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of Luther and his associates. It is true, most of the corruptions in the Church of Rome which he condemned, had been attacked long before his appearance, and almost the same opinions which he propagated had been published in different places, and were supported by the same arguments. Waldus in the 12th century, Wickliff in the 14th, and Huss in the 15th, had inveighed against the errors of Popery with great boldness, and confuted them with more ingenuity and learning than could have been expected in those illiterate ages in which they flourished. But all these premature attempts towards a reformation proved abortive. Such feeble lights, incapable of dispelling the darkness which then covered the church, were soon extinguished; and though the doctrines of these pious men produced some effects, and left some traces in the countries where they taught, they were neither extensive nor considerable. Many powerful causes contributed to facilitate Luther's progress, which either did not exist, or did not operate with full force in their days; and at the critical and mature juncture when he appeared, various circumstances concurred in rendering each step which he took successful.

Hence, while the worthy and pious professors of Christianity almost despaired of seeing that reformation on which their most ardent desires and expectations were bent; an obscure and inconsiderable person arose on a sudden, and laid the foundation of this long expected change, by opposing, with undaunted resolution, his single force

to the torrent of papal ambition and despotism. This wonderful person was Martin Luther, a native of Aisleben, in Upper Saxony, and born in 1483, who, after passing through the usual stages of education with honour, became a monk of the Augustinian Eremites, who were one of the mendicant orders, and was professor of divinity in the newly erected academy at Wittemberg in 1517, when Tetzel, an agent of Pope Leo X. arrived there with a commission from the pontiff to grant plenary indulgences to every person, who should contribute to the expense of building the cathedral of St. Peter at Rome.

Luther, scandalised at this yenal remission of all sins, past, present, or to come,* set his face against a measure so inimical to the interests of piety and virtue, and exposed, with vehement indignation, the impious traffic from the pulpit and the press. None of the qualities or talents that characterised Luther were of a common or ordinary kind; his genius was truly great and unparalleled, and he was particularly distinguished for Scriptural knowledge, piety, an unconquerable spirit, and invincible magnanimity, patience, and perseverance. He began to expose the doctrine of Indulgences in 95 propositions, maintained publicly at Wittemberg in September 1517, and his arguments and his boldness were equally admired throughout Germany. Leo, naturally fond of ease, and occupied in the pursuits of pleasure and ambition, at first despised what he deemed a mere squabble among monks; but he was soon roused by the tidings of Luther's rapid şuccess, and by the clamours of the Popish ecclesiastics for aid and for vengeance. He then direct, ed Cajetan, his legate in Germany, to summon him into his presence, and command him to recant. Luther obeyeď the summons, and appeared before the Cardinal, but refused to retract antecedently, to conviction.

* See the form of the Indulgences, at full length, in Dr. Robertson's History of Charles V. 8vo. 1782, vol. ii. p. 107, note.

As yet he had no thoughts of questioning the supremacy of the Pope; nor any suspicions of the radical corruptions of the Romish Church. But those corruptions are so linked together, and so dependent one upon another, that the discovery of one naturally draws after it the detection of more. Such was the progress in the mind of Luther. While attempts at accommodation were taking place in Germany, the pontiff, instigated by the impatient fury of those around him, issued a bull in 1520, denouncing destruction against Luther as an excommunicated heretic, unless he should recant in sixty days, The reformer, whom diligent and deep researches into the Scriptures had by this time firmly convinced of the radical corruption of the Church of Rome, immediately and publicly relinquished her communion.

Nor did he long stand forth the sole adversary of this corruption, but was soon encouraged by the successes of a distant coadjutor; for the sale of indulgences at Zurich had stirred up the spirit of Zuinglius, a man equal to Luther in zeal and intrepidity, and more speedily convinced of the duty of renouncing the Romish Church.

Oecolampadius also ably assisted in the work of reformation in Switzerland, in the greater part of

, which it was rapidly established: and in Germany, the efforts of Luther in this arduous undertaking were soon powerfully seconded by other learned men, as Melancthon, Carolostadius, Osiander, Bucer, &c. &c.

Yet, notwithstanding the assistance which he had from his predecessors, and from many of his cotemporaries, some of whom were scarcely inferior to himself, Luther has, among friends, the whole glory, and, among enemies, bears the whole odium of the work, and is still called the Apostle of Germany.

In the following year he was requested to appear before his avowed enemy, the Emperor Charles V. in the diet at Worms, when, unmoved by the

apprehensions of his friends, who reminded him of the fate of Huss, he instantly obeyed, and there acknowledged, that his writings had occasionally been violent and acrimonious; but refused to retract his opinions, until they should be proved erroneous by the Scriptures. An edict, pronouncing him an excommunicated criminal, and commanding the seizure of his person as soon as the duration of the safe conduct which he had obtained should have expired, was immediately promulgated. Frederic the Wise, Elector of Saxony, who had all along countenanced him, without pro

fessing his doctrines, now withdrew him from the storm. As Luther was returning from Worms, a troop of horsemen, in masks, rushed from a wood, seized him, and conveyed him to the castle of Wartenberg, where he was concealed nine months, encouraging his adherents by his pen, and cheered in return by accounts of the rapid diffusion of his doctrines.

John, the successor of Frederic, took a decisive step, and established the reformed religion in 1527 thoughout his dominions.

In a diet at Spires, held about the same time, the execution of the edict of Worms against the Lutherans, now too formidable to be oppressed with impunity, was suspended until the convocation of a general council, to remedy the disorders of the Church. But in another diet held at the

. same place, in 1529, the suspension was revoked by a decree obtained through the influence of Charles ; who then found himself at more leisure to push forward his views against the supporters of the Reformation. Against this new decree, six princes, and the deputies of thirteen imperial cities and towns, solemnly protested ;* and from this the appellation of Protestants became common to all, who embraced the reformed religion. At the diet of Augsburg, in Swabia, the following year, a clear statement of the reformed faith, drawn · up by Luther and Malancthon, was presented to Charles and the diet, on behalf of the Protestant

* See the article Protestantism above, p. 85, 6, or Mosheim's Eccles. Hist. vol. p. 73, 4.

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