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    Chapter 2

    A Foreign Prince—Council of Politicians—Conference between the Confessor and the Chancellor—Inutility of these Manoeuvers—Aleander’s Activity—Luther’s Words—Charles yields to the Pope

    But all this was of little consequence to politicians. However noble might have been the idea Charles had formed of the imperial dignity, Germany was not the center of his interests and of policy. He understood neither the spirit nor the language of Germany. He was always a Duke of Burgundy, who to many other scepters had united the first crown of Christendom. It was a remarkable circumstance that, at the moment of its most intimate transformation, Germany should elect a foreign prince, to whom the necessities and tendencies of the nation were but of secondary importance. Undoubtedly the emperor was not indifferent to the religious movement, but it had no meaning in his eyes except so far as it threatened the pope. War between Charles and Francis I was inevitable; the principal scene of that war would be Italy. The alliance of the pope became therefore daily more necessary to Charles’s projects. He would have preferred detaching Frederick from Luther, or satisfying the pope without offending Frederick. Many of his courtiers manifested in the affair of the Augustine monk that disdainful coldness which politicians generally affect when there is any question of religion. “Let us avoid all extreme measures,” said they. “Let us entangle Luther by negotiations, and reduce him to silence by some trifling concessions. The proper course is to stifle and not to fan the flame. If the monk falls into the net, we are victorious! By accepting a compromise, he will silence himself and ruin his cause. For form’s sake we will decree certain exterior reforms; the elector will be satisfied; the pope will be gained; and matters will resume their ordinary course.”HRSCV2 222.3

    Such was the project formed by the emperor’s confidants. The Wittenberg doctors seem to have divined this new policy. “They are trying to win men over secretly,” said Melancthon, “and are working in the dark.” Charles’s confessor, John Glapio, a man of great weight, a skilful courtier, and a wily monk took upon himself the execution of the scheme. Glapio possessed the full confidence of Charles; and this prince, imitating the Spanish customs in this particular, intrusted him almost entirely with the care of matters pertaining to religion. As soon as Charles had been named emperor, Leo hastened to win over Glapio by favors which the confessor very gratefully acknowledged. He could make no better return to the pontiff’s generosity than by crushing this heresy, and he applied himself to the task.HRSCV2 222.4

    Among the elector’s councilors was Gregory Bruck, or Pontanus, the chancellor, a man of intelligence, decision, and courage, who was a better theological scholar than many doctors, and whose wisdom was capable of resisting the wiles of the monks in Charles’s court. Glapio, knowing the chancellor’s influence, requested an interview with him, and introducing himself as if he had been a friend of the reformer, said with an air of kindness: “I was filled with joy, in reading Luther’s first writings; I thought him a vigorous tree, which had put forth goodly branches, and gave promise to the Church of the most precious fruit. Many people, it is true, have entertained the same views before his time; yet no one but himself has had the noble courage to publish the truth without fear. But when I read his book on the Captivity of Babylon, I felt like one overwhelmed with blows from head to foot. I do not think,” added the monk, “that brother Martin will acknowledge himself to be the author of it; I do not find in it either his usual style or learning.” After some discussion, the confessor continued: “Introduce me to the elector, and in your presence I will show him Luther’s errors.”HRSCV2 222.5

    The chancellor replied that the business of the diet left his highness no leisure, and besides he did not mix himself up with this matter. The monk was vexed at seeing his demand rejected. “Nevertheless,” continued the chancellor, “since you say there is no evil without a remedy, explain yourself.”HRSCV2 222.6

    Assuming a confidential air, the confessor replied: “The emperor earnestly desires to see a man like Luther reconciled with the Church; for his books (previous to the publication of the treatise on the Captivity of Babylon) were rather agreeable to his majesty The irritation caused by the bull no doubt excited Luther to write the latter work. Let him then declare that he had not intention of troubling the repose of the Church, and the learned of every nation will side with him. Procure me an audience with his highness.”HRSCV2 223.1

    The chancellor went to Frederick. The elector well knew that any retraction whatsoever was impossible: “Tell the confessor,” answered he, “that I cannot comply with his request; but continue your conference.”HRSCV2 223.2

    Glapio received this message with every demonstration of respect; and changing his line of attack, he said: “Let the elector name some confidential persons to deliberate on this affair.”HRSCV2 223.3

    The Chancellor.—“The elector does not profess to defend Luther’s cause.”HRSCV2 223.4

    The Confessor.—“Well, then, you at least can discuss it with me… Jesus Christ is my witness that I make this proposition from love to the Church and Luther, who has opened so many hearts to the truth.”HRSCV2 223.5

    The chancellor having refused to undertake a task which belonged to the reformer, prepared to withdraw.HRSCV2 223.6

    “Stay,” said the monk.HRSCV2 223.7

    The Chancellor.—“What remains to be done?”HRSCV2 223.8

    The Confessor.—“Let Luther deny that he wrote the Captivity of Babylon.”HRSCV2 223.9

    The Chancellor.—But the pope’s bull condemns all his other writings.”HRSCV2 223.10

    The Confessor.—“That is because of his obstinacy. If he disclaims this book, the pope in his omnipotence can easily pardon him. What hopes may we not entertain, now that we have so excellent an emperor!”HRSCV2 223.11

    Perceiving that these words had produced some effect on the chancellor, the monk hastily added: “Luther always desires to argue from the Bible. The Bible… it is like wax, you may stretch it and bend it as you please. I would undertake to find in the Bible opinions more extravagant even than Luther’s. He is mistaken when he changes every word of Christ into a commandment.” And then wishing to act upon the fears of his hearer, he added: “What would be the result if to-day or to-morrow the emperor should have recourse to arms? Reflect upon this.” He then permitted Pontanus to retire.HRSCV2 223.12

    The confessor laid fresh snares. “A man might live ten years with him, and not know him at last,” said Erasmus.HRSCV2 223.13

    “What an excellent book is that of Luther’s on Christian Liberty,” said he to the chancellor, whom he saw again a few days after; “what wisdom! what talent! what wit! it is thus that a real scholar ought to write… Let both sides choose men of irreproachable character, and let the pope and Luther refer the whole matter to their decision. There is no doubt that Luther would come off victorious on many points. I will speak about it to the emperor. Believe me, I do not mention these things solely on my own authority. I have told the emperor that God would chastise him and all the princes, if the Church, which is the spouse of Christ, be not cleansed from all the stains that defile her. I added, that God himself had sent Luther, and commissioned him to reprove men for their offences, employing him as a scourge to punish the sins of the world.”HRSCV2 223.14

    The chancellor, on hearing these words (which reflected the feelings of the age, and showed the opinion entertained of Luther even by his adversaries), could not forbear expressing his astonishment that his master was not treated with more respect. “There are daily consultations with the emperor on this affair,” said he, “and yet the elector is not invited to them. He thinks it strange that the emperor, who is not a little indebted to him, should exclude him from his councils.”HRSCV2 223.15

    The Confessor.—“I have been present only once at these deliberations, and then heard the emperor resist the solicitations of the nuncios. Five years hence it will be seen what Charles has done for the reformation of the Church.”HRSCV2 223.16

    “The elector,” answered Pontanus, “is unacquainted with Luther’s intentions. Let him be summoned and have a hearing.”HRSCV2 223.17

    The confessor replied with a deep sigh: “I call God to witness how ardently I desire to see the reformation of Christendom accomplished.”HRSCV2 223.18

    To protract the affair and to keep the reformer silent was all that Glop proposed. In any case, Luther must not come to Worms. A dead man returning from the other world and appearing in the midst of the diet, would have been less alarming to the nuncios, the monks, and all the papal host, than the presence of the Wittenberg doctor.HRSCV2 223.19

    “How many days does it take to travel from Wittenberg to Worms?” asked the confessor with an assumed air of indifference; and then, begging Pontanus to present his most humble salutations to the elector, he retired.HRSCV2 223.20

    Such were the manoeuvers resorted to by the courtiers. They were disconcerted by the firmness of Pontanus. That just man was immovable as a rock during all these negotiations. The Roman monks themselves fell into the snares they had laid for their enemies. “The Christian,” said Luther in his figurative language, “is like a bird tied near a trap. The wolves and foxes prowl round it, and spring on it to devour it; but they fall into the pit and perish, while the timid bird remains unhurt. It is thus the holy angels keep watch around us, and those devouring wolves, the hypocrites and persecutors, cannot harm us.” Not only were the artifices of the confessor ineffectual, but his admissions still more confirmed Frederick in his opinion that Luther was right, and that it was his duty to protect him.HRSCV2 224.1

    Men’s hearts daily inclined more and more towards the Gospel. A Dominican prior suggested that the emperor, the kings of France, Spain, England, Portugal, Hungary, and Poland, with the pope and the electors, should name representatives to whom the arrangement of this affair should be confided. “Never,” said he, “has implicit reliance been placed on the pope alone.” The public feeling became such that it seemed impossible to condemn Luther without having heard and confuted him.HRSCV2 224.2

    Aleander grew uneasy, and displayed unusual energy. It was no longer against the elector and Luther alone that he had to contend. He beheld with horror the secret negotiations of the confessor, the proposition of the prior, the consent of Charles’s ministers, the extreme coldness of Roman piety, even among the most devoted friends of the pontiff, “so that one might have thought,” says Pallavicini, “that a torrent of iced water had gushed over them.” He had at length received from Rome the money he had demanded; he held in his hand the energetic briefs addressed to the most powerful men in the empire. Fearing to see his prey escape, he felt that now was the time to strike a decisive blow. He forwarded the briefs, scattered the money profusely, and made the most alluring promises; “and, armed with this threefold weapon,” says the historian, Cardinal Pallavicini, “he made a fresh attempt to bias the wavering assembly of electors in the pope’s favor.” But around the emperor in particular he laid his snares. He took advantage of the dissensions existing between the Belgian and Spanish ministers. He besieged the monarch unceasingly. All the partisans of Rome, awakened by his voice, solicited Charles. “Daily deliberations,” wrote the elector to his brother John, “are held against Luther; they demand that he shall be placed under the ban of the pope and of the emperor; they endeavour to injure him in every way. Those who parade in their red hats, the Romans, with all their followers, display indefatigable zeal in this task.”HRSCV2 224.3

    Aleander was in reality pressing for the condemnation of the reformer with a violence that Luther characterizes as marvelous fury. The apostate nuncio, as Luther styles him, transported by anger beyond the bounds of prudence, one day exclaimed: “If you Germans pretend to shake off the yoke of obedience to Rome, we will act in such a manner that, exterminated by mutual slaughter, you shall perish in your own blood.”—“This is how the pope feeds Christ’s sheep,” adds the reformer.HRSCV2 224.4

    But such was not his own language. He asked nothing for himself. “Luther is ready,” said Melancthon, “to purchase at the cost of his own life the glory and advancement of the Gospel.” But he trembled when he thought of the calamities that might be the consequence of his death. He pictured to himself a misled people revenging perhaps his martyrdom in the blood of his adversaries, and especially of the priests. He rejected so dreadful a responsibility. “God,” said he, “checks the fury of his enemies; but if it breaks forth then shall we see a storm burst upon the priests like that which has devastated Bohemia… My hands are clear of this, for I have earnestly entreated the German nobility to oppose the Romans by wisdom, and not by the sword. To make war upon the priests,—a class without courage or strength,—would be to fight against women and children.”HRSCV2 224.5

    Charles V could not resist the solicitations of the nuncio. His Belgian and Spanish devotion had been developed by his preceptor Adrian, who afterwards occupied the pontifical throne. The pope had addressed him in a brief, entreating him to give the power of law to the bull by an imperial edict. “To no purpose will God have invested you with the sword of the supreme power,” said he, “if you do not employ it, not only against the infidels, but against the heretics also, who are far worse than they.” Accordingly, one day at the beginning of February, at the moment when every one in Worms was making preparations for a splendid tournament, and the emperor’s tent was already erected, the princes who were arming themselves to take part in the brilliant show were summoned to the imperial palace. After listening to the reading of the papal bull, a stringent edict was laid before them, enjoining its immediate execution. “If you can recommend any better course,” added the emperor, following the usual custom, “I am ready to hear you.”HRSCV2 224.6

    An animated debate immediately took place in the assembly. “This monk,” wrote a deputy from one of the free cities of Germany, “gives us plenty of occupation. Some would like to crucify him, and I think that he will not escape; only it is to be feared that he will rise again the third day.” The emperor had imagined that he would be able to publish his edict without opposition from the states; but such was not the case. Their minds were not prepared. It was necessary to gain over the diet. “Convince this assembly,” said the youthful monarch to the nuncio. This was all that Aleander desired; and he was promised to be introduced to the diet on the 13th of February.HRSCV2 225.1

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