THE Church of Spain had long preserved its independence with regard to the papacy. It was at the time of the ambitious and monopolizing Hildebrand that it began to lose it.
At the period of the Reformation it had been subject to the pope for more than four hundred years, and great obstacles were opposed to its deliverance. The mass of the people were given to superstition; the Spanish character was resolute to the degree of obstinacy; the clergy reigned supreme; the Inquisition had just been armed with new terrors by Ferdinand and Isabella; and the peninsular situation of the country seemed inevitably to isolate it from those lands in which the Reformation was triumphant.
Nevertheless many minds were, up to a certain point, prepared for evangelical reform. In almost every class the Inquisition excited the liveliest discontent. Towards the close of the fifteenth century, a man was often to be met with traversing Spain, surrounded by a guard of fifty mounted attendants and two hundred foot-soldiers. This man, whose name was Torquemada, was the terror of the people; and consequently in his progresses he displayed the greatest distrust, imagining that everyone was bent on assassinating him. On his arrival at any place, when he sat down to table, he trembled lest the dishes brought to him should have been poisoned. For this reason, before partaking of any food, he used to place before him the horn of a unicorn, to which he attributed the virtue of discovering and even of neutralizing poisons. Universal hatred accompanied him to the tomb. Torquemada, the first inquisitor-general, caused eight thousand persons to be put to death, and a hundred thousand to be imprisoned and despoiled of their goods. Whole provinces rose against this horrible tribunal. ‘They steal, they kill, they outrage,’ wrote the chevalier de Cordova, Gonzalo de Ayora, speaking of the inquisitors to the first secretary of King Ferdinand. ‘They care neither for justice nor for God himself.’ ‘O unhappy Spain!’ cried Peter Martyr d’Anghiera, councilor for the Indies, in his distress. ‘Mother of so many heroes, how this horrible scourge dishonors thee!’ f6 Meanwhile the universities were being enlightened. Various writings, especially those of Erasmus, were much read; and while doctors and students learned to scrutinize more closely the state of the Church, a spirit of inquiry began to penetrate those ancient institutions. There were, besides, scattered here and there in the towns and in country-places, some Christians, called Alumbrados, who sought after an inward light and applied themselves to secret prayer. These pious Mystics were better prepared to receive divine truth. f7 More than this, political circumstances were favorable to the introduction of the Reformation. Spain was at this time under the same scepter as Germany and the Netherlands, and the rays of light emanating from the Scriptures could not but reach it. The emperor Charles the Fifth, who was fighting against the Reformation in Germany, was to be the means of bringing it into the country of his very Catholic ancestors. The young Alfonso Valdes, his secretary, who was with him at Brussels in 1520, and afterwards at Worms in 1521, was at first struck with horror at seeing the boldness with which Luther attacked the authority of the pope. But what he saw and heard led him gradually to comprehend the necessity for reformation. Consequently, when writing from Brussels and Worms to his friend Peter Martyr d’Anghiera, Valdes sorrowfully exclaimed, ‘While the pontiff shuts his eyes and desires to see Luther devoured by the flames, the whole Christian community is near its ruin, unless God save it.’ f8 Books more dangerous to Rome than those of Erasmus reached Spain. A printer of Basel, the very year in which Charles was elected emperor (1519), packed up carefully for transport beyond the Pyrenees some precious merchandise not yet prohibited in the peninsula, because as yet unknown there. It consisted of various Latin works of Luther. In the ‘Commentary on the Galatians,’ and afterwards other writings of the reformer, were translated into Spanish. The union existing between Spain and the Netherlands had led many Spaniards to settle in the latter country, and it may possibly have been one of these who translated them.
It is at least certain that they were printed at Antwerp, and that merchant vessels carried them thence into Spain.
Many noble minds were stirred up and became attentive to what was passing in Germany. Francis de Angelis, provincial of the Order of the Angeli, who had been present at the coronation of the emperor, was still more enlightened than Valdes himself. Being sent back to Spain after the Diet of Worms upon an important mission, he stopped at Basel. There he visited Pellican, and in a conversation which he lad with him he showed himself almost in agreement with Luther. All these circumstances arousing the attention of Rome, Leo X. sent (March 20, 1521) two briefs to Spain to demand that the introduction of the books of the German reformer and his partisans into that country should be checked; and Adrian VI., the successor of Leo, called upon the government to assist the Inquisition in the accomplishment of this duty. f12 But in Spain itself evangelical truth was then preached with earnestness, though not with the fullness, clearness, and purity of the reformers. There was in Andalusia a young priest who from about 1525 preached with extraordinary power. His name was John d’Avila. ‘The fervor,’ says one of his biographers, ‘with which he exerted himself to sow the heavenly seed of the Word of God in the hearts of men was almost incredible.’ f13 He strove both to convert souls estranged from God, and to lead those who were converted to go forward courageously in the service of God. He employed no more time in the composition of his morning addresses than he did in delivering them. A long preparation would in his case have been impossible, on account of the numerous engagements which his charity drew upon him from all quarters. ‘The Holy Spirit enlightened him with his light and spoke by his mouth; so that he was obliged to be careful not to extend his discourses too much, so abundant was the source from which they flowed.’
Seeing the great number of souls converted by his word, the question was asked, what was the chief source of his power? Is it, they said, the force of the doctrine, or the fervor of his charity, or the tenderness of his fatherly kindness, joined to ineffable humility and gentleness? He has himself decided this important point, and answered the inquiry. A preacher, struck by D’Avila’s success, and desiring the like for himself, begged him for some advice on preaching, and on the way to render it efficacious. ‘I know no better way,’ he replied, ‘than to love Jesus Christ.’ This is the true science of homiletics.
Jesus Christ and his love was indeed the strength of his eloquence. It was by setting before sinners a dying Jesus that he called them to repentance. ‘We, Lord,’ he cried, ‘have transgressed, and thou bearest the punishment!
Our crimes have loaded thee with all kinds of shame, and have caused thee to die upon the cross! Oh! what sinner would not at this sight lament over his sins!’ But D’Avila pointed out at the same time in this death a means of salvation. ‘They bind him with cords,’ he said; they buffet him; they crown him with thorns; they nail him on the cross, and he suffers death thereon. If he is thus treated it is because he loved you, and would wash away your sins in his own blood! O Jesus, my Savior, thou wast not content with these outward sufferings; it has pleased thee to endure also inward pain far surpassing them. Thou hast submitted to the stern decree of thy Father’s justice; thou hast taken upon thee all the sins of the world.
O Lamb of God, thou hast borne the burden alone; thou hast sufficed thereto, and hast obtained for us redemption by thy death. We have been made the righteousness of God in thee, and the Father loves us in his wellbeloved Son. Let us not be afraid of praising him too much for the entire blotting out of our sins, the privilege bestowed by God on those whom he justifies by the merits of Jesus Christ. This exalts the greatness of those merits which have procured them so much blessedness, although they were so unworthy of it. O Lord, be glorified for ever for this.’ f15 Nevertheless, John d’Avila, while he recognized the necessity of justification by the death of Christ, had a less distinct conception of it than the reformers, and gave it a less prominent place in his teaching than they did. It was on its efficacy for sanctification that he especially dwelt.
He committed indeed the error of placing love in the chapter of justification, instead of placing it, like the reformers, in that of sanctification, which is its true place. But he could not too much insist on the transformation which must be wrought in the character and life of the Christian. ‘What,’ he cried, ‘is it conceivable that Jesus Christ should wash, purify, and sanctify our souls with his own blood, and that they should still remain unrighteous, defiled, impure?’ .... He sometimes employed strange figures to inculcate the necessity of this work. ‘A creature having but the head of a man,’ he said, ‘all the rest of its body being that of a beast, would be considered a horrible monster. It would be no less monstrous, in the sphere of grace, that God who is righteousness and purity itself should have for his members unrighteous, defiled, and corrupt men.’ f16 D’Avila labored not only by his discourses, but likewise by his conversations and letters in promoting the kingdom of God in the souls of men. He was benevolence itself. He consoled the afflicted, encouraged the timid, aroused the cowardly, stirred up the lukewarm, fortified the weak, sustained those who were tempted, sought to raise up sinners after their falls, and humbled the proud. His letters are mostly far superior to those of Fenelon. They are at least much more evangelical. ‘I tell you this,’ he wrote to some friends in affliction, ‘only in order to assure you that Jesus Christ loves you. Ought not these words, that a God loves us, to fill with joy such poor creatures as we are?’ ‘Read the sacred writings,’ said he in another letter to those who wished for instruction, ‘but remember that if he who has the key of knowledge, and who alone can open the book, does not give the power to comprehend, you will never understand it.’ f19 D’Avila possessed the gift of discernment. He did not, indeed, entirely escape the influence of the period and of the country in which he lived; but we find him exposing the pretended revelations of Madeline de la Croix, who deceived so many, and undertaking the defense of the pious Theresa de Cepedre, when persecuted by the Inquisition. Theresa, born at Avila in 1515, of a noble family, had so much zeal even in her childhood that she one day quitted her father’s house with her brother to go and seek martyrdom amongst the Moors. A relative met the two children and took them back. She was from that time divided between the love of the world and the love of God, throwing herself alternately into dissipation and into the monastic life. This woman, the famous St. Theresa, was one of those ardent spirits who rush by turns to the two extremes. Happily she met with D’Avila, whose judgment was more mature than her own, received his instructions, and, by his means, became confirmed in spiritual life. Her writings, full of piety, and even attractive in style, were translated by the Jansenists, like those of D’Avila. He was the friend and director to a poor soldier, who, having been discharged in 1536, was converted, and turned his house into an hospital, for which he provided by the work of his own hands, and thus became founder of the Order of Charity. D’Avila gave to this charitable Christian, who was called John de Dieu, the wisest counsels, the sum of which was, ‘Die rather than be unfaithful to so good a Master.’
One day a young girl, named Sancha de Carile, daughter of a senior of Cordova, was preparing to go to court, where she had just been appointed maid of honor to the queen. She wished first to have a conversation with John d’Avila, and was so touched by his words that she thenceforth abandoned the court and the world. Instead, however, of entering a convent, she remained in her father’s house, and there devoted herself till death to the service of Jesus Christ, whom she had found as her Saviour. It was for Sancha de Carile that D’Avila composed his principal work, entitled Audi, filia, et vide (‘Hearken, O daughter, and consider’ f22 ), Ps. xlv. 10. D’Avila did not side with the doctors and disciples of the Reformation, who were continually increasing in number in Germany. He differed from them, indeed, on several points, but on others approached them so nearly that his preaching could not but prepare men’s minds to receive the fullness of evangelical doctrine. The Inquisition understood this. f23 The period which elapsed between 1520 and 1535 was an epoch which prepared the way for reformation in Spain. In the universities, in the towns, and in country places many minds were silently inclining towards a better doctrine. The Reformation was then like fire smoldering under the ashes, but was to manifest itself later in many a noble heart. Nevertheless, from time to time the flame became visible. A peasant, a simple man without any culture whatever, who had busied himself only about his fields, had by some means received Christian convictions. One day, when in company with some relations and friends, he exclaimed, ‘It is Christ who, with his own blood, daily washes and purifies from their sins those who belong to him, and there is no other purgatory.’ It seems that the poor man had only repeated a saying which he had heard in some meeting, and which had pleased him, without being penetrated by the truth which he had expressed. When, therefore, he was cited before the inquisitors off the faith, he said, ‘I have certainly held that opinion, but, since it displeases your reverences, I willingly retract it.’ This did not satisfy the priests. They heaped reproaches upon him. ‘They may have feared,’ says the author of the ‘Artifices of the Spanish Inquisition,’ that their inquisitive faculties would stagnate and rot unless they set about finding some knavery in the man, thus pretending to find knots in a bulrush —nodus in scirpo. You have asserted that there is no purgatory. Ergo you believe that the pope is mistaken—that the councils are mistaken—and that man is justified by faith alone.’ In short, they unfolded before him all the doctrines which they called heresies, and charged the unfortunate man with them as if he had actually professed them. The poor peasant protested; he confidently maintained that he did not even know what these doctrines meant. But they insisted on their charge, and showed him the close connection which subsists between all these dogmas. The poor man had been deprived of the ordinary means of instruction; but these priests, who were more opposed to the Gospel than water is to fire, says the narrator, taught and enlightened him. Those who boasted themselves to be the great extirpators of the truth became its propagators. The peasant of whom we speak thus attained to the fullness of the faith which hitherto had only just dawned upon him. It was a striking example of the wonderful way in which Divine Goodness sometimes calls its chosen ones. There were many other such instances.’ f25 The chief reformer of Spain was to spring from a higher class. He was born in Andalusia, the Baetica which in the eyes of the ancients was the fairest and happiest of all the countries in the world. Near rocky mountains, on a vast plain of picturesque and solemn aspect, lies Lebrixa, an ancient town about ten leagues from Seville on the Cadiz side. Here lived Rodrigo de Valerio, a young man of a rich and distinguished family. He had, in common with the Andalusians, great quickness of apprehension; fancy sparkled in his speech, and his temperament was very cheerful. Like them, he was distinguished by his love of pleasure, and it was his glory to surpass in its indulgence all the young men with whom he associated. He generally lived at Seville, a town called by the Romans ‘little Rome’ (Romula), which had long been a center of intelligence, and where the Alcazar and other monuments recalled the magnificence of the Moorish kings. Rodrigo had received a liberal education, and had learned a little Latin; but this had been speedily forgotten amidst the diversions of youth.
There was not a hunt nor a game at which he was not present. He was to be seen arriving at the rendezvous mounted on a superb horse, richly equipped, and himself magnificently attired. Easy and skilful in bodily exercises, he carried away every prize. Full of grace and elegance, he succeeded in winning the favor of fair ladies. His delight was to mount the wildest horse, to scale the rocks, to dance with light foot, to hunt with horn and hound, to draw the cross-bow or shoot with the arquebus, and to be the leader of fashionable young men in every party and at every festival.
All at once Valerio disappeared from society. He was sought at the games, in the dance, at the races, but was nowhere to be found. Everyone was asking what had become of him. He had abandoned everything. The pleasures of the world had oppressed and wearied him, and he had found all void and bitterness. What! thought he, play the lute, make one’s horse caper, sing, dance..., and forget what it is to be a man! A voice had cried in his heart that God was all in all. He had yielded to no human influence; God alone had touched him by his Spirit. The change was for this reason all the more remarkable. The lively affections of his heart, which had hitherto rushed like a tempestuous torrent downwards towards the world, now rose with the same energy towards heaven. ‘A divine passion,’ says a contemporary, ‘suddenly seized him. Casting off his old inclinations, and despising human judgment, he applied his whole strength, both of mind and body, so zealously to the pursuit of piety, that no worldly affection seemed to be left in him.’ If Rodrigo had then retired to a convent, all would have been en regle, and everyone would have admired him; but no one could understand why, while renouncing pleasure, he did not immediately shut himself up in one of those human sanctuaries to which alone the world at that time gave the patent of a devout life. Some, indeed, of the remarks made on him were very natural. He had passed from one extreme to the other, and in his first fervor he exposed himself to the ridicule of his old companions. The young man who had hitherto been remarkable for the delicacy of his manners, the elegance of his discourse, and the splendor of his dress, displayed now a somewhat repulsive roughness and negligence. Sincere and upright, but as yet unenlightened, unacquainted indeed with any other pious life than that of ascetics, it is not astonishing that he threw himself at first into an exaggerated asceticism. He thought that he should thus renounce the world more completely and make a more perfect sacrifice to the Lord. He has lost his head, said some; he is drunk, said others. But on closer observation the true fear of God was to be seen in him, a sincere repentance for the vanity of his life, an ardent thirst for righteousness, and an indefatigable zeal in acquiring all the characteristics of true piety. But one thing above all occupied his mind. We have seen that he had learned Latin. This knowledge, which he had despised , now became of the greatest service to him. It was only in this language that the sacred writings could be read; he studied them day and night; by means of hard toil he fixed them in his memory, and he had an admirable gift for applying the words of Scripture with correctness and promptitude. He endeavored to regulate his whole conduct by their teaching; and people perceived in him the presence of the Spirit by whom they were dictated.
Valerio became one of the apostles of the doctrines of Luther and the other reformers. ‘It was not in their own writings that he had learned these.
He had derived them directly from the Holy Scriptures. Those sacred books, which, according to some, are the source of such various doctrines, then produced in every country of Christendom the same faith and the same life.’ He soon began to diffuse around him the light he had received.
People were astonished at hearing this young layman, who had recently made one of every party of pleasure, speaking with so much fervor. ‘From whom do you hold your commission?’ asked some one. ‘From God himself,’ replied he, ‘who enlightens us with his Holy Spirit, and does not consider whether his messenger is a priest or a monk.’
Valerio was not the only one to awaken from sleep. A literary movement in the path opened by Erasmus had, as we have already said, prepared the way of the Gospel in Spain. One of its chiefs was John de Vergara, canon of Toledo, who had been secretary to Cardinal Ximenes. An accomplished Greek and Hebrew scholar, he had pointed out some errors in the Vulgate; and he was one of the editors of the Polyglot of Alcala. ‘With what pleasure do I learn,’ wrote the scholar of Rotterdam to him in 1527, ‘that the study of languages and of literature is flourishing in that Spain which was of old the fruitful mother of the greatest geniuses.’ John de Vergara had a brother named Francis, a professor of Greek literature at Complutum (the present Alcala de Henares). Alcala, near Madrid, the seat of the foremost university in the kingdom next to Salamanca, was at this epoch a center of intelligence, and had acquired a European renown. A breath of freedom and life seemed to have passed over it. John and Francis, with another Spaniard, Bernardin de Tobar, apparently their brother, put forth their united efforts to revive the pursuit of literature in their native land, and kindled bright hopes in the breast of the prince of the schools. Calling to mind, as was his wont, the stories of ancient times, Erasmus compared these three friends of letters to Geryon, king of the Balearic Islands, the most powerful of men, of whom the poets had made a giant with three bodies. ‘Spain,’ said he, ‘has once more its Geryon, with three bodies but one spirit, and the happiest anticipations are excited in our minds.’ The modern Geryon, however, failed to win the honor of the triumph promised by Erasmus. In the Inquisition he met the Hercules who vanquished him.
These eminent men had found their way through the love of learning to the love of the Gospel; and John had carried his audacity to such a pitch that he aimed at correcting the Vulgate. Hereupon certain monks who knew nothing of Latin beyond the jargon of the schools raised the alarm. John and Tobar were arrested by the inquisitors of Toledo, cast into a dungeon, and called upon to renounce the heresies of Luther. This charge they had not at all anticipated. It was not by the reformer, but by his opponent, Erasmus, that they had been attracted to the Holy Scriptures. Being as yet weak in faith, they thought they might declare themselves unacquainted with Lutheranism; and they were released.’ Certain penances, however, were imposed on them, and they were placed under the surveillance of the Inquisition? f33 At this time, between 1530 and 1540, a great theological controversy was being carried on in the university of Alcala. One of the champions was Matthew Pascual, a doctor distinguished for his acquirements in learning— he was master of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin—for his love of letters, of the Holy Scriptures, and of a doctrine more pure than that of the monks. The discussion had become animated; and the opponent of Pascual, in the heat of the conflict, exclaimed—’If the case be as Doctor Matthew maintains, it would follow that there would be no purgatory!’ Pascual had probably said with St. John that the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. He replied simply—’What then? (Quid tum?)’ The monks were all agitated at these words. ‘He said Quid tum! He denies purgatory.’ He was forthwith committed to the prison of the holy fathers, from which he was not liberated till long afterwards, and then with the loss of all his property. He then left Spain. Two monosyllables had cost him dear.
There was resident at Alcala at this time a man who far surpassed the Vergaras and the Pascuals, and whose judgments were universally accepted in Spain as oracles. This was Peter de Lerma, abbot of Alcala, canon, professor of theology, and chancellor of the university, skilled in the oriental languages, which he had studied in Paris, and well versed in Scholastic theology. He was highly esteemed throughout the whole Peninsula. He was consulted on the greatest affairs of state; and many had recourse to him as to a touch-stone which at once indicated to them what was good and what was evil. As he was wealthy and belonged to a noble family of Burgos, he had great influence. From an early age he gave himself up to the reading of the Holy Scriptures, convinced that without them it was impossible to attain any real knowledge of holy things. At an advanced age he read the works of Erasmus. His mind was enlightened by them; and he acknowledged that the studies pursued at the universities served only for vain display. A new form was given to his activity, and his words were henceforth remarkable for their freedom, their simplicity, and their vigor. ‘Draw,’ said he, ‘from the oldest sources; do not take up opinions upon the sole authority of any masters, however solid they may be.’ Words like these were altogether new in the Catholic churches. Peter de Lerma was a kindly old man, now aged about seventy. The monks, regardless of his age, his attainments, or the authority which he enjoyed, had him cast into prison by their agents. His opponents attacked him in private conferences. But the aged doctor, finding that the best reasons were of no avail with his enemies, that they refused to listen to the truth, and had no regard for innocence, declared that he would hold no more discussion with Spaniards, and required them to summon learned men of other lands, capable of understanding the evidence laid before them. To the inquisitors this seemed to be horrible blasphemy. ‘Would it not be said,’ they exclaimed, ‘that the holy fathers of the Inquisition may be in error, and that they are unable to comprehend a hundred others better than you?’
They assailed him with insults, they plagued him in the prison, they threatened him with torture. The poor old man at last, enfeebled by age and by persecution, and not yet sufficiently established in the faith, as was usually the case with the converts of Erasmus, complied with the demands of his persecutors. He then withdrew to Burgos, his native place.
Melancholy weighed him down. The energies of his soul were crushed. His hopes for the future of his people had vanished. He bowed down his head and suffered. Informed ere long that it was intended to arrest him, he fled to Flanders; then went to Paris, where he died dean of the Sorbonne, and professor of theology in that university.
The preaching of the old man was not fruitless in Spain. Like John d’Avila and others, he was one of those Spanish evangelicals who did not make use of Luther’s name, but asserted that they preached simply the primitive doctrines of the Apostles. This came to much the same thing. The tint was only a little softened and less powerful.
Louis of Cadena, one of his nephews, had succeeded him as chancellor of the university of Alcala. By his elegant Latinity, and his acquaintance with Hebrew, Arabic, and Greek , he acquired great reputation among men of letters. Convinced that if Spain were ever to become great, it was necessary to give her an impulse towards light and liberty, he undertook, notwithstanding the fate of his uncle, to bring to an end the reign of Scholasticism. Information was laid against him, as one suspected of Lutheranism, before the Inquisition at Toledo; and he was compelled to fly in order to escape the dungeons of the holy office. The Inquisition in those days lost no opportunity of putting an extinguisher over any light divinely kindled in Spain, of suppressing thought and checking its progress. f36 Louis betook himself likewise to Paris, where, like his uncle, he restrained his zeal to avoid exposure to fresh persecutions. f37 John d’Avila himself, the apostle of Andalusia, whose only thought was the conversion of souls, and who did not meddle with controversies, found that the monks, enraged and provoked by his refusal to engage in disputation, denounced him to the Inquisition as a Lutheran or alumbrado.
In 1534, an inauspicious year for evangelical Spain, this humble pastor was arrested at Seville, and cast into the prisons of the holy office. But his enemies, impelled by blind hatred, had not even informed the archbishop of Seville, Don Alfonso de Manrique, who was at this time Grand Inquisitor. The prelate, who cherished the highest esteem for John d’Avila, was affected on hearing what his subordinates had just done. He pointed out that this man was no Lutheran, but was only seeking to do good to the souls of men. D’Avila was consequently acquitted, and he continued quietly to preach the Gospel till his death. The inquisitors, by fastening the name ‘Lutheran’ on everything pious, rendered indirect homage to Lutheranism. f38 Manrique was not alone in occasional opposition to the fanaticism of the inquisitors. Charles the Fifth himself, although strongly opposed to everything which appeared to him heresy, seems to have had some relish for solid preaching. His fine understanding preferred it to the fables of the monks. He had for his chaplain a Dominican monk named Alfonso Virves, an accomplished orientalist and a good theologian. Charles took him with him when he traveled in Germany; and he not only liked to hear him preach, but also associated with him in his numerous journeyings with a certain degree of intimacy. After his return to Spain, the emperor would hear no other preacher. Certain monks who coveted the privilege of preaching before the emperor were filled with envy and hatred. They inveighed against Virves. In vain he contended, according to the dictates of his conscience, for what he believed to be true piety; these wretches uttered shameless calumnies against him, and obvious falsehoods, and resorted to malicious intrigues. This was their usual method. Virves esteemed the fine genius of Erasmus, but censured him for his too great freedom. He asserted that his wish was to secure Spain against Lutheranism. But he had seen in Germany the leading reformers, had enjoyed friendly intercourse with them, and declared that he renounced the attempt to recall them from their errors. f40 This was ground enough for a prosecution; and without any regard to the wish of the emperor, the inquisitors arrested his chaplain, threw him into the prison of the Holy Office at Seville, and in eager haste prepared to sacrifice him. The news of their proceedings reaching Charles the Fifth; he was astonished and indignant. He was better acquainted with Virves than the inquisitors were.
He determined by energetic action to foil the conspiracies of the monks.
He felt confident that Virves was the victim of all intrigue, he even banished Manrique, the inquisitor-general, who was compelled to retire to his diocese, and died there. Charles did more than this. He addressed to the Holy Office, July 18, 1534, an ordinance prohibiting the arrest of a monk before laying the evidence before the council and awaiting its orders. But the emperor, all-powerful as he was, was not powerful enough to snatch a victim from the Inquisition. Virves, whose only crime was that of being a pious and moderate Catholic, had to undergo for four years all the horrors of a secret prison. He says himself that they hardly gave him leave to breathe. The inquisitors overwhelmed him with accusations, with interdictions, with libels and with words, he says, which one cannot hear without being terrified. He adds that he was charged with errors, heresies, blasphemies, anathemas, schism, and other similar monstrosities. To convince them, he undertook labors which might be likened to those of Hercules. He exhibited the points which he had drawn up by way of preparation for an attack on Melanchthon before the diet of Ratisbon. But all was useless. The tribunal condemned him in 1537 to abjure all heresies, among others those of Luther, to be confined in a monastery for two years, and to abstain from preaching for two years after his liberation. The poor man had to appear in the cathedral of Seville, and to retract, among other propositions, the following:— ‘A life of action is more meritorious than a life of contemplation. A larger number of Christians are saved in the married state than in all other states.’ Charles the Fifth, determined at all cost to rescue his chaplain from imprisonment, applied to the pope, who by a brief of May 29, 1538, ordered that Virves should be set at liberty, and be again allowed to preach. Charles now nominated him bishop of the Canary Islands. After some hesitation, the pope consented to the appointment, and in 1540 the heretic was invested with the episcopal miter. In the following year he published at Antwerp his Philippicoe Disputationes, in which his objections to the doctrines of Luther are set forth. In the same book, however, he asserted that heretics ought not to be ill-used, but persuaded, and this especially by setting before them the testimonies of Holy Scripture; because all Scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable, says St. Paul, for doctrine, for reproof, for correction.
Alfonso Virves was one of those Spaniards whom the Inquisition prevented from becoming evangelical, but could not succeed in making papistical and ultramontane. f41 Virves was not the only Spaniard who imbibed in Germany views which nearly approached to those of the Reformation. Several learnt more than he did in the land of Luther, and exerted an influence on the Peninsula.
Curiosity was awakened, and people wanted to know what that reformation was of which so much was said. Spain, rigid and antique, began to be astir. Meetings were held in the country and secret associations were formed. The Inquisition, astonished, turned in all directions its searching eyes. In vain were learned theologians sent to Germany and other lands for the purpose of bringing back to the church of Rome those who were leaving it. The doctors themselves returned to Spain, conquered by the truth against which they were to fight. Many of them became victims to their faith after their return to their native land; others became martyrs in foreign lands.