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    Chapter 5

    The Hierarchy and Rationalism—The Two Peasants’ Sons—Eck and Luther begin—The head of the Church—Primacy of Rome—Equality of Bishops—Peter the Foundation-stone—Christ the Corner-stone—Eck insinuates that Luther is a Hussite—Luther on the Doctrine of Huss—Agitation among the Hearers—The Word alone—The Court-fool—Luther at Mass—Saying of the Duke—Purgatory—Close of the Discussion

    On the 4th of July the discussion between Eck and Luther commenced. Everything seemed to promise that it would be more violent, more decisive, and more interesting than that which had just concluded, and which had gradually thinned the hall. The two combatants entered the arena resolved not to lay down their arms until victory declared its favor of one or the other. The general expectation was aroused, for the papal primacy was to be the subject of discussion. Christianity has two great adversaries: hierarchism and rationalism. Rationalism, in its application to the doctrine of man’s ability, had been attacked by the reformers in the previous part of the Leipsic disputation. Hierarchism, considered in what is at once its summit and its base,—the doctrine of papal authority,—was to be contested in the second. On the one side appeared Eck, the champion of the established religion, vaunting of the discussion he had maintained, as a general boasts of his campaigns. On the other side advanced Luther, who seemed destined to reap persecution and ignominy from this struggle, but who still presented himself with a good conscience, a firm resolution to sacrifice everything in the cause of truth, and an assurance grounded in faith in God, and in the deliverance He grants to all who trust in Him. New convictions had sunk deep into his soul; they were not as yet arranged into a system; but in the heat of the combat they flashed forth like lightning. Serious and daring, he showed a resolution that made light of every obstacle. On his features might be seen the traces of the storms his soul had encountered, and the courage with which he was prepared to meet fresh tempests. These combatants, both sons of peasants, and the representatives of the two tendencies that still divide Christendom, were about to enter upon a contest on which depended, in great measure the future prospects of the State and of the Church.HRSCV2 170.5

    At seven in the morning the two disputants were in their pulpits, surrounded by a numerous and attentive assembly.HRSCV2 171.1

    Luther stood up, and with a necessary precaution, he said modestly:—HRSCV2 171.2

    “In the name of the Lord, Amen! I declare that the respect I bear to the sovereign pontiff would have prevented my entering upon this discussion, if the excellent Dr. Eck had not dragged me into it.”HRSCV2 171.3

    Eck.—“In thy name, gentle Jesus! before descending into the lists, I protest before you, most noble lords, that all that I may say is in submission to the judgment of the first of all sees, and of him who is its possessor.”HRSCV2 171.4

    After a brief silence, Eck continued:HRSCV2 171.5

    “There is in the Church of God a primacy that cometh from Christ himself. The Church militant was formed in the image of the Church triumphant. Now, the latter is a monarchy in which the hierarchy ascends step by step up to God, its sole chief. For this reason Christ has established a similar order upon earth. What a monster the Church would be if it were without a head!”HRSCV2 171.6

    Luther, turning towards the assembly.—“When Dr. Eck declares that the universal Church must have a head, he says well. If there is any one among us who maintains the contrary, let him stand up! As for me, it is no concern of mine.”HRSCV2 171.7

    Eck.—“If the Church militant has never been without a head, I should like to know who it can be, if not the Roman pontiff?”HRSCV2 171.8

    Luther.—“The head of the Church militant is Christ himself, and not a man. I believe this on the testimony of God’s Word. He must reign, says Scripture, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. Let us not listen to those who banish Christ to the Church triumphant in heaven. His kingdom is a kingdom of faith. We cannot see our Head, and yet we have one.”HRSCV2 171.9

    Eck, who did not consider himself beaten, had recourse to other arguments, and resumed:HRSCV2 171.10

    “It is from Rome, according to Saint Cyprian, that sacerdotal unity has proceeded.”HRSCV2 171.11

    Luther.—“For the Western Church, I grant it. But is not this same Roman Church the offspring of that of Jerusalem? It is the latter, properly speaking, that is the nursing-mother of all the churches.”HRSCV2 171.12

    Eck.—Saint Jerome declares that if an extraordinary power, superior to all others, were not given to the pope, there would be in the churches as many sects as there were pontiffs.”HRSCV2 171.13

    Luther.—“Given: that is to say, if all the rest of believers consent to it, this power might be conceded to the chief pontiff by human right. And I will not deny, that if all the believers in the world agree in recognizing as first and supreme pontiff either the Bishop of Rome, or of Paris, or of Magdeburg, we should acknowledge him as such from the respect due to this general agreement of the Church; but that has never been seen yet, and never will be seen. Even in our own days, does not the Greek Church refuse its assent to Rome?”HRSCV2 171.14

    Luther was at that time prepared to acknowledge the pope as chief magistrate of the Church, freely elected by it; but he denied that he was pope of Divine right. It was not till much later that he denied that submission was in any way due to him: and this step he was led to take by the Leipsic disputation. But Eck had ventured on ground better known to Luther than to himself. The latter could not, indeed, maintain his thesis that the papacy had existed during the preceding four centuries only. Eck quoted authorities of an earlier date, to which Luther could not reply. Criticism had not yet attacked the False Decretals. But the nearer the discussion approached the primitive ages of the Church, the greater was Luther’s strength. Eck appealed to the Fathers; Luther replied to him from the Fathers, and all the bystanders were struck with his superiority over his rival.HRSCV2 171.15

    “That the opinions I set forth are those of Saint Jerome,” said he, “I prove by the epistle of St. Jerome himself to Evagrius: ‘Every bishop,’ says he, ‘whether at Rome, Eugublum, Constantinople, Rhegium, Tanis, or Alexandria, is partaker of the same merit and of the same priesthood. The power of riches, the humiliation of poverty, are the only things that make a difference in the rank of the bishops.’”HRSCV2 172.1

    From the writings of the Fathers, Luther passed to the decisions of the councils, which consider the Bishop of Rome as only the first among his peers.HRSCV2 172.2

    “We read,” said he, “in the decree of the Council of Africa, ‘The bishop of the first see shall neither be called prince of the pontiffs, nor sovereign pontiff, nor by any other name of that kind; but only bishop of the first see.’ If the monarchy of the Bishop of Rome was of Divine right,” continued Luther, “would not this be an heretical injunction?”HRSCV2 172.3

    Eck replied by one of those subtle distinctions that were so familiar to him:—HRSCV2 172.4

    “The bishop of Rome, if you will have it so, is not universal bishop, but bishop of the universal Church.”HRSCV2 172.5

    Luther.—“shall make no reply to this: let our hearers form their own opinion of it.”—“Certainly,” added he directly, “this is an explanation very worthy of a theologian, and calculated to satisfy a disputant who thirsts for glory. It is not for nothing, is seems, that I have remained at great expense at Leipsic, since I have learnt that the pope is not, in truth, the universal bishop, but the bishop of the universal Church!”HRSCV2 172.6

    Eck.—“Well then, I will come to the point. The worthy doctor calls upon me to prove that the primacy of the Church of Rome is of Divine right. I will prove it by this expression of Christ: Thou art Peter, and on this rock will I build my Church. Saint Augustine, in one of his epistles, has thus explained the meaning of this passage ‘Thou art Peter, and on this rock (that is to say, on Peter) I will build my Church.’ It is true that in another place the same father has explained that by this rock we should understand Christ himself, but he has not retracted his former exposition.”HRSCV2 172.7

    Luther.—“If the reverend doctor desires to attack me, let him first reconcile these contradictions in Saint Augustine. For it is most certain that Augustine has said many times that the rock was Christ, and perhaps not more than once that it was Peter himself. But even should Saint Augustine and all the Fathers say that the Apostle is the rock of which Christ speaks, I would resist them, single-handed, in reliance upon the Holy Scriptures, that is, on Divine right; for it is written: Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Peter himself terms Christ the chief corner-stone, and a living stone on which we are built up a spiritual house.”HRSCV2 172.8

    Eck.—“I am surprised at the humility and modesty with which the reverend doctor undertakes to oppose, alone, so many illustrious Fathers, and pretends to know more than the sovereign pontiffs, the councils, the doctors, and the universities! It would be surprising, no doubt, if God had hidden the truth from so many saints and martyrs—until the advent of the reverend father!”HRSCV2 172.9

    Luther.—“The Fathers are not against me. Saint Augustine and Saint Ambrose, both most excellent doctors, teach as I teach. Super isto articulo fidei, fundata est Ecclesia, says Saint Ambrose, when explaining what is meant by the rock on which the Church is built. Let my opponent then set a curb upon his tongue. To express himself as he does, will only serve to excite contention, and not be to discuss like a true doctor.”HRSCV2 172.10

    Eck had no idea that his opponent’s learning was so extensive, and that he would be able to extricate himself from the toils that were drawn around him. “The reverend doctor,” said he, “has come well armed into the lists. I beg your lordships to excuse me, if I do not exhibit such accuracy of research. I came here to discuss, and not to make a book.”—Eck was surprised but not beaten. As he had no more arguments to adduce, he had a recourse to a wretched and spiteful trick, which, if it did not vanquish his antagonist, must at least embarrass him greatly. If the accusation of being Bohemian, a heretic, a Hussite, can be fixed upon Luther, he is vanquished; for the Bohemians were objects of abhorrence in the Church. The scene of combat was not far from the frontiers of Bohemia; Saxony, after the sentence pronounced on John Huss by the Council of Constance, had been exposed to all the horrors of a long and ruinous war; it was its boast to have resisted the Hussites at that time; the university of Leipsic had been founded in opposition to the tendencies of John Huss; and this discussion was going on in the presence of princes, nobles, and citizens, whose fathers had fallen in that celebrated contest. To insinuate that Luther and Huss are of one mind, will be to inflict a most terrible blow on the former. It is to this stratagem that the Ingolstadt doctor now has recourse: “From the earliest times, all good Christians have acknowledged that the Church of Rome derives its primacy direct from Christ himself, and not from human right. I must confess, however, that the Bohemians, while they obstinately defended their errors, attacked this doctrine. I beg the worthy father’s pardon, if I am an enemy of the Bohemians, because they are enemies of the Church, and if the present discussion has called these heretics to my recollection; for, in my humble opinion, the doctor’s conclusions are in every way favorable to these errors. It is even asserted that the Hussites are loudly boasting of it.”HRSCV2 172.11

    Eck had calculated well: his partisans received this perfidious insinuation with the greatest favor. There was a movement of joy among the audience. “These insults,” said the reformer afterwards, “tickled them much more agreeably than the discussion itself.”HRSCV2 173.1

    Luther.—“I do not like and I never shall like a schism. Since on their own authority the Bohemians have separated from our unity, they have done wrong, even if the Divine right had pronounced in favor of their doctrines; for the supreme Divine right is charity and oneness of mind.”HRSCV2 173.2

    It was during the morning sitting of the 5th July that Luther had made use of this language. The meeting broke up shortly after, as it was the hour of dinner. Luther felt ill at ease. Had he not gone too far in thus condemning the Christians of Bohemia? Did they not hold the doctrines that Luther is now maintaining? He saw all the difficulties of his position. Shall he rise up against a council that condemned John Huss, or shall he deny that sublime idea of a universal Christian Church which had taken full possession of his mind? The unshaken Luther did not hesitate. He will do his duty, whatever may be the consequences. Accordingly when the assembly met again at two in the afternoon, he was the first to speak. He said with firmness:HRSCV2 173.3

    “Among the articles of faith held by John Huss and the Bohemians, there are some that are most christian. This is a positive certainty. Here, for instance, is one: ‘That there is but one universal Church;’ and here is another: ‘It is not necessary for salvation to believe the Roman Church superior to all others.’ It is of little consequence to me whether these things were said by Wickliffe or by Huss… they are truth.”HRSCV2 173.4

    Luther’s declaration produced a great sensation among his hearers. Huss—Wickliffe—those odious names, pronounced with approbation by a monk in the midst of a catholic assembly! An almost general murmur ran round the hall. Duke George himself felt alarmed. He fancied he saw that banner of civil war upraised in Saxony which had for so many years desolated the states of his maternal ancestors. Unable to suppress his emotion, he placed his hands on his hips, shook his head, and exclaimed aloud, so that all the assembly heard him, “He is carried away by rage!” The whole meeting was agitated: they rose up, each man speaking to his neighbor. Those who had given way to drowsiness awoke. Luther’s friends were in great perplexity; while his enemies exulted. Many who had thus far listened to him with pleasure began to entertain doubts of his orthodoxy. The impression produced on Duke George’s mind by these words was never effaced; from this moment he looked upon the reformer with an evil eye, and became his enemy.HRSCV2 173.5

    Luther did not suffer himself to be intimidated by these murmurs. One of his principal arguments was, that the Greeks had never recognized the pope, and yet they had never been declared heretics; that the Greek Church had existed, still existed, and would exist, without the pope, and that it as much belonged to Christ as the Church of Rome did. Eck, on the contrary, impudently maintained that the Christian and the Roman Church were one and the same; that the Greeks and Orientals, in abandoning the pope, had also abandoned the christian faith, and were indisputably heretics. “What!” exclaimed Luther, “are not Gregory of Naziangum, Basil the Great, Epiphanius, Chrysostom, and an immense number besides of Greek bishops—are they not saved? and yet they did not believe that the Church of Rome was above the other Churches! It is not in the power of the Roman pontiffs to make new articles of faith. The christian believer acknowledges no other authority than Holy Scripture. This alone is the right Divine. I beg the worthy doctor to concede that the Roman pontiffs were men, and that he will not make them gods.”HRSCV2 173.6

    Eck then resorted to one of those jests which give a specious air of triumph to him who employs them.HRSCV2 173.7

    “The revered father is a very poor cook,” said he; “he has made a terrible hodge-podge of Greek saints and heretics; so that the odor of sanctity in the one prevents us from smelling the poison of the others.”HRSCV2 173.8

    Luther, interrupting Eck with warmth.—“The worthy doctor is becoming abusive. In my opinion, there can be no communion between Christ and Belial.”HRSCV2 174.1

    Luther had made a great stride in advance. In 1516 and 1517, he had only attacked the sermons of the indulgence-hawkers and the scholastic doctrines, but had respected the papal decrees. Somewhat later he had rejected these decrees, and had appealed to a council. Now he had thrown off even this latter authority, declaring that no council could lay down a new article of faith, and claim to be infallible. Thus had all human authorities fallen successively before; the sands that the rain and the torrents carry with them had disappeared; and for rebuilding the ruined house of the Lord nothing remained but the everlasting rock of the Word of God. “Reverend father,” said Eck, “if you believe that a council, regularly assembled, can err, you are in my eyes nothing better than a heathen and a publican!”HRSCV2 174.2

    Such were the discussions that occupied the two doctors. The assembly listened with earnestness; but their attention sometimes flagged, and the bystanders were delighted when any incident occurred to amuse and excite them. It often happens that the most serious matters are mixed up with others the most ridiculous. This was the case at Leipsic.HRSCV2 174.3

    Duke George, according to the custom of the times, had a court-fool. Some wags said to him: “Luther maintains that a court-fool may marry, while Eck says that he cannot.” Upon this, the fool took a great dislike to Eck, and every time he entered the hall in the duke’s train, he looked at the theologian with a threatening air. The Chancellor of Ingolstadt, who was not above indulging in buffoonery, closed one eye (the fool was blind of an eye) and with the other began to squint at the little gentleman, who, losing his temper, overwhelmed the doctor with abuse. The whole assembly (says Peifer) burst into laughter, and this interlude somewhat diminished the extreme tension of their minds.HRSCV2 174.4

    At the same time scenes were enacting in the city and in the churches, that showed the horror inspired in the Romish partisans by Luther’s bold assertions. It was from the convents attached to the pope’s interest that the loudest clamors proceeded. One Sunday, the Wittenberg doctor entered the Dominican church before high mass. There were present only a few monks repeating low mass at the smaller altars. As soon as it was known in the cloister that the heretic Luther was in the church, the monks ran in hastily, snatched up the remonstrance, and carrying it to the tabernacle, there shut it up carefully, watching over it lest the host should be profaned by the heretical eyes of the Wittenberg Augustine. At the same time those who were reading mass hurriedly caught up the various ornaments employed in the service, deserted the altar, fled across the church, and took refuge in the vestry, as if, says an historian, Satan had been at their heels.HRSCV2 174.5

    The subject of the discussion furnished matter for conversation in every place. In the inns, the university, and the court, each man expressed his opinion. However great might have been Duke George’s exasperation, he did not obstinately refuse to be convinced. One day, as Eck and Luther were dining with him, he interrupted their conversation by saying: “Whether the pope be pope by human or by Divine right, nevertheless, he is pope.” Luther was much pleased at these words. “The prince,” said he, “would never have made use of them, had he not been struck by my arguments.”HRSCV2 174.6

    The discussion on the papal primacy had lasted five days. On the 8th of July, they proceeded to the doctrine of Purgatory. This spread over a little more than two days. Luther still admitted this doctrine; but denied that it was taught in Scripture or in the Fathers in the manner that his opponent and the schoolmen pretended. “Our Doctor Eck,” said he, alluding to the superficial character of his adversary’s mind, “has this day skimmed over Scripture almost without touching it—as a spider runs upon water.”HRSCV2 174.7

    On the 11th of July they came to Indulgences. “It was a mere joke,” said Luther; “the dispute was ridiculous. The indulgences fell outright, and Eck was nearly of my opinion.” Eck himself said: “If I had not disputed with Doctor Martin on the papal supremacy, I should almost have agreed with him.”HRSCV2 174.8

    The discussion next turned on Repentance, Absolution of the Priest, and Satisfactions. Eck, according to his usual practice, quoted the scholastic doctors, the Dominicans, and the pope’s canons. Luther closed the disputation with these words: “The reverend doctor flees from the Scriptures, as the devil from before the cross. As for me, with all due respect to the Fathers, I prefer the authority of Holy Writ, and this test I would recommend to our judges.”HRSCV2 174.9

    Here ended the dispute between Eck and Luther. Carlstadt and the Ingolstadt doctor kept up the discussion two days longer on human merits in good works. On the 16th of July the business was concluded, after having lasted twenty days, by a speech from the rector of the university. As soon as he had finished, loud music was heard, and the solemnity was concluded by singing the Te Deum.HRSCV2 175.1

    But during the chanting of this solemn thanksgiving, men’s minds were no longer as they had been during the Veni Spiritus at the opening of the discussion. Already the presentiments of many had been realized. The blows that the champions of the two doctrines had aimed at each other had inflicted a deep wound upon the papacy.HRSCV2 175.2

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