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Of A History Of Events Which Have Not Happened
by [?]

One of the great revolutions of Modern Europe perhaps had not occurred, had the personal feelings of Luther been respected, and had his personal interest been consulted. Guicciardini, whose veracity we cannot suspect, has preserved a fact which proves how very nearly some important events which have taken place, might not have happened! I transcribe the passage from his thirteenth book: “Caesar (the Emperor Charles the Fifth), after he had given an hearing in the Diet of Worms to Martin Luther, and caused his opinions to be examined by a number of divines, who reported that his doctrine was erroneous and pernicious to the Christian religion, had, to gratify the pontiff, put him under the ban of the empire, which so terrified Martin, that, if the injurious and threatening words which were given him by Cardinal San Sisto, the apostolical legate, had not thrown him into the utmost despair, it is believed it would have been easy, by giving him some preferment, or providing for him some honourable way of living, to make him renounce his errors.” By this we may infer that one of the true authors of the reformation was this very apostolical legate; they had succeeded in terrifying Luther; but they were not satisfied till they had insulted him; and with such a temper as Luther’s, the sense of personal insult would remove even that of terror; it would unquestionably survive it.[1] A similar proceeding with Franklin, from our ministers, is said to have produced the same effect with that political sage. What Guicciardini has told of Luther preserves the sentiment of the times. Charles the Fifth was so fully persuaded that he could have put down the Reformation, had he rid himself at once of the chief, that having granted Luther a safeguard to appear at the Council of Worms, in his last moments he repented, as of a sin, that having had Luther in his hands he suffered him to escape; for to have violated his faith with a heretic he held to be no crime.

In the history of religion, human instruments have been permitted to be the great movers of its chief revolutions; and the most important events concerning national religions appear to have depended on the passions of individuals, and the circumstances of the time. Impure means have often produced the most glorious results; and this, perhaps, may be among the dispensations of Providence.

A similar transaction occurred in Europe and in Asia. The motives and conduct of Constantine the Great, in the alliance of the Christian faith with his government, are far more obvious than any one of those qualities with which the panegyric of Eusebius so vainly cloaks over the crimes and unchristian life of this polytheistical Christian. In adopting a new faith as a coup-d’etat, and by investing the church with temporal power, at which Dante so indignantly exclaims, he founded the religion of Jesus, but corrupted its guardians. The same occurrence took place in France under Clovis. The fabulous religion of Paganism was fast on its decline; Clovis had resolved to unite the four different principalities which divided Gaul into one empire. In the midst of an important battle, as fortune hung doubtful between the parties, the pagan monarch invoked the God of his fair Christian queen, and obtained the victory! St. Remi found no difficulty in persuading Clovis, after the fortunate event, to adopt the Christian creed. Political reasons for some time suspended the king’s open conversion. At length the Franks followed their sovereign to the baptismal fonts. According to Pasquier, Naude, and other political writers, these recorded miracles,[2] like those of Constantine, were but inventions to authorise the change of religion. Clovis used the new creed as a lever by whose machinery he would be enabled to crush the petty princes his neighbours; and, like Constantine, Clovis, sullied by crimes of as dark a dye, obtained the title of “The Great.” Had not the most capricious “Defender of the Faith” been influenced by the most violent of passions, the Reformation, so feebly and so imperfectly begun and continued, had possibly never freed England from the papal thraldom;