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    Chapter 6

    The Elector’s Zeal—The Signing of the Confession—Courage of the Princes—Melancthon’s Weakness—The Legate’s Speech—Delays—The Confession in Danger—The Protestants are firm—Melancthon’s Despondency—Luther’s Prayer and Anxiety—Luther’s Texts—His Letter to Melancthon—Faith

    Charles, compelled to resign himself to a public sitting, ordered on Wednesday, 22nd June, that the elector and his allies should have their Confession ready for the ensuing Friday. The Roman party were also invited to present a confession of faith; but they excused themselves, saying that they were satisfied with the Edict of Worms.HRSCV4 559.3

    The emperor’s order took the Protestants by surprise, for the negotiations between Valdez and Melancthon had prevented the latter from putting the finishing stroke to the Confession. It was not copied out fair; and the conclusions, as well as the exordium, were not definitively drawn up. In consequence of this, the Protestants begged the Archbishop of Mentz to obtain for them the delay of a day; but their petition was refused. They therefore labored incessantly, even during the night, to correct and transcribe the Confession.HRSCV4 559.4

    On Thursday, 23rd June, all the protestant princes, deputies, councillors, and theologians met early at the elector’s. The Confession was read in German, and all gave their adhesion to it, except the landgrave and the Strasburgers, who required a change in the article on the sacrament. The princes rejected their demand.HRSCV4 559.5

    The Elector of Saxony was already preparing to sign it, when Melancthon stopped him: he feared giving too political a coloring to this religious business. In his idea it was the Church that should appear, and not the State. “It is for the theologians and ministers to propose these things,” said he; “let us reserve for other matters the authority of the mighty ones of the earth.”—“God forbid that you should exclude me,” replied the elector; “I am resolved to do what is right without troubling myself about my crown. I desire to confess the Lord. My electoral hat and my ermine are not so precious to me as the cross of Jesus Christ. I shall leave on earth these marks of my greatness; but my Master’s cross will accompany me to heaven.”HRSCV4 559.6

    How resist such christian language! Melancthon gave way.HRSCV4 559.7

    The elector then approached, signed, and handed the pen to the landgrave, who at first made some objections; however the enemy was at the door; was this a time for disunion? At last he signed, but with a declaration that the doctrine of the Eucharist did not please him.HRSCV4 559.8

    The margrave and Luneburg having joyfully subscribed their names, Anhalt took the pen in his turn, and said, “I have tilted more than once to please others; now, if the honor of my Lord Jesus Christ requires it, I am ready to saddle my horse, to leave my goods and life behind, and rush into eternity, towards an everlasting crown.” Then, having signed, this youthful prince said, turning to the theologians, “I would rather renounce my subjects and my states, rather quit the country of my fathers staff in hand, rather gain my bread by cleaning the shoes of the foreigner, than receive any other doctrine than that which is contained in this Confession.” Nuremberg and Reutlingen alone of the cities subscribed their signatures; and all resolved on demanding of the emperor that the Confession should be read publicly.HRSCV4 559.9

    The courage of the princes surprised every one. Rome had crushed the members of the Church, and had reduced them to a herd of slaves, whom she dragged silent and humiliated behind her: the Reformation enfranchised them, and with their rights it restored to them their duties. The priest no longer enjoyed the monopoly of religion; each head of a family again became priest in his own house, and all the members of the Church of God were thenceforward called to the rank of confessors. The laymen are nothing, or almost nothing, in the sect of Rome, but they are the essential portion of the Church of Jesus Christ. Where ever the priestly spirit is established, the Church dies; where ever laymen, as these Augsburg princes, understand their duty and their immediate dependence on Christ, the Church lives.HRSCV4 559.10

    The evangelical theologians were moved by the devotedness of the princes. “When I consider their firmness in the confession of the Gospel,” said Brentz, “the color mounts to my cheeks. What a disgrace that we, who are only beggars beside them, are so afraid of confessing Christ!” Brentz was then thinking of certain towns, particularly of Halle, of which he was pastor, but no doubt also of the theologians.HRSCV4 560.1

    The latter, in truth, without being deficient in devotedness, were sometimes wanting in courage. Melancthon was in constant agitation; he ran to and fro, slipping in everywhere (says Cochloeus in his Philippics), visiting not only the houses and mansions of private persons, but also insinuating himself into the palaces of cardinals and princes, nay, even into the court of the emperor; and, whether at table or in conversation, he spared no means of persuading every person, that nothing was more easy than to restore peace between the two parties.HRSCV4 560.2

    One day he was with the Archbishop of Salzburg, who in a long discourse gave an eloquent description of the troubles produced, as he said, by the Reformation, and ended with a peroration “written in blood,” as Melancthon characterized it. Philip in agony had ventured during the conversation to slip in the word conscience. “Conscience!” hastily interrupted the archbishop, “Conscience!—What does that mean? I tell you plainly that the emperor will not allow confusion to be thus brought upon the empire.”—“Had I been in Melancthon’s place,” said Luther, “I should have immediately replied to the archbishop: And our emperor, ours, will not tolerate such blasphemy.”—“Alas,” said Melancthon, “they are all as full of assurance as if there was no God.”HRSCV4 560.3

    Another day Melancthon was with Campeggio, and conjured him to persevere in the moderate sentiments he appeared to entertain. And at another time, as it would seem, he was with the emperor himself. “Alas!” said the alarmed Zwinglians, “after having qualified one-half of the Gospel, Melancthon is sacrificing the other.”HRSCV4 560.4

    The wiles of the Ultramontanists were added to Philip’s dejection, in order to arrest the courageous proceedings of the princes. Friday, 24th June, was the day fixed for reading the Confession, but measures were taken to prevent it. The sitting of the diet did not begin till three in the afternoon; the legate was then announced; Charles went to meet him as far as the top of the grand staircase, and Campeggio, taking his seat in front of the emperor, in King Ferdinand’s place, delivered a harangue in Ciceronian style. “Never,” said he, “has St. Peter’s bark been so violently tossed by such various waves, whirlwinds, and abysses. The Holy Father has learned these things with pain, and desires to drag the Church from these frightful gulfs. For the love of Jesus Christ, for the safety of your country and for you own, O mighty Prince! get rid of these errors, deliver Germany, and save Christendom!”HRSCV4 560.5

    After a temperate reply from Albert of Mentz, the legate quitted the town-hall, and the evangelical princes stood up; but a fresh obstacle had been provided. Deputies from Austria, Carinthia, and Carniola, first received a hearing.HRSCV4 560.6

    Much time had thus elapsed. The evangelical princes, however, rose up again, and the Chancellor Bruck said: “It is pretended that new doctrines not based on Scripture, that heresies and schisms, are spread among the people by us. Considering that such accusations compromise not only our good name, but also the safety of our souls, we beg his majesty will have the goodness to hear what are the doctrines we profess.”HRSCV4 560.7

    The emperor, no doubt by arrangement with the legate, made reply that it was too late; besides, that this reading would be useless; and that the princes should be satisfied with putting in their Confession in writing. Thus the mine, so skillfully prepared, worked admirably; the Confession, once handed to the emperor, would be thrown aside, and the Reformation would be forced to retire, without the papists having even condescended to hear it, without defense, and overwhelmed with contumely.HRSCV4 560.8

    The protestant princes, uneasy and agitated, insisted. “Our honor is at stake,” said they; “our souls are endangered. We are accused publicly; publicly we ought to answer.” Charles was shaken; Ferdinand leaned towards him, and whispered a few words in his ear; the emperor refused a second time.HRSCV4 560.9

    Upon this the elector and princes, in still greater alarm, said for the third time, with emotion and earnestness: “For the love of God, let us read our Confession! No person is insulted in it.” Thus were seen, on the one hand, a few faithful men, desiring with loud cries to confess their faith; and on the other, the great emperor of the west, surrounded by a crowd of cardinals, prelates, and princes, endeavouring to stifle the manifestation of the truth. It was a serious, violent, and decisive struggle, in which the holiest interests were discussed!HRSCV4 561.1

    At last Charles appeared to yield: “His majesty grants your request,” was the reply to the princes; “but as it is now too late, he begs you to transmit him your written Confession, and tomorrow, at two o’clock, the diet will be prepared to hear it read at the Palatine Palace.”HRSCV4 561.2

    The princes were struck by these words, which, seeming to grant them everything, in reality granted nothing. In the first place, it was not in a public sitting at the town-hall, but privately in his own palace, that the emperor was willing to hear them; then they had no doubt that if the Confession left their hands it was all over with the public reading. They therefore remained firm. “The work has been done in great haste,” said they, and it was the truth; “pray leave it with us tonight, that we may revise it.” The emperor was obliged to yield, and the Protestants returned to their hotels full of joy; while the legate and his friends, perceiving that the Confession was inevitable, saw the morrow approach with continually increasing anxiety.HRSCV4 561.3

    Among those who prepared to confess the evangelical truth, was one, however, whose heart was filled with sadness:—it was Melancthon. Placed between two fires, he saw the reformed, and many even of his own friends, reproach his weakness; while the opposite party detested what they called his hypocrisy. His friend Camerarius, who visited Augsburg about this time, often found him plunged in thought, uttering deep sighs, and shedding bitter tears. Brentz, moved with compassion, coming to the unhappy Philip, would sit down by his side and weep with him; and Jonas endeavoured to console him in another manner, by exhorting him to take the book of Psalms, and cry to God with all his heart, making use of David’s words rather than of his own.HRSCV4 561.4

    One day intelligence arrived which formed a general topic of conversation in Augsburg, and which, by spreading terror among the partisans of the pope, gave a momentary relief to Melancthon. It was said that a mule in Rome had given birth to a colt with crane’s feet. “This prodigy,” said Melancthon thoughtfully, “announces that Rome is near its end;” perhaps because the crane is a bird of passage, and that the pope’s mule thus gave signs of departure. Melancthon had immediately written to Luther, who replied that he was exceedingly rejoiced that God had given the pope so striking a sign of his approaching fall. It is good to recall to memory these puerilities of the age of the reformers, that we may better understand the high range of these men of God in matters of faith.HRSCV4 561.5

    These idle Roman stories did not long console Melancthon. On the eve of the 25th of June, he was present in imagination at the reading of that Confession which he had drawn up, which was about to be proclaimed before the world, and in which one word too many or too few might decide on the approbation or the hatred of the princes, on the safety or ruin of the Reformation and of the empire. He could bear up no longer, and the feeble Atlas, crushed under the burden of the world upon his shoulders, gave utterance to a cry of anguish. “All my time here is spent in tears and mourning,” wrote he to Vitus Diedrich, Luther’s secretary in the castle of Coburg; and on the morrow he wrote to Luther himself: “My dwelling is in perpetual tears. My consternation is indescribable. O my father! I do not wish my words to exaggerate my sorrows; but without your consolations, it is impossible for me to enjoy here the least peace.HRSCV4 561.6

    Nothing in fact presented so strong a contrast to Melancthon’s distrust and dejection, as the faith, calmness, and exultation of Luther. It was of advantage to him that he was not then in the midst of the Augsburg vortex, and to be able from his stronghold to set his foot with tranquillity upon the rock of God’s promises. He was sensible himself of the value of this peaceful hermitage, as he called it. “I cannot sufficiently admire,” said Vitus Diedrich, “the firmness, cheerfulness, and faith of this man, so astonishing in such cruel times.”HRSCV4 561.7

    Luther, besides his constant reading of the Word of God, did not pass a day without devoting three hours at least to prayer, and they were hours selected from those the most favorable to study. One day, as Diedrich approached the reformer’s chamber, he heard his voice, and remained motionless, holding his breath, a few steps from the door. Luther was praying, and his prayer (said the secretary) was full of adoration, fear, and hope, as when one speaks to a friend or to a father. “I know that thou art our Father and our God,” said the reformer, alone in his chamber, “and that thou wilt scatter the persecutors of they children, for thou art thyself endangered with us. All this matter is thine, and it is only by thy constraint that we have put our hands to it. Defend us then, O Father!” The secretary, motionless as a statue, in the long gallery of the castle, lost not one of the words that the clear and resounding voice of Luther bore to his ears. The reformer was earnest with God, and called upon him with such unction to accomplish his promises, that Diedrich felt his heart glow within him. “Oh! exclaimed he, as he retired, “How could not these prayers but prevail in the desperate struggle at Augsburg!”HRSCV4 561.8

    Luther might also have allowed himself to be overcome with fear, for he was left in complete ignorance of what was taking place in the diet. A Wittenberg messenger, who should have brought him forests of letters (according to his own expression), having presented himself: “Do you bring any letters?” asked Luther. “No!” “How are those gentlemen?” “Well!” Luther, grieved at such silence, returned and shut himself up in his chamber.HRSCV4 562.1

    Erelong there appeared a courier on horseback carrying despatches from the elector to Torgau. “Do you bring me any letters?” asked Luther, “No!” “How are those gentlemen?” continued he, fearfully. “Well!” “This is strange,” thought the reformer. A wagon having left Coburg laden with flour (for they were almost in want of provisions at Augsburg), Luther impatiently awaited the return of the driver; but he returned empty. Luther then began to revolve the gloomiest thoughts in his mind, not doubting that they were concealing some misfortune from him. At last another individual, Jobst Nymptzen, having arrived from Augsburg, Luther rushed anew towards him, with his usual question: “Do you bring me any letters?” He waited trembling for the reply. “No!” “And how are those gentlemen?” “Well!” The reformer withdrew, a prey to anger and to fear.HRSCV4 562.2

    Then Luther opened his Bible, and to console himself for the silence of men, conversed with God. There were some passages of Scripture in particular that he read continually. We point them out below. He did more; he wrote with his own hand many declarations of Scripture over the doors and windows, and on the walls of the castle. In one place were these words from the 118th Psalm: I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord. In another, those of the 12th chapter of Proverbs: The way of the wicked seduceth them; and over his bed, this passage from the 4th Psalm: I will both lay me down in peace and sleep; for thou, O Lord, only makest me dwell in safety. Never perhaps did man so environ himself with the promises of the Lord, or so dwell in the atmosphere of his Word and live by his breath, as Luther at Coburg.HRSCV4 562.3

    At length letters came. “If the times in which we live were not opposed to it, I should have imaged some revenge,” wrote Luther to Jonas; “but prayer checked my anger, and anger checked my prayer. I am delighted at that tranquil mind which God gives our prince. As for Melancthon, it is his philosophy that tortures him, and nothing else. For our cause is in the very hands of Him who can say with unspeakable dignity: No one shall pluck it out of my hands. I would not have it in our hands, and it would not be desirable that it were so. I have had many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have been able to place in “God’s, I still possess.”HRSCV4 562.4

    On learning that Melancthon’s anguish still continued, Luther wrote to him; and these are words that should be preserved:—HRSCV4 562.5

    “Grace and peace in Christ! in Christ, I say, and not in the world, Amen. I hate with exceeding hatred those extreme cares which consume you. If the cause is unjust, abandon it; if the cause is just, why should be belie the promises of Him who commands us to sleep without fear? Can the devil do more than kill us? Christ will not be wanting to the work of justice and of truth. He lives; he reigns; what fear, then, can we have? God is powerful to upraise his cause if it is overthrown, to make it proceed if it remains motionless, and if we are not worthy of it, he will do it by others.HRSCV4 562.6

    “I have received your Apology, and I cannot understand what you mean, when you ask what we must concede to the papists. We have already conceded too much. Night and day I meditate on this affair, turning it over and over, diligently searching the Scriptures, and the conviction of the truth of our doctrine every day becomes stronger in my mind. With the help of God, I will not permit a single letter of all that we have said to be torn from us.HRSCV4 562.7

    “The issue of this affair torments you, because you cannot understand it. But if you could, I would not have the least share in it. God has put it in a `common place,’ that you will not find either in your rhetoric or in your philosophy: that place is called Faith. It is that in which subsist all things that we can neither understand nor see. Whoever wishes to touch them, as you do, will have tears for his sole reward.HRSCV4 563.1

    “If Christ is not with us, where is he in the whole universe? If we are not the Church, where, I pray, is the Church? Is it the Dukes of Bavaria, is it Ferdinand, is it the pope, is it the Turk, who is the Church? If we have not the Word of God, who is it that possesses it?HRSCV4 563.2

    “Only we must have faith, lest the cause of faith should be found to be without faith.HRSCV4 563.3

    “If we fall, Christ falls with us, that is to say, the Master of the world. I would rather fall with Christ, than remain standing with Caesar.”HRSCV4 563.4

    Thus wrote Luther. The faith which animated him flowed from him like torrents of living water. He was indefatigable: in a single day he wrote to Melancthon, Spalatin, Brentz, Agricola, and John Frederick, and they were letters full of life. He was not alone in praying, speaking, and believing. At the same moment, the evangelical Christians exhorted one another everywhere to prayer. Such was the arsenal in which the weapons were forged that the confessors of Christ wielded before the Diet of Augsburg.HRSCV4 563.5

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