The only matter in which German philology surpassed Italian was science. The man who turned the course of the new learning into those channels was Johannes Muller of Konigsberg, near Coburg, therefore known as Monteregio; as Regiomontanus Bessarion gave him a MS. of Ptolemy, and he designed a scheme to print the whole body of Greek mathematicians. His Ephemerides are the origin of the Nautical Almanack, and enabled Columbus and Vasco and Vespucci to sail the high seas; and Nuremberg, where he lived, became the chief seat of the manufacture of nautical instruments. He was made a bishop, and summoned to Rome to reform the calendar. There was one Italian who possessed the scientific spirit, without help from books, by the prerogative of genius; that was Leonardo da Vinci. But he confided his thoughts to diaries and remained unknown and useless in his time.
The conflict between the new learning and the old, which was repressed in Italy by the policy of Rome, broke out in Germany, where it was provoked by the study of Hebrew, not of Greek. At Rome in 1482 a German student translated a passage of Thucydides so well that the lecturer complained that Greece was settling beyond the Alps. It was the first time that the rivalry appeared. That student was Reuchlin. His classical accomplishments alone would not have made his name one of the most conspicuous in literary history; but in 1490 Pico della Mirandola expounded to him the wonders of oriental learning, and Reuchlin, having found a Rabbi at Linz, began to study Hebrew in 1492. His path was beset with difficulties, for there were no books in that language to be found in all Germany. Reuchlin drew his supply from Italy, and was the first German who read the Cabbala. He shared many popular prejudices against the Jews, and read their books to help him with the Old Testament, as he read Greek to help him with the New. He had none of the grace, the dexterity, the passion, of the Humanists, and very little of their enthusiasm for the classics. He preferred Gregory Nazianzen to Homer. Savonarola shocked him by his opposition to Alexander VI. His writings had little scientific value, but he was a pioneer, and he prized the new learning for the sake of religion. Therefore, when he was summoned to give an opinion on the suppression of Jewish books, he opposed it, and insisted on the biblical knowledge and the religious ideas to be found in them. Divines, he said, would not have made so many mistakes if they had attended to the Jewish commentators.
At that time persecution was raging against the Jews in the Peninsula. They had always had enemies in the German towns, and in July 1510, thirty-eight Jews were executed at Berlin. This intolerant spirit began, in 1507, to be directed against their books. None were printed in Germany until 1516; but from 1480 they had Hebrew presses in Italy, at Naples, Mantua, Soncino, and at Constantinople. If their study was encouraged while the printing was permitted, the Jews would become a power such as they never were before printing began, and when none but a few divines could read Hebrew. The movement in favour of destroying them had its home at Cologne, with Hochstraten, the Inquisitor; Gratius, a good scholar, whose work, known as Brown's Fasciculus, is in the hands of every medieval student; and Pfefferkorn, who had the zeal of a recently converted Jew. In his anxiety to bring over his former brethren he desired to deprive them of their books. He would allow them to retain only the Old Testament, without their commentaries. He would compel them to hear Christian sermons. By degrees he urged that they should be expelled, and at last that they should be exterminated.
Maximilian, the emperor, turned with every wind. Reuchlin, the defender of toleration, was attacked by Pfefferkorn, as a sceptic and a traitor, and was accused before the ecclesiastical court. In 1514 the Bishop of Spires, acting for the Pope, acquitted Reuchlin; the sentence was confirmed at Rome in 1516, and the Dominicans, who were plaintiffs, agreed to pay the costs. Nevertheless they appealed, and in 1520 Rome reversed the previous judgment and condemned Reuchlin. In the midst of greater things the sentence escaped attention, and was only brought to light by a scholar who is still living. But in the meantime the Humanists had taken up the cause of Reuchlin, and the result had been disastrous for the Dominicans. They had not directly assailed the new learning, but their attack on the study of Hebrew had been the most crass exhibition of retrograde spirit. If Jews were not allowed to read Jewish books, such as Maimonides, to whom St. Thomas owes so much, how could Christians be allowed to read pagan classics, with their highly immoral gods and goddesses?
The golden opportunity of making intolerance ridiculous could not be neglected. In the summer of 1515 a volume appeared purporting to contain letters to Ortwin Gratius; and it was followed two years later by another. With some good satire and some amusing caricature, they also contained much personal insult and calumny. The wit is not enough to carry on the joke through 108 letters, carefully composed in Teutonic dog Latin by the best Latinists north of the Brenner. Erasmus, who was diverted at first, afterwards turned away with disgust, and Luther called the authors buffoons. The main writer of the first volume was Crotus Rubianus, and of the other, Hutten. Reuchlin himself disapproved. But he shared in the victory, which was so brilliant that his condemnation by Rome passed without notice, and it was not till our day that the success of the despised Pfefferkorn became known to the world. It was the first effective appeal to opinion against constituted authority, and the most decisive demonstration of the power of the press. And it gave the Humanists occasion so to define the issue that all could understand, in spite of the reserve of Erasmus and of Reuchlin himself.
Erasmus Rogers, the greatest figure in the Renaissance, was born at Rotterdam and brought up in extreme poverty, and he was a valetudinarian and an invalid in consequence of early privation. He lived in France and Belgium, in England and Italy, in Switzerland and Germany, so that each country contributed to his development, and none set its stamp upon him. He was eminently an international character; and was the first European who lived in intimacy with other ages besides his own, and could appreciate the gradual ripening and enlargement of ideas. He devoted himself on equal terms to classical and to Christian antiquity, and drew from both alike the same lessons of morality and wisdom; for he valued doctrine chiefly for the sake of a good life and a happy death, and was impatient of subtle dialectics and speculative disputations. With so much of Renaissance studies as did not serve the good estate of souls he showed little sympathy, and was indifferent to art, to metaphysics, to antiquarian pedantry. He endeavoured to make men familiar with the wisdom of the ancients by a collection of 1451 adages selected from their works. His Colloquies, the most popular book of his age, sold in 24,000 copies. At first he was more a scholar than a divine; and though he learnt Greek late, and was never a first-rate Hellenist, published editions of the classics. In later life the affairs of religion absorbed him, and he lived for the idea that reform of the Church depended on a better knowledge of early Christianity, in other words, on better self-knowledge, which could only result from a slow and prolonged literary process. He started from the beginning by his edition of the Greek Testament, begun here, at Queens' in 1512, published at Bale by Froben in 1516. It had already been printed from better MSS. by Cardinal Ximenes in the fifth volume of the Complutensian Polyglot, which did not appear until 1522. Therefore Erasmus's edition is the first ever published. It was produced at last, in a hurry, to secure the priority, and was not greatly improved afterwards. Part of the Apocalypse was wanting in all his MSS. He restored it by translating it into Greek from the Vulgate, and in six verses made thirty mistakes. His second edition had a letter of approbation from Leo X, and it was the edition which Luther used for his translation. It is a sign of the want of religious interest in the Renaissance, especially in Italy, that printing had been going on for sixty years, and 24,000 works issued from the press, some of them more than a hundred times, before anybody thought of the Greek Testament.
Erasmus occupied his later years with the works of the Fathers, also printed by Froben, the Greeks in Latin translations. "Letters," he said, "had remained Pagan in Italy, until he taught them to speak of Christ." Just as he was entirely destitute of the national fibre, so too he stood apart from the schools or currents of his time. His striving was to replace the scholastics by the Fathers, systematic theology by spiritual religion; and those Doctors of the Church who inclined to system, such as St. Augustine, repelled him. It may be said that he was not attracted by St. Paul, and preferred the Gospels to the Epistles. He esteemed Seneca more highly than many Christian divines. Although he chose to employ the weapon of irony, and abstained from the high horse and the big word, he was earnest in his desire for the reform of abuses in the Church. He disliked contention, and desired to avoid offence; but he made enemies in all parts of Europe, and was vehemently denounced by the theologians of Paris and Louvain, by the Spanish friars, by Archbishop Lee, by Zuniga, the Count of Carpi, and especially by the very learned Steuchus of Gubbio. In later days he was one of the first writers put on the Index. But throughout his career as a divine, that is, for the last quarter of a century that he lived, he was consistently protected, defended, consulted by Popes, until Paul III offered him a Cardinal's hat and desired that he would settle at Rome. He told Leo X that he thought it a mistake to censure Luther, with whom he agreed as to many of the matters calling for reform. But whilst Luther attributed the prevailing demoralisation to false dogmas and a faulty constitution, Erasmus sought the cause in ignorance and misgovernment. What came from this division of opinion pertains to the next lecture. Erasmus belonged, intellectually, to a later and more scientific or rational age. The work which he had initiated, and which was interrupted by the Reformation troubles, was resumed at a more acceptable time by the scholarship of the seventeenth century.
DURING THE latter part of the Middle Ages, the desire for reform of the Church was constant. It was strongest and most apparent among laymen, for a famous monastic writer of the fourteenth century testified that the laity led better lives than the clergy. To the bulk of ordinary Christians reform meant morality in the priesthood. It became intolerable to them to see the Sacrament administered habitually by sacrilegious hands, or to let their daughters go to confession to an unclean priest. The discontent was deepest where men were best. They felt that the organisation provided for the salvation of souls was serving for their destruction, and that the more people sought the means of grace in the manner provided, the greater risk they incurred of imbibing corruption. In the days when celibacy was imposed under Gregory VII, it was argued that the validity of orders depended on conduct; and that idea of forfeiture by sin, essentially fatal to the whole hierarchical system, was not yet extinct. People learnt to think of virtue apart from the institutions of the Church, and the way was paved for a change which should reduce the part of the clergy in men's lives, and give them families of their own. The hope that a stricter discipline would be enforced by authority from within died away. When Eugenius IV directed Cesarini to dissolve the Council of Basle, the Cardinal replied that if he obeyed they would be thought to be mocking God and men, and to have abandoned the notion of reform, and the laity would have some reason to believe that it was a good deed to destroy, or at least to plunder, the clergy.
The religious influence of the Church was brought low by its record of failure. The scheme for governing the world by the hierarchy, pursued for three centuries, had terminated in disaster. For a whole generation no man knew whether the Papacy was in Italy or in France. The attempt to effect improvement through the Councils had been abandoned after many experiments, and the failure to reconcile the Greeks had established the Ottoman Empire in Europe. With the decline of the Church the State rose in power and prerogative, and exercised rights which for centuries had been claimed by the hierarchy. All this did not suggest Lutheranism to Luther, but it prepared the world for it.
Amidst the abuses and excesses of that epoch of lax discipline and indistinct theology, the point of breaking was supplied by a practice of very recent growth. Indulgences had long existed, and after a time they were applied to souls in purgatory. When, at last, plenary indulgences, that is, total remissions of penalty, were transferred to the dead, it meant that they were straightway released from purgatory and received into heaven. Five churches in Rome enjoyed the privilege that a soul was released as often as mass was said at one of the altars, technically known as privileged altars, or as often as certain prayers were said by persons visiting them. There were privileged altars at St. Peter's, at St. Prassede, at Santa Pudentiana, at the Scala Santa. At one, five masses were required; at another, thirty. In the crypt of St. Sebastian one visit was enough. A particular prayer repeated during forty days remitted one-seventh of the punishment, and on the fortieth day the dead man would appear to his benefactor, to thank him. All the benefits available to a pilgrim visiting Rome could be enjoyed at a distance by the purchase of an indulgence from the friars sent round to sell them. Such an indulgence, published by Julius II for the construction of St. Peter's, was revived by Leo X in 1517, half the proceeds to go to the Archbishop of Mentz, that he might pay back a loan to Fugger of Augsburg. The banker's agent went round with the appointed preacher and kept the strong box. Tetzel, a Dominican, preached the indulgence in Saxony, though not in the territory of the elector, and he employed to the utmost the arguments authorised by the custom of the day. Speaking of him and of his colleagues, Benedict XIV said that they were the cause of all the trouble that followed.
Many people thought the indulgences, as then practised, a mischief, because people took them as equivalent to absolution; and the general of the Augustinians spoke of them as an encouragement to sin. But the extreme point was the theory that payment of a few pence would rescue a soul from purgatory. Therefore, when Luther raised a protest against such propositions, he said no more than what many other people were saying, and less than some. And he had no idea that he was not speaking in thorough harmony with the entire Church, or that the ground he occupied was new. The Dominicans stood by Tetzel and made his cause their own. They were able to say of him that he had only uttered current doctrine, though it had not the sanction of former ages. Three hundred of them were present when he received a degree at Frankfort on the Oder, and the Dominicans at Rome defended even the most extreme and grotesque of the sayings attributed to him.
Leo committed the whole business to Silvester Prierias, Master of the Sacred Palace and official theologian of the Holy See. Prierias was not a reputable defender of any religious cause. In one of his books he advises a judge that he may obtain a confession by a promise of mercy, meaning mercy to the community, and charges the notary to put down in what sense the words were spoken. Accordingly he made the worst possible defence. St. Thomas, discussing indulgences as they were in his time, urges that they may be accepted as they are given by authority. Prierias, an ardent Thomist, regards this as a valid argument for the practices that were now contested. The problem of right is settled by the evidence of fact. The questors, as they were called, acted as legitimate agents of the Holy See. To deny what authority tacitly approves, is to deny authority; and to appeal from the Pope to the Bible, is to appeal from a higher authority to a lower. This was to ignore the difficulty and to make reforms impossible. The reason for this compendious evasion was that Leo, prior to his election, had taken an oath to revoke the indulgence of Julius II, and to supply otherwise the money required for St. Peters. The capitulation was in March 1513. The breach of the capitulation, in March 1515. It was not desirable to raise a controversy as to the broken oath, or to let Luther appear as the supporter of the Cardinals against the Pope, or of the Pope expecting the tiara against the Pope in possession of it. The effect was to deprive Luther of the hope that he was at issue with a too eager subordinate in Saxony, and to transfer his attack to Rome. It was now officially declared that whatever is is right, and that no improvement or reform is wanted in high places.
A graver personage came upon the scene when it was agreed that Luther should appear before the Legate at Augsburg. Cardinal Cajetan was the weightiest divine of the Court of Rome, and a man of original mind, who was denounced in his order as a dangerous innovator, and whose writings could not be reprinted without large omissions. He is commemorated, in political literature, among the advocates of tyrannicide. He was more dexterous than Prierias, although he also refused a revision of current practices. By putting forward a decree of Clement VI, he drove Luther to declare that no papal decree was a sufficient security for him. So that, having assailed authority in that which it tolerated or ignored, he assailed it now in that which it directly affirmed, and was no longer a mere intruder, proffering unwelcome advice, but a barbarian thundering at the gates of Rome. Cajetan dismissed him ungraciously; and having been warned that a Dominican cardinal might be perilous company in the circumstances, he went off secretly and made his way home. He was already a popular figure in Germany, and the Diet of Augsburg had complained that the drain caused by indulgences left no supplies for the Turkish war.
When Luther returned to Wittenberg he was aware that his ideas extended much farther than he had supposed. Since the refusal to listen to his remonstrance, he knew that he was involved in a conflict in which Rome would be against him. He knew also that many of his countrymen would be on his side. The same discovery was unexpectedly made by the next papal emissary, Miltitz, a Saxon layman, who was sent to convey the Golden Rose to Luther's patron, the elector Frederic. It was well understood at Rome that Cajetan, in pushing Luther one step beyond his original Thesis, by transferring the question from the discretion of Tetzel to the authority under which he acted, had mismanaged the affair. Uncompromising rigour having failed, the opposite treatment was now applied. Miltitz, finding the majority of Germans favourable to Luther, deposited the Golden Rose at Nuremberg, and came into his own country with a resolution to be conciliatory. The friends whom he saw on his way informed Luther, and urged him to meet his countryman in the same spirit. Miltitz saw Tetzel and silenced him; and the inauspicious preacher did not long survive his disgrace. Having given this proof that he entertained no adverse prejudice, that on the immediate problem they were in sympathy, Miltitz had a conference with Luther at Altenburg.
Luther followed the advice of his friends at Nuremberg. The specific evil he had denounced was now admitted by the authorised representative of the Holy See. He obtained, through him, a reassuring glimpse of Roman opinion, and the certainty that there were men on the spot, unlike Prierias and Cajetan, whose convictions in regard to unreformed abuses were as clear as his own, and whose opportunities were better. They came to an understanding. Luther was to publish an explanation and then the subject was to drop. It did not mean that he was approved; but dubious points were not pressed, for the sake of those on which the force of his case was felt. He wrote to a friend that he would suppress much rather than offend, and the whole thing would die out of itself. The contrast between Miltitz and Cajetan was such that he had reason to be satisfied. Miltitz also considered that he had done well, and had extinguished a conflagration that might have become serious. He advised the Elector not to send the Wittenberg professor out of the country. More eager spirits were impatient of so tame a conclusion; for there were some to whom plenary indulgences for the living or the dead were a drop of water in an ocean of controversy, whilst others thought that authority had been outraged on one side and surrendered on the other. Before the dispute was reopened Luther wrote a letter to Leo X, saying the ecclesiastical authority must be upheld to the utmost. This saying, of little account in his theology, is significant in his entire system of thought. What he meant was that the papal supremacy in the government of the Church had endured so long that the divine sanction was upon it. He did not trace it much farther back than the twelfth century. But that, he considered, constituted a legitimate claim.
Luther, who was a profound conservative and a reluctant innovator, and who felt the fascination that belongs to lapse of time, employed on behalf of the Papacy an argument by which Dante had defended the Empire. Machiavelli derived right from success, and Luther from duration. In reality he held both doctrines, for he thought Zwingli's death in battle an evident judgment on his low sacramental theory. Promoted at the same time by the two most powerful writers in the world, the idea that heaven is responsible for results acquired immense prestige, and long influenced European thinking. The argument by which he justified the Papacy amounted, in fact, to a negation of its claim to divine institution; and at the time when he produced it, early in 1519, he had come to reject not only the excesses of Tetzel, but the entire scheme of indulgences. Although he held to the Papacy only by an ingenious sophism, beyond the Pope there was the Council; and he might still deem himself a Catholic after the manner of Gerson and the Gallican divines of Constance, who depreciated Rome. That was possible, if nothing in the sequence of his views came into collision with any decree of a General Council.
This was now the question of the day, the question for the summer of 1519. The man who brought it to an issue was John Eck, a theologian of Ingolstadt University, who came to Leipzig to dispute with Luther's colleague Carlstadt, and ended by a disputation with Luther himself. He imagined that Luther did not perceive the consequences. Because he defied the Popes, it did not follow that he would defy the Councils, especially a Council held in Germany, under the protection of a German Emperor, a Council zealous for reform and honoured by Germans, as their avenger on the national enemy John Hus. Luther had no special preference for an assembly which burnt an obnoxious professor of theology, and no great interest in reforms which he deemed external, and not making for inward change. He said that there were points on which Hus was right, and the sentence that condemned him was wrong. He admitted, in the end, that Councils as well as Popes might be against him, and that the authority by which he stood was the divine revelation. That is how "the Bible, and the Bible only," became the religion of Protestants.
Having succeeded in forcing Luther from his original positions, Eck carried the matter to Rome. A theory so uncertain in its method, so imperfectly tested by the regulated comparison of authorities, might crumble to pieces if all its consequences were made manifest. It was conceivable that a man who had raised such a storm without looking up his books, without weighing the language of Councils or thinking out his thoughts, upon whom the very obvious objections of Cajetan and Eck came as a surprise, who at every step abandoned some previous proposition, might not feel absolutely and finally sure that he was right, or might even recognise the force of the saying that it is well to die for the truth, but not for every truth. Eck joined with Cajetan in urging the strongest measures of repression. A different line of policy suggested itself, in the spirit of Erasmus. It was to hail Luther as an auxiliary, as the most powerful leader in the work of eradicating evils which were a familiar scandal to all religious men, and the constant theme of ineffective Cardinals on every solemn occasion. Then they might have confronted whatever was to follow with cleaner hands and a better conscience.
In June 1520, after a year's deliberation, Luther was condemned as the teacher of forty-one heresies; and in January, after he had made a bonfire of the Papal Bull and of the Canon Law, he was excommunicated. According to imperial constitutions three centuries old, the next step was that the civil magistrate, as the favourite phrase was, would send the culprit through the transitory flames of this world to the everlasting flames of the next. If that was not done, it might come to pass that the zeal of Prierias, Cajetan, and Eck would serve to inform the world that the medieval reign was over, and that the pen of an angry, rude, and not very learned monk was stronger than the Papacy and the Empire. It was known from the first that the Elector of Saxony would defend Luther, without being a Lutheran. Indeed, he shocked him by his zeal for indulgences and his collection of 19,000 relics. But he protected Luther as the most famous teacher of his university. They never met, and when the Elector on his deathbed sent for him, Luther was away. Since the Disputation of Leipzig he was the most conspicuously popular man in Germany. What he had said about the use and abuse of indulgences had not inflamed the nation. But the appeal to Scripture was definite and clear, and it met many objections and many causes of opposition.
When Luther was discussing the value of indulgences here and in the other world he meant no more and saw no farther. But now he saw the chasm, and possessed a principle on which to found his theology, his ethics, his politics, his theory of Church and State, and he proceeded to expound his ideas thoroughly in three celebrated works, known as his Reformation Tracts, which appeared in 1520. Luther's fundamental doctrine had come to him in early life, not from books, but from a friend. When all the efforts and resources of monastic criticism had led him only to despair, one of the brethren told him that his own works could not bring relief from the sense of unforgiven sin, but only faith in the merits of Christ. He found such comfort in this idea, which became the doctrine of imputation, and he grasped it with such energy that it has transformed the world. Predestination seemed to follow logically, and the rejection of free-will; and, as the office of the ordained priest became superfluous, the universal priesthood, with the denial of Prelacy. All this was fully worked out in the writings of 1520.
Luther was unconscious at first of the tremendous revolution he was preparing, because he found satisfaction in the strong language of St. Bernard. Under the shadow of the greatest doctor of the medieval church he felt assured of safety. And when he spoke of the Bible only, that was not textually more than had been said by Scotus and others, such as Erasmus, and quite lately the Bishop of Isernia at the Lateran Council. He did not start with a system or an apostolate; but now that his prodigious power as a writer of German had been revealed, he rejoiced in the conflict. He obtained his opportunity at the Diet of Worms. The young Emperor had come over from Spain to receive the crown, and he had accepted the Bull of Leo against Luther. At that moment he was on friendly terms with Rome, but his chancellor, Gattinara, warned him that the people throughout Germany favoured the reformer; and Tunstall wrote to Wolsey that 100,000 men would give their lives rather than let him be sacrificed to the Papacy. Even at Mentz, an episcopal city, the Nuncio Aleander was in danger of being stoned. "The conflicts of Church and State in the Middle Ages," he wrote, "were child's play to this." Therefore, although Luther had been condemned and excommunicated for forty heresies, although he had publicly thrown the Pope's Bull into the fire, and was worthy of death by ecclesiastical and municipal law, the Emperor gave him a free pass to the Diet and back, and sent a herald to arrange the journey.
At Erfurt, on his way, he learnt for the first time how the country was with him. When within sight of the towers and spires of Worms, he was warned by the Saxon minister Spalatin that his life would not be safe; and he returned the famous answer that he would go on if every tile in the city was a devil. At Oppenheim, almost the last stage, Bucer was waiting his arrival with a strange and unexpected message. A French Franciscan, Glapion, was the Emperor's confessor, and he was staying at Sickingen's castle, a few miles off, in company with Sickingen himself, the dreaded free-lance, with Ulrich von Hutten and with the unfrocked Dominican Bucer, who was to prove the ablest of the German reformers next to Luther. He sent Bucer, with an escort of Sickingen's troopers, to invite Luther to visit him there before he proceeded to Worms. It was clear that the Diet would end with a repulse for authority. The very presence there of a man who had written with such violence, and had been so solemnly condemned, was a defiance. Glapion was a reforming Catholic, and desired the assistance of Luther. He was clever enough to find ground in common with Erasmus, Ulrich von Hutten, and Bucer, and he was ready with far-reaching concessions to secure Luther. Then, he thought, his Emperor would be enabled to purify the Church. Bucer was of opinion that there was nothing to prevent agreement if Luther would interpret his contested writings as Bucer had explained them to Glapion. Gattinara was urgent for a reforming Council; the union of so many forces would be enough to invigorate the Italian cardinals, and they could carry Rome with them. It was the party of Reform attempting to conciliate the party of Reformation, that they might co-operate in saving the work of the Renaissance and renewing the Church from within. By renouncing "The Babylonish Captivity" alone of his numerous writings, Luther, who had already revoked so many utterances, might obtain acceptance for his main dogma, and bind the united Humanists and the Imperial government to his cause. Those were the terms of the proposed alliance. They were at once rejected.
Luther owed much to Erasmus, but they could never combine. He looked upon the purpose of the other as essentially rationalistic, Pelagian, and pagan. He foresaw that the coming struggle would be not with the old school, but with the new; that the obstacle to the Reformation was the Renaissance, and the enemy's name Erasmus. The Franciscan's profound and dazzling scheme miscarried, and Luther appeared before the Diet. Prompted by Glapion, the Imperial spokesman took no notice of Luther's own specific views, or of the Papal Bull against them. But he invited him to dissociate himself from Wyclif and John Hus on those matters which had been censured at Constance. That Council was the venerated safeguard of Catholic and Imperial reformers, and the strongest weapon of opposition to Rome. A Council which compelled the Emperor to burn a divine alive, after giving him a safe-conduct, was in no good odour just then with Luther, standing by the waves of the Rhine, which swept the ashes of John Hus away into oblivion. They then represented to Luther that the Diet was on his side, against Roman encroachments and the theory of penance; they praised his writings generally, and proposed that unsettled matters should be left to the decision of a future Council. To this he was willing to agree. But he stipulated that there should be no judgment except by the standard of Scripture. They replied that it stood to reason, and could not be made the object of a special condition. They meant different things, and the discussion came to naught. But important concessions had been made, and many opportunities had been offered, for the Diet was drawing up "the grievances of the German nation," and for that policy he was a desirable ally. Luther declined to concede anything, and a month later the Emperor signed the sentence of outlawry. In his Spanish dominions he was a jealous upholder of the Inquisition, even against the Pope, and of all the princes at Worms, secular or ecclesiastical, he was the most hostile and the most impatient.
Meanwhile Luther had gone back to Saxony, had preached on his way to the Benedictines of Hersfeld, and then disappeared in the Thuringian Forest. It was reported that he was dead; that his body had been found with a sword through it. When Charles V was dying, a baffled and disappointed man, he is said to have lamented that he kept his word to the turbulent friar who had triumphantly defied him. But Leo X sent orders that the passport should be respected and that the traveller should depart in peace.
Luther at Worms is the most pregnant and momentous fact in our history, and the problem is to know why he so rigidly repelled the advances of the confessor, of the Chancellor of Baden, and the Elector of Treves. Was it simply the compelling logic of Protestantism, or was there some private saltpetre of his own, a programme drawn from his personality and habits of mind? There was no question at issue which had not either been pronounced by him insufficient for separation, or which was not abandoned afterwards, or modified in a Catholic sense by the moderating hand of Melanchthon. That happened to every leading doctrine at Augsburg, at Ratisbon, or at Leipzig. Predestination was dropped. The necessity of good works, the freedom of the will, the hierarchical constitution, the authority of tradition, the seven sacraments, the Latin mass, were admitted. Melanchthon confessed that he held all Roman doctrine, and that there was no difference except as to the celibacy of the clergy and communion under both kinds; the rest was the work of agitators; and he bitterly resented Luther's tyrannical treatment. As Melanchthon had the making of the official statements of doctrine, it would almost appear as if Luther never became a Lutheran. And the truth is that he held one doctrine which he never succeeded in imposing, and which forbade all approach and all endeavours to explain. For he believed that the Pope was anti-Christ. The idea came to him from Lorenzo Valla, whose tract on the Donation was published in 1518 by Hutten. He became convinced almost immediately after writing to Leo that deferential letter which he had agreed upon with Miltitz. It obliged him to force on a breach at Worms. His main objection to the Confession of Augsburg was that this article was excluded from it.
Under the malediction of Church and State, Luther was lost sight of for some months. He was hidden in the Wartburg, the castle of his Elector, above Eisenach, disguised as a country gentleman. He wore a moustache, dined joyously, carried a sword, and shot a buck. Although his abode was unknown, he did not allow things to drift. The Archbishop of Mentz had been a heavy loser by the arrest of his indulgence, and he took advantage of the aggressor's disappearance to issue a new one. He was friendly to Luther, and repressed preaching against him; and the Elector of Saxony ordered that the controversy should not be revived. Luther replied that he would destroy the Elector rather than obey him; the Thesis had been posted in vain, and the spirit of Tetzel was abroad once more; he gave the Archbishop a fortnight, after which he would let the world see the difference between a bishop and a wolf. The prelate gave way, and having arrested one of his priests, who had married, he consented, at the reformer's request, to release him.
The most important result of the stay at the Wartburg was the translation of the New Testament, which was begun towards the end of the year, and was completed in about three months. There were already eighteen German Bibles, and he knew some of them, for a particular blunder is copied from an edition of 1466. All those that I have seen, and I have seen nearly all in Dr. Ginsburg's collection, are unwieldy folios. Luther's translation was published at a florin and a half, and may now be had for sixty guineas. It was reprinted eighty-five times in eleven years. The text as we know it was revised by his friends twenty years later. It was his appeal to the masses, and removed the controversy from the Church and the school to the market-place. The language had to be modified for the people of the South, and almost rewritten for the North; but it ended by impressing central German as the normal type for the whole country. It was the first translation from the Greek, and it was the work of the greatest master of German.
During the eclipse at the Wartburg Leo X was succeeded by Adrian of Utrecht, the Regent of Spain, a man of learning and devout life, who proceeded to reverse his predecessor's policy. He addressed a Brief to the Diet at Nuremberg, saying that of all those in authority at Rome none were without reproach, and the evils from which the Church was suffering had been caused and propagated by the papal court. To this memorable exhibition of integrity his envoy added that Luther deserved to be idolised if he had been content with the exposure of abuses, and that the real offender was Leo X. This change of front removed the charge from the outer branch to the centre. Luther had been hitting the wrong man. It was now avowed that the transgressor was not an obscure itinerant, but the sovereign pontiff himself, and that Luther's adversaries were in the wrong. Adrian had been Grand Inquisitor in four kingdoms, and he moderated expectation by inviting the Germans to be worthy of the illustrious example set by their ancestors, who burnt John Hus and Jerome of Prague. Therefore Erasmus, when summoned to Rome to advise with him, declined to come. "If they were going to shed blood," he said, "he would not be wanted."
When, at the end of a year, Luther came out of his retirement, he found that the world had changed. The seed that he had scattered was coming up with variations. His own Saxon neighbours, led by Carlstadt, were disposed to ride favourite opinions to death, with the exaggeration and exclusiveness of enthusiasts. In Switzerland, Zwingli held doctrines differing widely from his own, with a republican and aggressive spirit that was hateful to him. The Anabaptists started from his impulse, but in their earnest striving after holiness adopted principles which involved a distinct reaction towards medieval religion, and carried the multitude away. Near the Swiss frontier, Zurich encouraged an agitation among the country people, that was fomented by Lutheran and Anabaptist teachers, and broke out soon after into anticipations of 1789. Luther turned from the foe beyond the mountains to the foe within the gates, and employed himself thenceforward in repressing misconceptions of his system to men who were in some sense his disciples. Against Rome the tide was manifestly rising. The danger was on his own side. This is variously called the reversal of original principle, the great surrender, the breach between Reformation and Revolution. Luther was acquiring caution and restraint. The creative period of the Reformation was over. All the ideas by which he so deeply moved the world had been produced in the first five years. Beyond the elementary notions that govern life, he lost interest in the further pursuit of theology. "Abraham," he said, "had faith; therefore Abraham was a good Christian." What else there might be in Christianity mattered less; and nearly all metaphysical inquiry, even on the Trinity, was neglected by the German reformers.
It is the extremity of his Conservatism that has put him wrong, even with those who regard politics as quite distinct from ethics. He defended Passive Obedience; he claimed to be the inventor of Divine Right; and the constitution of the Lutheran Churches contributed even more than the revival of the Civil Law to establish the absolute sovereignty of States. He proclaimed religious liberty, believing that Rome had never persecuted; then he denounced Jews and Anabaptists, and required that there should never be two religions in the same place. He denounced the ruling classes in his country with extreme violence; but when the peasants rose, with their just and reasonable demands, and threatened Saxony, he issued a tract insisting that they should be cut to pieces. He valued the royal prerogative so highly that he made it include polygamy. He advised Henry VIII that the right way out of his perplexity was to marry a second wife without repudiating the first. And when the Landgrave Philip asked for leave to do the same thing, Luther gave it on condition that it was denied. He insisted on what he called a downright lie. The great fact which we have to recognise is that with all the intensity of his passion for authority he did more than any single man to make modern History the development of revolution.
The Humanists had generally supported Luther almost from the beginning, and Melanchthon, the young Professor of Greek, proved his most useful coadjutor. They applauded his attack on abuses, and on the treatment of Germany by Rome; and it was believed that the Renaissance prepared the Reformation, that Luther had only hatched the Erasmian egg. When the salient points of his system appeared, they began to fall away from him. Nearly all the older men among the leaders died in the Roman communion—Reuchlin, Wimpheling, Mutianus Rufus, Pirkheimer, Zasius, the best jurist in Germany, and Crotus, who wrote the Epistolae Obscurorum Virorum. They were urging the mind of man along all the paths of light open to its effort, and they found the exclusiveness of the new interests an impediment to letters. Younger men remained true to the movement; but when Erasmus defended, as he had always done, the doctrine of free-will, even Melanchthon was convinced, and imputed to his friend and master the fatalism of the Stoics. Like Fisher and More in England, many of Luther's German opponents, such as Eck and Cochlaeus, were men of the Renaissance. The breach with Erasmus, the quarrel with Zwingli and his friends in the south-west, the irruption of the Anabaptists, the dispute with Carlstadt, the sacrifice of Luther's popularity among the masses, by his attack on the peasants, produced a recoil. Many of the regular clergy went over, and many towns; but the princes and the common people were uncertain. Therefore the Catholic party gained ground at the Diet of Spires in 1529. They carried measures to prevent any further progress of the Lutherans, and it was against this restriction that certain princes and fourteen towns made the protest from which Protestantism has its name.
In the following year Melanchthon drew up the Confession of Faith for the Diet of Augsburg, while Luther remained behind at the castle of Coburg; his purpose was to explain the essential meaning of Lutheranism, the consecutive order and connection of ideas, so as to exclude the Zwinglians and the Anabaptists, and to reconcile the Catholics. He came to an understanding with the Emperor's secretary, and Stadion, the Bishop of Augsburg, judged that his proposals were acceptable, and thought his own people blind not to coalesce with him. "We are agreed," said the Provost of Coire, "on all the articles of faith." But the divines, interested in the recovery of Church property, would not yield, and their violence had to be restrained by the Emperor. He was a very different personage from the one who had presided at Worms, for he was master now of one-half of Europe, with faculties ripened by a unique experience of affairs. When the Legate Campeggio, the Campeggio of Shakespeare and Blackfriars, exhorted him to punish the heretics with scourges of iron, he replied, "Not iron, but fire." Afterwards he said that they had been represented as worse than devils; but his confessor had told him to see whether they contradicted the Apostles' Creed, and he found that they were no devils at all, and did not dispute any article of faith. This confessor was Cardinal Loaysa, Archbishop of Seville. We possess the letters which he wrote from Rome at the time, entreating Charles to come to terms with the Protestants, and leave them to their religion, provided they were faithful to him. Loaysa even had an auxiliary in Pope Clement, who recommended ways of gentleness, and wished Charles to appear in Germany without an army. The conclusion was a truce until a Council was held—a temporary success for the Protestants, with a prospect of renewed peril, but no concession of principle.
With the Diet of Augsburg the divines ceased to be the leaders of the nation. They had played their part when they produced an accepted statement of their doctrine in its substance, apart from persons and policy. They had displayed energy and moderation, but had shown no power of governing the churches they had founded. They fell into the background, and made way for lay politicians. Questions of fundamental principle disappeared, and questions of management prevailed. Things became less spontaneous and less tumultuous as action was guided by statesmen; and, in defiance of Luther, the governments assumed the direction of affairs, and formed the League of Schmalkalden for the defence of Protestant interests. They were preparing for civil war, and now by degrees most of the German princes went over.
THE REFORMATION was extended and established without arousing any strong reaction among Catholics, or inspiring them with a policy. Under the influence of secular interests, profane literature and art, it was a time of slackness in spiritual life. Religious men, like the Cardinals Egidius, Carvajal, and Campeggio, knew, and acknowledged, and deplored, as sincerely as Adrian VI, the growing defects of the ill-governed Church; and at each Conclave the whole of the Sacred College bound itself by capitulations under oath to put an effective check on the excesses of the court of Rome. But at the Lateran Council the same men who had imposed on Leo the obligation to revoke the indulgences suffered them to be renewed; and those who held the language of Erasmus were confronted by a resisting body of officials for whom reform was ruin. Rome flourished on money obtained from the nations in return for ecclesiastical treasures, for promotion and patronage, for indulgences and dispensations. With the loss of Germany the sources of revenue that remained became more necessary; and it was certain that they would be damaged by reform. Chieregato, the bishop who carried to the Diet of Nuremberg that message from Adrian VI of which I spoke in the last lecture, related in his Memoirs that there was a disposition at one moment to take Luther very seriously, and to avert peril by making the changes he suggested, but that it was decided to repel the attack. There is no other authority for the story, and we only know of it through Father Paul, whom Macaulay admired as the best modern historian. There is a book attributed to Father Paul in which the use of poison is recommended to the Venetian government. We cannot take our history out of Newgate, and until his authorship is disproved his solitary testimony is insufficient.
While Clement VII lived, of whom Sadolet said that he did not renounce his good intention of reforming society, but only postponed it, the idealists who aspired after a regenerated Catholicism never found their opportunity. In 1534 he was succeeded by Paul III, Farnese, a stronger if not a better man, and the change was quickly felt. The new pontiff offered a red hat to Erasmus, to Reginald Pole, who was admired by the Italians, and was supposed to have a future before him in England, being sprung from a royal stock; to Sadolet and Cortese, and to Contarini, the finest character of them all. He appointed a Commission, chiefly consisting of these men, to advise as to things that wanted mending; and besides their report, he received from Contarini himself private communications on the same engrossing topic. In 1541 Paul sent Contarini as his Legate to Ratisbon, where he held the famous Peace Conference with Melanchthon. The reformers of the Renaissance seemed about to prevail, and to possess the ear of the Pontiff. Their common policy was reduction of prerogative, concession in discipline, conciliation in doctrine; and it involved the reversal of an established system. As they became powerful, and their purpose clear, another group detached itself from them, under the flag of No Surrender, and the division of opinion which had been already apparent between Cajetan and Miltitz, between the friends of Erasmus and Reuchlin, and their detractors, burst into open conflict. To men trained in the thought of the Middle Ages, with the clergy above the laity and the Pope above the king, the party that aimed at internal improvement by means the exact opposite of those which had preserved the Church in the past, were feckless enthusiasts. They reverted to the old tradition of indefeasible authority wielding irresistible force; and in the person of Caraffa, Bishop of Chieti, afterwards Archbishop of Naples, cardinal, and Pope, under the name of Paul IV, they now came to the front. It was reported from Ratisbon that the Catholic negotiation, with the Legate Contarini at their head, had accepted the Lutheran doctrine of justification. Pole wrote, in his enthusiasm, that it was a truth long suppressed by the Church, now at length brought to light by his friend. Another friend of Pole, Flaminio, helped to write a book in its defence, which appeared in 1542, and of which 60,000 copies were sold immediately—indicating a popularity which no work of Luther or Erasmus had ever attained. This was the famous volume on the Benefit of the Death of Christ, which was supposed to have perished, said Macaulay, as hopelessly as the Second Decade of Livy, until it was discovered in a Cambridge library, and republished in my recollection.
Now it was these men, Pole, Contarini, and their friends Cortese and Sadolet, who dominated in the Sacred College, occupied high places, and helped to govern the policy of Rome. There were nests of Lutherans at Modena, Naples, and elsewhere; but nobody in those days knew the force of multitudes; a few cardinals caused greater alarm than all the readers of the Benefizio, and it soon appeared that the general of the Capuchins, the Bishop of Capo d'Istria, the Bishop of Modena and Nuncio in Germany, inclined the same way as the suspected cardinals. The most eminent men of the Italian clergy were steering for Wittenberg, and taking Rome with them. An uncle of the Duke of Alva, the cardinal of Sant Iago, thereupon suggested to Caraffa that the best way to save the Church was to introduce the Spanish Inquisition; and he was seconded by another Spaniard, a Basque of great note in history, of whom there will be more to tell. Caraffa, who had been Nuncio in Spain, took up the idea, urged it upon the Pope, and succeeded. What he obtained was nothing new; it belonged to the thirteenth century, and it had been the result of two forces powerful at the time, the Crusades and the belief in witchcraft.
When the first warlike pilgrims started for Palestine at the end of the eleventh century, it occurred to some of them that without toiling so far they could find enemies of Christ, as bad as the Saracens, close at hand. So they fell upon the Jews in the north of France, along the Rhine and the Danube, and murdered them as they passed. This was done at a moment of religious fervour. And when it became known, in the same region, that there were heretics, the same cause produced the same effects, and the clergy were not always able to save them from the wrath of the populace. The many sects known by the name of Albigenses were Gnostics; but they were better known as Manichees, for the Roman law was severe on Manichees, who were dualists, and by a dualist they meant a worshipper of the devil. Sorcery had not become epidemic and sectarian, but it was suspected occasionally in the twelfth century. We know at the present day to what horrible and loathsome rites Madame de Montespan submitted for the sake of love and hatred. That was done in the most refined and enlightened court in Europe, in the best days of the French intellect, in the home of Bossuet and Racine. It is not difficult to imagine what was believed and what was attempted in ignorant and criminal classes five centuries earlier. Now a witch was, by the hypothesis, a worshipper of the devil, and the dualists fell under the same suspicion of propitiation by sin. It was impossible to exterminate them too quickly, or to devise torments worse than they deserved.
That was the situation towards the middle of the twelfth century. There was a practice which the clergy desired to restrain, and which they attempted to organise. We see by their writings that they believed in many horrible imputations. As time went on, it appeared that much of this was fable. But it also became known that it was not all fabulous, and that the Albigensian creed culminated in what was known as the Endura, which was in reality suicide. It was the object of the Inquisition that such people should not indeed be spared, but should not perish without a trial and without opportunity of resipiscence, so that they might save their souls if not their lives. Its founders could claim to act from motives both of mercy and of justice against members of a satanic association. And it was not against error or noncomformity simply, but against criminal error erected into a system, that the Inquisitors forged their terrific armoury. In the latter half of the fifteenth century their work was done and their occupation gone. The dread tribunal lapsed into obscurity. Therefore, when the Spaniards demanded to have it for the coercion of the Jews, they asked for what was dormant, but not abolished. It was a revival rather than a creation. And it was for a specifically Spanish purpose. At Rome there were no Moors, and they did not oppress the Jews. Even those who, having passed for Christians, went back to their own faith, were permitted to do so by Clement VII. Against such backsliding the Council of Toledo, under the Gothic kings, had decreed the severest penalties, anticipating Ferdinand and Isabella, or rather Torquemada and Ximenes, by eight hundred years. Founded on the ancient lines, the Spanish Inquisition was modified in the interest of the Crown, and became an important attribute of absolutism.
When the Holy Office for the universal Church was set up in Rome in 1542, it was in many respects distinct both from the first medieval type and from the later Spanish type. In the Middle Ages the headquarters were in the south of France, and the legislation was carried out by Councils at Toulouse, Narbonne, and Beziers. The Popes controlled them through their legates, and issued their own orders to the Dominicans. But it was not one of the institutions of the Court of Rome, and did not always act in harmony with it. It now became part of the Roman machinery and an element of centralisation. A supreme body of cardinals governed it with the Pope at their head. The medieval theory was that the Church condemned, and the State executed, priests having nothing to do with punishment, and requesting that it might not be excessive. This distinction fell away, and the clergy had to conquer their horror of bloodshed. The delinquent was tried by the Pope as ruler of the Church, and burnt by the Pope as ruler of the State. Consequently, this is the genuine and official Inquisition, not that of the Middle Ages, which was only partly in the hands of Rome; not that of Spain, which was founded but not governed by Rome, and for the developments of which the Papacy is not directly responsible.
Originally the business of the Inquisitor was to exterminate. The Albigenses delighted in death, and they were disappointed when it was put off. But now it was directed against opinions not very clearly understood or firmly held, that often resembled a reformed Catholicism more than Protestantism. The number of victims was smaller. At Venice, where the Holy Office had a branch, there were 1562 trials in the sixteenth century, 1469 in the seventeenth, 541 in the eighteenth. But executions were frequent only in Rome. There, in many recorded cases, the victim was strangled before burning. It is doubtful whether death by fire was adopted as the most cruel; for boiling had been tried at Utrecht, and the sight was so awful that the bishop who was present stopped the proceedings. Roman experts regard it as a distinctive mark of the new tribunal that it allowed culprits who could not be caught and punished in the proper way, to be killed without ceremony by anybody who met them. This practice was not unprecedented, but it had fallen into disuse with the rest during the profane Renaissance, and its revival was a portentous event, for it prompted the frequent murders and massacres which stain the story of the Counter-Reformation with crimes committed for the love of God. The laws have not been repealed, but the system continued in its force for no more than a century; and before the death of Urban VIII the fires of Rome were quenched. At that time persecution unto death was not extinct in England; the last instance in France was in 1762, and in Spain still later. The immediate objects were obtained in the first thirty years. The Reformation in Italy had by that time come to an end, and the Popes had been supplied with an instrument that enabled them to control the Council of Trent. Its action did not extend to other countries.
Next to the Inquisition, the second of the several measures by which central organs were created for the Counter-Reformation is the establishment of new orders. The old ones were manifestly ineffective. The Augustinians produced Luther. The Dominicans had done still worse, for they produced the adversaries of Luther. The learning of the Benedictines was useless for the purpose of the day, and they were not organised for combat. A rich and varied growth of new religious orders was the consequence. The first were the Theatines, then the Capuchins, who were remodelled Franciscans, adapted to the need of the time; then the Barnabites, the Oratorians, and others. Caraffa was the most influential of the Theatines, though not their founder; and he gave them their name, for he was Bishop of Chieti, in Latin Theate. He did more for another institution than for his own, for it was he who brought forward the extraordinary man in whom the spirit of the Catholic reaction is incorporated. At Venice he found a group of young men, most of them Spaniards, all of them seekers after perfection, united otherwise in a somewhat vague design of visiting the Holy Land. Their leader, Ignatius Loyola, at that time an enthusiast, later on a calculator and organiser of the first class, was the same man who helped to transplant to Rome the Inquisition of his own country. As they waited in vain for a passage, Carana advised them that their true destination was Rome, where they would be more useful with Protestants than with the heathen; and thus, by his intervention, the Society was founded which eclipsed his own.
Here at last the Catholics acquired a leader who was a man of original genius, and who grasped the whole, or nearly the whole, situation. The Papacy had let things go to ruin; he undertook to save the Church through the Papacy. The ship, tossed in a hurricane, could only be rescued by absolute obedience to the word of command. He called his order the Company of Jesus, making it the perpetual militia of the Holy See for the restoration of authority; and he governed it not only with military discipline, but with a system of supervision and counter-checks which are his chief discovery. The worst crime of the Jesuits, says Helvetius, was the excellence of their government. Nothing had done more to aid the Reformation than the decline and insufficiency of the secular clergy. By raising up a body of virtuous, educated, and active priests, the Jesuits met that argument. The theological difference remained, and they dealt with it through the best controversialists. And when their polemics failed, they strove, as pamphleteers, and as the confessors of the great, to resist the Protestants with the arm of the flesh. For the multitudes that had never heard the Catholic case stated, they trained the most eloquent school of modern preachers. For security in the coming generation, they established successful colleges, chiefly for the study of good silver Latin, and they frequented the towns more than the country, and the rich more than the poor. Thus, while they pursued their original purpose as missionaries to the heathen, almost civilising South America, and almost converting China, they kept their forces gathered for the repulse of Protestantism. They so identified their order and the Church itself with the struggle for existence in Europe, that they were full of the same spirit long after the Counter-Reformation was spent and the permanent line of frontier laid down in the Thirty Years' War, and were busy with the same policy down to the Revocation and the suppression of Port Royal in France, and longer still in Poland.
St. Ignatius directed his disciples according to the maxim that more prudence and less piety is better than more piety and less prudence. His main desire was that they should always act together, presenting a united front, without a rift or a variation. He suppressed independence of mind, discouraged original thinking and unrestrained research, recommended commonly accepted opinions, and required all to hold without question the theology of St. Thomas. The training he imposed made ordinary men very much alike. And this is the mistake we have to guard against in considering the Jesuits. The intended unity never was enforced when the order became numerous and was joined by many able men. There arose so great a wealth of talent that it was followed by variety in ideas among them, such as the founder never contemplated. Their general, Aquaviva, forbade every opinion that contradicts St. Thomas. There could be no question whether it was true or false, and no other test of truth than conformity with his teaching. Yet Molina taught, in regard to grace, a doctrine very different from Thomism, and was followed by the bulk of his order. They were expected to think well of their rule and their rulers; but the most perspicacious exposure of what he called the infirmities of the company was composed by Mariana. Jesuits were by profession advocates of submission to authority; but the Jesuit Sarasa preceded Butler in proclaiming the infallibility of conscience. No other Society was so remarkable for internal discipline; but there were glaring exceptions. Caussin, confessor to Lewis XIII, opposed the policy of his superiors, and was dismissed by them. And when the general required works on theology to be revised at Rome, before publication, he was told that Father Gretser of Ingolstadt would never consent. They were all absorbed in the conflict with the Protestants; but when the idea of reunion arose, late in the seventeenth century, there were Jesuits, such as Masenius, one of those who anticipated Paradise Lost, who wrote in favour of it.
As trials for witchcraft were promoted by Rome, the Jesuits, especially Del Rio, defended them. But it was another Jesuit, Spec, who broke the back of the custom, though he had to publish his book anonymously and in a Protestant town. They were, of necessity, friends of persecution, though one of them, Faure, said that he knew of 6000 heretics put to death, and doubted if one of them had renounced his belief. Belief in system, and in an accepted system, was an essential laid down in their constitutions. But it was Father Petavius who first described the evolution of dogma, and cast every system into the melting-pot of History. Under the name of probabilism, the majority adopted a theory of morals that made salvation easy, partly as confessors of the great, that they might retain their penitents; partly as subject to superiors, that they might not scruple to obey in dubious cases; and partly as defenders of the irrevocable past, that they might be lenient judges. Nevertheless, the opposition was never silenced, and one general of the order wrote against its most conspicuous and characteristic doctrine.
The order was, from the first, ultramontane, in the old meaning of the term. But its members in France consented to sign their names to Gallican propositions as the custom of the country, not as truth. They were ultramontanes in the other sense of the word, as conservatives, advocates of authority and submission, opponents of insubordination and resistance. Accordingly, they became the habitual confessors of absolute monarchs, in Austria, and in France under the Bourbons, and were intimately associated with great conservative forces of society. At the same time they were required to be disciples of St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Thomas had a very large element of political liberalism. He believed in the Higher Law, in conditional allegiance, in the illegitimacy of all governments that do not act in the interest of the commonwealth. This was convenient doctrine in the endeavour to repress the forces of Protestantism, and for a time the Jesuits were revolutionists. The ideas of 1688, of 1776, of 1789 prevail among them from the wars of religion to about 1620. In some of the medieval writers revolution included tyrannicide. It began to be taught in the twelfth century, and became popular in the sixteenth. The Jesuits adopted the doctrine at one time, and in such numbers that one of them, Keller, in 1611, says he knows hardly three who were opposed to it. A hundred years later this was deplored as a melancholy deviation by D'Avrigny and other fathers of the Society.
The Society of Jesus is the second in the enumeration of the forces that produced and directed the great historic movement that we call the Counter-Reformation. The third is the Council of Trent. The idea arose very early that the only way to find a remedy for those things of which Protestants complained was to hold a general Council, and it was very earnestly desired by the Emperor. Fifteenth-century divines believed that all things would go well if Councils were constantly held. But the Popes were against it from the first, and at the last the Protestants also. It was to be an assembly from which they were excluded, and their interests were to be debated and decided by men whose function it now avowedly was to take their lives. The Duke of Wurtemberg marvelled at the unhindered presence of Cardinal Farnese in Germany, as a man of blood. The original purpose, therefore, was lost beforehand. The Council did not tend to reconcile, but to confirm, separation. It met in 1545, and ended in 1563, having been interrupted by two long intervals. Questions of doctrine were considered at the beginning, questions of reform chiefly at the end. Pole, who was one of the presiding legates, proposed that they should open the proceedings with a full confession of failings and of repentance on the part of Rome. Then the others would follow. The policy of his colleagues, on the contrary, was to postpone all inquiry into internal defects, and to repel the Protestant aggression. Therefore, the doctrines at issue were defined. Many things were settled which had remained open, and no attempt was made to meet the Protestant demand. Pole, who had hailed the compromise of Ratisbon, spoke with the grace and moderation that were in his character. At the next Conclave he was so near obtaining a majority of votes that the cardinals bowed to him as they passed before his place, and Pole, ignorant of the force at work against him, put on paper what he meant to say by way of thanks. But Caraffa reminded them that he had spoken as a Lutheran during the Council, and he replied that he had put the argument for the sake of discussion only, that Protestants might not say that they had been condemned undefended. The feud continued, and when Pole was legate in England, Caraffa, who was then Pope, recalled him in disgrace, appointing Peto as his successor; and he sent his friend, Cardinal Morone, to the prison of the Inquisition. The effect of these rigours was that Pole, whose friends in Italy were men afterwards burnt by the Holy Office, sent poor people to the flames at Canterbury when he knew that the reign of Mary was nearing its end; and Morone, the colleague of Contarini at Ratisbon, and an admirer of the "Benefizio," having been rescued from prison by the mob, who tore it down at the death of Caraffa, wound up the Council, obedient to orders from Rome, under his successor.
A more persuasive means of expressing opposition was money. When a divine appeared at Trent, the legates, or Visconti, the agent of the Cardinal nephew, decided whether he was to receive payment for his prospective services. Even the Cardinal of Lorraine, the head of the Gallican party, and one of the first men in Europe, gave way for a considerable sum. Father Paul, in a very famous work, describes the Council as a scene of intrigue in which the good intentions of virtuous prelates were thwarted by the artifices of Rome. If the bulk of virtuous prelates resembled Pole and Lorraine, we cannot say much for the strength of their good intentions. Some remedies were, however, applied, and the state of the clergy was improved. On the whole, the reforms were regarded by the government as a disappointing result of so much promise and so much effort.
The Council instituted the index of prohibited books, which is the fourth article in the machinery of resistance. At first, the new power of the press was treated with large indulgence. This was changed by the Reformation, and far more by the organised reaction against it. Books were suppressed by the State, by the clergy, and by the universities. In 1531 the Bishop of London prohibited thirty books at St. Paul's Cross, as well as all other suspect works existing, and to be hereafter written. Vienna, Paris, Venice, followed the example. In 1551, certain books enumerated by the university of Louvain were forbidden by Charles V under pain of death. A German divine warned the Pope that if the fathers of Trent were allowed to read Lutheran books they would become Lutherans themselves, and such writings were accordingly forbidden even to cardinals and archbishops. The idea of drawing up a comprehensive list of all that no man should read commended itself to the zeal of Caraffa, having been suggested to him by Della Casa, who had published such a list at Venice. He issued the first Roman index, which, under his successor, who was not his friend, was denounced at the Council of Trent as a bad piece of work, and became so rare that I have never seen a copy. It was proposed that a revised edition should be prepared, and in spite of protests from those who had assisted the late Pontiff, and of the Spaniards, who saw the province of their Inquisition invaded, the thing was done, and what was called the Tridentine Index appeared at Rome in 1564. It alludes only in one place to the work which it superseded. A congregation was appointed to examine new publications, to issue decrees against them as required, and to make out catalogues from time to time of works so condemned. Besides this, censures were also pronounced by the Pope himself, the Inquisition, the Master of the Sacred Palace, and the Secretary of the Index, separately. In this way an attempt was made to control what people read, committing to oblivion works of Protestant scholars, and of such men as Machiavelli, and correcting offensive texts, especially historians. Several such corrected editions were published at the time, and many things were reprinted with large omissions. But no Index Expurgatorius, no notification of what called for modification, was ever published by Rome, officially; and when we use the term, we are thinking of Spain, where it grew into a custom. The best way to suppress a book is to burn it, and there were, accordingly, frequent bonfires of peccant literature. One man, Konias, is said to have thus destroyed 60,000 books, principally Bohemian. Freedom of speech and sincerity of history were abolished for many years.
In connection with this repressive policy, and as its counterpart, a scheme ripened to place Rome, with its libraries, its archives, its incomparable opportunities of gathering contributory aid from every quarter of the Church, at the head of ecclesiastical literature. The Calendar was reformed. The text of the Canon Law was corrected. The Latin Vulgate was revised by Pope Sixtus himself, and every further attempt to improve it was energetically put down. Collections of councils and editions of Fathers were projected, and Baronius, of the Oratory, began the greatest history of the Church ever written, and carried it down to the eleventh folio volume.
In this manner the foundations were laid of that later scholarship, that matured and completed Renaissance, by which the Catholics recovered much of the intellectual influence that had passed to other hands, and learning assisted policy in undoing the work of the reformers.
The natural and inevitable centre of the movement which is known as the Catholic Reformation, but which, for reasons already indicated, is better called the Counter-Reformation, was Rome. It was an enterprise requiring consistency in the objects aimed at, variety in the means, combination with the Powers and avoidance of rivalry, an authority superior to national obstacles and political limitations. At first the initiative did not reside with the Papacy. Farnese, in whose pontificate the transition occurred from the religion of Erasmus to the religion of Loyola, allowed men to act for him whose spirit differed from his own. He long put off the Portuguese demand for a tribunal like the Inquisition of Castile, on the ground that it was a mere scheme of spoliation. With the elevation of Cervini in 1555, reforming or Tridentine Catholicism ascended the papal throne; but he died before his virtues or his talents could avail. Caraffa himself followed. He let the Council drop, saying that no such thing was needed, if governments did their duty. By his lack of control, he pushed things to a breach with the moderate party at home, and with the Habsburgs abroad, and the Roman people threw his statue into the Tiber, in their rejoicings when he died, and released seventy prisoners that he kept in the Inquisition. His nephews, who compromised him and had incurred disgrace in his lifetime, were put to death by his successor. They were the last papal nephews of the old type, angling for principalities and using the Papacy for their own ends. Pius IV, when he closed the Council, strove to do its work by reforms at home. Three modern saints dominated in his time, and effected a conspicuous change in the aspect of Rome. His nephew was Charles Borromeo. St. Philip Neri was the best-known and the best-loved figure in the streets of the city, and Alexandrino governed the Inquisition as an almost independent power. He succeeded, as Pius V, and then the Counter-Reformation was master. Pius was the most austere, the most ardent, the most vehement of men. He incited France to civil war, applauded the methods of Alva, deposed Elizabeth, and by incessant executions strove to maintain public decency and orthodox religion. Protestantism disappeared from Italy in his day, as it had already done in Spain. The Counter-Reformation touched high-water mark with the massacre of St. Bartholomew, a few months after his death.
The quarter of a century from 1564 to the death of Sixtus V in 1590 is the active period of the movement. It begins when the Council, having determined doctrine, dispersed; and it declines when, by the death of Mary Stuart and the flight of the Armada, the Protestant succession was secured in England and Scotland, and the churches acquired their permanent limit.
It may be doubted whether Italian Protestants ever gave promise of vitality. The leaders who escaped were men of original and eccentric thought, who did not combine well with others; and it was they who established the Socinian church in Poland, in defiance of both Lutheran and Calvinist. The Italian movement was crushed by violence. The scene of the authentic Counter-Reformation was central Europe, and especially those countries which were the scene of the Reformation itself, Germany and Austria. There the tide, which with little interruption had flowed for fifty years, was effectually turned back, and regions which were Protestant became Catholic again. There too the means employed were not those prevailing under the crown of Spain. They were weapons supplied and suggested by the Peace of Religion, harmoniously forged by the Lutherans themselves at the Diet of 1555. There was to be no mutual persecution, taking persecution to imply the penalty of death, and a persecutor to mean homicide, in the sense to which Europe was accustomed. No subject, on either side, could be deprived of life or property, could be tortured or imprisoned, or even banished, if there were numbers, for that would be ruinous to the State. Governments were forced to oppress him wisely, depriving him of Church and school, of preacher and schoolmaster; and by those nameless arts with which the rich used to coerce the poor in the good old days, and which, under the name of influence, were not considered altogether infamous by Englishmen in the last generation. When the people had been deprived of their pastors, the children were sent to Catholic schools. Fervent preachers came among them, Jesuits, or it might be Capuchins, widely different in morality, earnestness, education, and eloquence from the parish clergy, whose deficiencies gave such succour to Luther. Most of those who, having no turn for controversy, had been repelled by scandals were easily reconciled. Others, who were conscious of disagreement with the theology of the last thousand years, and were uninfluenced by the secondary and auxiliary motives, had now to face disputants of a more serious type than the adversaries of Luther, and to face them unsupported by experts of their own. Where there had been indifference, ignorance, disorder, in the easy-going days of the Renaissance, there were now the closest concentration of efforts, strict discipline and regularity of life, a better though narrower education, and the most strenuous and effective oratory. Therefore it was by honest conviction as well as by calculated but not illegal coercion that the Reformation was driven back, and Protestants who had been almost the nation became no more than a bare majority. The original spring ran dry, and the expansive force had departed from Lutheranism.
In Austria conditions were of another kind. The country was largely Protestant, and the Emperor, Maximilian II, was not only a friend to toleration, but to Lutheran ideas. Under his auspices a conciliatory, neutral, and unconventional Catholicism came into existence, accepting the doctrinal compromise which had been tendered more than once, discouraging pilgrimages, relics, indulgences, celibacy, and much that had been the occasion of scoffing, an approach to Erasmus, if not to Luther. The outward sign was the restoration of the cup. When his restraining hand was removed, the process of reaction which had done well on the Rhine was extended to the Danube and the Illyrian Alps, with like success. And it was the steady pursuit of this policy in Austria that provoked the Thirty Years' War. In Poland, too, where toleration had been conceded in the avowed expectation that the sects would devour each other, it was exchanged for acts like those I have described. The result of the struggle was that the boundary receded, that a time came of recovery for the Catholics and of decline for the Lutherans in central Europe, and that the distribution has remained practically unchanged. The only example of a country becoming Protestant since then occurred when the principles of the Counter-Reformation, applied by Alva, drove the Netherlands into revolt, and changed the Reformation into revolution. The great and rapid victories of the sixteenth century were gained over the unreformed and disorganised Catholicism of the Renaissance, not over the Church which had been renovated at Trent. Rome, with a contested authority and a contracted sphere, developed greater energy, resource, and power than when it exercised undivided sway over Christendom in the West. The recovery was accomplished by violence, and was due to the advent of men who did not shrink from blood in place of the gracious idealists for whom Luther and Calvin were too strong.
CALVIN AND HENRY VIII
FOR NEARLY thirty years Charles V suffered the Reformation to run its course in Germany, against his will, and without admitting the principle of toleration. He did not resign the hope that unity would be restored by a Council which should effectually reform the Church and reconcile Protestants; and there was no prospect of such a consummation unless by the necessity which they created. Therefore, without ceasing to be intolerant in his other dominions, he was content to wait. At length, in 1545, the Council assembled at Trent and dealt with the chief dogmas at issue. Then, when the decrees did not satisfy the Lutherans, the Emperor combined with the Pope to coerce them. A large contingent of papal troops crossed the Alps in 1547, and were met by the Lutheran forces on the Danube. The Protestant League was divided; some of its members, true to the doctrine of non-resistance, remained away; and one of the Saxon princes, Maurice, invaded Saxony, on a promise that he should succeed to the electorate. The Elector hurried back to his own country, the muster on the Danube was broken up, and the Italians gained a decisive victory over the Germans at Muhlberg on the Elbe. Maurice obtained the reward, and being then, by virtue of his new dignity, the chief of the Protestants, turned against the law by which the Emperor, after his victory, attempted to regulate the affairs of religion. He secured the help of France by the surrender of a part of Lorraine, which Moltke did not entirely recover, and, attacking the Emperor when he was not prepared, brought him to terms.
At Augsburg, in 1555, peace was concluded between the religions, and continued until the Thirty Years' War. It abolished the faggot and the stake. The Catholics gained nothing by this, for no Lutherans had thought that it could be lawful to put people of the old religion to death. The Lutherans obtained security that they should not be persecuted. On the other hand, it was agreed that if any territorial prelate seceded, he should forfeit the temporal power which he enjoyed by right of his ecclesiastical dignity. So that the ecclesiastical territories, which composed a large part of Germany, from Salzburg to the Black Forest, and then all down the valley of the Rhine to Liege and Munster, were to be preserved intact. No security whatever was obtained for Protestants outside the Confession of Augsburg. The Lutherans negotiated only for themselves. And no real security was given to the subject. He was not to be punished for his nonconformity, but he might be banished and compelled to pass to the nearest territory of his own persuasion. As these were very near, generally, the suffering was less than it would have been in other countries. Under that condition, the civil power could, if it chose, enforce the unity of religion.
These enactments were an immense advance, practically, but they did not involve the liberty of conscience. The absolute right of the State to determine the religion it professed was not disputed, but it was tempered by the right of emigration. No man could be compelled to change, but he might be compelled to go. State absolutism was unlimited over all who chose to keep their home within the precincts. There was no progress in point of principle. The Christian might have to depart, while the Jew remained. No Protestant could complain if he was expelled from Cologne; no Catholic if he could not have his domicile at Leipzig. The intolerance and fierceness of the Germans found relief in the wholesale burning of witches.
Charles V would have nothing to do with these innovations. He left it all to his brother Ferdinand, King of Bohemia and Hungary, who was more elastic and pliable than himself. With the Turk over the border, he could not exist without the goodwill of both parties; and he desired the vote of Lutheran electors to make him emperor. He had no Inquisition in one part of his dominions contradicting and condemning toleration in the rest. He was an earnest promoter of reform in the shape of concession. The embers of Hussitism were not extinct in the region of which Bohemia was the centre. Ferdinand had that as well as Lutheranism to contend with, and he desired to avert peril by allowing priests to marry and laymen to receive the cup. That is to say, he desired to surrender the two points for which the Church had struggled successfully against the State in the eleventh century, against the Bohemians in the fifteenth. His conciliatory policy was assisted by the moderation of the Archbishop of Mentz. At Rome they said that the empire was divided between Christ and the devil. But the Pope, advised by Jesuits, made no protest.
Ferdinand had so regulated things in his brother's interest, that the measure did not include the Netherlands. The laws which afterwards produced the revolt were not invalid by the Peace of Religion, and the victims of Alva had no right to appeal to it. Charles V did not choose to surrender that which alone gave unity to his complicated empire. The German princes were allowed to have subjects of one religion only. That prerogative was denied to the Emperor. The imperial dignity, in its ideal character as the appointed defender and advocate of the universal Church, existed no longer. A monarch reigning over Catholic and Protestant alike was an inferior representative of unity and authority, and a poor copy of Charlemagne. There was no obvious reason for his existence. It was an intolerable hypocrisy to be the friend of Protestants where they were too strong, and to burn them where they were weak. The work of his life was undone. In more than thirty years of effort he had neither reconciled the Protestants nor reformed the Church. The settlement of the Reformation was an acknowledgment of defeat, and the result of his career was that religious division had become the law of his empire. Therefore, when the Peace of Religion was concluded, Charles V laid down the sceptre. The new empire, based on religious equality, he gave to his brother. It was only by detaching it from his hereditary dominions that he could reconstruct what had crumbled to pieces in his hands. Then he rebuilt the great conservative and Catholic monarchy for his son, assigning to him Spain, Naples, Milan, the Netherlands, the Indies, England, and the supreme protectorate of Rome. The mixed possessions went to Ferdinand. The boundless empire, based on the principle of unity, and the championship of the Catholic Church all the world over, was for Philip II. All that was his, to keep or to resign. All that he chose to resign. For with his prodigious good fortune, his inheritance of greatness, his unexampled experience of complex affairs, his opportunities for having at his elbow the best talent in the world, his admirably prudent and moderate temper, Charles V broke down over the problem of the Reformation, as we shall see that the Counter-Reformation was fatal to his son. And it was in this way that Philip found the lines of his policy laid down for him, before he assumed the crown of Spain, by the conditions under which his father abdicated. The ancient function of the empire passed to him, and the purpose of his vast dominion, the intelligible reason of its apparition among the nations, was to accomplish that in which, under his more gifted father, imperial Germany had failed.
At the date we have reached, soon after the middle of the century, Luther was dead, and the churches of the Confession of Augsburg had reached their full measure of expansion. They predominated in Germany, and still more in Scandinavia; but Luther had not endowed them with institutions, or imparted to them the gift of self-government. In religious ideas, he was inexhaustible; but he was deficient in constructive capacity. The local governments, which were effective, had defended the Reformation and assured its success against the hostility of the central government, which was intermittent and inoperative, and as they afforded the necessary protection, they assumed the uncontested control. Lutheranism is governed not by the spiritual, but by the temporal power, in agreement with the high conception of the State which Luther derived from the long conflict of the Middle Ages. It is the most conservative form of religion, and less liable than any other to collision with the civil authority on which it rests. By its lack of independence and flexibility it was unfitted to succeed where governments were hostile, or to make its way by voluntary effort through the world. Moreover, Luther's vigorous personality has so much in it of the character of his nation, that they are attracted even by his defects—a thing which you can hardly expect to occur elsewhere. Therefore it was in other forms, and under other names, that the Protestant religion spread over Europe. They differed from the original less in their theology, which Luther had completed, than in questions of Church government, which he abandoned to others.
Apart from the sects, which are of the first importance, but whose story belongs to the Puritan Revolution and to the following century, two other systems arose at the time, one in Switzerland, the other in England. The general result of what happened when the Reformation, ceasing to be national, became European, was that it prevailed in the north, that it miscarried in the south, that it divided and agitated the centre. Switzerland was divided, the towns becoming Protestant on the Zwinglian type, the country people remaining Catholic, especially in the central cantons. The chief towns, Berne and Bale, imitated the example of Zurich, where Zwingli committed the government of the Church to the authorities that governed the State, differing from the Lutherans in this, that Zwinglianism was republican and revolutionary. In Germany, where the organisation was defective, there was little discipline or control. In Switzerland there was a more perfect order, at the price of subjection to the secular authority. Those were the rocks ahead; that was the condition of the Protestant churches, when a man arose amongst them with a genius for organisation, a strong sense of social discipline, and a profound belief in ecclesiastical authority.