- – THE DISCIPLES OF LUTHER. – 32.-Melancthon and his Character. 33.-His Faith, and the Augsburg Confession composed by him. 34.-Matthias Flaccus, Author of the Centuries, 35. -John Agricola, Chief of the Antinomians; Atheists. 30.-Andrew Osiander, Francis Stancar, and Andrew Musculus. 37. -John Brenzius, Chief of the Ubiquists. 38.-Gaspar Sneckenfield abhorred even by Luther for his impiety. 39.-Martin Chemnitz, the Prince of Protestant Theologians, and opponent of the Council of Trent.
- Philip Melancthon, Luther’s chief and best beloved disciple, was a German, born in Brettan, in the Palatinate, of a very poor family, in the year 1497. He was a man of profound learning, and, at the age of twenty-four, was appointed one of the professors of Wittemberg by the Duke of Saxony. There he became imbued with Lutheran opinions, but as he was a man of the greatest mildness of manner, and so opposed to strife that he never spoke a harsh word against any one, he was anxious to bring about a union between all the Religions of Germany; and on that account in many points smoothened down the harsh doctrines of Luther, and frequently, in writing to his friends, as Bossuet, in his History of the Variations, tells us, he complained that Luther was going too far. He was a man of great genius, but undecided in his opinions, and so fond of indifference that his disciples formed themselves into a sect called Indifferentists, or Adiaphorists. The famous Confession of Augsburg was drawn up by him at the Diet, and his followers were on that account sometimes called Confessionists (1).
- He divided his Confession into twenty-one articles, and stated his opinions with such moderation, that Luther afterwards complained that Philip, in endeavouring to smoothen down his doctrine, destroyed it (2). He admitted the liberty of human will, rejected the opinion of Luther, that God is the author of sin, and approved of the Mass. All these points were opposed to Luther’s system.
(1) Nat. Alex. t. 19, a. 11; s. 3, n. 4; Gotti, Ver. Rel. s. 109, sec. 3; Van Ranst, p. 308; Hermant, c. 241. (2) Hermant, loc. cit.
He was at length so tired with the way matters went on among the Reformers, that he intended to leave them altogether, and retire into Poland, there to wait the decision of the Council, whatever it should be (3). His opinions were very unsteady regarding matters of Faith : thus, he says, man can be justified by Faith alone; and his rival, Osiander, says he changed his mind fourteen times on this one subject. He was selected to arrange a treaty of peace with the Sacramentarians, but notwithstanding all his endeavours he never could succeed (4). Gotti, quoting Cochleus (5), says, that with all his anxiety to smoothen down any harsh points in the system, he only threw oil and not water on the flames. He died in Wittemberg in 1556, according to Van Ranst, or in 1560, according to Gotti, at the age of sixty-one. Many authors relate that, being at the point of death, his mother said to him : ” My son, I was a Catholic; you have caused me to forsake that Faith : you are now about to appear before God, and tell me truly, I charge you, which is the better Faith, the Catholic or the Lutheran ?” He answered : ” The Lutheran is an easier religion, but the Catholic is more secure for salvation” (6). Berti relates (7) that he himself composed his own epitaph, as follows : ” Iste brevis tumulus miseri tenit ossa Philippi, Qui quails fuerit nescio, tails erat.” These are not the words of Faith, and would imply that he much doubted of his eternal salvation.
- Matthias Flaccus Illiricus, born in Albona, in Istria, had the misfortune to study in Wittemberg, under Luther, and became afterwards the Chief of the Rigid Lutherans. He was the principal of the compilers of the Centuries of Magdeburg, an Ecclesiastical History, published in 1560, and to refute which Cardinal Baronius published his celebrated Annals. Flaccus died in Frankfort, in 1575, at the age of fifty-five. He disagreed in many things with Luther. Striger(8) sustained an erroneous opinion, bordering on Pelagianism, that Original Sin was but a slight accident, which did not substantially corrupt the whole human race; and Flaccus, on the contrary, renewing the blasphemous errors of the Manicheans, said that Original Sin was the substance itself of man, which deprived him of free will, and of every good movement, and drove him necessarily on to evil, from which Faith in Jesus Christ alone could save him. On that account, he denied the necessity of good works for salvation, and his followers were called Substantialists (9).
(3) Varillas Hist. 20, 2, l. 24, p. 363. (4) Varillas, s. 1, l. 8, p. 364. (5) Gotti, loc. cit. n. 2. (6) Floremund, l. 2, c. 9; Van Ranst, & Gotti, loc. cit.; & Nat. Alex. loc. cit. n. 10.(7) Berti, His. sec. 16, c. 3. (8) Ap. Spondara. ad. an. 1560, n. 32. (9) Gotti, c. 109, sec. 7, n. 1, 2; Van Ranst , p. 310; Varillas, t. 1, l 17, p. 122, & t. 2, L 24, p. 363; Nat. Alex. t. 19, a. 11, sec. 3, n. 10.
- John Agricola was a townsman of Luther, and was for a time his disciple, but became afterwards the founder of a sect, called Antinomians, or Law Opposers, for he rejected all authority of law, and taught that you may become a sensualist, a thief, a robber, but if you believe you will be saved (10). Varillas says that Luther brought the errors of Agricola before the University of Wittemberg, as subversive of all the value of good works, and, on their condemnation, he retracted them; but after Luther’s death he went to Berlin, and again commenced teaching his blasphemies, where he died without any sign of repentance, at the age of seventy-four (11). Florinundus calls the Antinomians Atheists, who believe in neither God nor the devil.
- Andrew Osiander was the son of a smith in the Mark of Branderburg. He taught that Christ was the justifier of mankind, not according to the human, but according to the Divine Nature (12); and opposed to him was Francis Stancaro, of Mantua, who taught that Christ saved man by the human nature, not by the Divine Nature (13). Thus Osiander taught the errors of Eutyches, and Stancaro those of Nestorius (14). In answer to the first, we have to remark that, although it is God that justifies, still he wishes to avail himself of the humanity of Christ (which was alone capable of suffering, and making atonement), as of an instrument for the salvation of mankind.
(10) Nat Alex. t. 19, a. 11, sec. 3, n. 7; Gotti, c. 109, sec. 5, n. 7; Van Ranst, p. 310. (11) Varillas, t. 1, l. 11, p. 512. (12) Remund. in Synopsi, l. 2, c. 16. (13) Gotti, loc. cit. sec. 6, n. 1 ad 6; N. Alex, loc. cit. n. 8; Van Ranst, cit. p. 310. (14) Gotti, sec. 7, n. 8; Van Ranst, loc. cit.; Nat. Alex. loc. cit. n. 11.
The Passion of Christ, says St. Thomas (15), is the cause of our justification, not, indeed, as a principal agent, but as an instrument, inasmuch as the humanity is the instrument of his Divinity, and hence the Council of Trent has declared (Sess. 6, Cap. 7) the efficient cause of this justification is God the meritorious cause is Jesus Christ, who, on the wood of the Cross, merited for us justification (16), and satisfied for us to God the Father. In answer to Stancaro, who teaches that Christ saved mankind, as man alone, but not as God, we have but to consider what is already said, because if Christ, according to the flesh, deserved for man the grace of salvation, nevertheless it was the Divinity, and not the humanity, which granted this grace to man. Andrew Musculus of Lorraine opposed both Osiander and Stancaro, but with just as great a heresy, for he taught that the Divine Nature of Christ, as well as the human nature, died on the Cross. This was nothing else but the blasphemy of Eutyches, that the Divinity suffered for the salvation of mankind (17). Remond (18) tells us, that at that period new churches were every day forming in every corner of Germany, and changing as quickly as the moon, and that two hundred sects existed at one time among the Reformers. No wonder that Duke George of Saxony said that the people of Wittemberg could not tell to-day what their faith would be tomorrow.
- John Brenzius, a Suabian, and Canon of Wittemberg, was already a priest, when he became the disciple of Luther, and imitated his master in taking a wife. He taught that the concupiscence which remains in the soul after Baptism is a sin, contrary to the Council of Trent, which declares that the Catholic Church never understood that concupiscence should be called a sin, but that it is from sin, and inclines to sin. He also said that the body of Christ, by the personal union with the Word, is everywhere, and, consequently, that Jesus Christ is in the Host before consecration; and, explaining the words, ” This is my body,” he says, that denotes that the body of Christ is already present. Hence the sect who acknowledged him as their chief was called Ubiquists (19), and even Luther was one of his adherents (20).
(15) St. Thomas, p. 3, q. 64, ar. 1. (16) Gotti, sec. 7, n.S; Van Ranst, p. 310. (17) Gotti, loc. cit. sec. 6. (18) Remuncl. in Synopsi, l. 2, c. 14, n. 2. (19) Nat. Alex. t. 1, sec. 3, n. 8, 9; Gotti, sec. 6, n. 8 ad 10; Van Ranst, p. 293. (20) Bossuet, Istor. 1. 2, n. 41.
- Gaspar Schwenkfeldt, a noble Silesian, and a man of learning, while Luther was attacking the Church, took up arms also against her, and attacked the Lutherans as well. We should not mind the Scriptures, he says, as they are not the word of God, only a dead letter, and, therefore, should only obey the private inspirations of the Holy Ghost; he condemns sermons and spiritual lectures, for, in the Gospel of St. Matthew, we are told that we have but one Master, and he is in heaven. He taught, at the same time, the errors of the Manicheans, of Sabellius, of Photius, and also of Zuinglius, denying the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Osius says the devil’s gospel commenced with Luther, but was brought to perfection by this monster of hell, who had more followers in many parts of Germany and Switzerland than the arch-heretic himself (21). Gotti informs us, that he sent a messenger to Luther, with his writings, begging of him to correct them; but he, seeing them filled with abominable heresies, returned him the following answer : “May your spirit, and all those who participate with Sacramentarians and Eutychians, fall into perdition.” After Luther’s death, this sect increased somewhat; but in a Synod, held at Naumburg, in 1554, by Bucer, Melancthon, and some others, all the author’s works were condemned (22).
- Martin Chemnitz was a poor woolcomber’s son, in the Mark of Branderburg. He was born in 1522, and followed his father’s business until the age of fourteen, when he commenced his studies in Wittemberg. His Theological Professor was Melancthon, who was so well satisfied with the progress he made, that he called him the Prince of Protestant Theologians. He taught Theology in Brunswick, for thirty years, and died in 1586, the sixty-fourth year of his age. Chemnitz laboured strenuously, along with Bucer, to bring about an agreement between the Lutherans and Sacramentarians, but without effect. He published many works, but his principal one is the ” Examen Con. Tridentini,” in which he endeavours to upset the decisions of the Council. He does not admit, as Canonical, any books of Scripture, only those approved of by all the Churches, not those approved of by Councils alone; he praises the Greek and Hebrew text, and rejects the Vulgate wherever it disagrees with them; he rejects tradition, but believes in free will, and thinks that, with the assistance of grace, it can accomplish something good.
(21) Gotti, c. 109, sec. 5; Nat. Alex. t. 19, sec. 3, n. 6; Van Ranst, p. 311. (22) Gotti, loc. cit.
He says that man is justified by Faith alone, through medium of which the merits of Christ are applied to him, and that good works are necessary to salvation, but still have no merit. Baptism and the Eucharist, he says, are properly the only Sacraments the rest are but pious rites; and in the Eucharist he rejects both the Transubstantiation of the Catholics, and the Impanation of the Lutherans, but does not decide whether the body of Christ is really present in the bread and wine; he merely says it is not a carnal presence, that Christ is there alone in the actual use of the Communion, and that it must always be taken under both kinds. He admits that the Mass may be called a sacrifice, but not a true sacrifice, only under the general denomination of a good work. It is not necessary, he says, speaking of the sacrament of Penance, to confess all our sins, but he allows the absolution of the Minister, though not as coming from the Minister himself, but from Christ, through his promise. Purgatory, according to him, cannot be proved from Scripture. We should honour the Saints, their images, and relics, but not have recourse to their intercession, and we should observe the Sundays, but no other festival (23).
(23). Apud, Gotti, c. 109, sec. 7, n. I ad 7.