Vol.7, Chapter I (Cont’d) – Chronological Limits


The Reformation period begins with Luther’s Theses, a.d. 1517, and ends with the Peace of Westphalia, a.d. 1648. The last event brought to a close the terrible Thirty Years’ War and secured a legal existence to the Protestant faith (the Lutheran and Reformed Confession) throughout Germany.

The year 1648 marks also an important epoch in the history of English and Scotch Protestantism, namely, the ratification by the Long Parliament of the doctrinal standards of the Westminster Assembly of Divines (1643 to 1652), which are still in use among the Presbyterian Churches in England, Scotland, Ireland and the United States.

Within this period of one hundred and thirty-one years there are several minor epochs, and the dates vary in different countries.

The German Reformation, which is essentially Lutheran, divides itself naturally into four sub-periods:

1. From 1517 to the Augsburg Diet and Augsburg Confession, 1530.

2. From 1530 to the so-called “Peace of Augsburg,” 1555.

3. From 1555 to the “Formula of Concord,” 1577, which completed the Lutheran system of doctrine, or 1580 (when the “Book of Concord” was published and enforced).

4. From 1580 to the conclusion of the Thirty Years’ War, 1648.

The Scandinavian Reformation followed closely in the path of the Lutheran Reformation of Germany, and extends, likewise, to the Thirty Years’ War, in which Gustavus Adolphus, of Sweden, took a leading part as defender of Protestantism. The Reformation triumphed in Sweden in 1527, in Denmark and Norway in 1537.

The Swiss Reformation was begun by Zwingli and completed by Calvin, and is accordingly divided into two acts:

1. The Reformation of German Switzerland to the death of Zwingli, 1517 to 1531.

2. The Reformation of French Switzerland to the death of Calvin, 1564, or we may say, to the death of Beza, 1605.

The introduction of the Reformed church into Germany, especially the Palatinate, falls within the second period.

In the stormy history of French Protestantism, the years 1559, 1598 and 1685, mark as many epochs. In 1559, the first national synod was held in Paris and gave the Reformed congregations a compact organization by the adoption of the Gallican Confession and the Presbyterian form of government. In 1598, the Reformed church secured a legal existence and a limited measure of freedom by the edict of Nantes, which King Henry IV. gave to his former fellow-religionists. But his bigoted grandson, Louis XIV., revoked the edict in 1685. Since that time the French Reformed church continued like a burning bush in the desert; while thousands of her sons reluctantly left their native land, and contributed, by their skill, industry and piety, to the prosperity of Switzerland, Holland, Germany, England, and North America.

The Reformation in Holland includes the heroic war of emancipation from the Spanish yoke and passed through the bloody bath of martyrdom, until after unspeakable sufferings under Charles V. and Philip II., the Utrecht Union of the seven Northern Provinces (formed in 1579), was reluctantly acknowledged by Spain in 1609. Then followed the internal theological war between Arminianism and Calvinism, which ended in the victory of the latter at the National Synod of Dort, 1619.

The progressive stages of the English Reformation, which followed a course of its own, were influenced by the changing policy of the rulers, and are marked by the reigns of Henry VIII., 1527-1547; of Edward VI., 1547-1553; the papal reaction and period of Protestant martyrdom under Queen Mary, 1553-1558; the re-establishment of Protestantism under Queen Elizabeth, 1558-1603. Then began the second Reformation, which was carried on by the people against their rulers. It was the struggle between Puritanism and the semi-popery of the Stuart dynasty. Puritanism achieved a temporary triumph, deposed and executed Charles I. and Archbishop Laud; but Puritanism as a national political power died with Cromwell, and in 1660 Episcopacy and the Prayer Book were restored under Charles II., till another revolution under William and Mary in 1688 made an end to the treacherous rule of the Stuarts and gave toleration to the Dissenters, who hereafter organized themselves in separate denominations, and represent the left wing of English Protestantism.

The Reformation in Scotland, under the lead of John Knox (1505-1572), the Luther of the North, completed its first act in 1567 with the legal recognition and establishment by the Scotch Parliament. The second act was a struggle with the papal reaction under Queen Mary of Scots, till 1590. The third act may be called the period of anti-Prelacy and union with English Puritanism, and ended in the final triumph of Presbyterianism in 1690. Since that time, the question of patronage and the relation of church and state have been the chief topics of agitation and irritation in the Church of Scotland and gave rise to a number of secessions; while the Westminster standards of faith and discipline have not undergone any essential alteration.

The Reformed faith secured a partial success and toleration in Poland, Hungary, Transylvania, Bohemia and Moravia, but suffered severely by the Jesuitical reaction, especially in Bohemia. In Italy and Spain the Reformation was completely suppressed; and it is only since the overthrow of the temporal rule of the Pope in 1871, that Protestants are allowed to hold public worship in Rome and to build churches or chapels.


14. General Literature on the Reformation



I. On the Protestant Side

(1) The works of the Reformers, especially Luther, Melanchthon, Zwingli, Calvin, Cranmer, Knox. They will be quoted in the chapters relating to their history.

(2) Contemporary Historians: Joh. Sleidan (Prof. of law in Strassburg, d. 1556): De Statu Religionis et Reipublicae Carolo V. Caesare commentarii. Libri XXVI. Argentor. 1555 fol., best ed. by Am Ende, Francof. ad M. 1785-86, 3 vols. Engl. transl. by Bohun, London, 1689, 3 vols. fol. French transl. with the notes of Le Courayer, 1767. Embraces the German and Swiss Reformation.

The Annales Reformationis of Spalatin, and the Historia Reformationis of Fr. Myconius, refer only to the Lutheran Reformation. So, also, Loescher’s valuable collection of documents, 3 vols. See below § 15.


II. Roman Catholic

(1) Official documents. Leonis X. P. M. Regesta, ed. by Cardinal Hergenroether under the auspices of Pope Leo XIII., from the Vatican archives. Freiburg i. B. 1884 sqq., 12 fascic. The first three parts contain 384 pages to a.d. 1514. — Monumenta Reformationis Lutheranae ex tabulariis secretioribus S. Sedis, 1521-’25, ed. by Petrus Balan, Ratisbonae, 1884 (589 pages). Contains the acts relating to the Diet of Worms, with the reports of Aleander, the papal legate, and the letters of Clement VII. from 1523-’25. It includes a document of 1513, heretofore unknown, which disproves the illegitimate birth of Clement VII. and represents him as the son of Giuliano de Medici and his wife, Florets. Monumenta Saeculi XVI. Historiam illustrantia, ed. by Balan, vol. I. Oeniponte, 1885 (489 pages).

(2) Controversial writings: Joh. Eck (d. 1563): Contra Ludderum, 1530. 2 Parts fol. Polemical treatises on the Primacy, Penance, the Mass, Purgatory etc. Jo. Cochlaeus (canon of Breslau, d. 1552): Commentaria de Actis et Scriptis Lutheri ab Anno Dom. 1517 ad A. 1547 fideliter conscripta. Mogunt. 1549 fol.; Par. 1565; Colon. 1568. — Laur. Surius (a learned Carthusian, d. at Cologne, 1578): Commentarius rerum in orbe gestarum ab a. 1500-1564. Colon. 1567. Against Sleidan.


Historical Representations


I. Protestant Works

(1) The respective sections in the General Church Histories of Schroeckh (Kirchengesch. seit der Reformation, Leipzig, 1804-’12, 10 vols.), Mosheim, Gieseler (Bd. III. Abth. I. and II., 1840 and 1852; Engl. transl. N. Y. vols. IV. and V., 1862 and 1880), Baur (Bd. IV. 1863), Hagenbach (vol. III., also separately publ. 4th ed. 1870; Engl. transl. by Miss Eveline Moore, Edinburgh, 1878, 2 vols.; especially good on the Zwinglian Reformation). More briefly treated in the compends of Guericke, Neidner, Hase (11th ed. 1886), Ebrard, Herzog (vol. IIIrd), Kurtz (10th ed. 887, vol. IInd).

All these works pay special attention to the Continental Reformation, but very little to that of England and Scotland.

Neander comes down only to 1430; his lectures on modern church history (which I heard in 1840) were never published. Gieseler’s work is most valuable for its literature down to 1852, and extracts from the sources, but needs an entire reconstruction, which is contemplated by Prof. Brieger at Leipzig.

(2) Jean Henri Merle d’aubigne (usually miscalled D’Aubigné, which is simply an addition indicating the place of his ancestors, d. 1872): Histoire de la reformation du 16. siècle, Paris, 1835-’53, 5 vols., 4th ed. 1861 sqq.; and Histoire de la réformation en Europe au temps du Calvin, Par., 1863-’78, 8 vols. (including a posthumous vol.). Also in German by Runkel (Stuttgart, 1848 sqq.), and especially in English (in several editions, some of them mutilated). Best Engl. ed. by Longman, Green & Co., London, 1865 sqq.; best Am. ed. by Carter, New York, 1870-’79, the first work in 5, the second in 8 vols. Merle’s History, owing to its evangelical fervor, intense Protestantism and dramatic eloquence, has had an enormous circulation in England and America through means of the Tract Societies and private publishers.

H. Stebbing: History of the Reformation, London, 1836, 2 vols.

G. Waddington (Anglican, d. 1869): A History of the Reformation on the Continent. London, 1841, 3 vols. (Only to the death of Luther, 1546.)

F. A. Holzhauzen: Der Protestantismus nach seiner geschichtl. Entstehung, Begruendung und Fortbildung. Leipzig, 1846-’59, 3 vols. Comes down to the Westphalian Treaty. The author expresses his standpoint thus (III. XV.): “Die christliche Kirche ist ihrer Natur nach wesentlich Eine, und der kirchliche Aufloesungs-process, welcher durch die Reformation herbeigefuehrt worden ist, kann keinen anderen Zweck haben, als ein neues hoehes positives Kirchenthum herzustellen.”

B. Ter Haar (of Utrecht) Die Reformationsgeschichte in Schilderungen. Transl. from the Dutch by C. Gross. Gotha, 5th ed. 1856, 2 vols.

Dan. Schenkel (d. 1885): Die Refomatoren und die Reformation. Wiesbaden. 1856. Das Wesen des Protestantismus aus den Quellen des Ref. zeitalters. Schaffhausen, 1862, 3 vols.

Charles Hardwick: (Anglican, d. 1859): A History of the Christian Church during the Reformation. Cambridge and London, 1856. Third ed. revised by W. Stubbs (bishop of Chester), 1873.

J. Tulloch: (Scotch Presbyt., d. 1886): Leaders of the Reformation: Luther, Calvin, Latimer, Knox. Edinb., 1859; 3d ed. 1883.

L. Haeusser (d. 1867): Geschichte des Zeitalters der Reformation, 1517-1648. ed. by Oncken, Berlin, 1868 (867 pages). Abridged EngI. transl. by Mrs. Sturge, N. Y., 1874.

E. L. Th. Henke (d. 1872): Neuere Kirgesch. ed. by Dr. Gass, Halle, 1874, 2 vols. The first vol. treats of the Reformation.

Fr. Seebohm: The Era of the Protestant Revolution. London and N. York, 1874.

J. A. Wylie: History of Protestantism. London, 1875-77, 3 vols.

George P. Fisher (Prof. of Church History in Yale College): The Reformation. New York, 1873. A comprehensive work, clear, calm, judicial, with a useful bibliographical Appendix (p. 567-591).

J. M. Lindsay (Presbyt.): The Reformation. Edinb., 1882. (A mere sketch.)

Charles Beard (Unitarian): The Reformation in its relation to Modern Thought and Knowledge. Hibbert Lectures. London, 1883; 2d ed., 1885. Very able. German translation by F. Halverscheid. Berlin, 1884.

John F. Hurst (Method. Bishop): Short History of the Reformation. New York, 1884 (125 pages).

Ludwig Keller: Die Reformation und die aelteren Reformparteien. Leipz., 1885 (516 pages). In sympathy with the Waldenses and Anabaptists.

Two series of biographies of the Reformers, by a number of German scholars the Lutheran series in 8 vols., Elberfeld, 1861-’75, and the Reformed (Calvinistic) series in 10 vols., Elberfeld, 1857-’63. The Lutheran series was introduced by Nitzsch, the Reformed by Hagenbach. The several biographies will be mentioned in the proper places.

(3) For the general history of the world and the church during and after the period of the Reformation, the works of Leopold von Ranke (d. 1886) are of great importance, namely: Fuersten und Voelker von Suedeuropa im 16. und 17. Jahrh. (Berlin 1827, 4th ed. enlarged 1877); Geschichten der romanischen und germanischen Voelker von 1494-1514 (3d ed. 1885); Die roemischen Paepste, ihre Kirche und ihr Staat im 16. und 17. Jahrh. (Berlin, 8th ed. 1885, 3 vols. Engl. trans. by Sarah Austin, Lond. 4th ed. 1867, 3 vols.); Franzoesische Geschichte im 16. und 17. Jahrh. (Stuttgart, 1852, 4th ed. 1877, 6 vols.); Englische Geschichte vornehmlich im 16. u. 17. Jahrh. (4th ed. 1877, 6 vols.; Engl. transl. publ. by the Clarendon Press); and especially his classical Deutsche Geschichte im Zeitalter der Reformation (Berlin, 1839-’43, 6th ed. 1880-’82, in 6 vols.; transl. in part by S. Austin, 1845-’47, 3 vols.). Ranke is a master of objective historiography from the sources in artistic grouping of the salient points, and is in religious and patriotic sympathy with the German Reformation; while yet he does full justice to the Catholic church and the papacy as a great power in the history of religion and civilization. In his 85th year he began to dictate in manly vigor a Universal History down to the time of Emperor Henry IV. and Pope Gregory VII., 1881-86; to which were added 2 posthumous vols. by Dove and Winter, 1888, 9 vols. in all. His library was bought for the University in Syracuse, N. Y.

For the general literature see Henry Hallam: Introduction to the Literature of Europe in the 15th, 16th, and 17th Centuries. London, 1842, etc. N. York ed., 1880, in 4 vols.


II. Roman Catholic Works

(1) The respective sections in the General Church Histories of Moehler (d. 1838, ed. from lectures by Gams, Regensburg, 1867-1868, 3 vols.; the third vol. treats of the Reformation), Alzog (10th ed. 1882, 2 vols.; Engl. transl. by Pabish and Byrne, Cincinnati, 1874 sqq., 3 vols.), Kraus (2d ed. 1882), and Cardinal Hergenroether (third ed. 1885). Comp. also, in part, the Histories of the Council of Trent by Sarpi (d. 1623), and Pallavicini (d. 1667).

(2) Thuanus (De Thou, a moderate Catholic, d. 1617); Historiarum sui Temporis libri 138. Orleans (Geneva), 1620 sqq., 5 vols. fol. and London, 1733, 7 vols. fol.; French transl. London, 1734, 16 vols. 4to. Goes from 1546 to 1607.

Louis Maimbourg (Jesuit, d. at Paris, 1686): Histoire du Lutheranisme Paris, 1680; Histoire du Calvinisme, 1682. Controversial, and inspired by partisan zeal; severely handled by R. Bayle in his Critique générale de l’histoire du Calvinisme de M., Amsterd., 1684.

Bp. Bossuet (d. 1704): Histoire des variations des églises protestantes. Paris, 1688, 2 vols. and later edd., also in his collected works, 1819 sqq. and 1836 sqq. English transl., Dublin, 1829, 2 vols. German ed. by Mayer, Munich. 1825, 4 vols. A work of great ability, but likewise polemical rather than historical. It converted Gibbon to Romanism, but left him at last a skeptic, like Bayle, who was, also, first a Protestant, then a Romanist for a short season.

Kaspar Riffel: Kirchengesch. Der Neusten Zeit. Mainz, 1844-47, 3 vols.

Martin John Spalding (since 1864 Archbishop of Baltimore, d. 1872): History of the Protest. Reformation in Germany and Switzerland, and in England, Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands, France., and Northern Europe. Louisville, 1860; 8th ed., revised and enlarged. Baltimore, 1875, 2 vols. No Index. Against Merle D’Aubigné. The Archbishop charges D’Aubigné (as he calls him) with being a “bitter partisan, wholly unreliable as an historian,” and says of his work that it is “little better than a romance,” as he “omits more than half the facts, and either perverts or draws on his imagination for the remainder.” His own impartiality and reliableness as an historian may be estimated from the following judgments of the Reformers: “Luther, while under the influence of the Catholic Church, was probably a moderately good man; he was certainly a very bad one after he left its communion” (I. 72). “Heu! quantum mutatus ab illo!” (77). “His violence often drove him to the very verge of insanity …. He occasionally inflicted on Melanchthon personal chastisement” (87). Spalding quotes from Audin, his chief authority (being apparently quite ignorant of German): “Luther was possessed not by one, but by a whole troop of devils” (89). Zwingli (or Zuingle, as he calls him) he charges with “downright paganism” (I. 175), and makes fun of his marriage and the marriages of the other Reformers, especially Bucer, who “became the husband of no less than three ladies in succession: and one of them had been already married three times — all too, by a singular run of good luck, in the reformation line” (176). And this is all that we learn of the Reformer of Strassburg. For Calvin the author seems to draw chiefly on the calumnies of Audin, as Audin drew on those of Bolsec. He describes him as “all head and no heart;” “he crushed the liberties of the people in the name of liberty;” “he combined the cruelty of Danton and Robespierre with the eloquence of Murat and Mirabeau, though he was much cooler, and therefore more successful than any one of them all; he was a very Nero.” Spalding gives credit to Bolsec’s absurd stories of the monstrous crimes and horrible death of Calvin, so fully contradicted by his whole life and writings and the testimonies of his nearest friends, as Beza, Knox, etc. (I. 375, 384, 386, 388, 391). And such a work by a prelate of high character and position seems to be the principal source from which American Roman Catholics draw their information of the Reformation and of Protestantism!

The historico-polemical works of Doellinger and Janssen belong to the history of the German Reformation and will be noticed in the next section.