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    Chapter 4

    Edict of Ofen—Persecutions—Winkler, Carpenter, and Keyser—Alarm in Germany—Pack’s Forgery—League of the Reformed Princes—Advice of the Reformers—Luther’s Pacific Counsel—Surprise of the Papist Princes—Pack’s Scheme not improbable—Vigor of the Reformation

    These triumphs of the Gospel could not pass unperceived; there was a powerful reaction, and until political circumstances should permit a grand attack upon the Reformation on the very soil where it was established, and of fighting against it by means of diets, and if necessary by armies, the adversaries began to persecute it in detail in the Romish countries with tortures and the scaffold.HRSCV4 513.8

    On the 20th August 1527, King Ferdinand, by the Edict of Ofen in Hungary, published a tariff of crimes and penalties, in which he threatened death by the sword, by fire, or by water, against whoever should say that Mary was like other women; or partake of the sacrament in an heretical manner; or consecrate the bread and wine, not being a Romish priest; and further, in the second case, the house in which the sacrament should have been administered was to be confiscated or rased to the ground.HRSCV4 513.9

    Such was not the legislation of Luther. Link having asked him if it were lawful for the magistrate to put the false prophets to death, meaning the Sacramentarians, whose doctrines Luther had so violently attacked, the reformer replied: “I am slow whenever life is concerned, even if the offender is exceedingly guilty. I can by no means admit that the false teachers should be put to death: it is sufficient to remove them.” For ages the Romish Church has bathed in blood. Luther was the first to profess the great principles of humanity and religious liberty.HRSCV4 514.1

    Recourse was sometimes had to more expeditious means than the scaffold itself. George Winkler, pastor of Halle, having been summoned before Archbishop Albert in the spring if 1527, for having administered the sacrament in both kinds, had been acquitted. As this minister was returning home along an unfrequented road in the midst of the woods, he was suddenly attacked by a number of horsemen, who murdered him, and immediately fled through the thickets without taking anything from his person. “The world,” exclaimed Luther, “is a cavern of assassins under the command of the devil; an inn, whose landlord is a brigand, and which bears this sign, Lies and Murder: and none are more readily put to death therein than those who proclaim Jesus Christ.”HRSCV4 514.2

    At Munich, George Carpenter was led to the scaffold for having denied that the baptism of water is able by its own virtue to save a man. “When you are thrown into the fire,” said some of his brethren, “give us a sign by which we may know that you persevere in the faith.”—“As long as I can open my mouth, I will confess the name of the Lord Jesus.” The executioner stretched him on a ladder, tied a small bag of gunpowder round his neck, and then flung him into the flames. Carpenter immediately cried out, “Jesus! Jesus!” and while the executioner was turning him again and again with his hooks, the martyr several times repeated the word Jesus, and expired.HRSCV4 514.3

    At Landsberg nine persons were consigned to the flames, and at Munich twenty-nine were thrown into the water. At Scherding, Leonard Keyser, a friend and disciple of Luther, having been condemned by the bishop, had his head shaved, and being dressed in a smock-frock, was placed on horseback. As the executioners were cursing and swearing, because they could not disentangle the ropes with which his limbs were to be tied, he said to them mildly: “Dear friends, your bonds are not necessary; my Lord Christ has already bound me.” When he drew near the stake, Keyser looked at the crowd and exclaimed: “Behold the harvest! O Master, send forth thy laborers!” He then ascended the scaffold and said: “O Jesu, save me! I am thine.” These were his last words. “Who am I, a wordy preacher,” cried Luther, when he received the news of his death, “in comparison with this great doer!”HRSCV4 514.4

    Thus the Reformation manifested by such striking works the truth that it had come to re-establish; namely, that faith is not, as Rome maintains, an historical, vain, dead knowledge, but a lively faith, the work of the Holy Ghost, the channel by which Christ fills the heart with new desires and with new affections, the true worship of the living God.HRSCV4 514.5

    These martyrdoms filled Germany with horror, and gloomy forebodings descended from the thrones among the ranks of the people. Around the domestic hearth, in the long winter evenings, the conversation wholly turned on prisons, tortures, scaffolds, and martyrs; the slightest noise alarmed the old men, women, and children. Such narratives gathered strength as they passed from mouth to mouth; the rumor of a universal conspiracy against the Gospel spread through all the empire. Its adversaries, taking advantage of this terror, announced with a mysterious air that they must look during this year (1528) for some decisive measures against the reform. One scoundrel (Pack) resolved to profit by this state of mind to satisfy his avarice.HRSCV4 514.6

    No blows are more terrible to a cause than those which it inflicts upon itself. The Reformation, seized with a dizziness, was on the verge of self-destruction. There is a spirit of error that conspires against the cause of truth, beguiling by subtlety; the Reformation was about to experience its attacks, and to stagger under the most formidable assault,—perturbation of thought, and estrangement from the ways of wisdom and of truth.HRSCV4 514.7

    Otho Pack, vice-chancellor to Duke George of Saxony, was a crafty and dissipated man, who took advantage of his office, and had recourse to all sorts of practices to procure money. The duke having on one occasion sent him to the Diet of Nuremberg as his representative, the Bishop of Merseburg confided to him his contribution towards the imperial government. The bishop having been afterwards called upon for this money, Pack declared that he had paid it to a citizen of Nuremberg, whose seal and signature he produced. This paper was a forgery; Pack himself was the author of it. The wretch, however, put an impudent face on the matter, and having escaped conviction, preserved the confidence of his master. Erelong an opportunity presented itself of exercising his criminal talents on a larger scale.HRSCV4 514.8

    No one entertained greater suspicions with regard to the papists than the Landgrave of Hesse. Young, susceptible, and restless, he was always on the alert. In the month of February 1528, Pack happening to be at Cassel to assist Philip in some difficult business, the landgrave imparted to him his fears. If any one could have had any knowledge of the designs of the papists, it must have been the vice-chancellor of one of the greatest enemies to the Reformation. The crafty Pack heaved a sigh, bent down his eyes, and was silent. Philip immediately became uneasy, entreated him, and promised to do nothing that would injure the duke. Then Pack, as if he had allowed an important secret to be torn from him with regret, confessed that a league against the Lutherans had been concluded at Breslau on the Wednesday following Jubilate Sunday, 12th May 1527; and engaged to procure the original of this act for the landgrave, who offered him for this service a remuneration of ten thousand florins. This was the greatest transaction that the wretched man had ever undertaken; but it tended to nothing less than the utter overthrow of the empire.HRSCV4 515.1

    The landgrave was amazed: he restrained himself, however, wishing to see the act with his own eyes before informing his allies. He therefore repaired to Dresden. “I cannot,” said Pack, “furnish you with the original: the duke always carries it about his person to read it to other princes whom he hopes to gain over. Recently at Leipsic, he showed it to Duke Henry of Brunswick. But here is a copy made by his highness’s order.” The landgrave took the document, which bore all the marks of the most perfect authenticity. It was crossed by a cord of black silk, and fastened at both ends by the seal of the ducal chancery. Above was an impression from the ring Duke George always wore on his finger, with the three quarterings that Philip had so often seen; at the top, the coronet, and at the bottom, the two lions. He had no more doubts as to its authenticity. But how can we describe his indignation as he read this guilty document? King Ferdinand, the Electors of Mentz and of Brandenburg, Duke George of Saxony, the Dukes of Bavaria, the Bishops of Salzburg, Wurtzburg, and Bamberg, had entered into a coalition to call upon the Elector of Saxony to deliver up the arch-heretic Luther, with all the apostate priests, monks, and nuns, and to re-establish the ancient worship. If he made default, his states were to be invaded, and this prince and his descendants for ever dispossessed. The same measure was next to be applied to the landgrave, only (“it was your father-in-law, Duke George,” said Pack to Philip, “who got this clause inserted”) his states were to be restored to him in consideration of his youth, if he became fully reconciled to the holy Church. The document stated moreover the contingents of men and money to be provided by the confederates, and the share they were to have in the spoils of the two heretical princes.HRSCV4 515.2

    Many circumstances tended to confirm the authenticity of this paper. Ferdinand, Joachim of Brandenburg, and George of Saxony, had in fact met at Breslau on the day indicated, and an evangelical prince, the Margrave George, had seen Joachim leave Ferdinand’s apartments, holding in his hand a large parchment to which several seals were attached. The agitated landgrave caused a copy to be taken of this document, promised secrecy for a time, paid Pack four thousand florins, and engaged to make up the sum agreed upon, if he would procure him the original. And then, wishing to prevent the storm, he hastened to Weimar to inform the elector of this unprecedented conspiracy.HRSCV4 515.3

    “I have seen,” said he to John and his son, “nay more—I have had in my hands, a duplicate of this horrible treaty. Signatures, seals—nothing was wanting. Here is a copy, and I bind myself to place the original before your eyes. The most frightful danger threatens us—ourselves, our faithful subjects, and the Word of God.”HRSCV4 515.4

    The elector had no reason to doubt the account the landgrave had just given him: he was stunned, confounded, and overpowered. The promptest measures alone could avert such unprecedented disasters: everything must be risked to extricate them from certain destruction. The impetuous Philip breathed fire and flames; his plan of defense was already prepared. He presented it, and in the first moment of consternation carried the consent of his ally, as it were by assault. On the 9th March 1528, the two princes agreed to employ all their forces to defend themselves, and even to take the offensive, and sacrifice life, honor, rank, subjects, and states, that they might preserve the Word of God. The Dukes of Prussia, Mecklenburg, Luneburg, and Pomerania, the Kings of Denmark and Poland, and the Margrave of Brandenburg, were to be invited to enter into this alliance. Six hundred thousand florins were destined for the expenses of the war; and to procure them, they would raise loans, pledge their cities, and sell the offerings in the churches. They had already begun to raise a powerful army. The landgrave set out in person for Nuremberg and Anspach. The alarm was general in those countries; the commotion was felt throughout all Germany, and even beyond it. John Zapolya, king of Hungary, at that time a refugee at Cracow, promised a hundred thousand florins to raise an army, and twenty thousand florins a month for its maintenance. Thus a spirit of error was misleading the princes; if it should carry away the Reformers also, the destruction of the Reformation would not be far distant.HRSCV4 515.5

    But God was watching over them. Supported on the rock of the Word, Melancthon and Luther replied: “It is written, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” As soon as these two men whom the danger threatened (for it was they who were to be delivered up to the papal power) saw the youthful landgrave drawing the sword, and the aged elector himself putting his hand on the hilt, they uttered a cry, and this cry, which was heard in heaven, saved the Reformation.HRSCV4 516.1

    Luther, Pomeranus, and Melancthon immediately forwarded the following advice to the elector: “Above all things, let not the attack proceed from our side, and let no blood be shed through our fault. Let us wait for the enemy, and seek after peace. Send an ambassador to the emperor to make him acquainted with this hateful plot.”HRSCV4 516.2

    Thus it was that the faith of the children of God, which is so despised by politicians, conducted them aright, at the very moment when the diplomatists were going astray. The elector and his son declared to the landgrave that they would not assume the offensive. Philip was in amazement. “Are not the preparations of the papists worthy an attack?” asked he. “What! we will threaten war, and yet not make it! We will inflame the hatred of our antagonists, and leave them time to prepare their forces! No, no; forward! It is thus we shall secure the means of an honorable peace.”—“If the landgrave desires to begin the war,” replied the reformer, “the elector is not obliged to observe the treaty; for we must obey God rather than men. God and the right are above every alliance. Let us beware of painting the devil on our doors, and inviting him as godfather. But if the landgrave is attacked, the elector ought to go to his assistance; for it is God’s will that we preserve our faith.” This advice which the reformers gave, cost them dear. Never did man, condemned to the torture, endure a punishment like theirs. The fears excited by the landgrave were succeeded by the terrors inspired by the papist princes. This cruel trial left them in great distress. “I am worn away with sorrow,” cried Melancthon; “and this anguish puts me to the most horrible torture. The issue,” added he, “will be found on our knees before God.”HRSCV4 516.3

    The elector, drawn in different directions by the theologians and the politicians, at last took a middle course: he resolved to assemble an army, “but only,” said he, “to obtain peace.” Philip of Hesse at length gave way, and forthwith sent copies of the famous treaty to Duke George, to the dukes of Bavaria, and to the emperor’s representatives, calling upon them to renounce such cruel designs. “I would rather have a limb cut off,” said he to his father-in-law, “than know you to be a member of such an alliance.”HRSCV4 516.4

    The surprise of the German courts, when they read this document, is beyond description. Duke George immediately replied to the landgrave, that he had allowed himself to be deceived by unmeaning absurdities; that he who pretended to have seen the original of this act was an infamous liar, and an incorrigible scoundrel; and called upon the landgrave to give up his authority, or else it might well be thought that he was himself the inventor of this impudent fabrication. King Ferdinand, the Elector of Brandenburg, and all the pretended conspirators, made similar replies.HRSCV4 516.5

    Philip of Hesse saw that he had been deceived; his confusion was only exceeded by his anger. He had in this affair justified the accusations of his adversaries who called him a hot-headed young man, and had compromised to the highest degree the cause of the Reformation and that of his people. He said afterwards, “If that business had not happened, it would no more happen now. Nothing that I have done in all my life has caused me greater vexation.”HRSCV4 516.6

    Pack fled in alarm to the landgrave, who caused him to be arrested; and envoys from the several princes whom this scoundrel had compromised met at Cassel, and proceeded to examine him. He maintained that the original act of the alliance had really existed in the Dresden archives. In the following year the landgrave banished him from Hesse, proving by this action that he did not fear him. Pack was afterwards discovered in Belgium; and at the demand of Duke George, who had never shown any pity towards him, he was seized, tortured, and finally beheaded.HRSCV4 516.7

    The landgrave was unwilling to have taken up arms to no purpose. The Archbishop-elector of Mentz was compelled, on the 11th June 1528, to renounce in the camp of Herzkirchen all spiritual jurisdiction in Saxony and Hesse. This was no small advantage.HRSCV4 517.1

    Scarcely had the arms been laid aside before Luther took up his pen and began a war of another kind. “Impious princes may deny this alliance as long as they please,” wrote he to Link; “I am very certain that it is not a chimera. These insatiable leeches will take no repose until they see the whole of Germany flowing with blood.” This idea of Luther’s was the one generally entertained. “The document presented to the landgrave may be,” it was said, “Pack’s invention; but all this fabric of lies is founded on some truth. If the alliance has not been concluded it has been conceived.”HRSCV4 517.2

    Melancholy were the results of this affair. It inspired division in the bosom of the Reformation, and fanned the hatred between the two parties. The sparks from the piles of Keyser, Winkler, Carpenter, and so many other martyrs, added strength to the fire that was already threatening to set the empire in flames. It was under such critical circumstances, and which such menacing dispositions, that the famous Diet of Spires was opened in March 1529. The Empire and the Papacy were in reality preparing to annihilate the Reformation, although in a manner different from what Pack had pretended. It was still to be learnt whether more vital strength would be found in the revived Church than in so many sects that Rome had easily crushed. Happily the faith had increased, and the constitution given to the Church had imparted greater power to its adherents. All were resolved on defending a doctrine so pure, and a church government so superior to that of Popery. During three years of tranquillity, the Gospel tree had struck its roots deep; and if the storm should burst it would now be able to brave it.HRSCV4 517.3

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