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session of so much wealth, that in Germany more than one half of the national property was in their hands; that by their fees and exactions, often wrung from the people by vile imposture, they impoverished every Christian country, while they refused to share the burden of taxation; that they claimed exemption from the jurisdiction of the laity, and could therefore commit crime with comparative impunity, in which they were further indulged by the easy terms on which pardon or dispensation could be procured at Rome; that the venality of the pontifical court was so notorious that the sale of offices was open and public; that the detestable traffic in indulgences gave rise to the most scandalous impositions, and legalised every species of avarice and fraud; that by reservations, appeals, expectative graces, annates, &c. the Popes had subdued to their will the whole hierarchy, leaving to the bishops little more than the shadow of power, and exalting above them the monastic orders, their sworn and faithful vassals; and that those same pontiffs, so far from being examples of virtue and religion, were generally destitute of both, and too frequently patterns of the most horrible vices. 1

It must not be forgotten, that with these abuses were connected the most awful corruptions in doctrine and worship. Human merit was substituted for justification by faith. Fastings, penances, idle ceremonies, and the opus operatum of the sacraments, were instead of sanctification by the influences of the Holy Spirit. The

1 Consult every part of the Work entitled, Fasciculus Rerum Expetendarum et Fugiendarum, " & collection of things to be desired and of those to be avoided:" "a Bull of the Devil, in which the father admonishes his Pope, and instructs him in what manner he ought to conduct himself in governing the Roman church and the whole world"--a rare tract, without name, date, or place, but evidently the production of the early part of the sixteenth century: "Antilogia Papa, Reply of the Pope:" concerning the corrupt condition of the Church and the perverseness of the whole Romish clergy, &c. Basilea, 1555. Referring to this period, Bellarmine says, "There was no restraint in morals, no acquaintance with sacred literature, no respect paid to holy things, in a word, hardly any Religion." Opera, tom. vi. col. 296. Edit. Colon. 1617, quoted by Gerdesius, in his "Historia Evang. Renovati," tom. i. p. 25. Edit. Groningæ, 1744. The English reader may consult Bower's Lives of the Popes, Mosheim's Eccl. Hist. Cent. 16. sect. 1. chap. 1. and Robertson's Charles V. book 2.

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Virgin Mary and the saints had in great measure supplanted Jesus Christ, and robbed him of his honours. The Scriptures were studiously withheld from the people, and little studied by the priests, many of whom were, in fact, totally ignorant of the word of God. Worship was performed in Latin, which scarcely any understood. Incense perfumed the air; gold, and jewels, and magnificent pageantry, dazzled the eyes; melodious sounds of music fell upon the ear; but the mind was unenlightened, and the heart unimpressed. Faith had to do with little else than the "lying wonders" by which a system of impudent trickery was upheld; hope rested on the intercession of saints, the power of priestly absolution, and the efficacy of prayers for the dead; charity was reserved for those, and those only, who bowed the knee before the "man of sin."

For a century past, all Europe had felt the necessity of reformation, and groaned with impatience under the galling yoke. Several attempts at improvement had been made. The Councils of Constance2 and Basle3 boldly asserted their superiority to the Pope, and avowed their intention to effect a reform "in the head and members," as it used then to be expressed. But means were always found by successive pontiffs to evade the just demands of an indignant people. Corruptions and abuses were defended with such tenacity, and the intriguos of the Romish Court were so successfully employed, that remonstrances, memorials, the requests of princes, the decrees of councils, and even the general voice of the church, were unavailing.

In the year 1517, Luther commenced that series of attacks on the papacy which issued in the great event usually denominated "The Reformation." At first, indeed, he thought of nothing less. He was a good subject of Leo X., and would have submitted to his decrees, even after his public cpposition to Tetzel, had the pontiff promptly interfered to check his progress, or adopted mild and conciliatory measures. 4 His mind

2 A. D. 1414.

3 A. D. 1431.

4 See his Letter to the Pope, The concluding words are truly remarkable: "Wherefore, most holy father, I cast myself at the feet of thy holiness, and offer up there all that I am, all that I possess

was solely engaged with the doctrine and abuse of indulgences, and against them all his efforts were directed. Had the Pope yielded to his remonstrances, and either suppressed or modified that nefarious traffic, it is probable that the world would have heard no more of the troublesome monk of Wittemburg. But, by the good providence of God, the "spirit of slumber" fell upon Leo; he let Luther alone till it was too late to think of crushing him, and when he did interfere, he employed means which rather tended to further, than to stop the dreaded reform.

Maximilian I. was then Emperor of Germany; a man of small talent, but firm in his attachment to popery, and fearful of all innovation. He persuaded Leo to cite Luther to Rome; but by the interference of Frederic, Elector of Saxony, the cause was committed to Cajetan, the papal legate, who had come into Germany to attend a diet of the empire at Augsburg. With him the reformer had three conferences; it is not surprising that they were entirely unsatisfactory. Unshaken in his opinions, Luther was prevailed on by his friends to leave Augsburg, but not till he had appealed from the Pope, ill informed as he then was, to the same Pope when he should better understand his cause.— Shortly afterwards, understanding that the legate had written to Frederic, soliciting him to withdraw his protection, and suffer him to be given up to the Pope, and hearing also that he had been already condemned at Rome, he appealed to a general council. 5

In this appeal Luther was doubtless influenced by the prevailing opinion respecting such assemblies. Čouncils had been long held in the highest veneration, and the universal church submitted to their decisions. Many causes, probably, conduced to this veneration; such as the reputation and official dignity of the ecclesiastics who were convened on those occasions, their number, and the presumed infallibility of their decrees, secured by the presence and aid of the Holy Spirit himself!

Give me life or death, call, recall, approve or disapprove as it may please thee, I will acknowledge thy commands-the commands of Christ ruling and speaking in thee, &c. Le Plat, ii. 1—4. Milner, iv. 357.

5 Le Plat, ii. p. 37-42,

Experience, it is true, was little in their favour; for it was notorious that they were managed by imperial or papal influence, that contention and discord commonly marked their proceedings, and that the decisions of one age were not unfrequently reversed in the next. Notwithstanding, when dissensions arose, or supposed heresies appeared, men regarded a council as their dernier resort, the panacea for all their woes, the forlorn hope of the church.6

Leo, engrossed by his pleasures, suffered the year 1519 to pass away without any vigorous endeavours to revive the declining interests of the popedom. Meanwhile, the reformation continued to proceed; Zuinglius was labouring in Switzerland, and Luther daily discovered fresh evidence of the errors and abominations of the papal system, and failed not to announce to the world the results of his inquiries, with his characteristic ardour and ingenuousness.7 At length, June 15, 1520, after some warm discussions in the consistory, a bull was issued, condemning forty-one propositions drawn from the writings of Luther, as heretical, scandalous, and false; ordering all his books to be burned; enjoining him and his followers to renounce their errors within a limited time; and threatening, in case of obstinacy, the severest censures and punishments. But so little

effect was produced, and so completely was a large portion of Germany estranged from the Roman See, that Luther ventured to burn the bull, together with the famed decretals of the canon law, in the presence of an immense concourse of people, without the walls of Wittemberg: at the same time he again appealed to a general council. So bold a measure could not fail to draw upon him the vengeance of Rome; accordingly,

6 Grier's" Epitome of the General Councils of the Church" is a useful book for general readers.

7 Seckendorf's incomparable volume ("Historia Lutheranismi,") comprises every thing important relative to Luther. The best account of the Reformer's religious sentiments, and the gradual progress of his convictions, in our own language, is contained in the last two volumes of Milner's History, and the first of Scott's "Continuation" of that work.

8 Le Plat, ii. 60-72.

9 Dec. 10, 1520. Le Plat, ii. 77--79.

another bull was issued, denouncing all the penalties of the greater excommunication on Luther and his adherents, and giving them up to the secular power as incorrigible heretics. 1 o

Maximilian I. died Jan. 13, 1519, and was succeeded by Charles V., then in the twentieth year of his age. The new emperor soon perceived that the affairs of Germany required prompt attention. He summoned a diet of the empire, which met at Worms in April, 1521. The Pope saw the importance of this assembly, and appointed two nuncios, Martin Carracioli and Jerome Aleander, to attend it. Aleander was particularly zealous in carrying into effect the denunciations of the late bull. At Cologne, at Mentz, at Treves, and many other cities and towns, he persuaded the civil authorities to burn the writings of Luther; he even proceeded so far as to take them from private libraries for that purpose. 1 1

Luther appeared before the diet, and manfully defended his opinions. The nuncio, on the other hand, in a speech of three hours' length, urged the princes to act as dutiful sons of the church, by proscribing the obstinate reformer. He prevailed: the decree of the diet declared Luther and his adherents to be notorious heretics; forbade any to receive, defend, or support them; ordered them to be seized and imprisoned, and their goods to be confiscated; and prohibited the printing, vending, or reading any of Luther's books. 12 It is well known that the reformer was preserved from the effects of the edict by the opportune intervention of the Elector of Saxony, and that in his retirement he translated the New Testament into the German language, directed the movements of his friends, and wrote several of his useful and valuable works. The edict of Worms was almost wholly a dead letter; for some of the princes and states were unable, and others disinclined to execute

10 Jan. 3, 1521. Le Plat, ii. 79-83.

11 Pallavicini laments the frequent failure of his endeavours, as many noblemen persisted in retaining Luther's publications in their libraries. Even at this early period they were translated into Spanish, and had become a profitable article of trade to the Flemish merchants. Pallav. Hist. lib. i. c. 24. s. 1, 7.

12 Le Plat, ii. 84-97, 116-127.

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