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History of Protestantism, vol. 1 - Contents
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    Chapter 16: Conference at Marburg

    Landgrave Philip-His Activity-Elector John and Landgrave Philip the Complement of each other-Philip’s Efforts for Union-The One Point of Disunion among the Protestants-The Sacrament-Luther and Zwingle-Their Difference-Philip undertakes their Reconcilement-He proposes a Conference on the Sacrament-Luther Accepts with difficulty-Marburg-Zwingle’s Journey thither-Arrival of Wittemberg Theologians-Private Discussions -Public Conference-“This is my Body”-A Figure of Speech-Luther’s Carnal Eating and Spiritual Eating-Ecolampadius and Luther-Zwingle and Luther-Can a Body be in more Places than One at the Same Time?-Mathematics-The Fathers-The Conference Ends-The Division not Healed- Imperiousness of Luther-Grief of Zwingle-Mortification of Philip of Hesse-The Plague

    Picture: Martin Bucer

    Picture: Luther and Zwingle Discussing at Marburg

    The camp had been pitched, the Protestant flag displayed, and the campaign was about to open. No one then living suspected how long and wasting the conflict would be-the synods that would deliberate, the tomes that would be written, the stakes that would blaze, and the fields on which, alas! the dead would be piled up in ghastly heaps, before that liberty which the protesters had written up on their flag should be secured as the heritage of Christendom. But one thing was obvious to all, and that was the necessity to the Reformers of union among themselves.HOPV1 554.1

    Especially did this necessity appeal to Philip, Landgrave of Hesse. This young prince was the most chivalrous of all the knightly adherents of Protestantism. His activity knew no pause. Day and night it was his thought how to strengthen the Protestant front. Unite, fall into one army, and march as a united phalanx against the foe, was the advice he was constantly urging upon the Protestants. And certainly, in the prospect of such combinations as were now forming for their destruction, worse advice might have been given them. But the zeal of the landgrave was not quite to the taste of Luther; it at times alarmed him; his activity took too much a military direction to be altogether wise or safe; the Reformer therefore made it a point to curb it; and it must be confessed that Philip looked more to leagues and arms for the defense and success of the Reformation than to those higher forces that were bearing it onwards, and to that unseen but omnipotent Arm whose interpositions were so visible to Luther in the sudden shiftings of the vast and complicated drama around him.HOPV1 554.2

    But with all his defects the landgrave was of great use to the cause. His rough, fiery, impetuous energy was fitted for the times. In truth, the Elector John and Landgrave Philip were made for each other. John was prudent and somewhat timid; Philip was impulsive and altogether fearless. The same danger that made John hang back, made Philip rush forward. We see in the two an equipoise of opposite qualities, which if brought together in one man would have made a perfect knight. John and Philip were in the political department of the movement what Luther and Melancthon were in the theological and religious. They were the complement of each other.HOPV1 554.3

    There was one great division in the Protestant camp. The eye of Philip had long rested upon it with profound regret. Unless speedily healed it would widen with years, and produce, he felt, innumerable mischiefs in time to come. One circumstance in connection with this division encouraged hope; it existed on only one point-the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. On all the great fundamental truths of revelation the whole body of the Protestants were at one-on the origin of salvation, the grace of God; the accomplishment of salvation, the atoning death of Christ; the bestowal of salvation, the agency of the Holy Spirit; the channels of its conveyance, the Word and Sacraments; and the instrument by which the sinner receives it, faith in the righteousness of Christ-on all these points were the Reformers of Germany and the Refonners of Switzerland agreed. Along the whole of the royal road of truth could they walk side by side. On one point only did they differ, namely, the manner in which Christ is present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist-corporeally or spiritually? That question parted into two the Sacramental host.HOPV1 554.4

    Philip had grieved more over the breach than even Luther and Melancthon. The landgrave believed that at bottom there were not two really different opinions among the disciples of the Gospel, but only one opinion differently apprehended, and variously stated, and that could he bring the leaders together, a free interchange of sentiments and some sifting discussion, would succeed in removing the misapprehension. What a blessed thing to close this gulf! What a gain to unite the chivalry of knightly Germany with the bravery of republican Helvetia—the denizens of the plain with the sons of the mountain! And especially now, when they were waiting for the fiercest onset their foes had yet made upon them. They had just flung their flag upon the winds; they had unfurled it in the face of all Christendom, in the face of Rome; they had said as a body what Luther said as an individual at Worms-“Here we stand; we can do no otherwise, so help us God.” Assuredly the gage would be taken up, and the blow returned, by a power too proud not to feel, and too strong in armies and scaffolds not to resent the defiance. To remain disunited with such a battle in prospect, with such a tempest lowering over them, appeared madness. No doubt the landgrave was mainly anxious to unite the arms of the Protestants; but if Philip labored for this object with a zeal so great, and it must be admitted so praiseworthy, not less anxious ought the Lutheran doctors to have been to unite the hearts and the prayers of the children of the Reform.HOPV1 554.5

    Ere this, several pamphlets had passed between Luther and Zwingle on the question of the Lord’s Supper. Those from the pen of Luther were so violent that they left an impression of weakness. The perfect calmness of Zwingle’s replies, on the other hand., produced a conviction of strength. Zwingle’s calmness stung Luther to the quick. It humiliated him. Popes and emperors had lowered their pretensions in his presence; the men of war whom the Papacy had sent forth from the Vatican to do battle with him, had returned discomfited. He could not brook the thought of lowering his sword before the pastor of Zurich. Must he, the doctor of Christendom, sit at the feet of Zwingle?HOPV1 555.1

    A little more humility, a little less dogmatism, a stronger desire for truth than for victory, would have saved Luther from these explosions, which but tended to widen a breach already too great, and provoke a controversy which planted many a thorn in the future path of the Reformation.HOPV1 555.2

    The Landgrave of Hesse undertook with characteristic ardour the reconcilement of the German and Swiss Protestants, who now began to be called respectively the Lutheran and the Reformed. Soon after his return from the Diet of Spires, he sent invitations to the heads of the two parties to repair to his Castle of Marburg, 1Sleidan, bk. 6, p. 121. and discuss their differences in his presence. Zwingle’s heart leaped for joy when he received the invitation. To end the feud, close the gulf, and rally all the scattered forces of the Gospel into one phalanx, was to him a delightful thought, and a blessed presage of final victory.HOPV1 555.3

    The reception given at Wittemberg to the invitation was not so cordial. Luther hung back-declined, in short. He did not like that the landgrave should move in this matter; he suspected that there was under it the snake of a political alliance; 2Luth. Cor., Aug. 2, 1529-Michelet, bk. 3, ch. 1, p. 217. besides, although he did not confess it to his friends, nor perhaps to himself, he seemed to have a presentiment of defeat. This opinion of Zwingle’s, he said, was plausible, and had attractions for minds that loved things that they could understand. This mystery, this miracle of Christ’s bodily presence in the Lord’s Supper, had been left, he thought, in the Gospel as the test of our submission, as an exercise for our faith. This absurdity, which wears the guise of piety, had been so often uttered by great doctors that Luther could not help repeating it.HOPV1 555.4

    But second thoughts convinced Luther and Melancthon that they could not decline the conference. Popish Christendom would say they were afraid, and Reformed Christendom would lay at their door the continuance of the breach which so many deplored, should they persist in their refusal. They had even suggested to the Elector of Saxony that he should interpose his veto upon their journey. The elector, however, disdained so discreditable a manoeuver. They next proposed that a Papist should be chosen as umpire, assigning as the reason of this strange proposition that a Papist only would be an impartial judge, forgetting that the party of all others in Christendom pledged to the doctrine of the real presence was the Church of Rome. Every device faded; they must go to Marburg; they must meet Zwingle.HOPV1 555.5

    The pastor of Zurich, with a single attendant, stole away by night. The town council, having regard to the perils of the journey, which had to be gone in good part over the territories of the emperor, in the midst of foes, into whose hands should the Reformer fall, he would see Zurich no more, refused to give him leave to depart. Accordingly Zwingle took the matter into his own hand, willing to risk life rather than forego the opportunity of uniting the ranks of the Reformation. Leaving a letter behind him to explain his departure to the council, he set out, and reached Basle in five days. Embarking at this point on the Rhine, in company of Ecolampadius, he descended the river to Strasburg. Here the travelers lodged a night in the house of Matthew Zell, the cathedral preacher. On the morrow they again set out, and taking the most unfrequented paths, escorted by a troop of Hessian cavalry, they at length on the 29th September reached Marburg.HOPV1 555.6

    The Wittenbergers had not yet arrived; they appeared at Marburg the next day. With Luther came Melancthon, Jonas, and Cruciger; Zwingle was accompanied by Ecolampadius from Basle, Bucer and Hedio from Strasburg, and Osiander from Nuremberg. 3Ruchat, tom. 2, p. 143. The landgrave lodged them in his castle, an ancient fortress standing on the brow of a hill, and commanding a noble view of the valley of the Lahn. He made them sit together at table, and entertained them in right princely fashion. To look each other in the face might help, he thought, to melt the ice in the heart.HOPV1 556.1

    The affair was much spoken of. The issue was watched intently in the two camps of Rome and Protestantism. Will the breach be healed? asked the Romanists in alarm; the Protestants hoped that it would, and that from the conference chamber at Marburg; a united band would come forth. From many lands came theologians, scholars, and nobles to Marburg to witness the discussion, and if need were to take part in it. 4Sleidan, bk. 6, P. 121. Seckendorf, lib. 2, sec. 18; Additio. Thousands followed Luther and Zwingle with their prayers who could not come in person.HOPV1 556.2

    The first day, after dinner, Luther and Ecolampadius walked together in the castle yard. The converse of these two chiefs was familiar and affectionate. In Ecolampadius, Luther had found another Melancthon. The Reformer of Basle united an erudition almost as profound as that of the great scholar of Wittemberg, with a disposition nearly as sweet and gentle. But when Bucer, who had once been intimate with Luther, and had now gone over to Zwingle’s side, approached, the Reformer shook his fist in his face, and said half jocularly, half in earnest, “As for you, you are a good-for-nothing knave.” 5Scultet, Annal., ad 1529.HOPV1 556.3

    It was thought that a private meeting between selected persons from the two sides would pave the way for the public conference. But let us beware, said the landgrave, of at once engaging Luther and Zwingle in combat; let us take the disputants two by two, mating the mildest with the hottest, and leave them alone to debate the matter between themselves. Ecolampadius was told off with Luther, Melancthon was paired with Zwingle. They were then shown into separate chambers, and left to discuss with each other till dinner-time. 6Scultet, tom. 2, p. 198. Ruchat. tom. 2, p. 143. Although on some points, more especially those of the divinity of Christ, original sin, and the deference due to the first six Councils, the Swiss Reformers were able to clear themselves of some suspicions under which they lay in the eyes of the German Protestants, the progress made at these private meetings towards a reconciliation was not by any means so great as had been looked for. As the Swiss deputies rejoined each other on their way to the dinner-table, they briefly exchanged first impressions. Zwingle, whispering into the ear of Ecolampadius, said that Melancthon was a very Proteus, so great was his dexterity in evading the point of his opponent’s argument; and Ecolampadius, putting his mouth to Zwingle’s ear, complained that in Luther he had found a second Dr. Eck.HOPV1 556.4

    On the day following, the 2nd October, the conference was opened in public. The landgrave Philip, in a plain dress, and without any show of rank, took his place at the head of a table which had been set in one of the rooms of the castle. Seated with him were Luther, Zwingle, Melancthon, and Ecolampadius. Their friends sat on benches behind them; the rest of the hall was devoted to the accommodation of a few of the distinguished men who had flocked to Marburg from so many places to witness the discussion.HOPV1 556.5

    The proceedings opened with Luther’s taking a piece of chalk, and proceeding to trace some characters upon the velvet cover of the table. When he had finished, it was found that he had written-“Hoc est m eum corpus.” “Yes,” said he, laying down the bit of chalk, and displaying the writing to those around the table, “these are the words of Christ-’This is my body.’ From this rock no adversary shall dislodge me.”HOPV1 556.6

    No one denied that these were the words of Christ, but the question was, what was their sense The whole controversy, on which hung issues to Protestantism so momentous, turned on this. The fundamental principle of Protestantism was that the Word of God is the supreme authority, and that obscure and doubtful passages are to be interpreted by others more clear. If this principle were to be followed on the present occasion, there could be no great difficulty in determining the sense of the words of Christ,HOPV1 556.7

    “This is my body.”HOPV1 556.8

    The argument of the Swiss was wholly in the line of the fundamental principle of Protestantism. Luther had but one arrow in his quiver. His contention was little else than a constant repetition of the words which he had written with chalk on the table-cover.HOPV1 556.9

    Ecolampadius asked Luther whether he did not admit that there are figures of speech in the Bible, as “I am the door,” “John is Elias,” “God is a rock,” “The rock was Christ.” The words, “This is my body,” he maintained, were a like figure of speech.HOPV1 557.1

    Luther admitted that there were figures in the Bible, but denied that this was one of them.HOPV1 557.2

    A figure we must hold them, responded Ecolampadius, otherwise Christ teaches contradictory propositions. In his sermon in the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, he says, “The flesh profiteth nothing;” but in the words of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, literally interpreted, he says the flesh profiteth everything. The doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, according to that exegesis, overthrows the doctrine of the sermon. Christ has one dogma for the multitude at Capernaum, and another dogma for his disciples in the upper chamber. This cannot be; therefore the words “This is my body” must be taken figuratively. 7Scultet, 2, 217. Ruchat, 2, 145.HOPV1 557.3

    Luther attempted to turn aside the force of this argument by making a distinction. There was, he said, a material eating of Christ’s flesh, and there was a spiritual eating of it. It was the former, the material eating, of which Christ declared that it profiteth nothing. 8Ibid.HOPV1 557.4

    A perilous line of argument for Luther truly! It was to affirm the spirituality of the act, while maintaining the materiality of the thing.HOPV1 557.5

    Ecolampadius hinted that this was in effect to surrender the argument. It admitted that we were to eat spiritually, and if so we did not eat bodily, the material manducation being in that case useless.HOPV1 557.6

    No, quickly retorted Luther, we are to eat bodily also. We are not to ask of what use. God has commanded it, and we are to do it. This was to come back to the point from which he had started; it was to reiterate, with a little periphrasis, the words “This is my body.”HOPV1 557.7

    It is worthy of notice that the argument since so often employed in confutation of the doctrine of Christ’s corporeal presence in the Lord’s Supper, namely, that a body cannot be in two places at one and the same time, was employed by our Lord himself at Capernaum. When he found that his hearers understood him to say that they must “eat his flesh and drink his blood,” after a corporeal manner, he at once restricted them to the spiritual sense, by telling them that his body was to ascend to heaven. “What” (John 6:62, 63) “and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”HOPV1 557.8

    The hour to adjourn had now arrived, and the disputants retired with the prince to dinner. At table there came an hour’s familiar and friendly talk with their host and with one another. In the afternoon they again repaired to the public hall, where the debate was resumed by Zwingle. The Scriptures, science, the senses, all three repudiate the Lutheran and Popish doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. Zwingle took his stand first on the ground of Scripture. Applying the great Protestant rule that Scripture is to be interpreted by Scripture, he pressed Luther with the argument which had been started by Ecolampadius, namely, the manifest contradiction between the teaching of our Lord in the sermon at Capernaum and his teaching in the Lord’s Supper, if the words of institution are to be taken literally. “If so taken,” said Zwingle, “Christ has given us, in the Lord’s Supper, what is useless to us.” He added the stinging remark, “The oracles of the demons were obscure, not so are those of Jesus Christ.” 9D’Aubigne, bk 8, chap. 7.HOPV1 557.9

    “But,” replied Luther, “it is not his own flesh, but ours, of which Christ affirms that it profiteth nothing.” This, of course, was to maintain that Christ’s flesh profited.HOPV1 557.10

    Zwingle might have urged that Christ was speaking of “the flesh of the Son of Man;” that his hearers so understood him, seeing they asked, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” and that to refute this view, Christ adduced the future fact of his ascension, and so limited them to the figurative or spiritual sense of his words. Waiving this argument, Zwingle simply asked how flesh could nourish the soul? With the spirit only can the soul be fed. “We eat the flesh of Christ bodily with the mouth,” rejoined Luther, “and spiritually with the soul.”HOPV1 557.11

    This appeared to Zwingle to be to maintain contradictions. It was another way of returning to the starting-point,” This is my body.” It was in fact to maintain that the words were to be taken neither figuratively nor literally, and yet that they were to be taken in both senses.HOPV1 557.12

    To travel further on this line was evidently impossible. An absurdity had been reached. Zwingle now allowed himself greater scope and range. He dwelt especially upon the numerous wider passages in the Scriptures in which the sign is put for the thing signified, and maintained that we have Christ’s authority in the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel for saying that it is so here, that the bread and wine of the Eucharist are not the very body and blood, but only the representatives of that body and blood, through which there cometh eternal life to men. Not in vain did the Reformer of Zurich thus argue. Minds were opening around him. The simplicity of his views, and their harmony with the usual method by which the spirit acts upon the soul of man, recommended them to the listeners. The light of the Word let fall upon the Lord’s Supper, its nature, its design, and its mode of operation came clearly out. The anomalous mysteriousness that had shrouded it departed, and it took its place beside the other institutions of the Economy of Grace, as working like them spiritual effects by spiritual means. They felt that the consistency of even Luther’s scheme of salvation by faith demanded it, and though Luther himself remained as unconvinced as ever, there were not a few conversions in the audience. There was a notable one-the ex-Franciscan, Francis Lambert, formerly of Avignon, now the head of the Hessian Church. His spare figure and eager eye made him a marked object in the throng of listeners; and when the discussion closed, his admiration of Luther, whose friendship and respect he enjoyed in return, did not prevent his declaring himself to be of the opinion of Zwingle. The Wittemberg doctors bewailed his defection. They saw in it not a proof of the soundness of Zwinglr’s argument, but an evidence of the Frenchman’s fickleness. Have we not all left the Church of Rome? asked Lambert. Is that, too, the fruit of fickleness? This ended the first day’s discussion.HOPV1 557.13

    The contest was continued on the following day, Sunday. Abandoning the theological ground, the doctor of Zurich attempted to carry his point by weapons borrowed from science. A body cannot be in more places than one at the same time, urged Zwingle. Christ’s body is like ours; how can it be at once in heaven and on the earth, at the right hand of God and in the bread of the Eucharist? How can it be at the same instant on every one of the thousand altars at which the Eucharist is being celebrated? But Luther refused to answer at the bar of mathematics. He would hold up the tablecloth and point to the words “This is my body.” He would permit neither Scripture nor science to interpret them in any sense but that in which he understood them. He would assert that it was a matter not to be understood, but to be believed. It might be against nature, it might be unknown to science; that did not concern him. God had said it, Christ’s body was in heaven, and it was in the Sacrament; it was in the Sacrament substantially as born of the Virgin. There was the proof of it, “This is my body.”HOPV1 560.1

    “If the body of Christ can be in several places at one and the same time,” rejoined Zwingle, “then our bodies likewise, after the resurrection, must possess the power of occupying more places than one at a time, for it is promised that our bodies shall be fashioned like unto the glorious body of our Lord.”HOPV1 560.2

    “That proves nothing,” Luther replied. “What the text affirms is, that our bodies in their outward fashion are to resemble Christ’s body, not that they are to be endowed with a like power.”HOPV1 560.3

    “My dear sirs,” Luther continued, “behold the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘This is my body.’ That truth I cannot abandon. I must confess and believe that the body of Jesus Christ is there.”HOPV1 560.4

    “Ah, well, my dear doctor,” replied Zwingle, “you put the body of Jesus Christ locally in the Lord’s Supper, for you say, ‘It 877 behooves the body of Jesus Christ to be there.’ There is an adverb of place.”HOPV1 560.5

    “I repeat simply the words of Jesus Christ,” said Luther. “But since you are captious, I must again say that I will have nothing to do with mathematical reasons. I throw away the adverb there, for Christ says, ‘This [not there] is my body.’ Whether that body is confined to a place, or whether it fills all space, I prefer to be ignorant rather than to know, since God has not been pleased to reveal it, and no man in the world is able to decide the point.”HOPV1 560.6

    “But Christ’s body is finite, and bounded by place,” urged Zwingle.HOPV1 560.7

    “No,” responded Luther, “away with these mathematical novelties; I take my stand on the almightiness of God.”HOPV1 560.8

    “The power is not the point to be established,” replied Zwingle,HOPV1 560.9

    “but the fact that the body is in divers places at the same moment.”HOPV1 560.10

    “That,” said Luther, “I have proved by the words ‘This is my body.’”HOPV1 560.11

    Zwingle reproached him with always falling into the error of begging the question, and he adduced a passage from Fulgentius, a Father of the fifth century, to show that the Fathers held that the body of Christ could be in only one place at a time. “Hear his words,” said Zwingle. ‘The Son of God,’ says Fulgentius, ‘took the attributes of true humanity, and did not lose those of true divinity. Born in time according to his mother, he lives in eternity according to his divinity that he holds from the Father; coming from man he is man, and consequently in a place; proceeding from the Father he is God, and consequently present in every place. According to his human nature, he was absent from heaven while he was upon the earth, and quitted the earth when he ascended into heaven; but according to his divine nature he remained in heaven when he came down from thence, and did not abandon the earth when he returned thither.’”HOPV1 560.12

    Luther put aside the testimony of Fulgentius, saying that this Father was not speaking of the Lord’s Supper; and he again betook him to his battle-horse, “This is my body” - “it is there in the bread.”HOPV1 560.13

    “If it is there in the bread,” said Zwingle, “it is there as in a place.”HOPV1 560.14

    “It is there,” reiterated Luther, “but it is not there as in a place; it is at the right hand of God. He has said, ‘This is my body,’ that is enough for me.”HOPV1 560.15

    “But that is not to reason,” retorted Zwingle, “that is to wrangle.You might as well maintain because Christ, addressing his mother from the cross and pointing to St. John, said, ‘Woman, behold thy son,’ that therefore St. John was the son of Mary.” To all arguments and proofs to the contrary, an obstinate controversialist might oppose an endless iteration of the words, “Woman, behold thy son-Woman, behold thy son.” Zwingle further enforced his argument by quoting the words of Augustine to Dardanus. “Let us not think,“ says he, “that Christ according to his human form is present in every place. Christ is everywhere present as God, and yet by reason of his true body he is present in a definite part of heaven. That cannot be called a body of which place cannot be predicated.”HOPV1 560.16

    Luther met the authority of Augustine as he had done that of Fulgentius, by denying that he was speaking of the Lord’s Supper, and he wound up by saying that “Christ’s body was present in the bread, but not as in a place.”HOPV1 561.1

    The dinner-hour again interposed. The ruffled theologians tried to forget at the table of their courteous and princely entertainer the earnest tilting in which they had been engaged, and the hard blows they had dealt to one another in the morning’s conference.HOPV1 561.2

    Ecolampadius had been turning over in his mind the words of Luther, that Christ’s body was present in the Sacrament, but not as in a place. It was possible, he thought, that in these words common ground might be found on which the two parties might come together. On reassembling in the hall they became the starting-point of the discussion. Reminding Luther of his admission, Ecolampadius asked him to define more precisely his meaning. If Christ’s body is present, but not as a body is present in a place, then let us inquire what is the nature of Christ’s bodily presence.HOPV1 561.3

    879 “It is in vain you urge me,” said Luther, who saw himself about to be dragged out of his circle, “I will not move a single step. Only Augustine and Fulgentius are with you; all the rest of the Fathers are with us.”HOPV1 561.4

    “As, for instance-?” quietly inquired Ecolampadius.HOPV1 561.5

    “Oh, we will not name them,” exclaimed Luther; “Christ’s words suffice for us. When Augustine wrote on this subject he was a young man, and his statements are confused.”HOPV1 561.6

    “If we cite the Fathers,” replied Ecolampadius, “it is not to shelter our opinion under their authority, but solely to shield ourselves from the charge you have hurled against us that we are innovators.” 10Scultet. 2, 220-228. Ruchat, 2, 148-155.HOPV1 561.7

    The day had worn away in the discussion. It was now evening. On the lawns and woods around the castle the shadows of an October twilight were fast falling. Dusk filled the hall. Shall they bring in lights? To what purpose? Both sides feel that it is wholly useless to prolong the debate.HOPV1 561.8

    Two days had worn away in this discussion. The two parties were no nearer each other than at the beginning. The Swiss theologians had exhausted every argument from Scripture and from reason. Luther was proof against them all. He stood immovably on the ground he had taken up at the beginning; he would admit no sense of the words but the literal one; he would snatch up the cover from the table and, displaying triumphantly before the eyes of Zwingle and Ecolampadius the words he had written upon it—“This is my body”-he would boast that there he still stood, and that his opponents had not driven him from this ground, nor ever should. Zwingle, who saw the hope so dearly cherished by him of healing the schism fast vanishing, burst into tears. He besought Luther to come to terms, to be reconciled, to accept them as brothers. Neither prayers nor tears could move the doctor of Wittemberg. He demanded of the Helvetian Reformers unconditional surrender. They must accept the Lord’s Supper in the sense in which he took it; they must subscribe to the tenet of the real presence. This the Swiss Protestants declared they could not do. On their refusal, Luther declared that he could not regard them as having a standing within the Church, nor could he receive them as brothers. As a sword these words went to the heart of Zwingle. Again he burst into tears. Must the children of the Reformation be divided? must the breach go unhealed? It must.HOPV1 561.9

    On the 12th October, 1529, Luther writes, in reference to this famous conference: “All joined in suing me for peace with the most extraordinary humility. The conference lasted two days. I responded to the arguments of Ecolampadius and Zwinglius by citing this passage, ‘This is my body;’ and I refuted all their objections.”HOPV1 561.10

    And again, “The whole of Zwinglius’ argument may be shortly reduced to the following summary:-That the body of our Lord cannot exist without occupying space and without dimensions [and therefore it was not in the bread]. Ecolampadius maintained that the Fathers styled the bread a symbol, and consequently that it was not the real body of Christ. They supplicated us to bestow upon them the title of ‘brothers.’ Zwinglius even implored the landgrave with tears to grant this. ‘There is no place on earth,’ said he, ‘where I so much covet to pass my days as at Wittemberg.’ We did not, however, accord to them this appellation of brothers. All we granted was that which charity enjoins us to bestow even upon our enemies. They, however, behaved in all respects with an incredible degree of humility and amiability.” 11Luth. Cor.-Michelet, pp. 217, 218; Lond., 1846.HOPV1 561.11

    Philip, Landgrave of Hesse, was unspeakably mortified by the issue of the conference. He had been at great pains to bring it about; he had built the highest hopes upon it; now all these hopes had to be relinquished. Wherever he looked, outside the Protestant camp, he beheld union. All, from the Pope downwards, were gathering in one vast confederacy to crush both Wittemberg and Zurich, and yet Luther and Zwingle were still standing-the former haughtily and obstinately-apart! Every hour the storm lowers more darkly over Protestantism, yet its disciples do not unite! His disappointment was great.HOPV1 562.1

    All the time this theological battle was going on, a terrible visitant was approaching Marburg. The plague, in the form of the sweating sickness, had broken out in Germany, and was traversing that country, leaving on its track the dead in thousands. It had now reached the city where the conference was being held, and was committing in Marburg the same fearful ravages which had marked its presence in other towns. This was an additional reason for breaking up the conference. Philip had welcomed the doctors with joy; he was about to see them depart in sorrow. A terrible tempest was brewing on the south of the Alps, where Charles and Clement were nightly closeted in consultation over the extermination of Protestantism. The red flag of the Moslem was again displayed on the Danube, soon, it might be, to wave its bloody folds on the banks of the Elbe. In Germany thousands of swords were ready to leap from their scabbards to assail the Gospel in the persons of its adherents. All round the horizon the storm seemed to be thickening; but the saddest portent of all, to the eye of Philip, was the division that parted into two camps the great Reformed brotherhood, and marshalled in two battles the great Protestant army.HOPV1 562.2

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