Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub
[ocr errors]

Italy, and produced an immense sensation. Revised by Flaminio, it prepared the hearts of many for the Reformation. Valdez, however, founded no sect. His book was the fruit of liberal study and Christian piety. He enjoyed the quiet retreats of nature in the vicinity of Naples, in profitable conversation with his friends. “A portion of his soul sufficed,” says one who knew him, “ to animate his frail, attenuated body; the larger part of his clear, untroubled intellect was ever raised aloft in the contemplation of truth." One of his friends was Vittoria Colonna, already mentioned, who, after the death of her husband, occupied a beautiful retreat on one of the islands in the vicinity of Naples, and spent much of her time in literary and pious conversation with such persons as Valdez. The Duke of Palliano, and his wife Giulia Gonzago, reputed to be the most beautiful woman in Italy, adopted the same sentiments, and took part in these conversations.

Indeed, many bishops and distinguished laymen favored the doctrines which subsequently entered the Reformation, and formed its animating spirit. Those, indeed, who became open Protestants in Italy were cruelly persecuted by the Papal hierarchy. The prisons of Ferrara, of Venice, and of Rome heard the groans of the martyrs. Some, as the noble: Carnessechi, were

*

beheaded or burned at the stake. Calabria was deluged with Protestant blood. But the inference is a legitimate one, that multitudes, in preceding ages, must have loved the Savior, who had neither the strength nor the opportunity, perhaps not even the desire, to leave the Papa! church.* The churches of the Waldenses have lived through a period of at least eight hundred years. They date beyond the days of Peter Waldo, and derive their name rather from their mountain home, than from any human teacher. Stigmatized and persecuted by the dominant church, like the Paulicians of the East, or the Albigenses of the West, they clung to the word of God amid all changes and trials. Numbering even now thirty thousand, they have dured the most appalling persecutions. They have passed through thirty wars, twelve of which were intended to be wars of extermination.

The Catholic church in Germany, corrupt as it was in the days of Tetsel, preserved some spirit

en

* For details respecting Protestantism in Italy, see McCries' Annals of the Reformation in Italy. See also Ranke's History of the Popes, i. pp. 96, 101, and Baird's Protestantism in Italy.

† For information on the Waldenses, see Dr. Baird's Protestantism in Italy, Allix's Churches of Piedmont, Leger's Histoire des Eglises Evangeliques, the Ancient Valenses and Albigenses, by G S. Faber, Morland's Hist. of the Evangelical Churches, &c., Hen derson's “ Vaudois," and Gilly's Waldensian Researches.

1

of freedom and of piety. Staupitz, the friend and spiritual teacher of Luther, never left the order of the Augustinians. It was from him, as well as from the Bible, which Luther first saw chained in the convent at Erfurth, that he received the doctrine of justification by faith. He carefully studied the writings of Augustine, as well as those of Occam and Gerson. It was an old monk who enlightened him respecting the doctrine of the forgiveness of sin, and by God's blessing brought it home to his heart, in a season of deep depression.* On another occasion we find him referring with affectionate respect to one of his old friends, John Braum, “ holy and venerable priest of Christ and of Mary." Ursula, the wife of Conrad Cotta, both good Catholics, and others of his old acquaintances, were truly pious. Speaking of the former, he says, “ There is nothing sweeter than the heart of a pious woman." Undoubtedly many such women might have been found in the old German church, even in the times of ignorance and superstition. Claudius of Turin, Peter de Bruys, Gabriel Biel, John de Wickliff, John Huss, Jerome of Prague, John Knox, and Thomas Cranmer, all received their training in the dominant church.t In a word, there is abundant evidence to show that Christ was in the church of the middle ages, as a regenerative power, and that from this source sprang the Reformation of the sixteenth century.

* D'Aubigné's History of the Reformation, vol. i. p. 154. † No thanks, however, to the Papal hierarchy, the whole endeavor of which has been to crush and extinguish such men. Could the

Catholic, and even the Roman, or Italian church, only throw off this Papal incubus, and return to primitive simplicity, it might yet bless the world.

CHAPTER XVII.

CHRIST IN THE REFORMATION

That a system, divine in its origin, and supernatural in its resources, should, in consequence of its embodiment among men, be corrupted and abused, is not only quite conceivable, but altogether probable. It cannot, however, in its essence, either be tarnished or extinguished. It lives, it struggles to be free, it eventually casts off the tyranny and superstition of ages. Thus one thing, and one alone, produced the Reformation of the sixteenth century, though many things concurred to aid its developinent. It was a natural, it was also a supernatural movement; for the Spirit of God, transforming the hearts of good men, and controlling the actions of bad ones, is visible through the whole. As usual, however, in mighty revolutions, which change the current of human affairs, and affect the welfare of states and empires, all things were prepared beforehand. In this respect, as of old, it was fulness of time.” Thence it was not an insulated event, but rather the result of many previous events, and many invisible forces, working

66 the

« ПредишнаНапред »