Such are the capital articles in this famous recess, which is the basis of religious peace in Germany, and the bond of union among its various states . . . .
Continuing The Peace of Augsburg and the Abdication of Charles V,
our selection from History of the Reign of the Emperor Charles V by William Robertson published in 1769. The selection is presented in seven easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in The Peace of Augsburg and the Abdication of Charles V.
Place: Augsburg, Germany
Conformably to this, a recess was framed, approved of, and published with the usual formalities. The following are the chief articles which it contained: That such princes and cities as have declared their approbation of the Confession of Augsburg shall be permitted to profess the doctrine and exercise the worship which it authorizes, without interruption or molestation from the Emperor, the King of the Romans, or any power or person whatsoever; that the Protestants, on their part, shall give no disquiet to the princes and states who adhere to the tenets and rites of the Church of Rome; that, for the future, no attempt shall be made toward terminating religious differences but by the gentle and pacific methods of persuasion and conference; that the Popish ecclesiastics shall claim no spiritual jurisdiction in such states as receive the Confession of Augsburg; that such as had seized the benefices or revenues of the Church, previous to the Treaty of Passau, shall retain possession of them, and be liable to no persecution in the imperial chamber on that account; that the supreme civil power in every state shall have right to establish what form of doctrine and worship it shall deem proper, and, if any of its subjects refuse to conform to these, shall permit them to remove with all their effects whithersoever they shall please; that if any prelate or ecclesiastic shall hereafter abandon the Romish religion, he shall instantly relinquish his diocese or benefice, and it shall be lawful for those in whom the right of nomination is vested to proceed immediately to an election, as if the office were vacant by death or translation, and to appoint a successor of undoubted attachment to the ancient system.
Such are the capital articles in this famous recess, which is the basis of religious peace in Germany, and the bond of union among its various states, the sentiments of which are so extremely different with respect to points the most interesting as well as important. In our age and nation, to which the idea of toleration is familiar, and its beneficial effects well known, it may seem strange that a method of terminating their dissensions, so suitable to the mild and charitable spirit of the Christian religion, did not sooner occur to the contending parties. But this expedient, however salutary, was so repugnant to the sentiments and practice of Christians during many ages that it did not lie obvious to discovery. Among the ancient heathens, all whose deities were local and tutelary, diversity of sentiments concerning the object or rites of religious worship seems to have been no source of animosity, because the acknowledging veneration to be due to any one god did not imply denial of the existence or the power of any other god; nor were the modes and rites of worship established in one country incompatible with those which other nations approved of and observed. Thus the errors in their system of theology were of such a nature as to be productive of concord; and, notwithstanding the amazing number of their deities, as well as the infinite variety of their ceremonies, a sociable and tolerating spirit subsisted almost universally in the Pagan world.
But when the Christian revelation declared one Supreme Being to be the sole object of religious veneration, and prescribed the form of worship most acceptable to him, whoever admitted the truth of it held, of consequence, every other system of religion, as a deviation from what was established by divine authority, to be false and impious. Hence arose the zeal of the first converts to the Christian faith in propagating its doctrines, and the ardor with which they labored to overturn every other form of worship. They employed, however, for this purpose no methods but such as suited the nature of religion. By the force of powerful arguments, they convinced the understandings of men; by the charms of superior virtue, they allured and captivated their hearts. At length the civil power declared in favor of Christianity; and though numbers, imitating the example of their superiors, crowded into the church, many still adhered to their ancient superstitions. Enraged at their obstinacy, the ministers of religion, whose zeal was still unabated, though their sanctity and virtue were much diminished, forgot so far the nature of their own mission, and of the arguments which they ought to have employed, that they armed the imperial power against these unhappy men, and, as they could not persuade, they tried to compel them to believe.