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tures-he found his comfort, his cure, his guide. Henceforth he needed no other. Forsaking all secular studies, he entered a monastery, and devoted himself to God.
Think of an earnest spirit full of the divine knowledge he had gained, - a faithful preacher of Christ, — hearing that Tetzel the monk, in order to raise money for the Pope, had come with indulgences from Rome. The very offer to sell people the permission to commit sins with impunity was an abomination too great to be borne. Tetzel was doubtless some such man as “ The Pardoner” our Chaucer had described and deservedly derided 150 years before in England.
Luther did not laugh deridingly, as the poet had done; he denounced, in righteous indignation and solemn earnest, the unholy traffic. He preached against it. What he preached it behoved him to maintain, and to explain also, in writing. The matter spread rapidly. Priests were alarmed, people were convinced. Then followed examinations before councils, controversies among scholars and divines, and a commotion every where that had no precedent.
In England our king, Henry VIII., thought proper to enter the lists as a disputant, and wrote a thesis disproving – or attempting to do soLuther's doctrines; and the Pope, glad of a learned prince as his ally, gave him the title of
“ Defender of the Faith,” which our monarchs yet bear. When kings become authors and enter on polemics, we are sure that the example will be followed. Hence learning, authorship, and the study of divinity, became fashionable; and as any thing is better than stagnation, good results followed. Whoever could read, whether men or women, entered into the subject: nothing else interested them. Henry imagined that, being a king, his treatise would be sufficient to crush a poor
enthusiastic monk. He wrote, it was said, with the sceptre. He little knew the spirit of the Reformer, and was startled to find that Luther replied with a tone as high as his own, and arguments based only on the Scriptures. Many endeavoured to dissuade Luther from replying to Henry, the benignant Melancthon among others. . But Luther said, “I wo'nt be gentle toward the king of England; I know it is useless to humble myself, to compromise, to entreat, and try peaceful measures." He showed that Henry supported his statements merely by decrees and doctrines of
“ As to me,” he says, “I do not cease to cry, the Gospel, the Gospel — Christ, Christ.”
The king, incensed, exclaimed, such a heretic should perish, — he deserved to be burnt; and he sent an ambassador, with a letter to the Elector, and to the Dukes of Saxony, urging some extreme measures, saying, “What is this doctrine which
he calls evangelical other than the doctrine of Wickliffe ? Now, most honoured uncles, I know how your ancestors have laboured to destroy it: they pursued it as a wild beast in Bohemia, and, driving it till it fell into a pit, they shut it in there, and barricaded it. You will not, I am sure, let it escape through your negligence.”
Henry was about thirty-one when he wrote against Luther; meanwhile his passions were to give, ultimately, nearly as great an impetus to the Reformation - though from what different motives!-as the zeal and faithfulness of Luther.
Sir Thomas More entered also into the contest, and attacked Luther with a coarse ribaldry that is in our day utterly unreadable. That so elegant a scholar and so virtuous a man could have ever written in such a style, is to be explained only on the principle that the age was learned but not refined, vehement and disputatious rather than argumentative; and that a latitude of expression was indulged even by women-virtuous and highborn women — that to modern readers is perfectly revolting. Yet Sir Thomas More was far beyond his age, and better than his creed, in reference to toleration. In his “ Utopia" - a philosophical romance, in which he supposed the existence of a pure and perfect state — he certainly propounded the doctrine of freedom of opinion. He remarks: “At the first constitution of their
government, Utopus having understood, that before his coming among them, the old inhabitants had been so engaged in great quarrels concerning religion, by which they were so divided among themselves, that he found it an easy thing to conquer them, since, instead of uniting their forces against him, every different party in religion fought by themselves. After he had subdued them, he made a law that every man might be of what religion he pleased, and might endeavour to draw others to it by the force of argument, and by amicable and modest ways, but without bitterness against those of other opinions, but that he ought to use no other force but that of persuasion, and was neither to mix it with reproaches nor violence; and such as did otherwise were to be condemned to banishment or slavery.
“ This law made Utopus, not only for preserving the public peace, which he saw suffered much daily contentions and irreconcilable heats, but because he thought the interests of religion itself required it. And supposing that only one religion was really true, and the rest false, he imagined that the native force of truth would at last break forth and shine bright, if supported only by the strength of argument, and attended to with a gentle and unprejudiced mind; while, on the other hand, if such debates were carried on with violence and tumults, as the most wicked are always the
most obstinate, so the best and most holy religion might be choked with superstition, as corn is with the briars and thorns."
It is one thing, however, to hold a principle as a correct theory, and another to carry it out in practice. Sir Thomas More was one of the most elegant prose writers of his age, and his works were calculated to minister to that love of reading which then began to prevail. He perished, as is well known, for conscientiously refusing to acknowledge the king's supremacy ; but his useful life helped forward the cause of human improvement; and even his opposition to the Reformation was overruled by Providence to the awakening of inquiry and the eliciting of truth.
Of this period Milton says: “When I recall to mind, at last, after so many dark ages, wherein the huge overshadowing train of error had almost swept all the stars out of the firmament of the church; how the bright and blissful Reformation, by divine power, strook through the black and settled night of ignorance and anti-christian tyranny; methinks a sovereign and reviving joy must needs rush into the bosom of him that reads or hears, and the sweet odour of the returning gospel imbathe his soul with the fragrancy of heaven. Then was the sacred Bible sought out of the dusty corners where profane falsehood and neglect had thrown it; the schools opened ; divine