Book 10 - Agitation, Reverses and Progress (1522-1526)

A History of the Reformation in the 16th Century

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Book 10 – Agitation, Reverses and Progress (1522-1526)

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 10, Chapter 1

The Reformation had made its way from the minds of a few men zealous for the truth, to the practical application of the doctrines they represented in the life of the Church. Two men complimented the change of Germany in this regard – Luther reformed the church and Frederick reformed the state.

While Germany was changing, the world was also at war in various sections. The King of Navarre was struggling in a bloodbath for Pampeluna. He pursued the Moors through the Peninsula and into Africa. Among the defenders of Pampeluna was a young gentlemen named Ignatius Loyola. He battled the French and was wounded, and in need of a painful operation on his leg. While in bed rest he read religious books and was impressed by the solitude and simplicity of which they offered in contrast to the spoils of war. As soon as his heath was restored he would enter a convent at St. Benedicts, and then finally rest at a Dominican convent.

Loyola did not find himself embracing the Scriptures, but rather listening to the voices of apparitions, ecstasies and various personal contemplations. He was not a follower of God, perse, but of these frequent visions he had, which he thought were of God. It is easy to see the two very different roads that Protestantism took with Luther and how Catholicism reroutes such a path through human invention.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 10, Chapter 2

Leo was about to become one of the most powerful popes in history. They set the stage for a special gathering with the extravagances of an earthly show and ceremony, but before it could commence, Leo died. The people were saddened that he died without taking the sacrament, and equally angered that he had left them with so much debt to be paid.

Charles V required a Pope that was devoted to his service to enter the pontificate. The Cardinal of Tortosa was elected, who was also known as Adrian VI. Cardinal De Vio supported the nomination. They elected him to the office, but were surprised that they had actually gone through and elected a foreigner to the post. Those in Holland, from whence Adrian came, were delighted that they could have given the church such a man.

He was well received upon arrival and followed the middle course which Erasmus had plotted out for him. He said in a book published after his arrival, which is of great note, “it is certain that the Pope may err in matters of faith, in defending heresy by his opinions or decretals (Comm. In lib. 4, Sententiarium Quest de Sacr. Confirm. Rome, 1522, folio).” Such a statement by a Pope at the time of the Reformation is monumental, for if he was mistaken on the point, by this they must affirm what they deny (that the Pope is infallible.)

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 10, Chapter 3

In Nuremberg a Diet was convened and opposition was stirred against Luther. This was in contrast to what the people of the city actually believed since most of them upheld Luther. Duke George desired to execute the decree of Worms against Luther and capture him at Wittenberg. Some even thought Charles V and Adrian would meet at Nuremberg to agree to the plan. Later, in December of 1522, the Diet assembled again. Many spoke strongly against Luther. Chieregati, along with the Cardinal of Salzburg, called for Luther’s death. They seemed to speak for Adrian, and many of the princes were taken back at Rome’s lack of ability to restrain herself or be corrected. They simply desired blood.

In contrast to this Adrian spoke as a Reformer in many ways, admitting that wickedness had crept into the Church and needed to be corrected. The bishops and priests were outraged, the princes shocked, and those sympathetic to the Reformation were happy since the Pope was condemning himself. However, though Adrian spoke in this manner, the Diet spoke in another. They wanted to wage war against Luther, and Frederick, contemplating the brief given to him of the Diet, thought he may at last have to unsheathe his sword in order to protect Luther and the Reformation. But Luther counseled Frederick not to use his sword in this way. The people need to rise up and be bound by the Word of God, not forced into it as Rome had done to them in the past.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 10, Chapter 4

Because of Adrian’s failure to continue along the Roman oppression and stance against Luther as Leo had done, fresh persecution broke out by autonomous individuals all over the country. Luther was fearful for the country and Rome quickly desired bloodshed. Duke George took the forefront in the persecutions but could not overthrow electoral Saxony and cause persecution where he would have liked to see it the most – in its heretical capital. George even wrote to Frederick prophesying of the conflict to come. He was eager for the taste of blood, especially Luther’s.

In was in the Low Countries under Charles V that persecution broke out the worst. Probst and Mirisch recanted of their views on the Reformation and were being used by Rome to intimidate others. However, Probst escaped, fled to Bruges in Flanders, and preached against his recantation. He was caught again, but escaped with the help of a Franciscan monk who took pity on his condition. Young Augustinian monks were arrested and tried before the inquisitor who had previously escaped the persecution at Antwerp. They were brought to the scaffold and burned alive for their faith in Christ. They believed in “the Church” but not the Church of Rome. The burning lasted four hours and these men were the first martyrs of the formal Reformation. This demonstrated the nature of the persecution. Even Erasmus said, “The persecutions have begun.” Men were fearful of the outcome of unbridled anger against the truth.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 10, Chapter 5

Adrian died September 14, 1523. The Roman Church was happy to be rid of him. Giulo de Medici, also known as Clement VII, succeeded him as Pope. Clement immediately began to fix what Adrian, in his mind, had blundered. He placed Cardinal Campeggio in public business and introduced him to all the princes as a man of power; an able man whom Clement knew could do the job that needed to be done.

The Diet of Nuremberg assembled again in January of 1524. The Swabian League, the wealthiest city in the country, as well as Charles V, vowed to destroy Frederick, even if that meant political turmoil which the country at this time could not afford to have begin afresh. Frederick quit the Diet and was overwhelmed with grief and their political ineptness.

The Pope was quite upset that the Diet would set up a secular authority without his permission, and against it, and determine matters of religious authority in the land against his wishes. Letters were exchanged back and forth between the Diet and the Pope to no avail. Dr. John Eck asked the Pope for help, wherewith he gave him ecclesiastical authority to deal with the princes. A council was held in Ratisbon to over throw the Diet of Spires, that could aid the reformation heartily, and strengthen the Catholic resolve. The conference lasted fifteen days and was the first Catholic Assembly held by the papacy against the Reformation itself.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 10, Chapter 6

The Roman party was not satisfied with Ratisbon. They desired to see this council sealed with the blood of the reformers. Gaspar Tauber, a citizen of Vienna who had circulated Luther’s writings, was imprisoned, recalled by the court to recant, beheaded for not recanting and then his body was burned. The people were exasperated at this. In Buda, Hungary a bookseller named John was arrested for circulating the German New Testament. He was tied to the stake, had his books piled around him, and burned alive. This fanaticism grew stronger and hotter as ministers were expelled from their churches, and inflicted with horrible punishments for the sake of the Gospel.

Persecution around Europe broke out steadily, and ministers were persecuted for their evangelical-Lutheran faith. It was most violent in the state of the Duke of Bavaria, and reach from nobility down to the peasants. The land was filled with spies who desired to carry out the blood-filled decree against the Gospel.

Henry of Zuphten, who had escaped from the convent at Antwerp, was preaching the Gospel at Bremen. The Dominicans conspired against his coming and thought that if the people heard his preaching then all is lost. They conspired to capture him, and while he was preaching, they heckled him. However, they waited until after Easter to attack his home and arrested him. They threw him onto a pile of burning wood, struck him dead on the chest with a mortal blow, and ended his life as his body burned upon the pile.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 10, Chapter 7

While Rome was burning evangelical ministers of the Gospel at the stake, the Reformation took a new turn in Wittenberg. Here in Wittenberg is found the beginnings of the Reformed Church, of which Calvin, later on, would take the lead. The question here surrounded the Lord’s Supper. Luther did not accept the precise Reformed position later developed, and the first arguments he had over this doctrine had been with Carlstadt. Luther was a materialist and Carlstadt was a spiritualist – both extremes are problematic.

Carlstadt thought that nothing could be more hurtful to true religion than to rely on the works of an external sacrament. Rome has materialized the sacrament and taught that a simple participation in it could save a person. This was the same voice that John Wessel had given the sacrament in the fifteenth century. Two advocates of this view, that Carlstadt simply followed, were John Rhodius and George Sagarus. These men desired to bring their findings of Wessel and their further study, to Luther, and arrived in Wittenberg at the end of the year of 1520. Luther, upon meeting them and hearing their position, rejected it. Carlstadt embraced it and wrote against the physical eating of Christ’s body in the sacrament. Luther went in the opposite direction.

Because both Luther and Carlstadt disagreed, Luther would not allow him public speech. Carlstadt left the university without telling anyone in 1524. He battled Luther on this issue in writing at the request of Luther later on. He left for Switzerland and taught his views to men like Bucer and Capito who agreed with him in many ways. Luther wrote against them in Against the Celestial Prophets, his most violent work. The Reformation had attacked the emperor, the Pope, and was now tearing at itself.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 10, Chapter 8

Though Ratisbon seemed to have succeeded in their ploy to persecute the Gospel, and in many ways they succeeded, the moment the council disembodied, the Diet of Spires came together and decided that ministers of the Gospel should be free to preach openly. The exact opposite of Ratisbon that had previously been proclaimed.

While Melancthon was on his way back to Wittenberg he met with Phillip of Hesse who was on his way to a tournament. Melancthon asked permission to pass through is lands safely, and Phillip acquiesced to this happily. The condition of this was that Melancthon was to examine the questions that the council had been examining concerning the Reformation and to give Phillip a full report about his thoughts on this. This was a happy providence indeed. Melancthon agreed and as soon as he arrived began working on Abridgement of the Revived Doctrine of Christianity specially for Phillip.

When Phillip returned and read the treatise, he ordered an edict that was in opposition to the league of Ratisbon, where he ordered that the Gospel should be freely preached throughout the land. Phillip has been known as Melancthon’s disciple, forcibly holding to justification by faith alone and the propagation of the Biblical Gospel. Other princes followed suit; the Duke of Luneberg began to reform his states, as did the King of Denmark. Thus the edict of Spires was successful in its reach in its varied ways.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 10, Chapter 9

Reforms began to spread again through the land. Luther desired men, early in the morning, to read the Old Testament, and then later in the evening to gather to read the New Testament. On Sunday they should partake of the sacrament and take both the bread and the wine. Luther petitioned further reforms of abolishing the Mass in All Saints Church. In 1524 this came to pass as a result of the years of abuse in the church.

Luther instituted that one should study both literature and languages. If one were to neglect languages, he would not be able to know the Gospel or his own tongue. This was not simply something he desired of the clergy, but the whole church, laymen alike. This aspect of the Reformation is no doubt of most importance. For hundreds of year learning has been the privilege of the priests, and in the academic language of Latin. Now, he desired to see everyone read the Bible in their own tongue, learn languages to further their education, and stretch themselves to read the classics of literature. Learning was now in the hands of the common man.

Luther was not only interested in learning literature and theology, but he desired to see the whole of one’s redeemed humanity at work – and this meant a love for music as well. Poetry also shared in this growth, certainly being akin to music and lyrics. Luther wrote many hymns which were circulated throughout Germany, many of them becoming regularly used in worship services across the land. In all of this, the Reformation gave growth to the arts that had not flourished in the hands of the common man under the guise of the Roman Pontiff.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 10, Chapter 10

The Reformation gave stability to the world, but many times political fanaticism, or religious fanaticism broke this stability for varied reasons. Religious fanatics often having zeal without knowledge contributed to the political uncertainly of the day either by spoiling a political agenda or enflaming those against the middle ground of Reformation much more hatred to those who were of the far left or right of a given issue.

Thomas Munzer was a religious fanatic that could have been a help to the Reformation, but ended up in extremes that could have been avoided. He accused the Reformers of beginning a new popery as he preached through Zwickau. He believed God had called him to act as a prophet against the evils of Luther’s extreme views, and the means by which this true reform would take place was through the Spirit of God that laid heavily on him by direct revelation. He spoke outwardly and harshly against Luther, and bid the people to stop heeding him and to follow his own teachings.

Munzer became engaged with the peasant’s revolt, which he joined enthusiastically, and enflamed their own political agenda though his preaching. Luther told the elector to leave them alone, and let them simply contend with the Word of God. However, insurrection began in the Black Forest, and meetings between the peasants started. They decided to draw up articles rejecting political authority and began marching on the nearby towns. Those who were not strong enough to defend themselves simply joined them out of fear. At Konigshofen the peasants were miserably defeated, and the princes who rose against them enacted some horribly cruelties.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 10, Chapter 11

The peasant revolt was weakened by a defeat at Konigshofen. Many, though, were still warring in the south of Germany. Munzer went to Mulhausen and preached there for a year without hindrance. At this time, after subverting the minds of many ignorant people, he decided that his army should grow and so the peasantry grew in numbers from all over Germany.

Phillip of landgrave was the first to take up arms against this larger peasant revolt and army. They surrounded the peasants with their army, and the ill-preparation, and the fanaticism of excitement, lost fervor quickly. They began firing on the army and five thousand quickly perished in the fight, and the rest fled. Munzer was captured and beheaded along with his lieutenant, and the peasants were thrown in chains. The remnant of the insurrection was rounded up later on by Duke George with the greatest of severity.

The reformers took up their pens and wrote vehemently about the nature of the revolt and how Christians ought to conduct themselves. On the side of the princes, it was continually said that Luther was the cause of the insurrection – his writings were contributing to the problem. They tried to tie Munzer together with Luther. Yet in all of this the accusations did not ultimately stick.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 10, Chapter 12

Though the Reformation was pressing onward in its varied circumstances, the elector Frederick was becoming weaker and weaker. Spalatin stayed by his side and encouraged him about eternal things. Frederick spoke graciously to his friends and encouraged them to forgive him if he had done any of them wrong, or if he had oppressed the poor in any ungodly fashion. In knowing his time was drawing near, he destroyed a will that he had made year sago which said that he was committing his soul to the mother of God, and instead trusted in the sole merits of Jesus Christ.

Luther never met the elector except from a distance, but the providences that held them together were solidly bound. Frederick reformed the state, and Luther reformed the church with the protective hand of Frederick.

Another Diet had been called by Charles V at Augsburg hoping to gain the support of all the electors based on political expediency and immanent war that was beckoning the borders of Germany.

Luther was also afraid of the various tumults gathering around him. The remnants of the peasant revolt with Munzer declared war on Luther and desired his life. Frederick had died who was his sole protector. Duke George wanted Luther arrested at Wittenberg. The princes who may have protected him seemed to have bowed their heads to political fanatics and had rejected the Gospel. There were rumors that students at the University were diminishing as a result of the tumults. What could he do? Luther decided to marry.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 10, Chapter 13

There were nine nuns that forsook the nunnery in Grimma in Saxony, and were diligent in reading the Bible. They left their post and traveled to the Augustinian convent in Wittenberg hoping to see Luther. Luther did what he could to attend them.
On that Sunday, Luther laid aside his clothing as a monk, and embraced the clothing of a minister or priest. He preached in priestly garbs, and made a stir with the people. Monkery at the Augustinian monastery, where he had first come to understand the Gospel, had now been completely overthrown and the monastery was closed.

He decided to marry Catherine Von Bora (she had been in Wittenberg for two years already), and went to Amsdorff to receive his blessing. Melancthon was not present to see the marriage, but Amsdorff and Cranach were present to witness it. Luther was then attacked with calamities from every side. The monk had married and had definitely broken off his relationship with Rome forever. Though Luther already knew this, the people, when they see action placed to words, seem to take more affright to such actions.

Domestic life for Luther was exactly what he needed at this time. It threw off the yoke of the difficulties. Between his wife and his good friend Melancthon, he was encouraged greatly. Luther even became more cheerful in Catherine’s presence, and she seemed to be link in bringing out some of that which Luther lay hidden within for such a long time.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 10, Chapter 14

At first it seems that Luther made more trouble for the Reformation by marrying. Landgrave Phillip and the new elector John remained silent about it. Pressure was mounting around Wittenberg and the Luther marries? This seemed out of place. This sentiment did not last long though.

Phillip decided to win Duke George and his son to the faith. He wrote letter after letter outlining good Christian doctrine and won the son over, but never the father. While Phillip, John, and Albert of Prussia were involving themselves in the Reformation, the Reformation pressed forward. Frederick’s death spawn three new friends who were favorable to the Reformation and it advancement.

Rome had thought the Reformation was dead after Frederick died and the peasant’s revolt was crushed. But instead the Reformation burst upon the scene in ever county. The emperor called the Diet at Augsburg together on December 11th. Phillip and John resolved to be bold, and needed to speak out. They did so from the very first day the Diet began. They even met secretly in order to bind together their armies in case either on was attacked by the other confederacies or by Rome herself. Phillip did not win over the princes that he thought would stay steadfast. But John was able to rally many princes around Saxony.

These were the state of affairs as the Diet at Augsburg begins in Germany and the Diet of Spires was about to begin in Switzerland.

Bible Verse:

“I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless,” (Gen. 17:1).

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