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

The Lutheran sympathisers were in a majority


When

the Diet met, the national hostility to Rome showed no signs of abatement. The subject of German grievances against the Curia was again revived, and it was alleged that the chief causes of the Peasants' War were the merciless exactions of clerical landholders. Perhaps this opinion was justified by the fact that the condition of the peasantry on the lands of monasteries and of bishops was notoriously worse than that of those under secular proprietors; and that, while the clerical landholders had done little to subdue the rebels, they had been merciless after the insurgents had been subdued. There was truth enough in the charge to make it a sufficient answer to the accusation that the social revolution had been the outcome of Luther's teaching.

Ferdinand of Austria presided in his brother's absence, and, acting on the Emperor's instructions, he demanded the enforcement of the Edict of Worms and a decree of the Diet to forbid all innovations in worship and in doctrine. He promised that if these imperial demands were granted, the Emperor would induce the Pope to call a General Council for the definite settlement of the religious difficulties. But the Diet was not inclined to adopt the suggestions. The Emperor was at war with the Pope. Many of the clerical members felt themselves to be in a delicate position, and did not attend. The Lutheran sympathisers were in a majority, and the delegates from the cities insisted that it was impossible to enforce

the Edict of Worms. The Committee of Princes(327) proposed to settle the religious question by a compromise which was almost wholly favourable to the Reformation. They suggested that the marriage of priests, giving the cup to the laity, the use of German as well as Latin in the baptismal and communion services, should be recognised; that all private Masses should be abolished; that the number of ecclesiastical holy days should be largely reduced; and that in the exposition of Holy Writ the rule ought to be that scripture should be interpreted by scripture. After a good deal of fencing, the Diet finally resolved on a deliverance which provided that the word of God should be preached without disturbance, that indemnity should be granted for past offences against the Edict of Worms, and that, until the meeting of a General Council to be held in a German city, each State should so live as it hoped to answer for its conduct to God and to the Emperor.

The decision was a triumph for the territorial system as well as for the Reformation, and foreshadowed the permanent religious peace of Augsburg (1555). It is difficult to see how either Charles or Ferdinand could have accepted it. Their acquiescence was probably due to the fact that the Emperor was then at war with the Pope (the sack of Rome under the Constable Bourbon took place on May 6th, 1527), and that the threat of a German ecclesiastical revolt was a good weapon to use against His Holiness. Ferdinand was negotiating for election to the crowns of Hungary and Bohemia, and dared not offend his German subjects. Both brothers looked on any concessions to the German Lutherans as temporary compromises to be withdrawn as soon as they were able to enforce their own views.


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