« Prev The Diet of Augsburg Next »

§ 117. The Diet of Augsburg.

I. Sources. Collection in Walch, XVI. 747–2142. Luther’s Letters of the year 1530, in De Wette, vol. IV. Melanchthon’s Letters in the "Corpus Reformatorum," ed. Bretschneider and Bindseil, vol. II., and documents relating to the Augsb. Conf. in vol. XXVI. Spalatin, Annal., ed. by Cyprian, 131–289. The Roman Cath. representation: Pro Religione Christiana Res Gestae in Comitiis Augustae Vindelicorum habitis, 1530, reprinted in Cyprian’s Historie der Augsb. Conf. Brück wrote a refutation published by Förstemann, "Archiv für Ref. Gesch.," 1831. Collection of documents by Förstemann: Urkundenbuch zu der Gesch. des Reichstages zu Augsburg in J. 1530. Halle, 1833, ’35, 2 vols. By the same: Neues Urkundenbuch, Hamburg, 1842. Schirrmacher: Briefs und Acten zur Gesch. des Religionsgesprächs zu Marburg, 1529, und des Reichstages zu Augsburg, 1530, nach der Handschrift des Aurifaber, Gotha, 1876.

II. Histories of the Augsburg Diet and Confession. See list in "Corp. Ref." XXVI. 101–112. D. Chytræus (Kochhafe): Historie der Augsb. Conf., Rostock, 1576, Frcf. 1577, 1578, 1600. G. Coelestin: Hist. Comitiorum a. 1530 Augustae celebratorum, Frcf. 1577, 4 vols. fol. E. Sal. Cyprian: Hist. der Augsb. Conf., Gotha, 1730. Cur. A. Salig: Historie der Augsb. Conf. und derselben Apologie, Halle, 1730–35, in 3 parts. Weber: Vollständige Gesch. der Augsb. Conf., Frcf. 1783–84, 2 vols. Planck: Gesch. des protest. Lehrbegriff’s (Leipz. 1792), vol. III. I. 1–178. Fickenscher: Gesch. des Reichstages zu Augsb. 1530, Nürnb. 1830. Pfaff: Gesch. des Reichstags zu Augsburg, 1530, Stuttg. 1830. Add special works on the Augsb. Conf. mentioned in § 119.

III. The relevant sections in the general Church Histories of Schroeckh, Mosheim, Gieseler, etc.; in the Histories of the Reformation by Marheineke, Hagenbach, Merle D’aub., Fisher; in the general Histories of Germany by Ranke (Prot.), vol. III. 162–215, and Janssen (Rom. Cath.), vol. III. 165–211. Also the numerous Lives of Luther (e.g., Köstlin, Book VI., chs. XI. and XII., vol. II. 198 sqq.), and Melanchthon (e.g., C. Schmidt, 190–250).

IV. Special points. H. Virk: Melanchthon’s Politische Stellung auf dem Reichstag zu Augsburg, in Brieger’s "Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte," 1887, pp. 67 and 293 sqq.

The situation of Protestantism in 1530 was critical. The Diet of Speier had forbidden the further progress of the Reformation: the Edict of Worms was in full legal force; the Emperor had made peace with the Pope, and received from him the imperial crown at Bologna; the Protestants were divided among themselves, and the Conference at Marburg had failed to unite them against the common foe. At the same time the whole empire was menaced by a foreign power. The Turks under Suleiman "the Magnificent," who called himself, Lord of all rulers, Dispenser of crowns to the monarchs of the earth, the Shadow of God over the world," had reached the summit of their military power, and approached the gates of Vienna in September, 1529. They swore by the beard of Mohammed not to rest till the prayers of the prophet of Mecca should be heard from the tower of St. Stephen. They were indeed forced to retire with a loss of eighty thousand men, but threatened a second attempt, and in the mean time laid waste a great part of Hungary.

Under these circumstances the Diet of Augsburg convened, April 8, 1530. Its object was to settle the religious question, and to prepare for war against the Turks. The invitation dated Jan. 21, 1530, from Bologna, carefully avoids, all irritating allusions, sets forth in strong language the danger of foreign invasion, and expresses the hope that all would co-operate for the restoration of the unity of the holy empire of the German nation in the one true Christian religion and church.

But there was little prospect for such co-operation. The Roman majority meant war against the Protestants and the Turks as enemies of church and state; the Protestant minority meant defense against the Papists and the Turks as the enemies of the gospel. In the eyes of the former, Luther was worse than Mohammed; in the eyes of the Lutherans, the Pope was at least as bad as Mohammed. Their motto was, —

Erhalt uns Herr bei Deinem Wort

Und steur’ des Papsts und Türken Mord."

The Emperor stood by the Pope and the Edict of Worms, but was more moderate than his fanatical surroundings, and treated the Lutherans during the Diet with courteous consideration, while he refused to give the Zwinglians even a hearing. The Lutherans on their part praised him beyond his merits, and were deceived into false hopes; while they would have nothing to do with the Swiss and Strassburgers, although they agreed with them in fourteen out of fifteen articles of faith.949949    Luther wrote to Hausmann, July 6, 1530: "Mirum est quam omnes ardeant amore et favore Caesaris." In De Wette-Seidemann, VI. 116. Melanchthon praised the virtues of the Emperor extravagantly, even after the Diet. "Corp. Ref." II. 430 sq., 361; Virck, l.c., 338sq.

The Saxon Elector, as soon as he received the summons to the Diet, ordered the Wittenberg theologians, at the advice of Chancellor Brück, to draw up a confession of faith for possible use at Augsburg, and to meet him at Torgau. He started on the 3d of April with his son, several noblemen, Luther, Melanchthon, Jonas, Spalatin, and Agricola, stopped a few days at Coburg on the Saxon frontier, where Luther was left behind, and entered Augsburg on the 2d of May.

The Emperor was delayed on the journey through the Tyrol, and did not arrive till the 15th of June. On the following day he took a devout part in the celebration of the Corpus Christi festival. He walked in solemn procession under the most scorching heat, with uncovered head, heavy purple cloak, and a burning wax-candle. The Protestant princes absented themselves from what they regarded an idolatrous ceremony. They also declined to obey the Emperor’s prohibition of evangelical preaching during the Diet. Margrave George of Brandenburg declared that he would rather lose his head than deny God. The Emperor replied: "Dear prince, not head off, not head off."950950    "Lieber Fürst, nicht Kopf abhauen, nicht Kopf ab." Andreas Osiander understood him to say, "mehr Kopf abhauen," and so reported to Luther, June 21, 1530; adding, "neque enim recte Germanice autLatine novit." Krafft, Briefe und Documente, 67; Janssen, III. 166. Charles usually spoke in French; but he declared that he would sacrifice any other language, even Spanish or French, yea, one of his states, for a better knowledge of German. He imposed silence upon the preachers of both parties, except those whom he should select. The Protestant princes held service in private houses.

The Diet was opened on Monday, June 20, with high mass by the Cardinal Archbishop of Mainz, and a long sermon by Archbishop Pimpinelli of Rossano, the papal nuncio at the court of Ferdinand. He described, in elegant Latin, the tyranny of the Turks, reproved the Germans for their sleepiness and divisions, and commended the heathen Romans and Mohammedans for their religious unity, obedience, and devotion to the past. A few days afterwards (June 24) the papal nuncio at the Diet, Laurentius Campegius (Campeggi) warned the Estates not to separate from the holy Catholic church, but to follow the example of other Christian kings and powers.

The Emperor desired first to secure help against the Turks, but the Protestants insisted on the priority of the church question. He accordingly commanded them to have their confession ready within four days, and to hand it to him in writing. He did not wish it to be read before the Diet, but the Protestants insisted upon this. He then granted the reading in Latin, but the Elector of Saxony pressed the rights of the German vernacular. "We are on German soil," said he, "and therefore I hope your Majesty will allow the German language." The Emperor yielded this point, but refused the request to have the Confession read in the city hall where the Diet met.

On the twenty-fifth day of June—the most memorable day in the history of Lutheranism, next to the 31st of October -the Augsburg Confession was read, with a loud and firm voice, by Dr. Baier, vice-chancellor of Electoral Saxony, in the German language, before the Diet in the private chapel of the episcopal palace. The reading occupied nearly two hours. The Emperor, who knew little German and less theology, soon fell asleep.951951    Brentius: "cum confessio legeretur, obdormivit." The Emperor was equally sleepy on the 3d of August during the reading of the papal confutation.  But the majority listened attentively. The Papists were surprised at the moderation of the Confession, and would have wished it more polemical and anti-catholic. The bishop of Augsburg, Christoph von Stadion, is reported to have remarked privately that it contained the pure truth. Duke William of Bavaria censured Eck for misrepresenting to him the Lutheran opinions; and when the doctor said he could refute them, not with the Scriptures, but with the fathers, he replied: "I am to understand, then, that the Lutherans are within the Scriptures, and we Catholics on the outside?"

Dr. Brück, the Saxon chancellor who composed the preface and epilogue, handed to the Emperor a German and a Latin copy of the Confession. The Emperor kept the former, and gave the latter to the Elector of Mainz for safe-keeping. The Latin copy (in Melanchthon’s own handwriting) was deposited in the archives of Brussels, and disappeared under the reign of Duke Alba. The German original, as read before the Diet, was sent, with the acts of the Diet, to the Council of Trent, and never returned. But unauthorized editions soon appeared in different places (six German, one Latin) during the Diet; and Melanchthon himself issued the Confession in both languages at Wittenberg, 1531.

Both documents were signed by seven princes; namely, the Elector John of Saxony, Landgrave Philip of Hesse, Margrave George of Brandenburg, Duke Ernest of Lüneburg, Duke John Frederick of Saxony, Duke Francis of Lüneburg, Prince Wolfgang of Anhalt; and by two representatives of free cities, Nürnberg and Reutlingen.

The signing required considerable courage, for it involved the risk of the crown. When warned by Melanchthon of the possible consequences, the Saxon Elector nobly replied: "I will do what is right, unconcerned about my Electoral dignity. I will confess my Lord, whose cross I esteem more highly than all the power on earth."

This act and testimony gave great significance to the Diet of Augsburg, and immortal glory to the confessors. Luther gave eloquent expression to his joy, when he wrote to Melanchthon, Sept. 15, 1530:952952    In De Wette, IV. 165. You have confessed Christ, you have offered peace, you have obeyed the Emperor, you have endured injuries, you have been drenched in their revilings, you have not returned evil for evil. In brief, you have worthily done God’s holy work as becometh saints. Be glad, then, in the Lord, and exult, ye righteous. Long enough have ye been mourning in the world; look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh. I will canonize you as a faithful member of Christ. And what greater glory can you desire? Is it a small thing to have yielded Christ faithful service, and shown yourself a member worthy of Him?"

The only blot on the fame of the Lutheran confessors of Augsburg is their intolerant conduct towards the Reformed, which weakened their own cause. The four German cities which sympathized with the Zwinglian view on the Lord’s Supper wished to sign the Confession, with the exception of the tenth article, which rejects their view; but they were excluded, and forced to hand in a separate confession of faith.

« Prev The Diet of Augsburg Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection