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History of the Christian Church, Volume VII. Modern Christianity. The German Reformation.
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§ 118. The Negotiations, the Recess, the Peace of Nürnberg.


The remaining transactions during this Diet were discouraging and unfruitful, and the result was a complete, but short-lived, victory of the Roman Catholic party.

Melanchthon during all this time was in a state of nervous trepidation and despondency.953953    He spent his time "in lacrymis ac luctu," was exhausted and emaciated. See his letters, and those of Jonas and Osiander, in "Corp. Ref.," II. 125 sq., 157, l63. Before the delivery of the Confession he thought it too mild and pacific; after the delivery, he thought it too severe and polemic. So far was he carried away by his desire for reunion, and fears of the disastrous results of a split, that he made a most humiliating approach to the papal legate, Campeggi, who had advised the Emperor to crush the Protestant heresy by fire and sword, to put Wittenberg under the ban, and to introduce the Spanish Inquisition into Germany. Two weeks after the delivery of the Confession, he assured him that the Lutherans did not differ in any doctrine from the Roman Church, and were willing to obey her if she only would charitably overlook a few minor changes of discipline and ceremonies, which they could not undo.954954    He wrote two letters to Campeggi, July 6, and two to his secretary, July 7 and Aug. 5. See "Corp. Reform.," II. 168-174, and 240. In the first letter, after a quotation from Plato and some words of flattery, he makes this astounding concession (fol. 170): "Dogma nullum habemus diversum ab ecclesia Romana. ... Parati sumus obedire ecclesiae Romana, modo ut illa pro sua clementia, qua semper erga omnes gentes usa est, pauca quaedamvel dissimulet, vel relaxet quae jam mutare nequidem si velimus queamus. ... Ad haec Romani pontificis auctoritatem et universam politiam ecclesiasticam reverenter colimus, modo nos non abjiciat Rom. pontifex. ... Nullam ob rem aliam plus odii sustinemus in Germania, quam quia ecclesiae Romanae dogmata summa constantia defendimus. Hanc fidem Christo et Romanae ecclesiae ad extremum spiritum, Deo volente, praestabimus. Levis quaedam dissimilitudo rituum est quae videtur obstare concordiae."Of similar import are the propositions he sent to Campeggi, Aug. 4 (fol. 246). And, to conciliate such a power, Melanchthon kept aloof as far as possible from the Zwinglians and Strassburgers. On the 8th of July he had a personal interview with Campeggi, and Aug. 4 he submitted to him a few mild conditions of peace. The cardinal expressed his great satisfaction at these concessions, but prudently reserved his answer till he should hear from Rome.

All these approaches failed. Rome would listen to nothing but absolute submission.

Melanchthon soon found out that the papal divines, especially Eck, were full of pharisaical pride and malice. He was severely censured by the Nürnbergers and by Philip of Hesse for his weakness, and even charged by some with treason to the evangelical cause. His conduct must be judged in the light of the fact that the Roman Church allowed a certain freedom on the controverted points of anthropology and soteriology, and did not formally condemn the evangelical doctrines till several years afterwards, in the Council of Trent. The Augsburg Confession itself takes this view of the matter, by declaring at the close of the doctrinal articles: "This is the sum of doctrine among us, in which can be seen nothing which is discrepant with Scripture, nor with the Catholic or even with the Roman Church, so far as that Church is known from the writings of the Fathers." Melanchthon may be charged with moral weakness and mistake of judgment, but not with unfaithfulness. Luther remained true to his invaluable friend, who was indispensable to the evangelical cause, and did it the greatest service at Augsburg. He comforted him in his letters from Coburg.955955    See letter of Sept. 11, 1530, in De Wette, IV. 163.

The Lutheran Confession was referred for answer, i.e., for refutation, to a commission of twenty Roman theologians, who were present at the Diet, including Eck, Faber, Cochlaeus, Wimpina, and Dittenberger. Their answer was ready July 13, but declined by the Emperor on account of its length and bitter tone. After undergoing five revisions, it was approved and publicly read on the 3d of August before the Diet, in the same chapel in which the Protestant Confession had been read. The Emperor pronounced the answer "Christian and well-considered." He was willing to hand a copy to the Protestants, on condition to keep it private; but Melanchthon prepared a refutation, at the request of the Lutheran princes.

The Emperor, in his desire for a peaceful result, arranged a conference between the theological leaders of the two parties. Eck, Wimpina, and Cochlaeus represented the Roman Catholics; Melanchthon, Brenz, and Schnepf, the Lutherans. The discussion began Aug. 16, but proved a failure. A smaller committee conferred from the 24th to the 29th of August, but with no better result. Melanchthon hoped against hope, and made concession after concession, to conciliate the bishops and the Emperor. But the Roman divines insisted on a recognition of an infallible church, a perpetual sacrifice, and a true priesthood. They would not even give up clerical celibacy, and the withdrawal of the cup from the laity; and demanded a restoration of the episcopal jurisdiction, of church property, and of the convents.

Luther, writing from Coburg, urged the hesitating theologians and princes to stand by their colors. He, too, was willing to restore innocent ceremonies, and even to consent to the restoration of episcopacy, but only on condition of the free preaching of the gospel. He deemed a reconciliation in doctrine impossible, unless the Pope gave up popery.956956    Summa, mihi in totum displicet tractatus de doctrinae concordia, ut quae plane sit impossibilis, nisi papa velit papatum suum aboleri."Letter to Melanchthon, Aug. 26, in De Wette, IV. 147.

On the 22d of September the Emperor announced the Recess of the Diet; that, after having heard and refuted the Confession of the Protestants, and vainly conferred with them, another term for consideration till April 15, 1531, be granted to them, as a special favor, and that in the mean time they should make no new innovations, nor disturb the

Catholics in their faith and worship, and assist the Emperor in the suppression of the Anabaptists and those who despised the holy sacrament. The Emperor promised to bring about a general council within a year for the removal of ecclesiastical grievances.

The signers of the Augsburg Confession, the cities of Frankfurt, Ulm, Schwäbisch Hall, Strassburg, Memmingen, Constance, Lindau, refused the recess. The Lutherans protested that their Confession had never been refuted, and offered Melanchthon’s Apology of the same, which was rejected. They accepted the proposed term for consideration.

The day after the announcement of the Recess, the Elector of Saxony returned home with his theologians. The Emperor took leave of him with these words: "Uncle, uncle, I did not look for this from you." The Elector with tears in his eyes went away in silence. He stopped on the journey at Nürnberg and Coburg, and reached Torgau the 9th of October. The Landgrave of Hesse had left Augsburg in disgust several weeks earlier (Aug. 6), without permission, and created fears of an open revolt.

Luther was very indignant at the Recess, which was in fact a re-affirmation of the Edict of Worms. To stop the progress of the gospel, he declared, is to crucify the Lord afresh; the Augsburg Confession must remain as the pure word of God to the judgment day; the mass cannot be tolerated, as it is the greatest abomination; nor can it be left optional to commune in one or both kinds. Let peace be condemned to the lowest hell, if it hinder and injure the gospel and faith. They say, if popery falls, Germany will go to ruin. It is terrible, but I cannot help it. It is the fault of the papists.957957    See his Exposition of John 6–8 (1530-32), Erl. ed. XLVIII. 342 sq. He published early in 1531 a book against the Edict of Augsburg, which he ascribes to Pope Clement "the arch-villain," and Campeggi, rather than to the Emperor, and closes with the wish that "blasphemous popery may perish in hell as John prophesies in Revelation (14:8; 18:2; 22:20); let every Christian say, Amen."958958    "Glossen auf das vermeintliche kaiserliche Edict," in Walch, XVI. 2017 sqq.; Erl. ed. XXV. 51-88. In the same year he warned the Germans to be ready for defense, although it did not become him as a minister to stir up war.959959    Warnung an seine lieben Deutschen, Erl. ed. XXV. 1-51. The Romanists regarded this as an incendiary call to open rebellion. He defended himself against this charge, in Wider den Meuchler in Dresden, 1531 (Erl. ed. 89-109).

The Recess of the Diet was finally published Nov. 19; but its execution threatened to bring on civil war, and to give victory to the Turks. The Emperor shrank from such consequences and was seriously embarrassed. Only two of the secular princes, Elector Joachim of Brandenburg and Duke George of Saxony, were ready to assist him in severe measures. The Duke of Bavaria was dissatisfied with the Emperor’s efforts to have, his brother Ferdinand elected Roman king. The archbishops of Mayence and Cologne, and the bishop of Augsburg, half sympathized with the Protestants.960960    Albrecht accepted from Melanchthon the dedication of his commentary on the Romans and sent him a cup with thirty gold guilders (1532). He also sent to Luther’s wife a present of twenty guilders, which Luther declined. Köstlin, II. 427; Janssen, III. 203. Hermann of Cologne afterwards professed Protestantism, and made an abortive attempt to reform his diocese with the aid of Bucer and Melanchthon. But the Emperor had promised the Pope to use all his power for the suppression of heresy, and was bound to execute as best he could the edict of the Diet after the expiration of the term of grace, April 15, 1531.

The Lutheran princes therefore formed in December, 1530, at Smalcald, a defensive alliance under the name of the Smalcaldian League. The immediate object was to protect themselves against the lawsuits of the imperial chamber of justice for the recovery of church property and the restoration of the episcopal jurisdiction. Opinions were divided on the question whether the allies in case of necessity should take up arms against the Emperor; the theologians were opposed to it, but the lawyers triumphed over the theological scruples, and the Elector of Saxony pledged the members for defensive measures against any and every aggressor, even the Emperor. At a new convent at Smalcald in March, 1531, the League was concluded in due form for six years. It embraced Electoral Saxony, Hesse, Lüneburg, Anhalt, Mansfeld, and eleven cities. Out of this League ultimately arose the Smalcaldian war, which ended so disastrously for the Protestant princes, especially the Elector of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse (1547).

But for the present, war was prevented by the peace at Nürnberg, 1532. A renewed invasion of Sultan Suleiman with an army of three hundred thousand, in April, 1532, made conciliation a political and patriotic duty. The Emperor convened a Diet at Regensburg, April 17, which was transferred to Nürnberg; and there, on July 23, 1532, a temporary truce was concluded, and vigorous measures taken against the Turks, who were defeated by land and sea, and forced to retreat. The victorious Emperor went to Italy, and urged the Pope to convene the council; but the Pope was not yet ready, and found excuses for indefinite postponement.961961    Luther chastised the Pope with all his power of irony and sarcasm for his conduct in regard to a council, in his book Von den Conciliis und Kirchen, 1539 (Erl. ed. XXV. 219-388).

John the Constant died in the same year, of a stroke of apoplexy (Aug. 16, 1532), and was followed by his son John Frederick the Magnanimous, who in the Smalcaldian war lost his electoral dignity, but saved his evangelical faith.



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