« PreviousContinue »
OPINIONS OF ROMISH CHURCH.
mankind to their injury.” “ Already," says he
'" Can these men assert,” he adds, " that our German language is capable of expressing what great authors have written in Greek and Latin on the high mysteries of the Christian faith? .... Certainly it is not, and hence they either invent new words, or use old ones in erroneous senses, a thing especially dangerous in sacred Scripture. For who will admit that men without learning, or women into whose hands these translations may fall, can find the true sense of the Gospels, or of the Epistles of St. Paul ? .... But since this art was discovered in this city of Mentz—and we may truly say by Divine aid—and is to be maintained by us in all its honour, we strictly forbid all persons to translate, or circulate when translated, any books upon any subject whatever, until, before printing and again before their sale, such translations shall be approved by four doctors, under penalty of excommunication, the forfeiture of the books, and the payment into our exchequer of one hundred golden crowns."* In 1501, Alexander iy. issued a bull to the same purpose.
He recites that many pernicious books had been printed in various parts of the world, and especially in the provinces of Cologne and Mentz, Treves, and Magdeburgh, and forbids all printers in those
* See the whole in Hallam, vol. i. p. 250.
DECISION OF COUNCIL OF TRENT.
provinces to publish any books without the licence of the archbishops or their officials. It was clearly the translation of religious books, and especially of the Scriptures, that excited this alarm.
In confirmation of the same conclusion, we may add that at the council of Trent, in 1545, the very first discussion turned upon the sufficiency and place of the sacred volume. Several voices, including those of high dignitaries in the church, were loudly raised in favour of the Protestant view. “Nothing but Scripture ;" "All that is necessary for salvation," they maintained, "is given in the New Testament."* By a large majority, however, this opinion was overruled. “Written tradition, received through the church, must be regarded," they decided, “ with like reverence as holy writ;" a decision which, it was well said, did half their work. The use of Scripture in the vernacular was then formally condemned, and the condemnation was afterwards drawn up and published
in his own form. " As it is manis fest,” said he, "by experience, that if the use of the holy writers is permitted in the vulgar tongue, more evil than good will arise, because of the temerity of man ; it is for this reason all Bibles are prohibited, with all their parts, whether they be printed or written, in whatever vulgar language soever; as also are prohibited all summaries or abridgunents of Bibles, or of any books of the holy writings, although they
* Ranke, book ii.
94 REFORMATION AND SPIRITUAL MOVEMENT.
should be only historical, and that in whatever vulgar tongue they may be written."**
Connecting these facts with the extensive circulation of the Scriptures, it may be safely affirmed, that as Luther owed his conversion to Scripture, so to the circulation of Scripture throughout northern Europe the Reformation itself owed its origin and progress. It prospered, in brief, with the study of the Bible.
In ascribing influence to the Bible as one main cause of the Reformation, it is implied that the Reformation itself was to a large extent a spiritual movement; and of this fact we have ample evidence. It is true that men had grown weary of the scholastic theology, and turned to Scripture from curiosity. Many doubted, moreover, the teaching of those whose lives were a scandal to the gospel. But there was, besides, a liking for the spiritual truths which the Reformation embodied. Hallam has remarked, that at the beginning of the eighteenth century, nearly every considerable city even in Italy contained a small band of men who were Protestants at heart. They did not in general abandon the outward profession of the Romish faith, but in opinion they really coincided with Luther.† Men of this class were especially numerous in Venice and northern Italy. There might be seen, towards the close of the fifteenth century, Bruccioli, the translator of the Italian
“Curiosities of Literature, First Series." † Ibid. vol. i. p. 363.
* D'Israeli :
REFORMATION IN ITALY.
95 Scriptures, Nardi the historian, the Benedictine Marco of Padua, Contarini, and Valdez ; the last, the supposed author of a little treatise on * The Benefits of the Death of Christ," now more justly attributed to his contemporary, Paleario. There, also, might be seen the Englishman, Reginald Pole. These men all sought to stay the corruptions of the church by the revived force of religious convictions, and among the foremost of their doctrines was that doctrine of justification by faith which, as taught by Luther, was at the foundation of the Protestant movement. On this subject, Contarini, afterwards a cardinal, wrote a small tract, which Pole knows not how sufficiently to praise. “ Thou hast," he says to him, brought to light that jewel which the church kept half buried." Pole himself finds that Scripture, in its profound connexion, preaches nothing else, and he congratulates his friend that he should begin the disclosure of "that holy, fruitful, and indispensable truth." From the notification of the Inquisition on the work of Paleario, we gather similar evidence. " This book," they say, “ ascribes everything to faith alone, and, forasmuch as that is the very point on which so many prelates and monks stumble, the book has been diffused to an unusual extent."
On the other hand, the preference of the church for tradition and her rejection of the Scriptures is to be traced to her dislike of the doctrines of the gospel, and her conviction
* Quoted by Ranke, book ii.
96 HOW TO KEEP DOWN PROTESTANTISM. that the Bible condemns many of her practices. All the doctrines and claims for which no fair ground can be discovered in Scripture find in tradition their shelter and home : " nor is there any scheme of oppression, of deceit or cruelty, of ambition, ararice, or superstition, for wliich some sanctioning tradition may not be drawn from the rubbish of the middle ages."* On the suppression of the Bible, therefore, and the maintenance of
of tradition, everything depended - a view which happily Romish writers themselves have maintained. In a letter addressed by three bishops to Julius III., on the “most effectual means of establishing and advancing the apostolic see," they give as their crowning piece of advice the following: "Finally,” they say, “and we have reserved this advice for the last, because it is the most important that we are able in the circumstances to give to your holiness, you must watch with the utmost care, and effect by all means in your power, that only the smallest portion possible of the gospel (above all in the language of the people) be read in the countries subject to your dominion and which acknowledge your power. Let that little suffice which is read in the service of the mass, and let no one be permitted to read more. It is the fact, that so long as men have remained content with this small portion of the Scriptures, so long your interests ave prospered and your maxims have preled. On the contrary, your authority, both
* Dr. Pye Smith.