Thomas B. (Thomas Bayley) Fox.

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upon the Emperor as the Defender of the Faith,
to punish the heretical Luther without delay.
But Charles was under too great and too recent
obligations to Frederic of Saxony, by whom the
Reformer and his followers were supposed to be
countenanced, to venture rashly upon so decided
a measure. It would have been not only un-


grateful, but unsafe, to condemn without a hear-
ing the subject of a Prince, to whom he was
indebted for his new kingdom. He resolved to
give Luther a fair trial, and to refer the contro-
versy between him and the Pope to a diet or
convention of the German princes, which was
soon to meet at Worms.

Luther was immediately ordered to appear
before this tribunal ; and having obtained assur-
ances of his safety from the emperor, he prepared
to set out on his journey. Many of his friends
endeavoured to dissuade him from this undertak-
ing. They feared that, notwithstanding the
safe-conduct which had been granted, his ad-
versaries, when they once had him in their
power, might be tempted to put him to death.
The Reformer refused to listen to their suspi-
cion, and on one occasion, he declared that,
" he would go to Worms, if there were as many
devils there as tiles on the roofs of the houses."
Animated by such boldness and zeal, he pursued
his way, stopping at the large towns through
which he passed, sometimes to preach, and
sometimes to enjoy musical entertainments and
other recreations. He arrived at the city on the
18th of April, and the next day was conducted
to the diet by the marshal of the empire. Two
questions were then put to him ; 1. Whether he
acknowledged certain books, which were laid


before him, to be his writings ? 2. Whether
he was ready to recant the opinions they con-
tained ? After hearing the titles of the volumes
read over, he answered the first of these inquiries
in the affirmative. With regard to the second,
he requested time for deliberation, and then
retired. On the morrow, he again appeared,
and replied at length to the interrogatories.
" His books,' 1 he said, " were of different kinds.
Some treated of a Christian's faith and life ;
others were directed against papacy and its de-
fenders. The former he could not renounce,
because even his enemies admitted that they
contained much good matter. The latter he
could not renounce, unless convinced, by sound
argument or the word of God, that they were
contrary to the truth." This speech did not sat-
isfy his opponents ; and being repeatedly exhorted
to acknowledge his errors, he closed the debate
with these words : " Here I stand: I can say
no more : God help me. Amen."

Luther did not again appear before the Diet. The
Emperor caused him to be informed, that unless
he would be reconciled to the Church, he must
do as the laws required. Accordingly, at the
close of the session, a bill was passed, by virtue of
which, " after the twenty-one days of safe-con-
duct expired, no man might harbour or conceal
Luther, on pain of treason ; but whosoever should


find him in any place, was to apprehend and de-
liver him up to the Emperor ; and all his adherents
were to be seized in the public streets, imprisoned,
and stript of all their goods." This edict, severe
as it was in appearance, had but little effect. If
Charles was earnest to enforce it, a supposition
that appears very improbable, when it is remem-
bered how much he was indebted to the Elector
of Saxony, who favored the Reformer, political
affairs of great importance which demanded his
immediate attention, and the increasing populari-
ty of the new opinions, prevented him from pro-
ceeding to extremities. Some historians even
suppose, that the Emperor connived at the plan
which was adopted to protect the heretic ; whether
he did so or not, certain it is that the Edict of
Worms was never executed.

To preserve his outlawed subject from harm,
until the storm should blow over, Frederic the
Wise contrived the following expedient. Soon
after Luther left the city on his return home,
the Elector caused him to be way-laid by a
band of disguised horsemen, and carried to the
Castle of Wartburg, a strong-hold in the moun-
tains, built about the year 1069, which is still
standing ; the room occupied by the Reformer, is
now pointed out to visitors. Whilst Luther re-
sided in this place, he wore the dress of a coun-
try gentleman, suffered his hair and beard to


grow, and assumed the name of Yonkee George.
Occasionally he accompanied the hunters in their
excursions after game ; but, from the following
extract of a letter to a friend, it appears that such
an amusement was little to his taste. "Give
yourself no concern in regard to my suffering in
this exile. It is of no consequence to me, pro-
vided I am not burthensome to the people of this
house. 1 suppose the prince supports me, other-
wise I would not stay an hour here. Lately I
spent two days in witnessing the painful pleasure
of those famous people called hunters and fowl-
ers. We caught two hares and some miserable
young partridges. Laudable employment indeed
for men of leisure! For my part, theological
subjects occupied my thoughts even while I was
among the dogs and nets. And any pleasure that
I might receive from this species of relaxation
was fully balanced, by the sentiments of grief
and pity excited in my mind by an interpretation
which I could not but give to the symbolical
scenes at that time under my contemplation.
This, thought I, is an exact representation of
Satan, who by his snares and his dogs, namely
the corrupt theologians and ecclesiastical rulers,
pursues and entangles simple, faithful souls, in
the same way that harmless hares and partridges
are taken. The similitude was so striking as to
affect me exceedingly."


Luther called the castle his Patmos, after the
island to which the Apostle John is supposed to
have been banished. He felt his confinement
severely and declared, " that for the glory of the
word of God, and for the mutual confirmation of
himself and others, he would rather burn on
coals, than live there alone." Notwithstanding
this appearance of despondency, he was far from
being idle. He wrote many letters and several
little treatises. He also commenced his cele-
brated translation of the Bible into German :
a work whose value we can in some degree
estimate, when we are told that the divines of
the university at Paris had maintained before Par-
liament, that " religion was undone if the study
of Greek and Hebrew was permitted," and
that a monkish writer uttered such a sentiment
as this, " a new language has been invented,
which is called Greek ; guard carefully against
it ; it is the mother of every species of heresy.
I observe in the hands of a great many people,
a book written in this language, which they call
the New-Testament. It is a book full of thorns
and serpents. With respect to Hebrew, it is
certain, my dear brethren, that whoever learns
it, immediately becomes a Jew."

While Luther remained in seclusion, his place
at Wittemberg was filled by a learned and amia-
ble man, who was of great service to the Refor-


mation. This individual was Philip Melancthon,
who was born at Bretten, a town in the province
of the Rhine. His father was keeper of the
armory, and his mother a near relative of Reuch-
lin, a famous scholar, by whose advice, and in
accordance to a custom among students at that
time, his German name of Schwartzerdt (Black
castle) was changed into the Greek appel-
lation Melancthon, of the same signification.
In 1510, Philip entered the university, and such
was his ability and progress, that the very next
year he was qualified to receive his first degree,
and was made instructer to some young noble-
men. When twenty-two years of age, he was
appointed professor of Greek at Wittemberg.
Here he became intimate with Luther, and ac-
companied him to the dispute at Leipsic. From
that time he stood in the first rank among the
Reformers, whose cause he greatly promoted by
his learning, as well as by his pure and amiable
life. He was married in 1520 and had three
children, a son and two daughters. He died at
Wittemberg, April, 1560, in the sixty- third year
of his age.

The personal appearance of Melancthon was
such, that no one at first sight would have recog-
nised the great reformer; for his body was
diminutive and meagre. But his forehead was
high, arched, and open ; his eyes bright, and


his whole countenance radiant with expression.
He was pleasant and wise in conversation,
fond of society, and so liberal to the poor as
sometimes to involve himself in embarrassments
by his generosity. Gentle in manners, candid
and benevolent, and an ardent lover of peace, he
was sometimes charged with timidity by the
rougher spirits with whom he acted : but no one
was more firm than he, when called upon to
abandon any important truth or principle. Al-
ways anxious for pacific measures, when he
thought them possible, he was frequently called
upon to act the part of a mediator; in such
cases, his learning, moderation, and good nature
won the esteem of both friends and enemies, and
his influence did much to soften the animosity of
the contending parties. In short, neither the
history of his own, nor any subsequent age, offers
to our contemplation a character more beautiful
and elevated than that of Philip Melancthon,




WE have, thus far, confined our sketch to
Germany. But this was not the only country in
which an early opposition showed itself to the
corruptions of the Romish church ; nor was
Luther the only man, who ventured to commence
the work of reform. The same causes which
contributed to the success of the Saxon divine,
were in operation elsewhere, and throughout
many parts of Europe the people were ready and
anxious for a revolution. In Switzerland the
symptoms of the approaching revolt were appa-
rent, even before Luther began his attacks upon
the papal system. The course of our narrative,
therefore, leads us to notice and briefly trace the
rise and progress of the Reformation in that
romantic land, by following the short but bril-
liant career of Zwingle. This method of pro-
ceeding gives us an opportunity to do justice to
the labors and merits of one, who is not, perhaps,
so well known and so highly esteemed as he
deserves. His exertions were confined within a
small district, some of his opinions were not pop-
ular with a majority of the reformers, and he


died young ; these facts will account for, although
they may not excuse, the comparatively small
space assigned to him by some historians.

Ulrich Zwingle, the son of a respectable peas-
ant, was born on the first of January, 1484, at
Wildhausen, a village situated among the wood-
covered mountains and fertile valleys of the
county of Toggenburg, in Switzerland. His
father was determined by his early exhibition of
promising talents to consecrate him to the ser-
vice of the Church. He was sent to school first
to Basil and afterward to Berne. At the latter
place, he attracted the attention of some Domini-
can monks, who endeavoured to secure the young
scholar to their order ; they succeeded in prevail-
ing upon him to reside in their monastery ; but
his father disapproved of this step, and ordered
him to join the University of Vienna. At the
end of three years he returned to Basil in the
capacity of a teacher. In this office he labored
to improve his pupils in the study of the ancient
languages, while he enriched his own mind by a
diligent perusal of the classic authors. He did
not however neglect theology ; although his acute
and powerful intellect could not be satisfied with
the narrow views and puerile conceits of the
writers at that time popular in the Church,
" who," as we are told, "neglecting every thing
useful to man, occupied themselves with the


dreams of their own imaginations, and wasted
their time in descriptions of the formation of the
universe, as minute as if they had been present
at the creation; or in the discussion of such
questions as these, whether after the resurrec-
tion we should be allowed to eat and drink ;
whether God could have caused his Son to appear
in the form of a stone, and if so, how a stone
could have preached and worked miracles." Such
subjects received little attention from Zwingle.
He marked out a more liberal course of study,
which he pursued with indefatigable industry,
relieving his severer labors at times by the culti-
vation of his taste for music, an art, in -his opin-
ion well calculated to soften asperities of temper,
and to enliven the mind worn down by more "
fatiguing exertions.

From Basil, Zwingle removed to Glaris, hav-
ing received and accepted an invitation to become
the Pastor of that town. As he was now enter-
ing upon the active duties of his profession, and
felt anxious to be well furnished for his ministry,
he resumed his theological inquiries. He gave
to the New Testament an attentive examination,
and copied with his own hand the Greek text of
St. Paul's Epistles, for the purpose of making
himself familiar with their contents. In his
critical study of the Bible, he was far from rely-
ing on the received interpretations of the Church,


but endeavoured to ascertain its meaning by
comparing scripture with scripture, and using the
plainer passages as expositions of the more diffi-
cult and obscure. When he had recourse to the
works of other men, he did not confine himself to
those writers who were accounted orthodox, but
consulted also those who had been denounced as
heretics, saying, "that in the midst of a field
covered with noxious weeds salutary herbs may
sometimes be found."

This independent mode, of conducting his
inquiries led Zwingle to see and reject many of
the errors of the Romish faith. But feeling the
importance of a thorough preparation before he
undertook the task of a reformer, he was in no
hurry to make known his new opinions. During
a residence of ten years at Glaris, he abstained
from any very direct attacks upon the Church,
and confined his instructions to those doctrines
which seemed to be clearly taught in the Bible.
He urged his hearers to determine all questions
concerning faith or practice, by an appeal to the
Scriptures. But prudent and judicious as this
conduct was, it did not protect him from calumny.
The purity of his morals and the extent of his
learning were sufficient to excite the opposition
of the ignorant and scandalous among the clergy.
They could not indeed sustain the charge of open
heresy, but they complained of his silence. They


blamed him for speaking more frequently of the
virtues than of the miracles of the saints; and
for undervaluing the utility of fasts and pilgrim-
ages, images and relics. The independent tem-
per of his mountain flock, and the excellence of
his own character, prevented these censures from
doing Zwingle any harm. The people were slow
to believe the accusation of teaching dangerous
errors, when brought by profligate monks, against
one whose daily life, and whose devotion to their
welfare, afforded the most satisfactory proofs of
his piety and integrity.

According to the custom of his country, Zwin-
gle several times left his retirement at Glaris, to
accompany the troops of the Canton as their Chap-
lain. On his return from one of these excursions,
he was appointed preacher to the Abbey of Ein-
siedeln, by Theobold, baron of Geroldseck, the
head of that institution, who was anxious to make
it the abode of learned men.

The account which tradition gives of the estab-
lishment of this Abbey so well illustrates the super-
stition and credulity of the dark ages, that its
introduction here will not be out of place. In the
ninth century, a monk named Meinrad, finding
himself too near the world in his monastery, situated
in a small town at the eastern extremity of Lake
Zurich, built a hermitage and chapel in the midst
of an almost inaccessible wood, called the Gloomy


Forest. He had lived there twenty-six years,
practising the greatest austerities, when, some
robbers, hoping to find treasures in his posses-
sion, murdered him. The perpetrators of the
crime were discovered in a most remarkable
manner. The hermit had tamed and brought
up two crows, the only companions of his solitude.
It is said that these birds pursued the murderers
to the town of Zurich, where their sinister cries
attracted notice and led to the apprehension of
the strangers, who, being greatly frightened, con-
fessed the crime.

Other devotees occupied the cell of Meinrad,
until the close of the tenth century, when a
canon of Strasburgh built a monastery in the
place of the hermitage. He inclosed the old
chapel in a new church, and when the edifice
was completed, invited a bishop and other pre-
lates to attend the inauguration of the new con-
vent. On the evening of that solemnity, the
bishop thought he heard sacred songs proceeding
from the interior of the chapel. The next day
he was unwilling to consecrate it ; but after some
entreaty he commenced the ceremony, when he
heard these words pronounced three times,
Cease, Cease, God has already made it holy.
In memory of this event, a festival, called the
Consecration of the Angels, was observed every
seven years ; and the reputation of this monastery


was so great, that the popes gave to its occu-
pants the right to grant full indulgence for all
sins on the day of the festival.

The confidence which Theobald reposed in
Zwingle enabled him to commence the work of
reform at Einsiedeln. By his advice, much was
done to destroy whatever had a tendency to
encourage superstition. An inscription over the
entrance to the Abbey promising remission of
all sins was erased ; the nuns of a neighbouring
Convent were directed to read the New Tes-
tament, and required to lead irreproachable lives,
and such as did not wish to remain in seclusion,
were permitted to return to the world. In addi-
tion to these changes, Zwingle strove to diffuse
his opinions abroad among the people. His two-
fold office of preacher and confessor afforded
many facilities for the execution of this purpose.
Paying no regard to external observances, he
required sincere repentance as the condition of
pardon. He taught that genuflections, prayers,
and mortifications are of no avail in reconciling
men to God, without true contrition and a good
life ; and in various other ways he labored to fix
correct principles in the minds of all who visited
the Abbey. Having pursued this course until he
thought due preparation had been made for it,
the Reformer determined to strike a decisive
blow. He selected the festival of Consecration,


when great numbers usually assembled, as a fit
season for carrying this resolution into effect.
On that day he ascended the pulpit to deliver the
customary discourse. " By an exordium full of
warmth and feeling he disposed the audience to
collectedness and attention ; then proceeding to
the occasion which had brought them together in
that church, he deplored their blindness in the
choice of the means which they employed to
please the Deity." " Cease to believe," cried he,
" that God resides in this temple more than in
every other place. Whatever region of the earth
you may inhabit, he is near you, he surrounds
you, he grants your prayers, if they deserve to
be granted ; but it is not by useless vows, by long
pilgrimages, offerings destined to adorn senseless
images, that you can obtain the divine favor;
resist temptations, repress guilty desires, shun all
injustice, relieve the unfortunate, console the
afflicted; these are the works pleasing to the
Lord. Alas ! I know it ; it is ourselves, minis-
ters of the altar, we who ought to be the salt of
the earth, who have led into a maze of error the
ignorant and credulous multitude. In order to
accumulate treasures sufficient to satisfy our
avarice, we raised vain and useless practices to
the rank of good works ; and the Christians of
these times, too docile to our instructions, neg-
lect to fulfil the laws of God, and only think of


making atonement for their crimes, instead of
renouncing them. ' Let us live according to
our desires/ say they, ' let us enrich ourselves
with the goods of our neighbour ; let us not
fear to stain our hands with blood and murder ;
we shall find easy expiations in the favor of the
Church.' Senseless men! Do they think to
obtain remission for their lies, their impurities,
their adulteries, their homicides, their treacheries,
by prayers recited in honor of the Queen of
Heaven, as if she were the protectress of all evil
doers ? Undeceive yourselves, erring people !
The God of justice suffers not himself to be
moved by words which the tongue utters and the
heart disowns. He forgives no one but him who
himself forgives the enemy who has trespassed
against him. Did these chosen of God, at whose
feet you come hither to prostrate yourselves,
enter into heaven by relying on the merit of
another? No, it was by walking in the path of
the law, by fulfilling the will of the Most High,
by facing death that they might remain faithful
to their Redeemer. Imitate the holiness of their
lives, walk in their footsteps, suffering yourselves
to be turned aside neither by dangers nor seduc-
tions ; this is the honor that you ought to pay
them. But in the day of trouble put your trust
in none but God, who created the heavens and
the earth with a word ; at the approach of death


invoke only Christ Jesus, who has bought you
with his blood, and is the sole mediator between
God and man."

This bold and eloquent discourse made a deep
impression. A portion of the hearers were much
offended ; but many received the new doctrine
with joy. Several pilgrims were so much moved,
as to carry back with them the gifts, which they
had brought to the Abbey. This circumstance
alarmed the avarice of the monks, and increased
their indignation against a preacher, who not
only exposed their vices, but who was also dimin-
ishing their gains. But it does not appear that
the sermon gave much offence to the superior
clergy. Zwingle had not yet called in question
the authority of the Pope, and while he confined
himself to local abuses, Leo and his court honored
his brilliant displays of talent. The preacher
even ventured to assure one of the Cardinals, at
that time in Switzerland, that the credulity of
the people was growing less and less every day ;
that they were opening their eyes to many super-
stitions, and began loudly to censure the idleness,
ignorance, and profligacy of their pastors. A
reformation, he told him, ought to be at once
undertaken, and to begin with the highest eccle-
siastics ; the bishops must cease to handle the
sword instead of the crozier, prelates must give
up wars and fightings, and the swarms of pious


idlers must be got rid of, before the laity could
be amended or kept much longer in restraint.
He, therefore, begged the Cardinal to give serious
attention to the state of the Church, and obtained
from him a promise, that on his return to Rome
he would endeavour to persuade the pontiff to
take measures to remedy the evils which had
been pointed out. This promise was forgotten,
or if kept did no good. Leo was too much
engrossed with his ambitious projects, and too
much devoted to literature and the fine arts, to
have leisure or inclination to take care of the
spiritual concerns of his Church.




ZWINGLE'S reputation was now greatly in-
creased, and the fame of his learning and courage
spread in all directions. In the year 1518, he
was elected preacher in the Cathedral at Zurich,
and as this new appointment opened a still wider
field for usefulness, he accepted it without delay.
Zurich was an independent city, and the capital
of the Canton of the same name. It was like-
wise infested by the vices, then but too common
in Switzerland, and which marked the degene-
racy of the age. Religion was treated almost
with contempt. The severity of ancient man-

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Online LibraryThomas B. (Thomas Bayley) FoxA sketch of the reformation → online text (page 3 of 14)