The Re-establishment of Protestantism

So many open attacks on their liberties brought Germany to the brink of open rebellion. The nation had been told before the war began that the emperor had no plans to alter the Reformed religion, but the Protestant ministers had been deprived of their office and banished, their churches were now controlled by priests, lightened with candles and in the place of Protestant sermons, the mass was being performed. The nation felt that they had been grossly deceived. To deception was added insult in the disgrace of its two most respected chiefs being led in captivity from town to town.

Prince Maurice saw the gathering storm, and little doubted that he would be the first to be swept away by it. His countrymen viewed him as the author of their misfortunes they were suffering. They vilified him as “Judas,” and assailed in daily satires and caricatures. Fearful of the awakening indignation he determined that he would atone for his betrayal of his Protestant confederates by treachery to the emperor.

He disclosed his purpose to the princes, but they found it more than a little difficult not to believe that he was but digging a deeper pit for them. At last, satisfied as to his sincerity, they willingly undertook to assist him in the blow he meditated striking for the liberties of Germany. He had a large force under his command which he professed to be employing in the emperor’s service, in the siege of Magdeburg, a town which distinguished itself by its brave resistance to the Interim. Maurice prolonged the siege without revealing his designs and when at last Magdeburg surrendered, terms were conformable with Charles wishes, but Maurice privately assured the citizens that they should neither be deprived of the exercise of their religion nor stripped of their privileges. In a word, he so completely extinguished their former hatred of him, that they now elected him their governor. The force which he had employed in the siege of Magdeburg, Maurice now directed in an expedition against the emperor. Furthermore, he opened communications with the French king, Henry II, who created a distraction by entering Lorraine, and taking possession of the imperial city of Metz, which he annexed to the French crown.

Meanwhile, the emperor feeling secure had retired to Innspruck in the Tyrol retaining only a small handful of guards. His wealth exhausted by his extensive campaigns, he had even less gold than soldiers.

“In March, 1552, the revolt broke out openly. The prince, fielding an army of 25,000, announced that he was taking up arms for the Protestant religion and German liberties, both of which were threatened with destruction, and for the deliverance of Philip, Landgrave of Hesse who had suffered from a long and unjust imprisonment

“The emperor, on being suddenly and rudely awakened from his security, found himself hemmed in on every side by those who from friends had been suddenly converted into foes. The Turk was watching him by sea. The French were striking at him by land. In front of him was the Pope, who had taken mortal offense; and behind him was Maurice, pushing on by secret and forced marches, “to catch,” as he irreverently said, “the fox in his hole.” And probably he would have done as he said, had not a mutiny broken out among his troops on the journey, which, by delaying his march on Innspruck, gave Charles time to learn with astonishment that all Germany had risen, and was in full march upon Innspruck. The emperor had no alternative but flight.” Wylie, The History of Protestantism, book 12, chapter 6

The emperor’s power collapsed when apparently at its peak. None of the usual signs that precede the fall from greatness gave forewarning of so startling a change in the emperor’s fortunes. His vast prestige had not been impaired. He had not been vanquished on the battlefield; his military glory had suffered no eclipse; nor had any of his kingdoms been torn from him; he was still master of two worlds, and yet, by an extraordinary concurrence of circumstances, he was rendered helpless in presence of his enemies, and was able to save his liberty, if not his life, only by a hasty and humiliating flight. It would be difficult, in all history, to find another such remarkable reverse of fortune. The emperor never fully recovered either himself or his Empire.

There followed, in July, the Peace of Passau. The main article in that treaty was that the Protestants should enjoy the free and undisturbed practice of their religion till such time as a Diet of all the States should effect a permanent arrangement, and that failing to take place, the present agreement should remain in force forever. This was followed by the Treaty of Augsburg in 1555. This last treaty ratified and enlarged the privileges conceded to the Protestants in the pacification of Passau. The members of the Reformed Church, the followers of Zwingle and Calvin, were excluded from the privileges secured in the treaties of Passau and Augsburg. It would be another hundred years before toleration would be extended to them in the Peace of Westphalia.

At the beginning of his career, and when just entering on his great struggle with the Reformation, Charles V staked kingdom and crown, armies and treasures, body and soul, in the battle with Protestantism. Thirty years had passed since that fateful day. Hundreds of thousands of lives had he sacrificed and millions of money had he squandered in the contest, but Protestantism, so far from being extinguished, had enlarged its area, and multiplied its adherents four-fold. While the fortunes of Protestantism flourished day by day, how different was it with those of the emperor! His treasury empty, his prestige diminished, discontent and revolt springing up in all parts of his dominions, his toils and years increasing, but bringing with them no real successes, he began to meditate retiring from the scene, and entrusting the continuance of the contest to his son Philip. In 1556 he formally abdicated the Empire.

Charles Resigns his Crown

Disembarking in the Bay of Biscay, September, 1556, he traveled to Placentia in Estremadura. There, nestled in a valley and watered by a brook, encircled by pleasant hills was a monastery belonging to the Order of St. Jerome. So thoroughly had toil and disease done their work upon him, that he suffered intense pain at every step of his travel. A few of his nobles met him on the journey, but they rendered him so cool an homage as to make him painfully aware that he was no longer a monarch.

Before Charles’ arrival at the monastery, eight rooms were added for his use. Six were in the form of monks’ cells, with bare walls; the remaining two were plainly furnished. Here, with twelve servants, a horse for his use, and a hundred thousand crowns, which he had reserved for his subsistence, and which were very irregularly paid, the man who so recently had been ruler of two worlds, spent his time gardening.

What a striking contrast! The career of Charles ends where that of Luther begins. From a convent we see Luther emerging to enlighten the world and become a leader among men: year by year his power expanded and the glory which surrounded the cause he championed continued to increase. In contrast, we see Charles at the door of a convent bidding farewell to all his dominion and grandeur, to all the projects he had formed, and all the hopes he had cherished. The one emerges from seclusion to ascend to a position of influence to which few have attained: the other falls suddenly from the highest pinnacle of power and influence, and the place that knew him knows him no more. In seeking the overthrow of truth Charles failed to recognize that it was not with men that he was contending but with the Author of truth.