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

Which involved the reputations of Bucer


Held was recalled, and the Emperor sent the Archbishop of Lund to find out what terms the Protestants would accept. These proved larger than the Emperor could grant, but the result of the intercourse was that the Protestants were granted a truce which was to last for ten years.

The proposed secularisation of the ecclesiastical Electorates made Charles see that he dared not wait for the conclusion of this truce. He set himself earnestly to discover whether compromises in doctrine and ceremonies were not possible. Conferences were held between Lutheran and Romanist theologians and laymen, at Hagenau (June 1540), at Worms (November 1540), and at Regensburg (Ratisbon, April 1541).(356) The last was the most important. The discussions showed that it was possible to state Romanist and Lutheran doctrine in ambiguous propositions which could be accepted by the theologians of both Confessions; but that there was a great gulf between them which the Evangelicals would never re-cross. The spiritual priesthood of all believers could never be reconciled with the special priesthood of the mediaeval clergy. This was Charles' last attempt at a compromise which would unite of their own free will the German Lutherans with the German Romanists. He saw that the Lutherans would never return to the mediaeval Church unless compelled by force, and it was impossible to use force unless the Schmalkald League was broken up altogether or seamed with divisions.


? 10. The Bigamy of Philip of Hesse.(357)

The opportunity arrived. The triumphant Protestantism received its severest blow in the bigamy of Philip of Hesse, which involved the reputations of Bucer, Luther, and Melanchthon, as well as of the Landgrave.

Philip had married when barely nineteen a daughter of Duke George of Saxony. Latterly, he declared that it was impossible to maintain conjugal relations with her; that continence was impossible for him; that the condition in which he found himself harassed his whole life, and prevented him coming to the Lord's Table. In a case like his, Pope Clement VII. only a few years previously had permitted the husband to take a second wife, and why should not the Protestant divines permit him? He prepared a case for himself which he submitted to the theologians, and got a reply signed by Bucer, Melanchthon, and Luther, which may be thus summarised:--

According to the original commandment of God, marriage is between one man and one woman, and the twain shall become one flesh, and this original precept has been confirmed by our Lord; but sin brought it about that first Lamech, then the heathen, and then Abraham, took more than one wife, and this was permitted by the law. We are now living under the gospel, which does not give prescribed rules for the regulation of the external life, and it has not expressly prohibited bigamy. The existing law of the land has gone back to the original requirement of God, and the plain duty of the pastorate is to insist on that original requirement of God, and to denounce bigamy in every way. Nevertheless the pastorate, in individual cases of the direst need, and to prevent worse, may sanction bigamy in a purely exceptional way; such a bigamous marriage is a true marriage (the necessity being proved) in the sight of God and of conscience; but it is not a true marriage with reference to public law or custom. Therefore such a marriage ought to be kept secret, and the dispensation which is given for it ought to be kept under the seal of confession. If it be made known, the dispensation becomes _eo ipso_ invalid, and the marriage becomes mere concubinage.

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