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The extraordinary success of Luther in his efforts to reform the Roman religion showed the earnest desire of a part of the Christian world to escape from the Papal yoke, as well as the awakening of the European intellect to a sense of the spiritual tyranny that had so long oppressed it. The vital principle of the Revolution effected by Luther was the right of " private judgment,” as opposed to the assumed infallibility of the Church. He claimed that all had a right to exercise their judgment on the choice of their religion, and were not compelled to accept the doctrines of Rome as infallible— indeed, he took infinite pains to prove that they were not so. This was an audacious heresy in the eyes of the Papacy, but the success of the new doctrine proved that Europe was ripe for a religious revolt, and to Luther must be ascribed the glory of striking the first victorious blow. For though Lollard, Wickliffe, and Huss strained the chain that held the mind and body of man in bondage, yet it was Luther who first broke its links and encouraged humanity to aspire to religious and political independence, which had never been dreamt of before his time.
To Luther's success is due some of the grandest events of Modern history; and it is only logical to regard him as the author of such important results as the English Act of Settlement of 1688, the American Revolution of 1776, and the French Revolution of 1789. If Luther had never lived, these events would have occurred, but possibly not for some hundreds of years. He first attacked with success the religious thraldom that aggrieved the world, and political subjugation was bound to fall in its turn as knowledge spread.
Among the partisans of Luther were numerous Kings
and Princes who longed to throw off the despotism of the Pope. The Sovereigns of Sweden, Denmark, Franconia, Hesse, the Palatinate, Brandenburg, cordially sustained him; and after many struggles a Treaty was signed at Nuremberg, 1532, between the Lutheran Princes and Charles V., Emperor of Germany. Liberty of Conscience, that is, religious independence, was thus formally conceded to the followers of the Reformed religion, who were generally known as the "Protestants," from having protested against the decision of the Diet of Spires, in 1529.
The rebellion of Luther against the primitive Church stimulated disaffection far and wide, and numerous other sects of Dissenters sprang up.
Some years before his death, 1546, Luther witnessed the overthrow of the Papacy in England-from causes, however, totally distinct from love of his doctrines.
He also beheld the advent of a new apostle of reform in Calvin, a Frenchman, who embraced Lutheranism, and began preaching in Paris in 1532, whence he was soon obliged to flee to escape arrest. Calvin afterwards. became a Professor of Theology at Geneva, where the Reformed religion had been adopted. After various vicissitudes he died there in 1564.
Like most converts to a Revolution, Calvin carried the war against the Roman Church to greater lengths than Luther deemed necessary. He repudiated all external Worship, all pompous Ceremonies, Cathedrals, and Hierarchies; saying Bishops and Priests were no more needed than Popes. Calvin, though a reformer, was fiercely intolerant. He obtained the execution at Geneva of Dr. Servet, a learned man, for professing
Unitarianism, as also of Gentilis, who advocated the same doctrine.
Calvin originated the doctrine of Predestination, declaring that some were predestined to be saved, and others to be damned.
The followers of Calvin spread over Europe. John Knox, a Scotchman, introduced Calvinism—that is, the Reformed religion as further reformed by Calvininto Scotland in 1547. Knox closely resembled his predecessor Luther in character. He was intrepid, ungovernable, and impassioned. He was twice compelled to flee from Scotland, and was condemned to be burnt as a heretic. He repaired to his friend Calvin at Geneva, where he remained till Elizabeth, a Protestant, ascended the English throne. Returning to Scotland, 1558, he instigated a terrible outbreak against the Catholic Clergy at Perth, and finally influenced the Scotch Parliament to abolish the Roman religion, and adopt Calvinism-there called Presbyterianism. He likewise contributed powerfully to the downfall of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Knox translated the Bible into English. It had previously been translated by Tyndal,* 1526, who was forced for this to escape from England.
In France the partisans of the Reformed religion were known by the name of Huguenots, and underwent great persecution. They were involved in frequent wars with the Government, which adhered to the Roman religion. An attempt was made by Charles IX., 1572, to exterminate them on the night of St. Bartholomew.
* Tyndal went to Germany, and was intimate with Luther; but afterwards, at the demand of Henry VIII. of England, was arrested by he Emperor of Germany, and burnt at Augsburg.
The alliance of the Church with the Throne in France was so close that any attack on its power was dangerous. Still, symptoms of insubordination began to appear. The spirit of Luther was at work.
Towards the middle of this century, Rabelais published a satirical romance, "Gargantua et Pantagruel," which adroitly concealed under a mass of buffoonery and indecency a damaging attack on the Clergy.
In 1580, Montaigne ventured to write with less. reserve. In his polished Essays on various subjects he revealed the sceptical state of his mind, and his bold query of, Que sais-je?" What do I know?"-was uttered with impunity. Fortunately for himself Montaigne was a favorite at Court.
Twenty years later came Charron with his striking “Traité de la Sagesse" "Treatise on Wisdom" wherein he dared to discuss the origin of religion itself. "For,” says he, "if we look a little deeper we shall see that each of the great religions is built upon that which preceded it. Thus the religion of the Jews is founded on that of the Egyptians; Christianity is the result of Judaism; and from these two last there has naturally sprung Mohammedanism.”
The fate of Charron would have been the stake for such language as this had not Henry IV. been on the throne. This great Monarch was a Huguenot, but he readily embraced Catholicism to put an end to civil war. "Paris," he said, "vaut bien une Messe" "Paris is well worth a Mass." The grandest act of his reign was the Edict of Nantes, 1598, which guaranteed the religious liberty of the Huguenots. This was the first decisive blow to the Papacy in France.
DESCARTES AND RICHELIEU.
In the following century, the seventeenth, came Descartes, the greatest intellect France had yet produced. In the variety of his genius he wonderfully resembled Lord Bacon. He was of noble family, and first entered the army, which he abandoned in 1620. He then travelled widely, and returned to Holland to write.
Knowing that all the knowledge of his day was borrowed from the ancient world, and convinced that it was often superficial and erroneous, he resolved to overthrow it and construct a new edifice of science founded on solid proofs.
His books descanting on every known topic electrified Europe. In Mathematics, he applied a new algebraic notation to Geometry, and solved problems before declared insoluble. In Physics, he discovered the true law of the refraction of light, and gave a simple explanation of the rainbow, till then a mystery. In Astronomy and Cosmology, he invented admirable theories of planetary attraction, far beyond any then known. He sustained Galileo's assertion that "the earth moves," which the Papacy pronounced rank blasphemy. Descartes, also, wrote ably on Physiology and Anatomy. He adopted the important discoveries of two of his contemporaries; that of Harvey, who