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History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation.
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§ 134. Calvin and Heshusius.


I. Heshusius: De Praesentia Corporis Christi in Coena Domini contra Sacramentarios. Written in 1569, first published at Jena, 1560 (and also at Magdeburg and Nürnberg, 1561). Defensio verae et sacrae confessionis de vera Praesentia Corporis Christi in Coena Domini adversus calumnias Calvini, Boquini, Bezae, et Clebitii. Magdeburg, 1562.

II. Calvinus: Dilucida Explicatio sanae Doctrina de vera Participatione Carnis et Sanguinis Christi in Sacra Coena ad discutiendas Heshusii nebulas. Genevae, 1561. Also in French. Opera, IX. 457–524. Comp. Proleg. xli–xliii.—Beza wrote two tracts against Heshusius: kreofagiva, etc., and Abstersio calumniarum quibus Calvinus aspersus est ab Heshusio. Gen., 1561. Boquin and Klebitz likewise opposed him.

III. J. G. Leuckfeld: Historia Heshusiana. Quedlinburg, 1716.—T. H. Wilkens: Tilemann Hesshusen, ein Streittheologe der Lutherskirche. Leipzig, 1860.—C. Schmidt: Philipp Melanchthon. Elberfeld, 1861, pp. 639 sqq.—Hackenschmidt, Art. "Hesshusen" in Herzog2, VI. 75–79. Henry, III. 339–344, and Beilage, 221. Comp. also Planck, Heppe, G. Frank, and the extensive literature on the Reformation in the Palatinate and the history of the Heidelberg Catechism (noticed in Schaff’s Creeds of Christendom, I. 529–531).


Tilemann Heshusius (in German Hesshus or Hesshusen) was born in 1527 at Niederwesel in the duchy of Cleves, and died at Helmstädt in 1588. He was one of the most energetic and pugnacious champions of scholastic orthodoxy who outluthered Luther and outpoped the pope.972972    The other leaders of the anti-Melanchthonian ultra-Lutheranism were Amsdorf (d. 1565), Westphal (d. 1574), Flacius (d. 1575), Judex (d. 1574), Jimann (d. 1557), Gallus (d. 1570), and Wigand (d. 1587). The chief pupils of Melanchthon were Eber (d. 1569), Cruciger (d. 1548) and his son (d. 1575), Camerarius (d. 1574), Peucer, Krell, Pezel, Pfeffinger, Hardenberg, Major, Menius. One of the noblest traits of Luther was his hearty appreciation of Melanchthon to the end of his life, notwithstanding the marked difference. His narrow followers entirely lacked this element of liberality and generosity. Comp. Dorner, Geschichte der protest. Theologie, pp. 330 sqq. He identified piety with orthodoxy, and orthodoxy with illocal con-insubstantiation,973973    I coin this word from the Lutheran formula cum, in, and sub pane et vino. The usual designation "consubstantiation" is repudiated by Lutherans in the sense of impanation or local inclusion. or "bread-worship," to use Melanchthon’s expression. He occupied influential positions at Gosslar, Rostock, Heidelberg, Bremen, Magdeburg, Zweibrücken, Jena, and Prussia; but with his turbulent disposition he stirred up strife everywhere, used the power of excommunication very freely, and was himself no less than seven times deposed from office and expelled. He quarrelled also with his friends Flacius, Wigand, and Chemnitz. But while he tenaciously defended the literal eating of Christ’s body by unbelievers as well as believers, he dissented from Westphal’s coarse and revolting notion of a chewing of Christ’s body with the teeth, and confined himself to the manducatio oralis. He rejected also the doctrine of ubiquity, and found fault with its introduction into the Formula of Concord.974974    Planck and Heppe give him a bad character, and charge him with inordinate ambition and avarice. According to Heppe he was, einer der widerwärtigsten lutherischen Pfaffen seiner Zeit." Hackenschmidt judges him more mildly as a consistent advocate of the tendency which makes no distinction between religion and theology, church authority and police force. The Strassburg editors (Opera, IX. Prol. p. xii.) call him a "vir imperiosus et φιλονεικότατος." Bullinger compared him to the Homeric Thersites, who was despised for scurrility.

Heshusius was originally a pupil and table-companion of Melanchthon, and agreed with his moderate opinions, but, like Westphal and Flacius, he became an ungrateful enemy of his benefactor. He was recommended by him to a professorship at Heidelberg and the general superintendency of the Lutheran Church in the Palatinate on the Rhine (1558). Here he first appeared as a champion of the strict Lutheran theory of the substantial presence, and attacked "the Sacramentarians" in a book, On the Presence of the Body of Christ in the Lord’s Supper." He quarrelled with his colleagues, especially with Deacon Klebitz, who was a Melanchthonian, but no less violent and pugnacious. He even tried to wrest the eucharistic cup from him at the altar. He excommunicated him because he would not admit the in and sub, but only the cum (pane et vino), in the scholastic formula of the Lutheran doctrine of the real presence. Elector Frederick III., called the Pious, restored peace by dismissing both Heshusius and Klebitz (Sept. 16, 1559), with the approval of Melanchthon. He afterwards ordered the preparation of the Heidelberg Catechism, and introduced the Reformed Church into the Palatinate, 1563.975975    See § 133, p. 669.

On the other hand, the Lutheran clergy of Würtemberg, under the lead of Brenz, in a synod at Stuttgart, gave the doctrine of the ubiquity of Christ’s body, which Luther had taught, but which Melanchthon had rejected, symbolical authority for Würtemberg (Dec. 19, 1559).976976    Planck, vol. V. Part II. 383 sqq.

Calvin received the book of Heshusius from Bullinger, who advised him to answer the arguments, but to avoid personalities.977977    He wrote to him: "Oro, si statuisti respondere, respondeas ad argumenta, diligenter preterita persona illa Thersitis homerici." He hesitated for a while, and wrote to Olevianus (November, 1660): "The loquacity of that brawler is too absurd to excite my anger, and I have not yet decided whether I shall answer him, I am weary of so many pamphlets, and shall certainly not think his follies worthy of many days’ labor. But I have composed a brief analysis of this controversy, which will, perhaps, be shortly published." It was one of his last controversial pamphlets and appeared in 1561.

In the beginning of his response he made that most touching allusion to his departed friend Melanchthon, which we have noticed in another connection.978978    See § 90, p. 398. What a contrast between this noble tribute of unbroken friendship and the mean ingratitude of Heshusius, who most violently attacked Melanchthon’s memory immediately after his death.979979    · Responsio ad praejudicium Philippi Melanchthonis, 1560.

Calvin reiterates and vindicates the several points brought out in the controversy with Westphal, and refutes the arguments of Heshusius from the Scripture and the Fathers with his wonted intellectual vigor and learning, seasoned with pepper and salt. He compares him to an ape clothed in purple, and to an ass in a lion’s skin. The following are the chief passages: —


"Heshusius bewails the vast barbarism which appears to be impending, as if any greater or worse barbarism were to be feared than that from him and his fellows. To go no further for proof, let the reader consider how fiercely he sneers and tears at his master, Philip Melanchthon, whose memory he ought sacredly to revere .... Such is the pious gratitude of the scholar, not only towards the teacher to whom he owes whatever little learning he may possess, but towards a man who has deserved so highly of the whole Church ....

"Though there is some show about him, he does nothing more by his magniloquence than vend the old follies and frivolities of Westphal and his fellows. He harangues loftily on the omnipotence of God, on putting implicit faith in his word, and subduing human reason, in terms he may have learned from other sources, of which I believe myself also to be one. I have no doubt, from his childish stolidity of glorying, that he imagines himself to combine the qualities of Melanchthon and Luther. From the one he ineptly borrows flowers, and having no better way of rivalling the vehemence of the other, he substitutes bombast and sound ....

"Westphal boldly affirms that the body of Christ is chewed by the teeth, and confirms it by quoting with approbation the recantation of Berengar, as given by Gratian. This does not please Heshusius, who insists that it is eaten by the mouth but not touched by the teeth, and greatly disproves those gross modes of eating ....

"Heshusius argues that if the body of Christ is in heaven, it is not in the Supper, and that instead of him we have only a symbol. As if, forsooth, the Supper were not, to the true worshippers of God, a heavenly action, or, as it were, a vehicle which carries them above the world. But what is this to Heshusius, who not only halts on the earth, but drives his nose as far as he can into the mud? Paul teaches that in baptism we put on Christ (Gal. 3:27). How acutely will Heshusius argue that this cannot be if Christ remain in heaven? When Paul spoke thus it never occurred to him that Christ must be brought down from heaven, because he knew that he is united to us in a different manner, and that his blood is not less present to cleanse our souls than water to cleanse our bodies .... Of a similar nature is his objection that the body is not received truly if it is received symbolically; as if by a true symbol we excluded the exhibition of the reality.

"Some are suspicious of the term faith, as if it overthrew the reality and the effect. But we ought to view it far otherwise, viz. that the only way in which we are conjoined to Christ is by raising our minds above the world. Accordingly, the bond of our union with Christ is faith, which raises us upwards, and casts its anchor in heaven, so that instead of subjecting Christ to the figments of our reason, we seek him above in his glory.

"This furnishes the best method of settling a dispute to which I adverted, viz. whether believers alone receive Christ, or all, without exception, to whom the symbols of bread and wine are distributed, receive him? Correct and clear is the solution which I have given: Christ offers his body and blood to all in general; but as unbelievers bar the entrance of his liberality, they do not receive what is offered. It must not, however, he inferred from this that when they reject what is given, they either make void the grace of Christ, or detract in any respect from the efficacy of the sacrament. The Supper does not, through their ingratitude, change its nature, nor does the bread, considered as an earnest or pledge given by Christ, become profane, so as not to differ at all from common bread, but it still truly, testifies communion with The Flesh and Blood of Christ."


This is the conclusion of Calvin’s last deliverance on the vexed subject of the sacrament. For the rest he handed his opponent over to Beza, who answered the "Defence" of Heshusius with two sharp and learned tracts.

The eucharistic controversy kindled by Westphal and Klebitz was conducted in different parts of Germany with incredible bigotry, passion, and superstition. In Bremen, John Timann fought for the carnal presence, and insisted upon the ubiquity of Christ’s body as a settled dogma (1555); while Albert Hardenberg, a friend of Melanchthon, opposed it, and was banished (1560); but a reaction took place afterwards, and Bremen became a stronghold of the Reformed Confession in Northern Germany.



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