided by the counsels and by the arms of Gustavus, he also, became absolute in 1536, and caused the confession of Augsbourg to be received as the rule of faith in Denmark. Under the reign of Sigismund I. Lutheranism had only a few private sectarists in Poland. But after his decease in 1548, under his son and successor Sigismund Augustus—a feeble and notoriously voluptuous prince, that kingdom presently swarmed, with-Lutherans, Hussites, Sacramentarians, Calvinists, Anabaptists, Unitarians or Socinians, Greek schismatics, and a numberless variety of other sects.
Lutheranism had also penetrated into Hungary and Transylvania, during the tumults which had agitated those two king. doms; but since their annexation to the Austrian domains, it has gradually declined. In France, the emissaries of Luther made at first some proselytes,—till the legislature interfered; those of Calvin were more successful, and ushered in the most dreadful state convulsions together with their novel doctrines. Nearly similar was the fate of England. Neither Luther however, nor his disciples, had any share in the meritorious schism of Henry VIII. barring perhaps, the influence of their bad example upon the mind of that tyrannical prince. While a catholic, he had published a book against Luther, and persisted till his dying day in his hatred of Lutheranism. The new form of religion which he obtruded upon the nation, disgusted equally both protestants and catholics. But under the infant king Edward VI. Peter Martyr and Bernardin Okinus introduced the Calvinistic principles. To the more attentive of our readers the rapid progress
Lutheranism will not appear astonishing: In 1521 Charles V. in the diet of Worms, had indeed proscribed its author, and issued a decree unfavorable to his adherents: but Frederic's protection and partiality for Luther's system rendered it of no avail. The members of the diet of Nuremburg in 1523 were more eager to redress their own real or pretended grievances, than those of the church; and the two succeeding diets held at Spire, the one in 1525, the other in 1529, were not less friendly to the new religion, because it promoted their several avaricious or ambitious views. The princes of the empire that had embraced the sentiments of Luther, here protested against the imperial decrees; and from this circumstance is derived the name of Protestant.
In 1530, at the diet of Augsbourg, the princes above mentioned signed a confession of their faith, which from this diet was denominated the Confession of Augsbourg. Here they pledged their future submission to the decrees of a general council-to be assembled by the pope. This solemn engagement they did not eventually think proper to make good. They afterwards at Smalcald made a league against the emperor, and all that should adhere to his interests. Luther himself approved it, and counselled moreover a general war against the pope and whoever might presume, like him, to oppose the promulgation of his new gospel.
Paul III. in concert.with the emperor and the king of France, in 1542 convoked a general council at Trent-to terminate the religious contests which compromised the tranquillity of the empire and that of Europe. The synod was not closed before the year 1563 ; nor would the protestants be ruled by its decisions, notwithstanding their repeated promises to that effect. Luther indeed, was now no more. The pacification concluded at Passaw between Charles V. and the princes of the empire, and subsequently that of Augsbourg, had secured to the protestants religious toleration and liberty of conscience; but their mutual dissentions, and their quarrels with the Zuinglians and Calvinists -as well as with the catholics, continued; till the treaty of Munster, called also the treaty of Osnabourg and of Westphalia, in 1648 placed things nearly on the same footing as at the commencement of the French revolution. It was guaranteed by all the potentates of Europe.
This peace however, was by no means adequate to produce either harmony of sentiment or union of heart. Confusion is the natural result of the very principles of the reformation. Of this assertion we shall soon behold a striking proof in the short narrative of one of the most zealous champions of Protestantism,--the Ecclesiastical and Political History of Hornius :
i Luther having established,” says this learned protestant, “ the right which each individual possesses--of interpreting the
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sacred scriptures, asserted too, that aided by the light of heaven, he possessed also the privilege of affixing to them their true interpretation. Admitting with Luther, at least the former of these principles, Zuinglius presents himself; and boldly declares that--not Luther, but
himself long before Luther-had explored their genuine interpretation. Carlostad, with equal intrepidity proclaims, that he has made a more accurate discovery of their real signification than either of the above apostles; and without demur, in defiance of his master's authority, he breaks in pieces the images which the latter had suffered to remain in the churches at Wittenburg, and stirs up great commotions in that city. Not long after, these three leaders of the reformation commenced their dispute respecting the holy eucharist ;-a dispute in which were often blended circumstances the most ludi
d crous, with acts of violence the most atrocious. The champions on each side, drew after them individually an immense multitude of followers in different kingdoms, provinces and districts ; just as the pretended evidence of the sense of the scriptures, or their pretended inspiration, actuated them ;—or rather, just as their ignorance, and their passions, in unison with those of their fanatic leaders, misguided them.”
“During the contestation between Luther, Zuinglius and Carlostadius, a Silesian gentleman of the name of Schwenckfeld, discovered another interpretation of the text this is my body, extremely different. both from that of Luther, and from that of his two antagonists. He maintained, that the word this expresses—not elemental, but purely spiritual bread and wine ;
of and proceeding from error to error, contended soon, that the letter of the scripture is useless, and that all exterior ministry in the church is superfluous. Schwenckfeld drew after him a considerable number of partisans, whose descendants still subsist unmolested, in certain villages of Silesia.”
Beginning with the same maxims as the first reformers, and raising upon them the fabric of their singular institution, Stork and Munster,—both of them the disciples, and the latter the great favourite of Luther,--about the same period commenced teaching a variety of tenets, in opposition to the dictates of their master. The most prominent of these tenets werethe necessity of rebaptising all that had been baptised in their infancyand the establishment of a new kingdom foretold in the apocalypse ; which was to last a thousand years, and to originate
with their mission. Fired with the ambition, and convinced of the necessity of forming and completing this new empire, they taught--that it was pious, expedient, and even necessary, to de pose and murder all princes and magistrates, who should venture to oppose its establishment.' Munster assured his followers, that God had given him in a vision the sword of Gideon, and even commissioned the archangel Michael to assist him. Suffice
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