Dangers had gathered round Luther and the Reformation. By a bull of Pius II, the greater excommunication had been denounced even against emperors who should dare to incur the guilt of such a revolt. Frederick of Saxony, as yet imperfectly confirmed in evangelical doctrine, was prepared to send Luther away from his states;  and hence a new message from Leo might have thrown the Reformer among strangers, who would be afraid to compromise themselves by receiving a monk whom Rome had anathematised. And even should the sword of some noble be drawn in his defence, mere knights, unable to cope with the powerful princes of Germany, must soon have succumbed in the perilous enterprise. But at the moment when all the courtiers of Leo X were urging him to rigorous measures, and when one blow more might have placed his adversary in his hands, the pope suddenly changed his course to one of conciliation and apparent mildness.
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Dangers had gathered round Luther and the Reformation. By a bull of Pius II, the greater excommunication had been denounced even against emperors who should dare to incur the guilt of such a revolt.
Frederick of Saxony, as yet imperfectly confirmed in evangelical doctrine, was prepared to send Luther away from his states;  and hence a new message from Leo might have thrown the Reformer among strangers, who would be afraid to compromise themselves by receiving a monk whom Rome had anathematised. And even should the sword of some noble be drawn in his defence, mere knights, unable to cope with the powerful princes of Germany, must soon have succumbed in the perilous enterprise.
But at the moment when all the courtiers of Leo X were urging him to rigorous measures, and when one blow more might have placed his adversary in his hands, the pope suddenly changed his course to one of conciliation and apparent mildness.
It may also be admitted that the public voice and the spirit of the age, powers which at this time were altogether new, seemed to throw an impregnable barrier around the Reformer. Still this new mode of action on the part of Rome, at such a moment, is so extraordinary that it is impossible not to recognise in it a higher and mightier hand. He had turned his talents to advantage. As he boasted of being, in some degree, allied to the Saxon princes, the Roman courtiers sometimes designated him by the title of Duke of Saxony.
In Italy he made an absurd display of his German nobility, while in Germany he aped the manners and polish of the Italians. He was given to wine  —a vice which his residence at the Court of Rome had increased. Still the Roman courtiers hoped great things from him. His German extraction—his insinuating address—and his ability in negotiation—all led them to expect that Charles de Miltitz this was his name would, by his prudence, succeed in arresting the mighty revolution which was threatening to shake the world.
Four years before, the pious Elector had applied to the pope for the golden rose. This rose, the fairest of flowers, was emblematic of the body of Jesus Christ, and being annually consecrated by the sovereign pontiff, was presented to one of the first princes in Europe.
On this occasion it was resolved to send it to the Elector. Rome hoped that, by securing the favour of the persons about the prince, she would soon become mistress of her formidable adversary.
The new legate, who arrived in Germany in December , was careful as he came along to ascertain the state of public opinion. To his great astonishment he observed, at every place where he stopped, that the majority of the inhabitants were friendly to the Reformation,  and spoke of Luther with enthusiasm.
For one person favourable to the pope, there were three favourable to the Reformer. One day, one of these poor women, with great simplicity, replied—"How can we know what kind of seats you have at Rome, and whether they are of wood or stone? Persons worthy of credit have seen the briefs of which he is the bearer. He was also provided with seventy apostolic briefs.
Should the flattery and the favours of Rome attain their object, and Frederick deliver Luther into her hands, these seventy briefs were to serve as a kind of passports. He was to produce and post up one of them in each of the towns through which he had to pass, and hoped he might thus succeed in dragging his prisoner, without opposition, all the way to Rome. The electoral court knew not well what course to take.
Violence would have been resisted, but the difficulty was to oppose the chief of Christianity, when speaking with so much mildness, and apparently with so much reason. Would it not be the best plan, it was said, to place Luther somewhere in concealment until the storm was over?
An unexpected event relieved Luther, the Elector, and the Reformation, from this difficult situation. The aspect of affairs suddenly changed. On the 12th of January, , Maximilian, the Emperor of Germany, died, and Frederick of Saxony, agreeably to the Germanic constitution, became regent of the empire. From this time the Elector feared not the schemes of nuncios, while new interests began to engross the court of Rome—interests which, obliging her to be chary of giving offence to Frederick, arrested the blow which Miltitz and De Vio were undoubtedly meditating.
The pope earnestly desired to prevent Charles of Austria, already King of Naples, from ascending the imperial throne. A neighbouring king appeared to him more formidable than a German monk; and in his anxiety to secure the Elector, who might be of essential service to him in the matter, he resolved to give some respite to the monk that he might be the better able to oppose the king.
Both, however, advanced in spite of him. In addition to the change thus produced in Leo, there was another circumstance which tended to avert the storm impending over the Reformation.
The death of the emperor was immediately followed by political commotions. In the south of the empire the Swabian confederation sought to punish Ulric of Wurtemberg, for his infidelity to it, while in the south, the Bishop of Hildesheim proceeded, sword in hand, to invade the bishopric of Minden, and the territories of the Duke of Brunswick. How could men in power, amid such disturbances, attach any importance to a dispute relating to the remission of sins?
But, above all, the reputation for wisdom enjoyed by the Elector, now regent of the empire, and the protection which he gave to the new teachers, were made subservient by Providence to the progress of the Reformation. In every thing there was more freedom and greater facility of action. Liberty which began to shed its rays on the infant Reformation, rapidly developed the still tender plant, and any one might have been able to predict how favourable political freedom would prove to the progress of evangelical Christianity.
Miltitz, having arrived in Saxony before the death of Maximilian, lost no time in visiting his old friend Spalatin; but no sooner did he begin his complaint against Luther than the chaplain made an attack upon Tezel, acquainting the nuncio with the lies and blasphemies of the vender of indulgences, and assuring him that all Germany blamed the Dominican for the division which was rending the Church.
Miltitz was taken by surprise. Instead of accuser he had become the accused. Turning all his wrath upon Tezel, he summoned him to appear at Altenburg and give an account of his conduct. The Dominican, as great a coward as a bully, and afraid of the people whom he had provoked by his impostures, had ceased his peregrinations over town and country, and was living in retirement in the college of St.
He grew pale on receiving the letter of Miltitz. Even Rome is abandoning, threatening, and condemning him—is insisting on dragging him from the only asylum in which he feels himself in safety, and exposing him to the fury of his enemies Paul at Leipsic, and the other in the cloister of the Augustins at Wittemberg.
In presence of danger the servant of God displayed intrepid courage—the servant of men despicable cowardice. Miltitz had orders, in the first instance, to employ the arms of persuasion; and it was only in the event of failure that he was to produce his seventy briefs, and at the same time endeavour, by all the favours of Rome, to induce the Elector to put down Luther.
He accordingly expressed a desire to have an interview with the Reformer. Their common friend, Spalatin, offered his house for this purpose, and Luther left Wittemberg on the 2nd or 3rd of January to repair to Altenburg. At this interview Miltitz exhausted all the address of a diplomatist and a Roman courtier. The moment Luther arrived the nuncio approached him with great demonstrations of friendship.
This new Saul came into Germany provided with more than seventy apostolic briefs to carry me alive and in chains to murderous Rome, but the Lord has cast him down on the way. The net was laid by a skilful hand, and how was it possible to avoid being taken in it? With calmness, but also with dignity and force, he stated the just grievances of the Church; expressed all the indignation he felt at the Archbishop of Mentz, and nobly complained of the unworthy treatment he had received from Rome, notwithstanding of the purity of his intentions.
Miltitz, though he had not expected this firm language, was able, however, to conceal his wrath. Luther resumed, "I offer to be silent in future as to these matters, and let the affair die out of itself,  provided my opponents also are silent; but if they continue to attack me, a petty quarrel will soon beget a serious combat.
My armour is quite ready. I will do still more," added he, after a momentary pause, "I will write his Holiness, acknowledging that I have been somewhat too violent, and declaring that it was as a faithful child of the Church I combated harangues which subjected her to mockery and insult from the people. I even consent to publish a document in which I will request all who read my books not to see any thing in them adverse to the Roman Church, but to remain subject to her.
Yes: I am disposed to do every thing and bear every thing; but as to retractation never expect it from me. In that case no more will I accept the judgment of the pope, and then the strife will begin anew.
The pope will give out the text, and I will make the commentary. They had a second, in which the truce, or rather peace, was signed. Luther immediately informed the Elector of what had passed. His holiness will order an enlightened bishop to enquire into the affair, and specify the erroneous articles which I am required to retract.
If I am found to be in error, I will retract willingly, and never more do any thing that may be prejudicial to the honour or the authority of the holy Roman Church. They would have given ten thousand ducats sooner than consent to its longer continuance.
The chamberlain of the pope made a great show of feeling before the monk of Wittemberg. Sometimes he expressed joy, at other times shed tears. This display of sensibility made little impression on the Reformer, but he refrained from showing what he thought of it. The crocodile is said to weep when it cannot seize its prey. Luther having accepted an invitation to supper from Miltitz, the host laid aside the stiffness attributed to his office, while Luther gave full scope to his natural gaiety.
It was a joyous repast,  and when the parting hour arrived, the legate took the heretical doctor in his arms and kissed him. Miltitz hoped so, and rejoiced at it, for he had a nearer view than the courtiers of Rome of the fearful results which the Reformation might produce in regard to the papacy. If Luther and his opponents are silent, said he to himself, the dispute will be ended, and Rome by availing herself of favourable circumstances will regain all her ancient influence.
It thus seemed that the debate was drawing to a close: Rome had stretched out her arms and Luther had apparently thrown himself into them; but the Reformation was the work not of man but of God.
The error of Rome consisted in seeing the quarrel of a monk where she ought to have seen an awakening of the Church. Miltitz, in fulfilment of the agreement which he had just concluded, proceeded from Altenburg to Leipsic, where Tezel was residing. Miltitz laid before the Dominican the accounts of that house, together with papers which he himself had signed, and proved that he had squandered or stolen considerable sums.
The poor wretch, who had stickled at nothing in his day of glory, was overwhelmed by the justice of these accusations: despair seized him, his health gave way, and he knew not where to hide his shame.
Luther heard of the miserable condition of his old enemy, and was the only person who felt for him. In a letter to Spalatin he says, "I pity Tezel. He had hated not the man but his misconduct, and, at the moment when Rome was pouring out her wrath upon him, wrote him in the most consolatory terms. But all was to no purpose. Tezel, stung by remorse, alarmed at the reproaches of his best friends, and dreading the anger of the pope, not long after died miserably, and as was supposed of a broken heart.
What shall I do, Most Holy Father! I am unable to bear the fierceness of your anger, and know not how to escape from it. I am asked to retract, and would hasten to do so could it lead to the end which is proposed by it. A recantation would only add to the dishonour of the Church of Rome, and raise an universal cry of accusation against her. Most Holy Father! I declare before God and all his creatures, that I have never wished, and do not now wish, either by force or guile, to attack the authority of the Roman Church or of your Holiness.
I acknowledge that there is nothing in heaven or on the earth which ought to be put above this Church, unless it be Jesus Christ the Lord of all. They show, and this is very important, that the Reformation was not simply an opposition to the papacy. Its accomplishment was not effected by warring against this or that form, or by means of this or that negative tendency.
Merle d’Aubigné’s History of the Reformation Vols. 1-5
His 8-volume history of the Reformation describes not only theological and ecclesiastical reform, but also the implication of the Reformation on culture, the arts, philosophy, and science in the centuries which followed. Although John Calvin figures prominently in the History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin, this work is not biographical. He argues that not only religious, but also political emancipation results from the Reformation, and explores the nature of religious freedom, political liberty, and the influence on human history in the three centuries following the Reformation. The History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin not only became a best-selling and widely praised account of the Reformation, but remains one of the most compelling and influential Reformation histories more than a century after its original publication. With Logos, you get access to these massive volumes with the power and speed of your digital library.
History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century (5 vols.)
June 19, Lynda O Leave a comment Go to comments For the Challies Reading Challenge , and especially appropriate for this the th anniversary of the start of the Reformation, I have read the first volume out of five of J. The reading is straightforward and clear, and a good selection for audio listening. Chapters introduce and provide details concerning Melancthon and Erasmus, as well as lesser known figures such as Reuchlin, Spalatin, and Staupitz. Here the PDF version is helpful, for spelling so many German names. The focus is mainly on Luther, but we also see the many influences on his life, the friends placed in his life at various points, and the rising support from the leaders, students and the common people of Germany. Approaching the monk, he asked him if he had the power of pardoning sins that men have an intention of committing.