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From Here to Forever

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    Mighty Issues at Stake

    If this edict were enforced, “the Reformation could neither be extended ... nor be established on solid foundations ... where it already existed.”2Idem. Liberty would be prohibited. No conversions would be allowed. The hopes of the world seemed about to be extinguished.HF 126.3

    The evangelical party looked to one another in blank dismay: “What is to be done?” “Shall the chiefs of the Reformation submit, and accept the edict? ... The Lutheran princes were guaranteed the free exercise of their religion. The same boon was extended to all those of their subjects who, prior to the passing of the measure, had embraced the reformed views. Ought not this to content them? ...”HF 126.4

    “Happily they looked at the principle on which this arrangement was based, and they acted in faith. What was that principle? It was the right of Rome to coerce conscience and forbid free inquiry. But were not themselves and their Protestant subjects to enjoy religious freedom? Yes, as a favor specially stipulated for in the arrangement, but not as a right. ... The acceptance of the proposed arrangement would have been a virtual admission that religious liberty ought to be confined to reformed Saxony; and as to all the rest of Christendom, free inquiry and the profession of the reformed faith were crimes and must be visited with the dungeon and the stake. Could they consent to localize religious liberty? ... Could the Reformers have pleaded that they were innocent of the blood of those hundreds and thousands who, in pursuance of this arrangement, would have to yield up their lives in popish lands?”3Wylie, bk. 9, ch. 15.HF 126.5

    “Let us reject this decree,” said the princes. “In matters of conscience the majority has no power.” To protect liberty of conscience is the duty of the state, and this is the limit of its authority in matters of religion.HF 127.1

    The papists determined to put down what they termed “daring obstinacy.” The representatives of the free cities were required to declare whether they would accede to the terms of the proposition. They pleaded for delay, but in vain. Nearly one half sided with the Reformers, knowing that their position marked them for future condemnation and persecution. Said one, “We must either deny the word of God, or—be burnt.”4D'Aubigne, bk. 13, ch. 5.HF 127.2

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