From: LUTHER, HARTMANN GRISAR, SJ.
PROFESSOR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF INNSBRUCK
AUTHORISED TRANSLATION FROM THE GERMAN BY E. M. LAMOND
EDITED BY LUIGI CAPPADELTA
VOLUME IV [of six]
LONDON: KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH, TRUBNER & CO., LTD.
BROADWAY HOUSE, 68-74 CARTER LANE, E.G.
[available online (txt); see also the PDF version] The excerpts below are from pages 3-30, 36-63, 71-79. Luther's own words will be in blue, Melanchthon's in green, other "reformer's" words (including Martin Bucer) in orange, footnotes in purple, and page numbers in red. Breaks in the text will be indicated by ellipses ( . . .); all bolded emphases are added:
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1. Luther and Henry VIII of England. Bigamy instead of Divorce . . . In the summer, 1531, Luther was drawn into the con- troversy raging round the King's marriage, by an agent of King Henry: Robert Barnes, an English Doctor of Divinity who had apostatised from the Church and was residing at Wittenberg, requested of Luther, probably at the King's instigation, an opinion regarding the lawfulness of his sovereign's divorce. To Luther it was clear enough that there was no possibility of questioning the validity of Catherine's marriage. It rightly appeared to him impossible that the Papal dis- pensation, by virtue of which Catherine of Aragon had married the King after having been the spouse of his deceased brother, should be represented as sufficient ground for a [ . . . ] 4 divorce. This view he expressed with praiseworthy frank- ness in the written answer he gave Barnes. 1 At the same time, however, Luther pointed out to the King a loophole by which he might be able to succeed in obtaining the object of his desire ; . . . At the conclusion of his memorandum to Barnes he has the following : " Should the Queen be unable to prevent the divorce, she must accept the great evil and most insulting injustice as a cross, but not in any way acquiesce in it or consent to it. Better were it for her to allow the King to wed another Queen, after the example of the Patriarchs, who, in the ages previous to the law, had many wives ; but she must not consent to being excluded from her conjugal rights or to forfeiting the title of Queen of England." 2 It has been already pointed out that Luther, in conse- quence of his one-sided study of the Old Testament, had accustomed himself more and more to regard bigamy as something lawful. 3 That, however, he had so far ever given his formal consent to it in any particular instance there is no proof. In the case of Henry VIII, Luther felt less restraint than usual. His plain hint at bigamy as a way out of the difficulty was intended as a counsel (" suasimus "). Hence we can understand why he was anxious that his opinion should not be made too public. 4 When, in the same year (1531), he forwarded to the Landgrave of Hesse what pur- ported to be a copy of the memorandum, the incriminating passage was carefully omitted. 5 Melanchthon, too, had intervened in the affair, and had gone considerably further than Luther in recommending 1 To Robert Barnes, Sep. 3, 1531. " Brief wechsel," 9, pp. 87-8. At the commencement we read : " Prohibitio uxoris demortui fratris est positivi iuris, non divini." A later revision of the opinion also under Sep. 3, ibid., pp. 92-8. 2 " Brief wechsel," ibid., p. 88. In the revision the passage still reads much the same : " Rather than sanction such a divorce I would permit the King to marry a second Queen . . . and, after the example of the olden Fathers and Kings, to have at the same time two consorts or Queens " (p. 93). 3 See vol. iii., p. 259. 4 " Briefwechsel," 9, p. 87 seq. 5 Luther's " Briefwechsel," 9, p. 91, n. 15. Cp. W. W. Rockwell, " Die Doppelehe des Landgrafen Philipp von Hessen," Marburg, 1904, p. 214, n. 1, and below, p. 17, n. 2. 5 recourse to bigamy and in answering possible objections to polygamy. In a memorandum of Aug. 23, Melanchthon declared that the King was entirely justified in seeking to obtain the male heirs with whom Catherine had failed to present him ; this was demanded by the interests of the State. He endeavours to show that polygamy is not forbidden by Divine law ; in order to avoid scandal it was, however, desirable that the King " should request the Pope to sanction his bigamy, permission being granted readily enough at Rome." Should the Pope refuse to give the dispensation, then the King was simply and of his own authority to have recourse to bigamy, because in that case the Pope was not doing his duty, for he was " bound in charity to grant this dispensation." 1 " Although I should be loath to allow polygamy generally, yet, in the present case, on account of the great advantage to the kingdom and perhaps to the King s conscience, I would say : The King may, with a good conscience ( tutis- simum est regi ), take a second wife while retaining the first, because it is certain that polygamy is not forbidden by the Divine law, nor is it so very unusual." Melanchthon's ruthless manner of proceeding undoubtedly had a great influence on the other Wittenbergers, even though it cannot be maintained, as has been done, that he, and not Luther, was the originator of the whole theory ; there are too many clear and definite earlier statements of Luther's in favour of polygamy to disprove this. Still, it is true that the lax opinion broached by Melanchthon in favour of the King of England played a great part later in the matter of the bigamy of the Landgrave of Hesse. 2 In the same year, however, there appeared a work on matrimony by the Lutheran theologian Johann Brenz in which, speaking generally and without reference to this 1 Memorandum of Aug. 23, 1531, " Corp. ref.," 2, p. 520 seq.; see particularly p. 526 : Bigamy was allowable in the King's case, " propter magnam utilitatem regni, fortassis etiam propter conscientiam regis. . . . Papa hanc dispensationem propter caritatem debet concedere." Cp. G. Ellinger, " Phil. Melanchthon," 1902, p. 325 f., and Rockwell, ibid., p. 208 ff. 2 Cp. Th. Kolde, " Zeitschr. f. KG.," 13, 1892, p. 577, where he refers to the after-effect of Melanchthon s memorandum, instanced in Lenz, " Briefwechsel Philipps von Hessen," 1, p. 352, and to the material on which Bucer relied to win over the Wittenbergers to the Landgrave s side (" Corp. ref.," 3, p. 851 seq.). 6 particular case, he expressed himself very strongly against the lawfulness of polygamy. " The secular authorities," so Brenz insists, " must not allow any of their subjects to have two or more wives," they must, on the contrary, put into motion the " penalties of the Imperial Laws " against polygamy ; no pastor may " bless or ratify " such marriages, but is bound to excommunicate the offenders. 1 Strange to say, the work appeared with a Preface by Luther in which, however, he neither praises nor blames this opinion. 2 The Strasburg theologians, Bucer and Capito, as well as the Constance preacher, Ambrosius Blaurer, also stood up for the lawfulness of bigamy. When, however, this reached the ears of the Swiss theologians, (Ecolampadius, in a letter of Aug. 20, exclaimed : " They were inclined to consent to the King's bigamy ! But far be it from us to hearken more to Mohammed in this matter than to Christ ! " 3 . . . After the King had repudiated Catherine, Luther told his friends : " The Universities [i.e. those which sided with the English King] have declared that there must be a divorce. We, however, and the University of Louvain, decided differently. . . . We [viz. Luther and Melanchthon] advised the Englishman that it would be better for him to take a concubine than to distract his country and nation ; yet in the end he put her away." 4 [ . . . ] 1 "Wie in Ehesachen und den Fallen, so sich derhalben zutragen, nach gottlichem billigem Rechten christenlich zu handeln sei," 1531. Fol. D. 2b and D. 3a. Cp. Rockwell, p. 281, n. 1. 2 The Preface reprinted in " Werke," Erl. ed., 63, p. 305. 3 Enders, " Luther s Briefwechsel," 9, p. 92. 4 Cordatus, " Tagebuch," p. 199 : " Suasimus Anglo, tolerabiliorem ei esse concubinatum quam " to distract his whole country and nation, " sed tandem earn repudiavit." 7 [ . . . ] It is equally impossible to trace the suggestion of bigamy back to the opinions prevailing in mediaeval Catholicism. 2 No mediaeval pope or confessor can be instanced who sanctioned bigamy, while there are numbers of theologians who deny the Pope's power to grant such dispensations ; many even describe this negative opinion as the " sententia communist 3 Of Cardinal Cajetan, the only theologian of note on the opposite side (see above, vol. iii., p. 261), W. Kohler remarks, alluding particularly to the recent researches of N. Paulus : " It never entered Cardinal Cajetan's head to deny that the ecclesiastical law categorically forbids polygamy." 4 Further : " Like Paulus, we may unhesitatingly admit that, in this case, it would have been better for Luther had he had behind him the guiding authority of the Church." 5 Henry VIII, as was only natural, sought to make the best use of the friendship of the Wittenberg professors and Princes of the Schmalkalden League, against Rome and the Emperor. He despatched an embassy, though his overtures were not as successful as he might have wished. We may describe briefly the facts of the case. [ . . . ] 2 [Though, of course, the hesitation evinced previously by St. Augustine (" De bono conjugate," " P.L.," xl., col. 385) must not be lost sight of. Note to English Edition. ] 3 Cp. Paulus, ibid., 147, 1911, p. 505, where he adds : "And yet mediaeval casuistry is alleged to have been the determining influence in Luther's sanction of bigamy ! Had Luther allowed himself to be guided by the mediaeval theory and practice, he would never have given his consent to the Hessian bigamy." 4 " Hist. Zeitschr.," 94, 1905, p. 409. Of Clement VII, Kohler writes (ibid.) : " Pope Clement VII, who had to make a stand against Henry VIII of England in the question of bigamy, never suggested a dispensa tion for a second wife, though, to all appearance, he was not convinced that such a dispensation was impossible." 5 " Theol. JB. fur 1905," Bd. 25, p. 657, with reference to " Hist.- pol. Bl.," 135, p. 85. 8 The Schmalkalden Leaguers, from the very inception of the League, had been seeking the support both of England and of France. In 1535 they made a determined effort to bring about closer relations with Henry VIII, and, at the Schmalkalden meeting, the latter made it known that he was not unwilling to " join the Christian League of the Electors and Princes." Here- upon he was offered the " title and standing of patron and pro- tector of the League." The political negotiations nevertheless miscarried, owing to the King's excessive demands for the event of an attack on his Kingdom. 1 The project of an alliance with the King of Denmark, the Duke of Prussia, and with Saxony and Hesse, for the purpose of a war against the Emperor, also came to nothing. In these negotiations the Leaguers wanted first of all to reach an agreement with Henry in the matter of religion, whereas the latter insisted that political considerations should have the first place. In the summer, 1535, Robert Barnes, the English plenipo- tentiary, was raising great and exaggerated hopes in Luther's breast of Henry's making common cause with the Wittenberg reformers. Into his plans Luther entered with great zest, and consented to Melanchthon's being sent to England as his representative, for the purpose of further negotiations. As we now know from a letter of recommendation of Sep. 12, 1535, first printed in 1894, he recommended Barnes to the Chancellor Briick for an interview with the Elector, and requested permission for Melanchthon to undertake the journey to England. Joyfully he points out that " now the King offers to accept the Evangel, to join the League of our Princes and to allow our Apologia entry into his Kingdom." Such an opportunity must not be allowed to slip, for " the Papists will be in high dudgeon." Quite possibly God may have something in view. 2 In England hopes were entertained that these favourable offers would induce a more friendly attitude towards the question of Henry's divorce. Concerning this Luther merely says in the letter cited : "In the matter of the royal marriage, the sus- pensio has already been decided," without going into any further particulars ; he, however, reserves the case to be dealt with by the theologians exclusively. In August, 1535, Melanchthon had dedicated one of his writings to the King of England, and had, on this occasion, lavished high praise on him. It was probably about this time that the King sent the presents to Wittenberg, to which Catherine Bora casually alludes in the Table-Talk. " Philip received several gifts from the Englishman, in all five hundred pieces of gold ; for our own part we got at least fifty." 3 1 Cp. Janssen, " Hist, of the German People," Eng. Trans., 6, pp. 1 ff. 2 Letter published by Th. Kolde in the " Zeitschr. fur KG.," 14, 1894, p. 605. 3 Mathesius, "Tischreden," p. 106, in 1540. Cp. "Corp. ref.," 2, p. 995. 9 Melanchthon took no offence at the cruel execution of Sir Thomas More or at the other acts of violence already perpetrated by Henry VIII ; on the contrary, he gave his approval to the deeds of the royal tyrant, and described it as a commandment of God "to use strong measures against fanatical and godless men." 1 The sanguinary action of the English tyrant led Luther to express the wish, that a similar fate might befall the heads of the Catholic Church at Rome. In the very year of Bishop Fisher's execution he wrote to Melanchthon : " It is easy to lose our tempers when we see what traitors, thieves, robbers, nay devils incarnate the Cardinals, the Popes and their Legates are. Alas that there are not more Kings of England to put them to death ! " 2 He also refers to the alleged horrors practised by the Pope's tools in plundering the Church, and asks : " How can the Princes and Lords put up with it ? " [ . . . ] 1 " Corp. ref.," 2, p. 928. Melanchthon s language, and Luther s too, changed when, later, Henry VIII caused those holding Lutheran opinions to be executed. See below, p. 12 f. 2 Beginning of Dec., 1535. " Briefwechsel," 10, p. 275 : " Utinam haberent plures reges Anglice, qui illos occiderent ! " [ . . . ] 10 [ . . . ] The articles agreed upon at the lengthy conferences held during the early months of 1536 and made public only in 1905 (see above, p. 9, n. 4) failed to satisfy the King, although they displayed a very conciliatory spirit. . . . 1 For full particulars concerning the change, see Rockwell, loc. cit., 216 rT. The latter says, p. 217 : " Luther's opinion obviously changed [before March 12, 1536]. . . . Yet lie expressed himself even in 1536 against the divorce [Henry the Eighth s] ; the prohibition [of marriage with a sister in-law] from which the Mosaic Law admitted exceptions, might be dispensed, whereas the prohibition of divorce could not be dispensed," and, p. 220 : "In the change of 1536 the influence of Osiander is unmistakable. . . . Cranmer, when at Ratisbon in 1532, had visited Osiander several times at Nuremberg, and finally won him over to the side of the King of England." At the end Rockwell sums up as follows (p. 222) : " The expedient of bigamy . . . was approved by Luther, Melanchthon, Grynseus, Bucer and Capito, but repudiated by (Ecolampadius and Zwingli. Hence we cannot be surprised that Luther, Melanchthon and Bucer should regard favourably the Hessian proposal of bigamy, whereas Zwingli s successors at Zurich, viz. Bullinger and Gualther, opposed it more or less openly." [ . . . ] 11 [ . . . ] After all hopes of an agreement had vanished Henry VIII made no secret of his antipathy for the Lutheran teaching. [ . . . ] 12 [ . . . ] Luther, on his side, declared : " The devil himself rides astride this King " ; "I am glad that we have no part in his blasphemy." He boasted, so Luther says, of being head of the Church of England, a title which no bishop, much less a King, had any right to, more particularly one who with his crew had " vexed and tortured Christ and His Church." 4 In 1540 Luther spoke sarcastically of the King's official title : " Under Christ the supreme head on earth of the English Church," 5 remarking, that, in that case, "even the angels are excluded." 6 Of Melanchthon's dedication of some of his books to the King, Luther says, that this had been of little service. " In future I am not going to dedicate any of my books to anyone. It brought Philip no good in the case of the bishop [Albert of Mayence], of the Englishman, or of the Hessian [the Landgrave Philip]." 7 [ . . . ] 4 " Colloq.," ed. Bindseil, 1, p. 537, where the words have been transferred to July 10, 1539. 5 Cp. " Corp. ref.," 2, p. 1029. 6 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 178. 7 Ibid., p. 145. 13 When he heard the news of Barnes having been cast into prison, he said : " This King wants to make himself God. He lays down articles of faith and forbids marriage under pain of death, a thing which even the Pope scrupled to do. I am something of a prophet and, as what I prophesy comes true, I shall refrain from saying more." 1 Luther never expressed any regret regarding his readiness to humour the King's lusts or regarding his suggestion of bigamy. The Landgrave Philip of Hesse, however, referred directly to the proposal of bigamy made to the King of England, when he requested Luther s consent to his own project of taking a second wife. The Landgrave had got to hear of the proposal in spite of the unlucky passage having been struck out of the deed. The history of the Hessian bigamy is an incident which throws a curious light on Luther's exceptional indulgence towards princely patrons of the Evangel in Germany. 2. The Bigamy of Philip of Hesse As early as 1526 Philip of Hesse, whose conduct was far from being conspicuous for morality, had submitted to Luther the question whether Christians were allowed to have more than one wife. The Wittenberg Professor gave a reply tallying with his principles as already described ; 2 instead of pointing out clearly that such a thing was divinely forbidden to all Christians, was not to be dispensed from by any earthly authority, and that such extra marriages would be entirely invalid, Luther refused to admit un- conditionally the invalidity of such unions. Such marriages, he stated, gave scandal to Christians, "for without due cause and necessity even the old Patriarchs did not take more than one wife " ; it was incumbent that we should be able " to appeal to the Word of God," but no such Word existed in favour of polygamy, " by which the same could 1 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 145. On account of his cruelty he says of Henry VIII, in Aug., 1540 : "I look upon him not as a man but as a devil incarnate. He has added to his other crimes the execution of the Chancellor Cromwell, whom, a few days previously, he had made Lord Chief Justice of the Kingdom " (ibid., p. 174). 2 For Luther s previous statements in favour of polygamy, see vol. iii., p. 259 ff. ; and above, p. 4. 14 be proved to be well pleasing to God in the case of Christians " ; " hence I am unable to recommend it, but would rather dissuade from it, especially for Christians, unless some great necessity existed, for instance were the wife to contract leprosy or become otherwise unfit." 1 It is not clear whether Philip was interested in the matter for personal reasons, or simply because some of his subjects were believers in polygamy. Luther's communication, far from diverting the Prince from his project, could but serve to make him regard it as feasible ; provided that the " great necessity " obtained and that he had " the Word of God on his side," then the step could " not be prevented." By dint of a judicious interpretation of Scripture and with expert theological aid, the obstacles might easily be removed. The Hessian Prince also became acquainted with Luther's statements on bigamy in his Commentary on Genesis published in the following year. To them the Landgrave Philip appealed expressly in 1540 ; the preacher Anton Corvinus having suggested that he should deny having com- mitted bigamy, he replied indignantly : " Since you are so afraid of it, why do you not suppress what Luther wrote more than ten years ago on Genesis ; did he and others not write publicly concerning bigamy : Advise it I do not, forbid it I cannot ? If you are allowed to write thus of it publicly, you must expect that people will act up to your teaching." 2 The question became a pressing one for Luther, and began to cast a shadow over his wayward and utterly untraditional interpretation of the Bible, when, in 1539, the Landgrave resolved to take as an additional wife, besides Christina the daughter of George of Saxony, who had now grown distasteful to him, the more youthful Margeret von der Sale. From Luther Margeret's mother desired a favourable pronouncement, in order to be able with a good conscience to give her consent to her daughter s wedding. 1 To Philip of Hesse, Nov. 28, 1526, " Brief wechsel," 5, p. 411 f. 2 " Eriefwechsel des A. Corvinus," ed. Tschackert, 1900, p. 81. 15 Philip Seeks the Permission of Wittenberg. Early in Nov., 1539, Gereon Sailer, an Augsburg physician famous for his skill in handling venereal cases, who had treated the Landgrave at Cassel, was sent by Philip to Bucer at Strasburg to instruct the latter to bring the matter before the theologians of Wittenberg. Sailer was a friend of the innovations, and Bucer was highly esteemed by the Landgrave as a theologian and clever diplomatist. Bucer was at first sorely troubled in conscience and hesitated to undertake the commission ; Sailer reported to the Landgrave that, on hearing of the plan, he had been " quite horrified" and had objected "the scandal such an innovation in a matter of so great importance and difficulty might cause among the weak followers of the Evangel." 1 After thinking the matter over for three days Bucer, how- ever, agreed to visit the Landgrave on Nov. 16 and receive his directions. A copy of the secret and elaborate instructions given him by Philip concerning the appeal he was to make to Luther still exists in the handwriting of Simon Bing, the Hessian Secretary, in the Marburg Archives together with several old copies, 2 as also the original rough draft in Philip's own hand. 3 The envoy first betook himself to the meeting of the Schmalkalden Leaguers, held at Arnstadt on Nov. 20, to confer upon a new mission to be sent to England ; on Dec. 4 he was at Weimar with the Elector of Saxony and on the 9th he had reached Witten- berg. The assenting answer given by Luther and Melanchthon bears the date of the following day. 4 It is therefore quite true that the matter was settled " in haste," as indeed the text of the reply states. Bucer doubtless did his utmost to 1 " Brief wechsel Landgraf Philipps des Grossmiitigen von Hessen mit Bucer, hg. und erlautert von Max Lenz " (" Publikationen aus den Kgl. preuss. Staatsarchiven," Bd. 5, 28 und 47 = 1, 2, 3), 1, 1880, p. 345. Cp. N. Paulus, " Die hessische Doppelehe im Urteile der protest. Zeitgenossen," " Hist.-pol. Bl.," 147, 1911 (p. 503 ff., 561 ff.) p. 504. 2 We quote the instructions throughout from the most reliable edition, viz. that in " Luthers Brief wechsel," 12 (1910, p. 301 ff.), which G. Kawerau continued and published after the death of Enders. 3 " Philipps Brief wechsel," ed. Lenz, 1, p. 352. 4 Best given in " Luthers Briefwechsel," 12, p. 319 ff. Cp. " Luthers Werke," Erl. ed., 55, p. 258 ff. ; " Briefe," ed. De Wette, 5, p. 237, which gives only the Latin version; "Corp. ref.," 3, p. 851 sea, ; " Hist.-pol. BL," 18, 1846, p. 236 ff. 16 prevent the theologians from having recourse to subterfuge or delay. The above-mentioned instructions contain a sad account of the " dire necessity " which seemed to justify the second marriage : The Landgrave would otherwise be unable to lead a moral life ; he was urged on by deep distress of conscience ; not merely did he endure temptations of the flesh beyond all measure, but, so runs his actual confession, he was quite unable to refrain from " fornication, unchastity and adultery." 1 The confession dealt with matters which were notorious. It also contains the admission, that he had not remained true to his wife for long, in fact not for more than " three weeks " ; on account of his sense of sin he had " not been to the Sacrament." As a matter of fact he had abstained from Communion from 1526 to 1539, viz. for thirteen years, and until his last attack of the venereal disease. But were the scruples of conscience thus detailed to the Wittenbergers at all real ? Recently they have been characterised as the " outcome of a bodily wreck." " I am unable to practise self-restraint," Philip of Hesse had declared on another occasion, " I am forced to commit fornication or worse, with women." His sister Elisabeth had already advised him to take a concubine in place of so many prostitutes. In all probability Philip would have abducted Margaret von der Sale had he not hoped to obtain her in marriage through the intervention of her relations and with Luther's consent. A Protestant historian has recently pointed this out when dealing with Philip's alleged " distress of conscience." 2 Bucer was well able to paint in dismal hues the weakness of his princely client ; he pointed out, " how the Landgrave, owing to his wife's deficiencies, was unable to remain chaste ; how he had previously lived so and so, which was neither good nor Evangelical, especially in one of the mainstays of the party." 3 In that very year Philip of Hesse had, as a matter of fact, been ailing from a certain 1 " Luthers Brief wechsel," 12, p. 301. 2 W. Kohler, " Die Doppelehe des Landgrafen Philipp von Hessen " (" Histor. Zeitschr.," 94, 1905, p. 385 ff.), p. 399, 400. 3 Luther s letter, June, 1540, to the Elector of Saxony (below, p. 37) ed. Seidemann from a Kiel MS. in his edition of " Lauterbachs Tage- buch," p. 196 ff. 17 malady brought upon him by his excesses ; he himself spoke of it as a " severe attack of the French sickness [syphilis], which is the penalty of an immoral life." 1 True to his instructions, Bucer went on to say that the Land- grave had firmly " resolved " to make use against his un- chastity which he neither could nor would refrain from with his present wife of " such means as God permitted and did not forbid," viz. to wed a second wife. The two Wittenbergers had perforce to listen while Bucer, as the mouthpiece of the Land- grave, put forth as the grounds of his client's firm resolve the very proofs from Scripture which they themselves had adduced in favour of polygamy ; they were informed that, according to the tenor of a memorandum, " both Luther and Philip had counselled the King of England not to divorce his first wife, but rather to take another." 2 It was accordingly the Landgrave's desire that they should " give testimony " that his deed was not unjust, and that they should " make known in the press and from the pulpit what was the right course to pursue in such circumstances " ; should they have scruples about doing this for fear of scandal or evil consequences, they were at least to give a declaration in writing : " That were I to do it secretly, yet I should not offend God, but that they regard it as a real marriage, and would meanwhile devise ways and means whereby the matter might be brought openly before the world"; otherwise, the instructions proceeded, the " wench " whom the Prince was about to take to himself might complain of being looked upon as an improper person ; as " nothing can ever be kept secret," " great scandal " would indeed arise were not the true state of the case known. Besides, he fully intended to retain his present wife and to consider her as a rightful spouse, and her children alone were to be the " lawful princes of the land " ; nor would he ask for any more wives beyond this second one. The Land- grave even piously reminds Luther and Melanchthon " not to heed overmuch the opinion of the world, and human respect, but to look to God and what He has commanded or forbidden, bound or loosened " ; he, for his part, was determined not to " remain any longer in the bonds of the devil." Philip was careful also to remind them that, if, after putting into execution his project, he was able to " live and die with a good conscience," he would be " all the more free to fight for the 1 Thus Philip to his friend, Duke Ulrich of Wurtemberg, Oct., 1540, when seeking to obtain his agreement to the bigamy. Ulrich, however, advised him to give up the project, which would be a great blow to the Evangel. F. L. Heyd, " Ulrich, Herzog von Wurttem- berg," 3, p. 226 ff. 2 Cp. above, p. 3 ff.; also Enders " Luthers Brief wechsel," 12, p. 308, where it is pointed out that in the copy of the letter to Henry VIII sent to Hesse (ibid., 9, p. 81 ff.) the passage in question concerning bigamy was omitted ; the Landgrave Philip, however, learnt the con- tents of the passage, doubtless from Bucer, 18 Evangelical cause as befitted a Christian " ; " whatever they [Luther and Melanchthon] shall tell me is right and Christian whether it refers to monastic property or to other matters that they will find me ready to carry out at their behest." On the other hand, as an urgent motive for giving their consent to his plan, he broadly hinted, that, " should he not get any help from them " he would, " by means of an intermediary, seek permission of the Emperor, even though it should cost me a lot of money " ; the Emperor would in all likelihood do nothing without a " dispensation from the Pope " ; but in such a matter of conscience neither the Pope nor the Emperor were of any great account, since he was convinced that his " design was approved by God " ; still, their consent (the Pope and Emperor's) would help to overcome " human respect " ; hence, should he be unable to obtain " consolation from this party [the Evangelical]," then the sanction of the other party was " not to be despised." Con- cerning the request he felt impelled to address to the Emperor, he says, in words which seem to convey a threat, that although he would not for any reason on earth prove untrue to the Evangel, or aid in the onslaught on the Evangelical cause, yet, the Imperial party might " use and bind " him to do things " which would not be to the advantage of the cause." Hence, it was in their interest to assist him in order that he might "not be forced to seek help in quarters where he had no wish to look for it." After again stating that he " took his stand on the Word of God " he concludes with a request for the desired " Christian, written " testimony, " in order that thereby I may amend my life, go to the Sacrament with a good conscience and further all the affairs of our religion with greater freedom and contentment. Given at Milsungen on the Sunday post Catharine anno etc. 39." The Wittenberg theologians now found themselves in a quandary. Luther says : " We were greatly taken aback at such a declaration on account of the frightful scandal which would follow." 1 Apart from other considerations, the Landgrave had already been married sixteen years and had a number of sons and daughters by his wife ; the execution of the project would also necessarily lead to difficulties at the Courts of the Duke of Saxony and of the Elector, and also, possibly, at that of the Duke of Wurtem- berg. They were unaware that Margaret von Sale had already been chosen as a second wife, that Philip had secured the consent of his wife Christina, and that the way 1 Letter of Luther to the Elector of Saxony. See above, p. 16, n. 3, and below, p. 37 f. 19 for a settlement with the bride s mother had already been paved. 1 The view taken by Rockwell, viz. that the form of the memorandum to be signed by Luther and Melanchthon had already been drawn up in Hesse by order of Philip, is, however, erroneous ; nor was the document they signed a copy of such a draft. 2 It is much more likely that the lengthy favourable reply of the Wittenbergers was composed by Melanchthon. It was signed with the formula : Wittenberg, Wednesday after St. Nicholas, 1539. Your Serene Highness's willing and obedient servants [and the signatures] Martinus Luther, Philippus Melanchthon, Martinus Bucerus." 3 The document is now among the Marburg archives. Characteristically enough the idea that the Landgrave is, and must remain, the protector of the new religious system appears at the commencement as well as at the close of the document. The signatories begin by congratulating the Prince, that God " has again helped him out of sickness," and pray that heaven may preserve him, for the " poor Church of Christ is small and forsaken, and indeed stands in need of pious lords and governors " ; at the end God is again implored to guide and direct him ; above all, the Landgrave must have nothing to do with the Imperialists. The rest of the document, apart from pious admonitions, consists of the declaration, that they give their " testimony that, in a case of necessity," they were " unable to condemn " bigamy, and that, accordingly, his " conscience may be at rest " should the Landgrave " utilise " the Divine dispensation. In so many words they sanction the request submitted to them, because " what was permitted concerning matrimony in the Mosaic Law was not prohibited in the Gospel." Concerning the circumstances of the request they, however, declined " to give any thing in print," because otherwise the matter would be " understood and accepted as a general law and from it [i.e. a general sanction of polygamy] much grave scandal and complaint would arise." The Landgrave's wish that they should speak of the case from the pulpit, is also passed over in silence. Nor did they reply to his invitation to them to consider by what ways and means the matter might be brought publicly before the world. 1 Cp. W. W. Rockwell, " Die Doppelehe des Landgrafen Philipp von Hessen," Marburg, 1904, p. 30 ff. 2 This error has been confuted by Th. Brieger on good grounds in the " Untersuchungen iiber Luther und die Nebenehe des Landgrafen Philipp," in " Zeitschr. f. KG.," 29, p. 174 ff. ; ibid:, p. 403 ff. " Hist. Jahrb.," 26, 19C5, p. 405 (N. Paulus). 3 Dec. 10, 1539, " Luthers Brief wechsel," 12, p. 326. 20 On the contrary, they appear to be intent on burying in discreet silence a marriage so distasteful to them. It even looks as though they were simple enough to think that such concealment would be possible, even in the long run. What they fear is, above all, the consequences of its becoming common property. In no way, so they declare, was any universal law, any " public precedent" possible, whereby a plurality of wives might be made lawful ; according to its original institution marriage had signified " the union of two persons only, not of more " ; but, in view of the examples of the Old Covenant, they " were unable to condemn it," if, in a quite exceptional case, " recourse were had to a dispensation . . . and a man, with the advice of his pastor, took another wife, not with the object of introducing a law, but to satisfy his need." As for instances of such permission having been given in the Church, they were able to quote only two : First, the purely legendary case of Count Ernest of Gleichen then still regarded as historical who, during his captivity among the Turks in 1228, had married his master s daughter, and, then, after his escape, and after having learnt that his wife was still living, applied for and obtained a Papal dispensation for bigamy ; secondly, the alleged practice in cases of prolonged and incurable illness, such as leprosy, to permit, occasionally, the man to take another wife. The latter, however, can only refer to Luther's own practice, or to that followed by the teachers of the new faith. 1 In 1526 Luther had informed the Landgrave that this was allowable in case of " dire necessity," " for instance, where the wife was leprous, or had been otherwise rendered unfit." 2 Acting upon this theory he was soon to give a decision in a particular case ; 3 in May or June, 1540, he even stated that he had several times, when one of the parties had contracted leprosy, privately sanctioned the bigamy of the healthy party, whether man or woman. 4 They are at great pains to impress on the Landgrave that he must " take every possible care that this matter be not made public in the world," otherwise the dispensation would be taken as a precedent by others, and also would be made to serve as a weapon against them and the Evangel. " Hence, seeing how great scandal would be caused, we humbly beg your Serene Highness to take this matter into serious consideration." They also admonish him " to avoid fornication and adultery " ; they had learnt with " great sorrow " that the Landgrave " was burdened with such evil lusts, of which the consequences to be 1 Unless the reference be to certain reputed consulta of Gregory II or of Alexander III. Cp. " P.L.," Ixxxix., 525, and Deer. IV, 15, iii. Note to English Ed.~\ 2 See above, p. 14. 3 Cp. Luther's " Consideration," dated Aug. 23, 1527, concerning the husband of a leprous wife, " Werke," Erl. ed., 53, p. 406 (" Brief wechsel," 6, p. 80), where he says : " I can in no wise prevent him or forbid his taking another wedded wife." He here takes for granted the consent of the leprous party. 4 Mathesius, " Tischreden," p. 141. 21 feared were the Divine punishment, illness and other perils "; such conduct, outside of matrimony, was " no small sin " as they proceed to prove from Scripture ; they rejoiced, however, that the Prince felt " pain and remorse " for what he had done. Although monogamy was in accordance with the original institu- tion of marriage, yet it was their duty to tell him that," seeing that your Serene Highness has informed us that you are not able to refrain from an immoral life, we would rather that your High- ness should be in a better state before God, and live with a good conscience for your Highness's own salvation and the good of your land and people. And, as your Serene Highness has determined to take another wife, we consider that this should be kept secret, no less than the dispensation, viz. that your Serene Highness and the lady in question, and a few other trustworthy persons, should be apprised of your Highness's conscience and state of mind in the way of confession." " From this," they continue, " no great gossip or scandal will result, for it is not unusual for Princes to keep concubines, and, though not everyone is aware of the circumstances, yet reason able people will bear this in mind and be better pleased with such a manner of life than with adultery or dissolute and immoral living." Yet, once again, they point out that, were the bigamy to become a matter of public knowledge, the opinion would gain ground that polygamy was perfectly lawful to all, and that everyone might follow the precedent ; the result would also be that the enemies of the Evangel would cry out that the Evangeli- cals were not one whit better than the Anabaptists, who were likewise polygamists and, in fact, just the same as the Turks. Further, the great Lords would be the first to give the example to private persons to do likewise. As it was, the Hessian aristocracy was bad enough, and many of its members were strongly opposed to the Evangel on earthly grounds ; these would become still more hostile were the bigamy to become publicly known. Lastly, the Prince must bear in mind the injury to his " good name " which the tidings of his act would cause amongst foreign potentates. A paragraph appended to the memorandum is, according to recent investigation, from Luther's own pen and, at any rate, is quite in his style. 1 It refers to Philip's threat to seek the Emperor's intervention, a step which would not have been at all to the taste of the Wittenbergers, for it was obvious that this would cripple Philip's action as Protector of the Evangelicals. This menace had plainly excited and troubled Luther. He declares in the concluding sentences, that the Emperor before whom the Prince threatened to lay the case, was a man who looked upon adultery as a 1 Cp. the remarks in " Luthers Brief wechsel," 12, p. 327 f., and Brieger, loc. cit., p. 192. 22 small sin ; there was great reason to fear that he shared the faith of the Pope, Cardinals, Italians, Spaniards and Saracens ; he would pay no heed to the Prince's request but only use him as a cat's-paw. They had found him out to be a false and faithless man, who had forgotten the true German spirit. The Emperor, as the Landgrave might see for himself, did not trouble himself about any Christian concerns, left the Turks unopposed and was only interested in fomenting plots in Germany for the increase of the Burgundian power. Hence it was to be hoped that pious German Princes would have nothing to do with his faithless practices. Such are the contents of Luther and Melanchthon's written reply. Bucer, glad of the success achieved, at once proceeded with the memorandum to the Electoral Court. This theological document, the like of which had never been seen, is unparalleled in the whole of Church history. Seldom indeed has exegetical waywardness been made to serve a more momentous purpose. The Elector, Johann Frederick of Saxony, was, at a later date, quite horrified, as he said, at " a business the like of which had not been heard of for many ages." 1 Sidonie, the youthful Duchess of Saxony, complained subsequently, that, " since the Birth of Christ, no one had done such a thing." 2 Bucer's fears had not been groundless " of the scandal of such an innovation in a matter of so great importance and difficulty among the weak followers of the Evangel." 3 Besides this, the sanction of bigamy given in the document in question is treated almost as though it denoted the commencement of a more respectable mode of life incapable of giving any " particular scandal " ; for amongst the common people the newly wedded wife would be looked upon as a concubine, and such it was quite usual for Princes to keep. Great stress is laid on the fact that the secret bigamy would prevent adultery and other immorality. Apart, however, from these circumstances, the sanctioning, largely on the strength of political considerations, of an 1 Seckendorf, " Commentarius de Lutheranismo," 3, 1694, p. 278. 2 E. Brandenburg, " Politische Korrespondenz des Herzogs Moritz von Sachsen," 2, 1903, p. 101. 3 Sailer to Philip of Hesse, Nov. 6, 1539, " Briefwechsel Philipps," 1, p. 345 ; above, p. 15. Other similar statements by contemporaries are to be found in the article of N. Paulus (above, p. 15, n. 1). 23 exception to the universal New-Testament prohibition, is painful. Anyone, however desirous of finding extenuating circumstances for Luther's decision, can scarcely fail to be shocked at this fact. The only excuse that might be advanced would be, that Philip, by his determination to take this step and his threat of becoming reconciled to the Emperor, exercised pressure tantamount to violence, and that the weight of years, his scorn for the Church's matri- monial legislation and his excessive regard for his own interpretation of the Old Testament helped Luther to signify his assent to a plan so portentous. [ . . . ] 24 [ . . . ] 25 [ . . . ] 26 [ . . . ] Although the Landgrave was careful to preserve secrecy concerning the new marriage already known to so many persons, permitting only the initiate to visit the " lady," and even forbidding her to attend Divine Worship, still the news of what had taken place soon leaked out. [ . . . ] 27 [ . . . ] 28 [ . . . ] Bucer, the first to be summoned to the aid of the Hessian Court, advised the Landgrave to escape from his unfortunate predicament by downright lying. He wrote : If concealment and equivocation should prove of no avail, he was to state in writing that false rumours concerning his person had come into circulation, and that no Christian was allowed to have two wives at the same time ; he was also to replace the marriage-contract by another contract in [ . . . ] 29 which Margaret might be described as a concubine such as God had allowed to His beloved friends and not as a wife within the meaning of the calamitous Imperial Law ; an effort was also to be made to induce the Court of Dresden to keep silence, or to deny any knowledge of the business, and, in the meantime, the " lady " might be kept even more carefully secluded than before. 1 The Landgrave's reply was violent in the extreme. He indignantly rejected Bucer's suggestion ; the dissimulation alleged to have been practised by others, notably by the Patriarchs, Judges, Kings and Prophets, etc., in no wise proved the lawfulness of lying ; Bucer had " been instigated to make such proposals by some worldly-wise persons and jurists whom we know well." 2 Philip wrote to the same effect to the Lutheran theologians, Schnepf, Osiander and Brenz, who urged him to deny that Margaret was his lawful wife : " That, when once the matter has become quite public, we should assert that it was invalid, this we cannot bring ourselves to do. We cannot tell a lie, for to lie does not become any man. And, moreover, God has forbidden lying. So long as it is possible we shall certainly reply dubitative or per amphibologiam, but to say that it is in valid, such advice you may give to another, but not to us." 3 The " amphibologia " had been advised by the Hessian theologians, who had pointed out that Margaret could best be described to the Imperial Court of Justice as a " concu- bina," since, in the language of the Old Testament, as also in that of the ancient Church, this word had sometimes been employed to describe a lawful wife. 4 They also wrote to Luther and Melanchthon, fearing that they might desert the Landgrave, telling them that they were expected to stand by their memorandum. Although they were in favour of secrecy, yet they wished that, in case of necessity, the Wittenbergers should publicly admit their share. Good care would be taken to guard against the general introduc- tion of polygamy. 5 1 On July 8, 1540, ibid., p. 178 ff. Before this, on June 15, he had exhorted the Landgrave to hush up the matter as far as possible so that the whole Church may not be " denied " by it. Ibid., p. 174, Paulus, loc. cit., p. 507. 2 " Philipps Briefwechsel," 1, p. 185 f. 3 Ibid., p. 183. 4 Ibid., p. 341. 5 " Analecta Lutherana," ed. Kolde, p. 353 seq. Cp. Rockwell, loc. cit., p. 71, n. 1. 30 Dispensation ; Advice in Confession ; a Confessor's Secret ? Was the document signed by Luther, Melanchthon and Bucer a dispensation for bigamy ? It has been so described. But, even according to the very wording of the memorandum, the signatories had no intention of issuing a dispensation. On the contrary, according to the text, they, as learned theologians, declared that the Divine Law, as they understood it, gave a general sanction, according to which, in cases such as that of Philip of Hesse, polygamy was allowed. It is true that they and Philip himself repeatedly use the word " dispensation," but by this they meant to describe the alleged general sanction in accordance with which the law admitted of exceptions in certain cases, hence their preference for the term " to use " the dispensation, instead of the more usual " to beg " or " to grant." Philip is firmly resolved " to use " the dispensation brought to his knowledge by Luther's writings, and the theologians, taking their cue from him, likewise speak of his " using " it in his own case. 1 It was the same with the " dispensation " which the Wittenbergers proposed to Henry VIII of England. (See above, p. 4 f.) They had no wish to invest him with an authority which, according to their ideas, he did not possess, but they simply drew his attention to the freedom common to all, and declared by them to be bestowed by God, viz. in his case, of taking a second wife, telling him that he was free to have recourse to this dispensation. In other words, they gave him the power to dispense himself, regardless of ecclesiastical laws and authorities. Another question : How far was the substance of the advice given in the Hessian case to be regarded as a secret ? Can it really be spoken of as a " counsel given in confession," or as a " secret of the confessional " ? This question later became of importance in the negotia- tions which turned upon the memorandum. In order to answer it without prejudice it is essential in the first place to point out, that the subsequent interpretations and evasions must not here be taken into account. The actual 1 E. Friedberg remarks in the " Deutsche Zeitschr. f. KR.," 36, 1904, p. 441, that the Wittenbergers " did not even possess any power of dispensing."
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