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  • HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION -
    CHRISTIAN III. PROCLAIMED KING. TRIUMPH OF THE REFORMATION IN DENMARK, NORWAY, AND ICELAND.


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    (1533-1550.)

    WHILE these things were in progress, Christian, who had no intention of imposing himself on the Danes by force of arms, but wished, on the contrary, to be freely called to the throne, and by the people themselves, had marched against the enemies of Denmark, and was besieging that powerful town of Lubeck which had brought confusion on his country.

    The Grand-Master, Magnus Gjoe, Ove Lunge, another member of the Diet, and two bishops set out to announce to him his election. Informed of their mission he went to meet them, and received them at the cloister of Preetz, in Holstein, situated above Eutin and the charming lake of Ploen.

    Christian accepted with gratitude, dignity, and modesty the crown which was offered to him as the only man who had power to save the kingdom.

    Soon afterwards he went to Horsens, in Jutland, situated at the head of a gulf formed by the sea to the north of the Little Belt. At this place the States of Jutland and Fionia met in a great assembly on a plain near the town. Christian was here proclaimed king; and, on his knees, with hands raised towards heaven, he took the oath in use at the election of a monarch; saving, however, the necessary changes which might be made, with the assent of the Diet, particularly with respect to the property and the privileges of the bishops. From the very beginnings of the Reformation, the prelates had incessantly resisted its progress. They had imprisoned or banished the reformers, had deposed a king, and as soon as the throne was vacant had endeavored to place on it a boy whom they assumed to keep under their own guardianship. Everywhere and at all times they had taken the position of masters of the country. And now their star was paling, a dark veil hung over their destinies, and the sun ‘that ariseth with healing in his wings’ was about to radiate freely his light and heat. f346 There was still, however, much to do. Oldenburg’s soldiers, under the command of a pirate, had invaded the north of Jutland, and had spread there, as they did everywhere, ruin and desolation.

    Rantzau who was in command of the royal troops expelled them.

    Oldenburg went to Copenhagen, and determined to push on the war vigorously, demanded of the gentry their silver-plate and the jewels, necklaces, and bracelets of their wives and daughters. But at the call of the new king, Sweden, having no desire to see its butcher, the terrible Christian II., reascend the throne of Scandinavia, dispatched an army into Scania which pursued the Lubeckers as far Malmoe. Christian III., for want of a fleet, passed the Little Belt in ordinary boats. The German army was defeated in two engagements. More than two hundred German lords perished in these fights; and the famous archbishop Troll, the friend of Christian the Cruel, who, in conjunction with Hoya, was in command of the army of the invaders, was severely wounded and died. At length the spring of 1535 permitted the vessels of Sweden and Prussia to join those of Denmark. This fleet touched at the island of Zealand, and the king and the army encamped at a distance of four leagues from Copenhagen, and soon invested the city. The siege lasted a year; and during this time Christian III. overran the other provinces for the purpose of driving away the enemy.

    In the midst of these struggles and conflicts the Reformation was making its way without the cooperation of the king. Its adherents were gradually regaining possession of the churches and offices of which they had been deprived by the bishops in the fatal year 1533. Christian undertook a journey into Sweden; and the order, peace, and prosperity which prevailed in that country, since the Reformation achieved the victory over the Romish hierarchy, attracted his attention, and convinced him more than ever that in this victory was to be found the source of the welfare of the individual and the community.

    At the same time the Lubeckers were beginning to be weary of an unrighteous, burdensome, and unsuccessful war. The elector of Saxony, with other princes and some of the free towns of Germany, looking on the young Christian as one of their own body, offered to mediate between Lubeck and him. A congress was accordingly opened at Hamburg. It was arranged that all hostilities should cease between the king and the state of Lubeck, and that Copenhagen and the other towns still in rebellion should be pardoned if they made their submission. But these towns refused to surrender, in the confidence that Queen Mary of Hungary, governess of the Netherlands, the sister-in-law of Christian II., would send them aid.

    Necessity at last brought about what inclination refused. Copenhagen, in which the Count of Oldenburg had shut himself up, could no longer hold out. There was no more bread in the town. Those who had a little barley or oats ate them uncooked, lest the smoke should reveal the fact, and the famishing should come and carry off what remained. In a little while this emaciated population had nothing to live on but horses, dogs, and cats; and for this kind of food a very high price was charged. The soldiers who had nothing at all entered houses to snatch from those who still had anything left, any food, and carried it off, harassing them at the time with shameful treatment. These unfortunates sought with eagerness after everything that seemed capable of sustaining life. Men and women were mere shadows wandered about hither and thither, scaring those who met them; and they were dragging themselves upon the ramparts exposed to the fire of the enemy and stooping to pluck from the soil any wild herbs. Some, when they felt that death was approaching, left their beds and dragged themselves along to the cemetery, as their relatives would certainly have no strength to carry them thither, and they lay down to die on the earth which was to cover them. Others, impatient for the end of the long agony, exposed themselves to the shots of the besiegers. Pity was nowhere to be found; and when some of these wretched victims abandoned themselves to cries and lamentations, — ‘Off with you!’ said the chiefs, ‘you are not so badly off as they were at the siege of Jerusalem, where parents ate their own children.’ There was more charity in the prince who was besieging them. Duke Albert of Mecklenburg, who had married a niece of the elder Christian, and was hoping to inherit his crown, was one of the leaders shut up in Copenhagen. His wife being confined, the young king sent her victuals in great abundance for the sustenance of herself and of all her connections.

    At last came the catastrophe of this tragedy. The townsmen and the soldiers, subdued by hunger, offered to capitulate. Christian’s first intention was that they should surrender at discretion; but his generous disposition soon prevailed, and he promised pardon to all his enemies. The Duke of Mecklenburg and the Count of Oldenburg proceeded on foot to the royal camp, their heads uncovered and white batons in their hands. f348 They made a public confession of their offense, and falling on their knees they asked pardon of the king. Christian gave a stern reception to the Count of Oldenburg, whose ambition had plunged Denmark into a most cruel war. He reminded him of the pillage, the conflagrations, and the murders which he had ordered in the states of a prince of his own blood, and urged him to repent. Then he raised him up, saying at the same time that was willing still to acknowledge him as his kinsman, although he had shown himself his most cruel enemy. As for the Duke of Mecklenburg, the king attributed his offense to weakness, and treated him with forbearance. The deputies of the town afterwards presented themselves and were received with a kindliness that won their hearts. The king made his entry into the capital on the 8th of August, accompanied by the queen, the members of the Diet, and the principal officers of his army. The inhabitants, wasted, pale, and tottering, crawled out to see him pass, and had scarcely strength to utter a shout of joy. Many houses had been destroyed by cannon shot; and almost all the churches were thrown down.

    The emotion and pity which the king felt at this spectacle were depicted on his countenance. His presence was now to put an end to these calamities. He re-entered the town as a king, but also as a father. A similar entry was to take place, at the close of the century, into a capital of higher importance, and on the part of a prince more illustrious. But there was a great difference between Christian III. and Henry IV. The prince of the North did not ascend the throne as the king of France did, ‘to have on his head the feet of the pope.’ f350 And now, what had he to do? To bind up the wounds of the kingdom and to give it a new life. Christian felt it necessary to consult the principal members of the Diet. Six days after his entry into Copenhagen he called together, under the seal of secrecy, the Grand-Master Magnus Gjoe, the Grand-Marshal Krabbe, Rosenkranz, Brahe, Guldenstiern, Friis, Bilde, and some other enlightened members of the senate, and laid his thoughts before them. They came to a unanimous conclusion that the bishops were the chief cause of the troubles in the realm, and that while they were in power its prosperity was impossible. Were they not the authors of this interregnum which had plunged Denmark into an abyss of misfortunes?

    Had they not rejected the only king who was capable of saving the country? Had they not exercised in his stead tyrannical authority? Was not their temporal power contrary to the Scriptures, a tissue of usurpations and a fatal institution? The people declared for the Reformation. It was, therefore, the duty of the king and of the Diet to take the necessary steps for its complete establishment; and the first thing to do was to deprive the bishops of a power condemned by God and by man.

    But if they should find that this matter is to be brought before the Diet would they not attempt to raise their partisans? To prevent this their persons must be secured. Sharp remedies for sharp maladies. ‘He leadeth princes away spoiled and overcometh the mighty.’ ( Job 12:19.)

    This resolution had hardly been adopted before two of the most influential prelates of the kingdom, Torbern Bilde, archbishop of Lund and primate of the realm, and Roennov, bishop of Zealand, arrived at Copenhagen for the purpose of offering their congratulations to the king. They were both at the episcopal palace of the city, and it appears that they received some hint of the measure that was in preparation. On the 20th August, Rantzau, entrusted with the mission by the king, appeared at the palace. He found the door closed, and his soldiers burst it open. The archbishop immediately surrendered without offering resistance. But Roennov took advantage of his familiarity with all the nooks and corners of his palace to rush within, and climbing up to the roof squatted in a foul and disgusting hole, or, according to another account, behind one of the beams which supported the roof. They searched for him for a long time without looking there; but the next morning they discovered him. He came down and tried to conceal his shame under an air of irritation and by violent words. All the bishops were taken prisoners; and every one of these arrests forms a history by itself. Many of them defended themselves in their strong castles and repulsed force by force. Rantzau was obliged to form regular sieges and to attack vigorously these formidable pastors, who had armed men and brave officers under their orders. The Danish bishops, contrary to the Bible command, had turned their crooks into swords, their crosses into halberds, and their flocks into troops of lancers.

    The bishops were confined in various fortresses, and their treatment with more or less mildness depended on whether they conducted themselves submissively or insulted the king’s officers. The question of course arises were these seizures legal? We reply that the bishops had been guilty of offenses against the state and against the people, and that these offenses justified their imprisonment. It is a legitimate course for a king and his counselors to defend themselves against conspirators.

    The Diet of the kingdom had now to pronounce a decision. Christian resolved on taking an important step in a constitutional direction by introducing into the Diet, in conjunction with the nobility, and in the place of the prelates, representatives chosen by the burgesses of the towns and by the peasantry of the country districts. This was the first Diet in which the people were represented. It was opened on the 30th of October 1536. A decree was passed for the holding of an assembly to regulate the new order of things. A spacious platform having been erected in the open air, the king and the States took their places on it, surrounded by a vast gathering of the people, who formed, as it were, the general council of the nation. The prince expressed the sorrow that he felt at the thought of the calamities with which the country had just been visited, and dwelt on the fact that the bishops had shown themselves unworthy of their office.

    Then followed the reading of a report on the condition of the kingdom, which occupied three hours. It set forth the offenses common to all the bishops, the usurpation of the supreme power and the attempt to ruin the evangelicals. Next, the reporter dealt with each of them separately. ‘Bishop Roennov of Roeskilde,’ said he, ‘has ruled in Copenhagen during the interregnum as though he were the sovereign.’ ‘Yes, yes,’ exclaimed voices from the crowd. ‘He has sent his likeness,’ said some one, ‘to Queen Mary of Hungary, governess of the Netherlands, offering her at the same time his hand and the crown of Denmark!’ This was doubtless a mere piece of fun; but the notion of becoming king some day would be not at all unlikely to occur to a vain man like Roennov, who was turning over high matters in his weak brain. To each bishop was attributed some particular saying and deed. One of the strangest sayings was that of the Bishop of Ribe, who, according to the reporter, said — ‘I should like be changed into a devil, that I might have the pleasure of tormenting the soul of King Frederick, tainted with heresy.’ f354 The reporter continued, — ‘In consequence of these facts it is proposed that all the Roman Catholic bishops should be deposed from their offices; that the religion and the rites of the Romish Church should be abolished in the kingdom; that the doctrine should be reformed and the evangelical religion established; that none of those who are unwilling to renounce the Roman priesthood should on that account be subject to any ill-treatment, that no infringement of their liberty of conscience should be attempted, but that they should be instructed in conformity with the Word of God, and if they refused this they should be left to give account of their faith to God alone.’ f355 Considering that the spiritual power had resorted to the use of halberds and cannon, the temporal power might very reasonably have done the same; but the sovereign, having made himself master of their fortresses, imposed on them no penalty but freedom.

    When the reading of the report was concluded, the question was put in the king’s name to the nobles and to the people whether they assented to the proposals therein made, and particularly whether they wished to retain their former bishops. As with one voice they all replied, — ‘We do not wish for them; we will have the Gospel.’ A compact was accordingly drawn up. A complete amnesty for what was past, and entire and mutual confidence for the future were proclaimed. In the place of the prelates, the authors of all the troubles of the kingdom, an equal number of evangelical theologians were to be established under the designation of ‘superintendents’ (that of ‘bishops’ subsequently came into use).

    Permission was given to monks to quit their convents, or to remain in them on condition of leading there an edifying life and of listening to the Word of God. If anyone thought that he had ground of complaint against the king, he was to institute proceedings against him before the Diet. The crown was declared to be henceforth hereditary. This compact was signed by four hundred nobles and by the deputies of the towns and the country districts. From this time the bishops ceased to be members of the Diet of which they had formed a part for six centuries; and the evangelical religion was publicly professed. the Reformation was thus established in this northern kingdom in the same year and in the same manner as it had just been established in a petty republic in the center of Europe. f356 It was the king’s intention to set at liberty immediately such of the bishops as were still in confinement, and he caused the offer to be made to them, requiring only in return that they should not meddle with affairs of state, that they should not resist the Reformation, and that they should lead a peaceable life. The majority agreed to these terms; and the king not only restored to them their hereditary estates, but, in addition, made liberal presents to many of them. The best treated was Ove Bilde, who had defended his castle with cannon, and who, respected by everyone, received as a fief the estate of Skovkloster, near Nestved. Towards the close of his life he embraced the evangelical doctrine. One bishop only, Roennov, absolutely refused submission. He had changed with every wind, but he remained steadfast now. Of a character at once feeble and fiery, he protested against the course adopted towards him, and his indignation vented itself in sharp sayings and violent gestures. This restless and versatile man was removed successively to four or five castles, and at last died, in 1544, in this same town of Copenhagen, where the people continued to believe that he had aimed at establishing himself as king.

    Christian III. reunited the castles of the bishops to the domains of the crown; but the rest of the properties of the bishops he assigned, by Luther’s advice, to the hospitals, the schools, the university and the churches. It had been his intention to give an important position to the ‘third estate;’ but in this he did not succeed. This class, consisting of workmen without moral weight, and peasants without intelligence, had to wait till their time was come. f357 The organization of the Evangelical Church was no light task. The king felt the want of some Protestant theologian who was competent to undertake it. At Flensborg, in 1529, he had made the acquaintance of Pomeranus, the friend of Luther, who had organized the churches of Pomerania, his native country, of Brunswick, Hamburg, and Lubeck. Pomeranus, whose original name was Bugenhagen, was superintendent at Wittenberg, and was a man of a conciliatory and disinterested nature. He could distinguish between things essential and things indifferent; he attached himself to the spirit still more than to the letter; and on these grounds seemed to be peculiarly fitted to give a constitution to the Danish Church. The elector of Saxony consented to give him up, first for a year, and afterwards for two years. In 1537, therefore, Luther’s friend arrived at Copenhagen with his family and several students from Wittenberg. He reorganized the university of Copenhagen, and delivered there courses of lectures, and diffused instruction and the knowledge of the Scriptures among the clergy. At the same time, in co-operation with the reformers of Denmark, Tausen, Wormorsen, Chrysostom, Sadolin, Peter Larssen and others, he gave a constitution to the renovated Church of Denmark. On the 12th of May, 1537, the birthday of Christian III., the king and queen were crowned by the reformer. ‘Pomeranus is in Denmark,’ wrote Luther to Bucer, ‘and all that God does by his hands prospers. He has crowned the king and the queen as if he were a real bishop.’ On September 2, he consecrated the new evangelical bishops. Wormorsen was made bishop of the former primatial see of Lund, but its metropolitan privileges were abolished.

    Palladius, a disciple of Luther and Melanchthon, who had spent at Wittenberg almost all the time during which the Reformation was in progress in Denmark, was appointed, doubtless on the recommendation of Pomeranus, bishop of Zealand, and he exercised also a kind of general supervision. Tausen was not at this time made a bishop. Are we to suppose that he declined the office? Or were some afraid to raise to a bishopric this bold pioneer who had made himself enemies by the freedom of his ministry? He was, however, invested with the office, four years later, as bishop of Ribe. f359 The very day on which the bishops were consecrated the constitution of the Church was promulgated. It treated, in the first place, of pure evangelical doctrine and of the sacraments; next of the education of the young and of schools; of ecclesiastical customs and of their uniformity; of the duties of the superintendents and of provosts; of the revenues of the Church for the maintenance of ministers and the poor; and of the books which might be used by the pastors to enlarge their knowledge. The writings of Luther and Melanchthon were especially recommended. f360 The Danish Church was thus transformed; and from a church of the pope had become a Church of the Word of God. Unfortunately it was unable to stand fast in the liberty into which it was born. The state claimed too much authority over its affairs.

    The Reformation was likewise established in other countries bordering on Denmark, and these demand at least a moment’s attention. We must take a hasty survey of Norway and Iceland.

    The Reformation in Denmark involved in it that of Norway. The commercial relations of this country with England and its proximity to Sweden had contributed to increase the number of Protestants within its borders. But there was no region of the north in which Roman Catholicism had more resolute adherents. We have seen that Christian II. had been favorably received there when he appeared as champion of the papacy.

    Archbishop Olaf Engelbrechtsen was one of his partisans, and kept up intercourse with the protectors of the prince, with his brother-in-law, Charles the Fifth, and his son-in-law the elector-palatine. As soon as this prelate heard of the imprisonment of the Danish bishops he fancied himself likewise a ruined man; and, struck with terror, had his vessels equipped and all his property and the most costly treasures of the Church put on board, and then fled to the Netherlands. Christian III. was acknowledged in Norway; but the country lost its independence and was united with the kingdom as one of its provinces. The Norwegian Church was for some time in a lamentable condition. ‘Our brethren in Norway,’ said Palladius, bishop of Zealand, ‘are like sheep that have no shepherd.’ Nevertheless, one or two influential men of the country took part in the work of reform. Johan Reff, bishop of Opzloe, went to Copenhagen, and there resigned his temporal power and accepted the new constitution of the Church. Geble Petersen, bishop of Bergen, also declared publicly for the Reformation. He refused to marry, he said, in order that he might be able to devote himself entirely to the public service. He gave up his whole fortune towards the foundation of a school, the repair of his cathedral, and the erection of a parsonage-house.

    He gave instruction daily in the school which he had founded, and urgently requested Palladius, bishop of Zealand, who held him in high esteem, to send him masters and ministers; but he did not succeed in getting them.

    The fervent Catholicism of certain Norwegians was alarming to the Danes.

    It was rumored at Copenhagen that in Norway people were killing the pastors. The constitution of the Danish Church was, however, introduced into the country. Christian III. commanded that the Word of God should be purely and plainly taught there. But there was an active party which offered a vigorous opposition to Protestantism. A gale was blowing in the country districts which threw to the ground whatever the Government attempted to set up. The monks were stirring up the peasantry to revolt.

    The people when urged to build parsonage-houses for their pastors refused to do so. Nevertheless the Reformation gradually got the ascendency; but it appears to have been mainly the work of the Government. f362 We have already spoken of the Reformation in the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. The townsmen of Flensborg, in 1526, discharged twelve priests and set evangelical ministers in their places. In the same and the following years the Reformation was established at Hadersleben, Schleswig, Itzehoe, Rendsburg, Kiel, Oldenburg, and other towns. All the measures of the Government were marked by mildness and patience; and the kingdom of Christ made progress by its own inward power.

    Iceland, that island of frozen mountains and subterranean fires which heave up and shake the land, and then burst forth in eruptions, so that the region is a wonderful combination of burning lava and eternal ice, — Iceland also was to become acquainted with the Reformation. Icebergs floating down from the polar regions sometimes environ it and destroy the crops; but knowledge, Divine words, and evangelical teachers were one day to arrive there from the East; and this remote island of the North was thus to be exposed to the beneficent shining of a sun which brings life and prosperity into the most desolate regions.

    For more than a century before this time the Icelanders had made bitter complaint of the harshness of their bishops. Real despots they were — whose punishments were so cruel that the unhappy persons on whom they were inflicted declared that they should prefer death. At the epoch of the Reformation the two prelates of the island were, — Oegmund Paulsen, bishop of Skalholt, and Johan Aresen, bishop of Holum, both priests worthy of their predecessors. The latter an ignorant, domineering, obstinate, and vindictive man gave himself out for a descendant of the kings of Denmark and Norway, and even of king of Priam, king of Troy, and he was very proud of it. The character of bishop Oegmund was less violent; but both he and his colleague were far more like feudal barons of the Middle Ages than shepherds of the Lord’s flock. At the time of the election of the bishop of Holum, Oegmund had supported a different candidate; consequently Aresen had sworn mortal hatred to him. This hostility of the two prelates occasioned division among the inhabitants of the island to such an extent that, in 1527, civil war was on the point of breaking out. They were, however, at last induced to settle the quarrel by a trial by single combat, a method not very agreeable to the spirit of the Gospel. Each of the two prelates selected his champion; and the two knights, representatives of the bishops, appeared armed cap a pied , and struck terrible blows at each other. Oegmund’s champion was the victor. How would these strange characters, who were two or three centuries behind the rest of the world, receive the Reformation, which, all unknown to them, had begun to stir all Europe? The answer was not doubtful.

    A son of the former bishop of Holum, Oddur Gottschalksen, had been educated in Norway, and had also studied under Luther at Wittenberg. On his return to Iceland, bishop Oegmund, who had for some time been his father’s colleague, and had known the boy from his birth, took him for his secretary. The prelate hated the Holy Scriptures; and finding one day a copy of the Vulgate in the possession of one of his priests, he snatched the book out of his hands, and flung it away in a rage. Another day, when he was severely rebuking an ecclesiastic who had been so audacious as to censure abuses, numerous enough. in Iceland, and particularly the worship of images, the poor priest appealed to St. Paul. ‘Paul’ gruffly exclaimed the bishop, ‘Paul was the teacher of the heathen, and not ours.’ This is a specimen of the bishops of Iceland. Oddur had gained at Wittenberg the knowledge of the truth. Naturally fond of study he had determined to devote his energies to this rather than to the active ministry; and he had brought with him for this purpose many German and Latin books. As he was aware how the tyrannical bishops of Iceland demeaned themselves towards their inferiors, he was timid and prudent, and did not venture to speak of the Gospel before them or their creatures. Privately, however, he taught the way of salvation to many of his fellow-countrymen; and secretly worked at an Icelandic version of the New Testament. He had witnessed the marvelous effect produced by the translation of his master Luther, and he was in hopes that his own might be the instrument of like good to Iceland. In order that he might be secure against surprise by any indiscreet and fanatical visitor, he had taken up his quarters for work in a cow-shed; and the bishop, supposing his secretary was copying old documents, supplied him liberally with paper, pens, and ink. Oddur, in his solitary shed, did not confine himself to writing, but he fervently prayed there for Iceland, beseeching that a fertile season, a long summer, might be granted to this region of long winters. The good seed which he scattered began to spring up in men’s hearts. The bishop became aware that something was going on; and it appeared to him that a new doctrine had overleaped the vast interval that separates Iceland from the European continent. He was uneasy, but he expected that he should be able to smother the first germs, by threatening with excommunication all who should teach and profess any other articles of faith than those which he himself accepted.

    Oegmund was advanced in years, and was thinking of retirement. He had had a young Icelander, Gisser Einarsen by name, brought up to succeed him. In opposition to the bishop’s wish, the young man had left Hamburg, where the bishop had placed him, and gone to Wittenberg. It does not appear, however, that the prelate was much vexed with his intended successor; the latter, on the contrary, appears to have exerted a good influence on his patron. Oegmund was somewhat softened by the knowledge of the course of events in Denmark. He sent Einarsen to Copenhagen, with instructions to announce to King Christian III. that he was not an enemy of the Reformation, and that the clergy intended to appoint him — Einarsen — to the office of superintendent of the church of Skalholt. Oddur accompanied the episcopal delegate, anxious to avail himself of the opportunity of getting his Icelandic New Testament printed. Christian III. ordered an examination to be made of this translation, and then commanded that it should be printed, probably at his own expense. Einarsen himself was examined by the professors of Copenhagen, and was then ordained bishop by Palladius, although he was only twenty-five years of age. On his return to Iceland, Oegmund resigned to him the episcopal office. f366 But the king did not confine himself to sending a new bishop to the Church of Iceland; he required at the same time that it should receive the new ecclesiastical constitution which he had given to Denmark. This was not an easy matter. The more remote communities lie from the great currents of civilization, whether in mountain regions or in islands, the more tenaciously they cling to the opinions of their forefathers. These rugged islanders therefore declared that, while they were ready to abolish abuses, they would not receive a new faith. In the heart of the aged Oegmund himself was rekindled zeal for the doctrines of his youth, and he seemed desirous of resuming his episcopal duties. But being accused of having taken part in a murder, committed in his dwelling, of a person in the service of the king, he was compelled to go to Copenhagen to answer the charge, and there he died. From this time the pious Einarsen entered upon the full exercise of his episcopal functions. He founded schools, compelled many convents to instruct the young, and spared himself no pains in training good ministers. Death arrested him in the midst of his work.

    And now Johan Aresen, bishop of Holum, took courage. This violent, ambitious, restless, and yet undoubtedly sincere man had been indignant to see the beginning of the Reformation in Iceland. He wrote to Copenhagen, — ‘I have never learnt that a king has authority to make changes in matters of religion unless they are enjoined by the court of Rome.’ No sooner had he been informed of the death of his young colleague than he raised a body of troops, about two hundred men, and entered by force of arms into the diocese which had become vacant, firmly resolved to clear it of all traces of reform, and to settle in it his son Bjoern Jonsen as his vicar. Aresen intended to become himself sole bishop of the whole of Iceland. He gave orders to two of his other sons to seize and carry off the new bishop, Morten Einarsen, who had been in due form elected to succeed the late bishop, and who was peaceably making a visitation of his new diocese.

    Aresen, not satisfied with subjecting him to harsh treatment, composed ballads in which he mercilessly ridiculed and quizzed him. Next, thrusting himself into the place of the lawful bishop, he undertook a visitation of the diocese of Skalholt, taking along with him the captive bishop Morten. He exhibited him by way of triumph, and compelled him to enjoin on all priests and laymen submission to the bishop of Holum. He re-established everywhere the Roman services, consecrated priests, and did not spare, even the last resting-places of the dead. He caused the body of bishop Einarsen to be disinterred, and had it cast into a pit outside the cemetery.

    This usurping priest went to greater lengths still; he openly threw scorn on the royal power, seized the property of the Church, prosecuted those who offered resistance, and laid the whole country waste. As it was impossible for the royal governor to allow these proceedings he arrested Aresen; and this haughty, passionate priest, who cared for neither faith nor law, heard his adversaries loudly demanding that the land should be rid of this scourge of the Divine anger. He was sentenced to death, and was executed with his sons. Thus perished this fiery champion of the Middle Ages and of the papacy; a death undoubtedly unjust, if he had been struck as a Roman Catholic bishop. But, according to the most authentic documents, the Reformation appears to have had no share in this tragical end of Aresen. He fell a victim to his crimes and to the indignation of his countrymen, who were determined to take vengeance for all the calamities which he had brought down on their country. His partisans, likewise, took their revenge. They put to death several of his judges, indulging in the practices of the most barbarous ages. They seized the executioner of the decree of justice who had given the bishop the fatal stroke, bound him, and, forcing open his mouth, poured melted lead down his throat. After these horrible proceedings the wild energy of the people appeared to be broken, and Christian civilization began to make progress. Schools were multiplied by the Protestant bishops; and the whole of the Bible was translated, printed, and circulated in the vernacular tongue. The Roman services gradually became extinct. To avoid the necessity of a return to the affairs of this remote island, we have been compelled to anticipate events. It was not till 1550 that the terrible bishop Aresen was put to death.

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