HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION - VICTORY.
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THE bishops and the rest of the ecclesiastics went out of the castle disquieted, fretful, indignant, and determined to resist the designs of the king with all their might. Consequently they arranged to meet secretly early in the morning of the following day, in the church of St. Egidius.
They got there by stealth without being perceived, and concealed themselves in the remotest corner of the church, and there, beneath its vaults, began the conventicle of the priests. ‘What can be the motive,’ they asked each other, ‘of the scandalous affront to which the king subjected us in the presence of all the States of the kingdom?’ Bishop Brask, as suffragan of the primate, absent at the time, spoke: ‘The unworthy proceeding of which we have been the victims is assuredly the cover of detestable schemes. But the king cleverly dissembles his intentions. He is surrounded by men tainted with Lutheranism, and they flatter and mislead him. He means to take away from the clergy their privileges, their liberties, and their possessions, and to add strength to heresy. Under the specious title of defender of the country, he usurps absolute authority; and unless we oppose his projects, we shall find ourselves despoiled of our castles and fortresses, and of the share which we have in the government of the kingdom. How can I tell that we shall not be deprived likewise of our religion?’ The bishop of Strengnaes in vain represented to his colleagues that they ought not to provoke so great a prince, who had won by his own merit the love of all Sweden; in vain did he declare that for his own part he was quite ready to surrender his strong castle. Brask, inflamed with wrath, exclaimed, ‘Do you assume to dispose of the possessions of the Church as if they were your own patrimony? Will you deliver them up to a heretical prince? You talk like a courtier rather than like a bishop.’
Then cursing the king, he declared that resistance must be offered, and even by force, if the law should be powerless. ‘We must bethink ourselves, he said, ‘of the oath which we took at our consecration. Let us act with a vigor truly episcopal. It is better that we should lose court favor by our courage than gain it by our feebleness!’ Those present then exclaimed, ‘We swear to defend the privileges of the clergy, and to extirpate heresy.’ This oath was not sufficient. The energetic bishop of Linkoping demanded that an engagement should be made in writing; and he drew up a declaration, which they all signed. They swore to keep the secret; and lest the document should fall into the hands of the king, they concealed it under a tombstone in the church, and there it was found fifteen years later. This proceeding ended, the conspirators went clandestinely out of the church as they had gone in, and made preparation for the Reichstag.
But Brask had something else to do beforehand. He wished to come to an understanding with his friend Thure Joensson, marshal of the kingdom, the highest dignitary in the land after the king, and a devoted partisan of Rome. This person had little to boast of except his honors. Full of vanity, proud of his birth and of his rank, he was weak and without resources.
The bishop of Linkoping related to him what had just occurred. The marshal, full of vainglory, felt highly flattered at finding himself head of a party opposed to the king, and agreed to all the proposals which Brask made to him for saving the Roman priesthood. The head of the clergy and the head of the nobility, finding themselves thus in agreement, thought it possible to carry the States with them and to destroy Reform. While the marshal, delighted with his own importance, assumed an air of haughtiness, the bishop put forth all his energy in endeavoring to gain over to his cause the nobles and the peasants.
The Diet met in the great hall of the Dominican monastery. Everyone was in suspense as to what was about to take place; the Assembly appeared uneasy; a heavy weight pressed on all hearts; the air was dull and thick.
The chancellor, Lawrence Anderson, addressed the meeting for the purpose of making a report on the state of the kingdom. ‘Our fortresses,’ said he, ‘are dismantled, our ports vacant, our arsenals destitute of stores.
The government of Christian II. has been fatal to Sweden. The members of the Diet have been massacred, our towns have been pillaged, and the land is reduced to a state of the most frightful misery. For seven years the king, and he alone, has been endeavoring to restore to our country its prosperity and its glory. But instead of recognition and co-operation he finds nothing but discontent and ingratitude; the people have even broken out in open revolt. How is it possible to govern a people who, as soon as the king speaks of suppressing any abuses, arm themselves with axes? a nation in which the bishops are instigators of revolt, and openly say that they have received from their pope a sharp sword, and that they will know how to handle in battle other arms than their wax candles? People complain of the taxes; but are not these entirely applied to the service of the nation?
They complain of the dearness of provisions; but has the king control over the weather and the seasons? They say that the prince is a heretic; but is not this what priests assert of all kings who do not blindly submit to their desire? If a government is to exist at all, the means of maintaining it must be provided. The revenue of the State is now 24,000 marks per annum, and its expenditure is 60,000 marks. The crown and the nobility possess hardly a third of the wealth of the clergy. You are aware that the wealth of the Church has been taken from the royal treasury, and that almost all the nobles have been reduced to poverty by the greed of the ecclesiastics. You are aware that the townsmen are incessantly plagued by excessive demands on behalf of pretended religious foundations, which have nothing religious about them and tend only to ruin the State. Some remedy must be applied to the evils brought upon us by greedy men who take possession of the fruits of our toil that they may give themselves up to their own pleasures. The fortresses of the prelates, which form places of refuge for seditious men, must be restored to the State; and the wealth with which ecclesiastics are glutted, instead of being devoted to their pleasures, must be applied to the promotion of the general weal.’
The reform of religion thus led to the reform of morals, and in the suppression of error was involved the suppression of abuses. If the work had at this time been accomplished throughout Europe, Christendom would have gained three centuries, and its transformation, instead of being wrought in an age of laxity and decay, would have been accomplished under the inspiring breath of faith and morality. The chancellor, conscious of the importance of the crisis, and perceiving the dangers to which Sweden would be exposed if the Diet should reject his claims, had spoken with some agitation of mind. He was silent; and the king then turned to the marshal of the kingdom, as if to ask his opinion. The feeble Thure Joensson was very reluctant to speak, and would much rather leave the energetic Brask to break the ice. He therefore turned to this prelate and made a sign to him to address the meeting. The latter did not take much pressing to speak. ‘We will defend the Catholic religion,’ he said, ‘to our last breath; we will maintain the rights, the privileges, and the possessions of the Church, and we will make no concessions without a peremptory decree of the pope of Rome, whose authority alone we recognize in matters of this kind.’
The king had not looked for such haughty words. ‘Gentleman,’ said he, addressing the members of the Diet, ‘what think you of this answer?’ The marshal of the kingdom, well pleased that he had to say nothing except that he thought as his friend did, replied that the answer was just; and a great number of bishops and of deputies did the same. Gustavus then, overpowered with feeling, said, ‘We expected a different answer; how can we wonder at a revolt of the people when the leading men of the kingdom set them the example? I did not shrink from hazarding my life at the time when the indolent priests were spending their useless lives in idleness. I know your ingratitude. You never knew how to do without kings, nor how to honor them when you had them. If rain fall, it is our fault; if the sun is hidden, we are the cause of it; if there be famine or pestilence, it is we who are blamed. You give more honor to priests and monks and all the creatures of the pope than to us. Everyone sets himself up as our master and our judge. It would be a pleasure to you even to see the axe at our neck, even though no one should be bold enough to touch the handle. Is there a man in all the world who, under such conditions, would consent to be your king? The very devil in hell would not care to be so. You deceive yourselves if you fancy that I have ascended the throne as a mere stage, and that to play the part of king is enough for me. There is therefore an end of our connection. I lay down the scepter, and my resolution is immovable. Choose you whom you will to govern you. I renounce the throne, and that is not all; I leave likewise my native land. Farewell, I shall never come back.’ At these words, Gustavus, deeply affected, burst into tears and hurried out of the hall. f441 The assembly, smitten with consternation, remained for some time silent and motionless. At last the chancellor spoke: ‘Right honorable lords, this moment must determine the existence or the destruction of Sweden. There are only two courses open to you; you must either obey the king or choose another.’ But the members were so much agitated by the speech of Gustavus, and many of them exulted so much at his departure, that, without troubling themselves about the vote proposed to them, they all rose, left their places in great haste, and went out. Thure Joensson, who in the presence of the king had kept in the background and had put forward his friend Brask, lifted up his head now that he had no longer to face the glance of the king. The bishops, the canons, and many of the lords who regarded the retirement of the king as a victory, pressed round the marshal and reconducted him to his house in triumph. Drums were beaten and trumpets blown; and the head of the nobility, full of the vain-glory which feeds on the thinnest vapor, enraptured with the pompous display which concealed from his own eyes his real deficiencies, exclaimed with a childish vanity, ‘I defy anyone to make me a pagan, a Lutheran, or a heretic.’ This man and his friends already looked upon Gustavus as having come to the end of his career, and believed themselves to be masters of the country.
The king had returned to the castle attended by his court and accompanied by his best officers. The latter stationed themselves before the gates of the castle and prevented anyone from entering. The king was as calm as in the most peaceful moments of his life; he was even merry and in good humor.
He knew that time is a great teacher and gives lessons to the most passionate men. He delayed, he waited; he wished that minds which had been misled should come to themselves again. He admitted his trusty friend to his table, showed himself an agreeable companion, and did to perfection the honors of the table. Thus he spent three days, days of pleasantness for the prince and his adherents, — a fact certainly strange in the midst of a crisis so grave. Those who were about him were delighted to find themselves living in familiar intimacy with the prince. The latter even devised certain pastimes, Du loisir d’un heros nobles amusements.
One would have said that, without any strange or grave occurrence, the king was simply at leisure; that a period of recreation had succeeded a period of work. The Diet met again on the following day; but it was undecided and uneasy, and did not adopt any resolution. Peasants thronged the public places and were beginning to show signs of impatience. They said to one another as they formed groups in the streets, ‘The king has done us no harm. The gentlemen of the Diet must make it up with him, and if they do not we shall see to it.’ The merchants spoke to the same effect; and the townsmen of Stockholm, believing that the king was about to take his departure, declared that the gates of the capital would be always open to him. Brask and his party were gradually losing their influence. Magnus Sommer, bishop of Strengnaes, inquired ‘whether the kingdom must be exposed to destruction for the sake of saving the privileges of the clergy.’ Many of the nobles and townsmen thanked him for the word. They said, ‘Let the Roman ecclesiastics set forth their doctrine and defend it against their adversaries.’ Brask stood out with all his might against this proposal; but to his great annoyance it was carried.
The next day Olaf and Peter Galle appeared in the lists; but they could not agree either as to their weapons or as to the manner of using them. ‘We shall speak Swedish,’ said Olaf, while Galle insisted on Latin, which would be the way to avoid being understood by the great majority of the assembly. Galle being obstinate, the contest began; the one making use of the learned language, the other of the vulgar tongue. At length the assembly, getting tired of this balderdash which it could not comprehend, demanded with loud outcries that Swedish only should be spoken. The Roman champion was obliged to yield, and the discussion continued till the evening. Evangelical principles were joyfully received by the greater part of the assembly. ‘A kingdom,’ said the chancellor to the most influential members of the Reichstag; ‘ought not to be governed by the maxims of priests and monks, whose interests are opposed to those of the State. Is it not a strange thing to hear the bishops proclaim a foreign prince, the pope, as the sovereign to whom we owe obedience?’ Many of the members of the Diet were convinced.
The weak and ridiculously vain Thure Joensson did not perceive this, but believed that the triumph of his own party was secured. He required that every Lutheran should be declared incapable of ascending the throne, and that all the heretics should be burnt. But the townsmen and the peasants, impatient of so many delays, very loudly declared that the nobles were bound in fulfillment of their oath, to protect the king against his enemies, and that if they did not do this speedily they would go for him themselves, and would come back in company with him and give the lords a sharp lesson. The adversaries of Gustavus began to feel alarmed. A remarkable change was likewise taking place among the bishops and the influential priests. Did they feel the inward power of evangelical truth, or did policy alone dictate to them a return to duty? The probability is that some of them were impelled by the former and others by the latter of these motives. The wind was changed. Brask and his friend, Thure Joensson, had now to listen to very bitter reproaches; and on all sides the demand was insisted on that apologies should be offered to the king, and that evidence of the devotion of his people should be given to him. f444 For this mission were selected the Chancellor Anderson and Olaf, as the men who would be able most powerfully to influence Gustavus. None could be more anxious for a reconciliation, for they felt that if the king should sink under the intrigues and the blows of the prelates, the triumphant papacy would trample the Reformation in the dust. They presented themselves at the gates of the castle, were admitted into the presence of the prince, and entreated him, in the name of the States, to return into the midst of them, to resume the government of the kingdom, and to rely on their hearty obedience. Gustavus, who had listened to them with an air of marked indifference, replied with some scorn, ‘I am sick of being your king,’ and sent them away. He was determined to leave the kingdom unless he were satisfied that he should find in the States and in the people the support which was essential to his laboring for the good of all. Other deputation’s went on three occasions to present to him the same request. But they received the same answer; he appeared to be inexorable.
It was an imposing scene which now presented itself at Stockholm. A nation was calling to the throne a prince who had saved it, and the prince was refusing the dignity. Townsmen, peasants, and nobles alike were in great agitation, and they were at this moment terrified both at the thoughtlessness with which they had rejected him, and at the abyss which they had opened beneath their own feet. If Gustavus should depart, what would become of Sweden? The land being given over to the prelates, would these churchmen, who had learnt nothing, smother in the darkness of the Middle Ages the dawning lights of the Gospel and of civilization, and bow down the people under the iron scepter of ultramontane power?
Or would the ex-king, Christian II., perhaps reappear to shed, as formerly, rivers of blood in the streets of the capital? Men’s minds were at length impressed by the greatness and nobleness of the character of Gustavus; and they understood that if they should lose him they were lost. They would make a last attempt, and for the fourth time they sent an embassy to him. The deputies, when introduced to the king’s presence, found in him the same coldness. They were conscious that the royal dignity was wounded. They threw themselves at his feet and shed tears abundantly.
The king was no less affected, and a struggle took place in his breast.
Should he withdraw from this people which he had taken so much pains to deliver from tyranny and anarchy? Should he abandon this glorious Reformation, which, if he were to leave Sweden, would undoubtedly be expelled with him? Should he bid farewell to this land which he loved, and go to make his abode under the roof of the foreigner? He might certainly have a smoother path elsewhere; but is not a prince bound to selfrenunciation for the benefit of all? Gustavus yielded.
On the fourth day he went to the Diet. Joy burst forth at his approach, all eyes were bright, and the people in their rapture would fain have kissed his feet. He reappeared in the midst of the States, and the mere sight of him filled the assembly with reverence and an ardent longing for reconciliation. Gustavus was determined to be merciful, but at the same time just, resolute, and strong. There were standing in Sweden some old trees which no longer bore fruit, and whose deadly shade spread sickness, barrenness, and death through the land: the axe must be applied to their roots in order that the soil might once more be open to sunshine and to life.
The chancellor spoke. ‘The king requires,’ he said, ‘that the three estates should pledge themselves to suppress any seditious movement; that the bishops should relinquish the government of the state and deliver up to him their fortresses; that they should furnish a statement of their revenues for the purpose of deciding what part of them is to be left to the ecclesiastics and what part is to be payable to the state, with a view to provide for the wants of the nation; and that the estates which, under King Charles Knutson (1454), were taken from the nobles and assigned to churches and convents, should be judicially restored to their lawful owners.’
The chancellor next came to the concerns of religion. ‘The king demands that the pure Word of God should be preached, that everyone should prize it, and that no one should say that the king wished to introduce a false religion.’ This did not satisfy some of the nobles, who, decided in their own faith, desired to stigmatize the Roman system. ‘Yes,’ they said, ‘we want the pure Word of God, and not pretended miracles, human inventions, and silly fables, such as have hitherto been dealt out to us.’
But the townsmen were of a different opinion, and thought that the king required too much. ‘The new faith must be examined,’ they said, ‘but for our part it goes beyond our understanding.’ ‘Certainly,’ added some of the peasants, ‘it is difficult to judge of these things; they are too deep for our minds to fathom.’ The chancellor, unchecked by these contradictory remarks, proceeded, ‘The king requires that the bishops should appoint competent pastors in the churches, and if they fail to do so, he will be authorized to do it himself. He insists that pastors should not abuse their office, nor excommunicate their parishioners for trivial causes; that those persons who do necessary work on festival days should not be liable to a penalty; that churchmen should not have power to claim for baptisms, marriages, or burials any larger payments than are fixed by the regulations; that in all schools the Gospel, with other lessons taken from the Bible, should be read; and that in all secular matters the priests should be amenable to the secular courts.’ f446 All these points were agreed to. The majority of the Diet felt the necessity of these reforms, and moreover were afraid of losing Gustavus a second time. The king then turning to the prelates, said, ‘Bishop of Strengnaes, I demand of you the castle of Tijnnelsoe.’ The bishop declared himself ready to please him. Others did the same; but when, turning to Brask, Gustavus said, ‘Bishop of Linkoping, I demand of you the castle of Munkeboda,’ the only answer was silence broken by deep-drawn breaths.
Thure Joensson begged Gustavus to allow his old friend to retain the castle, at least for his life. The king replied laconically, ‘No.’ Eight members of the Diet offered themselves as bail for the submission of the bishop, and forty of his body-guards were incorporated in the royal army.
A document comprising all the above articles (the Compact of Westeraas) was then drawn up, and was signed by the nobles and by the delegates of the towns and country districts. The bishops who were present signed on their part a declaration in which it was stated that ‘some of their predecessors having introduced foreign kings into Sweden, resolutions had been adopted for the prevention of such disorder in future, and that in testimony of their assent they affixed their seals thereto,’ It was well understood that this submission of the prelates was reluctantly made. One of them, however, exclaimed, ‘Well, whether his Grace will have us rich or poor, we are contented.’ From this time they ceased to be members of the States. Brask returned sorrowful to his bishopric. He saw his former guards take possession, in the name of the king, of the castle in which he had nevertheless received permission to reside. He made no resistance, as he was very anxious to be released from the bail which he had been obliged to give. Having obtained this, he left Sweden immediately, under the pretext of an inspection to be made in the island of Gothland, and betook himself to Archbishop Magnus, who was now at Dantzic. The two prelates wrote to Gustavus requiring him to restore to them their privileges, but, assuredly without any hope of his doing so. As soon as they received his refusal, Magnus set out for Rome, and Brask took refuge in a Polish convent, in which he died.
The monastic orders had been leniently treated; the compact expressing only that monks who held prebends should not beg, and that the begging monks should make their collections only at stated times. But the monks and the nuns did more than comply with these rules; large numbers of them deserted the cloisters and engaged in the occupations and duties of social life.
Gustavus was victor, and we must add that the victory was even too complete. The organization and direction of the new ecclesiastical order were entrusted to the king, as was indeed the case in all the countries in which the State was not opposed to the Reformation. We must, however, further remark that he mitigated the evil by acting only according to the advice of Anderson, Olaf, and other reformers. Having thus struck the heavy blow which disarmed the Romish hierarchy, the king left Westeraas, and henceforth openly professed the evangelical faith. f448 Thus fell Roman Catholicism in Sweden. The principal cause of its fall was the profession and preaching of the truth by Olaf and his brother and their friends. Having fought well they received the recompense of their labors. We will not, however, withhold our respect from the moral resolution with which Brask and others contended for what they believed to be the truth. Personal interests and the interest of caste had undoubtedly a good deal to do with it; but we must not forget that an order of things which had the sanction of so many ages was, according to their convictions, the true order. In the minds of men there exist opposing tendencies. In the view of one class the institutions of the past are legitimate and sacred, and they cling to them with all the passion and pertinacity of which their natures are capable; while in the view of another class the future, and the future alone, presents itself under a beneficent aspect. Into the future they project their ideal; they invest it with all the loveliness created by their own imagination, and they hurry enthusiastically towards that future. This is right. Nevertheless, prudent men endeavor to develop in the present time the true and wholesome principles of the past, and to form by the influence of the life which proceeds from the Gospel a new world, in which those precious germs shall spring up which are to be the wealth of the future. f449 After setting the affairs of the Church in order, Gustavus did the same for the affairs of the State. He had quietly sent troops in the direction of Dalecarlia, and at the same time agents who were commissioned to bring back the rebels to obedience by gentle means. The grand marshal, Thure Joensson, and the bishop of Skara, not feeling secure, deserted the rebels and made their escape into Norway. The Dalecarlians, abandoned by their principal leaders, determined to treat with the king; but seeing the moderation of his agents they thought they might speak haughtily. They therefore demanded that Lutheranism in the kingdom should be punished with death and, what appeared to them to be of no less importance, that the king and his courtiers should resume the old Swedish dress. Gustavus might probably have prevailed upon them to retract these two demands, especially if he had shown them that he had but to say a word and they would be crushed. But while he was affectionate to those who were faithful to him, he firmly maintained his rights and was determined to punish anyone who attacked them. He did not hold an offender guiltless. ‘The man that touches me I strike,’ he said. His character had in it the severity of law, which reigns even over the judge. He marched at the head of his army, surrounded the rebels, and seized and beheaded their leaders.
The pretended Sture, being compelled to leave Norway, took refuge at Rostock. The magistrates of this town, in consequence of a demand made by the king for the surrender of the impostor, had him executed. These severe measures put an end to the rebellion.
Seeing that the priests were now completely dethroned, Gustavus took their request into consideration; and when the States renewed their entreaties, he gave orders for his coronation. On the 12th of January, 1528, in the presence of the whole Diet, and of a great assembly in the cathedral of Upsala, the prince was crowned with much pomp and solemnity by the new bishops of Strengnaes, Skara, and Abo. The discourse was delivered by the bishop of Strengnaes; and Olaf proclaimed Gustavus I. king of Sweden. f450