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but really: nay, how was I almost driven to despair through agitation of care, and fear, and doubt, those secure spirits little know, who, at this day, insult the majesty of the pope with much pride and arrogance. But I, who then alone sustained the danger, was not so certain, not so confident. I was ignorant of many things which, by the grace of God, I now understand.” -“ I waited for divine instruction with such ardent and continued eagerness, and was so overloaded with cares, that I became almost stupid and distracted : I scarcely knew when I was asleep or when awake.”
This well explains “ the witness in sackcloth,” and shows, in a remarkable manner, how the Lord's strength is made perfect in his poor instrument's weakness! It may lead, too, to the reflection, that, in various respects, and especially in particular situations, this witnessing to the truth in sackcloth has not altogether ceased: if some faithful preachers have ascended the political heavens, and become the deliverers of nations, many still bear their testimony in poverty and distress, exposed to the world's neglect, or contempt, or avowed hatred.
Luther had, however, many followers and favourers. The pope at first treated the affair with indifference; but he was at length roused, not only by the cries of the venders of indulgences, but also by the emperor, who complained of Luther's having made many converts even among persons of rank and distinction. At once the pope passed from the extreme of neglect and indifference to those of tyrannical violence and blind temerity; so that his imprudence, at this critical moment, may seem almost the consequence of judicial infatuation.
Luther is condemned and threatened with excommunication, but is protected by the elector of Saxony.
In the beginning of the year 1519, the emperor Maximilian died; and during the interregnum, the elector, as vicar of the empire, possesses sufficient power to protect Lutherism in its infancy:-“An amazing revolution of sentiment was taking place;" —" During the short space of three years, 1518, 1519, 1520, the systematic prejudices of many centuries were almost overturned in the minds of multitudes of the inhabitants of Europe:”-“ Charles V. was elected emperor in the summer of 1519; his first diet was held at Worms, 1521.
Here Luther appears, and makes a bold and noble defence. On this act, he reflects a little before his death : .“ So fearless cari God render a man!”—“ I do not know whether, at this day, I should be so bold.”
The prudence of his friend, the elector, saves him on this occasion, who orders him to be seized and carried into concealment. In the meantime, his works are dispersed in abundance, and produce the most surprising and happy effects, especially the New Testament, which he published in the German language in the year 1522. In 1526, the pope labours to combine all the potentates of Europe against the pestilential heresy: the emperor concurs with the pope, and the papal princes of Germany conspire together. The princes favourable to the Reformation also enter into a treaty for their mutual defence. The critical state of affairs induces to moderation : afterwards, a rupture between the emperor and pope suspends the attack upon the reformers. In the year 1529, a severe decree is passed against them in the second diet held at Spires, from their solemn protest against which they obtain the name of Protestants. In the years 1530, 1531, 1535, and 1537, the Protestant princes associate themselves together in defence of re
ligion, in what was called the league of Smalcalde. “ The emperor, by a long series of artifice and policy, had gained so much time that his measures, though not altogether ripe for execution, were in great forwardness.” 1 1546, the Protestant confederacy, late so powerful, falls to pieces. In 1547,' he totally routs the elector of Saxony, and takes him prisoner at Muhlberg. In the following year, a system of doctrine, called the INTERJM, was drawn up by command of the emperor, wherein the obnoxious doctrines of popery are retained, though expressed, for the most part, in the softest language, or in Scripture phrases, or in terms of studied ambiguity. This was presented and read in the diet, on the 15th day May, 1548.
Many kept silence through fear, and that silence was interpreted as a tacit consent. Some had courage to oppose, and these were reduced by force of arms, and the most deplorable scenes of bloodshed and violence were acted throughout the whole empire.”.
“ The death of the witnesses took place when they were silenced and compelled to desist from bearing testimony. This was effected by the promulgation and enforcement of the Interim, in the year 1548.”+
About three years and a half afterwards, towards the end of the year 1551, Maurice of Saxony commences openly his operations for the deliverance of the Protestants, and demands the release of the landgrave of Hesse. Early in the following spring, he takes the field; “ every where in his march he reinstates the magistrates whom the emperor had deposed, and gave possession of the churches to the Protestant ministers whom he had ejected.”
| Robertson's History of Charles V.
· April 24th.
Thus, then, appears to have been fulfilled the symbolical death and resurrection of the witnesses. Charles V. was, at this time, certainly the nominal head of the revived Roman empire; and it was the beast, not its little horn singly, that was to conduct this war against the witnesses. He killed them, as we have seen, when, taking advantage of his victories and the general consternation, he imposed the INTERIM upon the subdued Protestants; their acceptance of this silenced their testimony; this was, in their symbolical character, to slay them; the spirit of the ancient martyrs, “ who loved not their lives unto death,” no longer lived and breathed in them.
But the testimony they had borne, though publicly suppressed, could not be forgotten. Multitudes, in their hearts, detested the doctrines of the Interim, though there was no Luther boldly to testify against them; and his successors were awed into silence.
It was, no doubt, this feeling of the public mind that impelled Maurice to adopt that line of conduct which he did : and this is what is probably intended by the mysterious language of the prophecy,—" And they of the peoples, and kindreds, and tongues, and nations, shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.” This seems to represent, not the act of an enemy, but of the favourers of the witnesses. Looking with astonishment and regret upon their silenced pastors, they were still unwilling to give them up, though they could no longer hear from their lips that testimony which had quickened their hearts, and had induced them to enter the lists against the proud contemners of the Gospel.
Thus, though not buried, nor removed out of sight, the witnesses lay dead in the street' of the great city, while their enemies rejoiced over them, being no longer tormented by their bold and faithful testimony.
11. “ And after three days and an half, the Spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell on them that saw them."
The operations of Maurice, as he moved in his unexpected opposition to Charles, effected this. words,” says the historian, “ can express the emperor's astonishment and consternation at events so unexpected.” He flees from Inspruck with the utmost panic and precipitancy. “ The operations of Maurice had also the effect of immediately breaking up the council of Trent, the fathers of the council being seized with a general consternation on receiving intelligence of his having taken up arms :”
12. “ And they heard a great voice from heaven, saying unto them, Come up hither; and they ascended up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies beheld them."
The heavens here, as we have remarked before, may refer to the symbolical heavens — the station of the governing powers of mankind. The witnesses were not only to revive and stand upon their feet as witnesses ; but, in spite of their opponents, were, as witnesses, to be promoted to political power, to be the religious governors and teachers of nations. The victories of Maurice were immediately followed by the treaty of Passau, in which the independence of the Protestants was secured,—“ Protestants were admitted, indiscriminately with Catholics,
' In Germany," the highway of Europe," as it has been called.