Miller's Church History

Chapter 48

The Effect of the Reformation in Germany on the Nations of Europe

The position of the German Empire, which had been chosen by divine providence as the scene of the early dawn and noonday glory of the Reformation, was most favourable; and more likely than any other nation, to affect by its revolutions, the general state of Europe. Germany was, we learn, at that time, the connecting link between Asia and Europe, and the highway for the commerce of the two hemispheres. It was also famous for imperial diets, which always attracted crowds of dignitaries, both civil and clerical; besides the peculiarity of its constitution, its numerous princes, and its free cities, gave to its internal contests an interest and an importance to all the surrounding countries. In all this we see the wisdom of God, even as to locality; and how naturally and quickly the whole of Christendom would be affected by the progress of the new opinions.

But not only the place, the time and circumstances were all ordered of the Lord to give immediate effect to the proclamation of the revived gospel. The mysterious charm which had bound mankind for ages was broken at once, and for ever. The public mind which had so long been passive, as if formed to believe whatever was taught, and meekly to bear whatever was imposed, was suddenly aroused to a spirit of inquiry and mutiny, and disdainfully threw off the yoke to which it had so long and so tamely submitted. But it was not the human mind only that was agitated by the new contest about religion; the political constitutions of the most ancient kingdoms were shaken to their foundations.*

{*History of the Church, by the Rev. John Fry, p. 333. Dr. Robertson's Works, vol. 6, p. 497.}

We will now trace its path in some of the countries most interesting to us.

Sweden and Denmark

A.D. 1520-1530

In connection with the reign of Louis the Pious, king of France, we have seen that the gospel was introduced among the Danes and Swedes as early as the ninth century. The indefatigable Ansgarius laboured about forty years in those northern regions, and died in the year 865.* Other missionaries followed, but Christianity, in all probability, maintained a questionable existence in those barbarous times, and in the midst of pagan darkness. In the twelfth century Rome succeeded in completing the work of conversion, and in adding the Swedish churches to the chair of St. Peter. An ecclesiastical constitution, according to the mystery of iniquity, was immediately imposed upon them, and soon, a flourishing priesthood, from the archbishop to the mendicant friar, covered the land, followed, as it always was, with decaying piety and an impoverished people.

{*Vol. 2, p. 6.}

At the dawn of the Reformation, the effects of the papal superstition seemed to be nowhere more firmly rooted, nor more deeply felt than in these countries. "The people were steeped in poverty, and ground down by the oppression of their masters. Left without instruction by their spiritual guides with no access to the word of God-for the scriptures had not yet been rendered into the Swedish tongue.... the people were returning to the superstitious beliefs and pagan practices of old times." As in all other countries, the Romish hierarchy had swallowed up the wealth of these kingdoms. The bishops possessed revenues which often exceeded those of the ancient nobility, and sometimes equalled or exceeded those of the sovereign; and not infrequently they dwelt in castles and fortresses, which set the power of the crown at defiance.

By an ancient law, the three kingdoms, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, like England, Scotland, and Ireland, were united under a common sovereign. The cruel tyrant, Christiern II., brother-in-law to Charles V., filled the throne of Denmark when the opinions of Luther began to spread in those countries. Being poor, compared with the priesthood, he had been waiting for an opportunity to reduce their power, that he might take possession of their wealth. Quicksighted enough to see that Protestantism might become popular, he professed to favour the new religion; sent for Reinhard, a disciple of Carlstadt, and appointed him professor of theology at Stockholm. But he, dying shortly after, was succeeded by Carlstadt himself. For some reason he only remained in Denmark a short time, when Christiern invited Luther to visit his dominions, but the Reformer declined the invitation. Meanwhile the conduct of Christiern was so tyrannical, that the Swedes refused to acknowledge him as their king, and appointed an administrator. He raised an army, being assisted with vast sums of money from the Romish clergy, invaded Sweden, gained an advantage over them, and treated the conquered with the greatest barbarity. Seventy noble lords and senators he massacred in cold blood in an open square, the archbishop of Upsala, it is said, approving of his vindictive cruelty. Among the number of these noble victims was Eric Vasa, the father of Gustavus Vasa, one of the most illustrious names in the annals of Sweden.

This noble youth, having escaped the murderous hands of Christiern, fled into Germany. During his sojourn there, he studied and embraced the principles of Luther. At length, emerging from his hiding-place, he raised the standard of revolt, and roused the peasantry of the Swedish provinces to attempt the restoration of their country's independence. After a severe struggle he defeated and overthrew the tyrant, delivered his country from oppression, was elevated to the throne, and created Sweden into an independent sovereignty in 1523. The Danes, following the example, broke out in open rebellion. Christiern was deposed, and driven from the kingdom in the year 1523. He fled to the low countries, and joined the court of Charles V. Frederick, duke of Holstein, was raised to the throne. This prince favoured the Reformation, and ruled with equity and moderation.

The truly patriotic king Gustavus, when firmly seated on his throne, exerted himself in every fair and honourable way, to establish Lutheranism in his own dominions. Instruction, not authority, for the conversion of his subjects, was his motto. Olaus Petri and his brother Laurentius, who had studied under Luther at Wittemberg, were the first preachers of the Reformation in Sweden. They also accomplished the all-important work of translating the scriptures into the vulgar tongue. At an assembly of the states in 1527, Gustavus publicly declared, "that he would lay down his sceptre, and retire from his kingdom, rather than rule a people enslaved to the orders and authority of the pope, and more controlled by the tyranny of their bishops, than by the laws of their monarchs." The king's will prevailed, the hierarchy was reduced in wealth and power, but tolerated. It would be difficult for any one to believe in our day, that the Romish clergy had gained possession, by their unhallowed influence, and were enjoying the revenues, of more than thirteen thousand estates in Sweden in less than a hundred years. But such was the prevailing power of the Protestant element in the assembly, that it was decreed, "that the estates, castles, farms, and lands, which had fallen into the hands of the church, should be restored; part to be returned to the nation, and part to those nobles from whose ancestors they had been wrested. The bishops submitted and signed the decree. Thus was the Reformation widely introduced and firmly established in Sweden.

The work in Denmark was very similar to that in Sweden. Frederick procured an edict at the assembly of the state of 1527, declaring that every subject of Denmark was free to adhere to the church of Rome, or to embrace the doctrines of the Reformation. This was enough; the new religion prevailed, teachers flocked from Wittemberg, the scriptures were translated into the Danish tongue, the singing of hymns was introduced into their public and private worship, and the Reformation advanced amid the new sounds of melody and praise. "It is not easy adequately to describe the change that now passed over Denmark. A serene and blessed light arose upon the whole kingdom. Not only were the Danes enabled to read the scriptures of the New Testament in their own tongue, and the Psalms of David, which were also often sung, both in their churches and in their fields, and on their highways, but they had likewise numerous expounders of the divine word, and preachers of the gospel, who opened to them the fountains of salvation."*

{*For minute and lengthy details of the progress of the Reformation in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland, see History of Protestantism by the Rev. J.A. Wylie-Cassell & Co.}

Italy

In no country outside of Germany did the reforming opinions find so early an entrance as in the provinces of Italy. In this we see the hand of the Lord, and the silver line of His sovereign grace. But He had a people there, and they must be brought to Jesus. Many believed and nobly witnessed for the truth of the gospel, as the record of their martyrdoms abundantly testifies. But the light was intolerable to Jezebel, who loves darkness, and it was soon extinguished by the activity of her tribunals.

No people had so little respect for the papal dignity as the Italians. The power of the pope was greater, and his commands were more implicitly obeyed, in the countries most remote from the seat of his government. The personal vices of the popes, the corruption of their administration, the ambition, luxury, licentiousness, and deceitfulness which reigned in their courts, fell immediately under the observation of the Italians. The main object of almost every succeeding pope was to raise money by means of the sacred mysteries, that he might enrich his sons, nephews, and other relatives, with immoderate wealth, even with principalities and kingdoms. Thus all thoughtful Italians, seeing the artifices by which the papacy was upheld, and the impostures on which is was founded, were ready to welcome something better.

"A controversy," says Dr. McCrie,* "which had been carried on for several years with great warmth in Germany and which was at last brought before the papal court for decision, contributed in no small degree to direct the attention of the Italians, at an early period, to the reformed doctrines." A professed convert from Judaism, leagued with an inquisitor of Cologne, obtained from the Imperial Chamber a decree ordaining all Jewish books, with the exception of the Bible, to be committed to the flames, as filled with blasphemies against Christ. John Reuchlin, the restorer of Hebrew literature among the Christians, exerted himself, both privately and from the press, to prevent the execution of the barbarous decree. But alas! the clergy sided with the apostate, and sentence was pronounced against Reuchlin, both by the divines of Cologne and the Sorbonne of Paris. He appealed to Rome. Erasmus and other distinguished friends of learning in all parts of Europe, wrote warmly in favour of Reuchlin, and determined to make his cause a common one. The monks, who dreaded and hated Erasmus and all men of learning, exerted themselves with the clergy, to obtain the execution of the decree; but the court of Rome protracted the affair from time to time, until the contention that arose between Luther and the preachers of indulgences was carried to Rome for decision; and thus the former controversy was lost sight of in the latter.

{*History of the Reformation in Italy.}

The Writings of Luther

In this remarkable providential way, the attention of the Italians had been directed to the Germans, and even to the great Reformer, who had taken part with Reuchlin. "Within two years from the time of his first appearance against indulgences his writings had found their way into Italy, where they met with a favourable reception from the learned." John Froben, the celebrated printer at Basle, writing to Luther about this time, says, "Blasius Salmonius, a bookseller at Leipsic, presented me, at the last Frankfort fair, with certain treatises composed by you, which being approved of by learned men, I immediately put to press, and sent six hundred copies to France and Spain. My friends assure me that they are sold at Paris, and read and approved of, even by the Sorbonists. Calvus, a bookseller of Pavia, himself a scholar and addicted to the Muses, has carried a great part of the impression into Italy.... In spite of the terror of pontifical bulls, and the activity of those who watched over their execution, the writings of Luther Melancthon Zwingle, and Bucer, continued to be circulated and read with avidity and delight in various parts of Italy. Some of them were translated into the Italian language, and, to elude the vigilance of the inquisitors, were published under fictitious names...." "Hail! faithful in Christ," wrote a Carmelite monk of Locarno to the Christians in Switzerland, "think, O think of Lazarus in the Gospels, and of the lowly woman of Canaan, who was willing to be satisfied with the crumbs which fell from the table of the Lord. As David came to the priest in a servile dress, and unarmed, so do I fly to you for the shewbread, and the armour laid up in the sanctuary. Parched with thirst, I seek the fountain of living water: sitting like the blind man by the wayside, I cry to Him that gives sight. With tears and sighs, we, who sit here in darkness, humbly entreat you who are acquainted with the titles and authors of the books of knowledge, to send us the writings of such elect teachers as you possess and particularly the works of the divine Zwingle, the far-famed Luther, the acute Melancthon, the accurate OEcolampadius. The prices shall be paid to you through his-excellency, Werdmyller. Do your endeavour that a city of Lombardy, enslaved by Babylon, and a stranger to the gospel of Christ, may be set free."*

{*History of the Reformation in Italy, p. 29.}

These extracts plainly show-and many more might be given-what an abundant entrance the gospel had into Italy, and at a very early period of the Reformation. And for more than twenty years the followers of Luther and Zwingle were allowed to spread the truth, publicly preach the gospel, and otherwise witness for Christ, almost unmolested. The wars, which we have had occasion to refer to in tracing the history of the Reformation in Germany, greatly affected Italy. Engrossed by foreign politics, and deeply involved in the struggle between Charles and Francis, the court of Rome disregarded, or thought exaggerated, the representations that were made to them of the progress of heresy. But these wars, so disastrous to the pope and the patrimony of St. Peter, proved an inestimable blessing to thousands of precious souls. Many of the German soldiers who followed Charles V. in his Italian expeditions, and the Swiss auxiliaries who followed the standard of his great rival, Francis I., were Protestants. "With the freedom of men," says Dr. McCrie, "who have swords in their hands, these foreigners conversed on the religious controversy with the inhabitants among whom they were quartered."

The impressions made on the people's mind, in favour of the new opinions, were greatly strengthened by the bitter and never-ending contests between the pope and the Emperor. We have seen Charles by turns an abettor of the pope, and a restraint on his authority as the fluctuations of his contest with Francis I. rendered it politic; but with the deceitfulness of Clement VII. he was maddened to fury. He accused the pope of kindling the flames of war in Europe that he might evade, what was universally called for, a general council for the Reformation of the church in its head and members. It was at this time that he threatened to abolish the jurisdiction of the pope throughout Spain; but, not satisfied with these threatenings, he sent an army into the papal territories under the command of his general, the Duke of Bourbon. Rome was besieged and sacked, and the pontiff taken prisoner, in the year 1527. "The Germans in the Emperor's army behaved with great moderation towards the inhabitants of Rome after the first day's pillage and contented themselves with testifying their detestation of idolatry; but the Spaniards never relented in their rapacity and cruelty, torturing the prisoners to make them discover their treasures." Marching up to the palace windows of the captive pontiff, a whole band of Germans, raising their hands and voices, exclaimed, "Long live Pope Luther! Long live Pope Luther!"

Thus were the hands of the pope and his counsellors filled with their own troubles, and the Reformers left tolerably free to pursue their happy work of conversion and instruction, by the good providence of God.

The Persecution of the Christians

It was not until the year 1542 that the court of Rome became seriously alarmed at the progress of the Reformed doctrines. By this time they were widely spread in nearly every province of Italy. Some of the most attractive and brilliant preachers in that country had embraced the simple gospel and were preaching to large audiences a free salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Among these, Bernardino Ochino, a Capuchin, Peter Martyr, a canon-regular of the order of St. Augustine, and the interesting Aonio Paleario, a pious and learned professor. Spies were set to watch their movements, listen to their sermons, and even then provoke conversation, with the view of procuring evidence against them. Ochino and Martyr saw their safety in flight, crossed the Alps, found an asylum in Switzerland, and ultimately in England; but the career of Paleario was crowned with martyrdom in his own country.

When asked by his accusers, 'What is the first means of salvation given by God to man?' he answered, 'Christ.' 'What is the second?' he replied, 'Christ.' 'And what is the third?' he again answered, 'Christ.' From that moment, having rejected good works as the second means, and the church as the third, he was a doomed man. But that which gave the greatest offence was a most influential treatise which he wrote on the Benefit of the Death of Christ. When the Inquisitor at length arose to crush the Lutherans and collect their heretical books, as many as forty thousand copies of this book fell into his hands. Paleario was at last condemned on four charges: 1, For denying purgatory, 2, For disapproving of the dead being buried in churches; 3, For ridiculing the monastic life; 4, For ascribing justification solely to confidence in the mercy of God forgiving our sins through Jesus Christ. After an imprisonment of three years in the dungeons of the Inquisition, his body was given to the flames in the year 1570, and in the seventieth year of his age.

His sufferings were soon over and they would all soon be forgotten in the unmingled blessedness of his Lord's presence, but the fruit of his faithful testimony will endure for ever. Who could estimate the effects, with God's blessing, of forty thousand copies of his book in the hands of the Italians? But the fruit will all appear on that morning without clouds, and like Paul with his beloved Thessalonians, he will find his Italians to be his joy and crown of rejoicing, in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at His coming. What a mercy to the called of God, sustained by His grace, and enabled to witness for Him in any age and in every sphere of life! Time will soon be over, the Lord will soon be here, and bright will the future be of all that have been faithful to Him. But His threatenings will be as surely executed as His promises will be fulfilled. It has ever been the policy of Rome to destroy the character, abolish the memory, and blot out the very names of those whose lives she has taken away. But their record is on high; and all that has been of grace will be revealed in the light to the utter confounding, and eternal shame and anguish of their once haughty inquisitors. And their remembrance in hell of the perfect happiness of their innocent but helpless victims, must give vitality to the worm that never dies and vehemence to the flames that will never be quenched.

A number of excellent men, whose only crime was their love to the Lord Jesus, and their faith in His word, suffered about the same time as Paleario. Commissioned spies, in the pay of the Vatican, were dispersed over Italy, who insinuated themselves into private families, and the confidence of individuals, conveying the information which they obtained to the inquisitors. Assuming a variety of characters, they were to be found in the company of the rich and the poor, the learned and illiterate. Many excellent private persons were thus caught in the toils spread by these pests of society. In a short time the prisons of the Inquisition were filled with victims, including persons of noble birth, male and female, industrious mechanics, and many of good reputation for learning and piety. Multitudes were condemned to penance, the galleys, and the flames. To give even an outline of the imprisonments, tortures, and deaths among the Italian Protestants, would be to write a martyrology.

"Englishmen," Dr. McCrie observes, "were peculiarly obnoxious to the inquisitors. Dr. Thomas Wilson, afterwards secretary to Queen Elizabeth, was accused of heresy, and thrown into the prisons of the Inquisition at Rome, on account of some things which were contained in his books on logic and rhetoric. He made his escape in consequence of his prison doors being broken open during the tumult which took place at the death of Pope Paul IV. Among those who escaped by this occurrence was also John Craig, one of our Reformers, who lived to draw up the National Covenant, in which Scotland solemnly abjured the popish religion. Dr. Thomas Reynolds was less fortunate. In consequence of being subjected to the torture, he died in prison. In the year 1595, two persons were burnt alive in Rome, the one an Englishman, the other a native of Silesia. " But enough for the present of these details of misery. A brief notice of those who fled for their lives and liberties, will give the reader some idea of the great and blessed work of God's Holy Spirit in Italy during the sixteenth century. Perhaps in no country in Europe did the word of God so prevail from 1520 to 1550, as in that land of blind superstition, luxury, and licentiousness. Such is the mercy of our God; where sin abounds grace much more abounds, to His praise and glory. "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." (John 6: 37)

Italian Exiles

Surely no truer testimony can be given to the reality and power of our religious convictions, than a readiness to leave our homes and all that is dear to us, in obedience to the word of God and the dictates of conscience. The very sight of a number of foreigners, male and female, reaching our shores as exiles, would produce an impression highly favourable to the refugees, and deeply interesting to those among whom they had sought an asylum. Such were the Italian exiles, and such the impression produced, not only on their fellow Protestants, but on their adversaries the Roman Catholics. They could not understand how men of illustrious birth, rank, learning, position, civil and ecclesiastical, could voluntarily renounce their wealth and honours, leave their dearest friends, encounter poverty with all the hardships and dangers of a speedy flight, rather than do violence to the voice of conscience.

The republic of the Grisons, owing to its proximity to Italy, was the country they first visited. "It was calculated that, in the year 1550, the exiles amounted to two hundred, of whom a fourth or fifth part were men of letters, and those not of the meanest name. Before the year 1559 the number had increased to eight hundred. From that time to the year 1568 we have ground to believe that the increase was fully as great in proportion; and down to the close of the century, individuals were to be seen, after short intervals, flying to the north, and throwing themselves on glaciers of the Alps to escape the fires of the Inquisition." Happily for the exiles, and for the Grisons themselves, the Reformation had made such progress there, that a statute law was passed, as early as 1526, securing religious liberty to all classes in the republic. In a national diet it was moved and agreed to, "That it shall be free to all persons of both sexes, and of whatever condition or rank, within the territories of the Grison confederation, to choose, embrace, and profess either the Roman Catholic or the Evangelical religion; and that no one shall, publicly or privately, harass another with reproaches or odious speeches on account of his religion, under an arbitrary penalty. That the ministers of religion shall teach nothing to the people but what is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and what they can prove by them; and that parish priests shall be enjoined to give themselves assiduously to the study of the scriptures as the only rule of faith and manners." This noble statute, notwithstanding some attempts that have been made to overthrow it, remains to this day the charter of religious liberty in the canton of the Grisons.

Many of the inhabitants in that part of Switzerland, who had come originally from Italy, and had preserved their ancient language and manners, were like a people ready for the ministrations of the exiles. And these, finding themselves perfectly free and safe, grudged no labour in communicating instruction privately and publicly, and were blessed of God to the winning of many souls for Christ. Congregations were formed, pastors appointed, the Lord's supper celebrated, and worship conducted on the principle of the Reformed churches. Others of the exiles made themselves masters of the different languages of the canton that they might be able to preach the gospel to the inhabitants. Their preaching was of the most attractive and thrilling style. They detailed the cruelties of the Inquisition; they laid bare the artifices, the superstition, ignorance, vices, and corruption of the court of Rome and its priesthood, contrasting with great enthusiasm the liberty of conscience and the pure preaching of the gospel enjoyed in the Grisons.

Thus did Rome, by her short-sighted and cruel policy, reduce her own strength at home, and send forth a band of her choicest subjects to expose her wickedness, weaken her influence abroad, and instruct many in the way of salvation. After a time many of these exiles spread themselves over the other cantons, and passed into other countries, carrying the light of the gospel with them; but alas, alas, their native and sunny Italy was doomed to be the abode of darkness, for few of the disciples of the Reformed doctrines were able to survive the barbarous and fiendish malice of the Inquisition.*

{*For full details see Dr. McCrie's History; Miss Young's Life and Times of Paleario, 2 vols., D'Aubigne's History of the Reformation in Europe. vol. 4; Hardwick's Church History, p. 105.}

Spain

The term heresy, about the time of the Reformation, was held in the highest detestation by the Spanish nation. The loudest boast of the proud Spaniard was purity of blood. The poorest peasant looked upon it as a degradation to have a drop of Jewish or Moorish blood in his veins. Yet in no country in Europe had there been such an intermixture of races. But this pride of a pure old Christian, or holy Catholic, ancestry made them peculiarly jealous of all forms of worship except their own. Besides, they had succeeded in cleansing the land by expelling the Jews, the inveterate enemies of Christ, from their courts; and they had overthrown the Mahometan empire which had been established for ages in the fairest provinces of their land; and would they now be traitors to the cross under which they had conquered and renounce their ancient faith for some new opinions of an obscure German monk? Their successes at home, with their wonderful discoveries abroad, so increased the wealth and raised the reputation of Spain, that they began to think themselves the favourites of heaven, and destined to propagate and defend the true faith throughout their vast dominions.

To the discovery of America by Columbus, the other magnificent territories by navigators of lesser name, must be added, the vast increase of strength which the Spanish monarchy received by the succession of their youthful sovereign, Charles V., to his paternal dominions in the Low Countries, Austria, Bohemia, and Hungary, and his elevation to the imperial throne of Germany.

The Introduction of the Reformed Doctrines into Spain

Such was the greatness and glory of the Spanish nation when the new faith knocked at her gates for admission. But notwithstanding the national antipathy to the German Reformation, there were many serious and thoughtful men predisposed in its favour. The scandalous corruptions of the clergy and the cruel energies of the Inquisition had alienated the hearts of many from the old religion. Accordingly, we find the writings of Luther translated and distributed in the peninsula as early as the year 1519. The Reformer's commentary on the Galatians, a work which exhibits his doctrinal sentiments on the most important points, was translated into Spanish in 1520. This was followed by translations of his treatise on Christian Liberty, and his reply to Erasmus on free-will. These books were read and approved of by many who were illustrious for their rank, learning, and influence; and had not the throne and the Inquisition combined to suppress both the books and their readers, Spain, we believe, would have produced a noble band of thorough reformers. For the first ten years at least, the papal briefs and the state authorities seemed ineffectual in arresting its progress.

"Headed by two brothers," says Hardwick, "Juan and Alfonso de Valdes, the reforming school increased from day to day in numbers and importance. It had representatives among the retinue of Charles V. himself; and both in Seville and Valladolid the crowd of earnest Lutherans was so great that cells could hardly be at last procured for their incarceration." Many noble witnesses for the gospel follow these two leading brothers, down to the year 1530, when Charles, with a great body of Spanish nobles and clergy, had an opportunity of hearing for themselves the true doctrines of the Protestants, from the confession of faith which was read to the imperial diet of Augsburg. The public reading and examination of this confession had the effect of dissipating the false ideas of the opinions of Luther which had been industriously propagated by the monks. Alfonso de Valdes, the Emperor's secretary, of whom we have already spoken, had several friendly interviews with Melancthon, and read the confession before it was presented to the diet. A. de Virves, chaplain to Charles, was also convinced of the truth of the protest and became what was called a Lutheran. Valdes, Virves, and others on their return to Spain being suspected of Lutheranism, were seized by the inquisitors and thrown into prison. A long list of nobles, priests, burgesses, monks, and nuns follow, but for details of their imprisonment, tortures, and death, we have no space.*

{*See Brief Account of the Inquisition, "Short Papers," vol. 2, pp. 291-303. Llorente's History of the Inquisition. McCrie's History of the Reformation in Spain.}

The Suppression of the Reformation in Spain

For a number of years the Lord in mercy sheltered the infant church in Spain. The Christians were in the habit of coming together with great secrecy, and breaking bread in private houses. On no other principle could we account for the truth spreading, the disciples multiplying, and the church being edified, and all in the very place where the king, the pope, and the Inquisition had sworn to keep Spain Roman Catholic. True, there were many individual cases of persecution and imprisonment, but nothing very definite, or on a large scale, was attempted till the year 1557.

The first thing which seems to have aroused the inquisitors from their security was the sudden disappearance of a number of persons, who were known to have settled in Geneva and different parts of Germany, where they were at liberty to worship God according to His holy word. This led to searching inquiries as to the cause of their departure; and, finding it was the question of religion, the inquisitors naturally suspected that those who had left were not the only persons who were disaffected, and immediately set their whole police in motion to discover their brethren who remained behind. Besides their vigilance at home, spies were sent to Geneva and Germany, that they might, through feigning themselves to be friends, obtain information as to those who had embraced Lutheranism.

This information, it is painful to relate, was obtained by the treachery of one of the preachers' wives through the wicked arts of the confessional. At Valladolid, Juan Garcia, a goldsmith, being aware of the influence of the priest over the superstitious mind of his wife, concealed from her both the time and place of their assembling. But this poor deluded woman, in obedience to her harlot-mother Jezebel, dogged her husband one night, and having ascertained the place of meeting, communicated the fact to the priest. Having made this important discovery, messengers were despatched to the several tribunals throughout the kingdom; the ramifications of heresy were to be diligently traced, guards were to be placed at convenient places to seize such persons as might attempt to escape; and by a simultaneous movement the Protestants were seized in all parts of the country. In Seville and its neighbourhood, two hundred persons were apprehended in one day; and, in a short time, the number increased to eight hundred. In Valladolid eighty persons were committed to prison, and similar numbers by other tribunals. The common prisons, the convents, and even private houses were crowded with the victims. The storm of persecution burst with equal fury on the monasteries and nunneries that were known to favour the Lutheran doctrines.

The cruel and heartless king, Philip II. and his inquisitors, were now determined to strike terror into the minds of the whole nation, and consequently, the unoffending prisoners were treated with the view of accomplishing this fiendish end. Many suffered in body and mind from a long imprisonment; others from the severity of the tortures ended their days by a lingering and secret martyrdom; while some of the most distinguished, either for rank, or of the clerical order, were reserved for a public execution, or the Spanish auto-da-fe.* But there was one family amongst the Protestants of Seville whose tragic history is so touching that we cannot withhold it from our readers.

{*See an account of the auto-da-fe, p. 573.}

"The widow of Fernando Nugnez, a native of the town of Lepe, with three of her daughters and a married sister, were seized and thrown into prison. As there was no evidence against them, they were put to the torture, but refused to inform against one another. Upon this the presiding Inquisitor called one of the young women into the audience chamber, and, after conversing with her for some time, professed an attachment to her person. Having repeated this at another interview, he told her that he could be of no service to her unless she imparted to him the whole facts of her case; but if she entrusted him with these, he would manage the affairs in such a way as that she and all her friends would be set at liberty. Falling into the snare, the unsuspecting girl confessed to him, that she had at different times conversed with her mother, sisters, and aunt, on the Lutheran doctrines. The wretch immediately brought her into court, and obliged her to declare judicially what she had owned to him in private. Nor was this all: under the pretence that her confession was not sufficiently ample and ingenuous, she was put to the torture by the most excruciating engines-the pulley and the wooden horse; by which means evidence was extorted from her, which led, not only to the condemnation of herself and her relatives, but also to the seizure and conviction of others who afterwards perished in the flames."*

{*McCrie, p. 130.}

No language could describe the meanness, perfidiousness fiendishness, of one in human form that could do such a thing, and the reader may easily imagine from the treatment of the widow, the fatherless children, and the aunt, what the victims of the Inquisition (which could be counted by thousands) had to endure, and all for the crime of believing the truth of God and rejecting the lies of Satan.

Reflections on the Policy of Spain

It is difficult to conceive in our day, and in our land of civil and religious liberty, what could have induced the church aided by the government, to persecute thousands of the choicest of her members, for a difference of opinion on some points of religion. By far the greater part of those who were apprehended, and thrown into a dungeon, or were burnt at the stake, had not left the communion of the Romish church. They might have accepted a New Testament in the Spanish language, or might have been drawn into conversation on the subject of the new opinions, either of which was sufficient to awaken the suspicion of the Familiars, and secure them imprisonment. We must look deeper down than the blind and infatuated policy of the government, or the tyranny of the papal tribunals. The source is purely Satanic. The main object of this suicidal policy was to perpetuate the reign of darkness. Popery could not live in the light; therefore the true gospel-which ameliorates the condition of society, generates a spirit of liberty among the people, discerns and corrects abuses by its sure and divine light-must be suppressed, no matter what it may cost.

The arch-enemy of God and man rules in the darkness and superstition of popery, though at the same time God overrules. He saw from the beginning that society, in all countries where the Reformation had been received, was greatly improved and enlightened. It gave a higher tone to morals, and imparted to the human mind a strong impulse of inquiry and improvement. The progress of useful knowledge, the cultivation of literature, and the extension of commerce, which exalt a nation, would be the downfall of the papal power. Therefore every movement, intellectual, civil, or religious, that would tend to raise the condition, or enlighten the minds of the people, must be put down. The ruling clergy and the inquisitors exercise the most rigid and vigilant inspection of the press and the seminaries of education, that they may arrest the progress of general or useful knowledge. This is abundantly proved by the lists of prohibited books which they publish from time to time.

As the persecution grew hotter, the number of exiles increased. While the Italians were crossing the Alps, the Spaniards were crossing the Pyrenees, and not infrequently met in the country of their adoption, and even united in the same church. Thousands of the Spanish exiles found a happy home in England, which the Lord has not forgotten. But the kindness which they received here gave great offence to the bloodthirsty Philip and the pope, and formed one of the charges against Elizabeth in the bull of her excommunication. Philip wanted them to be sent back, not for their capital or labour as useful citizens, but for their blood, that he might celebrate another victory in a grand auto-da-fe. But England on this occasion proved worthy of her well-known character for hospitality to the oppressed.

"The queen," nobly writes bishop Jewell, "of her gracious pity, granted them harbour. Is it become a heinous thing to show mercy? God willed the children of Israel to love the stranger, because they were strangers in the land of Egypt. He that showeth mercy shall find mercy. But what was the number of such who came in unto us? Three or four thousand. Thanks be to God; this realm is able to receive them if the numbers were greater. And why may not Queen Elizabeth receive a few afflicted members of Christ, which are compelled to carry His cross? Whom, when He thought good to bring safely by the dangers of the sea, and to set in at our havens, should we cruelly have driven them back again? . . . Would the vicar of Christ give this counsel? Or, if a king receive such, and give them succour, they live not idly. If they take houses of us, they pay rent for them; they hold not our grounds but by making due recompense. They beg not in our streets, nor crave anything at our hands, but to breathe our air, and see our sun. They labour truly, they live sparefully; they are good examples of virtue, travail, faith, and patience. The towns in which they abide are happy, for God doth follow them with His blessing."

The reader will now see, what has so greatly interested us, that the work of God's Spirit in Catholic Spain must indeed have been a great and a blessed work. If we think of the thousands who became the victims of the Inquisition, and the thousands who found a refuge in England, besides those who settled in Switzerland, Germany, the Low Countries, and France, how great indeed must the work of the Spirit, by means of the scanty truth which they possessed, have been; and that, too, in a very short time! Towards the close of the century Spain boasted that she had extirpated the German heresy from her territories. But she saw not in her blindness, that she had inflicted a deeper and more fatal wound on herself than on the unoffending victims of her tyranny, and had sown the seeds of a national misery and despotism which she has been reaping ever since.

During the early part of the sixteenth century, her sceptre extended over nearly half the world, but what is her condition now? Prostrate, sunk, and degraded, compared with the other nations of Europe. Holland, with no land but what she rescued from the ocean, became rich and independent, while Spain, with all her vast possessions, has become poor and helpless.*

{*See Dr. McCrie's history-Blackwood, Edinburgh.}

How true it is, not only with individuals but with nations, that, "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." This is the principle of the government of God, however much grace may overrule the failure of the Christian for his blessing; as in the case of David. Nevertheless the sword was not to depart from his house. "Be not deceived," says the apostle, "God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." This is a hard saying, many will say, yet it is most true and righteous. If a man sow tares in the spring, can he expect to reap wheat in the autumn? And if he sow wheat, he will not have to reap tares. But, thank God, grace reigns, not on the ruins of law and justice, but "through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord." No thanks be to us when our failures turn to our deeper blessing, but to the grace of God which freely meets us on the ground of the finished work of Christ. When self is judged, the will broken, the eye of faith fixed on the blessed Lord, there is not only peace, but joy, through the power of the Holy Ghost. (Gal. 6: 7; Rom. 5: 21)

The Netherlands

For some time before the days of Luther, there had existed in the Netherlands a spirit of religious inquiry, and a calm but firm resistance to the domination of the Romish church. In the fifteenth century, a school of pious mystics, represented by such men as Thomas a Kempis, had revived a spirit of devotion in many countries of the west, especially in Flanders and some parts of Germany.* It was also the land of John Wessel, who, in many things, anticipated Luther, and of Erasmus, at a later period. Most of the Reformers' books, both Swiss and Saxon, were translated, printed, and sent out from Antwerp in large quantities. The provinces were wealthy and prosperous from their extensive manufactures and commerce. Antwerp was, in that age, the emporium of the world. Hence their great facility in sending books into all parts, by concealing them in their bales of goods. It was from Antwerp chiefly, that both Italy and Spain received the new books. The writings of Erasmus against the monks may also have helped to prepare the way for the deeper doctrines of Luther and Zwingle. It was only natural, we may say, under these circumstances, that the light of the Reformation should have penetrated the Low Countries at an early period.

{*Hardwick's Middle Ages, p. 372.}

The policy of Charles

Such was the state of things in the hereditary dominions of Charles when he ascended the throne of Spain in 1519. Indeed, the movement which convulsed the whole of Germany, was early transmitted to all the other territories of the Emperor. Being a Catholic king, this fact was no doubt the cause of his double policy towards the Reformers from the Diet of Worms in 1521. With Francis I., the pope, and the Turks watching his movements on every side, and he theirs, he had no leisure to chastise the heretics. Besides, the ample revenues, which flowed into the imperial treasury from those wealthy provinces, made him unwilling to resort to severe measures, with a view to check the progress of the new opinions. At the same time, he did not fail to exhort those in power to use their authority in suppressing heresy. This is evident from a placard which was published in the name of that monarch, by Margaret of Austria, his father's sister, Governess of the Netherlands, in the year 1521. Luther is there described as a "devil in the shape of a man and the habit of a monk, that he may more easily occasion the eternal death and destruction of mankind." The placard is very long, giving strict orders for the prohibition of all books which contained any allusion to the scripture or its doctrines, and that no book was to be circulated without the approbation of the faculty of divinity in the university.*

{*See the noble work of Gerard Brandt, on the Reformation in the Netherlands, in four vols. folio. There the reader has almost the daily occurrences of these most interesting and tragic times.

See also The Rise of the Dutch Republic, by Mr. Motley, three vols. 8vo; also his book on The United Netherlands. Both embrace the political as well as the ecclesiastical history of these times.}

The Truth Prevails in Spite of the Flames

The history of the Low Countries from this time is so full of martyrdoms, that it is like a gradual extermination of the population. Nevertheless the Spirit of God wrought wonderfully, and the holy courage which was shown by many, proved the Lord's presence with them in sustaining grace and power. It was discovered that the Austin friars in the city of Antwerp had read and approved the books of Luther. Many of them were thrown into prison. Three of the monks were degraded and condemned to the flames in 1523. While the fire was being lighted, they repeated the creed, and then sang together the Te Deum in alternate verses, until the force of the flames silenced their heavenly praise. Erasmus is made to witness on this occasion, that these martyrdoms had the very opposite effect which the persecutors intended. "The city of Brussels," where they were executed, he says, "had been perfectly free from heresy till this event. But many of the inhabitants immediately after began to favour Lutheranism."

Persons of eminence, among both the clergy and the laity, ventured to espouse the cause of truth, though the martyrdoms were constantly occurring. This has always been the case. If persecution keep some at a cold selfish distance, it brings the accession of a greater number, through that instinct-in connection with the truth-which impels the human conscience to rise against injustice, and incline to the side of the oppressed. The fires were now kindled all over the country, and edict following edict, with increasing severity, kept them burning. It was death to read a page of the scriptures, death to discuss any article of the faith; death to have in one's possession any of the writings of Luther, Zwingle, or OEcolampadius, death to express a doubt respecting the efficacy of the sacraments, or the authority of the pope. In the year 1536, that good and faithful servant of the Lord, William Tyndale, was strangled and burnt at Vilvordi, near Brussels, for translating the New Testament into English and printing it in 1535.*

{*For particulars, see Annals of the English Bible by Christopher Anderson; also the biographical notice, prefixed to his writings published by the Parker Society.}

In the year 1555, Charles, though only fifty-five years of age, feeling himself growing old, passed the sceptre to his son. The sceptre and the faggot, it has been said, were closely united during the reign of the father, but they were to be still more so under the reign of the son. And there was this difference: Charles persecuted from policy, for he was burning heretics at the very time he sacked Rome, and imprisoned the pope and his cardinals. Philip persecuted from the convictions of his bigotry, and the cool vindictiveness of his nature. It was under the reign of the latter that more violent exterminating measures were devised and carried into execution by the duke of Alva, and the persecution became so intolerable, and so exasperated the people, that they ultimately rebelled, threw off the Spanish yoke, and asserted their ancient laws and liberties. But this was not done in haste; the people were slow to move, notwithstanding their unparalleled sufferings.

The Association of the Nobles

In 1566 most of the nobles, though generally Catholics, entered into an association to protect and defend the liberties of the country. The Protestants, trusting to a promise of toleration from Margaret, began to meet in great numbers in open day; and, being without places of worship they assembled in the fields, where the preachers proclaimed the truths of the gospel in the midst of overwhelming numbers. One of these field preachers, named Dathen, is said to have gathered as many as fifteen thousand at a time to listen to his discourses. But in the existing state of things such assemblies were not likely to be continued without some disturbances. A magistrate, on one occasion, furious in his bigotry, attempted to disperse them, brandishing his sword, and making as if he would apprehend the minister, but was saluted with such a plentiful shower of stones that he barely escaped with his life. The psalms of David were usually sung on such occasions; which, from the multitude of voices, were heard at a great distance, and attracted great attention. The enthusiasm of the Calvinists and the hostility of the Catholics were thereby increased, and the danger of an outbreak became every day more imminent. In order to avoid this, and prevent the need of field-preaching, those who really knew and valued the truth had, in a short time, a number of wooden churches erected. "Men of all classes engaged in the labour, while the females sold their jewels and ornaments to provide the necessary funds; and, had they been left to themselves, the power of the religion they professed would soon have quieted the storm of passion, and healed the evils of the land."*

{*Universal History, vol. 6, p. 197.}

The Protestants, now one hundred thousand in number respectfully petitioned the king for toleration, having been led by the Governess, Margaret, to expect it. By taking advantage of the brief period of repose from the conciliatory spirit of the Governess, they had formed nearly sixty congregations in Flanders, which were attended by nearly as many thousand persons. Similar meetings were opened in Artois, Brabant, Holland, Utrecht, Iceland, Friesland, and other places. But in place of listening to the reasonable demands of so large and so respectable a body of his subjects, the poor narrow-minded bigot utterly rejected the plea for "freedom to worship God, and personal liberty by settled law." Margaret had recommended moderate measures, and, when the question came before his own ministers, the Spanish council did the same, but all was in vain: violence, duplicity, and bloodshed were the only features of his policy, especially in the Netherlands. Rejecting Margaret's advice as to moderation; he directed her to raise an army of three thousand horse, and ten thousand foot soldiers, to enforce the execution of his decrees.

Attempts were now made by the government to disperse the congregations of the Protestants by force, so that the people went armed to their places of worship. Such was the melancholy state of things through the superstition and obstinacy of a single man. Many from amongst the lowest classes of the people in different parts of the country, excited by all that was going on, began to rise. They broke into churches, tore down pictures and everything in the way of ornament; images, altars, crosses, and stained windows, were broken to pieces; and the organ in the cathedral at Antwerp, said to be the finest in the world, was subjected to the same destructive enthusiasm. About four hundred churches were thus plundered and defaced in a few days. The Christians in both the reformed and Lutheran churches were deeply grieved because of this outbreak, and drew up remonstrances to Philip; and while they condemned those violent proceedings, they again petitioned for the public exercise of their religion, "in which they were resolved to live and die." The prince of Orange, the counts Egmont and Horn, endeavoured to move Philip to some consideration of the state of religious feeling in the Low Countries; but it was all to no purpose. The troops were ordered to be distributed over the distracted country, that his persecuting edicts might be enforced. The Protestants were reduced to great straits; many were put to death, and many fled the country; the association of the nobles melted away, and the Netherlands had all the appearance of a conquered land.

The Duke of Alva

But the cold-hearted bigot was not yet satisfied. A second invasion was arranged for exterminating the Reformed, tens of thousands though they were. In the year 1567 the cruel duke of Alva was sent into the Netherlands with an army of fifteen thousand Spaniards and Italians; and the Inquisition was to put forth all its energies. This added greatly to the general consternation. The reign of terror began. The very name of Alva, and the mention of the Inquisition, made the whole land shudder. The counts of Egmont and Horn, and other persons of eminence, suspected of holding liberal opinions, were immediately arrested and executed. The prince of Orange escaped to Germany, and crowds of Protestants forsook their homes and fled to other countries. The foreign merchants, manufacturers, and artisans fled from Antwerp and other once thriving cities, as if the plague were raging within their gates. The wooden churches were pulled down, and, in some places the beams were formed into a great gallows on which to hang the minister and his flock.

As the inquisitors, by the authority of Charles, before his abdication were doing their dreadful work, we will give particulars of a few cases, to show the reader what was to be witnessed almost daily in the country for nearly forty years; yet the word of God prevailed mightily, and thousands were converted.

One of the inquisitors by the name of Titelmann notorious for the number of his victims, boasted that he only "seized the virtuous and the innocent, because they made no resistance." Thomas Calberg, tapestry weaver, of Tournay, being convicted of having copied some hymns from a book printed in Geneva, was instantly burned alive. About the same time, 1561, Walter Kapell, a man of property and benevolence, and greatly beloved by the poor people, was burned at the stake for heretical opinions. A most touching scene occurred as Titelmann's officers were binding him to the stake: a poor idiot, who had often been fed by his kindness, called out, "Ye are bloody murderers; that man has done no wrong, but has given me bread to eat." With these words he cast himself headlong into the flames to perish with his beloved benefactor, and was with difficulty rescued by the officers. A day or two afterwards he visited the scene of the execution, where the half-burnt skeleton of Walter Kapell still remained. The poor idiot laid it upon his shoulders, and carried it to the place where the magistrates were sitting in session. Forcing his way into their presence, he laid his burden at their feet, crying, "There, murderers! Ye have eaten his flesh, now eat his bones." The fate of the poor man is not recorded but the testimony of so daring a witness would most likely be effectually silenced.

The year following, Titelmann caused one Robert Ogier, of Ryssel, in Flanders, to be arrested, together with his wife and two sons. Their crime consisted in not going to mass, and in practising private worship at home. They confessed the offence, for they protested that they could not endure to see the profanation of their Saviour's name in the idolatrous sacraments. They were asked what rites they practised in their own house. One of the sons, a mere boy, answered, "We fall on our knees, and pray to God that He may enlighten our hearts and forgive our sins. We pray for our sovereign, that his reign may be prosperous, and his life peaceful. We also pray for the magistrates and others in authority, that God may protect and preserve them all." The boy's simple eloquence drew tears even from the eyes of some of his judges. The father and eldest son, were, however, condemned to the flames. "O God," prayed the youth at the stake, 'eternal Father, accept the sacrifice of our lives, in the name of Thy beloved Son." "Thou liest, scoundrel!" furiously interrupted a monk who was lighting the fire; "God is not your father; ye are the devil's children." As the flames rose about them, the boy cried out once more, "Look, my father, all heaven is opening, and I see a hundred thousand angels rejoicing over us. Let us be glad, for we are dying for the truth." "Thou liest! thou liest!" again screamed the priest "all hell is opening; and ye see ten thousand devils thrusting you into eternal fire." Eight days afterwards, the wife of Ogier and his other son were burned; so that they were soon privileged to meet in the bright and happy regions above-in the perfect repose of the paradise of God. Little did these ignorant and hardened inquisitors think that they were sending so many of the children of God home to their Father's house on high, to be with Christ, which is far better.

The Administration of Alva

In the year 1567 "the council of blood," as it was called, held its first sitting. There are few readers who have not heard something of the infamous character of Alva. "Such an amount of ferocity," says Motley, "of patient vindictiveness and universal bloodthirstiness was never found in a savage beast of the forest, and but rarely in a human bosom." It was no longer the trial of ones and twos that occupied the council, as it was thought more expeditious to send the accused at once in large numbers to the flames. But no crime at that moment was so great as being rich. No belief, no virtues, could expiate such guilt. Bloodshed and confiscations were the daily amusements of the tyrant who thus gratified his avarice and his cruelty. He boasted that a golden river, a yard deep, should flow through the Netherlands, from confiscations, to replenish the treasury of his master. In the town of Tournay alone, the estates of above a hundred rich merchants were confiscated.

Blood now flowed in torrents. "Thus, for example, on the 4th of January, eighty-four inhabitants of Valenciennes were condemned; on another day, ninety-five from different places in Flanders; on another, forty-six inhabitants of Malines; on another, thirty-five persons from different localities. Yet, notwithstanding this wholesale slaughter, Philip, Alva, and the Holy Office were not satisfied with the progress of events. A new edict was issued, affixing a heavy penalty upon all waggoners carriers, and ship-masters, who should aid in the emigration of heretics. They had resolved that none should escape.

Early in the second year of the council of blood, "the most sublime sentence of death," says Motley, "was promulgated, which has ever been pronounced since the creation of the world. The Roman tyrant wished that his enemies' heads were all upon a single neck, that he might strike them off at one blow. The Inquisition assisted Philip to place the heads of all his Netherland subjects upon a single neck for the same fell purpose. Upon the 19th of February 1568 a sentence of the Holy Office condemned all the inhabitants of the Netherlands to death as heretics. From this universal doom only a few persons, especially named, were excepted. A proclamation of the king, dated ten days later, confirmed this decree of the inquisition, and ordered it to be carried into instant execution, without regard to age, sex, condition. This is probably the most concise death-warrant that was ever framed. Three millions of people-men, women, and children, were sentenced to the scaffold in three lines."*

{*Motley, vol. 2, p. 155. Brandt, vol. 1, p. 266.}

"This horrible decree," says Brandt, "against a whole nation, drove many with their wives and children to seek a place of safety in the West-woods of Flanders, from whence turning savages through the solitude of the place, and the extinction of their hopes, they made excursions on the priests and friars, serving themselves of the darkest nights for revenge and robbery."

The Real Character of Popery

Under this universal condemnation the reader will see the real spirit of popery, and what all had to expect who did not yield an absolute, though blind submission, to all her idolatries and superstitions. Men in the highest and humblest positions were daily and hourly dragged to the stake. Alva in writing to Philip about this time, seeks to satisfy his master by assuring him that the executions, which were to take place immediately after the expiration of holy week would not be less than eight hundred heads. To prevent the victims on their way to the scaffold from addressing their friends or the bystanders, the tongue of each prisoner was screwed into an iron ring, and then seared with a hot iron.

The tendency of this monster's policy was evidently to effect the utter depopulation of the country. History informs us, that the "death-bell tolled hourly in every village; not a family that was not called to mourn for its dearest relatives; the blood of its best and bravest citizens had already stained the scaffold; the men to whom the nation had been accustomed to look for guidance and protection were dead, in prison, or in exile. Submission had ceased to be of any avail flight was impossible, and the spirit of vengeance had alighted at every fireside. The mourners went daily about the streets, for there was hardly a house that had not been made desolate.... The door-posts of private houses, the fences in the fields, were laden with human carcases, strangled, beheaded, and burned. The orchards in the country bore on many a tree the hideous fruit of human bodies." It was about this time that Don Carlos, the king's son, died in prison, or, as it was believed by some, was put to death by his father's orders. "This conduct of his in not sparing his only son, as being a favourer of heretics, was highly extolled by Pope Pius V."*

{*Brandt, vol. 1, p. 270; Motley, vol. 2, p. 142, Universal History vol. 6, p. 199.}

Such was the character of the reign of Alva for nearly six years. The heart sickens in attempting to detail the atrocities of this furious tyrant. The extent of the appalling massacres may be imagined from the boast of Alva himself, who gloried in having caused eighteen thousand of the inhabitants to perish, without reckoning those who fell in war. And it is thought that more than a hundred thousand effected their escape, and fled into other countries. Crowds flocked to the English ports, bringing with them that industrial skill which amply repaid this country for the hospitality they received.

We wonder that the church was not consumed in the flames or drowned in blood. But God had mercy on the Netherlands in preserving many of His faithful witnesses through their fiery trial that they might testify for Him in a future day. When the grass began to grow in the streets of those cities which had recently employed so many artisans, a national synod of the Dutch Reformed Church was held at Dort in 1578, at Middleburg in 1581 and at the Hague in 1586. The very means which the royal bigot, with his inquisitors and Jesuits, employed to preserve the old religion, instead of securing it from the dangers to which it was exposed, occasioned its total overthrow. The civil war, which broke out both by sea and land, resulted in the formation of a new Protestant state in Europe, under the title of THE SEVEN UNITED PROVINCES.

The Triumph of Truth and Righteousness

The history of this long and deeply interesting struggle for liberty of conscience belongs to the civil historian. We will only add, that William of Nassau, Prince of Orange, or, as he was usually called, William "the silent," felt impelled to adopt more decisive measures to prevent the utter ruin of his country. In this enterprise he was assisted by Elizabeth, Queen of England; the King of France; and the Protestants in Germany. He also sold his jewels, plate, and even the furniture of his house to raise the necessary funds. But it was difficult to contend with the experience and power of Alva, and for a length of time William was unsuccessful. His brother Louis was defeated, and his brother Adolphus was killed, but many of the towns were thrown into revolt, and Philip at length felt that some change of policy should be tried. Alva was recalled, and even Philip is said to have reproved him for his inhumanity. The war was renewed and continued to rage, with brief intervals of peace, until the year 1580, when the States-general, assembled at Antwerp, issued their declaration of national independence, and threw off the Spanish yoke for ever. Thus the infant republic, under the guidance of the Prince of Orange, secured that freedom of person, and liberty of conscience which are the inalienable right of all; and took its place among the nations of the continent.*

{*For the civil history of the new state, see Motley's History of the United Netherlands, and for the ecclesiastical, see Faiths of the World; also Mosheim, vol. 3.}

Philip now eyed the great patriot with the most deadly hatred. He saw in him the animating soul of these struggles for liberty, and hence he sought his life. "Five unsuccessful attempts had been made to assassinate William, but Philip would not give up hope. In 1580 he published a ban of proscription, in which he denounced the prince as guilty of the foulest crimes, and declared that it was permitted to all persons to assail him in his fortunes, person, and life; and promised twenty-five thousand golden crowns, a pardon for all offences whatsoever, and a patent of nobility, to anyone who should deliver up to him this implacable monarch William of Nassau, dead or alive." This infamous document soon did its work. On the 10th of July, 1584, a Jesuit, named Gerard, who had passed himself off to the unsuspecting prince as one of the Reformed faith, shot him through the heart, in the hall of his own house, with a pistol which he had bought with money obtained from the prince himself a short time before. "God have mercy on my soul, and on this unfortunate nation," exclaimed the wounded patriot and instantly expired. He had married the widow of Teligny, the daughter of the brave Coligny, who both fell in the St. Bartholomew massacre. Thus had she seen her first and second husband, and her noble father, assassinated by her side.

Thus died one of the most unselfish, wise, courageous, and memorable characters in history. "He had headed the armies of his oppressed countrymen, and led them on to victory, he had regulated their treaties, and though for twenty years he had spent his fortune, his ease, and his health, for the common good, calumny has failed to show that he had in any instance used his power for any selfish purpose; so that he well deserves the title of 'Father of his country.' " The news of the atrocious deed filled the land and all the surrounding countries with grief and consternation. Vengeance was speedily executed on the assassin; but in the midst of a deep and universal sorrow Philip rejoiced. Transported with joy, he exclaimed, "Had it only been done two years earlier, much trouble would have been spared me; but better late than never! better late than never!"*

{*Universal History, vol. 6, p. 202; Wylie's vol. 3, which we have just seen, gives a long and detailed account of the struggles and triumphs in the Netherlands.}

Reflections on Bigotry and Christianity

It is difficult to close this paper without drawing the reader's attention to the effects of bigotry, and a bigotry dignified by the name of religion, or zeal for the glory of God. We have seen what this Satanic delusion has done in the Netherlands, and also in many other places. But what has Christianity suffered from bigotry these thirteen hundred years and more! The one is the religion of the New Testament, the other that of the dogmas of Rome. The former is peace on earth, and good will to men; for as Christ in Spirit says, "My delights were with the sons of men." What could be sweeter than this-more gracious, more softening, more likely to fill us with love to all men, especially to them that believe? The latter is unfeeling obstinacy, and inexorable cruelty; and this, be it observed, to those whom they deem in error, or unsaved; so that they become the murderers, not only of the body, but of the soul. In place of trying to convert the soul, they hurry it out of this world, proclaiming it unsaved, and only fit for the flames of hell.

Philip stands before us as the personification of the religion of bigotry-the religion of the papacy. Never was there a man more suited for the enemy's purpose than this wretched king-a cold heart, a stern and morose temperament, sullen and gloomy, with an incredibly small mind, and millions of human beings at his mercy. He died in 1598, at the age of seventy-two, after protracted and excruciating sufferings, under a complication of dreadful maladies, said to be Herod's disease.

Our only safety is to have Christ ever before us as our all-governing object; and the more stedfastly we look on Him, the more will His character be mirrored on our souls, and the more distinctly shall we reflect it to others. In looking to Him, we are enlightened; to have any other object before us is to be in darkness, and there are many shades of darkness between the blindness of popish bigotry and the clouds that arise in the Christian's heart from self-occupation. To be true witnesses of a heavenly Christ, we must be heavenly-minded, and heavenly in our ways. And heavenly-mindedness is the result, not of trying to be so, but of occupation with a heavenly Christ, according to the revelation which we have of Him, through the power of the Holy Spirit. In what direction is the eye? is always the important question, for the heart is sure to follow the eye, and the feet the heart.

The following passage may be accepted as a practical view of Christianity, both negatively and positively. "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works." (Titus 2: 11-14)