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History of the Christian Church, Volume VII. Modern Christianity. The German Reformation.
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§ 93. Protestantism in Saxony.


H. G. Hasse: Meissnisch-Albertinisch-Sächsische Kirchengesch. Leipz. 1847, 2 parts. Fr. Seifert: Die Reformation in Leipzig, Leipz. 1881. G. Lechler: Die Vorgeschichte der Reform. Leipzigs, 1885. See also the literary references in Köstlin, II. 426 and 672.


Electoral Saxony was the first conquest of the Reformation. Wittenberg was the centre of the whole movement, with Luther as the general in chief, Melanchthon, Jonas, Bugenhagen, as his aids. The gradual growth of Lutheranism in this land of its birth is identical with the early history of the Reformation, and has been traced already.

In close connection with the Electorate is the Duchy of Saxony, and may here be considered, although it followed the movement much later. The Duchy included the important cities of Dresden (the residence of the present kingdom of Saxony) and Leipzig with its famous university. Duke George kept the Reformation back by force during his long reign from 1500 to 1539. He hated the papal extortions, and advocated a reform of discipline by a council, but had no sympathy whatever with Luther. He took a dislike to him at the disputation in Leipzig, forbade his Bible, issued a rival version of the New Testament by Emser, sent all the Lutherans out of the land, and kept a close watch on the booksellers.751751    One of them, Johann Herrgott, was executed in Leipzig, 1527 (not 1524) for selling Lutheran books, or rather for complicity with the Peasants’ War, and for agrarian socialistic doctrines. See A. Kirchhoff, Johann Herrgott, Buchführer von Nürnberg, und sein tragisches Ende, 1527, and Kapp, l.c., I. 438 sq. and 594. He executed the Edict of Worms to the extent of his power, and would have rejoiced in the burning of Luther, who in turn abused him most unmercifully by his pen as a slave of the pope and the devil, though he prayed for his conversion.752752    After George’s death Luther said: "I would rather that he lived and be converted now he has gone into the eternal fire [!], if the gospel is true." Köstlin, II. 424.

George made provision for the perpetuation of Romanism in his dominion but his sons died one after another. His brother and heir, Heinrich the Pious, was a Lutheran (as was his wife). Though old and weak, he introduced the Reformation by means of a church visitation after the Wittenberg model and with Wittenberg aid. The Elector of Saxony, Luther, Melanchthon, Jonas, and Cruciger were present at the inaugural festivities in Leipzig, May, 1539. Luther had the satisfaction of preaching at Pentecost before an immense audience in the city, where twenty years before he had disputed with Eck, and provoked the wrath of Duke George. Yet he was by no means quite pleased with the new state of things, and complained bitterly of the concealed malice of the semi-popish clergy, and the overbearing and avaricious conduct of the nobles and courtiers.

Nevertheless, the change was general and permanent. Leipzig became the chief Lutheran university, and the center of the Protestant book-trade, and remains so to this day. Joachim Camerarius (Kammermeister), an intimate friend and correspondent of Melanchthon, labored there as professor from 1541–1546 for the prosperity of the university, and for the promotion of classical learning and evangelical piety.

We briefly allude to the subsequent changes. Moritz, the son and heir of Heinrich, was a shrewd politician, a master in the art of dissimulation, and a double traitor, who from selfish motives in turn first ruined and then saved the cause of the Reformation. He professed the Lutheran faith, but betrayed his allies by aiding the Emperor in the Smalcaldian war for the price of the Electoral dignity of his cousin (1547); a few years later be betrayed the Emperor (1552), and thereby prepared the way for the treaty of Passau and the peace of Augsburg, which secured temporary rest to the Lutherans (1555).

His next successors, Augustus I. (his brother, 1553–1586). Christian I. (1586–1591), and Christian II. (1591–1611), were intolerant Lutherans, and suppressed Crypto-Calvinism and every other creed. Frederick Augustus I. (1694–1733) sold the faith of his ancestors for the crown of Poland. Since that time the rulers of Saxony have been Roman Catholics, while the people remained Lutheran, but gradually grew more liberal than their ancestors. Freedom of worship was granted to the Roman Church in 1807, to the German Reformed in 1818, and more recently (since 1866) to other communions.



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