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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 1 of 2)

Which are condemned as heretical or scandalous


The appeal concludes with some solemn words addressed to the luxury and licensed immorality of the German towns.

None of Luther's writings produced such an instantaneous effect as this. It was not the first programme urging common action in the interests of a united Germany, but it was the most complete, and was recognised to be so by all who were working for a Germany for the Germans.

The three "Reformation treatises" were the statement of Luther's case laid before the people of the Fatherland, and were a very effectual antidote to the Papal Bull excommunicating him, which was ready for publication in Germany.

? 5. The Papal Bull.

The Bull, _Exurge Domine_, was scarcely worthy of the occasion. The Pope seems to have left its construction in the hands of Prierias, Cajetan, and Eck, and the contents seem to show that Eck had the largest share in framing it. Much of it reads like an echo of Eck's statements at Leipzig a year before. It began pathetically: "Arise, O Lord, plead Thine own cause; remember how the foolish man reproacheth Thee daily; the foxes are wasting Thy vineyard, which Thou hast given to Thy Vicar Peter; the boar out of the wood doth waste it, and the wild beast of the field doth devour it." St. Peter is invoked, and the Pope's distress at the news of Luther's misdeeds is described at length.

The most disturbing thing is that the errors of the Greeks and of the Bohemians were being revived, and that in Germany, which had hitherto been so faithful to the Holy See. Then came forty-one propositions, said to be Luther's, which are condemned as "heretical or scandalous, or false or offensive to pious ears, or seducing to simple minds, and standing in the way of the Catholic faith."(172) All faithful people were ordered to burn Luther's books wherever they could find them. Luther himself had refused to come to Rome and submit to instruction; he had even appealed to a General Council, contrary to the decrees of Julius II. and Pius II.; he was therefore inhibited from preaching; he and all who followed him were ordered to make public recantation within sixty days; if they did not, they were to be treated as heretics, were to be seized and imprisoned by the magistrates, and all towns or districts which sheltered them were to be placed under an interdict.

Among the forty-one propositions condemned was one--that the burning of heretics was a sin against the Spirit of Christ--to which the Pope seemed to attach special significance, so often did he repeat it in letters to the Elector Frederick and other authorities in Germany. The others may be arranged in four classes--against Luther's opinions about Indulgences; his statements about Purgatory; his declarations that the efficacy of the sacraments depended upon the spiritual condition of those who received them; that penance was an outward sign of sorrow, and that good works (ecclesiastical and moral) were to be regarded as the signs of faith rather than as making men actually righteous; his denial of the later _curial_ assertions of the nature of the papal monarchy over the Church. Luther's opinions on all these points could be supported by abundant testimony from the earlier ages of the Church, and most of his criticisms were directed against theories which had not been introduced before the middle of the thirteenth century. The Bull made no attempt to argue about the truth of the positions taken in its sentences. There was nothing done to show that Luther's opinions were wrong. The one dominant note running all through the papal deliverance was the simple assertion of the Pope's right to order any discussion to cease at his command.


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