Page images

his account of the ceremony of signing the Confession embracing the recently transcribed declarations of the Elector of Saxony, and Wolfgang prince of Anhalt, on subscribing their names. In continuation of history's elucidations we now extract the following from cap. v.:—“After the mass of the Holy Ghost, the emperor (Charles V.] entered his carriage, and having reached the town-hall, where the sittings of the Diet were to take place, took his seat on a throne covered with cloth of gold, while his brother placed himself on a bench in front of him; then all around were arranged the electors, forty-two sovereign princes, the deputies from the cities, the bishops, and ambassadors, forming indeed that illustrious assembly which Luther, six weeks before, had imagined he saw sitting in the air.

“The count-palatine read the imperial proposition. It referred to two points; the war against the Turks, and the religious controversy. “Sacrificing my private injuries and interests to the common good,' said the emperor, 'I have quitted my hereditary kingdoms, to pass, not without great danger, into Italy, and from thence to Germany. I have heard with sorrow of the divisions that have broken out here, and which, striking not only at the imperial majesty, but still more at the commandments of Almighty God, must engender pillage, conflagration, war, and death. At one o'clock the emperor, accompanied by all the princes, returned to his palace.

"On the same day the Elector gathered around him all his co-religionists (or “white cloud” that he “sat on"], whom the emperor's speech had greatly excited, and exhorted them not to be turned aside by any threats from a cause (whose principles were embodied in their Confession) which was that of God himself. All seemed penetrated with this expression of Scripture: Speak the word, and it shall not stand; for God is with us' (Isaiah viii. 10).

“The Elector had a heavy burden to bear. Not only had he to walk at the head of the princes [in accordance with his prophetic position), but he had further to defend himself against the enervating influence of Melancthon. Throughout the whole of the Diet this prince

offers to our notice no mere abstraction of the State, but the noblest individuality (such as might be expected from "him that sat on the cloud”]. Early on Tuesday morning, feeling the necessity of that invisible strength which, according to a beautiful figure in the Holy Scriptures, causes us to ride upon the high places of the earth [in this instance expressed by sitting on a white cloud]; and seeing, as was usual, his domestics, his councillors, and his son assembled around him, John begged them affectionately to withdraw. He [“ like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown"] knew that it was only by kneeling humbly before God that he could stand with courage before Charles (the wearer of the earthly golden crown). Alone in his chamber, he opened and read the Psalms: then falling on his knees, he offered up the most fervent prayer to God; next, wishing to confirm himself in the immovable fidelity that he had just vowed to the Lord, he went to his desk, and there committed his resolutions (respecting the public reading of the Confession] in writing. Dolzig and Melancthon afterwards saw these lines, and were filled with admiration as they read them.

“Being thus tempered anew in heavenly thoughts, John took up the imperial proposition, and meditated over it; then, having called in his son and the chancellor Bruck, and Melancthon shortly after, they all agreed that the deliberations of the Diet ought to commence with the affairs of religion; and his allies, who were consulted, concurred in this advice.

“The legate had conceived a plan diametrically opposed to this. He desired to stifle the religious question, and for this end required that the princes should examine it in a secret committee. The evangelical Christians had no doubt that if the truth was proclaimed in the great council of the nation [if the Confession in the hands of the Elector was read publicly or “ the sharp sickle in the hand of the one that sat on the cloud was thrust in ”] it would gain the victory [“ For the time is come for thee to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe”]; but the more they desired a public confession, the more it was dreaded by the pope's friends. The latter wished

to take their adversaries by silence, without confession, without discussion, as a city is taken by famine without fighting and without a storm: to gag the Reformation, and thus reduce it to powerlessness and death, were their tactics. To have silenced the preachers was not enough, the princes must be silenced also. They wished to shut up the Reformation in a dungeon, and there leave it to die, thinking they would thus get rid of it more surely than by leading it to the scaffold.

“This plan was well conceived : it now remained to be put in execution, and for that purpose it was necessary to persuade the Protestants that such a method would be the surest for them. The person selected for this intrigue was Alphonso Valdez, secretary to Charles V., a Spanish gentleman, who afterwards showed a leaning towards the Reformation. Policy often makes use of good men for the most perfidious designs. It was decided that Valdez should address the most timid of the Protestants-Melancthon..... : “Melancthon was almost won over; a secret conference agreed better with his disposition. Had he not often repeated that peace should be sought after above all things? Thus everything induced the legate to hope that a public struggle would be avoided, and that he might be content, as it were, to send mutes against the Reform, and strangle it in a dungeon.

"Fortunately the Chancellor and the Elector did not think fit to entertain the propositions with which Charles had commissioned the worthy Valdez. The resolution of these lay members of the church saved it from the false step its doctors were about to take; and the wiles of the Italians failed against evangelical firmness. Melancthon was only permitted to lay the Confession before the Spaniard, that he might look into it, and in despite of the moderation employed in it, Valdez exclaimed : “These words are too bitter, and your adversaries will never put up with them !' Thus finished the legate's manœuvre.

“Cap. vi.—Charles, compelled to resign himself to a public sitting ordered on Wednesday, 22nd June, that the Elector and his allies should have their Confession ready

for the ensuing Friday. The Roman party were also invited to present a Confession ; but they excused themselves, saying that they were satisfied with the Edict of Worms. The emperor's order took the Protestants by surprise, for the negotiations between Valdez and Melancthon had prevented the latter from putting the finishing stroke to the Confession. It was not copied out fair; and the conclusions, as well as the exordium, were not definitively drawn up. In consequence of this, the Protestants begged the archbishop of Mentz to obtain for them the delay of a day; but their petition was refused. They therefore laboured incessantly, even during the night, to correct and transcribe the Confession.

“On Thursday, 23rd June, all the Protestant princes, deputies, councillors, and theologians met early at the Elector's. The Confession was read in German, and all gave their adhesion to it, except the landgrave and the Strasburgers, who required a change in the article on the sacrament. The princes rejected their demand.”

Then follow the declarations of the Elector of Saxony and of Wolfgang, prince of Anhalt, on signing the Confession quoted at p. 501, commencing with “The Elector of Saxony, was already preparing to sign.” The historian then says in the same chapter :

“ The wiles of the Ultramontanists were added to Melancthon's dejection in order to arrest the courageous proceedings of the princes. Friday, 24th June, was the day fixed for reading the Confession, but measures were taken to prevent it. The sitting of the Diet did not begin till three in the afternoon; the legate was then announced ; Charles went to meet him as far as the top of the grand staircase, and Campeggio, taking his seat in front of the emperor, in king Ferdinand's place, delivered a harangue in Ciceronian style. “Never,' said he, ‘has St. Peter's bark been so violently tossed by such various waves, whirlwinds, and abysses. The Holy Father has learnt these things with pain, and desires to drag the church from these frightful gulfs. For the love of Jesus Christ, for the safety of your country and for your own, O mighty Prince ! VOL. III.


get rid of these errors, deliver Germany, and save Christendom.'

“After a temperate reply from Albert of Mentz, the legate quitted the town-hall, and the evangelical princes stood up; but a fresh obstacle had been provided. Deputies from Austria, Carinthia, and Carniola, first received a hearing. Much time had thus elapsed. The evangelical princes, however, rose up again, and Bruck, the Elector's chancellor, said: “It is pretended that new doctrines not based on Scripture, that heresies and schisms, are spread among the people by us. Considering that such accusations compromise not only our good name, but also the safety of our souls, we beg his majesty will have the goodness to hear what are the doctrines we confess.

“The emperor, no doubt by arrangement with the legate, made reply that it was too late, besides, that this reading would be useless ; and that the princes should be satisfied with putting in their Confession in writing. Thus the mine, so skilfully prepared, worked admirably; the Confession, once handed to the emperor, would be thrown aside, and the Reformation would be forced to retire, without the papists having even condescended to hear it, without defence, and overwhelmed with contumely.

“The protestant princes, uneasy and agitated, insisted, • Our honour is at stake,' said they ; 'our souls are endangered. We are accused publicly; publicly we ought to answer. Charles ,was shaken; Ferdinand leant towards him, and whispered a few words in his ear: the emperor refused a second time.

“Upon this the Elector and princes, in still greater alarm, said, for the third time, with emotion and earnestness : 'For the love of God, let us read our Confession! No person is insulted in it!' Thus were seen, on the one hand, a few faithful men, desiring with loud cries to confess their faith [by thrusting in the sharp sickle on the earth]; and on the other, the great emperor of the west, surrounded by a crowd of cardinals, prelates, and princes, endeavouring to stifle the manifestation of the truth. It was a serious, violent, and decisive struggle, in which the holiest interests were discussed.

« PreviousContinue »