GERMANY TILL 1530. § 91. Causes and Means of Progress. The Reformation spread over Germany with the spontaneous and irresistible impulse of a great historical movement that struck its roots deep in the wants and necessities of the church. The only propaganda of Luther was the word and the pen, but these he used to the utmost of his time and strength. "There was no need of an arrangement," says Ranke, "or of a concerted agreement, or of any special mission. As at the first favor of the vernal sun the seed sprouts from the ploughed field, so the new convictions, which were prepared by all what men had experienced and heard, made their appearance on the slightest occasion, wherever the German language was spoken."43744
The chief causes of progress were the general discontent with papal tyranny and corruption; the desire for light, liberty, and peace of conscience; the thirst for the pure word of God. The chief agencies were the German Bible, which spoke with Divine authority to the reason and conscience, and overawed the human authority of the pope; the German hymns, which sang the comforting doctrines of grace into the hearts of the people; and the writings of Luther, who discussed every question of the day with commanding ability and abundant knowledge, assuring the faith of friends, and crushing the opposition of foes. The force and fertility of his genius as a polemic are amazing, and without a parallel among fathers, schoolmen, and modern divines. He ruled like an absolute monarch in the realm of German theology and religion; and, with the gospel for his shield and weapon, he was always sure of victory.745
What Luther did for the people, Melanchthon accomplished, in his gentle and moderate way, for scholars. In their united labors they were more than a match for all the learning, skill, and material resources of the champions of Rome.
No such progress of new ideas and principles had taken place since the first introduction of Christianity. No power of pope or emperor, no council or diet, could arrest it. The very obstacles were turned into helps. Had the Emperor and his brother favored the cause of progress, all Germany might have become nominally Lutheran. But it was better that Protestantism should succeed, in spite of their opposition, by its intellectual and moral force. A Protestant Constantine or Charlemagne would have extended the territory, but endangered the purity, of the Reformation.
Secular and selfish motives and passions were mingled with the pure enthusiasm for the gospel. Violence, intrigues, and gross injustice were sometimes employed in the suppression of the old, and the introduction of the new, faith.746 But, human sin and imperfection enter into all great movements of history. Wherever God builds a church, the Devil is sure to build a chapel close by. The Devil is mighty; but God is almighty, and overrules the wrath and outwits the wit of his great enemy. Nothing but the power of truth and conviction could break down the tyranny of the papacy, which for so many centuries had controlled church and state, house and home, from the cradle to the grave, and held the keys to the kingdom of heaven. It is an insult to reason and faith to deny the all-ruling and overruling supremacy of God in the history of the world and the church.
§ 92. The Printing-Press and the Reformation. The art of printing, which was one of the providential preparations for the Reformation, became the mightiest lever of Protestantism and modern culture.
The books before the Reformation were, for the most part, ponderous and costly folios and quartos in Latin, for limited circulation. The rarity of complete Bibles is shown by the fact that copies in the libraries were secured by a chain against theft. Now small and portable books and leaflets were printed in the vernacular for the millions.
The statistics of the book trade in the sixteenth century reveal an extraordinary increase since Luther. In the year 1513, there appeared only ninety prints in Germany; in 1514, one hundred and six; in 1515, one hundred and forty-five; in 1516, one hundred and five; in 1517, eighty-one. They are mostly little devotional tracts, flying newspapers, official notices, medical prescriptions, stories, and satirical exposures of clerical and monastic corruptions. In 1518 the number rose to one hundred and forty-six; in 1519, to two hundred and fifty-two; in 1520, to five hundred and seventy-one; in 1521, to five hundred and twenty-three; in 1522, to six hundred and seventy-seven; in 1523, to nine hundred and forty-four. Thus the total number of prints in the five years preceding the Reformation amounted only to five hundred and twenty-seven; in the six years after the Reformation, it rose to three thousand one hundred and thirteen.747
These works are distributed over fifty different cities of Germany. Of all the works printed between 1518 and 1523 no less than six hundred appeared in Wittenberg; the others mostly in Nürnberg, Leipzig, Cologne, Strassburg, Hagenau, Augsburg, Basel, Halberstadt, and Magdeburg. Luther created the book-trade in Northern Germany, and made the little town of Wittenberg one of the principal book-marts, and a successful rival of neighboring Leipzig as long as this remained Catholic. In the year 1523 more than four-fifths of all the books published were on the side of the Reformation, while only about twenty books were decidedly Roman Catholic. Erasmus, hitherto the undisputed monarch in the realm of letters, complained that the people would read and buy no other books than Luther’s. He prevailed upon Froben not to publish any more of them. "Here in Basel," he wrote to King Henry VIII., "nobody dares to print a word against Luther, but you may write as much as you please against the pope." Romish authors, as we learn from Cochlaeus and Wizel, could scarcely find a publisher, except at their own expense; and the Leipzig publishers complained that their books were unsalable.
The strongest impulse was given to the book trade by Luther’s German New Testament. Of the first edition, Sept. 22, 1522, five thousand copies were printed and sold before December of the same year, at the high price of one guilder and a half per copy (about twenty-five marks of the present value). Hans Luft printed a hundred thousand copies on his press in Wittenberg. Adam Petri in Basel published seven editions between 1522 and 1525; Thomas Wolf of the same city, five editions between 1523 and 1525. Duke George commanded that all copies should be delivered up at cost, but few were returned. The precious little volume, which contains the wisdom of the whole world, made its way with lightning speed into the palaces of princes, the castles of knights, the convents of monks, the studies of priests, the houses of citizens, the huts of peasants. Mechanics, peasants, and women carried the New Testament in their pockets, and dared to dispute with priests and doctors of theology about the gospel.748
As there was no copyright at that time, the works of the Reformers were multiplied by reprints in Nürnberg, Augsburg, Strassburg, Basel. Republication was considered a legitimate and honorable business. Luther complained, not of the business itself, but of the reckless and scandalous character of many reprints of his books, which were so full of blunders that he could hardly recognize them.749 Sometimes the printers stole his manuscript, and published it elsewhere. He was not hindered by any censorship, except that he received occasionally a gentle warning from the Elector when he did not spare the princes. He took no honorarium for his books, and was satisfied with a number of free copies for friends. Authors were usually supported by a professorship, and considered it beneath their dignity, or as ungentlemanlike, to receive a royalty, but were indirectly rewarded by free copies or other presents of the publishers or rich patrons, in return for dedications, which were originally, as they are now, nothing more than public testimonies of regard or gratitude, though often used, especially during the seventeenth century, for selfish purposes.750 Cash payments to authors were, down to the eighteenth century, rare and very low. Few could make a decent living from writing books; and, we may add, few publishers acquired wealth from their trade, which is very uncertain, and subject to great losses. "Habent sua fata libelli."
But, while the progressive Reformation gave wings to the printing-press, the conservative re-action matured gradually a system of restriction, which, under the name of censorship and under the direction of book-censors, assumed the control of the publishing business with authority to prevent or suppress the publication and sale of books, pamphlets, and newspapers hostile to the prevailing religious, moral, or political sentiments.751 The Peasants’ War, which was kindled by inflammatory books, and threatened a general overthrow of social order, strengthened the reactionary tendencies of Protestant, as well as Roman Catholic, governments.
The burning of obnoxious books by public authority of church or state is indeed as old as the book-trade. A work of Protagoras, in which he doubted the existence of the Greek gods, was burned at the stake in Athens about twenty years after the death of Pericles. The Emperor Augustus subjected slanderous publications (libelli famosi) to legal prosecution and destruction by fire. Christian emperors employed their authority against heathen, heretical, and infidel books. Constantine the Great, backed by the Council of Nicaea, issued an edict against the writings of Porphyry and Arius; Accadius, against the books of the Eunomians (398); Theodosius, against the books of the Nestorians (435). Justinian commanded the destruction of sundry obnoxious works, and forbade their re-issue on pain of losing the right arm (536). The oecumenical synod of 680 at Constantinople burned the books which it had condemned, including the letters of the Monothelitic Pope Honorius.
Papal Rome inherited this practice, and improved upon it. Leo I. caused a large number of Manichaean books to be burnt (446). The popes claimed the right and duty to superintend the religious and moral literature of Christendom. They transferred the right in the thirteenth century to the universities, but they found little to do until the art of printing facilitated the publication of books. The Council of Constance condemned the books of Wiclif and Hus, and ordered the bishops to burn all the copies they could seize (1415).
The invention of the printing-press (c. 1450) called forth sharper measures in the very city where the inventor, John Gutenberg, lived and died (1400–1467). It gave rise also to the preventive policy of book-censorship which still exists in some despotic countries of Europe. Berthold, Archbishop of Mainz, took the lead in the restriction of the press. He prohibited, Jan. 10, 1486, the sale of all unauthorized German translations of Greek and Latin works, on the plea of the inefficiency of the German language, but with a hostile aim at the German Bible. In the same year Pope Innocent VIII. issued a bull against the printers of bad books. The infamous Pope Alexander VI. prohibited in 1498, on pain of excommunication, the printing and reading of heretical books; and in a bull of June 1, 1501, which was aimed chiefly against Germany, he subjected all kinds of literary publications to episcopal supervision and censorship, and required the four archbishops of Cöln, Mainz, Trier, and Magdeburg, or their officials, carefully to examine all manuscripts before giving permission to print them. He also ordered that books already printed should be examined, and burnt if they contained any thing contrary to the Catholic religion. This bull forms the basis of all subsequent prohibitions and restrictions of the press by papal, imperial, or other authority.752
Leo X., who personally cared more for heathen art than Christian literature, went further, and prohibited, in a bull of March 3, 1515, the publication of any book in Rome without the imprimatur of the magister sacri palatii (the book-censor), and in other states and dioceses without the imprimatur of the bishop or the inquisitor of heretical depravity.753 Offenders were to be punished by the confiscation and public burning of their books, a fine of one hundred ducats, and excommunication. Archbishop and Elector Albrecht of Mainz was the first, and it seems the only, German prince who gave force to this bull for his own large diocese by a mandate of May 17, 1517, a few months before the outbreak of the Reformation. The papal bull of excommunication, June 15, 1520, consistently ordered the burning of, all the books of Luther."754 But he laughed it to scorn, and burned in revenge the pope’s bull, with all his decretals, Dec. 10, 1520.
Thus, with the freedom of conscience, was born the freedom of the press. But it had to pass through a severe ordeal, even in Protestant countries, and was constantly checked by Roman authorities as far as their power extended. The German Empire, by the Edict of Worms, made itself an ally of the pope against free thought and free press, and continued so until it died of old age in 1806.755 Fortunately, the weakness of the empire and the want of centralization prevented the execution of the prohibition of Protestant books, except in strictly papal countries, as Bavaria and Austria. But unfortunately, the Protestants themselves, who used the utmost freedom of the press against the Papists, denied it to each other; the Lutherans to the Reformed, and both to the Anabaptists, Schwenkfeldians and Socinians.756 Protestant princes liked to control the press to protect themselves against popery, or the charges of robbery of church property and other attacks. The Elector John Frederick was as narrow and intolerant as Duke George on the opposite side. But these petty restrictions are nothing compared with the radical and systematic crusade of the Papists against the freedom of the press. King Ferdinand of Austria ordered, July 24, 1528, all printers and sellers of sectarian books to be drowned, and their books to be burnt. The wholesale burning of Protestant books, including Protestant Bibles, was a favorite and very effective measure of the Jesuitical reaction which set in before the middle of the sixteenth century, and was promoted by the political arm, and the internecine wars of the Protestants. Pope Paul IV. published in 1557 and 1559 the first official Index Librorum prohibitorum; Pius IV. in 1564, an enlarged edition, generally known as Index Tridentinus, as it was made by order of the Council of Trent. It contains a list of all the books forbidden by Rome, good, bad, and indifferent. This list has been growing ever since in size (1590, 1596, 1607, 1664, 1758, 1819, etc.), but declining in authority, till it became, like the bull against the comet, an anachronism and a brutum fulmen.757
§ 93. Protestantism in Saxony. H. G. Hasse: Meissnisch-Albertinisch-Sächsische Kirchengesch. Leipz. 1847, 2 parts. Fr. Seifert: Die Reformation in Leipzig, Leipz. 1881. G. Lechler: Die Vorgeschichte der Reform. Leipzigs, 1885. See also the literary references in Köstlin, II. 426 and 672.
Electoral Saxony was the first conquest of the Reformation. Wittenberg was the centre of the whole movement, with Luther as the general in chief, Melanchthon, Jonas, Bugenhagen, as his aids. The gradual growth of Lutheranism in this land of its birth is identical with the early history of the Reformation, and has been traced already.
In close connection with the Electorate is the Duchy of Saxony, and may here be considered, although it followed the movement much later. The Duchy included the important cities of Dresden (the residence of the present kingdom of Saxony) and Leipzig with its famous university. Duke George kept the Reformation back by force during his long reign from 1500 to 1539. He hated the papal extortions, and advocated a reform of discipline by a council, but had no sympathy whatever with Luther. He took a dislike to him at the disputation in Leipzig, forbade his Bible, issued a rival version of the New Testament by Emser, sent all the Lutherans out of the land, and kept a close watch on the booksellers.758 He executed the Edict of Worms to the extent of his power, and would have rejoiced in the burning of Luther, who in turn abused him most unmercifully by his pen as a slave of the pope and the devil, though he prayed for his conversion.759
George made provision for the perpetuation of Romanism in his dominion but his sons died one after another. His brother and heir, Heinrich the Pious, was a Lutheran (as was his wife). Though old and weak, he introduced the Reformation by means of a church visitation after the Wittenberg model and with Wittenberg aid. The Elector of Saxony, Luther, Melanchthon, Jonas, and Cruciger were present at the inaugural festivities in Leipzig, May, 1539. Luther had the satisfaction of preaching at Pentecost before an immense audience in the city, where twenty years before he had disputed with Eck, and provoked the wrath of Duke George. Yet he was by no means quite pleased with the new state of things, and complained bitterly of the concealed malice of the semi-popish clergy, and the overbearing and avaricious conduct of the nobles and courtiers.
Nevertheless, the change was general and permanent. Leipzig became the chief Lutheran university, and the center of the Protestant book-trade, and remains so to this day. Joachim Camerarius (Kammermeister), an intimate friend and correspondent of Melanchthon, labored there as professor from 1541–1546 for the prosperity of the university, and for the promotion of classical learning and evangelical piety.
We briefly allude to the subsequent changes. Moritz, the son and heir of Heinrich, was a shrewd politician, a master in the art of dissimulation, and a double traitor, who from selfish motives in turn first ruined and then saved the cause of the Reformation. He professed the Lutheran faith, but betrayed his allies by aiding the Emperor in the Smalcaldian war for the price of the Electoral dignity of his cousin (1547); a few years later be betrayed the Emperor (1552), and thereby prepared the way for the treaty of Passau and the peace of Augsburg, which secured temporary rest to the Lutherans (1555).
His next successors, Augustus I. (his brother, 1553–1586). Christian I. (1586–1591), and Christian II. (1591–1611), were intolerant Lutherans, and suppressed Crypto-Calvinism and every other creed. Frederick Augustus I. (1694–1733) sold the faith of his ancestors for the crown of Poland. Since that time the rulers of Saxony have been Roman Catholics, while the people remained Lutheran, but gradually grew more liberal than their ancestors. Freedom of worship was granted to the Roman Church in 1807, to the German Reformed in 1818, and more recently (since 1866) to other communions.
§ 94. The Reformation in Nürnberg. Priem: Geschichte von Nürnberg, 1874. F Roth: Die Einführung der Reformation in Nürnberg, 1517–28, Würzburg, 1885 (pp. 271).
The imperial cities (Reichsstädte) of the old German Empire, such as Nürnberg, Augsburg, Frankfurt, Strassburg, enjoyed a larger measure of liberty than other cities. They had the sovereignty over their territory, with a constitutional government, and seat and vote in the Diet (Reichstag). They were the centres of intelligence, wealth, and influence. For this reason the Reformation made from the beginning rapid progress in them, though not without commotion and opposition.
Nürnberg (Nuremberg), the most picturesque mediaeval city of Germany, was at that time the metropolis of German commerce, politics, letters, and art, and of an unusual constellation of distinguished men, most of whom sympathized with Erasmus and Luther. Pirkheimer, the Maecenas of Nürnberg (1475–1530), prepared the way, although he afterwards withdrew, like his friend Erasmus and other humanists.760 Albrecht Dürer, the famous painter (1471–1528), admired the heroic stand of Luther at Worms, and lamented his supposed death when removed out of sight; but during the eucharistic controversy he inclined to the view of Zwingli. Hans Sachs (1494–1576), the "Mastersinger" and shoemaker-poet, saluted the "Nightingale" of Wittenberg (1523). Wenzeslaus Link, an Augustinian monk and intimate friend and correspondent of Luther, was sent by Staupitz from Wittenberg to the Augustinian convent at Nürnberg in 1518, and promoted the cause by his popular evangelical sermons. The preachers of the two splendid churches of St. Sebaldus and St. Lorenz followed the movement. The mass was abolished in 1524. The most effective promoters of the Reformation besides Link were Spengler, a layman, and Osiander, the preacher of St. Lorenz.
Lazarus Spengler (1479–1534), secretary of the magistrate, an admirer of Staupitz, wrote an apology of Luther, 1519, and a popular hymn on justification by faith ("Durch Adam’s Fall ist ganz verderbt"), helped to found an evangelical college, and left a confession of faith in his testament which Luther published with a preface, 1535. Joachim Camerarius, on the recommendation of Melanchthon, was called to the new college in 1526, as professor of history and Greek literature, and remained there till 1535, when he was called to the University of Tübingen, and afterwards (1541) to Leipzig.
Andreas Osiander (1498–1552), an able and learned, but opinionated and quarrelsome theologian, preached in St. Lorenz against the Roman Antichrist after 1522, fought as violently against Zwinglianism, married in 1525, attended the colloquy at Marburg, 1529, and the convent at Smalcald, 1537. He published a mechanical Gospel Harmony (1537), at the request of Archbishop Cranmer, who had married his niece (1532). He left Nürnberg in 1549, and became professor of theology at the newly founded university of Königsberg. There he stirred up a bitter theological controversy with the Wittenberg divines by his mystical doctrine of an effective and progressive justification by the indwelling of Christ (1551).
At Nürnberg several Diets were held during the Reformation period, and a temporary peace was concluded between Protestants and Roman Catholics in 1532.
§ 95. The Reformation in Strassburg. Martin Bucer. Joh. W. Baum: Capito und Butzer, Elberfeld, 1860 (partly from MSS. See a complete chronological list of Bucer’s works, pp. 577–611). W. Krafft: art. "Butzer" in Herzog’s Encykl.2, vol. III. 35–46 (abridged in Schaff-Herzog). Tim. W. Röhrich: Gesch. der Reformation in Elsass und besonders in Strassburg, Strassb. 1830–32, 3 vols. A. Erichson: L’Église française de Strasbourg au seizième siècle d’après des monuments inédits. Stasb. 1885. Max Lenz: Briefwechsel Landgraf Philipps mit Bucer, Leipzig, 1880 and 1887, 2 vols. Ad. Baum: Magistrat und Reformation in Strassburg. Strassb. 1887 (212 pages).
Strassburg, the capital of the Alsace, celebrated for its Gothic cathedral, university, and libraries, had been long before the Reformation the scene of the mystic revival preacher Tauler and the Friends of God. It was a thoroughly German city before Louis XIV. incorporated it with France (1681), and was re-conquered by Germany in 1870.
The Reformation began there in 1523. Zell, Bucer, Capito (Köpfel), Hedio (Heil), and for a few years Calvin also (1538 to 1541), labored there with great success. The magistrate abolished the mass, 1528, and favored the Protestant cause under the lead of Jacob Sturm, an enlightened patriot, who represented the city in all important transactions at home, in the Diet, and in conferences with the Romanists, till his death (1553). He urged the establishment of a Christian college, where classical learning and evangelical piety should be cultivated. His namesake, Johann Sturm, an eminent pedagogue, was called from Paris to preside over this college (1537), which grew into an academy, and ultimately into a university. Both were moderate men, and agreed with Capito and Bucer.761 The church of Strassburg was much disturbed by the Peasants’ War, the Anabaptists, and still more by the unfortunate sacramental controversies.
The chief reformer of Strassburg was Martin Bucer (1491–1552).762 He was a native of Alsace, a Dominican monk, and ordained to the priesthood. He received a deep impression from Luther at the disputation in Heidelberg, 1518; obtained papal dispensation from his monastic vows (1521); left the Roman Church; found refuge in the castle of Francis of Sickingen; married a nun, and accepted a call to Strassburg in 1523.
Here he labored as minister for twenty-five years, and had a hand in many important movements connected with the Reformation. He attended the colloquy at Marburg (1529); wrote, with Capito, the Confessio Tetrapolitana (1530); brought about an artificial and short-lived armistice between Luther and Zwingli by the Wittenberg Concordia (1536); connived, unfortunately, at the bigamy of Philip of Hesse; and took a leading part, with Melanchthon, in the unsuccessful reformation of Archbishop Herrmann of Cologne (1542). Serious political troubles, and his resistance to the semi-popish Interim, made his stay in Strassburg dangerous, and at last impossible. Melanchthon in Wittenberg, Myconius in Basel, and Calvin in Geneva, offered him an asylum; but be accepted, with his younger colleague Fagius, a call of Cranmer to England (1549). He aided him in his reforms; was highly esteemed by the archbisbop and King Edward VI., and ended his labors as professor of theology in Cambridge. His bones were exhumed in the reign of Bloody Mary (1556), but his memory was honorably restored by Queen Elizabeth (1560).
Bucer figures largely in the history of his age as the third (next to Luther and Melanchthon) among the Reformers of Germany, as a learned theologian and diplomatist, and especially as a unionist and peacemaker between the Lutherans and Zwinglians. He forms also a connecting link between Germany and England, and exerted some influence in framing the Anglican standards of doctrine and worship. His motto was: "We believe in Christ, not in the church."763
He impressed his character upon the church of Strassburg, which occupied a middle ground between Wittenberg and Zürich, and gave shelter to Calvin and the Reformed refugees of France. Strict Lutheranism triumphed for a period, but his irenical catholicity revived in the practical pietism of Spener, who was likewise an Alsacian. In recent times the Strassburg professors, under the lead of Dr. Reuss, mediated between the Protestant theology of Germany and that of France, in both languages, and furnished the best edition of the works of John Calvin.
§ 96. The Reformation in North Germany. In Magdeburg the doctrines of Luther were preached in 1522 by Melchior Mirisch, an Augustinian prior, who had studied at Wittenberg. The magistrate shook off the authority of Archbishop Albrecht, invited Luther to preach in 1524, and secured the services of his friend Nicolaus von Amsdorf, who became superintendent, and introduced the, necessary changes. During the Interim troubles the city was a stronghold of the Lutheran party headed by Flacius, and laid under the imperial ban (1548). In the Thirty Years’ War it was burnt by Tilly (1631), but rose anew from destruction.764
In Magdeburg appeared the first Protestant church history, 1559–1574, in thirteen folio volumes, edited by Flacius, under the title "The Magdeburg Centuries,"—a work of colossal industry, but utilizing history for sectarian purposes against popery. It called forth the Annales of Baronius in the opposite interest.
Breslau and Silesia were reformed chiefly by John Hess, who studied at Wittenberg, 1519, a friend of Luther and Melanchthon. He held a successful disputation in Breslau in defense of the Protestant doctrines, 1524.765
Kaspar Schwenkfeld von Ossig (1490–1561), a nobleman in the service of the Duke Frederick II. of Liegnitz, was one of the earliest promoters of the Reformation in Silesia, but fell out with Luther in the eucharistic controversy (1524). He had peculiar views on the sacraments, similar to those of the Quakers. He also taught that the flesh of Christ was deified. He founded a new sect, which was persecuted in Germany, but is perpetuated among the Schwenkfeldian congregations in Eastern Pennsylvania.766
Among the later leaders of the Protestant cause in Breslau must be mentioned Crato von Crafftheim (d. 1585), who studied at Wittenberg six years as an inmate of Luther’s household, and became an eminent physician of the Emperor Maximilian II. His younger friend, Zacharias Ursinus (d. 1583), is one of the two authors of the Heidelberg Catechism. Crato belonged to the Melanchthonian school, in distinction from the rigid Lutheranism which triumphed in the Formula of Concord.767
Bremen accepted Protestantism in November, 1522, by calling Heinrich Moller, better known as Heinrich von Zütphen (1468–1524), to the parish of Ansgari, and afterwards two other Protestant preachers. Moller had studied at Wittenberg, 1515, and taken a degree in 1521 under Melanchthon. He was prior of an Augustinian convent at Dort, and preached there and in Antwerp the doctrines of the Reformation, but had to flee for his life. He followed an invitation to preach in Ditmar, but met with opposition, and was burnt to death by a fanatical and drunken mob excited by the monks. Luther published an account of his death, and dedicated it to the Christians in Bremen, with an exposition of the tenth Psalm. He rejoiced in the return of the spirit of martyrdom, which, he says, "is horrible to behold before the world, but precious in the sight of God."768
In 1527 all the churches of Bremen were in charge of Protestant pastors, and afterwards divided between the Lutheran and Reformed Confessions. The convents were turned into schools and hospitals.
Hamburg, which shares with Bremen the supremacy in the North German and maritime commerce, followed in 1523. Five years later Dr. Bugenhagen, called Pomeranus (1485–1558), was called from Wittenberg to superintend the changes. This Reformer, Luther’s faithful friend and pastor, had a special gift of government, and was the principal organizer of the Lutheran churches in Northern Germany and Denmark. For this purpose he labored in the cities of Braunschweig (1528), Hamburg (1529), Lübeck (1530–1532), in his native Pomerania (1534), and in Denmark, where he spent nearly five years (1537–1542). His church constitutions were models.769
Lübeck, a rich commercial city, and capital of the Hanseatic League, expelled the first Lutheran preachers, but recalled them, and removed the priests in 1529. Bugenhagen completed the work.
In Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Duke Ernst the Confessor favored the new doctrines in 1527, and committed the prosecution of the work to Urbanus Rhegius, whom he met at the Diet of Augsburg, 1530.
Rhegius770(1489–1541) belongs to the second class of Reformers. He was the son of a priest on the Lake of Constance, educated at Lindau, Freiburg-i.- B. (in the house of Zasius), and Ingolstadt under Dr. Eck, and ordained priest at Constance (1519). He joined the humanistic school, entered into correspondence with Erasmus, Faber, and Zwingli, and became an imperial orator and poet-laureate, though his poetry is stiff and conventional. He acquired the doctorate of divinity at Basel. He was called to Augsburg by the magistrate, and labored as preacher in the Dome from 1523 to 1530. He passed from Romanism to Lutheranism, from Lutheranism to Zwinglianism, and back to a moderate Lutheranism. He sympathized most with Bucer, and labored afterwards for the Wittenberg Concordia. The imperial prohibition of Protestant preaching, June 16, 1530, terminated his career in Augsburg, though he remained till Aug. 26, and conferred much with Bucer and Melanchthon.
He now entered upon his more important and permanent labors as general superintendent of Lüneberg, and took the leading part in the Reformation of Celle, Hannover, Minden, Soest, Lemgo, and other places; but he gives a doleful description of the moral condition. He attended the colloquy at Hagenau, and died soon after his return, May 27, 1541.
He wrote two catechisms and several devotional books. In his earlier career he was vain, changeable, and factious. He lacked originality, but had the talent of utilizing and popularizing the new ideas of others. Luther gives him the testimony: "He hated not only the popish abominations, but also all sectaries; he sincerely loved the pure word, and handled it with all diligence and faithfulness, as his writings abundantly show."771
The Dukes of Mecklenburg, Heinrich and Albrecht, applied to Luther in 1524 for "evangelists," and Luther sent them two Augustinian monks. Heinrich favored the Reformation, but very cautiously. The university of Rostock, founded 1419, became at a later period a school of strict Lutheran orthodoxy.
§ 97. Protestantism in Augsburg and South Germany. Augsburg, first known twelve years before Christ as a Roman colony (Augusta Vindelicorum), and during the middle ages an imperial city (since 1276), the seat of a bishop, the chief emporium for the trade of Northern Europe with the Mediterranean and the East, and the home of princely merchants and bankers (the Fuggers and Welsers), figures prominently in the early history of the Reformation, and gave the name to the standard confession of the Lutheran Church in 1530, and to the treaty of peace in 1555.772 Luther was there in 1518 at a conference with Cardinal Cajetan, and lodged with the Carmelite friar Frosch, who remained faithful to him. Peutinger, the bishop (Christoph von Stadium), and two canons (Adelmann) were friendly to reform, at least for a time. Urbanus Rhegius preached there from 1523 to 1530, and exerted great influence. He distributed, with Frosch, the communion with the cup at Christmas, 1524. Both married in 1526.
But the Zwinglians, under the lead of Michael Keller, gradually gained the upper hand among influential men. Zwingli took advantage of the situation in his famous letter to Alber, Nov. 16, 1524, in which he first fully developed his theory. Even Rhegius, who had written before against Carstadt (sic) and Zwingli, became a Zwinglian, though only for a short period.
The Anabaptist leaders, Hubmaier, Denck, Hetzer, Hut, likewise appeared in Augsburg, and gathered a congregation of eleven hundred members. They held a general synod in 1527. They baptized by immersion. Rhegius stirred up the magistrate against them: the leaders were imprisoned, and some executed.773
The confusion and strife among the Protestants strengthened the Roman party. The people did not know what to believe, and the magistrate hesitated. The moral condition of the city, as described by Rhegius, Musculus, and other preachers, was deplorable, and worse than under the papal rule. During the Diet of Augsburg in 1530, the Emperor prohibited all Protestant preaching in public: the magistrate made no objection, and dismissed the preachers. But the Augsburg Confession left a permanent impression on the place.
The South-German cities of Constance, Memmingen, and Lindau were, like Augsburg, influenced by Zwingli as well as Luther, and united with Strassburg in the Tetrapolitan Confession, which Bucer and Capito prepared in great haste during the Diet of Augsburg as a document of union between the two wings of Protestantism. It failed to meet the approval of the Diet, and was, like Zwingli’s Confession, not even allowed to be read; but Bucer adhered to it to the end.
The most important and permanent conquest which the Reformation made in South Germany was that of the duchy (now kingdom) of Württemberg under Duke Ulrich, through the labors of Brenz, Blaurer, and Schnepf, after 1534. The University of Tübingen (founded 1477) became one of the most fruitful nurseries of Protestant theology, in all its phases, from the strictest orthodoxy to the most radical criticism.774
§ 98. The Reformation in Hesse, and the Synod of Homberg. Philip of Hesse, and Lambert of Avignon. I. Lambertus Avenionensis: Paradoxa quae Fr. L. A. apud sanctam Hessorum Synodum Hombergi congregatam pro Ecclesiarum Reformatione e Dei Verbo disputanda et definienda proposuit, Erphordiae, 1527. (Reprinted in Sculteti Annales, p. 68; in Hardt, Hist. Lit. Ref. V. 98; an extract in Henke’s N. Kirchengesch., I. 101 sqq.) N. L. Richter: Die Kirchenordnungen des 16ten Jahrh., Weimar, 1846, vol. I. 56–69 (the Homberg Constitution). C. A. Credner: Philipp des Grossmüthigen hessische Kirchenreformations-Ordnung. Aus schriftlichen Quellen herausgegeben, übersetzt, und mit Rücksicht auf die Gegenwart bevorwortet, Giessen, 1852 (123 pp.)
II. F. W. Hassencamp: Hessische Kirchengesch. seit dem Zeitalter der Reformation, Marburg, 1852 and 1855. W. Kolbe: Die Einführung der Reformation in Marburg, Marburg, 1871. H. L. J. Heppe: Kirchengesch. beider Hessen, Marburg, 1876. (He wrote several other works on the church history of Hesse and of the Reformation generally, in the interest of Melanchthonianism and of the Reformed Church.) E, L. Henke: Neuere Kirchengesch. (ed. by Gass, Halle, 1874), I. 98–109. Mejer: Homberger Synode, in Herzog2, VI. 268 sqq. Köstlin: M. L., II. 48 sqq.
III. Works on Philip of Hesse by Rommel (Philipp der Grossmüthige, Landgraf von Hessen, Giessen, 1830, 3 vols.), and Wille (Philipp der Grossmüthige und die Restitution Herzog Ulrichs von Würtemberg, Tübingen, 1882). Max Lenz: Zwingli und Landgraf Philip, in Brieger’s "Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte," 1879; and Briefwechsel Landgraf Philipps mit Bucer, Leipz. 1880, vol. 2d, 1887 (important for the political and ecclesiastical history of Germany between 1541 and 1547). The history of Philip is interwoven in Ranke’s Geschichte (vols. I. to VI.), and in Janssen’s Geschichte (vol. III.). Against Janssen is directed G. Bossert: Württemberg und Ianssen, Halle, 1884, 2 parts.
IV. Biographies of Lambert of Avignon by Baum (Strassb. 1840), Hassencamp (Elberfeld, 1860), Ruffet (Paris, 1873), and a sketch by Wagenmann in Herzog2, VIII. 371 sqq. (1881). The writings of Lambert of Avignon, mostly Theses and Commentaries, are very scarce, and have never been collected. His letters (some of them begging letters to the Elector of Saxony and Spalatin) are published by Herminjard in Correspondance des Réformateurs, vol. I. 112, 114, 118, 123, 131, 138, 142, 144, 146, 328, 344, 347, 371; vol. II. 239. Luther refers to him in several letters to Spalatin (see below).
Hesse or Hessia, in Middle Germany, was Christianized by St. Boniface in the eighth century, and subject to the jurisdiction of the archbishop of Mainz. It numbered in the sixteenth century fifty convents, and more than a thousand monks and nuns.
Hesse became, next to Saxony, the chief theater of the Reformation in its early history; and its chief patron among the princes, next to Elector John, was Philip, Landgrave of Hesse, surnamed the "Magnanimous" (1504–1567). He figures prominently in the political history of Germany from 1525, when he aided in the suppression of the Peasants’ War, till 1547, when he was defeated by the Emperor in the Smalcaldian War, and kept a prisoner for five years (1547–1552). The last years of his life were quiet and conciliatory, but his moral force was broken by his misconduct and the failure of his political combinations.
His connection with the Reformation presents two different aspects, which make it difficult to decide whether it was more beneficial or more injurious. He made the acquaintance of Luther at the Diet of Worms (1521), and asked and received instruction from Melanchthon, whom be met at Heidelberg (1524). He declared in 1525, that he would rather lose body and life, land and people, than depart from the word of God, and urged the ministers to preach it in its purity.775 He openly embraced the Reformation in 1526, and remained faithful to it in his conviction and policy, though not in his moral conduct. He boldly and bravely defended it with a degree of theological knowledge which is rare among princes, and with a conciliatory liberality in regard to doctrinal controversies which was in advance of prevailing narrowness. He brought about the Marburg Colloquy with the noble aim of uniting the Protestant forces of Germany and Switzerland against the common foe (1529). By restoring Württemberg to Duke Ulrich in the brilliant victory at Laufen, he opened the way for the introduction of the Reformation into that country (1534). But, on the other hand, he repeatedly endangered the Protestant cause by his rashness, and injured it and himself most seriously by his licentiousness, which culminated in the open scandal of bigamy (1540). He resembles in many respects Henry VIII. of England.776
The Landgrave was the first prince who took advantage of the recess of the Diet of Speier, Aug. 27, 1526, and construed it into a legal permission for the introduction of the Reformation into his own territory. For this purpose he convened a synod in the little Hessian town of Homberg.777 It consisted of the clergy, the nobility, and the representatives of cities, and was held Oct. 20–22, 1526. He himself was present, and his chancellor Feige presided over the deliberations. The synod is remarkable for a premature scheme of democratic church government and discipline, which failed for the time, but contained fruitful germs for the future and for other countries. It was suggested by the disputations which had been held at Zürich for the introduction of the Zwinglican Reformation.
The leading spirit of this synod was Francis Lambert of Avignon (1487–1530), the first French monk converted to Protestantism and one of the secondary reformers. He had been formerly a distinguished and efficient traveling preacher of the Franciscan order in the South of France. But he could find no peace in severe ascetic exercises; and, when he became acquainted with some tracts of Luther in a French translation, he took advantage of a commission of his convent to deliver letters to a superior of his order in Germany, and left his native land never to return. He traveled on a mule through Geneva, Bern, Zürich, Basel, Eisenach, to Wittenberg, as a seeker after light on the great question of the day. He was half converted by Zwingli in a public disputation (July, 1522), and more fully by Luther in Wittenberg, where he arrived in January, 1523. Luther, who was often deceived by unworthy ex-priests and ex-monks, distrusted him at first, but became convinced of his integrity, and aided him.778 At his request Lambert delivered exegetical lectures in the university, translated reformatory tracts into French and Italian, and published a book in defense of his leaving the convent (February, 1523), and a commentary on the rule of the Minorites to which Luther wrote a preface (March, 1523). He advocated the transformation of convents into schools. He married a Saxon maiden (July 15, 1523), anticipating herein the Reformer, and lived with her happily, but in great poverty, which obliged him to beg for assistance. He spent over a year in Wittenberg; but, finding no prospect of a permanent situation on account of his ignorance of the German language, he suddenly left for Metz, against the advice of Luther and Melanchthon, on invitation of a few secret friends of the Reformation (March 24, 1524). He addressed a letter to the king of France to gain him for the Reformation, and announced a public disputation; but the clergy prevented it, and the magistrate advised him to leave Metz. He then proceeded to Strassburg (April, 1524), was kindly received by Bucer, and presented with the right of citizenship by the magistrate. He published practical commentaries on the Canticles, the Minor Prophets, a book against Erasmus, on free-will, and a sort of dogmatic compend.779 He was highly recommended to the Landgrave, who took him into his service soon after the Diet of Speier (1526), and made him one of the reformers of Hesse.
Lambert prepared for the Synod of Homberg, at the request of the Landgrave, a hundred and fifty-eight Theses (Paradoxa), as a basis for the reformation of doctrine, worship, and discipline. He advocated them with fiery and passionate eloquence in a long Latin speech.780 Adam Kraft spoke in German more moderately.
His leading ideas are these. Every thing which has been deformed must be reformed by the Word of God. This is the only rule of faith and practice. All true Christians are priests, and form the church. They have the power of self-government, and the right and duty to exercise discipline, according to Matt. 18:15–18, and to exclude persons who give offense by immorality or false doctrine. The bishops (i.e., pastors) are elected and supported by the congregation, and are aided by deacons who attend to the temporalities. The general government resides in a synod, which should meet annually, and consist of the pastors and lay representatives of all the parishes. The executive body between the meetings of synod is a commission of thirteen persons. Three visitors, to be appointed first by the prince, and afterwards by the synod, should visit the churches once a year, examine, ordain, and install candidates. Papists and heretics are not to be tolerated, and should be sent out of the land. A school for training of ministers is to be established in Marburg.
It is a matter of dispute, whether Lambert originated these views, or derived them from the Franciscan, or Waldensian, or Zwinglian, or Lutheran suggestions. The last is most probable. It is certain that Luther in his earlier writings (1523) expressed similar views on church government and the ministry. They are legitimately developed from his doctrine of the general priesthood of believers.781
On the basis of these principles a church constitution was prepared in three days by a synodical commission, no doubt chiefly by Lambert himself. It is a combination of Congregationalism and Presbyterianism. Its leading features are congregational self-government, synodical supervision, and strict discipline. The directions for worship are based on Luther’s "Deutsche Messe," 1526.782
The constitution, with the exception of a few minor features, remained a dead letter. The Landgrave was rather pleased with it, but Luther, whom he consulted, advised postponement; he did not object to its principles, but thought that the times and the people were not ripe for it, and that laws in advance of public opinion rarely succeed.783 Luther learned a bitter lesson from the Peasants’ War and from the visitation of the churches in Saxony. Lambert himself, in his letters, complained of the prevailing corruptions and the abuse of evangelical liberty.784 A good reason both for the necessity and difficulty of discipline, which should have begun with the prince. But self-government must be acquired by actual trial and experience. Nobody can learn to swim without going into the water.
The Landgrave put himself at the head of the church, and reformed it after the Saxon model. He abolished the mass and the canon law, confiscated the property of the convents, endowed hospitals and schools, arranged church visitations, and appointed six superintendents (1531).
The combination of Lutheran and Reformed elements in the Hessian reformation explains the confessional complication and confusion in the subsequent history, and the present status of the Protestant Church in Hesse, which is claimed by both denominations.785
The best service which the Landgrave did to the cause of learning and religion, was the founding of the University of Marburg, which was opened July 1, 1527, with a hundred and four students. It became the second nursery of the Protestant ministry, next to Wittenberg, and remains to this day an important institution. Francis Lambert, Adam Kraft, Erhard Schnepf, and Hermann Busch were its first theological professors.
Lambert now had, after a roaming life of great poverty, a settled situation with a decent support. He lectured on his favorite books, the Canticles, the Prophets, and the Apocalypse; but he had few hearers, was not popular with his German colleagues, and felt unhappy. He attended the eucharistic Colloquy at Marburg in October, 1529, as a spectator, became a convert to the view of Zwingli, and defended it in his last work.786 This must have made his position more uncomfortable. He wished to find "some little town in Switzerland where he could teach the people what he had received from the Lord."787 But before this wish could be fulfilled, he died with his wife and daughter, of the pestilence, April 18, 1530. He was an original, but eccentric and erratic genius, with an over-sanguine temperament, with more zeal and eloquence than wisdom and discretion. His chief importance lies in the advocacy of the principle of ecclesiastical self-government and discipline. His writings are thoughtful; and the style is clear, precise, vivacious, and direct, as may be expected from a Frenchman.788
Lambert seems to have had a remote influence on Scotland, where principles of church government somewhat similar to his own were carried into practice after the model of the Reformed Church of Geneva. For among his pupils was Patrick Hamilton, the proto-martyr of the Scotch Reformation, who was burned at St. Andrews, Feb. 29, 1528.789 According to the usual view, William Tyndale also, the pioneer of the English Bible Version, studied at Marburg about the same time; for several of his tracts contain on the titlepage or in the colophon the imprint, Hans Luft at Marborow (Marburg) in the land of Hesse."790 § 99. The Reformation in Prussia. Duke Albrecht and Bishop Georg Von Polenz. I. Luther’s Letters to Albrecht from May 26, 1525, to May 2, 1545 (17, see list in Erl. ed. LVI. 248), to Briesmann and Georg von Polenz, in the collections of De Wette and Enders. J. Voigt: Briefwechsel der berühmtesten Gelehrten des Zeitalters der Reformation mit Herzog Albrecht von Preussen, Königsb. 1841.
II. Hartknoch: Preussische Kirchenhistorie, Königsberg, 1686. Arnoldt: Preussische Kirchengeschichte, Königsberg, 1769. Bock: Leben Albrechts des Aelteren, Königsb. 1750. Rhesa: De primis sacrorum reformatoribus in Prussia, Königsberg, 1823–1830 (seven University Programs containing biographies of Briesmann, Speratus, Poliander, Georg v. Polenz, Amandus). Gebser: Der Dom zu Königsberg, 1835. Erdmann: Preussen, Ordensstaat, in Herzog1, XII. 117–165 (1860; omitted in the second ed.). Pastor (R. Cath.): Neue Quellenberichte über den Reformator Albrecht von Brandenburg, Mainz, 1876 (in the "Katholik," LVI. February and March). C. A. Hase: Herzog Albrecht von Preussen und sein Hofprediger. Eine königsberger Tragödie aus dem Zeitalter der Reformation, Leipzig, 1879. Rindfleisch: Herzog Albrecht von Hohenzollern, der letzte Hochmeister, und die Reformation in Preussen, Danzig, 1880. P. Tschackert (professor in Königsberg): Georg von Polentz, Bischof von Samland, Leipzig, 1888 (in "Kirchengeschichtl. Studien" by Brieger, Tschackert, etc., pp. 145–194).
III. The general histories of Prussia by Stenzel, Droysen, Voigt (large work, 1827–39, in 9 vols.; condensed ed. 1850, in 3 vols.), Cosel, Hahn, Pierson (4th ed. 1881, 2 vols.), Ranke (Zwölf Bücher preussischer Gesch. 1874), Förster, etc. For the history of the Teutonic order, see Watterich: Die Gründung des deutschen Ordensstaates in Preussen, Leipzig, 1857; and Joh. Voigt: Geschichte des deutschen Ritterordens, Berlin, 1859, 2 vols.
IV. Ranke: Vol. II. 326 sqq. Janssen: III. 70–77.
Of greater prospective importance than the conversion of Hesse and even of Saxony to Protestantism, was the evangelization of Prussia, which from a semi-barbarous Duchy on the shores of the Baltic rose to the magnitude of a highly civilized kingdom, stretching from the borders of Russia beyond the banks of the Rhine, and which is now, in connection with the new German Empire, the leading Protestant power on the Continent of Europe.791
Old Prussia792was a colony of the Teutonic Knights (Deutschorden), one of the three military religious orders which arose during the crusades for the defense of the Holy Land and the protection of pilgrims. They had the same military and monastic constitution as the Knights Templars, and the Knights of St. John (Johannitae); but their members were all Germans. They greatly distinguished themselves in the later crusades, and their chivalrous blood still flows in the veins of the old Prussian nobility. They wore a white mantle with a black silver-lined cross, and as a special favor an imperial eagle on their arms, which descended from them to the royal house of Prussia. After the fall of Jerusalem they removed their headquarters to Venice, and afterwards to Marienburg and Königsberg (the capital, where the kings of Prussia are crowned). Emperor Frederick II. and Pope Innocent III. granted them all the lands they might conquer from the heathen on the eastern borders of Germany, and the grand-master’s received the dignity of princes of the Roman Empire. They were invited by the Duke of Poland to defend the frontiers of his country against the heathen Prussians (1240). The conquest was completed in 1283. The Knights Christianized, or rather Romanized and Germanized, the Prussians, after the military fashion of Charlemagne in his dealings with the Saxons, and of Otho I. in subduing the Wends. The native heathenism was conquered, but not converted, and continued under Christian forms. Prussia is said to have contained under the Knights two millions of people and more than fifty cities, which carried on an extensive trade by means of the Hanseatic League. The chief cities were Marienburg, Königsberg, Thorn, Danzig, and Culm. But the common people were treated as slaves.
After nearly two centuries of rule the Knights degenerated, and their power declined by internal dissensions and the hostility of Poland. In 1466 they were forced by Casimir IV. in the Peace of Thorn to cede West Prussia with the richest cities to Poland, and to accept East Prussia as a fief of that kingdom. This was virtually the destruction of the political power of the order. The incompatibility of the military and monastic life became more and more apparent. Pope Adrian VI. urged Albrecht to restore the order to its former monastic purity and dignity. But this was impossible. The order had outlived itself.793
Luther saw this, and inaugurated a different kind of reform. He seized a favorable opportunity, and exhorted the Knights, in a public address, March 28, 1523, to forsake the false monastic chastity so often broken, and to live in true matrimonial chastity according to the ordinance of God in paradise (Gen. 2:18), which was older and wiser than popes and Councils. "Your order," he argued, "is truly a singular order: it is both secular and spiritual, and neither; it is bound to wield the sword against infidels, and yet to live in celibacy, poverty, and obedience, like other monks. These things do not agree together, as is shown by reason and by daily experience. The order is therefore of no use either to God or the world."794
In the summer of the same year be sent, at the wish of Albrecht, the pioneer of Protestant preachers, to Prussia, in the person of his friend Dr. Johannes Briesmann (14881549), a theologian of learning, piety, and executive ability, who arrived in Königsberg, Sept. 27, 1523, and labored there as preacher in the Dome, and successor of Bishop Georg von Polenz, till his death, with the exception of four years which he spent as evangelist in Riga (1527–1531).795 He afterwards sent two other gifted evangelists, known for their evangelical hymns, namely, Paul Speratus (d. 1551), and John Poliander (Graumann, d. 1541), who made themselves very useful. A third one, Amandus, created disturbance by his radicalism, which resembled that of Carlstadt, and caused his removal from Königsberg.
With the help of these theologians and evangelists, Duke Albrecht and Bishop Georg von Polenz brought about a radical change in Prussia, and prepared the way for its great future destiny. The religious reformation preceded the political change.
Albrecht, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, last grandmaster of the Teutonic Knights, and first Duke of Prussia, was born at Ansbach, May 16, 1490; destined for the clerical profession; received into the order of the Knights, and elected its grand-master in 1511. He made his entry into Königsberg, Nov. 22, 1512. His effort to make Prussia independent and to refuse obedience to the king of Poland, involved him in a disastrous war till 1521, when an armistice for four years was concluded. He attended, as one of the princes of the empire, the Diet of Nürnberg, 1522 and 1523, and sought protection against Poland, but in vain. He diligently heard, during that time, the sermons of Andreas Osiander, and was converted to the doctrines of the Reformation. He called him his "spiritual father in Christ, through whom God first rescued him from the darkness of popery, and led him to the true divine knowledge." On a journey to Berlin he had a private conference with Luther and Melanchthon, and asked their advice (September, 1523). "Trust in God," said Luther with the consent of Melanchthon, "rather than the empire; shake off the senseless rules of your order, and make an end to that hermaphrodite monster which is neither religious nor secular; abolish the unchaste chastity of monkery; take to thyself a wife, and found a legitimate secular sovereignty." At the same time be recommended to him Paul Speratus as his assistant, who afterwards became bishop of Pomesania. The prince smiled, but said nothing.796 He wavered between obedience to the pope and to his conscience, and his open and secret instructions to the bishop of Samland were contradictory. His brother, Margrave Georg of Brandenburg, had previously given him the same advice as Luther, and he ultimately followed it.
In the mean time the evangelical doctrines had already spread in Prussia, and facilitated the proposed political change by undermining the monastic constitution of the order.
Two bishops of Prussia, differing from their brethren in Germany, favored the movement, George von Polenz of Samland, and Erhard von Queiss of Pomesania. The former took the lead. Luther was agreeably surprised, and expressed his joy that one, at least, of the bishops dared to profess the free gospel of Christ.797 He dedicated to him his commentary on Deuteronomy, with a congratulatory letter full of gratitude for the rapid flight of the gospel to Prussia in the far North (1525).798 The bishop did not reply, and seems to have preserved a dignified or prudent reserve towards the person of Luther, while allowing free course to his doctrines.799
Erhard von Queiss renounced popery in a public sermon, 1524, and resigned his worldly possessions and authority to the Duke (1527), in order to attend better to the spiritual duties of an evangelical bishop.
Georg von Polenz was the chancellor and chief counselor of Albrecht (we may say his Bismarck on a small scale) in this work of transformation. He was about five years older than Luther, and survived him four years. He descended from an old noble family of Meissen in Saxony, studied law in Italy, and was for a while private secretary at the court of Pope Julius II. Then he served as a soldier under Maximilian I. He became acquainted with Margrave Albrecht at Padua, 1509, and joined the Teutonic Knights. In 1519 he was raised to the episcopal chair, and consecrated by the neighboring bishops of Ermland and Pomesania in the Dome of Königsberg. The receipt of the Roman curia for a tax of fourteen hundred and eighty-eight ducats is still extant in the archives of that city. The first years of his office were disturbed by war with Poland, for which he had to furnish men and means. During the absence of the Duke in Germany he took his place.
In September, 1523, be became acquainted with Dr. Briesmann, and learned from him the biblical languages, the elements of theology, which he had never studied before, and the doctrines of Luther. In January, 1524, be already issued an order that baptism be celebrated in the vernacular tongue, and recommended the clergy to read diligently the Bible, and the writings of Luther, especially his book on Christian Liberty. This was the beginning of the Reformation in Prussia. We have from him three sermons, and three only, which he preached in favor of the change, at Christmas, 1523, and at Easter and Pentecost, 1524. He echoes in them the views of Briesmann. He declares, "I shall with the Divine will hold fast to the word of God and to the gospel, though I should lose body and life, goods and honor, and all I possess." He despised the authority of Pope Clement VII., who directed his legate, Campeggio, Dec. 1, 1524, to summon the bishop as a rebel and perjurer, to induce him to recant, or to depose him.
In May, 1525, he resigned the secular part of his episcopal authority into the hands of the Duke, because it was not seemly and Christian for a bishop to have so much worldly glory and power. A few days afterwards be married, June 8, 1525, five days before Luther’s marriage. In the next year the Duke followed his example, and invited Luther to the wedding (June, 1526). This double marriage was a virtual dissolution of the order as a monastic institution. In 1546 Georg von Polenz resigned his episcopal supervision into the hands of Briesmann. He died in peace, April 28, 1550, seventy-two years old, and was buried in the cathedral of Königsberg, the first Protestant bishop and chancellor of the first Prussian Hohenzollern, standing with him on the bridge of two ages with his hand on the Bible and his eye firmly fixed upon the future.
Albrecht, acting on the advice of Luther, changed the property of the Knights into a hereditary duchy. The king of Poland consented. On April 10, 1525, Albrecht was solemnly invested at Crakow with the rule of Prussia as a fief of Poland. Soon afterwards he received the homage of the Diet at Königsberg. The evangelical preachers saluted him under the ringing of the bells. The Emperor put him under the ban, but it had no effect. Most of the Knights received large fiefs, and married; the rest emigrated to Germany. Albrecht formally introduced the Reformation, July 6, 1525, and issued a Lutheran constitution and liturgy. The fasts were abolished, the number of holy days reduced, the ceremonies changed, the convents turned into hospitals, and worship conducted in the vernacular. All Romish and sectarian preaching was prohibited. He assumed all the ecclesiastical appointments, and became the supreme bishop of Prussia, the two Roman-Catholic bishops Georg and Queiss having surrendered to him their dignity. Their successors were mere superintendents. He felt, however, that the episcopal office was foreign to a worldly sovereign, and accepted it as a matter of necessity to secure order.800 He founded the University of Königsberg, the third Protestant university (after Wittenberg and Marburg). It was opened in 1544.801 He called Dr. Osiander from Nürnberg to the chief theological chair (1549); but this polemical divine, by his dissertations on the law and the gospel, and on the doctrine of justification, soon turned Prussia into a scene of violent and disgraceful theological controversies.802
Albrecht did not enjoy his reign. It was sadly disturbed in this transition state by troubles from within and without. He repeatedly said that he would rather watch sheep than be a ruler. He was involved in heavy debts. The seven children of his first wife, a daughter of the king of Denmark, died young, except a daughter, Anna Sophia, who married a duke of Mecklenburg (1555). His pious and faithful wife died, 1547. In 1550 he married a princess of Braunschweig; her first daughter was born blind; only one son, Albrecht Friedrich, survived him, and spent his life in melancholy. But Albrecht remained true to his evangelical faith, and died (March 20, 1568), with the words of Psa. 31:5, upon his lips, "Into Thine hand I commend my spirit: Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, Thou God of truth." He left proofs of his piety in prayers, meditations, and the testament to his son, who succeeded him, and died without male issue, 1618.
A few glimpses of the later history are here in place to explain the present confessional status of the Protestant church in the kingdom of Prussia.
The Duchy of Prussia in 1618 fell as an inheritance to John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg (1608–1619), son-in-law of the second Prussian Duke (Albert Frederick), and a descendant of Frederick of Hohenzollern, who had become margrave of Brandenburg by purchase in 1415. In this way the connection of Prussia arid Brandenburg was completed.
But Prussia remained in feudal subjection to Poland till 1656, when Frederick William, "the great Elector," conquered the independence by the victory of Warsaw. He is the first, as Frederick II., his great-grandson, is the second, founder of the greatness of Prussia. After the terrible devastations of the Thirty Years’ War he gathered the broken fragments of his provinces into a coherent whole during his long and successful reign (1640–1688). He was the most enlightened and most liberal among the German princes of his age. He protected the independence of Germany against French aggression. He was married to Louisa Henrietta, princess of Orange, of the Calvinistic faith, and authoress of the popular resurrection hymn, "Jesus, meine Zuversicht."803 He secured toleration to the Reformed churches in the Treaty of Westphalia. He gave refuge to over twenty thousand French Huguenots, who with their descendants became an important element in the Prussian nationality and the Reformed church. His son Frederick became the first king of Prussia, and was crowned at Königsberg, Jan. 18, 1701. He founded the University of Halle, 1693, which ultimately absorbed the University of Wittenberg by incorporation (1815), and assumed an important position in the history of German theology as the nursery, first of pietism, then of rationalism, and (since Tholuck’s appointment, 1827) of the evangelical revival.
With John Sigismund began an important confessional change, which laid the foundation for the union policy of his successors. He introduced the Reformed or Calvinistic element, which had been crushed out in Saxony, into the Court and Dome Church of Berlin, and gave the Heidelberg Catechism a place besides the Augsburg Confession. His grandson, "the great Elector," strengthened the Reformed element by his marriage to a princess from Holland, who adorned her faith, and by inviting a colony of French Huguenots who left their country for the sake of conscience. It was therefore quite natural that the Reformed rulers of a Lutheran country should cherish the idea of a union of the two confessions, which was realized in the present century.804
We have seen that Old Prussia was Lutheranized under the direct influence of the Wittenberg divines with whom Albrecht was in Constant correspondence. In Brandenburg also, the Lutheran type of Protestantism, after many reverses and controversies, was established under John George (1571–1598); the Formula of Concord was forcibly introduced, and all Calvinistic teaching was strictly forbidden. The Brandenburg "Corpus Doctrinae" of 1572 emphasizes Luther’s word that Zwingli was no Christian, and the Brandenburg chancellor Dietelmeyer is known by his unchristian prayer: "Impleat nos Deus odio Calvinistarum!"
But the Elector John Sigismund, who by travels and personal intercourse with Calvinistic princes and divines conceived a high regard for their superior Christian piety and courtesy, embraced the Reformed faith in 1606, and openly professed it in February, 1614, by declaring his assent to the four oecumenical symbols (including the Chalcedonense) and the altered Augsburg Confession of 1540, without imposing his creed upon his subjects, only prohibiting the preachers to condemn the Calvinists from the pulpit. In May, 1514, he issued a personal confession of faith, called the "Confession of Sigismund," or the "Brandenburg Confession" (Confessio Marchica). It teaches a moderate, we may say, Melanchthonian and unionistic Calvinism, and differs from the Lutheran Formula of Concord in the following points: It rejects Eutychianism and the ubiquity of Christ’s body, consubstantiation in the Lord’s Supper, the use of the wafer instead of the broken bread, and exorcism in baptism; on the other hand, it teaches the Calvinistic view of the spiritual real presence for believers, and unconditional election, but without an unconditional decree of reprobation; it distinctly declares that God sincerely wishes the salvation of all men, and is not the author of sin and damnation.
The change of Sigismund was the result of conscientious conviction, and not dictated by political motives. The people and his own wife re-mained Lutheran. He made no use of his territorial summepiscopate and the jus reformandi. He disclaimed all intention to coerce the conscience, since faith is a free gift of God, and cannot be forced. No man should pre-sume to exercise dominion over man’s religion. He thus set, in advance of his age, a noble example of toleration, which became the traditional policy of the Prussian rulers. The pietistic movement of Spener and Francke, which was supported by the theological faculty at Halle, weakened the confessional dissensus, and strengthened the consensus. The Moravian brotherhood exhibited long before the Prussian Union, in a small community, the real union of evangelical believers of both confessions.
Frederick the Great was an unbeliever, and had as little sympathy with Pietism and Moravianism as with Lutheranism and Calvinism; but he was a decided upholder of religious toleration, which found expression in his famous declaration that in his kingdom everybody must be at liberty to get saved "after his own fashion." The toleration of indifferentism, which prevailed in the last century, broke down the reign of bigotry, and prepared the way for the higher and nobler principle of religious liberty.
The revival of religious life at the beginning of the nineteenth century was a revival of general Christianity without a confessional or denomina-tional type, and united for a time pious Lutherans, Reformed, and even Roman Catholics. It was accompanied by a new phase of evangelical theology, which since Schleiermacher and Neander laid greater stress on the consensus than the dissensus of the Protestant confessions in oppo-sition to rationalism and infidelity. The ground was thus prepared for a new attempt to establish a mode of peaceful living between the two confessions of the Reformation.
King Frederick William III. (1797–1840), a conscientious and God-fearing monarch, who had been disciplined by sad reverses and providen-tial deliverances of Prussia, introduced what is called the "Evangelical Union" of the Lutheran and Reformed confessions at the tercentennial celebration of the Reformation (Sept. 27, 1817). The term "evangelical," which was claimed by both, assumed thus a new technical sense. The object of the Union (as officially explained in 1834 and 1852) was to unite the two churches under, one government and worship, without abolishing the doctrinal distinctions.805 It was conservative, not absorptive, and dif-fered in this respect from all former union schemes between the Greek and Latin, the Protestant and Roman Catholic, the Lutheran and Reformed Churches, which aimed at doctrinal uniformity or at best at a doctrinal compromise. The Prussian Union introduced no new creed; the Augsburg Confession, Luther’s Catechisms, and the Heidelberg Catechism continued to be used where they had been in use before; but it was assumed that the confessional differences were not vital and important enough to exclude Christian fellowship. The opposition proceeded chiefly from the "Old Lutherans," so called, who insist upon "pure doctrine," as the basis of union, to the exclusion of the Calvinistic "heresies," and who took just offense at the forcible introduction of the new liturgy of the king (the Agende of 1822); but the opposition was silenced by granting them the liberty of separate organization and self-government (1845). The Prussian Union suffers from the defects of Erastianism, but no more than any other state-church, or the introduction of the Reformation in the sixteenth century by the civil power. Experience has proved that moderate Lutherans and Reformed Christians can live together, commune at the same altar, and co-operate in the work of the common Master. This experience is a great gain. The union type of Protestantism has become an important historic fact and factor in the modern theology and church life of Prussia and those other parts of Germany which followed her example.
The two sons and successors of the founder of the Prussian Union, King Frederick William IV. (1840–1858), and Emperor William I. (1858–1888), have faithfully adhered to it in theory and practice.
Frederick William IV. was well versed in theology, and a pronounced evangelical believer. He wished to make the church more independent, and as a means to that end he established the Oberkirchenrath (1850, modified 1852), which in connection with the Cultusministerium should administer the affairs of the church in the name of the king; while a general synod was to exercise the legislative function. Under his reign the principle of religious liberty made great progress, and was embodied in the Prussian Constitution of 1850, which guarantees in Article XII. the freedom of conscience and of private and public worship to all religious associations.806
William I., aided by Bismarck and Moltke, raised Prussia, by superior statesmanship and diplomacy, and by brilliant victories in the wars with Austria (1866) and France (1870), to her present commanding position. He became by common consent of the German sovereigns and people the first hereditary emperor of United Germany under the lead of Prussia. He adorned this position in eighteen years of peace by his wisdom, integrity, justice, untiring industry, and simple piety, and gained the universal esteem and affection of the German nation, yea, we may say, of the civilized world, which mourned for him when on the 9th of March, 1888, in the ninety-first year of an eventful life, he entered into his rest. History has never seen a more illustrious trio than the Emperor William, "the Iron Chancellor," and "the Battle-thinker," who "feared God, and nothing else."
The new German Empire with a Protestant head is the last outcome of the Reformation of Prussia, and would not have been possible without it.
§ 100. Protestant Martyrs. No great cause in church or state, in religion or science, has ever succeeded without sacrifice. Blood is the price of liberty. "The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christianity." Persecution develops the heroic qualities of human nature, and the passive virtues of patience and endurance under suffering. Protestantism has its martyrs as well as Catholicism. In Germany it achieved a permanent legal existence only after the Thirty Years’ War. The Reformed churches in France, Holland, England, and Scotland, passed through the fiery ordeal of persecution. It has been estimated that the victims of the Spanish Inquisition outnumber those of heathen Rome, and that more Protestants were executed by the Spaniards in a single reign, and in a single province of Holland, than Christians in the Roman empire during the first three centuries.807 Jews and heathens have persecuted Christians, Christians have persecuted Jews and heathens, Romanists have persecuted Protestants, Protestants have persecuted Romanists, and every state-church has more or less persecuted dissenters and sects. It is only within a recent period that the sacred rights of conscience have been properly appreciated, and that the line is clearly and sharply drawn between church and state, religious and civil offenses, heresy and crime, spiritual and temporal punishments.
The persecution of Protestants began at the Diet of Worms in 1521. Charles V. issued from that city the first of a series of cruel enactments, or "placards," for the extermination of the Lutheran heresy in his hereditary dominion of the Netherlands. In 1523 two Augustinian monks, Henry Voes and John Esch, were publicly burnt, as adherents of Luther, at the, stake in Brussels. After the fires were kindled, they repeated the Apostles’ Creed, sang the "Te Deum laudamus," and prayed in the flames, "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy upon us." The heroic death of these Protestant proto-martyrs inspired Luther’s first poem, which begins, —
"Ein neues Lied wir heben an."808 The prior of their convents Lampert Thorn, was suffocated in prison. The martyrdom of Henry of Zütphen has already been noticed.809 Adolph Klarenbach and Peter Flysteden suffered at the stake in Cologne with constancy and triumphant joy, Sept. 28, 1529.810
George Winkler, a preacher in Halle, was cited by the Archbishop of Cologne to Aschaffenburg for distributing the communion in both kinds, and released, but murdered by unknown hands on his return, May, 1527.811
Duke George of Saxony persecuted the Lutherans, not by death, but by imprisonment and exile. John Herrgott, a traveling book-peddler, was beheaded (1527) for revolutionary political opinions, rather than for selling Lutheran books.812
In Southern Germany the Edict of Worms was more rigidly executed. Many executions by fire and sword, accompanied by barbarous mutilations, took place in Austria and Bavaria. In Vienna a citizen, Caspar Tauber, was beheaded and burnt, because he denied purgatory and transubstantiation, Sept. 17, 1524.813 In Salzburg a priest was secretly beheaded without a trial, by order of the archbishop, for Lutheran heresy.814 George Wagner, a minister at Munich, was burnt Feb. 8, 1527. Leonard Käser (or Kaiser) shared the same fate, Aug. 18, 1527, by order of the bishop of Passau. Luther wrote him, while in prison, a letter of comfort.815
But the Anabaptists had their martyrs as well, and they died with the same heroic faith. Hätzer was burnt in Constance, Hübmaier in Vienna. In Passau thirty perished in prison. In Salzburg some were mutilated, others beheaded, others drowned, still others burnt alive.816 Unfortunately, the Anabaptists were not much better treated by Protestant governments; even in Zürich several were drowned in the river under the eyes of Zwingli. The darkest blot on Protestantism is the burning of Servetus for heresy and blasphemy, at Geneva, with the approval of Calvin and all the surviving Reformers, including Melanchthon (1553). He had been previously condemned, and burnt in effigy, by a Roman-Catholic tribunal in France. Now such a tragedy would be impossible in any church. The same human passions exist, but the ideas and circumstances have changed.