A True Tale
of the Sixteenth Century.
Revised by the Publishing Committee.
Massachusetts Sabbath School Society.
Depository, No. 24, Cornhill.
By Christopher C. Dean, in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.
Besides various works, exclusively devoted to a minute history of the important events, connected with the era in the church to which this book alludes, the following volumes have been consulted. Charles Fifth, Mosheim’s History, Popery Unmasked, Faber’s Difficulties of Romanism, Pascal’s Provincial Letters, End of Religious Controversy, Text Book of Popery, Italy by Lady Morgan, Bennet against Popery, and Rome in the Nineteenth Century, with a few others. It is hoped a perusal of this little volume, will lead the youthful reader to a more intimate acquaintance with the characters and lives of the Reformers, and to the personal inquiry, whether they, themselves, possess that spirit of active, zealous holiness, which led to such unwearied self-denying efforts in the blessed Redeemer’s cause.
Boston, 1832-09-01Sept. 1, 1832.
Persons Introduced in the Narrative.
Mrs. Athearn Teacher.
Ellen Her Daughter.
Mrs. Athearn, said Alice Brandon, as she gathered up her work in her lap, and drew closely beside her teacher, what do people mean when they say since the days of the Reformation, and ever since the blessed Reformation, and so on?
Mrs. Athearn. They allude to the Reformation from Popery, my dear, which commenced near the sixteenth century; have you never read about it?
Alice. I do not think I have. I very often read about Reformations—we generally call them Revivals, you know, Mrs. Athearn; but the Reformation is something I do not understand.
Mrs. A. Well, Alice, what is Popery? Do you know what Popery means?1 06 1(1)v 6
Alice. Yes, madam, I hope so; Popery is— —is――is Popery.
The simplicity and ignorance of poor Alice, caused a loud burst of laughter from the two older girls sitting by, who were inmates of the same family, and members of the same school; although, I dare say, had the same question been asked them, they would have been as unfortunate in their reply as she was.
Mrs. Athearn kindly explained the term, by saying—Popery, Alice, is the religion of the Church of Rome, or in other words more familiar to you, the Roman Catholic religion; and consists in a great variety of articles of faith and practice, which I cannot explain to you now, but which I will do, if you wish it, when more at leisure, and tell you something about this Reformation—why it was necessary—how it was produced—and what are its results.
Alice thanked her teacher, and quietly returned to her work.
It had been a custom with Mrs. Athearn to spend the two hours alotted to needlework, in the long winter evenings, in the room appropriated to the young ladies, and to employ that time either in reading some interesting and instructive communication, or relating herself something calculated to amuse and improve. She was anxious not a moment of the precious time of her pupils should be lost, in which they might be treasuring up knowledge; besides, she knew well the folly and idleness to which young, 07 1(2)r 7 giddy girls are prone, when collected together without the restraining presence of an elder.
At the close of school, on the day of which we are speaking, Mrs. Athearn announced to the young ladies her intention of devoting a few evenings to a brief history of the Reformation. To you, added she, who are engaged in historical research, it must be interesting, and to all it will be instructive; to the younger part of you, it will unfold a train of events, with their consequences, with which you ought not to be unacquainted—to the older ladies, to all of you especially who are Christians, it will show what single, as well as united effort in the cause of our Saviour has accomplished by the blessing of God, and I hope, stimulate you to the holy activity, which the present state of religion throughout the world, seems to demand of the rising generation. The annunciation of this subject encountered a great variety of feelings. By some, accustomed to regard every proposition with interest, because Mrs. Athearn made it, it was received with satisfaction. To others, it really appeared a subject, fraught with entertainment and profit. Some thought it would prove dry, and altogether uninteresting. A few heard the announcement with indifference, but not so with little Alice; her blue eyes sparkled with animation, and her dimples came and went like the blushes of the morning. We might have fancied such a subject, to so young a mind, would appear devoid of interest; but Alice had 08 1(2)v 8 been early taught to think, and when once a particular train of thought had taken possession of her mind, there was no rest to her till it was fathomed, understood, and treasured away in her storehouse of knowledge.
Evening came; and before a huge wood fire that crackled and blazed most merrily, casting its brilliant glare over the features of a circle of happy and beautiful faces, glowing with youth and expectation, were Mrs. Athearn’s scholars.
Here and there a curled head was bustling about, and three or four tongues, that might long since have claimed a discovery of the secret of perpetual motion, were in the most lively exercise. Some were moving about lightly on the carpeted floor, arranging this thing and that— others were parcelling out their implements of work on a large centre-table, over which a welltrimmed shade-lamp cast its equal light; all occupied in busy preparation—for as yet, the tread that hushed all was unheard.
But I must tell you some particulars of this lady and her school, to throw light and interest over many conversations and occurrences which will follow.
Mrs. Athearn was a middle-aged lady of great dignity and refinement, possessing a mind of superior strength, well-stored, and diligently cultivated. She had been educated in the circles of rank and affluence, and in her intercourse with the world, had acquired that ease and elegance of manner, which acquaintance with polished society09 1(3)r 9 ety seldom fails to confer. She had also been beautiful, in the true sense of the word, and still retained so much of the impress of youth in her form and countenance, that few persons of discernment would have supposed they risked the credit of her judgment, to pronounce her still on the younger side of thirty.
She had married early, and happily, and with her husband left her native land; but before her twenty third summer’s sun had passed, she returned to her own country, still a beautiful, though blighted flower, with all her heart’s treasures centred in her babe, little Ellen, her only child. Her husband, and first-born, whom she loved with almost enthusiastic tenderness, she had left behind, sleeping on a foreign shore. But her sorrows were blessed to her. Her afflictions were instrumental in working out for her a far more enduring inheritance, than the comforts and pleasures which earth can bestow. Her proud spirit became chastened and subdued, and by the grace of God she was rendered singularly submissive and devoted to Him, who doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. Lam. iii. 33
At her father’s death, Mrs. Athearn came into possession of the old family mansion, and with her Ellen, then nine years of age, and one tried, faithfully attached domestic, she sought its retirement. It was situated a few miles from town, rather aside from the beautiful village of L―― in a most quiet, delightful place—and here 1* 10 1(3)v 10 she superintended Ellen’s education almost entirely herself. Her opinions on the subject of female education were rather peculiar, and would perhaps be deemed enthusiastic by many mothers, who, not from necessity, but from thoughtlessness, or a still more inexcusable motive, relinquish the intellectual management of their daughters wholly, or almost so, to strangers, beyond their own supervision or control.
Her views led her to feel deeply the awful responsibility which God had laid upon her, in the precious soul he had confided to her fostering care; and to feel that whatever of mere temporal interest interfered with the just and faithful discharge of the duties which the immortal being consigned to her culture involved, it must be disregarded and neglected.
Whether Mrs. Athearn’s system was incorrect or judicious, her lovely Ellen, at the age of sixteen, exhibited a most flattering result.
There were, however, in the circle of Mrs. Athearn’s acquaintance, many mothers of distinction and influence, who supposed their numerous cares rendered it impossible for them to devote the time and systematic attention to their daughters, which their views of female education demanded. Yet they could not commit their precious charge to the influence of an indiscriminate boarding-school. With one impulse, their attention was directed to Mrs. Athearn, as eminently qualified by her attainments, the deep tone of her piety and her few worldly 11 1(4)r 11 cares, for an office so highly responsible and arduous.
But could she forego her ease, her delightful, quiet seclusion, and assume a task at once so self-denying? A united petition was, however, presented, and though she received it with some surprise, and was tempted at first wholly to decline the undertaking, mature deliberation and prayer for guidance led her to a compliance with the general wish. She saw, as she had not seen it before, that her present life was comparatively useless to her fellow men, that the ease and freedom from care she had hitherto sought, were inconsistent with the professions of religious attachment she had made to Him, who went about ever doing good.
She saw a wide field of usefulness before her in the culture of these young, pliant minds,— that if properly directed, a vast amount of good from their talents, their influence, and their wealth might accrue to the church, and she dared not, in the light of eternity, refuse a work so evidently an answer to her prayers for more extensive usefulness.
A bequest of the little orphan, Alice Brandon, to her fostering care was made about the same time, and was another weight in the scale which induced her to comply with the wishes of her friends.
Her house was at length thrown open and filled to the great delight of Ellen, and the almost ecstatic joy of little Alice. It was a noble establishment12 1(4)v 12 tablishment without, and nothing which could promote Mrs. A.’s broad plans for her pupils was spared within, to render her home for them attractive.
Mrs. Athearn’s father had been a great lover of the wild and romantic, and had taken particular pains to cultivate the shrubbery around his dwelling; so much so, that his house was actually embedded in a little forest of his own planting and cultivation. And Mrs. Athearn was one who could not live without flowers; by her tasteful arrangement, the whole immediate vicinity of her dwelling in the summer seemed in one perfect bloom, while the odor of the flowers, the cool breath of the waving trees, and the singing of the birds that warbled in their branches, rendered the woodlands to a passer-by, one of the most delightful places in the world. But winter had robbed this place, as all others, or verdant beauty, and left little to notice save the slender twigs, and stiff, knotty branches of the trees, fringed with glittering icicles—with here and there an old elm bending beneath the weight of its years and its fringes, which little Alice called the good old centinels that stood bowing and nodding as if they would say, we will most faithfully guard the precious treasure within. Mrs. Athearn had as wonderful a faculty of producing happy faces within doors, as in creating pleasant scenery without. Perhaps a uniformly happier group were seldom seen, than the twenty-five young ladies and misses13 1(5)r 13 ses who were assembled on the evening to which we have referred, to engage in their usual evening task, and listen to Mrs. Athearn’s story of the Reformation.
The moment her gentle tread was heard in the hall, all buzzing died away; and it was amusing to see what a host of smiles were lighted by her glance, and with what fresh brilliancy the eyes sparkled that gazed a welcome at her entrance. Ten minutes were allowed for the adjustment of matters and things, previous to a commencement of the conversation; when past, Mrs. Athearn said――To give even a very brief account of all the events which led to this important era in the church, and mark its progress in the different countries through which it spread, will require much time; and we shall not be able now to examine the history of each country separately. I shall therefore commence with general information relating to the state of religion throughout Europe about that period, and Germany will be the particular portion of the continent to which I shall turn your attention, because it was in a province of that country that the dawn of the Reformation commenced. By taking you with me, and enlisting your feelings in a particular detail of occurrences connected with that event in one country, I hope so far to rouse your inquisitiveness, as to lead you, at your leisure, by your own researches, to a similar acquaintance with the others.
Then turning to a little curly-headed girl on 14 1(5)v 14 her left, Mrs. Athearn said, Mary Dunbar, can you tell me the situation of Germany, and draw the outline of its shape on the slate that hangs over the mantel-piece?
Little Mary, overjoyed at the mark of attention which this request expressed, said quickly, in a very distinct voice—
Germany lies between the countries of Denmark, Holland, France, Switzerland, Austria, and Prussia; and is bounded thus—North by Denmark and the North sea, South by Switzerland and Austria, East by Prussia and Austria, and West by Holland and France.
She then drew a tolerably correct outline of its form with her pencil, and Mrs. Athearn rewarded her promptness by one of her most approving smiles.
And now, continued this lady, I shall ask a few more general questions. The Reformation took place in the sixteenth century. Can you tell me, Miss Willard, under whose reign it commenced?
Emily Willard. I believe Maximilian I. was Emperor at the time of Luther’s breach with the church of Rome; but he was quite aged, and lived only two or three years after. 15171517
Mrs. A. You are right. Who was the reigning Pope at this time?
Leo X. said one young lady in reply.
And who was Luther? asked Alice Brandon, diffidently.15 1(6)r 15
Mrs. Athearn was always pleased to encourage a spirit of inquiry in her pupils, and she answered Alice by saying—Martin Luther, the author of the Reformation, was a native of Isleben, in Upper Saxony. (Two or three of the girls looked out the place on the map.)He was born of respectable, though not affluent parents, who gave him a liberal education, intending him for the practice of law; 14831483 but the sudden death of a companion, who was killed in a thunder-storm, at his side, made so deep an impression on his mind, that he was induced to abandon his first intention, and seek a monastic life. To a man of his social feelings, cheerfulness of temper, playfulness of humor, and native taste for the cultivation of those accomplishments which rendered him so acceptable and attractive in society, and were so necessary to himself as a soothing resource, in those seasons of low spirits to which persons of his ardent temperament are prone, a life of such seclusion and austerity must have been exceedingly uncongenial. But with the same promptitude which ever characterized his resolutions, he persisted in his purpose, and connected himself with an Augustinian monastery, at Erfurt,—assumed the monastic garb, and conformed with the greatest ardor to all the regulations of his new profession. 15051505 Two years afterward he was ordained Priest, and having acquired considerable celebrity for learning and sanctity, at the age of twenty five he 16 1(6)v 16 became professor in the University of Wittemburg, recently founded by Frederic, Elector of Saxony. While in the convent, he had access to a Bible which lay neglected in the library, and which was the first he had ever met in his life.
Lucy Dana. Never met a Bible in his life, Mrs. Athearn? Did not his mother teach him to read the Bible?
Mrs. A. No, my dear; the Bible was studied exclusively by the priests, and they imparted only such portions of it to the people as they chose, studiously withholding its entire perusal from them, and even prohibiting its circulation. Besides, as it then did not exist in the common language of the country, even had it been circulated, to the mass of community entirely unacquainted with the dead languages, it would have been a sealed volume.The theological notions of the people were derived entirely from the canon law, (the decrees of the Pope,) and the traditions of the fathers. The religion of Jesus Christ had been becoming more and more corrupt for several centuries, till the Roman Catholic church had so long taught for doctrines, the commandments of men, that in the religion of Europe, as it then existed, it was almost impossible to recognize the religion of the Bible. The priesthood, who, as ambassadors of Christ, ought to have imitated his holiness, meekness, and benevolence, had become distinguished for their immorality, ambition, fraud, avarice and cruelty. 17 2(1)r 17 It is said the worship of God had become so changed, as almost to resemble the worship of devils.
Miss Clifford. Did these errors in the church pass unnoticed by the people?
Mrs. A. No; these evils were neither unseen nor unfelt by the truly pious and most enlightened part of the community. But so completely was the reign of superstition and religious tyranny established throughout the land, that the majority saw as though they saw not, and felt as though they felt not. When they beheld the profligacy of the clergy—the base measures used by them to extort money from the people—their crimes and oppressions and impositions on the credulous multitude, they secretly indulged the most sovereign contempt for the Roman See; and had the evils they deplored been less deeply rooted and less in magnitude, they would have hoped for and attempted change.As things were, they became discouraged, depressed; feeling, unless the Lord’s arm was outstretched for the rescue of his people, vain was the help of man;—and strong cries and prayers arose to the Lord of Hosts, for help;— that he would arise and stay the desolating waters which threatened totally to submerge the purity of the religion of their Lord Jesus Christ in the earth. A few holy, brave spirits ventured boldly and openly to condemn the practices and expose the 2 18 2(1)v 18 vices of the church,—but they sealed their testimony with their blood. Claudius of Turin, Wickliffe, Huss, and Jerome, were of that number; but the boldness, the fearlessness and the determined attack of a Luther were needed, before the fabric tottered. Few had dared to lift their voices loud as yet, for the tortures of the inquisition were before them if they did, and threatened damnation from their spiritual guides to all eternity.
Miss W. But did not the attacks of the men you mentioned, Wickliffe and others, do anything towards preparing the way for a reformation?
Mrs. A. Oh yes, they were of great advantage in this respect. They preached not, nor died they in vain; their labors were not as water spilled on the ground. No one ever made an effort for the Lord Jesus Christ, in vain; remember this, my dear young ladies, and let it ever cheer you in every labor you undertake in your blessed Master’s service. These servants of Christ were useful in leading many to a saving acquaintance with the truth as it is in Jesus, and were instrumental in turning the eye of public attention still more to the lives and proceedings of their spiritual guides.
Learning began to revive; schools and universities were established about the commencement of this century. Knowledge was disseminated, and as the people became enlightened, the superstitions and corruptions of the Romish 19 2(2)r 19 court and clergy became the objects of more general remark and criticism. The mind and will of the people became prepared and ripe for a reform; nothing but the instrument for its accomplishment was wanting—a daring and intrepid leader—and God had now raised up such an one in Luther.
Susan Arnold. But Luther was quite a young man at this time; he could not be much known. Strange that he should have been destined for such an enterprize.
Mrs. A. God seeth not as man seeth; his ways are not as our ways. He often selects instruments for accomplishing his purposes which we should not have chosen, but we are always left to admire his wisdom in his choice. Luther young as he was, had by his unwearied application to study, acquired the reputation of the most ingenious and learned man of his order in Germany. He was eminent also for the sanctity of his life; few perhaps in his time, even of the priests, had drank so deeply at the pure fountain of the Word of God, as he. For, from the time he had found the Bible, he had made it his daily companion, and had committed most of its striking passages to memory. He found to his astonishment that many of the truths which the Bible contained were withheld from the people, and numberless errors substituted for them. He became dejected and melancholy—but derived great comfort from the 20 2(2)v 20 holy and prudent counsels of an old monk in the same monastery with himself.
Business of his order led Luther to Rome in 15101510; he saw the Court of Rome, and was shocked at what he saw.
Oh, Mrs. Athearn, said Ellen Ormond, if you would but tell us about Rome—the Pope— and the Pope’s court, and the religion of the Pope, and all his Popish doings! I always wanted to know more about the Roman Catholic religion than I do.
Mrs. A. I rejoice that I can gratify your curiosity, Ellen, as far as will be profitable, and as is necessary to show how far the church had departed from the purity and simplicity of the religion of Christ, and the imperious need of a thorough reform.
I recollect finding among my father’s papers after his death, a packet of letters, which I examined with considerable curiosity. They were written to his grandfather by a younger brother, a physician, then travelling in Italy for his health. With other papers they fell into my father’s possession, then into mine; and are worthy of preservation, not only for antiquity’s sake, but because they contain many remarkable facts in reference to Romish doctrine and practice. Alice, you may take this key, and unlock the upper draw of the old secretary in the library, and snugly stowed in the farther corner, you will find the packet to which I have alluded.
So away went Alice, and she soon returned 21 2(3)r 21 with the expected letters, and all hearts beat in eager expectation while Mrs. Athearn unloosed the bundle, and began selecting them for perusal, according to date.
They are written in quite a familiar style, as you will perceive, said Mrs. Athearn, and were intended for the eye of a brother alone.
All eyes were fixed, while Mrs. Athearn read. Rome, 1600–1700―― 16—.Dear Charles,I am at length in Rome; and of all the places that I have yet seen or ever shall see, this is the most delightful. Where we have indulged in high anticipations, you know it is not often we find them more than realized, but mine were in this case.Every thing which had particularly excited my admiration in my travels in the various cities through which I passed, awaited me at Rome in still greater perfection. I had always ardently desired to view the very place and scene of those important events with which history had furnished me entertainment and instruction from my youngest years. I had promised myself great pleasure in beholding the genuine remains of Pagan Rome—in visiting the sepulchres of her sages and heroes, and in searching out the place where each had lived, and walked, and held his disputations—in viewing the relics of 23 2(4)r 23 her noble, ancient architecture—her temples— her sculpture――her genius and taste; and though I expected to discover little comparatively, of old Rome, yet the bare view of the place where old Rome stood and her few noble remains I fancied would be sufficient to assist my imagination in portraying the rest. As for her religion, Popery, though I knew some of its superstitions, I knew comparatively little, and intended to lose no time in noticing its ridiculous ceremonies, but to devote myself to searching out her antiquities. But my first impressions were such, that I soon found myself regarding the Romish worship with particular scrutiny.I found Popery, as it is exercised in Italy, so nearly resembling the Paganism of old Rome, that, while witnessing her religious ceremonies, I am continually reminded of some passage in a classic author where a similar ceremony was performed in the same form and manner, and in the same place. I can scarcely refrain from fancying myself the spectator of some solemn act of ancient idolatry, rather than witnessing an act of religious worship under the title of Christianity. The first time I entered a church here, the smoke and smell of incense streaming from its numerous altars, transported me at once to the description of Paphian Venus, in the first Aeneid— Her hundred altars there with garlands crown’d,And richest incense smoking, breathed around;Sweet orders, &c. 24 2(4)v 24 And when I saw the little boy in surplice in the church of Rome, waiting upon the Priest at the altar with the vessel of incense and other sacred utensils, how could I but be reminded of a heathen sacrifice?Nobody ever goes in or out of a church here without being sprinkled with holy water, by the priest who attends for that purpose, or else he serves himself with it, from a vessel placed inside the door resembling our baptismal fonts. Now this custom is strictly derived from a heathen practice.
May I interrupt your reading, Mrs. Athearn, to inquire what holy water is? said one of the younger girls.
Mrs. A. Certainly; I wish you all to feel liberty in asking questions. I have been told the holy water is nothing more than a simple mixture of salt and water, applied with what is called a sprinkling brush. The priests affirm that great virtue and benefit result from its use, both to soul and body, and they produce a long roll of miracles to attest it. But I will go on with the letter.
I was present at one solemnity which was entirely novel to me. I never saw any notice of anything similar to it in heathen worship, and conclude it to be an extravagance reserved for Popery alone. It is a yearly festival, celebrated25 2(5)r 25 brated in January, to which I allude, called the benediction of horses ――
The what, Mrs Athearn? said little Alice, very eagerly, did I understand you to say, the benediction of horses?
Mrs. A. Yes, my dear; so the letter says. It was commemorated with great solemnity. All the inhabitants of the city and neighbourhood sent up their horses, asses, and other cattle to the convent of St. Anthony, where a priest in surplice sprinkled the animals separately, with his brush as they were presented to him; saying in Latin—Through the intercession of the Blessed Anthony Abate, these animals are freed from all evils, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost—Amen. He received in return, a fee proportioned to the ability of the owner.
How will people endure such priestcraft! How can they submit to such imposition! exclaimed Miss Ellen Thornton.
Mrs. A. It is strange, surely, that the Roman Catholic priests could ever obtain such ascendency over any people, as to suffer themselves to be so duped; but no doubt this absurd custom was the source of great revenue to the priesthood.
The letter proceeds to say:— I was amazed at such a display of lamps and 26 2(5)v 26 wax-candles as I find constantly burning before the shrines and images of their saints. Many of these lamps are of massy silver; some, even of gold, the gifts of princes and other distinguished personages. The number of offerings, too, presented in consequence of vows made in time of danger, and in gratitude for deliverance, and cures, hanging up in the churches, is so great as really to be quite offensive, and obstruct the sight of something more valuable and ornamental. These offerings consist in a great measure of arms and legs, and little figures of wood or wax, and sometimes fine pictures describing the manner of the deliverance, obtained by the miraculous interposition of the saint invoked, &c. As I was examining these various offerings, I could not but recollect an anecdote told by Cicero, of one, who, having found an atheistical friend in a temple, said, You, who think the gods take no notice of human affairs, do you not see here by this number of pictures, how many people for the sake of their vows have been saved in storms at sea, and got safe into harbor? Yes, says the atheist, I see how it is; for those are never painted, who happen to be drowned.The Church of Loretto I find has become as famous for its riches, acquired by offerings of vessels, lamps, statues, diamonds, precious stones, &c., as Appollo’s temple at Delphi was among the ancients. I have visited many of the temples in this city, originally built by the heathen27 2(6)r 27 then Romans to the honor of the Pagan deities, and as I passed by the shrines once filled by some old heroes, now occupied by the statues of saints, I have thought, how much less criminal, Oh! ye people, will ye be found who worship these images of the Pope’s erection, than those who bowed down to the idols of Nebuchadnezzar? I have learned some curious facts in relation to these very images of Saints. In some of the temples, I find they have not been at the trouble to change the old images of their heathen ancestors—they have only baptized them with a Christian name, and pass them off for some distinguished saints, which, by the by, if the truth was known, has been found never to have existed. I was even shown in the temple of St. Agnes, an ancient statue of a young Bacchus, which has received a new name and some change of drapery, and is now worshipped under the title of a female saint!The Pantheon, or Rotunda, the most noble heathen temple in the world, dedicated of old by Agrippa to Jove and all the gods, was re-consecrated by Pope Boniface 4th, to the blessed virgin and all the saints; so in many others, they have only pulled down one idol to set up another—as the temple of Romulus, and Remus, now dedicated to two other brothers, Cosmas and Damianus. In some instances where they have converted the profane worship of the gentiles to the pure and sacred worship of the church, as they say, they have had 28 2(6)v 28 regard in the change to a similitude of name between the old and new idol; as in the place where the temple of Apollo formerly stood, now stands the church of Apollinaris, built there as they tell us, that the profane name of that deity might be converted into the glorious name of this martyr. Where the church of Mars stood also, a church is now erected to Martina, with this inscription— Mars hence expelled—Martina, martyred maidClaims now the worship which to him was paid. I am told that numberless are the forgeries of saints and relics which have been imposed for genuine, on the poor ignorant people.They pretend to show here at Rome, two original impressions of our Saviour’s face on two different pocket handkerchiefs—one, it is said, was presented by himself to Agbarus, Prince of Edessa, and the other to a holy woman, named Veronica, at the time of his execution, (the handkerchief she lent him to wipe his face on that occasion.) One of these is preserved in St. Sylvester’s church; the second in St. Peter’s.I could tell you many more of the absurdities and superstitions of the Romish church, but time prevents now. I shall write you again soon; will then mention more facts, which I know to be true, and give you a faithful description of what I have seen with my own eyes in this Babylon, this city of abominations.293(1)r29You will be surprised at receiving so minute a statement of things relative to religious matters, and so few on other subjects, but I know Rome’s state, in a moral view, will possess more interest for you, than aught else of her I could name.I must close—Yours, my brother in Christian love and affection,Henry Sturtevant.
Mrs. Athearn now paused, and the interval between the reading of this and the succeeding letter, was occupied in adjusting some pieces of deranged work, and examining others presented for inspection. One of the ladies stated, she was entirely ignorant of the peculiar doctrines which characterized the Romish church. Another inquired, whether the necessity of the Reformation was caused by error in the faith, or corruption in the worship of the church; or in other words, whether the doctrinal belief of the then Christian church, had become perverted and fundamentally wrong, or whether an undue conformity to the absurd and heathenish customs of their pagan ancestors had, as it were, insensibly intermingled with, and corrupted the external worship of Christians.
Mrs. A. Oh, the disease was at the vitals; one error in the faith of the church had crept in after another from the ascension of Christ, till the principles of the holy religion of Jesus, had, as I have told you, become so incorporated with 3 30 3(1)v 30 the devices of wicked men, and the suggestions of the adversary of souls, that little of the purity and simplicity of doctrine and practice, either remained—and where purity in faith is wanting, purity in life will not be found.And now to answer your inquiries, Miss Ellis, I will state some of the peculiar doctrines of Romish faith; you can consult your Bible, and see if they are found there at all—and if so, wherein they have become perverted. The first articles of belief I shall name, as they are fundamental points, the corner stone, as I may say, of Popery, are the supremacy and infallibility of the Pope.
But, Mrs. Athearn, there is nothing about the Pope in the Bible, is there? asked little Emily Brown.
Mrs. Athearn. Roman Catholics confess that, in Scripture, there is no express mention of the Pope, only St. Peter; but they affirm, that Peter was the Prince of the Apostles—that he was settled Bishop of Rome, and as such was Head and Sovereign of the church—and that he left the same power to his successors in that See.But in fact there is nothing in the Bible concerning the Pope, and as little of St. Peter as Head of the church; and nothing from beginning to end, of any others as succeeding in that capacity. The passage on which the Romish church lay the greatest stress in proof of the Pope’s supremacy, is in Matthew. I will read it. 31 3(2)r 31
Mrs. Athearn drew a neat little Testament from her pocket, (for she always carried one about her, so that in case of a moment’s leisure, she could seize at least a morsel of the bread of life,) and read in Matt., chap. 16th, from the 15th to the 20th verses.—
15 He saith unto them, but whom say ye that I am 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shalt be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Here is the great foundation of the whole Popish structure.
Ellen Athearn. A structure whose base is laid in the sand, mother, I should think; how strange it seems to me that any person should attempt to prove that in the phrase upon this rock, reference was had to Peter, constituting him the foundation of the church, and as such, its sovereign and head. It appears so evident 32 3(2)v 32 Christ had reference to Peter’s recent confession, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, in the second verse you read. We know that faith in Christ the Saviour is the rock on which all our hope of salvation is founded.
But, said one young lady, one verse you read says, And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shalt be bound in heaven, &c. that looks like a reference to Peter.
Mrs. Athearn. Not an exclusive one, however; for in the very next chapter but one, verse 18th, we read, Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye (referring to all the apostles) shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. We read also in Ephesians, ii. 20, that we are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. I have searched the gospels diligently, and I find no precedence or power, conferred on Peter by Christ above the other apostles, nor any such power acknowledged by them. Indeed, quite the contrary appears. I can name several facts which go to prove them entirely unconscious, or disregardful of the infallibility and supremacy which the Roman pontiffs have claimed as hereditary from him. Look at Acts, xi. 2, 3.—And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him; saying thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and 33 3(3)r 33 didst eat with them. Also, at Galatians, ii. 11. But when Peter was come to Antioch, I (Paul) withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.Do these texts prompt the belief that the disciples were aware of Peter’s infallibility? The apostles treated him at all times as an equal; they disputed among themselves who should be greatest—they must even have forgotten the deference they owed him as sovereign, when they sent him a delegate to Samaria. Acts, viii. 14; and he himself could not have been as tenacious of his dignity, as his successors have showed themselves. We should rather be inclined to assign the supremacy to Paul, if any of the apostles, from 2 Cor. xi. 28. Besides those things that are without that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. I. Cor. vii. 17. And so ordain I in all the churches. With regard to Peter’s having been settled Bishop at Rome, it has not yet been satisfactorily proved that Peter was ever there, though many have attempted to do it. One Roman Catholic writer on this point confesses, the Scripture does not mention it, but tradition does; we believe it upon tradition, as we do other things of the utmost concern.
Miss Andrews. Tradition is almost as authentic among Roman Catholics, as the revelation3* 34 3(3)v 34 tion of Scripture itself, is it not, Mrs. Athearn?
Mrs. A. Yes, quite as much so.
Ellen. Mother, can you tell us where and in what this great item of infallibility lies? Is the Pope infallible in his private opinions, or only in his public decisions?
Mrs. A. Papists do not agree among themselves exactly where to fix it. Whether it is in the Pope alone in the chair, or in general council, or in both conjunct, or in the diffusive body of Christians, has been matter of dispute.Most incline to the opinion that this infallibility must be restrained to the public authoritative decisions of the Pope, when he proposes and determines articles of faith—decides controversies, and adjudges what is to be believed and practised by the whole church as necessary to salvation. Most glaring arguments against the infallibility of the Roman pontiff meet the eye on the very threshold of investigation. In the first place, the earliest Popes for several centuries, disclaimed all pretensions to infallibility. Several of the Roman pontiffs have been vile, profligate wretches—the history of their lives is such as would mark them the vicegerents of the Prince of darkness, rather than the vicars of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have many instances on record where two and at one time three claimed equal authority at the same time—Pope against Pope, claiming the Papal chair, infallibility and all. Frequently do we find one infallible Pope condemning and disannulling the 35 3(4)r 35 declarations and decrees of his predecessors equally infallible. The texts of Scriptureflawed-reproduction4-5 letters which Papists rest for support in this doctrine, are so perverted and inappropriate, that I shall not trouble myself to mention them to you; indeed I have said sufficient on this head. I shall only slightly touch upon any of their doctrines for want of time, and because I hope we, who have been nourished beneath the blazing light of the gospel in this Christian land, shall never so far forsake the law and the testimony which we hold in our hands and can search for ourselves, as to embrace doctrines so absurd, and so unsuited to the humility of the low estate into which sin has reduced us, as these. But the allusion I just made to the Scriptures reminds me of another doctrine, of equally pernicious tendency with the others. I mean, that their church has a power and even sovereignty over the Scriptures. One says, Take away the authority of the church, and no man can be assured that any one book or parcel of Scripture was written by Divine Inspiration. Another of their famous Doctors asserts, the church is of greater antiquity than the Scripture, nor is the Scripture authentic, but by the authority of the church. Another affirms, all the authority which the Scripture now has, depends upon the authority of the church. One, still more bold, declares, the Scripture word signifies no more than Æsop’s Fables, did not the church add its testimony36 3(4)v 36 mony thereto. They take upon themselves to decide what books you must receive as the word of God, and setting aside the original Hebrew and Greek, determine the vulgar Latin translation is the only authentic copy; and to cap all, the genuine reading of it must be received from them.
Miss Arnold. Do the priests never grant licenses to read the Scriptures?
Mrs. A. Yes, in some cases they do—but only to those whom the confessor thinks fit for so great a trust—to such as shall receive no damage by it, but rather an increase of faith. Supposing, however, a license should be obtained, and the priests allow him to read the word of God, he would find the copy placed in his hand for perusal by his priest, to be a vulgate Latin translation, abounding with errors—or, if in his mother tongue even, so corrupted by the annotations and marginal notes of the Popish pen, that he would still be destitute of the pure word of God. Few, however, in Roman Catholic countries would dare to desire leave to read the Bible.
Miss Andrews. Why, Mrs. Athearn?
Mrs. Athearn. The simple request would be sufficient to bring him under the suspicion of heresy, and expose him to all the merciless discipline and untold horrors of the Inquisition.
Alice. Mrs. Athearn, are not their copies like our Bibles?
Mrs. A. No, Alice; great care has been 37 3(5)r 37 taken in their translations by omissions, interpolations, annotations, and marginal notes, to diffuse the tenets of their own church.I can recollect a few of the gross corruptions of the sacred Text, and from those you may judge the tenor of the whole. In Acts, xiii. 2, where is is said, As they ministered to the Lord, the translation reads, When they had offered to the Lord the sacrifice of the mass. Also, the 1 Cor. iii. 15, where the Apostle speaks of some, being saved so as by fire, they render it passing through the fire of purgatory. If the wicked do penance for all the sins which he hath committed, &c. Ezek. xviii. 31. Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matt. iv. 7.—that they should do penance and turn to God, doing works worthy of penance. Acts, xxvi. 20. There is some sin which is not mortal but venial. 1 John, v. 17. I will mention two or three others and then I have done. And round about the throne there were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones twentyfour priests seated, all clothed with albs.
What are albs? asked one little girl.
Mrs. A. The alb is a part of the official attire of a Roman Catholic priest.I will name one or two texts more. Now the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some will separate themselves from the Roman faith, giving themselves up 38 3(5)v 38 to spirits of error, and to doctrines taught by devils. Speaking false things through hypocrisy, having also the conscience cauterized. Condemning the sacrament of marriage, the abstinence from meats, which God hath created for the faithful, and for those who have known the truth, to receive them with thanksgiving. 1 Tim. iv. 1—3. Jacob worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff. Heb. xi. 21. Their Bible has it, Jacobworshipped the top of his staff.
Miss Mary Andrews. But, Mrs. Athearn, what objections do Papists urge against the general circulation of the Scriptures?
Alice. I am sure Christ in the Bible says, Search the Scriptures.
Mary. And I remember one of the Apostles says, the Bereans searched the Scripture daily whether these things were so; and he said it in an approving way.
Mrs. A. Yes; and the Colossians were exhorted that the word of God should dwell richly in them. I cannot tell, I confess, why the Roman Catholics are so jealous of the Bible, unless they are unwilling to have their doctrines and deeds examined by the clear and pure light of the gospel.They profess, however, to fear that the unrestrained and unassisted use of the Scriptures would lead to a perversion and misunderstanding of its sacred meaning. 39 3(6)r 39 I believe Cardinal Ximenes was right when he said—the having of the Bible in the vulgar language would be the ruin of their religion. We cannot be sufficiently thankful, my dear young ladies, that God has permitted us to live and prepare for eternity beneath the pure and glorious light of the gospel—that we live, not in the twilight, but in the full blaze of revelation— that we have free access to the panoply of the gospel, and may gird ourselves, unrestrained and unreproved, with the whole sacred armor by which we may fight the good fight of faith, and come off more than conquerors through him that loved us, and washed us in his own blood, and will allow us, unworthy as we are, to dwell in his presence and rejoice in the fullness of his joy forevermore. And do not let us forget those who sit in the region of darkness and superstition, deceived and deluded by that man of sin, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; who, as God, sitteth in the temple of God showing himself that he is God. 2 Thess. ii. 3, 4.
Miss Andrews. I remember reading the text you just repeated in the Bible many times, but it never struck me as at this moment. How exactly it answers the description you have just given us of the Roman pontiff!
Miss Ellis. Precisely; do you not suppose 40 3(6)v 40 Papal power to be the antichrist of which Scripture speaks?
Mrs. A. Many think so. Read the canon law which says—
Please to tell me, Mrs. Athearn, said little Alice, what the canon law is?
Mrs. A. The orders or decrees of the Pope, published from time to time, as occasion requires, are styled the canon law. That says, the Pope is as much above kings, as the sun is above the moon. The 5th and 6th verses of the 8th Psalm—Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, &c., Papists say are intended to mean the power given to Peter and his successors in the See of Rome, to whom God has subjected the sheep, (i.e. Christians,) the oxen, (i.e. Pagans,) the fishes of the sea, (i.e. the souls in purgatory,) the souls in heaven, (i.e. the blessed spirits and angels.) Look at another canon law, running thus, we affirm the decree, that every human creature be subject to the Pope of Rome, and that this is absolutely necessary to salvation. The absolute and unquestioned temporal, as well as spiritual power, claimed for several centuries previous to the Reformation by this lord and monarch of the world, excommunicating and deposing crowned heads—interdicting and giving away kingdoms, &c.――
Why, it is almost incredible what indignities have been tamely endured from the Pope by emperors and kings.41 4(1)r 41
Mary Andrews. What indignities, Mrs. Athearn?
Mrs. A. It is said that Pope Celestin crowned Henry VI. Emperor at Rome, not with his hands but with his feet, and when he had done, kicked the crown off his head again, saying he had power to create emperors and to depose them. This is but a sample.
All the adoration paid this head of the church —the titles he assumes and claims at his coronation, as father of princes and kings, governor of the world, vicar on earth of our Saviour Jesus Christ, &c.—I say, all these things look like exalting himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped. The miracles, &c. attendant on papacy seem to bear a strong resemblance to the signs and lying wonders, 2 Thess. ii. 9, prophetically attendant on the man of sin. Search into the moral arcana of the court of Rome, and you would soon seem to find the mystery of iniquity. 2 Thess. ii. 7. He is represented as drunken with the blood of the saints—Rev. xvii. 5, &c.; and when I have unfolded to you the persecutions and cruelties and horrors which the Reformation disclosed, you will recognize still more clearly, I think, the antichrist, by the fruits.
Miss Ellis. But, Mrs. Athearn, does the Pope exercise absolute power now, as formerly?
Mrs. A. No; it is more than 500 years since the Pope began to decline in power; 4 42 4(1)v 42 crowned heads have renounced his tyranny, and the pillars of his kingdom totter even to their base. But still he is busy; he is carefully and secretly working in every land, even in this— flattering himself that though foiled once, he shall yet succeed, and striving by the art and wariness of Jesuitical influence, and the powerful support of basely earned treasures extorted from superstitious devotees, to seduce the youthful hope of our country into his deceitful wiles.
Miss Marvin. But you have no fear, Mrs. Athearn――
Mrs. A. For our own New England none at all. The spirit of our forefathers is not yet lethargic quite, and the mass of our population is too enlightened, and has rallied beneath the banner of liberty too long to be easily beguiled by the superstitions and fopperies of Romanism, or tamely to yield themselves slaves to priestcraft and spiritual tyranny. But for our beautiful western valley, sleeping and waking, I fear. It remains for the Christians of this generation to decide what moral influence shall be exerted there—whether the banner of Immanuel shall be unfurled on its prairies, and its clustering thousands proclaim allegiance to Jesus, or to the Pope of Rome.
Mrs. Athearn’s voice fell as she closed this last remark, with that peculiar cadence which foretells a period to conversation for the present —a new train of deep, painful, but profitable thoughts seemed to be stirring within the young 43 4(2)r 43 hearts around her, which she was unwilling to dissipate; and after a few moments’ pause, she proposed to close the occupations and amusement of the evening in her usual way—by reading a psalm, and leading the evening devotions of her pupils in a short prayer—promising to resume the same subject the next evening.
When all were again assembled, their work allotted and things arranged, Mrs. Athearn drew the following letter from the packet, and read thus: Rome, ―― ――.My dear brother,I received your welcome letter last evening, and most cheerfully devote these, my first leisure moments since, to gratify the wish you expressed to be more particularly informed of some of the religious ceremonies of the Romish church. My curiosity has led me oftentimes to be a witness of various solemnities, and I will strive to detail the observations I made, and the information I have gained, with as much particularity as my time will allow.Soon after I despatched my last letter to you, I spent two or three days in visiting the several churches and noticing particularly every thing connected with Romish worship which caught my eye. Some of the numerous paintings which adorn the altars I examined—they were very 45 4(3)r 45 beautiful; indeed I never saw any, that could compare with them for beauty of execution. I became less surprised, as I gazed at them with admiration myself, at the reverence, solemnity and enthusiastic admiration with which they inspired those who had received from nature an eye to observe, and a heart to feel keenly the beauties of this art—especially when I considered the ignorance and superstition of Papal worship which had shrouded them from infancy, and led them to mistake these natural sensibilities of a discriminating taste for true devotion and holy love to the being whom they represented.The pomp and glory of the worship of this church is wonderfully calculated to awe and amuse the minds of a superstitious people. The costly paintings—the images of saints, enriched with gold and pearl—the costly habits of the officiating priests—the choice vocal and instrumental music—the public processions and parades—in short, every thing combines, by its magnificence, to win the attention and confidence of an unthinking people.But I am more and more astonished at the gross frauds, practised in connection with supposed relics, and the credulity of people in regard to them. Among other relics which they pretend to show here, are the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul, encased in silver busts, set with jewels—a lock of the Virgin Mary’s hair—a phial of her tears—a piece of her green petticoat—a robe of Jesus Christ, sprinkled with 4* 46 4(3)v 46 his blood—some drops of his blood in a bottle— and some of the water which flowed out of the wound in his side—the nails used in the crucifixion—and a piece of the very same porphyry pillar on which the cock perched when he crowed after Peter’s denial of Christ—the rods of Moses and Aaron—and two pieces of the wood of the real ark of the covenant. Many of the churches are most abundantly supplied with relics of a similar character—there is one in Spain, I understand, which possesses eleven thousand, among which are several of our Saviour; a sacred hair of his most holy head is preserved in a vase—several pieces of his cross— thirteen thorns of his crown— and a piece of the manger in which he was born. There are many relics also of the Virgin Mary—three or four pieces of one of her garments— and a relic of the handkerchief with which she wiped her eyes at the foot of the cross, &c. But enough of this.I have witnessed no service in the Roman Catholic church so impressive as the evening service to the Virgin or the Ave Maria. Silence reigns throughout the city—not a wheel or hoof is heard; even the low hum of human voices ceases when the chimes of the vesper bell have pealed. The merchant leaves his unfinished bargain—the voice of trifling and mirth is hushed—the porter leaves his burden on the cathedral steps—all quit their occupation and amusements, and if near, hasten with the multitude to offer up the prayer of a moment to the 47 4(4)r 47 Virgin. The organ’s sweetly swelling notes come soothingly on the ear, as the crowd disperse through the church—suddenly a small bell tinkles—every head bows and every knee bends. Not a sound within or without disturbs the spirit of supplication, which lasts two or three moments, when again the bell tinkles— the congregation rise and disperse—the tapers are extinguished—the hum of labor again commences, and the world resumes her wonted bustle.It would be a vain attempt, were I to undertake to tell you the number of saints and angels who share in the devotions of this superstitious people; indeed they are countless. And as every Pope takes the liberty of introducing one or several into the calendar of saints during his Pontificate, we need not wonder at the man who said on visiting one of these Papal cities, it was easier to find a god, than a man in it.But I am perfectly amazed at the extravagant honors and blasphemous adoration paid the Virgin Mary. They have in fact highly exalted her, and given her a name above every name— I doubt whether their worship (even nominal) of the blessed Saviour exceeds that of the Virgin.Churches and chapels are consecrated to her service—five solemn festivals are annually paid to her honor, besides one day in every week set apart as especially for her worship as Saturday 48 4(4)v 48 is for the Son. There are also seven hours in each day, called the seven canonical hours, which her most industrious worshippers devote to her service.From childhood, the Roman Catholic is taught to cherish for her the most profound reverence and the strongest affection. He addresses his prayers to her as being the queen of heaven and the mother of God—as being all powerful to obtain from God by her intercessions all she shall ask of him. A Catholic school-book inculcates this sentiment: Being mother of God, he cannot refuse her request; being our mother, she cannot deny our intercession when we have recourse to her—our necessities urge her—the prayers we offer her for our salvation bring us all that we desire—never any person invoked the mother of mercies in his necessities, who has not been sensible of the effects of her assistance. Among the reasons given why we should apply to the Virgin for salvation rather than to Christ, I have heard these two named— that she being a woman is more tender-hearted—and being a real mother is therefore indulgent. Such petitions as these following are addressed to her in the devotions of her worshippers: Succor the miserable, help the faint-hearted, comfort the afflicted, loosen the sinner’s bands, bring light unto the blind, our lusts and passions quell, preserve our lives unstained, guard us, 49 4(5)r 49 deliver us from all dangers, lead us to life everlasting, and innumerable others of similar import.Now, to whom, my dear brother, but a Power possessing all the attributes claimed by Divinity itself, should we think mortal man would address such service? and yet after all this, and in the midst of all this, they affirm that they worship the one only and true God, and that Him alone they serve.I find in the conclusion of the Biblia Mariæ, the Bible of the Virgin Mary, (for you must know she has one composed and provided for her especial service,) a prayer of this sort: Oh Queen of mercy, grace and glory! Empress of all the creatures, blot out all my transgressions and lead me to life everlasting!I have been told, that, in a procession made here a few years ago, the following inscription was placed over the gate of one of the principal churches:The Gate of celestial benefit. The Gate of salvation. Look up to the Virgin herself. Whosoever shall find me will find life, and draw salvation from the Lord. For there is no one who can be delivered from evils but through thee—there is no one from whom we can obtain mercy but through thee.I will just add a part of the litany of our 50 4(5)v 50 Lady of Loretto, to show you the extent of their extravagant and blasphemous adoration:Holy Mary.Holy Mother of God.Holy Virgin of Virgins.Mother of Christ.Mother of divine grace.Mother most pure.Mother most chaste.Mother undefiled.Mother untouched.Mother most amiable.Mother most admirable.Mother of our Creator.Mother of our Redeemer.Pray for us.Virgin most prudent.Virgin most venerable.Virgin most renowned.Virgin most powerful.Virgin most merciful.Virgin most faithful.Mirror of justice.Seat of Wisdom.Cause of our joy.Spiritual vessel.Vessel of honor.Vessel of singular devotion.Mystical rose.Tower of David.Tower of Ivory.House of Gold.514(6)r51Ark of the covenant.Gate of Heaven.Morning star.Health of the weak.Refuge of sinners.Comfort of the afflicted.Pray for us.Help of Christians.Queen of angels.Queen of patriarchs.Queen of prophets.Queen of apostles.Queen of martyrs.Queen of confessors.Queen of virgins.Queen of all saints.I saw a gentleman the other day who was so fortunate as to obtain a peep at the blessed lady’s wardrobe, and by his telling, she is most splendidly equipped. Her treasures are immense, owing to the numberless presents she receives from Papists of wealth and distinction, from pilgrims, who give according to their ability, and worshippers numberless, more or less devout, who vow and forget not to pay their vows. She performs countless miracles of cures and deliverances, &c. and the grateful recipients of course fail not to remember her fees. The Virgin herself is a statue about four and a half feet high. I have not time for a very minute description of her person, altar, &c. but 52 4(6)v 52 must content myself with saying they are decked with the most brilliant ornaments—the richest it is said, of any in the world.She wears a golden crown, set with precious stones of inestimable value—her fingers glisten with rings, and her neck is tastefully adorned with several chains of gold, to which medals and hearts of gold are appended, presents from devout Catholic princes. She has changes of clothes for all work-days, holidays and Sundays, of all colors, and even a suit of mourning for passion-week!!I have not time to say more of the idolatrous worship paid the Virgin Mary—yet I have given you scarce an idea of its extent; were I to tell you half the extravagances I have seen and heard, you would believe I had made shipwreck of the credit for truth which I used to have, and would be incredulous of all I have yet to say on other points—but this much I must affirm: the half has not been told.
Excuse my interrupting you, Mrs. Athearn, said one of the young ladies, but I have heard it said, Papists deny the charge of idolatry— what else can they call all this? What more is necessary to make it so? How do you define idolatry, Mrs. Athearn?
Mrs. A. I should define idolatry to be strictly, setting up a creature as the object of worship. But Papists deny the charge of creature-worship,53 5(1)r 53 ture-worship, by saying, they do not offer to saints and angels the honor which belongs to God; they use them only as mediators and intercessors――because, sinful as they are, they dare not approach the holy God, except through their mediation and intercession. They say it is good and useful, suppliantly to invoke them and to have recourse to their prayers, help and assistance to obtain favors from God, to beg they would be their advocates, and obtain from God what they stand in need of.
Alice. But is that right, Mrs. Athearn?
Mrs. A. What does your Bible say, Alice, about a Mediator?
Alice. Fixing her large blue eyes on her teacher. I know, but I cannot think.
Mrs. Athearn smiled, and said she wished she could contrive to banish that soul-less knowledge, which possessed so many of the minds of her scholars—and then casting her mildly beaming eye from face to face in the circle that surrounded her, it rested on Miss Benson, and she inquired of her; she clapped her hand to her forehead, as if it were a talisman that could call up the whole train of her thoughts and marshal them in order-array before her, while she detected the lurking thought she was pursuing, and after a great knitting of the brows and many grimaces, she mentioned this text: There is One Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. 1 Tim. ii. 5.
The young lady who sat next her said, Jesus 5 54 5(1)v 54 Christ is spoken of frequently in the Hebrews as the Mediator.
Mrs. A. Yes, there is one and we read of but one Mediator with God; and there is nothing whatever in the Holy Scriptures upon which to ground the supposition that angels and glorified saints are employed in mediations and intercessions above. True, saints on earth are exhorted and invited with promises of acceptance to pray one for another; James, v. 16. but that is entirely another question from the one of which we were speaking.
Papists also deny the charge of worshipping images, relics, pictures, &c. by affirming the reverence paid to them is to the being represented, and not to the representation. They say, The images of Christ—of the Virgin-Mother of God, and the other saints are to be kept and retained particularly in the churches, and due honor and veneration is to be paid them,—for what—not that we believe there is any divinity or power in them, they add.
Miss Arnold. But then what is their use?
Mrs. A. To quicken their memory and affect their sentiments.
Miss Marvin. But how can they denounce their belief that there is any divinity or power in images, and still retain the Agnus Dei, and speak as they do of it?
Alice. Agnus Dei—what is that?55 5(2)r 55
I should think you would know, Alice, said a pedantic little Miss, opposite. You have tumbled over the leaves of a Latin dictionary six months longer than I have, and yet do not know what an Agnus Dei is!! and her nose, which was rather a long one for a little girl, became visibly shortened for the moment.
Alice. Blushing. I know what the words themselves mean. Agnus, means lamb or the lamb, and Dei, is in the genitive case, and means of God; and that is all I do know. Is it really a lamb—or an image—or what?
All smiled; and never was a rose more delicately tinted with its native pink, than was every particle of mortality that was visible in little Alice at the thought of being ignorant— hands scarcely excepted.
Mrs. Athearn looked kindly and compassionately at her, and then, turning gravely to the pert little prompter said, I presume Miss Charlotte Ellis will be happy to answer you; and to give us all information as to the nature and use of the Agnus Dei. All eyes consequently turned towards her a look of inquiry, tinctured perhaps with somewhat of drollery, and the little girl covered her face to hide a tinge of shame. Mrs. Athearn made as long a pause before conversation was resumed again, as she thought necessary, to give her sense of mortification time to do its thorough work, and she then said—56 5(2)v 56 The Agnus Dei is a little image composed of wax, balsam, and chrism, and takes its name from the impression it bears of Christ, the Lamb of God. It is possessed of wonderful efficacy—so says the Romish church. Its virtue is to preserve him who carries it, from any attempts of his spiritual or temporal enemies; from the dangers of fire, of water, of storms, and tempests of thunder and lightning, and from a sudden and unprovided death. It puts the devils to flight, takes away the stains of past sins, and furnishes us with new grace for the future, that we may be preserved from all adversities and perils, both in life and death, through the cross and merits of the Lamb, who redeemed and washed us in his blood. The Pope consecrates the Agnus Dei, the first year of his Pontificate, and afterwards on every seventh year, with many solemn ceremonies and devout prayers. But after all—notwithstanding the sophistical reasonings to which Papists resort to defend themselves on the point alluded to, the veneration of images is nothing less than idolatry. Pagans make the same excuse for their idols, as is now made by Papists,—that they use them only as symbols, representations, &c. They call them signs of divine honor,—symbols of the presence of the gods. We don’t think them Gods, but that through them we may 57 5(3)r 57 worship the Deity, say they; yet Scripture without hesitation calls them idolaters. The Israelites made a molten calf, and sacrificed to it: we cannot suppose for a moment that they worshipped this calf as a God, the very God that had them delivered them out of Egypt. All they meant undoubtedly was, to have a symbol of God’s presence among them, instead of Moses, when they wot not what had become of him. They worshipped Jehovah by this false medium of their own devising. But was God pleased? Did he approve their doings? No; we are told his wrath waxed hot against them —that they had sinned a great sin, and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men. In like manner, Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, when he set up the calves in Dan and Bethel, was said to have been guilty of idolatry; and his sin brought down the vengeance of heaven upon himself and all his household. In imitation of the cherubim in Solomon’s Temple at Jerusalem, he consecrated his calves to the end his people might adore God—supposing God to dwell in his two temples at Dan and Bethel, as well as at Solomon’s in Jerusalem; yet God says, Thou hast done evil above all that were before thee, for thou hast gone and made thee other Gods. The Lord our God is a jealous God.
Miss Marvin. I do not see what Papists can do with the Second Commandment.5* 58 5(3)v 58
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them; for I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Alice. Oh, do tell us, Mrs. Athearn, how they explain that.
Mrs. A. In all their catechisms, spelling- books and works of small size, designed for the use and instruction of youth, it is entirely suppressed. In Butler’s Catechism, of extensive use in Ireland, the First Commandment reads thus—1. I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt have no strange Gods before me. The second is entirely omitted, and for it you read— 2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.
Miss Arnold. They have only nine commandments then, I suppose.
Mrs. A. O yes, they have ten to be sure; but are under the necessity of dividing the tenth to make the number,—thus—9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife. 59 5(4)r 59 10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods. The Decalogue is abridged in the same way, and inserted in Italian spelling-books, except that the fourth commandment likewise is omitted, and in its place, Remember to keep holy the days of festivals.
Mrs. Athearn, said Miss Emmons, I believe the second commandment is inserted in the Catholic catechisms and Bibles, which are in circulation in America, although not entire; if I recollect aright, it reads thus, in the place of our First Commandment—I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no strange Gods before me. Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven thing, nor the likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or in the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down to them nor serve them. So our first and second commandments are blended to make one, and our third assumes the place of our second. The tenth is abridged and divided, as you named.
Mrs. A. The catechism you allude to is the one, I suppose, newly revised for the use of the Catholic church, in the Diocess of Boston.
Miss Emmons. The same.
Mrs. A. The reviser kept in mind, I dare 60 5(4)v 60 say, that he was in a Protestant country, and has wisely adapted it to a Protestant meridian. But Catholicism in New England is very different from Popery in Rome, even as it now exists, in its wane. Were Popery to tread our shores in its present Romish garb, or even to give us a tiptoe peep in all its Italic foppery, and barefaced iniquity, all the bright hopes they now indulge of adding America to the present territories of Papal dominion, would be dashed at once, and forever; and they know it.
But you cannot tell the extent of the extravagances and the depth of the mystery of iniquity, which was working when the dawn of the Reformation began, form the communications I have made to you, or the letters I have read. I have purposely chosen to unveil Popery to you in a twilight view, rather than in its meridian blaze; in a modified state, than in its heathenish blackness and darkness. I have delineated it, as it existed midway from Luther’s time to the present, because enough could be revealed even at that time to show the imperious need of withdrawal from a church, whose faith was so perverted and whose practices were so corrupt —because also I did not feel disposed to tax your credulity to the degree necessary, had I faithfully and minutely portrayed the length and breadth of its corruptions. There are many depths in the Popish system of religion, which I would not myself fathom—much less would I 61 5(5)r 61 uncover the pit-falls and reveal its abuses and horrible deformities to you.
Miss Arnold. Then you think, Mrs. Athearn, the Papal system is not now as corrupt as it was several centuries since?
Mrs. A. There has been certainly an external reform in some of their practices. The measures, which led to the Reformation, and called the famous council of Trent, thoroughly awakened the public mind, and dispelled that indifference to the encroachments of spiritual tyranny, which had so long remained undisturbed. They excited the just jealousy of enlightened men and prevented the increase of such gross and bold abominations as had before openly stalked abroad, and abolished, or sensibly weakened the influence of those which already existed.But the soul-destroying canker is still at the root—it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing still,— but the results of that needful attack on Papal power to thousands and millions of blinded souls—to our forefathers—to us, and our happy land are blessed. We sit beneath our own vine and fig-tree, with no spiritual despotism to molest or make us afraid. We can sing the songs of Zion in the land of our fathers, never yet shackled by the thraldom of spiritual wickedness in high places. We have the pure word of God, the only true guide to blessedness, and are not compelled to 62 5(5)v 62 commit the sacred trust of our souls’ treasures to the keeping of blind guides—to the sordid hands of a corrupted priesthood.
But we seem quite to have forgotten the letter we were reading, said Mrs. Athearn, however, before we resume it, I will make one remark in connection with the subject of which we were lately speaking.
The sin of idolatry consists not alone in the bowing of the knee before images, which earthly hands have created and made, and the other external acts of adoration, attendant on image- worship. There may be no visible altar—no outward act of devotion—no sacrifice;—all things may externally deny to the gross eye of man any homage but that which belongs to Him, who ruleth in the heavens—all may appear like the whited sepulchre without, beautiful,—and yet the piercing eye of Jehovah, see many an altar—many a heart sacrifice—many a soul- bended knee to other gods than Him; not in Pagan and Popish lands alone, but in the very blaze of gospel light, and in the very spirit-temples, which he destined for himself.Even in this little circle, I fear, my dear young ladies, that the eye of Infinite Holiness discerns such worshippers. For all, who have not spiritually bowed to God, do spiritually bow to self; and earth-worshippers, self-idolaters, we are assured in the Holy Scriptures, shall be as certainly denied an entrance into the Holy City, as the murderer and the thief. 63 5(6)r 63
Mrs. Athearn paused; her attention was demanded a few moments to the inspection of work—and when all things were again in order, she resumed the letter.
Letter continued. I must describe to you, my dear brother, some of the famous miracles performed by the saints, images, relics, &c. They are really wonderful. No saint, it seems, can be admitted into the calendar, whatever may have been the sanctity of his life, unless it can be testified that he has wrought miracles. The tales of visions, apparitions, and miracles which are kept in circulation, and which are, in fact, necessary to uphold such a system of spiritual tyranny as the Popish religion is, among a superstitious and ignorant people are so absurd and monstrous, it would seem scarcely possible they should gain any credence at all. In several parts of Italy are shown the marks of hands and feet on rocks and stones, miraculously effected by the apparitions of some of their saints. Several images have been pointed out to me since I have been in Rome, which on certain occasions have spoken—wept— sweat and bled. One of the images of our 65 6(1)r 65 Saviour, it was seriously averred, wept so profusely before the sacking of Rome, as to employ all the good fathers in the monastery in wiping its face. Before the picture of St. Dominic, it is affirmed, that great numbers of the dead have been restored to life, and hundreds from the agonies of death; the dumb, the blind, the deaf, the lame have been cured, and all sorts of diseases and mortal wounds miraculously healed. More than one hundred thousand pilgrims have been known to come from different parts of Europe, during the anniversary festival of this saint, (from the --07-099th of July to the --08-099th of August,) to pay their devotions and make their offerings to this picture. What is most wonderful of this picture is, that the virgin Mary herself, attended by Mary Magdalen and St. Catherine, condescended to come down from heaven three or four centuries ago, to bring and introduce it to the special notice of the papists. We must infer, as the picture itself came down from heaven, that it is imposed on the people as the workmanship either of the virgin Mary, some of the angels or saints, or of God himself!! How shocking—outrageous! Of Thomas A. Becket, perhaps as many miracles are recorded as of any saint. It is said, he outdid Christ himself in this particular. Two volumes of them were preserved in Canterbury, where his shrine flourished, and a book 6 66 6(1)v 66 has been published in France, containing an account of two hundred and seventy. It is remarkable that he works no miracles in England where his bones are deposited, but works abundantly in other countries. St. Francis Xavier turned a sufficient quantity of salt water into fresh to save the lives of five hundred travellers, who were dying of thirst, enough being left to allow a large exportation to different parts of the world, where it performed astonishing cures. St. Raymond de Pennafort laid his cloak on the sea, and sailed thereon from Majorca to Barcelona, a distance of a hundred and sixty miles, in six hours. At Mantua, I am told, there may be seen a bottle of the real blood of Christ. It was dug up a number of years since, in a box containing a paper with an account of the circumstances of its deposit. It seems one Longinus, a Roman centurian, who was present at the crucifixion of Christ, became converted and afterwards left Judea for Mantua, carrying with him this phial of blood; he buried the sacred relic, and was so thoughtful as to enclose it in an envelope, stating all these facts. It is very remarkable that the writing, the box, the bottle, the blood and all should be perfectly fresh as it was when found, after lying in the ground sixteen centuries!!!
Miss Arnold. Are miracles still performed in Catholic countries?67 6(2)r 67
Mrs. A. The days of miracles have yet, by no means, passed away. Multitudes happen every year, and private ones, which consist in curing diseases, procuring prizes in the lottery, coasting out devils, &c. are of daily occurrence.
Mrs. Athearn laid the letter she had been reading upon the table a moment—rose and selecting a volume from the book-case beside her, said—The author of this interesting work, entitled Rome in the nineteenth century, (where you may see Italy and Catholicism as they now exist, in a very amusing style,) speaks of several which occurred during her visit there, only fifteen or sixteen years since; and of other recent miracles of which she received a faithful account.“ She says in one of her letters, dated 1817-04-01 < x < 1817-05-01April31, 1817—Within this little month, three great miracles have happened in Rome. One was of an image of the virgin Mary, opening her eyes. Another of a Madonna, An image of the virgin. who opened her mouth instead of her eyes, and spoke to an old washer- woman, to whom she imparted her discontent at being so much neglected, and her chapel left in such a dirty and ruinous condition: while so many Madonnas, no better than she, had theirs made as fine as hands could make them. The Madonna spoke no more, but the old washer-woman68 6(2)v 68 man proved a very loquacious reporter of her wishes and sentiments. The news of the miracle spread like wild-fire; thousands (I am not exaggerating) may be seen every day, crowding to this little old chapel, near St. John’s Lateran, about four in the afternoon, the hour at which the virgin addressed the washer-woman, it being supposed that this is her favorite time for conversation—but I have not heard that she has made any new observations. Not only the lower orders, but crowds of well-dressed people, and handsome equipages of all sorts, daily throng the door, and the long green avenue that leads under the walls to the Porta San Giovanni, instead of an unbroken solitude now wears the appearance of a cried fair. The description of another curious miracle was communicated to her by a friend; I will read you a relation of it in the author’s own words— A certain friar had preached a sermon during lent, upon the state of the man mentioned in Scripture possessed with seven devils, with so much eloquence and unction, that a simple countryman who heard him, went home, and became convinced that these seven devils had got possession of him. The idea haunted his mind, and subjected him to the most dreadful terrors, till, unable to bear his suffering, he unbosomed himself to his ghostly father and asked his counsel.69 6(3)r 69 sel. The father, who had some smattering of science, bethought himself at last of a way to rid the honest man of his devils. He told him it would be necessary to combat with the devils singly; and on the day appointed, when the poor man came with a sum of money to serve as a bait for the devil—without which, the good father had forewarned him no devil could be dislodged—he bound a chain, connected with an electrical machine in an adjoining chamber, round his body, lest, as he said, the devil should fly away with him—and having warned him that the shock would be terrible when the devil went out of him, he left him praying devoutly before an image of the Madonna, and after some time gave him a pretty smart shock, at which the poor wretch fell insensible on the floor from terror. As soon, however, as he recovered, he protested that he had seen the devil fly away out of his mouth, breathing blue flames and sulphur, and that he felt himself greatly relieved. Seven electrical shocks, at due intervals, having extracted seven sums of money from him, together with the seven devils, the man was cured, and a great miracle performed!
This account caused great mirth among the young ladies, and it was some time before all became again quiet. Mrs. Athearn then read from the same author a description of a private miracle wrought in effecting a cure from disease, by the Bambino.6* 70 6(3)v 70
What is that, Mrs. Athearn? asked Mary Dunbar.
Mrs. Athearn replied it was the image of the infant Jesus. She says—
The aforesaid Bambino was originally brought down from heaven one night by an angel, and is endowed with most miraculous powers, and held in wonderful repute. I suppose no physician in Rome has such practice, or such fees. When people are in extremity of sickness, it is sent for, and comes to visit them in a coach, attended by one of the friars. One of our Italian servants assured me it had cured her of a fever, when all the doctors had given her up—and I firmly believe it did, for upon inquiry I found that the doctors resigning her to the care of the Bambino, discontinued their visits and medicines. The six blisters they had put on were allowed to be taken off; she got neither wine nor broth and drank nothing but pure water to relieve her thirst. After hearing this account, I was no longer surprised at the Bambino’s well-earned reputation for curing diseases.
Mrs. Athearn laid down the volume from which she had read the preceding extracts, and resumed the letter; it ran thus—
Monday eve,―― You will see from the above date, my dear 71 6(4)r 71 brother, that this letter has lain untouched several days. I have been so completely engaged in the continued round of ceremonies, which engross the hearts and time of this people during the holy week as to leave me no leisure to finish the accounts I have already begun. Rome is filled with pilgrims, and all the churches with worshippers—devout ones—save here and there a heretic, whose curiosity, like mine, has led him to mingle with the crowd, and follow the footsteps of the multitude through the endless absurdities, which tread hard on the heels of each other. Processions of penitents are seen silently winding their way along the streets, clothed in long dark robes, preceded by a black cross, and bearing in their hands skulls, and bones, and contribution-boxes for souls in purgatory. A most superb procession took place on the morning of the festa of the annunciation, which I, with thousands of others, ran to see. The Pope, riding on a white mule, (I suppose to imitate our Saviour’s entry at Jerusalem,) came attended by his horse-guards who rode before to clear the way, mounted on prancing black horses and accompanied by such a flourish of trumpets and kettle-drums as to wear far more of the appearance of a martial parade than of a religious proceeding. All were dressed in splendid full uniform, and in every cap waved a myrtle sprig, the sign of rejoicing. The cardinals followed; and the rear was brought up 72 6(4)v 72 by a bare-headed priest on a mule, with the host in a golden cup, the sight of which operated like a talisman on every soul around me, (for every knee bent,) save here and there one, who like myself stood heretically amid the kneeling mass, looking about panic-struck at this magic- like movement. The Pope himself was clothed in robes of white and silver, and as he passed along the crowds of gazing people that lined the streets and filled the windows, he forgot not incessantly to repeat his benediction—a twirl of three fingers, typical of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,— the little finger representing the latter. Many tiresome ceremonies followed his entry into the church. He was seated on his throne; all the cardinals successively approached—kissed his hand—retired a step or two— gave three low nods—one to him in front, as personifying God, the Father, one to the right, intended for the Son; and one to the left for the Holy Ghost. I am sure, my dear brother, as this ceremony passed, the blood curdled in my veins—I was transfixed to the spot. I saw not what passed without me, but this text of holy writ stood like letters of fire, glaring upon me from within.— Who, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. When the first shock of this blasphemy had passed away, the inferior priests were bowing, each in their turn, and in adoring attitude kissing73 6(5)r 73 sing the toe, as it is called, which is in fact, the embroidered cross on the shoe of this lord of lords. High mass then began; during the elevation of the host, the Pope knelt before the high altar and in silence prayed—then followed an infinitude of gettings up and sittings down— of sayings and dead pauses, which I am sure those around me did not half comprehend; and of which I could—nothing. A lighted taper was then brought, (though it was broad daylight,) and held for the Pope, while he read something, I know not what, from a great volume before him, and after several other ceremonies as comprehensible and edifying as those I have named, he rose and retired, twirling his benediction all the way out, as he twirled it all the way in. After this, I had little running to do, till palm Sunday came. You know I am far-famed as a punctual man—and a full hour I had been seated in the gaze of expectation, waiting the Pope’s appearance in the chapel, when he came. He was clothed this time in scarlet and gold, and a most sumptuous figure he made. The cardinals were dressed in their mourning robes, of a violet color, richly trimmed with antique lace, with mantles of ermine and scarlet trains—but these were soon changed for garments of gold. The same round of ceremonies toward the Pope was performed as I related on the festa of the annunciation. Two palm branches received the Pope’s benediction, after having passed through a cloud 74 6(5)v 74 of incense. Smaller ones, artificial, composed of plaited straw or dried reed-leaves, to which crosses were appended, were presented to each cardinal, archbishop, and to all the inferior orders of the clergy, to the deacons, canons, choristers, cardinals’ trainbearers, &c. as they individually descended the steps of the throne after performing the ceremonious routine I have mentioned before. The procession then began to move off, two and two, beginning with the lowest clerical rank, and at last the Pope himself in his chair of state, under a crimson canopy and borne on the shoulders of four men. Great pomp and splendor marked this parade. The crowns and mitres of the bishops and patriarchs, white and crimson, glittering with jewels, and set with precious stones—their long, rich dresses—the slow and uniform march of the procession, and the gay crowds surrounding, presented quite an imposing appearance. The procession issued forth into the hall in the rear of the chapel, and marching round it, entered again and seated themselves as before. A multitude of tedious services then followed—with frequent kneelings—the tinkling of bells, dressings, undressings, &c.; then the cardinals all embraced each other, gave the kiss of peace, and the scene closed. The next service I attended was three days after on Wednesday in the same chapel at half past four, P.M. The house was filled to overflowing. I had a conspicuous place, and could 75 6(6)r 75 distinctly see all that passed, and amused myself through a long and tedious chant with my own reflections on the varied scene before me. My attention was then arrested by a row of mourning candles, fifteen in number, all lighted, though still broad day; the central one overtopped the others, they retreating in size each way. I learned the tall mourning candle was the virgin Mary; the nearest each side, like maids of honor, were the two Marys, and all the rest apostles. As the services proceeded, the candles, one by one, were extinguished, a typical representation of the falling off of the apostles in the hour of trial. The virgin was at last left alone in the midst, and she at length was set under the altar. As it grew dark, only light enough was allowed to make the darkness visiible—to give a sombre, chilling melancholy to the whole aspect of things. Strains of music then commenced of such unearthly pathos as never before fell on my ear. I will not attempt to describe it; for a time, I seemed to forget where or what I was, so deeply was every faculty of my soul absorbed in the plaintive, heart-stirring swellings that rose, and then melted away among the suppressed breathings of awe-stricken listeners. The lady who sat next me heard till nature fainted—and many on my right and left listened till too deeply agitated to suppress the keenness of their emotion. Holy Thursday, the succeeding day, was the interment of Christ; nearly the same ceremonies76 6(6)v 76 nies were performed as I have already related, with the addition of the deposit of the host by the Pope in the sepulchre beneath the altar, at the close of the procession. Then came the washing of feet, in imitation of our Saviour’s washing the disciple’s feet. This was performed by the Pope himself, officiating in a long white linen robe, and wearing a bishop’s mitre. A silver bucket of water was presented to him by an attending cardinal. The Pope knelt before the first of the pilgrim-priests, immersed one foot in water, then touched it with a fringed towel—kissed the leg, and gave the cloth and a sort of white flower or feather to the man—then went on to the next. The whole ceremony occupied by a few moments; the Pope then returned to the throne, changed his dress for the robes of white and silver, and proceeded to the next service. The twelve priests seated themselves at a table, loaded with various dishes and flowers; and the Pope, after pronouncing a blessing, handed to each from a side-table, bread, plates, and cups of wine, which each rose to receive from his highness’ hand; a few forms having passed, he gave a parting benediction and withdrew.
What senseless ceremonies! exclaimed one of the young ladies.
True they are; said Mrs. Athearn, and they serve to beguile and satisfy a credulous. 77 7(1)r 77 people with the form of religion, without the power.
She then continued to read――
The next day was Good Friday; went early
in the morning to the chapel, to witness the
adoration of the cross—a long, tedious
service of mass, chantings, kneelings and prayings
to the cross, from which the mourning-cloth had
been removed. Then came the service of the
three hours agony of Christ upon the cross,
which I viewed with feelings so indescribably
horror-struck, that I shall attempt no minute
description of the ceremonies. I still shudder,
as a confused remembrance of the representation of mount Calvary, with its trees, rocks and
thickets, passes before me in review—the dying,
agonized contortions of the muscles in the face
of Him, who redeemed us, so strikingly and
horribly depicted, that the cold chills came over
me—the anils, with the spear and the crosses—
the two dying thieves—the centurions, the
horses and the glittering swords—but my head
swims at the recollection of the unhallowed sight
of scenes, too sacred ever to attempt portraying.
The whole scene, which is a complete drama, is
divided into seven acts, composed each of one
of the seven sayings
The seven sayings are these—
of Christ on the cross; a
tirade of the priest, consisting of apostrophes,
ejaculations, and exhortations, calculated to
excite the natural feelings of the auditors, by
the help of surrounding scenes, even to nature’s
highest pitch; and when the scene was perfect
—when the whole multitude sank, exhausted
with feeling and drowned in tears—when the
whole church seemed to breathe in one loud
burst of agony, as the melting sounds of infinite
love faintly uttered, It is finished,—a band of
friars, clothed in black, came noiselessly issuing
from behind; they toiled up the steep, winding
and bushy ascent of the mountain, emerging
now from the thicket, and then from the shade
of a rock, to remove the body of Him, whose
last life-drop was spilt for us. The nails were
loosened, and the body removed and laid on
a bier amid the shrieks and agonizing groans of
the people, who hastened, one by one to pay it
the last tribute of a kiss, before it was borne
away. I staid till I could stay no longer, and
retired amid the prayers, and sighs, and tears
that found vent from almost every soul but mine,
with a grieved and melted heart, and a conscience deeply reproaching me for witnessing a
mock-scene like this.
But I have spun this letter to quite an immoderate length. I must close, but you shall
hear from me again in a few days.
Your affectionate brother,
Mrs. Athearn folded and filed this letter, and as none of the young ladies manifested an inclination to interrupt the pause she made by any remark, she drew out another and began to read.
Rome, ――. My dear brother, I am still busied in attendance on Roman Catholic ceremonies. Curiosity led me, a short time since, to witness the holy rite of baptism, performed on a young lady in the family of Mr. R. with whom I am on terms of considerable intimacy. The ordinance of baptism, as administered in a Romish church, is so encumbered with ceremonies, that it can be scarcely recognized as the simple seal of the gospel-covenant. There are the forms observed before coming to the font—those at the font— and those which follow the administration of the ordinance. A long series of catechetical instruction precedes the rite itself, succeeded by exorcism—which is using words of sacred and religious import, and of prayers, to expel the devil, and to weaken and crush his power. Salt is put into the mouth—the sign of the cross is made with the holy oil upon the forehead, eyes, ears, breast and shoulders— 81 7(3)r 81 the nostrils and ears are touched with spittle— the crown of the head is anointed with chrism, after the performance of the baptismal ceremony—a white garment is given, and a wax taper, burning, is put into the hand. All these various rites are typical of the several effects which the sacred ordinance is said to confer; viz. To remit original sin, and actual guilt, however enormous—to remit all the punishment due to sin—to bestow invaluable privileges, such as justification and adoption—to produce abundance of virtues—to unite the soul to Christ— and to open the portals of heaven. Such are the unwarranted, efficacious virtues which the Romish church have ventured to ascribe to this simple ordinance, which the Bible recognizes only as the visible sign of an inward union, and which of itself and in itself confers no grace. I suppose you are aware that the Roman Catholics make seven sacraments, whereas we have but two. Their order is this: baptism, confirmation, eucharist, penance, extreme unction, orders, and matrimony. I intend to say somewhat on each of these points before I close this letter, but will first take you with me to see the young lady, of whom I have been speaking, pass through the ceremony of taking the veil!! Miss Celia R. is a beautiful girl of 17—only daughter of the brother of Mr. R., who deceased about a year since, consigning7* 82 7(3)v 82 ing this, his dearest earthly treasure, to his brother’s care. Mr. R. is a native Italian, and staunch in his Romish belief—though his lady, I suspect, submits with great repugnance to an observance of this indispensable mummeries of her husband’s faith. Miss R. came to Italy, overwhelmed with the sense of melancholy and loneliness, which her father’s death and her present state of orphanage, (though independent in point of fortune,) has occasioned; her sadness was not at all lessened by the change of customs, of scenes and companions, which her removal from the land of her nativity and the associations of early youth has produced. She has yielded a listening ear to the counsels and persuasions of the friends she has acquired since her arrival, and with firm faith in the represented advantages and pleasures of the life of a nun, she has this morning taken upon herself all the solemn, unwarranted and irrevocable vows of monastic life! Poor girl! in the depth of her present sorrow, the world seems dark and cheerless; she knows not that youth, in its elasticity, bends only beneath the weight of sorrow, to rise again when the fury of the storm is past, and look out upon the charm of social life, with all its wonted freshness and delight. Her visions of futurity are now clothed in the sombre shadows which her spirit wears; she dreams not, that the bright sun of youth and hope, though enveloped now, will soon emerge cloudless, and free, and brilliant 83 7(4)r 83 as it was before. She thinks her sadness is religion; her voluntary renunciation of all earth offers, an offering acceptable in the eyes of Him, who disdains every sacrifice but that of a broken and contrite heart for sin; and she seeks the comfort which is found only in repentance and faith in the merits of her Saviour, in the cold, dull, monotonous round of duties she herself imposes, and the costly sacrifice of what her heavenly Father never required her to forego. But enough of this—though I am in quite a moralizing mood, and heartily sick of cold externals, warmed by no life-throb—of a religion all body and no soul. It was a most delightful morning—one of Italy’s brightest days—and one who has never roamed abroad amid all the beauties of Italic scenery, and the soothing mildness and fragrance of her atmosphere, can scarcely conceive how delightful her bright days are; and I thought, as I bent my steps at an early hour to the chapel in the convent of St. Sylvestro, that when the young lady came to look for the last time upon the beauties and pleasures she was about to renounce, for the cold, cheerless imprisonment of this living-tomb, her heart must misgive her, and her soul recoil from the rash, fatal vow――and I hoped it would be so; for I knew she had voluntarily, unadvised by her uncle or aunt, and strongly opposed by the latter, formed this inconsiderate resolution, and chosen this living-death. But she came at last, 84 7(4)v 84 and two footmen, in splendid liveries, made way for her entrance. She was in full dress, sparkling in brilliants, her dark hair blazing in diamonds, her cheeks unblanched—rather deepened by the excitement of the moment, and I think I never saw her more beautiful. She pressed forward amid the gazing crowd with a firm, though gentle step, while the fixed purpose of her soul beamed full in her eye; the path-way and altar were strewed with flowers—the public applauding— strangers admiring—cardinals blessing—priests flattering—friends weeping—nuns chanting— and I, inwardly execrating a practice unauthorized by the Bible, uncommanded by Jehovah, yet encouraged and insisted upon by those, who unworthily call themselves the messengers of the will of the Highest. The ceremonies commenced. You can scarcely imagine the indignation that by this time boiled within me, as I listened to the discourse pronounced from the pulpit by an old, fat Dominican monk, who poured forth such a volume of rhapsody—with not a particle of sober reason or religion in it; or anything, except what was calculated to inflame an inexperienced imagination; calling her the affianced spouse of Christ, a saint on earth, one who had renounced the vanities of the world for a foretaste of the joys of heaven, &c.,—such as you, my brother, with all your fire, would not have staid to hear. The sermon closed, and at the altar the beautiful85 7(5)r 85 tiful victim knelt—and on it laid her youth and beauty, wealth—the pleasures and refinements of life, the delights of friendship, the charms of nature and of freedom—every thing—all that nature has to give, she gave; she sacrificed them all on the shrine before her, and pronounced those vows, which severed her from them forever. As the chant of her fatal vow died away in melting recitative, every eye was moistened, as far as my vision reached, save hers for whom they wept. Her diamonds were then removed; and her long, dark tresses, in all their native polish and beauty, fell clustering about her shoulders—one lock of it was monopolized by the cardinal— then the grate opened, the choral voices of the black sisterhood chanted a strain of welcome, as she retired from the benediction of the cardinal and the embraces of her friends, within her future tomb. She renounced her name and adopted a new one—her beautiful garments were removed, and the plain, coarse dress of the Franciscan order was assumed; her ornaments were laid away forever, and nature’s beautiful covering, that richly polished hair, was severed by the sisters’ fatal shears. The white veil was thrown on, (which is a very different thing from what I had supposed, being simply a piece of white linen, fixed on the top or back part of the head, and falling down behind or on each side, as on a veiled 86 7(5)v 86 statue.) Attired in the sober dress of a noviciate nun, the beautiful Celia R. appeared to view again, behind the open grate—not otherwise, for she and the world, (save seen through the bars of her life-prison,) were now parted forever. We all agreed the simple dress of the new nun had not at all abated from her beauty, for her bright eyes, and the lovely expression of her fair countenance had not departed with her brilliant attire. I thought her, indeed, even prettier than before. She appeared calm and firm until the last, when nature would have its gush, and while receiving the praises, congratulations and sympathy of friends and acquaintance, in spite of her, her tears fell fast and free. We left her— the heroine of an hour.—But oh! how often in the long, dark flight of the tedious hours to which she has doomed herself, will she sigh over that fatal moment with bitter repentance, but it will come too late!
Here Alice interrupted her teacher, by saying,
Too late, Mrs. Athearn! Could she not leave the convent if she chose? If she became unhappy?
Mrs. A. Were it not for the world’s dread laugh, perhaps so; but where would she go? not to her family and friends—they would disdain to receive her, so dishonored and disgraced would they feel themselves. Her friends and 87 7(6)r 87 acquaintance would scarcely associate with her. No man would marry her, and the finger of scorn would follow her to her grave.
How silly, said Miss F. Andrews, a pretty black-eyed girl, for any young lady to seclude herself for life in such a way. I am sure I can see no reason or object in it, without one is quite sick and weary of the world; if so, there are other ways to get out of it than that, though perhaps it would not be quite as criminal to cut off all intercourse with it by a convent grate, as to cut it off with a hatchet!
Miss Stanwood. And I should think it must be for some other reason that the pleasure of living out of sight and hearing, that induces young ladies to choose a nun’s life, if they are like me; for really, Mrs. Athearn, much as I love to be with you and the young ladies, and have perfect liberty in your beautiful garden and the woods, lanes and meadows beyond, I should not like to be confined here always—much less to be shut up in a convent, where I could scarce see over the walls.
Mrs. A. You remind me of little Caroline D. about seven years old, who was one of my day scholars a short time ago, but is since dead. She came to me one morning, and inquired with great earnestness,How long, Mrs. Athearn, do you think you shall keep school? I don’t know, indeed, my dear, I replied, as long as I live probably. 88 7(6)v 88 As long as you live, Mrs. Athearn? she repeated after me, in considerable dismay.— How sorry I am!! I was in my turn surprised, and inquired why she was sorry? Because, said the little girl, Pa’ says I shall come to school to you as long as you keep. Well, what then? said I. Why, she added, in rather a confidential tone, I may want to be married when I am twenty or more, you know, Mrs. Athearn?
The girls laughed heartily at little Caroline D.’s simplicity. Alice became more and more puzzled to know for what reason young ladies became nuns; and she begged Mrs. Athearn would tell her what their object really was in shutting themselves up for life—whether they were generally forced by their friends to do so?
Mrs. A. It is very seldom, my dear, that girls are forced to take the veil, though I am sorry to say, there have been instances, where young people have not only been wheedled to do it, and left to repent at their leisure, but even compelled to take upon them the vows of monastic life.
Many reasons operate in other countries, which do not in our favored land, to induce parents and friends to place their youthful charge for life, within the walls of a monastery, independent of those inducements which influence the choice of such a life in the young people themselves. Believing as they are taught to do 89 8(1)r 89 from infancy, that this state of seclusion and voluntary banishment evidences an exalted state of devotional feeling, and a depth of piety peculiarly pleasing in the sight of Infinite Holiness, and that it possesses eminent advantages for arriving at still more enviable heights of sanctity— perhaps saint-ship itself—who wonders that many a sentimental, superstitious, uneasy female turns her eyes to the cloister, and seeing no other path before her, that would lead to distinction, rather than die unnoticed and live unknown, she longs to be a nun!!
Catharine says, above all things, she would admire such a life; to be such a nun as you have described. She has always longed to be a nun, Mrs. Athearn, said Emily Brown, repeating archly the whisper just breathed by her neighbor.
And what did you tell for, replied the young lady, casting a half-smiling, half-reproving glance at the tattler, and quite ashamed, that Mrs. Athearn should think her guilty of such a wish.
Mrs. Athearn looked at her with a smile and said, So why would you like to be a nun, Catharine? Why? Because you pant after a holiness of heart and life, which, surrounded by the temptations and allurements of the world, you think you cannot attain? From this reason, young ladies generally wish to have their choice of monastic life supposed to arise. The girls all smiled at the question; for not one of their number8 90 8(1)v 90 ber thought or cared less for holiness and deadness to the world, than the giddy young Catharine Allen.
That would not be my motive exactly, replied the young lady. Well, said Mrs. Athearn in reply, gravely, there is in Rome a convent called the Sepolto Vivo, where nuns are immured. What passes within its walls can never be known. None but the victims enter, and they never may quit it. Except once a year, they may see no human being; then an interview may be allowed in the presence of the Lady Abbess, but no secrets are told. No tidings of the world, as it goes, are communicated to them; its changes, its pleasures and doings are all a blank to them. They know not even when their dearest friends are removed by death. Would you choose this convent? she asked, smiling. There is mystery and gloom enough about it to satisfy even such a romantic disposition as yours.
Oh, no, replied Miss Allen, blushing; that would be a little too strict.
Mrs. A. Well then, you might prefer some other, like that perhaps of Santa Theresa. We know what they are about there. They fast daily, and watch nightly—are completely occupied in penance, mortification, and austerity in every form; they wear coarse woollen frocks to fret the skin—expose their feet to the cold dampness of a rough brick floor—bare planks are their beds—unfurnished cells their abode, and 91 8(2)r 91 many wear near the heart sharp crosses, which by the frequent incisions they make, irritate and deeply wound, inflicting pain and agony at times almost insupportable. These and other similar austerities are practised by many recluses to inure themselves to suffering, to mortify the flesh and prepare themselves by their extraordinary sufferings and privations for a future saintship.
Oh, such a nun’s life I should not like at all, exclaimed the young lady.
Mrs. A. No, I dare say. Your vanity would like the display and parade which constitutes the introductory scene to the long, dark, unvaried years of monastic life. You would like the jewels, the interested gaze of strangers, the applause and flattery of the public voice, the blessing and enthusiastic approbation of the old father confessor, the host of priests and of the Pope himself, the tears of friends, the sympathy of crowds, the admiring gaze of thousands, the delightful complacency of the moment in viewing yourself the magnet of all this splendor; you would enjoy the pageantry and excitement of one short hour, but would you like, my dear Catharine, the after-piece? the long and frequent prayers? the telling of thousands of beads? the heartless vows and their reluctant fulfilment which compose the routine of this secluded life you so much admire at a distance? Would you not despise the threshold which your feet might never press again? would you not long for a nearer, better view of the bright world 92 8(2)v 92 you had foregone, renounced, spurned, than you could have from the lofty, remote battlements of your earthly prison-house, or even the extremity of its gardens, hanging on the summit of the convent-hill, amid the thick, dark groves of cypress around you? But all would be beyond your reach, self-removed from your grasp; whatever your repentance, your disinclination, it must be concealed, smothered. Even in your private chapel in the convent, you would sit at the top of the lofty church, completely screened from view by a gilded grating, impervious to the external gaze, though you might perchance peep out yourself.Oh, how many thoughtless young creatures, in a fit of imaginary devotional feeling, (reckless of future misgivings or futurity in any sense,) sacrifice their all on this unnatural altar; and they are cheered by no smile or token of approbation from their Saviour in return, for he never enjoined such self-inflictions on his followers—such sacrifices are not acceptable from His wroshippers. Pagans, in their fanaticism, inflicted the punishment of this living-death on their guilty vestal virgins, but it was reserved for the fanatics of Popery to sacrifice the innocent, the youthful, and beautiful on the altar of monachism. And they call it religion, virtue!! It is a fact, that according to the census of Spain only 45 years ago, (you know Spain is a Roman Catholic country,) there were 42,707 Roman Catholic Dignitaries, Vicars, &c. 3,067 93 8(3)r 93 convents, 57,515 monks, and 24,559 nuns; whole population, 10,269,150. Out of these, more than 82,000 were shut out from all intercourse with the world—a prey to their own loneliness, desolation, and unnecessary sacrifices.
Miss Emmons. I am surprised at such a disproportionate number of monks; I did not know there were more monks than nuns, if as many.
Mrs. A. Yes; it is said the former out-number the latter by nearly one half. I told you only the number of useless beings in one country; we should be still more surprised, could we ascertain truly the exact number throughout the world, who have sacrificed themselves in this way.
Do you suppose, Mrs. Athearn, that in reality, the inhabitants of these life-prisons, as you term them, attain a greater depth of piety, and reach a loftier height in devotional feeling, than those who serve God faithfully amid the cares of life—in the midst of the world, where God himself put them? asked one of the young ladies.
Mrs. A. No, my dear, I do not. Very few are found within the walls of a convent who worship God in the Spirit, having no confidence in the flesh, and trusting not to their own merits— hanging not their hopes on their various good works—the self-righteousness which you know is but filthy rags, in the sight of Jehovah. Here and there a truly religious monk or nun 8* 94 8(3)v 94 may be found, but small is the number, compared with the whole.
If we would grow in grace, and do the will of our heavenly Father, we shall not roll in a napkin the talent committed to us, and lay it away unemployed; we shall not seclude ourselves in our closets from opportunities of saving souls, praying without correspondent action following; we shall not put our light under a bushel, but in a position capable of being seen—we shall go out among souls, showing them the way to heaven by our life, conversation, and holy zeal, like our blessed Master, who went about doing good.
But let us return to our letter now, said Mrs. Athearn, and she took it from the worktable before her, where in the course of the preceding remarks it had been placed, to give way to a piece of rug-work, which needed attention. She glanced hastily over the page on which she was reading when Alice proposed her question, and finding the clause she read last, she continued thus;—
I find I have little room or time left to say all I had intended; but I must allude to the Sacraments which this Church has instituted. I believe I named in the commencement of this letter, that five had been added by the Church of Rome to the two, already instituted by our Saviour; viz. confirmation, penance, extreme unction, orders, and matrimony. Confirmation, like baptism and indeed all the sacraments, in their belief, confers grace. By 95 8(4)r 95 baptism, they say, we are born again; by confirmation we grow; by the eucharist we are nurtured, &c. The ceremonies attendant on the administration of this ordinance are almost as numerous and as varied as in that of baptism. Children who have attained the use of reason— who are at least seven years of age, may be confirmed. Sponsors are required as in baptism, and the same spiritual affinity is contracted. I lately saw this ordinance administered. I have forgotten some of the rites, but I remember the forehead was anointed by the Bishop with chrism, in the sign of the cross, then—
Alice. Mrs. Athearn, I dislike to interrupt you again, but I really do not know what chrism is; you have used the word several times.
Chrism is a mixture of oil and balsam, said Mrs. Athearn. You need not feel any delicacy at all, young ladies, about questioning me in respect to anything you do not understand; you know I am always happy to answer you.
She thus went on; The Bishop then gently slapped the young man’s cheek to remind him, that as a courageous champion, he should be prepared to brave with unconquered resolution all adversities for the name of Christ. This was followed by the kiss of peace, to signify that he had been blessed with the fullness of divine grace, and with that peace which passeth all understanding, &c. As the sacrament of baptism washes away all, especially original sin――the sacrament of penance begins where that of baptism96 8(4)v 96 tism leaves off, and washes away all sins of thought and deed, committed after the former.It seems this sacrament consists of three acts or parts――contrition, confession, and satisfaction.Contrition is the sorrow and detestation which the mind feels for past sin, with a prupose of sinning no more. This, you know, is our definition of true repentance. But unless this act is accompanied in the penitent by confession, in the ear of the priest, or to use their term, auricular confession, and by satisfaction, which is also composed of three parts, prayer, fasting, and alms-deeds, in the view of the Romish church, it is of no effect; no absolution can be obtained, and the Roman Catholic must go on his way, like Christian in the Pilgrim’s Progress, bowed down beneath the burden of his ponderous sins.The method of confession is the following; after the penitent comes into the church, and has gone through the various ceremonies of sprinkling himself with holy water, making the sign of the cross, and bowing before the altar, repeating several Pater Nosters and Ave Marias, he withdraws to the confessional, (the seat or box in which the confessor sits to hear the declarations of his penitents, usually placed in the darkest part of the chapel, having an iron grate at each side, with a door in front,) and kneels at the feet of the father confessor, to pour into his ear his humble confessions. On festivals and 97 8(5)r 97 devotional days, the crowd is frequently so great, that three penitents at once may be seen in a kneeling posture around the confessional. As soon as one has finished his confession, which is always in a whisper, another begins, making the sign of the cross and saying, Pray, Father, give me your blessing; I have sinned. The confiteor, or form of confession used, is this;I confess to Almighty God, to blessed Mary, ever a virgin, to blessed Michael the archangel, to blessed John the Baptist, to the holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, and to all the saints, that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word, and deed, through my fault, my most grievous fault; he then accuses himself of his sins, according to the order of God’s commandments or such other order as he finds most helpful to his memory,――confessing the sins of thought, word, and deed since his last confession, as far as he can remember, adding after each sin the number of times he has been guilty of it, and such circumstances as may very considerably aggravate the guilt; but carefully abstaining from such as are impertinent or unnecessary, and from excuses and long narrations.He then concludes with this, or a similar form; For this and all my other sins, which I cannot at this present time call to remembrance, I am heartily sorry, purpose amendment for the future, most humbly ask pardon of God, and absolution of you, my ghostly father; therefore I beseech the blessed Mary, ever a virgin, the 98 8(5)v 98 blessed Michael the archangel, the blessed John Baptist, the holy Apostles, Peter and Paul, and all the saints, to pray to the Lord our God for me.This the confessor follows with such intruction and advice as he deems suitable to give, enjoins upon him such penance as he prescribes to be carefully performed in due time and in a penitential spirit; he then absolves the penitent, who retires unburdened of sin and ready to open a new account.Of the works of penance there is an almost inconceivable variety, from the repetition of Ave Marias and Pater Nosters to the endurance of the most excruciating tortures and painful privations.Some live nearly half the year on bread and water; others remain in certain positions almost an incredible length of time; some are in the constant use of flagellation; lacerating bandages and iron chains, bound constantly about the body, immersions in freezing water, and every method of gradually and painfully destroying life.St. Rose bore night and day three folds of an iron chain round the waist, a belt set with needles and an iron crown armed inside with points; she made to herself a bed of the unpolished trunk of trees, and filled up the interstices with broken pottery. So I am told.St. Theresa used hair shirts, chains, nettles, scourges, and even rolled herself among thorns.99 8(6)r 99
These descriptions really transport one to the heathen countries of our own day, where not a beam of the true religion has yet shone, said Miss Emmons. I cannot express my amazement, that any people who have ever heard of the God we worship, much more that bear a Christian name, should adopt such methods of satisfaction for sin; such self-inflictions to appease a merciful and holy God.
Mrs. A. It is enough to make an angel weep truly, at the folly and obstinacy of man.I have been told that even at the present day every Italian is obliged to confess, and receive communion, once a year at least, or see his name posted up in the church, and if the neglect is persisted in, excommunication, loss of property, family sufferings, and the terrors of the Inquisition await him—stare him in the face. The letter continues, Oh when, my brother, shall the reign of the Prince of peace in this beautiful country, and the total downfall and oblivion of this tyrannical man of sin, arrive.My soul weeps over these duped immortals, hastening to eternity. You see how completely their works of penance to atone for sin neutralize the necessity of faith in Christ’s merits. They are justified by works, instead of faith. They talk of sending on to heaven a stock of good works, on which they may live for eternity; and regret life is so short for this labor of accumulation.1008(6)v100They talk of deducting the merits of their pains, sufferings, and crosses, from the punishment due their sins, &c. &c. which one can hardly believe without being an eye-witness of their practises, confirming their belief, and hearing their prayers, and the avowal of their sentiments on this point from their own mouths.In my next letter, I intend to tell you about the immense stock of merits, which have been, and are still accumulating――an inexhaustible fund from which they presume on their indulgences, but have not time now; indeed I must postpone what I had intended to say on other points, for urgent duties demand my attention.But believe me, my dear brother, as ever, your affectionate,Henry ――
Mrs. Athearn folded the letter, and one of the little girls said, Doctor Sturtevant forgot to mention anything about the other sacraments; will you please to tell us what extreme unction is?
Mrs. A. It is a sacrament, administered only to the sick; to those apparently on the verge of eternity.The oil of olives is consecrated and applied by the bishop to the organs of sense, with this form, By this holy unction, and through his great mercy, may God indulge thee whatever sins 101 9(1)r 101 thou hast committed by sight, or smell, or touch, applying it successively to the eyes, the ears, the nostrils, &c. This sacrament the Roman Catholic supposes, remits sins, and so great is his faith in its efficacy, that, comforted and peaceful after its administration, he sinks down in the arms of death, fearless and relieved, prepared in its strength to open his eyes on the new scenes before him, and to be ushered into the presence of his Judge. Orders, of course, refers to the several dignities of the priesthood. Its number is seven, viz. porter, reader, exorcist, acolyte, sub-deacon, deacon and priest; the last three are designated by the title of holy, and the other four by that of the minor orders. The offices of most of these, I suppose the greater part of you will naturally understand.
Mary Dunbar. If you should ask me, Mrs. Athearn, I am sure I could not tell.
Mrs. A. Then I will briefly explain them. The porter has the charge of the keys and the door of the church, and assists as the sacrifice; he is the treasurer of the church also, and the guardian of the sacristy, (or room where the consecrated vessels are kept.)The office of the reader is to read to the people in a clear and distinct voice the sacred scriptures, (in Latin, you know,) and to instruct the faithful in the rudiments of the faith. The exorcist, by the imposing of hands, is to 9 102 9(1)v 102 expel devils from those possessed, be they baptised or catechumens. The acolyte serves those who are in holy orders, in the ministry of the altar, and attends to the lights, used at the celebration of the mass, &c. The holy orders are under obligations of perpetual celibacy. The sub-deacon’s duties are to prepare the altar-linen, the sacred vessels, the bread and wine, necessary for the holy sacrifice—to minister water to the priest or bishop at the washing of the hands at mass—to read the epistle—to assist at mass in the capacity of witness, and see that the priest be not disturbed by any one during its celebration. To the deacon it belongs constantly to accompany the bishop, to attend him when preaching, to assist him and the priest also during the celebration of the holy mysteries, and at the administration of the sacraments, and to read the gospel at the sacrifice of the mass. The office of the priest is to offer sacrifice to God, and to administer the sacraments of the church.
Mrs. Athearn, said one little girl, you have very often spoken of cardinals, what are they?
Mrs. A. The cardinals are the deacons, priests and bishops of Rome and its suburbs. Their number is seventy, and they are created at the pleasure of the Pontiff. They constitute the consistory, or council of the apostolic See; 103 9(2)r 103 preside over the Pope’s tribunals, and enjoy great privileges and honors.
I have but one letter more, said Mrs. Athearn; we will read that, and then adjourn. The topics of to-morrow evening will more immediately concern the Reformation, but it seemed necessary to enter into something of a detail of the errors and practises of the Christian church as it existed in the 16th century, to give you any idea of the cause and necessity of the Reformation.
Mrs. Athearn then began to read the only remaining letter from Doct. Sturtevant, which had any reference to the subject; upon which all the young ladies now began to manifest considerable interest.
Rome, ――. My dear brother, This is my last letter from Rome; my health has wonderfully improved, and I intend soon to set my face homeward. Before this reaches you, I shall probably be on my way. I shall have bid adieu to all the beauty and splendor of this classic city, once mistress of the world, and be quite beyond the charms of her scenery, the balmy breath of her delightful hills, and all her romantic associations; and indeed the latter have long since floated from my memory, so absorbed have I become in the interests of her future spiritual welfare—but I shall carry with me many new thoughts and new feelings, which, by the blessing of God, will prompt to many new efforts and to many new plans. Henceforth, my brother, I will be the Lord’s! 105 9(3)r 105 I will live for Him, act for Him, think for Him, and direct every effort of my soul to co-operate in bringing back this darkened, deluded world of immortals, to the standard of the holy and peaceful allegiance of Jesus; to hasten that latter-day glory, which my soul never longed with such intensity to see, as since I have contrasted its brightness and purity with the depressing gloom and abominations of the superstitious ages behind us, yet lingering in their retreat. My heart has almost melted within me, as I have watched the thick, dark clouds, which have settled over this people, and the horrible blackness of darkness which has shrouded, and still envelopes so many millions of perishing immortals, as they make their final plunge into the fathomless gulf of eternity, blindly unprepared, deceived by blind guides, and eternally lost. Oh! the wo reserved in the dregs of the cup of antichrist, the indescribable torments that await him at the decisions of the last great day! Every delusion I find in the cup of abominations, prepared for the nations by the mother of harlots, and greedily drank by easily-deceived souls, thirsting for a blessed immortality, awakens new and deeper pangs of indignation and grief, till my heart, at times, is ready to burst in the depths of its distress for souls. I thought when I last wrote to you, that I had some faint glimpse of the deceits and delusions practised on the followers of Popery. I could see depths, frightful and immense, of 9* 106 9(3)v 106 treasures of gold and silver, which Papal imposition had extorted from the ignorant and superstitious, to pamper and uphold the dominion of the prince of darkness; but I had not fathomed, with my imperfect vision, the greatest reservoir of all, with its endless channels and its untold bounds—I mean that of indulgences. I was not, to be sure, ignorant of the existence of such a fraud to obtain the mammon of unrighteousness, for I had found scarcely a church in Rome, where plenary indulgence did not blaze in tempting letters—but of the extent to which this fraud is carried, and the immense source of revenue it has become, I was uninformed. I had been rather startled, I confess, at the full pardon of sin which a few prayers before certain shrines, and a few pence, slipped into the hand of a priest, would procure; but my hair stood almost upright, when I learned, that by the performance of a few trifling, heartless ceremonies, and the payment of certain sums of money, 30 or 30,000 and even 500,000 years of indulgence might be purchased. I find indulgences are of different degrees—full, more than full, fullest. A full indulgence will clear you of all that can be laid to your charge, and bring you to a baptismal innocency till the time and date of the indulgence; but in case you live longer, though but a fortnight, your total indulgence is spent, and therefore to help you out here, you may have a fuller indulgence,107 9(4)r 107 gence, which will carry you to the end of your journey. You may buy as many masses as will free your souls from purgatory for 29,000 years, at the church of St. John’s Lateran, on the festa of that saint. Those that have interest with the Pope, may obtain an absolution in full, from his Holiness, for all the sins they ever have committed, or may choose to commit. Certain prices, it seems, are affixed to certain sins, and entire absolution may be obtained for any sin you can name, by paying the stipulated sum. For sins which in the holy Scriptures we find called down the terrific judgments of heaven, a man may obtain absolution from the Pope for two shillings, two and sixpence, and perhaps less. It is almost incredible what a source of revenue the sale of bulls of indulgences has been to the Romish church—what uncounted treasures have been amassed in the Pope’s coffers by this means.
In confirmation of this, said Mrs. Athearn, pausing in this place, I recollect a fact stated by Dr. Burnet; that even after the proclaiming a sale of indulgences was forbidden by the Pope’s bull, yet in the commencement of the 18th century, the Pope had a commissary in almost every place, to manage this business.
In 17091709, when the Galleon was taken by1089(4)v108 the Privateer of Bristol, 500 bales of these bulls were found, sixteen reams being in every bale; so that the whole was reckoned to amount to three millions eight hundred and forty thousand.
Miss Allen. They must have been expecting a good market, to lay in such a store!
Mrs. Athearn resumed the letter.—
No measures are untried, that crafty policy suggests, to extort masses for the dead—to solicit contributions for the relief of suffering souls in purgatory. Strange tales of frightful visions and apparitions are circulated, of souls standing in burning brimstone, some up to the knees, and some to the chin――of others swimming in cauldrons of melted lead, and devils pouring metal down their throats, with many such stories, greedily swallowed by superstition and ignorance. Solicitors, or agents, bearing lanterns with a painted glass, representing naked persons enveloped in flames, parade the streets and enter houses with tales that alarm, and appeals that excite their compassion for these holy souls. So great is the dread of the horrors of purgatory, that besides the satisfactions they make in their life time, many deluded souls leave large legacies to the church to procure masses daily, weekly, monthly and yearly, as far as their money will go. Thus also are multitudes of the living induced, through compassion for the supposed109 9(5)r 109 posed sufferings of their deceased relatives, to spend large and frequent sums; sometimes even to forego many comforts and necessaries, to redeem by masses the souls of those they love from the horrors of the middle state. Many would rather starve their surviving families, than neglect the souls of the departed. This doctrine is a mine, as profitable to the church, as the Indies to Spain.
Where and what is purgatory? asked one of the little misses.
Mrs. A. It is said by Roman Catholics to be situated in the centre of the earth, and is one of the four divisions of the infernal regions. The first is occupied by the damned; the second is purgatory; the third is filled with the spirits of unbaptized infants, which endure the eternal punishment of loss, though not of sense; the fourth is limbo, the abode of those who died before the birth of Christ, but it is now empty, as Christ, when he descended into hell, delivered and took them away with him. Purgatory will be emptied in due time, when all the souls therein are sufficiently purified and prepared to ascend higher.
A look of surprise seemed to rest on the countenances of many of Mrs. A.’s young auditors, as she stated such opinions to be the actual avowed belief of any sect, calling themselves Christians, but no remark was made.
What purgatory is, continued Mrs. Athearn, 110 9(5)v 110 they define thus; it is a place in which, after death, the souls of those persons are purified, who were not fully cleansed on earth. The punishment endured is said to be corporeal fire, (but how that can cleanse an incorporeal spirit, is beyond my wit to tell.) Augustine’s theory is, that the purgatorial fire is the fire which consumes the world at the day of judgment; consequently, that fire must have been kindled long since, else why the necessity of prayers for the liberation of friends from a present purgatory, and where too would be the resting-place of souls between earth and the great conflagration of the last day.
Miss Emmons. I cannot conceive where they borrowed the notion of such a state of being; surely not from the Bible.
Mrs. A. Oh yes, they pretend to do so, and quote in proof Matt. xii. 32—where Christ says, speaking of the sin against the Holy Ghost—It shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come,—that is, neither here or in heaven, therefore there must be a place between the two.1 Cor. iii. 15, also. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he, himself, shall be saved, yet so as by fire, (i.e.) by the fire of purgatory. Every unprejudiced, enlightened mind, would see, however, at a glance, that to be saved as by fire, was a proverbial expression, indicative 111 9(6)r 111 of the narrowness and difficulty of his escape. Many think the craters of volcanoes are entrances into hell, and it is said in the eruptions of mount Hecla, many souls have appeared issuing forth, &c.
But, Mrs. Athearn, asked Julia Marvin, where do priests obtain the power to absolve sins, grant indulgences, relieve the sufferings of souls in purgatory, and release them from its torments?
Mrs. A. With the keys, which the Pope claims in right of St. Peter’s successor, he can unlock, he affirms, an immense fund of merits, and draw forth from the church’s treasury forever, without fear of exhaustion. This treasury is ingeniously compared by Dr. Brevint to a sea, supplied by four great rivers. The first, is the satisfactions of all the saints from Adam and Abel to Christ—for the Roman doctors teach us, they suffered more than need was, and no use was made of their sufferings, because during the four thousand years to Christ’s ascension, heaven, they think, was not open; nor had Christ empowered any man to take aught of this treasury, in order to any pardons.
The second, is the passion of Jesus Christ, whose blood, they say, had it been but one drop, was enough to save all mankind; therefore all the superabundance either before or at his passion is reserved in this vast treasury. The third, is all the meritorious passions and sufferings of the virgin Mary, which, as they think, she 112 9(6)v 112 needed nor for herself. The fourth, is the sufferings, the martyrdoms and the penance of all the saints since the gospel; Peter, Paul, St. Dominic, and St. Francis, and all holy monks and Eremites. Now all this vast and even immense treasure of merit is wholly at the command of the Pope, and is the spring of indulgences.
Mrs. Athearn then read—
You cannot conceive, my dear brother, of the depravation of morals here. If nothing enters heaven that defileth, it must be a comfortable thought to the priests as well as the people, that a place is mercifully provided to cleanse them from the impurities of the debauchery they indulge on earth. The celibacy of the priests is but a cloak for the most shameless wickedness, so frequent and impudent as scarce to seek concealment—the day of judgment will reveal such enormities as will make every ear to tingle.
Alice. Has the Pope no wife, Mrs. Athearn?
Mrs. A. Oh no; and no priest is allowed to marry.
Pope Peter had a wife though, said one of the young ladies, smiling, for the Bible says somewhere, and when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother laid, and sick of a fever.
Catharine Allen. And I am sure Paul seemed to think it the fault of none but himself, that he had no wife—for he says, have 113 10(1)r 113 we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord and Cephas?
Mrs. A. And he says in Hebrews, that marriage is honorable in all, (not excepting priests,) so this is one of the doctrines which may truly be called a commandment of men.
In Paul’s epistle to Titus, also, a bishop is allowed to be the husband of one wife.
The first interposition of the Pope’s authority in this matter was about four hundred years after Christ; and he did not absolutely forbid the marriage of the clergy, but rather dissuaded from it. One of the succeeding Popes, however, forbade it in absolute terms; declared the marriage of any, exercising the functions of the sacred office, unlawful, and either the priest must be deposed or the marriage dissolved.
Miss Emmons. But what is the reason for such a prohibition?
Mrs. A. Not greater strictness and holiness, as the lives and practices of the spiritual court at Rome prove, though this is a reason pretended; but rather a dictate of the worldly policy, which actuates the government of the church. Had all the priests houses, wives and children, they would have other interests than now—must be subject to another will, and yield allegiance to another power than the Pope of Rome. The church’s revenue would find numerous other dearer channels, and often would 10 114 10(1)v 114 the love of lands and family yield to any prejudice in the church.
Were the celibacy of the priesthood abolished, one vast pillar that supports the throne of the man of sin would be removed—the Pope would stand unlinked, alone—shorn of his power —without authority, like any other man.
Here Mrs. Athearn resumed the letter.
I wonder not, my brother, at the indignation which boiled in the breast of the bold and fearless Luther, at the shameful and infamous traffic of indulgences. Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth! Little did he imagine the flame that burned within his own breast was the torch to kindle Christendom—a light to turn the eyes of ages towards the rising of that better day, so dear to the hearts of all Christ’s followers. How great should be our gratitude, that we were not nurtured in the long reign of darkness, which shrouded this and other countries before the deep, loud blast of Luther’s trumpet sounded the alarm among sleeping Christians. He began a noble work; may all our energies be enlisted in its advancement, till He, whose right it is, shall rule and reign from sea to sea— from the river to the ends of the earth. Great is the work, even of a private Christian, I believe, if he stands in his lot, doing with his might what his hands find to do. May you and I, my dear brother, be watchful and diligent in our Master’s work, that when 115 10(2)r 115 he cometh, he may say, Well done, good and faithful servants, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord. Yours in the bonds of the strongest affec tion, Henry S――.
This letter finishes the correspondence, said Mrs. Athearn, as she slipped it into the envelope, which contained the packet—and here we had better close this evening’s amusement. We have made our two hours long, she added, as she found the hand of her watch on the point of telling nine.
Some of the young ladies seemed rather surprised at the unheeded lapse of time, so deeply had their feelings become interested in the subject of conversation. All expressed, by looks at least, a reluctance to adjourn, till Mrs. Athearn promised a renewal of the subject on the succeeding evening.
Preparations were made for a general dispersion to their respective rooms, after Mrs. A. had surrounded the family altar with her youthful flock, and with humility and deep fervency had supplicated Heaven’s blessings, and committed them with all their interests to Him, who heareth prayer.
All, at length, retired, save three of the elder ladies, who lingered around the fading embers in the hall, to indulge in a little social chat after the day’s labors. Many remarks on the subject of the evening were freely made, and Miss 116 10(2)v 116 Maria Ellis seemed rather inclined to think some of Mrs. Athearn’s statements in regard to the Roman Catholics, were over-charged, and feared they were made with the uncharitable spirit of a prejudiced mind.
To this, Mary Emmons replied, that she had thought Mrs. Athearn remarkably tame in her charges, and cautious of misrepresentation. I am sure she added, I have heard uncle Sam, who has lived many years in Popish countries, and is well acquainted with their belief and practises, tell things of which, if you think Mrs. Athearn has over-stated, you would not believe a word; and yet I know they are so, for some of them he himself saw and heard, and of others he had evidence from undoubted authority. Well, said the other young lady, even if what she has said about Roman Catholics is true, I do not see what it all has to do with the subject upon which we started.
I thought myself, said Miss Emmons in reply, that she dwelt, perhaps longer than was necessary, upon the peculiarities of that church, and entered rather too minutely into some particulars; though I confess I have gained considerable information, and therefore do not regret it—but she added after a short pause, I dare say Mrs. Athearn knows what she is about—she has had some particular object in view, as we shall see.
Yes, that she had, said the lady who had spoken first, gaily; who ever knew Mrs. 117 10(3)r 117 Athearn to say or do a thing without an aim.— No, not she; she never had a thought or feeling that was not linked to something behind the curtain, and that she did not intend to spin out like the spider, ad infinitum, before she died. And thus they chatted away some time; at length Miss Emmons took the light, and leading the way through the long, dark entry-way adjoining, and up the old-fashioned winding stairs, followed by her companions, sought the retreat of her own apartment, leaving darkness and silence behind.
Well, said Mrs. Athearn, when she found herself the next day at candle-light in the midst of the same loved, happy circle, last evening we examined hastily the state of the Christian church in a faint light, at the commencement of the sixteenth century. What was the result of that examination in your mind, Miss Willard?
Miss Willard. I thought it was high time a different state of things existed, if matters were really so. But the more I dwell upon the subject, the greater is my perplexity how abuses and enormities could have arrived at such a pass, and Christians meanwhile be quiet spectators.
Caroline Clifford. For my part, I know I should have made a move to bring about a different state of things.
Mrs. A. I dare say, Miss Charlotte, that 119 10(4)r 119 you would, but it would have been one of your characteristic moves. You would have peeped from your hiding-place in all the zeal of your fury and indignation, and hurled a massy rock into the surrounding waters that would have dashed and eddied for the moment its circling waves till broken by the shore, and while wondering and amazed, every eye would turn to see who had done this thing, with zeal exhausted and courage daunted, you would have darted back again to your retreat.Such efforts are mostly vain; they accomplish nothing; they irritate and alarm, and do more hurt than good. Had the stir which the reformers made been of this character, the blessings of the Reformation would never have dawned upon us. He who makes an effort that will be felt, and will accomplish that for which it was intended, must not only make a move as you say, but stand prepared when every eye is fixed, and every tongue utters, who has dared—who? to meet the gaze with eye undaunted, and say with tone unfaltering—I. But let us now look at Christians in the attitude in which they stood in the Romish church. The abuses to which we have alluded came one by one, treading hard on the heels of each other. The Pope’s supremacy was established, or pretended to, in the seventh century; his infallibility was decreed in the eleventh. The first mention of the seven sacraments is made by 120 10(4)v 120 writers of the twelfth century. Transubstantiation had no footing before the seventh or eighth century. But all these, and various other doctrines as absurd and false, established by tradition and confirmed by use, awaited the generations of the fourteenth century. How few in the whole mass of population, as they crowded upon the stage of life, and adopted this or that article of belief, and yielded to this or that custom, would stop to inquire why is this, and wherefore that. Ask, even in our own land of books, newspapers, and sources of information numberless, the mass of people, why is this usage? and how came this into practice? and half would give no better reason than because—some would say it is the custom, and always has been so ever since I can remember—was so in the days of our fathers, and therefore it is right and proper that it should be so now. So in the days before the Reformation. The religious knowledge of the people was drawn from public sentiment and prevailing customs, and their faith was pinned on the priest’s sleeve. Unacquainted with the Bible, they were satisfied with the current opinions, and never thought of examining a subject in which they suspected no error. Here and there we find an inquisitive mind, searching for the why, and doubting the wherefore; but how few, even of these, had leisure to probe deep; and of that number, most were wanting in moral courage to come forth alone, like David, and cope with Goliah. 121 10(5)r 121 Well was it for the world, that there was a Luther and a Calvin, a Knox and a Zuingle! Well was it too for generations yet unborn, and for ages yet to come, that the mother of Martin Luther, in the limited boundary of her sphere of action—her retired home—did her duty faithfully in the training of her son! For, by her careful tuition, the devotional ardor which formed the prominent feature of Luther’s character, and did such wonders for Christendom, was laid.
Oh! how little do mothers generally feel their awful responsibility, said Mrs. Athearn, as a tear, gushing from the depth of her feelings, glistened in her eye, perhaps at the thought of her own responsibility as a teacher and guide of so many youthful immortals.
I long to know more of Luther, said little Alice, with a brightening eye.
I have told you, I believe, replied Mrs. Athearn, that when he first appeared conspicuous to the public, he was a young man of superior talents and acquirements, of distinguished piety, and an ardent native temperament. Such was his reputation for general erudition and expertness at scholastic philosophy, that he received the appointment of professor of Logic in the newly established University of Wittemberg, founded by Frederic, elector of Saxony, at the early age of 25. He exchanged the philosophical for the theological chair in 15121512, 122 10(5)v 122 and in 15171517, then at the age of 34, his open hostility to the church of Rome commenced.
Ellen Ormond. Was Luther a Roman Catholic?
Mrs. A. Yes; in his own words a most frantic Papist; so intoxicated, nay, so drenched in the dogmas of the Pope, that he was quite ready to put to death, if he had been able, or co-operate with those who would have put to death, persons who refused obedience to the Pope in a single article.True, the personal character of the pontiffs who had immediately preceded the era of which we speak, had exceedingly degraded them in the eyes of the well-informed part of the community; but Luther, like many others, bowed devoutly to the See of Rome, while he retained little respect for the character of its occupants. He had been greatly shocked, as I mentioned last evening, by the luxury, licentiousness and debauchery of the Romish clergy on his visit to Rome. He would not, he often remarked, for the value of a thousand florins, have missed the instruction afforded him by this journey. The scenes he witnessed, contributed, more than any thing, to open his eyes to Papal delusion. His intimate acquaintance too with the little red morocco Latin Bible, which he had found in the monastery and studied daily, prepared him to detect the discordance of Romish tenets with Holy Writ, and the 123 10(6)r 123 utter inconsistences of Popish practices with divine commands. This change of views was gradual and almost imperceptible; and it was not until the disgusting and overbearing manner of Tetzel, in his sale of indulgences, awakened his attention particularly to that point, that he boldly and openly came forward to oppose any of the doctrines of the Papal system.
Mary Dunbar. Who was Tetzel, Mrs. Athearn?
Mrs. A. A notoriously immoral, ignorant, but bold Dominican monk, who had been selected for the traffic of indulgences in Saxony, on account of his activity and popular address.When Leo Tenth was advanced to the Papal chair, he found the coffers of the church nearly emptied by the extravagant dissipation of his predecessors. To replenish them, he had recourse to the sale of indulgences, and Tetzel, among others, was an agent, (as we should say,) for one of the provinces. The ostensible motives, however, for the present collections, were the expense of carrying on the war against the infidels, and finishing, magnificently, the church of St. Peter at Rome; but the money raised was in fact appropriated to neither purpose. Had Tetzel possessed more prudence, and been less presumptuous and disgusting in his harangues, Luther, deeply absorbed in his solitary124 10(6)v 124 tary meditations and private studies, might not have been roused to active opposition. But he seemed in his zeal entirely to have forgotten himself, and ventured to go a length in extolling the efficacy of indulgences, which the darkest age would not have tolerated. He declared the purchasers of them had remission of all their sins, past, present and to come, however great their enormity. If any man, said he, purchase letters of indulgence, his soul may rest secure with respect to salvation. The souls confined in purgatory, for whose redemption indulgences are purchased, as soon as the money tinkles in the chest, instantly escape from the place of torment and ascend into heaven. For twelve pence, you may redeem the soul of your father out of purgatory, and are you so ungrateful that you will not rescue your parent from torment &c. He even boasted, that he saved more souls from hell by indulgences, than the apostle Peter had converted to Christianity by his preaching! And that a red cross, elevated in the churches with the arms of the Pope, had the same virtue as the cross of Christ.
Miss Emmons. I have heard Luther’s first opposition to the court of Rome imputed to vindictive motives. Some pretend his resistance arose from jealousy of the Augustine friars, on being superseded by the Dominican monks in the exercise of this lucrative traffic, (these two orders being at enmity.)125 11(1)r 125
Others have said, that Luther, in the exercise of his office as confessor, became irritated and provoked at the refusal of some persons who came to him to confess, to undergo the penance he prescribed, on the plea that they had already received remission in the shape of an indulgence from Tetzel. Do you think these accusations just?
Mrs. A. Luther’s contempt for money, and the fact that the Augustinians were never entrusted with the sale of indulgences in Germany, are sufficient to falsify the first imputation. And we know, that in the beginning he was actuated by no irritation at the court of Rome, for he proceeded on the belief that the Pope would approve and support his opposition; his opinion of Leo at this time was high—indeed, the fame of his family, his reputation as a liberal patron of literature and the arts, and the exterior plausibility of his character, rendered him extremely popular and respected among all classes.Luther candidly confesses, that, on beginning to question the sale of indulgences, he knew nothing of their origin or history. How much his abhorrence of Tetzel’s unbounded licentiousness, and how much the fact of his wasting in gambling and drinking what he had extorted from the superstitious people, under pretence of granting them pardon, influenced his conduct, I know not. But no wonder his indignation was roused, and his zeal fired. The doctrines and practices of Tetzel, 11 126 11(1)v 126 affected the minds of others as they did his; but none had the honesty or courage to come forward boldly, and check his impudence and profligacy. Luther’s first measure was to write to Albert, archbishop of Magdeburg, who employed Tetzel as his deputy, and who received half the profits; he expressed his fears of the evil results, which would arise from a continuation of the traffic, and entreated him to withdraw his license from Tetzel—but the archbishop was too much interested in its success to listen to this. Tetzel had become exceedingly exasperated against Luther, by the complaints of those to whom he had refused absolution, because they would not submit to the penances he had prescribed; in his rashness, he threatened Luther, and all who should call in question the efficacy of his commodities, with the inquisition, and even caused a pile to be erected for the burning of heretics. But these measures were little calculated on his part, to intimidate the bold Luther, or reconcile him to a traffic, which he found nowhere countenanced in the Scriptures. Luther began at length, in the pulpit, to point out the evils with which indulgences were attended. He exclaimed against the profane lives of those who sold them; pointed out the folly of relying for salvation on such delusions, and directed the people to Christ as the only way to the Father, and the proper object of their trust. 127 11(2)r 127 He then published ninety-five propositions, in which he distinctly stated his views of indulgences; these, according to the customs of the age, were affixed to the church walls, with an invitation to all men of learning to meet on a certain day, to debate upon them.
Julia Marvin. But I should not suppose such bold, public measures, would have been relished by the Romish court. What did the Pope say to his proceedings, Mrs. Athearn?
Mrs. A. Little or no attention was paid to them. The Pope regarded the matter as a sort of party dispute, and did not seem inclined to interfere with it. To use his own words, Friar Martin, says he, is a man of very fine genius, and these disputes are merely the effects of monastic envy.
Maria Ellis. Was his invitation to debate the subject in public accepted?
Mrs. A. No; the day came, but no person appeared to answer or confute his propositions. But neither the threats of Tetzel, nor the silence of a challenged public, were the weapons to arrest the awakened inquiries of a mind after truth, like Luther’s. Finding his propositions disregarded in the way by which he hoped to call out an expression of public sentiment, he caused them to be printed, and widely circulated; they spread with the rapidity of wildfire, their novelty and boldness greatly contributing to their extension. Tetzel followed Luther’s proposition by two theses—one containing 106 positions, the other 50; their composition is generally ascribed to Conrad128 11(2)v 128 rad Wimpina, professor of divinity in Frankfort. But they were written in a style which showed the weakness of the Romish cause, and the dictatorial tone of the Dominican fraternity.
Maria Ellis. Was their publication as little regarded as Luther’s?
Mrs. A. No; more than three hundred monks were present at the disputation of the former, as if to mortify Luther. Tetzel’s next step was to make a public bonfire of Luther’s works, the highest indignity he could manifest.
Miss Emmons. Did not Luther’s party retort the same soon after, on Tetzel’s publications?
Mrs. A. It is true, that in the rashness of their indignation, the students in the Univerity of Wittemberg, committed this outrage on Tetzel, to revenge their superior—but it was entirely without Luther’s knowledge, and caused him much grief. In a letter to a friend, who supposed him not unconscious of the measure, Luther himself says, I am astonished that you should believe me the author of the burning of Tetzel’s positions. Do you think me so totally destitute of common sense, that I, a member of the church, should, in a place not my own, attempt to do so great an injury to one who holds so high an office as Tetzel?
It was amazing, with what rapidity the opinions of Luther spread; throughout the kingdom they were gaining ground. In some districts, the venders of indulgences could gain no employment at all; and in others, their lives were in jeopardy. Many minds were roused to inquisitiveness,129 11(3)r 129 quisitiveness, and many men of literature and science, became converts to his doctrines.
Miss Marvin. And did the Roman court still remain quiet, and regardless of the increasing excitement?
Mrs. A. It seemed for a long time, as if a spirit of deep slumber from the Lord had fallen on the head of that apostate church; and the secretly working leaven had well-nigh leavened the whole mass of community, before the Roman pontiff was roused from his state of indolence and security.
Luther had followed his Propositions, and his sermons in German on the subject of indulgences, by a Defence of his Propositions, and various other papers, exposing the errors which his investigations were daily unfolding, and confuting the opinions expressed by his adversaries. But the sound of alarm had reached the Romish court too late; Luther had been let alone too long. It was soon found no easy matter to quell such a general excitement, or to retrieve the injury done the Papal system. The Pope, however, immediately began to adopt measures for the security of the church against an attack which he now deemed more serious in its nature, than a petty, private dispute; but unfortunately for the falling cause, he adopted just those measures which proved, in the result, the most detrimental to its interests.
What did he do? asked Alice.
Mrs. A. He summoned Luther to appear at 11* 130 11(3)v 130 Rome, within sixty days, before the auditor of the chamber, and the inquisitor-general, empowered to examine and give decisions to his doctrines. He wrote also to the elector of Saxony, Luther’s patron and friend, beseeching him to withdraw his protection from a man, avowing tenets so heretical and profane.
Did Luther go? asked one of the young ladies.
Mrs. A. No; his friends as well as himself easily foresaw from the strain of the letters, and the selection of a judge as partial and prejudiced as Prierias, what sentence might be expected. All joined in a request of the Pope, that the examination of his doctrines might be committed to some persons of learning and authority in Germany. To this, Leo assented, and appointed cardinal Cajetan, his legate in Germany, to hear and determine the cause.
What was the result? inquired Maria Ellis with considerable anxiety.
Mrs. A. At his first interview, the cardinal received Luther with a show of respect, and entered into a formal dispute with him concerning the doctrines contained in his theses. Cajetan possessed superior talents as a theologian; but he was passionately attached to the Roman See, and referred only to the decrees of the Pope and the opinions of the fathers, while Luther appealed to the Bible alone, and would not yield a single point unless convinced he was in error from the Word of God—thus they found their weapons131 11(4)r 131 ons vastly dissimilar—they met on unequal ground, and of course the contest was altogether fruitless.
Cajetan at length became enraged, and, assuming a high tone of authority, ordered him to retract the errors he had uttered in regard to indulgences and the nature of faith; and forbade the future publication of any of his new and dangerous opinions, under pain of immediate punishment.
Miss Arnold. How did Luther receive this?
Mrs. A. He was astonished, as you may well suppose, at such an abrupt mention of a recantation, before any endeavors were used to convince him that he was mistaken. He had flattered himself, that, in conference with a man of such distinguished abilities, he should be able to remove many imputations with which he had been loaded by the malice and ignorance of his antagonists—but the peremptory, irritated tone of this cardinal dashed in a moment all the hopes on this point which he had entertained. From all I can learn, Luther manifested the temper and spirit of a Christian. Fear of the future did not suffer his native intrepidity of mind at this time to desert him. Fully persuaded of the truth of his own tenets, he frankly and firmly declared, that he could not, with a safe conscience, renounce opinions which he believed to be true; nor should any consideration ever induce him to do what would be so base in itself, and so offensive to God.132 11(4)v 132
Miss Marvin. With the fate of Wickliffe, Huss, Jerome, and a host of others before him, he manifested a noble spirit!
Mrs. A. Yes; and this decided, fearless manner did not arise from the momentary impulse of a rash, presumptuous temper, reckless of consequences, for in a letter addressed a short time previous to Staupitz, the superior of the Augustinian order, requesting him to transmit a printed copy of the Defence of his Propositions to the Pope, that the malicious insinuations of his enemies might be counteracted, we find the same intrepid spirit, connected with deep humility and a conciliatory temper. He says, I request you will send these trifles of mine to that most excellent pontiff, Leo Tenth, that they may serve to plead my cause at Rome. Not that I wish you to be joined with me in danger; for it is my desire that these things be done at my own hazard. I expect that Christ, as Judge, will pronounce what is right by the mouth of the Pope. To those of my friends who would alarm me for the consequences, I have nothing else to say than what Reuchlin said, He who is poor, has nothing to fear; he can lose nothing. I possess no property, neither do I desire any. There remains to me only a frail body, harassed by continual illness, and if they take away my life by open violence or stratagem, they make me but little poorer. I am satisfied with the possession of my Redeemer and Propitiator, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom I shall praise as long as I exist. 133 11(5)r 133 If any one be unwilling to join with me in these praises, what is that to me? Let him raise his voice after his own fashion. The Lord Jesus will save me forever.
In father proof of the meek, conciliating spirit indulged by Luther, I might mention that during his interviews with Cajetan, he expressed great reverence for the Pope—offered to submit the dispute to certain Universities, and even promised to remain silent on the subject of indulgences, provided a similar injunction were given to his adversaries. But Cajetan was inflexible; he still insisted on a recantation, and Luther, calmly but firmly refusing to do violence to the dictates of his conscience, was commanded to leave his presence and not to return unless resolved implicitly to obey his orders.
Two or three young ladies, as Mrs. Athearn paused here, raised their eyes from their work, and began to speak, all at once. One smiled, and another smiled, signifying by a nod, a relinquishment of her intention to speak at present, and an invitation to her neighbour to make known her request. The eldest then turned to Mrs. Athearn, saying, she should judge from one or two clauses in her last remarks, referring to Luther’s reverence for the Pope, and his expectation that Christ, as Judge, would pronounce what was right by the mouth of the Pope, that, as yet, his faith in the divine original of Papal power, &c. was not shaken.
Mrs. A. No; the knowledge of truth was 134 11(5)v 134 not poured into his mind, all at once; when he began to oppose Tetzel, the Reformation which he afterwards effected was far from his intention—indeed, I doubt not with his views at that time, he would have trembled with horror at the thoughts of what he afterwards gloried in accomplishing. It was by industry and meditation that he arrived at the clear and enlightened views which he eventually entertained. His examination of one error in Popish doctrine led to the detection of another; and as he loosened one pillar in the mighty fabric of Popery, another tottered and another trembled, till, amazed, he found the whole structure defective. It is easy to follow the pathway of thought which he travelled; and it was an easy, natural task for the clear vision and discriminating mind of a man like Martin Luther, as he turned to the right and left, to detect, in their successive course, the gross defects of such a corrupt system. Thus, when the extravagant tenets concerning indulgences arrested his investigating glance, he necessarily inquired into the true cause of our justification and acceptance with God—and here the radically false notion of the Papist awaited him. The discovery of this pointed significantly to the utter uselessness of pilgrimages and penances to merit divine favor—to the vanity of a reliance on the intercessions of saints and the impiety of image-worship—the abuses of auricular confession—and the absurd imaginary existence of purgatory. When he reached this height in 135 11(6)r 135 such a system of errors, how natural that he should pause here to call in question the divine original of Papal power—the base of the whole structure. When his mind became settled on this point, the mists of Papal infallibility and the decisions of any other human authority quickly vanished, and the clear, blazing light of the word of God, as the only standard of appeal in theological truth, stood forth in its glory. No mind but the Infinite can fully comprehend every thing at a glance; can take in cause and effect, with all their intermediate gradations, at once. Constituted as we are, one object must be viewed at a time, and every obstacle must singly disappear at each successive step in knowledge. To this gradual progress, Luther owed his success. It was this slow, insensible dawning of light in the mind of the community that startled not the wariness of the Pope, nor roused the deep slumbers of the church. One direct, violent attack, at the outset, on the authority of the church would have removed Luther at once from the scene, and extinguished the faint glimmerings of light which were kindling around him. But he was suffered silently to undermine the whole system, before Leo was awakened to a serious alarm for the safety of his cause.
In his expressions of reverence for the pontiff’s character, Luther was sincere. You know I told you, Leo was popular and outwardly correct, though his private indulgences and excesses would have told another tale of him, and the 136 11(6)v 136 Reformer himself had occasion ere long to see and know more of this Head of the church than by mere report, as we shall see, and he found his respect and esteem in this instance grossly misplaced.
But what was the inquiry you were about to make? said Mrs. Athearn, turning to Miss Ormond.
Miss Ormond. I was about to request some particulars, relative to Wickliffe, Huss, and Jerome, to whom you have twice alluded; their names are perfectly familiar to me, but their history is not.
Mrs. A. I am glad you have made the inquiry. Their names are dear to the cause they espoused; and their prayers, their tears, and their blood proved the seeds of those glorious results, which Luther and his contemporaries were destined to mature.
Wickliffe, continued Mrs. Athearn, was an Englishman, who lived in the commencement of the fourteenth century; a man of fine talents and extraordinary learning. His acquirements attained for him the office of wardenship of Canterbury Hall; but his discernment in detecting, and his boldness in openly and severely censuring some of the flagrant corruptions in the church, soon roused against him the indignation of the clergy, and procured his deposition by archbishop Langham. Wickliffe appealed to the Pope; but the freedom with which he had attacked the monastic orders only confirmed the decision. His fame increased, and four years after his deposition, his sovereign presented to him the rectory of Lutterworth in Leicestershire. He still declared his sentiments freely and boldly, undaunted by former persecution. He even hestitated not to affirm that the Pope 12 138 12(1)v 138 was only equal to a common priest—that Peter was not superior to the other apostles—that the church abounded in superstitions and idolatries, and that a reformation was absolutely necessary. He vindicated the right of the common people to read the Bible, and actually translated the Scriptures into the English language, and promoted its circulation among them. These opinions and measures were not long suffered unmolested. He was cited in 13771377, by the exasperated Popish clergy, to appear at London before the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishop of London; but no formal examination of his doctrines took place, for no sooner had he presented himself before his judges, than some high words passing between the duke of Lancaster, one of Wickliffe’s patrons, and the bishop, the meeting was dissolved, and Wickliffe was left to preach with his accustomed boldness, till the year following, when the duke having declined in power, Wickliffe was summoned by the bishops a second time. He obeyed the citation—but, protected by several persons of authority, and countenanced by multitudes, his enemies dared not pass any sentence against him. The clergy however exerted themselves to the utmost to suppress his Translation of the Scriptures; but the more they strove to prevent its circulation, the more anxious and inquisitive to read it the people became, and the more rapidly it in reality extended. Those who could not procure a whole copy purchased a 139 12(2)r 139 part; the light of revelation spread swiftly, and many by it shook off the delusions of spiritual tyranny, ran in the way of its commandments, and became heirs of a glorious immortality. He labored faithfully and zealously to a good old age, and, though he providentially escaped the cruelties of martyrdom which many, who followed him, suffered, he lived amid persecution and trial, finding truly, that through much tribulation the faithful enter the kingdom of heaven. He died at Lutterworth, of palsy, in 13841384, in the 60th year of his age. His memory was not forgotten by Papists, nor did the influence of the labors of his life cease after his death; indeed, my dear young ladies, could we now see with the unclouded vision which we shall inherit in eternity, I dare say we might trace his influence still in glorious events, connected with that chain of faithful labors, which, extending even to our time, is saving millions as it passes by.
But I was about to say, so great was the inveteracy of Papists toward him and his labors, that, forty years after his death, they collected and burned his works at Oxford; and in 14151415, the council of Constance, after condemning his opinions, as if regretting their past lenity to him, and anxious to do all the little injury which at this late period remained to be done, ordered his bones to be taken up and burnt, wisely, however, adding this charitable caution, If they can be discerned from the bodies of other faithful people.140 12(2)v 140 ple. This sentence was afterwards executed by order of the Pope; his remains were dug out of the grave and committed to the flames!
What good, Mrs. Athearn, could such a measure do? exclaimed little Alice, her blue eyes dilating with unfeigned astonishment.
Sure enough, replied her teacher, it might serve to gratify some of the sinful feelings of the natural heart, but none of the holy emotions of a sanctified one.
You seem in deep thought, Miss Marvin, said Mrs. Athearn, as, turning away from Alice, she caught the thoughtful expression of Julia’s usually animated face; she was leaning one arm on the table before her, carelessly supporting her lace frame with the other—her eyes were fixedly set upon her teacher, though she was evidently unconscious they were so. To Mrs. Athearn’s discriminating eye, well read in the expressions of a youthful countenance, and a sure decypherer of them as indexes of the soul, she seemed in the quandary of one, who holds one end of a thought in a faint grasp, anxiously searching for the other. What perplexes you, my dear? continued her teacher.
I was thinking, the young lady replied, as the inquiry recalled her eyes’ usual lustre, and created on of her sweet, faint smiles, that Wickliffe did not die unstained—unshaken in his firmness.
I was thinking, I had read on some occasion his intrepidity forsook him, and though not actually141 12(3)r 141 ally left, like Peter, to deny his Lord and Master, that he was led, so to qualify his opinions or disguise them, as to leave a blemish on his faithfulness. But I believe I was mistaken; I suppose I had allusion to some other man, but I cannot recal whom.
Mrs. A. No; your recollections are of Wickliffe, though indistinct and somewhat incorrect. During his second examination before the bishops, it is said he became somewhat intimidated, and was led to some qualifications of his sentiments, which his friends and himself, in other circumstances, could not justify; but many foul aspersions have been cast upon him which are false. His knowledge of some of the doctrines of the gospel was, I doubt not, in a measure defective, but considering the darkness of the age in which he lived, it is not wonderful that it should be so. “He held, however, the doctrines of the election of grace, the natural depravity of man, and his utter inability to do any thing to merit salvation; and that justification is to be obtained solely through the righteousness of Christ. To those who imagined they could obtain salvation, partly through their own good works, he replied with this short prayer, Heal us gratis, O Lord. There was a spirit of frankness and humility in him, which possesses us with the conviction, that, though not free from error, he was truly a devoted and sincere servant of our Lord Jesus Christ. In labors he must have been abundant; we may form some idea of their extent, from the fact that the number12* 142 12(3)v 142 ber of his volumes, which were burnt by order of Subineo, archbishop of Prague, amounted nearly to 200. Wickliffe once made this declaration, —Let God be my witness, that I principally intend the honor of God and the good of the church, from a spirit of veneration to the divine word, and of obedience to the law of Christ. But if, with that intention, a sinister view of vainglory, of secular gain, or of vindictive malice hath crept in, unknown to myself, I sincerely grieve on the account, and by the grace of God will guard against it.
I have given you but a slight outline of the man, but enough to show you his character.
John Huss, continued Mrs. Athearn, was a native of Bohemia. His parentage was mean, but by superior genius and industry, he rose to eminence; obtained various honors from the University of Prague, and at length was made confessor to Sophia of Bavaria, wife of Wenceslaus, king of Bohemia.
Obtaining access to some of Wickliffe’s works, he became acquainted with his evangelical views —his own mind gradually became enlightened, and he was led to attack the existing abuses in the Romish church with great fidelity and zeal. The abounding impostures of false miracles and the vices of the clergy were the particular points to which his first animadversions were directed. The clergy were soon roused to opposition, and the Pope at length excommunicated him. Huss sent proctors to Rome to answer for him; but 143 12(4)r 143 they were committed to prison—from man he could obtain no redress—to God alone he could appeal.
Here one of the little girls inquired the meaning of the word, proctor.
Johnson, Walker, and Webster are all near at hand, said her teacher, smiling; all ready to answer any such inquiry, and you know, my dear, you are far more apt to retain the knowledge you acquire by your own researches, than what you obtain by the simple, careless loan of a listening ear.
Mrs. Athearn waited a moment till the little girl had found its meaning, and then said, Huss died at length a martyr—suffered an ignominious death—fell a victim to the cruelty of the Romish church; and solely on account of his holy life.
Was he firm and faithful to the last? inquired Miss Arnold.
Mrs. A. Yes; he died nobly—freely—joyfully.
The first step of Papal tyranny, after his excommunication from the church, which I named to you, was a command to abstain from preaching. But his enemies did not stop here. He was summoned to appear before the council of Constance, and he obeyed the citation, though so strongly was he impressed with the belief that he should never return, as to write on the outside of a letter to a friend, immediately before 144 12(4)v 144 his departure, entreating him not to open it till he should receive news of his death.
Alice. Did he really never return?
Mrs:. A. He never did; his forebodings were realized.
Miss Emmons. Do you think with such feelings it was his duty to have gone? Was it not rash, if he had reason to apprehend danger, thus to expose himself to expected death?
Mrs. A. There was no apparent reason for such an apprehension, for his safety was guaranteed by the emperor Sigismund, who, to induce his compliance with the citation, had provided him with a safe-conduct.
Charlotte Ellis. What is meant by a safe- conduct?
Mrs. A. A passport—a pledge of protection in going and returning. But no sooner was Huss fairly in the power of the Pope, than it was most shamefully and treacherously violated. Bills were posted up against him in Constance, as an excommunicated heretic—he was then summoned to appear before the Pope and his cardinals, instead of the general council, and no sooner had he arrived at the Pope’s palace, than he was committed to prison. His generous friend, count de Chlum, who attended him, complained to the Pope, but in vain; he wrote to the emperor, who, to preserve an appearance of honor, sent orders for his release, but he still remained in confinement. Sigismund was deeply leagued with the Pope, notwithstanding 145 12(5)r 145 his show of friendliness, and Huss soon learned to put no confidence in princes—all that he could do was to commit his cause to Him who judgeth righteously.
The emperor, however, at length openly violated the solemn engagements of the safe-conduct, in compliance with the earnest entreaties of the commisioners who had been appointed by the Pope to examine him, and who found themselves greatly impeded in their measures by it.
Miss Marvin. I should think the emperor’s violated faith rather an unwise example to his people, and a loud witness to a callous conscience.
Mrs. A. He quieted his conscience by the infamous maxim so current even in these days with Papists—that no faith is to be kept with heretics. A violated promise is a dangerous thing—fearful and tremendous often in its consequences. So did Sigismund find it. This violated safe-conduct cost him sixteen years of war and desolation. The Bohemians looked upon the treatment of their countryman as an affront offered to their country, and forty thousand men rose to avenge it! Thus a civil war was kindled from the ashes of Huss and Jerome, which not all the forces of Germany nor the terror of the crusades could quell. And now, young ladies, let me drop a trifling caution here to you. A broken promise is a serious thing— though young people are by no means apt to 146 12(5)v 146 think so. But many a life has been filled with bitterness even to the grave’s brink, in consequence of the violation of an apparently trivial promise. Never lightly make one, and when made, let no temptation whatever induce you to break it.But to return to Huss. Notwithstanding the remonstrances of the friends of Huss in Bohemia against these proceedings, he was confined in an unwholesome dungeon, continually harassed by the commissioners, who used every endeavor to oblige him to retract; but their arts were fruitless. He remained firm, but his health suffered, and he became dangerously ill; he was then removed to the fortress of Gottleben, but the rigor of his confinement was unabated. He remained deaf to all the solicitations used to induce him to recant, and persisted in demanding a public trial before the council. About this time, Jerome of Prague made his appearance at Constance. He was the strongly attached friend of Huss, and had been a strenuous co-worker with him in his efforts to effect a reformation in Bohemia. When Huss was cited to appear before the council of Constance, Jerome encouraged him by his counsel, and comforted him by his prayers and sympathy, and promised, should he be oppressed, to follow and support him. True to his word and friendship, and regardless of his own safety, so deeply did he feel for the welfare of his afflicted friend, he came in this extremity 147 12(6)r 147 to redeem his pledge. It seemed as if, like David and Jonathan, the souls of Huss and Jerome were knit together; and like them, in their deaths, they were not far divided.
Emily Brown. Did Jerome die a martyr, as well as Huss?
Mrs. A. Yes; but the latter fell a victim first. After many solicitations, Huss obtained three separate hearings before the council. His deportment throughout was characterized by integrity and candor, while that of his persecutors exhibited a striking picture of malignity and rage. He was strongly pressed to retract his errors, to own the justice of the accusations, and to submit to the decrees of the council.
He calmly replied to their promises and threatenings, to abjure is to renounce an error that hath been held; but as in many of those articles, errors are laid to my charge which I never thought of, how can I renounce them on oath? As to those articles which I own to be mine, I will renounce them with all my heart, if any man will teach me sounder doctrines. But a universal retraction was still insisted upon by the court—he, of course, remained inflexible, and after a tedious examination he was again remanded to prison and put in irons. As soon as he had departed, the emperor denounced him a heretic, fit for the flames,—and before the second council he declared, that rather than support him in his heresy, he would, with his own hands, kindle the fire to burn him.148 12(6)v 148
Alice. The emperor, Mrs. Athearn, did you mean to say?
Mrs. A. Yes, my dear—so cruelly and perfidiously had he forgotten his public faith.He was followed to the prison by a form of recantation, which he was strongly urged to sign, but the holy man refused, declaring with just indignation, he would rather be cast into the sea with a millstone about his neck, than acknowledge that to be true, which he knew to be false. Repeated attempts were made to overcome his constancy, and every indignity heaped upon him, but all to no purpose. His books were collected and burnt—he was again brought before the council—accused—and condemned—silenced when he attempted to answer his impeachment, and tauntingly upbraided, when despairing of all human succor, he knelt in his extremity before them, and lifting up his hands toward heaven he entreated his Saviour’s blessing, and committed his cause to Him who could neither be corrupted by bribes, nor deceived by false witnesses. He was then insulted by being arrayed in priest’s garments, and a paper coronet, on which were three painted devils and this inscription, arch-heretic, they placed upon his head, saying We devote thy soul to the infernal devils. Oh Lord Jesus, into thy hands I commit my soul,Huss meekly replied; to thee I commend my spirit, which thou hast redeemed— and I am glad to wear this crown of ignominy 149 13(1)r 149 for the love of Him who wore a crown of thorns. He was led to the place of execution—the fire was kindled. Amid the crackling of combustibles he was heard to sing a hymn of praise to God—and these his last words were distinctly caught, Jesus Christ, thou Son of the living God, have mercy on me. Thus died John Huss; and long was the day remembered and commemorated by the Bohemians, in honor of his fidelity, and in applause of his steadfastness. Fires were kindled on the mountains, and the rustic song of sacred praise long and sweetly rose amid the evening shades of the anniversary of his martyrdom, from throngs of his country-people, who loved his memory, and followed in the steps of his faith.
I hope, said little Alice, as she raised her tearful eye to her teacher, that you are not going to tell us such a melancholy story of Jerome. I do not love to hear of such cruel deaths.
Before you have waded through all the seas of blood, into which I must take you, Alice, said Mrs. Athearn, mournfully, if you follow me through the dreadful scenes of the Reformation, you will hear a deeper dirge than you now have done, and be compelled to draw a deeper sigh than that which just escaped you.
In regard to Jerome, Alice, I cannot tell a tale fraught with so little that is melancholy. 13 150 13(1)v 150 The death of Huss never filled me with the gloom you feel—his was a glorious end.
Two or three of the young ladies looked at Mrs. Athearn in some surprise, inwardly wondering, I suppose, what could be more melancholy than such sufferings as John Huss was compelled to endure in life, and what death more dreadful than burning at the stake. She read the feeling, and said,When I hear of one, who, like Huss, has fought the good fight, and kept the faith,— who has kept himself unspotted from the world,—of whom even his enemies can say there is almost no fault in him; when I hear that he was willing to spend and be spent for souls, and that he at last came off more than conqueror over death and the grave, by a triumphant exit from this world of sin, though for the moment weak nature must pause to sympathize in the agonies with which the mortal puts off its fleshy tabernacle, yet on the whole, my feelings are far from a sober cast. I rejoice, yea, even rejoice, that his work is done, and well done— that he was faithful even to the last—that he was counted worthy to suffer for his Saviour’s sake, and that he has reached that blissful land, where sorrow and sin shall be no more. I cannot mourn for him, or over him; and with such feelings, I look at the martyrdom of Huss. Jerome too, died well at last—honored God in the death-scene, when the scorching flames surrounded him, he stayed his soul on God— and though covered with blisters, and writhing 151 13(2)r 151 in the horrid agonies of the stake, his voice rose in the sweetest strains of praise to Him, who died for him and redeemed him with his blood —but he did not remain steadfast and upright, like his companion, during the hour of trial and persecution. He fell—in an evil hour he recanted— he was suffered to yield a listening ear to the wiles of the adversary and the urgent entreaties of his accusers; and he anathematized the articles of Wickliffe and Huss, and declared that he believed every thing which the council believed. But he made himself work for bitter repentance. Like Peter, he mourned his fall in secret, and he sought as public a confession of his shame and cowardice as his disgraceful dissimulation had been.
How sad his fall! exclaimed Miss Emmons, what an occasion for triumph his recantation furnished his adversaries!
Mrs. A. True; though their triumph was of short continuance. A striking lesson it conveys to us! Oh, how should we pray lest in an evil hour, we too, be led into temptation, and left to dishonor God and deny his name. May we not be high-minded, but fear.
Maria Ellis. He was placed in very trying circumstances. How little do we know our strength till seriously tested.
My dear Maria, our strength is perfect weakness, replied Mrs. Athearn. Had Jerome leaned in the hour of trial on the strength of his Lord, his feet would never have slipped. 152 13(2)v 152 We must watch and pray continually. Let his disgraceful fall and bitter repentance, be a timely warning to you, my dear girls, who have taken the vows of God upon you. Lean upon him, and you shall never fall.
But, Mrs. Athearn, it is scarcely possible we shall ever be placed in similar circumstances, said Frances Andrews.
Mrs. A. Probably we never shall. A temptation of so great weight as the fear of death, may never cross the path of any one of us, to palliate any of our down-falls. But if we yield to those of a slighter nature, then proportionably greater certainly will our guilt and our condemnation be.How often do young professors bring leanness into their own souls, and awfully jeopardize the eternal interests of those over whom they exert influence, by yielding to slight temptations, which a momentary struggle might have subdued. How often have I seen a look, or smile, or word, even in some of you, connive at sins which greatly dishonored God, and which emboldened those who had no fear of Him before their eyes, to persist in their indulgence, to the eminent risk of their precious souls. We may effectually dishonor God and deny Christ, by a concealment of our sentiments in circumstances where they should not be withheld—by a qualification of them to accommodate ourselves to the views, and to retain our 153 13(3)r 153 standing in the opinion of those with whom we associate, by an unwarrantable conformity to the worldly practices of those around us, through fear of ridicule, or reproach. To these, and other similar temptations, we may fall victims, and God may be as much dishonored by us as he was by the base recantation of Jerome of Prague.
But you said, Mrs. Athearn, uttered Lucy Dana, in a low tone, that he sincerely repented, and sought a public confession of his sin.
Mrs. A. Yes, Lucy, he did so; with the greatest firmness, he publicly confessed his cowardice, and declared there was nothing in his whole life of which he so bitterly repented as his recantation.He was of course, condemned to death for heresy, and as I mentioned to you, died at the stake soon after the removal of his friend Huss. But of what were we speaking, Mary Dunbar, when I commenced a brief notice of these martyrs?
Mary confessed, with a blush of shame, she did not know.
Mrs. Athearn then requested any of the younger misses to tell her, if any had been sufficiently interested in her statements to retain a recollection of what she had been saying.
Lucy Dana said, she believed Mrs. Athearn had just finished her relation of Luther’s examination before Cajetan—
And Alice added, Cajetan in a rage commanded13* 154 13(3)v 154 manded him to leave his presence, and never appear before him again, unless resolved to retract his errors and obey his orders.
I am glad, replied their teacher, to find you have been so attentive.
Then turning to Harriet Emmons, she added,
Your attention has been of late, particularly directed to a political history of Germany. We will depend upon you to give us an insight into the state of public affairs at the time to which we have alluded, and to introduce us to any of the superior powers existing at this period, which may seem necessary to show us Luther’s critical situation, and give us some idea of the obstacles existing to impede the progress of his reforming plans. We do not wish a very detailed account; aim at conciseness and simplicity.
Harriet blushed at the task imposed upon her, although her remarkably retentive memory had often previously procured for her a similar one. She paused a few moments, as if to collect her materials of thought for the undertaking, and then said,
She did not know exactly how to commence, but she rather preferred taking them to the German court first, to make them acquainted with her favorite monarch.
I believe, said Mrs. Athearn, I will just state two or three facts respecting Luther, before we follow you into all the splendors of royalty to which you seem inclined to take us. It seems scarcely safe to leave our friend Luther, in such perilous circumstances as he found himself immediately after his last interview with Cajetan. We will just conduct him into a place of greater 156 13(4)v 156 security from Papal zeal, and leave him for the present.
You know I related to you the haughty and violent manner of the legate toward Luther, during his examination; this fully revealed, both to himself and his friends, the violent measures which Papal power might be expected to adopt towards him. They feared that even the imperial safe-conduct with which Luther was provided, would be unable to protect him from the legate’s power and resentment, and he was prevailed upon to retire privately from Augsburg to his own country. His abrupt retreat, and the publication of an appeal to the Pope, which Luther prepared before his departure, greatly enraged Cajetan; he wrote immediately to Luther’s patron, the elector of Saxony, in terms of strong complaint, requiring him to send Luther a prisoner to Rome, or banish him from his territories—he complied, however, with neither request.
Did Frederic decline compliance from attachment to the Reformer’s doctrines, or from mere personal partiality? inquired Ellen Athearn.
Her mother replied, that neither prompted him; political motives alone influenced his conduct. Much as Germany and the neighboring countries resounded with Luther’s fame, the elector himself had never admitted him into his presence, never heard one of his discourses, or even read one of his books.157 13(5)r 157 He seems to have taken little or no interest in theological controversies. He was aware of Luther’s talents and reputation, and knew that the celebrity which the university under his patronage had acquired, was owing to him—and that his removal would be fatal to its interests. His pride was greatly interested in its success, and he had bestowed too much attention and expense on its establishment now to abandon it. The protection he had heretofore afforded Luther, had been granted with security and caution; but the demand of Cajetan induced him now to discover great concern for his safety, and more openly than before to favor his measures. The judges, before the expiration of the sixty days allowed in the citation, declared Luther a heretic; and the Pope forthwith issued a bull of excommunication. Dark were now the temporal prospects which seemed to await the noble, fearless spirit of this daring leader. But he toiled on in the work of his Master, ushering in those inestimable blessings attendant on religious liberty, betraying no symptoms of timidity—manifesting no disquieting apprehensions.
Miss Andrews. Had he no friends to uphold him?
Mrs. A. There were multitudes who had imbibed his views and embraced his doctrines; he had many friends who clustered arournd him like shadows, and like them melted away, as the rising flame of persecution began to dawn—he 158 13(5)v 158 had many who would have followed him in life and cleaved to him in death—but they were not earthly potentates, whose power was a shield, and whose will was protection. Like himself, they were single-handed, and to the same unseen Almighty power must have recourse as himself. We, in this age of religious liberty, can hardly conceive the terror with which ecclesiastical censures were viewed by the majority of the community. Few dared to brave the thunders of the church, and set at defiance Papal power. Luther could reasonably place but little dependence on the protection of a prince so prudent and cautious as Frederic—had he been his disciple from conviction, he might justly have entertained expectations of assistance from him at this juncture—in the event, however, he found the elector a true friend.Here, unexpectedly, the Lord himself warded off the threatening dangers which hung around him. The emperor Maximilian died, and Leo and the Roman court became at once so deeply absorbed in the interesting movements of the various candidates for imperial honor, during an interregnum of nearly six months, as to leave Luther and his new views to take their own course. The vicariat of that part of Germany devolved to the elector of Saxony during this period, and Luther was permitted to enjoy great tranquillity under the friendly shelter of his administration, while his opinions spread undisturbed 159 13(6)r 159 and began to take deep root, not in that kingdom alone, but in neighboring countries. And now, Harriet, after a longer interruption than I intended, I will leave you to introduce us into the august presence of the new and youthful emperor.
Oh! who was he? inquired two or three of the younger ones in the same breath. I hope he was friendly to Luther; not a Papist.
But he was a Papist, replied Miss Emmons, and a stout one.
Disappointment coldly settled down on the fair brows of the little girls at this news, but the effect of the remark was unnoticed by the speaker, and she went on to say—
After the death of Maximilian, all Europe, for several months, was held in suspense, by the contentions of two rival monarchs, Francis First and Charles Fifth, who both aspired to the dignities and honors of imperial power. The contest was at length decided, and Charles, by the unanimous voice of the electoral college, in whom the right of choosing an emperor was vested, was raised to the imperial chair. He was grandson to Maximilian, by his father’s side, and his mother was the second daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, sovereigns of Spain.
Alice, eagerly.The same Ferdinand and Isabella who rendered assistance to Christopher Columbus when almost discouraged, and enabled him to pursue his discoveries till he found our beautiful country?160 13(6)v 160
The very same, replied Mrs. Athearn, —and the youthful faces of the group around her beamed simultaneously with a smile of satisfaction at this intelligence, and an interest in the young monarch was awakened, in spite of his Popish views, which nothing of another nature could have aroused.
Well, I am sure I shall like him for his parents’ sake, said little Alice.
And if he is quite young, said another lady, we need not fear for the progress of the Reformation, as if he were of mature years, and deeply initiated in the politic arts of a veteran Papist.
Youth is not necessarily inefficient and undecided, replied Mrs. Athearn; there is many a young man with an old head.
His youth, to my mind, would be the very thing to excite my fears for the interests of the Reformation, added Ellen Athearn, because he would depend more on the judgment and counsel of his aged grandfather’s old counsellors, who were all staunch Papists—and were he as inexperienced and yielding as many young persons are, the Pope and his partisans, if they chose, might twirl him to their views, as you could turn a button on a door.
Miss Emmons. Charles Fifth was by no means deficient in strength of character, though he was young in years. He was unusually keen, enterprising, and ambitious—was strongly attached to the religious views of his ancestors, 161 14(1)r 161 and had long beheld with deep interest and anxiety the progress of those opinions, so dangerous to the Papal system. Influenced by a desire to commence his administration with some measure which would render him popular among his subjects, his very first act was to appoint a diet of the empire to be held at Worms, (see map,) on the 1521-01-066th of Jan. 1521, to concert the most proper measures for checking the existing religious excitement.
Surely now, said one of the girls, Luther had reason to fear not only for himself and his adherents, but for the interests of the cause so dear to their hearts.
Yes, replied her teacher, they might well have trembled, had they sustained that cause alone; but He who ruleth in the heavens was sitting at the helm, and they knew it. The cause they had espoused was dearer far to Him, than to the feeble instruments he condescended to use in its promotion, and he was infinite in ability to protect it. When we look at the dark side of a moral picture in this view, what have we to fear? Nothing, if we are found at our posts, quietly doing our duty. God will take care of all the rest. Thus felt Martin Luther, and unmoved, he marched calmly on.—But, Miss Emmons, let us now hear more of the new emperor.
Harriet. The coronation of Charles took place with the utmost pomp and solemnity, at Aix la Chapelle, in the presence of a more numerous14 162 14(1)v 162 merous and splendid assembly than had ever appeared on a former occasion. About the same time, Solyman the magnificent, one of the most accomplished and enterprising of the Turkish sultans, was raised to the Ottoman throne. Henry VIII. of England, Francis I. king of France, and Leo X. the Roman pontiff, were the several monarchs by whom the young emperor found himself surrounded on his accession to the throne. Such a constellation of great princes, illustrious in power and abilities, had never adorned any previous age; and no century is more replete with variety of event, occasioned by the ambitious exercise of talent and prowess, than the sixteenth.
Mrs. A. Yes; the lover of history finds a delightful feast for his political taste in its annals; but the Christian views, with still more interest and delight, the conquest of truth over error, in the slow but steady march of the glorious Reformation.
Now, Mrs. Athearn, said Miss Emmons, I know far more of the political history of those times than its religious state—but little, connectedly, of either; will you allow me to resign the office of chief speaker?
Mrs. Athearn smiled assent, and gave her credit for the correctness with which she had stated the few facts to which allusion was made.
She then resumed the subject thus:
Charles’s first act of administration, as has been said, was to appoint a diet of the empire 163 14(2)r 163 at Worms, to take measure for the stay of the prevailing heretical opinions. The deliberations of the assembly were slow and formal. After attending to political regulations, the state of religion was taken into consideration. Now, had the views and policy of Charles extended no farther than his Germanic possessions, he might have been induced to favor a man, who, like Luther, asserted so boldly the privileges and immunities for which the empire had struggled so long with the Popes. But, in order to counteract the vast and ambitious schemes which Francis First was designing against him, he was obliged to regulate his conduct by more extensive views; it seemed necessary to retain the friendship of the Pope, and soothe him into a concurrence in his measures. In order to accomplish this, he determined on treating Luther with the utmost severity, as the most effectual method of securing so important an ally as the Pope. He was prepared himself to gratify the Papal legates in Germany, by condemning Luther without any formal trial or deliberation. But such an abrupt manner of proceeding was deemed by the members of the diet as unjustifiable and unjust, and Luther was therefore summoned to appear, and declare publicly whether he adhered or not to those opinions which had procured him the censures of the church. Luther manfully and unhesitatingly yielded obedience, notwithstanding the urgent entreaties and solicitations of his friends, who, remembering the 164 14(2)v 164 fate of Huss in like circumstances, entreated him not to rush wantonly into the midst of such danger.
Alice. Then he actually went?
Mrs. A. Yes; superior to such terrors, he silenced them with this reply—I am lawfully called to appear in that city, and thither will I go in the name of the Lord, though as many devils as there are tiles on the houses were there combined against me.
The young ladies smiled, and the features of a few, whose youthful character partook of the same decision and intrepidity, were lighted, even to a glow, with cordial satisfaction.
How did they receive him, Mrs. Athearn? asked one of the little Misses, impatiently.
Mrs. A. Just as the celebrity of his name would lead us to expect. Greater crowds assembled to behold him, than even the emperor himself, at his public entry, had commanded. His rooms were daily filled to overflowing with the most illustrious visitants. Princes and personages of the highest rank flocked around him; by whom he was treated with all the deference and respect which his unusual character and literary merit deserved.
Lucy Dana. But before the diet, how did he appear?
Mrs. A. Firm as the everlasting hills, but cool and respectful. He acknowledged that perhaps an excessive vehemence and acrimony had characterized his controversial writings; 165 14(3)r 165 but he refused to retract his opinions, unless convinced by the Word of God itself, of their falsity. Threats could not intimidate, nor entreaties prevail on him to renounce this resolution. He still remained firm. Some of the ecclesiastics proposed punishing him, (the author of this pestilent heresy,) to remove at once from the church this lamentable evil.
But the diet were restrained from this measure by fear of reproach; and Charles himself was unwilling to tarnish the commencement of his administration, by such an ignominious deed —so Luther was allowed to depart, receiving a safe-conduct from the emperor, allowing the term of twenty-one days for his return, with a solemn prohibition against preaching or haranguing the people on his road home.
The young ladies rejoiced aloud, that he escaped the snares of his enemies.
But, said Mrs. Athearn, notwithstanding the imperial interdict, not to preach, Luther hesitated not in the least to comply with the very first invitation he received to do so; and finding himself within a short distance of the residence of his relations, he yielded to his inclination, and turned from his route to pay them a visit!
What a fearless man! said one of the young ladies, laughing. I should have felt as if leaving Sodom; I should neither have dared to look behind me, or tarry in all the plain, but have made the most of my twenty-one days, and 14* 166 14(3)v 166 rested not till safely within my own dominions.
He had scarcely turned about, continued Mrs. Athearn, when he was surprised by a number of horsemen, masked, who suddenly rushed from the woods upon him, and dismissing his attendants, carried him to a strong castle, prepared for his reception, where he was carefully concealed nine months.
Do not be alarmed, Alice, said Mrs. Athearn, as she saw the alternate blanch and glow of her cheek, and read how her fears had construed this last remark.
It was not an enemy who had done this— but the elector of Saxony, Luther’s faithful and prudent protector, who, seeing the gathering storm of danger threatening his valued friend, had prepared a quiet and safe place of rendezvous, where he might retire till the fury of the tempest had overblown. Here every thing which could render his situation agreeable was supplied by the kindness of the elector. Well was it that he had found such a friend, and such a place of retreat, for scarcely had he left Worms, before the young emperor, to keep the Pope and his party in humor, published an edict, which would have removed him from all future labor.
Here Mrs. Athearn requested on of the older ladies, to bring her from the library, an old French royal quarto,—the Histoire du Concile de Trente, a French translation of the History 167 14(4)r 167 of the Council of Trent, from the Italian, by Father Paul.
It had belonged to her father, whose taste for antique works had led him to search out and collect in his various travels, numerous literary productions of other ages in different languages, which she now often found of immense value to her as books of reference.
It was some time before the young lady returned with the desired volume; when she did, she made an apology for her absence, by saying it was so covered with dust, it was a long time before she was able to find it.
Mrs. Athearn looked mildly but seriously at Alice, to whose charge the care of dusting and keeping in order the books of the library was intrusted, and the poor little girl colored to her eyes. And the smiles she encountered from her companions around, when she turned from Mrs. Athearn’s glance to hide her blushes, had no tendency to put them to flight—for she had said in apology for some of the grey coats of her books only the day before,
That it was of no use to brush up the old Fathers on the top shelves; they were not like to be looked at except by old folks,—and if the books were some rusty, they might look as well as their readers—all the rubbing in the world would not make them look bright and new.
Mrs. Athearn said nothing; it was not necessary. The little girls all felt that one glance of their teacher’s dark eye was sufficient to bring 168 14(4)v 168 them back to the path of duty—it made them feel so ashamed when they had been guilty of neglect.
Mrs Athearn opened the book and read to the young ladies in English, an abstract of the edict issued by the emperor immediately after Luther’s departure. Its purport was this.
He first stated it to be his duty and determination to defend and nourish the interests of religion in his dominions, and to extinguish all heresies in their earliest stages. He stated that Martin Luther had attempted to infect Germany with the contagion of his opinions, and that the nation was in imminent danger unless immediate remedies were applied—that the holy Pope Leo, after having exhorted that monk in a very fatherly manner, in vain, had been obliged, with the Sacred College, to condemn his writings and to declare him a heretic, unless within a certain prescribed period, he should revoke his opinions—of which sentence the apostolical nuncio had given him a copy, entreating him, (Charles,) as the true protector of the church, to publish it throughout the empire, and through the whole extent of his dominions. That, meanwhile, Martin, instead of amending, or returning to his duty, was writing, from day to day, Latin and German books, filled with heresies, some of which he specified. Not one of his writings, continued the emperor, but is pestiferous—not one which contains not mortal poison—not a word even which is not pure poison.169 14(5)r 169
Therefore, wishing to follow the steps of the Roman emperors, his predecessors, after having conferred with the electors, the princes, and the States of the Empire, as also with his private council, composed of persons selected from all the nations under his domination—he had, with their advice and unanimous consent, to remove all causes of complaint and contest among those who affirmed that Luther ought to be heard in his own defence, before proceeding to the execution of the Pope’s bull—(although perhaps it was not suitable to hear a man, condemned by the Pope, obstinate in his wicked opinions and publicly known as a heretic—) he had, nevertheless, cited him by one of his heralds—(not for the purpose of examining and judging matters of faith that was the Pope’s province—) but to lead him if possible, into the right way, by weighty and salutary exhortations. In short, he related how Luther was introduced into the Assembly— upon what he had been interrogated—what he had answered, &c. In conclusion he added, that on account of the obligations he was under to God, the duty he owed to the Pope, and the imperial dignity with which he was clothed, by the counsel and consent of the electors, of the States of the Empire, and in execution of the sentence of the Pope, he declared Martin Luther a notorious heretic, and commanded that he should be publicly viewed as such. He forbade all to receive him, or protect him in any way. He ordered 170 14(5)v 170 all princes and States of the Empire, under the accustomed penalties, to seize and imprison him after the expiration of twenty-one days, and to pursue all his accomplices, and adherents, depriving them of all their possessions, both personal goods and real estate. He forbade also the reading or retaining any of his books—ordering princes and magistrates to burn and abolish them entirely. And inasmuch as in divers places, abridgments of his works were made and printed, he absolutely forbade them hereafter to be printed—commanding the magistrates to seize and burn them, punishing the printers and all those who sold, or those who bought them.
Mrs. Athearn laid the volume which she now closed on the table beside her, and devoted a few moments to the inspection of work, before she resumed the history. Considerable feeling was evidently awakened among the young ladies, in behalf of Luther, and several expressed great fears, not for him and his friends alone, but they trembled for the interests of the cause in which they were engaged.
All rejoiced that Luther had been so kindly secreted from public vengeance by the elector of Saxony, and evidently longed to learn the result of the edict.
After a pause of a few moments, Catharine Allen remarked, How depressed Luther must have become in his solitary confinement! And what a blow must have been given to the progress of the Reformation in Germany, by his unfortunate removal from active labor.
Not so, replied Mrs. Athearn. The pen of Luther was not idle during this season of retirement. He published several treatises in defence of his doctrines, and in confutation of his opponents, which served greatly to revive and strengthen the spirit of his followers, who were at first quite disheartened and dismayed at his disappearance. Among these publications was a treatise on the abuse of private confessions; another on the marriage of the clergy, one on monastic vows, and several controversial documents superior in strength of argument, though perhaps too highly tinctured with the warmth 172 14(6)v 172 and irritability which were natural characteristics of the reformer.
He also translated the New Testament, and improved his time in acquiring a more thorough knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew languages. He commenced a version of the Old Testament, which, with the assistance of some of his learned friends, he afterwards completed; a work that tended more to overturn the vast fabric of Papal tyranny, than the whole of his other writings together. On the whole, therefore, his removal from public observation and effort, proved rather an advantage than a hindrance to the progress of the cause. Public sympathy was enlisted for him, and greatly favored the diffusion of his tenets. His opinions gained ground daily. Indeed, the rapidity with which they spread was so unaccountable, that some imputed it to a certain uncommon and malignant position of the stars, which scattered the spirit of giddiness and innovation over the world.
Miss Ellis. Did not Luther’s publications betray the place of his retreat?
Mrs. A. No; in them all, he was so guarded as not to expose himself. Not from personal fear, but from a regard to the feelings of his protector and friends, he acquiesced in every precautionary measure which they thought necessary for his security. The castle of Wartburg, the place of his confinement, or his Patmos, as he was pleased to call it, was situated delightfully on one of the highest mountains near 173 15(1)r 173 Issenach. It was a famous hunting quarter, frequently visited by large numbers of the gentry and nobility; and sometimes Luther, to avoid suspicion and observation, was induced to assume a horseman’s garb, and mingle in the party sports of the field; but he always contrived, little as his thoughts were engaged in the scenes before him, so to keep up appearances, that none of the visitors ever recognized him.
Miss Andrews. Was no search made for him, Mrs. Athearn? Did the excitement of feeling against Luther so soon and so suddenly subside, that no endeavor was made to ascertain his place of concealment?
Mrs. A. There was no abatement of indignation in the members of the Romish church toward him; but various events occurred which prevented the fulfilment of the edict which the diet decreed. The subjects of the new emperor rebelled in various parts of his dominions; dangers too were continually threatening from the ambitious and artful policy of Francis First, and however the feelings of Charles might have led him to proceed against Luther in different circumstances, it was no wonder that amid events of such momentous personal concern as involved the fate of his empire, the individual religious opinions and interests of a man like Luther, or their influence on his subjects should be comparatively overlooked. The affairs of Spain required the emperor’s presence there; and leaving the management of religious as well as civil 15 174 15(1)v 174 concerns to the regency he had appointed, he left Germany for a time.
In the midst of the confusion and threatening dangers which filled Europe at this time, the Pope himself died suddenly; some say by poison, and others, that a rapid succession of prosperous events, which added several cities and forts to the ecclesiastical state, occasioned such transports of joy as brought on a fever that terminated fatally. His death, at a juncture like this, afforded a subject of sufficient interest to absorb wholly for a time the attention and feelings of the whole ecclesiastical court; so Luther, in his beautiful castle, for a short period ceased to be the magnet of universal attraction, and the discovery of his retreat was not an object of great solicitude.
How long did Luther remain an exile from public notice? inquired Miss Ellis.
Mrs. A. About nine months; he became at length impatient of the confinement, and distressed at the information he received of the inconsiderate zeal of Carlostadius and others of his followers, who encouraged the multitude in acts of violence on the altars and images in the churches, and had excited great tumults in Saxony. His brethren, the Augustinians too, with the approbation of the University and the connivance of the elector of Saxony, had ventured to abolish the celebration of private masses, and to give the cup as well as the bread to the laity, in administering the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.175 15(2)r 175
One of the little girls opened her dictionary to find the meaning of the word laity; it was the people, as distinguished from the clergy —laymen.
The civil authorities, continued Mrs. Athearn, to whom Charles had intrusted the government of Germany, during his absence in Spain, manifested their hostility to the Reformation by an edict, commanding the several princes to punish all persons who were profaners of the sacrament by partaking of the wine as well as of the bread; also, those of the clergy, who ventured to depart from a state of celibacy.They therefore proceeded to imprison such of the monks as preached Luther’s doctrine, and to recall from the universities those students who were suspected of partiality for his sentiments. George, duke of Saxony, the inveterate enemy of Luther, was unwearied in his opposition and his measures to check the progress of this new heresy. He proceeded to buy up the copies of his translation of the New Testament, and to inflict punishment on those of his subjects, who ventured to retain them. He instigated the bishop of Mersburg to visit the university of Leipsic, to interdict the use of this translation there, and to prohibit the students from repairing to the neighboring territory to hear religious discourses. But these measures produced results exactly contrary to their intention. The university of Leipsic was in consequence deserted, and the youth, impatient of such restraint,176 15(2)v 176 straint, resorted in great numbers to that of Wittemberg. The monks in the Augustinian monastery at Antwerp, who had been instrumental in the diffusion of Luther’s doctrine were also molested; they were forced to recant, and those who refused to do so, were put to death. Thus the spirit of persecution began to show itself. Notwithstanding, however, the hostile disposition manifested in these measures, Luther hesitated not to pass through the duke’s dominions, in his way to a distant place; he even ventured to preach, and selected for his topics of discourse those points on which his views, though according with Scripture, were most discordant with the Romish faith.
Were the people as venturesome as their preacher? inquired one of the young ladies. Had he any hearers?
Yes, replied Mrs. Athearn, the fame of the man was there before him, and fourteen thousand people, it is said, assembled to hear him. He was heard with the greatest attention, and vast numbers, convinced he had truth on his side, became warmly enlisted in the cause of the Reformation.
The circumstances to which I just now alluded, in connection with others, continued Mrs. Athearn, induced Luther to withdraw from his retreat without the consent or knowledge of the elector. He repaired immediately 177 15(3)r 177 to Wittemberg; his presence was joyfully hailed and order was speedily restored.
Two events had occurred during Luther’s confinement which considerably damped the joy occasioned by the progress of his opinions in his own country. One was, the decree of the university of Paris, at that time the most literary society in Europe, which condemned his opinions. The other was, the publication of Henry Eighth’s Treatise on the Seven Sacraments, written in answer to Luther’s book, concerning the Babylonish captivity. However, neither the authority of the university, nor the dignity of the monarch overawed him—he soon published his animadversions on both, in a style no less vehement and severe than he would have used in confuting his meanest antagonist. The eye of universal attention was now directed to a controversy, conducted by disputants so illustrious; and so contagious was the spirit of innovation which the revival of learning in this age had roused throughout Europe, and so weighty was the evidence accompanying the doctrines of the Reformers, even on their first publication, that in spite of civil and ecclesiastical power united, they daily gained converts both in France and England.
Miss Andrews. You used the word Reformers in the course of your last remark, and I did not understand it; to whom especially did you refer besides Luther?
Mrs. A. To Zuinglius, Calvin, Knox, and a 15* 178 15(3)v 178 multitude of others, in the neighboring countries, who, roused to effort by the shameful traffic in indulgences, commenced in other dominions at the same time as in Germany, and encouraged by Luther’s zeal and boldness, ventured to re- echo the deep-sounding trumpet of alarm to which he gave the first blast, and amid opposition and persecution were carrying on with their might the good work of reform, which the Lord in his own chosen time had commenced.
And now, said Mrs. Athearn, if we turn our eyes to the Romish court, we shall find it filled with competition, artifice and intrugue. Many candidates for the vacated chair were nominated by the several interested parties; but it was at length filled by Adrian Sixth, who had once held the office of tutor to the young emperor, through whose instrumentality at present advancement was accomplished. He was a person materially different in character from the late Pope. He seems to have been a well-meaning, honest man, possessing these qualities in too great a degree to be qualified for so important a station in the court of Rome, at a juncture so delicate and critical; he was ill-fitted for the intrigues and duplicity of his office, and his election gave much offence.Adrian decidedly condemned the doctrines of the Reformation; he affirmed they were insipid, extravagant, and unreasonable—that surely no person could believe them except ignoramuses, or fools—and that those who defended them, 179 15(4)r 179 must know, in their conscience, that the opinions of the Romish church were the best. He had passed his youth in the study of scholastic theology; he found its opinions so clear to his own mind, he could scarcely believe any reasonable man could hold contrary ones—those advanced by Luther he had never seriously examined. His first step after his advancement to the Papal chair, was to despatch his nuncio, Cheregato, to the diet of the empire at Nuremburg. He there made an address of great length, in which he condemned Luther’s opinions with much severity, and reproached the princes for their remissness in the execution of the edict of Worms. He spoke of Luther as a gangrened, incurable member, and urged them to prompt measures for his punishment, and that of the heretics, his followers; alleging as precedents those measures pursued by divine authority in the punishment of Dathan and Abiram—of Ananias and Sapphira—and also, the just and proper procedure of their ancestors toward John Huss and Jerome of Prague. According to the Pope’s instructions, also, the nuncio acknowledged candidly, in explicit terms, the existence of corruptions and abuses in the Roman court, which should be removed, or reformed, with all the despatch which their nature and inveteracy would allow. He closed with a solicitation of advice and counsel, in regard to the most efficient measures 180 15(4)v 180 to suppress the spread of the growing heresy which threatened the destruction of their most holy religion, and the dissolution of all those bands which unite civil society.
One of the young ladies inquired how this address was received by both parties.
Mrs. Athearn replied, that the Pope’s concessions, in regard to the existing abuses and evils of the Romish church, were heard with much displeasure by the Catholic party; and his counsel, as to procedure against Luther and his adherents, was as far from being relished by those who favored the Reformation.In reply to the nuncio, the diet stated the vast increase of Luther’s followers, and the growing disaffection of the people to the court of Rome on account of its exactions and corruptions; and alleged the apprehension of a civil war, as the reason of their neglect to execute the sentence of Leo Tenth, and the edict of Charles Fifth. As to the advice which the Pope solicited, they replied, that to proceed not only with reference to Luther, but to extirpate the many errors and vices, deeply rooted by custom and time, and sustained by the ignorance of some, and the malice of others, they saw no remedy more suitable or efficacious, than the convocation of a general council, as soon as possible, with the consent of the emperor, in some commodious place in Germany; in which laymen, as well as ecclesiastics, might with freedom 181 15(5)r 181 consult, and deliberate upon what would be for the glory of God and the good of souls. In the reply which the nuncio made to this suggestion, he said this proposition would not be displeasing to his highness, the Pope, if it were made in more civil and respectful terms. He advised the diet to amend every expression in it which might excite the Pope’s displeasure; for instance, such as to convoke a council with the consent of his majesty the emperor—and to hold the council in a city of Germany, by which it might seem that they wished to tie his highness’ hands. Concerning various points on which the Pope had given instructions for the observance of the diet, he ordered, that no person should in future preach any doctrine which had not been examined by the bishop; that all printers of the heretical books in circulation, should be punished according to the late sentence—and that all the books should be burned. In short, the nuncio demanded the immediate adoption of severe measures against the Lutheran heresy, and used his utmost address to induce them to relinquish their proposal of a general council. Those who favored the Reformation were not slow to perceive, that the interests of the Roman court were an object of greater solicitude with the Pope’s nuncio, than the tranquility of the empire, or the purity of the church; and they remained inflexible on this point. They 182 15(5)v 182 drew up a list of grievances, a hundred in number, which they imputed to the unjust usurpation of the Papal see. These, as the nuncio had abruptly departed when he saw the memorial in preparation, that he might not be the bearer of a remonstrance so disagreeable, were sent to the Pope, with a protest, that the people neither would nor could endure such oppressions and abuses any longer; and unless immediate and effective attention was paid to them, they should be compelled, though reluctantly, to take the work of reform into their own hands.
Miss Andrews. I should like well to see a list of the hundred grievances.
It would be tedious to give them in detail, replied Mrs. Athearn. It contained a full exposition of the oppressions suffered from the tyranny and rapacity of the priesthood in the taxes for dispensations, absolutions, indulgences —for carrying law-suits by appeal to Rome— for the consecration of churches and cemetaries, &c.They complained of the exemption of the clergy from civil jurisdiction—and the arts practised by them to bring all secular causes under the cognizance of ecclesiastical judges—of unjust excommunications—of the profligate lives of the clergy, and of many other particulars; embracing those corruptions in the doctrines and conduct of the members of the church, which I have mentioned to you as 183 15(6)r 183 among the circumstances, contributing to the favorable reception of Luther’s doctrines. Instead of any severe procedure against the Reformers, as the nuncio had recommended, the diet only passed a decree containing an injunction to all, to wait patiently for the determinations of the general council which they had demanded, and meanwhile to publish no new opinions contrary to those held by the established church. All preachers were required to abstain from preaching on controverted topics, and to confine themselves to the plain, simple truths of religion. The result of this diet produced great emotion in the Roman court. Adrian’s honesty in the acknowledgment of existing disorders, which they would fain have concealed, brought on him the reproach of childish simplicity and imprudence. He was charged with forgetting his own dignity in asking advice of those to whom he was entitled to prescribe; and thereby encouraging a presumptuous spirit in the enemies of the church, which would be quelled with difficulty, and might do vast injury to Papal power. Great presumption, in their opinion they had already manifested, in the propostion of a council. Adrian was amazed at the obstinacy of one party, and disgusted with the art and political management of the other; he lamented his present advancement, and looked back with regret upon the humble, unobtrusive labors of his former184 15(6)v 184 mer obscurity. But his career was short; he died 1523-09-14Sept. 14, 1523, about six months after the diet at Nuremberg.
Who succeeded him? asked Alice.
Mrs. Athearn. Clement Seventh, cousin- german of Leo Tenth, a profound politician. He adopted a very different course of procedure from his predecessor; he resolved to acknowledge no error in the church, and never to acquiesce in a general council.
I do not see, said one of the young ladies, why so great opposition should have been manifested by the Pope to a general council. I can imagine no way so appropriate for the adjustment of matters.
Mrs. Athearn. True, it would seem so; but he knew too well the death-blow, which a strict examination of the Papal system would inflict on its power; he dared not also subject his own election to the Papal chair, which had been obtained by great management, to the scrutiny of such an assembly. He selected cardinal Campeggio, a very artful man, as his nuncio to the diet of the empire again assembled at Nuremberg.Campeggio, without noticing the transactions of the preceding diet, exhorted them to an immediate and vigorous execution of the edict of Worms, representing this measure as absolutely indispensable to the peace of the church, and as the only effectual means of suppressing this desolating heresy. The diet, in return, demanded 185 16(1)r 185 the Pope’s intention relative to a council, and in regard to the redress of their grievances. The nuncio endeavoured to elude any definite answer to the former inquiry; he made, however, many general declarations of the Pope’s resolution to pursue those measures which would insure the greatest good of the church. As to the latter, he stated, as Adrian’s decease occurred before the catalogue alluded to had reached Rome, it had not, consequently, been laid before the present Pope; he therefore declined making any decisive answer, in the Pope’s name. His embassy produced very little effect on the decisions of the diet; no additional severity against Luther and his party was enjoined, and the demand for a free council was warmly renewed. The spirit of liberty which the new system diffused, induced many monks about this time to withdraw from the unnatural state of seclusion and inactive life, which they had adopted. Several nuns also effected their escape from two or three neighboring convents, among whom was Catharine de Bora, who afterwards became the wife of Luther. A spirit of controversy was roused and indulged with much warmth, both on the part of the Reformer and his opponents. Persecution, too, slaked her thirst for the moment in the blood of two Augustinian monks, and Papal power began in very deed to show a strong determination to quench the growing heresy, even 16 186 16(1)v 186 though by the cruel punishment of the stake. All Germany seemed in commotion; diets were held year after year, and closed with little else than warm expressions of strong desire for the assembling of the long-proposed council. But this the Pope uniformly evaded and opposed, although its necessity daily increased. The emperor too, became anxious that the religious differences, which had so long agitated Germany, might be adjusted; but he could obtain nothing from the pontiff but a promise to employ all the machinery of spiritual terror, if he, on his part, would unsheath the sword and destroy the unreclaimed. So inflamed at length did Clement become at the spread of the Reformation, that he entered into treaties with the Spanish and French kings, to take up arms against the disturbers of the Roman Catholic faith, and against all who should dare to revile the sovereign pontiff. Such was the state of things, when a diet of the empire was held at Spires, in 15261526
I hope, said Miss Arnold, that all difficulties were then settled.
Mrs. A. No, far from it; the result was such as to occasion an open rupture between the emperor and the Pope, though the war was of short continuance.
A war! exclaimed two or three young ladies at once. I thought they were both equally opposed to the Reformation, and united in their opposition.187 16(2)r 187
Mrs. A. True, they were; but circumstances, which the emperor could not control, effected a decision of the diet so favorable to the Lutheran cause, as to provoke the pontiff to measures which ended in a quarrel between them.
Miss Andrews. What were the consequences?
Mrs. A. Very favorable to the Reformation. Not only individuals, but whole provinces abjured their subjection to the court of Rome; they established the reformed worship in their territories, and suppressed entirely the rites of the Romish church. In a short time, nearly one half of the Germanic body had revolted from the Papal see. Charles was alarmed; political motives, as well as strong attachment to the established religion, influenced a determination to employ his utmost zeal to suppress these new opinions. He therefore appointed another diet at Spires to take into consideration the state of religion. Strong hopes were now entertained by the Roman Catholics, that something effectual would be done to extinguish the spreading heresy. Luther too, and his adherents, looked forward to this meeting with great interest and strong hopes.The diet at length assembled on the 1529-03-15fifteenth of March, 1529. For twelve years this controversy had been carried on; the minds of men had become inflamed to a high degree; the number of adherents to the new system had 188 16(2)v 188 greatly increased, and many were of high rank. It was soon perceived that any violent measures at this time would have brought fearful consequences. Prudence forbade any other present step than a strict injunction to those states of the empire, which had already obeyed the decree issued against Luther, at Worms, in the year 15241524, to persevere in its observation; and to prohibit the other states from attempting any other innovations in religion, particularly from abolishing the mass, before the meeting of a general council. This decree occasioned much dispute; but it was at length approved by a majority of voices. The elector of Saxony, and several other princes, together with the deputies of fourteen free cities, entered a solemn protest against this decree, as both unjust and impious. In consequence, they received the name of Protestants.
Was this the origin of that title? inquired one of the young ladies.
Mrs. Athearn replied in the affirmative, and went on to say, These princes were by no means satisfied with this declaration of their dissent from the decree of the diet alone; they therefore sent ambassadors to the emperor to lay before him their grievances. Charles received the deputies in a very formal, unconciliating manner; and immediately ordered their imprisonment.This was a sufficient expression of his hostile intentions to all who adhered to their 189 16(3)r 189 cause, and they immediately began to concert measures for their safety. Charles meanwhile began to look with an anxious eye upon the fast rising obstacles to the easy suppression of the new religion, now embraced by more than half of his Germanic subjects, and spreading with almost equal rapidity in neighboring countries. The opportunities he had of ascertaining the general state of feeling on all the controversial points, as he returned from Spain to Germany, convinced him that rigorous measures were little calculated to accomplish it; that in the present state of things they would only irritate to madness. He studiously sought to attach the Pope to him—consulted him—and though their views differed in the method of procedure against the Protestants, they both seemed agreed in the inexpediency of a general council, and united in their determination to oppose it. He proposed one more experiment of gentle measures in the coming diet, promising Clement if these failed, he would take up arms against such stubborn enemies of the Catholic faith.
Alice. Where was the next diet held?
At Augsburg, replied Mrs. Athearn, and thither he repaired on the 1530-06-2020th of June, 1530. He entered the city with great pomp, and found a full assembly. The Protestants carefully prevented or removed every thing, which might on their part increase the dissensions.Luther, as a person excommunicated by the 16*19016(3)v190 Pope, was not allowed to offend the emperor by his presence. All public preaching was restrained. Their confession of faith was drawn up, and presented with great address by the gentle and pacific Melancthon, who was chosen to this office, as a man of great talent, and the least offensive to the Catholic party. The terms of its expression were carefully chosen, and as far removed from any thing calculated to irritate, as a regard for truth would admit. But all to no purpose. The breach was too wide to be healed. Truth and error could not go hand in hand; and desirous as the Protestant princes were of peace, Charles found them as unwilling as ever to renounce their religion. He endeavored by political motives to bribe their favor, but in vain. He strove by various schemes to disunite their party, but they were fruitless; and, seeing no hope of bringing about a coalition between them, he renounced the attempt in despair.
And what took place then, Mrs. Athearn, asked Alice.
Mrs. A. Why, he determined to compel them to submit to the established church by force. The issue of the diet was, therefore, a decree condemning nearly all the Protestant doctrines, forbidding any person to protect or tolerate those who avowed them, and enjoining strict conformity to the Romish church in every point.191 16(4)r 191
Miss Allen. How severe!
Mrs. A. Yes; the feeble spirit of Melancthon fainted, as he took a prospective glance at the calamities which he foresaw awaited the church; he sat down in melancholy, and gave himself up to lamentation.
Alice. But Luther, Mrs. Athearn, what did he do?
Mrs. A. He comforted Melancthon, and consoled, confirmed, and animated all those, who like him, in despondency, followed his example; he exhorted the princes to be stedfast— not to abandon those truths which they had just now so boldly asserted, but to remain firm even unto the end. He was not himself the least disconcerted or dismayed; and although with the emperor’s approbation, a combination was formed among the Popish princes for the maintenance of the established religion, he manifested no symptoms of alarm.
Luther’s example and his exhortations were not without weight among his followers. When the first impulse of apprehension had subsided among them, and they realized the importance and necessity of firm union among themselves to ensure the success of their cause and their own personal safety, they began to take such precautionary measures as their circumstances demanded. They assembled at Smalkalde, and there they formed themselves into a league, solemnly binding themselves to defend the Protestant 192 16(4)v 192 religion, even at the expense of their lives; they also resolved to seek foreign assistance.
Ellen Athearn. Their confederacy was only defensive, I conclude, mother.
Mrs. A. That was all; they disclaimed all intention of attacking the Catholic party; it was a league of mutual defence against all aggressors. When prosecutions were commenced against some of their number, on account of their religious principles, as was soon the case, they despatched ambassadors both to France and England, imploring their assistance in the new confederacy; it was granted.
But Henry Eighth was strongly enlisted on the Roman Catholic side, was he not? One of the Popes, I remember, for the ability with which he defended the Catholic church, honored him with the title of Defender of the Faith, said one young lady.
Mrs. A. Yes, he was; nevertheless, as the present Pope had now a long time delayed, and even openly opposed the grant of a bill of divorce from his queen, that he might marry Ann Boleyn, one of her maids of honor, he was inclined to retaliate by strengthening a league against the pontiff, which might become so formidable as greatly to harrass him.At this juncture, Solyman, the Turkish sultan, invaded Germany; and the emperor was again diverted from the execution of his plans to extirpate the new religion. He soon found it necessary, not only to delay farther interference with 193 16(5)r 193 the Protestants at present, but to conciliate them, in order to gain their assistance in repelling this formidable invasion. Negotiations were therefore held, and a treaty of peace at length concluded, whose purport was this,—that universal peace should be established throughout Germany, till the convocation of the long-desired council actually took place; that no person meanwhile should be molested on account of his religious opinions; that all processes commenced against any should be checked, and all sentences actually passed to their detriment should be declared null. To this, the emperor subjoined a promise, that he would employ all his influence with the Pope to procure a general council within six months. In consequence of these stipulations on his part, the Protestants promised the assistance of their forces in resisting the invasion of the Turks.
I hope, said one young lady, that this famous council now draws nigh; I am very anxious to learn its results.
Mrs. A. Your patience must still hold out fourteen years longer; for so much longer, through various pretexts, was this important event delayed.
Miss Andrews. What were both parties doing meanwhile? When so strong a desire for a general council universally prevailed, what reasons of sufficient magnitude could be invented 194 16(5)v 194 to render the people quiet and acquiescent in so long a delay?
Mrs. A. The delay was caused by political intrigue on the part of the Pope. The emperor, true to his engagement with the Protestants, sought from the Pope the early appointment of such an assembly; representing that as the only authority to which they would submit, and the only measure which could, in the present state of things, terminate their difficulties. The Pope was exceedingly displeased with Charles’ proceedings in regard to calling a council, and he strove to divert him from this purpose; when he found this vain, he reluctantly consented, but he employed every artifice to delay, hoping, by still farther manœuvres, eventually to defeat it.The pontiff insisted that the council should meet in Italy—the Protestants demanded a council in Germany; they insisted that all their disputes should be settled by a reference to Scripture—the Pope, that the decrees of the church and the opinions of the fathers should decide the matter. The Protestants demanded a free council, in which the divines, delegated by different churches, should have a voice; the Pope was bent on a council, so modelled by himself, that all its decisions should be dependent on his pleasure. The Protestants declared they would not bind themselves to submit to any council, before they knew on what principle its decrees were to be 195 16(6)r 195 founded—by whom they would be pronounced —and what forms of procedure would be observed; the Pope affirmed that a council was altogether unnecessary, unless those who demanded it would bind themselves to acquiesce in its decrees, whatever they should be. Such were the points of dispute started, by which the Pope artfully delayed the council, without drawing upon himself the whole blame of retarding it. Matters were in this state when the Papal chair again became vacated by the death of Clement. His successor, Paul Third, fully aware of the censure Clement had incurred by his obstinacy in regard to assembling a council, affected a willingness that such a meeting should take place; but he was anxious it should be in a city under his own influence. He was secretly averse to such a measure, as much so perhaps as any of his predecessors, but he flattered himself, that his seeming readiness to meet the general demand would ward from him any reproach, in case the difficulties he foresaw would arise as to the time and place of meeting, and all the various particulars concerning its regulation, should finally preclude its taking place. He despatched nuncios to the several courts, declaring his intention to call a general assembly, and appointed Mantua as the place of meeting. As he hoped, the Protestants opposed this; they protested against meeting in a place so 196 16(6)v 196 entirely under Papal influence, and renewed their original demand, that it should be convened in Germany. A series of negotiations and intrigues followed; the Pope seemed eager to assemble a council, and yet, under existing circumstances, put off its meetings at his pleasure. To soothe the Germans, at length Charles summoned several successive diets, in which disputants on both sides appeared, and strenuous efforts were made to reconcile the contending parties, but in vain. The decrees of these diets, although they produced no results very favorable to the Protestant cause, greatly offended the Pope and excited his jealousy toward the emperor—he felt that his assuming the power of appointing divines to examine and determine matters of controversy, was a very undutiful and dangerous invasion of his rights. But nothing could exceed his grief and anger at the conduct of the emperor in the diet at Spires, 15441544.
What were his measures there? inquired one young lady.
Mrs. A. He ventured to grant the Protestants many civil privileges, from which, for heresy, the Pope had deprived them; he also suspended the penal statutes till a national council was held. For such offences as granting equality of rights to heretics, and daring to legislate in religious matters without the concurrence of the head of the church, the emperor197 17(1)r 197 ror received a very long and indignant epistle from his holiness.
He complained that laymen, and above all heretics, had been permitted to meddle with spiritual things—that in referring their disputes and grievances to a council, they had not even mentioned the successor of St. Peter, to whom alone the right of convoking such an assembly belonged. His sins resembled those of Uzzah, Dathan, Abiram, Korah, and Uzziah. He had endangered the peace and unity of the church, and exposed his own soul’s salvation to imminent peril—and the judgments of God would fall upon him unless he revoked the decree.
Miss Andrews. But why was the emperor so inclined, at this present time, to favor the Protestants, if his views and feelings were enlisted on the side of the Roman Catholics.
Mrs. A. He needed their assistance in prosecuting his extensive wars, and he was, therefore, willing to court their favor by any compliances likely to obtain it. No sooner, however, was peace established in his dominions, than he resolved to deprive them of the religious liberties he had granted, and again seek the favor of the Pope by his decided countenance and support in their persecution.
Alice, in all her artlessness, expressed astonishment, mingled with horror and indignation, at the practice of such deception and art, as the wordly policy of the emperor led him to indulge.17 198 17(1)v 198
The Pope, said Mrs. Athearn, to avoid ridicule and contempt, as no notice had been taken of his late appointment of a council to meet within his own territories, felt himself obliged to appoint another. He therefore issued another bull, summoning the princes and prelates of Europe, to meet at Trent, 1545-03-15March 15, 1545.
And here we will rest, continued the lady, for we have already protracted our conversation to a later hour than usual.
The conversation commenced on the succeeding evening, by an inquiry from one of the younger misses, where Trent was situated.
Mrs. Athearn referred the little girl to her map, saying, you will find it, Charlotte, on the confines of Germany and Italy. It is now in the state of Venice, and subject to Austria, but at the time of which we speak, it belonged to the dominions of the king of the Romans, of whom it was held by the cardinal of Trent. It was not within the Papal territories, but was so much under Papal influence, that the Pope flattered himself it would be easy to ensure the entire management of the council’s proceedings.I believe its distance from Rome is about 250 miles. This was the place destined to be the scene of those important decisions, so long desired, 200 17(2)v 200 and so momentous in their consequence to both parties concerned. Kings, princes, and great men, eminent both for learning and piety—the kings of Great Britain, Sweden, and Denmark, with others, were now to be found in the ranks of the despised monk, Martin Luther, who first stood forth alone and unsupported, and commenced that memorable attack on the Man of Sin, which was destined to shake his empire even to its foundation. He had roused all Christendom; the majority longed to shake off their fetters, to see Scripture clothed with the honor due to its original, and those superstitions and mummeries, by which they had been deluded, swept away forever.
But, said one young lady, I do not suppose all the kings and princes, to whom you have alluded, were real Christians, and sought the glory of God alone. What could be their motive in so earnestly desiring a thorough reform of abuses?
Mrs. A. Their own interest was greatly concerned in the favorable issue of the assembly; the exorbitant taxes and immunities, monopolized by the ecclesiastical community, had robbed them of power and of pecuniary resources; and had likewise caused great distress and complaint among their subjects. They therefore most earnestly wished a very different state of things.The bishops, too, were interested in the contemplated201 17(3)r 201 templated decisions of this great assembly; they were jealous of the encroaching power and influence of the monastic orders, and they hoped now to recover their rights and privileges. As for the Pope, all his schemes centred in the aggrandizement of the holy see. He intended to make no concessions, and to permit no changes, which would not further this design; this was soon discovered by the Protestant party, and they determined not to acknowledge a council called with such intentions, and prosecuted with such feelings. Three legates, the cardinals De Monte, Santa Croce, and Pole, were chosen to preside in the council in the name of the Pope. They repaired to the place appointed, where only about twenty prelates, one after another, assembled. They spend the whole summer in negotiations, but nothing of importance was adjusted; nothing, in fact, was accomplished, and another session was appointed to be held the coming December. The diet, this year, assembled at Worms. Warm discussions passed. The Protestants earnestly hoped from this assembly to obtain such a confirmation of their religious rights, that they could enjoy them in greater security than they had hitherto done; but the only reply they could obtain to their earnest solicitations was, that as the Pope had at length been persuaded to appoint a council, 17* 202 17(3)v 202 they must wait for its decrees, and abide by its decisions. But they remonstrated warmly against the council—it was called to meet without the bounds of the empire; the Pope had assumed the right of presiding, by appointing three legates as judges; he had called it also by his own authority, independent of the emperor, and they pronounced it illegal, and affirmed they held the decree of the late diet to be still in full force. They moreover openly declared, that they would not deign to vindicate their religion in presence of a council, assembled not to examine, but to condemn them; and that they would pay no regard to an assembly held under the influence of a Pope, who had already precluded himself from all title to act as a judge, by his having stigmatized their opinions with the name of heresy, and denounced against them the heaviest censures, which, in the plenitude of his usurped power, he could inflict. They remained inflexible, and thus the assembly dissolved. Charles, however, to gain time to ripen the schemes he had in view, artfully strove to amuse and hold the Protestant party in suspense, by appointing another diet to be held at Ratisbon, the following year, to adjust what was now left undetermined.
Miss Arnold. What were those schemes?
Mrs. A. Their object was to humble and subdue the Protestant states.203 17(4)r 203
By military force do you mean, Mrs. Athearn? inquired one young lady.
Mrs. A. Yes; in conjunction with the Pope, they were now making vast preparations for this purpose.
Miss Arnold. But did not the reformed party suspect his intentions, and prepare accordingly?
Mrs. A. Not at first; apparently his forces were levied for other purposes—war threatened from neighboring monarchs, and deception in the object of his preparations was easy. But they were soon undeceived; Charles betrayed his intentions by rigorous measures toward the archbishop of Cologne, who had renounced the Popish faith—by enjoining severity against all who should revolt from the established church— by persecuting all, suspected of Lutheranism in the low countries, and silencing all Protestant preachers.The reformed party were alarmed at these movements; they could not but foretell scenes of war and desolation. The landgrave of Hesse, who had warmly embraced the new system of faith, held an interview with Charles, in which he denied having entered into any league, or having made any military preparations to alarm them. The landgrave was satisfied, and the Protestants for a short space, quieted with this assurance. Sessions of the council were held on the 1545-12-13thirteenth of December, 1545, the 1545-01-077th of January, 204 17(4)v 204 and the 1545-02-044th of February, with great pomp and much religious solemnity. The time was entirely occupied with matters of form; in the fourth session, Scripture and tradition were taken into consideration. The rejection of tradition by the reformers was at once condemned, and the result of the session was a decree of this import—that the books, designated Apocryphal, were of equal authority with the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament; and that the tradition, which had been handed down by the fathers and preserved in the church, were entitled to as much regard as the doctrines and precepts which the inspired authors have committed to writing. All who refused submission to this decree, were doomed, in the name of the Holy Ghost, to the punishment of obstinate heretics. The Pope, at this time issued a bull against the archbishop of Cologne, of whom I was just now speaking, accusing him of heresy, and depriving him of his ecclesiastical dignity.
Miss Andrews. I am sure the protestant party from this decree might draw ample and unequivocal assurance of the hostile intentions of this detestable council. Had the protestants yet recognized it as a legal assembly, and thus bound themselves to submit to its infamous decrees?
No, replied Mrs. Athearn; they still expressed their willingness to abide by the decisions of a free council, composed of learned and pious 205 17(5)r 205 men—but they stedfastly refused to acknowledge the authority of one such as this. They objected to the Pope’s presiding, as he was a party concerned; they objected to the judges— the prelates, who were ignorant and wicked men; they objected to the rules of judgment, demanding the word of God alone; they objected to the constrained formal mode of its procedure, and to the place of its meeting, as they had done from the beginning.
Where was Luther at this deeply interesting moment? inquired Catharine Allen.
He was not there, replied Mrs. Athearn, tenderly.
But he must have viewed these transactions with intense interest, added Ellen Ormond.
Doubtless he did, replied her teacher; but with a grief and indignation, far more holy and just in its character, than had he been there. Luther was in heaven! he was in the council of the Highest—in the assembly of the just made perfect; free from all personal sin and sorrow, and divested of all those anxieties and wearing apprehensions for the honor of his Redeemer’s cause, that he had on earth. He was destined never to behold the desolating calamities, which swept the Lord’s vineyard; he was never to be pained with the sight of those agonizing tortures and seas of blood, through which his faithful followers waded to their homes above.
Tears trembled in the eyes of the sensitive 206 17(5)v 206 Alice, as she inquired, Where and how did Luther die?
Mrs. A. He died at Eisleben, the place of his nativity. For several years his health had been feeble; though, till a very short time before his death, no immediate danger was apprehended.On the 1546-02-1717th of February, 1546, he was suddenly taken more unwell than usual, and departed this life about three, the next morning. A little before his death, he was heard to say in ejaculation, Oh my heavenly Father, eternal and merciful God! thou hast revealed to me thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. I have preached him, I have confessed him, I love him, and I worship him, as my dearest Saviour and Redeemer—him whom the wicked persecute, accuse, and blaspheme. He then repeated several times these words, Into thy hands I commit my spirit; God of truth thou hast redeemed me. Some time after, one said to him, Dearest father, do you verily confess Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Saviour and Redeemer?—he replied, yes, distinctly. The cold chills of death immediately began to settle down upon his brow, and although they moved him and called him, he gave no answer; with his hands clasped, he began to breathe slowly and faintly, till he breathed his last. He was buried beneath the church of All Saints, 207 17(6)r 207 at Wittemberg, with great solemnity, deeply regretted and lamented.
Mrs. Athearn paused here—and then said, the first steps of the council of Trent had been received by Luther with deep feeling. For some time previous to his death, he was accustomed to say to a friend of his, as he retired to rest, Pray to God, that the cause of his church may prosper, for the council of Trent is vehemently enraged against it.Thus died Luther, for a series of years one of the most conspicuous men in Europe, and one among the few, who have so lived and labored as to bless posterity till the end of time. But to return. Deeply as the deceit of the emperor, and the obstinacy of the Pope affected the protestants, their distress was far greater at the treachery of some of their friends. Maurice of Saxony, who had till now favored the protestant cause, though he had never joined the Smalkaldic league, among others turned traitor in this hour of danger. Led by ambition and desire of power, he concluded a treaty with Charles, engaging to assist him with his forces. He was to receive from Charles, in return, the dignities and territories of his father-in-law, the elector of Saxony.
Bribed! contemptible! exclaimed one of the young ladies in the fullness of her indignation.
But I have not yet told all, said Mrs. Athearn. Besides the baseness of the treachery 208 17(6)v 208 itself, and of entering a league against so near a relative, he kept his engagement with the emperor concealed, and perfidiously acted the part of friendship toward the protestants till both parties took the field.
Did matters actually end in an open war? exclaimed Alice.
Mrs. A. Yes; during the summer, the Pope and the emperor concluded an alliance, the object of which they avowed to be the punishment of the protestants in Germany, for their obstinate rejection of the council. The emperor engaged on his part, to declare war immediately, and reduce the heretics by force; promising to enter into no treaty with them, nor concede any points in religion, without the Pope’s consent.The Pope engaged to furnish twelve thousand men for the purpose, to support them at his own expense six months if necessary, and moreover, to add considerable pecuniary assistance. Such, in substance, were the conditions of the treaty.
Maria Ellis. I hope the reformed party were prepared for this hostile step.
Mrs. A. Yes, they began to take vigorous measures for their own defence. They sent deputies to Charles, to ascertain his intentions in collecting such a vast military force, and learning in reply, that it was to punish the elector of Saxony, and the landgrave of Hesse, they took the field with 85,000 men.209 18(1)r 209
Miss Andrews. 85,000! What a number. I had no idea the Reformation had spread to such a degree, that so many could have been mustered in its defence.
Mrs. A. Charles was surprised likewise at the strength of their forces; his own were inferior—only 16,000; for as yet the Pope’s re-inforcement had not arrived.
Miss Andrews. It seems the protestants first took the field; I am sorry to see that.
Mrs. A. But they were compelled at this juncture, either to act in their own defence, or abjure their religion and submit both to temporal and spiritual tyranny. What could they do? Instead of taking advantage of the emperor’s situation, as they might have done, they hesitated—and addressed a letter to the emperor, vindicating their conduct in taking up arms in defence of their religion and liberties.
Alice. What did he say to that?
Mrs. Athearn. He made no reply at all to it, farther than immediately to publish the ban of the empire against the elector of Saxony, the landgrave of Hesse, and all who should render them any assistance—that was reply enough.
What is the ban of the empire? said Mary Dunbar.
Mrs. A Publicly declaring them to be traitors to their country, and depriving them of every civil privilege, which was the most severe sentence the emperor could publish. For some time after hostilities actually commenced, although 18 210 18(1)v 210 Charles attacked and made himself master of several towns, it seemed doubtful which party would eventually be forced to yield; the conduct of Maurice at length decided the question in favor of the emperor.
Several of the young ladies could scarcely restrain their indignation.
Mrs. A. Maurice, as he had planned, invaded the territories of the elector of Saxony, and obtained possession of nearly the whole electorate; of course, the elector withdrew his own forces from the general army to defend his own private interests. His withdrawal was but a prelude to that of others; and Charles, taking advantage of the division, put his army in motion, and soon compelled many of the most important cities to surrender.
His success daunted the courage of the remaining confederates, and all submitted upon just such conditions as he chose to prescribe, two excepted, the elector, and the landgrave of Hesse.
Miss Allen. Did the elector lose all his possessions?
Mrs. A. Maurice seized upon the greater part, but the elector soon recovered them.
Some time after, the emperor again advanced toward the Saxons; after a severe engagement he defeated them, and took the elector prisoner.
O! said Alice, how sorry I am! How Luther would have felt, had he seen his friend’s misfortune.211 18(2)r 211
You are thinking, my dear girl, said Mrs. Athearn, of him who so kindly and warmly befriended Luther, in his time of danger.
Yes, madam, she replied.
Mrs. Athearn. But the present elector was not he. Frederic, to whom you allude, like him whom he protected, had finished his course, and had gone to receive his reward. The present possessor of the electorate was his grandson; a more zealous defender of the cause, than his predecessor.When Charles had secured the elector as his prisoner, he proceeded immediately to Wittemberg, to take possession of that place; but the elector’s wife held out the city, till alarmed by the emperor’s repeated threats to take her husband’s life, unless she surrendered it, she gave up its keys; and thus the treacherous Maurice was at length rewarded with the electorate of Saxony, which he had so long coveted, and, as it were, sold himself to gain. The landgrave of Hesse, seeing the defeat of his friend, entered into terms of agreement with the emperor, but no sooner had he signed the treaty, than he was seized prisoner by the emperor, and with the elector, was carried about to grace his triumph!
Miss Arnold. I am sure these must have been dark times to the Protestants.
Mrs. A. Oh, they were dark indeed! Luther was not—and their two bold leaders were in captivity; their cause seemed threatened with 212 18(2)v 212 total destruction. The emperor’s enmity to it appeared rapidly to increase; in the diet at Augsburg, which followed these commotions, the emperor personally commanded absolute acquiesence in the decisions of the council of Trent; he took possession of the churches there by force, and re-established the Roman Catholic worship in them. Troops were stationed in the neighboring cities and villages, ready to enforce any decisions he chose. The bold, public measures, adopted by the emperor, were calculated greatly to inflame the head of the church, so long accustomed to rule in such matters, and to know no appeal from his wishes and laws. He became exceedingly jealous of Charles’ increasing power; to check the monarch’s ambition and continue his own influence in it complete, he resolved to remove the assembly from Trent, and to Bologna, entirely beneath his own supervision. An infectious disease broke out in Trent, and the pontiff seized upon this as a plausible excuse for effecting his purpose. It was done; the emperor protested against it, but his remonstrances were disregarded. Charles now seemed to be a third party in the existing difficulties; for while he opposed the Bologna council, he could not force the Protestants, more than formerly, to submit to its decisions. He could not think for a moment, however, of abandoning his purpose of subjecting them to the Roman Catholic faith. What could he do? In the midst of his dilemma, he resolved upon framing such a system of faith 213 18(3)r 213 from the belief of both parties, as he could induce by force or persuasion of the Protestant and Popish churches to adopt. With the assistance of some Romish ecclesiastics, he succeeded in composing a complete system of divinity, which, with sanguine expectations, he laid before the next diet, convened at Augsburg on the 1548-05-1515th of May, 1548.
Catharine Allen. I should admire to know what the system was.
Mrs. A. It contained almost all the doctrines of the Romish church, so modified, or ambiguously expressed, as perhaps partially to impose on a few, and to be entirely dissatisfactory to others. He called it the Interim, because it contained temporary regulations. He laid it before the diet. The archbishop of Mentz, president of the electorate college, arose, and thanking the emperor for his pious endeavors to restore peace in the church, said, he, in the name of the diet, entirely approved of the system, and expressed their resolution to conform to it in every particular.
Susan Arnold. I suppose he had his lesson beforehand. Well, I dare say some one undeceived the emperor as to that.
Mrs. A. No; amazement at such a declaration seized them all. No one had courage to contradict it, and the emperor was artful enough to take advantage of the general feeling, and prepared to enforce the observance of it as the decree of the empire.18* 214 18(3)v 214
Miss Andrews. But how was it, in reality, received?
Mrs. A. Both parties openly scorned it. Several cities refused to adopt it. By force of arms, the emperor compelled the public establishment of its ceremonies in two or three places, and several others, through fear, sanctioned its adoption. The Roman Catholics blamed it as approaching too nearly Protestantism; and the reformed party spurned it, as Popery disguised. But Charles was resolved the Interim should be adopted; he was determined all Germany should submit to its laws. He offered the elector of Saxony his liberty, if he would set the example to the rest of the Protestants. Never, said the good man, will I abjure what I firmly believe. I cannot now, said he, abandon in my old age the principles for which I early contended; nor, in order to procure freedom during a few declining years, will I betray that good cause on account of which I have suffered so much, and am willing to suffer.
Better for me to enjoy in this solitude the esteem of virtuous men, together with the approbation of my own conscience, than to return into the world with the imputation and guilt of apostacy, to disgrace and embitter the remainder of my days.
A noble spirit, said one young lady.
But so greatly did it enrage the emperor, said Mrs,. Athearn, that he increased the rigor of his confinement, and deprived him of the 215 18(4)r 215 solace he had hitherto enjoyed in the visits of his Protestant friends.
From several cities, he also violently took away their privileges, and imprisoned their ministers, compelling them at last to comply with all he enjoined. But I have anticipated events.
Miss Arnold. What were the Bologna council doing meanwhile?
Mrs. A. Slowly but warmly examining the doctrines of the Roman Catholic faith, and deciding questions of reform. In the fifth session, held at Trent, a decree was passed on original sin. The discussions on that point, with the final result, are too tedious to give in detail. Anathemas were denounced in the decree on all who did not believe thus and so, but so puzzled were they by the conflict of opinion, and so difficult did they find it to make an explanation of its nature, that they actually published a decree without a definition.Justification was the doctrine in debate at the sixth session. This point, in all its varied ramifications, afforded matter for long and frequent discussions. The session was to have been held --07-28July 28, but so tardy were the disputants in fixing on any unanimous, definite decision on the subject, that it was postponed until 1547-01-13Jan. 13, 1547. The decree, as it was at length framed in the council, is too long to give you entire, but I will repeat to you some expressions in a prayer used by Roman Catholics, which 216 18(4)v 216 will show you their sentiments on the doctrine of justification. I desire by thy grace to make satisfaction for my sins by worthy fruits of penance; and I will willingly accept from thy hands whatever pains, crosses, or sufferings I shall meet with during the remainder of my life, or at my death, as just punishments of my iniquities; begging that they may be united to the suffering and death of my Redeemer, and sanctified by his passion, in which is all my hope for mercy, grace, and salvation. The seventh and eighth sessions, held --03-03March 3d and --03-1111th, were devoted to the consideration of the sacraments. You know the views of the Romish church on their number, efficacy, &c. from our conversation on a preceding evening. Baptism and confirmation were the particular points on which they dwelt during their present deliberations. Transubstantiation, it was resolved, should be considered in the next assembly. Various circumstances which occurred before the ninth session, I have already related by anticipation. The proposition of the Pope to remove the council to Bologna I named. This intended measure greatly enraged the emperor. He was fully aware, that the Protestants would never submit to the decisions of a council, held in any Papal city—he was offended that he had not been consulted in the measure, and in his wrath he declared the Pope to be an obstinate 217 18(5)r 217 old man, and that he would ruin the church eventually. He threatened to throw Santa Croce (the Pope’s legate) into the Adige, The river on which Trent is situated. if he persisted in urging the removal of the council. However, it was made, and the ninth session held there --04-21April 21. Charles meanwhile consoled himself, with his sanguine hopes of calling a council himself, which should give satisfaction to all parties; he resolved that his new system should be adopted as the faith of every member, both Protestant and Popish, and he intended to see to it, that every thing in the discipline and practice of the church, which needed correction, should forthwith be corrected. Few prelates, for various reasons, repaired to Bologna, and nothing of importance was determined at the ninth session, or the tenth, and the council was prorogued for an indefinite period. On 1551-05-01May 1, 1551, was held the eleventh session, and the usual solemnities were observed upon the re-opening of the council; it was now held at Trent.
Susan Arnold. At Trent again?
Mrs. A. Yes; after Charles had subdued the Protestants, he summoned another diet of the empire to meet at Augsburg in September.After many conferences and much difficulty, it was agreed that Charles should endeavor to obtain from the Pope a removal of the council to Trent; that all decrees, already passed there, 218 18(5)v 218 should be re-examined, and that the Protestant divines should have a free, deliberative voice in the assembly; that the Pope should not preside either personally or by his legates. The Protestants promised submission to the council on such conditions. But the Pope was resolute in his denial to accede to any of these demands; the assembly at Bologna dwindled almost into nonentity, and to save contempt, the pontiff dissolved it. Soon after, grieved and disheartened, he died, and was succeeded by De Monte.
One of the legates, was he not? asked one of the little girls.
He was, replied Mrs. Athearn. He assumed the name of Julius 3d, at his installation, which took place 1550-02-23Feb. 23, 1550.He was a man of pleasure, indolent, and reckless; and many hoped his love of luxury would lead him to relaxed measures against the adherents of the new system. Charles, too, thought the present might be a favorable juncture to press his negotiations, relative to the resumption and removal of the council. On four conditions the Pope promised to comply, viz. that the co-operation of the French king should be obtained—the decrees already passed should remain as they were— arrangements should be made speedily to terminate the council, as it was attended with great expense in the support of the prelates at Trent 219 18(6)r 219 —and lastly, and especially, that Papal authority should be entirely preserved. The projected re-opening of the council was announced at the next diet at Augsburg, and unreserved submission to its decrees was required by the emperor, on the Pope’s conditions. The Protestants refused compliance except on exactly the terms to which in the last diet they had agreed. Charles was embarrassed; he sent a statement of his difficulties to the Pope, desiring such alterations as might remove offence from the Germans, especially in the article of his presiding. The Pope warmly answered, in a bull which he published 1551-01-27Jan. 27, 1551, that he possessed the sole power of convening and directing general councils; and he commanded, in the plentitude of apostolical authority, the prelates of Europe to repair forthwith to Trent, promising unless prevented by his age and infirmities, or the pressure of public affairs, to preside in person—and denounced the vengeance of Almighty God, and of the apostles, Peter and Paul, on any who should resist or disobey the decree.
Miss Allen. I am sure, matters grow worse and worse.
Mrs. A. Yes, the presentation of this bull to the diet produced great agitation. The Protestants declared such arrogant pretensions precluded the hope of conciliation, and they must retract any promise they had given to submit to 220 18(6)v 220 the council, since it could not be done without wounding their consciences and offending God. The Catholics affirmed as there was no probability of reconciling the Protestants, it would be useless to waste their time and money by going to Trent.
The emperor was not in great difficulty; he however, made many promises and engagements, which partially appeased the deep feeling, and accordingly ambassadors and divines from the different parties met at the eleventh session, held at Trent, --05-01May 1. The number assembled was small, and little was done. So likewise, at the twelfth. Great pomp attended the celebration of the thirteenth session, --10-11Oct. 11, and the long disputed subject of transubstantiation was settled.
How? said one young lady.
Mrs. A. In such terms as these: that the true body of our Lord and his true blood, together with his soul and divinity do exist under the species of the bread and wine. Christ, whole and entire, exists under the species of bread, and in every particle thereof, and under the species of wine, and in all its parts. And whosoever shall affirm that it is not so, saith the decree, let him be accursed.
Alice started, and said to her teacher, Do Catholics believe and mean to say, that every communicant eats the Lord Jesus Christ?
Mrs. A. If Christ is whole and entire in every particle of bread, and in every drop of wine 221 19(1)r 221 which he partakes, what would they have us understand else?
Miss Allen. I hope the Protestants had not bound themselves to submit to sentiments so absurd, profane, horrid!
Mrs. A. Few Protestants were as yet present to hear and join the discussion. The decree now passed, was received with chagrin and disappointment.In Chaloner’s Garden of the soul, page 251, among the directions there given for receiving the communion, you may find a clause as absurd as this; At the time of your receiving, let your head be erect, your mouth open moderately wide, and your tongue a little advanced, so as to rest upon your under lip, that the priest may conveniently carry the blessed sacrament into your mouth; which being done, shut your mouth, let the sacred host moisten a little upon your tongue, and then swallow it down as soon as you can, and afterwards abstain from spitting. If the host should chance to stick to the roof of your mouth, be not disturbed; neither must you put your finger into your mouth to remove it, but gently and quietly remove it with your tongue, and so convey it down; and then return to your place, and endeavor to entertain, as well as you can, the guest whom you have received.
A suppressed smile of indignation curled on the lip of several at such absurdity; one young 19 222 19(1)v 222 lady inquired if such a sentiment entered into the present belief of Roman Catholics.
Mrs. Athearn replied, that the decrees of Trent were the present avowed faith of that church.
I ought to have mentioned to you, said she, returning to the affairs of the council, that a safe-conduct had been demanded by the Protestants, to protect their ambassadors and divines, during any events or results which might arise while they resided at Trent.In this last session it was prepared and issued, but proved altogether dissatisfactory to those who demanded it. It guaranteed full permission to go to Trent—to remain there and to leave—also to discuss disputed subjects; but certain expressions were so intermingled, that an opening was left for a breach of faith, especially in one clause, granting liberty as far as the council is concerned. There was no guarantee from civil power. They therefore rejected it, and demanded such an one as had been granted to the Bohemians at the council of Basle. The fourteenth session was a warmr season. Penance was the subject. The Roman Catholics seemed in great haste to despatch as much business as was possible, before the Protestants arrived; therefore they assembled twice a day for discussion, previous to the session. But warm disputes ensued on some complicated questions; the legate Crescentio became angry at some observations, and his haughty223 19(2)r 223 ty and tyrannical conduct disgusted and provoked others. Many prelates desired to withdraw, but the solicitations of the imperial ambassadors prevented. The decisions of the council on the question in debate are too long to name here. I have had occasion to say considerable on this subject on a former evening, especially on the works of penance, &c. In the decree passed at the session, I remember some such expressions as these—The council teaches, that such is the abundance of the divine bounty, that we are able to make satisfaction to God the Father through Christ Jesus, not only by punishments voluntarily endured by us as chastisements for sin, or imposed at the pleasure of the priest, according to the degree of the offence, but also by temporal pains, inflicted by God himself, and by us patiently borne. Whosoever believes not this, the council says, let him be accursed. --11-25Nov. 25 Whosoever shall affirm that the practice of secretly confessing to the priest alone, as it has ever been observed from the beginning by the Catholic church, and is still observed, is foreign to the institution and command of Christ, and is a human invention, let him be accursed.
At seven years of age, continued Mrs. Athearn, the Roman Catholic child is taught to kneel at his father-confessor’s feet and ransack his youthful heart; and as if to assist him in his discoveries, he will often ask him, have you done thus and so? have you thought thus? &c. often suggesting thoughts to his childish mind, 224 19(2)v 224 and prompting him to deeds, which had it not been for these seasons, would never have entered his heart.No thought, feeling, or imagination, must be concealed from his ghostly father, by any member of this church; concealment is a mortal sin. Every purpose, every wish, must be alike disclosed; the priest becomes master of all; he must be the bearer of his wants to heaven, and the bearer of pardon for his sin from Jehovah! Oh, what unhallowed presumption! The true conscientious Roman Catholic is the veriest slave on earth. Other slaves are masters of their thoughts at least; he is not. If from fear or shame, any word, action, thought, or feeling, is withheld, knowing concealment is a mortal sin, his conscience is racked with agony; he is a stranger to peace, and cannot rest till the inmost recesses of his heart are laid open before him, who claims a prerogative, which to none but God belongs. But to return to the safe-conduct, which became a matter of great importance to the Protestants. Dissatisfied with that already granted, two ambassadors, sent from them appeared with instructions to say, it was indispensably necessary that a safe-conduct exactly conformable to that granted at Basle should be given them—that the discussion of those subjects now in debate should be suspended, and those decrees already passed be re-examined—that the Pope should not preside 225 19(3)r 225 in the council, but should declare his own submission to its enactments as well as they, and that the suffrages of all should be free; also that the Protestant divines were about forty miles from Trent, awaiting the result of the embassy, and would repair thither as soon as assured of safety. The presidents of the council were haughty, and refused to concede any thing. They declared if such unreasonable demands were persisted in, they would withdraw, dismiss the assembly, and forbid any official act on the subject. The Pope’s legate actually became so enraged, that he abstracted the seal—leaving them destitute of the means of issuing any authoritative decree. The emperor’s ambassadors remonstrated against such unwise procedure—the legate was at length prevailed upon to allow a meeting of the Protestants at his own house, but would not permit them to be received in public session. At length another safe-conduct was prepared; not, however, like that of Basle—some things were omitted, and others altered. They were soon informed that such a safe- conduct could not be received. The presidents of the council affected both surprise and displeasure at this, and maintained it was, in substance, precisely like that of Basle. One replied if it was really in substance like that given at Basle, the best plan would be to stop the mouths of their opponents by transcribing19* 226 19(3)v 226 scribing the latter, word for word. This answer threw them into great perplexity.
Miss Emmons. Why did they manifest such unwillingness to grant so simple a request? Did the safe-conduct prepared, differ materially from the model proposed?
Mrs. A. Yes; in some important points, which they were determined not to yield. One thing which had been granted at Basle was— that they should have a deliberative voice— another, that they should have liberty to exercise their religion in their own houses, and that nothing should be said or done to bring their doctrine into contempt. These things were entirely omitted; other points, of which they were equally tenacious, were so altered, as to be no guarantee at all for those rights which they demanded.
Miss Allen. Was it remodelled to their wishes at last?
No, replied Mrs. Athearn, the legate manœvred so well, that no alteration was made in it.
Miss Andrews. Did the Protestant divines accept it, and repair to the next session?
Mrs. A. No; the session was held without them. Little was done. The discussion of the doctrinal articles was postponed in the decree until the Protestants, for whose sake the delay had been granted, should repair to Trent— hoping they would come—not obstinately to oppose the Catholic faith, but to learn the truth, 227 19(4)r 227 and acquiesce in the decrees and discipline of holy mother church.
After the sixteenth session, which was languid and inefficient, it was agreed the council should be suspended for the term of two years.
Alice inquired of her teacher the cause of the suspension of the council.
Mrs. Athearn replied, that civil commotions seemed to render such a measure necessary.
Maurice of Saxony, she added, who, to advance his own temporal interests, turned traitor to the Protestant cause, when he became actually aware of the designing schemes entertained by Charles Fifth against both the civil and religious liberties of Germany, determined on the rescue of his country from the emperor’s tyrannical power.Maurice had long acted in concert with Charles, and by his dissimulation and intrigue had raised himself to be the first prince in Germany. He had taken up arms against the Protestants, and had complied with the interim—he had yielded to every measure suggested by the emperor, till he possessed his entire confidence, 229 19(5)r 229 and thus was little prepared for the transformation of plan and feeling, which had lately taken place in his subject. But when Maurice saw the restlessness of that monarch’s ambition, stretching forward to uncontrolled, absolute power; when he saw him determined to enforce the popish religion on all his subjects, even by the sword and by fire, he resolved, and with art and caution prepared, to vindicate the liberties of Germany, and redress her wrongs. He obtained the assistance of the French king, Henry 2nd, (for Francis was now dead,) and took the field against the emperor in 1552-03-181552, March 18th. He swept all before him, and left desolation behind. Charles was astonished and alarmed. Trent was filled with dismay, and the hurried dissolution of the council was, as I have told you, agreed upon. The forces of Maurice were already advancing upon Trent when the assembly was dissolved. Every city on his way threw open its gates as soon as he approached, having been secretly apprised of his plans, and immediately restored the Protestant worship, which Charles had suppressed. Nothing could save the emperor but flight. He left Impruck precipitately, in the middle of the night. Maurice entered the city a few hours after, and issued a proclamation, enjoining the Protestant ministers throughout Germany, who had been deprived of the exercise of their respective offices by the emperor, to resume them. 230 19(5)v 230 Charles endeavored to negotiate a peace at Passau. Maurice agreed to lay down his arms on three conditions, that the landgrave of Hesse, whom Charles, by a breach of faith, had made prisoner, should be released—all wrongs in the civil government of the empire should be redressed immediately, and no molestation should be offered the Protestants in the public exercise of their religion. Charles haughtily rejected these demands, and Maurice, at the head of his army, hastily marched on to farther devastation. The emperor was at length compelled to submit, and on conditions which once he would have scorned.
What a strange character Maurice was, said Miss Andrews.
Mrs. A. His conduct was base. His love of power led him to the first treacherous act, and I am not at all sure, that seeing no more could be hoped, or obtained, from Charles, the same love of power did not lead him to shift sides again, and in the Protestants’ extremity, take that supremacy in their affairs which could not be obtained in the other party. Many think that Charles guaranteeing to him the safety of the general cause, he gave himself up to his own private interest—and when he found he had been deceived by the emperor, and the public cause was in jeopardy, that love of country triumphed over private interest, and led him back to duty. But look at his conduct in whatever light we will, it is altogether unjustifiable; want of moral 231 19(6)r 231 principle is evidently at the foundation. It was singular, that the Reformation should owe its establishment in Germany, instrumentally, to the same hand, which had well nigh rooted it out.
Miss Emmons. Do you recollect the conditions of the treaty of peace, ratified at Passau?
Mrs. A. They were the following. That the landgrave shall be set at liberty before the --08-12twelfth of August; that a diet shall be held within six months, in order to deliberate concerning the most proper and effectual method of preventing, for the future, all disputes and dissensions about religion; that in the meantime, neither the emperor nor any of the princes shall, upon any pretext whatever, offer any injury or violence to the Protestants, but allow them to enjoy the free and undisturbed exercise of their religion; that if the next diet should not be able to terminate the disputes with regard to religion, the stipulations in the present treaty shall continue forever in full force and agreement; that the Protestants shall enjoy the same civil rights as the Roman Catholics, and that none of the confederates shall be liable to any action on account of what had happened in the war. Such were the most important articles.
Miss Arnold. When did this treaty take place?
Mrs. A. It was signed the 1552-08-02second of August, 1552.
Miss Emmons. What a joyful day must this 232 19(6)v 232 have been to those who had prayed, and sighed, and sowed in tears for the building up of Christ’s kingdom. Oh, that Luther could have seen it!
Mrs. A. Undoubtedly it was a day of thanksgiving and praise—but Luther perhaps could rejoice in it better above.
Was the council resumed at the close of two years, as was agreed? said one of the younger girls.
Mrs. A. No; ten years elapsed before it was re-assembled. At the expiration of two years, a meeting was held to confer on the propriety of summoning that assembly again. The majority thought it an evil thing, and as it seemed to be forgotten by both princes and people, they deemed it best to keep silence—to say nothing about it. The Pope willingly acquiesced in it, and the subject was dropped. To the Protestants as a body, no vital importance was now attached to the assembly.The religious differences existing between them and the Catholics, did not endanger their public and private interests as before the late treaty. The Pope had lost his supreme power in public opinion. The eyes of the whole nation had been turned to blemishes in the priesthood, and defects in their faith; and the council seemed to be now a thing which the Romish church owed to community to clear up her character and recover her footing, rather than to decide which party had Scripture and truth on 233 20(1)r 233 their side—God had done that in the success of the Protestant cause. Julius Third, the Pope, died 1555-03-23March 23, 1555. The cardinal Santa Croce succeeded him, and assumed the name of Marcellus Cervinus. He manifested a desire for reform, and unlike his predecessors, was anxious to reassemble the council, for which he began to take early and efficient measures; but all the sanguine expectations, indulged with regard to his administration, were blasted by his early death, which occurred only twenty-one days after his advancement. Cardinal Caraffa, taking the name of Paul Fourth, next filled the Papal chair. In his private station he was remarkable for his austerity, his sanctity, and his enmity to all indulgence and display; but he soon laid it all aside, and even assumed more splendor and magnificence than his predecessors. When once asked, how he wished to be served, splendidly; as becomes a great prince, he replied. He was exceedingly haughty, unconciliating and irritable; had a higher opinion of his office as Pope than all the world beside, and claimed absolute power over all civil and ecclesiastical orders of men. He seemed entirely to have forgotten the change in public sentiment as to the unlimited power of Papal authority, and assumed the right even to dispose of kingdoms. No prince, he said, should be his 20 234 20(1)v 234 companion; he would be above them all,—and stamping his foot he declared, he would have them all under his feet. The new Pope, on his election, professed great concern for reform, and immediately proceeded to form a body of Popish ecclesiastics, amounting to nearly one hundred and fifty, whom he deputed to inquire into the various abuses charged upon the Romish church. Some of the cardinals proposed, that matters should be discussed in a general council; he was greatly enraged at the proposition, and said he needed no council, he was above them all. It was observed, that although a council added nothing to the authority of the Pope, yet it was useful in devising the means of executing his designs. He replied, if there must be a council, it should be at Rome, and no where else; and none but bishops should attend it. Trent was situated in the midst of heretics; it should never be there. It had always been a foolish thing, in his opinion, to send a host of bishops and divines among the mountains, with the supposition that they were better able to reform the world than the vicar of the Lord Jesus Christ with his cardinals, prelates, and divines, who were to be found in greater number at Rome than any where else, and were certainly the most learned in Christendom.
Did he have a council in his own style? asked Ellen Athearn.235 20(2)r 235
Mrs. A. No; he was too busy in political intrigues with other powers, ever to find time for the projected assembly. Besides, he was greatly engaged in the prosecution of a scheme, in which he could wreak his vengeance on all who favored the Protestant religion.The establishment of the inquisition in Italy was owing to his zeal. Its dungeons he crowded with prisoners of all ranks and descriptions —princes and princesses, priests, friars, and bishops, entire academies, the sacred college, and even the holy office itself fell under the suspicion of heretical taint. The most horrible tortures were invented, and death, in all its varied, agonizing, lingering forms, was the portion of those, who stedfastly held to the faith of the word of God, and rejected the soul-ruining doctrines of the Romish church. One inquisition after another sprang up in the neighboring countries. Protestantism spread with growing rapidity. Thousands embraced and adhered to it at the expense of life. In Flanders, fifty thousand persons were put to death for their attachment to it.
Fifty thousand! exclaimed Alice.
And in other countries, continued Mrs. Athearn, persecution raged violently. Henry Second, the successor of Francis First, king of France, was a most bitter enemy to the Protestant faith. He enjoined the most superstitious ceremonies of the Romish faith on his subjects.236 20(2)v 236 By his command, images of the Virgin and of the saints were placed at the corners of the streets; those who refused to bow to them, and make offerings of money to defray the expenses of the ceremonies, were either immediately knocked down, or dragged to prison. All judges were even ordered to arrest, as heretics, those whose tenderness and distress led them to solicit their favor in behalf of friends, condemned to death as heretics. Ecclesiastical courts were erected; the kingdom searched diligently, and every man, woman, and child, suspected of partiality for the Protestant faith, were brought before their tribunals, and either thrown into dungeons or put to death. Friends even dared not whisper their mutual thoughts and feelings on the most important of all subjects, religion; each knew not but the other might betray—he knew not but every step, and word, and look were haunted and watched by the eagle eye of some of the thousand spies throughout his country, comissioned to seize, deliver, and destroy. Oh, my dear young ladies, those were fearful days! Do we realize in any degree, the spiritual blessings of our happy country? It is said, that at the coronation of Henry’s queen, one of the amusements of the day was the burning of a large number of Protestants! In 15621562, a large congregation assembled for divine service at Viessy, in France, were attacked237 20(3)r 237 ed by one of the French dukes, and 250 of the unoffending congregation were barbarously put to death!
My dear Mrs. Athearn, said Alice, as the color forsook her cheek, can all these things be true?
Mrs. A. Would they were not, but they are fearfully true. And even more. So horrid, dark, secret, and malignant did the persecution of the Protestants become, that they were obliged to take up arms in their own defence. In the first battle, fought at Draix, in 1563, the Roman Catholics were successful. A treaty of peace was concluded—but soon violated by the Roman Catholic magistrates, and war was again renewed. The prince of Condé, one of the Protestant leaders, was slain—the war continued with little intermission till 15701570; a new treaty was then formed.Open war did not as decisively and expeditiously terminate the growing heresy as was wished, and a new scheme was originated among Papists, which is too iniquitous almost to relate. After the last treaty of peace was signed, the French king and his mother affected greater humanity and kindness toward the adherents of the new system than ever before they manifested. Admiral Coligny, the most able Protestant leader, was invited to court, and treated with uncommon complaisance. His friends warned him not to trust—and besought him to be wary —but so marked was every act of civility and 20* 238 20(3)v 238 friendship, that he yielded implicit confidence to their professions, and was completely deceived. One evening, however, as he was returning to his own house, he was fired upon from a window, and wounded in his arm. His suspicion of treachery was then awakened; but the king immediately visiting him, and manifesting both indignation and sorrow at what had happened, as well as promising to ascertain and punish the assassin; he was satisfied, and his fears allayed. But the snare was deep-laid, and sure. That same evening, in the cabinet, was the projected scheme matured. A general massacre of the reformed was designed, and the duke of Guise willingly took the direction of it. The day was appointed, and admiral Coligny was marked the first victim. It came, and a bell near the Louvre rang, the signal decreed. A body of troops rushed forth to commence the slaughter. Coligny’s house was first attacked, his room entered, and the victim found. He begged them to spare him—to respect his gray heirs. They replied not, but the foremost plunged his sword into the admiral’s breast, and threw the body into the court; it was treated with every indignity by the populace—the duke of Guise silently viewed the lifeless body, but the count of Angouleme kicked it with his foot, exclaiming, Courage, my friends; we have begun well, let us also finish well. The body was dragged to the common gallows and chained; the head was cut off and carried 239 20(4)r 239 to the queen, and she sent it as a gift to the Pope!! The Roman Catholic citizens rushed forward to the work of slaughter with the utmost zeal, imbruing their hands in the blood of their neighbors, their companions, sparing not even their nearest relatives. The queen feasted her eyes with a view of the carnage from one of the palace-windows; the king, from another, encouraged the murderers, by frequently crying, Kill, kill—and seeing some of the Protestants, endeavoring to escape, he seized his gun, and levelled them himself!! Five days the horrid carnage lasted. More than ten thousand Protestants perished in Paris alone. In Meaux, Orleans, Troyes, Angers, Bourges, Toulouse, Rouen, and Lyons, the same fiend-like spirit raged; and besides those I have named, more than twenty-five thousand were butchered in the French provinces.
When Mrs. Athearn looked up after stating these facts, she encountered the astonished glance of almost every pupil; but not a word was said for some moments.
At Rome, Mrs. Athearn, how was this proceeding viewed? said one young lady, at length.
Mrs. A. Public rejoicings were held; solemn thanks were offered up to Deity for the success obtained. The holy father himself went in procession to St. Louis’ church, to render thanks, public, solemn thanks to the all-merciful Creator,240 20(4)v 240 tor, the all-gracious Redeemer, for what had been done!—that they had been able to launch so many precious souls into eternity.Again were the Protestant party compelled to take up arms in self-defence, till a new treaty was formed in 15751575. But their sorrows did not end here. A few years after, liberty of conscience was abolished; all the Protestant churches were destroyed; their books suppressed; and an order was issued to take their children from them, and put them into the hands of their Catholic relatives, that they might be educated in the Popish religion. All the terrors of military execution were employed to force them to change their religion; and these persecutions having induced multitudes to leave the kingdom, orders were issued to double the guards at every place, by which they might escape, that they might either be arrested in their flight, or killed on the spot. Every prison in the kingdom was soon filled with the Protestants, and a price was set on the heads of the rest, who were hunted by the soldiers, like wild beasts. Thus about a twentieth part of the whole body, in a very short time, perished, and above 500,000 were driven into exile, who fled to England, Scotland, Holland, Germany, or Switzerland, and many of them settled in New England. In the Netherlands too, the Reformation spread, and multitudes of converts were found. The clergy were alarmed at the growing defection241 20(5)r 241 tion from the ancient church, and fire and sword were employed to eradicate the evil. One priest having been accused of preaching contrary to the emperor’s decree, and of entering into the marriage relation, was put to death. Three men were sentenced to the flames at Arras, for refusing to honor the holy candle, as it was called in that city. A printer was beheaded at Antwerp, for saying, in the annotations to one of his Bibles, that the salvation of mankind proceeds from Christ alone. William Tindale, a learned and zealous English reformer, was strangled, and then burnt by the Roman Catholics, for having translated the New Testament into the English language. In 15531553, a tradesman in the town of Bergen- op-zoom, was condemned to be burnt, because he refused to kneel when the sacramental bread was carried through the street before his shop. A widow of the name of Karleer was put to death for allowing people to read the Scriptures in her house, and her son also. John Malo, a soldier, was put to death for speaking disrespectfully of the mass. Such were the punishments inflicted, and such were some of the crimes for which the Protestants laid down their lives, in the reign of Charles Fifth,. Fifty thousand inhabitants were put to death in the Netherlands alone, on account of their religious principles. And during the reign of his 242 20(5)v 242 son Philip, their miseries were vastly increased. If any person was convicted, even of having been present at the religious meetings of Protestants, death was the consequence; by the sword, if a man—and if a woman, she was burned alive.
Dear Mrs. Athearn, said Alice, do not tell any more.
So sensitively alive was this amiable little girl to suffering, that nature began to reel, and her little pale face was reclining on the shoulder of her neighbor, who was in the act of applying the smelling-bottle to check her faintness. But Mrs. Athearn did not see her and she said,I have culled but a fraction from the vast mass of historical matter on this subject, which has been handed down from other generations to this. Read the numerous histories of the Reformation in the different countries of Europe— the lives of the reigning monarchs of that, and the succeeding century—of the then existing successive Popes, with the transactions of the Romish court—read the various descriptions of the inquisitions in different countries, and the sufferings and tortures endured by many within them for years, and read of the horrid martyrdoms of thousands upon thousands, who died for cleaving to the truth as it is in Jesus—as it is revealed in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and well might our blood curdle in our veins, our ears tingle, and our hearts droop and die within us at the horrid facts disclosed.243 20(6)r 243 closed. We may know much; but we shall never know the number of the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God,— Rev. xx. 4. nor the rivers of the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth, Rev. xviii. 4.. till we meet in heaven—but their record is in the court of the Highest.
The countries I have already named, continued Mrs. Athearn, were not alone the scenes of desolation and of blood. England, Scotland, and Ireland, were lighted with the flaming torch of persecution. For three years, England was filled with such uninterrupted scenes of horror, as were a disgrace to human nature, and brought Popery, deservedly, into utter detestation. The Bloody Mary pursued the adherents of the reformed church, with the most cruel, relentless rigor. Bonner and Gardiner, the instruments of her cruelty, were base, unfeeling men, whose nerves were made of steel, their sinews, brass, and their hearts of adamant. Like their mistress, they loved to wade in seas of blood, and their ears were delighted with the dying groans of the innocent.Rogers and Hooper, Sanders and Taylor, were the first victims destined for the altar they had raised; by the most excruciating tortures, they yielded up their spirits into the hands of their Redeemer. 244 20(6)v 244 Hooper was martyred at Glocester; his sufferings were beyond conception. The wind having blown the flame of the reeds from his body, and the faggots being green, which prevented them for some time from kindling, all the lower parts of his body were consumed, and one of his hands dropped off before his vitals were touched. Yet, in the midst of all his sufferings, he continued, sometimes in earnest prayer, and sometimes in exhorting the people to continue stedfast in the faith of Christ, till his tongue was so much swollen, that he was unable to speak. After remaining alive for three quarters of an hour in the flames, this faithful martyr yielded up his spirit to his blessed Lord and Redeemer. When Sanders arrived at the place of execution, a pardon was offered him if he would recant, but he rejected it; and embracing the stake, he exclaimed, Welcome the cross of Christ, welcome everlasting life. Taylor was first put into a pitch barrel, and before the fire was kindled, one of the bystanders threw a faggot at his head, which forced from it a stream of blood. As he was repeating the fifty-first psalm in English, one of the guards struck him on the mouth, and ordered him to speak in Latin; another, in a rage, gave him a blow on the head with a halbert, which put a period to his torments. Cardinal Beaton pursued the same horrid work in Scotland, which Bonner so successfully 245 21(1)r 245 and unweariedly prosecuted in England. Among the many who fell beneath his avenging hand, was one Helen Stark, whose crime was refusing, when in labor, to pray to the Virgin Mary, affirming that she would pray to God alone, in the name of Jesus Christ. Strongly attached to her husband, she requested her cruel judges that they might die together. But this was refused. She was permitted, however, to accompany him to the place of execution, where she soothed his mind, at that trying moment, with the consolations of the gospel; adding, Husband, be glad—we have lived together many joyful days, and this day on which we must die, we ought to esteem the most joyful of all, because now we shall have joy forever; therefore, I will not bid you good-night, for we shall shortly meet in the kingdom of heaven. After witnessing his execution, she prepared herself for her own. Having entreated her neighbors to show kindness to the rest of her children, she took the infant whom she suckled from her bosom, embraced it once more, and having given it to a nurse, she submitted to death with courage and comfort.
But enough, said Mrs. Athearn, “as she closed this last recital. The recollection of the sufferings of these people of God, is too harrowing to the feelings; but they now rest in peace, and their reward is in heaven.
I hope you will not rest satisfied with the brief relation I have given you, in the last few 21 246 21(1)v 246 evenings, of the events connected with the memorable withdrawal from the superstitions and corruptions of the Roman Catholic Church. Search for yourselves; you will find a vast field for investigation, and a fund of information, which you may improve to the best good of many perishing souls. Even o’er the very shores of your own native country, my dear girls, the Man of Sin is striding—his footsteps are already in our Western Valley; he exults in the hope of planting the mark of the beast in the forehead or in the hands of her infant children, and of bringing all her thousands, by her various means, to bow before his image. To Christians, now awakening to the spiritual destiny of the growing West of this country, he has boastingly and publicly said, you are twenty years too late. But it is not so. This fair portion of our Lord’s heritage may yet be saved, if all will zealously, and faithfully, and prayerfully do their duty.
Are the Catholics doing much to establish their religion in the Valley of the Mississippi? said one of the girls, anxiously.
Mrs. A. Yes; the Pope and all his subjects are wide awake. He is pouring out his thousands of money, and his thousands of men, and they are swarming and settling down like locusts in its prairies. Colleges, convents, academies, and schools, are thickening fast, pregnant with the baleful influence and erroneous doctrines of the Romish faith. About 100,000 of his Holiness’247 21(2)r 247 ness’ most faithful subjects pressed our shores the last year. Money will not be spared to forward their designs. Let Christians do their duty, as they are now beginning to do, and with the Lord’s blessing, the Western Valley will be safe.
But it is growing late, we must soon retire.
Oh! do not leave us yet, said Mary Dunbar. Please to tell us if that council never met again?
Mrs. A. Yes, several times; it examined and re-examined, discussed, disputed, and at length settled down upon almost precisely the same errors in doctrine, which it had heretofore propagated, and upon the same practices, with slight modifications, which it had previously indulged—and continue nearly the same in doctrine, belief, and practice, to this very day.
Mrs. Athearn, said Miss Emmons, I saw a very curious fact the other day; I have dwelt upon it much, and will mention it.A person, lately in Italy, was witnessing a ceremony of the Romish church, similar to many you have described to us, and as the Pope passed him in the procession, splendidly clothed in his pontifical robes, the gentleman’s eye rested on these full, blazing letters, in the front of his mitre— Vicarivs Filii Dei. The Vicar of the Son of God. His thoughts, with the rapidity of lightning, reverted to Rev. xiii. 18. 248 21(2)v 248
Will you turn to it, Alice? said Mrs. Athearn.
Alice opened the New Testament and read:
Let him that hath understanding, count the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man; and his number is three hundred threescore and six.
She paused, and Miss Emmons said—He
took out his pencil, and marking the numerical
letter of the inscription on his tablets, it stood
thus:— A figure showing the tabulation of the number 666 from the words
Vicarivs. Filii. Dei. in three columns. The tabulation is accomplished by extracting roman numerals from each
The result startled every young lady.
How singular! said one, Strange! exclaimed another. Mrs. Athearn said nothing at all.
Miss Marvin inquired if nothing could be done to prevent the spread of the doctrines of the Romish church in the West.
Mrs. A. Oh yes, my dear, much that can, and much that must be done. We can send among the people prayerfully, Bibles, Tracts, and teachers, and its doctrines will not prevail. There are many youthful, enterprising persons, who, if encouraged, would willingly go out into our western villages, and gather the rising generation249 21(3)r 249 eration into schools; let them go, and early instil into the infant population the truths of the gospel. Let the wholesome doctrines of the Bible bias their youthful tastes, and the palate will be prepared to reject the crude dogmas of popery. Let wheat be sowed, before the enemy has time to sow tares. If we sit still, and fold our hands in inactivity, till the present generation are moulded by popish ingenuity into their belief and their practices, rejecting the word of God, by which alone they can be saved, we may repent of our sloth and rise to duty, but our efforts will come too late. New wine cannot be put into old bottles.Let pious families, who long to labor for Christ, and are willing to make sacrifices, if so be that souls may be saved, go out and let their light shine in the Valley of the Mississippi. There is many a village in New England, where a light or two would not be missed, and who knows how many souls, guided by the example and influence of a holy, consistent, active Christian family influence, might find their way to heaven. I rejoice that a spirit of deep interest, of judicious effort, and of earnest prayer for the western portion of our country, seems now awaking among Christians;—may it greatly increase.
Evening prayers soon followed this last remark, and Mrs. Athearn failed not most fervently, amid her other petitions, to supplicate the dews of divine grace upon this part of the 250 21(3)v 250 Lord’s vineyard; and to pray for the spiritual welfare of her little flock, that they might be sanctified and saved, and like the faithful servants of Christ, of whom she had conversed, might exert a holy, renovating influence in this fallen world.
Publications of the Mass. Sabbath School Society, Depository, No. 24, Cornhill, (late Market St.)
- Harmony of the Kings and Prophets
- The African Traveller; or, Prospective Missions in central Africa.
- The Widow of Monmouth; or, Family Instruction.
- Memoir of Rev. Samuel Davies.
- “Mrs. Myra W. Allen.
- “John Arch, 2d ed.
- “Charles Pond, 3d ed.
- “WM. P. Hutchinson.
- The Bible Class Book, Nos. 1, 2, and 3.
- Account of Robert Cutts Whidden.
- Missionary Geography.
- Conversations on the Sand. Isl. Miss. 2d ed.
- Conversations on the Bombay Mission.
- Conversations on the Mackinaw and Green Bay Indian Mission.
- Conversations on the Choctaw Mission.
- Letters and Conversations on the Ceylon Mission.
- Letters and Conversations on the Cherokee Mission.
- Letters on the Chickasaw and Osage Mission..
- Letters and Conversations on the Seneca, Tuscarora, and Cataraugus Indian Missions.
- The Stanwood Family; or, History of the American Treat Society.
- The Naval Chaplain; or, What can I do for the Heathen?
- History of the Pilgrims; or a Grandfather’s story of the First Settlers of New England.
- History of the American Bible Society.
- History of James Mitchell.
- Epitome of the Evidences of Christianity.
- Claims of the Africans.
- Hugh Clifford; or, Prospective Missions, &c.
- The Cannibals; or, a Sketch of New Zealand.
Interesting Books For-sale at the Depository of the Mass. Sabbath School Society, No. 24, Cornhill, (late Market St.)
- Memoir of Mrs. Emily Egerton, by Rufus Nutting, A.M. Professor of Languages in Western Reserve College. With a handsome copperplate engraving, describing her residence in Randolph, Vt.
- Memoir of John Knill.
- “Nathan W. Dickerman.
- “John Mooney Mead.
- “Addison Pinneo.
- “Addison Pinneo.
- “Mary Lothrop.
- “Clarissa Davis.
- “Mrs. Paterson.
- “Henry Martyn.
- End and Essence of Sab. School Teaching.
- The Young Christian, by J. Abott.
- History of Nations spoken of in the Old Testament.
- Sketches of the Pilgrims.
- Tyerman and Bennet’s Journal and Voyages.
- The Youth’s Book on Natural Theology.
- The Child’s Book on the Creation, with engravings.
- Child’s Book on the Soul, part 1st and 2d.
- The Missionary Museum.
- Payson’s Sermons for Christian Families, on the most important relative duties
- The Sword, or Christmas Presents.
- Malvina Ashton.
- Narrative of the Loss of the Kent..
- Buds and Blossoms gathered from a Sabbath School.
- The Awakened Teacher.
- Daily Food for Christians.
- Veracity of the Gospels, and Acts of the Apostles.
- Henderson’s Iceland.
- Swan’s Letters on Missions.
- Narratives of Pious Indian Chiefs.
- Narratives of Pious Indian Children.