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the Elector, surnamed the Sage, having founded an university at Wittemberg, Luther was called to an academical chair in 1508, at the age of twenty-five. The professorship of logic was his first appointment; and he immersed himself so much in the study of that science, as to be able to recite by heart several voluminous commentaries of the leading authorities in the schools. Adding to this knowlege the advantage of a prompt elocution, he soon became a popular teacher ; nothing fell from him with an air of indifference, but all was marked by clearness and animation. Divinity, however, continued his favourite study, and, in 1512, the Elector Frederick permitted him to exchange the philosophical for the theological chair in the university. The fame of his attainments had reached the ears of the Elector, and had induced him to withdraw some hours from his labours in the cabinet for the pleasure of listening to Luther in the pulpit. « Audivit Fredericus concionantem ; et vim ingenii, et nervos orationis ac rerum bonitatem expositarum in concionibus, admiratus est."
Five years intervened between the time of which we are treating, and the rupture between Luther and the church of Rome: but it is much to be regretted that his progressive advance in knowlege and his change of views have not been more accurately ascertained.
Few of his early letters have been preserved, and the materials regarding him are scanty till the year 1517, the epoch of his memorable schism. At this time, being engaged in studying the nature of repentance, for the information of his pupils, he was roused from a state of solitary meditation by the indecent urgency with which the sale of Indulgences was pressed on the credulity of the people. Being in the habit, according to the custom of his brethren, of hearing auricular confessions, he was surprized to find that persons guilty of serious crimes refused to undergo the penance which he prescribed, pleaded the remission already received in the shape of an Indulgence, and, on his resisting their applications for absolution, considered themselves as aggrieved. They even went the length of entering complaints against him with Tetzel, the Dominican, who superintended the sale of Indulgences in Saxony t; and who, impatient to amass large sums of money, and confident of support from his superiors, ventured, in an evil hour for the papacy, to threaten Luther and his adherents with the horrors of the Inquisition. Little did he know that the man, whom he sought to intimidate, would pursue his purpose with equal indifference to threats and promises. Luther scorned
6 * Melancth. Præf.'
the menace of Tetzel, but proceeded with deliberation, in the hope that the dignitaries of the church would act a disinterested part, and recall the distribution of Indulgences as soon as they were persuaded that their merits, in a religious point of view, were exaggerated or ill founded. His first step was to circulate a series of propositions on the doctrines of penitence, charity, and Indulgences; and, a copy of this paper being affixed to the church adjacent to the castle of Wittemberg, he subjoined an invitation to a public discussion on these undecided topics, in the following words: “ Amore et studio elucidande veritatis, hæc subscripta themata disputabuntur Wittemberga, presidente R. P. Martino Luthero, Eremitano Augustiniano, artium et S. Theologia Magistro, ejusdem ibidem ordinario Lectore. Quare petit, ut qui non possunt verbis præsentes nobiscum disputare, agant id literis absentes. In nomine Domini nostri Jesu Christi. Amen."
No disputants having accepted the invitation, Luther resorted at once to the medium of the press, and published a variety of observations calculated to call in question the boasted efficacy of Indulgences. He also addressed a letter to Albert, Archbishop of Mentz, who had the direction of the distribution of Indulgences in Germany, and thus expressed himself :
• “I do not complain so much of the manner in which the • Indulgences' are published, (which I have not witnessed,) as of the injurious effects which they are calculated to produce upon the mul. titude, who believe that, if they purchase these pardons, they are certain of their salvation, and exempted from punishment. Good God!” (he exclaims,) “ the souls intrusted to your care are stimulated to what will lead them to ruin; and how hard must be the account which you will have to render to God with respect to all these. From this cause I could be silent no longer, for no one can be certain of his salvation by any gift conferred upon him by a bishop. It is by the grace of God alone that salvation can be obtained. Works of piety and charity are infinitely better than Indulgences; and yet they are not preached to the people with so great pomp or zeal, nay they are supplanted by the Indulgences. The first and only duty of bishops is to instruct the people in the Gospel, and the love of Christ. Jesus never commanded Indulgences to be published. What horror there. fore must that bishop experience, and how great his danger, if he allow the sale of Indulgences to be substituted among his dock in preference to the doctrines of Revelation? Shall not Christ say to such persons, · Ye strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel? What can I do, most excellent prelate and illustrious prince, but intreat you by the Lord Jesus Christ, to direct your attention to this subject, to destroy the book which you have sanctioned by your arms and impose upon the preachers of Indulgences a very different method
• * This was a book recommending the purchase of Indulgences, on the title-page of which were the archbishop's arms.'
of recommending them, lest some one should arise and confute both them and that book to the great reproach of your Highness ? The consequences of this I dread extremely, and yet I fear it must happen unless a speedy remedy be applied.”
In this and the other early appeals of Luther, we discover an unconsciousness of the complete duplicity and hypocrisy of the leading dignitaries of the church ; and even in the succeeding year, when no doubt remained of the venality of Albert and his brethren, Luther still clung to the hope of finding purity at the fountain-head. Leo X. having acquired great fame by his patronage of literature, and having professed to disapprove the lengths to which the sale of Indulgences was carried, was considered by Luther, for some time, as a sincere and zealous Christian; and accordingly, during 1518, his effusions, however vehement against the subordinate members of the church, were respectful and even complimentary to its head. His first opponents were Dominicans, the Order to which distribution of Indulgences had been intrusted. Eckius, a keen disputant, and Prierio, master of the Pope's palace at Rome, both entered the lists against him. He was not long in retorting the charge, and said of Prierio's book, in a strain of vehemence not unusual in those days, “ Tot tantisque blasphemiis a capite ad pedes usque refertum, ut in mcdio Tartaro ab ipsomet Satana editum libellum existimem."
The publications of Luther having excited much attention in Germany, and greatly diminished the profits arising from the sale of Indulgences, Leo found it necessary to comply with the demands of the Dominicans and others for the adoption of vigorous measures. He therefore instructed Cajetan, the papal nuncio in Germany, to summon Luther to him at Augsburg. The Elector Frederick consented that he should attend; and, precautions having been taken to procure for him a safeguard from the Emperor Maximilian, a memorable interview took place at Augsburg between the humble reformer and the dignified representative of the pope. Cajetan entered on argument in complete confidence of overthrowing his opponent: but Luther soon discovered a superiority in theological learning, and a determination to reject all assertions which were not founded on the authority of Scripture. It was in vain that Cajetan insisted, among other things, on the transubstantiation of 'the bread and wine: Luther remained incredulous, and challenged him to produce a single argument in support of his opinion, either from Scripture or the Fathers : “ Peto unam Scripturæ anctoritatem, vel sanctorum patrum, quæ sit contra meam banc sententiam.” — After having remained several days at Augsburg, during which he had three unprofitable interviews
with Cajetan, Luther deemed it expedient to make an abrupt" retreat into the friendly territories of Saxony. Cajetan was instructed to bring him to Rome; and Luther's friends were well aware that the nuncio would not have been scrupulous about the means of executing his orders. — The rupture of the conference at Augsburg, followed as it was by the decisive support of Luther by the Elector Frederick, constitutes an epoch of consequence in the history of the reformer. Indeed, it amounted to a pointed refusal on his part to comply with the desires of the court of Rome, though communicated through the medium of one of its principal ministers; while Frederick, without entering into the religious discussions of the controversy, was confirmed in his intention of protecting Luther by an anxiety to relieve himself and his subjects from the rapacious exactions of the papal court.
In the succeeding year, 1519, the public attention was drawn to a formal disputation between Luther and his Catholic adversaries. Eckius, the Dominican, eager to obtain reputation, and to strengthen his interest with his ecclesiastical superiors, challenged Carolostadt, an adherent of the new doctrines, to contend with him in public at the city of Leipsic; when Luther, who took part in the discussion, excited much admiration by the display of his learning, and the ardour of his elocution. He here brought forwards, openly and positively, the doctrine that the superiority of the Pope, as universal bishop, rested on no other authority than that of human institution; which opinion, -- one of the boldest that could be advanced in those times, — was subsequently maintained by him in repeated publications. Leo, afraid of offending the Élector Frederick, long delayed the adoption of extreme measures against Luther : but at last, in June 1520, came forth the noted Bull which condemned his doctrines in the eyes of the Catholic world. The reformer received the anathema with undiminished fortitude :
6 " The die,” he said, “ is cast, and I despise equally the fury and favour of Rome. - Never will I be reconciled or connected with them. Let them condemn and burn my books. — 1, in my turn, so long as I can procure fire, will condemn and burn publicly the whole pontifical code."
In the three years which had elapsed, the doctrines of Luther had taken a strong hold on the people of Saxony, and in many places it was found unsafe to attempt the publication of the
• The first regular step taken by Luther against the bull was a protest recorded before a notary and witnesses, and an appeal from the pope to a general council. An appeal of the same nature had +
been Luth. ii. 50.'
been entered by him a twelvemonth before, but the respectful manner in which he then spoke of Leo was now exchanged for the most embittered expressions. Leo X. in impia sua tyrannide induratus per. severat - Iniquus, temerarius, tyrannicus judex — Hereticus et Apostata - Antichristus, blasphemus, superbus contemptor sancte Ecclesia Dei, *
• The universities of Cologne and Louvain having openly burned Luther's books, and a similar example having been given at Rome, the Reformer now determined to retaliate. He caused public notice to be given at Wittemberg, that he purposed burning the antichristian decretals on Monday, 10th December. So novel a scene, excited great interest, and the concourse accordingly was immense. The people assembled at nine o'clock in the morning, and proceeded, in regular divisions, to the spot in the neighbourhood where the ceremony was to be performed. Having there partaken of a slight repast, an eminent member of the university erected a kind of funeral pile and set it on fire ; after which Luther took Gratian's Abridge. ment of the Canon Law; the letters commonly called decretals of the pontiffs ; the Clementines and Extravagants, and last of all, the bull of Leo. X. All these he threw into the fire, and exclaimed with a loud voice, “ Because ye have troubled the holy of the Lord, therefore let eternal fire trouble you.”. Having remained to witness their consumption, he returned into the city, accompanied by the same multitude, without the occurrence of the slightest disorder.'
The influence of the reformed doctrine was now becoming so general, as to make it an object of great attention in the. political calculations of crowned heads; and the course pursued by the principal sovereigns of Europe exemplifies, very powerfully, the degree in which religion is too often made subservient to temporary considerations. Charles V. and Francis I. were the two great rivals of those days, and either of them might have given a great extension to the beneficent tenets of the Reformation, had they not, for the sake of political advantages, been persuaded by the Popes to resist a doctrine which they could not disapprove in their hearts. The conduct of our Henry VIII., though less steady, was equally selfish ; since he came forwards at first in the character of an enemy to the Refore mation, when he had a favourite object to accomplish at Rome, and departed from that character when he found that the interest of Charles V. preponderated in the papal councils.
The year 1521 was remarkable for the appearance of Luther before the Imperial Diet which assembled at Worms; he having repaired thither in obedience to an order transmitted to him by the Emperor, and which had been obtained from Charles by the Catholics with the view of making the heads of the empire adopt a decided part against the Reformation. The