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

It is said by Contarini himself


preliminary conferences an understanding was come to on some practical questions which served to preserve an appearance of unanimity. It was thought that marriage might be permitted to the clergy and the cup to the laity within Germany; that the Pope might be honoured as the Primate of the Church, provided it was clearly understood that his position did not give him the power of perpetual interference in the affairs of the national Churches; that the hierarchy might be maintained if the episcopal jurisdiction were exercised conjointly by a vicar appointed by the Bishop and a learned layman appointed by the secular authority.

It was the business of the conference to discuss the deeper theological differences which were supposed to separate the two parties. So in the opening meetings the delegates began to consider those questions which gathered round the thought of Justification.

It was agreed that there was no distinction between the ordinances of grace and those of nature in the original condition of man. This declaration involved the denial of the distinction between the _dona supernaturalia_ and the _dona naturalia_ made so much of in Scholastic Theology, and the basis of a great deal of its Pelagian tendencies. It was expressly conceded by the Romanist theologians that man had lost his original freedom of will by the Fall--a concession directly at variance with the future declaration of the Council of Trent.[661]

The statement agreed upon about the origin of sin was given almost in the words of the Augsburg Confession, and agrees with them. The doctrine of the tenacity of original sin scarcely differs from a statement of Luther's which had been condemned in the Bull _Exurge Domine_ of Pope Leo X.[662] In the discussions and conclusions about this first head of doctrine the conclusions of Protestant theology had been amply vindicated.

There was more difficulty on the matter of Justification. Two definitions suggested by the Romanist theologians and by Melanchthon were successively rejected, and one brought forward, it is said by Contarini himself, was accepted after some discussion. It was couched in language which the Lutheran theologians had not been accustomed to use. It embodied phrases which Pole, Contarini, and other liberal Italian Roman Catholics had made their own. The Protestants of Germany, however, saw nothing in it to contradict their cherished ideas upon Justification, and they gladly accepted the definition. The statement, repeated more than once, that grace is the free gift of God and is not merited by our works, expressed their deepest thought, and completely excluded the meritorious character of ecclesiastical good works. They seemed rather pleased than otherwise that their thoughts could be expressed in language suggested by Romanist theologians.[663] It appears that Eck, while consenting to the definition, wished to avoid signing it, but was compelled by Granvelle to fix his name to the document.[664]

The fact that the Romanist and Protestant members of the conference could agree upon an article on Justification caused great rejoicings among Contarini's friends in Italy. Cardinal Pole was convinced that every obstacle in the way of reunion had been removed, and the most extravagant expectations were cherished.[665] The Protestant members of the conference were entirely satisfied with the results so far as they had gone.

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