Imágenes de páginas


of a man, but the qualities of a dæmon. The other, warmed with admiration and gratitude, which they thought he merited, as the restorer of light and liberty to the Christian church, ascribed to him perfections above the condition of humanity, and viewed all his actions with a veneration bordering on that which should be paid only to those who are guided by the immediate inspiration of Heaven, It is his own conduct, not the undistinguishing censure, nor the exaggerated praise of his contemporaries, which ought to regulate the opinions of the present age concerning him. Zeal for what he regarded as truth, undaunted intrepidity to maintain his own system, abilities both natural and acquired to defend his principles, and unwearied industry in propagating them, are virtues which shine so conspicuously in every part of his behaviour, that even his enemies must allow him to have possessed' them in an eminent degree.

To these may be added, with equal justice, such purity, and even austerity of manners,

as became one who assumed the character of a Reformer; such sanctity of life as suited the doctrine which he delivered; and such perfect disinterestedness, as affords no slight presumption of his sincerity. Superior to all selfish considerations, a stranger to the elegancies of life, and despising its pleasures, he left the honours and emoluments of the church to his disciples; remaining satisfied' himself in bis original state of professor in the university, and pastor to the town of Wittemberg, with the moderate appointments annexed to these offices. His extraordinary qualities were allayed with no inconsiderable mixture of human frailty, and human passions. These, however, nature,

that they cannot be imputed to malevolence or corruption of heart, but seem to bave taken their rise from the same source with many of his virtues. His mind, forcible and vehement in all its operations, roused by great objects, or agitated by violent passions, broke out, on many occasions, with an impetuosity which astonishes men of feebler spirits, or such as are placed in a more tranquil situation. By carrying some praise-worthy dispositions to excess, he bordered sometimes on what was culpable, and was often betrayed into actions which exposed him to censure. His confidence that his own opinions were well founded, approached to arrogance; his courage in asserting them, rashness; his firmness in adhering to them, to obstinacy; and

[ocr errors]

were of such


[ocr errors]


on the

his real in confuting his adversaries, to rage and scurrility. Accustomed himself to consider every thing as subordinate to truth, be expected the same deference for it from other men; and, without making any allowances for their timidity or prejudices, he poured forth, against those who disappointed him in this particular, a torrent of invective mingled with contempt. Regardless of any distinction of rank or character, when his doctrines were attacked, he chastised all his adversaries, indiscriminately, with the same rough hand; neither the royal dignity of Henry VIII., nor the eminent learning and ability of Erasmus, screened them from the same abuse with which he treated Tetzel or Eccius.

But these indecencies of which Luther was guilty, must not be imputed wholly to the violence of his temper. They ought to be charged in part manners of the age. Among a rude people, unacquainted with those maxims, which, by putting continual restraint on the passions of individuals, have polished society, and rendered it agreeable, disputes of every kind, were managed with heat, and strong emotions were uttered in their natural language, without reserve or delicacy. At the same time, the works of learned men were all composed in Latin; and they were not only authorized, by the example of eminent writers in that language, to use their antagonists with the most illiberal scurrility; but, in a dead tongue, indecencies of every kind appear less shocking than in a living language, whose idioms and phrases seem gross, because they are familiar.

In passing judgment upon the characters of men, ought to try them by the principles and maxims of their own age, not by those of another. For although virtue and vice are at all times the same, manners and customs vary continually. Some parts of Luther's behaviour, which to us appear must culpable, gave no disgust to his contemporaries. It was even by some of those qualities, which we are now apt to blame, that he was fitted for accomplishing the great work which he undertook. To rouse mankind, when sunk in ignorance or superstition, and to encounter the rage of bigotry, armed with power, required the utmost. vehemence of zeal, and a temper daring to excess. A gentle call would neither have reached, nor have excited those to whom it was addressed." A spirit; more amiable, but less vigorous than Luther's, would have shrunk back from the dangers, which


[ocr errors]

he braved, and surmounted. Towards the close of Luther's life,, though without a perceptible declension of his zcal or abilities, the infirmities of his temper increased upon him, 80 that he grew daily more peevish, more irascible, and more impatient of contradiction. Having lived to be witness of his own amazing success, to see a great part of Europe embrace his doctrines, and to shake the foundation of the papal throne, before which the mightiest monarchs ba#trembled, he discovered, on some occasions, symptoms of vanity and self-applause. He must have been indeed more than man, it, upon contemplating all that he actually accomplished, he had never felt any sentiment of this kind rising in his breast :).

Some time before his death he felt his strength declining, his constitution being worn out by a prodigious multiplicity of business, added to the labour of discharging his ministerial function with unremitting diligence, to the fatigue of constant study, besides the composition of works as voluminous as if he had enjoyed uninterrupted leisure and retire ment. His natural intrepidity did not forsake him at the approach of death: his last conversation with his friends was concerning the happiness reserved for good men in a future world, of which he spoke with the fervour and delight natural to one who expected and wished to enter soon upon the enjoyment of it. The account of his death filled the Roman Catholic party with excessive as well as indecent joy, and damped the spirits of all his followers; neither party sufficiently considering that his doctrines were now so firmly


*) A remarkable instance of this, as well as of a certain singularity and elevation of sentiment, is found in his last will. Though the effects which he had to bequeath were very inconsiderable, he thought it necessary to make a testament, but scorned to frame it with the usuallegal formalities. Notus sum, says he, in coelo, in terra et in inferno, et auctoritatem ad hoc suficientem habeo, ut inihi soli credatur, cun Deus mihi, homini licet damnabili, et miserabili peccatori, ex paterna misericordia Evangelium filii sui crediderit, dederitque ut in eo verax et fidelis fuerim, ita ut multi in mundo illud per me acceperint, et me pro Doctore veritatis agnoverint, spreto banno Papæ, Cæsaris, Regum, Principuin et sacerdotum, imino omnium dæmonum odio. Quidni, igitur, ad dispositionein hanc in re exigua, sufficiat, si adsit manus meæ testimonium, et dici possit, hæc scripsit D. Martinus Luther, notarius Dei, et testis Evangelii ejus. Seek, I. III. p. 651.

tooted, as to be in a condition to flourish, independent of the hand which first bad planted them.

His funeral was celebrated by order of the Elector of Saxony, with extraordinary pomp. He left several children *) by his wife, Catha. rine Bora, who survived him. Towards the end of the last century, there were in Saxony some of his descendants in decent and honourable stations **).

2) Tas CONSPIRACY OF John Lewis Fresco, Count os

LAVAGNA ***). The

he form of government, which had been established in Genoa,' at the time when Andrew Doria' restored liberty to his country, though calculated to obliterate the memory of former dissensions, and received at first with eager approbation, did not, after a trial of near twenty years, give ubiversal satisfaction to those turbulent and factious republicans. As the entire administration of affairs was now lodged in a certain number of noble 'families, many envying them the pre-eminence, wished for the restitution of a popular government,, to which they had been accustomed; and though all reverenced the desinterested virtue of Doria, and admired his talents, not a few were jealous of that ascendant which he had acquired in the councils of the commonwealth. His age however, his moderation, and love of liberty, afforded ample security to his countrymen, that he would not abuse his power, nor stain the close of his days by attempting to overturn that fabrick, which it had been the labour and pride of his life to erect. But the authority and influence which in his hands were innocent, they easily saw would prove destructive, 'if usurped by any citizen of greater ambition, or less virtue. A citizen of this dangerous character bad actually formed such pretensions, and with some prospect of success. Giannetino Doria, whom his grand uncle Andrew destined to be the heir of his private fortune, aimed likewise at being his successor in power. His temper haughty, insolent, and

*) Drei Söhne und drei Töchter. **) Sein Geschlecht starb mit Martin Gottlob Luther, Rechtsconsulenten zu Dresden, den 3. November 1759 aus; die, welche sich noch jetzt zur Nachkommenschuft des grossen Reformałors rechnen, sind Abkömmlinge seines Bruders Jucob. ***) History of the reign of the Empe. ror Charles V. Book. 8.


[ocr errors]

overbearing so such a degree, as would hardly have been tolerated in one born to reign, was altogether insupportable in the citizen of a free state, The more sagacious among the Genoese already feared and hated him as the enemy of those {iberties for which they were indebted to his uncle. While Andrew himself, blinded by that violent and indiscerning affection which persons in advanced age often contract for the younger members of their family, set no bounds to the indulgence with which he treated him; seeming less solicitous to secure and perpetuate the freedom of the commonwealth, than to aggrandize that undeserving kinsman.

But whatever suspicion of Doria's designs, or whatever dissatisfaction of the system of administration in the commonwealth, these circumstances might have occasioned, they would have ended, it is probable, in nothing more than murmurings and complaints, if John Lewis Fiesco count of Lavagna observing this growing disgust, had not been encouraged by it to attempt one of the boldest actions recorded in history. That young nobleznan, the richest and most illustrious subject in the republick, possessed, in an eminent degree, all the qualities which win upon the buman heart, which com-, mand respect, or secure attachment. He was graceful and majestic in his person;, magnificent to profusion; of a generosity that prevented the wishes of his friends and exceeded the expectations of strangers ; of an insinuating address, gentle manners; and a flowing affability. But under the appearance of these virtues, which seemed to form him for enjoying and adorning civil life, he concealed all the dispositions which mark men out for taking the lead in the most dangerous and dark conspiracies; an insatiable and restless ambition, a courage unacquainted with fear, and a mind that disdained subordination. Such a temper could ill-brook that station of inferiority, wherein he was placed in the republick; and as he envied the power which the elder Doria had acquired, he was filled with indignation at the thoughts of its des cending, like an hereditary possession, to Giannetino. These various passions, preying with violence on his turbulent and aspiring mind, determined him to attempt overturning that domination to which he could not submit.

-At first he thought of an alliance with Francis, and even proposed it to the French ambassador at Rome, as the most effectual means of accomplishing this; and after expelling

« AnteriorContinuar »