CHRISTIAN I. of Denmark, the first king of the house of Oldenburg, grandfather of Christian II., had left two sons, John and Frederick. John succeeded him in the sovereignty of the three kingdoms. Frederick, for whom the queen Dorothea, wife of Christian I., felt a warm predilection, had not the genius of his nephew Christian II. He was destitute of the intelligence which embraced at once so many objects, the swift and accurate glance, and the indefatigable activity which distinguished that strange monarch. Frederick had a tranquil soul, a prudent and moderate temper, a serenity and a liveliness which charmed his mother and his connections, but which were not qualifications sufficient for a king. Now, if he did not possess the good qualities of his nephew, he was at the same time without his cruelty or his violence; or at least he showed these only towards that unfortunate prince. The queen Dorothea had a passionate longing to give a throne to her favorite son, and urged her husband to assign to him Holstein and Schleswig. Christian yielded to her wishes and gave the sovereignty of these duchies to her second son, then of the age of eleven. He did this only by word of mouth, having left no will. The inhabitants of these provinces were satisfied, preferring a sovereign of their own to dependence on the king of the three northern realms.
It was otherwise with King John. As he was unwilling to renounce these provinces, he resolved to get his brother to enter the Church. He therefore sent him to study at Cologne and procured him a canonry in that town.
But Frederick was not inclined for this. The barrenness of the scholastic theology disgusted him and the Reformation attracted him. Instigated by the queen, his mother, he quitted Cologne, renouncing his canonry, his office, his prebend, his breviary, and his easy life. He preferred a crown, even with its toils and weariness, and demanded of his brother, the king, his portion of the duchies, which, said he, ought at least to be divided between them. The king consented. Frederick settled in Holstein and ruled his subjects in peace. He held intercourse with some disciples of Luther, took an interest in their evangelical labors, and gave them permission to diffuse the doctrine of the Reformation among the Cimbri. f239 His brother being dead, and his nephew Christian having succeeded to the three Scandinavian kingdoms, the peaceful Frederick found himself called to higher destinies. His gentleness was as widely known as his nephew’s violence. Could the Danes find a better king?
At the time of Christian’s misfortunes, the bishops of Jutland, as we have stated, actually offered the crown to Frederick. The Council of the Kingdom did the same and declared that if he rejected it they would invite a foreign prince. The duke, at this time fifty-two years of age, foresaw the anxieties and the struggles to which he was about to expose himself.
Nevertheless, the kingdoms of his father were offered to him, and he could not bear the thought of seeing them pass to another dynasty. He therefore accepted the crown. Some portions of the kingdom, and particularly Copenhagen, remained in the power of the former king.
No sooner had Frederick received the crown than he tasted the bitterness of the golden cup which had just been offered him. The priests and the nobles required of him the maintenance and even the enlargement of the privileges of which Christian had intended to deprive them. Frederick had to promise ‘that he would never permit a heretic, whether a disciple of Luther or not, to preach or teach secretly or publicly doctrines contrary to the God of heaven or to the Roman Church,’ and to add ‘that if any were found in his kingdom he would deprive them of life and goods.’ This was hard. Frederick inclined to the evangelical doctrines, and he knew that many of his subjects did the same. Should he forbid them? But the crown was only to be had at this price.
Henry IV. paid dearer for Paris; he abandoned his creed and professed himself a Roman Catholic. Frederick meant to keep his faith; it is even possible that, full of confidence in the power of truth, he hoped to see it, in spite of the bishops, win the victory. However this might be, he confined himself, when writing to the Pope, to a brief announcement of his accession, without making any promise. Clement VII., offended at this silence, reminded him of the promise which he had made at the time of his election, adding a grain of flattery to his exhortations. ‘I am well acquainted’ he said ‘with that royal virtue of which you gave proof by avowing your resolution to persecute with fire and sword the heresy of Luther.’ This was a thoroughly papal speech.
Frederick felt the difficulty of his position; and after a thorough investigation he came to a decision in favor of religious liberty. Must we suppose that he repented of the engagement which he had made? Did he believe that if a man has taken an oath to commit a crime (persecution, assuredly would have been one), it is a sin to fulfill it? We cannot tell.
Naturally circumspect and reflective, Frederick would require time to pass from the first doubts excited in him by the Romish doctrines to a firm belief in evangelical truth.
He could not all at once throw off convictions which were dear to him and accept contrary opinions. Believing, however, that it was no business of his to regulate matters of faith, he determined to hold the balance even, and in his capacity of king to lean neither to one side nor to the other. There were some points of resemblance between this prince and Frederick the Wise, elector of Saxony, who, though he did not immediately declare for the Reformation, allowed full liberty to Luther’s teaching. Christian’s uncle felt himself free to keep the promises which he had made to the nobles, and he thereby won their liking. He did not deprive the clergy of their pomp or their wealth; and with respect to the reformers and their disciples, instead of persecuting them with fire and sword as the Pope required him to do, he let them alone, and did them neither good nor harm.
If the Reformation was to be established in Denmark, it would be so not by the power of the king, but by the power of God and of the people. The state would not interfere. Frederick as king, moreover, thus continued what he had begun as duke.
Before Frederick was seated on the throne of Denmark, the Reformation had begun in the duchies. Husum, a town situated on the coast of the North Sea, at a distance of six or seven leagues from Schleswig, had seen this light arise which was afterwards to make glad so many souls in these lands. The chapter of Husum was dependent on the cathedral church of Schleswig, in which twenty-four vicars discharged the functions of the idle or absent prebendaries. One of them, Herrmann Tast, awakened by the earliest sound of the Reformation, had seized the Bible and read the works of Luther; and about 1520 he publicly professed the truth which he had discovered. He gained over one of his colleagues. One of the principal men of the town, a learned man and the son of a natural daughter of Duke Frederick, took Tast under his protection, and assigned him a room in his own house in which he might set forth the riches which he had discovered.
The number of his hearers increased to such an extent that, in 1522, he was obliged to hold his meetings in the open air, in the cemetery. He used to take his stand under a lime-tree, and begin by singing Luther’s psalm Eine feste Burg ; and there, on that field of the dead, he proclaimed the words of the Son of God. Many of those who had heard them had received the new life. Tast did not long confine himself to preaching the Gospel at Husum, but began to visit the country districts, the towns and villages, diffusing the knowledge of the Savior in all the country round. Many of the townsmen and the nobles believed. The old bishop of Schleswig, a tolerant man, and acquainted with the views of Frederick, winked at the progress of evangelical doctrine. Frederick, as soon as he became king, promulgated an edict by which religious liberty was formally established for the two opposing parties. Offering due homage to the sovereignty of God in matters of the soul, he suppressed in its presence his own kingly authority. ‘Let no one,’ said he, ‘do any injury to his neighbor in his estate, his honor, or his body, on account either of papist or Lutheran doctrine; but let, everyone act with respect to religion as his own conscience dictates and in such a manner that he may be able to give a good account to Almighty God.’ f243 One work there was, however, essential to the progress of the Gospel, which the Danish clergy would not have allowed to be done. This was the translation and printing of the Holy Scriptures in the vulgar tongue. If Frederick had sanctioned it, he would have violated his neutrality. How to overcome this difficulty? It was got over in a surprising way. It was Frederick’s opponent, his terrible and unfortunate nephew, formerly the ally of the Pope, who accomplished this work, or at least who caused it to be done by those about him. Michelsen, the burgomaster of Malmoe, had followed the king in his disgrace, leaving behind him his wife, his daughter, and his property. The latter was confiscated. Christian II., who, since he heard Luther, was full of zeal for evangelical doctrine, and perhaps also saw that it was the most powerful weapon for the humiliation of his enemy, the Roman hierarchy, urged the ex-burgomaster, who had become his private secretary, to complete and to publish the Danish translation of the New Testament which was already begun. The translators had made use of the Vulgate and of the translations of Erasmus and Luther. Luther’s, especially, had been followed by Michelsen in the translation of the apostolical epistles, with which he was entrusted. This Danish translation was printed at Leipzig in small quarto, in 1524, under the sanction and with the assistance of Christian; and it was sent into Denmark from one of the ports of the Netherlands, probably from Antwerp, whence likewise Tyndale’s English translation had gone forth. There were three prefaces; two of them were translated from Luther, and the third was written by Michelsen.
In this preface the ex-burgomaster did not spare the priests. The famous placards published in France, in 1534, were not more severe. Michelsen believed that in order to make known the Gospel of Christ it was necessary to destroy the power of the clergy. ‘These blasphemers,’ he said, ‘by publishing their anti-christian bulls and their ecclesiastical laws, have obscured the Holy Scriptures, and blinded the simple flock of Christ.
With lying lips and hearts callous to the miseries of others, they have so preached to the their useless verbiage that we have been unable to learn anything except what their pretended sanctity deigned to tell us. But now God, in his unsearchable grace, has taken pity on our wretchedness, and has begun to reveal to his people his holy word, so that, as he had foretold by one of his prophets, their errors, their perfidy, and their tyranny shall be known to all the world.’ At the same time Michelsen exhorted the Danes to make use of their rights and in drawing at the very fountain-head of the truth.
It was a strange thing to see the two rival kings both favoring the Reformation, the bad man by his activity, the good by his neutrality.
The Danish clergy perceived the blow which was struck at them, and they endeavored to evade and to return it. They could no longer resort to force, for the liberal principles of Frederick were opposed to it. A man was therefore sought who could maintain the contest by speech and by writing.
Such a man they thought they had found in Paul Eliae. No one in Denmark was better acquainted with the Reformation than he was; he had for some time gone with it, and afterwards had abandoned it and been rewarded by the favor of the bishops. He was summoned from Jutland, where he then was, to Zealand; and he began at once to act and to preach against the Wittenberg doctrine. But people remembered his antecedents and they had no confidence in him. Instead therefore of attacking the friends of the Holy Scriptures, he was obliged to defend himself. f245 If it was a happy circumstance for the Reformation that the king remained neutral between the two religious parties, it was still much to be wished that he should attain to more decision in his faith and in his personal profession of the Gospel. A domestic event occurred to set him free from all fear and all embarrassment. His eldest son, named Christian like the last king, was a young man full of ardor, intelligence, activity and energy. Two or three years before, his father wishing him to see Germany, to reside at a foreign court, and to become better acquainted with the men and the movements of Europe, sent him (in 1520) to his uncle the elector of Brandenburg, appointing for his governor John Rantzau, a man distinguished for his knowledge and his extensive travels. Unfortunately the elector was one of the most violent adversaries of Luther. It might well be feared that the young prince would catch the air, the temper, and the tone of this court, filled as it was with prejudice against the Reformation.
The very reverse happened. The severity of the elector and the blind hatred which the prince and his courtiers bore to the Reformation galled the young duke. In the following year his uncle took him with him to Worms, fancying that the condemnation of the heretic by the emperor and the diet would make a powerful impression on the young man. But when Luther spoke and courageously declared that he was ready to die rather than renounce his faith, Christian’s heart beat high and his enthusiastic soul was won to the cause which had such noble champions. This cause became still dearer to him when his uncle the elector joined with the bishops in demanding the violation of the safe-conduct given to Luther.
His astonishment and indignation were at their height. Rantzau himself, who had seen the court of Rome, and who in the course of his travels had continual opportunities of making himself intimately acquainted with the corruption of the Church, was completely won over to the cause which was vanquished at Worms. In this town Christian formed an acquaintance with a young man, Peter Svave, who was studying at Wittenberg, and who by his own desire had accompanied Luther to the Diet, and was full of love for the Gospel. Christian obtained leave from his father to attach him to his person, and gave him his entire confidence. As soon as he returned to Holstein Christian declared himself openly for the Reformation. The warmth of his convictions, the eloquence of his faith, his decision of character, and the simplicity and affability of his manners, which won him all hearts, exerted a wholesome influence on the king. At the same time, the prudence, experience, and varied knowledge of Rantzau gave the monarch confidence in the work of which his son’s governor showed himself a zealous partisan. f246 Copenhagen was still in the hands of Christian II.; and Henry Gjoe was in command there, awaiting the succor necessary to enable him to hold his ground. Frederick sent his son to Zealand to press the surrender of the place; and he himself went to Nyborg, in the island of Fionia. Gjoe, finding that further resistance was useless, offered to capitulate. It was agreed that Copenhagen should be given up to King Frederick on the 6th February (1524), and that the garrison should withdraw to any place which it might choose. The young duke Christian signed these articles in the name of the king his father, and had the good news immediately communicated to him.
Ten days after the surrender of the capital, on the 16th February, the king made his entry, to the great joy of the inhabitants, who were wearied with an eight months’ siege. Frederick, without making any attack on the dominant Church, at once avowed frankly and fearlessly the evangelical faith. One man of high standing, the councilor of the kingdom, Magnus Gjoe, had embraced the Reformation, and even had a minister in his own house. The king went to the modest meeting which was held there and received the Lord’s Supper in both kinds. He dispensed with all the trivial practices imposed by Rome; and the nobles of Holstein who formed part of his suite and many Danish lords followed his example. The clergy day by day lost the respect which they had enjoyed; and a large number of persons deserted the confessional, sought pardon of God alone, and ceased from their evil ways. f247 The Danes had been as much offended as the Germans by the quackery of indulgences. They had opened their eyes and condemned this traffic and the religion which carried it on; but they had remained silent. This silence, however, was not that of indifference. There was perhaps in these northern nations more slowness than in those of the south; but they made up for this defect by greater reflectiveness, deeper convictions and stronger characters. Indignant that the court of Rome should look on them as a crowd of people born blind, doomed by their very nature to perpetual darkness, they were ere long to awake and proclaim their liberation.
It was Tausen who gave the signal for this awakening. He was all this time in the monastery of Antwerskow. His piety and his virtues diffused light there in the midst of the darkness of the age; but most of the monks, carried away by their vices and their hatred of the Gospel, endeavored to extinguish it. In vain he sought to lead them to the truth by kindly speech and by patient setting forth of the Gospel. He tried to catch them separately, to open to them the errors of the Romish religion and to show them how far they were removed from the way of salvation. These representations were very unwelcome to the monks. Tausen resolved to avail himself of the approaching festival of Easter solemnly to call his hearers to the faith, even at the risk of an explosion. He obtained leave of the prince to preach on Good Friday, March 25, 1524. The young Johannite entered the pulpit, determined to utter on this occasion all his thought without any reserve prompted by worldly prudence. He pointed out to his hearers that man is powerless; that his good works and pretended satisfactions are poverty itself. He set forth the merits of Christ and all the greatness of this mystery; he urged them to condemn the depraved and profane life which they had hitherto lived, and to come to Christ who would cover them with his righteousness. The blow was struck.
This preaching gave rise to great excitement, and the audience were scandalized by a doctrine which appeared to them entirely new. All the monks, his Superiors, blinded by papal superstition, thought only of how to get rid of such a heretic. The prior had hardly patience to wait for the end. He was indignant that a young man to whom he had shown so much kindness had the audacity publicly to profess the doctrines of the reformer; and he saw with alarm his convent falling under suspicion of Lutheranism. He determined therefore to get rid of such a dangerous guest.
He summoned Tausen into his presence, and after censuring him for his fault told him that he was very desirous of not inflicting on him a penalty too severe, and would therefore confine himself to sending him to the second house of the order, at Viborg, which he could enter under the surveillance of the provost Peter Jansen, until he had retrieved his errors.
Tausen set out for his place of exile.
Viborg, a very old town, is situated in the north of Jutland. The climate of the district is more inclement, the winds colder and more violent, the people more coarse and ignorant. The fiords with which the son of the peasant of Kiertminde had been familiar were there of larger extent, sometimes separated from the sea merely by a low line of sand, which in a storm seemed as if it must be swept away by the rush of the waters. But the young man had to encounter something ruder than the severe climate.
According to the rules he was to be confined as a heretic in a prison the gates of which would never be opened. The prior of the monastery, however, when his prisoner arrived, was touched at seeing, instead of the terrible heretic that he looked for, a young man, gentle, intelligent, and amiable. His heart was won and he allowed him a good deal of liberty, particularly that of associating with the other monks. Could Tausen be silent? He knew well that if he spoke he would bring on himself fresh persecution. But how could he give up the hope of doing good to those about him? He remembered what Luther used to say: ‘When the apples are ripe they must be gathered; if we delay they spoil. The great point is to seize the opportunity.’ In tempore veni quod est omnium primum . It seemed to Tausen as if he were still reading those words which the good Wittenberg doctor had written in chalk over his fire-place, — ‘Who lets slip an hour lets slip a day.’ f251 Tausen therefore resolved not to lose a moment, and he resumed in the cloisters of Viborg the work which he had been doing in the cloisters of Antwerskow. He openly avowed there the doctrine of free salvation, of justification by grace. The astonished friars at first vigorously opposed the new-comer. Frequent discussions took place; and that monastery of the North, in which for so long a time a dead calm had prevailed, was agitated with great waves white with foam, like the sea on whose shores it stands.
The prior at first shut his eyes. He hoped that Tausen would be brought back by himself and his monks to the doctrine of the Church; but he was mistaken. Many of the monks were unsettled, and agitation was beginning in the town. One of the friars, whose name was Toeger, had his heart touched by the doctrine of Christ; and opening his mind privately to Tansen begged him to instruct him in the whole truth. The two friends, taking great precautions and carefully concealing themselves from their superiors, spent together many blessed hours in meditation on the Scriptures of God. But no long time elapsed before persecution broke out. f252 Nor was it only in these remote and solitary regions that it was in preparation. The higher clergy began to discover that the neutrality of Frederick was as dangerous as the violence of Christian. The new king was to be crowned in his capital in the month of August 1524, and the council of the kingdom was to assemble beforehand. This was the moment chosen by the prelates for settling that Denmark should remain faithful to the pope. Not one of the ecclesiastical members was missing at the convocation. Not only all the bishops, but many other dignitaries besides, mitred abbots, provosts and others, arrived at Copenhagen. The bishop of this town, Lago Urne, who was grieved to see around him the altars of Rome more and more forsaken, and masses for the dead and the money which the priests got by them daily falling off, pointed out to his colleagues that the opinions of Luther were fast gaining ground, that not only did the revenue of churchmen suffer thereby, but that their respect and authority even among the common people were undermined, and that these novel doctrines would ere long spread from the capital all over the kingdom. Thirty-six lords, members of the Council, were present on the occasion. They assembled on the 28th June, the eve of the festival of the Apostles Peter and Paul. ‘The bishops,’ said the terrified partisans of the papacy, ‘must oppose the Lutheran heresy with greater earnestness than they have done; whosoever teaches it must be punished by imprisonment or other inflections (they had even proposed death); the dangerous writings which come in every day from Antwerp and other places must be proscribed; and there must be no kind of innovation until the council convoked by the pope decide on the matter.’ These resolutions were adopted by the members of the council, both lay and ecclesiastical; and the consequence was that the prohibited books were sought after and read with more eagerness than before.
What will the king do? Will he oppose or confirm these resolutions? He left the council free. But on the day fixed for his coronation, he arrived at Copenhagen accompanied by an evangelical minister who was appointed to discharge in his household the duties of chaplain. The spectacle of this humble pastor making his appearance in the midst of the royal pomp shocked the worldings and sorely offended the bishops When they saw the prince thus publicly reserving to himself, simply but decidedly, the free practice of evangelical religion, they were afraid that it would be no easy matter to deprive the people of the same freedom. They did not dare however to resist the king. The archbishop elect of Lund not having yet received consecration, Gustavus Troll, archbishop of Upsala, presided at the ceremony of consecration. The proceedings having been gone through without any disturbance, the bishops, discontented and restless, returned to their dioceses, resolved to do all they could to check what they called the progress of the mischief; and persecution on the part of the clergy was set down in the order of the day throughout the kingdom. f253 It was impossible that Tausen should escape. The bishop of Viborg, George Friis, was determined to extirpate the Reformation. The young reformer was apprehended, tried, and sentenced to imprisonment. He was confined in the underground part of a tower in the town, a doleful abode to which a little air and daylight found access only through an opening contrived in the lower part of the building. Of this air-hole, which sustained the life of the poor prisoner, he was to avail himself to give life to others, and thus alleviate the misery of his captivity. Those persons, at least, who were beginning to love the Gospel, filled with compassion for his misfortune, furtively approached the aperture, which seems to have looked on an isolated piece of waste ground. They called to him in low tones; he answered these friendly voices, and the conversations of the cloisters began again at the foot of the isolated tower. Some of the burgesses of the town, who had taken a liking to the Gospel, having heard of these secluded conferences, crept likewise noiselessly and secretly to the foot of the tower. The pious Johannite approached the aperture and joyfully proclaimed the Gospel to this modest audience. A prisoner, in distress, deprived of everything, liable to the penalty imposed by the royal capitulation on all the disciples of Luther, Tausen declared from the depths of his dungeon that it was nevertheless true that a living faith in the Savior alone justifies the sinner. His hearers increased in number from day to day; and this dungeon, in which it was intended to bury Tausen’s discourse as in a tomb, was transformed into a pulpit, a strange pulpit indeed, but one which became more precious to him than that of Antwerskow, from which he was banished. He was no longer alone in propagating the divine word. Toeger and the Minorite Erasmus, whom the young man had made it known, were zealously diffusing it. They went about from house to house, and repeated to the families to which they had access, the instructions which the humble prisoner imparted to them through the vent-hole. The magistrates shut their eyes to what was going on; and many nobles who were on terms of friendship with the evangelical lords of Schleswig declared for the Reformation. They encouraged one another by saying that the king would not allow the reformers to be put down. The prince was about, ere long, to go further still.
When Frederick went in the autumn into Jutland he heard of the imprisonment and the preaching of Tausen. He had made up his mind not to put the Roman Catholics in prison, but at the same time he did not intend that the Catholics should imprison the reformed Christians. He therefore addressed a rescript on the subject to the council and to the townsmen of Viborg; in consequence of which the bolts were drawn and the gates opened to the pious reformer. Frederick went further. After drawing the poor prisoner from the tower, from his low abode he lifted him up beside the throne and named him his chaplain. God raiseth up the poor from the dunghill and maketh him to sit among princes . Desirous still further of marking the decision of his faith, he conferred the same honor on Tast of Husum. Frederick did not however intend, for the present at least, to deprive Viborg of the lights which shone there. Tausen, Toeger, and Erasmus had preached there the kingdom of God. It was the king’s intention that the Gospel, which was here and there springing forth as from living fountains in Jutland, should have in this town a fortress. He, therefore, allowed its inhabitants to retain Tausen as their pastor; but he set him free from all monastic subordination. Although the reformer continued for a year or two longer to wear the dress and to reside in the house of the Johannites, he enjoyed full liberty; and of this he availed himself to diffuse everywhere the doctrine which the heads of his order hated. Others came to his aid. A young man of Viborg, named Sadolin, sometimes called after his native place Viburgius, had studied, in 1522, under Luther; and after his return to his own country he had professed the principles of sound doctrine. The bishop having immediately checked his endeavors, Sadolin had appealed to the king, and had asked permission to establish in the town an evangelical school. The prince, perceiving that such an institution would furnish a solid basis for the religious movement, readily consented and founded at Viborg a great free school, in which Sadolin was the professor. The youth and the adults of the town and of other parts of the country were there instructed in the principles of the Gospel. In Jutland, which thus received the light at the same time from Viborg on the one hand and from Schleswig on the other (Schleswig had embraced the Reformation as early as 1526), the number of those who desired no other Savior than Jesus Christ was daily increasing. f256 While the Reformation had thus one basis of action at Viborg in Jutland, it found a second in a different quarter, at Malmoe, opposite to Copenhagen, on the other shore of the Sound. At Viborg the reformation was of a more inward and more spiritual character; at Malmoe it was more polemical.
The ex-burgomaster, Michelsen, who published at this time in Saxony the Danish New Testament, had already labored in this town to dispel the abuses of the Roman hierarchy. A priest endowed with a handsome person, a powerful voice, great eloquence and decision of character, and whom his enemies accused of a certain overbearing spirit, was boldly preaching there the doctrines of the Reformation. His audience steadily increased in number, and included some influential men; among others Jacob Nielsen and George Kok, the latter of whom had succeeded Michelsen as burgomaster. Alarmed at the progress which the Reformation was making, its adversaries denounced the heretical preacher, who was usually called by his Christian name, Claus. The burgomaster remained firm. In front of the town was a piece of pasture ground which belonged to the magistrate. ‘You will preach there,’ said he to the eloquent Tondebinder; ‘but be cautious; preach evangelical truth, but do not baptize it with the name of Luther.’ It was now the month of June. It soon became known all over the town that there would be preaching in the open air.
Sincere Christians impelled by the desire to hear the Gospel, adversaries of the priests by reason of the very prohibition by the archbishop, and neutrals attracted by the novelty of the circumstances, flocked in a crowd to the place. They remained standing, pressed close together and piled up in a heap, for they did not dare to pass beyond the free soil. One step beyond, and the rash intruder might be delivered into the hands of the archbishop and his court. The townsmen demanded a church; and they gave them, not undesignedly, the chapel of the Holy Cross, which was the smallest in Malmoe. It was instantly crowded, and many people who had to remain at the door began complaining again. The king then interposed and assigned to the eloquent preacher the church of St. Simon and St. Jude.
But even this was not large enough. The audience wished for the largest church, that of St. Peter; and the rector granted this for Sunday afternoons. f258 Instead of one orator, there were now two. Spandemayer, a priest of the order of the Holy Ghost, a learned man, encouraged by the favorable reception of the Gospel, began to lift up his voice; and these two men, strengthening one another, said boldly, — ‘The true Christian doctrine has not been preached since the days of the Apostles. All those whom the church has decried as heretics were true Christians. All the popes of Rome have been antichrists; and those who trust in their own works are hypocrites, who thereby close to themselves the way of salvation.’ The two ministers rejected fasts, distinction of meats, monastic vows, and the mass. The churches were cleared of the vain ornaments which had till this time been exhibited in them; a plain table took the place of the high altar; and the Lord’s Supper was observed there in a simple manner. All the inhabitants of this important town soon professed the evangelical faith.
The monks, however, had still their own churches, from which, as from fortresses, they stoutly contended against Reform. The Franciscans especially were unwearied in the contest. Claus determined to attack them in their own entrenchments. He went one day into their church at the time of vespers; entered the pulpit, and there proclaimed the truth, and fought against monachism. Is not this system the sink in which the most crying abuses come together? Are not the compulsory vows, idleness, sensuality and, above all, scandalous licentiousness, the impure waters which run into this reservoir? A Franciscan who heard him entered the pulpit immediately afterwards and endeavored to refute him. Hardly had he concluded when Claus began again. This singular contest lasted through the rest of the day, nor was the mouth of either of the champions closed by the blows which they struck at each other. f259 The two ministers preached, with ever-increasing earnestness, that it is neither masses, nor vows, nor fast-days, nor the administration of the Romish sacrament, nor meritorious works, that save the sinner; but faith alone in the Savior who takes away our sins and changes our hearts. The archbishop of Lund, Aage Sparre, being much incensed, summoned the two preachers before him to give account of their proceedings. He awaited them day after day, but in vain. At length, his patience was exhausted, and he betook himself to Malmoe, determined to reduce to silence these insolent priests who did not submit to his orders. ‘These heretics,’ he said to the magistrates, ‘allege that man is saved by faith alone; that there is a universal priesthood which belongs to all Christians, women included.
They celebrate the mass in both kinds, and cannot fail to draw down on themselves the vengeance of the Almighty.’ f260 The complaints and the menaces of the archbishop were ineffectual. The two ministers, on the other hand, received further assistance. A Carmelite monk, named Francis Wormorsen, a native of Amsterdam, inflamed with love for the truth, joined them, and became afterwards the first evangelical bishop of Lund. f261 The evangelicals took a further step. They adopted, both at the Lord’s Supper and in the general service, Danish hymns instead of the Latin, which the people could not understand. For this purpose they translated some German hymns, especially those of Luther; and in 1528 they published the first evangelical hymns in Danish. Editions rapidly succeeded each other. Everyone wished to sing the hymns, not only at church but in their homes. In a short time the whole town was gathered around the Word of God. Some of the monks who behaved ill were expelled by the townsmen. Convents given by the king were transformed into hospitals. The people now heard nothing in the churches but the preaching of Jesus Christ. A school of theology was founded in 1529; and the priests, indignant, exclaimed, — ‘Malmoe is become a den of thieves, a refuge for apostates and desperadoes.’ On the contrary, it was a city set on a hill whose light could not be hid .
It was not only at Malmoe and at Viborg that the Reformation was making progress. Everywhere the pillars of the papacy were giving way, and the temple was threatening to fall to the ground. The Word of God and the writings of Luther and other reformers were sought after and read. Many Christians who had hitherto contented themselves with paying the priests for taking care of their souls, began to be concerned about them themselves. They perceived that what is essential in Christianity is not the pope, nor the bishops, nor the priests, as they had hitherto been accustomed to believe; but the Father who is in heaven, the Son who died and rose again to save his people, and the Holy Spirit who changes the heart and leads into all truth. When the begging friars presented themselves at the people’s houses, with their wallets on their backs, they heard in educated families, instead of the idle tittle-tattle of other days, discussions carried on which greatly perplexed them. From the common people too they got, instead of eggs and butter, only rude attacks. When they attempted to meddle as formerly in family affairs, people shut their doors against them; and when agents of the wealthy bishops of Jutland made their appearance for the purpose of receiving their tithes, the peasants turned their backs on them. From all these matters the king held himself aloof and did not interfere. In some cases, it is true, he confirmed the privileges of the clergy; but the people had taken the business in hand, and it was the people and not the king who reformed Denmark. f264 The bishops were growing alarmed; they saw Roman Catholicism ready to perish, and there was not a man, either of their own number or among the priests, who was competent to defend it. Addressing themselves, therefore, to one of their devoted adherents named Henry Gerkens, they said to him, — ‘Go into Germany to Doctor Eck or to Cochlaeus, those illustrious champions of the papacy, and by the most urgent entreaties and the most liberal promises induce them to come, one or other of them, or if possible both, to Denmark, for two or three years, in order to confute, to perplex, and to plague the heretical teachers by sermons, disputations, and writings. We do not know where these valiant combatants are to be found; but go to Cologne, and there you will learn. To facilitate the accomplishment of your mission, here is a letter of recommendation addressed to every ecclesiastic and every lay member of the Roman church; together with special letters to each of those great doctors.’ f265 Gerkens set out in May 1527, and began his search for the two men who were to save Roman Catholicism in’ Denmark. Eck was first found. There was something tempting in the occasion to a man so vain as he was; for the letter written to him contained flattery of the most exaggerated kind. The salvation of the Scandinavian Church, said the bishops, depended solely on him; but the famous doctor thought that he was too much wanted in Germany to be able to leave it. The Danish delegate next went to Cochlaeus. He felt flattered by the part which was offered him; but he thought it prudent to consult Erasmus. The latter replied that Denmark was a very long way off; that the nation, as he had been informed, was very barbarous; and that all he could say was that this was a matter which concerned not men, but Jesus Christ. Cochlaeus, like Eck, refused to go.
In the absence of theological debates, there were disputes of another kind.
The evangelicals, who had become more and more numerous in the towns, used to meet together for their worship; but the bishops opposed them, and collisions more or less frequent were the consequence. It was to be feared that the agitation would extend. Without being barbarous (as Erasmus called them) the Danes had that energetic nature, sometimes terrible, of which Christian II. was the type. A prudent government was bound to attempt the prevention of violent conflicts; and for this purpose to establish some modus vivendi . This is what the king undertook to do; and with this end in view he convoked a diet at Odensee, for the 1st of August, 1527. The clergy heard the news with delight, and resolved to take advantage of the occasion to extirpate the Reformation. They had some ground for hoping to succeed. The nobles were to take the side of the bishops; and these two classes united were to win the victory. Two courses were open: to secure religious liberty to all the Danes, or to suppress one of the two parties. The evangelicals desired the former, the bishops aimed at the latter. Frederick I. did not hesitate; he opened the assembly with a Latin speech full of frankness, and especially addressed to the clergy. ‘You, bishops,’ said he, ‘who have been raised to a dignity so high, to the end that you may feed the Church of Christ by distributing to it the wholesome word of God, I exhort you to see to it with all your energy that this be done, in order that the pure and incorruptible voice of the Gospel may resound in your dioceses, and may nourish souls and keep them from evil. You know what a multitude of papal superstitions have been abolished in Germany by the intervention of Luther; you know that in other countries also the tricks and impositions of the priests have been exposed before the people, and that even among ourselves a general outcry has arisen. Complaint is made that the servants of the Church, instead of drawing the pure word of the Lord at the clear fountains of Israel, go away to the turbid and stagnant ponds of human tradition, and pretended miracles, to ditches so foul that the people are beginning to turn aside from their pestilential exhalations. I have, I know, given you my promise on oath to maintain the Roman Catholic religion in this kingdom; but do not suppose that I mean to shield under my authority the worthless fables which have crept into it; neither I, as king of Denmark and of Norway, nor yourselves are bound to maintain decrees of the Roman Church which are not based on the immovable rock of the word of God. I have pledged myself to preserve your episcopal dignity so long as you devote all your energies to the fulfillment of your duties. And, seeing that the Christian doctrine as set forth in conformity with the Reformation of Luther has struck its roots so deep in this realm that it would be impossible to extirpate it without bloodshed, my royal will is that the two religions, the Lutheran and the papal, should enjoy equal liberty until the meeting of the general council which is announced.’ This northern monarch thus realized the saying of Tertullian — Certe non est religionis cogere religionem . Unhappily the Reformation was not always faithful to its own principles.
When they heard these words, the bishops were in consternation. They were too well acquainted with the people not to be certain that under the regime of liberty the Reformation would gain the ascendency. It was all over with them and their episcopate. They believed that the only hope for the clergy lay in a close union with the nobility. They said to the lords, ‘Pray defend the Church;’ and they began to labor with might and main to prevent the will of the king from being carried into execution. They depicted in the most glaring colors the dangers to which the Reformation exposed the state. They complained of the ill-treatment to which some of the begging friars had been subjected; and they made a deep impression on the minds of many lords and dignitaries of the state.
To liberty they immediately set themselves to oppose persecution. The royal council demanded that the letters which authorized the new doctrines should be revoked, that the preachers should be expelled the kingdom, that the monks should be restored to their convents, and that the bishops should establish in their dioceses learned clerks competent to confute the reformers. ‘I am not able to compel consciences,’ said the king, ‘but if anyone ill-treats the monks he shall be punished.’ f270 The people were excited, for they were for reform. Even among the nobles and the influential rich men there was a party, at the head of which was Magnus Gjoe, which was determined to maintain evangelical liberty. These enlightened men made their voice heard. The king, finding that his throne was strengthened, and that public opinion became more and more decided in favor of the Reformation, took one more step. Strengthened by the support of Gjoe, his friends, and the people, he caused a constitution to be drawn up respecting matters of religion, and this was presented to the diet at Odensee in 1527. It alarmed the bishops and astonished the nobles.
This assembly, which included the most zealous partisans of the papacy, being constituted, the delegate of the king read aloud the following articles: — lst. Everyone shall be free to attach himself to either religion; no inquiry shall be made concerning conscience. 2nd. The king will protect equally the papists and the Lutherans, and will give to the latter the security which they have not hitherto enjoyed. 3rd. Marriage, which has been for centuries prohibited to canons, monks, and other ministers of the Church, is henceforth permitted to them. 4th. Bishops instead of going to Rome for the pallium , shall be bound to ask for confirmation by the king. f271 A great religious revolution was hereby brought about in the kingdom. By the abolition of celibacy the hierarchy was destroyed; by the abolition of the pallium relations with the papacy were suppressed; and the first two articles allowed the evangelical church to be built up on the ruins of Rome.
The first impulse of the clergy was to reject the whole of the articles; but the dread in which the bishops stood of Christian, the fear lest some foreign power should reinstate him on the throne, made them tremble. If the king did place himself on the side of the Gospel, he was at least moderate, while Christian was violent and cruel. The prelates held their peace. In accepting the liberty which was left them, they had indeed somewhat of the air of men who were being put in chains; but far from crying out very loudly, they showed some eagerness to submit. They had, it is true, one consolation; their tithes, their property were secured to them, so long as they should not be called in question by lawful trial .
Nevertheless, beneath this apparent submission lay hidden an immovable resolution. All the prelates were determined to defend energetically the doctrine and the constitution of the papacy, and to seize the first favorable opportunity to fall on the Reformation and to drive it out of Denmark. f27