THE Scandinavians, men of the North or Northmen, who inhabited the three countries, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, embraced the Reformation at the same time. In each of these lands it had its own roots, but it came to them essentially from Germany, the only European nation with which their inhabitants frequent intercourse.
A chief named Odin, whose history is confused with fables, appeared in Europe about the time of the Christian era. Mounted on an eight-footed horse, carrying a lance in his hand, and having on his shoulders two ravens who served him as messengers, he advanced at the head of a people whom he led out of the interior of Asia. His descendants were kings of the Goths and the Cimbri. For himself, he became the god of these nations, the father of gods, and the object of a senseless and sanguinary worship.
A Christian man named Anschar, as much given to kindness as Odin had been to carnage, as capable of inspiring love as the father of Thor had been of exciting terror, was, in the ninth century, the apostle of Scandinavia.
Towards the close of the fourteenth century the three kingdoms were united by the treaty known as the Union of Calmar.
The Scandinavians endowed, like the Germans, with deep affections have an intellect perhaps not so rich as theirs, but they possess greater energy.
There seemed to be little probability that these countries would receive the Reformation. The clergy were powerful, and the nobility most commonly followed the leading of the priests; but the people, without any violent action, without any abrupt movements or passionate speeches, were to pronounce finally and decisively for the truth and for freedom. It was in the hearts of the sons of the soil and the dwellers on the sea coasts, that the love of the Gospel began to spring up in the sixteenth century.
The island of Fionia, situated in the center of the Danish States, between the continent of Jutland and the island of Zealand, is a green and wooded country, full of freshness, radiant with beauty, generally bordered with picturesque rocks cut out by the sea, the fiords of which run up far into the land. On one of these inlets, to the north-east of the Great Belt, stands the village of Kiertminde. At the end of the fifteenth century there was living in this village a poor farmer named Tausen, and to him was born, in 1494, a son who was named John. The child used to play on the shores of the Great Belt, where the first objects that attracted his notice were the sea and its vast expanse, the waves running in to break upon the shore, the boats of the fishermen, the distant ships, the abysses and the storms. His father was poor, and John, from an early age, assisted him in his labors; he accompanied him to the hop plantations, or leaped with him into the fishing-boat, braving the waves. As it was customary for every one to make his own garments, his furniture and his tools, the boy learnt a little of everything. But there was an intelligence in him which seemed to mark him out for a higher calling than that of laborer or fisherman. His father and mother often talked of this; but they were grieved to think that they were unable, on account of their poverty, to give their son a liberal education. f207 However, the spirit which God gives a child often overcomes the greatest obstacles. The men who are self-made without assistance from others are usually those who exert the most powerful influence on their contemporaries. In John Tausen there was a strong bent for study; and God never wills the end without providing the means. At the distance of five or six miles from the village was Odensee, an ancient town of which Odin was the reputed founder, and which at least bore his name; and in this town was a school attached to the cathedral. John was placed here by his parents; and being poor, like Luther, he gained his living like him, by singing with other boys from door to door before the houses of the rich folk of the town. He soon became distinguished among the scholars; and some years later, one Knud Rud, a holder of a fief of the crown, being in want of a tutor, took him into his family. f209 The office of a teacher did not satisfy the lofty aspirations of Tausen.
Theology, which concerns itself with God and with the destination of man, appeared to him to be above all the other sciences. He had also another reason for paying attention to it. The love for heavenly good was not yet kindled in his soul, but he was already anxious to hold a good position in the world. The clergy and the nobility were the only influential classes in Denmark; and, as Tausen was not of the noble class, he would fain be at least a priest. There was, in his neighborhood, at Autwerskov, a monastery of the Johannites, one of the richest in the kingdom. The prior Eskill, was not only a powerful prelate, but also perpetual counselor of the crown. Tausen, impelled by ambition, begged for admission into this monastery, and he took his vows there in 1515. He was at this time twenty-one years of age, the same age as Luther when he entered the cloister. The Johannites and the Augustines followed the same rule.
Tausen at once displayed intense eagerness to increase his knowledge, and especially to fit himself for preaching. He was a born preacher; he felt himself destined for public discourse. Aware of its importance in the church, he often exercised himself in preaching. There was pith in his discourses, and the prior, who was delighted to hear him, liked to think that this young orator would one day make his monastery illustrious. But a future of an altogether different character was in store for Tausen. He had a gift, but this gift was to be of service in raising up the church outside the pale of Roman Catholicism.
The studies to which the young man applied himself with a good conscience and without hypocrisy led him involuntarily to the recognition of various errors in the Romish doctrine; and his moral sense was at the same time offended by the empty babble and the corruption of the monks.
In a little while other lights in addition to those of reading and reflection began to shine upon him. A new world, and one which diffused a brightness far and wide, was at this time created in Germany. Ships were frequently arriving from Lubeck in the ports of Fionia and Zealand, bringing strange tidings. The merchants who brought in these vessels told of a monk belonging to the same rule as Tausen, a man of rare moral purity, who was proclaiming with power a living and regenerative faith. A quickening breath proceeding from Saxony in this way touched the islands of Scandinavia. It imparted a new impulse to the susceptible, generous, and ambitious soul of Tausen. Conscious that he was surrounded by darkness he began to long after those regions of Germany which appeared to him to be illuminated with a living and divine light. He made known his wish to the prior; and the latter, believing that a residence in a foreign land would make his young friend more capable of adding reputation to his order, gave him the permission which he asked for, and added that he would himself pay the expenses of the journey out of the revenues of the monastery. ‘You may,’ said he, ‘attend a university, one only being excepted, that of Wittenberg.’ Louvain was recommended to him, a university distinguished for its attachment to the Roman doctrine.
Tausen set out in 1517, a year memorable for the beginning of the Reformation, and betook himself to Louvain, cherishing the hope that some sparks from Wittenberg might have fallen there: but he found nothing but darkness. He pined for air, he could not breathe, and, anxious to be nearer to the town from which the light proceeded, he went to Cologne.
But there too, as at Louvain, he found nothing but idle questionings of a barren scholasticism. Sick of these trifles, these inanities, he felt a need more and more pressing of a pure doctrine and of solid studies. The works of Luther which found their way to Cologne were read there with as much eagerness as are the bulletins from a great army during a war. Tausen devoured them with the utmost eagerness. One day it was the ‘Asterisks,’ another it was the ‘Resolutions,’ a third, the discourse on ‘Excommunication,’ and then others besides. When he had done reading he would close the book with reverence, and think within himself, ‘Oh, what would it be to hear him myself!’ He was drawn by two opposing forces.
The strict prohibition of his prior held him back; the living word of Luther was calling him. Should he go or not? His soul was agitated by a violent struggle. Should he choose night or day? Is it not written in the Scriptures that a man must be ready to sell all that he has that he may buy the truth?
He no longer hesitated; and, disregarding the rash promise which he had made, he left the banks of the Rhine, in 1519, and betook himself to Wittenberg. He heard Luther, he heard Melanchthon; he was at Wittenberg at the time of the appearance of the ‘Appeal to the German Nobility;’ he was there when Luther burnt the pope’s bulls, and when the reformer set out for Worms to make his appearance before Charles V. The young Scandinavian, finding in the Gospel the truth and the peace which he had been so earnestly seeking, embraced with all his heart the cause of the Reformation. In October 1521 he quitted Saxony and returned to his monastery, determined to diffuse in his native land the light which he had found at Wittenberg. f212 Four years had elapsed since his departure, and there was a new state of things in Denmark. Luther’s writings had reached Copenhagen, and had been read there with avidity. Above all, Tausen found in his own country two men who seemed to be called to prepare the work of the Reformation.
One of these men was Paul Eliae, a native of Holland, prior of a Carmelite monastery recently founded, the members of which were in general enlightened men who had some degree of sympathy with Luther.
The other was a young nobleman, not intended for theology, named Peter Petit of Rosefontaine. He had already seen and heard Luther and Melanchthon before Tausen; and on his return to Copenhagen in 1519 he had determined to avail himself of all his family and social relations to influence other minds and gain them to the side of reform. The most important of the persons whom he persuaded to favor the Gospel was the King of Denmark himself. f214 This prince, Christian II., who succeeded to the throne in 1513, at the age of thirty-two, as sovereign of the three Scandinavian kingdoms, was a man of extraordinary character. Endowed with a penetrating glance, he distinctly recognized the defects of the constitution of his realm, and the errors of his age; and he was capable of applying a remedy to them with a firm and bold hand. To lessen the oppressive power of the nobility and the clergy, to raise the condition of the townsmen and the peasantry, were the objects of his reign. But it must be confessed that self-interest was the main-spring of this enterprise. A friend to knowledge, to the sciences, to agriculture, commerce, and industry, he nevertheless took after his barbarian ancestors. He was cruel, and would go headlong to extremities.
While still a youth, the extraordinary bodily exercises to which he devoted himself alarmed his masters; and his nightly practices, his excesses of every kind, were the talk among all classes. At a later time his swiftness of procedure and his faculty of command in war were admirable; and no less so in peace his power to secure obedience. When the health of his father began to fail, he gave proof of a power of attention to affairs of government of which no one had thought him capable. But this man of the North always retained the fierce temper of a savage, nor did he ever learn to subdue the evil dispositions which actuated him. In his fits of violence he had no regard for age, for virtue, or for greatness; and at the very time that he was contending against the despotism of castes, he was himself the greatest despot of all. f215 Christian II., perceiving that in order to increase the power of the Scandinavian kingdom it was necessary to form great alliances, sought and obtained the hand of Isabella, sister of the Emperor Charles V. The princess, then fifteen years of age, arrived at Copenhagen in August 1518, bringing with her a dower of 300,000 florins. The honors which she received on her entry into the capital were too much for her strength.
While a bishop was delivering before her an interminable discourse, she turned pale, tottered, and fainted away, the first of her ladies in waiting catching her in her arms. The king showed great respect for her; but in the midst of royal fetes and pomp, a sharp thorn of sorrow pierced the soul of the daughter of the Caesars.
During a residence at Bergen, in Norway, of which kingdom he had been viceroy, Christian had made the acquaintance of a young and beautiful Dutchwoman, named Dyveke, whose mother Sigbrit kept a hostelry. The prince conceived a violent passion for the girl, and thenceforth lived with her. She died in 1517; but her mother, a proud, tyrannical, and angry woman, who had a great mastery over other minds and who was competent even to give prudent counsel in affairs of state, retained the favor of the prince after her daughter’s death. He had more consideration for her than for anyone else; and when the king was at her house the greatest lords and most esteemed ministers were compelled to wait before her door, exposed to rain or snow, till the time came for them to be admitted. The cold policy of which she made avowal, led this fierce prince into grave errors and terrible deeds. f216 A Commissioner of the pope, named Arcimbold, having, in 1517, obtained from the king by dint of much flattery, a license for the sale of indulgences to the peoples of the North, had set out his wares in front of the principal churches. ‘By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ,’ said he, ‘and of our holy father the pope, I absolve you from all the sins which you have committed, however enormous they may be; and I restore you to the purity and the innocence which you possessed at the time of your baptism, in order that at your death the gates of heaven may be opened to you.’ The papal commissioner, not satisfied with laying hold of the money of the king’s subjects, was anxious also to gain the favor of the king. He managed the matter so craftily that he succeeded. Christian disclosed to him his projects and the most hidden secrets of his government, in the hope that either the legate or the pope himself would favor his designs.
The king, indeed, soon found himself in grave difficulties. Sweden violated the union of Calmar and declared itself independent of Denmark; and Troll, the archbishop of Upsala, for endeavoring to uphold the Danish suzerainty, was imprisoned by the Swedes. The pope was angry and came to the help of Christian by laying the country under an interdict. At the same time the king defeated the Swedes. It is not our business to enter into the details of this struggle; we must limit ourselves to the narration of the frightful crime by which this prince sealed his triumph.
In November 1520 Christian II., the conqueror of his subjects, was to be crowned at Stockholm. The insurrection in Sweden had greatly irritated him; his pride had been exasperated by it, and the violent excitement of his temper had not been allayed. He was bent on a signal and cruel act of vengeance, but he dissembled his wrath and let no one know his scheme.
The prelates, nobles, councilors, and other notables of Sweden, on being invited to the ceremony, perceived that the coronation would be performed with very remarkable solemnity. The creatures of the king said that it was to be terrible.
Christian had for his adviser and confessor a kinsman of Sigbrit, a fellow who had been a barber; and this man, knowing his master well, was always suggesting to him that if he meant to be really king of Sweden he must get rid of all the Swedish leading men. The prince, leaning on the pope’s bull which had thundered the interdict over the whole kingdom mid all its inhabitants, undertook to be the arm of the Roman pontiff, and resolved to indulge without restraint his barbarous passions. He invited to the castle about a hundred nobles, prelates, and councilors, received them with gracious smiles, embraced them, deluded them with vain promises and false hopes, and desired that three days should be dedicated to all kinds of amusement. Brooding all the time on frightful schemes, he chatted, laughed, and jested with his guests; and these were charmed with the amiability of a prince whose malice they had been taught to dread.
Suddenly, on November 7, all was changed. The fetes ceased, the musicians and the buffoons disappeared, and their places were taken by archers. A tribunal was set up. Archbishop Troll, as had been arranged with the king, came forward boldly, as accuser of the lords and other Swedes who had driven him from his archiepiscopal see. The king immediately constituted a court of justice, of which he took care that none should be members but enemies of the accused. The judges, wire hardly knew what crime they had to punish, got over the business by declaring heretics the sacrilegious men who had dared to imprison a bishop. Now heresy was a capital crime. The next day, November 8, in the morning, the gates of the town and the doors of all the houses were closed. The streets were filled with soldiers and cannon; and, at noon, the prisoners, surrounded with guards, slowly and sadly descended from the castle. The report rapidly ran through the whole town that the bishops, the nobles, and the councilors who had been guests of the king and had been so magnificently entertained, were being taken to the great square and were going to be put to death there. In a little while the square was strewn with the dead bodies of the most distinguished nobles and prelates of Sweden. f218 There seemed to be little chance of such a king ever being a favorer of the Reformation. Nevertheless, the enterprise undertaken by Luther, and the changes in states which resulted from it, struck him and excited his interest. He thought that a religious reform would restrict the power of the bishops, that the senate would be weakened by their exclusion from it, and that the crown demesnes would be the richer. At the same time his powerful understanding was impressed with the errors of Rome and the imposing truth of the Gospel.
Nephew by the mother’s side of the elector Frederick of Saxony, the king took an interest in a religious movement which had the sanction of that illustrious prince. This strange man imagined that without separating from Rome he could introduce into his own country the evangelical doctrines.
He determined to trust to the pope to rid him of the most powerful of his subjects, and to Luther to instruct the rest. He therefore wrote to his uncle and begged him to send some teacher competent to purify religion, which was corrupted by the gross indolence of the priests. The elector forwarded this request to the theologians of Wittenberg, who nominated Martin Reinhard, a master of arts, from the diocese of Wurzburg, on the recommendation, as it appears, of Carlstadt.
Reinhard, who seems to have somewhat resembled Carlstadt in his unsteady and restless temper, arrived at Copenhagen in December 1520. The king assigned him the church of St. Nicholas to preach in. The inhabitants of Copenhagen, eager to become acquainted with the new doctrine, flocked in crowds to the church. But the orator spoke German, and his hearers knew nothing but Danish. He appealed therefore to Professor Eliae, who agreed to translate his discourses. Master Martin, vexed at finding that he was not understood, tried to make up for what was wanting by loudness of voice and frequent and violent gestures. f221 The astonished hearers understood nothing, but wonderingly followed with their eyes those hurried movements of the arms, the hands, the head, and the whole body. The priests who were casting about for some means of damaging the foreigner, caught at this circumstance, began to mock this ridiculous gesticulation, and stirred up the people against the German orator. Consequently, when he entered the church, he was received with sarcasm, with grimaces, and almost with hootings. The clergy resolved to do even more. There was at Copenhagen a fellow notorious for his cleverness in mimicking in an amusing way anybody’s air and actions and speech. The canons of St. Mary prevailed on him by a large reward, and engaged him regularly to attend the preaching of Martin Reinhard, to study his gestures, the expression of his features, and the intonations of his voice. In a short time this fellow succeeded in imitating the accent, the voice, the gestures of Reinhard. Henceforth the burlesque mimic became an indispensable guest at all banquets. He used to appear on these occasions in a costume like that of the doctor; grave salutations were made to him, and he was called Master Martin . He delivered the most high-flown speeches on the most profane topics, and accompanied them with gestures so successful that, on seeing and hearing the caricature, you seemed to see and hear the master of arts himself. He threw out his arms right and left, upward and downward, and filled the air with the piercing or prolonged tones of the orator. At table, they gorged him with meats and wine, in order to make him more extravagant still. He was taken from quarter to quarter, and from street to street, and repeated everywhere his comic representations. It was the time of the Carnival, when nothing was cared for but buffoonery, and the people responded to the declamations of the mimic by great bursts of laughter. ‘This was done,’ adds the chronicle, ‘for the purpose of extinguishing the light of the Gospel which God himself had kindled.’
This was not enough for the priests; they must get a stop put to sermons which, in spite of their strange delivery, contained much truth. A beginning was made by depriving Reinhard of his interpreter. The bishops of Roschild and Aarhuus offered to Eliae a canonry at Odensee. The latter, wishing for nothing better than to make his escape from a business which was becoming ridiculous, accepted it. The people called him the weathercock priest . Reinhard, thus compelled to relinquish preaching, maintained in Latin some theses on the doctrines of the Reformation. Eliae, at the instigation of the bishop of Aarhuus, completely changed sides and attacked the messenger of Melanchthon and Luther. At the same time, the University required that the writings of the reformers should be proscribed. The king had certainly not been happy at his game. When the awakening of a people is in question, it is not for royal chanceries to undertake it. There is a head of the church, Jesus Christ, to whom this work belongs, and he had chosen for it the son of a peasant of Kiertminde and other men like him.
The king, however, was in no humor to tolerate the opposition of bishops whose influence he had set himself to destroy. He profited by the lesson he had received. Finding that Reinhard was not the man that he wanted, the king sent him back to Saxony, requiring him to take an invitation from himself to the great reformer, whose position in Germany, Christian thought, the edict of the diet of Worms must have made untenable. If Luther could not come, said the king, he must send Carlstadt.
The first of these calls was unacceptable, and the second was unfortunate.
Reinhard, who reached Wittenberg at the beginning of March, did not fail to push himself into notice. He related to Luther what had taken place at Copenhagen, or at least such portions of the story as were favorable to himself and to his cause. It gave great joy to the reformer. ‘The king of Denmark,’ he wrote to Spalatin (March 7), ‘has forbidden the university to condemn my writings and is sharply pressing the papists.’ Luther did not accept the king’s offer. His place was at Wittenberg. Would not removing him from Germany be taking him from Europe and from the work for which he had been chosen? At the most, he thought that if in some dark hour the danger resulting front the edict of Worms became too urgent, Denmark might be an asylum for him. As for the turbulent Carlstadt, he was quite ready, and the adventure pleased him. He took his passports and set out.
While awaiting the arrival of the Wittenberg doctors, Christian, a prince at once civilized and savage, a murderer and a lover of literature, a despot, a tyrant, and nevertheless the author of laws really liberal, published a code which did him great credit. He felt the necessity of reforming the clergy; he wished to imbue the ecclesiastics with patriarchal morality, and to suppress the feudal and often corrupt morality which characterized them.
A third part of the land belonged to them, and they were incessantly trying to add to their possessions. All the bishops had strong castles and a body of guards in attendance on their persons. The archbishop of Lund was usually accompanied by a hundred and thirty knights, and the other prelates had almost as many. The king forbade that more than twenty mounted guards should escort the archbishop, and that the bishops should not have more than twelve or fourteen domestics. Then, coming to moral order, Christian said, — ‘No prelate or priest may acquire any lands unless he follow the doctrine of St. Paul ( 1 Timothy 3), unless he take a wife and live like his ancestors in the holy state of marriage.’ By suppressing celibacy, the king not only put an end to great licentiousness, but he gave the death-blow to the Romish hierarchy. This law is the more remarkable because it preceded by four years the declaration of Luther against celibacy. Another ordinance displayed the wisdom, and we might almost say the humanity of the king. The bishops had appropriated the right of wreck, so that whenever a ship foundered, their men took possession of all articles which the sea cast up on the shore, and sometimes put the shipwrecked men to death, lest they should reclaim their property. The king withdrew this right from them. The bishops complained. ‘I will allow nothing,’ said the king, ‘which is contrary to the law of God as it is written in the Holy Scriptures.’ ‘They contain no law about waifs and wrecks,’ said a bishop sharply. ‘What then,’ replied Christian, ‘is the meaning of the sixth and eighth commandments — “Thou shalt not kill,” “Thou shalt not steal”?’ f227 At this crisis, Carlstadt arrived in Denmark. He was not the man that was wanted. A lover of innovation, and rash in his proceedings, he had by no means the moderation essential for reformers. He was honorably received, and a grand banquet was given him. At table, he was thrown off his guard, he talked a good deal and got excited, and when heated with the feast he violently attacked the doctrine of transubstantiation. This outburst against the fundamental doctrine of Roman Catholicism gave offense even to some of the friends of reform. The bishops took advantage of it. ‘The master,’ they said, ‘is no better than the disciple (Reinhard):’ The imprudent colleague of Luther was politely sent back to Wittenberg.
The king, who was at this time absent from Copenhagen, was however no stranger to the disgrace of this imprudent and noisy Wittenberg doctor.
Christian had gone into the Netherlands, to meet his brother-in-law Charles the Fifth, for the purpose of treating with him of important matters. He easily changed his mind, as passionate men generally do; and amidst the splendor of the imperial court, he yielded to the influence of the new atmosphere which surrounded him. He wished the emperor to concede to him, as king of Denmark, the right of conferring the duchy of Holstein as a fief. The court-bishops, on their side, implored Charles to make the expulsion of the Lutheran doctors the price of this favor.
Christian, aware of all that he had to fear from the Pope, from Sweden, and even from a great number of the Danes, was anxious to conciliate the emperor that he might be able to face all his enemies. He therefore complied with the requirements of Charles. Carlstadt, as we have seen, was sent away from Denmark, and Reinhard never returned.
For the reformation of Denmark Danes were required. Soon after the departure of Carlstadt, Tausen requested permission to teach at the university of Copenhagen, and he did actually lecture there on theology. But no man could then carry a bright lamp without attempts being made to extinguish it. The teaching of the son of the peasant of Fionia aroused opposition; the professor was recalled by his prior, and remained for two years in his convent. Time was thus given him in his retirement to meditate; and while he was strengthening himself in the faith, great events were about to prepare the way for the Reformation.
The concessions which Christian made to the enemies of the evangelical doctrines did not bring him any advantage. A violent storm at once broke out on all sides against the prince and threatened to overthrow him.
Sweden revolted against him. Duke Frederick, his uncle, angry that his nephew wanted to make Holstein a fief of Denmark, entered into an alliance with the powerful city of Lubeck to fight against him. The prelates, also, and the nobles of Denmark, seeing that Christian was bent upon ruining them, formed a resolution to get rid of him. The blind docility with which Christian followed the counsels of Sigbrit provoked the grandees of the kingdom. Nothing was done except by the advice of this woman of very low origin. The king conferred benefits only on her favorites; and even political negotiations were discussed in her presence and left in her hands. The pride, the tyranny, and the passions of this old sorceress — for such was she called — excited the indignation of all classes of society. The people themselves were hostile to her, and many among the middle classes were on her account hostile to the king.
The prelates and the barons resolved to have recourse to extreme measures. They addressed to Christian (January 20, 1523) a letter by which they revoked the powers with which he had been invested on the day of his coronation. At the same time, they offered the crown of Denmark to the duke of Holstein. By these measures the monarch was thrown into a state of unparalleled perplexity. All, however, was not loSt. He might recall the troops which he had in Sweden; he might then appeal to the Danish people, among whom he still had many partisans, and might maintain himself in Copenhagen until his allies, either the king of England or his brother-in-law the emperor, should come to his aid. But the blow which had fallen upon him was altogether unexpected. He lost his presence of mind; his courage, his pride and his energies were crushed. This terrible despot gave way and humbled himself. Instead of offering resistance to the States of the kingdom, he threw himself at their feet and pledged himself thenceforth to govern according to their advice. He was willing to do anything to give them satisfaction. He promised to have masses said for the souls of those whom he had unjustly put to death; he undertook even to make a pilgrimage to Rome . But the nobility and the priests were inexorable; and the pope to whom he appealed for help turned a deaf ear to him. Then Christian lost his head; one might have thought that a waterspout had fallen and thrown him to the ground. He caused a score of ships to be fitted out; hastily collected the crown jewels, his gold, his archives, and everything which he most highly valued, and prepared for flight with the queen, his children, the archbishop of Lund, and a few faithful attendants. His greatest anxiety was to find means of taking Sigbrit along with him. At all cost, he was determined not to part with his adviser; and the hatred which the people bore to this woman was so great that if she had been seen she would have been torn to pieces. Christian therefore had one of his chests made ready, and in this the old woman was laid. The chest was carefully closed, and the unhappy creature was thus carried on board like a piece of luggage. On the 14th April, 1523, the king weighed anchor; but no sooner had he put to sea than his fleet was scattered by a storm. f231 Christian nevertheless succeeded in reaching the Netherlands, and he hastened immediately to the emperor to implore his aid. Nor did he confine himself to soliciting this prince, but applied to all the powers and conjured them to come forward to assist him. Charles the Fifth agreed to write to Duke Frederick; but his letters remained without effect. At the same time he refused to furnish the king with the troops which he asked for. The unfortunate monarch now appealed to Henry VIII., who made him magnificent promises, but kept none of them. Christian in his distress betook himself to his brother-in-law, the elector of Brandenburg, and next to his uncle, the elector of Saxony. As their efforts of mediation all came to nothing, Christian assembled a small army and with it advanced into Holstein. But he had no money to pay his men, and consequently the greater part of them deserted him; and the rest demanded their pay with threats. Under cover of night the unhappy prince took flight. f232 Christian, deserted by men, appeared now to turn to the Gospel. He became one of the hearers of Luther, and told everyone that he had never heard the truth preached in such a fashion; and that thenceforth, with God’s help, he would bear his trial more patiently. Must we believe that these declarations were mere hypocrisy? May we not rather suppose that in the soul of Christian there were two natures; the one full of rudeness and violence, the other susceptible of pious feeling; and that he passed easily from one to another? His heart, opened by adversity, appears at this time to have received with joy the truths of the Gospel.
When the elector of Brandenburg endeavored to persuade him to return to the Roman doctrine, he replied, — ‘Rather lose for ever my three kingdoms than abandon the faith and the cause of Luther.’ But in speaking thus Christian was deceiving himself. Selfishness was the basis of his character, and he was always ready to do honor to the pope when he saw any hope of the pontiff’s aid in reinstating him on the throne. f235 There were in his own family more faithful witnesses to the truth. His sister, the wife of the elector of Brandenburg, was devoted to the Gospel, and being persecuted by her husband was compelled to take refuge in Saxony. Christian’s wife, queen Isabella, herself a sister of Charles the Fifth, having gone to Nurnberg for the purpose of asking in behalf of her husband the assistance of her brother Ferdinand, received in that town the communion at the hands of the evangelical Osiander. When the archduke heard of it, he said to her very angrily that he no longer owned her as his sister. ‘Even if you disown me,’ bravely replied the sister of Charles the Fifth, ‘I will not on that account disown the Word of God.’ This princess died in the following year (1526), in the Netherlands, professing to the last a purely evangelical faith. She partook of the body and the blood of Christ, according to the institution of the Savior, although the grandees who were about her put forth all their efforts to get her to accept the rites of the papacy. This Christian decision of character in a sister of the emperor, in a country in which the papal system in its strictest shape prevailed, greatly troubled her connections and appeared to them a monstrous thing. The imperial family could not possibly allow it to be thought that one of its members had died a heretic. When the queen had lost all consciousness, a priest by order of his superiors approached her and administered to her extreme unction, just as he might have done to a corpse. Everybody understood this proceeding, so grave in appearance, was a mere piece of mimicry. The faith of the dying queen was everywhere known and gladdened the friends of the Gospel. ‘Christ,’ said Luther, ‘wished for once to have a queen in heaven. Isabella was not the laSt. Nevertheless, the triumph of the prelatical and aristocratic party in Denmark seemed to ensure the final ruin of the evangelical cause. No one doubted that the abuses of the papacy and of feudalism would be confirmed for the future. But there is a power which watches over the destinies of the Christian religion, and which when this appears to be buried in the depth of the abysses brings it forth again with glory. God lifts up what men cast down.